Fantasy number crunch: Best, worst Week 8 matchups

What truly defines a "productive fantasy 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 "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 six 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 8. 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 fall short of expectations this week based on the strength of their opponent compared to their inability to overcome a strong opponent.

QB

Tony Romo has been excelling in a "safer" Dallas passing offense that no longer relies solely on him to make big plays. As a result, Romo has minimized risk and currently has the fourth-highest passer rating in the league entering Week 8. Romo has worked his way into weekly fantasy starting consideration after five straight weeks with at least two passing touchdowns per game. The algorithm continues to rate him higher and higher as he consistently takes advantage of his good matchups. Romo averages over 20 fantasy points a game against "best" rated opponents and this week he faces his best matchup of the season against the Redskins on Monday night. Owners should be licking their chops as Romo and his cast of pass-catchers face the league's No. 1 easiest matchup for fantasy quarterbacks. The Redskins are better against the run than many are aware, so the way you beat them is through a high-volume pass attack. The algorithm indicates that Romo and Dez Bryant are poised to have their best games of the season this week. Forecast:This week is Romo's best matchup of the season. He still has four "better' rated matchups left to take advantage of, but next week he faces a Cardinals defense that is in the bottom half of easy matchups for fantasy quarterbacks. [Recommended Usage: QB1]

Teddy Bridgewater has been a disaster over the last three games. His matchups have not been favorable enough for the rookie to get a foothold in the Vikings' offense. The algorithm gives reason to consider Bridgewater in a two-quarterback leagues this week due to the strength of his matchup alone. Bridgewater faces the Buccaneers, who are the fifth-easiest rated defense for opposing fantasy quarterbacks. Tampa Bay gives up the most passing yards per game and opposing quarterbacks have enjoyed a 71 percent completion percentage against them along with a 111.8 passer rating (first in NFL). There are serious questions on the Viking's depleted offensive line after last week, but head coach Mike Zimmer expects center John Sullivan and guard Vladimir Ducasse will be fine for Sunday's road game. This is a much less daunting matchup than the Bills and Lions fronts that Bridgewater has faced over the last two weeks, as well. Daily fantasy players or deep leaguers looking for a flier this week should consider Bridgewater in what should be a bounce-back performance. Forecast: If the Vikings can get their offensive line and passing game together then this is just one of three excellent spot-start opportunities for Bridgewater. Next week he faces the easiest matchup for fantasy quarterbacks against the Redskins followed by the Vikings Week 10 bye. [Recommended Usage: QB2]

RB

Fear not Ben Tate owners, last week was not the sign of a decline. You might be surprised to find out that the Jaguars were actually a top-10 tough matchup for fantasy running backs. They were the worst matchup the Browns have seen all season, and Tate responded appropriately with his lowest fantasy point total of the year. Even after the Jaguars game, the Browns are second to only Dallas in rush attempts per game and they score more rushing touchdowns per game than any other team. This week Tate faces the Raiders defense, which is the fifth-easiest rated matchup against fantasy running backs. This is the easiest matchup of the season for Tate, and he averages 12 fantasy points per game against easy matchups. The last time Tate faced an easy matchup, he had his best game of the year. Forecast:Tate is a great buy-low candidate before this week since he still has six easy matchups left to play including an excellent matchup against the Falcons in Week 12. [Recommended Usage: HIGH RB2]

Joique Bell has been making the most of his great matchups all season. Bell averages over 10 fantasy points per game when he faces easy defenses and this week he gets the gift of a matchup with the Falcons, who are the second-easiest rated matchup for fantasy running backs. Bell saw an increase in snaps in the last two weeks due to Reggie Bush's injury, but his fantasy points per snap were about the same when they split time. So with Bush back in the mix, Bell can still produce big numbers. He is a steady fantasy producer who only has 33 percent of his fantasy points coming from touchdowns. The last time he faced a matchup as easy as the Falcons, he scored 11 fantasy points on 25 carries giving him .33 fantasy points per snap. This week's matchup is even better, so even with fewer carries he can still be expected to produce. The Falcons lead the league in rushing touchdowns allowed per game with 1.9, but Bell's game is not touchdown dependent. With a high probability of getting in the end zone this week, his owners should not be surprised to see him potentially post his best numbers of the season. Forecast: After a bye next week, Bell returns to five out of six "bad" rated matchups with only two "better" rated defenses mixed in. [Recommended Usage: RB2]

