It’s still early in the season so straight fantasy points allowed is a bad metric to use when determining matchups.
Anyone who’s played fantasy football long enough has seen a running back stat line with something like four carries for one yard and two touchdowns. Those kinds of performances skew fantasy points allowed greatly. It’s also early in the season, so blowouts can skew FPA even further.
Instead of FPA, I’ve been using Football Outsiders’ excellent Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, or DVOA.
No predictive stat is perfect. If we could all predict the future easily, we’d all be rich on Draft Kings money. But because it looks at performance on individual plays as opposed to a collection of plays, DVOA represents a better predictive statistic than FPA.
This week I thought we should take a look at 2015 DVOA. It should be less finicky than FPA, which starts to become reliable in Week 4, but probably doesn’t really mature until about Week 8.
There are some interesting matchups according to the early 2015 returns, but in the end we’ll probably use a combination of full-season 2014 and early 2015 matchups to determine our rankings and lineups this week.
Let’s take a look at this week’s matchups.
Week 3 passing matchups (2015 stats)
|Detroit Lions (DET)||DEN||BUF||Seattle Seahawks (SEA)||CHI||WAS|
|New Orleans Saints (NO)||CAR||CLE||Carolina Panthers (CAR)||NO||ATL|
|Indianapolis Colts (IND)||TEN||SEA||Cleveland Browns (CLE)||OAK||PIT|
|Philadelphia Eagles (PHI)||NYJ||SF||Tennessee Titans (TEN)||IND||CHI|
|DEN||Chicago Bears (CHI)||SEA||OAK|
|St. Louis Rams (STL)||PIT||NO|
|Denver Broncos (DEN)||DET||TEN|
|Arizona Cardinals (ARI)||SF||SD|
The first thing we need to talk about is why the Seahawks defenses is on the wrong side of the chart.
Their play so far this season indicates Seattle is a vulnerable pass defense, which makes the Bears a sneaky play. However, Kam Chancellor is expected to end his holdout and join the Seahawks this week. That should transform them back into a dominant force.
We probably shouldn’t start Jimmy Clausen if he was starting against anyone, let alone Seattle.
OK, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the rest of the matchups.
Denver is the only dominant passing defense from last season that is currently playing that way this season. That makes the Lions, especially with a questionable Matthew Stafford, a shaky play this week.
It looks like Drew Brees has hit the age wall. He’ll certainly have some good weeks, but I suspect we’ll get more of the roller coaster we were on last season. This week, against a Panthers team that’s been defending the pass well, I’ll pass on Brees.
You aren’t going to sit Andrew Luck or his weapons regardless of what these charts say. The Titans have apparently gone from a pass defense to attack to one to avoid. The Jets, too, which means Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray and the beleaguered Eagles offense may not be able to get back on track for another week.
Like the Seahawks, San Francisco went from a team to avoid in 2014, to one to attack in 2015. But unlike Seattle, I think the 49ers are a target. They had so much roster turnover and, as I’ve said before, I really like the Carson Palmer-led Cardinals this season. Expect to see Palmer among our top-5 quarterbacks this week.
Speaking of early rankings — they’ll be out tomorrow, by the way — Russell Wilson, with the top matchup of the week, is a top-3 QB and Cam Newton is seventh, thanks largely to these matchups.
Week 3 rushing matchups (2015 stats)
|Philadelphia Eagles (PHI)||NYJ||DET||Kansas City Chiefs (KC)||GB||NO|
|N. England Patriots (NE)||JAC||SEA||Jacksonville Jags (JAC)||NE||CLE|
|Green Bay Packers (GB)||KC||DEN||Arizona Cardinals (ARI)||SF||ATL|
|Atlanta Falcons (ATL)||DAL||STL||San Diego Chargers (SD)||MIN||TEN|
|San Francisco 49ers (SF)||ARI||PHI||Seattle Seahawks (SEA)||CHI|
|St. Louis Rams (STL)||PIT||Miami Dolphins (MIA)||BUF|
|Baltimore Ravens (BAL)||CIN|
|New York Giants (NYG)||WAS|
|Tennessee Titans (TEN)||IND|
|New York Jets (NYJ)||PHI|
|Buffalo Bills (BUF)||MIA|
We’ve said in the past good run defenses typically stay good and bad run defenses typically stay bad.
