Number crunch: Best, worst Week 12 fantasy 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 11 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 12. 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

Fantasy owners who invested in Colin Kaepernick expect added value from their quarterback due to his ability to create plays in the run game. On the season, Kaepernick has the second most runs of any quarterback in the league. Yet, last week against a Giants defense that got run all over by Russell Wilson in Week 10, Kaepernick failed to create opportunities with his legs and turned in his fourth straight game with just one touchdown. Part of the recent inability to produce at a high level can be attributed to how much pressure Kapernick has been facing from opposing defensive lines (he has taken the second-most sacks of any quarterback). This week he gets a bit of a respite as he faces a Redskins defense that ranks bottom third of the league in total sacks. The Redskins also allow the fifth-most passing touchdowns per game and opposing passers have a 104.3 passer rating against them, third highest in the NFL. This week represents the third straight "best" rated matchup for Kaepernick and the Redskins are the algorithm's easiest matchup for fantasy quarterbacks so this should present an ideal situation to allow Kap to get back on track as a productive fantasy producer. Forecast: Kaepernick's string of consecutive "best" rated matchups comes to an abrupt halt in Week 13 against the visiting Seahawks. This will be just one of two times in the next three weeks where he has to play Seattle. The Raiders matchup in Week 14 is actually "bad" rated as they have been a top-12 tough matchup for fantasy quarterbacks. [Recommended Usage: QB1]

RB

The unfortunate injury to stud running back Ahmad Bradshaw puts Trent Richardson back on the fantasy radar. Richardson's 3.12 yards per carry (YPC) average has been among the lowest in the NFL over the last two seasons and he has only produced five rushing touchdowns in 23 games with Indianapolis. However, he has been trending upward as of late. Richardson went into Week 11 with a -1.28 algorithm player rating, which gave him similar value to a player like Joique Bell. Richardson was already seeing about 15 touches per game, so when the algorithm adjust for a potential increase of about 5-8 touches, his Player Rating raises into Jeremy Hill and Lamar Miller range. His opponent this week, the Jaguars, should help him make the most of his featured back opportunity. The Jaguars are actually not as easy of a matchup as their seventh fantasy points against (FPA) ranking may suggest. In their last five games, the Jaguars' algorithm rating is trending toward a top-10 matchup. Jacksonville allows the third-most rushing yards per game, second highest yards per carry, and they've given up one rushing touchdown per game over their last three games. Richardson has averaged twice as many fantasy points (eight) against "easy" matchups this season than he has against difficult ones. Richardson averages .50 fantasy points per touch and the Jaguars allow the sixth-most fantasy points per touch (0.78) to opposing rushers, so this matchup and the increased touches could lead to at least one game of fantasy value for the previously disappointing back. Forecast: Richardson's remaining schedule is split between two "better" rated matchups and two "bad" rated ones. Next week he gets a Redskins defense that has been among the top-10 toughest against fantasy running backs all season. [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

Week after week Denard Robinson makes his case for "Best waiver wire value" of the 2014 fantasy season. He has been frequently profiled here because of the stretch of top-10 matchups he has had since becoming the Jaguars' starting running back. Robinson has no competition to be concerned about as he out-touched a healthy Toby Gerhart last week 15 to four. Since becoming the starter, Robinson has averaged 15 fantasy points per game and has done so against nothing but "best" and "better" rated matchups. The streak of easy matchups continues this week as Robinson goes up against a Colts defense that is now the easiest rated matchup for fantasy running backs after a colossal drubbing by the Patriots ground game last week. The Colts were still a top-10 easy rated matchup before the Week 11 data sample was considered. Indianapolis is giving up the fifth-most rushing yards and 1.7 rushing scores per game since Week 8. The Jaguars rushed for 105 yards against the Colts in their first meeting back in Week 3, and that was without Robinson. The new and improved Jags running game is fifth in the NFL over the last three games in yards per rush attempt (4.8) and Robinson has scored 16-plus fantasy points against the fifth- and sixth-easiest rated defenses already, so you can expect similar production this week against the Colts. Forecast: The great matchups just keep coming for Robinson. After facing the easiest-rated matchup this week, he gets the second-easiest matchup next week against the Giants. Shoelace only has one bad matchup left this season in Week 15 against the "worst" rated Ravens. [Recommended Usage: RB2]

