Week 7: Player Upgrades
Player Upgrades is intended for fantasy football diehards. Each week when setting a lineup, a closer analysis is necessary to find out which players are destined for a great performance. Sometimes it is a favorable matchup or it can be as simple as an increased role due to an injury. Very few players are matchup-proof in this game. For every Aaron Rodgers or Ray Rice, there are a dozen players who could potentially be interchangable depending upon a number of factors.
This weekly article isolates your best options for a statistical breakout from Week 1 to Week 17. Let FFToolbox do the homework for you! Instead of scouring the waiver wire and opening up 20 tabs to compare and contrast players, let Player Upgrades be your guide. Each week, we will identify seven players (typically two QBs, two RBs, two WRs and one TE) that you should consider starting and we'll break each player down with some analysis.
Of all quarterbacks in the NFL, nobody is going to have it easier than Andrew Luck in terms of opposing fantasy pass defenses. A quick rundown of his opponents reveal he will be facing Cleveland (second-most fantasy points allowed to QBs), Tennessee (sixth-most), Miami (11th-most), Jacksonville (17th-most), New England (third-most), Buffalo (most), Detroit (21st-most), Tennessee again, Houston (20th-most), Kansas City (tenth-most), and Houston again. This is the equivalent of playing Deal or No Deal with 32 cases, having to eliminate 23 briefcases (read: teams) on your first turn, and somehow eliminating all but three of the lowest valued briefcases. If that analogy went over your head, just know that Luck has a tremendously favorable schedule remaining that is chock full of juicy matchups in which he can score tons of points.
Even though he has been wildly inconsistent, Tony Romo has to still be thought of as a fantasy QB1. The former Eastern Illinois quarterback has a favorable schedule upcoming with games against Carolina, Cleveland, Washington (twice), and New Orleans. If the stats hold, the toughest defenses (vs. QBs) they face will be Pittsburgh and Atlanta, both of which should be considered above-average at best. With DeMarco Murray out at least a week, that means more passing and more production for guys like Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. In the immediate short-term, he faces a crummy Carolina defense that has struggled against elite QBs such as Drew Brees, Eli Manning, and Matt Ryan. Now is a great time to buy-low on Romo if you've got a spare player to offer.
If we ignore his three upcoming games against the Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, and Houston Texans then Chris Johnson has got it easy. He plays Buffalo, Indianapolis twice, and Jacksonville twice. Each of those three teams rank among the bottom-five fantasy defenses against running backs. In fact, if you average out how each of these teams are performing, they collectively are allowing running backs 172 total yards and 1.4 TDs per game. Johnson obviously needs to get his act together and has been a tremendous disappointment. For the right low-ball offer though, you might land a back with only one tough matchup (Houston) in his final six games and he just so happened to rush for 141 yards on 25 carries against the Texans.
During the final 11 weeks of the season, Darren McFadden will face the worst, second-worst, fourth-worst, and eighth-worst (twice) fantasy run defenses in the NFL. To recap, that is New Orleans, Jacksonville, Carolina, and Kansas City, respectively. In addition, only two of his remaining opponents even rank in the top half of run defenses when considering fantasy points allowed to running backs. Although the Oakland Raiders have struggled to establish the run and thus, McFadden has failed to score many fantasy points. The argument here is that you should not give up on McFadden, not yet anyway. With such a desirable schedule ahead of him, he could easily turn what has been a forgettable season into a far more memorable one.Injury Status: Out - Hamstring
To be fair, Dez Bryant doesn't have an easy matchup anytime in the next four weeks, but after that, it's close to smooth sailing. This is because four of his final seven games come against the league's worst pass defenses. Favorable matchups against Cleveland, Washington (twice), and New Orleans could lead to Bryant carrying you into the fantasy playoffs. Even though Bryant has not lived up to his average draft position, he is on pace for a career-best year. The key here is that Tony Romo has thrown Bryant a ton of targets. In his last three games, he is averaging 12 targets per game. Couple that with a favorable schedule in the final trimester of the season means you could trade him away from equal value now and receive a favorable return on your investment.