Nailing down good and bad matchups can be a bit of a rain dance for Week 1. You saw how messy things got last week -- DeAndre Hopkins wound up going off in what we deemed a bad matchup. The game script killed us.
Now that we have some 2015 game tape under our belt, though, Aaron Rudnicki is back to hone in on some of this week's better or worse matchups between pass-catchers and those players who would presumably oppose them on defense.
Steve Smith, WR, BAL @ OAK ($6,700)
Miglio: The Raiders looked like the worst team in the league at home last week, and they lost both starting safeties to injury. The only issue here is that the Baltimore Ravens offense looked positively pitiful against the Denver Broncos in Week 1. Big bounce-back week coming for Steve Smith in a much better matchup?
Rudnicki: The Raiders secondary is really bad, and corner D.J. Hayden has really struggled in coverage. With both starting safeties going down with injuries, Hayden may not get much help against Smith this week and I think Flacco will be able to take full advantage.
Torrey Smith, WR, SF @ PIT ($5,900)
Miglio: It was a poor matchup for Steve Smith’s former teammate against the Minnesota Vikings last week, though the 49ers moved the ball without him at will at times. This week is the opposite -- the Pittsburgh Steelers seem to pose little defensive threat, and a guy like Torrey Smith might cash in with a huge game.
Rudnicki: The Steelers pass defense is such a mess that New England didn’t show any interest in running the ball against them. The 49ers passing attack is a big step down from the Patriots, but they also have a run game that could result in plenty of stacked fronts. If so, Smith should see plenty of single coverage and have a shot at a huge game. Boldin and Vernon Davis probably aren’t bad options here either.
Sammy Watkins, WR, BUF vs. NE ($6,600)
Miglio: What happened to Watkins last week? A big fat goose egg against the Indianapolis Colts? What a letdown.
Rudnicki: The Patriots may have the weakest collection of cornerbacks in the league. Malcolm Butler and Tarell Brown were both victimized repeatedly by the Steelers, and the Bills should not have too much trouble moving the ball through the air. Watkins was shut out a week ago as the Colts decided to put their #1 corner on him with safety help, but they have too many other weapons for the Patriots to consider using the same strategy.
Charles Johnson, WR, MIN vs. DET ($5,400)
Jarius Wright, WR, MIN vs. DET ($5,100)
Miglio: Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson aren’t exactly imposing physical specimens when juxtaposed against prototypical No. 1 receivers. The duo combined for 21 catches and 248 yards against the Detroit Lions with a lot of shallow stuff. Jarius Wright fits that mold more so than his cohorts at wide receiver, and he makes for a nice GPP play.
Rudnicki: The Lions secondary didn’t look like a weakness coming into the season, but they were torched by Allen and Stevie Johnson in the opener. Charles Johnson was very quiet in an ugly loss to the 49ers, but he played far more snaps than the other receivers and should be a clear No. 1 WR in this offense. Jarius Wright is a solid No. 3 WR with RAC potential, but he figures to see much fewer snaps and only costs $300 less.
Brandon Coleman, WR, NO vs. TB ($5,000)
Miglio: Brandin Cooks is going to be the chalk this week for New Orleans as he looks to get off the schneid in a big way against a terrible Tampa Bay defense this week. While Brandon Coleman isn’t exactly an unknown -- especially after scoring last week -- his ownership percentage is probably going to be far lower.
Rudnicki: Marcus Mariota threw 4 pass touchdowns against the Tampa defense in one half, so it’s hard to argue against anyone that Drew Brees is throwing to this week. Cooks figures to be highly owned but also costs $7,400, so I think Coleman represents the best value. He saw the second-most snaps among Saints receivers last week, and has ideal height to make him a huge target in the red zone.
Greg Olsen, TE, CAR vs. HOU ($6,000)
Miglio: What a miserable Week 1 it was for Greg Olsen’s fantasy owners. Cheer up, though -- he is still a top target for Cam Newton, and we couldn’t have every tight end blow up. Olsen’s down game provides great opportunity cost for Week 2.
Rudnicki: Travis Kelce just torched this defense a week ago and it didn’t seem to matter who he was matched up against. The Panthers don’t have players like Jamaal Charles or Jeremy Maclin to draw attention away from their TE, but I still expect Olsen to rebound particularly if they have to play from behind in the second half.
Nelson Agholor, WR, PHI vs. DAL ($5,700)
Miglio: The Cowboys and Eagles are expected to score the most points this week, per Vegas oddsmakers. Nelson Agholor may be off the radar a bit, though, after posting just one catch for five yards in a juicy matchup. (Side note: the Eagles are probably going be involved in games with high over-under totals all year long, so get used to this.)
