Kickoff Thursday, Nov 30th 8:15pm Eastern

Hawks (
19) at

Cowboys (
28.5)

Over/Under 47.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Seahawks Run D
23rd DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O
15th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
25th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O
11th DVOA/14th Yards per pass
Cowboys Run D
9th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D
6th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
8th DVOA/12th Yards per pass

XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT

Week 13 begins with the Seahawks visiting the Cowboys for a 47 total game with the Cowboys favored by 9. Hey, at least it isn’t a sub-40 total island game, we’ve had way too many of those. This should be a fun one with Dallas absolutely stomping over the NFL lately (albeit against fairly modest competition). Fun with stats: the Cowboys have eight wins. In those eight wins, they have scored 298 points and allowed just 87 for an average margin of victory of 26.4 points. They played the Chargers to a 20-17 victory in Week 6, but outside of that game, their smallest margin of victory is 20 points. That’s absolutely insane. 

Dallas

Poor Tony Pollard has been a wild disappointment this year. He hasn’t had the same level of explosiveness that we’ve been used to seeing from him, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. While he’s dominating snaps, he’s also not really seeing bell cow volume on the ground. Pollard is averaging 14.5 carries per game and has only gone over 15 in two games. Part of this is due to Dallas frequently blowing out their opponents, but keep in mind that normally we like running backs in those situations because they can finish the game out. Dallas, though, does not want to give Pollard those extra carries when the game is put away. Pollard has a strong passing game role, averaging about 4.5 targets per game, and he’s also gotten extremely unlucky when it comes to scoring touchdowns. He has the second most carries of any running back in the league in the red zone, inside the 10, and he’s tied for third inside the 5 and has fewer touchdowns than any other running back who he’s close to in those rankings. Overall, despite his touches being somewhat capped, despite the Cowboys insisting on just banging him between the tackles instead of trying to get him the ball in space, and in spite of poor touchdown variance, Pollard has still done at least “ok” in fantasy scoring . . . and if touchdown variance swings back his way at some point, he definitely has big games in him. Just be aware, he doesn’t really have the 25+ touch ceiling that we can find on some other teams. Behind Pollard, Rico Dowdle plays the RB2 role and can sometimes get a bit of late-game mop-up work. At $4,200, he’s alright. He’ll probably need a touchdown to find a ceiling, but Dallas scores a lot of touchdowns. 

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In the passing game, the Cowboys lead the NFL in pass rate over expectation since their Week 7 bye. For years we’ve thought of Dallas as a team that generally has to be pushed in order to pass the ball at a high rate, but that’s clearly changed in the past few weeks. They’re starting games pass heavy and continuing to pass the ball deep into the game, even if up by multiple scores. Dak Prescott is putting up MVP-level performances with 30+ DK points in 4 of 5 games since the bye, with 17 touchdowns against just two interceptions (remember in the preseason when people thought Dak was horrible because he threw too many picks? Lol). CeeDee Lamb is obviously the primary beneficiary here with 62 targets in those five post-bye games. The dude is a baller, his volume is enormous, and he’s scored five touchdowns in those games with three 100+ yard performances. Behind Lamb, the surge in Dallas passing game has lifted all boats.  After a slow start to the season, Brandin Cooks has also seen more success through the air (combined line of 13/109/1 in the season’s first five games, then 20/343/3 in the last five games). Michael Gallup and Jalen Tolbert are sharing the WR3 role and both playing under 50% of the snaps. Given the elite efficiency of this offense lately, both are definitely in play, but they are of course much lower floor options. And given that they directly compete for snaps, I’d shy away from playing too much of them together (though I don’t think I’d set a hard rule against it). Finally, gadget guy KaVontae Turpin doesn’t see a lot of volume but what he does see is geared towards upside with red zone work, deep targets, and even rushes – he’s a punt play but one with a realistic ceiling to get double-digit DK points if things break his way. 

At tight end, Jake Ferguson gets most of the work with Luke Schoonmaker backing him up. Ferg is a guy without a huge amount of yardage upside (even during Dallas’ post-bye passing renaissance, he has only gone over 47 receiving yards once), but he does have a lot of touchdown equity with a whopping 18 red zone targets on the season, which is good for either 1st or 2nd in the NFL depending on whose data set you believe. $6,200 for that kind of red zone work is a very fair price. Schoonmaker gets little volume and is a punt play. 

Pass Defense Note

Working against Dallas is that Seattle’s pass defense, while ranked just 23rd in DVOA, has somehow managed to limit opposing passing production. They’re allowing the 4th-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. They’re accomplishing this by facing a roughly league average opposing passing play rate but also facing modest opponent play volume at just 59.6 plays per game. I’m frankly struggling to get this to make any sense. Seattle is dead-last in time of possession at 27:11 per game so it’s not like they’re holding on to the ball with long drives to limit opponent volume. They aren’t playing super slow – they’re 8th-fastest in the league at 27.8 seconds per play. I don’t get why Seattle is facing such low play volume when they can’t maintain possession, they play quite quickly when they do have the ball and are not facing a high rushing play rate (which of course bleeds more clock time). The most relevant piece of data I can see is that they allow a slightly above-average completion rate but below-average yards per pass attempt, and lots of shorter completions can eat up the clock. It’s weird though. They aren’t an especially good red zone defense, allowing roughly ⅔ of opposing red zone trips to result in touchdowns (almost the worst in the league). I’m tempted to just say this data is weird, I don’t understand it, and it’s probably just volatility. This was a long writeup to just essentially shrug my shoulders and say “I don’t get it,” but my overall perspective is that I wouldn’t put too much stock in the stats that say Seattle is good at limiting opposing passing production, especially seeing as how they’ve faced a lot of below average passing offenses this season. Moving on.

Seattle

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Kickoff Sunday, Dec 3rd 1:00pm Eastern

Chargers (
21.75) at

Patriots (
17.25)

Over/Under 39.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Chargers Run D
22nd DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O
23rd DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
30th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O
29th DVOA/28th Yards per pass
Patriots Run D
1st DVOA/1st Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
28th DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D
13th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
16th DVOA/21st Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By mike johnson >>
  • The Patriots rank 31st in the NFL in scoring and have scored less than 20 points in nine of their eleven games this season while scoring seven or fewer points on four occasions.
  • Bailey Zappe will start at quarterback for the Patriots, who appear to have moved on from Mac Jones.
  • The Chargers defense has been disappointing as a whole this season but has feasted on the weaker offensive teams they have played.
  • The Los Angeles offense appears to match up well with a Patriots pass defense that has been struggling.
  • Questions surround star running back Austin Ekeler’s health as he has been fully active recently but has not looked like his normal self.

