Matchup: Why Players Have Big Games
When a player scores a ton of fantasy points, it is not usually a random occurrence. The team they are matched up against tend to be poor at defending a player of their caliber, position, or anyone at all. When choosing your plays for any given day it is important you look at how good the matchup is and who is going to exploit that matchup the most.
Fantasy Points Given Up Per Game
No matter what the sport, the first thing I look at when thinking about value is my spreadsheet of fantasy points given up per game by team. There tends to be very large differences from team to team. As I’m writing this article, the Philadelphia 76ers lead the NBA with approximately 214 fantasy points given up per game. Dead last (in a good way!) is Indiana with approximately 174 points per game. That is a whopping 40 points difference. That’s a lot of points to go around.
FPPG given up is quite easy to factor in to your player picking decisions. If one of your targets is playing a team that gives up a lot of fantasy points, be more inclined to choose him. If a player is playing a team that gives up very little fantasy points, be more inclined to shy away. It’s really that simple.
Fantasy Points Given Up Per Game By Position
A lot of people focus simply on FPPG given up by position, but those stats tend to be quite noisy, especially when you’re talking early in a sports season or really all season in the NFL. The biggest driver for differences in fantasy points given up per game by any given position is going to be the quality of player that team has faced.
A great example would be a team like Oakland, who is dead last in the NFL at fantasy points given up for the running back position in 2013. Now Oakland isn’t a great defensive team, but lets examine some of the running backs they have to play this year: Jamaal Charles (x2), Knowshown Moreno (x2), Woodhead and Matthews (x2), Alfred Morris, Lesean McCoy, Demarco Murray. I basically just 6 of the top 10 fantasy backfields in the entire league, with Charles, Moreno, and San Diego being probably top 5 in the entire league and they have to play them twice. It’s pretty clear given that list that Oaklands fantasy point problem is more a function of opposing player skill than their own ability to stop the run.
That being said, when you can wade through the noise, matchup by position can be extremely useful. Take the Denver Nuggets for example, who currently give up over 50 fantasy points per game to opposing power forwards. This is logically sensible. Kenneth Faried is Denver’s starting power forward, and he also happens to be one of the worst defenders in the league. Denver gives up a lot of fantasy points per game to all positions, but it is pretty clear when the Wizards come to town, you better be starting Nene Hilario as opposed to John Wall.
Some teams simply play faster than other teams, meaning more chances to score points. In the NBA, one of the best stats to look at when you think of pacing is possessions per game. The faster a team goes the more possessions they should have and therefore the more possessions their opponents will have. In the NFL, you can look at plays per game. My favorite resource for any of these stats is teamrankings.com, where you can find team statistics of just about anything in just about any sport.
Pace matters a lot when a fast paced team is playing a team that scores a lot of fantasy points, as those teams will likely score the most fantasy points per possession, and will therefore benefit most from additional possessions.
Matchup is one of the simplest factors to consider in fantasy value. The best stats to look at are how much fantasy points a team gives up, how much they give up on a position by position basis, and what pace a team plays at. When you combine all three you get a very good idea of how good a matchup is and who will benefit.View all posts by Max J Steinberg