Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jeremy’s Spoken: Playoff Matchup Madness

Billy Volek. Remember him? He’s the guy that came out of nowhere to start for an injured Steve McNair in 2004 and put up electric numbers. Those of you that picked him up during the year were rewarded with 918 yards, 8 TD, and 1 INT in weeks 14 and 15, or what is typically the 1st two weeks of the fantasy football playoffs. He led some people to their league championship game. Unfortunately, he followed that up with a clunker: 8 for 20, 111 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT in week 16.

What was the difference? Matchups. Clearly we know that Volek was no Tom Brady as his career came to a screeching halt the following year. But in weeks 14 and 15 Volek faced the very weak pass defenses of the Chiefs and Raiders while in week 17 he faced the Broncos, a unit that ended the year in the top 10 in overall defense.

Who is this year’s Billy Volek? Keep reading to find out…

While some websites examine the matchups that players have using traditional statistics, we are going to use defensive rushing and receiving DVOA from Football Outsiders. I will save my detailed evaluation of their nontraditional statistics for another day. For now, I will state that overall, DVOA is a valuable and nontraditional way to look that the true value of teams (note that this may not hold true for individual players).

The table below lists the week 14-16 opponents for every team, the defensive rushing DVOA (through week 11), and the total for the 3 weeks. Those at the top have the easiest rushing schedule while those at the bottom have the hardest.

Clearly you should be targeting those RBs at the top of this list. Ryan Grant, Jamal Lewis, Ernest Graham, LenDale White, and Willis McGahee are all excellent trade targets. None are going to cost what a big name would and all have the potential to carry you during the fantasy playoffs. Similarly, you should look to trade Jesse Chatman, Clinton Portis, Cedric Benson (like we had to tell you that already), and Steven Jackson.

Clinton Portis for Ryan Grant? Steven Jackson for Ernest Graham? On the surface it sounds like these are lopsided trades. They likely would turn out to be lopsided; just not the way you might think.

So who is this year’s Billy Volek? My money is on Ryan Grant. He’s the unquestioned starter on a good offense with a great QB and passing attack that every team is trying to stop. Add in his easy schedule during he playoffs and he just might lead your team to a championship.

Next week we’ll take a look at the best schedule for quarterbacks and wide receivers.

Jeremy Mittler, M.B.A., is a Strategy and Statistical Expert at His column, Jeremy's Spoken, appears on Thursdays at SportsJudge Blog.

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