How new england Will Try To Win ::

The Patriots season has gotten away from them quickly, as they have a 2-9 record and are coming off a rough loss to the struggling Giants. The Patriots have scored 13 total points in their last two games and benched Mac Jones mid-game in both instances. This week, they are apparently moving on from Jones altogether as they have announced Bailey Zappe as their starting quarterback for Sunday and have been giving athletic rookie Malik Cunningham the backup reps at practice. Those signs would seem to indicate Jones will be the third-string emergency quarterback on Sunday if he’s active at all.

For all intents and purposes, Zappe isn’t much different from Jones. A relatively low-ceiling option at the position, Zappe is essentially a solid game manager with low arm strength and will rely on the scheme and his running game to carry him. The Patriots will need a strong showing on the ground and to keep the game close if they want to give Zappe a chance to succeed. New England ranks 27th in the NFL in pass rate over expectation, and while they have played at an elevated tempo for much of this season, it would make sense if they slowed things down a bit now that Zappe is under center. Considering the extreme struggles of the Patriots offense, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them involve Cunningham in some gadget plays and/or high leverage situations. Their personnel provides very little in terms of explosive plays or even the threat of that, and the scheme hasn’t been able to do the trick either. For those reasons, involving Cunningham and doing something the Chargers won’t have any film or preparation for would seem to be an easy way to get some cheap yards.

In the passing game, the Patriots are hurting and are struggling to keep people on the field. Rookie Demario “Pop” Douglas has not practiced yet this week due to a concussion and is likely to miss this game. He has been their best wide receiver option since losing Kendrick Bourne to a torn ACL and will definitely be missed. While the Patriots will likely be extremely run-heavy against the Chargers 26th-ranked run defense, their passing game will almost certainly be focused on the short and intermediate areas of the field with the running backs and tight ends heavily involved. In any regard, we should expect a methodical and conservative approach as the Patriots look to muddy the game up and bring the Chargers down to their level.

How los angeles Will Try To Win ::

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Kickoff Sunday, Dec 3rd 1:00pm Eastern

Lions (
25.75) at

Saints (
21.75)

Over/Under 47.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Lions Run D
3rd DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O
13th DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
16th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Saints Pass O
20th DVOA/22nd Yards per pass
Saints Run D
25th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
4th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Saints Pass D
11th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
9th DVOA/9th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By hilow >>
  • Saints RB Kendre Miller (ankle) and WR Rashid Shaheed (thigh) have yet to practice (as of Thursday), while WR Chris Olave (concussion) remains in the concussion protocol, placing his status in question as well.
  • Lions C Frank Ragnow (back/toe) went from full practice on Wednesday to a ‘DNP’ on Thursday, not exactly the best setup for him to be active on Sunday.
  • Very difficult to get a solid read on this game environment with so many moving pieces on the Saints.

How detroit Will Try To Win ::

The Lions have proven that they’ve turned a corner as an organization this season, capable of winning in many different ways. We’ve seen games of extreme pass rate over expectation games, we’ve seen balanced attacks, and we’ve seen games of extreme rush rate over expectation. And it hasn’t been like Detroit has remained rigid in the transition from game plan to game management, which typically occurs somewhere around the third possession of the game. In other words, the Lions have been capable of drawing up game plans to exploit the weaknesses of their opponents and have also been quick to adjust during games this season. That leaves them as one of the more dynamic offenses in the league. Up until a few weeks ago, the only glaring weakness from their offense was an inability to attack downfield, which largely changed once Jameson Williams got a couple games under his belt. From a macro perspective, the Lions boast a top-10 defense in yards allowed per game but have struggled to keep opponents out of the end zone, allowing 23.5 points per game (24th) behind the third-highest red zone touchdown rate allowed (68.57 percent). When this team cleans up their defense where it matters most, they are going to round third and head for home in their half-decade rebuild adventure.

Rookie Jahmyr Gibbs has maintained a stranglehold on the lead back duties since David Montgomery returned from injury three weeks ago, peaking at a 71 percent snap rate the last time out. Montgomery has seen snap rates of 38, 40, and 27 percent since returning from injury. Even so, Montgomery has been involved enough to keep Gibbs from seeing 20 or more running back opportunities, having peaked at 19 (twice) during the previous three games. Montgomery also remains the preferred short-yardage back, meaning his number is routinely called inside the five-yard line for a team with the highest green zone rush rate in the league over the previous two seasons. As in, this team pounds the rock when they get inside the 10. That has led to touchdowns in three straight for Montgomery, which further saps upside away from Gibbs. Montgomery remains a relative zero in the passing game, while Gibbs has seen five or more targets in six straight contests. The pure rushing matchup sets up as a net positive considering the elite run-blocking from the Detroit offensive line, which does take a hit if center Frank Ragnow misses with his mid-week downgrade in practice. The Saints have allowed a robust 4.5 yards per carry this season behind a middling 1.26 yards allowed before contact.

The passing game for the Lions is very much dominated by Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has absolutely erupted in his third professional season. Yes, this is still a wide receiver with a moderate aDOT, but his route running has improved with each passing year as a professional, and he remains the second most reliable wide receiver in the league, at least as far as consistency is concerned. Until last week, when he put up 95 yards through the air, St. Brown had scored or surpassed 100 yards receiving in every game this season. Meaning the one game where he failed to continue that streak he did so by just five yards. St. Brown is going to see seven to eight targets as a floor, with upside for 14-16 if the game environment dictates increased pass volume for the offense. Only he and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta are currently operating in near every-down roles, with Josh Reynolds and Jameson Williams settling into 60-70 percent roles, Kalif Raymond down in the 30-35 percent snap rate range, and Brock Wright handling 30-50 percent of the offensive snaps depending on personnel packages, which are most heavily influenced by game script. Teams have elevated their pass rates when playing the Saints this season, with the team seeing a 55.44 percent pass play rate against (10th in the league), which is interesting considering their pass defense is far better than their run defense by both DVOA and yards allow per rush or pass. I would expect the Lions to bias their attack slightly to the ground in a run-balanced approach in this spot.

