Week 16 Matchups

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(Jump to Games)

Welcome to Week 16, fam. Nothing extra up here this week (Happy Holidays and all!). Let’s close out the regular season strong!!!


With a 12-game Main Slate on tap for this weekend, and with a decent amount of “injury” and “rest” news to sort through, there are going to be a lot of different ways to go in roster construction this week. For the second consecutive week, we have a slate without many high-total games (Steelers at Saints is the only game on the slate with an Over/Under north of 48.0), and this slate also offers a decent number of potential blowout spots, making it important to pay attention to likely game flow and likely player usage in order to get a feel for the highest floor/ceiling options available. This is the last week of the season in which most teams will still be playing as if they have something to play for, and I encourage you to play the same way as you piece together your DFS roster(s). Let’s close the season strong! I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend.

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Kickoff Saturday, Dec 22nd 4:30pm Eastern

WFT (
13.25) at

Titans (
24.25)

Over/Under 37.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Washington Run D
17th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O
11th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Washington Pass D
6th DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O
2nd DVOA/11th Yards per pass
Titans Run D
16th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Washington Run O
21st DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Titans Pass D
24th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Washington Pass O
32nd DVOA/28th Yards per pass

REDSKINS // TITANS OVERVIEW

This game pairs two teams that have been “find a way to win” squads all year — with neither likely to scare most quality opponents, but with the Titans sitting at 8-6 and still fighting for a playoff berth with two weeks left in the season, and with the 7-7 Washington Redskins still technically in the hunt in the NFC in spite of playing with their fourth string quarterback. Neither team is aggressive (or powerful) on offense, with the Redskins ranked 28th in points per game and the Titans ranked 27th — and with both teams preferring to slow down the pace and lean on the run whenever possible, we are unlikely to see this turn into a particularly exciting DFS affair. In games like this (games that would be largely unlikely to catch our eye on the Main Slate), broken plays and touchdown-only options are likelier than normal to become useful — which is something to keep in mind if playing the one- or two-game “slates” centered around this game. This game opened with an Over/Under of 37.0, with the Titans installed as stunning 10.0 point favorites — coming off back-to-back wins of 21.0 and 17.0 points.

REDSKINS PASS OFFENSE

Josh Johnson has looked quietly competent since taking over the starting job for the Redskins, completing 65.9% of his passes for 346 yards (8.4 yards per attempts), with two touchdowns and one interception. Johnson has added 16 carries for 94 yards across about 80 minutes of action. He has struggled when under pressure this year, but he has a chance to “not fail” again in this spot against a Tennessee defense that ranks 22nd in adjusted sack rate. Standing in between Jackson and a “non fail” is a disciplined Tennessee secondary that now ranks fifth in fewest yards allowed per pass attempt, on the strength of the second lowest YAC/R rate allowed. Tennessee has improved their assignments and coverage schemes throughout the season and are allowing the fourth lowest catch rate as well — behind only Baltimore, Chicago, and last week’s Washington opponent, the Jaguars.

With both teams slowing down the game and leaning on the run, volume is unlikely to be in favor of the Redskins’ pass catchers, which leaves you betting on efficiency if betting on this attack. Target counts among Washington pass catchers last week against the Jaguars looked like this:

:: Jamison Crowder — 4
:: Vernon Davis — 3
:: Chris Thompson — 2
:: Adrian Peterson — 3
:: Josh Doctson — 2
:: Michael Floyd — 3
:: Maurice Harris — 2
:: Jeremy Sprinkle — 3
:: Matt Flanagan — 1

Obviously, it would feel far more comfortable to bet on a bad offense if they had a narrow target distribution — as betting on a bad, low-volume offense that spreads volume so thin is truly little more than guessing.

If guessing here, Crowder is your likeliest bet for floor and ceiling, while Floyd and Harris are likeliest to break off a lucky-long play. None of these guys would be recommended plays on the Main Slate.

Behind these wide receivers, Davis ran 17 pass routes last week at tight end while Sprinkle ran 16. Only five teams have allowed fewer yards to the tight end position than the Titans. (NOTE: Vernon Davis now appears unlikely to play this week with a late-announced concussion. With Reed already announced as out, it will be Sprinkle manning the tight end snaps.)

REDSKINS RUN OFFENSE

Unsurprisingly, this Tennessee team that is now tied with the Ravens for the fewest points allowed per game in the NFL is also strong against the run, ranking 12th in yards allowed per carry while impressively allowing the fewest running back touchdowns in the NFL this year. Part of what makes the Titans’ defense so stout is their ability to put together an opponent-specific game plan each week that takes away an opponent’s strength while forcing them toward their weakness. Look for Tennessee to sell out against the run this week, doing what they can to ensure that Peterson is not the player who beats them.

Peterson has been one of the most game flow dependent backs in the NFL this season, with recent touch counts of 21 // 16 // 14 // 9 // 11 // 21. The 20+ touch games came in Washington wins, and the middle four games came in losses (with the higher-touch games, of course, coming in closer losses). Put simply: the Redskins will need to keep this game close in order for Peterson to pile up touches. The matchup is not great, but he’ll have a chance to rip off a long run or perhaps even punch in a touchdown if enough touches pile up.

