Commentary

FBO: Week 5 fantasy matchups

Jerome Harrison is a good play in Buffalo, as is anyone against the Rams

Updated: October 9, 2009, 1:26 PM ET
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders

One of the questions that came up when Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz recently went on ESPN's Fantasy Focus podcast was whether previous games against an opponent are reliable indicators of how a player will perform against that team.

Simple answer, which Aaron gave: It depends. If you're looking at a player's previous performance versus the team he's about to face, there are several factors you'll want to consider before making a serious decision based on those games. They include:

  • Sample Size: Unless you're Tim Brown or someone else who has played 15 years in the same division for the same team, you're not going to achieve a very large sample size of games against a given team over the course of your career. So with each game that a player finds success against a given team, feel more confident in the reliability of the information. Joey Galloway once was almost a sure thing against the New Orleans Saints, putting up huge numbers virtually every time out for several years. That means more than when a player puts up one big game against a team without any repeat performance; if that happens, make sure you ...
  • Getty ImagesThe Dolphins' ground game feasted on the Bills last weekend. Jerome Harrison will eat in Buffalo, too.

  • Consider The Context: Steven Jackson ran for 142 yards and scored four touchdowns in a spectacular game against the elite Minnesota rush defense in 2006. Useful information, huh? Not so much.That game took place in Week 17; the 6-9 Vikings had nothing to play for after being knocked out of the playoff race the previous week. Does that sound like the situation Jackson will face against the Vikings this week? Not only are the Vikings a much better (and healthier) team, but the talent around Jackson has changed dramatically. When there's been such a dramatic shift in context, ask yourself ...
  • Has The Scheme Changed?: By nature, some schemes are better than others against certain types of players. Look at the Colts, who primarily play a Tampa 2; they've performed very well against Titans TE Bo Scaife over his career, allowing him an average of less than three points per game and a maximum of only nine points. That's because their scheme requires outside linebackers that drop back into coverage and match up well against Scaife. If the scheme has changed, though, remember that ...
  • It's Just Laundry: Does a player's performance against the Jets under Herman Edwards in 2005 or Eric Mangini in 2008 have anything to do with the numbers he hopes to put up against Rex Ryan in 2009? Not particularly. Fans root for their favorite teams through thick and thin, but players, coaches and schemes get swapped out on a relatively frequent basis. The only thing that remains the same is the jersey. And even that changes.

There's one more serious thing to watch out for this week; we'll warn you about it in our individual player comments below.

For lineup advice based on FBO's advanced metrics (we'll give away one piece of non-rocket science: sit JaMarcus Russell), you must be an ESPN Insider. Insider
Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.