Making tough lineup decisions each week can be the most challenging part of the fantasy football process. When you're torn between two similar players and simply don't know which one to start, start the player with the superior matchup.
Ah, but exactly how does one determine the best (and worst) weekly matchups?
Let's get the bad-news response out of the way first: Week 1 is the toughest week as far as evaluating matchups. It's commonplace for fantasy analysis to rely heavily upon the previous year's statistics, even though that completely ignores how quickly and dramatically this game changes, especially over a seven-month offseason.
The "Matchups Map" provides a schedule-independent method to evaluate positional matchups each week, ranking all 32 opposing defenses in order of most to least favorable for opposing players at all four skill positions (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end). Instead of relying upon seasonal totals, we calibrate points-allowed data to show how each defense fared relative to the difficulty of the schedule it has faced. This provides a fairer approach to judging the quality of individual matchups.
For the first three weeks of the season, these rankings are entirely my opinion of how favorable or unfavorable I consider that matchup, though 2022 full-season data is provided to give you another snapshot into the strength of that particular matchup.
"Adj. FPA," or adjusted fantasy points allowed, reflects how far above or below players' weekly PPR fantasy point averages that defense held opponents at that position. A positive number means that the matchup is favorable; a negative number means it is unfavorable. Additionally, remember that teams often use multiple running backs and wide receivers in a game, and these plus/minus averages cover all of a team's personnel at that position.
Finally, a caveat: Matchups are only one ingredient in my rankings formula. Not every favorable matchup should be exploited, nor unfavorable matchup avoided. If you want my -- and ESPN fantasy staff's -- most complete source for whom to start and sit each week, consult our weekly rankings.
All references to fantasy points are for PPR scoring, unless otherwise noted.