TITANS PASS OFFENSE

Washington has continued to force short passes with their zone-heavy coverage scheme (second shallowest aDOT allowed in the NFL), but with a league-average catch rate and periodic struggles after the catch, this team ranks 21st in yards allowed per pass attempt. Across the board, this unit has neither raised nor lowered expectations for quarterbacks or wide receivers — swinging us over to the Titans’ passing attack itself, as their ability (and desire) to beat a mediocre matchup will be their largest roadblock to success.

On the year, the Seahawks are the only team in football that has run the ball more frequently than the Titans, which has led to this team attempting only 383 pass attempts on the year (27.4 per game), and has led to the third fewest passing yards in the league. Marcus Mariota has not topped even 24 pass attempts in five of his last six games, and he has failed to top even 100 passing yards in two of his last five games. In order for the Titans to pile up yards through the air in this spot, they will almost certainly have to A) run into some busted plays, or B) allow the Redskins to take a lead that will force them to the air.

Recent target counts among primary Tennessee pass catchers look like this:

:: Corey Davis — 4 // 7 // 3 // 6
:: Taywan Taylor — DNP // 5 // 7 // 5
:: Tajae Sharpe — 0 // 6 // 4 // 1

Davis is the biggest talent of the bunch, but his results will remain up-and-down for as long as he is attached to this non-aggressive, run-leaning offense. Taylor continues to mix in one or two downfield routes most weeks with his otherwise strictly short-area looks. Sharpe has filled an underneath role in this offense that requires volume or a broken play in order to lead to upside. Obviously, none of these three would be recommended plays on the Main Slate, but a Showdown slate this ugly (as well as the two-game Saturday slate) may require some attention here. If your hand is forced on this slate, Davis is obviously the top play of the bunch, but you could make a clear case for chasing Taylor’s big, ball-in-his-hands upside. Sharpe has maybe a 5% chance of outscoring each of these other two on this slate.

The Titans ran a three-man tight end rotation last week, with Luke Stocker (46 snaps) and MyCole Pruitt (40 snaps) operating primarily as run blockers, while Anthony Firkser (15 snaps) operated primarily as a route runner. Obviously, all of these guys are simply guess-and-hope plays — with Firkser the likeliest bet for volume, but with a slim path for any of these three to find their way into the end zone.

TITANS RUN OFFENSE

Washington has been attackable on the ground this year — ranking 21st in yards allowed per carry while ranking middle of the pack in running back rushing yards allowed — though they have shown an ability to clamp down on the run against one-dimensional offenses. While their chances of succeeding from start-to-finish with this approach are slim, look for the Redskins to focus on slowing down Derrick Henry and the Titans’ rushing attack in an effort to force this Titans team to the air. The Titans are likely to win this battle, but it could prove to be slow-going for large chunks of the game.

It may have gone overlooked by the fantasy community heading into last week that Dion Lewis still held a commanding lead in the snap department in this backfield over Henry — though Henry shook things up last week, playing 49 snaps to 23 for Lewis. After failing to top 18 carries all season (and topping 12 carries only three times all year), Henry was given a ridiculous 33 carries in the Titans’ Week 15 win — grounding and pounding his way to 170 yards and another two touchdowns. If we assume similar usage moving forward, Henry shapes up as one of the top plays on this Showdown, and as one of the better plays on the two-game Saturday slate, as 30+ touches (or even 25+ touches) from any running back is automatically valuable on slates this small. From a DFS strategy perspective, however, it is also worth keeping in mind that the Titans have been one of the most opponent-specific teams in the league — adjusting game plan week to week in order to account for their perceived “best way to attack.” Realistically, the best way to win this game would once again be with a “defense and ground-first” approach — favoring Henry. But much like Josh Adams’ usage in the Philadelphia backfield, it should not be taken as a foregone conclusion that this backfield belongs to Henry the rest of the way. These are thoughts to balance when considering rosters for the Saturday slate(s) this week.

Across these two Henry-dominant weeks, Lewis has still seen touch counts of 15 and 10, keeping him in the small-slate conversation. At this point, Henry is far more likely to see touchdown opportunities and is the more valuable on-paper back, though Lewis’ role in the pass game (14 catches across his last four games, to five for Henry) puts him at a lower likelihood of an outright dud as well. Both guys can be considered on the one-game or two-game Saturday slates.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

It’s difficult to find a game more ugly than this, and the ugliness of this game is further heightened by this game taking place on small slates that force you to consider at least some of these plays. If playing these slates to win, you will have to first be willing to lose — i.e., being willing to take on some plays that feel thin/ugly, but that carry enough upside to potentially carve a way to the top. On the Redskins’ side of the ball, the matchups and offensive setup are not great, but Josh Johnson, Adrian Peterson, and perhaps one or two pass catchers all have a shot to be relevant. On the Titans’ side, Henry is obviously the standout option — but there are more paths to a disappointing day than most will assume, keeping variable approaches in play. Lewis will still be given opportunities to matter on Saturday, while the Titans’ pass catchers will be involved enough for something to potentially break their way.


