NFL Daily Fantasy Strategy: Matchup Factors

Matchups are an important facet to making a daily fantasy football lineup. There are obvious factors to determine whether a matchup is good or bad. The points or fantasy points per game a team gives up is one. Another could be the pace a team plays at. But there are also intricacies of a matchup that are more difficult to understand.  How does a teams offensive strategy do against another teams defensive style? How successful will an individual player be against his defender? How has variance effected a teams performance up to this point? How has a teams schedule impacted their performance? There are various tools we can use to help us answer these questions.

Why Over/Under Lines Are The Best Matchup Determiners

We can use matchup based metrics like fantasy points given up per game to help us determine how good matchup is. But ultimately what most metrics show us is the average. Some teams and players were able to succeed against another team extremely well, while others did not matchup well against another teams style. All teams are not created equal, so using average performance against will not do a great job at determining how good of a matchup a team or player has.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can piggyback on the leg work sports bettors and bookies have done by looking at point projections through over/under lines. Sometimes, a teams strategy or individual players matchup extremely well against another teams defensive strategy or defensive personnel. The expected frequency and success of a teams passing game can greatly impact the expected points scored in a game as well. These sort of factors are difficult to quantify, but are taken into consideration by the line makers and bettors, and are shown through the over/under lines.

Under Performing Teams

Daily Fantasy pricing algorithms use a players performance throughout the season to help determine price. When a team is doing badly, that’s a signal that individual players on the team are also under-performing. Therefore, there should be a lot of great value on an under-performing team.

The amount of fantasy points per dollar value on any given team should be mostly a function of the difference between their average fantasy points a game and their fantasy points projected for this week. Fantasy point projections are not equal to a point projection, but they are quite correlated. MLB for example has a .96 correlation coefficient for runs and fantasy points, which is nearly perfect. We can assume football has a similarly strong correlation, although the strength of the relationship is difficult to quantify since different teams have different yards, receptions, and turnovers per point.

Therefore, we can estimate the amount of fantasy value on a team by taking the difference between their season average points per game and their projected points per game. We do this on our NFL Sportsbook Projection Spreadsheet found here. Week 11 of 2014, the team with the most fantasy points per dollar value is the Titans, who have only averaged 16 points a game on the season, but are projected to score 20.75 points this week, a different of 4.75. Guys like Zach Mettenberger, Justin Hunter, and Bishop Sankey are intriguing fantasy plays this week against the Steelers.

Using DVOA For Positional Matchups

Fantasy points given up by position is a popular metric among daily fantasy professionals. This metric is definitely useful, but is incredibly problematic. The biggest issue is that when we are talking about a small sample of NFL games, fantasy defense by position statistics are going to be mostly a factor of the quality of positional matchups a team has faced. For example. the Bengals have given up the 2nd most fantasy points to TEs this year, but that’s mostly a function of playing against great TEs like Greg Olsen, Rob Gronkowski, Delanie Walker, and the the Colts duo of Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. The same is true for RBs and the Chiefs, who are not good at defending the run but have given up the 3rd fewest points to RBs this season because they have a division with 3 teams that barely run the ball or run the ball with success.

Luckily, there is a website that gives us schedule adjusted proficiency at not just defending the run or pass, but also at defending each individual position. The website that does this is an advanced football statistics website called Football Outsiders, who use a stat called DVOA as a measure of how well a team does under different filters, such as run, pass, WR1, TE, pass catching RBs, etc. DVOA is adjusted based on the strength of schedule of each individual position, as well as run and pass. You can find these stats at this webpage. Because the numbers are adjusted based on strength of schedule, you don’t have the issues with a defense looking worse because of the quality of teams and players it has faced.


  • There are a lot of different factors, obvious and intricate, that help determine how good of a fantasy matchup an opponent is for a player or team.
  • Over/Under lines are an amalgamation of the large amount of factors that go into determining quality of matchup, so they can be fantastic guidance in determining the matchup strength.
  • Teams that have under performed their projections on the year are havens of good fantasy value.
  • Strength of schedule/position adjusted defensive statistics are great indicators of quality of matchup for individual positions.


View all posts by Daniel Steinberg
Daniel Steinberg

About the Author

Daniel Steinberg Daniel Steinberg is a former bond trader at a multi-billion dollar proprietary trading firm in Chicago. He uses his knowledge of statistics and his creativity from his career as a poker professional to create the most advanced Daily Fantasy statistical analysis that you will find anywhere. Follow him on twitter @DanielSingerS

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