Week 12 Matchups

Hey, fam! — with some travel complications popping up on my end this last weekend, I wasn’t able to put together my roster thoughts before kickoff. In the Roster Recap below, I walk through my decisions from Week 11, and I also walk through some thoughts on process, sticking to your research, and finding (and sticking to) your style of play. I learned a lot about my own process and play in my post-slate study on Sunday night, and if you are looking to improve your own process and play, I encourage you to carve out some time to watch or listen to the video this week. These thoughts will likely contribute to your gains as a process-driven player.


Once we get past the excitement of the Thanksgiving slate this week, we are left with an odd Main Slate — with the highest Over/Under belonging to a game between two teams that have combined for a 5-15 record, and with the next highest game total belonging to a pair of 5-5 teams (the Dolphins and Colts). No other game on the Main Slate has an Over/Under of 50.0 or higher, which is leaving us with a lot of “plays to like okay,” but with very few plays to truly fall in love with.

On a week like this, the best approach is often to A) not overthink things, and to B) trust the research rather than falling in love with Name Value. Oftentimes, we see ownership congregate on the comfortable plays on weeks like this, regardless of whether these “comfortable plays” are the “best plays” or not. This can provide a big edge for us if we can break out of this pattern.

With so much going on this weekend for most of us (and for most of our competition!), try to carve out some time to dedicate to serious roster construction. Treat this week like a One Week Season — and see what you are able to come up with as you hunt for ways to pile as much floor and ceiling onto a single roster as you can.

Happy Thanksgiving, fam.

And happy hunting on this slate!

*


Kickoff Thursday, Nov 22nd 12:30pm Eastern

Bears (
23) at

Lions (
20)

Over/Under 43.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bears Run D
11th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
13th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Bears Pass D
2nd DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
Lions Run D
30th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O
28th DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
12th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O
24th DVOA/25th Yards per pass

BEARS // LIONS OVERVIEW

Imagine being John Fox. It’s not quite like being Jeff Fisher, but Fox — the picture of a coach who “played to not lose” rather than playing to win — watched the Broncos win a Super Bowl the year after he left their sidelines (to make matters worse: the Broncos won with Peyton Manning in steep decline, after Fox failed to win it all with Manning-on-fire), and then he went 6-10, 3-13, and 5-11 with the Bears. Much like Sean McVay on the Rams last season, Matt Nagy has entered the picture and led the Bears to a 7-3 record, with their Week 11 win over the Vikings giving them a clear shot at first place in the tough NFC North.

The story has not been so pretty on other side, where Matt Patricia was supposed to “push the Lions over the top” after they went 9-7 each of the last two years. The Lions are now in the basement of the NFC North, at 4-6. Detroit has wins against the Patriots, Packers, and Panthers, but they have also taken losses against the 49ers and the Jets.

Each team in this game slows down the pace and aims to control the clock (both the Lions and the Bears rank top six in time of possession), and each offense ranks middle of the pack in yards per game (though the Bears rank sixth in points per game). The Bears’ offense leans on the run (fifth lowest pass play rate), while the Lions have shown run-leaning tendencies, but have been unable to keep this up with their defense playing so poorly. With Kerryon Johnson set to miss this week and the Bears boasting the number one run defense in football, expect the Lions to skew toward the pass this week.

Vegas is giving Detroit a substantial home team bump, with the Bears favored by only four points, in a game with a middling total of 45.0. When these teams met two weeks ago in Chicago, the Bears won 34-22. The Lions had Marvin Jones for much of that game, and they had Kerryon for all of it. To give the Lions some credit: they have gone 3-1 in their last four home games — with those wins against the Patriots, Packers, and Panthers.

BEARS PASS OFFENSE

The Lions have allowed an increase of more than 19% on the league-average aDOT — the worst mark in the league — and they have also allowed an increase of more than 5% on the league-average catch rate, leading to the NFL’s worst yards allowed per pass attempt. The only reason the Lions’ season-long numbers against the pass don’t look worse (10th most fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks // fewer passing yards allowed per game than half the league) is because only three teams have faced a lower opponent pass play rate, as opponents have generally chosen to attack Detroit on the ground. The Lions have faced the second fewest pass attempts in the NFL…and they have given up the fifth most passing touchdowns.

(Note: Since completing this writeup, it has begun to look less and less likely that Mitchell Trubisky will be able to play in this game. If he misses, it will be Chase Daniel under center. Daniel has been in the league since 2010, but has started only two games — developing under Sean Payton and Drew Brees early in his career, and playing for Andy Reid and Doug Pederson since then, with Matt Nagy bringing him over to the Bears this season. He has thrown only 78 passes in his entire NFL career, but he is very familiar with this system and should be able to run it without major issues. The Bears will likely go more run-heavy early, but the Lions will likely be ready for this, which could force the Bears to win with Daniel. He’s less exciting than Trubisky would have been, but there will still be opportunity for one or two of the pass catchers to be useful. One thing to look for in a spot like this is average separation for pass catchers, as this can make life easier on a backup QB. Gabriel leads wide receivers on this team in separation, at 3.5 yards, followed by Miller (2.8) and Robinson (1.9). Burton also has an average separation of 3.5 yards.)

Across the Bears’ last seven games, Mitchell Trubisky has topped 31 pass attempts only once, but he has piled up six or more rush attempts four times in that stretch, with rushing totals of 3 // 3 // 1 in his other three contests. Trubisky is averaging 7.1 yards per rush attempt, and in spite of taking off 21 fewer times than Cam Newton, he has out-rushed Cam by 34 yards on the season. With that said: the Lions have allowed the fewest quarterback rushing yards in the league — including holding Trubisky to his third lowest output of the year, and holding Cam to only two yards on two carries last weekend. Trubisky’s strange season includes four games of 300+ passing yards and six games of 220 or fewer passing yards, with no games in between. Given that the Lions are the only team in football allowing nine yards per pass attempt, even a 30 attempt game from Trubisky will give him a solid shot at adding a fifth game of 300+.

With passing volume so limited on the Bears, production from wide receivers has been unpredictable. Allen Robinson has topped seven targets only twice (an eight target game against the Lions, who were missing Darius Slay, and a 14 target game way back in Week 2); Anthony Miller has topped 50 yards only once (and has cracked 40 yards only twice); and Taylor Gabriel has sandwiched his 100-yard efforts with a season full of sub-53-yard games.

Box-score-watchers are likeliest to gravitate toward A-Rob, as he has posted more solid stat lines this year, and he is the safer-feeling name (he also blasted this Lions team just two weeks ago); but it is worth noting that Robinson is averaging only 1.15 more targets per game than Gabriel, and they have identical aDOTs of 12.3. Gabriel has five red zone targets, including four looks inside the 10. Robinson has eight red zone targets, with three looks inside the 10. Robinson is the better player, and while he is likelier to draw coverage from Slay, the Lions’ star corner has had an inconsistent season. If we played out this slate a hundred times, we would likely see more big games from Robinson than from Gabriel; but it would be much closer than most would imagine. The Lions may have the worst defensive backfield in football away from Slay, giving Gabriel a premium draw, and making him an upside play on the Thanksgiving slate. Gabriel has the highest catch rate and the highest xYAC/R among Bears wide receivers.

Miller lines up in the slot on 72% of his snaps, putting him in a different category than the other two — but he has started seeing enough work downfield lately that his aDOT has actually risen to 12.2 (compared to the 12.3 mark for Robinson and Gabriel). Miller has also seen eight red zone targets and three targets inside the 10, giving him sneaky opportunity to post the highest score among wide receivers on this team as well. You can go into this game expecting each of these receivers to see five to eight targets, with roughly equal opportunity to hit on these looks. Miller is still a bit raw, but he may be the most talented all-around player in this bunch.

With these three soaking up most of the action, Trey Burton has seen recent target counts of only 4 // 3 // 4 // 1. The Lions are a middling matchup against tight ends, leaving Burton as a “hope for touchdown” or “hope for a spike in usage” play.

BEARS RUN OFFENSE

One reason to believe the Bears’ passing attack might land on higher volume than normal is the continual strengthening of this Lions run D, after Christian McCaffrey went for only 53 yards on 13 carries (4.1 YPC) last week. Rushing lines against this team since they traded for Snacks Harrison now look like this (if we take away the 70-yard run Dalvin Cook had against this squad) —

19-50-1 to Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook
35-138-1 to Chris Carson and Mike Davis
18-36-0 to Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen
13-53-0 to Christian McCaffrey

As noted each of the last few weeks: this team will still have some issues on the second level, opening opportunities for big gains. But they are winning at the line of scrimmage more often these days, and are making it difficult for running backs to pop for those big gains.

Jordan Howard has still not topped 82 yards in a game, and he has three total receptions across his last seven games. He’ll need a totally busted play or a multi-touchdown game to return value.

Tarik Cohen is the better bet for an explosive play, but he has topped seven carries only once this season, and his targets are never guaranteed. He has a solid shot at seeing around five to seven targets this week, if you want to bet that he can bust one of those for a long play.

LIONS OFFENSE

The Bears have been a difficult matchup for quarterbacks this year, ranking near the top of the league in DVOA and allowing the third fewest yards per pass attempt in the league. Brock Osweiler (of all people) is the only quarterback to pass for 300 yards against the Bears this year (most of which came on short passes and yards after the catch), and this team has racked up the most interceptions and the fifth most sacks in the league. Volume should be on the side of Matthew Stafford and this passing attack, as Kerryon is going to miss this game, and neither LeGarrette Blount nor Theo Riddick is capable of making a difference between the tackles against the best run defense in the league; but Stafford will have to battle all game to move up and down the field — especially with Marvin Jones set to miss.

Last week with Jones on the sidelines, targets on the Lions looked like this:

:: Kenny Golladay — 14
:: Bruce Ellington — 9
:: T.J. Jones — 1
:: Luke Willson — 1
:: Theo Riddick — 7
:: Kerryon Johnson — 2

Riddick played only eight snaps at wide receiver, while Ellington filled in for 33 snaps, with 20 coming in the slot. Ellington is not an impact player, but he is serviceable, and with a snap rate around 50%, he’ll have a chance to pile up five to seven targets again, with outside potential for more. As a slot receiver, he is often in position to be the second downfield read when Golladay is too covered to throw to, giving him a leg up on T.J. (who played 45 snaps last week, but is being schemed no looks in this offense).

As noted last week: Golladay will see his targets regardless, as Stafford has essentially rolled his Golladay/Marvin throws into one. The Bears have allowed the eighth fewest receiving yards to running backs and the fifth fewest receptions to tight ends, but only four teams have allowed more catches to wide receivers. Vic Fangio and the Bears will do what they can to make throws to Golladay as difficult as possible, but another 10+ looks is in the cards here, and Golladay should be able to haul in around 50% of this targets, giving him more than enough usage to matter on this slate.

The Lions’ best backfield alignment will have Riddick playing heavy snaps and taking a few carries throughout the game while remaining heavily involved in the pass game. His yardage upside is limited outside of broken plays, but his workload is secure, giving him a strong floor for the price.