Rudnicki: I’m expecting Agholor to match up primarily with Brandon Carr who is clearly the tougher matchup among the Cowboys cornerbacks. The rookie also hasn’t really shown enough yet for me to trust him. I’d feel better taking Jordan Matthews at a higher price given that he should be matched up more with Morris Claiborne or the nickel back, and Sam Bradford already seems to have a good rapport with him.
John Brown, WR, ARI @ CHI ($6,200)
Miglio: Chicago’s defense allowed just 189 passing yards to Aaron Rodgers last week, but three touchdowns accompanied them. Two of those came to third receiver James Jones in his triumphant return to the promised tundra. John Brown is up next with the Arizona Cardinals.
Rudnicki: The Bears secondary is going to struggle in most weeks and this one should be no different. Kyle Fuller has the potential to be a quality cover corner, but he’s not there yet and Alan Ball just gave up two touchdowns to James Jones. The Bears pass rush is underwhelming as they adjust to a new defense, and Brown should be headed for a big week.
Jared Cook, TE, STL @ WAS ($5,200)
Miglio: Jared Cook has one huge game every season before disappearing into the ether. Could this be the week?
Rudnicki: Washington lost their starting strong safety to a season-ending injury last week, and have one of the worst cover safeties in the league at free safety. The Rams offense moved the ball pretty well against Seattle, and should find things much easier here. Cook is an underrated player who will provide a very reliable target for new QB Nick Foles.
Cole Beasley, WR, DAL @ PHI ($5,700)
Miglio: Cole Beasley had a nice outing outside a nearly ruinous fumble on a nifty catch-and-run, and that was before Dez Bryant went out with injury. Of course, Bryant’s absence probably frees up defenders to give other pass-catchers more attention, but this is probably offset by more volume going around.
Rudnicki: The Cowboys without Bryant are still going to have Terrence Williams available as their deep threat, but they figure to rely much more heavily on Beasley to help move the chains. The Eagles didn’t even use a third corner when they played Atlanta last week and have major question marks at that spot, so Beasley could have a big day.
Crockett Gillmore, TE, BAL @ OAK ($4,500)
Miglio: A horrible showing all around stymied what might have been a productive fantasy output from Crockett Gillmore in Week 1. The offense has to be better this week, right? If so, Gillmore stands out as one of Joe Flacco’s top targets in an otherwise thin set of pass-catchers.
Rudnicki: The Raiders lost both starting safeties to injury last week so they should be particularly vulnerable to pass plays over the middle. MLB Curtis Lofton also struggles in coverage to the point that he’s not a part of the team’s nickel packages. Tyler Eifert also just posted 9 catches for 100+ yards and 2 TDs against this same defense, so Gillmore looks like a promising low-cost option.
Cecil Shorts, WR, HOU @ CAR ($5,200)
Miglio: Last week was a terrible matchup for the Houston passing game… until the game script went berserk. The Chiefs took a massive lead, and the Texans passed the ball plenty in catch-up mode. DeAndre Hopkins had a huge game, but Cecil Shorts quietly caught four passes for 57 yards on eight targets. The Panthers are softer on paper, right?
Rudnicki: The Panthers starting corners are both above average, so I like the matchup for Shorts working out of the slot against nickel CB Bene Benwikere. The yards weren’t great but rookie Rashad Greene Sr put up 7 catches on 13 targets while mostly facing him a week ago. Shorts is a more explosive player and should become a favorite target of whoever winds up starting for Houston in this game.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, CHI vs. ARI ($8,100)
Miglio: Patrick Peterson has gotten his butt handed to him by top receivers on a few occasions, but he started the 2015 season off on the right foot by clamping down on Brandin Cooks. Of course, Cooks isn’t a prototypical No. 1 like Alshon Jeffery, but this doesn’t seem like a great matchup for a guy who still might be affected by a balky calf.
Rudnicki: Jeffery figures to see a lot of Patrick Peterson in this matchup, and I think that’s a matchup to avoid. The Bears will likely rely heavily on the run game and short passing game with Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett.
Allen Robinson, WR, JAX vs. MIA ($5,700)
Miglio: Preseason hype failure! Allen Robinson and the entire Jacksonville offense was a dud in Week 1. More of the same could be coming in Week 2 against Miami.
