Week 15 Matchups

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(Jump to Games)

Welcome to Week 15, fam! I put together a Week 14 Review video, in which I A) recap some of the big performances from the weekend, B) recap the Player Grid, and C) look ahead toward Week 15. Watch or listen below!


In spite of Week 15 giving us 16 total games, this is perhaps the easiest slate in the last two years to research and write up (at the very least, it’s the easiest slate of this season to research and write) — with a big pile of straightforward (and mostly unattractive) games. But where this slate is one of the easiest to research, it will be one of the most difficult to play. There are very few lock-and-load options on this slate, which A) may lead to lower-scoring rosters comprising the cash line (as always: the cash line tends to be dependent on “how the chalk fares” — but with less certainty on this slate, there is a greater-than-normal chance that some of the chalk misses), and B) will likely introduce more variance than we would typically love to see.

For me, there are two ways to approach a slate like this. The first option is to lower bankroll exposure to the slate. With only three weeks left in the season, this can require some discipline — but I always prefer to go heavier on weeks (like Week 14) in which I feel I can comfortably predict where the points will come from, while going a bit lighter on weeks (like Week 15) in which there are fewer sources of certainty. The second option on a week like this is to focus on taking as many guaranteed points as you can — either through high-priced players with a low likelihood of failure, or through blocks of players that are guaranteed to produce points as a pair/group. On a slate with a lot of uncertainty, guaranteed points become extremely valuable.

I plan to pair those two approaches myself — cutting down on bankroll a bit while hunting for building blocks of guaranteed points. In “bankroll building” contests (smaller-field tourneys, single-entry tourneys, and cash games), this is a great way to capitalize on the mistakes that others are sure to make this week, and to gain your edge on the field.

With that, let’s begin our journey toward the top of the Week 15 leaderboards.

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Kickoff Thursday, Dec 13th 8:20pm Eastern

Chargers (
25.5) at

Chiefs (
29)

Over/Under 54.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Chargers Run D
21st DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
17th DVOA/9th Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
11th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
1st DVOA/12th Yards per pass
Chiefs Run D
28th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
31st DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
2nd DVOA/4th Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
7th DVOA/5th Yards per pass

CHARGERS // CHIEFS OVERVIEW

Writing up this game early in the week is a challenge…but it’s not nearly as much of a challenge as it will be for these teams to play in this game. Put simply: the NFL screwed up. No way should two teams fighting for a division title be forced to play each other in Week 15 on short rest. It’s irresponsible and bad for the league — and it’s bad for these teams, as the Chiefs are likely to still be without Sammy Watkins, while Tyreek Hill will be gutting out a foot injury of his own; and the Chargers now appear likely to be missing both Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Ekeler is dealing with a stinger in his neck and is also in concussion protocol, making it massively unlikely that he gets cleared in time for Thursday night. Gordon has not seemed close to returning the last two weeks and is currently being viewed as doubtful. If the Chiefs win this game, they will have home field advantage in the AFC playoffs practically locked up. If the Chargers win this game, they will have a shot at grabbing home field advantage themselves. While the players on the field will have to execute, a lot of this game will come down to coaching, and to which team can better utilize their available players. This game opened at an Over/Under of 56.5 and was rapidly bet down to 53.0. With this game being played at Arrowhead, the Chiefs have been installed as slim 3.5 point favorites.

CHARGERS OFFENSE

The run game is the foundation of this Chargers offense, and there is a case to be made that they will try to control this game on the ground for as long as they can, with their top five rushing offense taking on a Chiefs defense that ranks dead last in DVOA against the run while allowing an electrifying 5.1 yards per carry (31st in the NFL). With the threat of Keenan Allen underneath and Mike/Tyrell Williams deep, the Chargers have been able to design one of the most effective running back roles in the NFL, and Justin Jackson — who failed in Week 14, but looked excellent in Weeks 12 and 13 (averaging 8.1 and 7.9 yards per carry on limited touches, showing a nice patience/burst combo behind the Chargers’ strong blocking) — should be able to succeed in this spot. Of course, there is also a case to be made that either A) the Chiefs jump out to a big, early lead and force the Chargers to get aggressive through the air, or B) the Chargers put the ball into the hands of Philip Rivers without his top two backs and let him win the game for them. On the season, the Chargers rank fifth in the NFL in points per game while ranking 32nd in pace of play and 22nd in pass play rate — leading to the seventh fewest pass attempts in the league, and to only four games all year with more than 30 pass attempts for Rivers. (One of those four games came in Week 1 against Kansas City, when Rivers threw 51 times.) In deciding how you want to build rosters for this game, you should first decide how you think the Chargers will attack. (I’ll wait until the Interpretation section below to pop in my thoughts.)

Regardless of how the Chargers attack, Jackson projects to be involved, with the Chargers averaging 25.3 rush attempts per game and involving running backs in the pass game all year, both as outlets and in the screen game. Behind Jackson, Detrez Newsome should fill the change-of-pace role that Jackson filled the last two weeks and that Ekeler filled all season before that. Last week, Ekeler played 39 snaps and Jackson played 21 — with a similar distribution likely in line this week. The lead role in this offense has typically produced 18 to 22 touches, while the backup role has yielded anywhere from six to 10 touches most weeks.

NOTE: Gordon traveled with the team and now has a chance to play. It should go without saying: he becomes a strong option if healthy and playing most of the snaps. Keep a close eye on news leading up to this game to see which guy is expected to lead this backfield.

The engine of the pass game has been Allen, who has an interesting matchup against a Chiefs defense that has been a factory for big plays (no team in the league has allowed more pass plays of 20+ yards), but that shaves 2.5% off the league-average catch rate and has been solid against slot-dominant receivers, with Kendall Fuller playing above-average defense (7.5 yards per pass attempt allowed into his coverage; only two touchdowns allowed all year). Recent, notable stat lines from slot-dominant receivers against the Chiefs:

:: Willie Snead — 5-61-0
:: Larry Fitzgerald — 6-50-0
:: Jarvis Landry — 6-50-0
:: Emmanuel Sanders — 4-57-0
:: Tyler Boyd — 3-27-0
:: Julian Edelman — 4-54-0
:: Dede Westbrook — 3-55-0
:: Emmanuel Sanders — 5-45-0

The last two slot-dominant players to top 61 yards against the Chiefs were JuJu Smith-Schuster in Week 2 (13-121-1 on 19 targets) and this game’s very own Keenan Allen in Week 1 (8-108-1 on 11 targets). Allen should get enough work to win in this matchup, and he has the after-catch upside to pop off for a big play or two, but the matchup should obviously be noted. As always: volume will likely be key for Allen to produce.

Downfield work in this offense is functioning on a rotational basis, with Travis Benjamin seeing 20 snaps and one target last week, Mike Williams seeing 29 snaps and six targets last week (10 targets across his previous four games), and Tyrell Williams seeing 48 snaps and three targets last week (he has only one game north of 23 yards since Week 7). Mike is the likeliest bet for touchdowns (seven on the season, with nine red zone targets to four for Tyrell and one for Benjamin), while Tyrell is best bet for a long play or two. Benjamin is a “bet on outlier production” play.

The tight ends remain sparsely involved in this offense and will likely need a touchdown or two in order to produce.

CHIEFS PASS OFFENSE

The Chargers have been strong against the pass — forcing the third shallowest aDOT and knocking 2% off the league-average catch rate — but this pass defense is not in the same class as the Ravens squad that Patrick Mahomes beat last week for 377 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Mahomes has been one of the most predictable fantasy plays all season, and barring a set of short-week sloppiness or an in-game setback for Tyreek Hill, he should be able to produce at expectations in this spot. With Mahomes throwing 91 passes across the last two weeks (without Kareem Hunt or Sammy Watkins), target counts among primary pass catchers on the Chiefs have looked like this:

:: Hill — 20
:: Travis Kelce — 22
:: Chris Conley — 10
:: Demarcus Robinson — 8
:: Demetrius Harris — 9

Hill and Kelce are the clear alphas in this attack, with this offense designed around the strains they place on a defense.

Only eight teams have allowed fewer yards to tight ends than the Chargers, with rookie superstar Derwin James keying strong coverage against the position — though Kelce has a dominant enough skill set and role to win against the toughest of matchups. If Kelce sees his eight to 12 targets this week, the production should be able to land within the expected range.

Hill’s foot is likelier to hold him back than is the matchup, as Casey Hayward has struggled to contain Hill the last two years — with the Chiefs’ star receiver posting lines against the Chargers last year (with Alex Smith) of 5-77-1 and 5-88-1, followed by a 7-169-2 line in Week 1 with Mahomes. Hill’s foot appears to be an issue of pain management, which should allow the Chiefs to take steps to ensure Hill is his fully effective self when on the field. The Chargers have been dominant defending the short areas of the field while struggling at times downfield.

Conley continues to occupy a possession-receiver role in an offense that prefers to go downfield. He has target counts across his last four games (without Watkins) of 2 // 8 // 7 // 3, with a 13-134-3 line in this stretch. The touchdowns are important for Conley to produce value. Robinson has target counts without Watkins of 4 // 2 // 1 // 7, going 10-124-0 in this stretch. He’s the likelier bet for a big play, but Conley is the likelier bet for volume-based production.

Demetrius Harris wraps up this attack, with target counts of six and three since Hunt was booted from the team. He’s a dart throw with a slim shot at production.

CHIEFS RUN OFFENSE

NOTE: Ware is now doubtful for this game, which should slide Williams into at least a 60% or 70% role in this offense. His touch floor is high, in a powerful offense, at a discounted price — making him a solid all-around play.