Kickoff Saturday, Dec 22nd 8:20pm Eastern

Ravens (
19.25) at

Chargers (
23.25)

Over/Under 42.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Ravens Run D
2nd DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
31st DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
7th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
7th DVOA/8th Yards per pass
Chargers Run D
21st DVOA/9th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
5th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
11th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
19th DVOA/31st Yards per pass

RAVENS // CHARGERS OVERVIEW

This Saturday evening gives us a poor game from a DFS perspective — between a pair of slow-paced, run-heavy teams that each boast a strong defense — but this is a great real-life game, as the 8-6 Ravens are clinging to a playoff spot (with anything from a division title to missing the playoffs altogether still very realistically in play), and the 11-3 Chargers are hoping to pair wins in Weeks 16 and 17 with at least one more Chiefs loss (which would open the door for home field advantage throughout the playoffs). Since Lamar Jackson took over for the Ravens, they are 4-1 — with their only loss coming against the Chiefs. The Chargers, meanwhile, are 10-1 in their last 11 games, and they are fresh off beating the Chiefs in Arrowhead. This will be an interesting test for Jackson, as his first five games have — incredibly — come against five teams that all rank bottom six in the NFL in defensive DVOA. The Chargers rank 12th. This game currently carries an Over/Under of 43.5, with the Chargers installed as 4.5 point favorites at home.

RAVENS PASS OFFENSE

The Ravens’ offense is flowing through the ground game at the moment, with this team carrying a Pop Warner-like pass play rate of 36.99% over their last three games. Since Lamar Jackson took over as the quarterback of this offense, they have piled up pass attempt numbers of 19 // 25 // 21 // 24 // 23. In a sense, Jackson has been nothing more than a game manager for the Ravens — with this team leaning on defense and the run in order to win games. Boosting the value of Jackson’s game manager role is his integral share of the run game, with rush attempt totals of 26 // 11 // 17 // 14 // 18. As noted last week: almost all of Jackson’s rushes are coming on designed runs, which means that we can bank on these rush attempts remaining part of the schemed game plan for as long as Baltimore games remain competitive. Through five starts, Jackson has not posted a single elite game, but he has also not posted a single dud. On the ugly, two-game Saturday slate, there is definite value to a quarterback who has shown a solid scoring range.

With Jackson failing to top 25 pass attempts in any of his starts and failing to notch even a 60% completion rate, his pass catchers have struggled to produce. Jackson’s best yardage game since taking over as the starter was 178 yards. He has exactly 12 to 14 completions in all five of his starts.

If forced to go to the Ravens’ pass catchers, target counts across the last five weeks have looked like this:

:: Michael Crabtree — 3 // 6 // 4 // 4 //1
:: Willie Snead — 8 // 0 // 3 // 7 // 6
:: John Brown — 1 // 7 // 4 // 6 // 3

Only two teams have faced a shallower aDOT than the Chargers this year, with their stellar pass rush and their disciplined zone coverage working in tandem to force a ball-out-quick approach. The Chargers are aggressive on the ball, with a below-average catch rate allowed and with the number nine yards allowed per pass attempt ranking. They hold the number one DVOA ranking in the short areas of the field.

The safest bet on the Ravens has been Snead, whose underneath outlet role has yielded the most consistent production with raw rookie Jackson under center. Snead also has a target of 20+ yards in back-to-back weeks, giving him a slim shot at upside.

Behind Snead, it’s guessing and hoping, as Crabtree has seen inconsistent work as the perimeter possession weapon, while Brown has failed to connect with Jackson for a single explosive play so far. Each is a low-floor option, with touchdowns being Crabtree’s best shot at upside, and with JB hoping for a deep connection from Jackson on a team that has primarily focused on short and intermediate throws.

Behind these three, the tight ends continue to be involved, with all four of Mark Andrews, Maxx Williams, Hayden Hurst, and Nick Boyle playing snaps every week (last week, each of these four played at least 21 snaps, and none played more than 43 — out of a possible 76), and with all four seeing targets since Jackson took over. Hurst and Andrews are being used most consistently as schemed weapons in the pass game, giving them the best shot at the broken play or touchdown they would need in order to become valuable, but any of these four could legitimately find a touchdown this week. The Chargers play strong coverage against the position, but with the Ravens running so many two- and three-tight-end sets, the matchup matters less than it would for other squads.

RAVENS PASS OFFENSE

The Ravens continued to ride Gus Edwards as the lead back last week, even with Kenneth Dixon stepping into more work on the ground, giving him 19 carries and putting him at carry totals since Jackson took over of 17 // 23 // 21 // 16 // 19. Edwards still has zero targets since taking over as the lead back, making him truly yardage-and-touchdown dependent. The Chargers rank 13th in yards allowed per carry, and with this team slowing down contests and allowing the sixth fewest opponent plays per game, there are only eight teams that have allowed fewer running back rushing yards on the year. On the ugly, two-game Saturday slate, however, there is something to be said for guaranteed volume. The matchup matters less for Gus Gus than the one-dimensional nature of his DFS production. Consider him a decent-floor, solid-ceiling play on the Saturday slate.