How new orleans Will Try To Win ::

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Kickoff Sunday, Dec 3rd 1:00pm Eastern

Falcons (
17.5) at

Jets (
15.5)

Over/Under 33.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Falcons Run D
8th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
32nd DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
29th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
31st DVOA/31st Yards per pass
Jets Run D
14th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
20th DVOA/14th Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
3rd DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
22nd DVOA/8th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By hilow >>
  • Falcons WR Mack Hollins (ankle) returned to a limited session Wednesday after missing the previous two games.
  • Somewhat miraculously, Jets QB Aaron Rodgers (Achilles) returned to the practice field on Wednesday after tearing his Achilles three months ago. I would say he’s highly unlikely to play this week, but he was also highly unlikely to return to practice in under three months on what is a 5-to-6 month injury, at bare minimum.
  • Jets RB Breece Hall is nursing a hamstring injury and was limited on Wednesday – I expect he plays on Sunday.
  • The Falcons lead the league in rush rate over expectation (RROE) and are up against a Jets team facing the most rush attempts per game this season.

How atlanta Will Try To Win ::

The Falcons rank third in the league in rush attempts per game (32.0) and lead the league in RROE. They are now playing the team facing the most rush attempts per game (33.2). It should come as no surprise that we fully expect Atlanta to lean into the run game at extreme rates in this spot. A defense allowing 321.1 yards of offense per game (14th) and, more importantly, keeping opponents out of the end zone (third-ranked 38.24 percent red-zone touchdown rate allowed) has allowed the Falcons to continue to utilize this ultra-conservative offense that aims to shorten games. At just 19.4 points scored per game, it’s not like this team is setting out to set the world on fire as much as inch towards victories on their own terms. Their 5-6 record should highlight how effective that plan has been for them this season, backed up by them hilariously leading the NFC South division with both a losing record and while being outscored by 19 points this year. Even so, they lead the NFC South division through two-thirds of the NFL season, so it’s difficult to be overly critical of their seemingly antiquated methods.

Speaking of their ground-and-pound attack, rookie running back Bijan Robinson has been in this undulating role that has bounced around between “lead back” and “tick below bellcow” status all season. On the whole, he has seen just 50.6 percent of the team’s running back opportunities, which breaks down to 12.8 carries and 4.3 targets per game, both well below elite levels. Even so, he ranks eighth in the league with 703 rush yards, has run the most routes of any back in the league, and has a solid-yet-unspectacular 15.3 percent team target market share (sixth). Furthermore, two of his three highest workload games have come his last two times out, seeing 24 opportunities against the Cardinals in Week 10 and 22 opportunities against the Saints in Week 12 (bye in Week 11). He also ranks sixth in juke rate and 12th in yards per touch this season. We would ideally love to see more consistent volume for his inflated salary, but his per-touch efficiency keeps him in the discussion even without elite volume, and a player like that always carries immense ceiling on the offhand chance the volume begins to come around, which it appears possible is happening now. Running back Tyler Allgeier, fullback Keith Smith, and utility knife Cordarrelle Patterson remain annoyingly involved, each seeing around 30 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in each of the previous two games. The matchup on the ground is more unimposing than elite, with the bulk of the damage done against the Jets this season coming purely from volume. The Jets cede middling values in yards allowed per carry (4.3) and yards allowed before contact (1.27) this year.

Quarterback Desmond Ridder was the fantasy value black-hole starter that was, then wasn’t, then was again for the Falcons, soaking up a frustrating amount of fantasy value on the ground through four rushing scores while not truly supporting a single pass-catcher throughout his eight starts this season. Even so, the team has seemingly re-committed to him as the team’s starting quarterback after Taylor Heinicke entered the discussion due to injury but then suffered an injury of his own. From a top-level perspective, this is a team that runs extreme rates of 12-personnel, which makes sense considering their enthrallment with the run game. From a micro perspective, Drake London is the only pass-catcher playing even a near every-down role for this offense while tight end Kyle Pitts has seen a 70 percent snap rate or higher in just three games this season. Before missing two games with injury, Hollins had lost his hold on a near every-down role at wide receiver, instead sharing the WR2 role with KhaDarel Hodge, Van Jefferson and Scotty Miller. And then there’s the matchup against a Jets defense holding opponents to 5.4 net pass yards per attempt with 13 pass touchdowns allowed to 12 interceptions.

How NEW YORK Will Try To Win ::

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Kickoff Sunday, Dec 3rd 1:00pm Eastern

Cards (
17.5) at

Steelers (
23.5)

Over/Under 41.0

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Key Matchups
Cardinals Run D
31st DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
12th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D
31st DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
Steelers Run D
13th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O
8th DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
7th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O
25th DVOA/29th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By hilow >>
  • Cardinals WR Marquise Brown (heel), TE Trey McBride (groin), and WR Michael Wilson (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday. Wilson appears to be the one most at risk of missing Week 13 after failing to practice to start the week after two consecutive missed games.
  • Steelers WR/KR Calvin Austin (ankle) did not practice Wednesday.
  • This is a game between the team with the third-highest rush rate over expectation (Arizona) and the team with the fourth-highest rush rate over expectation (Pittsburgh). 
  • Overall play volume is likely to be an issue here.

How Arizona Will Try To Win ::

The Cardinals currently hold the third highest rush rate over expectation, run their offense with the fourth highest overall pace (27.3 seconds per play), and average just over 61 offensive plays per game (the NFL average is just over 63). They average a paltry 17.3 points per game (18.3 per game in Kyler’s three starts) and allow a massive 26.8 points per game (31st in the league). Furthermore, quarterback Kyler Murray has been one of the least efficient quarterbacks in the league this season per EPA/DB (expected points added per dropback). Basically, this team is a dumpster fire. That said, the Cardinals held a positive PROE value for the first time in a while last week against the Rams, which should be taken in context with the extremely negative game script they encountered. Even so, an inefficient offense with an inefficient quarterback does not instill the greatest deal of confidence moving forward.

The Cardinals cut bait on under-performing running back Keaontay Ingram before their Week 12 loss, bringing in Michael Carter from the Jets to take his spot on the roster. Carter then proceeded to play a hefty 38 percent of the offensive snaps in a blowout loss, seeing eight running back opportunities to the 11 of starter James Conner. While that does not necessarily spell the end of Conner as the lead back, it does paint an ominous picture for his expected snap rates and opportunity shares moving forward. In other words, was Conner seeing borderline elite snap rates and team opportunity shares over the previous two seasons because the team legitimately just didn’t have anyone behind him that they could trust? As things currently stand with this team’s backfield, expect Conner to act as the primary back, Emari Demercado to operate as the top change-of-pace option, and Carter to serve as the obvious passing down back. The matchup on the ground against the Steelers presents an unimposing spot as Pittsburgh has allowed 4.3 yards per carry behind a middling 1.23 yards allowed before contact.