The Chargers have been a middling run defense on the year, ranking 13th in yards allowed per carry and 20th in opponent pass play rate. The Chiefs continue to involve running backs as a secondary concern behind their Mahomes-led passing attack, with Spencer Ware seeing touch counts of 15 and 20 since the departure of Kareem Hunt (the 20 touches came last week with the Chiefs running an outlandish 86 plays), and with Damien Williams seeing touch counts of seven and 12. Even with touches tilting toward Ware, it is worth noting that Ware played 41 snaps last week to 43 for Williams (in Week 13, Ware played 49 snaps to 19 for Williams). This was likely a one-game outlier based on game plan (with Williams the better pass blocker, vs the Ravens’ aggressive front), but if this deployment holds against the Chargers’ strong pass rush, Williams will have an outside shot at winning the production battle. Ware had seven more carries than Williams last week, while Williams ran eight more pass routes.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I expect the Chargers to lean toward a balanced approach for much of the game, as they are able to pick up chunk plays on the ground and generate points on pace with the Chiefs without having to turn pass-heavy. It’s important to remember that this team ranks fifth in points per game without having to lean on the pass — and unless the Chiefs take a quick, two-touchdown lead, I don’t expect the Chargers to open things up with a pass-heavy game early on. As the first half winds down, however, and especially as this game reaches the fourth quarter, it seems likely that the Chargers turn to the pass a bit more, in the same way the run-heavy Texans did last week in their game against the Colts. This could easily lead to 35 to 38 pass attempts for Rivers. His 51 attempts from Week 1 look out of reach to me (unless — as was the case in that game — the Chiefs’ offense comes screaming out of the gates), but I do think it’s likely we see more than the 30 attempts at which Rivers is typically capped. To simplify that: I’m not adjusting projections too much myself, but I do think we see enough volume for this passing attack to matter. Obviously, there are different ways this game flow could play out, so think through your opinion when piecing things together yourself.

Regardless of game flow, Jackson sets up as a quality piece — with solid usage in a good matchup — while Newsome is a non-zero play with upside if he scores, breaks off a big play, or sees an unexpected spike in usage. I’ll be keeping expectations somewhat in check on Allen (a range of 7-80-0 to 9-115-0 seems the most comfortable — with upside rising if he finds the end zone once or twice); though with a narrow distribution of guaranteed work on both sides of this game, Allen still stands out as one of the better plays on the Showdown. The other Chargers’ pass catchers are upside dart throws. Rivers could easily top 270 yards and pop in two or three touchdowns if he throws 30 to 35 times.

Ware is the favorite to lead the Chiefs’ backfield in touches, and while he ranks behind Jackson in projected production, it’s not exactly a landslide, putting Ware in play for his probable 15- to 18-touch role. Williams may see another rise in snaps vs the Chargers’ stout pass rush, which could again lead to a productive day — though this play is more speculative than Ware/Jackson, putting Williams alongside (or possibly a half-step behind) Newsome in usage projections. The likeliest order for production is Jackson // Ware // Newsome // Williams — but on the small sample size of a one-game slate, it’s worth betting on some variable outcomes if multi-entering.

The highest-upside plays on the slate are (in order) Mahomes // Hill // Kelce. All three of these guys have shown true slate-breaking upside this year, with Mahomes and Hill reaching top-of-the-slate status most often (and with Mahomes obviously carrying the higher floor between he and Hill). Behind these guys, Conley, Harris, and Robinson are dart throws.

Both kickers are obviously in play here.

A bet on these defenses is a bet on a DST touchdown against two strong offenses that are likely to put up points.


Kickoff Saturday, Dec 15th 4:30pm Eastern

Texans (
25.75) at

Jets (
18.75)

Over/Under 44.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Texans Run D
23rd DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
29th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
8th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
30th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass
Jets Run D
14th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
23rd DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
31st DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
8th DVOA/4th Yards per pass

TEXANS // JETS OVERVIEW

Had the Texans pulled out a win last week at home against the Colts, they would be in the driver’s seat for a first round bye in the AFC playoffs. This Saturday, they will be traveling to take on a Jets team that is a few lucky breaks away from snagging the number one overall pick. Ouch.

This does not set up as an entertaining game from a viewership perspective, but I do expect the two-game slate on Saturday to be somewhat popular, making this an interesting game for DFS. The Texans are the clearly superior team, and even as the traveling team they are favored by six points. This game has an early-week Over/Under of only 41.5.

TEXANS PASS OFFENSE

Even last week in a huge game against the Colts, the Texans remained a run-heavy team until the fourth quarter — putting us in a position where we need to “assume run-heavy” from this team, and need to bet on efficiency or an outlier game flow in order to bet heavily on the pass. On the two-game slate, there is obviously a case to be made for Watson as the top quarterback and Hopkins as the top wide receiver, but from a salary allocation standpoint, this all becomes an interesting discussion. Game flow will be an element to consider if attacking this two-game slate.

On a per-pass basis, the Jets have been tougher on opposing attacks than most realize — as they have allowed a 5% increase in the league-average aDOT, but their man-heavy coverage scheme has paired this with a 5.1% decrease in the league-average catch rate (the second best mark in the league, behind only the Ravens). This is less of a concern for DeAndre Hopkins and his incredible skill set than it is for lesser receivers on this squad.

From Week 6 on, Hopkins has target counts of 6 // 8 // 7 // 12 // 6 // 6 // 12 // 10. It has seemingly gone unnoticed by the fantasy community that Hopkins has topped 100 yards only once in these eight games (105 yards on 12 targets against Denver), with his incredible seven touchdowns in this stretch keeping his value high. The best bet on Hopkins is on his touchdown upside (the Jets rank middle of the pack in touchdowns allowed to wideouts with 13, through 13 weeks). Working in Hopkins’ favor is the second highest percentage share of team air yards in the NFL. If the Texans do take to the air, Hopkins will be heavily involved.

Without Keke Coutee on the field the last two weeks, Demaryius Thomas has seen target counts of only five and six (adding yardage/touchdown totals of 32-0 // 48-0), making him a “hope for a broken play or a touchdown” bet.

Coutee is finally expected to return (again) from his long-troublesome hamstring injury. In his two games sharing the field with DT, Coutee has seen target counts of nine and two, going 5-77-0 and 2-14-0. As we have explored (and targeted) all season: the Jets are weakest against slot receivers. This offense is designed to flow through Hopkins, so a huge spike in targets for Coutee would be difficult to bet on — but he does have a shot at riding his speed to upside in this spot.

The Texans’ three-man tight end rotation remains a “guess and hope” group. They will be taking on a Jets tight end defense keyed by stud safety Jamal Adams that has faced the fewest targets, allowed the fewest catches, and allowed the third fewest yards to the position.

TEXANS RUN OFFENSE

The Jets rank 20th in yards allowed per carry, and with this team regularly playing from behind, they have faced the fifth most rush attempts in the league while allowing the sixth most rushing yards per game. This is a good setup for Lamar Miller, who has recent touch counts of 23 // 18 // 14 // 23 // 13 // 20 // 19. The 14-touch game came with Miller getting stonewalled by the Broncos. The 14-touch game came with Miller being rested in a blowout after piling up 167 yards and a touchdown.

Behind Miller, Alfred Blue has recent touch counts of 8 // 14 // 13 // 6 in this run-leaning offense, though he has only 12 catches and two touchdowns all season, while failing to top 54 rushing yards in a single game all year. He’s a bet-on-outlier play.

JETS OFFENSE

The Jets enter an extremely difficult spot this week on offense against an aggressive, multi-look defense that will pull out all the stops this week to confuse rookie Sam Darnold. The Jets have taken the ninth fewest sacks in the NFL this year with their ball-out-quick attack, but only two teams have turned the ball over more times than New York. Houston ranks 11th in sacks and fifth in takeaways.

In the Jets’ continual quest to protect the confidence of Sam Darnold and bring him along slowly, they will likely begin this game trying to establish a balanced approach — though with a run-blocking unit that ranks bottom five in adjusted line yards set to take on a Houston defense that ranks second in yards allowed per carry, a run-leaning approach from this team will likely lead to quickly-stalled drives. There is a decent chance that Houston — with their own run-leaning approach — will control this game in terms of both time of possession and total plays (the Jets rank 26th in time of possession, while Houston ranks 12th), making it difficult to bet on any Jets pieces with confidence. With Isaiah Crowell looking likely to miss this game, we should see Elijah McGuire carrying the load as the primary back here. Last week after Crow went down early, McGuire played 40 of a possible 54 snaps, while Trenton Cannon played 18. Cannon is dealing with a hamstring injury of his own and may not play. The best bet for production from McGuire will be a broken play, a touchdown, or a spike in “outlet” pass game usage. McGuire does have target counts since returning of 5 // 6 // 3 // 2 // 4, though he has yet to top 37 yards through the air. Houston has been average at preventing running back production through the air.

Pass catchers continue to be a black hole for the Jets, with only three games all year of more than 206 passing yards for Sam Darnold in this horizontal attack. Houston has defined the league average against the pass, creating a spot that neither raises nor lowers expectations for the Jets.

If hunting for upside on this side of the ball, the best bet is Robby Anderson, who has quietly seen recent target counts of 10 // 7 // 5 // 7 // 7. Of course, last week was the first time in Anderson’s last six games in which he topped 50 receiving yards — but he is seeing work downfield, and he’ll be given a few opportunities to hit for big plays.

Jermaine Kearse continues to offer nothing out of the slot and is merely a “hope for miracle production” play after topping 35 yards only twice all season.

Quincy Enunwa continues to produce below expectations while playing on the perimeter, with recent yardage totals of 0 // 9 // 40 // 18 // 73 // 9 // 22.

The best matchup on this side of the ball belongs to Chris Herndon, who will take on a Houston defense allowing the ninth most yards and the ninth most catches to the tight end position, in spite of facing very few elite units. Herndon has topped 34 yards only once in his last four games, and he has not scored since Week 8. Everything on this side of the ball is speculative at best.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

If we were playing this game on the Main Slate, none of the Jets would be of any interest, but on the two-gamer you may have to go here for some low-floor, non-invisible upside savings. Anderson and McGuire are the most intriguing plays as guys with potential for upside, while Herndon is not a total dud. Behind these guys, it’s truly just crossing your fingers and hoping.