WR

If you look at Anquan Boldin's fantasy production this season you may think that he is a player who can be difficult to predict. Yet, a closer look at the numbers actually shows some consistency. Boldin has at least five catches in five straight games and no less than six targets in any game this season. Yet, it is how Boldin responds to his matchups that makes it easy to determine when he should be in your starting roster. All three of his double digit fantasy point games this season have come against top-10 easy rated matchups. Boldin scores four more fantasy points per game against easy matchups than he does against tough ones. This week, Boldin faces one of the best matchups he has had all season as the 49ers host the Redskins. The Redskins defense is the fourth-easiest rated matchup for fantasy receivers and they allow two receiving touchdowns per game, which is fourth-most in the NFL. The Redskins just got destroyed by Mike Evans last week and have given up double digits fantasy points to eight other receivers this season. Boldin has scored a touchdown against every one of the easy matchups he has faced this season except for one (Week 2) and the Redskins are his second-easiest matchup of the year. Forecast: Boldin's schedule is very tough for the rest of the season. He goes up against the worst rated Seahawks twice in three weeks with a surprisingly tough Raiders matchup in Week 14 and then ends his season with a Chargers defense that has been trending slightly easier than their 17th-toughest rating indicates. [Recommended Usage: WR2]

TE

Are you in a tough spot at tight end this week and need a one week matchup play with upside to get you through? Well, meet Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who plays 90-plus percent of the offensive snaps and is the third receiving option for Buccaneers quarterback, Josh McCown. Seferian-Jenkins has scored two touchdowns so far this season and has done so regardless of how tough his matchup has been. Most of his value as a start this week comes from his matchup, the easiest-rated Bears defense. The Bears have given up 10 touchdowns to tight ends in 10 games. Only the Jets have given up more scores to the position. Sure, Rob Gronkowski was one of those scores, but most of the others came against no name tight ends like Rhett Ellison, Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Timothy Wright, Charles Clay and so on. Of the 18 tight ends that have already faced the Bears, Seferian-Jenkins' player rating would be the eighth-highest of the group. As nothing more than a matchup play this week, Seferian-Jenkins has the single best matchup that a tight end possibly could have. Forecast: Purely a matchup play this week, ASJ should go back to your bench next week as he faces the Bengals who are a middle of the pack rated matchup. The Packers in Week 16 are the next attractive matchup for Seferian-Jenkins, but you are likely not making it that far if he is your week-to-week tight end. [Recommended Usage: TE2]

D/ST

IND vs. JAC: The Colts defense got thumped last week by Tom Brady and co. The cure for a loss to Brady is a home game against the Jaguars. The Jags still give up 3.9 sacks and 1.5 interceptions a week and the Colts actually have some defensive players that can take advantage of those weaknesses. The Colts should be able to get back to the same type of double digit fantasy scoring success they had in their last home game before the Patriots came to town.

SD vs. STL: After a series of disappointing games in the month of October, the Chargers D/ST got back on track against the Raiders last week. It was not just the Raiders that made San Diego look good, though. They welcomed back three significant starters on defense and were playing at home off of a bye. This week, they enjoy another home game against the Rams who have issues on their offensive line and give up 3.3 sacks per game. The Rams are in the bottom half of the league in scoring and yardage and should help the Chargers have another productive fantasy week.

CHI vs. TB: The Bears defense came back to life last week in their home game against the Vikings. It was a positive matchup for them but not as strong of a matchup as they have this week when they get another home game against the Buccaneers. The Bucs give up 2.7 sacks and 1.2 interceptions a game and average the 10th-fewest offensive yards per game. If you need a streamer that is definitely still going to be on your waiver wire, then go grab Chicago.

