SLATE OVERVIEW ::
BY HILOW >>
- Overall, the state of the wide receiver position is likely to be a primary decision node considering the top three options at the position all carry significantly wider ranges of outcomes than the field is likely to give credit for.
- Tremaine Edmunds, Greg Rousseau, and Tre’Davious White all appear unlikely to play for the Bills on a short week.
- RG Evan Brown, LG Jonah Jackson, and C Frank Ragnow all were listed as DNP on the estimated practice report for the Lions on Monday, who could also be without CB Jeff Okudah, DE Josh Paschal, and WR Josh Reynolds.
- The Bills have averaged 28.1 points per game this season (second in the league), and the Lions have ceded 28.2 points per game this season (worst in the league) – yea, we probably have to account for the Bills in some form across rosters in play on Thanksgiving.
- The Lions are one of the most adaptive offenses in the league, preferring to ease into the start of games with increased rush rates but willing to open their offense up if forced to.
- Daniel Bellinger and Adoree Jackson will not play for the Giants, who also have six offensive linemen listed on the injury report ahead of their game against the Cowboys.
- The Giants also have issues in their secondary, where they utilized a three-player rotation at cornerback in the absence of Adoree Jackson after Fabian Moreau left with an oblique injury in Week 11.
- Giants pass-catchers are a case of roulette behind Darius Slayton and Lawrence Cager.
- The Cowboys have been hit by the illness bug this week, with multiple defensive players on the injury report with an illness.
- The biggest injury news for the Vikings is offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw, who is unlikely to play this week as he works his way through the league’s concussion protocol. The pressure rate split allowed with and without Darrisaw in the lineup this season for the Vikings is stark, to say the least, which is not a good sign for the Vikings as they take on the aggressive front of the Patriots, particularly considering quarterback Kirk Cousins’ struggles when pressured this season.
- The expected pressure rate from New England’s defense should be the driving force behind the overall game environment for the last game of the slate.
- Volume is likely to be difficult to fully nail down amongst the secondary options on this slate, but one or two secondary pieces from the six teams in play are likely to be required to ship GPPs on Thanksgiving – something to keep in mind when putting together rosters.
How buffalo Will Try To Win ::
The Bills kick off the Thanksgiving festivities as the team on the slate with the highest Vegas implied team total (31.25) in the game with the highest game total (53.5) – and it makes a lot of sense why that is the case. The Bills continue to play at an elevated pace of play (third-ranked first-half pace of play, fourth-ranked pace of play with the score within seven points, and fifth-ranked situation-neutral pace of play) with the second highest pass rate over expectation (PROE), a 60.77% overall pass rate, and an average of 37.5 pass attempts per game. They have scored the second most points per game this season at 28.1, and playing an opponent ranked dead last in the NFL in points allowed per game (28.2). Buffalo started the season so efficiently, and their defense started the season so elite that they ran below league average total offensive plays from scrimmage in four of their first seven games but have been above league average in each of their previous three games as their defense has struggled through injuries. That’s an important nugget as far as the expected volume from this game goes. The Bills have primarily been an 11-personnel base team but have mixed in seemingly random games throughout the season with elevated heavy personnel utilization, as evidenced by their Week 11 win over the Browns. In that game, their heavy personnel utilization (21- and 12-personnel) skyrocketed up to 59% – and it’s not like they were running away with the game throughout, as the game remained within six points until four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Their other elevated heavy personnel rate games came in a Week 1 blowout win over the Rams and a Week 2 dismantling of the Titans where Gabe Davis missed. Stefon Diggs played 66% or fewer of the offensive snaps in each of those games. Diggs has been below an 80% snap rate on three other occasions this season, a Week 3 loss to the Dolphins, a Week 5 dismantling of the Steelers, and a Week 9 loss to the Jets. In other words, Stefon Diggs, everyone’s poster boy at the wide receiver position this season, has played 80% or more of the offensive snaps only four times all season. More on this in a bit.
Nyheim Hines was brought over at the trade deadline and has played exactly 20 offensive snaps in three games – but hey, at least the Bills got their return man. I kid, but the point here is that the Bills backfield is very much still Devin Singletary’s. Singletary has played 72% or more of the offensive snaps in every game since Week 6, seeing running back opportunity counts of 13, 15, and 20 since the addition of Hines. Rookie running back James Cook has played between 17% and 25% of the offensive snaps in each of the four games since Buffalo’s Week 7 bye. While Singletary’s usage has seemingly come and gone with the wind, he remains the back to roster for a team averaging 25.5 rush attempts per game this season and has scored three touchdowns in his last two games. There might yet be room for upside for the veteran back playing for the team with the highest Vegas implied team total on the slate. The pure rushing matchup yields a slightly above average 4.41 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Lions defense that has allowed 12 rushing scores through 10 games played and a robust 4.78 yards per running back carry.
This brings us back to Stefon Diggs, who is sure to be one of the most popular plays on the Thanksgiving slate. Diggs has seen an insane 31.5% targets per route run rate, 29.4% team target market share, the fourth most targets amongst wide receivers, and has run the 15th most routes in the league – all while playing only 78.4% of the offensive snaps this season. Furthermore, Diggs has seen his snap rate shrink massively in non-competitive games this year, typically the wide receiver to see a reduced snap rate when the team runs increased rates of heavy personnel (as they have done on numerous occasions this season). Compare that to Gabe Davis, who carries an elite 91.6% snap rate and the second-deepest aDOT in the league this season. Obviously, Diggs is valuable for his red zone role (33.3% red zone target market share), but the drastic difference in snap rate between the two at least gives us something to think about on a short slate. Isaiah McKenzie continues to operate as a situational wide receiver, splitting time with Khalil Shakir out of the slot since Jamison Crowder’s injury in Week 4. Finally, Dawson Knox should see between 80% and 90% of the offensive snaps regardless of how the team decides to handle their personnel alignments, backed up by primary blocking tight end Quintin Morris. Really none of the secondary options outside of Knox earns targets at a serviceable rate.