The primary plays on the Texans are Watson, Hopkins, and Miller, with everyone behind them simply “hope for a touchdown, a broken play, or outlier usage” options. I slightly prefer Baker Mayfield on the two-game slate myself (and the DFS sex appeal of Watson will likely lead to higher ownership on him), though there are obviously clear paths to Watson putting up the higher score if you want to go there. Working in Watson’s favor is a matchup against a man- and blitz-heavy defense that should give Hopkins opportunities to win, and should also give Watson opportunities to pick up some yards on the ground. Working against Watson is the typical low-volume nature of this attack.

Hopkins is overpriced for his typical usage range, but his touchdown and big-play upside keep him attractive on this small slate — especially as he is truly the only receiver on Saturday with guaranteed usage and a high production floor.

Miller stands out as a strong play at the running back position on this slate, with locked-in usage, a respectable floor, and a respectable ceiling. His price is attractive on both FanDuel and DraftKings this week.


Kickoff Saturday, Dec 15th 8:20pm Eastern

Browns (
23) at

Broncos (
24)

Over/Under 47.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Browns Run D
20th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O
20th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
19th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Broncos Pass O
31st DVOA/26th Yards per pass
Broncos Run D
5th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
7th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Broncos Pass D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
23rd DVOA/27th Yards per pass

BROWNS // BRONCOS OVERVIEW

The Broncos have all but fallen out of the playoff hunt — and much like the Bengals a few weeks ago, any glimmer of hope that remains to this team feels more theoretical than anything. With a decimated secondary, no Demaryius Thomas, and no Emmanuel Sanders, Denver is running on fumes. On Saturday night, they will host a red hot Browns team that has won three of their last four (winning two of those games decisively), and that looks like a team on the rise with one of the most well-designed offenses and one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the league. The Broncos opened this game as modest four point favorites, and were quickly bet down to -3.0. This game carries an early-week Over/Under of 45.5 — four points higher than the game being played earlier in the day.

BROWNS PASS OFFENSE

The Broncos’ secondary is a mess right now, with Bradley Roby allowing an ungodly 15.2 yards per reception on the year (with six touchdowns allowed to only one interception, and with a 118.5 quarterback rating on throws into his coverage), and with third-round rookie Isaac Yiadom not yet ready for the NFL game, with 12.9 yards allowed per reception himself (along with two touchdowns and a 115.5 QB rating allowed in his limited time on the field). This week, the Broncos will be taking on what has become one of the more creatively-schemed offenses in the NFL, led by a quarterback in Baker Mayfield who has completed 74.8% of his passes across his last four games, with a TD : INT ratio of 9 : 3, and with an incredible 10.0 yards per pass attempt (on the year, Patrick Mahomes leads the NFL in yards per pass attempt at 8.9). The only thing that has held Mayfield back lately has been volume, as this team has kept him to 26 or fewer pass attempts in three of his last four games (all of which were wins). The only time he topped 26 pass attempts was two weeks ago when the Browns were chasing points in Houston.

Frustratingly from a DFS perspective: this low-volume passing attack continues to spread the ball around, with no pass catcher reliably seeing even five targets per game. The closest this team has given us to “reliability” is the tandem of Jarvis Landry and David Njoku. During this four-game hot streak for the Browns’ passing attack, target counts for these two have looked like this:

:: Landry — 5 // 5 // 9 // 4
:: Njoku — 1 // 5 // 6 // 4

Landry continues to be used primarily on underneath routes, keeping his floor bone bare (in Weeks 10 and 12 he failed to top even 30 yards; in Week 14, he produced a 2-6-0 line outside of the beautiful 51-yard bomb that Mayfield threaded through coverage to Landry in the end zone). Consider Landry a low-floor, solid-ceiling play.

The Broncos are sure to focus on fixing the communication issues that led to George Kittle running wide open so often last week, which should turn them back into the middling matchup they have been for tight ends all year. Njoku will likely need a touchdown in order to stand out on this slate — though tight end is ugly enough on the two-gamer that he is obviously in the conversation.

Behind these guys, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, and Breshad Perriman continue to offer low floors and modest ceilings. Callaway is the best bet for a big play — though as he showed last week (one catch for zero yards on a single target), his floor is not at all guaranteed.

BROWNS RUN OFFENSE

If we take away the 43 carries for 427 yards that Crowell and Gurley pasted the Broncos for in back-to-back weeks midway through the season, this team has allowed only 3.92 yards per carry to running backs. This creates a tough spot for Nick Chubb on the ground — though Chubb has benefitted lately from elite usage, with touch counts since the Carlos Hyde trade of 18 // 20 // 23 // 23 // 31 // 12 // 17. With Duke Johnson disappearing lately (seven total touches across his last three games), Chubb has recent target counts of 3 // 3 // 3 // 6, making him a volume-based bet on this slate. The matchup lowers his floor; the usage keeps his ceiling intact.

BRONCOS PASS OFFENSE

Cleveland has been strong against the pass this year, impressively shaving 4.9% off the league-average aDOT while shaving 5.1% off the league-average catch rate. This has led to the Browns ranking ninth in yards allowed per pass attempt — and with the third most interceptions in the league, this has been a unit for opposing passing attacks to avoid. Look for the Broncos to lean run-heavy in this spot for as long as they can (Denver has a pass play rate of only 53.59% across their last three games — which would rank 28th in the NFL — while Cleveland ranks 22nd in opponent pass play rate), though Mayfield and the Browns’ passing attack should eventually nudge Denver toward the air.

This attack gets a bit easier to sort out if Denzel Ward gets cleared in time for this game, as Ward would trail Courtland Sutton for much of the game — making Sutton nothing more than a “bet on broken play or touchdown” option, while opening a few more guaranteed looks for Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton. (If Ward misses, on the other hand: Sutton’s chances of reaching his upside will grow a bit, though he will still carry the same poor-connection-with-quarterback caveat he has carried all season; if Ward misses, it will also become more difficult to bank on targets for Patrick and Hamilton.) It is also worth noting that Sutton played only 51 snaps in Week 14, to 64 for Patrick and 72 for Hamilton. Incredibly, Case Keenum has thrown only five passes more than 16 yards downfield across his last two games combined — which is severely limiting the per-play upside on all of these guys.

Patrick played primarily on the perimeter last week against the 49ers, working the sidelines for out routes and corner routes. He saw a monstrous 10 targets, which he turned into seven catches for 85 yards. Working against Patrick is his attachment to a passing attack that has not topped 205 yards in four straight games (with zero games in this stretch in which Keenum has completed even 60% of his passes). Working for Patrick is an every-down role and a strong shot at another five to eight targets. He carries a low floor on these looks, but there is enough upside for him to be considered on this slate.

The same goes for Hamilton, who worked primarily on underneath routes last week and turned his nine targets and seven catches into only 47 yards. This is not a great matchup for Hamilton to grow a downfield role, but it’s almost impossible for him to continue averaging only 6.7 yards per reception, leaving a bit of untapped upside on this play. We cannot count on Keenum throwing the ball 42 times again (heading into last week, he had not topped 32 pass attempts in three straight games), so target expectations should be bumped down a couple pegs — but there is still room on this two-game slate for one or two of these pass catchers to matter.

Even with Keenum uncorking 42 throws last week, Matt LaCosse saw only one target while playing 60 snaps and running 31 pass routes. Across his two games in the starting role, he has gone 1-3-0 on two targets. He’ll obviously need a big rise in work in order to provide value on this slate.

BRONCOS RUN OFFENSE

The Browns’ aggressive defense has presented a quality matchup for running backs this year, with the 11th most yards allowed per carry and the 10th most receiving yards allowed to running backs. While the yardage upside is nice, the main reason we have been targeting running backs this year against the Browns has been the touchdowns, as only one team has allowed more rushing touchdowns to the position than the 14 the Browns have allowed.

This is a strong setup for Phillip Lindsay, who took a commanding share of the Broncos’ snaps last week, playing 48 snaps to nine for Royce Freeman and 17 for Devontae Booker. This is where it becomes important to drop a reminder that Lindsay played only four more snaps than Freeman in Week 13 — but if the Week 14 deployment carries over to this week, Lindsay’s floor/ceiling will grow. Across his last four games, he has touch counts of 15 // 14 // 20 // 18. Another 14 to 18 touches is the safest projection, but there is room for Lindsay to grow his role further. His explosive burst and his red zone usage (10 touchdowns on the year) give him a strong setup in this spot.

Behind Lindsay, Freeman and Booker are nothing more than dart throws — hoping for a broken play or a multi-touchdown game.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

All bets are off on the Broncos behind Lindsay (who I like quite a bit in this spot), as this broken passing attack is entering a tough matchup, and the 42 pass attempts we saw from this team last week has been more “outlier” than “norm” lately. Patrick, Hamilton, and Sutton should all be involved — with Sutton carrying the most upside if Ward misses, and with Patrick/Hamilton perhaps becoming an interesting Bundle Play if Ward is out there. I typically prefer these bundle/”Cheat Code” plays when the points are pretty guaranteed to hit between the two guys being considered — which is not the case here; but on a slate this small, there is a chance these guys combine for enough points to matter while opening salary for other spots on the slate. Each guy can also be played solo as a guess-and-hope option. Sutton can be targeted in tourneys even if Ward is on the field — though his chances of reaching this upside obviously becomes slimmer if he is locking horns with the Browns’ stud rookie.

On the Browns’ side, I like Mayfield quite a bit on the two-game slate, with the only concern coming from the low-volume nature of this Browns passing attack. A best-case scenario here would call for the Broncos to hang tight throughout (or to even play with a lead, with help from the home crowd), but Mayfield will have a shot at solid production regardless — especially if the Broncos slow down the run and push Cleveland to the air.

