Week 11 Matchups

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WEEK 10 ROSTER BREAKDOWN

Point Total: 128.12

(Jump to Games)

Reminder: I always write my initial diagnosis of my roster right before games kick off, in order to capture my honest thoughts on the build. Here are those thoughts.

Second reminder: this is my Main Roster on DraftKings, as that’s where the majority of my play goes; but the breakdown of thought process is beneficial for all sites and styles of play.

22.32 – Marcus Mariota
8.80 – Dion Lewis
28.20 – Mark Ingram
9.50 – Tyler Boyd
19.80 – Kenny Golladay
8.10 – Mike Evans
2.40 – Jimmy Graham
28.00 – Todd Gurley
1.00 – Falcons

Results :: This team fell shy in the tourneys where it was entered, and it was outperformed by 38 of the 46 other rosters I had in multi-entry play, on a strong weekend for my builds as a whole, with my main team simply landing in the wrong spots.

What I Wrote Before Kickoff:

I’m writing this four and a half hours before kickoff — a week that took longer to settle down with than some others, but not quite as long as I was expecting, given how much uncertainty there appeared to be on the slate. I wrapped up my roster with time to let it sit for a bit, and with time to relax for a couple hours before the Sunday Morning email.

Each week on the #OWSChatPod, I tend to find myself talking about the elements that make that particular slate unique; and this week, “uncertainty” seemed to be the theme of the week. There were just so few spots that really stood out, and on top of this there were a lot of “good spots with question marks.” These weeks can be difficult to maneuver, so as I worked on rosters, my focus became eliminating uncertainty as much as possible. Essentially: I wanted the smallest possible number of spots on my roster to be carrying question marks — even if the question marks I was left carrying proved to be a little bigger than I would like. For example: many of my builds this week used Vernon Davis at tight end. Davis allowed me to pile most of my roster’s uncertainty into a single spot, so that if he hit, I would be in tremendous shape, and if he missed, I would still have a lot of floor and ceiling at all the other spots on my roster. To put that another way: by saving so much salary at tight end and taking one highly uncertain player, I was able to fill out the rest of my roster with players I truly liked. I entered a number of variations of this Vernon Davis approach into higher-dollar tourneys, with Dion Lewis // Mark Ingram // Tyler Boyd // Kenny Golladay // Todd Gurley all in place — which allowed me to mess around with various wide receiver / quarterback setups (primarily moving between Mariota and Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, and primarily moving among Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, and Mike Evans at the final wide receiver spot). I actually expected one of these to be my final build, until I realized I didn’t see a big gap between Evans and the other wide receivers, so as long as I felt good about Mariota, I could move up to a player I really liked in Jimmy Graham, while now putting weight on the shoulders of Mariota and Evans, and piling my uncertainty onto defense.

As for the players themselves:

I hadn’t messed around with pricing by the time Levitan and I went on air for the Square Table this last week, so I hadn’t yet spotted Mariota and the things he opened up. I thought this was a really sharp call by the public to be on him, and while I have some concerns about his weaponry, he should pile up about 15 to 16 points in a worst case, and he can easily clear 23 or 24. While talking through an answer on Saturday to an #OWSChatPod question, I began to “realize out loud” that there were really no higher-priced quarterbacks — until we got to Mahomes — who I felt had a strong shot at 30 points. So while I still liked the upside of Fitzpatrick more than the upside of Mariota, it made sense from a cost perspective to go with the cheaper guy. By choosing to not marry theoretical upside, I put myself in position to pick up more certainty at other key spots.

Lewis was a lock for me from the moment I began researching him for the NFL Edge. He just really popped off the page to me in the research in a certain clear and obvious way that I always pay attention to (Conner // Thielen // Conner // Kupp were those plays the last four weeks). I’m comfortable going massively overweight on these plays when I find them (even when I layer in some multi-entry play, I try to go 100% on these guys), as I can sleep just fine at night if I lose because some outlier scenario sends their game off the rails. But I won’t sleep nearly as well if I lose because I was overthinking a spot like this.

Ingram was significantly less “clear and obvious,” but by about the 30th roster I built (messing around with various ways to put together the week), I realized that Ingram was so “on brand” for me, most people probably knew I would be playing him long before I did. And why not? Last year down the stretch (removing games against Atlanta, who for some reason played well against Ingram/Kamara), Ingram and Kamara combined for DraftKings point totals of 46.7 // 39.7 // 36.5 // 41.1 // 61.9 // 53.1 // 45.4 // 53.8 // 53.0 — and Ingram had the higher score in six of those nine games. He came back from suspension to three difficult run matchups, followed by a shootout that played more toward Kamara; and while his role is down a bit this year, it’s not down significantly. He’s playing around 47% of the snaps right now after playing around 55% last year, and this matchup literally could not set up better for him: away from the dome, in the cold, in a game the Saints should be leading, against a defense that — as we have talked about again and again on the site — is “bend but don’t break…all the way into the end zone.” This team doesn’t typically give up big, explosive plays, but they allow opponents to march all the way into the paint, which sets up great for a potential multi-score game for Ingram, with his floor still sitting at about 10 or 12 points if things don’t work out. There’s not a whole lot that separates Mike Davis (assuming no Carson), Aaron Jones, and Mark Ingram, so I’ll stick with my guy — who has the clearest shot at a difference-making score.

Boyd :: this writeup is long enough. No need to dive in here. There are ways this play could “fail for the price,” but there aren’t many ways it could truly fail, and the upside for the price is awesome. I’m not trying to beat the chalk here.

Golladay just kept catching my eye every time I scrolled past him while building rosters, and the more I thought about it, the more he began to land as an early piece on my builds. The Lions aren’t going to just fall down and die. And while the Bears are extremely tough against the run, and are extremely tough in coverage against running backs and tight ends, they are merely “good” against wide receivers. I’m comfortable calling last week an outlier for Golladay. Unless his place on this team has just entirely changed, he looks like one of the few truly underpriced plays on the slate — as a talented, high-upside guy who should see six to nine targets.

Evans was part of my cycling through high-priced receivers to pair with Boyd. Once I realized I could not make a convincing case that Adams or Thomas or Julio was a better play than Evans, it made sense to go with the cheapest guy. There are some things to dislike for all four guys, and there are some things to like for all four.

Sticking with Evans allowed me to get back up to Graham, who doesn’t pop as a lock-and-load play, but he is safe and he does have upside, and he was literally the only guy outside of Kelce I felt I could label that way. I’ll hope for 18 points, but I’ll feel all right if I can get 10 or 12, as that’s better than I feel I can comfortably target from any other guy. I rotated a lot at tight end on any multi-entry spots, but it was nice to get to Graham on my Main Build.

The more I thought about the top end of the running back range, the more I realized if I was going to make room to pay up, the sharpest play was to pay up all the way. These other guys are priced so close to a player who really is in a different tier. If Gurley scores 25, it’s a disappointment — and that can’t be said for any of the other top three guys (Gordon // Kamara // Hunt).

And finally, the Falcons. Not the defense I wanted (I liked the Chiefs and Jets, and the Packers stood out late in the week as a solid play as well), but if I couldn’t get one I wanted, it made sense to take a low-owned play against a sacks-and-turnover-prone offense. Worst case, the Falcons shouldn’t kill me (four or five points should be in their floor), and there are definitely some paths to upside. If this has to be the place where I’m forced to take on uncertainty, I can deal with that.

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This week’s Roster Recap video became fairly long, but if you are working to continue growing as a DFS player, I do strongly encourage you to take a moment this week to watch it, or listen to it. I talk through some things I am studying and learning about DFS, and more importantly, I walk through what I believe are some cool and valuable process-driven ideas for building rosters. This is one of the things I love about this site; that actual DFS study and training can be shared throughout the season.


From an “overview” perspective, this week is quite different from what we were given the last few weeks — weeks in which there was very little certainty, and in which very few players were underpriced. This week, we have what I feel is the best setup for DFS: tough decisions because there is plenty to like, rather than tough decisions because there is nothing to like.

This week provides us with a number of decent offenses in good spots and some good offenses in tougher spots — a great blend that will enable each of us to play around with various roster construction approaches to see what works best for our own style of play. As of this writeup, there are 13 teams on the Main Slate with a Vegas-implied team total in the range of 22.5 to 27.5 — with only one team projected above this range. There will be plenty of different ways to go on this slate.

As always: public sentiment will settle on a handful of players — and as always, your tourney rosters will suffer if these popular pieces hit and you are not on them. But ALSO as always: the best way to win over the long haul is to not worry about what others are doing until deep into the week. Spend the week figuring out who your favorite plays are on the slate — and if you look at ownership projections on Saturday evening and discover that your roster has moved away from most of the chalk: all the better. These less-chalky setups will lead to losing weekends if the chalk hits — but on the weeks in which the chalk misses, your unique lineup full of floor and ceiling will have a clear shot at the top of the leaderboards. Big-picture: weekends like this are the reason we play DFS — with lots to like, and with plenty of ways to build a great roster without simply thinking along with everyone else.

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Kickoff Thursday, Nov 15th 8:20pm Eastern

Packers (
23) at

Hawks (
26)

Over/Under 49.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Packers Run D
25th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
8th DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Packers Pass D
25th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards per pass
Seahawks Run D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O
10th DVOA/10th Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O
6th DVOA/14th Yards per pass

PACKERS // SEAHAWKS OVERVIEW

Sometimes, schedule matters more than talent. Right now, a Seahawks team and a Packers team that both have the pieces to make noise in the playoffs are sitting at 4-5 and 4-4-1, respectively. The loser of this game will have six games left and basically no margin for error. The winner will be one step closer to righting the ship and sneaking into the postseason, where anything can happen.

Each of these teams ranks top 10 in time of possession, with the Seahawks slowing down the game enough (bottom 10 in pace of play, dead last in pass play rate) to shave almost 6% off the league average opponent plays per game. Only four teams are allowing fewer opponent plays per game than Seattle, and they should be able to continue shortening games in this spot against a Packers defense that is far easier to run on (26th in run defense DVOA) than they are to pass on (ninth in pass defense DVOA). As explored through much of the year: this is by design for the Packers, as they play lighter personnel packages and focus on the pass over the run. Because of the threat of Russell Wilson, opponents are essentially forced to stick to their standard approach against this Seahawks team, rather than selling out to stop the run, so expect this to be a slight “volume down” spot for this game as a whole.

