Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Sep 2010

ESPN: 2010 Week 1 Fantasy Matchups

The FO Fantasy Matchups column returns for its fourth season. This week, we talk about why you should start Hines Ward and bench Anquan Boldin.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 09 Sep 2010

18 comments, Last at 11 Sep 2010, 12:15pm by mo


by Sean D (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:19pm

I'm still trying to decide between Tony Romo and Jay Cutler for week 1. Seems like a close call. 1 pt per 25 yards. 6 pts per TD.

I'm also leaning toward using Ricky Williams over Knowshon Moreno for flex (starting RBs are MJD and Foster). Am I crazy?

by Houle (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:08pm

I don't have insider but the intro to article for those that don't is horrible. Rationilizing that u should bench Chris Johnson against the best run defences because u need on average 11 points from him over those 4 games and he only scored 52.7 points against the 4 defences he faced who were top ten in rush dvoa made me double check to make sure you hadn't accidently linked to a Clayton article

by Qwerty (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:12pm

Except it's not always average that matters. For sure, chris johnson owners probably won against San Francisco. But against the other three teams, starting johnson would have been a negative and a higher chance of three losses.

by george (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:31pm

Well he included one game vs. Jacksonville, but somehow left out the other one where CJ2k scored another 35 fantasy point. You bIetter have another good option if you're losing out on 28 and 35 point games in 2/5 weeks. In the other 3 he still got an avg. of 8. Depends on your depth and other matchups oviously, but I can't imagine I would've been better off sitting CJ in any of those games.

by dafrk3in :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 7:04pm

It is average that matters. Lineup decisions depend on expectations, not results.

As another person argues, it is reasonable to expect that Chris Johnson will score more than 11 points on average against good run defenses. As someone else pointed out, this is reasonable to believe because Chris Johnson did in fact score more than 11 points on average against against the four top-10 defenses that Aaron Schatz mentioned (Indy, SF, Jax, NYJ).

Once again, expectations matter. If you expect CJ to score more points than, let's say, Tim Hightower, then you should start CJ. Hightower scoring more points than CJ in that week is not prima facie evidence that you've made a poor decision.

by zlionsfan :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 8:45pm

Average matters if you don't intend to make changes to your lineup, and in that case, you really don't need to read these articles. Over the course of the season, it's reasonable to assume that Johnson will get more points than Hightower, and if that is your approach, you should start Johnson every week he plays.

But I think the purpose of this series is not average performance, it's peak performance. In my league (1/10 + 1 per rec), Johnson had a 5-point game at home against Indy last year. If you had to decide between him and, say, Tashard Choice against the Chiefs, you would have missed out on 10 points (92 yards, 1 TD, no rec). Kansas City's run defense was significantly worse than the Colts' at that point if I can read the data correctly (unfortunately the premium data doesn't break down season DVOA by week and also pass/run), probably based on the Arizona-Indy game in week 3, so a better move would have been to play a decent RB against a bad defense.

They might even have suggested Ahmad Bradshaw, who ended up posting 29 points against Oakland in my league (110 + 2 TDs, 1 rec for 55). 24 points in one week is a lot to give up simply because Johnson is the better pick in the long run.

For the record, FO had Choice as a +9% against KC that week and Bradshaw as +7%. Johnson was in the middle (between +4% and -4%).

Of course, you can't hit them all. Cedric Benson was a -23% and went for 21 in my league (league-high 120 that week plus 1 TD, 2 recs for 16) ... but the idea is that if you want an elite record, you're going to have to take chances, and these are some of the better chances to take.

by mlargent :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 1:57pm

so you are saying you shouldn't have even played Johnson vs. Indy (the 20th rated run defense?), but you'd play Hightower in his place? The article doesn't even go that far.

Sure, if you can go in after the fact and see if someone else might've scored more.

