Fantasy Football Matchup Upgrades and Downgrades: Week 4

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 identifies particularly good or bad matchups that could influence those decisions. These are not specifically start/sit recommendations, as the alternative options are always relevant. This advice needs context, but it can be used to upgrade or downgrade players in your weekly rankings.

For Week 4, I will be using players near the start/sit cutoff in the FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings and comparing them to numberFire's Week 4 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: Daniel Jones (vs. WAS) - There has rarely been a better time to buy high on a player based on a small sample, but it's hype train time after "Danny Dimes" exploded against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for over 35 fantasy points in Week 3 and faces the Washington Redskins this week. The Redskins are allowing 0.44 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play through three weeks, which ranks fourth-worst in the league. Jones showed the ability to throw effectively and provide with his legs, scoring two rushing touchdowns. numberFire has Jones ranked at QB10 this week, so if he's available, he's a top-flight streamer that could (perhaps) provide stability for the rest of the season.

Bad matchup: Josh Allen (vs. NE) - This one should be relatively obvious, but for a player who has been a top-end streamer in some weeks, this is the week to fade Allen hard. Allen draws the New England Patriots, who have boasted both the best rushing and passing defense through three weeks. Granted, the Patriots have faced a soft schedule, but Buffalo's offense is no powerhouse. The Patriots are pacing the league by quite a bit with -0.40 Adjust Passing NEP per play allowed to their opponents thus far (second-best is just -0.28). Even with Allen's mobility, the Patriots should have the ability to shut him down, and numberFire has him ranked as just QB20 this week.

Running Back

Good matchup: Kerryon Johnson (vs. KC) - While the Detroit Lions are an underdog this week to the Kansas City Chiefs, there are plenty of reasons to be confident about Johnson in this contest. He's all the way up to RB12 this week in numberFire's rankings, so he's not exactly a borderline starter, but he's worth mentioning because he's also a nice buy-low candidate. With the backfield almost to himself now and facing the worst defense against the run, Johnson's buy window could very well close this week. The Chiefs are allowing 0.34 Rushing NEP per play to opponents, well behind the 0.21 of the next worst team (the Miami Dolphins, of course).

Honorable Mention: Carlos Hyde (vs. CAR)

Bad matchup: David Montgomery (vs. MIN) - This game against the Minnesota Vikings projects to be an old school trench battle, with lots of running and little scoring involved. While a lot of running sounds nice, the Vikings rank seventh-best thus far against the run with -0.15 Rushing NEP per play allowed, and a rushing score could be hard to come by. The Chicago Bears are a mid-tier rushing team thus far (18th-best), which doesn't inspire confidence. If viable alternatives are available, it may be a good week to bench Montgomery. That may not be possible, but he's down at RB20 in numberFire's rankings.

Honorable Mention: Frank Gore (vs. NE)

Wide Receiver

Good matchup: Terry McLaurin (at NYG) - Could this be Dwayne Haskins' week? Regardless, it's a great week to bet on the alpha wide receiver for the Washington Redskins since they get to face the ever-susceptible New York Giants secondary. McLaurin has been off to a hot start, scoring in his first three games in the NFL and posting solid reception totals in each contest. Without a true shutdown cornerback on the other side of this matchup, McLaurin could feast against a defense allowing 0.47 Passing NEP per play (second-worst in the NFL) through three games. Regardless of who is under center for the 'Skins, McLaurin should be started with ample confidence. He's ranked at WR21 this week by numberFire.

Bad matchup: Josh Gordon (at BUF) - The arrow is pointing way up for Gordon after the release of Antonio Brown and the subsequent increase in projected targets. However, in this week's contest, Julian Edelman would be the more likely receiver to move around, meaning Gordon is the top candidate to face primary coverage from Buffalo Bills shutdown cornerback Tre'Davious White. As a team, Buffalo ranks fifth-best against the pass with -0.10 Passing NEP per play allowed through three weeks. White has allowed 0.14 Passing NEP per play when targeted, but he's only been thrown at 11 times through three games. While Gordon may get the better of him a few times, it could be a low-volume day for "Flash" against the Bills. Gordon is down at WR30 this week in numberFire's rankings.

Tight End

Good matchup: Jack Doyle (vs. OAK) - The chalk pick of the week here would be Will Dissly, but numberFire's rankings have him as TE13, which is one slot behind Doyle and one slot outside the starter range. Doyle gets to face an Oakland Raiders defense that is allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to tight ends so far in 2019 and 0.44 Passing NEP per play to opponents, which is third-worst in the NFL. Thus far, the Raiders have allowed 107 yards and a score to Travis Kelce and 71 yards to the duo of Irv Smith Jr. and Kyle Rudolph. Doyle may not win your week for you, but his floor is decent and he has a good chance to provide a nice fantasy line. Doyle has just nine targets so far in 2019 but is second on the Indianapolis Colts in receiving yardage. Doyle has yet to score, but this could be the week.

Bad matchup: O.J. Howard (at LAR) - The Los Angeles Rams boast the sixth-best pass defense through three weeks, posting -0.12 Passing NEP per play on defense. Los Angeles has been especially stingy against tight ends, allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points to the position. The Rams allowed 36 yards on 9 targets to Greg Olsen and 25 yards on 7 targets to Jared Cook in their two games against meaningful receiving tight ends so far. Howard, meanwhile, has just nine targets through three games and has recorded just 0.45 Receiving NEP per target, which trails Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Ronald Jones so far in 2019. Howard is far from a primary option in the passing game, and actually has two fewer targets than Breshad Perriman. He's way down at TE16 in numberFire's Week 4 rankings.