Marquise Brown is the clear alpha of the offense but he has had to fight through consistently poor quarterback play this season and has played through a heel injury in each of the previous two games (on the injury report again this week with the same heel injury). Second-year tight end Trey McBride carries the top underlying metrics against zone coverage for the Cardinals but the Steelers are in man at the sixth highest rate in the league (just under 32 percent). Rookie wide receiver Michael Wilson has missed the previous two games after earning a near every down role for the Cardinals, which has opened up additional playing time for the only other pass-catcher on this team that has consistently earned targets outside of Brown and McBride – diminutive receiver Greg Dortch. Dortch has played 75 and 76 percent of the offensive snaps in the previous two games with Wilson sidelined, most notably playing over Zach Pascal for the first time this season. Rondale Moore is the on-paper WR2 in this offense but has historically struggled to command targets when on the field, generating poor per-route efficiency metrics throughout his career. From a macro perspective, Brown has commanded targets at an elite rate against man coverage this season, seeing a solid 29.5 percent targets per route run (TPRR) but catching just 11-of-23 looks against that primary coverage this year. Hint, teams play very low rates of man coverage against the Cardinals anemic offense.

How pittsburgh Will Try To Win ::

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Kickoff Sunday, Dec 3rd 1:00pm Eastern

Colts (
21.5) at

Titans (
20.5)

Over/Under 42.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Colts Run D
24th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O
18th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
14th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O
24th DVOA/16th Yards per pass
Titans Run D
10th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
9th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Titans Pass D
24th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
17th DVOA/15th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By hilow >>
  • Colts RB Jonathan Taylor (thumb) is likely to miss the next two to three weeks for the Colts, potentially longer. That leaves Zack Moss as the unquestioned lead back for the time being after the veteran ran in a true workhorse role earlier in the season in the absence of Taylor.
  • Titans QB Will Levis (ankle) and WR Treylon Burks (concussion) returned to full practices on Thursday. Burks is attempting to return from three straight missed games with his head injury.
  • Zack Moss ($4,600) should be considered the top on-paper play of the slate. He is likely to be extremely popular, so roster construction will be important if playing him.

How indianaplois Will Try To Win ::

The Colts have proven that they would prefer to be a run-balanced team, but they are also not afraid to open things up if the game environment calls for it this year. In this spot, against a gutted Tennessee offense that is highly unlikely to push a game environment on their own merit, it becomes increasingly likely that the Colts are allowed to maintain a run-balanced stance. The big change is that the bulk of the “run” in “run-balanced” should flow through one man – Zack Moss. Another big change from how we would normally view this spot has to do with the Titans and their opponents’ trends this season. Over the last three or four years, the Titans forced extremely high rates of passing against due to a top-run defense. This year, however, they have faced the sixth-highest rush rate at 53.92 percent. That should all come together to paint a clear picture of the likeliest plan of attack for the Colts here, with a lean toward the ground in a run-balanced attack.

As was mentioned above, Zack Moss started the season as the unquestioned lead back for the Colts, handling snap rates between 76 percent and 98 percent while seeing opportunity counts of 22, 33, 19, and 25 over a four-game sample. That, my friends, is elite. One of those games, oddly enough, came against these same Titans, when he put up 36.5 DK points on 23 carries and two targets. Expect Trey Sermon to operate as the loose change of pace back behind Moss, who saw just 28 offensive snaps in the two games he acted as the direct backup to Moss earlier in the season. The matchup on the ground is difficult on paper against a Titans defense yielding just 3.8 yards per carry behind the lowest yards before contact allowed in the league (1.08). But again, the Titans have allowed rushing volume to offset the poor expected efficiency from opposing backs.

The Colts have utilized near league-average rates of 12-personnel, largely dependent on game flow. Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce operate in every-down roles while the WR3 position has largely been shared by Isaiah McKenzie and Josh Downs of late. Downs started the season as the clear WR3 but played behind McKenzie in Week 9 and Week 10 before McKenzie got hurt in Week 12. McKenzie returned to practice on Thursday and appears likely to suit up against the Titans, leaving some level of uncertainty in the expected snap rate split between the two. Either way, Pittman and Pierce should be the only two in near-every-down roles considering the three-way rotation at tight end. The Titans have allowed 6.5 net yards per pass attempt this season, which ranks eighth worst in the league, so this should not be viewed as a prohibitive spot through the air. Even so, this pass offense leaves the options rather slim – it’s basically Pittman or nobody. Pittman went over 100 yards through the air for just the second time this season in Week 12, highlighting his need for volume in a modest aDOT role. That volume is less likely to be extreme in this spot considering the opponent, leaving him with fewer paths to GPP-viable production.

How tennessee Will Try To Win ::

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Kickoff Sunday, Dec 3rd 1:00pm Eastern

Dolphins (
29) at

WFT (
20.5)

Over/Under 49.5

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Key Matchups
Dolphins Run D
21st DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Commanders Run O
16th DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
18th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Commanders Pass O
27th DVOA/27th Yards per pass
Commanders Run D
16th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
3rd DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Commanders Pass D
32nd DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
2nd DVOA/2nd Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By Hilow >>
  • The Miami injury report is about 15 players deep, but it appears like the only two players in danger of missing Week 13 are S Jevon Holland and OT Kendall Lamm.
  • Dolphins RB De’Von Achane (knee) got in consecutive limited sessions to start the week while WR Tyreek Hill (ankle) upgraded from ‘DNP’ to limited Thursday.
  • Dolphins RB Raheem Mostert (ankle/knee) upgraded from ‘DNP’ to limited on Thursday and appears likely to play.
  • The Commanders fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio after the team’s Week 12 game and brought in former Buffalo Bills secondary coach Jim Salgado “on an interim basis.” Clearly this team was tired of getting torched deep – whether that helps against the Dolphins remains entirely up in the air.
  • The Commanders have been a fantasy goldmine this season, not for the Commanders themselves but for their opponents. Washington leads the league in pass-play rate and has been torched through the air, paving the way for some absolutely monstrous fantasy performances from pass catchers playing against them this year.
  • I expect the Commanders to play more zone coverage with Ron Rivera now fully in charge of the defense, who’s also likely to introduce more unique blitz packages from zone. Those sweeping changes take time, particularly when you’ve been playing extreme rates of man coverage this season and now move to the more communication-heavy zone. All of that to say, don’t expect significant improvements in defensive efficiency from the Commanders against the Dolphins.

