Number crunch: Best, worst Week 16 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. This sytem has proven to be up to 37 percent more accurate than standard metrics.

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, taking 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.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The defense ratings for this week are based on numbers from the first 15 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 16. 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 might be worried about Matthew Stafford after he cooled down in Week 15. His 10 fantasy point performance was a step backward after his red-hot production from the two weeks prior. In Weeks 13 and 14, Stafford faced two defenses that the algorithm rated in the top seven easiest matchups for fantasy quarterbacks. Stafford averages 22 points per game against easy rated matchups, yet in Week 15 he faced a "bad" rated Vikings defense and scored just 10 points (he averages nine per game against bad matchups). Once you look at the matchups you can see that Stafford is actually the model of matchup consistency. Owners should expect a bounce-back week for Stafford in Week 16 as he faces a "best" rated Bears defense that the algorithm rates as a top-three easy matchup for fantasy quarterbacks. While giving up an average of over 315 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks over the last three games, only the Falcons have given up more passing yards per game than the Bears defense. The Bears have also allowed 2.7 passing touchdowns per game since Week 12, the third-highest average in the NFL. The numbers all point to Stafford rebounding just in time to captain your fantasy championship team. [Recommended Usage: QB1]

Other good QB matchups:Aaron Rodgers at TB, Andrew Luck at DAL, Tom Brady at NYJ, Mark Sanchez at WAS

RB

Mark Ingram is likely somewhat responsible for getting your team to the fantasy playoffs after his solid run of recent fantasy performances. But, will he give you a 10-plus fantasy point game or one of his single-digit clunkers? Looking closer at the numbers should give you the confidence you need to keep Ingram in your lineups this week. Ingram hasn't had a lot of easy-rated matchups this season, but he has averaged 13 fantasy points per game when he does. That is well above his eight point average when facing tough matchups. This week, Ingram enjoys the easiest-rated matchup for any fantasy running back as the Saints host the Falcons. The Falcons have allowed the most rushing touchdowns per game all season (1.4) and have allowed two rushing touchdowns per game in each of their last four games except in Week 13 when they held Arizona to just one running back score (on a reception). Ingram already has a positive data sample against the 2014 Falcons as he rushed for 60 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries against them in the season opener. Since then, the Falcons run defense has actually gotten worse and Ingram's role in the offense has only grown. Expect production worthy of your championship roster in the rematch this weekend. [Recommended Usage: RB2]

Fred Jackson has been the Bill's workhorse during the fantasy playoffs with 65 touches over his last three games, producing solid flex numbers. The algorithm likes Jackson because he actually produces more fantasy points against tough matchups than he does against easy ones. That stat is skewed a bit because he left early with an injury in one of his three easy matchups this season. One thing Jackson has not had all season is a "best" rated matchup. That changes just in time for him to play a flex role on your championship team. Jackson gets a Week 16 matchup against the Raiders defense, who are the second-easiest matchup for fantasy running backs. The Silver and Black have allowed 5.1 yards per rush and 1.7 rushing touchdowns per game over the last three games and have allowed an opposing running back to score a receiving touchdown in each of those three games. Jackson has twenty pass targets over the last three weeks alone, so if you want to start a flex running back that is likely to get a passing score this week, keep him in your lineup.[Recommended Usage: FLEX]

Other good RB matchups:C.J. Anderson at CIN, DeMarco Murray vs. IND

WR

DeSean Jackson's return from injury was not what fantasy owners had hoped for last week. Jackson wasn't part of the downfield passing game and wasn't a factor in the short passing game either, despite a team-leading eight targets. It was a bad matchup last week but Jackson has shown that he can overcome bad matchups. Jackson's injury is an issue, but his 50-957-5 stat line this season is still impressive enough to consider starting him on your championship game roster. His Week 16 matchup should at least give him flex appeal. He faces an Eagles defense that is the easiest-rated matchup he has had since he faced, well, the Eagles back in Week 3. The Eagles have allowed a league-leading 21 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers and eight of them have come over the last month. Jackson may have his disdain for his old team out of his system after their first matchup, but owners should expect some flex-worthy production out of Jackson this week. [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

Other good WR matchups:Jeremy Maclin at WAS, Jordy Nelson at TB, Calvin Johnson at CHI

