Fantasy number crunch: Best and worst of Week 1

The winning formula in fantasy football is simple: Acquire the most productive players with the least resistance to points production as you can.

But what truly defines a "productive player"? Math geeks know that simply considering the old industry standards of "Fantasy Points Against" and "Player Cumulative Fantasy Points" will leave way too much to error to be statistically reliable.

That's why I helped create a system that predicts player performance and provides the actual strength of an opponent and actual player production values. When used, this sytem has proven to be up to 37 percent more accurate than the metrics that everyone else in your league is using.

The system gives you a "Player Rating," "Defense Rating," and a third "Matchup Rating." The ratings are based on the most advanced and accurate mathematical algorithm in fantasy football, and take into account the following factors:

» Adjusted Player scoring based on strength of their previous opponents *
*» Adjusted Defense scoring based on the strength of the players they have faced at each position *
*» Whether the player and/or defense plays better at home or away *
*» How the player compares against other players within their same position *
*» How defenses compare against other defenses against the same positions *
*» ... and many more!

Sound complicated? Don't worry -- it's simple to understand. All you need to know is that the player, defense or matchup with the higher rating is the better option. That's it. Leave the number crunching to the geeks.

Use this system as the basis for your fantasy decisions to take the guesswork out of winning in fantasy football and get the edge on the competition.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The defense ratings for this week have been adjusted for 2014 based on last year's numbers, but will be more accurate after Week 1 and continue to become more accurate each week thereafter. Plan on coming back for fresh system-based ratings that you cannot get anywhere else!

Weekly Matchup Ranges

Below are the BEST and WORST defensive ratings against each position. The higher the number, the better the matchup:

Legend

Here's an easy breakdown of how each player module works. When these terms are mentioned in the text (i.e. "best") they are corresponding to these ratings and colors:

key.jpg

Expect More:

Players who could exceed expectations this week based on the weakness of their opponent.

QB

Kaepernick.jpg

Kaepernick ended last season as a low-end QB2 based on his fantasy point production. But if you run him through the algorithm and adjust for opponent strength, you will see that he does very well against difficult matchups. His metrics show he was actually the fourth highest-rated quarterback in 2013. To put this in perspective, last season he faced the second-toughest adjusted strength of schedule and now opens the season against a Dallas defense that represents an easier matchup than all 16 of his 2013 opponents. Kaepernick outperforms his tough opponents and the Cowboys are the single easiest opponent he could face in Week 1. Forecast:Kaepernick faced one of the worst schedules in the league last year, but the Cowboys are one of his two "best" rated matchups coming in the first five weeks of his 2014 scehdule. That's one more "best" than he had all of last season. [Recommended Usage: QB1]

Stafford.jpg

Stafford was one of the lowest-rated starting quarterbacks when facing above-average competition in 2013. He was ranked seventh in fantasy points among quarterbacks, but when adjusted for competition strength, he was just inside the top 20. This explains things like his total collapse to end last season. As a result, you might expect him to have low production against the Giants who appear to be the ninth toughest matchup for quarterbacks based on fantasy point totals. But, when you adjust the Giants' rating for opponent strength and 2014 personnel, they are actually the sixth easiest matchup for opposing quarterbacks coming into Week 1. That's just the type of easy matchup that Stafford needs in order for him to produce solid points. Forecast: This is one of the four "good" matchups for Stafford this season, and one of two in the first three weeks. Analytics show he performs well against "good" matchups but his seven "bad" and two "worst" matchups may yield lower production later in the season. Ride him while you can still get the top five quarterback ADP value that you paid when you drafted him. [Recommended Usage: QB1]

