Fantasy Football: QB matchups, streamer of the week, Week 4 rankings and more

2RREJD7 Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) acknowledges the Lions fans as time runs out in their win over the Kansas City Chiefs in an NFL football game, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

• QB Jared Goff (83.5 PFF offense grade), Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers: He will carve up a Green Bay defense likely missing two of its best defenders.

• QB Kenny Pickett (53.3 PFF offense grade), Pittsburgh Steelers @ Houston Texans: His struggles against the blitz will be on full display.

• Dominate your fantasy league in 2023: For up-to-date fantasy draft rankings and projections, check out PFF’s fantasy rankings tool!

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

NFL Week 3 action is here. For fantasy football managers who passed on the elite quarterback tier, start-and-sit decisions must now be made. Below are two quarterbacks with advantageous matchups to target, two quarterbacks with difficult matchups to avoid and one streaming option possessing a top-12 finish in his range of outcomes.

WR:CB Matchup Chart


QB Matchups to Target

QB Jared Goff, Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers

Goff (83.5 PFF offense grade, QB10 in fantasy points per game) garners mid-tier QB1 consideration against a Green Bay defense likely missing 2021 first-team All-Pro linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (70.4 PFF tight end-coverage grade, ankle sprain) and 2022 second-team All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander (64.3 PFF coverage grade, back).

Update 9/28/23: Campbell and Alexander are officially inactive.

Campbell nursed an August ankle injury before sprained the other ankle in Week 3. Alexander suffered a Week 3 back injury during Friday’s practice.

FanDuel implies Detroit to score a fantasy-friendly 23.5 points.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Detroit a moderate 9.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating.

Goff remains an elite shot-to-intermediate-depth distributor with reliable play-action passing efficiency.

Goff’s passing data among 34 NFL quarterbacks with at least 25 dropbacks and his play-action passing data among 30 NFL quarterbacks with at least 15 play-action dropbacks.
NFL QB Passing & Play-Action Passing Jared Goff
PFF Passing Grade 81.5 (No. 4)
Big-Time-Throw % 4.6% (No. 9)
Turnover-Worthy-Play % 1.8% (No. 4)
Adjusted Completion % 80.8% (No. 3)
Yards per Pass Att. 7.9 (No. 3)
Average Time To Throw 2.56 (No. 11)
PFF Play-Action Passing Grade 81.9 (No. 8)
Adjusted Completion % on Play-Action 81.8% (No. 7)
Yards per Play-Action Pass Att. 11.9 (No. 2)
Past-The-Sticks Throw % 47.8% (No. 8)

Detroit’s pass-catching trio featuring wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (80.6 PFF receiving grade, 27.8% target rate and 2.84 yards per route run (YPRR)), running back Jahmyr Gibbs (62.0 PFF receiving grade, 25.5% target rate ranks No. 2 and his 1.26 YPRR) and tight end Sam LaPorta (79.4 PFF receiving grade, 26.5% target rate ranks No. 3 and his 2.24 YPRR) all rank top six in positional per-route efficiency among 50 NFL wide receivers with at least 95 receiving snaps and among 49 NFL running backs and tight ends with at least 45 routes run and 10 targets, respectively.

Campbell’s limitations and/or absence particularly benefit Gibbs and LaPorta.

PFF’s WR/CB chart gives St. Brown a good 84.8 receiving matchup advantage rating against Green Bay cornerback Keisean Nixon (67.8 PFF coverage grade).

Goff offers a rock-solid QB1 floor with a top-tier touchdown-based upside, operating as the NFL’s preeminent point guard.

QB Justin Fields, Chicago Bears vs. Denver Broncos

Chicago quarterback Justin Fields (62.3 PFF offense grade) returns to fantasy footballQB1 status against Denver’s ineffectual defense. Fields’ downfield passing and field-traversing speed are tailor-made to exploit Denver’s defensive deficiencies.

The game opened with a fantasy-friendly 46.0-point FanDuel over/under.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Chicago a helpful 10.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating.

Fields’ (43.6 PFF pressured passing grade) struggles when pressured will be safely stowed this week. Denver’s front seven (63.3 PFF pass-rush grade) ranks bottom three in both pass-rush win rate (29.4%) and quarterback pressure rate (19.6%). Head coach Sean Payton foolishly hamstrings his own unit by limiting team-best edge rusher Nik Bonitto (71.7 PFF pass-rush grade) to a part-time role.

