Fantasy number crunch: Best, worst Week 9 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

Ryan Tannehill should be on the top of the waiver add list for anyone that regularly starts Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford or even Tony Romo (if he sits). Tannehill is the algorithm's 20th-rated fantasy quarterback, but has had a nice run of productive fantasy games over the last month. Last week he seemed to have a letdown game against the Jaguars, but the Jags are a tougher matchup for fantasy quarterbacks than you'd expect. This week, Tannehill faces the Chargers. If you are looking only at the Chargers fantasy points against (FPA) ranking, then you'll see that they do not appear to be a particularly easy matchup. But the algorithm can give you an edge here because the majority of the Chargers' opposing quarterbacks have been highly-rated. So despite the opposition's fantasy production, San Diego is still the seventh-easiest matchup for fantasy quarterbacks. Adding to Tannehill's fantasy value is his rushing potential. He has at least 35 yards rushing in four straight games, making him less risky than most other options. If you include quarterbacks in the yards per rush attempt statistic, then Tannehill is the second-highest ranked player in that category out of every player in the NFL over the last month. Forecast: Tannehill should only serve as a bye-week filler in standard leagues, as next week he faces the Lions top-10 rated defense. If you care to hold him in two quarterback leagues, he has a nice matchup in Week 13 against the Jets, but faces nothing but "bad" rated matchups aside from that one. [Recommended Usage: QB2]

The fantasy panic alarms were going off for Brian Hoyer after he failed to take advantage of the Jaguars defense in Week 7. But as you will see mentioned throughout this article, the Jags defense is not that easy of a matchup. Hoyer got back on track against the Raiders last week, regaining his poise and showing good decision making while passing with accuracy. Hoyer still leads the NFL in accuracy for passes over 20 yards and leads the NFL in yards per completion (13.1). Although the loss of their starting center has created issues with the running game, the Browns offensive line has allowed the fewest quarterback hurries and pressures in the league after eight weeks. Hoyer will be a viable bye-week filler in deep or two-quarterback leagues against the Buccaneers this week. The Bucs are the fifth-easiest matchup for fantasy quarterbacks and even made Teddy Bridgewater productive last week. Tampa Bay is giving up a 69.2 percent completion rate to opposing quarterbacks and have not held a quarterback to fewer than double digit fantasy points since Austin Davis in Week 2. Forecast: Hoyer actually has a pretty light schedule for the rest of the season and could be worth holding onto in deeper league as a matchup-based play. He has three "bad" rated matchups left, but also five easy ones. This week is the best matchup of the season for Hoyer. [Recommended Usage: QB2]

RB

Ronnie Hillman has quickly gone from a speculative waiver add to a bonafide fantasy starter. Hillman is the eighth-rated fantasy running back, due in large part to his ability to be productive even against tough matchups. He averages over 12 fantasy points a game against "worst" rated defenses, which is the fourth-highest per-game average of all fantasy running backs against that level of matchup strength. Hillman is playing no less than 60 percent of the Broncos offensive snaps since taking over for Montee Ball and has had the sixth-most rushing attempts in the NFL during that span. This week Hillman will be at the feature back in a huge matchup against the Patriots. The Patriots defense is the third-easiest matchup for fantasy running backs so another productive week should be in order. Denver scores more touchdowns per game than any other team but Hillman only has two of those to his credit. That could change this week against a Patriots defense that has allowed a rushing score in four out of the last five weeks. Forecast:This week is the second-best matchup of the season for Hillman. If you make it to the fantasy championship game in Week 16, Hillman faces a top-three easy matchup against the Bengals. However, he does have two remaining "worst" rated matchups and three "bad" rated ones. Next week he should keep rolling against a "better" rated Raiders defense. [Recommended Usage: LOW RB1]