While the Packers probably have the slightly better team, this game being played in Seattle creates a nice blend that should allow the contest to remain close throughout. Vegas has installed the Seahawks as early 2.5 point favorites, in a game with a healthy Over/Under of 49.0. The pressure will be on the Packers to push this game total to that level, as they have hit 49.0 or higher in three of their last five games (with their game against the Patriots falling just one point short), while the Seahawks have played in a totally different scoring environment this year. If we take away their games against the Rams, their last six games have finished with totals of 41 // 37 // 37 // 30 // 42 // 42. With the Seahawks focused on the run and the Packers primarily focused on short passing, it seems likely we see this total trickle down as we move closer to Thursday.

PACKERS PASS OFFENSE

Seattle’s defense has eliminated downfield passing this year, shaving almost 10% off the league-average aDOT and ranking top 12 in fewest pass plays allowed of 20+ yards and top four in fewest pass plays allowed of 40+ yards. With Seattle shortening games so thoroughly, they have faced the ninth fewest pass attempts in the league, which makes their pass defense numbers look better than they are. While the Seahawks force short throws, they allow a league-average catch rate and have been below-average after the catch, leading to a middling yards allowed per pass attempt.

Volume should be more of a concern than matchup for a Packers passing attack that is an outlier in today’s aggressive, movement-and-misdirection offensive environment — as the Packers essentially send their receivers out to beat their man, and then allow Aaron Rodgers to work his connection. While Rodgers can certainly attack downfield, the core of this passing attack is their shorter-area, move-the-sticks passes — and a matchup against a team that forces a lower aDOT but still allows an average catch rate should not impact this offense too negatively.

Over his last three games, Rodgers has averaged an uncharacteristically low 33.67 pass attempts per game — right in line with the 33.56 attempts per game the Seahawks have allowed on the year. Rodgers could push for 35 to 36 attempts (and there are “off the rails” scenarios in which his volume spikes higher), but this gives us a good baseline for looking at what targets have been like on this offense over this lower-volume stretch:

:: Davante Adams — 7.67 targets per game
:: Jimmy Graham — 3.67 targets per game
:: Marquez Valdes-Scantling — 6.0 targets per game
:: Randall Cobb — 5.5 targets per game (two games)
:: Equanimeous St. Brown — 3.0 targets per game

We should highlight the fact that Adams has had matchups with Stephon Gilmore and Xavien Howard in this stretch, and he carries the most room for target growth in this spot as the clear preferred option for Rodgers. Rodgers and Adams connect most frequently along the left sideline — particularly on out-breaking routes and double moves that play off the short connection these two have to shake Adams free deep. This is how both Brandin Cooks and Marvin Jones found success against Seattle in the last three weeks, setting up Adams for a big game if the usage is there.

Only two teams have allowed fewer receptions to tight ends than the Seahawks, and it seems likely that they try to ensure that Graham, of all people, doesn’t beat them. The Seahawks (as noted for years in this space) are more “scheme and talent” than play-calling and opponent-specific approaches on defense, so even if they don’t prioritize taking away Graham in his first year away from the team, he’ll have the toughest matchup of the bunch. If you want to bet on him, perhaps Rodgers tries to get him going after last week’s season-low one target.

MVS will benefit from playing in the slot if Cobb misses again. His seven targets last week came with Rodgers throwing only 28 times. When MVS plays on the outside, it is tougher for him to be the second read on plays designed to go to Adams, as the two are typically playing on opposite sides of the formation; but when MVS moves into the slot, he is often running routes that allow him to be the second read behind Adams — enhancing his opportunity for looks.

Rodgers has a long track record of throwing to guys he trusts and ignoring those he doesn’t, and St. Brown has not yet made his way into that first category. He’ll be on the field plenty if Cobb misses, but he’ll rarely (if ever) be the first read, leaving his volume fairly scarce.

If Cobb plays, he’ll step back into his safe, low-upside role — requiring a broken play in order to hit.

PACKERS RUN OFFENSE

Only three teams are allowing more yards per carry than the Seahawks and their up-and-down run D. Because of the low play volume the Seahawks allow, they rank only middle of the pack in yards allowed to running backs, but their 4.55 YPC allowed to running backs is clearly attackable.

If the world is a good place, you can expect the Packers to attack with Aaron Jones, who finally — mercifully — played 42 out of 57 snaps last week (73.7%), while Jamaal Williams played only 14. Jones ran 22 pass routes, saw five targets, and carried the ball 15 times. We are rarely (if ever) going to see a Packers running back become a true volume horse, as this team will always mix backs to some extent, and Rodgers will always look to throw in close games (and will always look to throw close to the goal line). But somewhere in the range of 16 to 20 touches should be a solid expectation again in this spot, and Jones has the skills to take advantage of this matchup.

SEAHAWKS PASS OFFENSE

Only eight teams have faced a lower pass play rate than the Packers, as teams prefer to run against Green Bay’s lighter fronts. Only four teams have faced fewer pass attempts than the Packers, and their 182 completions allowed is fourth lowest in the league.

From a DFS perspective, this meshes poorly with the passing attack of the Seahawks, as this team is happy to run the ball all day if an opponent will allow it. Across his last seven games, Russ has pass attempt numbers of 26 // 26 // 21 // 23 // 17 // 39 // 26 — absurdly low totals for an elite quarterback. He has not passed for 300 yards a single time this year, and he has topped 235 passing yards only once since Week 1.

If we take away the 39 attempt outlier in Week 9, targets on this squad across the last four games have looked like this:

:: Doug Baldwin — 4.25 targets per game
:: Tyler Lockett — 4.0 targets per game
:: David Moore — 3.5 targets per game
:: Nick Vannett — 2.5 targets per game (two games)

Lockett and Baldwin each have four red zone targets on the season while Moore has five. It’s incredibly scary to try to bet on a wide receiver in a passing attack with so little volume, but efficiency has been impressive for this squad, with Russ throwing for 21 touchdowns on the year — with multiple touchdowns in all but one game, and with five games already this year with three touchdown passes. Ultimately, a bet on these receivers is a bet on the idea that you can guess where the touchdowns will come. If searching for lower-owned upside, it is worth noting that Lockett has an aDOT of 12.0 while Baldwin is not far behind him at 10.8. With a similar red zone role between these two and a similar aDOT, Lockett (seven touchdowns) is a candidate for regression, while Baldwin (zero touchdowns) sets up for positive regression. Each guy has a higher yardage projection than Moore or Vannett.

SEAHAWKS RUN OFFENSE

Green Bay is only allowing an increase on the league-average YPC mark of 2.5%, in spite of their invitation to opponents to focus on the ground game — but Green Bay has allowed an above-average number of rushing touchdowns on the season, and volume should be in favor of the Seattle backs.

If Chris Carson misses this week, we will likely see Seattle deploy a fairly even workload split between Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny. Last week, Davis played 39 snaps while Penny played 27. Davis saw 11 carries and six targets, compared to 12 carries and no targets for his teammate. Penny has caught nine of his 12 targets on the year, and he ran 14 pass routes last week to 23 for Davis, so he projects as more than a stone zero in the pass game — though Seattle does view Davis as their primary pass-catching weapon out of the backfield right now. Somewhere around 12 to 16 carries with three or four catches is a safe projection for Davis, while 10 to 14 carries and one or two catches is a comfortable projection for Penny. That comes with the obvious caveat that this Seahawks team has a track record of sudden and unpredictable change. As long as only two backs are healthy, however, we should be able to bank on plenty of work going to those two. If Carson returns, the safest guess would be Carson remaining in the lead with Davis playing behind him, but at that point all bets would be off.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Rodgers stands out as a solid play, while Adams is the clear top option in the passing attack. If Cobb misses, I like MVS as an underpriced piece with a safe floor and strong upside for the cost, while MVS will take a step back for me if Cobb is on the field (his floor will take a hit, though his upside will remain intact). Graham is a “hope for touchdown” play, as he appears unlikely to see more than four or five looks in this spot. St. Brown and/or Cobb would be “hope for a broken play” options on the Showdown. Cobb obviously carries the higher floor. In the backfield, Jones is a strong piece yet again — with what finally appears to be a locked-in workload, in a good matchup against a beatable Seahawks run D.

I like Rodgers more than Russ, I like Adams and MVS more than the Seattle pass catchers (though it becomes closer between MVS and Baldwin/Lockett if Cobb plays), and I like Jones more than I like the Seattle backfield. Quite simply: a team that runs the ball a lot and passes little is worse for DFS. With that said: at least a couple guys on the Seahawks should prove to be useful, with Russ obviously a candidate to post a strong score (his 92 rushing yards last week came vs a Rams team that refused to spy him, so consider that an unlikely event — but another 30 to 50 yards on the ground is a fair projection, and his touchdown efficiency has been spectacular), and with Baldwin and Lockett at least interesting for their per-play upside on the Showdown. Because the Packers are not a “strike fast and deep” team, this is not going to turn into a track meet in which Seattle opens things up and hits these two for a bushel of big plays, but each guy has a clear shot at a starting-caliber score. Behind these guys, Moore and Vannett (and even Dickson, who played over 30% of the snaps last week) are dart throws. The running backs are solid, but unspectacular.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 18th 1:00pm Eastern

Panthers (
26.25) at

Lions (
22.25)

Over/Under 48.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Panthers Run D
26th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
13th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
13th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
Lions Run D
30th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
16th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
12th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
11th DVOA/11th Yards per pass

PANTHERS // LIONS OVERVIEW

The 6-3 Panthers (5-0 at home, 1-3 on the road) will travel to Detroit this week off a tough blowout loss to the Steelers, to take on a 3-6 Lions team that has not been able to muster much success at home (2-2) or on the road (1-4). Each team plays at a below-average pace and prefers to lean on the run in neutral matchups, which has led to Detroit allowing the fewest opponent plays per game in the NFL, with Carolina allowing the eighth fewest. On a more positive note for this offensive environment: each defense ranks in the bottom eight in drive success rate allowed, creating an attackable spot for each offense. Carolina also ranks 31st in opponent red zone touchdown rate — allowing teams to put together sustained drives that are finished off with touchdowns. Only eight teams have allowed more points per game than Carolina, and only four teams have allowed more points per game than Detroit. The Panthers also rank ninth in points per game on offense (Detroit ranks 20th).