Denver’s secondary was destroyed by the Miami Dolphins’ downfield passing (93.4 PFF 15-plus-yard aDot passing grade in Week 3) but the shellacking barely worsened the bottom-barrel unit’s standing among NFL teams.

Denver’s 15-plus-yard aDot coverage data among NFL teams.
NFL-Team Secondary Downfield Coverage Denver Broncos Denver Broncos in Weeks 1-2
PFF 15+-Yd-aDot Coverage Grade 25.6 (No. 32) 28.0 (No. 29)
Catch % Allowed 85.7% (No. 32) 87.5% (No. 32)
Yards Allowed per Coverage Snap 20.69 (No. 32) 17.78 (No. 29)
15+-Yd Pass Plays Allowed % 75.0% (No. 32) 77.8% (No. 31)

Fields made good on his stated intent to “play football how [he] know[s] how to play football”, more than doubling his 5.3-yard average depth of target (aDot) with a Week 3-high (among quarterbacks with at least 10 dropbacks) 15.1-yard aDot. He also paired a fourth-ranked 9.1% big-time-throw rate with a perfect 0.0% turnover-worthy play rate.

Fields likewise ran the ball a season-high 11 times. Among 18 NFL quarterbacks with at least 10 season-long rushing attempts, Fields’ (81.0 PFF rushing grade) 0.29 missed tackles forced per rushing attempt and 4.0 yards after contact per rushing attempt both rank top three.

Denver’s front seven (49.7 PFF run-defense grade) owns the fourth-highest negatively-graded run play rate (62.2%) among NFL front sevens.

Fields’ pass-catchers have matchup-based upside; PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart gives inside/outside No. 1 wide receiver D.J. Moore (82.3 PFF slot-receiving grade) an excellent 87.7 receiving matchup advantage rating against slot cornerback Essang Bassey (52.2 PFF slot-coverage grade).

Denver’s three-time second-team All-Pro free safety Justin Simmons (49.4 PFF coverage grade, hip injury) failed to practice in Week 3. Simmons’ preseason was curiously derailed by an anatomically adjacent groin strain, potentially indicating a lingering issue.

Fields brings a week-winning upside to Week 4.


QB Matchups to Avoid

QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers @ Houston Texans

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett’s (53.3 PFF offense grade) 12.82 fantasy points per game yield just the QB25 spot and the blitz-fearing second-year player must now contend with the league’s most efficient blitzing unit.

The game’s 41.0-point FanDuel over/under is Week 4’s second-lowest.

Pickett panics both on ineffectual and pressure-generating blitzes. His 6.5% turnover-worthy play rate against blitzes is second second-highest among 34 NFL quarterbacks with at least 25 blitzed dropbacks, and his 6.7% turnover-worthy play rate on pressured blitzes ties for sixth-highest among 20 NFL quarterbacks with 15 such dropbacks. In both instances, his adjusted completion rate drops to sub-58.0% levels.

Houston’s 60.7% quarterback pressure rate generated on blitzes ranks No. 1 among NFL teams.

Houston’s secondary experienced early-season injuries but the unit is returning to near-full health. Houston strong safety Jimmie Ward (67.9 PFF coverage grade, hip injury) returned to play in Week 3, free safety Jalen Pitre (59.9 PFF coverage grade, bruised lung) is expected to return in Week 4 and stud slot cornerback Tavierre Thomas (87.9 PFF slot-coverage grade, hand injury) has a chance to as well. The return to form helps negate cornerback Derek Stingley’s (69.1 PFF coverage grade, injured reserve) loss. Expect the Houston defensive backs to profit from Pickett’s turnover-worthy ways.

Pickett flashed rushing potential as a 2022 rookie but his 1.1 yards per rushing attempt rank No. 23 among 25 NFL quarterbacks with at least eight rushing attempts. He has failed to force a missed tackle.

Houston’s 1.33-yard average depth of tackle on quarterback rushing attempts ranks No. 10 among NFL teams. The impressive rate comes after facing Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (81.0 PFF rushing grade), Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (63.4 PFF rushing grade) and one quarter’s worth of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (55.5 PFF rushing grade).

Pickett remains a borderline QB2/3 for Week 4.

