- Bill Barnwell
Last week wasn't exactly the best advertisement for our fantasy-matchup analysis. We'd like to thank the 49ers for giving Michael Turner short field after short field; the Ravens' defense for allowing Cedric Benson to break their 100-yard rusher streak; and Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for implementing the Jets' offense in Cleveland, allowing Braylon Edwards to pick it up just in time for a spectacular Monday night performance against the Dolphins. Oh, and giving Jamal Lewis 31 carries and the previously ebullient Jerome Harrison eight wasn't exactly a nice way to make it up to us, either.
Even in a bad week, though, there were signs that we're not totally crazy. We had the right idea about Harrison, but Lewis went from not practicing to being heavily relied upon and had the same sort of game we could have expected from Harrison (only worse, because he's Jamal Lewis). Tony Romo killed the Chiefs. Steven Jackson regressed to his expected level of performance against a great Vikings defense, and Brandon Marshall was a terrible matchup for the Patriots and had a two-touchdown day.
Of course, it's easy to point to one prediction as good or bad and suggest that matchup analysis is either essential or bunk. What's important is the process and the outcomes over the course of an entire season, not just one game or one week.
Players who have good games in bad matchups make fantasy owners look stupid when they put up miracle 18-point games while on the bench. But for every game that goes against the grain, there are 10 or 15 more that point to the reliability of matchup analysis. You'll remember the time Cedric Benson scored 19 points against the Ravens and you benched him, but you won't remember the five more times you play him against Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Minnesota for a combined 23 points.
To read Football Outsiders' list of players with favorable matchups, as well as those with unfavorable matchups, you must be an ESPN Insider.
1hMichael C. Wright