Expect Less:

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

QB

After totaling 10 touchdowns in his first four games, Matt Ryan has only seven in his last six games. The entire Falcons' offense only has 10 total scores over that same span. Ryan hasn't thrown for 300 yards since Week 5 and has one or fewer touchdowns in five of his last six games. Ryan has not been able to take advantage of some easy matchups in recent weeks and his offensive line is still allowing the fifth-most pressures of any group in the league. However, Ryan's biggest problem this week is that he faces a "worst" rated Browns defense that is the algorithm's second-toughest rated matchup for fantasy quarterbacks. The Browns allow the second-lowest completion percentage (57.7 percent) to opposing quarterbacks and they have held seven other quarterbacks rated higher than Ryan to under 17 fantasy points. Ryan has averaged just about 15 fantasy points over his last six games, which is about what fantasy owners should expect from him this week if he makes it into any starting lineups. Forecast: Next week Ryan gets his most difficult matchup of the season against the Cardinals who have been the toughest rated matchup for fantasy quarterbacks over the last five weeks. If you desperately need that win to get into the playoffs, look elsewhere for a starting quarterback. However, the Steelers and Saints in Weeks 15 and 16 are matchups worthy of a Ryan stash. [Recommended Usage: LOW QB1]

RB

Ryan Mathews finally returned from injury last week and many fantasy owners were underwhelmed by his lack of touches. In reality, his 17 total touches were a season high. Mathews conceded 14 touches and any red zone looks to rookie Branden Oliver, which was similar to what the Chargers did with Danny Woodhead before Mathews' injury. Oliver will continue to play the Woodhead role moving forward, which is very important for a Chargers offense that has trouble converting on third down. What should be far more of a concern to Mathews owners is his Week 12 opponent, the Rams. Over the last three games the Rams have allowed the fewest rushing yards per game (45) and the second-fewest yards per rush attempt of any defense in the NFL. The Rams have become the third-toughest rated matchup for fantasy running backs this season and allow the second-fewest fantasy points per touch (FPPT) to running backs. Mathews averages around 15 total touches per game and the Rams are allowing only 0.44 FPPT, so his owners should be expecting a fantasy point total similar to his seven point outing last week. Forecast: Yet another top-five toughest rated matchup awaits Mathews in Week 13 as the Chargers travel to take on the Ravens. Things do not get much better in the fantasy playoffs with Denver and the 49ers both being top-eight worst rated matchups for running backs.  [Recommended Usage: RB2]

Jonas Gray was the most popular waiver-wire pick this week after blowing up against the Colts in Week 11 with a 44.10-point fantasy performance. So obviously he needs to be started this week, right? What we have here is a classic example of why not to chase points. Gray scored four times in Week 11 yet over the first 10 games of the season the entire Patriots roster scored only three rushing touchdowns. Last week was as situational as it gets. The Patriots used a similar strategy to what they used against the Colts in the playoffs last year, when LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley scored six rushing touchdowns. Yet, this game plan will not work against a Lions defense that leads the league in fewest rushing yards allowed per game (68.8), yards per carry allowed (3.03) and is tied for second in fewest touchdowns allowed (four). The Lions are the fifth-toughest rated matchup for fantasy running backs and will require a completely different game plan. If the Patriots' opponent has very big bodies on the interior defensive line (like the Lions do) then historically you can expect a game plan that features Shane Vereen and not a bigger back like Gray. Looking at the opponent rating and game situation, it is unlikely that fantasy owners will see anything more than just very low end RB3 production this week out of Gray. Wait to start Gray until the Patriots go up against some of the smaller defensive lines they will see in upcoming games such as the Packers and Chargers. Forecast: Gray will not get consistent weekly usage but could see time against the Packers small front in Week 13 even though Green bay has been the third-toughest matchup for running backs over the last five games. Gray follows that up with a Chargers defense that has been among the top-five toughest over the last month.  [Recommended Usage: SIT]

