Fantasy Football Matchup Upgrades and Downgrades: Week 5

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 5, I will be using players near the start/sit cutoff in the FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings and comparing them to numberFire's weekly 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 borderline options with significant upgrades and downgrades.


Good matchup: Jacoby Brissett (at KC) - Rarely will a preseason backup quarterback be a Top-12 option at the position in any week, but Brissett can be used with confidence against the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Brissett has been unsexy but solid so far in 2019, racking up 0.20 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back through four games with a 47.92% Success Rate, both of which are better than Aaron Rodgers to this point. The Chiefs have actually been good against the pass through four games on a per-play basis (sixth-best), but teams throw the ball at such a high rate against them, and that volume will help alleviate any inefficiency. The likelihood of a shootout is the real appeal here. Brissett is QB13 in numberFire's rankings but can be used without fear.

Honorable Mention: Don't quit on Kyler Murray, who is likely to break out against a soft Cincinnati Bengals defense.

Bad matchup: Dak Prescott (vs. GB) - The Green Bay Packers continue to be an elite passing defense through four games in 2019, ranking at the top of the league with -0.15 Passing NEP allowed per play to opposing offenses. While Prescott will offer some value with his legs, this doesn't appear to be the perfect spot for a "get-right" game after the lackluster performance in Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints. However, Prescott has an impressive 0.43 Passing NEP per drop back thus far in 2019 and a strong 57.69% Success Rate (not far behind and slightly ahead, respectively, of Patrick Mahomes). Prescott has been impressive overall, but the Packers are a lock-down passing defense and numberFire's rankings have Dak down at QB17 this week.

Running Back

Good matchup: Chris Thompson (vs. NE) - The New England Patriots aren't actually a good matchup for anything, but in a game where the Washington Redskins are massive 15-point underdogs at home, it's safe to bet against them establishing the run for too long. Thompson leads the Redskins with 138 offensive snaps played (compared to Adrian Peterson's 75). Thompson's worst output was Week 2 where he had seven touches for 51 yards (5 receptions), so this applies primarily to PPR formats, but Thompson should see plenty of action as the Redskins get down big. The Patriots have allowed at least four receptions to a single running back in all four games this season but expect Thompson to eclipse that number. He's a nice flex play in PPR formats and comes in at RB30 in numberFire's weekly rankings.

Bad matchup: Ronald Jones (at NO) - Jones is down at RB34 in numberFire's weekly projections, and is a risky start at best. While he has turned in two nice performances in a row, he's likely to come back to earth in Week 5 against a stout New Orleans Saints run defense. The Saints rank eighth in the league with -0.05 Rushing NEP per play allowed to opposing runners, and are much more susceptible to the pass this season. Jones has a nice 0.04 Rushing NEP per Carry and a 52.00% Success Rate through four games, but the Saints are likely to slow him down. He's better to keep stashed than to start this week.

Wide Receiver

Good matchup: Golden Tate (vs. MIN) - Wait, the Minnesota Vikings have a good pass defense! Yes, they do -- 12th-best in the league so far in 2019 with just 0.05 Passing NEP per play allowed through four games. However, the Vikings are even better against the run (third-best), and Tate will avoid the coverage of Xavier Rhodes for the majority of the game. Tate will likely see a combination of Mike Hughes and Mackensie Alexander in coverage out of the slot, neither of whom instills fear in quarterbacks throwing in their direction. This matchup sets up to feature Tate and Evan Engram more than the run game or the outside receivers. Tate is the WR33 in numberFire's weekly rankings.

Bad matchup: D.J. Chark (at CAR) - Chark is off to a very hot start through one month of the NFL season. The Carolina Panthers may not invoke fear by name, but James Bradberry is playing off the charts through four games and will line up opposite Chark often in Week 5. Bradberry essentially lines up only on the outside and has been targeted heavily (9.5 times per game), but he is allowing a paltry 5.0 yards per target in his coverage, which is exceptional. Bradberry is also blanketing his receivers with an equally exceptional 0.47 yards of separation allowed per target. Chark's time to have a bad game looks likely to be this week against the Panthers. Chark is down at WR39 in numberFire's weekly rankings.

Tight End

Good matchup: Tyler Eifert (vs. ARI) - Death, taxes, and tight ends scoring against the Arizona Cardinals in 2019. After Will Dissly delivered in a big way in Week 4, this sets up as the week to use Eifert if there ever was one. When healthy, Eifert has been a red zone monster throughout his career, and the Cardinals have been gutted by tight ends consistently in 2019. Eifert has just 17 targets on the season but has been heavily targeted when on the field (he's had a target on 20.2% of his snaps, second-highest rate in the NFL), and the Bengals have run the third-most pass plays in the league through four weeks. Eifert shouldn't need massive volume to expose the Cardinals, who are allowing 19.8 fantasy points per game to tight ends -- easily the highest total in the league. Eifert is down at TE18 in numberFire's weekly rankings but can be streamed for his nice upside.

Bad matchup: Delanie Walker (vs. BUF) - The Buffalo Bills have been strong against the pass in 2019, allowing an even 0.00 Passing NEP per play on defense (eighth-best). They have been especially stout against tight ends, allowing the fewest fantasy points to the position through four games. Walker has been the only reliable target for QB Marcus Mariota through the past few years, and could see ample volume, but the Bills could very well shut him down. Walker owners did not likely invest an early-round pick in him, so it's not a bad week to look for a better option on the waiver wire (such as the aforementioned Tyler Eifert).