How miami Will Try To Win ::

The Dolphins have undergone an awakening of sorts this season. Improved defensive efficiency, an elite pass rush, and an explosive run game has allowed them to be even more unpredictable on offense, which has taken the form of reduced pass rates and a more dynamic run game. No longer is this team simply passing on every play for an entire drive as they were found doing on multiple occasions last season. The best way to relate this change is to say that Mike McDaniel has a little less “mad” in his “mad genius” title. He’s still a damn offensive wizard, but he’s going about his offensive game management in a more nuanced way this year when compared to last season. The beauty of that nuanced change means his team is a bit more cohesive and less frantic, which has done wonders for their ability to win in different ways this season. All of that to say, they completely outmatch the Commanders in every area on the football field this week, likely leaving the fantasy upside in the hands of extreme efficiency and an ability to score touchdowns. Worry not, friends, this team carries the ability to hammer those areas in spades. Expect a balanced but aggressive offensive design against an opponent that has bled explosive plays this season.

While it currently appears likely that the electric Achane returns to action in Week 13 after consecutive limited practices, it shouldn’t be viewed as a sure thing considering his four-game absence with a knee injury and then his tweaking of the ailment on three offensive snaps, forcing another missed game. Basically, Achane hasn’t been in action in what amounts to six weeks. During that time, Salvon Ahmed served as the preferred change-of-pace back in the duo over Jeff Wilson, until the former hit injured reserve himself. Regardless of whether it’s Achane or Wilson as the “two” in the one-two punch, expect Mostert to operate in a “lead back but below bellcow” role, typically in the 60-65 percent snap rate range. Even with those snap-rate handcuffs on, Mostert has managed opportunity counts of 24 and 20 over the previous two games and should once again be in line to approach or surpass 20 opportunities here (assuming health). That should leave 10-12 opportunities to the primary change-of-pace back, depending on game flow. The matchup on the ground is a solid one against a Washington defense yielding 4.4 yards per carry behind a robust 1.38 yards allowed before contact. The Commanders have surrendered “only” seven rushing scores this season, which is more of a nod to how easy it has been to score through the air on them than it is indicative of some glaring success defending the run (they have allowed an insane 28 passing scores through 12 games played).

Hill is on pace to make good on his preseason prediction of a 2,000-yard season. He has been the most consistent fantasy producer of all skill-position players this year, surpassing 100 yards through the air in seven of 11 contests and scoring 10 total touchdowns to this point in the season. He is averaging over 120 yards per game, with a required pace of 113 yards per game needed to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark. There isn’t a ton left to say about this man on the football field. He has been ELITE. Furthermore, he has seen double-digit targets in all but three games this season. A matchup against a Commanders defense allowing the highest rate of explosive pass plays sounds like exactly the matchup he needs to keep pace. And it isn’t like this man is running only downfield looks. On the contrary, his 10.0 aDOT ranks just 67th in the league and his route tree has grown during the 2023 season. On top of all that goodness, Hill carries an insane 35.4 red-zone target share and leads the league in targets per route run (TPRR) at 36.7 percent. The biggest knock to his upside is the Dolphins’ general tendency to remove him from the field in blowout wins, as he already has four games of 60 percent snap rate or less this season. The team is figuring out how to best utilize Jaylen Waddle in conjunction with Hill, as the talented third-year receiver has put up 100-yard games in two of his previous four contests after failing to do so during the first seven weeks of the season. Waddle’s 26.6 percent TPRR rate feels light years behind that of Hill’s, but it still ranks 17th in the league. His 16.7 percent red-zone target share is the biggest difference between the two, making it evident what the team wants to do with the football once it enter the red zone while also helping explain his comparatively small three receiving scores this year. The remaining wide receiver snaps and opportunities should be divided amongst Braxton Berrios, Cedrick Wilson, and River Cracraft, with tight end Durham Smythe now an afterthought in the offensive design.

How washington Will Try To Win ::

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Broncos (
22) at

Texans (
25)

Over/Under 47.0

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Key Matchups
Broncos Run D
30th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
30th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Broncos Pass D
26th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
12th DVOA/5th Yards per pass
Texans Run D
2nd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O
14th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Broncos Pass O
18th DVOA/25th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By mike johnson >>
  • Denver enters this game on a five game winning streak, having beaten several playoff teams over that time.
  • Rookie sensation CJ Stroud will have his work cut out for him this week against a red-hot Broncos defense.
  • This game is surprisingly very important in the AFC playoff picture as both teams sit at 6-5 with paths to a playoff berth.
  • The Broncos offense continues to be very conservative, leaning on their defense to set them up with short fields off turnovers.
  • This game has the second highest implied total of the week on the main slate.

How denver Will Try To Win ::

The Broncos have bounced back from an embarrassing start to the year that was highlighted by a 50-point loss to the Dolphins and are now in the thick of the AFC playoff race. This rejuvenation has been led by their defense holding six straight opponents to 22 or fewer points and forcing 15 turnovers in their last four games. The Broncos have won five straight games and all of those wins came against teams who are currently in the playoff hunt with records of 5-6 or better. That is critical information because we often see teams on these hot streaks but it has happened thanks to soft spots in the schedule. The Broncos seem for real and appear like they will be a tough out for the remainder of the season.

The Broncos are one of only twelve NFL teams who throw the ball on fewer than 60% of their offensive plays. They rank 26th in the NFL in pass rate over expectation (PROE) and Russell Wilson ranks second to last in the NFL in average intended air yards per pass attempt among qualifying, healthy QB’s. The only regular starting quarterback who is pushing the ball downfield less than Wilson this season is Bryce Young, and we all know how much that Panthers offense has struggled. Those rate stats tell the story of an extremely conservative Broncos offense that is asking Wilson to just manage the game and “don’t lose it for us.” When throwing the ball, Courtland Sutton has been the primary wide receiver target and has had some success in the red zone. Jerry Jeudy and Marvin Mims have also been more involved recently, but the overall lack of aggression through the air has left the Broncos passing game as a spot of frustration and inconsistency.