WR

Eric Decker has yet to face a single easy matchup all season. He has faced five "bad" rated matchups and two "worst" rated ones. His borderline green player rating is a result of how well he has done against those defenses. You can almost call him a matchup buster because two of his three best games of the season have come against his two most difficult matchups. It is a rare occurrence in fantasy football, but one that is making his owners happy. There is even more reason to get excited about Decker this week as he faces his first easy matchup of the year. He faces the sixth-easiest rated Bills defense that been giving up points to even lesser rated receivers all season. Compare Decker to the 25 wide receivers that have already faced the Bills and you will see that his player rating would be the third-highest of the group. The player rated fourth (Golden Tate) already scored 19 fantasy points against the Bills in Week 5. Forecast: Good matchups are hard to find for Decker this season, but his only three easy matchups are still ahead of him. He gets the Bills this week and then sees them again in Week 12. Next week is a "worst" rated matchup against the Chiefs along with four more "bad" rated matchups yet to play. [Recommended Usage: WR2]

Cordarrelle Patterson owners are looking for any glimmer of hope to give them reason to hang on to their early round draft pick. Last week's touchdown on five targets gives some reason to feel encouraged. However, it should be noted that Patterson has scored 63 percent of his total fantasy production on touchdowns. That can be risky to rely on. There is some good news: Patterson has the easiest-rated matchup in the league this week as he faces the Buccaneers, who give up the second-most yards per completion in the NFL. They also give up the most fantasy points to wide receivers and their algorithm rating is significantly higher than even the third-easiest rated defense. This is proving time for Patterson and the situation could not be better. He has a chance to build off his score from last week and hopefully get some momentum in the second half of the fantasy season. His matchup situation and low player rating combine to make him a great daily fantasy play and if you are desperate for receiver help and see him on waivers, give him a start in deep leagues as no receiver has better matchups for the next two weeks. Forecast:If Patterson has anything in him this season it will have to show this week and next week as he gets his two best matchups of the year. He also faces the Panthers in Week 13, who are the eighth-easiest matchup for fantasy receivers. If he cannot get it going this week, though, you should drop him rather than wait out next week's good matchup. [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

TE

Dwayne Allen has been a sneaky fantasy bargain this season and has the eighth-highest algorithm rating of any tight end. He has scored a touchdown in every game but one this year and has scored double digit fantasy points each time he has faced a "better" rated defense. This week he gets his first "best" rated defense as the Colts travel to face the Steelers. Last week was the first time a tight end has NOT scored double digit fantasy points against the Steelers, but that had more to do with the poorly-rated tight ends on the Texans than the Steelers defense. Allen is the third-highest rated tight end the Steelers have faced this year and they have given up great fantasy production to lesser players. Allen has not had as easy of an opponent all year and the numbers give reason to believe he could have his best game of the season. Forecast:Allen still has the majority of his easy matchups yet to play. He has a "bad" game next week, followed by his bye and then three straight "better" rated matchups leading into the fantasy playoffs. [Recommended Usage: TE1]

D/ST

MIA at JAC: The Dolphins defense has provided up and down fantasy production all season. Aside from their big Week 1 against the Patriots, they have really only scored well against easy matchups. The Dolphins have allowed the third-fewest points per game on the road this year, and this week they travel to Jacksonville. Even with improved scoring from the Jags, they still give up over four sacks and 1.6 interceptions per game. They also only score an average of 15 points and gain less than 300 yards per game making Miami a solid D/ST streamer option.

BUF at NYJ: The Bills have been one of the best D/ST weekly plays all season. The defensive line has racked up 13 sacks in the past three games and now faces a Jets team that gives up an average of 2.6 sacks and one interception per game. The Jets also have trouble scoring and average only 17 points and 320 yards of offense per game. The Bills also allow the fourth-fewest points per game on the road this season. If you've been starting them, don't stop.