Everything else on this Browns passing attack carries a low floor, leaving these guys as guess-and-hope plays. Landry and Njoku are the best of the bunch, though neither inspires confidence.

Chubb is a bet-on-usage play on the two-game slate. His role in this offense is big enough that he will have a solid shot at producing even in a difficult matchup.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 16th 1:00pm Eastern

Cowboys (
22) at

Colts (
25)

Over/Under 47.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Cowboys Run D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
22nd DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D
21st DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
15th DVOA/10th Yards per pass
Colts Run D
6th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O
18th DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O
22nd DVOA/1st Yards per pass

COWBOYS // COLTS OVERVIEW

Cowboys at Colts has surprisingly become one of the most exciting games of the year, with the Cowboys riding a five game win streak, and with the Colts having won six of their last seven games. The Colts have primarily gotten here with a fast-paced offense that scores a lot of points (first in pace of play // eighth in points per game), while the Cowboys have slowed down the pace (28th), leaned on the run (25th in pass play rate), and played strong defense (second in points allowed). Only three teams have allowed fewer yards than the Cowboys this year, and only seven teams have allowed a lower drive success rate. With all that said, it’s worth noting that the Texans entered last week’s home game against the Colts ranked second in opponent drive success rate and fifth in points allowed. This is a “challenging but not impossible” spot for a Colts team that will benefit from playing this game at home. Vegas has managed to fade public sentiment (which has a tendency to over-bet the Cowboys), installing the Colts as three point home favorites in a game with an Over/Under of 47.0.

COWBOYS RUN OFFENSE

On paper, the Colts have been tough against the run this year — ranking sixth in yards allowed per carry while ranking fifth in DVOA — though it is fair to question the validity of these numbers, as Indy has faced only four teams that rank even top 14 in DVOA on the ground, while facing only three teams that rank top 14 in yards per carry. (Indy has not faced a single team that ranks top eight in either category.) Against the teams that are in this “nine to 14” range of rankings (Washington, New England, Cincy, Miami), the Colts allowed rushing // receiving lines of:

:: Washington — 15-21-0 rushing // 16-122-0 receiving
:: New England — 20-98-1 rushing // 11-89-1 receiving
:: Cincinnati — 18–93-1 rushing // 6-65-0 receiving
:: Miami — 22-99-1 rushing // 6-74-1 receiving

Dallas does not rank top eight in either rush offense DVOA or yards per carry themselves, but this unit very clearly ranks in the same per-play range as the last three teams listed above, and with Ezekiel Elliott boasting recent touch counts of 30 // 31 // 29 // 40 (with reception totals of 7 // 5 // 6 // 12), there is plenty of room for him to succeed in this spot. On paper, he carries the highest floor/ceiling projection on the slate.

COWBOYS PASS OFFENSE

No team in the NFL has forced a shallower aDOT than the Colts, but only one team has allowed a higher catch rate — a setup that has led to the Colts ranking a middling 18th in yards allowed per pass attempt. While these raw numbers appear moderately attackable, however, digging down one layer deeper reminds us that the Colts tilt their Tampa 2 coverage heavily toward wide receivers — with this team facing the most running back targets in the NFL, the fourth most tight end targets, and the fewest wide receiver targets. On average, the Colts face only 16.1 wide receiver targets per game — an extremely low mark that introduces some floor concerns for Amari Cooper at his quickly-rising price. Across the last four weeks, Amari’s target counts have gone 5 // 9 // 8 // 13, with his 30 targets across the last three weeks accounting for a healthy 26.5% of the total looks on this team. Last week was the first week in this stretch in which Amari saw legitimate downfield work, with only two total targets coming more than 10 yards downfield in Weeks 12 and 13 combined (one was a 15-yard out route that carried him to the sidelines; the other was the post route that he caught against Washington on Thanksgiving before putting on the brakes, reversing field, and running another 60 yards for a touchdown). Amari’s five downfield targets last week were primarily designed to attack Eagles’ weakest link Sidney Jones, so it is no guarantee we see similar deployment this week against a Colts defense that does a better job than any team in the league at forcing short throws. With all that said: Amari’s ceiling is undeniable right now, while his connection with Dak has been strong — producing an 86.7% catch rate across the last three weeks. Amari’s usage will make it difficult for him to fail, but his chances of reaching upside are slimmer in this spot than they were the last few weeks.

Behind Amari, this passing attack has belonged primarily to Zeke, with another 22.1% of the targets across the last three weeks flowing his direction. Remaining pass catchers have seen the following target counts since Amari began his explosion in Week 12:

:: Michael Gallup — 6 // 7 // 9
:: Cole Beasley — 3 // 3 // 4
:: Blake Jarwin — 2 // 1 // 7

Gallup carries the most upside, though he and Dak continue to struggle in their connection, with a 50% completion rate between these two across the last three weeks (good for an 11-119-0 line) — making him nothing more than a speculative play. Jarwin’s spike in targets last week came with the Cowboys running 99 plays and throwing the ball an uncharacteristic 54 times. There is a chance he sees another small spike against a Colts team that filters targets to tight ends, but Zeke is likely to be the first look ahead of Jarwin on plays that force Dak away from the wide receivers. Beasley is more valuable in real life than he is in fantasy and will require an outlier game in order to provide value.

COLTS PASS OFFENSE

The Cowboys’ defense runs a lot of the same concepts as the Colts’ defense (though with more talented pieces) — leading to this team allowing a 5.6% increase on the league-average catch rate, while forcing a below-average aDOT and tackling well after the catch. The Cowboys rank a nonthreatening 13th in yards allowed per pass attempt — though similar to the matchup that the Colts present on the other side of this game, the Cowboys have faced the second fewest wide receiver targets and allowed the second fewest wide receiver receptions, while facing the second most tight end targets and the 14th most running back targets. Last week against an Eagles team that torched them with Zach Ertz a few weeks back, the Cowboys were able to tilt coverage to force Carson Wentz to look elsewhere, but this will be more difficult to do against a Colts team that boasts T.Y. Hilton as a field-stretcher. Eric Ebron has target counts of 16 // 8 across the last two weeks, keeping him on track for another useful game in this spot.

The matchup is also less daunting for Hilton than the season-long numbers make things appear, as Dallas has played an absolutely cake schedule of passing matchups — with five games against bottom-rung attacks (two against Washington // one against Detroit // one against Tennessee // one against Jacksonville), another three games against run-heavy teams (Panthers // Texans // Seahawks), a game against the season-long-struggling Giants, and two games against the season-long-struggling Eagles. The only games the Cowboys have had against noteworthy passing attacks have come at home against the Saints (in a game in which the Cowboys dominated time of possession and the Saints threw only 21 passes) and on the road against Atlanta — where Matt Ryan completed 24 of 34 passes (70.6%) for 291 yards and a touchdown. Julio Jones went 6-118-1 in that game on nine targets. DeAndre Hopkins also went 9-151-0 on 13 targets in this matchup, while Golden Tate went 8-132-2 for the Lions. Short-term memory makes it feel funny to put T.Y. in the same conversation as Julio and Hopkins, but long-term memory reminds us that Hilton led the NFL in receiving yards in 2016 before playing with Jacoby Brissett last year and dealing with Andrew Luck’s shoulder and some injuries of his own through the first half of this year. In his last four games, Hilton has target counts of 9 // 10 // 13 // 12. His floor is very much in play here (somewhere in the range of 5-50-0), but his ceiling remains as high as any player on the slate, making him a risk/reward option this weekend.

This passing attack flows almost exclusively through Ebron and Hilton (an awesome 52.7% of Luck’s total passes across the last two weeks have gone to these two), with Nyheim Hines seeing recent target counts of 9 // 5, Chester Rogers going 0 // 6, Zach Pascal going 1 // 6, and Dontrelle Inman going 6 // DNP. Inman is expected to return this week to provide a set of hands on underneath routes. He’ll need a touchdown or some missed tackles in order to show up on the leaderboards this weekend. Distribution behind Inman is a guessing game.

COLTS RUN OFFENSE

The worst matchup in this game goes to the Colts’ rushing attack, as Marlon Mack and his recent yardage totals on the ground of 61 // 85 // 27 // 33 will be taking on a Cowboys run defense that ranks fourth in DVOA and first in yards allowed per carry. Only three teams have allowed fewer rushing yards to running backs, and only two teams have allowed more touchdowns. In matchups such as this one, the Colts have shown a tendency to abandon the run and take to the air, furthering lowering the floor on Mack. With only six targets across his last four games and no games in this stretch above 16 carries, he will need an unpredictable spike in workload or a couple of broken plays in order to provide useful value on this slate.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Zeke stands out to me as one of the top floor/ceiling plays on the slate, with his outlook enhanced in the pass game in this spot, and with a winnable matchup on the ground. The Cowboys are not going to run another 99 plays here (63 to 68 plays is a more reasonable expectation), so somewhere in the range of 25 to 30 touches is likelier for Zeke than the 40 he saw last week — but he should still be able to provide strong production as the engine of the Cowboys’ offense. Elsewhere on this team, Dak has a shot to ride Zeke and Amari to another strong game, keeping him in the tourney conversation. Amari carries a modest floor in this spot for the price, with his chances of reaching upside slimmer than last week — though the upside is obviously very much still in place.

