There’s a short slate this week, so these matchups will be brief. I’m going to highlight two plus matchups and two minus matchups per position.
I have high confidence in these matchups and look at statistical data for the season, the last five weeks, the last three weeks and adjusted data, like Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which attempts to eliminate schedule bias and give us a true picture of how good or bad a defense is.
That said you can study every statistic on the planet and fail to predict that Ben Roethlisberger is going to throw back-to-back 6-TD games. Or predict a massive game from Isaiah Crowell in the opening round of the fantasy playoffs only to see him get 17 yards on 7 carries against the worst-rated run defense in the NFL.
Those are the breaks. All we can do is give ourselves the best chance to make the right call and matchup data is one of the tools that can help.
Best running back receiving matchups
Giovani Bernard/Jeremy Hill vs. Indianapolis — The Colts rank 31st in DVOA against pass-catching backs. They’ve given up 47.9 yards per game to them. Bernard has emerged as the pass-catching option in Cincinnati and has been effective in a change-of-pace role. I’ll find a way to get Bernard in a lineup or two this weekend.
Dan Herron/Trent Richardson vs. Cincinnati — Herron benefits the most from this matchup. He has taken over Ahmad Bradshaw’s role. He hasn’t been as effective — he hasn’t scored and doesn’t have a game of 100 yards from scrimmage — but there some in the industry thinks he’ll have a breakout-type game against the Bengals this week.
Worst running back receiving matchups
Kerwynn Williams/Stepfan Taylor vs. Carolina — The Panthers rank second in DVOA against pass-catching backs, allowing 31.6 receiving yards a game to them. The likely game script in this one has the Cardinals trailing so there may be opportunities for Williams and Taylor. But the Panthers have proven effective at minimizing those opportunities this season.
Jonathan Stewart/DeAngelo Williams vs. Arizona — I find it interesting how many matchups this week have worst-worst and best-best in the same game. We have that again here. The Cadinals have allowed just 29.7 receiving yards per game to running backs this season and rank third in DVOA. Williams’ return is likely to cut into Stewart’s work anyway, making him one of my least favorite plays of the week.