The Broncos running game involves three players, with Javonte Williams leading the way and coming off his highest snap rate of the season. Williams has opportunity (carries plus targets) of counts of 24, 13, 25, 30, and 19 during the Broncos five game winning streak. Both Samaje Perine and Jaleel McLaughlin remain involved and both of them see targets and some goal line work on a weekly basis, but the high volume of rushing for Denver along with Wilson’s propensity to check down to the running backs keep this as a situation with plenty of volume.

Denver is on a roll and has the playoffs squarely in their sights. Four of their five games after this week are against teams who currently have losing records, giving the Broncos a terrific chance at making the playoffs. Knocking off the Texans, who have the same record as the Broncos, would be huge for their playoff chances. They have ridden a conservative offensive game plan and an opportunistic defense to this point and will look to do the same here, hoping to slow things down rather than getting into a track meet with the young gunslinging quarterback across the way.

How houston Will Try To Win ::

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Panthers (
16.75) at

Bucs (
20.25)

Over/Under 37.0

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Key Matchups
Panthers Run D
32nd DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O
29th DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
20th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O
15th DVOA/6th Yards per pass
Buccaneers Run D
11th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
25th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D
15th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
32nd DVOA/32nd Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By papy324 >>
  • The Panthers have the worst record in the league and just fired their head coach. They replaced him with Chris Tabor, who has never held a position in the NFL above special-teams coordinator. 
  • Bryce Young has the look of an NFL bust. The Panthers traded two first-round picks and DJ Moore for him, which will likely keep them bad for a long time. 
  • Jonathan Mingo has played over 90% of the snaps in every game since the Panthers’ bye week. It hasn’t paid off in the box scores yet, but he is the type of player who can post a 30-point game out of nowhere. 
  • Chuba Hubbard has become the Panthers’ lead back after they gave Miles Sanders a big offseason deal. Hubbard has played more snaps than Sanders every game since the Panthers’ bye, but Sanders still plays enough to cap Hubbard’s ceiling. 
  • The Buccaneers have been a pass-leaning team this year out of necessity, not choice. 
  • There is a good chance Rachaad White sees the most rushing attempts he had this season. 
  • Mike Evans is functioning as the alpha pass catcher of this offense, while Chris Godwin has become a possession receiver.

How CAROLINA Will Try To Win ::

The 1-10 Panthers hobble into Week 13 with the worst record in football. The Panthers are so bad David Tepper decided to let Frank Reich go after less than a full season as head coach. To make matters worse, the Panthers traded two first-round picks (one of which might end up being 1st overall) and Moore to the Bears for the right to draft Young – a move Reich may or may not have agreed to, after reports surfaced that he preferred C.J. Stroud before the season.  Reich then publicly backed picking Young, but what was he supposed to do at that point?  Either way, Reich is out and has been replaced by Tabor as the interim head coach. If you haven’t heard of Tabor, you aren’t alone. He’s been in the NFL since 2008, but he’s never been more than a special-teams coordinator. He is probably a popular coach who the players will accept as a figurehead to finish out the year.  That’s the only thing that makes sense about him being promoted, and it’s likely that Panthers OC Thomas Brown will continue calling the plays.   

The Panthers have played at a moderate pace (14th overall) but seem to play quicker on the road (sixth) and slower (24th) at home. Those splits might just be game-flow noise, but since they’re always losing, it’s at least worth noting that they appear to play much faster on the road. The Bucs have been respectable against the run (13th in DVOA) and poor against the pass (20th in DVOA). The DVOA numbers don’t tell the full extent of their run- and pass-defense disparity. The Bucs are eighth in yards allowed per carry and 29th in yards allowed per pass. The Bucs might not be quite the pass funnel they were a few years ago, but they are significantly stronger against the run and most teams have decided it’s best to attack them through the air. The Panthers want to run more than pass  – they check in 18th in pass rate over expectation (PROE) – but have passed at the fifth-highest rate in the league (66%).  Those discrepancies are the result of them always losing, which is the likely scenario again this week. The Bucs are best attacked through the air, and the Panthers have no reason to be conservative. Their season is over. They might as well let Young cut it loose and see what he can give them for the future. Expect the Panthers to come out with a more pass-leaning game plan than usual to see what Young can do, with the fact that approach equates to attacking the weakness of the Bucs defense being a happy accident.

How tampa bay Will Try To Win ::

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Kickoff Sunday, Dec 3rd 4:25pm Eastern

Browns (
18) at

Rams (
21.5)

Over/Under 39.5

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Key Matchups
Browns Run D
5th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Rams Run O
7th DVOA/8th Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
2nd DVOA/6th Yards allowed per pass
Rams Pass O
10th DVOA/3rd Yards per pass
Rams Run D
20th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
21st DVOA/25th Yards per carry
Rams Pass D
22nd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
26th DVOA/13th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By mike johnson >>
  • We may all be exposed to the “Joe Flacco experience” in Week 13 if rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is not cleared from his Week 12 concussion.
  • Both teams are likely to have a run-heavy approach to this game.
  • This is a “must-win” game for both teams who are trying to keep pace in their respective playoff races.
  • The Browns lead the NFL in man coverage rate and the Rams wide receivers have struggled against man coverage this season.
  • Injury statuses for key players on both sides of the ball, especially for Cleveland, will impact how this game should be viewed.

How Cleveland Will Try To Win ::

The Browns continue to fly through quarterbacks this season as Deshaun Watson is already done for the season and they may have their fourth starter of the year this week if veteran journeyman Joe Flacco is given the nod. Rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson was concussed in last week’s drubbing by the Broncos and seems unlikely to be cleared for action. The Browns seem like they’ve seen enough from XFL star PJ Walker and Flacco is allegedly the next man up if DTR is unable to go. 

The Browns rank 31st in the NFL in pass rate over expectation (PROE), ahead of only Arthur Smith’s ultra-conservative Atlanta offense. With Flacco under center, we should expect those numbers to hold or become even more run-heavy in Week 13. The Browns defense ranks #1 in the NFL in DVOA and they will attempt to make this game about defense and ball control while running the ball at a very high rate and being conservative in the passing game. Flacco has always been an immobile “statue” as a quarterback and at age 38 that will only be amplified. This means Cleveland will have to operate in a very traditional manner and their passing game concepts will likely focus on screens and the short to intermediate areas. Star wide receiver Amari Cooper’s status is also in doubt after sustaining a rib injury in Week 12. It seems likely that the running backs, tight end David Njoku, and slot receiver Elijah Moore will be very busy this week as Flacco is likely to have designed short throws and will check the ball down often against a zone-heavy Rams defense that is likely to flood their secondary with bodies and have zero fear of Flacco making plays with his legs. Flacco should also have some built-in chemistry with Moore after playing with him on the Jets last season. In Flacco’s three starts to begin the 2022 season, Moore averaged seven targets per game.