Since Denard Robinson grabbed the starting role in Week 7, he has played nearly 60 percent of the offensive snaps, has the fifth-most rushing attempts in the NFL and has the fourth-most rushing yards per game. Only 22 percent of his fantasy points come from touchdowns or long plays, so his production has been steady and predictable. He is shaping up to be a weekly starter. This week he has a chance to break out even further as he has his easiest matchup of the season. The Bengals defense is the only "best" rated defense that Robinson has seen this year and happened to be the second-easiest matchup for fantasy running backs. The Bengals give up the fourth-most rushing yards per game, allowing 4.8 yards per carry to their opponents. The Bengals also give up the most plays per game to opponents, allowing more opportunities for your fantasy players to score points. Robinson should easily continue to be productive in this game. The Bengals have allowed double digit fantasy points to the last four lead backs they have faced and Robinson could extend that streak. Forecast: Robinson's remaining schedule has a lot to look forward to. He has nothing but "better" or "best" rated matchups between now and Week 16, with one exception in Week 15 against the Ravens. He has the second-easiest remaining schedule of any fantasy running back. [Recommended Usage: RB2]

WR

DeAndre Hopkins started the fantasy season as hot as any wide receiver and it appeared that he was ushering in a changing of the WR1 guard in Houston. However, he has not been able to score more than single digit fantasy points in his last four games. Much of that lack of production can be attributed to having faced four straight tough matchups, including a "worst" rated Titans defense last week. Hopkins gets a positive player rating from the algorithm due to his ability to still be productive against bad matchups. Last week, Hopkins was targeted 11 times (compared to 12 for Andre Johnson) and was stopped at the five-yard line on one catch. He could have had his best outing of the season against his toughest opponent if he had been able to score on that play. This week, Hopkins gets to face the Eagles, who are the third-easiest rated matchup for fantasy wide receivers. The Eagles defense has been a doormat to opposing receivers every week and has had a problem giving up the big play. Since Hopkins has the seventh-most pass targets of any player over the last two weeks and is second in the NFL with 12 pass targets of over 20 yards on the season, he shapes up to be the perfect player to take advantage of such a great matchup. Forecast: The Eagles are Hopkins' last remaining "best" rated matchup. He has two more "better" rated matchups in Week 11 and 14, but faces two very tough "worst" rated defenses in Week 12 and 13. [Recommended Usage: WR2]

Coming into this week, Andrew Hawkins has been generating some fantasy heat after posting two double digit fantasy point games in a row. He is finally converting his nine targets per game into fantasy points. Only 16 percent of his fantasy points this season have come from either touchdowns or big plays so he is a steady producer. Hawkins averages 1.46 fantasy points per touch and this week faces a Buccaneers defense that allows the second-most fantasy points per touch to opposing wide receivers. Hawkins could be just the type of player that can take advantage of this matchup. The Buccaneers are the easiest-rated matchup for fantasy wide receivers and give up the most total touchdowns per game of any team in the NFL. Even though he is a smaller, slot-type receiver, his scoring potential is not limited to just short passes. Hawkins is 10th in the NFL in yards per pass route run. PPR streamers should be particularly excited about Hawkins this week as a combination of a poor run game, a soft pass defense and the absence of Jordan Cameron, should mean PPR fantasy gold. In the games that Cameron has missed all or part of this season, Hawkins is averaging a 7/81/1 stat line. Forecast: Next week Hawkins should go back to your bench as he faces the Bengals, who are the toughest matchup for receivers. Hawkins has two more excellent matchups in Week 12 and 13 before a terrible fantasy playoff schedule kicks in. [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

TE

It seems like forever since you were able to get any production out of Larry Donnell. After a red-hot start to the season as Eli's favorite target, Donnell has failed to eclipse five fantasy points since Week 4. If you held on this long, then you are going to be rewarded this week as Donnell gets one of the easiest matchups you can get for fantasy tight ends. Donnell gets the second-easiest rated tight end matchup on Monday night against the Colts. There is no reason to think Donnell will not be involved since he played 90 percent of the offensive snaps in his last start. Eli has no reason not to trust Donnell, since he has zero drops while still receiving the 10th-most targets of any tight end in the NFL. The Colts made a fantasy hero out of a similarly rated Heath Miller last week, so you should feel confident putting Donnell back in your lineup for this Monday Night showdown. Forecast: This week is the best matchup of the season for Donnell. Next week seems like a tough matchup on paper as he faces the Seahawks, but they have actually been a "better" rated matchup for fantasy tight ends. [Recommended Usage: TE1]