Expect Less:

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

QB

Jay Cutler came crashing down to earth last week against Miami and it has created doubts about his ability to produce for fantasy owners. Keep in mind that the Dolphins are actually the fourth-toughest opponent for fantasy quarterbacks, so a huge game was not to be expected anyway. Still, Cutler delivered his worst performance of the year. Owners should not be as concerned about the locker room fighting but instead should be focused on the matchup on the road against the Patriots this weekend. New England gives up the fewest passing yards per game in the NFL and has added some depth in the secondary. Granted, they have also faced some very low-rated quarterbacks so far this year. Cutler is a better quarterback than Geno Smith, Derek Carr, Matt Cassel and Ryan Tannehill, which is the crop that the Pats have been feeding on this season. If you add Cutler to a list of the nine quarterbacks that have already faced the Patriots, Cutler's player rating would be the second-highest of the group and the player rated third (Andy Dalton) scored 17 fantasy points against them in Week 5. The Pats will also be without big-time pass rusher, Chandler Jones this week. There are reasons to see Cutler bouncing back, but the Pats are still the 10th-toughest matchup for opposing quarterbacks. Even he gets back on track, the number do not indicate this will be one of Cutler's more productive games. Forecast: Cutler's schedule is getting ugly. After his Week 9 bye he comes back to a Packers defense in Week 10 that has been the fifth-toughest against fantasy quarterbacks and then has a terrible Week 13 matchup against the Lions. [Recommended Usage: LOW QB1]

Matt Ryan's fantasy production has been on a steady decline. The Falcons are unable to get their timing offense on track due to major issues on the offensive line and last week it got worse as they lost center Peter Konz. Poor fantasy production is not all on the offensive line, though, as the matchups have been getting increasingly more difficult, too. Ryan has not had an easy matchup since the Giants back in Week 5. The bad news is that the Falcons now have to deal with the Lions in London. The Lions are the second-worst matchup for fantasy quarterbacks. They allow only one passing touchdown per game and have had the fifth-most sacks per game this season. This is going to be a long day for Ryan as his line will be up against their biggest threat of the year. The Lions have faced three higher-rated quarterbacks than Ryan this year an held all of them to some of their lowest fantasy games of the season. The numbers simply hate everything about Ryan this week and owners should not be relying on him either. Forecast: After getting beat up by the Lions this week, Ryan has his bye week to lick his wounds. Then he is greeted back with his second game against Buccaneers who represent one of his best matchups of the year. [Recommended Usage: QB2]

RB

Lamar Miller owners are likely licking their chops over what may appear to be a great matchup this week against the Jaguars. After all, touchdowns in three straight weeks make Miller one of the hottest fantasy running backs around. But guess who else is hot? The Jaguars run defense. This is where the numbers can help you gain clarity instead of just assuming a defense is bad because of their name. Over the last four weeks the Jaguars have given up the FEWEST fantasy points and fifth-fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs and over that span have faced the Browns, Titans, Steelers and even Chargers. Three of those teams are top-10 in rushing attempts over the last month. Out of all those games, only Le'Veon Bell broke double digit fantasy points, but his total tied for his worst fantasy producing game of the year. Miller scores three fewer fantasy points per game against "bad" rated defenses and even though the Jaguars fantasy points against make them seem like the 12th-best matchup, the algorithm gives them a rating that makes them the 10th-toughest matchup for fantasy running backs. You are starting Miller this week as normal, just stop drooling over the matchup. Forecast: The schedule doesn't really give Miller a break. After this week, he gets the league's worst running back matchup against the Chargers next week, then Detroit and Buffalo. It is a very tough stretch. The good news is that from Week 12 through 16 he faces four of five easy matchups.  [Recommended Usage: RB2]

Chris Ivory heads into Week 8 averaging 4.90 yards per carry and is easily the quietest top-12 running back in fantasy. The bad news is that his matchup this week is the with the third-toughest rated Bills defense. The Bills allow just 2.8 yards per carry and give up the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game and have yet to give up a rushing touchdown. Only 25 percent of Ivory's fantasy points have come from touchdowns so scoring is not a too much of a concern. It is really about the matchup. This is Ivory's second-worst rated matchup of the year. He averages six fewer fantasy points per game against bad matchups. The Bills have already faced six highly-rated fantasy running backs this year and only two of them scored double digit fantasy points and none of them scored a touchdown. Forecast: This is Ivory's worst matchup of the year, but unfortunately he faces the Bills again in Week 12. He also has two more "bad" rated matchups to end the fantasy regular season.  [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