Blount should see some touches that waste everyone’s time (he is averaging a check-for-typo 2.3 yards per carry on the season, and last week he managed one yard on seven totes), and Zach Zenner may mix in for some work as well. It’s unlikely that either guy tops 30 to 40 rushing yards even with eight to 10 carries, so multiple touchdowns would be required for them to be more than a crater on your roster.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Most of the pass game attention on the Thanksgiving slate will (rightfully) land on the Falcons // Saints game at night, but in tourneys, keep in mind that Trubisky (while doing so with a much lower floor) has shown the same ceiling this year as Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. On paper, he’s the third best option, but his upside makes him a definitely-interesting piece.

There is a case to be made for playing just about anyone on a three-game slate, but in terms of “best plays,” no one from this passing attack pops, as it’s a low-volume unit that spreads the ball around; but it is likely that at least one player in this group (the three wide receivers and Burton) will post a strong game — and in this matchup, it’s certainly not crazy to think one of them will end up with a big game. Regression Analysis points to Gabriel as the best play of the bunch, given that all three wide receivers have the same aDOT and red zone role, and Gabriel has the highest catch rate and the highest xYAC/R — though in the small sample size of a single game, any of the three could come out on top. If I play this slate (I always think I won’t…and then I end up putting in a team on Thursday morning and being happy that I did), I’ll consider all three guys in tourneys, and I won’t be surprised if I end up taking a shot on one.

Burton and Cohen are worth tourney shots for their upside, but neither guy pops off the page beyond that.

On paper, Stafford is a worse play than at least three other quarterbacks on the Thanksgiving slate, but something like 260 yards and a pair of touchdowns is his likeliest outcome in what is guaranteed to be a pass-leaning approach for this offense. It wouldn’t be crazy to think he could find a broken play in there to add another 40 yards and an additional score.

Among his pass catchers, Golladay is the clear and obvious top play, but Ellington could also prove to be worthwhile as the number two option. Ellington was not targeted on a single “upside” route last week (eight of his nine looks came within six yards of the line of scrimmage, and he was moving toward the sideline on his only “downfield” route — a 10-yard out), but his price tag could allow you to unlock some higher-priced plays elsewhere on your roster, and he could provide upside with a touchdown while providing what should be a decent price-considered floor either way. Obviously, this assumption is based off only one week of usage, but this team has shown no inclination to involve T.J. Jones, and Ellington is the only other body out there.

Riddick is also interesting for his floor, but he’ll need a touchdown or a broken play to hit for upside against a defense that erases running backs.

Other players on this team could land a random touchdown, but they are unlikely to add enough yardage to their unpredictable score to become truly useful.


Kickoff Thursday, Nov 22nd 4:30pm Eastern

WFT (
16.75) at

Cowboys (
23.75)

Over/Under 40.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Washington Run D
17th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O
18th DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Washington Pass D
6th DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O
22nd DVOA/1st Yards per pass
Cowboys Run D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Washington Run O
21st DVOA/25th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D
21st DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Washington Pass O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per pass

REDSKINS // COWBOYS OVERVIEW

As Jason Garrett makes a push for his job and another year of mediocrity in Dallas, this game shapes up as an important tilt in the still-wide-open NFC East, with the 5-5 Cowboys hosting the 6-4 Redskins. From what I’ve heard from Cowboys fans and how ready they are for change, it might be better for the Cowboys to lose this game and be in worse shape for the playoffs — but this injury-ravaged Washington team will do its best to make life easy on their rivals, and we could have a first place tie when this game wraps up.

Both of these teams rank near the bottom of the league in pace of play and pass play rate, and each team has featured a below-average number of total plays per game, with Washington ranking middle of the pack in plays per game and the Cowboys ranking near the bottom of the league, and with both sides allowing a below-average number of opponent plays per game. This is an anti-shootout environment, with neither team capable of (or interested in) quick strikes. Expect a tight, methodical game on either side of the ball — old school football that, in a way, is a perfect fit for one of our country’s strangest (and most classic) holidays.

Vegas has seemingly overrated the impact of the loss of Alex Smith, as they have installed the Cowboys as healthy 7.5 point favorites to kick off the week. This game carries a depressingly low Over/Under of 40.5 — and given that Dallas has allowed the third fewest points per game and Washington has scored the sixth fewest points per game, it’s not crazy to think that this game could fail to reach even that mark. When these teams played in Washington a few weeks back, the Redskins won 20-17.

REDSKINS PASS OFFENSE

As noted last week, the Cowboys have been average against the pass — with season-long numbers that look better than the per-play reality, as this team shortens games, and opponents have chosen to attack on the ground rather than attacking through the air (a confusing setup, given that Dallas is allowing the third fewest yards per carry in the league). Two weeks ago the Eagles flipped the script and threw on 75% of their plays, setting up Carson Wentz to throw for 360 yards, and last week the Falcons threw on 67% of their plays, setting up Matt Ryan to throw for 291 yards (the league-average pass play rate so far this year is 59.4%).

Of course, Colt McCoy is not Wentz or Ryan, and the Washington passing attack is nothing like the passing attacks of the Eagles or the Falcons. Even with Alex Smith under center, this team ranked 29th in yards per pass attempt, 25th in passing yards per game, and 27th in passing touchdowns. In spite of the Cowboys playing most of the year with backup wide receivers and tight ends and the least creative play-calling in the NFL, this team has chugged to a 5-5 record in large part due to a defense that ranks third in red zone touchdown rate allowed. No team in football has allowed fewer passing touchdowns than the Cowboys.

Even on a three-game slate, we could probably wrap this writeup there, but since I am a detail-oriented perfectionist, I have to keep writing even if no one keeps reading…

My forever-favorite description of Colt McCoy is the oft-used RotoWorld tag of “popgun-armed” (a term they apply rarely — but have been using for years for McCoy). In his four starts (and a few other appearances) for Washington over the last four years, McCoy has a strong completion rate of 68.9%, with a respectable line of six touchdowns, three interceptions, and a yards per pass attempt of 8.2 (compared to Smith’s pathetic mark this year of 6.6). To frame that another way: McCoy is not “bad” (he’s not an NFL starter, but he’s one of the better backups in the league), and he should be able to match what Smith was doing in this offense before him (with a few more turnovers down the stretch, but also with a few more aggressive throws). Of course, what Smith was doing was not much.

The most exciting piece on the Redskins is Jordan Reed, who went 7-71-1 last week on 11 targets and has a matchup this week against a Cowboys team that has been below-average against tight ends, allowing the fifth most catches and the 15th most yards to the position. It should be pointed out, however, that Reed’s route tree did not change at all last week, and he will continue to struggle for true upside. Six of his seven catches this last week carried him toward the sideline, rather than carrying him up the field.

The next most exciting piece is upside rookie slot receiver Trey Quinn, who was finally activated from I.R. this last week and drew the start in the slot — playing 53 out of 75 snaps and kicking Maurice Harris to the outside. Quinn went 4-49-0 on only four targets and has a chance to see more work this week.

On the outside, Josh Doctson will try to top 50 yards for the first time all year, and Harris will try to top 42 yards for the first time all year.

REDSKINS RUN OFFENSE

Only nine teams have leaned on the run more often than the Redskins — and the only reason they don’t rank even higher in rush play rate is because they sometimes fall behind and are forced to throw. Last week against the Texans’ number four run defense, this squad still ran the ball at a league-average rate, and a similar expectation should be in line in this spot. When these teams last met, Adrian Peterson managed 99 yards on 24 carries (4.1 YPC — aided by a 23 yarder that bumped him up from 3.3 YPC on his other 23 totes). Peterson has seven total catches across his last six games, so he will need a multi-touchdown game (or a complete breakdown from the Cowboys’ defense) to become truly useful in this spot.

COWBOYS PASS OFFENSE

As we talk about every week in this space, Washington’s pass defense forces short throws (only four teams have allowed a lower aDOT than the Redskins), but they allow an above-average catch rate and an above-average YAC/R rate, which has led to them ranking middle of the pack in yards allowed per pass attempt, while sitting right in the middle of the league in fantasy points allowed per game to the quarterback position.

Dak Prescott has played serviceable but unspectacular football since a rough start to the season, finishing between 240 and 275 passing yards in four of his last seven games, while rushing for 30+ yards three times in that stretch. The Cowboys rarely use Dak on designed runs; he has only 11 passing touchdowns on the season; and it is all but guaranteed that he will not top 300 yards through the air; but with his rushing work and his respectable 64.6% completion rate, he should finish with non-poor production once again. He has a 7:1 TD:INT ratio at home, compared to 4:4 on the road, and he has averaged 7.6 YPA at home compared to 6.7 on the road.

Last week against a Falcons team that tries to force short-area throws, Amari Cooper saw only five targets (after averaging nine targets in his first two games with the Cowboys) — but more troublesome was the usage on these looks, as Amari was not targeted more than 10 yards downfield, and he was stuck running hitches that completely limited his upside. If his usage looks like this again this week, it will be difficult for him to pile up yards. With Quinton Dunbar likely out, we may also see Amari shadowed by Josh Norman, who has been playing well lately.

The Cowboys will likely look to use Cole Beasley to exploit Washington over the middle, where he was able to rack up 7-56-0 on eight targets a few weeks back (before Amari joined the team), though this defense continues to improve on passes in the short area of the field, making upside difficult to come by. Beasley should provide floor, but upside will require a busted coverage or a touchdown. Beasley has a non-awful eight targets in the red zone through 10 games, giving him a slim chance at posting an above-average point-per-dollar score.

Thoughts go out to Michael Gallup, who was informed after the game on Sunday that his brother had taken his own life. Gallup is from the Atlanta area and stayed behind after the game in Atlanta on Sunday to be with his family; he likely won’t practice this week, but he has expressed a desire to play. While it seems silly to translate this to DFS, there is a narrative here that the Cowboys will try to get him involved (some of you will recall the Torrey Smith two-touchdown blowup game against the Patriots after his brother died in a motorcycle accident — back in 2012). Obviously, the main focus for the Cowboys will be on winning this important game, but Gallup may see a couple extra “upside” opportunities. Optimism would be higher if he were attached to a coaching staff that knew how to use Amari/Zeke to draw attention away from Gallup to scheme him open. Outside of the narrative: Gallup has topped 51 yards only once this season, and he has not yet topped three receptions. If Gallup misses this game, Allen Hurns will return to the field for heavier snaps, and he will be fourth in line for targets behind Amari // Zeke // Beasley.

COWBOYS RUN OFFENSE

Washington presents defensive looks that tend to chase opponents away from the run — leading to this squad facing the fifth lowest rush play rate in the league — but on a per-play basis, they have been merely middling, ranking 14th in yards allowed per carry. They clamped down on Zeke the last time these teams played, holding him to 33 yards on 15 attempts (2.2 YPC), and even allowing only two receptions to him on six targets. With Washington able to trust Norman on Amari, we should expect this team to focus first and foremost on Zeke once again — creating a tougher-than-normal spot for the Cowboys’ star back — but we should also expect the Cowboys to lean heavily on Zeke at home, with somewhere in the range of 25 to 30 touches a serious likelihood  (he has landed in this range in five of his last seven games). If this game were on the Main Slate, Zeke would be an afterthought, but his workload makes him part of the conversation in a tough matchup on the short slate.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Even on a three-game slate, nothing on the Redskins stands out to me — and while there is obviously a case to be made for going off the board on a slate this small, we should recognize that enough people will have this idea that we’ll still probably see something like 4% to 7% ownership on guys like Doctson and Harris, with Adrian Peterson probably climbing above 10% and Colt McCoy even grabbing some attention. (To be clear: I’m no ownership guru; but I know enough about the public’s DFS mindset to expect people to think they are being sneaky by rostering these low-upside plays.) These guys are all in the “anything can happen in the NFL” discussion — but they are so unlikely to be more valuable than the other pieces you could grab, I would need them to be probably 1% or 2% owned before having interest myself.