Teams primarily choose to attack Detroit on the ground, as only the Raiders and Cardinals have faced a lower pass play rate than the Lions this season. This should slow down the game a bit, and with Carolina ranked 26th in the NFL in pass plays of 20+ yards on offense (and with Detroit ranked 23rd on offense), we will be looking for points to come from a game full of sustained drives, rather than through quick strikes. This will make it tough for this game to soar past its lofty game total (51.0 — the third highest on the main slate early in the week), but each team has solid pieces on offense, and each defense ranks middle of the pack in yards allowed per game, so there should be opportunities for DFS goodness to emerge in a handful of spots.

PANTHERS PASS OFFENSE

There is not a team in football that has faced fewer pass attempts this year than the Lions, and only two teams have allowed fewer receptions. This has nothing to do with matchup, as Detroit is allowing the sixth highest completion percentage in the league, while allowing an increase on the league-average aDOT of an incredible 21.3% — “good for” the deepest aDOT allowed in all of football. Detroit does tackle well after the catch, but they are ultimately allowing the second highest yards per pass attempt in the NFL.

Both elements (the great matchup, but also the low volume) should be considered when looking at the Panthers’ passing attack this week. Most people will only be focused on the matchup, but recognize that with both teams playing slow, with Detroit allowing the fewest opponent plays per game in the NFL, and with Carolina running the 10th fewest plays per game in the league, volume will be a concern for individual pass catchers — especially as most teams attack Detroit on the ground, and Carolina (20th in pass play rate) already skews toward the run themselves. Cam Newton has failed to reach even 30 pass attempts in five of nine games this year, including each of his last three.

Targets over these three games have looked like this:

:: Devin Funchess — 3 // 5 // 5
:: D.J. Moore — 6 // 2 // 5
:: Greg Olsen — 4 // 6 // 6
:: Curtis Samuel — 3 // 4 // 4
:: Jarius Wright — 3 // 1 // 3

From a DFS perspective, it’s perpetually difficult to find slate-winning upside in this group of pass catchers, in a low-volume passing attack that spreads around targets behind alpha Christian McCaffrey (five or more targets in all but one game this year). If you are willing to miss out on slate-winning upside, the guys likeliest to produce starting-caliber scores are Funchess and Moore at wide receiver, and Olsen at tight end. Funchess has topped 100 yards only once in his entire career, but he has a non-awful nine red zone targets and a couple red zone scores this year. Moore has three red zone touchdowns of his own on only five red zone targets, and he carries more per-play upside as a superior catch-and-run piece. Moore’s xYAC/R of 6.2 is much higher than Funchess’ mark of 2.7 — and Funchess’ actual YAC/R of 1.8 is dead last in the entire league among players with at least 35 targets. As for Olsen: Detroit is a middling matchup for tight ends, and Olsen is securely involved in the offense as a four-to-six target guy. If passing volume happens to unexpectedly spike in this spot, McCaffrey and then Olsen would likely be the first to see an increase in looks, with Funchess and then Moore coming afterward.

PANTHERS RUN OFFENSE

Last week, we began our writeup of the Lions’ run defense with this:

“Life does not actually work like this, but…if we take away the 70-yard run Dalvin Cook had against the Lions [in Week 9], this run defense held Latavius Murray and Cook to a 19-50-1 line on the ground (2.63 YPC), after holding Chris Carson and Mike Davis to a 35-138-1 line (3.94 YPC) — showing marked improvement with Snacks Harrison added to the center of this unit. Of course: the 70-yard run that Cook had remains part of the equation against the Lions. As noted when Snacks was added: it takes more than one player to make a run defense good, and there are still issues on the second level for the Lions that can expose them to big plays on the ground.”

Detroit proceeded to hold Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard to 36 yards on 18 carries (2.0 YPC) last week — a third consecutive strong game, minus one long play. “Long plays” will remain part of the potential equation here, but be aware of what the Lions have done over their last three contests outside of that one long run.

The good news for McCaffrey is that the Panthers’ offensive line has been excellent — with Norv Turner designing a tremendous run scheme that opens consistent holes for ball carriers. The Panthers rank eighth in adjusted line yards on offense, while two of the teams that Detroit held in check recently (Chicago and Minnesota) rank bottom five in this department. (The Seahawks — whose 3.94 YPC in this matchup doesn’t leave a ton of room for complaint — rank 15th in adjusted line yards.) I’m comfortable considering this a neutral-at-worst spot for CMC, with a better-than-normal shot at a big play, given the struggles the Lions are still prone to on the second level. The Lions are a non-threatening matchup in the pass game for running backs. CMC has finished shy of five catches only twice all season, and he has finished shy of 45 receiving yards only three times. He doesn’t quite carry the same red zone role as guys like Kareem Hunt, Melvin Gordon, and James Conner, as Cam (13 red zone carries) is going to get some action as well, but his role in this area has been on the rise recently, giving him respectable ceiling to go with his already excellent floor.

LIONS OFFENSE

Carolina allows a deeper-than-league-average aDOT and is merely average at preventing completed passes, with their strength in tackling after the catch allowing them to rank middle-of-the-pack in yards allowed per pass attempt (only Baltimore and Pittsburgh allow lower YAC/R rates than the Panthers). Teams do prefer to pass on the Panthers rather than testing their front on the ground; only seven teams have faced a higher pass play rate than the Carolina, which has led to them facing a middling number of pass attempts this year, in spite of limiting opponent play volume. (Conversely, only four teams have faced fewer rush attempts this year than the Panthers.)

The Lions have tried to box themselves into a run-heavy approach lately, but with their defense playing so poorly, they have been regularly forced to pass — and with no Golden Tate over the middle, the effectiveness of these passes is waning. Over his first two games without Tate, Stafford has completed 50 of 78 passes (64.1%), for only 473 yards (6.1 YPA — a mark that would be better than only Buffalo and Arizona on the year), with two touchdowns and two interceptions. To Stafford’s credit, those games also came against a Bears pass defense that ranks fourth in DVOA and a Vikings pass defense that ranks 10th in DVOA in spite of their early-season struggles. Carolina ranks 24th in DVOA against the pass, creating potential for Stafford to prove that his recent dip in play was due more to matchup than to the absence of Tate.

With Tate out of the picture, Stafford has fed an incredible 26 targets to running backs the last two weeks, locking both Kerryon Johnson and Theo Riddick into secure workloads. It appears Matt Patricia has finally let go of the notion that LeGarrette Blount is still a useful NFL player, as Kerryon played 55 snaps last week, compared to nine for the aging vet, one week after Kerryon played 39 snaps to 11 for Blount. The matchup on the ground is middling, and Detroit may not be able to give Kerryon more than 14 to 16 carries if forced into pass-heavy mode again, but with 49 pass routes run and 11 targets over the last two weeks, he’s a key cog regardless, and he should be viewed as a talented 18 to 22 touch back.

Riddick has played 42 backfield snaps in the last two weeks, and 43 additional snaps at receiver or in an H-back role. He has zero carries, but he has target counts of eight and seven and should be viewed as a possession receiver with decent YAC upside — essentially a “floor” play with an outside shot at ceiling.

Passes to wide receivers and tight ends have been heavily concentrated on Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay, with these two combining for 32 targets across the last two weeks, while T.J. Jones, Brandon Powell, and the three tight ends have combined for 17 total looks. When Marvin went down last week, Stafford essentially concentrated all of his “Marvin/Golladay” targets onto Golladay alone, rather than spreading those looks around. If Marvin misses this week, there is a good chance Golladay hits double-digit targets, and that Riddick/Kerryon see a small bump before T.J. // Powell // tight ends see additional usage. If Marvin plays, he should be considered the primary option, with 15 targets in less than two full games, with Golladay mixing in for around five to eight looks of his own. Marvin will have quiet “smash” upside if he’s healthy, while Golladay will likely rise to the top of the “popular plays” pile if Marvin misses. While it is true that crazy things can happen in the NFL (see Tyler Boyd in Week 10, with Cincinnati running an impossibly low 43 plays, and with Dalton throwing only 20 passes), Golladay’s workload and upside will really pop without Marvin on the field.

If moving away from the backs and receivers, the Lions have tried to force the issue lately with Michael Roberts (seven targets the last two weeks), though he caught only two of those targets, for 21 yards, and he left Sunday’s game early with a shoulder injury. Carolina has allowed the second most catches, the third most yards, and the most touchdowns to the tight end position, giving Roberts low-floor upside if he plays this week.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Cam has reached 300 passing yards only once this season, but he has exactly two passing touchdowns in seven consecutive games, and he has added four rushing touchdowns and 352 rushing yards on the year. He’s a strong floor/ceiling play in a matchup where volume is the only concern — and with Cam often doing his box score damage on low volume anyway, expectations aren’t any different than normal. The same can be said for the Panthers’ pass catchers (“expectations aren’t any different than normal”), which leaves all of them as merely “fringe” options for me. Moore will be interesting to consider for upside if value proves thin this week, while Olsen is one of the few semi-reliable tight ends. Ahead of these guys for me is McCaffrey, who will definitely be in consideration for me throughout the week. He’s essentially a lock for 60 or 70 rushing yards with around 5-50-0 through the air as a floor, and he has plenty of upside from there. The Lions will stuff the run more often than before, but there is still potential for a couple explosive plays.

Any time I can roster a talented, inexpensive 20-touch running back in a decent spot, I will consider doing so — which means that Kerryon will make my list on the Lions’ side of the ball. Detroit’s overall offensive environment is a concern, but with this game being played in Detroit, the Lions should be able to keep it close, and I always like taking running backs against poor red zone defenses — with Carolina providing the second biggest boost in the league in this area. Riddick moving to wide receiver half the time is allowing Kerryon to keep a bigger role in the pass game.

Riddick is also interesting on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, where he essentially functions as a cheap possession wide receiver. Adam Humphries went 8-82-2 in this matchup a couple weeks ago — so while that’s obviously not the likeliest scenario, this does create some upside to go with the low price and the decent PPR floor on Riddick. The only thing I don’t like about this play is that it takes up a valuable RB spot without the upside I would like to target at this position in an optimal setup.