RB

Ellington.jpg

Lots of hype surrounds Ellington due in large part to his reportedly increased role in the Cardinals offense this season. The good news for owners is that analyzing his numbers make him even more promising for 2014. First, Ellington was the sixth highest-rated running back in the fantasy points per attempt (FPPA) metric, which is used to determine future fantasy production. In limited playing time last season he was still a top-25 back in algorithm-adjusted rankings. Combine that with his opponent in Week 1, the Chargers, and you could see low-end RB1 production to break in the season. The Chargers appear to be a top-12 "tough" matchup for running backs in fantasy points against (FPA) metrics, but adjusted for their opposition in 2013, you see they are actually the 11th easiest opponent for fantasy running backs to face this week. Running backs perform mathematically better at home and on grass so these three factors combine for what should be better than expected production out of the 2014 breakout back. Forecast: Ellington should continue his nice start in Week 2 with a matchup against a Giants defense rated the 13th easiest opponent for running backs. [Recommended Usage: RB2]

Murray.jpg

Taken in the first round of many drafts, Murray is part of a Dallas offense that will be on the field a ton in 2014. Murray plays a big role in the come from behind passing game that we will see plenty of in Dallas. Adjusted for opponents, Murray was the seventh most productive running back in the NFL in 2013. He was also the seventh best running back in the FPPA metric that tells us how productive players are with their opportunities. And he should get plenty of opportunities this year. The 49ers are a classic reputation defense due in large part to their big season against the run in 2011. As a result, many fantasy footballers see them on the schedule and expect low production from running backs who face them. In reality, the 2014 49ers project to be no better than middle of the pack against fantasy running backs. Fantasy points against metrics might have them as a top-10 tough matchup but, the algorithm proves they are a much easier foe. Forecast: Things get a lot easier for Murray in Weeks 2 and 3 as he faces two top-five "best" running back matchups when he plays the Titans and Rams.[Recommended Usage: RB2]

WR

Crabtree.jpg

Crabtree missed most of the 2013 season due to injury, but the 49ers got him right back into the mix in Week 13 when he returned. He doesn't have a ton of data to examine, but when you look at his FPPA metric, he finished as the 17th best wide receiver at taking advantage of his opportunities. He had his best two games of the 2013 season against easy defenses. In Week 1, he is gifted with the Cowboys defense that rates out as the projected sixth-easiest matchup for opposing wide receivers. That is just a tick below their FPA ranking, but they are still the type of opponent that Crabtree can take advantage of. Forecast: Crabtree has one "good" and one "best" matchup coming in the next three games when he faces the Cardinals and Eagles. But, the rest of his season has seven "bad" matchups and three "worst" matchups waiting for him. [Recommended Usage: WR2/FLEX]

Randle_stats

Randle was a hot topic in early summer fantasy sleeper discussions. However, many fantasy pundits turned away from him after the Giants drafted Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham has not been able to get on the field due to a preseason injury and he is apparently "multiple weeks away" from game action. So, Randle is thrust back into the starting wide receiver role opposite Victor Cruz. Randle showed glimpses of how he can produce for fantasy back in 2013 with three big games, all of which were against top five easy matchups. He is also working in a split end role, which is featured in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's scheme. Randle finished as the 37th rated wide receiver last year, just above his 43rd wide receiver points ranking. If given the chance against good matchups, he has shown he can produce. In Week 1, he faces the Lions secondary whose metrics have them actually as the fifth easiest defense for opposing wide receivers. Forecast:Randle should have an opportunity to take advantage of Beckham's absence in Week 1, but things get tougher against the Cardinals and Texans before a string of four "better" matchups to take him into the Giants bye week. [Recommended Usage: FLEX/WR3]

TE

Reed.jpg

Reed may be off many fantasy players' radars after a concussion finished his rookie season prematurely. But looking back on his metrics from 2013, we find that he was actually a top-10 rated tight end, even against difficult opponents. His FPPA metric shows he was top-10 in tight end production as well. This tells us that with more opportunities, he can produce as a top tight end in 2014 against "easy" to "bad" matchups, but may not be too productive against "worst" defenses. Luckily in Week 1, he gets a Texans defense that rated out as the 11th-easiest against tight ends despite their FPA rankings in the middle of the pack. Forecast:This will be the first of a string of three easy opponents to start the season for Reed, with the Jaguars and Eagles coming up next. [Recommended Usage: LOW TE1]

D/ST

NE at MIA: The addition of Darrelle Revis was a huge one for the Patriots. You won't see the complete impact of that secondary until sleeper free agent, Brandon Browner, comes back from suspension. But the biggest impact that Revis will make is on Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. If you crunch the numbers on the opposing quarterbacks facing the Patriots this season, you find an average 77.4 2013 quarterback rating.