Reed is the best play, but he’s not as good as most people will think, as another seven-target game would put him right back in the 4-40-0 range he has been in all season. If his targets rise again, or if he scores a touchdown, he’ll become a useful piece; but since his actual usage in this offense hasn’t changed, expectations should be kept in line with what he has done all year.

Quinn is in the conversation with Bruce Ellington, Taylor Gabriel, and Anthony Miller as cheap guys who could open up salary and maybe post a decent to above-average line. I prefer the upside on Gabriel and Miller, but Quinn will almost certainly post some useful price-considered games down the stretch.

With the upside of Brees/Ryan available on Thanksgiving night, I can’t imagine myself going to Dak if building around a tight core — but he should post a solid price-considered score this week, and there is a case to be made for taking some floor on Beasley or some ceiling on Amari as well. If Washington sells out to stop Zeke, Amari may be able to beat Norman on an island once or twice…though it would feel more comfortable to make this bet if Amari had a better quarterback and a more well-designed offense around him.

I’m guessing the Gallup narrative will pick up steam — and while the likeliest scenario has him failing to do much once again this week, he’s cheap enough that I don’t mind the play. He just needs a touchdown to be useful.

Zeke is behind Kamara on paper, but his workload should be big, and the upside is evident. Expect something like a 23-point DraftKings/FantasyDraft day and an 18- to 20-point FanDuel day — but his range on either side is fairly broad, as this matchup could lead to another dud, and his usage/talent could push him to a big game. He likely won’t be a priority for me, but on a slate this small he’ll be interesting to consider.


Kickoff Thursday, Nov 22nd 8:20pm Eastern

Falcons (
23.75) at

Saints (
36.75)

Over/Under 60.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Falcons Run D
8th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O
12th DVOA/14th Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
30th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Saints Pass O
14th DVOA/9th Yards per pass
Saints Run D
4th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
26th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
Saints Pass D
15th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
16ths DVOA/3rd Yards per pass

FALCONS // SAINTS OVERVIEW

Most people will be eating bird carcass (shoutout to Levitan for that one) and watching ‘Mouse on the Mayflower’ during the afternoon instead of tuning into the boring early games (bonus points if you remember ‘Mouse on the Mayflower’…), with their football-watching energy saved up for the exciting game on Thursday night between a Saints team scoring an unbelievable 37.8 points per game (most in the NFL) and a Falcons team allowing 27.6 points per game (fourth most in the NFL). New Orleans has tightened up on defense lately, ranking 15th in points allowed per game and allowing only the Rams to top 23 points across their last seven contests. Each of the last seven teams to play the Saints has been held below their season-long point-per-game average; but this is still an exciting matchup, as Atlanta ranks sixth in yards per game and ninth in points per game. The Falcons are the last team to have scored above their season-long point-per-game average against the Saints, when they put up 37 points at home way back in Week 3.

New Orleans has quietly been one of the slowest-paced teams in the league this year, and while I have received constant push-back since Mark Ingram returned and I started preaching that this team would be a run-heavy unit (with excuses made each week for the reasons why the Saints leaned run-heavy that time around), this team now ranks 30th in pass play rate, and Drew Brees has topped 30 pass attempts only one time since Ingram came back from suspension. The Falcons, on the other hand, rank fourth in pass play rate — and with the Saints boasting a top five run defense and regularly playing with a lead, they have faced the fourth highest pass play rate in the NFL. As long as the Saints are able to control this game, expect them to lean run-heavy while the Falcons attack through the air on the other side.

With the Falcons coming off losses to the Browns and Cowboys, and with the Saints riding a nine game win streak (including a dominant home win over the Eagles last week and a tight, exciting win over the 10-1 Rams a few weeks back), Vegas has given a major endorsement to the home team, installing them as 13-point favorites early in the week — the sort of spread that is typically only seen between truly great and truly awful teams. This game has been awarded an Over/Under of 59.5, and the nature of these offenses gives this game a clear shot at reaching that lofty mark.

FALCONS PASS OFFENSE

The Saints have been solid against pass-catching running backs this year — allowing the 12th fewest receiving yards to the position, and allowing only two receiving touchdowns — and they have been nails against the tight end (fifth fewest yards allowed, second fewest receptions allowed, second fewest touchdowns allowed, and an incredibly low 57.6% completion rate to a position that normally notches a higher-than-average catch rate); but the story has been different against wide receivers, where the Saints have given up the third most catches, the second most touchdowns, and the most yards in the league.

As noted last week: Matt Ryan is playing at a near-MVP level this year, notching the second highest completion rate in the NFL, the sixth highest yards per pass attempt, the third most passing yards, and an awesome 22:4 TD:INT ratio. When these teams last met, Ryan threw for 374 yards and five touchdowns — and while the Saints have tightened up since then, and this game will be on the road for Ryan rather than at home, the nature of this matchup should still lead to another strong day. The last time Ryan finished with fewer than 285 passing yards was Week 2. He has six games of 300+ yards in his last eight contests.

Ryan’s primary target this year has been Julio Jones, who not only leads the team in targets (111 — more than Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley combined), but who also ranks second in the NFL in targets per game, first in percentage share of team air yards, and first in total air yards (with a stunning 17.3% more air yards than any other player in football). The last time these teams met, Julio saw only six targets (his only game all season below nine looks), as the Saints prioritized taking him away. This is very much in the wheelhouse of the Saints’ team philosophy, but Julio still went 5-96-0 on these six looks — and in two games against the Saints last year, he saw 11 targets each time, posting lines of 5-98-0 and 7-149-0. Julio still has only six red zone targets and one red zone catch on the year (which came on a wide receiver screen), but he is up to five targets inside the 10, and in addition to his sporadic work close to the end zone, he has the ability to strike from anywhere on the field.

With the Saints prioritizing Julio last time around and erasing Austin Hooper with their sticky tight end coverage (3-23-0 on four looks), Mohamed Sanu was able to chip in a 4-36-1 line on seven targets, and Calvin Ridley disemboweled this team with a career-best 7-146-3 line that shot up his DFS price and his ownership for weeks afterward. Ridley has not topped six catches or 71 yards in any other game — and while he has four red zone scores on the year, he has done so on only five red zone targets, setting him up for regression.

The likeliest outcome in this spot is that Julio sees double-digit looks and tops 100 yards, with touchdowns spread around behind him — but Ridley’s price has finally dropped to a point where he won’t kill you if you chase his upside, and his explosive skill set gives him an outside shot at popping for another huge game. The likeliest scenario also has Sanu running possession-type routes that limit his shot at upside (he has topped 56 yards only twice this season), but every once in a while the Falcons change things up and use Sanu downfield more often than normal. This also seems like a decent spot for a Sanu-pass trick play as the Falcons pull out all the stops to try to keep their season alive against the best team in the NFC (the best team in the NFL?), giving him enough upside opportunities to be considered on the Thanksgiving slate.

Hooper rounds out this passing attack with an up-and-down role that projects to be down in this spot, though he could run into value on a broken play.

FALCONS RUN OFFENSE

The Falcons’ backfield has been unrosterable all season, with Tevin Coleman seeing 13 or fewer carries in six consecutive games, and with only two games all year north of three receptions, while Ito Smith has continued to siphon eight to 11 touches per game across the last four contests for the Falcons and has failed to top 64 total yards in any game this season. A bet on this backfield is a bet on a broken play or a multi-touchdown game.

SAINTS OFFENSE

No team in football has allowed more receptions to running backs than the Falcons. Only one team has allowed more receiving yards to backs. Only one team has allowed more yards per carry. And only three teams have allowed more touchdowns. When these teams played in Week 3 — with Mark Ingram still suspended — Alvin Kamara went nuclear, with 15-124-0 through the air, and with 16-66-0 on the ground.

I have gotten a kick the last couple weeks out of reading/hearing the weekly excuses for why Ingram had a good game, and for why his workload needs to be approached with caution as “Kamara is clearly the lead back at this point.” As we have noted weekly in this space, Ingram’s usage is extremely close to what he carried last year (as expected) — and as with last year (when he had only five games all season north of 14 carries), his touch total is iffy most weeks (giving him a scary floor), while his touchdown upside has made him one of the more exciting (and underpriced) plays on the slate. Through six games, snaps between Ingram and Kamara have looked like this:

Kamara — 31 // 39 // 38 // 41 // 34 // 44
Ingram — 36 // 35 // 23 // 34 // 31 // 30

Kamara has 80 carries and 25 targets in this stretch. Ingram has 79 carries and 13 targets. Each guy is seeing work in the red zone — but in keeping with the overall distribution, Kamara has the slight edge in that area as well. We noted last week that a matchup against Philly’s scary front set up Kamara to see more snaps (in the same way Kamara out-snapped Ingram 38 // 23 vs the Vikings). This week sets up for a close-to-even distribution against the Falcons’ soft front. Ingram already has nine carries inside the five-yard-line — only one fewer than Kamara has on the season. Carries project to be about equal here. Kamara will see more looks through the air.

Last week, the Eagles focused all of their attention on making life difficult on Kamara and Michael Thomas through the air, tilting coverage their way as if Brees would simply force the ball to them regardless. The Saints quickly adjusted by feeding Tre’Quan Smith a career high 13 targets (his previous highs had been 6 // 4 // 3), which he turned into 10-157-1. Expect Tre’Quan to be popular on the Thanksgiving slate, but also realize that the running backs on this team uncharacteristically saw only one target (they had seen 8 // 7 // 11 in the previous three weeks) and Thomas saw only four targets (8 // 15 // 6 in the previous three weeks). The Saints are all about identifying and attacking an opponent’s weakness — and the Falcons’ weakness is not the deep ball (they shave a respectable 4% off the league-average aDOT), but is instead short passes to wide receivers (Thomas’ forte) and passes to running backs (benefitting Kamara first and Ingram second). Expect Thomas to return to somewhere in the range of eight to 11 looks, while Kamara and Ingram should combine for another seven to 10 looks of their own. This will leave around 10 to 15 targets to be spread amongst Tre’Quan, Keith Kirkwood (two and five targets the last two weeks), Austin Carr (two targets in each of the last two games), and the three man tight end rotation of Ben Watson, Josh Hill, and Dan Arnold (five and six targets the last two games). On his possession-like aDOT of 7.9, Thomas is a safe bet for a floor of around 7-70-0, with obvious upside for more catches, more yardage, and a multi-touchdown game (only five teams have allowed more touchdowns to wide receivers than the Falcons, and only DeAndre Hopkins has more targets inside the 10-yard-line than Thomas). The rest of these guys are “hope for a broken play or a touchdown” bets.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Matt Ryan leaps off the page in this matchup — especially on this slate — as he should be able to match Brees blow for blow, and his locked-in volume raises his floor. The only concern here is the aggressive Saints defense that could funnel Ryan into a Wentz-like crater, but given how well this offense has been functioning this year through the air and how familiar Ryan is with this opponent, I won’t be viewing this as a major road block.