If Marvin Jones misses, I’ll have a lot of interest in Golladay. If Marvin plays, each wide receiver will remain in consideration, but Marvin will stand out as the guy who is a bit likelier to reach his upside.

If I decide to pile a ton of uncertainty onto one roster spot again this week, Michael Roberts will also be in play as a cheap tight end option on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, where tight end savings can really open things up. If Roberts plays, he’ll have a better-than-zero floor, and he’ll have a shot to go something like 4-30-1, as a guy in a good matchup playing around 50% of the snaps and being fed a few targets per game.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 18th 1:00pm Eastern

Bengals (
18.75) at

Ravens (
25.25)

Over/Under 44.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Bengals Run D
23rd DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
5th DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
16th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
19th DVOA/31st Yards per pass
Ravens Run D
2nd DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
27th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
7th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
26th DVOA/13th Yards per pass

RAVENS // BENGALS OVERVIEW

This AFC North matchup pairs a couple of sinking ships to see which team can stick around in the playoff conversation a bit longer (and to see which head coach is likelier to get the hook at the end of the year). The Bengals have tumbled to a 5-4 record with only one win in their last four games (to be fair: the losses came against the Steelers, Chiefs, and Saints), while the Ravens have lost three straight to fall to 4-5. Things have gotten so bad with the Cincinnati defense (32nd in yards per game…31st in points per game…31st in drive success rate allowed…26th in red zone touchdown rate allowed) that Teryl Austin has been fired, Marvin Lewis is taking over the defensive play-calling, and Hue Jackson (yes, that Hue Jackson) has been brought in to help with the offense. As for the Ravens: Joe Flacco is shaping up as a game-time decision — and while one function of fantasy sports is that people stop worrying about how the sport is played and instead care only about “talent” and “measurables,” Baltimore clearly does not feel that Lamar Jackson is ready to run the offense just yet, as they are not only willing to let Flacco play without practicing, but there is also talk that Robert Griffin III will start at quarterback if Flacco misses. Because we are unlikely to truly have clarity on this spot until Sunday, we’ll move forward with this writeup and work around the unknowns — breaking down the Ravens in a standard manner up top, and using the “Interpretations” section to sort through the adjustments that I’ll be making in expectations if Flacco sits. Hopefully before Sunday morning we get a better feel for who will be under center.

RAVENS PASS OFFENSE

The Ravens have played at the second fastest pace in the NFL, they have thrown the ball at the eighth highest rate, and they have played great defense — all of which has added up to allow this team to lead the NFL in plays per game, making it all the more incredible that they rank only 15th in yards per game and 17th in points per game. Their play volume should be locked in place this week against a Cincy team that ranks 31st in time of possession and has allowed the second most opponent plays per game (one year after the Bengals ranked dead last in both categories), while the matchup against a pass defense that ranks 26th in yards allowed per pass attempt should provide a further boost. Cincinnati allows an above-average aDOT, an above-average catch rate, and an average YAC/R mark. Only six teams have allowed more receptions to wide receivers, and only three teams have allowed more yards. The Bengals have also allowed the second most pass plays of 20+ yards.

Targets among Ravens wide receivers across their last three games have looked like this:

:: John Brown — 7 // 7 // 6
:: Michael Crabtree — 9 // 5 // 7
:: Willie Snead — 7 // 11 // 8

Most of the major damage against the Bengals has come from true Number One Receivers, with Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Julio Jones all hammering this team for big lines — but guys like Mohamed Sanu and Adam Humphries have come through as well, creating some optimism for this group.

Brown can be comfortably projected for around seven targets each week, with three games in which he has risen above that mark. This team appears to be past the point where they will force-feed JB looks, and he has connected on only 50.7% of the targets that have come his way — but while this lowers his floor, his downfield role and the matchup combine to keep his ceiling intact.

Crabtree has fallen shy of eight targets only three times all year — but two of those three have come in his last two games. Crabtree leads the NFL with 10 dropped passes (four more than anyone else in the league), and his YAC/R rate of 2.7 is a full 2.1 yards shy of his xYAC/R — so it makes sense for this offense to phase him out as much as they can. With very little to work with behind Crabtree, however, he is still going to see his looks. He has topped 66 receiving yards only once all season, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he cracks that mark this week.

Snead has seen an increase in work lately as a more reliable set of hands, but he has not topped 60 yards in a game this year, and he has only one touchdown and a measly three red zone targets on the season. This team ranks first in the NFL in pass attempts, yet Flacco has only two games all season of 300+ yards.

This passing attack wraps up with a three-way tight end rotation (Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst) that has combined for 19 total targets across the Ravens’ last two games, with none of these individual players hauling in more than four catches in a game, and with a max of 50 receiving yards.

RAVENS RUN OFFENSE

The Bengals have also been generous to running backs — allowing the fifth most yards per carry and the third most running back touchdowns. There is nothing in this matchup that should scare us away, as we have been targeting this unit with running backs for nearly two months now. The one thing that makes this matchup less appealing is the Ravens’ backfield itself.

Alex Collins has topped 12 carries only once in his last six games, and he has not yet rushed for even 70 yards in a game this year. With only 15 catches on the season, it is difficult to get excited about the upside he provides. He’ll need a couple long plays or a multi-score game to become a usable piece.

Now that Ty Montgomery has had the bye week to learn the Ravens’ playbook, we also do not know how he and Javorius Allen will see their playing time divvied up. Allen has only five carries across his last four games, but he has averaged four targets per game in that stretch. It won’t be surprising to see Montgomery cut into some of that work, and it won’t even be a shock if he takes over some of Collins’ work as well. As with the Baltimore tight end rotation: it is unlikely we see one guy emerge as a go-to option in this group.

BENGALS PASS OFFENSE

The Bengals’ offense is in disarray — ranking 25th in yards per game, 31st in time of possession, and 29th in plays per game. They will be taking on a Baltimore team that allows the second fewest yards per game and the second fewest points per game in the league. As of this writing, we do not yet have a line for this game (Vegas is waiting for more clarity on the Flacco situation), but it won’t be surprising if the Bengals end up with the second-lowest Vegas-implied total on the slate, ahead of only the Raiders.

Baltimore’s pass defense has paired a below-average aDOT allowed with the lowest catch rate allowed and the second lowest YAC/R rate allowed — adding up to the fewest yards per pass attempt allowed this season. Only two teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns. Only six teams have more sacks.

When these teams last played, Tyler Boyd busted out for a 6-91-1 line in Week 2 — announcing himself to those who were paying attention, and setting us up to capture the great Boyd run that began in Week 3. This week, Boyd will be the only guy for Andy Dalton to really throw to, as A.J. Green (in spite of some optimism from Marvin Lewis) is expected to miss at least a couple more games. Dalton threw only 20 passes last week (a more comfortable projection is 33 to 38 attempts in this spot, against a fast-paced Baltimore team that allows a middling number of opponent plays per game), so Boyd’s four targets should be taken with a grain of salt. A fair projection for this spot is something like eight to 10 looks, in one of the more difficult wide receiver matchups in football. Baltimore has allowed the eighth fewest catches and the second fewest yards to the position.

If Green returns, he will be playing at less than 100% in an obviously-challenging draw, though he should return to his typical eight to 10 looks. He would be a “talent over matchup” bet.

With Green out of action last week, John Ross played 36 out of 43 snaps, Cody Core played 20 snaps, and Alex Erickson played 16. Core went 2-17-0 on two targets; Erickson saw zero looks; and Ross unsurprisingly caught only two of his six targets (he now has a 40.9% catch rate on the year), for 39 yards and a touchdown.

The “best” matchup goes to C.J. Uzomah, as the Ravens have allowed the 10th most catches and the 10th most yards to tight ends. Uzomah has topped four targets only once this season, and he has finished under 25 receiving yards in five of his last seven games.

BENGALS RUN OFFENSE

Baltimore has also been stout against the run, ranking ninth in yards allowed per carry while giving up only five total touchdowns to the position (the third lowest mark in the league). No team has allowed fewer receiving yards to running backs, creating a difficult spot for Joe Mixon all the way around — on a struggling offense with a low scoring expectation.

Even with Giovani Bernard missing most of these games, Mixon has recent touch counts of 15 // 16 // 24 // 13, as this offense has had a tough time sustaining drives, and this team has been constantly playing from behind. This is a good spot to point out that these “playing from behind” games came against the Steelers, Chiefs, and Saints — creating an opportunity this week for Mixon to rise back to 20+ touches — but the matchup still leaves you betting on talent and workload. At his elevated price, Mixon will almost certainly require a multi-touchdown game to become a difference-maker on the slate.

Behind Mixon (29 out of 43 snaps last week), Gio played only 12 snaps. His role may grow a bit moving forward, but this should be Mixon’s backfield for the remainder of the year.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

In spite of the quality matchup for the Ravens’ passing attack, this team spreads volume too thin and has shown too little upside for me to have much interest in any individual pass catcher, regardless of who is under center. Of course, the matchup does create a case for targeting JB for upside or even taking a “floor with upside” shot on Crabtree or Snead, but there will prove to be better on-paper plays than this. The most appealing spot on this team would be the tight end position — but with Hurst, Andrews, and Boyle continuing to rotate, it would be nothing but a guessing game to target this spot.

The Ravens’ hesitation to pull the trigger on Jackson or RGIII with Flacco ailing tells us a lot about the comfort level they feel with these other two at the moment. If one of these two starts, I don’t expect to find my interest in these pass catchers suddenly rising; the matchup means that any of these wide receivers have upside for a good game — but a QB change would not provide any sort of “floor” boost, leaving these guys in the same category for me as before.

One change that could occur for me if Flacco misses is interest in the Baltimore QB position, as RGIII or Jackson would carry dual-threat upside in a tremendous matchup. Frankly, Jackson will likely be overhyped (and over-owned) if he starts — on a slate with plenty to like at quarterback, including plenty to like among cost-effective options. As a raw rookie in his first career game (in an offense that is not all that good), there is no guarantee he performs well; but the matchup would obviously give him a boost. Of course, it appears right now that the likeliest scenario is RGIII starting if Flacco sits. This would be easier for me to ignore, as RGIII looked “good not great” in the preseason, and an RGIII start would likely include several packages in which Jackson is on the field.