My attention on the Colts’ side of this game will swing over to Luck, Hilton, and Ebron, as the Colts have shown a tendency in back-to-back weeks to lean heavily on the pass when taking on a team that is strong against the run. Hilton and Ebron have combined for target counts of 20 and 29 across the last two weeks, and both guys will have a solid shot at producing value this week. Luck has carried one of the highest floors and ceilings at the quarterback position this year. Against a Cowboys defense that has been a standout unit lately, none of these plays are as secure as I would be looking for most weeks — but given the strange nature of this week’s slate, these guys are very much in the floor/ceiling conversation for me.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 16th 1:00pm Eastern

Dolphins (
18.75) at

Vikings (
26.25)

Over/Under 45.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Dolphins Run D
32nd DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O
2nd DVOA/6th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
10th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O
20th DVOA/22nd Yards per pass
Vikings Run D
27th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D
8th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
11th DVOA/17th Yards per pass

DOLPHINS // VIKINGS OVERVIEW

This game gives us two teams that feel like they are moving in opposite directions at the moment, with the Dolphins continuing to find ways to pull out wins, and with the Vikings coming off a dispiriting loss to the Seahawks — though if the season were to end today, it is actually the 6-6-1 Vikings who would be making the playoffs, while the 7-6 Dolphins would fall shy in the AFC. From a talent standpoint, the Vikings are the much better team, but this game should bring us two squads playing with all-out effort, with the loser of this game likely moving into very rough shape for a playoff spot. With the Dolphins racking up a 6-1 record at home this year while going 1-5 on the road, the oddsmakers have installed the Vikings as touchdown favorites, in a game with an Over/Under of 44.5.

DOLPHINS PASS OFFENSE

The Dolphins continue to win games with one of the least aggressive offenses in the NFL — riding a run-heavy, ball-control style of play that has led to Ryan Tannehill topping 25 pass attempts only once in his last seven games. This team ranks seventh in the NFL in turnover differential, and they will continue to limit passing volume for as long as possible in this spot.

When Tannehill does pass, his favorite target has been Kenny Stills, who has recent, ascending target counts of 4 // 6 // 9. Stills’ 15 targets across the last two weeks on only 43 Tannehill pass attempts is good for a 34.9% share of this team’s looks — a massive total that is unlikely to hold, but that would leave Stills with some value moving forward if it does.

On the pass attempts that the Dolphins do dial up this week, their wide receivers will deal with a difficult matchup against a Minnesota secondary that has allowed the fourth fewest receptions and the fifth fewest yards to the wide receiver position.

Targets behind Stills the last two weeks have looked like this:

:: DeVante Parker — 7 // 4
:: Danny Amendola — 1 // 1
:: Brice Butler — 4 // 1

Parker is likeliest to draw attention from Xavier Rhodes, though he can be considered one of the top three weapons with Tannehill under center (alongside Stills and Kenyan Drake). Everyone in this low-volume “attack” is nothing more than a bet-on-broken-play option. Even if game flow pushes the Dolphins to the air more often than normal, the matchup will make it difficult for this unit to pile up production.

DOLPHINS RUN OFFENSE

For fantasy purposes, the Dolphins’ backfield has been one of the least attractive units in the league this year, with Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake splitting work in a low-scoring offense (22nd in points per game) that prefers to slow down the pace (31st in pace of play). Gore has only 12 catches on the year, and he has only one touchdown and only one game north of 100 yards — making him a slim bet from a yardage-and-touchdown perspective. And while Drake has often been able to produce like a starting-caliber back, there are others priced around him who can provide the same upside without his scary-low floor. The matchup is difficult for both of these guys, against a Minnesota run defense that ranks seventh in yards allowed per carry. If chasing this spot, your best bet is on the upside of Drake — hoping he turns one of his receptions or limited carries into a long gain or a touchdown.

VIKINGS OFFENSE

Before we get to the Vikings’ passing attack, the most important thing to talk about is the firing of first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Through the first 13 games of the season, the Steelers are the only team in the NFL that has thrown the ball more frequently than the Vikings — which has allowed both Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs to rank top five in the NFL in targets per game (an awesome distinction for two players on the same team), while allowing Thielen to be one of the highest floor/ceiling players in the NFL this year in spite of typically sticking to the short and intermediate areas of the field. Since returning from his layoff, Dalvin Cook has seen carry counts of 10 // 9 // 10 // 9 // 13. The 13 carries last week came after DeFilippo said on Friday that he would “absolutely” like to see Cook carry the ball more — this statement coming on the heels of head coach Mike Zimmer saying earlier in the week that they should have run the ball more in their loss to the Patriots. Zimmer had a similar statement in mid-November after a loss to the Bears, and it seems more than likely that the first job of new O.C. Kevin Stefanski will be to reestablish the run. Stefanski has been with this team for 13 years and was originally expected to be promoted to this job when Pat Shurmur left for New York, so the communication between he and Zimmer should be clear and rhythmic if this is their desired approach. All of these hypotheses are further backed up by the matchup, as there are only two teams in football facing a higher opponent rush play rate than the Dolphins. Miami has faced the second most running back rush attempts in the NFL, allowing the fourth most yards. The Dolphins have also been middling against pass-catching backs, where Cook has thrived lately — hauling in 16 catches on 19 targets across the last three weeks. Cook was a near every-down player last week (50 out of 58 snaps, after playing 47 of 61 the week before), and there is a strong chance he is a focal point for the Vikings this week. His price on FanDuel is outlandishly low (10.3% of the cap), while he is still a bit underpriced on DraftKings for his expected range of production at 13% of the cap.

Outside of the low volume that the Dolphins’ pass defense has faced (10th fewest pass attempts in the NFL) and their ability to force interceptions (only the Bears have more picks this year), this matchup is fairly non-threatening — keeping Kirk Cousins and his primary pass catchers in the discussion this week (especially if you disagree with the suppositions above and instead feel that the Vikings will continue to attack heavily through the air). The Dolphins continue to add over 7% to the league-average aDOT while struggling to stop opponents after the catch, leading to a number 28 ranking in yards allowed per pass attempts.

Target counts for Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs since Cook returned from his hamstring injury to take over a share of the pass game role look like this:

:: Thielen —7 // 12 // 9 // 10 // 7
:: Diggs — DNP // 18 // 11 // 6 // 6

Your best bet on Thielen is to hope for a heavy-volume game, as his low 9.3 yards per reception typically requires him to pile up targets in order to pop for a big game. Your best bet on Diggs is for Xavien Howard to miss again and improve this matchup. Either way, Diggs will remain a low-floor play with monster upside given the way he is used (lots of short passes designed to get the ball into his hands in space with blockers in front — usage that sometimes leads to sub-50-yard totals, and that sometimes leads to blowup games; Diggs should also see a couple downfield shots).

Behind these two (and Cook), Aldrick Robinson, Laquon Treadwell, and Kyle Rudolph are all functioning as satellite options who will need some lucky breaks to pay off this week.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

There are players on the Dolphins who could produce a usable game this week, but none of them catch my eye as players I want to try to guess on. I’ll be leaving that offense alone. If going there, Drake and Stills would be the most attractive options.

The Vikings’ side of the ball is a different story, as Dalvin Cook will have a shot at eclipsing 20 touches for the first time since Week 1. This is still one of the worst run-blocking units in the NFL, but the matchup and Cook’s explosive skill set will keep the floor fairly high if the usage lands in the 18 to 22 touch range, while the ceiling is attractive as well. He looks clearly underpriced on FanDuel to me, while checking in as slightly underpriced on DraftKings. Behind Cook, Diggs is the most attractive receiver for me (as a tourney-only play, of course), given the big upside he carries, while Thielen and Cousins don’t pop off the page, but they are certainly part of the Week 15 conversation.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 16th 1:00pm Eastern

Raiders (
21.5) at

Bengals (
24.5)

Over/Under 46.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Raiders Run D
31st DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
27th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D
26th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
26th DVOA/13th Yards per pass
Bengals Run D
23rd DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O
24th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
16th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O
5th DVOA/7th Yards per pass

RAIDERS // BENGALS OVERVIEW

This slate is defined by good offensive units facing tough matchups, and by bad offensive units (or bad offenses as a whole) soaking up the easier matchups. In no spot on the slate does this strange setup stand out more than in the game between the Raiders and the Bengals, as Oakland ranks 29th in points per game, while the Bengals have put up point totals of 20 // 10 // 21 across the last three weeks with Jeff Driskel playing all or part of this team’s snaps. On the year, Cincinnati ranks 28th in total defensive DVOA while the Raiders rank 31st, and these teams hold the bottom two rungs in points allowed per game. This game is not guaranteed to be pretty…but one way or another, some points should be scored — making it one of the more interesting spots to consider this weekend. This game carries a non-embarrassing Over/Under of 46.0, with the Bengals installed as three point favorites at home.

RAIDERS PASS OFFENSE

Only four teams have allowed more passing touchdowns than Cincinnati, and only five teams have allowed more yards per pass attempt — setting up Derek Carr and company with one of the better matchups in the league. The Bengals have bumped up the league-average aDOT by 6.2%, and they have bumped up the league-average catch rate by 2.5%.

While the matchup is non-threatening, it does remain difficult to reliably bet on production from this passing attack — especially outside of lead tight end Jared Cook. Across the last two weeks, Carr has been asked to throw only four passes more than 20 yards downfield, with this team more focused on precision-oriented designs and route concepts that allow them to slowly move the field. This has left yardage upside extremely thin across the board in this spread-the-wealth attack, with Jordy Nelson going for recent yardage totals of 14 // 16 // 0 // 0 // 97 // 48, and with Seth Roberts going for recent yardage totals of 42 // 8 // 39 // 38 // 54 // 25 // 76. Since ascending to the wide receiver rotation on this team in Week 11, Marcell Ateman has gone 50 // 16 // 16 // 45. With this game likely to remain close, and with the Raiders A) able to run the ball in this matchup as well, and B) happy to spread their short-area looks to multiple pass catchers without a single clear alpha, all three of these guys are best viewed as floor plays, with ceiling dependent on volume or touchdowns. Given the low price tags across the board here, there is hope for one or two of these guys to matter, but all of them remain thin plays best suited to tourneys. With that said: Carr has looked far more comfortable in this offense lately, going for 285+ yards in back-to-back games, and throwing eight touchdowns and zero picks across his last four contests. While it’s a guessing game as to which of these guys will produce, it is likely that at least one of these three receivers posts a useful game in this spot.