Ryan-to-Julio stacks should be popular, and the upside this stack carries is obviously monstrous. It will be difficult for Julio to post one of his true slate-breaking days in this spot, with the attention New Orleans is sure to place on him (and with the thrill that Steve Sarkisian gets out of using Julio as a decoy to spring other pass catchers open), but it will also be difficult for Julio to fail, as we know the Saints will be passing, and we know that Julio will be involved. For me, this offense wraps up with floor/ceiling shots on Ridley and Sanu — with Ridley the likelier bet to hit, but with both guys in play on a slate this size. The floor on these two is lower than we would love, and the ceiling is “less likely” to show itself, but with the Falcons chasing points and this team preferring to spread the ball around in scoring position, there is a better-than-normal chance of each guy posting a solid score this week.

Given the incredible efficiency of Brees this season (77% completion rate) and the incredible efficiency of Thomas (90% catch rate), each guy carries plenty of upside on their limited volume — but realize that every week, we are flooded from the outside with all the reasons why This Will Be The Week in which the Saints’ passing volume rises, and every week this proves to not be the case. As we saw with Philip Rivers and the Chargers last week: outlier spiked-volume weeks can happen for teams that prefer to lean on the run — but unless the Falcons are chasing points, the Saints should only be expected to throw about 30 to 33 times against a team they can easily dominate on the ground. Brees and Thomas are elite plays on this slate, but neither is a lock for a monster game. I like Brees and Ryan just about the same. I like Julio slightly more than Thomas, though it’s easy to make an argument the other way as well (with Julio carrying higher yardage upside, but with Thomas the likelier bet for a multi-score game).

My favorite plays on this side of the ball are in the backfield, where Kamara should touch the ball 19 to 23 times with big per-play upside, and where Ingram should soak up 14 to 16 touches of his own with big touchdown upside. Pricing (as it is prone to do on these guys) is a bit high for their actual projected volume, but this offense is so efficient, these two remain top tourney options on a slate this small. As I noted the last couple weeks: you should file away and weigh the fact that I am a big Ingram truther for as long as he is in this offense, as Payton and the Saints absolutely want to feature him alongside Kamara — and it is true that the floor is a bit low on a guy with a run-first role and only a slim shot at 20 touches; but his touchdown upside continues to make him pop, and he’s a strong piece on the small Thanksgiving slate.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 25th 1:00pm Eastern

Browns (
23.75) at

Bengals (
22.75)

Over/Under 46.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Browns Run D
20th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
27th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
19th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
26th DVOA/13th Yards per pass
Bengals Run D
23rd DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
7th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
16th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
23rd DVOA/27th Yards per pass

BROWNS // BENGALS OVERVIEW

With the AFC North (and Marvin Lewis’ job) quickly slipping out of the Bengals’ grasp, they will return home this week to host the upstart, 3-6-1 Browns in a meeting between two teams that rank in the bottom half of the league in yards per game on offense (Cincy ranks 26th; Cleveland ranks18th), and that have struggled to prevent points on defense (only six teams have allowed more points per game than the Browns; only one team has allowed more points per game than the Bengals). Each team has been especially bad against the run, with the Browns allowing the fifth most rushing yards in the NFL this year, and with the Bengals allowing the most. Only the Bucs have allowed more running back touchdowns than the 15 the Bengals have allowed, and the Browns are not far behind them with 13 touchdowns allowed to backs. Only six teams have allowed more rush plays of 20+ yards than the Bengals, and only nine teams have allowed more such plays than the Browns.

This game has been awarded an aggressive total of 47.5 — with Vegas betting on the defensive ineptitude over the offensive issues. Helping this game toward this total is each team’s red zone defense, as both of these squads rank bottom 10 in the league in red zone touchdown rate allowed.

BROWNS PASS OFFENSE

The Bengals have had a rough year against the pass, allowing a 5.8% increase on the league-average aDOT and a 2.8% increase on the league-average catch rate, while failing to make up for this in the YAC department, where Cincy is merely a middling unit — leading to a yards allowed per pass attempt mark that ranks 26th in the NFL (though to be fair to the Bengals: their 7.9 yards allowed per pass attempt is not too far off the league’s middle-of-the-pack mark of 7.5). Cincinnati has struggled to defend running backs (12th most catches allowed, eighth most yards allowed, second most touchdowns allowed), wide receivers (eighth most catches allowed, eighth most yards allowed, 11th most touchdowns allowed), and tight ends (third most catches allowed, fifth most yards allowed, fifth most touchdowns allowed). The Browns can pick and choose how they want to attack in this spot.

In less exciting news for upside-hunters: the new Freddie Kitchens offense has Baker Mayfield spreading around the ball with the best of them, as he targeted 10 different players in Week 9…and he proceeded to target nine different players in Week 10, in spite of throwing only 20 passes. This has capped upside across the board, with only Duke Johnson in Week 9 (nine targets), Jarvis Landry in Week 9 (seven targets), and Breshad Perriman in Week 9 (six targets) topping five looks in a game. With the Browns preferring to lean on the run and the Bengals inviting them to do so, volume projects to be an issue for all pass catchers on this team.

If you are set on attacking through the air on this squad, your best bet for consistency is Landry, who has seven and five looks in the Browns’ last two games, and he is seeing a few of these looks more than 10 yards downfield, giving him some room for optimism. The matchup is not a concern, but the consistency and upside of the volume is.

Behind Landry, you could say that Njoku is the pass catcher likeliest to see guaranteed work, but he was targeted only once in a great tight end matchup in Week 10 against the Falcons. All bets are off in this offense beyond Landry.

BROWNS RUN OFFENSE

The Bengals have been one of the most attackable run defenses in the league, with 113 more rushing yards allowed than any other team, and with the third most yards allowed per carry in the league. Only six teams have faced more running back rush attempts this season, and we should expect the Browns to lean on the run early and often in this one after feeding Nick Chubb 22 carries in a double-digit loss to the Chiefs and 20 carries in Week 10 against the Falcons in a game in which the Browns ran only 50 plays. Chubb encouragingly saw a season-high three targets in that game against the Falcons as well, and while his looks this year have been primarily of the dump-off variety, he has acquitted himself well in the pass game, hauling in six of the last seven targets that have come his way. While Duke Johnson continues to soak up snaps in obvious passing situations, he has only four carries across the last two weeks to Chubb’s 42, locking in the rookie as the clear lead back in one of the best running back matchups in football. As a primarily yardage-and-touchdown guy, he’ll need a score in order to provide value at his rising price tag, but with three touchdowns in his last two games, a score (or two) is not an outlandish bet.

Duke should soak up three to five targets — with upside for more work if the Browns fall behind. His explosiveness gives him upside on these looks, but his floor will remain low.

BENGALS PASS OFFENSE

Cleveland has been tough against the pass, shaving almost 5% off the league-average catch rate and shaving almost 3% off the league-average aDOT, leading to a yards allowed per pass attempt mark of 7.3 — 10th best in the league. Only two teams have more interceptions than the Browns, and only nine teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns on the year.

Without A.J. Green, the Bengals’ pass offense crawled into a coffin, with 182 passing yards per game against the Saints and Ravens, and with a yards per pass attempt mark of 6.5 (only three teams have a lower mark on the year). “Barring any setbacks,” Green is on track to return this week (which would be at least a week or two earlier than expected), so we’ll approach this game as if Green will be out there — which will open up this offense enough to matter once again. It’s not an accident that the Bengals rank 26th in yards per game, but they do rank 12th in points per game, creating some cause for optimism.

If Green plays, he’ll see plenty of stud rookie corner Denzel Ward, but with a five-inch height advantage on Ward, Green should still carry plenty of room for upside. Andy Dalton has a long track record of targeting Green regardless of matchup, and on the year Green has only one game below eight targets and only two games below 76 receiving yards. Unlike other elite receivers: Green rarely sees double-digit looks (only three such games this year), and he rarely pops off for monster yardage games (he’s topped 100 yards twice this season, and he has yet to go over 120), but his 14 red zone targets rank seventh among wide receivers, and his locked-in usage provides him with a high floor.

The return of Green will open up the field for Tyler Boyd as well, who has been stifled the last two weeks (seven catches on 15 targets) without Green available to space out the defense. During Green’s healthy games, Boyd carried target counts of 5 // 9 // 7 // 15 // 7 // 9 // 4 // 10. He has a respectable eight targets in the red zone, which he has turned into eight catches and four touchdowns. He will primarily match up in the slot with Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who has struggled this year — allowing a 78.8% catch rate and 111.9 QB rating.

Behind Green and Boyd, volume on the Bengals is thin, and upside is thinner. Your best course here is to bet on floor and hope for ceiling from Green, or to hope the Bengals involve Boyd enough for him to hit the higher end of what has been a broad range this year.

BENGALS RUN OFFENSE

Last week in a close loss to the Ravens, Joe Mixon disappointingly played only 34 snaps while Giovani Bernard mixed in for 26 snaps of his own, one week after Mixon played 29 and Gio played 12. On one of the lowest-volume attacks in the NFL (Cincy ranks 30th in plays per game, one year after ranking 32nd), every snap counts, and we would optimally want Mixon on the field for at least 90% of the plays given his price tag and the 22+ touches we would like to see in that range. Across the last two weeks, Mixon has touched the ball 13 and 16 times, and he has topped 16 touches only once in his last five games. Even more disappointingly, he has totaled only five targets across the last two games (without Green on the field) since Gio returned, and he saw zero snaps at wide receiver last week (after seeing three the week before) — the first time all year he was used strictly out of the backfield, while Gio soaked up six snaps out wide. A bet on Mixon in this beautiful matchup is a bet on extreme efficiency or a rise in workload. With the Browns finally starting to slow down their pace of play on offense, we will likely see the Bengals remain in their standard range of 55 to 58 plays, which projects to build up around 14 to 16 carries and two to four targets for the Bengals’ lead back.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I’ll be surprised if the Bengals are able to jump out to a big lead here — and as such, I’ll be surprised if we see a pass-heavy game from the Browns, which takes the Browns’ passing attack out of consideration for me. While it’s not crazy to think you could land a serviceable score from this unit, the chances of a week-winning score are low, and the floor is lowered by the expected volume dip. If betting on this spot, the first guy I would consider would be Mayfield (without a stacking partner), as this spread-the-wealth offense could lead to him posting a big game without any of his individual pass catchers being carried with him.

I don’t typically pay for a running back priced in the top 10 on the slate with a “one to three target” role on his team — but Chubb’s locked-in 20+ touches and his touchdown upside make him interesting in this spot. He’s highly likely to get his 20+ carries, which makes him likely to push for 100+ yards and to have opportunities for scores. He’s not a priority play, but right now he’s looking like a strong Tier 3 option for me (reminder: Tier 3 = lower point-per-dollar floor than we would love, but just as much point-per-dollar upside as the Tier 1 guys).

This is the first game I have researched and written up on the Main Slate, but after messing around with rosters and pricing a bit on Monday, it is evident that this is a thin week at wide receiver — which will keep both Boyd and Green in play. Neither guy projects for a monster game in this spot, but Boyd carries upside (with a thinner-than-lovely floor), while Green is a fairly safe bet (if truly healthy) with a fair amount of upside. Neither guy pops off the page, but it seems likely this week that both guys will need to be considered.

