Fantasy number crunch: Best, worst fantasy matchups

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 are based on numbers from the first five weeks of the 2014 regular season. "Statistically" a three week data sample out of a 16 week fantasy season is enough to draw valuable conclusions. The data continues to become more accurate each week. Plan on coming back for fresh algorithm-based ratings that you cannot get anywhere else!

Weekly Matchup Ranges

This chart shows the BEST and WORST defensive ratings against each position as of Week 7. 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:

Expect More:

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

QB

Eli Manning has come back to fantasy relevance after his breakout game in Week 4. He still remains a matchup play and is rated accordingly. His rating indicates that he plays better against easy matchups than he does against tough ones. His three best games of the season came against his easiest rated opponents. This week he faces his second easiest matchup of the year against the Eagles. The Eagles are the second-easiest rated defense for opposing fantasy quarterbacks. If you compare Manning to the five quarterbacks that have already faced the Eagles, his player rating would be the second-highest of the group and the player rated third (Austin Davis) scored 26 fantasy points against them in Week 5. This creates a situation where owners can "expect more" from Manning than his normal 17 points per game average. Forecast: This week's nice matchup will be Eli's last until Week 13 when he faces the Jaguars. If you need him in the playoffs, he plays the No. 1 easiest rated Redskins defense in Week 15. [Recommended Usage: QB1]

Joe Flacco's perceived fantasy value is likely to be at an all-time low after failing to score in double digits for the first time of the season last week in Indianapolis. He had been a consistent fantasy QB2 until that point and had not scored less than 11 fantasy points in a game this season. Even after last week, Flacco ranks 11th in quarterback rating, fifth in pass attempts and is still among the top 10 in passing yards. Flacco has only had one easy matchup all year and he took advantage of it by scoring a season-high 25 fantasy points against the Panthers in Week 4. This week, Flacco faces his second-easiest fantasy matchup so far this year as the Ravens travel to Tampa Bay. Flacco will be the third-highest rated quarterback to play the Buccaneers this season,  and the fourth-rated play (Ben Roethlisberger) scored 22 fantasy points against them in Week 4. You can expect a bounce-back week from Flacco as a spot starter, solid QB2 or even a sneaky daily fantasy start this week. Forecast: Flacco is only a one-week plug in because of a decent matchup against the Buccaneers. However, he should go right back on waivers after Week 6 since he doesn't have another good matchup until after his Week 11 bye. [Recommended Usage: QB2]

RB

One of this week's top waiver-wire adds was Giants running back, Andre Williams. Williams has played about 15 to 20 snaps a game all season and even started producing in Week 4 as a backup. Williams stepped in as the lead back for the injured Rashad Jennings in Week 5, and led all running backs with seven red-zone attempts, converting one for a touchdown. Jennings was third in the league in that category before going down with his injury last week. Head coach Tom Coughlin said he is "very confident" in Williams' ability to take on a bigger role, so you should not see a short leash. Williams faces the Eagles this week, who are a top-14 easy matchup for fantasy running backs. Earlier this season the Eagles gave up huge production to Frank Gore (23 fantasy points) and Ahmad Bradshaw (21 fantasy points), so this matchup should be a good one for Williams. Owners can feel confident that Williams should exceed his six fantasy points per game average this week, and he also makes for a great daily fantasy play. Forecast:Jennings is officially "week to week" with local reporters guessing that he will be held out through the Giants Week 8 bye. That leaves Williams with potentially one more excellent matchup in Week 7 against the fifth-easiest rated defense for opposing running backs, the Cowboys. [Recommended Usage: RB2]

Chris Ivory may be the most under-appreciated top-15 fantasy running back of the season. Ivory leads the league in rushing yards gained beyond his blocking and is among the top 11 in percentage of plays over 15 yards. However, he plays on a Jets offense that has been in turmoil. This doesn't mean he can't produce when given the opportunity, though. In games where Ivory has received more than 10 rushing attempts, he has scored double digit fantasy points every time. Last week was his worst performance, but it was also his toughest matchup of the year. This week he gets the Broncos who are the league's No. 1 easiest matchup for fantasy running backs. The Broncos have allowed 20 or more points on three different occasions already this season and just let another pass-catching back, Andre Ellington, run up 26 fantasy points against them last week. The Jets will likely game plan around this opportunity and Ivory can expect to not only get his 10-plus carries, but be involved in the passing game as well. Forecast: Next week he faces another top-three easy matchup against the "best" rated Patriots defense. Then it is a string of "bad" rated matchups until Ivory's top-three easiest fantasy playoff schedule kicks in. [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