Across the last three weeks, Dixon has touch counts of 9 // 9 // 12, with exactly one catch in each of those games. He should continue filling this change-of-pace role behind Edwards, giving him an outside shot at a long play or a touchdown.

CHARGERS PASS OFFENSE

In a road loss to the Broncos, and in shootouts against the Steelers and Chiefs, the Chargers moved away from their run-leaning approach and allowed Philip Rivers to take over the game — though this offense has remained one of the most run-dominant units in the NFL when controlling games, creating potential in this spot for the Chargers to reestablish their run-first identity. Look for game flow and matchup resistance to drive the Chargers’ play calling here.

On the year, the Ravens have been one of the tougher pass game matchups in the NFL — allowing the lowest catch rate in the league, and shaving 6.5% off the league-average YAC/R rate, leading to the lowest yards allowed per pass attempt in the NFL. Only three teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns than the Ravens, and only two teams have allowed fewer passing yards. The Ravens have been especially stout against wide receivers, allowing the sixth fewest receptions, the fifth fewest yards, and the second fewest touchdowns in the NFL.

The effectiveness of the Chargers’ passing attack will likely take a hit if Keenan Allen (hip) is unable to go in this spot, though his practice in a limited capacity on Wednesday bodes well for his chances of suiting up. Allen has been the focal point of this passing attack all season, and he has recently logged target totals of 9 // 7 // 8 in the Chargers’ lower-volume games — giving him a fairly high usage floor independent of game flow. In the Chargers’ higher-volume games, Allen went for 12 and 19 targets before getting injured early in the win over the Chiefs and finishing with zero looks in that game. The matchup is not great from an “upside” perspective, but Allen should pile up enough looks to lock in some semblance of floor on this short slate, with outside opportunities for a big game with a broken play or a touchdown.

Mike Williams emerged as an upside monster last week with Allen missing most of the game, turning nine targets and one carry into 95 yards and three touchdowns. As an unpolished route runner, Williams should have a tougher time in this matchup than route running maven Allen, but the matchup is difficult enough across the board that it wouldn’t be crazy on the short slate to bet on Williams winning a jump ball or a downfield route (or two) and turning in another strong game. With Allen on the field, Williams has recent target counts of 3 // 3 // 0 // 3 // 4 // 3 // 6, so the floor here is obviously scary-low — but the upside remains in place.

Tyrell Williams saw 12 targets last week with Allen out of action and should remain heavily involved on the off chance Allen misses — though if Allen plays, as expected, Tyrell will return to the role that has yielded recent target counts of 6 // 0 // 2 // 4. Tyrell is typically good for one or two downfield shots each week, if you want to chase the outside chance that one of these hits (or that volume unexpectedly spikes).

Travis Benjamin is a dart throw in this passing attack.

If you are playing the two-game Saturday slate, Antonio Gates is lightly used when Allen is healthy, but he’s as likely as any other tight end on Saturday to luck into a touchdown.

CHARGERS RUN OFFENSE

The Chargers are expected to return Melvin Gordon to the field this week for a must-win game against the Ravens — launching him into a matchup against a Baltimore team that ranks fourth in fewest yards allowed per carry and has held running backs to the third fewest rushing yards and the second fewest receiving yards in the NFL. Through 14 games, the Ravens have allowed 10 total touchdowns to running backs — though on a slate this small and ugly, with Gordon functioning as the primary engine of the best offense available, there is obviously still room for him to matter.

Across his last four healthy games, Gordon has touch totals of 20 // 17 // 23 // 24 — and he has four or more targets in every healthy game this season. Somewhere in the range of 15 to 18 carries and three to five catches is Gordon’s median expectation, with any extra touches a bonus.

Behind Gordon, Austin Ekeler should resume change-up duties if healthy, with Justin Jackson filling in if Ekeler (neck) can’t go. As always: this role yields about eight to 12 touches most weeks, providing slim opportunity for one of these players to matter.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

On the two-game slate on Saturday, Jackson stands out as a higher-floor option than either of the quarterbacks in the early game, with a better shot at reaching ceiling as well. From a “bet on game flow” perspective, any of the quarterbacks on this slate can be considered, but Jackson is the least likely to wreck a roster. Joining Jackson in the “safer, decent upside” conversation is Edwards. Behind these two, it’s just as thin as anything else on this slate — with Dixon and Snead the next guys up for “likeliest production,” but with neither guy standing out, and with any of the other pieces on the Ravens viable from a “crazy things can happen on a slate this small and ugly” perspective.