Behind these two, I would have a difficult time going elsewhere on the Bengals — but I’m certainly a fan of the matchup that Mixon has, if you want to hope he breaks of a long run or punches in a couple touchdowns on 15 to 18 touches (or if you want to hope his volume rises this week). There will be better on-paper plays on the slate, but it won’t be a shock if Mixon churns out a respectable score.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 25th 1:00pm Eastern

Jaguars (
19.75) at

Bills (
16.75)

Over/Under 36.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Jaguars Run D
22nd DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
32nd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O
4th DVOA/6th Yards per pass
Bills Run D
24th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
17th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Bills Pass D
28th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
21st DVOA/19th Yards per pass

JAGUARS // BILLS OVERVIEW

It is likely that everyone besides Bills fans themselves knew that last year’s playoff appearance was fluky (and I even know a couple Bills fans who were fully aware of this), but I’m sure when the NFL set this game on the schedule they figured it would be a more important bout than it is. The Bills are sitting in the basement of the league at 3-7, and the Jags (losers of six straight) are surprisingly right there with them. “Lack of offense” is the name of this game, as these teams rank 29th (Jacksonville) and 32nd (Buffalo) in points per game, while each defense ranks top four in fewest yards allowed per game.

Frustratingly for Jaguars fans, their team has been able to move the ball all right (21st in yards per game — one spot behind Seattle; more than enough yards per game with a strong defense on the other side), but with this team giving away the ball the fifth most times in the league and ranking 27th in red zone touchdown rate, the points have simply not been there for wins. Buffalo ranks second in the league in giveaways, which obviously pulls both defenses in play, but it should also create some short-field scoring opportunities for the offenses. Buffalo surprisingly ranks 25th in red zone touchdown defense (the Jags rank 14th), and I can think of at least one player who is likely to stand out to me in this game…

Vegas has generously awarded this game an Over/Under of 37.5 — which is the lowest mark on the slate, but is still high considering that the Bills are averaging 13.7 points per game and the Jags are averaging 17.6. In order for this game to get there, some defensive touchdowns and/or short-field points will almost certainly have to pile up. Each team ranks bottom eight in drive success rate on offense, and each team ranks top eight in lowest drive success rate allowed.

JAGUARS OFFENSE

The Bills’ pass defense is shaving almost 13% off the league-average aDOT — the fourth best mark in the league — while also holding opponents to a league-average catch rate and knocking more than 10% off the league-average YAC/R rate. Add it all up, and only the Ravens are allowing fewer yards per pass attempt this year, with only three teams allowing fewer passing touchdowns and with no team allowing fewer passing yards per game.

Further complicating issues for the Jags’ passing attack is the return of Leonard Fournette and the reestablishment of this team’s run-heavy ways. Over the last two weeks, the Jags have run the ball 75 times and thrown it only 56 — an unheard of split, and exactly what the Jags entered this season hoping they would be able to do. Ultimately, this spot gives us one of the worst passing offenses in football (25th in yards per pass attempt // 23rd in passing touchdowns) against one of the top two or three pass defenses in the league — with everything pointing toward this team ignoring the pass right now as much as they can.

Since Fournette returned, targets per game among the Jags’ wide receivers look like this:

:: Donte Moncrief — 3.0
:: Dede Westbrook — 7.0
:: D.J. Chark — 3.5

Keelan Cole has zero targets across the last two weeks, on 38 snaps. The running backs have piled up 8.0 targets per game in this stretch.

If betting on wide receivers in this spot, Moncrief (who plays in the slot only 5% of the time) is likeliest to see a healthy dose of Tre’Davious White — who probably won’t bother shadowing, but who will stick to the Jags’ nominal number one if the situation gets hot. Chark has topped five targets in a game only once this year, and most of his targets are coming within five or six yards of the line of scrimmage. The best matchup bet is Westbrook, who saw only four targets last week in Bortles’ 18 pass attempt game, and who has not cracked 40 yards in nearly two months, but who does have a couple double-digit target games on the year, and whose 92% slot rate gives him the best bet of doing more than nothing.

James O’Shaughnessy played more snaps last week than any wide receiver and ran 19 of a possible 26 pass routes — seeing two targets, including a downfield look on which he and Bortles failed to connect. He had seen target counts of 6 // 4 // 6 in his previous three games, and he will return to “salary unlock status” the next time the Jags play a game in which they are expected to have to pass; but with volume a concern across the board in this run-heavy offense against the low-scoring Bills, his chances of piling up his typical 25 to 40 yards are slimmer than normal…

All of which brings us to Fournette, who touched the ball 29 times on only 39 snaps in his first game back from his lengthy layoff, and who touched the ball 30 times last week in a game in which he played only 35 snaps. This team is dead set on riding Fournette (truly, this season would almost certainly have turned out very differently for Jacksonville if Fournette had been healthy), and he has the skills to be a game-breaker when the usage is there. Last week, the Jags ran the ball on 60% of their first downs (the league leader in this category is Seattle, at 39.9%), and against a Buffalo defense that will be nearly impossible for the Jags to move the ball on through the air, we should expect a similar approach yet again. The matchup is not great for Fournette (the Bills rank ninth in yards allowed per carry and 10th in rushing yards allowed per game), but the Bills have allowed 13 touchdowns to backs (only five teams have allowed more), and 25+ touches is a strong bet for Fournette in this spot (with two to four targets mixed in), creating solid opportunity for a 100-yard game and one or two scores.

BILLS OFFENSE

Because the ability to throw the ball a long way is the only thing that matters in the NFL (*sarcasm*), Josh Allen was the number seven overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft — and he has carried over his accuracy issues from college with a completion rate on the year of 54%. To be fair to Allen: he was not exactly put in the best position to succeed, with draft busts Zay Jones and Kelvin Benjamin as his top two weapons — as attested to by his expected completion rate of 62.2% (which is still the fourth worst mark in the league, but is at least better than what his raw numbers show). This week, Allen will return to the field to take on a Jaguars defense that allows the second lowest catch rate in the NFL, and that further limits upside by allowing the sixth lowest YAC/R rate. Only four teams have allowed a lower yards per pass attempt than the Jags, and this team is tied with the Bills for the fourth fewest passing touchdowns allowed. On the season, Allen has cracked 200 passing yards only once, and he has thrown only two touchdowns (to five interceptions).

With Matt Barkley under center in Week 10—(as noted on the site a couple weeks ago: for all of Barkley’s flaws, the guy is able to support wide receiver stat lines)—Zay popped off for an 8-93-1 line on 11 targets in a tremendous wide receiver matchup against the Jets. Outside of that game, Zay’s best yardage lines on the year were 2-63-0 on three targets in Week 2 against the struggling-at-the-time Chargers and 6-55-0 on eight targets against the Patriots (who shut down Benjamin in that game with Stephon Gilmore).

Benjamin has been even more nondescript this season, topping 45 yards only once (4-71-0 against a Colts team that allows the second highest catch rate in football), in spite of averaging 5.6 targets per game.

The only other wide receiver to top 50 yards this year is also the only wide receiver on this team to top 100 yards in a game: Robert Foster, who has five catches in his career on 13 targets, and who went 3-105-0 on four targets from Barkley in Week 10. Foster played 34 snaps in that game to only 37 for Benjamin (in a game in which the Bills ran 73 plays in all). There is a slim chance he sees more playing time than Benjamin this week.

Buffalo has also failed to produce more than 40 yards in a game from the tight end position. With Charles Clay looking likely to miss another game, the Bills will rotate Logan Thomas (31 snaps in Week 10) and Jason Croom (44 snaps). Across Allen’s five starts, he fed three or fewer targets to tight ends three times.

The matchup isn’t much better on the ground for the Bills against a Jags team that continues to stamp out enemy rushing attacks. In order to provide a clear picture of what this run defense can do, we have spent all year removing the spectacular “only Saquon could do it” run that Saquon had against this team in Week 1 — which leaves this team allowing 3.59 yards per carry to running backs, which would rank in the top five in football. LeSean McCoy has topped 12 rush attempts only three times on the season, and he has only one game with more than 30 receiving yards. The Bills’ offensive line ranks 26th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards, while the Jags’ defense ranks sixth.

On a whole, the Bills’ offense is averaging 268.6 yards per game (which is, incredibly, not the worst mark in the league, as Arizona has been even worse). As noted above, the Jags’ defense is allowing the fourth fewest yards per game in the league.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I like Fournette a little less than expected after diving into the research, as the Bills don’t give up many yards (in spite of this team constantly playing from behind, they are one of only 10 teams in the NFL allowing under 100 rushing yards per game), and the likely low passing volume in this game could turn him into more of a yardage-and-touchdown back than I would love. (The Jags’ plan coming into the season was for Fournette to be a five- to seven-target guy each week, but it will probably be tough for him to get there in this spot.) But to be clear: I expected Fournette to be a pop-and-lock option; instead, this spot sets him up more as “a guy to strongly consider.” He should clear 25 touches, no problem, and he’s the strongest bet on this team to score (with multiple touchdowns in his range). But Buffalo has been solid against the run, and they can dedicate extra defenders to the run and force Blake Bortles to beat them. Fournette will likely join Chubb as a Tier 3 play — carrying a lower floor than I would love at his price, but with as much point-per-dollar upside as anyone.

If Fournette is “a guy to strongly consider,” that’s more than can be said for any other player in this game for me. Outside of Fournette (and the defenses, of course), I’ll be glad to stay away.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 25th 1:00pm Eastern

Patriots (
29.75) at

Jets (
16.75)

Over/Under 46.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Patriots Run D
18th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
29th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D
17th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
30th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass
Jets Run D
14th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O
3rd DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
31st DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O
27th DVOA/28th Yards per pass

PATRIOTS // JETS OVERVIEW

The Patriots are on the outside looking in right now in their quest for a first round bye — though if they take care of business the rest of the way, they’ll get there, as they have a Week 15 matchup on deck with the Steelers (who are currently ahead of them in the AFC standings). “Taking care of business” will otherwise be a matter of beating the Vikings at home and not slipping up in four games against bad division opponents — with a game against the Dolphins, a game against the Bills, and two games against the Jets on tap. The Jets, on the other hand, are at the opposite end of the spectrum — at 3-7, with head coach Todd Bowles probably still thinking he can save his job with a strong showing down the stretch. (Sorry, Todd. After what McVay did with Goff in Year 2 and what Nagy is doing with Trubisky in Year 2, there is legitimately a zero percent chance that this team does not at least try to see what can happen with a hot offensive name bringing along Sam Darnold next year.)

From a game flow perspective, this spot has an opportunity to be somewhat interesting for a Patriots team that ranks third in pace of play and fourth in plays per game, and that will be taking on a Jets team that plays at an above-average pace and allows the fifth most opponent plays per game. There is opportunity this week for the Pats to crack 70 total plays.

The Jets’ offense also has a solid matchup against a Patriots defense allowing the ninth most yards per game in the league — but unlike the Patriots (10th in yards per game, seventh in points per game), the Jets are ill-equipped to take advantage. There are 22 teams that have scored more points per game than New York, and there are 28 teams that have piled up more yards per game. Incredibly (and embarrassingly), three of the five worst teams in yards per game play in the AFC East.

Even on the road, the Patriots have been installed as 9.5 point favorites — against a Jets team that entered the bye with four straight losses, including a 41-10 thrashing at home in Week 10 at the hands of the lowly, Matt Barkley-led Bills.