D/ST

KC vs. NYJ: The Chiefs have been one of the toughest matchups for your fantasy players all season, holding the #1 spot against quarterbacks and running backs. They are also very tough on opposing offenses. They average three sacks a game including seven against the Rams in Week 8. This week the Jets come to Arrowhead with a quarterback situation in flux. The Jets average 2.8 sacks and 1.4 interceptions a game and have been trending higher in both areas in the last few weeks. The Chiefs held their last two opponents under 250 yards of offense and the Jets only average 18 scoreboard points a game. Stream the Chiefs with confidence.

CIN vs. JAC: The Bengals put in their first double digit fantasy point effort in Week 8 after three consecutive disappointing performances. Much of their poor production had to do with their opponents, the Patriots, Colts and Panthers. But this week they host the Jaguars in a home game. Jags quarterback Blake Bortles looked Matt Schaub-like with multiple pick sixes last week. The Jaguars offensive line gives up a league-high 4.1 sacks per game and early in the season the Bengals were averaging three sacks per game against their lesser opponents. Enjoy the Bengals sweet matchup this week and then hold on to them for another week as they have a home game against the Browns in Week 10.

CLE vs. TB: The Browns fantasy defense is on its third nice matchup in as many weeks. They have caused four interceptions and five sacks in their last two games but have given up quite a few yards. They are getting healthier and now have a home game against the struggling Buccaneers this week. The Bucs average 2.7 sacks and 1.1 interceptions allowed per game and only score 19 points per contest.

Expect Less:

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

QB

Austin Davis made his way onto fantasy rosters after two breakout games in Weeks 3 and 4. Many fantasy owners have held on to him in hopes of using Davis as a bye week replacement. However, crunching the numbers tells us that you should be looking elsewhere. Just last week, Davis took a total of seven sacks and lost three of his starting offensive linemen to injury. He has been held under 236 yards passing in each of his past three starts to go along with a mediocre four to two touchdown-interception ratio during that span. This week, he faces the 49ers defense that is the 11th-toughest matchup for fantasy quarterbacks. The 49ers will be a tough matchup for the Rams offense this week. The Rams have the fewest passing yards, the third-fewest yards per pass attempt and have the third-most sacks per game over the last three weeks. Add to that a sputtering Rams running game and no Brian Quick and you should have plenty of reasons not to expect a bounce-back game from your backup fantasy quarterback during this big bye week. Forecast: The matchups are not going to allow Davis to get back on track anytime soon. This week is only the first of three consecutive "bad" rated matchups. By the time he gets through this rough stretch of schedule, he shouldn't be on your roster anymore. [Recommended Usage: SIT]

There he is, staring right at you on waivers. It's Michael Vick and he is finally getting a chance to start for the Jets. You are desperate for a starter because your stud quarterback is on BYE and you're getting nostalgic about all those historic fantasy performances in Vick's past. So why not? Well, first, there is very little data on Vick this season so we can barely give him a player rating. The data that we do have is not impressive. He came off the bench last week and took four sacks, threw an interception, and lost two fumbles. If anything, this just points to a great start for his opponent this week in the Chiefs. The Chiefs defense allows opposing fantasy quarterbacks to score only .42 fantasy points per pass attempt and Vick was only able to score .28 fantasy points per attempt last week. Three of the four top-10 rated quarterbacks that have faced the Chiefs have failed to score more than 15 fantasy points against them this season. Vick is the lowest-rated player they have faced so far this season and should match that low fantasy point production. Forecast: If Vick holds on to the starting job after this week, there is nothing but bad matchups waiting for him from here on out. The Jets have the single worst remaining schedule of all fantasy quarterbacks so give yourself a break and avoid this situation completely. [Recommended Usage: SIT]

