The Matchup ::
:: Powered by Lex Miraglia
- 11 of 16 QBs have cleared 270 yards passing vs HOU (8 over 300)
- Josh Allen’s season-high in pass yards is just 266 yards, and he has been under 190 yards six times
- Allen’s averages in 6 games vs bottom-10 pass efficiency defenses: 224.2 pass ypg, 1.5 pass TDs, 35 rush ypg, 0.67 rush TDs
- VS HOU, Lamar ran for 86 yards and Minshew combined for 90 rushing yards in 2 games
- Since Week 8, Allen has been between 6 and 10 rush attempts in every game but one
- WRs to clear 100 yards vs HOU: Thomas, Ginn, Allen, Pascal, Edelman, Perriman, AJ Brown (x2)
- HOU tied for 8th most WR TDs allowed with 18
- Only WRs with higher market share of air yards than John Brown: Sutton, Diggs, McLaurin, Thomas, Robinson
- Cole Beasley has more games above 14 DK points than John Brown in 2019
- Devin Singletary has just 5 games above 28 receiving yards
- RB rec allowed ranks of those 5 teams: 24th, 16th, 28th, 26th, 1st
- HOU ranks 29th in RB receptions allowed
- With Fuller active in the 2018 matchup, Watson went for 177 yards, TD, 3 TO, 2 rush yards, and was sacked 7 times with just 13 offensive points
- Watson’s DK point totals vs 2019 top-12 pass efficiency defenses: 12.6 // 31.4 // 6.0 // 28.9 // 10.1
- BUF ranks 5th in pass efficiency defense, but has only faced 2 pass offenses ranked in the top 13 of efficiency (DAL, BAL)
- In those games, Dak: 355 pass yards, 2 TD, INT, 25 rush yards; Lamar: 145 pass yards, 3 TD, INT, 40 rush yards (Both teams scored 9+ points below season average)
- Deandre Hopkins in the 5 games vs top-12 pass efficiency defenses (yards & targets): 41 yards (8), 55 yards (12), 80 yards (12), 64 yards (8), 23 yards (9); zero touchdowns
The Game ::
The 2019/2020 playoffs (which features one of the most wide open fields in recent memory – with some clear “best teams” at the top, but with almost every team having clear and legitimate paths to making a run through the tournament) will open with the 10-6 Buffalo Bills traveling to take on the 10-6 Houston Texans (coincidentally, this is the sixth playoff trip in Texans history, and is the sixth time the Texans will be playing the first game on the Saturday slate). The Bills are an up-and-coming unit that is built around defense (sixth in DVOA), the run game (29th in pass play rate), and a “game management plus upside” approach to the passing attack. The Texans, of course – with de facto general manager Bill O’Brien – have, for some reason, decided to view this year as the peak of their championship window, having made several aggressive trades to set them up for this year. Both teams have a tendency to start slow (each team is averaging only .98 points per drive in the first quarter this year), and between the Bills’ ability to limit big plays on defense and their desire to slow down games on offense with a run-leaning, ball-control approach, the likeliest scenario in this game has slate-breaking fantasy production showing up only through A) volume, or B) big plays.
Buffalo’s most consistent means of moving the ball will be rookie running back Devin Singletary, who has recent touch counts of 22 // 17 // 23 // 23 // 16, including target counts of 2 // 4 // 8 // 3 // 1. The Texans face the seventh highest opponent pass play rate in the league, but as explored heading into last week’s game between the Titans and Texans, this should not be taken to mean that the Texans are terrifying against the run, having allowed 4.61 yards per carry to running backs while ranking 22nd in DVOA. Teams that look to lean on the run regardless of opponent or matchup tend to be able to rack up production in the spot; and while the return of J.J. Watt bumps up the level of difficulty in this matchup, we should also keep in mind that Watt is returning impossibly quickly from his pectoral injury, and he may not be quite ready to play a full complement of fully effective snaps. Consider this a “solid spot with some risk” for Singletary, with his upside boosted by the fact that Houston allowed the second most receiving yards to running backs this year, while this adaptable Buffalo coaching staff will likely try to take advantage in this area.
While the Bills have largely settled on an offensive identity throughout the second half of the season of heavy 11-personnel, a run-leaning setup, and a game-management style passing attack, this is also a unit – as we have explored throughout the season – that goes out of its way to embrace the idea of adaptability. Buffalo should enter this game understanding that the best path to a win is to keep Deshaun Watson off the field and shorten this game as much as they can, but if the Texans are able to bust out for a couple big plays, or if Buffalo simply finds after their first couple drives that they are unable to run the ball, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see this team tilt a bit more heavily toward the air, in a matchup against a Houston defense that ranks 26th in DVOA and has allowed the ninth most yards per pass attempt, with the 10th most yards and the eighth most touchdowns allowed to wide receivers. John Brown has recent target counts of 4 // 4 // 8 // 10 // 4, and while the lower end of that range would be preferred for the Bills in this game environment, you could certainly build around scenarios in which JB pushes toward the higher end of his volume range. Brown has mistakenly been viewed in some fantasy circles this year as a deep threat, but it is actually his intermediate work that has floated his value (including a stretch of 10 games to open the year of 50 or more receiving yards – a stretch during which he and Michael Thomas were, for several weeks, the last two receivers in the NFL who had yet to finish below 50 yards). Brown’s only blowup game in this largely conservative offense came against the Dolphins, with only a couple other really strong games, but he has been a reliable floor piece this year, and he has outside opportunity for upside. Behind Brown (or, at this point, perhaps alongside Brown) is Cole Beasley, who has recent target counts of 9 // 7 // 7 // 6 // 12. Beasley has had a number of games this year in which all but one of his targets came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, but he has also had other games – in this adaptable offense – in which he has worked the intermediate areas of the field, and against a Houston defense that boosts average depth of target by 5%, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Beasley get a couple more intermediate looks. Beasley has also shown underrated YAC upside this year – another area in which Houston has struggled. With his rising price tag, his floor isn’t exactly “high,” but he’s unlikely to post a game that will kill you, and he has shown some bursts of upside that could be enough to stand out on a smaller slate such as this. Behind these three core pieces on this offense (Singletary, Brown, and Beasley), the Bills feature Isaiah McKenzie as a gadget piece while mixing in either Robert Foster or Duke Williams for a couple plays each week (with one of these typically inactive, based on what Daboll and this coaching staff sees that particular game), while Dawson Knox has been operating as the lead tight end (recent, primarily short-area target counts of 2 // 4 // 4 // 1 // 4), requiring a broken play or a touchdown in order to really stand out.