PATRIOTS PASS OFFENSE

While the Jets have been eviscerated by wide receivers — allowing the second most catches per game, the fourth most yards per game, and the 11th most touchdowns to the position — they have been solid against the pass as a whole, allowing the eighth lowest yards per pass attempt in the league and ranking a respectable 13th in fewest fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The key for the Jets has been above-average containment of pass-catching running backs and absolutely elite coverage of tight ends (fewest catches and fewest yards allowed to the position), behind the solid coverage of second year strong safety Jamal Adams.

The Patriots have skewed slightly toward the run this year, ranking 18th in pass play rate, but with this team running so many plays, Tom Brady has still thrown the ball 35 or more times in all but one game this year. Tom Terrific is not having his most terrific season, with seven games of fewer than 300 passing yards, five games of one or zero touchdown passes, and a 17:7 TD:INT ratio on the year. The absences and ineffectiveness of Rob Gronkowski have especially taken a toll, rendering this squad fairly low-upside in terms of the way they can manipulate and space defenders.

The most effective way to attack the Jets this year has been from the slot, and all season we have been looking to hammer this defense with slot receivers who have a downfield role and can beat this team on crossing routes — a setup for which Julian Edelman is perfectly suited. Edelman has at least seven targets in every this year since returning from suspension, with double-digit looks in three straight. (Gronk missed two of those, but with the Jets facing the fewest tight end targets in the NFL and the second most wide receiver targets in the league, Edelman will have a chance to push for double digit looks once again, even with Gronk expected to return.)

In Week 10, Zay Jones did most of his damage against the Jets from the slot; in Week 9, Danny Amendola was the most effective Dolphins receiver in this matchup; in Week 8, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, and Josh Bellamy all made impact plays from the slot; in Week 7, Adam Thielen destroyed this team playing mostly in the slot while Stefon Diggs was shut down on the outside; and in Week 6, it was Chester Rogers from the slot for the Colts. Since joining the Patriots, Josh Gordon has played 309 snaps on the perimeter while lining up in the slot only 27 times. The Jets are above-average at defending both sidelines (they rank second in DVOA along the left sideline, where Gordon runs 62% of his routes), while they have been one of the worst teams at defending the middle of the field (especially the short middle). To his credit, Gordon has seen recent target counts (starting from Week 6) of 9 // 7 // 6 // 10 // 12, and with the Titans shutting down all perimeter targets in Week 10, the Patriots adjusted by pulling Gordon in closer to the formation and running him on more routes over the middle. He has a chance to hit in this spot, but he has seen better individual matchups.

If Gronk returns as expected: he has seen seven or more targets in four of his seven healthy games, and on DraftKings and FantasyDraft his price has dropped to places we haven’t seen in years — though given the Jets’ ability to take away tight ends, he will likely need a broken play or a touchdown in order to provide value, even at the thin tight end position. Gronk is underpriced for his role and his name value — but realistically, Ertz and Kittle are underpriced as well on DraftKings and FantasyDraft when compared to wide receivers priced around them. A bet on Gronk is ultimately a bet on him looking better than he has all year and beating one of the toughest tight end matchups in the league. Last year, he pasted the Jets for a 6-83-2 line in the first meeting between these teams, but when they met again in Week 17, Jamal Adams held him to zero catches on zero targets.

PATRIOTS RUN OFFENSE

The Jets have been roughly league-average against the run, ranking middle of the pack in yards allowed per carry while allowing the 11th most running back rushing yards in the league. Only six teams have allowed more rushing touchdowns to running backs, while only five teams have scored more rushing touchdowns than the Pats.

That final statistic is the key if considering Sony Michel, as he has been “all” or “partially” healthy for seven games this year, and he has totaled only four catches all season. A bet on Michel is a bet on him scoring multiple touchdowns and/or breaking off a long run against a defense that (it should be noted) has allowed the most rush plays of 20+ yards. As long as Michel is indeed fully healthy, he should push for 20 carries here — though there is some risk of the Patriots resting him late if this game becomes a blowout.

Joining Michel in the backfield is James White, who has averaged 8.57 targets per game and 5.14 carries per game when Michel has been active — with only one game all season below seven targets (that game was the Patriots’ matchup against the pre-Harrison Lions run defense that was all but begging to be hammered on the ground). Only nine players in the entire NFL have more red zone targets than White, and his 10 touchdowns keep him active on the fringes of the “elite fantasy RB” conversation. Expect another seven to nine targets in this spot for White, with the Patriots’ screen-heavy usage of him clearing upside for 60 to 70 receiving yards and a multi-touchdown game.

JETS PASS OFFENSE

With the Patriots getting no pass rush this year (30th in the NFL in sacks), they have found themselves facing the second deepest average depth of target in the league — though (bad news for rookie quarterback Sam Darnold and his embarrassing 55% completion rate) the Pats’ talented secondary has made up for this by allowing the second lowest catch rate in the league. This last statistic is going to make life difficult on a Jets passing attack that is low on talent and low on ability to catch passes in tight coverage.

If Darnold plays (which is currently the expectation), he will carry an 11:14 TD:INT ratio into this game, against a Patriots team that has the fourth most interceptions in the league, with only two games on his ledger this year of more than 229 passing yards. Darnold has only three multi-touchdown games, and he has failed to top 17 completions in all but three starts.

Darnold’s inaccuracy is hurting his pass catchers in a spread-the-wealth offense that has not pushed any wide receiver over 44 yards in more than a month. Even if gunslinger Josh McCown is under center this week, the matchup is not great for any of the primary wide receivers on this squad.

When healthy, this passing attack is led by Quincy Enunwa, who has target counts on the year in his start-to-finish games of 9 // 11 // 8 // 8 // 5 // 4 // 8. Disappointingly, Enunwa has played 72 snaps on the perimeter and only 30 snaps in the slot since returning from injury — setting him up to lock horns with Stephon Gilmore, rather than getting him on softer coverage against Jonathan Jones in the slot. Enunwa has been able to haul in only 53.7% of his targets on the year, he has scored only one touchdown this season, and he has topped 66 receiving yards only once.

Jermaine Kearse is the reason Enunwa has been pushed to the outside — which, of course, makes perfect sense given that Kearse has caught a whopping nine of 26 targets (34.6%) across his last four games. Given the inability Kearse has at this point in his career to be much more than a body on the field, he should have a tough time getting open against the Patriots’ man-heavy coverage scheme.

The Jets’ best bet for wide receiver production is for A) McCown to play, and B) Robby Anderson to return to the field. Anderson will likely be shadowed by Jason McCourty (who carries the 10th highest PFF coverage grade in the league this year, only seven spots behind Gilmore), with additional help deep from Devin McCourty. Anderson has not yet topped four catches in a game and he has topped 44 receiving yards only once (his 3-123-2 explosion against the Broncos) — but he does at least carry an upside role, and McCown has the take-a-shot tendencies to give him a chance to hit.

This passing attack wraps up with Chris Herndon, who has finally established himself as the leader of this tight end rotation, playing 78 of a possible 122 snaps (63.9%) across the Jets’ last two games, while seeing target counts of four and four. The Pats have been middle of the pack in yards and receptions allowed to the position, but only one team has allowed more touchdowns, creating a bit of upside for a player who has hauled in three of Darnold’s 11 touchdowns. Herndon might legitimately be this team’s best means of moving the ball.

JETS RUN OFFENSE

New England has been solid against the run this year, ranking 17th in yards allowed per carry and — as is the custom for the Pats — tightening up near the goal line. Even with Derrick Henry punching in a pair of touchdowns against them in Week 10, the Patriots have allowed the third fewest running back rushing touchdowns in the league.

The Jets will continue to feature a low-upside committee consisting of Elijah McGuire (9.5 touches per game since returning to the field) and Isaiah Crowell (11.5 touches per game in this stretch). Crow has topped 49 rushing yards only two times this season, and he has not topped two catches in a game. McGuire has gone for exactly 30 yards in each of his first two games while adding an average receiving line of 3-32-0. McGuire has been the far more effective back, and there is a chance he sees a bit more work this week after already out-snapping Crow 68 to 42 the last two weeks. With five and six targets across his last two contests, he also has a chance to pick up a few points through the air against a Patriots defense that is easier to attack with running backs than with wide receivers. Crow is a “hope for a broken play or a touchdown” option. McGuire remains an interesting point-per-dollar salary saver on DraftKings and FantasyDraft.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Unsurprisingly, Edelman is the player on the Patriots’ offense who stands out the most — and while we generally think of him as a guy to play on DraftKings/FantasyDraft for his full-PPR role while avoiding him on FanDuel, he does have a path this week to 90+ yards and a touchdown. In spite of missing the first four games of the year, Edelman has 11 red zone targets — only four fewer than team leader White.

I wouldn’t mind a shot on Gordon or Michel for their upside, though each is a lower-floor/high-ceiling bet in this spot. The same could technically be said for Gronk, though I’ll probably end up giving credit to Adams’ coverage here — attempting to get up to Kittle or Ertz if I decide to make room to pay up at tight end. As for White: he has shown a floor of 14 points on DraftKings/FantasyDraft and 12 points on FanDuel (outside of a single outlier game), with touchdown upside and yardage upside from there, making him an interesting piece at his price.

I don’t imagine I’ll have interest in any wide receivers on the Jets (even if McCown plays), but if this proves to be another week in which it makes sense to unlock salary by piling uncertainty onto a single roster spot, both McGuire and Herndon could prove to be worthy of consideration for the decent expected production and the savings they provide. McGuire’s greatest knock would be the fact that he takes away a valuable running back position without providing a clear shot at a 20-point game. Herndon would remove the opportunity to pay up for Kittle or Ertz.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 25th 1:00pm Eastern

Giants (
22.25) at

Eagles (
26.75)

Over/Under 49.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Giants Run D
15th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
25th DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D
23rd DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
29th DVOA/24th Yards per pass
Eagles Run D
15th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O
30th DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
29th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O
29th DVOA/30th Yards per pass

GIANTS // EAGLES OVERVIEW

If the Cowboys take down the Redskins on Thanksgiving day, the Eagles will be able to remain in the thick of the lowly NFC East with a win over the Giants, while even the 3-7 Giants can position themselves for a late miracle with a victory in this spot, as a 4-7 record wouldn’t be out of striking distance of a couple 6-5 first place teams (that may sound like a joke, but the Giants — as noted last week — have losses on the year of seven points to the Redskins, three points to the Falcons, two points to the Panthers, seven points to the Cowboys, and five points to the Jags, putting them a couple breaks away from jostling for playoff position). Each team has had a slow year on offense, with Philly quietly ranking 19th in yards per game and 24th in points per game, while the Giants rank 23rd in yards per game and 22nd in points per game. A closer look at those statistics should remind us that reputation has spearheaded the perception of these teams, as they have basically been doppelgängers on offense throughout the year.

On defense, neither team has been great at preventing yardage (the Eagles rank 23rd in yards allowed and the Giants rank 25th), and they both rank bottom 10 in drive success rate allowed — but each team boasts a top eight red zone touchdown defense, which will limit opportunities for this to turn into a true shootout.

The Eagles have been installed as six point favorites in a game with a 46.0 point Over/Under — a fair setup given their edge in the talent department and their home field advantage this week.

GIANTS PASS OFFENSE

One of the more interesting (and overlooked) turn of events in Week 11 was the Giants throwing only 18 passes and handing off to Saquon Barkley 27 times, as the Giants entered that game ranked first in the NFL in pass play rate, and Barkley had topped 15 carries only three times all year.