RB

You've held on to McFadden all season with the hopes that he would overtake Maurice Jones-Drew just in time for your bye weeks. The Raiders increased Jones-Drew's workload last week but he did nothing with the chances. McFadden played on 66 percent of the Raiders' offensive snaps even with Jones-Drew in the mix, yet he only yielded a paltry six fantasy points due to a late-game fumble. If this is the week you hoped to use McFadden, then the matchup against the Seahawks is going to be bad news. Although Seattle appears to have been slipping on defense, they are actually the second-toughest rated matchup for fantasy running backs, despite being ranked ninth in fantasy points against. Aside from a slip against the Rams and a game against DeMarco Murray, no running back has scored double digits against Seattle this season. McFadden doesn't shape up to be one of those backs that can rise above the matchup. He is the 34th-rated fantasy running back while Oakland calls the fewest rushing plays per game (32.3 percent) and has gained the fewest rushing yards per game of any team in the NFL. For Seattle, opponents call rushing plays the seventh-most times of any defense, yet the Seahawks still give up the sixth-fewest rushing yards and the third fewest yards per carry (3.3) per game. This does not shape up to be a productive week for McFadden. Forecast: Consider any momentum that Mcfadden has been gaining to be officially over. After this week's brutal matchup against the Seahawks, the Raiders still have four more games against defenses that are top-five "worst" rated matchups with nothing but "bad" rated matchups in between them.  [Recommended Usage: RB4]

For the first time in the "Fantasy Number Crunch" series we are going to tell you to expect less from an entire backfield. In this case, it is the Rams running back by committee. The waiver wire madness over Tre Mason after a nice outing in Week 7 only made this situation even less predictable. Jeff Fisher is desperately trying to tell fantasy owners to stay clear of these three running. He even clearly stated, "We're going to play all three backs," when asked about the situation and he proved it last week. Zac Stacy was the third back through the rotation on Sunday, tying Mason for the team lead with eight touches. Benny Cunningham, who got the "start", received only five touches. This approach isn't necessarily working either. The Rams are in the top eight in rush attempts per game, yet still generate the 12th-fewest rushing yards per game. If that isn't enough to convince you to pass on all three backs, then consider that they face the 49ers this week who are the fifth-toughest rated matchup for fantasy running backs. Forecast: The Rams running game is facing their fifth straight "worst" rated matchup, and things will only marginally improve moving forward. Over the next three weeks they face defenses rated among the top-eight toughest against running backs. They have one "best" rated matchup in the Week 16 championship game, but you will not get there if you need to start any of these players.  [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

Branden Oliver has seen a drop in his fantasy production over the last two weeks. After averaging 24 fantasy points per game in his first two starts in relief of Ryan Mathews, his average dropped to just 6.5 points per game in his last two starts. His poor matchups over the last two weeks can certainly be to blame. In those last two games, he has faced two of the top-12 toughest rated defenses against fantasy running backs. Last week he played 81 percent of the Chargers' snaps, but had a measly minus 3 yards through his first 12 touches. In what could be his last week owning the starting role he plays the Dolphins who are the algorithm's 12th-toughest rated matchup for running backs. Miami has seen the fourth-fewest rushing plays per game against them in the last three games. Despite Miami letting a couple recent running backs score double digit fantasy points, they are trending slightly toward a tougher matchup this week. Do not be surprised if Oliver is held to single digit fantasy production for the third straight week. Forecast: Reports out of San Diego indicate that Ryan Mathews should be back after the Chargers' Week 10 bye. Oliver will still have a role, but his days as the lead back are numbered. If you get one more lead back start out of him in Week 11 he has a "better" rated matchup against the Raiders.  [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

WR

Eric Decker is putting in a full week of practice and should finally be fully healthy for Week 9. Last week he was targeted a team-high 11 times and still remains the best red-zone option for the Jets. The problem for Decker this week will not be his health; it will be his lack of ability to get opportunities against a very tough Chiefs defense. The Chiefs give up the third-fewest touchdowns per game and allow the second-fewest plays per game to their opponents. They are the fourth-toughest rated matchup for fantasy wide receivers and have not allowed a fantasy receiver to score more than weight fantasy points since Brandon LaFell did so back in Week 4. Adding to this tough matchup is the Jets' uncertain quarterback situation, all pointing to low production for Decker this week. Decker has been backwards against his matchups this year. He had his two most productive games against his two toughest matchups. Last week was his easiest matchup of the season, yet all the other factors with this offense led to him having his second-least productive game of the season. Forecast: Decker has one more "best" rated matchup in Week 12 against the Bills secondary, but otherwise faces either "bad" or "worst" rated matchups the rest of the season.  [Recommended Usage: WR2]