As much as I have loved attacking the Bengals with running backs this year, it would also be tough to go there with the Ravens’ multi-headed attack. It won’t be a shock if Collins posts a useful game or if Montgomery takes on a larger role than expected — but neither guy has week-winning upside, and there are better plays than this.

On a slate with plenty to like in other spots, I’ll leave the Bengals alone myself. If you want to go here: there is a case to be made for Boyd as a low-owned number one receiver in a “tough, but not impossible” matchup. Boyd’s floor is low here, but it wouldn’t be crazy to see him go something like 6-90-1 again, and if he added another touchdown to that line he could be a solid piece. Of course…there are wide receivers priced close to him who are genuinely likely to post a line like that — making it tough for me to justify taking on such a low floor to get there.

The same “game theory” case could be made for Mixon (low ownership, and not crazy to think he could post a strong game). But again: if taking on this floor, I would want upside for a true top-of-the-slate score, and I’m just not seeing that this week.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 18th 1:00pm Eastern

Cowboys (
23) at

Falcons (
26.5)

Over/Under 49.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Cowboys Run D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
26th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D
21st DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
16ths DVOA/3rd Yards per pass
Falcons Run D
8th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O
18th DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
30th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O
22nd DVOA/1st Yards per pass

COWBOYS // FALCONS OVERVIEW

Both of these teams are hanging around in the NFC playoff picture at 4-5, with the Falcons coming off a dispiriting road loss to the Browns, and with the Cowboys traveling down the coast after a big road win over the Eagles. For whatever it’s worth, the Falcons are 3-2 at home, while the Cowboys are 1-4 on the road.

This game pairs contrasting styles, as the Cowboys prefer to lean run-heavy (23rd in pass play rate), while the Falcons focus primarily on the pass (fourth in pass play rate). Teams have attacked Dallas through the air at the eighth lowest rate in the league, while Atlanta has faced the sixth highest opponent pass play rate this year.

While Atlanta ranks top eight on offense in both yards and points per game, Dallas has allowed the third fewest points per game and the seventh fewest yards per game. Opponent point totals on the year against the Cowboys look like this: 16 // 13 // 24 // 24 // 19 // 7 // 20 // 28 // 20 — creating opportunity for Atlanta to pile up enough points to matter, but making it difficult for this team to really pop as a whole this week.

Atlanta’s defense, of course, has significantly boosted opponent production, allowing the fourth most points and the third most yards per game. No team has allowed a higher drive success rate than Atlanta, and only two teams have allowed a higher red zone touchdown rate. Only two teams have allowed more touchdowns to wide receivers, and only two teams have allowed more touchdowns to running backs. Atlanta does return difference-making linebacker Deion Jones this week — though it should be pointed out that Jones is an anchor to this speed-based attack, and as such he is a bit undersized (6’2″, 220 pounds) against a guy like Zeke (6’0″, 225 pounds). This should remain an above-average matchup for what Dallas wants to do.

Vegas has given this game a bold Over/Under of 48.0 — with only one of the Cowboys’ nine games this year rising that high (a 24-26 game vs Detroit). The Falcons have played better defense lately (20 points to the Giants, 14 points to the Redskins, 28 points to the Browns), and they are returning one of their key players on this side of the ball, so don’t be surprised if this total trickles down a bit, but there should still be some opportunity for production to pile up.

COWBOYS PASS OFFENSE

The Colts and Bucs are the only teams allowing a higher catch rate than Atlanta, creating a solid setup for Dak Prescott, who has thrown the ball over 30 times in three consecutive games — after cracking 30 attempts only once in his first six contests. Along with the way, Dak has also been using his legs more, averaging 6.2 rush attempts per game across his last five contests, after averaging only 4.25 rushes per game in the Cowboys’ first four weeks. Only the Saints, Bucs, and Bengals have allowed more fantasy points per game to quarterbacks than the Falcons, with only the Bucs allowing more passing touchdowns. The Falcons have also allowed the fourth most rushing yards to the position. Dak has encouragingly accounted for two or more touchdowns in four consecutive games.

Dallas continued to heavily feature Amari Cooper last week, feeding him 10 targets one week after giving him eight looks. Against the Eagles last week, the Cowboys used Cooper on some of the sideline routes that have worked well against the Falcons this year, creating optimism for his outlook in this game. The targets appear set to remain — and as long as they do, his floor looks secure; and while the Cowboys have been a bottom 10 team in red zone touchdown rate, they get a scoring boost in this spot vs the third worst red zone touchdown defense.

Behind Amari, Cole Beasley continues to operate in a low-upside possession role (only two games all year north of 56 yards). Michael Gallup (target counts of six and three since Amari arrived) and Allen Hurns (target counts of one and two with Amari on the team, with only 15 snaps played last week) are afterthoughts. Geoff Swaim returned last week to post his standard three targets.

COWBOYS RUN OFFENSE

While targets have been down for ancillary pass catchers behind Amari, targets have held steady for Ezekiel Elliott, who has seen at least four looks in all but one game this season, and who has recent target counts of 6 // 5 // 7. Since Week 3, Zeke has only one game below 21 touches, and he has gone for 25 or more touches in four of his last six games. This week, he’ll take on an Atlanta defense that has allowed the most running back receptions in the league, with the second worst YPC allowed and the third most running back touchdowns allowed. It should be noted that Zeke has topped 36 receiving yards only twice this season, as the Cowboys are not proactively scheming him Upside looks — while Atlanta is decent after the catch against running backs. But even with that, this is a great spot for a 100-yard, multi-touchdown game from Zeke, with a spike in pass game involvement along the way — as long as Dallas is able to keep this game close enough to continue leaning on the run throughout.

FALCONS PASS OFFENSE

Dallas has really not been all that fierce against the pass — allowing the fourth highest completion rate in the league, while ranking middle of the pack in yards allowed per pass attempt and picking off the third fewest passes in the NFL. But for whatever reason, teams have been choosing to avoid the Cowboys through the air, with only four teams facing fewer pass attempts on the year than the Cowboys, while 16 teams have faced more rush attempts. I have not been able to find any clear reason for this run-leaning tilt against Dallas — especially as they have been great against the run, allowing the third fewest yards per carry in the league. With Atlanta ranking fourth in the NFL in pass play rate, there is a solid chance that the Falcons dip away from the standard approach against the Cowboys and hammer this matchup through the air. The Eagles did this last week against the Cowboys (74.19% pass play rate, compared to the 55.96% rate the Cowboys have faced on the year), and Carson Wentz managed to pile up 360 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 44 attempts. While I never like to try to guess what Steve Sarkisian is thinking, there is some serious appeal to fading the low season-long passing numbers vs the Cowboys and instead recognizing that Dallas has been a middling unit, and that it makes sense for Atlanta to attack in the way they feel most comfortable.

The 52 pass attempts Matt Ryan threw last week against the fast-paced Browns are outside his normal range, but he did have exactly 38 to 41 attempts in five weeks leading up to that game — and if Atlanta wisely chooses to stick to their standard approach and attack through the air, something in this range is likely again.

Julio Jones has seen nine or more targets in six consecutive games, with 12 or more in half those games — and last week, he saw three targets inside the 10-yard-line, after seeing only two such targets all season. While that could be a one-game blip, we saw this happen in late October last year, and Julio’s red zone role remained on the rise the rest of the season. Julio carries strong floor and ceiling even without a red zone role, given his volume, his talent, and his ability to score from anywhere on the field, but a rise in red zone usage will make him that much more likely to explode a couple times down the stretch.

Behind Julio, Calvin Ridley has topped six targets only twice this year, but he has fallen shy of five targets only two times as well, giving him a comfortable range of usage in a high-powered offense. Consider Ridley’s floor to be around 4-40-0 in this spot, but his ability to score from inside or outside the red zone does provide upside.

Mohamed Sanu popped for eight targets last week, though he still failed to top 50 yards for the seventh time in nine games, and those looks came with Ryan throwing 52 times. Sanu will likely score one or two more touchdowns this year, but these end zone visits will be unpredictable, and he’ll be a disappointment most weeks he does not provide a touchdown.

This is a good spot for Austin Hooper, who has six games of two to five targets…and three games of double-digit targets. Those double-digit games came against Pittsburgh, Tampa, and Cleveland — all of whom rank in the top eight in most receptions allowed to the position. Dallas has allowed the fifth most receptions to tight ends, and this could be another “checkdown to Hooper” game for the Falcons’ passing attack.

FALCONS RUN OFFENSE

The Cowboys are allowing only 3.56 yards per carry to running backs this year, and only five teams have allowed fewer rushing yards to the position. Their six touchdowns allowed to running backs is the eighth best mark in the league.

Tevin Coleman has not topped 13 carries in any of his last five games, making him a thin play from a volume perspective, as he continues to share time with Ito Smith (recent carry counts of 11 // 7 // 10 // 4). On a more encouraging note: these two have combined for 9.5 targets per game across their two contests since the bye, after averaging only 3.67 combined targets per game the previous three weeks. The Cowboys are attackable through the air with backs, so there is room for another four to seven looks for Coleman and another two to five for Ito.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Dak and Amari are an interesting tourney stack, and Amari is in play on his own this week — with a clear case available for him even in cash games, given the likely flow of this game and the sheer volume we can count on in this spot. (Amari is much easier to like on DraftKings and FantasyDraft than he is on FanDuel, where the gap between Amari and the top guys — Julio // Hopkins // OBJ — is much smaller.) I also like Zeke quite a bit on this side of the ball, as it’s difficult to see him falling shy of 17 DraftKings points and 14 FanDuel points in a “20th percentile scenario” (around 80 rushing yards, and 6-30-0 through the air), while he has a clear shot to add plenty of additional yards and scores from there.

Matt Ryan has quietly been playing at a near-MVP level, with 300+ yards in six of his last seven games (he had 285 yards in his other game in that stretch), and with recent passing touchdown totals of 5 // 3 // 1 // 3 // 1 // 4 // 2. He has accounted for three or more touchdowns in four of his five home games, and this is a sneaky winnable spot if the Falcons indeed lean pass-heavy.

