Fantasy Football Matchup Upgrades and Downgrades: Week 9

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 each and 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 9, 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: Gardner Minshew (vs. HOU) - Fire up the mustache this week with confidence as he gets to face a lackluster Houston Texans pass defense. While they did just make a money move by acquiring Gareon Conley on the cheap, their pass defense is their soft spot, and they will now be without their star pass rusher J.J. Watt. Houston has allowed the second-most passing yards this season and 18 touchdowns through eight games, with just 3 passes intercepted. They are also generating pressure on just 18.8% of opponents' dropbacks, which is the fifth-lowest rate in the league. All systems go for Minshew in a game the Jaguars may need to throw a lot. Minshew is QB8 in numberFire's weekly rankings.

Bad matchup: Daniel Jones (vs. DAL) - Jones is coming off of a solid four-touchdown performance last week, but this is a week for him to ride the pine (or more likely, the waiver wire), as he draws a stout Dallas Cowboys pass defense in a divisional game. Dallas is allowing the seventh-fewest passing yards and has allowed just six passing scores in seven games. They only have three interceptions on the year, which is good news because Jones throws a lot of them, but Dallas is generating pressure on over 25% of opponents' dropbacks, the eight-best rate in the league. Jones has actually fared reasonably well under pressure when he throws the ball (he has taken 21 sacks) but has not done enough with his legs to overcome poor passing days. Other than his Week 3 breakout and Week 8 four-score performance, Jones has failed to crack the top 18 quarterbacks in weekly scoring. This is a good week to keep your distance.

Running Back

Good matchup: Buffalo Bills Running Backs (vs. WAS) - Frank Gore has a much safer workload than does Devin Singletary, but less splash play and receiving upside. The Bills are favored by 9.5 points against the Washington Redskins in this week's matchup, so the ground game could well see enough work for both to eat. Washington has allowed the second-most rushing attempts in the league this season and the fourth-most rushing yards against them, which should come as no surprise. Teams are also targeting running backs at a high rate against Washington (over 25% of their team targets, the third-highest rate in the league), so that bodes well for Singletary for those in a pinch. Gore is the preferred floor option, but Singletary is set up nicely with a chance to deliver some chunk plays as well.

Bad matchup: Kenyan Drake (vs. SF) - After being acquired in a trade this week, Drake is set for the lead back duties with David Johnson and Chase Edmonds both sidelined. However, Drake is in a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, who have allowed just the third-fewest rush attempts against them, the sixth-fewest rushing yards to go with only two touchdowns. Running backs are also accounting for just 18.6% of team targets against the Niners and have zero receiving scores against them this season. Assuming Drake even gets a full workload, it will be tough sledding both on the ground and through the air. This sets up as a nice opportunity for Kyler Murray to run the ball, and not a good week to lean on Drake as more than a back-end flex play.

Wide Receiver

Good matchup: Robby Anderson or Demaryius Thomas (at MIA) - Without the coverage of shutdown cornerback Xavien Howard both receivers will be roaming free for a good chunk of this game. Since the acquisition of Thomas, the Jets' wideouts have both seen primary coverage from opposing teams' top corners (Thomas last week against A.J. Bouye and Anderson in Week 7 against Stephon Gilmore, for example). What that means is that one of the receivers will be treated as WR1 by the Miami Dolphins and will see a lot of Eric Rowe, who has been uninspiring at best this season (allowing a 144.8 Passer Rating when thrown at). Anderson is the preferred play by numberFire's rankings.

Bad matchup: Marquise Brown (vs. NE) - Brown is on track to return from injury this week, but is an easy fade against a New England Patriots team that is allowing less than 150 passing yards per game and just two passing touchdowns through eight games in 2019. While the Baltimore Ravens should have more success overall than other offenses, the pie will be smaller than normal in this game for the pass-catchers. Brown is seeing a solid 23.6% target share thus far when active, but the Ravens are a low-volume passing attack, and the Patriots matchup won't help that cause. He'll need to break loose for a long touchdown to pay off this week. Don't tempt fate with this risky proposition.

Tight End

The tight end position remains brutal, so if you have a reliable option, start him. Outside of the top seven, there is a precipitous drop in projected output this week by numberFire's weekly projections, and TE8 through TE16 are separated by just 0.65 points. If you start any of the streaming options, just hope he falls into the end zone. Some guys I would advise rolling out this week for streaming teams include T.J. Hockenson (the Oakland Raiders have allowed six touchdowns to tight ends), Vance McDonald (over 26% of targets against the Indianapolis Colts are going to tight ends), and Cameron Brate (over 25% of receiving yardage against the Seattle Seahawks comes from tight ends). Otherwise, just don't overthink it, as there are not enough reliable options at the position.