We should not expect big yardage on either side of this game (with any big plays a bonus on top of whatever we can reasonably target), making Gordon and Allen the best bets for production on the Chargers’ side of the ball, followed by Mike Williams and whichever running back steps into the number two role in this spot. The floor is low on the latter two, but the ceiling remains. Rivers can also be considered as a strong QB option on this ugly slate, as there is a chance the Chargers are forced to lean on his arm if they struggle on the ground. Outlier “bet on touchdown” options on the Chargers are also in play.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Falcons (
24.5) at

Panthers (
21.5)

Over/Under 46.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Falcons Run D
8th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
16th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
30th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
11th DVOA/9th Yards per pass
Panthers Run D
26th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
26th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
13th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
16ths DVOA/2nd Yards per pass

FALCONS // PANTHERS OVERVIEW

We are at that point in the season, when players begin to sit out the last couple games with injuries they would play through if their team were still in the playoff hunt. In this game, it will be Cam Newton taking a seat, with Taylor Heinicke taking over for the Panthers’ offense. The visiting Falcons are also out of the playoff hunt, with this game that originally looked like a potential battle for the division title now shaping up as an afterthought outside of the fantasy community. This game opened with an Over/Under of 50.5, with the Panthers favored by 3.5 points. Once the news of Newton’s absence emerged, the Over/Under plunged to 43.5, with the Falcons becoming 3.5 point favorites. The Falcons’ Vegas-implied total (23.5) remained unchanged, while the Panthers fell from 27.0 to 20.0.

FALCONS PASS OFFENSE

Carolina has continued to play stout defense after the catch, with only four teams in the NFL allowing a lower YAC/R rate this year — but they have otherwise been attackable, boosting the league-average aDOT by 4.8% and the league-average catch rate by 2.8%, leading to a number 23 ranking in yards allowed per pass attempt. The last time these teams met, the Panthers held Julio Jones to a disappointing 5-64-0 line (nine targets) in Atlanta, though this team has struggled all year to contain big-bodied, alpha-like receivers with downfield roles, recently giving up lines of:

:: 5-101-0 (six targets) — Chris Godwin
:: 4-103-1 (five targets) — David Moore
:: 8-113-1 (15 targets) — Kenny Golladay
:: 3-90-1 (five targets) — JuJu Smith-Schuster
:: 7-88-1 (10 targets) — Alshon Jeffery

Julio has at least eight targets in all but one game this year, and he is up to a respectable 12 red zone targets on the season, with six total touchdowns. He leads the NFL in receiving yards, air yards, percentage share of team air yards, and targets per game. As long as he is good to go this week after being limited in practice with a hip injury, he will again be the primary piece through which this passing attack attempts to flow.

The Panthers’ greatest weakness on defense has been slot receivers, though usage has been a greater detriment to the production of Mohamed Sanu than matchup, with five games already this year of four or fewer targets (including his first game against the Panthers in Week 2). Sanu’s limited downfield role makes it very difficult for him to hit for a big game. He’ll need a touchdown or a broken play in order to matter on this slate.

Joining Sanu with a backseat role in this offense is Calvin Ridley, who has topped six targets only four times all season, and who has topped 50 yards only five times. With only seven red zone targets on the year (and eight touchdowns from an early-season binge of long-range scoring), he has been perpetually overpriced since the start of the year — though he does maintain “do it all on his own” upside with the ball in his hands. Against a Carolina defense that allows downfield passing but tackles well after the catch, it is Julio — with the largest downfield role on this team — who sets up best; but there is an outside chance that one of these other pass catchers matters.

This attack wraps up with Austin Hooper, who has topped five targets only five times this year, but who has a solid matchup against a Panthers team that has allowed the most tight end touchdowns in the league. Increasing risk on Hooper are a pair of lower-body injuries that held him to only 51% of the Falcons’ snaps last week, with only 21 of a possible 41 pass routes run.

FALCONS RUN OFFENSE

With Tevin Coleman sure to be gone from Atlanta as a free agent next year, he made himself a bit of extra money on Sunday with his 11-145-1 line on the ground — though that may not be enough for the Falcons to turn over the reins to this backfield with Ito Smith now on Injured Reserve, as Dan Quinn has already talked up his desire to see more of number four back Brian Hill. Even in his Week 15 explosion, Coleman split snaps with Smith almost down the middle (34 to 29), in what has become the norm for this unit under Steve Sarkisian. There is an outside chance Coleman gets the bulk of the touches this week, but signals out of Atlanta tell us our best bet is to view this as a “bet on monster efficiency” backfield, with neither guy projecting to see more than 12 to 14 touches.

The matchup is not good against a Carolina defense that ranks 11th in yards allowed per carry and second in adjusted line yards on defense — though this team has struggled at times this year against stretch runs, which is where Coleman beat them last time around for a 16-107-0 line in Week 2. Consider him a low-floor, solid-ceiling play this week who will likely need a spike in workload in order to be effective, but who does have an outside shot at a spike in workload, and also has an outside shot at a couple long runs on the touches he sees. Hill is a “guess and hope” play behind Coleman, with a likely range of seven to 12 touches flowing his way.

PANTHERS PASS OFFENSE

This week, 25-year-old Taylor Heinicke will make his first career start for the Panthers, against an Atlanta defense that has allowed the third highest catch rate in the NFL. The Falcons rank 21st in yards allowed per pass attempt, and only three teams have allowed more passing touchdowns.