A Ryan-to-Julio stack looks good in that context, as Julio should be a lock for another nine to 12 targets, with potential for an increased red zone role along the way. These two may not quite be necessary in cash games, as there are slim volume concerns in this game, and there is a slim chance the Falcons lean toward the run — but I like this play a lot in tourneys, and I would feel comfortable with it in cash myself. I’m unlikely to have interest in Sanu or Ridley (outside of a possible large-field dart on the upside of Ridley), but Hooper may be a viable piece again this week. I hate to bet on a guy whose targets are so unpredictable, but he doesn’t kill you when he sees only four or five looks, and he carries potential for double-digit targets again in this spot.

I won’t be on the Falcons’ backfield, as I’ll be looking for higher-floor plays at that position — but if the pass game involvement remains from these guys, there are certainly paths for one of them to hit, with Coleman in the lead between the two.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 18th 1:00pm Eastern

Texans (
21.75) at

WFT (
18.75)

Over/Under 40.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Texans Run D
23rd DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Washington Run O
21st DVOA/25th Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
8th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Washington Pass O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per pass
Washington Run D
17th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
23rd DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Washington Pass D
6th DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
8th DVOA/4th Yards per pass

TEXANS // REDSKINS OVERVIEW

The first place, 6-3 Texans will travel to Washington, D.C. this week to take on the “find a way to win” Redskins, who sit at 6-3 as well — in first place in the NFC East — in spite of ranking 26th in the NFL in yards per game and 27th in points per game. Washington does not even have that great of a defense (17th in DVOA against the pass, 28th in DVOA against the run; 17th in yards allowed per game), but they have been solid in the red zone (seventh in lowest opponent red zone touchdown rate), they have controlled the clock (third in time of possession), and they have allowed the fourth fewest points per game by ranking fourth in the NFL in takeaways and first in fewest giveaways.

Standing in the way of Washington’s standard game plan is a Houston defense that ranks second in yards allowed per carry, and a Houston offense that is scoring a respectable 24.0 points per game. There is a chance that Washington will be forced to the air more than normal in this spot. Of course, it seems that every time we say this, this team finds a way to take (and hold) a lead all game, and to keep the clock running with a non-aggressive offensive game plan.

Vegas has low expectations in this spot, with an early-week Over/Under of 42.5. Four of the Redskins’ last five games have finished below this mark, and four of the Texans’ last five games have finished below this mark as well.

TEXANS PASS OFFENSE

As noted throughout the season: Washington forces one of the lower aDOTs in the league — currently shaving 7.2% off the league-average rate — but they are otherwise unimposing against the pass, allowing a slightly above-average catch rate and an above-average YAC/R rate. They rank middle of the pack in yards allowed per pass attempt and middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. They are decent at generating pressure, and they have picked off a respectable nine passes on the year (11th most in the NFL), but they are ultimately nothing more than a league-average matchup — with the matchup boosted a bit by the fact that Washington faces the third highest opponent pass play rate on the season, as teams tend to avoid Washington’s front on the ground.

This final element could be a nice boost for Deshaun Watson and company this week, as Houston enters this game ranked 29th in pass play rate — with Watson incredibly held to 25 or fewer pass attempts (not a typo) in four consecutive games. There were extenuating circumstances in all four of those wins that contributed to the low passing volume — but realize that pass-heavy teams like the Vikings, Packers, Falcons, and Bucs do not find themselves with four random games below 26 pass attempts. It takes a team that is willing to lean on the run for this to happen. With Washington unlikely to push Houston on the scoreboard, something like 32 pass attempts may be a safe “80th percentile” ceiling projection for Watson. Watson has also added five or more carries of his own in all but two games this year, adding some floor to his line.

The low passing volume has had an adverse effect on volume for DeAndre Hopkins, as he has seen recent target counts of 6 // 8 // 7 // 12, after seeing double-digit looks in each of the Texans’ first five games. With that said: those three ultra-low volume games came against Tre’Davious White, Jacksonville, and Xavien Howard — and against a Washington team that pushes opponents toward the air, Hopkins should be able to clear a path to at least eight or nine targets, with plenty of upside for more. While Nuk’s targets are less locked-in than Julio’s at the high end of the price range, his 12 targets inside the 10-yard-line rank first in the NFL, allowing him to keep pace in the box score. If his targets jump back up to double-digits, he has potential to land a true difference-making score on the slate.

Behind Hopkins, it will be Demaryius Thomas and Keke Coutee — creating some question marks on workload distribution, as we have yet to see these two on the field together. Something like four to seven targets apiece is a fair projection, as the Texans focus their targets heavily on the wide receiver position (Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue have combined to average only 3.25 targets per game across the last four Texans games, while the tight end trio of Ryan Griffin, Jordan Akins, and Jordan Thomas has combined to average 4.25 targets per game in this stretch). Demaryius should be primarily used downfield, giving him a lower floor but a higher ceiling, while Coutee should soak up some solid floor underneath, while needing a broken play or a short touchdown in order to post ceiling.

TEXANS RUN OFFENSE

Washington has not been terrifying against the run — ranking 14th in yards allowed per carry, while ranking 28th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards and 29th in DVOA — but teams continue to avoid this front on the ground. When it has mattered, this team has been able to clamp down — as exemplified by the 15-33-0 line they held Ezekiel Elliott to in Week 7. Only Philadelphia has faced fewer rush attempts than Washington, and only four teams have allowed fewer rushing yards.

Lamar Miller will continue to operate as the head of the committee here, with recent carry counts of 15 // 22 // 18 // 12 (compared to 7 // 8 // 15 // 15 for Alfred Blue). Miller has five games already this year under 50 rushing yards, while adding totals of 68 // 98 // 100 // 133 in his other contests (the 133 came against the pathetic Dolphins run D). Blue has yet to top 46 rushing yards in a game this year, and he has zero targets across his last three games. Either guy will likely need one or two touchdowns or a couple broken plays to become relevant.

REDSKINS OFFENSE

Houston’s pass defense has continued to improve throughout the season, and they are now shaving 6% off the league-average aDOT while allowing a below-average catch rate and below-average YAC/R marks — leading to the sixth lowest yards allowed per pass attempt in the league. Only four teams are allowing fewer fantasy points per game to the quarterback position.

Alex Smith has topped 200 passing yards in only one of his last five games — with that one game coming against an Atlanta team that smashed Washington 38-14, forcing them to the air an uncharacteristic 46 times. For as long as this game remains close, Washington will stick to their run-leaning ways, even in a tough spot for Adrian Peterson.

Chicago is the only team allowing fewer yards per carry than the Texans — and while Houston has allowed eight total touchdowns to running backs, a massive five of these have come through the air (the second most in the league), while only three have come on the ground (third fewest in the league). With this game likely to stay fairly close, Peterson should see his 18 to 22 touches, but in a tough matchup with a limited role in the pass game (8.0 receiving yards per game across his last four contests), he’ll need some broken-play luck or a multi-touchdown game to matter.

Through the air:

We have yet to see Josh Doctson top 50 yards; Maurice Harris has topped 52 yards once; Michael Floyd went 2-15-0 on three targets last week; Vernon Davis continues to play around half of Washington’s snaps and see the only real “Upside Looks” on this team, but his targets are unpredictable; and Jordan Reed has continued to see steady targets, but Washington is flattening out his routes and giving him little room for upside, which has him at 65 or fewer yards in every game this year (and at 51 or fewer in six straight games), with only one touchdown all season. If forced to go here, Reed is the safest, highest-upside play vs a Texans team that has allowed only six touchdowns all year to wide receivers (the second lowest mark in the league), but that has given up four touchdowns to tight ends (the 10th most in the league).

If Chris Thompson returns this week, he’ll be more appealing than the pieces above, but he’ll still take a backseat to Peterson unless this game turns pass-heavy. If Jamison Crowder returns, he’ll kick Maurice Harris to the outside, and will set up for something like four to seven underneath targets.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

There is nothing on the Washington side of the ball that catches my eye, and the Houston backfield is easy to stay away from as well. For that matter: the low scoring environment in this game as a whole even takes down the Houston passing attack a few pegs — making them “viable and in play,” but certainly not a unit to lock-and-load. With that said: I do like the matchup for Hopkins quite a bit — with a safe floor even if the Texans limit passing volume, and with a ceiling as high as any receiver on the slate if he can climb back up to 12 to 14 looks once again in this spot. I like Watson as a tourney play for his upside (both with and without Hopkins), and I see Demaryius and Coutee as “guys to consider,” but not guys to prioritize. There are better overall offensive environments on the slate, but this is still a matchup that Watson and Hopkins can win — and there may be enough momentum for them to carry one of Demaryius or Coutee with them.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 18th 1:00pm Eastern

Bucs (
25.25) at

Giants (
28.25)

Over/Under 53.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Buccaneers Run D
3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O
30th DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D
1st DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O
29th DVOA/30th Yards per pass
Giants Run D
15th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O
6th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D
23rd DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O
9th DVOA/8th Yards per pass

BUCCANEERS // GIANTS OVERVIEW

And this is why the NFL quietly loves fantasy football. Who besides fans of these teams would have interest in this game without fantasy? This game pairs a 2-7 Giants team with a 3-6 Bucs team — with the Bucs on a 1-6 stretch after incredibly starting the season with wins over the Saints and Eagles, and with the Giants coming off their first win in nearly two months. The Giants have been quietly competitive all year — losing by five points to the Jags, by seven points to the Cowboys, by two points to the Panthers, by three points to the Falcons, and by seven points to the Redskins — but their offense has not done them many favors, as they have failed to top even 15 points in four of their nine games, and they have topped 20 points only three times all year.

Of course, this will be an opportunity for the Giants to break out of this funk against a Tampa team that has allowed the most points per game and the fifth most yards per game in the NFL, while giving the ball away more times than any other team in football and taking the ball away the second fewest times in the league.

In spite of their parade of mistakes, Tampa continues to produce on offense — ranking first in the NFL in yards per game, while ranking 12th in points per game. The offensive environment as a whole in this game is ripe for production, as the Giants rank first in the league in pass play rate and the Bucs rank fifth, which should lead to plenty of clock stoppages, and to volume piling up on both sides of this game. Each team has battled issues in the red zone on offense (Tampa ranks 21st in red zone touchdown rate; the Giants rank 30th), but the Giants should have an easier path than normal when they crack the 20, as the Bucs have had the worst red zone defense in the NFL this year. The Giants surprisingly boast the third stingiest red zone defense, which could create a few additional issues for Tampa. The Bucs may continue to pile up yards while remaining less spectacular at actually scoring points.