Lamar Miller has been slumping with only one double-digit fantasy performance over his last four games. Even though he has been working through a sprained AC joint, he has been getting roughly his normal workload during this slump. Luckily, Miller escaped Week 11 without injury setbacks. He is averaging 4.9 ypc this season and has a player rating that ranks him 14th among all running backs. He has the ability to outplay his bad matchups but averages five more points per game when he plays against easy ones. This week he gets a tough one as the Dolphins travel to Denver to face a stout Broncos run defense. The "worst" rated Broncos allow the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game and second-fewest yards per rush attempt to opposing backs. Denver is the seventh-toughest rated matchup for fantasy running backs and has allowed only four rushing touchdowns all season. Miller was able to get into the end zone the last time he faced a "worst" rated matchup, but touchdowns are tough to come by against the Broncos, so owners should expect this game to be one of Miller's least productive outings. Forecast: The string of tough matchups continue in Week 13 against the Jets and then in Week 14 against the Ravens. Both defenses are among the top-10 toughest rated against fantasy running backs.  [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

WR

Larry Fitzgerald has to be on the list of most disappointing fantasy draft picks this year. He is the algorithm's 46th-rated wide receiver, but his production in small spurts is just enough to keep owners hanging on. His productive games may appear to be completely random, but actually the numbers show a great deal of consistency. For example, his three most productive games, the only games where he scored over 10 fantasy points, all came against his only easy matchups of the season. Fitzgerald averages 15 fantasy points against either "better" or "best" rated defenses and only five fantasy points against "bad" or "worst" rated ones. The bad news for Fitzgerald this week is that he faces the Seahawks who are the toughest rated matchup for fantasy receivers. The last time Fitzgerald faced a "worst" rated defense this season he scored just seven fantasy points and has yet to score a touchdown against a matchup that is not one of the top-10 easiest. History and the numbers will likely prove that Fitzgerald will have another of his poor performances again in Week 12. Forecast: Matchup relief is just around the corner when the Cardinals travel to Atlanta to take on a Falcons defense that is the second-easiest rated matchup for opposing wide receivers. Fitz's schedule yo-yos a bit with a top-five easy matchup followed by three top-five toughest matchups through Week 16.  [Recommended Usage: WR3]

DeAndre Hopkins has become a top-20 rated fantasy wide receiver this season despite uncertainty with the Texans' quarterback position. Hopkins has played 90-plus percent of the Texans offensive snaps and has had no less than five targets in a game while averaging nine targets per game over his last four. Clearly he is a big part of the Texans' game plan each week. The difference between a big fantasy day and an average one for Hopkins has been his matchup strength. Hopkins averages 14 fantasy points per game against easy matchups but just seven against average rated opponents. This week, Hopkins goes up against a "worst" rated Bengals defense that is the third-toughest rated matchup for fantasy receivers. The Bengals allow the second-fewest fantasy points per touch (FPPT ) to opposing receivers at just 0.75 FPPT a game. Hopkins normally scores 2.13 FPPT so this matchup could cause some regression in his average. Hopkin's most productive fantasy games of the season have come when he scores a touchdown, yet the Bengals have only allowed one receiving touchdown per game over their last three so it is unlikely that this week will be one of Hopkins' productive games. Forecast: Hopkins has two "worst" rated matchups in the next three weeks with one top-five easy matchup in Week 14 against the Jaguars. The Ravens in Week 16 are a nice matchup for the fantasy championship. [Recommended Usage: WR2]