Another interesting (though more expected) development in Week 11 was the Saints attacking the Eagles on the ground (the second consecutive week in which a Philly opponent had done so, after the Cowboys hammered them for a 19-151-1 line with Zeke) — flipping the script on a team that faced the fewest rush attempts in the NFL last season and has still faced the second fewest in the NFL this year. While the Eagles are returning Timmy Jernigan to the defensive line this week for a much-needed boost, this team is allowing the ninth most yards per carry in the league, so we can no longer assume that opponents will simply attack them through the air — and after last week, we can no longer assume that the Giants are one of the pass-heaviest offenses in the league. The likeliest setup here has Eli Manning returning above 35 pass attempts (where he has been in seven of 10 games this year), but there is an outside chance the Giants keep him under 30 once again.

When these teams met in Week 6, the Eagles’ front steamrolled Eli for four sacks and kept him uncomfortable all day, pushing him to a season-low 55.8% completion rate, with zero touchdowns and one interception. A huge chunk of Manning’s 281 yards in that game were contributed by an otherworldly YAC performance from Saquon the Great.

The Eagles accomplished this by taking away anything downfield and forcing Manning to throw everything short — with only two completions all game more than eight yards downfield (on 10 such passes in all). As the Eagles showed against the Saints on Sunday afternoon when they went overboard to limit Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara through the air, this team is not averse to scheming away an opponent’s top weapon and forcing that team to beat them in another way. In Week 6, Philly allowed Odell Beckham to see only four targets more than four yards downfield (he caught one of these and was tackled immediately — totaling 11 yards on these looks), while forcing another four throws to come within one line of the yard of scrimmage. Beckham has a major talent edge on this banged-up secondary and last week was the first time all year he had not seen nine or more targets, so there is definitely upside for him to hit — but we should be aware of the schematic tendencies of the Eagles, and of what they will try to do with OBJ this week.

In the six games that Evan Engram has started and finished, Sterling Shepard has topped 48 yards only once, and he has not yet topped five catches with Engram out there. Outside of the Week 7 game against the Falcons in which the Giants uncharacteristically sent Shepard on a number of downfield routes, he has primarily occupied a short-yardage role — leaving him as a “hope for a broken play or a touchdown” option.

If we throw out the Giants’ low-volume game from last week, Engram has seen target counts in his healthy games of 5 // 7 // 4 // 9 // 5, which is about as good as it gets at the tight end position outside of the highest-priced guys. Forcing expectations to take a step back is a matchup against an Eagles team that has allowed the second fewest catches and the sixth fewest yards to the position, with coverage keyed by superstar safety Malcolm Jenkins.

GIANTS RUN OFFENSE

With the Eagles shutting down Beckham last time around (6-44-0) and limiting Shepard to three catches for 37 yards on seven targets, Eli was forced to lean on Saquon through the air, and he ended up feeding him 12 targets (his second most on the season — and one of four games on the year for Saquon with double-digit looks), which he turned into nine catches for 99 yards with a signature performance. Saquon also added 13-130-1 on the ground, putting together what had been, by far, his best fantasy performance on the year before last week’s similar production explosion against the Bucs. As noted above, the Eagles have been below-average on the ground. They have also allowed the sixth most receptions and the sixth most receiving yards to running backs. No matter how the Giants lean in their play-calling this week, Saquon will be heavily involved. The likeliest scenario has him seeing around 15 to 17 carries with eight or more targets mixed in.

EAGLES PASS OFFENSE

With the Giants failing to get any pass rush (31st in sacks this year), they have been totally average against the pass between the 20s, ranking 16th in yards allowed per pass attempt, while allowing the 11th most passing yards per game. But this Giants defense has been awesome in the red zone, and only three teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns on the year. The only quarterback to top two touchdown passes against this team was Carson Wentz in Week 6, while Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton have combined for three total touchdown passes in this matchup.

Entering last week’s off-the-rails performance against the Saints (156 yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions), Wentz had thrown for 278 or more yards in five straight games, with two or more touchdowns in every one of those games. A big part of Wentz’ discomfort last week seemed to be his inability to connect with favorite target Ertz against the Saints’ spectacular tight end coverage. Against a Giants team that is non-threatening against tight ends (12th most catches allowed // 12th most yards allowed), he should be able to bounce back in the yardage department, which will leave the red zone as the big question mark in this spot.

Zach Ertz saw three targets last week and six targets against the Jaguars in Week 8, but otherwise he has seen nine or more targets in every game this year. The Giants have, unsurprisingly, been awesome in the red zone against tight ends, allowing only one touchdown all season, but Ertz’ 17 red zone targets (sixth most in the NFL) and his heavy usage will still give him plenty of room to matter.

The Giants have been tough on wide receivers, allowing the sixth fewest wide receiver touchdowns while ranking middle of the pack in yards and receptions allowed. Perhaps an even bigger issue than the matchup is the spread-the-wealth nature of this passing attack behind Ertz. Since Golden Tate arrived from the Lions, he has seen target counts of four and eight; Alshon Jeffery has seen target counts of eight and five; Nelson Agholor has seen target counts of seven and two; Jordan Matthews has seen target counts of three and four; and the three-man running back committee has gotten involved with target counts of six and eight. Alshon is the only full-time player in this group right now, with Matthews playing 14 of 51 snaps last week, Tate playing 36, and Agholor playing 44. There has been talk this week that Tate has had a tough time picking up the offense, creating upside concerns in this spot. Alshon, meanwhile (as noted last week), has only topped 100 yards only once in an Eagles uniform, making him a touchdown-reliant play in one of the toughest wide receiver touchdown matchups in the league.

EAGLES RUN OFFENSE

Similar to the matchup for Wentz and the Eagles’ passing attack: the Giants rank middle of the pack in yards allowed per carry.

Unlike the matchup for Wentz and the Eagles’ passing attack: the Giants have allowed the fourth most running back touchdowns in the league.

All three of Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams saw time on the field last week for the Eagles, but Adams finally led the group by a substantial margin, playing 28 snaps, compared to 14 for Clement and four for Smallwood. In a game in which the Eagles fell behind immediately and were playing catch-up all afternoon, Adams saw only seven carries (to three combined for Clement and Smallwood), but his six targets were four more than Clement, and he ran 16 pass routes to six for Clement, while standing out in pass protection along the way.

All season we have been preaching in this space that the Eagles are unpredictable and opponent-specific in their backfield deployment — but with the 4-6 defending Super Bowl champions getting nothing out of Clement and Smallwood, and with Adams looking like a difference-maker for this squad, we should expect him to see at least 50% of the snaps, with upside for another game of 60% or more. The Eagles rank 25th in rush play rate, 24th in rush attempts, and 19th in adjusted line yards, so expectations should be capped at around 12 carries and three to five targets — but there is upside for this work to grow, and Adams has a clear shot at a touchdown in this game.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I am expecting something of a bounce-back performance from the Eagles’ defense this week — not enough for them to stifle the Giants, but enough to make me concerned about Beckham at his price. While the upside is there given the talent gap between him and the Eagles’ secondary, it is not as if the Eagles had a big edge in this matchup the last time around, when they held Beckham to a 6-44-0 day. If Jim Schwartz goes out of his way again this week to make sure Beckham doesn’t beat them, his floor will be scary low for the price.

I haven’t rostered Shepard on a Main Build since Engram returned to the field, and that probably won’t change for me this week. He’s a fine play, but not a standout play, and there are other guys priced around him with a better chance of reaching upside.

As for Engram: he has a shot at posting a respectable line, but the matchup is difficult against Jenkins, and I’ll likely prefer to either pay all the way down or all the way up this week.

Saquon’s DraftKings price (18.2% of the salary cap) will probably be a bit difficult for me to settle down with, given his attachment to the 10th lowest scoring offense in the NFL, in a matchup against a top eight red zone defense that has also allowed the 12th fewest points per game even after last week’s 48-point debacle. The Eagles have allowed only seven total touchdowns to running backs (a far cry from the league-most 17 that last week’s opponent the Bucs have allowed) — all of which creates a strong case that Saquon will land in his standard range from the year, rather than in his outlier range from Weeks 11 and 6. His Week 6 blowup against the Eagles was the result of a few monster plays with piles of missed tackles that are not guaranteed to repeat. On DraftKings and FantasyDraft, I’ll be considering him extremely safe, but overpriced, with an expectation of around 20 to 26 points. On FanDuel (15.0% of the cap), it’s a different story, as it’s so easy to get to him, and his role in this offense gives him the highest floor on the slate.

I mentioned Ertz a few times earlier in this article, but after digging into this game, his low touchdown upside in this spot may scare me off him a bit. Of course: outside of the low touchdown upside, the matchup is nonthreatening, and the usage should be there once again. He’s a strong play, but not a priority play. I’m guessing Kittle will pop off the page a bit more at the higher end of the price range.

The wide receivers on the Eagles are “guess on touchdown” plays in a poor matchup for touchdowns. It is likely that one or two usable scores sneak out of this spot, but a big score is unlikely, which will almost certainly send me to “likelier to hit” spots as I build my roster.

Wentz is always in play, given how good he is when he is on, but this is not a great matchup for quarterback production. He’ll have to beat the Giants’ stellar red zone pass defense in order to rise to the top of the slate.

The most exciting play on this side of the ball is Adams, who joins Elijah McGuire as a “cheap guy with sneaky upside who can unlock other high-priced plays on your roster.” Adams’ role is technically less guaranteed than McGuire’s, but all signs point to him getting 13 to 16 touches (a higher projection than McGuire carries), with a solid shot at a touchdown.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 25th 1:00pm Eastern

Raiders (
14.5) at

Ravens (
27.5)

Over/Under 42.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Raiders Run D
31st DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
5th DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D
26th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
19th DVOA/31st Yards per pass
Ravens Run D
2nd DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O
24th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
7th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O
5th DVOA/7th Yards per pass

RAIDERS // RAVENS OVERVIEW

The Ravens get another home game against a weak opponent this week as they attempt to keep their season alive — and with upcoming road matchups against the Falcons, Chiefs, and Chargers, this is an important game for them to get. The good news? — their Week 12 opponent is the Raiders, who are hardly even trying anymore, as Jon Gruden figures he has all offseason to build the dynasty that will obviously dominate the league for the next nine seasons.

Joe Flacco did not practice on Wednesday this week, and it would make sense for the Ravens to hold him out one more week as they take on a Raiders team that is so bad against the run, they have faced the fewest pass attempts in the entire NFL in spite of allowing the second most yards per pass attempt. Most teams have decided that there is no reason to even bother trying to attack Oakland through the air — and after the Ravens ran the ball over 50 times last week against the Bengals and passed only 19 times, there is no reason to project them to do anything different.

On the other side of the ball, of course, it will be a Raiders team that ranks 30th in points per game taking on a Ravens squad that has allowed the fewest points per game in the league. Good luck with that.

Unsurprisingly, the Ravens have been installed as early 10.5 point favorites, with Oakland carrying the lowest Vegas-implied team total on the slate.