On the other side of the ball, Buffalo is forcing the second shallowest aDOT in the NFL while allowing the fewest pass plays of 20+ yards. They are shaving over 8% off the league average YAC/r rate and are shaving 3% off the league average catch rate, which has led to this team allowing the second fewest passing touchdowns and the fourth fewest passing yards in the league. Through pure attrition, the Bills rank middle of the pack in receptions allowed to wide receivers, but only five teams have allowed fewer yards to wideouts, and only one team has allowed fewer touchdown receptions. The Bills have really allowed only three usable wide receiver stat lines on the season. From a real-life standpoint, things will open up a bit for the Houston passing attack if Will Fuller is cleared for this game (Fuller is a game-time decision, with the likeliest scenario here being that Fuller is active but not quite himself, and that he is able to provide some spacing in this offense without really making a major dent in the box score; naturally, there are different ways this injury could play out, and you could play those various scenarios across different roster construction approaches — while a report also came out late Thursday that Fuller is now trending toward inactive, which would remove him from the game entirely). Assuming Fuller is active, he profiles as a boom/bust option, on whom the Bills should place a heavy emphasis of focus in the downfield areas of the field. Fuller’s presence would open the field a bit for DeAndre Hopkins, while Fuller’s presence (as we have explored throughout the season) has also had a negative effect on target counts and aDOT for Hopkins. Especially in the shadow of Tre’Davious White, Hopkins should only be projected for eight to nine targets if Fuller is active, with anything over this a bonus. If Fuller misses, the matchup becomes even tougher for Hopkins, though his chances of seeing double digit targets (and his chances of more of this work coming downfield) will be elevated. Both of these guys are merely “bet on talent, fade matchup” options against one of the toughest secondaries in the league. Behind these two, Kenny Stills should be on the field for his typical three to five downfield looks, while Jordan Akins (recent target counts of 9 // 2 // 2 // 7) and Darren Fells (4 // 2 // 3 // 0) will function as short area outlets who will require a broken play or touchdown in order to matter.
The Texans’ best means of moving the ball consistently, of course, may actually be on the ground, where the Bills rank 18th in DVOA (compared to fifth through the air) and have allowed 4.37 yards per carry to running backs this year. Unfortunately, the Texans backfield has been practically unemployable in fantasy this year outside of clear and obvious smash spots, with Carlos Hyde seeing only 16 targets all season while notching only three games of 100+ rushing yards, and with Duke Johnson mixing in for recent touch counts of only 7 // 4 // 3 // 9. A bet on the Texans backfield is a bet on capturing a broken play or a couple touchdowns, and such rosters should be balanced with more stable pieces away from these spots.
JM’s Interpretation ::
The “Interpretation” section this week blends all four games, and can be found here. It is recommended that you read all four game writeups before reading the “Interpretation” section, as this will allow you to develop your own thoughts on this slate before comparing them against my own.
Playoff Contest Game Theory Breakdown ::
You can find Hilow’s tremendous Playoff Contest Game Theory Breakdown here.
Xandamere’s Showdown Notes ::
- If Buffalo wins, it could be through the run game and defense, or the scoring could come through the air through big plays (less likely through volume, but certainly not impossible).
- If Houston wins, it seems to me to be more likely through the run game and defense. It’s hard to see the Houston passing attack really smashing here against a Buffalo defense that has absolutely stifled opposing passing games, especially if Will Fuller doesn’t play (which seems like the likeliest scenario).
- Allen is overpriced but has what is probably the safest floor in the game.
- Hopkins is a bet on talent (and volume) play in one of the toughest matchups in football. He can succeed here, but personally I think the better place to use him is on the full weekend slate where he’ll be very underowned.
- If Fuller is out, note that Kenny Stills has not seen a lot of extra work in prior games Fuller has missed. Extra work is likely to flow to Duke Johnson and both tight ends in 12-personnel sets.
- Keke Coutee seems like he should see work if Fuller misses but the Texans have been using Deandre Carter more all season long.
- Carlos Hyde is likely only viable in “Houston wins” or at least “Houston keeps the game very close all game long” scenarios. Deploy him accordingly.
- On the Bills’ side, Beasley and Brown are priced very close, with Beasley having had more recent success. I’ll take Brown as the guy who I believe is a similar floor but higher upside play.
- Devin Singletary has taken over the lead back role but Frank Gore gets a distressingly large amount of goal line work (as does Josh Allen).
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain receivers with their QB (consider not pairing Hopkins as, when you consider prices, it’s possible for Hopkins to get there purely through volume without carrying Watson along with him)
- Pair captain QBs with at least 1 receiver
- At most 1 of Hyde and Duke Johnson
- At most 1 of McKenzie, Foster, and Williams
- At most 1 of Coutee and Carter
( Player Grid Live :: TodFromPa, Hilow, and Lex Miraglia will be breaking down further thoughts on the slate Friday night at 8 PM Eastern on the Run to Daylight podcast here! Join us for the last show of the season! )
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