Rudnicki: Robinson could only manage one catch on six targets against Carolina last week with several drops, and I imagine Brent Grimes will be matched up with him quite a bit. The Dolphins weakness seems to be over the middle rather than outside, and I expect a lot more from their pass rush this week.
Jason Witten, TE, DAL @ PHI ($6,000)
Miglio: With Dez Bryant out for a good while, it stands to reason Jason Witten will catch about a million passes over the next couple of months. He should be in many lineups this week, but should you fade him? Mr. Rudnicki thinks so.
Rudnicki: My thinking here is that Witten will instantly become the focal point of the Eagles defense, and Kiko Alonso is one of the best coverage linebackers in the league. Witten met little resistance against the Giants last week, but he should find things much tougher here.
A.J. Green, WR, CIN vs. SD ($8,100)
Miglio: A.J. Green had a decent game in a good matchup last week -- it could have been much better had he not dropped a 30-yard touchdown in the end zone -- but a rebound may not be in the cards.
Rudnicki: The Chargers secondary did a masterful job of slowing down Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate a week ago. Brandon Flowers and Jason Verett are both capable of playing shutdown defense, and Eric Weddle could provide additional support over the top on Green.
Donte Moncrief, WR, IND vs. NYJ ($6,000)
Miglio: With T.Y. Hilton knocked out of the game, Donte Moncrief screamed into the spotlight as the Indianapolis Colts furiously tried to make a comeback against the Buffalo Bills. This was counter to expectation -- the Colts drafted Phillip Dorsett in the first round, after all -- and drove Moncrief’s price into a higher tier. Hilton might be out this week, so Moncrief might seem like a great option. But do you really want to run the risk of starting a player stranded on Revis Island?
Rudnicki: With Hilton likely to miss this game I’m expecting to see plenty of Moncrief vs Revis matchups. Andre Johnson is the bigger name, but he doesn’t seem to have the speed or big play ability that concerns teams anymore. I’m sure plenty of people will jump at Moncrief given the opportunity he has, but it looks like a tough matchup to me.
Amari Cooper, WR, OAK vs. BAL ($6,700)
Miglio: The game script was perfect for Amari Cooper last week, but an injury to starter Derek Carr snuffed out any garbage time points for the rookie. Carr should be back this week, but he faces a Baltimore defense that annihilated Peyton Manning last week.
Rudnicki: Cooper had a rough introduction to the league as the Raiders were steamrolled by the Bengals. Things don’t figure to get too much easier this week as he’s likely to match up against Jimmy Smith. The Broncos WRs were able to pick up some catches against Smith last week, but they got almost no yards after contact.
Pierre Garcon, WR, WAS vs. STL ($5,400)
Rudnicki: The Washington offense is in shambles and now lost their big play threat in DeSean Jackson. That should help the defense focus more on Garcon and Jordan Reed, and given the pressure the Rams can generate up front I’m expecting Kirk Cousins to have a very rough outing.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, MIN vs. DET ($5,100)
Miglio: Whatever was buoying the Minnesota Vikings offense during the preseason disappeared on Monday night. The Vikings couldn't get anything going, least of all Kyle Rudolph. And he's not even hurt! This week he gets a much better matchup -- if we are to believe one week's worth of data -- against a Detroit Lions team that finally allowed Ladarius Green onto the map when it counted. It seems Mr. Rudnicki has different ideas, however.
Rudnicki: The Lions could not slow down the Chargers receivers last week, but I think they are strong at safety and will make things difficult for Rudolph. He did not look very comfortable against the 49ers on Monday night, and appears headed for another disappointing game.
Eric Decker, WR, NYJ @ IND ($6,000)
Miglio: The Jets had their way with the Cleveland Browns last week, and Eric Decker got in on the fun with a touchdown. He had just two receptions for 37 yards, though.
Rudnicki: Vontae Davis is one of the best pure cover corners in the league. Last week, the Bills were content to just let Sammy Watkins run go routes to take Davis and a safety out of the play rather than forcing anything in his direction. If Decker winds up going against him for most of this game, I don’t think we’ll see Fitzpatrick look his way very often either.
Delanie Walker, TE, TEN @ CLE ($5,200)
Miglio: Marcus Mariota’s marvelous debut was the tide that lifted all boats not named Justin Hunter last week. That included Delanie Walker, who scored a touchdown before getting injured late in the game. When he’s healthy, he is going to be a big part of the offense. But
Rudnicki: Walker is dealing with an injury which could limit his availability anyway, but the Browns should provide a tough matchup. LB Karlos Dansby and both safeties are strong in coverage and will be able to limit the damage he can do over the middle of the field.
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