Heinicke is a non-prospect, but he’s also likely a non-awful quarterback. He spent multiple years with Norv Turner in Minnesota and knows this offense well, and with Cam unable to practice most days lately, Heinicke also has plenty of first team reps under his belt that will come in handy for this first start. Carolina wide receivers have talked up Heinicke’s arm, grasp of the offense, and mobility, with Jarius Wright even going so far as to say that defenders have told the Panthers’ pass catchers that they’re not afraid of the deep ball with Cam under center, and that this will now change. This is a good first matchup for Heinicke against a Falcons defense that rarely does much to confuse quarterbacks — instead aiming to play assignment-strong defense that will make it easier for Heinicke to make reads and decisions. In this spot, we should expect the Panthers to lean on Christian McCaffrey even more than normal — but a chunk of this usage/production will likely come through the air. There is a non-zero chance that Heinicke puts up useful, minimum-priced production this week.

Breaking down target distributions for this team with Cam under center is a wasted effort with the quarterback change — with our best bet being our understanding of Norv Turner and what he will likely look to do in this spot. Turner has long been a proponent of a vertical-oriented attack, though this year he has tried to sharpen Cam’s game by focusing on underneath throws (early on, out of design; later in the year, out of necessity). With McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel all elite after-catch threats, we should expect some underneath targets designed to get these guys in space, and we should expect a few downfield shots mixed in throughout this game to keep the Falcons’ defense honest. Downfield shots are likeliest to go to Moore and Samuel as well. Last week, Devin Funchess played only 11 snaps, with Samuel (94.8%) and Moore (98.3%) functioning as near every-down players. It won’t be surprising if we see another limited, 30-attempt game from this offense — and it also won’t be surprising if a decent chunk of these looks go to CMC — so volume is not assured on these two young stars; but each guy has the YAC ability to potentially matter on this slate.

Behind these two, Wright will continue operating in an underneath role — requiring a touchdown to hit. Ian Thomas will continue to be volume-or-touchdown reliant for notable production.

PANTHERS RUN OFFENSE

Christian McCaffrey is one of the only non-quarterbacks/non-linemen in the NFL functioning as a true and legitimate every-down player — and with Heinicke under center, opportunities will be heightened for the Panthers to lean on their star back against a Falcons defense that has once again allowed the most catches and the most receiving yards to the running back position. This defense does not adjust their scheme to account for strong pass-catching backs — instead opting to allow these backs to stand wide open underneath for dump-offs, assuming they can tackle these backs after the catch. When these teams last met, CMC was targeted 15 times, hauling in 14 catches for 102 yards. Passing volume and sustained drives may be tougher for the Panthers to come by this week, likely putting such a lofty target total out of reach — but McCaffrey should again be the focal point of this offense, and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to pile up floor and ceiling in this spot.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

The Falcons’ offense has been difficult to truly rely on lately, but Matt Ryan and Julio Jones both stand out as solid options on this slate with top-of-the-weekend upside, while the running backs and the ancillary pieces on this squad can all be considered as guess-and-hope upside plays in tourneys who can be bet on with varying degrees of confidence.

On the other side of the ball, I feel confident in McCaffrey from a usage, floor, and ceiling standpoint this week, while I see Heinicke, Moore, and Samuel as intriguing tourney options. Heinicke in particular looks like an interesting min-priced bet if salary proves to be tight this week, as his weaponry and the likely game flow in this spot should allow him to post a serviceable score at worst, while he will certainly have opportunities to put up a starting-caliber score for far less than a starting-caliber score would typically cost.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Bills (
15.75) at

Patriots (
29.25)

Over/Under 45.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bills Run D
24th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Bills Pass D
28th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O
27th DVOA/25th Yards per pass
Patriots Run D
18th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O
32nd DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D
17th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O
4th DVOA/6th Yards per pass

BILLS // PATRIOTS OVERVIEW

Josh Allen and The Great Backyard Offense will take the most entertaining show in football on the road, where they will match up against a Patriots team that has lost back-to-back December games for the first time since cavemen walked the earth. This is a meaningless game for the play-hard Bills, while the Patriots need a win here in order to maintain a shot at a first-round bye. This game has been awarded an early-week Over/Under of 44.5, with the Patriots installed as 13.0 point favorites.

BILLS PASS OFFENSE

Last week, my Main Roster bet on the idea that the Bills would lean pass-heavy with LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory both out of action and pass-catching back Marcus Murphy in the lead role (I was rolling with Allen // McKenzie // Foster on my main team regardless, but this bet dropped me from Julian Edelman down to Zay Jones, and “allowed me to get up” from Jaylen Samuels to Leonard Fournette — a swing-and-miss that cost me a big weekend) — and even with the Bills passing the ball on a shockingly low 42.19% of their plays, Allen and Foster outproduced their salaries, while McKenzie provided useful low-cost results once again. (Have I mentioned how fun this offense is? Yeah.) This week, the chances of the Bills controlling the game and leaning run-heavy from start to finish are lessened against a Patriots team that should be able to take and hold a lead. If this proves to be the case, we could see a less in-control Allen than we saw last week — which would be an Allen A) likelier to make mistakes, and B) likelier to take downfield, upside-producing shots.

From a matchup perspective, things shape up well for Allen under center, as the Patriots have allowed the ninth most passing yards and the 10th most quarterback rushing yards in the league. With the Patriots tightening up so well against the run near the end zone, they have also allowed the league’s fourth most passing touchdowns (tied with the Falcons, Dolphins, and Bengals).