The clearest play on this side of the ball right now is Cook, who finally returned to near-every-down status last week (playing 57 out of 67 snaps), and who has recent target counts of 9 // 6 // 5 // 8 // 10. More importantly: Cook has accounted for three of the Raiders’ four targets across the last two weeks that have traveled 20+ yards downfield, giving him the clearest shot at upside in the bunch. The Bengals have allowed the sixth most pass plays of 20+ yards this year, and they have been below-average against tight ends — allowing the 13th most yards and the ninth most catches, while ranking 16th in DVOA against the position. Cook carries a non-awful floor for the price, and his ceiling is among the highest at the position on the main slate this weekend.

RAIDERS RUN OFFENSE

The Raiders have been an average team on the ground this year, ranking 14th in adjusted line yards and 18th in yards per carry — though they have been tough to target in DFS, as they continue to divide the workload between Doug Martin (33 snaps last week) and Jalen Richard (33 snaps last week). The split workload will remain a concern in this spot — lessening our ability to target Certainty on either of these players — but the matchup certainly provides some paths to upside, as the Bengals rank 24th in yards allowed per carry and have allowed more touchdowns to running backs than any other team in football.

Martin has yet to top 72 rushing yards in a game this year, and his best game through the air was three catches for 31 yards (Martin’s pass game usage is dump-off oriented, rather than being schemed targets designed to get him into space with blockers out in front), so while he has recent touch counts of 14 // 20 // 16, he remains a touchdown-dependent play. At his price, his floor is not back-breaking, while his streak of three straight games with a touchdown provides a non-awful shot at useful production.

Richard has been less predictable — failing to top three catches in any of his last four games, while going for recent touch counts of 14 // 3 // 9 // 9. His floor this year has been close to zero, but he does have more ceiling than he has shown so far, with zero touchdowns on the year. Richard has seven red zone carries and four red zone targets, giving him an outside shot at pairing yardage and touchdowns in a pristine spot such as this.

BENGALS PASS OFFENSE

Although the Raiders lack the necessary talent in the secondary to be a shutdown force, they continue to improve their communication on the back end in this Paul Guenther zone scheme — making it difficult for quarterbacks to find big, open windows in which to throw. Last week against the Steelers, this defense was surprisingly able to slow down Antonio Brown in the same way Guenther’s Bengals units did for years — and while JuJu Smith-Schuster benefitted with a monster game, the connections between he and Roethlisberger in that game are not necessarily throws/catches that a Jeff Driskel-led Bengals team will be able to replicate. From a full-season perspective, this matchup looks nice, as Oakland ranks dead last in yards allowed per pass attempt, though they have actually been fairly average this year outside of the YAC allowed department (and have in fact shaved 2.1% off the league-average catch rate). With Tyler Boyd standing out as the only weapon for the Raiders to really have to worry about, it won’t be surprising if Guenther and co. are able to come up with a plan to make life difficult on the Driskel-to-Boyd connection. Introducing further uncertainty in this spot is the fact that teams have not even bothered to attack Oakland through the air this year — with the Raiders facing the fewest pass attempts in the NFL, at an average of 29.5 attempts per game. Only one team has allowed more touchdowns to wide receivers than the Raiders have allowed…but with volume against them so low, they have managed to allow the fewest wide receiver catches in the league.

Across the last three weeks, Boyd has seen target counts of 8 // 8 // 6, and he continues to be the main intermediate/downfield weapon under Driskel, with 11 of his 14 targets across the last two weeks coming at least 10 yards downfield (and with two of his looks coming more than 20 yards downfield). Big production is not guaranteed in this passing attack — against a talent-deficient, but decently-schemed pass defense that will be looking to take him away — but there is still some upside to chase.

Behind Boyd, this passing attack has been in shambles since Dalton went down, with John Ross going 2-13-0 and 2-11-1, and with Cody Core going 1-30-1 and 3-30-0. The best bet behind Boyd is C.J. Uzomah, who continues to provide decent price-considered floor with very little ceiling. Uzomah has not topped 41 yards since Week 6, with almost all of his looks coming as an underneath outlet, rather than as a schemed target downfield. He’s unlikely to fail in this spot, but he will need a broken play or a touchdown to really matter.

BENGALS RUN OFFENSE

Only six teams have allowed more yards per carry this year than the Raiders, while no team has faced a lower opponent pass play rate — leading to this squad facing the third most rush attempts and allowing the second most yards on the ground to running backs in the league. On average, the Raiders allow a running back rushing line of 24.85 carries for 122.9 yards — creating a strong spot for Joe Mixon, who led this backfield last week with 47 snaps and 31 touches in a close loss to the Chargers, ahead of the 25 snaps and five touches that Giovani Bernard saw. The Bengals went out of their way last week to keep the ball on the ground — running on over 50% of their plays — and while that was obviously a game plan specific approach against the Chargers’ powerful offense, it would make sense for Cincy to stick to this approach once more in a game that they can win. Mixon’s price on FanDuel has gotten a bit out of hand, but he remains a solid upside option there. On DraftKings, he is appropriately priced for the small amount of risk his up-and-down role has created, and for the big upside this play provides. With a soft matchup and a positive game flow projection, Mixon’s chances of landing on the higher end of his production range look good in this spot.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

The Raiders’ passing attack is attractive on paper as a unit, but it remains difficult to target individual pieces on this attack. The best bet here is to go Carr-to-Cook (or Cook solo) in an effort to capture the most guaranteed points and the most upside from this unit. If you want to go off the board a bit, Jordy // Roberts // Ateman (in that order) all have a shot at modest upside production, and all of them are cheap enough that they won’t kill your roster if they land on their floor instead. They’re not part of the Certainty discussion, but they are part of the tourney conversation.

Doug Martin has been more floor than ceiling, while Richard is a long-shot play for upside in this offense — though in a game that should produce some points, and with these two the top options in one of the most generous running back matchups in the NFL, both guys should be considered this week. Neither looks like a cornerstone piece for me, but Martin joins the conversation in all formats, while Richard is part of the large-field-tourney discussion.

On the Bengals’ side, Mixon stands out to me as a floor/ceiling play, while Boyd stands out as a floor play with a slim shot at ceiling. Mixon does have an outside shot at disappointing here, but he’s one of the safer plays on the slate, and his upside is enticing. He’s a better play on DraftKings and FantasyDraft than he is on FanDuel, but he’s in play across the board.

Behind these guys, it’s tough to get too excited about anything in this Driskel-led offense. Hopefully this game stays close and the Bengals are able to ride Mixon throughout, but there are some outlier game flows you could bet on if you want to go off the board.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 16th 1:00pm Eastern

Titans (
22.5) at

Giants (
20)

Over/Under 42.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Titans Run D
16th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O
30th DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Titans Pass D
24th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O
29th DVOA/30th Yards per pass
Giants Run D
15th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O
11th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D
23rd DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O
2nd DVOA/16th Yards per pass

TITANS // GIANTS OVERVIEW

Outside of one or two star players in this game, this is not a matchup that pops off the page — though from a real-life perspective, this game is a bit more interesting than most will probably give it credit for, as the 7-6 Titans are still in the thick of the playoff hunt, and the 5-8 Giants have been better than their record indicates, with a 4-1 record across their last five games, and with six of their eight losses coming by a combined deficit of only 27 points (good for an average deficit in those games of only 4.5). This game should be hard-fought and somewhat entertaining from start to finish, with the home Giants installed as 2.5 point favorites over the visiting Titans, in a game with an Over/Under of only 43.5.

TITANS PASS OFFENSE

The Giants’ pass defense has defined the league average this year, ranking middle of the pack in aDOT, catch rate, and YAC/R allowed — leading to a number 17 ranking in yards allowed per pass attempt. The Giants have faced more pass attempts this year than exactly half the league. The only areas where they separate from the pack are in touchdowns allowed (fifth fewest) and interceptions (third most). Tennessee prefers to lean on the run (31st in pass play rate), but the matchup when they do pass should neither raise nor lower expectations.

Of course, “expectations” on the Titans’ passing attack have been unpredictable and mostly poor this year, with this team ranked 28th in passing yards and 28th in passing touchdowns. Marcus Mariota has topped 300 yards twice this year. He has failed to crack 200 passing yards six times. With Tennessee struggling to push the ball across the goal line through the air and the Giants playing great red zone defense all year (sixth lowest opponent red zone touchdown rate), Mariota and this attack as a whole will need some lucky breaks to make a big dent in the slate.

The surest path to production on the Titans would be for the Giants to take a lead and force Tennessee to the air — so if building rosters that bet on the Titans’ passing attack, the best approach is to start by betting on the Giants on the other side. Mariota has topped 25 pass attempts only once in his last five games, and he has topped 30 pass attempts only three times all year.

Corey Davis continues to suffer from the low volume this attack has generated, with recent target counts of 4 // 4 // 7 // 3. He and Mariota have connected on only 57.4% of their attempts this year, while Davis continues to see most of his work within 10 to 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. He will need a spike in volume or a monster-efficiency day in order to matter. In large-field tourneys, it is worth noting that Davis has the talent to pop from time to time — especially when the workload spikes.

Behind Davis, this low-volume attack has been unusable for much of the year, though speed demon Taywan Taylor has quietly ascended to a more regular role since returning from injury — playing 41 of 60 snaps last week and seeing seven targets on only 24 Mariota pass attempts. This spike in looks corresponded with Jalen Ramsey covering Corey Davis, but Taylor also saw five targets the week before, giving him a slim shot at posting upside. Most of his targets are coming within five yards of the line of scrimmage, but he was targeted on a deep bomb last week as well.

With Jonnu Smith out, Anthony Firsker is the next man up at tight end. He’s a fairly safe bet for three to five low-upside looks in this spot, and he’ll have a shot at providing value if he punches in a score.