QB Sam Howell, Washington Commanders @ Philadelphia Eagles

Washington quarterback Sam Howell (59.3 PFF offense grade) possesses the requisite play-to-play amnesia to survive as a turnover-prone, big-armed NFL quarterback. His biggest strength will be his downfall against Philadelphia’s top-tier defense though.

FanDuel implies Washington to score just 18.5 points.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Washington a -27.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, the fifth-worst on the week.

Washington’s left guard Saahdiq Charles (67.9 PFF pass-blocking grade) and center Nick Gates (57.0 PFF pass-blocking grade) will face terrible pressure generated by Philadelphia’s mountainous interior defenders Jalen Carter (87.3 PFF pass-rush grade), Jordan Davis (71.4 PFF pass-rush grade) and Fletcher Cox (66.1 PFF pass-rush grade). Charles’ (4.8%) and Gates’ (7.3%) quarterback pressure rates allowed both rank outside the top 20 among NFL guards and centers with at least 100 pass-blocking snaps.

Philadelphia’s interior defenders boast top-six performance metrics in quarterback pressure rate (22.7%), pass-rush productivity (14.0) and pass-rush win rate (27.3%) among NFL interior defender units. Their 4.5 sacks tie for No. 1. Among 66 NFL interior defenders with at least 50 pass-rushing snaps, Carter’s 20.5% quarterback pressure rate and 11.6 pass-rush productivity rank No. 1.

Howell’s No. 31-ranked 4.3% turnover-worthy play rate (among 34 NFL quarterbacks with at least 25 dropbacks) jumps to 7.1% when pressured, and his middling 3.7% big-time-throw rate plummets to 0.0%, respectively.

Howell teased dual-threat upside by scoring a Week 1 green zone rushing touchdown but has attempted just rushes since.

In the event Howell attempts to scramble, Philadelphia’s 83.7 PFF run-defense grade leads all NFL teams by 4.7 and their 2.82-yard average depth of tackle ranks No. 3.

Howell is a QB3 against Philadelphia.


Streamer of the Week

QB C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Houston quarterback C.J. Stroud (66.8 PFF passing grade) approaches stalwart streaming status as an endlessly underrated player. Houston’s explosive-pass-play offense will rip off chunk gains against Pittsburgh’s aging secondary.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Houston a neutral -3.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating.

Pittsburgh general manager Omar Khan bafflingly recreated two-fifths of the bottom-dwelling Minnesota Vikings 2022 secondary this offseason, signing perimeter cornerback Patrick Peterson (72.7 PFF perimeter-coverage grade) and slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan (49.9 PFF slot-coverage grade).

Pittsburgh’s secondary has been tagged by opposing wide receivers for the 15th-highest explosive pass plays allowed rate (17.3%) and fifth-most explosive pass plays allowed (13) among NFL teams. Peterson (33 years old) and fellow perimeter starter Levi Wallace (58.1 PFF coverage grade, 28 years old) combine for 10 explosive pass plays allowed to opposing wide receivers. Wallace’s six tie for the positional high and Peterson’s four are tied for 10th-most among 66 NFL cornerbacks with at least 40 wide receiver-coverage snaps.

Sullivan and free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (71.9 PFF slot-coverage grade) are Pittsburgh’s primary slot receiver coverage defenders. Sullivan offers a welcoming 75.0% slot receiver catch rate. Fitzpatrick’s part-time slot role tasks beatable strong safeties Damontae Kazee (61.9 PFF free safety-coverage grade, 30 years old) and Keanu Neal (65.8 PFF free safety-coverage grade, 2018 ACL tear and 2019 Achilles rupture) with filling Fitzpatrick’s free safety shoes, providing winnable downfield opportunities for perimeter wide receivers.

Houston’s ascending wide receiver corps is routinely smoking opposing defensive backs.

Houston wide receivers’ big-play receiving data among NFL wide receiver corps.
NFL WR Big-Play Receiving Houston Texans WRs
15+-Yd Pass Plays 17 (No. 4)
Missed Tackles Forced 8 (T-No. 2)
15+-Yd Pass Play % 32.7% (No. 12)
MTF/Reception 0.15 (T-No. 5)

Stroud’s bold arm yields a 47.1% past-the-sticks throwing rate and 7.5 yards per attempt, ranking No. 6 and No. 8, respectively, among 34 NFL quarterbacks with at least 25 dropbacks.

Stroud is a back-end QB1 with big-play upside.

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