RAIDERS PASS OFFENSE

No team in the NFL has allowed a lower catch rate than Baltimore, and only one team has allowed a lower YAC/R rate — bad news for an Oakland passing attack that capitalizes on (um…I mean, that tries to capitalize on) racking up a high completion rate on short catches and adding yards after the catch. The last time the Raiders topped 270 passing yards, the calendar said September. This team has fallen shy of 200 passing yards in three of its last five games. In four of his 10 games this year, Derek Carr has failed to throw even one touchdown pass. In another three games, he has failed to throw more than one. Only three teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns than the Ravens this year.

Jordy Nelson has a chance to return this week (hurrah for Raiders fans!). He has topped 48 receiving yards only once all season and has not topped 16 yards since Week 5.

Seth Roberts should see around five to seven targets here, which will give him a shot at a 4-40-0 line — a range he has hit in six of his nine games. Incredibly, Roberts has hit exactly 38 to 43 receiving yards in five of his nine games, with no games north of 43 yards.

With Brandon LaFell rupturing his achilles, the Raiders may be left scraping either Ardarius Stewart or Saeed Blacknall off the practice squad to fill out the receiving corps.

The best bet for production on this team appears to be seventh round rookie Marcell Ateman, who went 4-50-0 last week against Arizona on five targets.

The Ravens have allowed the eighth fewest wide receiver receptions and the second fewest wide receiver yards in the league.

RAIDERS RUN OFFENSE

Oakland won’t have things much better on the ground, where the Ravens have allowed the eighth fewest yards per carry in the league while giving up the fewest receiving yards in the NFL to running backs. Only four teams in football have given up fewer touchdowns to running backs this year. No team has allowed fewer total yards per game.

Last week, the Raiders sat Doug Martin in the second half — either because Martin hurt his ankle or because this team wanted to see what DeAndre Washington could do (Gruden wasn’t quite sure). This backfield now consists of Martin and Washington on early downs, with Jalen Richard mixing in on passing downs.

Oakland ranks 22nd in plays per game this year. With all the running that Baltimore is expected to do when they have the ball, they should be able to shorten this game quite a bit.

RAVENS PASS OFFENSE

Oakland has been one of the easiest teams in the NFL to attack through the air, allowing the fifth deepest aDOT in football and pairing this with a league-average catch rate allowed and the highest YAC/R rate allowed in the league. This has led to the Raiders ranking 31st in yards allowed per pass attempt, but because this team is so easy to attack on the ground (25th in yards allowed per carry, 31st in rushing yards allowed per game), they have faced the fewest pass attempts in the league.

The Ravens’ passing offense was practically nonexistent last week in ai similar matchup (Cincy ranks 30th in yards allowed per carry, and they are the only team that has allowed more rushing yards this year than the Raiders), with Lamar Jackson asked to throw only 19 times while carrying the ball an incredible 27 times. Obviously, the fantasy community thinks it’s silly that the Ravens are even considering putting Flacco back out there when he is healthy (because, of course, this will continue working all season…), but it would be silly for Baltimore to make the switch this week. Even if Flacco starts, we should expect a run-leaning approach; but we will approach this writeup assuming Jackson gets the nod — in which case, “pass offense” is almost a null and void idea in this spot.

Last week, Jackson was asked to throw only one pass more than 16 yards downfield, and he was asked to throw only four passes that went outside the numbers more than five yards downfield (going one for four on these throws, with one interception). Four of his 13 completions went to tight end Nick Boyle, and another five went to slot receiver Willie Snead. Michael Crabtree and John Brown combined for only two receptions on four targets. If Jackson does keep the starting job beyond this week, Baltimore will begin finding themselves in games in which they need to open up the offense. This is not that game.

If you are set on attacking through the air in this spot, your best bet for upside is JB, who could come alive with a deep ball role against this poor downfield defense if the Ravens do indeed choose to put more passing volume on Jackson’s plate. Given that the Ravens seemed to genuinely want Flacco to start last week and then proceeded to prevent Jackson from attacking downfield (and given that this team needs this win in order to keep their season on track), it would be a surprise if they suddenly unleashed Jackson through the air.

RAVENS RUN OFFENSE

We’ve already poured enough salt on the wounds of this pathetic Oakland run defense, but one final note that is very much worth thinking about here: the Bengals defense that Baltimore undressed last week on the ground has maintained a lot of the schematic concepts from longtime DC Paul Guenther. The reason Guenther is no longer in Cincinnati? — he is now the defensive coordinator of the Raiders.

Surprising everyone last week was undrafted rookie Gus Edwards, who had touched the ball only 16 times all season heading into the Ravens’ Week 11 game. After Alex Collins scored a touchdown on Baltimore’s opening drive, he absolutely disappeared — finishing the game with only 17 total snaps, while Edwards piled up a monstrous 49 snaps, going for 115 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and earning top marks from PFF for his strong north-south game. There is genuinely no telling how this backfield will shake out once Flacco returns (Harbaugh had a quote after the game about how the Ravens have ‘four backs they like’), but with Javorius Allen and Ty Montgomery combining for only 14 snaps last week and Edwards running as many pass routes (10) as the other three combined, we should be in for another Gus Gus celebration.

The beauty of this setup last week was the extra defenders the Bengals had to keep on the edge to account for Jackson on zone reads — which left Gus Gus running through big holes and dealing with fewer defenders on the second level. The dynamic between Jackson and Gus Gus was a complete shift from the way things looked when Collins was on the field, almost certainly locking the rookie into another heavy-usage game as long as Jackson is under center. He should max out at one or two targets, making him a true yardage-and-touchdown guy — but opportunities will be there for the yardage-and-touchdowns to hit.

This rushing attack wraps up with Jackson, who should be viewed as a legitimate threat for 20+ carries and 100+ yards in this spot, and who can be comfortably projected for another 100 to 150 yards through the air.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I have not been targeting players against the Ravens all year, and a matchup against Oakland is not going to change that for me. There are much higher floor/ceiling options on the slate than this.

I don’t plan to target a single Baltimore pass catcher myself, but I do expect this team to genuinely push for 40 to 50 rush attempts once again, with the bulk of these carries going to Gus Gus and Lamar, putting each guy in the conversation this week.

From a “projections” perspective, we should note that 100 rushing yards for Jackson is really no different from 250 passing yards from another quarterback (or, on DraftKings and FantasyDraft — where bonuses are involved — a 300-yard passing game is better than a 100-yard rushing game), and if someone like Jameis, for example, goes for 300 yards and two passing touchdowns, this is about the same as Lamar going for 100 yards and a rushing touchdown (while adding 125 or 150 yards through the air). To put that another way: Jackson is no guarantee to just plain smash the other quarterbacks, and there is a very real possibility that a few of these upside passers (or a true dual-threat guy like Cam) could post a much higher score. But the flip side of this is that Jackson posted a strong game last week without accounting for a single touchdown, and it would not be outlandish to believe he could push across one or two rushing scores this week. His floor is not too far off from the more traditional quarterbacks we can target this week, and he has the potential to post a true difference-making score.

Jackson can be “stacked” with Gus Gus (or you can play the running back solo), in the hopes you capture around 250 rushing yards and three or more touchdowns from the pair. Lamar is the safer play, as he can add passing statistics if game flow somehow turns out differently — but ultimately, we should not expect the Raiders to do enough on offense to force the Ravens to throw; and because the Raiders will still need to respect Brown on the deep ball and will need to account for multiple rushing lanes on each play, I do not expect this two-headed rushing attack to fail.


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 25th 1:00pm Eastern

Hawks (
21.5) at

Panthers (
24.5)

Over/Under 46.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Seahawks Run D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
16th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
11th DVOA/11th Yards per pass
Panthers Run D
26th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
8th DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
13th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards per pass

SEAHAWKS // PANTHERS OVERVIEW

The NFC playoff race is shaping up to be a blast down the stretch, with the 5-5 Seahawks and the 6-4 Panthers right in the thick of things. Neither team is particularly aggressive on offense — each ranking bottom 10 in pace of play and top 10 in fewest opponent plays allowed per game. Each team leans run-heavy, with Carolina ranking 13th in rush play rate and the Seahawks ranking first as they push for the highest NFL rush play rate in years. Each team also ranks top eight on offense in rushes of 10+ yards, while each defense ranks bottom eight in rush plays of 10+ yards allowed. This run-leaning approach on both sides (and the expected success of the run on both sides) should lead to this game sailing by without a huge number of plays piling up. In addition to each team ranking near the top of the league in fewest opponent plays allowed per game, each team ranks in the bottom half of the league in plays run.

With each team carrying some issues on defense against the run, neither side has been able to notch above-average marks in drive success rate allowed. The Panthers — as noted in this space repeatedly lately — also struggle to prevent these sustained drives from turning into touchdowns, as they rank 31st in red zone touchdown rate allowed. Seattle ranks 18th in this department.

This game has been awarded a healthy Over/Under of 47.5 — a bit surprising given that only four of the Seahawks’ 10 games have gone above 42 points, and each of these teams tend to play to their opponent, essentially opening up the offense only when forced to do so. In order for this game to really pop in the box score, one team will likely have to gain a two score lead and force the other to respond. If this happens, each quarterback is certainly capable of putting the offense on his back and making things happen in a big game for both sides.

SEAHAWKS PASS OFFENSE

Carolina’s zone-heavy coverage scheme is all about limiting yards after the catch — allowing a middling aDOT, a middling catch rate, and the third lowest YAC/R rate in the league, leading to this team ranking a respectable 12th in yards allowed per pass attempt. There are 11 teams that are allowing more passing yards per game than the Panthers, though only three teams have allowed more passing touchdowns, as the red zone issues for this team continue to affect their bottom line.

From a real-life perspective, this is a fair setup for a quarterback in Russell Wilson who has been asked to throw more than 31 passes only once in his last eight games, and who has not topped even 250 passing yards since Week 1 — but who has managed to toss 23 touchdown passes on the year, with only one game all season under two scores through the air. Now over his early-season hamstring issue, Russ has also run the ball five or more times in four of his last five games (piling up rushing yardage marks across his last five of 20 // 15 // 41 // 92 // 17), creating some opportunity for him to post a strong game in this spot.

With only three games all year of more than 19 completions for Russ, and with this team spreading the ball around, it has been difficult to get excited about any individual pass catcher — with a number of “useful box scores” supported by touchdowns, but with no true upside games from this group all season. Recent target counts among primary pass catchers on the Seahawks look like this:

:: Tyler Lockett — 4 // 2 // 4 // 6 // 5
:: Doug Baldwin — 8 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 10
:: David Moore — 3 // 4 // 7 // 3 // 8
:: Nick Vannett — 4 // 3 // 8 // 2 // 2

Since Baldwin returned, the Seahawks have been primarily using him on routes around five to eight yards downfield with only sporadic downfield targets mixed in, while Lockett has been used at all levels (often taking on targets over the deep middle) and Moore has been used to space the defense with downfield routes along the sidelines. Moore quietly has the sixth deepest aDOT in the NFL.

If targeting this passing attack, volume and yardage are not likely to fall in your favor, which leaves you betting on an upside play or a touchdown. Efficiency also matters in a passing attack with such limited volume, which makes it worth noting that Lockett has converted 79.2% of his targets into catches // Baldwin has converted 76.9% of his targets into catches // Moore has converted 56.3% of his targets into catches.

SEAHAWKS RUN OFFENSE

The Seahawks lead the NFL in rush play rate and in rush attempts, though they continue to make life difficult on the fantasy community — now dividing snaps among all three backs. In this team’s important Week 11 win over the Packers, Chris Carson played 30 snaps,