TITANS RUN OFFENSE

I managed to push 13 rosters to the elimination rounds of the Best Ball Championship this year — with a couple rosters in that group that had the pieces to make some serious noise down the stretch. Week 13 went poorly, however, and only two of my 13 teams advanced to Week 14…with both of these squads packed with injured players and disappointing early-round picks. One of these disappointing early-round picks on both teams was Derrick Henry. Considering that he was almost unowned on Thursday-start contests last week and was obviously not started by most people in season-long fantasy playoffs, I was fortunate enough to be one of the only people for whom that big game mattered. (Hilariously, one of my two teams with Henry still managed to get knocked out in Week 14.) After a season full of disappointment (zero games all season above 60 rushing yards), it’s fair to call Henry’s Week 14 output an outlier — especially as it came against a defense that had been one of the top units against the run throughout the season, and had allowed the second fewest running back rushing touchdowns in the league before getting lit on fire on national TV. Before looking at the matchup this week for Henry, it is important to note that he still saw only 17 touches last week. He has not topped 18 touches all season, and he has only 12 catches on the year — making him a touchdown-and-yardage-dependent back.

Working in Henry’s favor is a matchup against a Giants run defense that has allowed 10 touchdowns on the ground to running backs (the ninth most in the league), while giving up a middling 4.4 yards per carry. Henry will need another monster-efficiency day in order to really matter on this slate, making him a thin bet with the likely spike in ownership he is sure to carry. With that said: he has shown us more than once what he can do if given enough touches on the ground. Perhaps the Titans ride him a bit more this week.

Rather quietly, Henry played only 24 snaps last week — continuing to cede lead back duties to Dion Lewis, who played 38 snaps, took 10 carries, and hauled in five passes. Since his three-game usage spike from Weeks 7 through 10, Lewis has touch counts of 11 // 14 // 8 // 15, making him a bet-on-efficiency play as well. His pass game role (50 catches on the year) floats some floor his way, though he will need a spike in work or a couple of long plays to matter in this spot.

GIANTS PASS OFFENSE

The Titans have been quietly above-average against the pass this year, ranking sixth in yards allowed per pass attempt while allowing the third fewest passing touchdowns in the league — especially shining in YAC prevention, with only one team in football allowing a lower YAC/R rate than the Titans. This is a poor setup for a Giants passing attack that primarily relies on YAC in order to produce points. Eli Manning has failed to top even 200 passing yards in three of his last five games, while the Titans have allowed the seventh fewest fantasy points per game to the quarterback position.

As of this Thursday writeup, Odell Beckham is still looking iffy for this game. If he misses, it will again be Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram working as the numbers two and three options behind Saquon, with Russell Shepard and Corey Coleman picking up the scraps from there. Sterling Shepard has seen exactly six targets in three consecutive games, though his target upside was dented last week by Eli Manning throwing the ball only 22 times in the Giants’ blowout win. Without Beckham on the field last week, Manning threw only three passes that traveled more than eight yards downfield, which puts Shep in a position where he will almost certainly have to pile up volume in order to matter — though he has something like a 6-70-1 game in his range (with slim upside for more), keeping him in the conversation at his price if Beckham misses. Engram will have a tough matchup against a Tennessee defense that has allowed the sixth fewest receptions to the tight end position, but he’ll have a shot at five to eight targets if Beckham misses again.

If Beckham plays, he should immediately step back into his typical nine or more targets, giving him a decent floor and a strong ceiling at his price. In this up-and-down offense, OBJ has four games this year with 60 or fewer receiving yards, so nothing is guaranteed in this spot — but he should be able to win his matchups against Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson, opening the door for a potential 100-yard-and-a-touchdown game. Consider him a risk/reward option if he plays.

GIANTS RUN OFFENSE

Saquon Barkley will have a difficult matchup this week against a Tennessee defense that ranks 12th in yards allowed per carry — and whose numbers looked a whole lot better before they got upended by Lamar Miller a couple weeks ago. Heading into that game, the Titans were shaving 10% off the league-average yards allowed per carry. More importantly: no team in the NFL has allowed fewer touchdowns to running backs than the Titans have allowed. Of course, tough matchups are won by good running backs all the time (and even sometimes by middling running backs — such as Miller’s big game against the Titans a couple weeks back, and Henry’s big game against the Jags last week), but the matchup is at least worth noting. Tennessee is one of the most disciplined tackling units in the league, with the fifth fewest rush plays of 20+ yards allowed, and with the second-lowest YAC/R mark allowed.

With all of that cleared out of the way: there is literally no running back in the NFL like Saquon, who can create something out of nothing on every play, and who can take any touch to the house. He has recent touch counts of 22 // 23 // 22 // 24 // 29 // 20 // 27 // 18 (with the 18 touches coming in the Giants’ blowout win last week in which Saquon took a seat down the stretch), and he has seen five or more targets in six of his last eight games (with three games of double-digit targets in this stretch). On paper, he ranks slightly behind Zeke this week, but he can still be considered one of the highest-floor, highest-ceiling players on the slate.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Even on this strange and somewhat ugly slate, there is nothing on the Titans that I plan to target myself this week, as this team has simply produced too little in the way of useful stat lines, while the low-scoring nature of this game leaves these guys as “guess and hope” plays. It won’t be surprising if one or two useful fantasy scores emerge from this spot — but I’ll be looking for more predictable spots myself.

On the Giants, it’s all about Saquon, as there are viable paths this week to getting both Saquon and Zeke on a roster together, and there is always plenty to like about the floor and ceiling captured by securing two of the top running back plays. The line between Zeke and Saquon is also thin enough that you could easily make a case for playing Saquon first. The matchup is below-average, but Saquon has literally had the toughest running back schedule in the league (including Jacksonville // Dallas // Houston // New Orleans // Carolina // Chicago // San Francisco — with Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, and Chicago the top four teams in both yards allowed per carry and DVOA, and with the other three squads posting strong numbers against the run all year as well), and he has had only one disappointing output all year, while continuing to break the slate open on a regular basis. His chances of reaching his ceiling are a bit lower than normal in this spot, but it obviously will not surprise anyone if he pops once again. You could also make a case for Beckham if he plays, and for Shepard/Engram if Beckham misses. None of these three join the Tier 1 discussion for me, but Beckham carries slate-winning ceiling, while Shepard/Engram should provide decent floor (with a non-awful path to price-considered ceiling) if Beckham misses again.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 16th 1:00pm Eastern

WFT (
14.5) at

Jaguars (
22)

Over/Under 36.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Washington Run D
17th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
17th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Washington Pass D
6th DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
21st DVOA/19th Yards per pass
Jaguars Run D
22nd DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Washington Run O
21st DVOA/25th Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
32nd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Washington Pass O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per pass

REDSKINS // JAGUARS OVERVIEW

On one of the least attractive slates of the season, this is perhaps the least attractive game, with the rapidly-sinking, fourth-string-quarterbacked Washington Redskins traveling to Jacksonville to take on the long-sunk, second-string-quarterbacked Jaguars. The Jaguars have allowed the sixth fewest yards and the eighth fewest points on the year. Both of these offenses rank bottom eight in yards and bottom five in points. This game carries an Over/Under of only 36.0, with the Jags installed as touchdown favorites. No team has a lower Vegas-implied total than the 14.5 that the Redskins carry.

REDSKINS PASS OFFENSE

The only teams in the NFL allowing a lower expected yards per target than the Jaguars this year are the Bears, the Bills, and the Ravens — with the Jags allowing the second lowest catch rate in the league, the fourth lowest yards per pass attempt, the fewest passing touchdowns, the fourth fewest wide receiver yards, and the third fewest wide receiver receptions. Avoiding wide receivers against the Jaguars this year has been a profitable strategy, while avoiding Washington wide receivers has also been a profitable strategy. If we take away garbage time against the Giants last week, the closest any wide receiver on the Redskins has come to relevance across the last five weeks was the 6-66-0 line that Josh Doctson posted on 10 targets against the Cowboys in Week 12. This week, the Washington pass catchers will be relying on passes from journeyman Josh Johnson.

Speaking of Johnson: I imagine there will be at least some discussion this week about taking the savings on him at quarterback for his rushing upside. It is at least worth noting that no team in football has allowed more quarterback rushing yards than the Jaguars — and this is not entirely fluky, as only one team has faced more quarterback rush attempts, with the Jags’ solid downfield coverage often nudging quarterbacks to take off with the ball. Of course, Johnson’s high-efficiency, 7-45-1 line last week was fueled by garbage time, and such efficiency is unlikely to remain in this spot — likely forcing Johnson to supplement his rushing with a strong game through the air. His likeliest range is “low floor to modest ceiling,” with outlier potential for something more.

If for some reason you feel compelled to play Washington wide receivers, your best bet is Jamison Crowder working the middle of the field where the Jags are weakest. Crowder’s likeliest line is something like 4-50-0, but as he put on display last week: he is not incapable of posting some yards after the catch from time to time. Doctson would be the next most viable option if scraping the bottom of the barrel, though he will require a multi-touchdown game in likely shadow coverage from Jalen Ramsey in order to become worthwhile.

This passing attack wraps up at the tight end position, where we have one of the slate’s only injury-related pricing mishaps. Jordan Reed is currently being viewed as doubtful for this game, which should thrust Vernon Davis into the starting role. Reed entered last week with recent target counts of 12 // 6 // 6 // 11 // 8 // 5. In the games last year that Davis played without Reed, he saw target counts of 5 // 9 // 11 // 6 // 1 // 2 // 7 // 5 // 3 // 3. The Redskins remain a run-heavy attack, and there is obvious “quality concern” on the targets Davis will see, but he does shape up as the Redskins’ best means of moving the ball against a Jacksonville defense that has been merely average against tight ends this year.

REDSKINS RUN OFFENSE

As we have explored throughout the year, the Jaguars have been one of the better run defenses in football — though last week’s visibly low-effort game against Tennessee calls into question some of the season-long numbers that have backed up this reputation. On the one hand, the Jags were playing on the road last week, on short rest (while they will be playing at home this week with extra rest). On the other hand, the effort the Jaguars put forth on the ground in that game was bad enough that I’d be fine upgrading this matchup if you feel the need to do so. For me, this remains a Spectator Spot regardless, as Adrian Peterson has carried a low floor all season as a heavily yardage-and-touchdown-dependent play. A broken play or a multi-score game is clearly not impossible in this spot…but that is what Peterson will need in order to post a worthwhile score at the running back position.