Brandon LaFell is coming off his best game of the season last week, catching all 11 of his targets and converting them into 124 receiving yards and a touchdown. LaFell led Patriots receivers by playing on 61 of 74 snaps as well. These are very likely reasons why you picked him up off waivers this week. The algorithm gives him a decent player rating because of his ability to outplay bad matchups. Yet, he followed up his strong outing against the toughly-rated Chiefs with a two-point dud the following week against another "worst" rated defense, the Bengals. This week he faces the Broncos in a marquee matchup of two of the league's best quarterbacks. LaFell should carry over some momentum from being Brady's favorite target last week, but the Broncos are the third-toughest defense against fantasy wide receivers this season. 25 percent of LaFell's fantasy point production this season has come from long plays, but Denver holds their opponents to the fewest yards per completion (9.6) of any team in the NFL. Forecast: LaFell's tough matchup this week is only the start of a four game stretch of nothing but "bad" or "worst" rated matchups between now and Week 14. If you think you will make the fantasy playoffs, LaFell is worth a hold because he has two decent matchups in Weeks 14 and 16. [Recommended Usage: LOW WR1]

TE

Jordan Reed's return from injury was highly anticipated for many fantasy owners who know how much upside this talented tight end can have. Yet, since his return he has averaged only six fantasy points per game. His snap count dropped a bit in Week 8 even though he led the Redskins in targets. That's good news for PPR leagues, but nothing worth noting in standard scoring formats. Reed's problem stems from him not doing much with the ball after the catch, limiting his big-play upside. If you are evaluating Reed as a possible bye-week replacement, then consider that his matchup this week is against a Vikings defense that is the fourth-toughest rated matchup for fantasy tight ends. The Vikings have only allowed one touchdown to tight ends all season. Keep in mind that Reed's easiest matchup of the season was last week against the Cowboys and he only scored four fantasy points. Forecast: After Reed comes out of his Week 10 bye, he will face two straight "bad" rated matchups and then one excellent Week 13 matchup against the Colts. Before you consider Reed a long-term hold, it should be noted that Reed has one of the worst fantasy playoff schedules of any tight end. [Recommended Usage: LOW TE1]

D/ST

NE vs. DEN:The Patriots fantasy defense has been extremely matchup-dependent this season. All of their double-digit fantasy games have come against offenses ranked in the lower half of the league. This week, the Patriots host Peyton Manning and the Broncos' league-leading offense. Feel free to drop the Patriots defense completely as they have a bye next week and then face the Colts, LionsPackers and Chargers after they return. The Broncos produce an average of over 32 points a game and give up less than one interception a game. Even with Revis, there is still going to be little room for opportunity this week as well as over the next four games.

MIA vs. SD: You combed waivers, saw the HUGE game from the Dolphins fantasy defense last week and grabbed them. The problem is that this week they host a Chargers offense that has given up only .6 interceptions and 1.5 sacks per game. The Chargers also average 350-plus yards per game and over 25 points leading to a big letdown in Week 9.

Week 10 Forecast:

Want to get the jump on the Week 10 byes? 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 vs. STL, Ben Roethlisberger at NYJ, Mike Glennon vs. ATL
RB:Charles Sims vs. ATL, Lorenzo Taliaferro vs. TEN, Darren Sproles vs. CAR
WR:Davante Adams vs. CHI, Andre Holmes vs. DEN, Mike Evans vs. ATL
TE:Heath Miller at NYJ, Charles Clay at DET
DST: CIN vs. CLE, BAL vs. TEN, ARI vs. STL

-- 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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