WR

Steve Smith's player rating has suffered in the last three weeks because he failed to produce against a top-five easy-rated Falcons defense last week. He also faced the Colts in that stretch and in both games he produced only single digit fantasy points. This week he faces his toughest matchup of the season once more as the Ravens get their rematch against the Bengals. In the Week 1 matchup, Smith torched the Bengals but also scored almost 80 percent of his fantasy points that week on just one 80-yard play. The Bengals defense is the third-toughest rated defense against fantasy wide receivers and they are certainly capable of keeping Smith from scoring the big play this time around. The Bengals allow only 58.5 percent completion percentage to opposing offenses and only 1.3 passing touchdowns per game. You cannot sit the league's sixth-highest rated receiver, but this shouldn't be the week you use him in daily fantasy. Put him in your lineup as usual, but do not be surprised if the big play doesn't come in this rematch. Forecast: Smith's "worst" rated matchups are all done for the season after this week. He still has five "bad" rated matchups to go, but has a nice Week 12 meeting with the third easiest rated Saints defense in Week 12 to look forward to.  [Recommended Usage: WR2]

Antonio Brown is the third-highest rated fantasy wide receiver at the midway point of the fantasy season. He is likely one "toe on the chalk line" away from the top spot. Much of Brown's success comes from having the easiest schedule of any fantasy wide receiver over the first seven games of the season. Rather than squander those opportunities, Brown turned them into over 15 fantasy points per game. However, you may get your first glimpse of a down week from Brown as he faces his first matchup outside the top-15 easiest-rated defenses. His Week 8 opponent, the Colts, is the No. 1 toughest-rated defense for receivers and has been dominant over the last month. Opposing offenses have only completed 56 percent of their passes against the Colts after seven games. The Colts have only allowed only .3 passing touchdowns per game over the last three games and give up the fewest touchdowns at home of any defense in the NFL this season. Brown is too good to sit, but if you own him the numbers give you a ton of reasons to expect a lot less production than normal this week. Forecast: Two more "worst" rated matchups are waiting for Brown in the fantasy playoffs: Week 14 against the third-toughest rated Bengals and another brutal matchup against the Chiefs in Week 16. He does get the Falcons in Week 1, though. [Recommended Usage: LOW WR1]

TE

Travis Kelce's big fantasy production streak appears to slowing down. He has not scored more than 10 fantasy points since the last time he had a "better" rated matchup back in Week 4. Since then it has been "bad" or "worst" rated matches and a combined 10 total fantasy points over two games. This week is his second "worst" rated matchup of the season against the Rams defense that is the fifth-toughest matchup for fantasy tight ends. The Rams have held all opposing tight ends under 10 fantasy points this year expect for fantasy stud(?) Cooper Helfet last week. Forecast:Kelce could get back on track with a nice matchup against the second-easiest rated Jets defense next week. [Recommended Usage: HIGH TE2]

D/ST

GB at NO: The Packers have been playing solid defense and have provided owners with double digit points in four of the last five contests. This week they face a reeling Saints offense that has not been winning but also has not been turning the ball over. They give up only one sack and 1.2 interceptions per game but put up a whopping 437 yards and 25 points a game. The Pack should be good for an interception here, but if you get penalized for points and yards, they should be avoided.

CHI at NE: Don't let the Patriots string of down weeks this season fool you, they are still a bad matchup for opposing D/STs. They have their offensive line under control and lowered their sacks allowed per game to just two. Brady and his crew average 26 points per game and only .3 interceptions. Not much opportunity for the Bears this week as they have allowed the third-most red-zone scoring attempts per game and the Patriots can capitalize on that. Feel free to drop them as they have a bye next week and the Packers after that.

Week 9 Forecast:

Want to get the jump on bye weeks in Week 9? 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:Brian Hoyer vs. TB, Alex Smith vs. NYJ, Teddy Bridgewater vs. WAS
RB:Pierre Thomas at CAR, Jeremy Hill vs. JAX, Isaiah Crowell vs. TB
WR:Louis Murphy at CLE, Eddie Royal at MIA, Anquan Boldin vs. STL
TE:Owen Daniels at PIT, Chase Ford vs. WAS
DST: IND at NYG, CLE vs. TB, SD at MIA

-- 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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