NYJ vs OAK: Here is a formula for you: Rookie quarterback plus rookie guard plus defense playing at home equals good D/ST spot start. Even if your defense is the Jets. The Raiders are simply not yet ready for the regular season in Week 1, despite dazzling in Week 4 of the preseason. Carr is the best hope for success for Oakland and the Jets have the worst secondary situation in the NFL right now, but the Jets front line should bring pressure that Carr hasn't seen before. Make sure you dump the Jets after this week and play the matchups. This is the last good one for the Jets D/ST.

Expect Less:

Players who could fall short of expectations this week based on the strength of their opponent.

QB

Brady.jpg

Brady was one of the few "what you see is what you get" quarterbacks in 2013. He finished as the 13th overall quarterback and his "adjusted" value remains 13th after you look at opponents and home/away factors. This is an indicator that he will not outplay his opponent's strength nor will he miss taking advantage of easy matchups. The Dolphins finished as the seventh toughest matchup for opposing quarterbacks in 2013, but when you apply the algorithm to their schedule last season, then they were actually stout as the third toughest defense for fantasy quarterbacks just behind the Rams and Seahawks. Expect Brady to produce below his potential against the Dolphins who held him to seven fantasy points in one contest last season. Forecast: The good news is that Brady will come out of this week with three positive matchups ahead against the Vikings, Raiders and Chiefs. [Recommended Usage: LOW QB1]

Romo.jpg

Romo is one of the most polarizing quarterbacks in fantasy football. Regardless of where you fall on the Romo debate, here is one stat you can sink your teeth into: Romo finished 10th overall if look you only at fantasy points among quarterbacks in 2013. But, if you adjust for opponent and situation, he falls to 21st! This indicates that his success last season was very dependent on ease of opponent. This is not the case in Week 1 as he faces a 49ers defense that adjusts to an easier matchup than their No. 3 overall FPA ranking would suggest Yet, the 49ers are still better than 11 of Romo's opponents last season. Forecast: It will be a much tougher schedule for Romo in 2014 and his production will reflect it. [Recommended Usage: HIGH QB2

RB

Jennings.jpg

It can be hard to get a read on what to expect from former backups that are thrust into a starting role, but the algorithm accounts for this nicely. Jennings ranked as the 21st overall running back in 2013. Adjusting for opponents and situation put him at about 25th. This tells us that he is not one of the backs that can overcome his opponent's strength. In Week 1 he faces a very stout run defense in the Lions. The Lions defense adjusts better against fantasy running backs than their standard FPA ranking may indicate. Coupling that with the metric of running backs being less productive on the road and you can expect Jennings to underwhelm in his Giants debut. Forecast: Things do not get much easier for Jennings in the next two weeks as he faces two more top-three projected tough matchups against the Cardinals and the Texans. [Recommended Usage: RB2/FLEX]

Ball.jpg

Ball finished 2013 rated as the 51st most productive running back. That's actually six ranking spots below his fantasy point production ranking of 45th. This tells us that with the opportunities he was given in 2013, he did below-average based on the strength of his opponent. However, his sample size will greatly increase in 2014. His .59 fantasy points per attempt metric was about what Zac Stacy and Ryan Mathews produced last season, so you could expect that type of production with more opportunities. Knowshon Moreno averaged 15.1 attempts per game in 2013 in the same offense. In Week 1, Ball faces a Colts defense that was about the same against all levels of running backs in 2013. Their adjusted rating ranks them 19th easiest, compared to 20th in fantasy points against. Our conclusion here would be that in this match, Ball will produce just under the average that the Colts opponents have previously produced which was roughly 16 fantasy points per week. It's worth noting that Ball might not be the only ball carrier for Denver in this game, however, given he's still recovering from his offseson appendectomy. Forecast: The numbers this preseason said to shy away from Ball due to his first round ADP and his 2013 schedule proves that to be good advice. Week 1 is just the first in a projected six consecutive "poor" matchups for Ball (four "bad" and two "worst"). [Recommended Usage: RB2]