Many pundits attribute Jordan Matthews' recent surge in production to Mark Sanchez taking over as quarterback and the pair's "second team" rapport. However, savvy fantasy owners will note that Matthews' production is due to the matchups, not his bromance with Sanchez. Matthews has played about 50 to 60 percent of the offensive snaps going all the way back to Week 1 when Nick Foles was still the quarterback. Over the last three weeks Matthews has averaged seven targets a game, but he still averaged 6.8 targets per game under Foles. What really changed over the last three weeks was that Matthews has played against top-12 easy rated matchups. Matthews scores 13 fantasy points per game against easy matchups and just three against tough ones. So his fantasy point production is clearly matchup based. Unfortunately for Matthews, this week he gets his toughest matchup of the year in the Titans. The Titans are the second-toughest rated matchup for fantasy receivers even though they are middle of the pack in fantasy points against (FPA). Many think the Titans are an easy matchup because their run defense is so bad, but they have held some of the highest rated receivers to some of their lowest producing games this season. The Titans have given up just one passing touchdown per game over the last month and only 1.5 per game on the season. Matthews is too matchup-dependent to trust for big production this week. Forecast: If schedules matter to you (and they should), then we have seen the best of Matthews for a while. All of his opponents over the next month are rated among the top-five toughest matchups for fantasy wide receivers. [Recommended Usage: WR2]

TE

Antonio Gates is surprising many fantasy owners by turning in yet another productive fantasy season. He is a top-five rated tight end by the algorithm after 11 weeks and appears to be a relatively consistent fantasy producer. However, a closer look reveals that Gates needs touchdowns to produce. In fact, 53 percent of his fantasy scoring on the season comes from his nine receiving touchdowns. In games where he does not score a touchdown, he averages just 3.4 fantasy points. In games where he does score a touchdown, he averages 16 fantasy points per game. This week he plays against a Rams defense that is the third-toughest rated matchup for fantasy tight ends and has been the toughest-rated matchup over the last five weeks. In addition, the Rams have only given up TWO touchdowns to tight ends all season, second fewest in the league. Fantasy owners without other options might be stuck with Gates in a tough matchup this week, but if you have tight end depth, you might want to go with a better situation. At the very least, Gates is someone to avoid in daily fantasy games this week due to his unappealing matchup against the Rams. Forecast: Next week, Gates gets the Ravens defense that has been among the top-six toughest against tight ends, but then follows that up with two good matchups in Weeks 14 and 15 to help owners get a couple early wins in the fantasy postseason. [Recommended Usage: LOW TE1]

D/ST

MIA at DEN: The Dolphins have been this year's example for why you should wait on drafting D/STs. On every league's waivers in Week 1, they became an every-week starting defense. This week, however, they should not be in your starting lineup as they travel west to face an angry Peyton Manning. Despite last week's dud, the Broncos destroy opposing defenses with over 400 yards of offense and 20 points per game. Keep the Dolphins on your bench as they have a sweet matchup against the Jets next week and will be a great start then.

DET at NE: The Lions defense is one of the league's best when it comes to real football, but for fantasy they need the right matchup to be relied upon. Week 12 is not one of those matchups as the Lions travel to face the Patriots. The Patriots are scoring over 30 points per game and are as hot as any offense. Tom Brady gives up only 0.5 interceptions per game and the offensive line has been doing a much better job of protecting him from pressure than they had earlier in the season.

ARI at SEA: The Cardinals fantasy defense has been on fire over the last month. Big games against big offenses have somehow turned into fantasy points for the Cards. Keep in mind that these past three offenses the Cardinals have faced have also been mistake-prone and Arizona was able to bring those mistakes out. This week, the Cardinals travel to Seattle to face a surprisingly efficient Russell Wilson. The Seahawks give up only 0.4 fumbles, 0.5 interceptions and two sacks per game. The Cardinals D/ST might not be worth sitting, but the string of double digit fantasy point production just may end this week.

Week 13 Forecast:

Want to get the jump on Week 13's best matchups? 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:Ben Roethlisberger vs. NO, Blake Bortles vs. NYG, Andy Dalton at TB
RB:Charles Sims vs. CIN, Jerick McKinnon vs. CAR
WR:Andre Holmes at STL, Terrance Williams vs. PHI
TE:Coby Fleener vs. WAS, Delanie Walker at HOU
DST: NYG at JAC, STL vs. OAK, MIN vs. CAR

-- 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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