Despite new teams on both lists, we don’t have the complete 360-degree swaps we had in the passing matchups.
I also suspect this list isn’t as reliable as I had hoped. After this week, there will be fewer names on the left and the Seahawks, with Chancellor back, will likely return to the avoid ranks. For instance, if New England gets up big on the Jaguars, they’ll likely lean on the rushing game to close out the win, pushing Jacksonville further down or even off the list.
Similarly, despite the ranking, I’m not going to draft T.J. Yeldon in every daily fantasy league because this matchup says the Patriots are bad against the run. The Jaguars will likely be behind by a significant amount, meaning they’ll have to abandon the run early.
This list also says the Giants “defense” is effective against the run. Giants, defense and effective should not be used together in the same sentence in 2015. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alfred Morris and Matt Jones put up big numbers this week.
Now that I’ve poked holes in the 2015 lists, here are the matchups using full-season 2014 DVOA ratings. Again, we’ll be using both to determine our rankings and to build our lineups this week:
Week 3 passing matchups (2014)
|Miami Dolphins (MIA)||BUF||New York Giants (NYG)||WAS|
|Oakland Raiders (OAK)||CLE||Dallas Cowboys (DAL)||ATL|
|Chicago Bears (CHI)||SEA||St. Louis Rams (STL)||PIT|
|Arizona Cardinals (ARI)||SF||Seattle Seahawks (SEA)||CHI|
|Detroit Lions (DET)||DEN||Cleveland Browns (CLE)||OAK|
|Carolina Panthers (CAR)||NO|
|Indianapolis Colts (IND)||TEN|
|Minnesota Vikings (MIN)||SD|
|Philadelphia Eagles (PHI)||NYJ|
|Houston Texans (HOU)||TB|
Both Wilson and Newton are still on the board. So are Nick Foles and Josh McCown.
All four of those quarterbacks will get slight bumps because of their presence on both lists.
Meanwhile, I’m going to recommend we stay away from all pieces of the Lions passing attack in daily fantasy. You must start Calvin Johnson in your season-long league because he’s Calvin Johnson.
Week 3 rushing matchups (2014)
|Denver Broncos (DEN)||DET||Carolina Panthers (CAR)||NO|
|Chicago Bears (CHI)||SEA||Oakland Raiders (OAK)||CLE|
|Detroit Lions (DET)||DEN||Dallas Cowboys (DAL)||ATL|
|Pittsburgh Steelers (PIT)||STL||Indianapolis Colts (IND)||TEN|
|New York Jets (NYJ)||PHI|
Like we said above, there’s no crossover in the rushing ranks between 2014 and 2015, so we’ll probably take the rankings on a case-by-case basis.
One nice thing is that we know running backs like Matt Forte and Le’Veon Bell will provide value despite the matchups because of their catching ability.
On the positive matchup side, the Panthers — running quarterback Newton, in particular — are shaping up for a big game against the Saints.
It’ll be interesting to see if Dallas unleashes Christine Michael this week. I put in waiver claims on him in a couple places this week, especially on teams where I already own Joe Randle. It’s a lottery ticket, but if he hits big where Randle and Darren McFadden have failed he could be the top waiver wire running back of the season.
Tennessee goes from a defense to avoid, according to 2015 stats, to an all-Colts-on-deck defense, according to 2014. As usual, the truth will likely be somewhere in the middle. The Titans defense has done a good job so far this season, but those games were Jameis Winston‘s disastrous debut and last week’s oddball Johnny Manziel game — 8-for-15, 172-yard, 2-TDs.
After the game against Indianapolis this week, we should have a better indication whether Tennessee’s defense is truly effective or if it has benefitted from its opponents.