On a per-pass basis, the Patriots have been a tough matchup for wide receivers this year, with a low 60.3% completion rate allowed to the position, and with a yards per attempt mark to wideouts of only 7.4. When the Pats miss in coverage, however, their man-heavy coverage scheme sets them up to miss big, with only eight teams in the league allowing more pass plays of 20+ yards this year. This sets up well for Robert Foster, who has target counts of 8 // 5 since Kelvin Benjamin was cut, while playing an every-down role in this offense. Foster continues to see looks both short and deep — and while he does have some boom/bust to his role, he is now sitting on four games of 90+ yards in his last five.

McKenzie continues to see manufactured touches in the run game, which he pairs with underneath work — yielding solid floors but low ceilings outside of touchdown production so far. McKenzie does have enough speed, and the Bills run into enough scramble drills, that he maintains some big-play upside. He also maintains a price that undersells his recent floor.

Zay fails to separate from tight coverage, which could make things difficult on him against the tight coverage of the Patriots. There is really no telling whether the Patriots will stick Stephon Gilmore on Zay or on Foster, but Jason McCourty has been almost equally tough on wideouts this year. Each receiver has a shot at beating this matchup, but Foster’s chances are higher.

The tight ends continue to operate with limited roles in this attack, locking the wideouts into clear and consistent volume.

BILLS RUN OFFENSE

LeSean McCoy appears on track to return this week after his one-game absence, bringing up a matchup against a New England team that ranks 31st in yards allowed per carry. Given what they showed us last week, we should expect the Bills to lean on the run for as long as they can in this one, opening opportunities for Shady to matter if he can get up to 16 or 17 carries. Working against him is A) a quarterback who prefers to throw downfield or tuck the ball and run rather than dumping the ball off to running backs, and B) a Patriots defense that has allowed the second fewest rushing touchdowns in the league to running backs. Consider Shady to be an upside play with an unattractive floor.

PATRIOTS PASS OFFENSE

One underrated set of statistics demonstrating how strong this Buffalo pass defense has been this year is volume, with only three teams in the NFL facing fewer pass attempts than the Bills. Part of this has been due to game flow — but a much larger part has been a Buffalo pass defense that has allowed the third fewest yards per pass attempt in the league. The Bills shave 8.8% off the league-average aDOT, and only one team allows a lower YAC/R rate than Buffalo. The Bills have given up the second fewest pass plays of 20+ yards, and they have been especially tough on wide receivers, allowing the fewest yards to the position (impressively doing so even with seven teams allowing fewer receptions). Only six teams have allowed fewer wide receiver touchdowns than the Bills have allowed this year.

The Patriots are typically content to “play the matchup” on offense — attacking an opponent’s weakness, rather than attacking their strength — but the last time these teams met, Tom Brady threw the ball 45 times in a 19-point win, signaling some hope that pass catchers could matter in this spot. Brady threw for 324 yards in that game, but he managed zero touchdowns. It should be noted that Sony Michel missed that game, likely playing a strong role in the Pats’ pass-leaning approach.

The most reliable wideout on the Patriots has been Julian Edelman, who once again has the best matchup — this time against a Buffalo team that is weakest over the middle. When these teams met in Week 8, Edelman went 9-104-0 on 10 targets.

The toughest matchup goes to Josh Gordon, who should be shadowed by Tre’Davious White for much of this matchup. Gordon has seen bounce-around target counts recently (12 // 5 // 3 // 9 // 2), shoving him into tourney-only territory. He has a high ceiling in this offense, but his floor is low in this spot. (NOTE: Gordon has stepped away from football to focus on his mental health. The Patriots will turn back to Phillip Dorsett on the outside, giving him a thin shot at upside, and likely strengthening the target shares of Edelman and Gronk.)

While the Patriots spread around some upside to Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson, the only other reliable piece in this attack is Rob Gronkowski, who has ranged between four and eight targets all season. As noted multiple times over the last month or so: Gronk does not look like his dominant self, and he is no longer a reliable piece, but he is still seeing enough work to pop off from time to time if you want to make an upside bet. Working against Gronk is a Bills defense that has allowed the second fewest receptions to the position.

PATRIOTS RUN OFFENSE

The Bills are still a difficult matchup on the ground — ranking seventh in fewest yards allowed per carry and ninth in DVOA — but volume has allowed enemy backs to rack up middling yardage production in this matchup (both on the ground and through the air), while the Bills’ shoddy red zone rush defense has led to this team allowing the second most running back rushing touchdowns in the league. With only seven catches all season, Michel is a completely yardage-and-touchdown-dependent back, but he is not a bad bet for some touchdown opportunities if you want to go there in tourneys.