How los Angeles Will Try To Win ::

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49ers (
25) at

Eagles (
22)

Over/Under 47.0

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Key Matchups
49ers Run D
15th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
6th DVOA/12th Yards per carry
49ers Pass D
4th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
7th DVOA/11th Yards per pass
Eagles Run D
19th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
49ers Run O
2nd DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
28th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
49ers Pass O
1st DVOA/1st Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By mike johnson >>
  • The “game of the week” features a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game and will have a lot to live up to after last week’s thrilling game between the Eagles and Bills.
  • Both defenses have a clear “path of least resistance” with the number indicating that the Philadelphia running game and 49ers passing game are in the best spots this week.
  • After a couple of quiet weeks, A.J. Brown could be primed for a breakout.
  • The 49ers defense has 15 sacks in the three games since acquiring Chase Young.
  • A loss by the Eagles would make next week’s showdown with the Cowboys a game for the NFC East division lead.

How San francisco Will Try To Win ::

The 49ers had a mid-season lull where they lost three consecutive games to the Browns, Vikings, and Bengals. Other than that, they have won their other eight games – seven by double digits and five by three or more scores. In those eight wins, they have scored at least 27 points in every game and 30+ in seven of eight. Another important factor to consider is that losing streak in the middle of their season came during the stretch of games where star wide receiver Deebo Samuel and star offensive tackle Trent Williams were injured. Since both returned to the lineup, the 49ers have resumed their dominant ways and are scorching-hot heading into Philadelphia this week.

The 49ers run the ball at the highest rate in the NFL but are just a little below the middle of the pack in pass rate over expectation (PROE). Said another way, a lot of their high rush rate has to do with the extreme game scripts that their high-scoring offense and very good defense have created for them this season. The 49ers passing game leads the league in DVOA and yards per pass attempt, as they have been wildly efficient when fully healthy. As we have explored in past weeks, this offense works similar to a basketball team, with Brock Purdy as the “point guard” and their four star playmakers – Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, Samuel, and George Kittle – having the ball dispersed amongst them to make plays. This week they face the Eagles, who have one of the league’s top run defenses that has slowed down many units this season. That fact is unlikely to completely deter the 49ers, however, as their running game concepts are the backbone to their offense and their scheme is unique in how hard it is to defend. Put simply, this is a tougher-than-usual matchup for the 49ers running game but it is also a much more complex task than usual for the Eagles run defense. 

The Eagles secondary has had its issues and the 49ers highly efficient passing game will look to pick its spots and take advantage of this as well. Philadelphia mixes up their man and zone coverage looks, but they have been far worse when playing zone coverage this season than man. This weakness could be exploited this week by a 49ers team that is built to get the ball in the hands of  its playmakers and then let them make things happen. Zone coverage, in many cases, makes those short completions a bit easier and then banks on the defenders making tackles. That’s a dangerous little game to be playing with the likes of Deebo, CMC, and Kittle. Philadelphia has had its share of troubles with outside receivers as well and Aiyuk leads the league in yards per route run, which is one of the more predictive receiving stats we have in terms of “how good” a receiver is really playing.

All things considered, the 49ers offense will not stray too far from its normal approach in this game but will certainly be aware of the offensive threat on the other side of the ball and take an aggressive approach early as they try to build a lead. Also, after seeing the Eagles comeback victory over the Bills in Week 12, we should expect San Francisco to keep its foot on the gas even if the Niners are able to build an early lead.

How PHILADELPHIA Will Try To Win ::

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Chiefs (
24.75) at

Packers (
18.75)

Over/Under 43.5

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Key Matchups
Chiefs Run D
27th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O
17th DVOA/10th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
5th DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O
5th DVOA/10th Yards per pass
Packers Run D
26th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
11th DVOA/11th Yards per carry
Packers Pass D
27th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
6th DVOA/19th Yards per pass

XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT

Sunday Night Football has the Chiefs visiting the Packers for a 42.5 total game with Kansas City favored by 6. Looking back over the last few seasons, in the past, I would have been surprised to see a Chiefs game with this low of a total, but their defense has been absolutely lights out. Despite failing as DFS chalk last week, they still allowed just 17 points, keeping them in 3rd place in the NFL defensive rankings at just 16.5 points allowed per game. Green Bay’s defense has also been above average, so Vegas is saying this one is likely to be a somewhat boring affair.

INJURY UPDATE: Jerick McKinnon ruled out

Well, so much for being expected to play. This news really solidifies Pacheco’s role as the Chiefs gave him 78% of the snaps last week without McKinnon, his highest of the season by a wide margin. McKinnon being out raises Pacheco from “he’s fine” to “he’s a really solid play,” and it brings Clyde Edwards-Helaire in as an RB2 option.

Green Bay 

The Packers backfield looks likely to miss Aaron Jones again as Jones has yet to practice this week as of Friday, so he seems highly unlikely to play and that’s going to be my assumption in this writeup. That leaves the backfield in the mediocre hands of AJ Dillon who, despite playing lead back sans Jones in four full weeks, as well as some partial weeks when Jones was in a small “returning from injury” role, has a season-high of 13.6 Draftkings points. There is no way to make this look favorable: Dillon has been one of the worst running backs in the NFL this season, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry with only a single touchdown. He’s gotten plenty of touches close to the goal line, so even with his below average efficiency we can also acknowledge that he’s gotten unlucky with touchdowns, but even so, yikes. In Dillon’s favor, of course, is the workload. Despite being terrible, the Packers continue to give him the ball, including a reasonable amount of passing game work (such as seven targets in the last two games when having the lead role). At running back, we generally care more about volume and matchup than we do about talent, and Dillon’s price reflects his lack of effectiveness. It’s an ugly click given how bad he’s been, but on paper, Dillon projects as a solid option and I’m going to try to swallow my bias and treat him as one. Backup Patrick Taylor played a very healthy 48% of the snaps last week, but only saw four opportunities. The good news is, that means his price didn’t jump up and he’s still $2,000. Snap share is a major predictor of running back production, and while it didn’t play out last week, if Taylor sees a similar 40-50% snap range this week, I’m willing to bet he gets more than four opportunities. He’s a reasonable value option.