Among teams who have played five games, the Jaguars currently rank last in the NFL in rush attempts, second-to-last in yards per game, tied for 26th in yards per attempt and tied for last in touchdowns. It is clear they need to kick start their run game in order to get back on track. Current starting running back Toby Gerhart's snaps have decreased in every game, from 48 to 35 to 30 to 20 to 10 last week, while rookie running back Storm Johnson made his debut last week and turned seven snaps into 27 yards. Head coach Gus Bradley called Storm's performance "very impressive." The Jaguars face a Titans defense this week that is the 10th easiest matchup for fantasy running backs and one that has faced the third-most rush attempts (168) against them this season. The Titans' opponents have rushed 43, 31, 41 and 36 times during their current four-game losing streak. The Titans have faced a few elite backs so far, but even made the low-rated Trent Richardson look like a stud by giving up 15 fantasy points to him in Week 4. If you like to play the long shots, or need a good daily fantasy bargain, then Johnson could be your guy. Forecast: Another factor pointing up for Johnson is that the Jaguars have already faced their toughest matchups this season. There are two more "bad" rated matchups coming in Weeks 7 and 8, but then five straight easy matchups to follow. It is a schedule ripe for a backup running back takeover. [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

WR

After a hot start to the fantasy season in Week 1, preseason sleeper Michael Floyd, has found himself on many fantasy benches. Certainly, the quarterback situation in Arizona has had something to do with that, but Floyd was still able to have a good game in Week 3 under backup Drew Stanton. The Cardinals passing game has faced one of the league's toughest schedules through the season's first month. This week Floyd gets his first easy matchup of the year in a home game against the Redskins who are the league's 11th-easiest rated defense for fantasy wide receivers. Floyd will be the fourth-highest rated wide receiver to face the Redskins this season and the player rated fifth in that group, Victor Cruz, scored 10 fantasy points against the them in Week 4. This week could be a good opportunity for a bounce-back game for Floyd. Forecast: The best is yet to come for Floyd's schedule -- he has not faced an easy rated matchup yet this year but has four more coming after this week. [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

Golden Tate has been the primary beneficiary of Calvin Johnson's recent injury woes. Fantasy owners that snapped him up have enjoyed back-to-back double digit fantasy games over the last two weeks. Tate's value this week is not completely Calvin-dependent, he also has a great matchup against the Vikings 13th-easiest defense for fantasy wide receivers. Of the 15 wide receivers that have already faced the Vikings, Tate's player rating would be the fourth-highest of the group and the player rated fifth, Roddy White, scored 13 fantasy points against them back in Week 4. Tate has already shown that he can take advantage of a matchup like the one he has this week. He should have no problem exceeding his 10 fantasy points per game average this week. Forecast:Tate and the Lions' receivers have the league's second-easiest remaining schedule. Only two more "bad" rated matchups (Week 8 and Week 12) and then nothing but defenses in the bottom half of the league against fantasy wide receivers. [Recommended Usage: WR2]

TE

If Jordan Cameron was dropped in your league, he is worth adding to your roster. His five fantasy points per game average and his injury situation may have scared off some owners. However, things should be improving for the tight end who was second only to Jimmy Graham in targets in 2013. Cameron played 94 percent of the Browns' offensive snaps in Week 5, but yielded only three fantasy points. This week he has a rematch against the Steelers defense that he already saw back in Week 1. In that game, Cameron only played 21 snaps, but averaged .22 fantasy points per snap. Last week he played 72 snaps. So, if Cameron has the same production this week against the Steelers as he did in the first game, he could score 13 fantasy points based on the snap productivity calculations. Either way, you can "expect more" than his current three fantasy points per game average this week. The Steelers have a fantasy points against (FPA) ranking that makes them appear to be the 11th-easiest matchup, but when adjusted for opponent strength, they are actually the fourth-easiest matchup for fantasy tight ends. Forecast:Cameron owners will find out very quickly whether he can get back to fantasy relevance since this week is only the first of three straight easy matchups. After this week, the Jaguars and Raiders will make it easy for Cameron to produce and hopefully get back to form.[Recommended Usage: LOW TE1]

D/ST

DEN at NYJ: The Broncos defense was likely on your waiver wire this week after failing to score double digit fantasy points all season. It all changes this week as they face a Jets offense that averages 15 points a game and surrenders over two sacks and one interception per contest.

SD at OAK: The Chargers have been a solid streaming defense for the last few weeks and you should feel confident about starting them again in Week 6. The Raiders offense averages less than 13 points and 270 yards per game and allow one sack and 1.5 interceptions per game. If your league does not award for low points and yards, then the Chargers may not be as attractive of an option.

