Match-ups are beautiful, mysterious things. They can transform players from a fringe flex guy to a locked-in top-12 player, and vice versa. This article is here to outline one player at each position that you can start with confidence – and one per position that you are better of leaving on your bench.
Some players are matchup-proof – you won’t find those players in this article. If you own Alvin Kamara, you’re starting him every week regardless of the matchup. But not everyone can have Alvin Kamara, so let me guide you through the forest of matchup decisions.
Quarterback – Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Fantasy football doesn’t need to be hard. Start players on high scoring offenses who will be involved in high scoring games. The Falcons are the perfect storm this year, and this week’s matchup against the Steelers makes Matt Ryan a must-start.
From what we’ve seen so far this season, the Falcons defense isn’t capable of stopping anything, meaning Ryan is going to be forced to keep throwing the ball. More importantly, he is going to be forced to keep throwing the ball against a Steelers secondary that has given up an average of 27.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Start Matt Ryan with no reservations.
Running Back – T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Kansas City Chiefs
This is the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. The Jaguars face off against the Chiefs this week, and with Leonard Fournette ruled out after aggravating his hamstring (again), T.J. Yeldon steps up to the plate against a Chiefs defence that has been utterly woeful against the run this year.
The Chiefs are giving up 31 points per game to running backs this year, and that number would be closer to 40 if James Conner hadn’t flunked in Week 2. Yeldon might have only managed 52 rushing yards against the Jets in Week 4, but he has gained at least 46 reaching yards in his past two games, including a touchdown.
Yeldon’s versatility means that, regardless of game script against the Chiefs, he is guaranteed significant usage. Slot him in as a low-end RB1, and win your matchup this week.
Wide Receiver – Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Miami Dolphins
The Bengals go into their Week 5 matchup with the Dolphins as one of the more exciting offenses in the league. Whilst the Dolphins have been decent against wide receivers this year, they will be without Bobby McCain, one of the most important pieces of their defense.
A.J. Green will most likely draw coverage from Xavien Howard, but the absence of McCain allows Tyler Boyd to leverage an exceptional matchup into WR1 type production. Look at his numbers across the last three weeks (Rec/Yds/TD) – 6/91/1, 6/132/1, 11/100. You can’t afford to ignore that level of production. Start. Tyler. Boyd.
Tight End – Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Finally, the sleeper emerges. Vance McDonald has now firmly established himself as Pittsburgh’s first-choice receiving tight end. He faces off against an increasingly-vulnerable Falcons defense in a game that could well see 60 points scored.
Tight ends are always risky, so outside of Gronkowski, Kelce, and Ertz – there is an element of risk attached to the position. But targeting a shootout is – generally – a recipe for fantasy success. Hopefully, McDonald cooks up something good for your fantasy team.
Quarterback – Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams
This shouldn’t need too much explaining. The Seahawks have a very leaky offensive line and the Rams have Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. As good as Russell Wilson has proven himself to be in recent years, there’s only so much one person can do to drag a franchise to success. Up against this Rams defense, you want to avoid starting Wilson. There are plenty of streaming options that will serve your team better.
Running Back – Carlos Hyde, Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens
This is not a pretty matchup for Carlos Hyde against the Baltimore Ravens. Hyde managed 2.8 and 2.7 yards per carry in his first two weeks. Whilst he has improved his efficiency in the last two weeks of action, he faces a Ravens run defense that has given up 3.9 yards per carry to running backs and a total of 330 rushing yards – both top 10 in the league.
His usage and his touchdown production might make it difficult for you to sit him, but this Ravens defense is a cut above any of the fronts he’s faced so far this year.
Wide Receiver – Marquise Goodwin, San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals
This 49ers offense is set to take on a very different shape with C.J. Beathard under center. With the offensive line battling injuries, expect Shanahan to dial up as many quick shots as he can.
This doesn’t bode well for Marquise Goodwin, already struggling himself with an injury. Goodwin was heavily out-targeted by both George Kittle and Pierre Garcon last week, and you should expect him to sit third or fourth on targets as the season progresses. Fade him this week.
Tight End – Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Assuming that you’re streaming at tight end, you might well be tempted to play Austin Sefarian-Jenkins against a porous Chiefs defense.
Don’t fall into the trap. ASJ is competing for targets with Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Donte Moncrief, and that’s mentioning nothing of the work you can expect T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant to receive with Leonard Fournette out of the picture.
You can’t trust him to return any sort of value given the usage he’s been receiving. There are plenty of other tight ends you can find that will offer you more upside this week.
By Ben Barton – @Baron_Barton