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The Packers passing game has some injury questions with Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks, and Josiah Deguara all questionable. Given that they all got in at least some practice this week, I’m expecting them all to play, but I’m most confident that Reed will play as this is the same injury he played through last week on the way to a strong performance on Thanksgiving. That would leave the Packers with Reed, Christian Watson, and Romeo Doubs as their primary wide receiver group, with Wicks in the WR4 role. This is an awful matchup against a Chiefs secondary that has shut down opposing passing attacks all season, but in a Showdown, we have to play someone and it’s not like it’s impossible for these guys to get there. Watson has been a disaster all year until he finally had a good game last week with a 5/94/1 performance, Doubs doesn’t do much besides score touchdowns but he has a whopping seven of those, while Reed started the year as a part-time player and has seen his role grow recently. At very similar prices, Reed is my favorite option here – he’s a very talented rookie who has already delivered some of the best performances of any Green Bay WR this season despite playing limited snaps for much of the year, and the role is growing. Watson would be next, then Doubs, who I feel offers little beyond TD upside. I’d be cautious playing too many Packers pass catchers together given the matchup and think I would limit myself to two of these guys on a given roster. Wicks is fine to mix in anywhere at just $800. 

At tight end, we saw Tucker Kraft play 96% of the snaps last week with Luke Musgrave and Deguara both out, ending with a 2/15/1 line on two targets. The snaps are encouraging, but only seeing two targets on 32 Jordan Love pass attempts is less so. At $4,200, his role is big enough that I’m willing to take shots on him, but overall I prefer the kickers he’s priced near. His role would likely also shrink somewhat if Deguara makes his return – he’d still play a lot, but maybe 70-80% of the snaps instead of 96% again. Deguara would be a punt option if he’s in, while if he’s out, TE2 Ben Sims would be the punt play. 

Kansas City

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Kickoff Monday, Dec 4th 8:15pm Eastern

Bengals (
15.5) at

Jaguars (
25.5)

Over/Under 41.0

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Key Matchups
Bengals Run D
28th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
26th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
21st DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
13th DVOA/18th Yards per pass
Jaguars Run D
6th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
22nd DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
12th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
14th DVOA/26th Yards per pass

XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT

Week 13 closes out with the Bengals visiting the Jags for a game with a 40-point total and Jacksonville favored by 10 (so, yes, the Bengals are implied for only about 15 points). On the one hand, we have a Bengals offense that is missing its franchise quarterback and has a guy named “Jake Browning” starting, on the other we have a Jacksonville defense that is allowing the fifth-most passing yards per game. Stoppable force meets movable object? It’s also worth noting that when Joe Burrow got hurt, the Bengals said they wouldn’t change their game plan and they believed Browning could make the throws…they lost to the Steelers, but they didn’t seem to change the game plan.

Out of a comically-low 37 offensive plays, they passed on 26 of them (and the Steelers didn’t take a lead until the end of the third quarter, so it wasn’t like they were playing from behind and chasing). It’s fair to expect Cincinnati to run more than 37 offensive plays here. It’s also fair to think they are likely to skew pass-heavy – maybe not to the degree they did under Burrow, but they showed they want to keep passing with Browning at quarterback, and the matchup very much tilts that way against a Jags defense that is absolutely elite against the run (and not bad against the pass either, but worse).

CINCINNATI

Ok, so…Bengals run game. The only reasons you would play the Bengals run game are as follows:

  1. Football is weird
  2. Running backs in Showdown always have TD equity (guys tackled at the 1, DPI in the end zone, etc.)

There is really nothing to point to Joe Mixon here besides the above points. At $7,000 he’s priced at an enticing level that is likely to attract ownership, so it’s not even as if you’ll get a big ownership discount here, I expect. It’s not wild to play him, but just be aware the floor is very low given the matchup and the Bengals play-calling tendencies. RB2 Trayveon Williams played 19% of the snaps last week without a single touch – his role is generally very small, and while zero touches is obviously an outlier, there isn’t likely much volume here. At $400 he doesn’t need much, so I think he’s worth including in player pools.

The Bengals passing game is more fun because we have a guy who looks like a non-terrible backup QB…with elite pass catchers. Tee Higgins is back, so the Bengals get their preferred alignment of Ja’Marr Chase, Higgins, and Tyler Boyd at wide receiver with Trenton Irwin backing them up. They’re also all priced down to account for Browning, so even with a clear QB downgrade, they’re enticing in a pass-funnel matchup. Out of 26 dropbacks last week, Chase had six targets, Boyd had five, Mixon had two, “WR3” (Irwin and Andrei Iosivas) had three, and a smattering of multiple tight ends had nine. Obviously Chase is the most talented guy here and at $9,400 in a good matchup, he’s a really interesting piece, because he doesn’t need Browning to make things happen for him – he just needs the ball delivered to him and he can make things happen on his own. Higgins and Boyd are a little tougher because they don’t really make much happen on their own – it’s not like they can’t run with the ball, but whereas Chase is #3 in the NFL on YAC/target, Boyd is 31st and Higgins is 61st. I want to prioritize the guy where, if they get the ball in his hands, he can smash. Of course Higgins and Boyd are much less expensive than Chase and I think they’re all viable here.

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The tight ends are where things get tricky for the Bengals because they’re using four guys most weeks. We can start by basically throwing out Mitchell Wilcox as nothing more than a punt play – he plays the fewest snaps and has six targets on the season. Then we have Irv Smith…I hate to say it (or rather my best ball lineups hate to say it), but Irv is basically a punt as well, averaging about 2.5 targets per game. Drew Sample? Averaging a little over one target per game (though with two touchdowns!). Preseason hero Tanner Hudson appears to have taken over as the primary pass-catching tight end in Cincinnati, averaging 5.25 targets per game in the last four games despite not playing a whole ton of snaps. Snaps ARE a concern, because Hudson isn’t really on the field when the team is in the red zone…when in close, Smith has six targets, Sample has one, Hudson (and Wilcox) both have zero. So the way I see it, Hudson is the best tight-end play on the Bengals, Irv Smith is second, Sample third, Wilcox fourth – but I see a big gap between Hudson and Smith. Hudson really seems to be ascending in this offense and I think he’s the one player from the group who would be likeliest to see his role increase, whereas the other guys are just “we know what the role is and are hoping they get lucky and catch a touchdown.” 

Jacksonville

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