TE

Jason Witten became a huge part of the Cowboys passing game last week as he was targeted a team-high nine times. Witten's seven receptions were the most he's had this season. He continues to see a bigger role in the offense as Terrance Williams gets phased out. If you take out Week 15 and 13, Witten has averaged just under eight targets per game since Week 8. Eight is the magic number this week because Witten goes up against the "best" rated Colts defense, which has allowed opposing tight ends to produce 100 receiving yards or a touchdown in every game where the tight end has been targeted eight or more times. The Colts have also given up the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends over the last three weeks and are the second-easiest matchup for tight ends on the season. It you want to play the numbers for your championship game and Witten is an option for you, plug him in this week and hope for another eight targets to come his way. [Recommended Usage: LOW TE1]

Other good TE matchups:Rob Gronkowski at NYJ, Dwayne Allen at DAL

D/ST

GB at TB: The Packers defense has performed well for fantasy purposes when they get the right matchup. This week they have a matchup worthy of a championship game stream as they travel to Tampa Bay. The Bucs give up three sacks per game including 15 sacks given up in the last four weeks alone. Tampa Bay has also given up six interceptions in the last month and should be throwing for four quarters in this game. Fire up an angry Packers defense looking to get right after last week's loss.

PHI vs. WAS: The Eagles have not been an explosive fantasy defense since back in Week 13 and may have found their way to your waiver wire as a result. This week they face a Redskins offense that should help them get back on track. The Redskins give up 3.8 sacks per game, including a total of 25 sacks in the last four games alone. If the Eagles are an option, plug them in.

NE at NYJ: The Patriots fantasy defense has been back on track over the last two weeks with solid performances against decent offenses. This week they get to feast on Geno Smith and a Jets offensive line that has given up 15 sacks in the last four games. Geno is good for a bad decision per game and the Jets only score an average of 16 points per contest if your league gives you points for low opponent scoring.

Expect Less:

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

QB

Although Le'Veon Bell was the star in the Steelers' Week 15 win, most of the offense came from Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game. Roethlisberger threw for 360 yards and completed more than 77 percent of his passes in that game. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Roethlisberger was unable to get any touchdowns so his stat line was certainly disappointing. He hasn't been great against easy matchups this season, failing to take advantage of one for the third time. If you are in a deep enough league to consider him as your championship week starter, you might want to look for another option. Big Ben faces a Chiefs defense that is the algorithm's third-toughest rated matchup for fantasy quarterbacks. Kansas City has allowed the second-fewest passing yards per game this season with an average of 199 yards per game. Roethlisberger has averaged 14 fantasy points per game against similarly rated opponents this season, so owners shouldn't expect him to anchor their rosters in the most important week of the year. [Recommended Usage: LOW QB1]

Other bad QB matchups:Jimmy Clausen vs. DET, Cam Newton vs. CLE, Ryan Tannehill vs. MIN

RB

Jeremy Hill owners have to be wringing their hands with excitement after his Week 15 27 point game likely helped advance them to their championship game. Hill's 62 percent snap rate was his highest since Giovani Bernard was injured, while Bernard's 37 percent rate was his lowest since his return. Hill took advantage of a "better" rated matchup last week and he has done a good job of that all season. Unfortunately for Hill, he has also done a terrible job against "worst" rated matchups with an average of only three fantasy points in his previous two matchups against that rating. This week, Hill should still be the lead back, but will have to deal with a top-three toughest rated Broncos run defense. Denver has allowed just 57 rushing yards per game and just 3.4 yards per carry over their last three games, second in the NFL only to the Lions in both categories. Denver has been one of the toughest matchups for fantasy running backs all season. Hill has relied on touchdowns for 31 percent of his fantasy point production this year, but Denver has only given up one rushing touchdown since Week 6. The algorithm points to a low fantasy point production game for the running back that was likely your Week 15 fantasy playoff MVP.  [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

LeSean McCoy's algorithm rating has dropped him to just the 26th-rated fantasy running back after 15 weeks. Last week, McCoy had a nice matchup against a Cowboys defense that he lit up back in Week 13, but he got only 17 touches with the Eagles playing from behind most of the game. He is hard to sit since he cost you so much in your draft, but owners should really temper expectations when he faces bad matchups. McCoy averages only six fantasy points against tough matchups, and 15 points against easy ones. Last week, he didn't get enough touches to take advantage of his matchup, but low production against bad matchups is the norm for McCoy. He has only had one double digit game against a tough matchup all season. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he has a "worst" rated matchup against the Redskins this week. Do not confuse the Redskins rush defense with their terrible pass defense. If you take away Matt Asiata's three-touchdown performance against Washington in Week 9, they have only given up three other rushing touchdowns all season. That's good enough to make them the algorithm's third-toughest matchup for fantasy running backs. The Redskins hold opposing rushers to just 0.45 fantasy points per touch. If McCoy gets back to his 20 or so touches this week that is a ceiling of just nine fantasy points. He gets the start, but don't expect him to carry your team to a win.  [Recommended Usage: RB2]