WR

Brown.jpg

Brown is likely the WR1 anchor on your team coming into Week 1 due to his second round ADP. He brings great value considering he was the seventh overall fantasy wide receiver last season. If you adjust his 2013 production to opponents and situation, he stays put at seventh, too. This tells us that he can produce against even tough matchups. Unfortunately, the Browns are on the schedule this weekend and are one of the most impressive defenses against wide receivers. Their 2013 FPA shows them as 12th toughest, but adjusting for opponents makes them the third toughest. This huge spike indicates that they can shut down even the most talented wide receivers and they have only improved from a personnel standpoint coming into 2014. Brown should have a tough time getting out of the blocks in this matchup. He faces the toughest-rated defense of any WR1 this week. Forecast: Brown faces the Browns again in Week 6 but will have at least one "good" matchup and two "best" matchups against the Panthers, Buccaneers and Jaguars to help him be productive until then. [Recommended Usage: HIGH WR2]

Allen_stats

Allen blasted onto the fantasy football scene in 2013 and shattered the convention of first year wide receivers not being productive for fantasy purposes. He may have been an anomaly in that regard, but his 11th best ranking in FPPA showed that he can make the most of his opportunities. In 2013, he had six big games, yet five of them came against defenses rated in the top half of the easy matchups. He did produce one solid game against the Giants, who at the time were a tough defense for wide receivers. The metrics all point to a decent year for the second year Charger. Yet, in Week 1, he faces the Cardinals defense which rates as the sixth toughest matchup for fantasy receivers. Not to mention a heavy dose of Patrick Peterson. He has the ability to produce, but he will do better against easier matchups than he has in Week 1. Forecast: This season you can expect Allen to be the WR2 you drafted him to be, but it won't be in Week 1 or Week 2 when he faces the Seahawks. His next four after that are nothing but "better" matchups and one "best" matchup, so you can expect to get the value from him that you wanted when you drafted him. [Recommended Usage: LOW WR2]

TE

Bennett.jpg

Many fantasy footballers have high hopes for Bennett this season. He is a big bodied tight end in a high-powered passing attack in Chicago. Last year he finished 10th overall in points production, but if you adjust his performances to his opponent strength, he actually rates out as 16th overall. This tells us that he needs good matchups to produce good games for your fantasy team. He was also low on the FPPA metric, coming in only 22nd out of all tight ends with more than 10 touches. Buffalo is 9th toughest in their adjusted rating against fantasy tights ends, so you can expect Bennet to underwhelm in his 2014 debut. Forecast:There are plenty of "best" and "good" matchups that Bennet can take advantage of in coming weeks. Weeks 2 through 4 to name a few. He should help your fantasy team against the 49ers, Jets and Packers before he hits another tough matchup against the Panthers in Week 5. [Recommended Usage: TE2]

D/ST

SF vs DAL: If you drafted the 49ers D/ST, then you likely did so based on their name brand value, not their actual fantasy value. They are short two big players on the defensive side of the ball and have been declining in the past three seasons. Do not let the Dallas defense taint the value of their offense, the Cowboys offensive line projects out to be one of the best on the NFL.

KC vs TEN: The Chiefs D/ST was a waiver gem in 2013. However, in the preseason the data from the first team defense shows that they have been giving up the deep ball a lot as they adjust to life without Brandon Flowers. On the other side of the ball, the Titans and Justin Hunter have been dazzling with the deep ball. We wouldn't expect Kansas City to immediately return to 2013 form in Week 1.

-- Chris Anthony is a guest contributor to NFL.com, hailing from Fantasy Omatic. You can follow him on Twitter @FantasyOmatic. Be sure to check back each week for more analytics-based analysis as the algorithm will only get more accurate over time!

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