All season long, I’ve been talking about matchups with an opposing team, but what about an opposing weather condition? Fantasy owners who started Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, or Reggie Bush were likely all salivating at the Lions’ matchup with the Eagles, but Bush was a very late scratch after slipping on the field while both Stafford and Johnson failed to get anything going all afternoon. Even kickers, who are usually fairly immune to any real matchup concerns, should almost always be benched when there’s snow coming down.
Sometimes you even need to get more specific. A downhill runner who plows straight through defenses is going to have a lot more success in rough weather than an elusive runner who relies on fancy footwork to shake tackles. LeSean McCoy may very well be the exception to that rule, but he also adjusted his running style for the weather; something Reggie Bush is less capable of and part of the reason the Lions didn’t bother risking him playing in an important game.
I can’t predict the weather and if you ask anyone in Philadelphia, neither can the people whose job it is to do so, but this late into the fantasy season, it is absolutely critical that you check the field conditions prior to kickoff. That being said, there are still football matchups to talk about.
It looks like many fantasy owners may need to sneak into the playoffs this weekend without the help of Adrian Peterson. What’s worse is handcuff Toby Gerhart suffered a hamstring injury toward the end of this weekend’s game and may miss the game against the Eagles as well. No, I’m not suggesting you start Matt Asiata, but if Gerhart and Peterson are both scratched, you’re going to need a running back with a solid matchup to fill in for “All Day.”
Steven Jackson has been playing much better in recent weeks and although he didn’t score a TD against the Packers last weekend, the Redskins are one of the worst teams at covering the run this year. Look for him to break 80 yards on the ground with a score this week. On the other sideline in that game, Alfred Morris is in a similarly decent situation as Atlanta is surrendering almost as many points to running backs this season. I imagine both RBs will end with similar numbers this week and in Atlanta, you won’t have to worry about the weather with either of them.
He may not be rushing as much as most of the guys with his title, but Shane Vereen should have his third game with 10 or more fantasy points in a row this Sunday. After losing Rob Gronkowski for the season, the Tom Brady is going to be leaning on his other favorite targets for support. With 12 catches for 153 yards last weekend, I think Vereen qualifies.
Speaking of Gronkowski, his absence should also help both Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola who are in an otherwise challenging matchup. Miami covers the pass fairly well, but that didn’t stop Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, and Emmanuel Sanders from each scoring TDs against them on Sunday so look for Brady’s remaining targets to see a few extra looks each.
Sure, he may not have a TD the past two weeks, but Roddy White should have his third straight outing with a decent number of receptions. This week, look for him to catch one in the pay dirt. Roddy makes a nice play over receivers like Larry Fitzgerald who has been on fire, but plays against Tennessee who can stop pretty much any receiver who doesn’t have Peyton Manning throwing to him.
Vincent Jackson is a weaker than usual play as well, but if Anquan Boldin can haul in six receptions for 93 yards against the Seahawks, Jackson should be able to do the same. If you need a home run, boom or bust option, consider starting Cordarrelle Patterson over Jackson this week, but Jackson is the safer play for at least some points.
As for QBs, Aaron Rodgers owners are likely keeping their fingers crossed for his return this week, but it isn’t looking great. Additionally, recently reliable options like Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady have tough matchups. Brady had 116 yards with 1 TD against Miami the last time they played and Big Ben’s 251 yards with 1 TD against Cincinnati in week 2 weren’t much better as far as fantasy numbers are concerned. Both Matt Ryan and Alex Smith are better candidates this week thanks to easier matchups.
In the fantasy playoffs, matchups are especially important, but they only take you so far. Sure, Peyton Manning has a fantastic matchup on Thursday night, but if it starts snowing in Denver, don’t expect his numbers to be up to their usual standards. Sure Matt Prater is a money-in-the-bank, record-holding kicker, but being the most accurate guy in the league on 50+ yard kicks doesn’t mean anything when the wind’s blowing across the field.
Got an extra spot on your bench that you don’t know what to do with? Pick up Cleveland’s defense. People will think you’re crazy and they won’t help you this week, but the Browns play the Jets next week and Cleveland’s defense should be one of the top options out there. If you want to win this year, be prepared and think ahead.
Best of luck.