The article's main point is probably accurate, and I look at matchups more than most probably do, but it is a bit overstated in the case of Chris Johnson which is the one used to illustrate the point. And following that strategy would have missed out on a 28 point game and a 35 point game in 2 of the 5 games vs top 10 rush defenses, and an average of 8 fantasy points in the other 3. you have a good 3rd rb or 3rd wr if you are going to get that production in those games missed (even if they have favorable matchups).

by zlionsfan :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 2:05pm

Also, the top-10 run defenses were Pittsburgh, SF, Jacksonville, and the Jets. Johnson struggled against Indy's 20th-ranked run defense.

by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 11:13am

Barnwell mentioned, not me. Credit where credit is due: the weekly fantasy matchups piece is by Bill Barnwell.

by dafrk3in :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 1:20pm

Oops! Sorry, thought I saw your name in the byline for some reason.

by Passball (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:08pm

Hm, I was already down on Boldin. Should I start Donald Driver@Philly over him?

by Red Hedgehog :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 12:42am

So I guess this is telling me to start Hightower over McFadden and Foster. And I don't see starting any of those guys over Jamaal Charles.

by Jayson Werth (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 1:25am

Somebody help a brotha out! Jerome Harrison or Shonn Greene in fantasy this week? Lotsa people high on Harrison...but he looked awful in Pre-Season...

by justanothersteve :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 8:30am

I admit I only do FFL for fun. I still don't believe you pull your best players just because of an unfavorable matchup. Rarely is your #3 or #4 RB/WR (depending if you have a flex position) a starter, or if he is he might be in a backfield-by-committee situation. So you probably get as many points from your #1 WR or #1 RB as you would from your bench players. Plus, it's still more likely your big guy goes on a tear against even the best defenses. That's why they're good. While I look for matchups when filling my flex position or any position where I don't have a clear #1 guy, I don't think it ever makes sense to not play your best player unless he's not playing due to injury or it's game 16 and you have P Manning.

by zlionsfan :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 2:19pm

Look, there's nothing wrong with keeping your best players in your lineup week in and week out, especially if you play for fun - heck, in that case it's probably better not to tinker with things. You'll probably get more enjoyment out of your team if you "set it and forget it" (except for bye weeks). It's easier to follow that way.

But like it or not, to excel, you're going to have to take chances. It's extremely unlikely that a lineup of your best players, week in and week out, will produce the most points for you each week, particularly so if you're in a league where transactions are free (some leagues limit the number of waiver/FA pickups you can make).

Johnson is actually an excellent example of this. Look at his 2009 season: through week 6, he scored 7 (6), 54 (45), 10 (9), 12 (9), 5 (3), and 12 (12). (Points in parens are for a standard league with 1 pt/10 yards, 6 for TDs; the first number is points in my league, which includes 1 pt/rec.) If you locked Johnson into your lineup, for five of those six weeks, you missed out on some points, and those week 2 points don't carry over to the next week. In week 1, there were 27 RBs who would have got you more points based on running alone ... surely one of them would have been available for your lineup. Of course, not all of them seemed like good plays going into the week, but FO did suggest Mike Bell (14 points against Detroit), Cedric Benson (20/16 points against Denver), and Julius Jones (20/18 points against St. Louis).

Will you hit like that every week? Probably not. Will you be more successful if you take advantage of matchups? Over time, I believe you will.

by RALPH (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 7:58pm

QB concerns: im having a hard time i hope i can get some help, i dont know who to start i drafted big ben, but i will have to wait till week 5 and im betting on some sleepers from week 1 to 4, so here is my doubt ANDERSON (ARI) or ORTON (DEN), staticts say that orton would be more reliable but i have a hunch that anderson will have a great week vs rams, every QB did last season and STL pass def hasnt improved much, so what do yo think PPL.............

WR concerns: the other one is BRITT (TEN) or WALLACE (PIT) wallace, i think could make some impact ATL DEF will focus on WARD (PIT), and OAK pass def had a great preseason but, we all know they wont do much, i hope LOL, and if they do, they will focus on WASHINGTON (TEN)more than BRITT (TEN), he has amazing speed to pass OAK's deep coverage, so i spect him to do some deep catches but i need some opinions over here, so...................

by RALPH (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 8:02pm


by mo :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 12:15pm

A lot of talk about Hightower but I'm going with Harrison.