Other bad RB matchups:Marshawn Lynch at ARI, Arian Foster vs. BAL

WR

Emmanuel Sanders is a top-six rated receiver by the algorithm on the season due to his ability to outplay his bad matchups. He has faced four "worst" rated matchups and averaged a healthy 12 fantasy points per game against them. Yet it is not his matchup that owners should worry about in the fantasy championships. Sanders saw just three targets last week as Peyton Manning attempted only 20 passes. This could have been a one off, except Sanders saw only six targets in Week 14 when Manning again threw only 20 passes. Over the last three games, the Broncos have called the third-fewest passing plays of any team in the NFL. Their 40 percent pass play call percentage is actually a lower volume than the Seahawks, whose offense is known for low passing volume. In addition to those scary low opportunity numbers, Sanders has yet another "worst" rated matchup this week against the Bengals. The Bengals have allowed the second-fewest touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this season and have allowed only two of them over the last five games. Even if Denver decides to get him more involved in the game this week, Cincinnati allows the fewest FPPT to opposing receivers of any defense in the league. A lot of trends would have to be reversed for Sanders to help you win a championship this week.  [Recommended Usage: WR3]

Kelvin Benjamin's breakout rookie season has certainly earned him a spot on your championship week roster. But what kind of fantasy production can you expect from him? The only thing slowing Benjamin down this season has been tough matchups. He averages just six fantasy points against bad rated matchups and nearly double that when faced with easy ones. This week the Panthers host the Browns defense which has been the fourth-toughest rated matchup for fantasy receivers over their last five games, even with that terrible game last week against the Bengals. The Browns have given up only two 100 yard receiving games to wide receivers since Week 6. The Browns defense is a little banged up, but if Joe Haden plays as expected he will be assigned to cover Benjamin. Benjamin averages 2.19 fantasy points per touch (FPPT) this season, but the Browns hold opposing receivers to just 0.87 FPPT. Even if Benjamin sees double digit targets as he has in recent weeks, his typical production could still be cut in half by the stingy Browns defense. [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

Other bad WR matchups:Dez Bryant vs. IND, A.J. Green vs. DEN, Demaryius Thomas at CIN

TE

Larry Donnell had two catches for 11 yards in Week 15 against a "best" rated Redskins defense. He failed to take advantage of a top-three easy matchup against a defense that allowed him in the end zone three times back in Week 4. Donnell hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 11 and is averaging just 34 receiving yards over that span. Donnell doesn't appear to have a reliable enough role in the offense, seeing as Eli Manning threw his 34 passes in almost every other direction but Donnell's last week. If you made it through to the championship game with Donnell, you should look to waivers for another streaming option. In addition to his poor production recently, he faces the worst possible matchup of any tight end in Week 16 as the Giants take on the Rams. Over the last five weeks, the Rams have not allowed a touchdown to a tight end and have only given up 30 receiving yards per game to the position over that span. Donnell's numbers show he does not have the ability to overcome the worst possible matchup a tight end could get. This is not something you should be relying on for such an important fantasy week. [Recommended Usage: SIT]

Other bad TE matchups:Delanie Walker at JAC, Owen Daniels at HOU

D/ST

ARI vs. SEA: The Cardinals defense has only had one poor fantasy week in the last seven weeks and has likely earned a spot on many championship rosters. Owners should curb their expectations a bit this week as they face a Seahawks offense that plays so conservatively that they have only given away the ball once over the last five weeks. Russell Wilson's running style does account for some sacks, but the lack of turnovers could make this a mediocre week for the fantasy prospects of the Cardinals D/ST.

IND at DAL: The Colts have been on a roll for the last two weeks, registering two consecutive good fantasy outings. However, their championship week opponent is the Cowboys. Dallas has only six giveaways in the last five weeks. Tony Romo can give up sacks, but the Cowboys offense makes up for it with over 377 yards and 27 points of production per week. The Colts might not be a fantasy defense for you to pin your championship dreams on this week.

-- 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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