Fantasy Football Matchup Upgrades and Downgrades: Week 6
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 6, 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: Kyle Allen (at TB) - The notable matchup here isn't exactly that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been bad against the pass -- they've been average overall, though volatile weekly. It's that the Bucs have been the best run defense in the NFL through five weeks according to numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP) model. The Bucs have tallied a ridiculous -0.18 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play on defense. Fortunately for the Carolina Panthers, their run game can easily convert into short passes because Christian McCaffrey is truly a generational talent. Expect the passing game to have much more success than the ground game for the Panthers this week. Allen slots in at QB13 in numberFire's ranks.
Honorable Mentions: Don't be afraid to use Gardner Minshew at home against the New Orleans Saints. Kirk Cousins should also have a field day again against the pass funnel that is the Philadelphia Eagles' secondary.
Bad matchup: Carson Wentz (at MIN) - Not only does Wentz have to face a stout Minnesota Vikings defense, he has to do it on the road. The Vikings this year have been strong across the board, grading out second-best against the run and eighth-best against the pass, with a -0.01 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play through five weeks. This game looks to be tough sledding all around for the Eagles on offense. The Eagles come into the game as three-point underdogs, which is generally fine for the pass, but the low over/under of 44 means an implied team total of just 20.5 points. The floor and ceiling for the Eagles' entire passing attack is lowered this week, and Wentz is ranked QB17 by numberFire for Week 6.
Good matchup: Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson (at KC) - Both Houston Texans running backs should see plenty of work in what should be a shootout. The matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs projects to be a high-scoring affair, with an over/under of 54.5 points, and the Texans as 5-point underdogs. While I'd love to be confident in Johnson, his usage has certainly been concerning. However, it's very possible that Hyde gets game-scripted out of this contest early and Johnson gets more involved. Both backs rank in the RB2/RB3 range for this week. Regardless, the Chiefs have allowed 0.08 Rushing NEP per play to opposing offenses this season, so both backs could have usable days.
Bad matchup: Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders (at MIN) - Reference the quarterbacks section, but the Vikings have graded out as an elite run defense this season, second-best in the league through Week 5. With a mark of -0.17 Rushing NEP per play allowed to opposing offenses, it's crippling to try and run against the Vikes. Since Howard is not a strong pass-catcher and Sanders has clearly been second in line for touches this season, both players will struggle to produce usable fantasy lines without a touchdown in this game. It's a better bet for Howard than for Sanders, but both make me uneasy this week.
Good matchup: Kansas City Chiefs Wide Receivers (vs. HOU) - There is plenty of uncertainty about which wideouts will be active by the end of the week, with any combination of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, and Byron Pringle potentially starting. Whoever it is (primarily Hardman and Pringle for this context, if starting), they should get a big bump from the matchup. The Houston Texans are grading out as an above-average pass defense thus far, but this game has a massive 54.5 over/under line with just a 5-point spread. So, there will be points aplenty, and whichever wideouts are on the field on Sunday will likely eat in a classic fantasy points bonanza.
Bad matchup: D.K. Metcalf (at CLE) - The Cleveland Browns overall rank about league average in pass defense, but since the true WR1 for the Seattle Seahawks lines up in the slot over 60% of the time, that means Metcalf will be stuck staring down the barrel of one Denzel Ward for most of the day (assuming Ward returns from his hamstring injury, of course). Ward has played in just two games this season but shut down Corey Davis in Week 1 and did not shadow in Week 2. In 2018, Ward allowed just a 53.1% catch rate in his coverage in 13 games and just 6.5 yards per target, both excellent numbers. If Ward is active on Sunday, Metcalf will get the short end of the stick in DB matchups. Happy Tyler Lockett szn.
Good matchup: Noah Fant (vs. TEN) - Fant has yet to become a breakout star as a rookie, which should come as no surprise given the history of rookie tight ends. On the plus side, he has flashed early in the season and has no real competition at his position, so he will remain involved in the offense. This week, he faces the Tennessee Titans, who are allowing the fourth-most fantasy point to tight ends through Week 5 this season. The Titans have an above-average pass defense overall by numberFire's NEP model, so this contest looks like a downgrade for the wideouts and an upgrade for the tight end position. Fant can be streamed in a pinch but is still a fringe starter even this week.
Bad matchup: O.J. Howard (vs. CAR) - Let's collectively agree to stop torturing ourselves. Yes, Howard is incredibly talented and has been a treat to watch through his first two seasons as a professional, but no, he's not a reliable fantasy option and is showing no signs of becoming one. He's borderline droppable at this point, but tight end is such a tough position that there may not be better options. Regardless, this week he gets to face the Carolina Panthers, who are allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season and grade out overall as the fourth-best pass defense by numberFire's NEP model. If you start Howard this week, prepare of disappointment.