Fantasy Football Matchup Upgrades and Downgrades: Week 12

I'm not here to tell you if and when Christian McCaffrey and Michael Thomas 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 12, 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: Sam Darnold (vs. OAK) - Don't look now, but Darnold has had 20+ fantasy points in two straight games (thanks in large part to plus matchups), and this week he gets to face the Oakland Raiders. Oakland is allowing the sixth-most passing yards on the season and the third-most passing scores (2.4 per game). Darnold has been underwhelming for much of 2019 but is on a hot streak against bad pass defenses -- so roll with it for one more week at least. Oakland is pressuring opposing quarterbacks at the fifth-lowest rate this season, so expect Darnold to have ample time to throw throughout the course of the game. Oakland's 8.2 yards per attempt allowed is the fourth-highest mark in the league, so it's all systems go for Darnold this week at home.

Bad matchup: Tom Brady (vs. DAL) - At least Brady is playing at home, I guess. Brady has been far from a strong fantasy asset this season, with four games of zero or one touchdown. Brady has also topped the 300-yard mark just four times (three of which came against the Jets, Redskins, and Giants). He now gets to match up with a solid Dallas Cowboys defense that is top-five in the NFL in yards per attempt allowed to opposing quarterbacks (6.8) and sixth in pressure rate. To top it off, Dallas is seventh-best in passing yards and passing touchdowns allowed per game this season. The bright side is the Patriots may need to score more than normal to keep pace, but there are few positive indicators this week for the GOAT.

Running Back

Good matchup: Bo Scarbrough (at WAS) - After commanding 14 carries -- which went for 55 yards and a score -- in his first action with the Detroit Lions, Scarborough heads to the nation's capital for a matchup with Washington, a favorable place to be. While Washington is better than average at just 4.1 yards per carry allowed, teams run on them enough that they are allowing the fifth-most rushing yards per game (134). They have, however, allowed just nine touchdowns, which is average. Scarborough handled two red zone touches in his first game with the Lions, so while he offers virtually nothing in the passing game (no targets last week and under a 7% target share at Alabama), it's not a bad spot for him to find the end zone this week.

Bad matchup: Brian Hill (vs. TB) - Just one week after being an auto-play last week and posting 2.0 yards per carry and under five fantasy points, Brian Hill looks like a possible fade despite being the lead back for the Atlanta Falcons. On the plus side, Hill saw 60% of the snaps and got 15 carries with 3 targets in last week's win over the Carolina Panthers, and there is virtually no real competition for touches. On the minus side, his kryptonite this week -- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense -- is allowing just 81 rushing yards per game (second-lowest) and has surrendered six touchdowns in ten games (top-ten). The Bucs are allowing a paltry 3.5 yards per carry to opposing players, so it's safe to say their run defense is #good. They are also not allowing opposing backs to do any damage through the air, so there is no bailout from a pass-catching perspective. Owners should consider benching Hill despite the projected touch volume.

Wide Receiver

Good matchup: Josh Gordon (at PHI) - Gordon didn't make much noise in his first outing with the Seattle Seahawks, but did notably catch his passes in critical spots in that contest. After the week off to get acquainted with the offense, Gordon gets a treat in the form of a matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have been fine against opposing passing attacks overall this season, but notably, allow an abnormally high rate of touchdowns to wide receivers. This is a good spot for a wide receiver now playing with one of the most prolific touchdown throwers in the NFL in Russell Wilson (leads the NFL with a 7.0% touchdown rate). Gordon could well break some big plays in this game but is one of the premier touchdown dart throws of the week.

Bad matchup: Randall Cobb (at NE) - After two straight games with over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown, Cobb will be in a lot of lineups this week despite the matchup with the New England Patriots. Cobb is in a tough spot, as he'll see primary coverage from Jonathan Jones in this game. Jones is being targeted on 20.2% of his coverage snaps, which isn't alarming, but the 5.7 yards per target allowed by Jones is very much so. Jones has allowed just one touchdown in his coverage this season with a 72.9 passer rating allowed. Jones is not a full-time player, which means Cobb could see some of Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty as well, but that's actually even worse (5.2 and 4.6 yards per target allowed, respectively, and zero touchdowns each). The only hope for Cobb is that the Patriots divert enough attention to Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup that they forget about him a few times.

Tight End

The tight end position remains brutal, so if you have a reliable option, start him. With no Travis Kelce this week and George Kittle's status uncertain, there are only three tier-one players this week by numberFire's weekly projections, and TE4 through TE21 are separated by two points. If you start any of the streaming options, just hope he falls into the end zone. There are few obvious streamers based on matchup, but my preferred options if available are Ryan Griffin -- who is garnering almost 25% of targets and is facing an Oakland Raiders defense that has allowed seven touchdowns to the position --, Vance McDonald -- who has ran more than 30 in three straight games, seeing seven targets in each --, and Noah Fant (five targets in three of his last four games). Otherwise, don't overthink it, as there are not enough reliable options at the position.