Expect Less:

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

QB

Ryan Tannehill had his best game of the season in Week 4 before the Dolphins had their bye week. Fantasy footballers trolling waiver wires to try to find a spot-start quarterback may see that Tannehill is playing the Packers at home this weekend. Keep in mind that this is not the same Packers pass defense that made for an excellent matchup in previous seasons. Green Bay's FPA ranking currently has them at the sixth-toughest matchup for fantasy quarterbacks, but their algorithm rating shows that they are in fact the second-toughest matchup in the league. Tannehill and his 34th ranked yards per attempt totals are not set up to succeed this week. The last time Tannehill faced a "worst" rated defense, he scored only 13 fantasy points. You can "expect less" from him this week as he faces one of his toughest matchups of the season. Forecast: Tannehill is worth holding on to even if you do not play him this week because he gets the 12th-easiest rated matchup in the Bears next week, followed by a top-five easy matchup against the "best" rated Jaguars defense in Week 8. [Recommended Usage: QB2]

Matthew Stafford owners may be perplexed by his up and down production this season, but if you just look at the numbers, he is actually very predictable. The algorithm's player rating is higher when a player can outperform their matchups and lower when they cannot. When it is close to zero, like Stafford's, that means they are matchup-dependent. If you look at Stafford's schedule so far, he has actually had his two worst fantasy point totals against his two toughest matchups. Then against his easy matchups, he averaged over 20 fantasy points per game. The bad news for his owners is that he has a "bad" rated matchup this week and he averages only 11 fantasy points per game against opponents with that rating. That is nearly 10 fantasy points below his average against "better" and "best" rated defenses. This week he faces the Vikings defense which has only allowed one quarterback to reach 20 fantasy points, including elite-rated Aaron Rodgers (although he had a lead so quickly in that game that he ceased throwing). The Vikings will have had nine days to prepare for a Lions offense likely to be without Calvin Johnson. This is the type of environment where owners can "expect less" from Stafford. Forecast: Stafford owners will be happy to see a "get well" game waiting in Week 7 as the Lions play the Saints at home. The Saints are the third-easiest rated matchup for opposing fantasy quarterbacks. [Recommended Usage: LOW QB1]

Now that Teddy Bridgewater has declared himself 100 percent healthy, fantasy owners may be considering him for their lineups in Week 6. The first thing to consider, however, is the matchup. Bridgewater played his only full game of the year against the Falcons, who are the third-easiest matchup for fantasy quarterbacks. Not surprisingly, he did very well. However, this week he faces the No. 1 toughest- rated defense for fantasy quarterbacks in the Lions. Do not forget that they held top-rated quarterback Aaron Rodgers to only 10 fantasy points. They have not faced any other elite quarterbacks, but if you add Teddy to the list of the five quarterbacks that have already faced the Lions, Bridgewater's player rating would be the second-highest of the group and the player rated third (Eli Manning) only scored six fantasy points against them in Week 1. If Teddy were to eclipse his 16 fantasy point per game average against the Lions, he would be the first quarterback to score that many points against them all year. Forecast: This brutal matchup will be followed by one more "bad" rated matchup next week against the Bills, but then Teddy becomes a valuable QB2 with five of his next six games coming against top-10 easy matchups. [Recommended Usage: QB2]

RB

Ellington owners were rewarded with a breakout 26.40 fantasy point performance in Week 5. Yet, it should be noted that his Week 5 opponent, the Broncos, are the easiest matchup for fantasy running backs. Ellington's player rating is still average after that performance because he is averaging 18 fantasy points per game when he faces "easy" matchups, but only six fantasy points per game against tough ones. The ratings factor in opponent strength and, in Ellington's case, they indicate that his owners should "expect less" from him this week as he faces the Redskins -- a top-three tough matchup for opposing fantasy running backs. The Redskins have already held three elite backs to their season-low fantasy point totals and have held average-rated backs like Ellington to less than 12 fantasy points, which happens to be Ellington's per game average. Forecast: Ellington has a great stretch of three easy matchups after this one with the Raiders, Eagles and Cowboys all in a row. Then, it might be time to "sell high" because he finishes the year with six tough matchups out of his final seven games.  [Recommended Usage: RB2]

The good news for Zac Stacy owners is that it looks like their injured running back will be active this Monday night. The bad news is that Stacy is averaging just 15 touches per game after four weeks of play and only has one running play of 15 yards or more all season. To make matters worse, he faces the third-toughest rated defense for fantasy running backs this week in the 49ers. Stacy has yet to play any "worst" rated defenses, but he has had two of his least productive games against two of his easiest matchups already this year. The 49ers have only allowed DeMarco Murray to score over 10 fantasy points against them this season. Elite backs like LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles both scored less than 10 fantasy points against the 49ers. Stacy is the second lowest-rated back the 49ers have faced thus far and they should have no trouble keeping him bottled up. Forecast: Caution: It just gets worse from here for Stacy. This week's terrible matchup is followed by six more "worst" rated matchups out of his next nine games! Stacy has the worst remaining schedule of any starting fantasy running back. Get used to getting nothing out of Stacy from here on out.  [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

