saturday slate Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Christian Darrisaw is expected to return for the Vikings after an extended absence meaning Kirk Cousins should have his blindside protection back.
- Nickel corner Kenny Moore missed practice on Wednesday for the Colts with an ankle injury; Moore had played all but three offensive snaps until Week 12 when he injured the ankle.
- The Colts rank dead last in turnover margin at a ghastly -1.1 per game, which jumps to -1.6 per game on the road.
- While the Colts offense has struggled to score for most of the season, they have continued operating with an elevated pace of play with Jeff Saturday as head coach, running more than the league average offensive plays from scrimmage in each of the four games under Saturday.
- Lamar Jackson did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday with his knee injury, while Tyler Huntley returned to a full participant on Wednesday following a concussion early in Week 14, although it remains unclear whether or not Huntley has cleared the league’s five-step concussion protocol (likely not, at this point).
- Cleveland wide receiver David Bell has yet to practice this week with multiple injuries. I tentatively expect him to sit on the short week.
- Amari Cooper has also yet to practice, but is listed as “not injury related-rest-hip.” I tentatively expect him to play.
- The Ravens and Browns are likeliest to play to an ugly slugfest; that said, each team possesses the individual talent to break the game open.
- Miami at Buffalo is a matchup between two of the top six teams in pass rate over expectation (PROE); each defense is also top five in most metrics against the run.
- OT Terron Armstead, WR River Cracraft, S Eric Rowe, S Elijah Campbell, and RB Jeff Wilson missed practice Tuesday and Wednesday this week for the Dolphins.
- Cleveland is expecting a couple of inches of snow and 20ish mph sustained winds on game day (will update this on Saturday).
- Buffalo is expecting another lake effect snow, with 15ish mph sustained winds and a few inches of snow (will update this on Saturday).
How Indianapolis Will Try To Win ::
After starting the season with one game under 37 pass attempts over the first seven games (42.43 pass attempts per game), Matt Ryan has averaged 32.75 pass attempts per game since returning to the starting lineup after being benched half way through the season, with 37 pass attempts in the blowout loss to Dallas being the high point during that time. Furthermore, they have been at or below league average in PROE each of the previous four weeks (again, since Ryan returned as the starter and Jeff Saturday took over as the head coach). The Colts have averaged just 16.1 points per game this season and 19.25 over the previous four weeks. Finally, running back Jonathan Taylor has seen 20 or more carries (and 24 or more running back opportunities) in each of the last four games after hitting those marks only twice over his first six games. Typically in these situations, I will provide the macro before digging into the micro stats, but I felt the recent statistical trends highlighted the shift in offensive (and game planning and management) design for the Colts more succinctly. Another reason for that exercise is I’ve seen a lot of the talking heads of the industry calling Matt Ryan one of the top streaming options in season-long due to the matchup with a porous Vikings secondary, but the recent play-calling tendencies and coaching trends exhibited by first-time head coach Jeff Saturday all but render the matchup-induced upside useless.
As mentioned above, running back Jonathan Taylor has seen a slight boost to his workload with Saturday in town – a head coach who has returned the team to one that is trying to win in the trenches on each side of the ball. Taylor has seen that newfound offensive concentration translate to an increased snap rate and a more consistent weekly workload under the new regime, averaging an 85.75% snap rate since Saturday took the helm compared to 73% average snap rate over Taylor’s first six games. The biggest problem I see here is a team whose clear identity (the run) doesn’t align with the path of least resistance from their opponent, as the Vikings have allowed just 3.93 yards per running back carry this year but are ranked near the bottom of the league against the pass both on the season and over the previous six weeks of play. The pure rushing matchup is also a little more pertinent to Taylor’s fantasy expectation as he has seen a reduced pass game role with Saturday as coach, with no more than four targets in any of his previous four contests. The matchup on the ground yields a well below average 4.08 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Minnesota defense allowing 24.4 DK points per game to opposing backfields, inflated by the 12 total touchdowns allowed to the position this season. Although the Vikings have allowed a touchdown on a robust 58.97% of opposing trips to the red zone, that rate drops all the way to 47.83% at home this season (75.00% on the road).
Michael Pittman remains the only near every-down pass-catcher on this offense, playing all but eight offensive snaps over the previous month of play. With all three primary tight ends healthy, we should expect an offense that utilizes 12-personnel approximately 30% of the time. That should keep wide receivers Parris Campbell and Alec Pierce in the 70-80% snap rate range, with WR4 Ashton Dulin on hand to eat up 20-30% of the offensive snaps of his own. Pittman’s 24.9% team target market share ranks 21st in the league and has fallen a bit with Saturday at coach and Ryan back at quarterback, down to 23.7% in that split. As in, Pittman’s yearly status is that of a WR2 while his status over the previous month is that of a WR3, which has largely been reflected in his fantasy output in those splits (13.5 fantasy points per game on the season ranks 23rd at the position and he has averaged 12.1 fantasy points per game over the previous four weeks, including no games over 19.1 DK points). The somewhat good news is that Pittman is finally priced at a point that is more in line with his weekly range of outcomes, checking in at a Week 15 price of only $5,800, his lowest since Week 1. Parris Campbell has a laughable 5.6 aDOT but solid 3.7 average yards after the catch per target, while Alec Pierce has operated in the intermediate to “deep” role with a 12.2 aDOT. All three primary pass-catchers rank in the bottom 54 in the league in yards per route run this season, and when combined with the lower pass volume with Saturday in charge, it doesn’t do a lot to inspire confidence in any of their upside this week. That said, the schemed usage and yards after the catch ability of Campbell and the more downfield role of Pierce provide more upside per target than the X-receiver role of Michael Pittman, the latter of whom requires a very specific combination of volume and touchdowns in order to return a GPP-viable fantasy score. Kylen Granson returned from one missed game to the primary pass-catching role amongst the three tight ends, which is interesting considering Jelani Woods’ breakout performance with Granson out of the lineup in Week 12. Woods was the only tight end to see more than six targets over the previous four games, but he retreated to a secondary/situational role last week, playing only 21% of the offensive snaps behind Granson and Mo Alie-Cox. Finally, Parris Campbell has seen the highest rate of targets against zone coverage this season, which the Vikings play at the second highest rate in the league.