Play the matchups in fantasy football, and you’ll win more often than you lose. Now that we’re in the thick of the bye weeks, knowing the matchups to avoid and exploit becomes even more important. Bellow you’ll find the key matchup stats to know from each of the 14 remaining games this week.
Tyrod Taylor is a viable streamer.
Despite his draft stock dropping after Sammy Watkins was traded, Taylor remains a fantasy option at quarterback. Better yet, he may be on your waiver wire. Taylor adds fantasy upside with his legs – he led all quarterbacks in rushing yards last year. He gets a strong matchup to start off the season against a Jets. Taylor put up 297 passing yards and three scores against the Jets in Week 2 last season.
Jordan Howard picks up where he left off.
One of last season’s biggest surprises, Howard finished second in rushing yards. He’s a good bet to hit the ground running this week against a Falcons defense that gave up the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs last season. Running backs especially did damage on the Falcons as receivers, averaging a league-high 8.3 targets per game. While Tarik Cohen could see some work as a receiver, Howard will still see his share of targets. He was targeted 46 times last year.
Avoid the Bengals backs … for now.
This isn’t really a matchup thing. Rather, with the Bengals slated to use a three-headed committee at running back, it’s just too tough to trust Joe Mixon, Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard in your starting lineup. Ultimately, Mixon is the best bet to emerge, but the touches could be fairly evenly split in Week 1.
Start all of your Steelers, and most of your Browns.
Okay, so it isn’t cutting-edge fantasy advice to recommend starting Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown, but those on the fence about Isaiah Crowell should consider starting him. The Steelers gave up the seventh-most fantasy points per game to running backs last year. The game script could also be favorable for DeShone Kizer. The rookie quarterback makes for a sneaky streamer option for those who may be without Jameis Winston this week.
Downgrade Ameer Abdullah.
Many fantasy owners have high hopes for the third-year back Abdullah, but it’s wise to temper expectations this week. The Cardinals allowed the second-fewest PPR points per game to opposing running backs in 2016. Running backs averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and 66.7 yards per game against Arizona.
Tough matchup for Leonard Fournette.
Going up against J.J. Watt and company isn’t an ideal way to start your NFL career, but that’s the hand the schedule makers dealt Fournette. The Texans gave up the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs last year, and that was largely without Watt. Fournette is still startable as an RB2, but fantasy owners will want to temper expectations.
Both quarterbacks get an upgrade.
Start ’em if you got ’em in this one. Marcus Mariota is poised for a strong performance against the suspect Raiders secondary that allowed two or more passing scores nine times last year. The matchup is even better on the other side for Derek Carr. Tennessee surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, with opposing signal callers averaging 18.3 fantasy points.
Zach Ertz poised for a big week.
The Eagles tight end figures to see an uptick in targets with Jordan Matthews out of the mix. He also gets a great matchup to kick off the 2017 season. Washington really struggled against tight ends last season, yielding over 100 yards to the position four times. Opposing tight ends averaged 8.8 targets per game against the Redskins, which ranked third in the league. Start Ertz with confidence.
Fire up Todd Gurley as an RB1.
He was one of last year’s biggest fantasy disappointments, but the Todd Gurley fantasy redemption tour starts this week. He’s locked in as a solid RB1 play against a shaky Colts defense the surrendered an average of 108.6 rushing years per game and an average of 4.8 yards per carry to opposing backs last year.
Fade the running backs in this game.
The backfield situation in Seattle is just too volatile to trust right now, so it’s best to avoid it altogether until we get more clarity on how the Seahawks plan to deploy their running backs. It also might be a good idea to fade Ty Montgomery this week. He’s locked in as the Packers’ lead back, but the matchup is rough. Seattle yielded the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backs last year.
Upgrade Christian McCaffrey.
Kareem Hunt may not end up being the only rookie running back to explode in Week 1. McCaffrey also has the chance to do major damage in a delicious matchup against a 49ers defense that surrendered the most PPR points per game to opposing running backs last year. San Francisco gave up an average of 143.3 rushing yards – at 5.0 yards per carry – and 1.5 touchdowns per game to the position. McCaffrey will split time with Jonathan Stewart, but his explosive upside make him an RB2-plus this week.
Fade Dak Prescott.
We can expect a run-heavy approach from the Cowboys this week. Not only do they have Ezekiel Elliott on the field, but it’s also a brutal matchup for Prescott. Last season, the Giants gave up the second fewest fantasy points per game to opposing signal callers. Only three quarterbacks threw for more than one touchdown pass and no one threw for more than two scores. The Giants also held 13 of their 16 opposing quarterbacks to under 300 yards passing.
Dalvin Cook gets an upgrade.
While much of the talk has been about Adrian Peterson facing his former team, the Vikings rookie running back may be the one stealing the headlines on Monday night. Cook slots in as the lead back and gets a great matchup against the porous Saints defense. New Orleans was one of just four defenses to allow more than one rushing touchdown per game last year,
Keep Philip Rivers on the bench.
There’s going to be times this season where Rivers will be a viable streamer, but this isn’t that time. He gets a rough matchup on Monday night against the stout Broncos pass defense. Denver held opposing quarterbacks to just 199.9 passing yards 0.8 passing scores per game. The entire Chargers passing game gets a downgrade this week.