WR

Kelvin Benjamin had been making a case for Offensive Rookie of the Year through the first four games of the season. Yet, a one point game against the Bears in Week 5 might have his owners worried. Benjamin still led the Panthers in targets in that game and is ninth in the NFL in targets over 20 yards. All reasons not to worry. However, he faces a "bad" rated Bengals defense this week that is the sixth-toughest opponent for fantasy wide receivers. The Bengals lead the league with the most opponent pass attempts against them, but also lead the league in fewest passes completed against them (56 percent). Let's not forget that they also allow the second-fewest passing touchdowns. It is a tough matchup this week for the rookie who will also see a lot of Bengals cornerback Leon Hall. You can still keep him in your lineup, but "expect less" from him this week than his 10 fantasy points per game average. Forecast: This is the tough part of the schedule for Benjamin with a tough matchup in Green Bay next week and then two more "bad" rated matchups to follow that one. Kelvin is a great buy low candidate, however, as he has one of the best schedules of any fantasy wide receiver between Week 10 and Week 16.  [Recommended Usage: WR2]

DeAndre Hopkins has been a solid fantasy producer this season. In the two games he has played against easy matchups, he averaged over 13 fantasy points a game. His production dips a bit against tougher matchups, but he has yet to face a defense as diffult as the Colts so far this season. This week Hopkins faces a Colts defense that gives up the third-fewest pass completions per game and is the No. 1 toughest-rated defense for opposing fantasy wide receivers. This is the same defense that held an elite player like Steve Smith Sr. to only one fantasy point last week. No fantasy receiver has scored more than 12 fantasy points against them and Hopkins is only averaging eight fantasy points per game against "bad" rated matchups. This should be another down week for Hopkins and owners can "expect less" from him than they have seen against better matchups. Forecast: Hopkins has a tough stretch after this week. He faces the Steelers and Titans, both top-10 rated tough matchups. Then he bookends his Week 9 bye with two "best" rated opponents in the Eagles and Browns. [Recommended Usage: WR3]

Mike Wallace has been a pleasant fantasy surprise for owners this season. He has consistently produced points every game and currently averages 10 fantasy points per game. The algorithm gives him a decent player rating since he provides around this same level of production against even "bad" rated matchups. However, this week he faces a Green Bay defense that already looks like a tough matchup due to their 10th FPA ranking, but it is even tougher when factoring in their prior opponents. The Packers are giving up the fifth-fewest pass completions per game and less than 210 passing yards per game total. Wallace should see some targets but this is by far his worst matchup of the season. Forecast: This is Wallace's first "worst" rated matchup of the season. He has three more coming in Week 9, 10 and 12, but the rest are mainly decent matchups. [Recommended Usage: WR3]

TE

Larry Donnell owners had reason to panic last week as he was almost non-existent against the Falcons when he didn't receive a single pass target. The Falcons likely schemed against Donnell a bit after his breakout game on Thursday Night Football, so this isn't reason to drop him by any means. However, there may be reason to "expect less" from him this week against the Eagles, the No. 1 toughest-rated defense against fantasy tight ends. Donnell has not faced any "worst" rated defenses this season, yet only averages four fantasy points per game against "bad" rated defenses. Meanwhile, he has produced 15 fantasy points a game against easy ones. This week should test his true value as he faces his toughest matchup of the season. Forecast: Donnell faces only two more "worst" rated defenses this season, but has six good matchups yet to play, including three in a row coming out of his Week 8 bye. [Recommended Usage: LOW TE1]

D/ST

CAR at CIN: The Panthers made a nice rebound in Week 5 at home. This week they travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals who give up less than 1.5 total turnovers per game. The Bengals win games without scoring tons of points so you could get points for that, but do not expect a lot of mistakes from the Bengals for the Panthers to capitalize on this week.

ARI vs WAS: The Cardinals defense looks like a good streaming option this week against a Redskins offense that melted down just two weeks ago. However, the Redskins score more than 22 points per game and average 393 yards of offense per week. Their sacks and interceptions allowed numbers are inflated by that one performance. The Cardinals are also struggling with injuries so they are trending sharply down.

Week 7 Forecast:

Want to get the jump on bye weeks in Week 7? Don't wait until next week's waivers, grab these guys now and enjoy their tasty matchups before they are even on your opponents' radar:

QB:Carson Palmer at OAK, Brian Hoyer vs. JAC, Ryan Tannehill at CHI
RB:Andre Williams at DAL, Justin Forsett at ATL, Carlos Hyde at DEN
WR:Kendall Wright at WAS, Allen Hurns vs CLE, Andrew Hawkins at JAC
TE:Jared Cook vs SEA, Jordan Cameron at JAC
DST:NE vs NYJ, CLE at JAC, ARI at OAK

-- 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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