Commentary

FBO Matchups: Trust the numbers

Just because last week produced unexpected results doesn't mean this week will

Updated: December 30, 2010, 11:56 AM ET
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders
Trent EdwardsJ. Meric/Getty ImagesIt's OK to believe in Trent Edwards. Or, rather, to believe in his matchup against Houston.

Well, Week 16 was certainly extraordinary. The hot free-agent pickup (Rashad Jennings) produced nothing. The league's top pass defense (New York Giants) got torched and the third-ranked unit (San Diego Chargers) got beaten up by a quarterback without his top two wide receivers. The New York Jets and the Chicago Bears combined for 72 points in the snow, while the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins produced 37 in the sun. Jimmy Clausen even played well for half a quarter.

Those of you who made it to Week 17 championship games might have done so based on the unlikely performances from a week ago. You may look at the past week and think, "I need to start my stars!" Of course, it's your team, and you get to choose whichever strategy you want. But every season has a week or two in which good defenses give up a lot of points. That it happened in Week 16 is unfortunate, but it isn't indicative of some greater trend. Historically, players have been just as affected by matchups during the fantasy playoffs as they were during the regular season.

The complicating factor here, of course, is playing time. There is definitely some value in starting a player who has a meaningful game, and matchups are more obvious when a player is going up against a team that needs to win. Not to pick on poor Clausen again, but he's facing an Atlanta Falcons team that needs to win in order to ensure home-field advantage. We know John Abraham and Curtis Lofton are going to be on the field until the game is over or out of reach. That is a lot more useful than, say, the matchup presented by the Jets' defense. Sure, they're good, but who knows how long the stars will be out there?

We've tried incorporating that into our matchup analysis this week, but it's subjective and based on what we know as of Wednesday night. Remember to factor in what you hear between now and Sunday and you'll be good to go.


To read FBO's list of players who will lead you to a championship this week, as well as those who are likely to keep you from one, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.