Vegas has put plenty of faith into the Bucs’ strong offense and their awful defense, pegging this game with an early-week Over/Under of 52.0 — second highest on the Main Slate. Six of the Bucs’ nine games have exceeded this total, while only one of the Giants’ nine games has risen above this mark.

BUCCANEERS PASS OFFENSE

The Giants have been a middling defense this year, ranking 22nd in yards allowed per game and 20th in points allowed per game, while holding opposing passing attacks to the 12th lowest yards per pass attempt and the second fewest passing touchdowns, but notching the second fewest sacks and the ninth fewest interceptions along the way. Only one team has allowed fewer red zone receptions to wideouts than the Giants have allowed, and the best way to strike against this team through the air is with guys who can hit bigger plays.

The fun continued last week for “Tampa QB,” with Ryan Fitzpatrick going for 406 yards…with zero touchdowns, two picks, and one fumble lost. Helping to somewhat protect Fitz from in-game benchings is the fact that Jameis Winston’s 2019 salary is guaranteed for injury only — meaning that the Bucs can move on from him without any cap hit if they can keep him healthy through the remainder of the year. Fitz has incredibly thrown for 400+ yards in four of his five start-to-finish games, and “Tampa QB” has topped 365 yards in seven of nine games. While Fitz threw zero touchdowns last week, he notched three or more touchdown passes in each of his other four start-to-finish games.

As always, the biggest issue in targeting Tampa pass catchers is the number of weapons to whom they spread the ball, with all of Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, and O.J. Howard commanding targets each week.

Evans has been a massive disappointment the last two weeks, hauling in four of 16 targets for 67 yards. He has double-digit targets in five of nine games this year, with four games of 100+ yards (including three games of 137 or more), and with four touchdowns in all. He also has four games under 60 yards and three games with three or fewer receptions. He has smashed in some difficult matchups and fallen apart in some good matchups. Consider him a volatile play in a matchup that yields low touchdown upside on paper for wide receivers…but with plenty of upside stored in this play as well.

Speaking of volatile plays: DJax has five games this year with four or five targets…and another four games with eight or nine looks. He has failed to crack even 80 receiving yards in five straight games (with only one touchdown in this stretch), but he also showed the high end of his range early in the year, with three touchdowns and three 100-yard games in his first four contests. His floor/ceiling remains in the same range it has been in all year.

Godwin has six or more targets in four of his last five games, but his primary function in this offense is to take shorter-area targets while Evans and DJax work deep. Last week was only the second time all year Godwin cracked 60 yards. As noted all season: his red zone role (nine targets inside the 10 — third most in the league) does give him upside. Naturally, the Giants’ stout red zone defense will make it more difficult to hit that upside.

Humphries will need another unpredictable multi-touchdown game to return more than floor value.

Howard continues to be underutilized (two targets last week — his sixth game already with four or fewer looks), but he carries big upside on his limited looks. The Giants are a middling tight end matchup.

BUCCANEERS RUN OFFENSE

While the Giants have allowed only seven total touchdowns to tight ends and wide receivers, they have given up 13 total touchdowns to running backs — the third most in the league. Otherwise, the Giants have been simply middling against backs — creating an interesting setup for a Bucs team that features the running back position less than any other team in football. Positive running back matchups this year have really done nothing for the box score results of the Bucs’ backs.

Last week, with Ronald Jones on the sidelines, the Bucs gave 33 running back snaps to Peyton Barber, 26 to Jacquizz Rodgers, and 10 to Shaun Wilson. Barber has yet to top 85 rushing yards in a game this year, and he has only one game with more than nine receiving yards. Wilson was a non-factor, with three touches and three yards. The biggest factor was Quizz, who saw only one carry, but who turned eight targets into an 8-103-0 line through the air. This was a fluky output, with Quizz failing to top even 25 receiving yards in any other game this year.

GIANTS PASS OFFENSE

As noted recently: the closest comp for the Tampa pass defense is the Atlanta pass D, as each team attempts to force shorter passes and tackle well after the catch, but each team is getting burned by their high catch rate allowed. Entering this week, Tampa ranks 32nd in completion percentage allowed (Atlanta ranks 30th), and Tampa ranks 29th in yards allowed per pass attempt (Atlanta ranks 27th). Tampa is especially suffering from their lack of pass rush (23rd in sacks; Atlanta ranks 28th), and they are a great setup for Eli Manning, who is working with the best completion rate of his career, but is failing to get anything going downfield. As we noted when the Giants played Atlanta in Week 7: this type of matchup is perfect for the 2018 version of Eli. In that spot, he threw for 399 yards — though he disappointingly notched only one touchdown. Even against a Tampa defense that ranks 32nd in opponent red zone touchdown rate (Atlanta ranks 30th), there will be at least slight concerns that this passing attack will struggle to push the ball into the end zone.

With all the jokes that can be made about the Giants this year, one thing to their credit is their usage of Odell Beckham, who has seen at least nine targets in every game this year, and who has double-digit looks in seven consecutive games. Beckham has 100+ yards in each of the five games in which he has caught eight or more passes — and in a pace-up spot against a pass-heavy (volume-producing) opponent that allows the highest catch rate in the NFL, eight or more catches is a fairly safe bet. Beckham quietly ranks fifth in the NFL in red zone targets. The Giants rank 30th in red zone touchdown rate, but they get a boost against the worst red zone defense in football.

Beckham is the clear alpha among wide receivers and tight ends on this team, with 45.33% of the team’s air yards (the second highest mark in the NFL), and with eight games of double-digit targets compared to one such game for the rest of this pass catching corps. The best bet behind him is Sterling Shepard, who has seven or more targets in all but two games this season — and whose aDOT of 9.3 is only a couple clicks behind Beckham’s mark of 10.9. Shepard lacks the YAC upside of Beckham, which has left him shy of 50 yards in five of nine games, but he sees enough opportunities for some big plays to click in place. He has three touchdowns on the year (with only three fewer red zone targets than Beckham), three games of 75 to 80 yards, and one game (vs Atlanta) of 167 yards. He’s a modest-floor, solid-ceiling play.

Wrapping up this passing attack is Evan Engram, who has at least four targets in all five of the games he has played from start to finish, and who has scored a pair of touchdowns. He’s behind Beckham, Barkley, and Shepard for targets — but on the pass-heaviest offense in football, against one of the worst pass defenses in football, there will be some opportunities for him to hit.

GIANTS RUN OFFENSE

Tampa has faced the ninth fewest rush attempts on the year, as teams tend to attack this unit through the air — though this shouldn’t be much of a stumbling block to the value of Saquon Barkley, as the Giants already pass more frequently than any team in football, which has led to Saquon seeing target counts on the year of 6 // 16 // 5 // 8 // 4 // 12 // 10 // 10 // 5. Between the carries and the catches, Saquon has at least 22 touches in six of nine games this season (with only one game below 19 touches). The Bucs have, unsurprisingly, been below-average against pass-catching backs, and the Chiefs are the only team in football that has allowed more total touchdowns to running backs. Expect Saquon to pile up 22+ touches again, with plenty of yardage and touchdown upside along the way.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

While the Bucs’ passing attack always stands out to me in tourneys, Fitz is the only guy I would feel safe with in cash games this week — and there are probably quarterbacks I like more. The Giants have been strong enough in the red zone — particularly against the pass — that I don’t want to try to guess on individual pass catchers here, especially as this has already been a difficult group to nail down all season. With that said: there is always something to be said for building a few stacks around the Tampa passing attack in tourneys, as this group continues to find ways to produce upside most weeks. While this matchup sets up better for scoring upside in the backfield, of course, I’ll be leaving that component of the Bucs alone myself, as this backfield has been unrosterable all season.

On the Giants’ side, I like Eli, though there are quarterbacks with higher upside — and I like Shepard and Engram as decent point-per-dollar floor plays with strong upside for the price. The crown pieces on this side of the ball, however, are OBJ and Saquon. Each guy pops off the page to me early in the week as a strong play, with plenty of floor and ceiling in this matchup. With all the passing that the Giants do — and with all the passing that Tampa forces opponents to do — there will be lots of opportunities for these two to pile up receptions, and to pile up yards after the catch along the way.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 18th 1:00pm Eastern

Titans (
24.5) at

Colts (
25.5)

Over/Under 50.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Titans Run D
16th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
22nd DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Titans Pass D
24th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
15th DVOA/10th Yards per pass
Colts Run D
6th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O
11th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O
2nd DVOA/16th Yards per pass

TITANS // COLTS OVERVIEW

The “find a way to win” Titans are now sitting at 5-4 after their dominant home victory over the Patriots, and they will travel to Indy this week to take on a 4-5 Colts team that has won three straight since their loss to the Jets. This division is wide open, with the 6-3 Texans in the lead but carrying plenty of question marks of their own — setting this up as an important game for each franchise moving forward.

Indianapolis and Tennessee have gotten here in completely different ways, with the Colts ranking first in the NFL in pace of play while the Titans rank 31st. Early in the season, the Colts were also the most pass-heavy unit in the NFL, though they have leaned more on the run lately with the emergence of Marlon Mack. The Titans, unsurprisingly, throw the ball at the second lowest rate in the NFL.

Indy has the more attackable defense, as they rank 23rd in yards allowed per game and 26th in points allowed per game, while Tennessee ranks sixth in yards allowed and first in points allowed — on the strength of the best red zone touchdown defense in football. Tennessee has allowed the fourth fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, they are one of only two teams that has not yet allowed a tight end touchdown, and their three touchdowns allowed to running backs is the best mark in the league. The Titans have been most attackable with wide receivers — allowing a middling mark of 11 touchdowns (with seven of these allowed by Malcolm Butler).

Unsurprisingly, Vegas has sided with the home team in this spot, installing the Colts as two point favorites. In keeping with a seeming theme in this week’s slate: this game has an aggressive Over/Under of 49.0 — a mark that no Titans game has topped all year…but that five of the last six Colts games have topped. The Colts have recently allowed 26 points to the Jags, 28 points to the Raiders, and 42 points to the Jets. They have scored 29 or more points in five of their last six games, and they quietly rank sixth in the NFL in points per game.

