Fantasy Football Matchup Upgrades and Downgrades: Week 3

You don't always need to consider benching studs in tough matchups, but your fringe starters may be impacted enough to consider a replacement. These players or units should be considered in that group for Week 3.

I'm not here to tell you if and when Christian McCaffrey or DeAndre Hopkins have good or bad matchups, because you're starting them every week. While it's good to know the strength of matchups for all of your players, it's much more valuable in relation to the fringe starters and high-end bench players than it is for your studs. Matchups should be one of the final components in making roster decisions, whether drafting for season-long strength of schedule or making a start/sit decision. It's a piece of the puzzle, but it should not be a primary consideration.

This series looks at borderline start/sit players and identify particularly good or bad matchups that could influence the decision. These are not specifically start/sit recommendations, as the alternative options are always relevant, and this advice needs context, but this can be used to upgrade or downgrade players in your weekly rankings.

For Week 3, I will be using players near the start/sit cutoff (12 quarterbacks, 30 running backs, 42 wide receivers, 12 tight ends) in the FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings and comparing them to numberFire's Week 3 rankings (both Half-PPR). The start/sit cutoffs assume 12 teams, starting 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, and 1 flex. With that established, let's look at some upgrades and downgrades.


Good matchup: Josh Allen (vs. CIN) - Allen comes in as the 10th ranked passer according to expert consensus, but numberFire is higher on Allen entering Week 3 (again), ranking at QB6. The Cincinnati Bengals have fared moderately well thus far in 2018, ranking 14th against the pass with 0.10 Net Expected Points (NEP) per play allowed through the air. As mentioned in last week's column, Allen certainly has his faults as a passer, but his rushing upside offers both a floor and a ceiling, and Allen has been clicking with his new wideout John Brown, who should match up well against any member of the Bengals' secondary.

Bad matchup: Baker Mayfield (vs. LAR) - Mayfield has looked shaky to start 2019, and though some of his interceptions were bounces off of receivers' hands, his performances thus far have not been inspiring. Mayfield has tallied a dismal -0.10 Passing NEP per Dropback through two weeks and has posted a meager 39.51% Success Rate throwing the ball (both comfortably worse than Eli Manning).

Mayfield will be throwing against a stout Los Angeles Rams defense in Week 3, who have been gashed by the run to the tune of 0.17 NEP/Play on the ground (25th in the NFL), but have been strong against the pass with -0.11 NEP/Play on passes (5th in the league). This looks much more like a Nick Chubb game than a Baker Mayfield game.

Running Back

Good matchup: Peyton Barber (vs. NYG) - Barber checks in at RB40 in consensus rankings, but numberFire projections have Barber as the RB21 for Week 3. Barber projects to be part of a positive game script, with his Tampa Bay Buccaneers sitting as home favorites over the New York Giants (by 6.5 points). The Buccaneers have ranked 10th in rushing offense with 0.12 NEP/Play via the run through two weeks, and while the Giants have ranked middle-of-the-pack in rush defense and 31st in pass defense thus far -- game script should favor the run. If there was ever a week to start Barber, this looks to be said week.

Bad matchup: Adrian Peterson (vs. CHI) - This is already becoming a theme, but the Chicago Bears are still not a good defense to play against for fantasy purposes, and Washington's offense does not inspire confidence in the run. The Redskins rank 31st in the run so far in 2019 with a horrendous -0.47 NEP/Play coming via the run, and while that was not all from Peterson, running the ball requires cohesion from the offensive line and the running back, so it shouldn't be expected to change drastically.

What's worse is that the Bears have ranked 6th-best in the NFL in 2019 in rush defense with an impressive -0.28 NEP/Play on opponents' run plays. Peterson will likely face very tough sledding in Week 3, and though he's RB26 in numberFire's ranks for the week, consider alternative options.

Wide Receiver

Good matchup: Deebo Samuel (vs. PIT) - After seeing a reduction in snaps and routes in Week 2 compared to Week 1, Samuel's status as the true alpha may be in question, but he looks the part and still played plenty, turning his opportunity into production in Week 2 to the tune of five catches for 87 yards and a touchdown on seven targets. The only better matchup on numberFire's Matchup Heat Map is Dallas against Miami, but that's too easy. Samuel should be in for a nice day against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that is surrendering 0.54 NEP/Play to the pass (27th in the league).

Bad matchup: Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders (@ GB) - This may come as a surprise, but the Green Bay Packers have been a nightmare against the pass so far this season, racking up a monster -0.22 NEP/Play on opponents' passing plays. The Denver Broncos are likely in for a tough day on the road against a strong Green Bay secondary, which largely shut down Stefon Diggs (1 catch) and Adam Thielen (75 yards) after being beaten up by Allen Robinson in the season opener.

Sanders will likely be better off than Sutton due to his propensity to move into the slot, but both wideouts are viable bench candidates if an alternative is available. Sutton comes in at WR39 and Sanders is up at WR25 in numberFire's weekly projections, so it's all relative to the alternative options.

Tight End

Good matchup: Trey Burton (@ WAS) - Burton has been quiet thus far in 2019 after missing Week 1 and logging just two catches for five yards in Week 2, but he gets to face a suspect Washington Redskins pass defense in Week 3. Burton had a nose for the end zone in 2018, scoring six touchdowns, and this could be the week for his first of 2019. Washington has allowed 0.52 NEP/Play to the pass in 2019 (25th in the NFL), and while Chicago's passing offense has been disappointing at best, Burton should be closer to full speed and was a strong weapon in 2018.

Burton tallied 0.80 Receiving NEP/Reception with a Success Rate of 81.48% (trailing only Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller in both of receivers with meaningful target shares) during his first season in Chicago. With Miller looking like the forgotten man in 2019, Burton could step into more volume, too. Burton is ranked outside the TE1 range but could be considered as a streaming option.

Bad matchup: Vance McDonald (@ SF) - Fading McDonald worked well in Week 2 (not), so let's do it again. The San Francisco 49ers have recorded the best performances against the pass thus far in 2019, with a staggering -0.65 NEP/Play allowed to the pass, while the Pittsburgh Steelers have fared poorly through the air with -0.07 NEP/Play with the pass (26th in the NFL).

With Ben Roethlisberger down for the count and the inexperienced Mason Rudolph calling the shots, Week 3 does not set up to be a good week to roll the dice with McDonald, who may have scored twice last week, but he has just 11 targets through two games despite the complete incompetence of Donte Moncrief, who entered the season as the team's WR2.