Behind Peterson, Chris Thompson has mixed in for three carries and five targets each of the last two weeks. He would need a spike in usage or a couple of big plays to matter.

JAGUARS PASS OFFENSE

A bet on the Jaguars’ passing attack is a bet on the Redskins putting up points (which is something to keep in mind if building rosters that make this bet), as this team wants to lean heavily on the run and on solid defense in order to pull off wins — with Cody Kessler throwing the ball only 24 times in the Jags’ 6-0 home win against Indy a couple weeks back, and with Blake Bortles throwing 23 and 18 passes in the previous two weeks.

Taking away last week’s pass-heavy outlier, recent target counts on the Jags look like this:

:: Dede Westbrook — 4 // 4 // 5
:: Donte Moncrief — 2 // 4 // 4
:: D.J. Chark — 5 // DNP // DNP
:: Keelan Cole — 0 // 2 // 2

If betting on a spike in passing volume for the Jags, the best bet from a route-running and hands perspective is Westbrook — though this offense has shown us all year that target projections among these guys are an iffy week-to-week proposition, making this a guess-and-hope spot if you choose to bet on a back-and-forth affair.

JAGUARS RUN OFFENSE

Washington has been average against the run this year, ranking 17th in yards allowed per carry while ranking middle of the pack in both rushing and receiving yards allowed to the position. The Redskins have shown an ability to clamp down on the run from time to time against one-dimensional offenses, which creates slim concern for Leonard Fournette — though the workload expectations in this spot should keep his value afloat. Taking away the game in which he got tossed for fighting (21 touches in that game through three quarters before being sent to the showers), Fournette has touch counts since returning from injury of 29 // 30 // 16. The 16 touches, of course, came in last week’s blowout loss, where Fournette still played 55 of a possible 71 snaps, good for his largest snap share since returning. Working against Fournette are an offense that is telegraphing intentions and a pass game role that is low on creativity. Working in Fournette’s favor is the likely old-school nature of this game, with both teams looking to lean on the run in what projects to be a low-scoring affair. It won’t be a surprise if Fournette fails to produce at a level commensurate with his lofty price tag (giving him a lower-than-lovely floor), but he also has the locked-in usage and multi-touchdown role to turn into one of the better plays on the slate if things go right.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I can see the merit to playing Josh Johnson this week, though there are obviously quarterbacks I prefer more. He’s a risk/reward play, with a non-awful shot at 20+ points, but with a roster-wrecking floor if things go poorly in this spot. Quarterback is typically good for guaranteed points from most viable players, so I likely won’t take the risk myself. Elsewhere on the Redskins, Vernon Davis stands out as one of the only remotely appealing low-priced tight ends, though he still carries risk of a low-production game — on the road, with a fourth-string quarterback, in a broken offense.

On the Jags’ side of the ball, it’s Fournette and no one else for me. Fournette would be more attractive with a better, more creatively-schemed offense (I never thought I would say this, but: I wish the Jags would take a page out of the Cowboys’ book — figuring out ways to get Fournette into space in the same way the Cowboys have been using Zeke lately), but the usage keeps his floor fairly solid, while his upside is notable. The last four run defenses that Fournette has faced all rank 13th or better in DVOA. Washington ranks 25th.

Outside of these pieces, I won’t be looking anywhere on these offenses myself. Even with such a strange and ugly slate on tap, there are safer, higher-upside spots than this.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 16th 1:00pm Eastern

Cards (
17.25) at

Falcons (
26.25)

Over/Under 43.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Cardinals Run D
10th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
26th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D
10th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
16ths DVOA/3rd Yards per pass
Falcons Run D
8th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O
2nd DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
30th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O
18th DVOA/15th Yards per pass

CARDINALS // FALCONS OVERVIEW

The birds of Arizona and the birds of Georgia are each wrapping up a disappointing season, with Arizona stumbling to a 3-10 record behind a season full of poor offensive play, and with Atlanta surprising themselves and the rest of the league with a 4-9 record and a five-game losing streak behind a season full of injuries, bad defense, and poor offensive play. This game offers quite a bit of name value, but guaranteed production remains thin in this spot. Atlanta opened as 10.0 point favorites at home before dropping to -8.5 early in the week. This game carries a “Week 15 standard” Over/Under of 44.0.

CARDINALS PASS OFFENSE

Matchup is not an issue for the Cardinals this week, against an Atlanta team that has allowed a 5.6% increase on the league-average catch rate while ranking 21st in yards allowed per pass attempt. With the Falcons also ranked 27th in the NFL in sacks, Josh Rosen should be able to operate with a mostly-clean pocket, perhaps enhancing his ability to make the throws he needs to make. Of greater concern for this offense is its lack of weapons and its season-long struggles. Last week against a Detroit defense that is one of the few units more inept than the Falcons, it took Rosen 41 pass attempts to secure 240 yards through the air. He threw zero touchdown passes and gifted a pick-six to Darius Slay. Heading into that game, Rosen had thrown the ball 26 or fewer times in three straight games — and with this matchup setting up well for the Cardinals’ ground game, we should expect this team to limit passing volume for as long as they can.

The last man standing among NFL-caliber weapons in this passing attack is Larry Fitzgerald, who saw target counts in the Cardinals’ lower-volume games of 4 // 2 // 6 before spiking to nine targets last week. Fitz and Rosen have connected on only 60.5% of their looks this year, with Fitz averaging only 10.8 yards per catch — leaving him as a “bet on broken play or touchdown” option. While scoring expectations for this team as a whole are low, Fitz is the best bet to find the end zone among the Cardinals’ wide receivers, leaving him as a non-exciting, but non-awful play.

Chad Williams is expected to return to the field this week on the perimeter, where he will likely eat into the snaps of both J.J. Nelson and Trent Sherfield, with all three guys seeing time on the field. Last week, Nelson played 48 snaps and saw seven targets, while Sherfield played 65 snaps and saw seven targets. All three of these guys would be guess-and-hope plays in a broken, low-volume attack — with a quarterback who has averaged only 6.1 yards per pass attempt on the year.

This “attack” wraps up with Ricky Seals-Jones, who has turned his 13 targets across the last four weeks into six catches for 51 yards. Ouch.

CARDINALS RUN OFFENSE

Atlanta has been one of the easiest teams in the NFL to run on, ranking 31st in run defense DVOA and 30th in yards allowed per carry. Only 10 teams have allowed more rushing yards to running backs. Only two teams have allowed more receiving yards. No team has allowed more receptions.

This is a good spot for David Johnson, who is playing through a lost season behind an offensive line that ranks 20th in adjusted line yards, on an offense that ranks dead last in time of possession. Across his last three games, DJ has touched the ball 26 // 19 // 21 // 23 times. His 12 catches across his last four games have led to only 48 total receiving yards, which tells you a lot of what you need to know about the low-upside nature of touches in this offense, while DJ’s multi-touchdown upside is held in check by this team’s inability to sustain drives or put points on the board. He remains a high-variance play at his price tag, but his chances of hitting in this matchup are higher than normal.

It should also be noted that DJ missed practice on Wednesday. As of this writeup, Steve Wilks expects him to play — though if he were to miss, Chase Edmonds would provide cheap exposure to an every-down role in a really good matchup. He would obviously become extremely popular, but he would also provide strong point-per-dollar production while opening up salary for other spots on the slate.

FALCONS PASS OFFENSE

The Cardinals have been one of the tougher teams in the league against the pass, forcing the shallowest aDOT in the NFL and allowing the second fewest pass plays of 20+ yards. This team allows a 4% increase on the league-average catch rate — which allows wide receivers to rack up PPR points at times on short-area throws — but upside has been tough to come by in this spot, with Arizona ranked fifth in yards allowed per pass attempt while allowing the third fewest passing touchdowns in the league.

This spot is further complicated by the recent deployment of Patrick Peterson, with Arizona moving him around the formation in shadow coverage on the perimeter, creating a tough spot for Julio Jones on the 79% of snaps he runs on the outside. As one of the premier athletes and route-runners at the wide receiver position, Julio has a chance to win in any matchup, but Peterson continues to be one of the most lockdown forces in the NFL, with only 46 passes thrown into his coverage all season, and with a 54.3% completion rate and a 69.0 quarterback rating allowed on the year. Peterson has yet to allow more than 55 receiving yards in a game this year on passes thrown into his coverage. Julio will have to win a tough matchup here or take advantage of his opportunities away from Peterson. Working in his favor is this game’s domed environment and the highest percentage share of team air yards in the league. Julio will almost certainly see his nine-plus targets — keeping his ceiling intact, in spite of the lower-than-normal floor.

This passing attack has failed to get anything going behind Julio for weeks now, with Calvin Ridley cracking 50 yards only twice in his last nine games, and with Mohamed Sanu cracking 60 yards only twice all season. Barring an unlikely back-and-forth game, both of these guys remain “bet on a broken play or touchdown” options. Ridley has produced five useful games on the year and is the best bet for production, while either guy could see a small bump in usage if Peterson slows down Julio. In this broken attack, against a solid-across-the-board defense, each guy still carries a low floor.

At the back end of this passing attack is Austin Hooper, who sat out practice Wednesday with a knee issue and has topped 60 yards only two times all season. The Cardinals have allowed the eighth fewest yards to the tight end position, creating a tough spot for Hooper. He remains what he has been for most of the year: a modest floor option at tight end, with ceiling merely a guessing game.

FALCONS RUN OFFENSE

The Falcons have been atrocious on the ground this season, ranking 29th in run offense DVOA and 31st in yards per carry. Tevin Coleman has not topped 11 touches in four consecutive games, while