TITANS PASS OFFENSE

The Colts have tried to establish a Tampa 2 foundation on defense — relying on speed to get to the quarterback and force throws before the coverage breaks down. Much like Dan Quinn in Atlanta: Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus will take speed over size at every position except defensive tackle — and while this defense still needs some more pieces before they can be “good,” there are a few things they are doing well already, with no team in the NFL forcing a lower aDOT than this squad. Much like the Tampa defense itself, however, the Colts are allowing an enormous catch rate (Tampa is the only team allowing a higher rate of completed passes), which is still leading to the Colts ranking 25th in yards allowed per pass attempt, in spite of the low aDOT.

Downfield passing has not been a huge part of the Titans’ attack this year, with Marcus Mariota notching a middling average intended air yards of 7.8, and with alpha Corey Davis ranking third in the NFL in percentage share of team air yards in spite of an average depth of target of only 10.1.

Coming off the monster showing last week against New England (7-125-1 on 10 targets), it is worth noting that Davis also saw 10 targets in Week 9 against a Cowboys team that — similar to Indy — allows a big increase in catch rate. In that game, he went 6-56-0. Davis has seven or more targets in six of his nine games this season, with his dips below seven targets coming against Baltimore, Buffalo, and Jacksonville, so he is a very safe bet for seven or more targets, with something like eight to 10 looks his expected range. Given the high catch rate Indy allows, he’ll carry nice floor this week — though while upside is present, it is no guarantee.

Further solidifying Davis’ floor is the total lack of involvement for pass catchers behind him. Tajae Sharpe has topped four targets and 33 receiving yards only once all season; Taywan Taylor is on track to miss again, but even if he plays, he has not topped two targets in a month and a half; Cameron Batson went 2-36-0 last week on three targets in Taylor’s absence; and Jonnu Smith — in spite of back-to-back games with a touchdown — has not topped three targets in a game all season. (Indy has allowed the ninth most receptions and the seventh most yards to tight ends, if you want to bet on the idea that Jonnu’s role is still growing in this offense, which is not an outlandish idea.)

TITANS RUN OFFENSE

Although he disappointed in the box score last week, Dion Lewis played 49 out of 65 snaps for the Titans (75.4%), while Derrick Henry played only 14 snaps in a game the Titans controlled throughout — one week after playing only 14 of 70 snaps and ceding 59 to Lewis. Until further notice, Lewis is operating as the clear lead back on this run-heavy team.

Indy has been solid against the run — ranking 10th in adjusted line yards and seventh in fewest yards allowed per carry. The Colts have allowed only six total touchdowns to running backs (the eighth best mark in the league), though they have allowed the third most receptions to the position, creating opportunity for Lewis to carry strong floor in this spot (recent target counts of 9 // 4 // 2 // 6 // 4 // 2), with some yardage and touchdown upside mixed in.

Henry, of course, remains a “hope for multiple touchdowns” option, as he has yet to top even 60 rushing yards in a game.

COLTS PASS OFFENSE

Although the Titans have been tremendous in the red zone this year, they have been susceptible to quality receivers, with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Alshon Jeffery, Tyrell Williams, and Julian Edelman all topping 100 yards against them, as part of a fairly soft passing schedule that has included games against the Dolphins, Jaguars, Bills, and Cowboys. With Tennessee playing such tremendous defense in the red zone, they have allowed the second fewest passing touchdowns in the league this year — which has put a cap on upside against them. But with Andrew Luck entering this game with an incredible three or more passing touchdowns in six straight games (including matchups against Jacksonville and Buffalo), there will still be opportunity for this passing attack as a whole to produce.

The issue in targeting this passing attack, of course, is that the yards and the touchdowns do not always match up on this squad. On the season, Luck has 26 passing touchdowns, but T.Y. Hilton (who leads all wide receivers on this team with 430 receiving yards) has scored only four of those touchdowns…while Eric Ebron has scored four total touchdowns across his last two games, in spite of playing only 38 snaps (28.6%) and piling up only six catches for 106 yards in that stretch.

Hilton has target counts of only 4 // 5 // 7 since returning from his injury (after seeing double-digit looks in each of his first three games on the year), and only eight teams have allowed fewer pass plays of 20+ yards than the Titans, making this a difficult spot for Hilton to hit for huge upside. Naturally, Hilton’s speed on the turf gives him a chance to hit in any matchup if the targets are there, but he cannot be considered a high-floor play at the moment.

Behind Hilton, Ryan Grant played only 28 snaps last week in his return from injury and saw only one target. If he returns to his early-season role, he’ll regain some possession looks, with a shot at going something like 4-45-0. He would need to regain his role and score a touchdown to truly provide value.

Dontrelle Inman saw another four targets last week but played only 18 snaps. Chester Rogers has back-to-back games of only one target.

Of course, this passing attack is flowing through the tight ends more than ever before, with Jack Doyle playing 48 of 55 snaps last week and Mo Alie-Cox outsnapping Ebron 23 to 21. Doyle has seven and three targets since returning and should be in line for five to seven looks in this difficult spot. Alie-Cox saw four targets last week, but it was the first time all season he had topped two looks in a game.

COLTS RUN OFFENSE

The Titans have been solid against the run this season, allowing a respectable 3.89 yards per carry to running backs while allowing the fewest running back touchdowns in the NFL. The Titans rank top 12 in fewest rushing yards allowed to backs, and only two teams have allowed fewer receiving yards to the position.

The Colts’ backfield belongs to Mack right now, as he has played 61.7% of the team’s snaps across their last two games, with touch counts across his last three contests of 21 // 27 // 14. Mack is steadily seeing two to four targets each game, which gives him a little more upside than pure “yardage and touchdown backs,” and his ability to score from anywhere on the field gives him upside as well. The matchup, of course, does not set up in his favor.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

On the Titans’ side, I like Corey Davis as a guy who doesn’t pop off the page, given the inconsistency of this passing attack, but who carries solid floor and a strong shot at upside. If he were featured like a true alpha, he has the talent to warrant a top-end price tag — so with double-digit target potential, he’s very much worth considering. Alongside Davis, Mariota is interesting as a salary saver with upside. The Colts’ zone-heavy defense is not conducive to big quarterback rushing lines (only four teams have allowed fewer rushing yards to the position), but the high completion rate allowed by the Colts opens opportunities for things to hit for quarterbacks. This offense wraps up with Dion Lewis — who doesn’t pop the way he did last week in a matchup that set up better for him, but whose workload (recent touch counts of 19 // 23 // 22) still makes him one of the more underpriced plays on the slate, at under 10% of the salary cap on all three sites.

On the Colts’ side: I see this passing attack as an interesting unit to “stack multiple ways” in large-field tourneys, as it is likely that one or two pieces hit given how well Luck has played lately. But with this team spreading around targets and this matchup setting up poorly for tight ends, it will be difficult to do more than simply guess on the right plays on this attack — likely leaving it out of Main Build consideration for me. As for Mack in the Colts’ backfield: I’ll likely mix him onto a few large-field tourney builds, as he is the kind of explosive player who can post a big game in a difficult matchup with a couple long plays — but he’s not a standout piece this week, with the matchup setting up poorly for touchdown upside and for production on the ground.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 18th 1:00pm Eastern

Steelers (
25.5) at

Jaguars (
21.5)

Over/Under 47.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Steelers Run D
1st DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
17th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
8th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
21st DVOA/19th Yards per pass
Jaguars Run D
22nd DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
14th DVOA/11th Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
32nd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
12th DVOA/23rd Yards per pass

STEELERS // JAGUARS OVERVIEW

This game was originally slated for Sunday Night Football — with the schedule-makers naturally expecting this to be an important mid-season tilt for each squad. But while the Steelers have won five in a row and sit alone atop the challenging AFC North, the Jaguars have lost five consecutive games, and they sit in last place in one of the NFL’s softer divisions.

Frustratingly for Jaguars fans, this defense has still allowed the third fewest yards per game in the NFL — and even with the sacks falling off (Jacksonville ranks 27th in sacks), and the turnovers falling off (Jacksonville has the sixth fewest takeaways in the league), and the offense giving the ball away 19 times (the fifth most giveaways in the league), this defense ranks 10th in fewest points allowed per game. Only six teams are allowing fewer fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Only one team has given up fewer receptions to wide receivers. No team has allowed fewer yards or touchdowns to wideouts. The Jaguars have especially suffered from their inability to run the ball — and while that appears to finally be solved with Leonard Fournette back on the field, this may not be a great week for the Jags to shine in this area against a Pittsburgh team that has allowed the third fewest rushing yards in the league to running backs.

As for the Steelers: they have righted the ship on defense after a rough start to the year — now allowing the eighth fewest yards and the 13th fewest points per game, while tying for the league lead in sacks. On offense, Pittsburgh has been unsurprisingly spectacular, racking up the fourth most yards per game and the fourth most points per game in the league.

In spite of this game being played in Jacksonville, the Steelers have been installed as six point favorites, in a game with a healthy Over/Under of 47.0. This might be moving a bit too far into conjecture, but while the Jags have the talent to turn things around (it was no fluke last year that they reached the AFC Championship and should have reached the Super Bowl), “players’ coaches” tend to get more out of their players deep into a potentially lost season than hard-nosed coaches like Doug Marrone. While teams like the 49ers, Falcons, Seahawks, and Eagles are visibly continuing to play hard each week, teams like the Lions and Jags — teams with hard-driving coaches and a losing record — are starting to show lack of sharpness on Sundays. To be clear: every NFL player comes to play on game day; but without a strong week of preparation, it is difficult to generate results when the weekend arrives.

STEELERS PASS OFFENSE

Ten weeks into the season, there are only two teams in football that are allowing a lower catch rate than the Jaguars, and there are only two teams allowing a lower YAC/R rate as well. Only two teams have allowed fewer pass plays of 20+ yards than the Jags, and — as noted above — no team has allowed fewer yards or touchdowns to the wide receiver position. This week, the Jags return stud corner A.J. Bouye opposite Jalen Ramsey, creating a tough spot for Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Those are the names to highlight, of course, as these two receivers have combined for over 63% of the Steelers’ air yards to date, with AB ranked fifth in the NFL in targets per game, and with JuJu ranked 13th — essentially creating a situation in which each guy is seeing a WR1 workload. JuJu has fallen below eight targets only three times, while AB has fallen shy of eight targets twice.

Those lower-target games for these two have primarily come in lower-volume games for this passing attack as a whole, with