The return of Rex Burkhead as a third member in this backfield will likely continue to cap Michel’s touch ceiling at 20 to 22, but the bigger impact has been felt by James White, who has touched the ball only six and seven times across the last two weeks. White still carries spiked-week potential, but his floor is no longer certain.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

“On the road at Foxborough in December” seems like a recipe for a disastrous game from this raw Buffalo offense — but the upside remains, with Josh Allen, Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie, and (to a lesser extent) Zay Jones all in play. The last couple weeks, I comfortably used my Bills stack in cash games, and I don’t imagine I will be going that direction this week; but I will put in an extra tourney roster if I have to just to bet on this creative, aggressive Bills attack each week down the stretch. There is just too much upside in the way this offense is playing compared to the price tags these players are carrying for them to go overlooked. McCoy can also be played with or without other players on the Bills if you want to take a shot on his upside.

As is often the case on the Patriots’ side of the ball: this offense should score points, though with opportunities in this offense spread to various and often unpredictable sources, it’s tough to bet on much of this unit with confidence. Edelman is the most attractive option on the Patriots’ side of the ball from a floor/ceiling perspective, followed by Michel, and then some order of Gordon, Gronk, Brady, White for ceiling.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Bengals (
17) at

Browns (
27)

Over/Under 44.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bengals Run D
23rd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
7th DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
16th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
23rd DVOA/29th Yards per pass
Browns Run D
20th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
27th DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
19th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
26th DVOA/18th Yards per pass

BENGALS // BROWNS OVERVIEW

This division clash tells the story of two teams moving in opposite directions, with the 6-8 Bengals having just ended a five-game losing streak, and with the 6-7-1 Browns riding high in the midst of a 4-1 stretch that includes a 35-20 thrashing of this same Bengals team in Cincinnati a few weeks back. The Bengals appear likely to be without Tyler Boyd this week, putting them at a deeper disadvantage on the road. Cleveland opened as 7.0 point favorites before climbing to -9.0. This game carries a mid-week Over/Under of 44.5.

BENGALS RUN OFFENSE

Scheme, rather than talent, is a large part of the reason the Browns have been mediocre against the run this year. As we saw last week against a Broncos team that was missing its top two receivers and clearly wanted to lean on the run, the Browns are capable of collapsing down on the run when they feel a quarterback cannot beat them. In that road spot against a good Denver run offense, Cleveland held Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman to a combined 18 carries for 31 yards. This is a similar setup for Joe Mixon and the Bengals, as the Browns will have every reason to expect this Cincinnati offense to want to lean on the ground with A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and Andy Dalton all missing in action. Consider this a challenging matchup for Mixon.

Working in Mixon’s favor is a role that has yielded recent touch counts of 21 // 14 // 31 // 29. His 21 touches came in that 15-point loss to the Browns a few weeks back, with his 14 carries buoyed by seven receptions. He will continue to split time with Giovani Bernard, but with Mixon locked into early-down work all game long and used comfortably in the pass game when the Bengals fall behind, he will have opportunity to matter this week in spite of the tough matchup. His floor is a bit low at his elevated price, but his ceiling keeps him in the conversation.

BENGALS PASS OFFENSE

The Bengals’ pass offense projects to be in a tough spot here against an attacking, aggressive Cleveland pass defense that ranks sixth in DVOA and sixth in yards allowed per pass attempt. The Browns shave 7.5% off the league-average aDOT and an additional 3.3% off the league-average catch rate. Working in Cincy’s favor is the fact that the fast-paced Browns have allowed the most opponent plays per game in the NFL. This has led to the Browns facing the most pass attempts in the NFL, setting up Cincy for potential “war of attrition” production. Of course, with the Bengals ranked 30th in time of possession and 28th in plays per game, there is no guarantee that this team seizes their volume opportunities.

With Boyd expected to miss this game, expect the Bengals to open with plenty of two tight end sets featuring C.J. Uzomah (69 out of 80 snaps last week) and Matt Lengel (40 out of 80 snaps last week), and a run-leaning approach. If and when the Browns take a lead and force the Bengals to the air, we will see John Ross and Cody Core on the outside, with Alex Erickson manning the slot. Erickson should be able to pile up some volume, though his downfield work has been limited and ineffective thus far. Ross has recent target counts of 7 // 7 // 3 // 4 // 5, though he has stunningly turned these 26 targets into only 10 catches for 88 yards across five games. Ross will likely see plenty of rookie stud corner Denzel Ward, making him very boom/bust this week. Core has been similarly ineffective, turning 16 targets in this same stretch into only six catches for 77 yards. A bet on these wide receivers is a bet on broken plays. Tight ends also remain limited-upside options in this offense, with Uzomah (no games above 41 yards since Week 6) merely a hope-for-multiple-touchdowns option.

BROWNS RUN OFFENSE

The Bengals’ run defense continues to present one of the most attackable matchups in the league, with this team allowing the fourth most rushing yards, the seventh most receiving yards, and the second most touchdowns to the running back position. When these teams last met, the Bengals collapsed on the run to try to force Baker Mayfield to beat them, which led to Chubb totaling only 84 yards on his 28(!) carries. He added a touchdown on the ground and a 3-44-1 line through the air. With Mayfield torching the Bengals for four touchdown passes on only 26 pass attempts in that game, we may see a bit more room for Chubb to work this week than he had the last time around in this spot. With his receptions typically capped at three or four, his salary is a bit high for his largely yardage-and-touchdown floor, but his ceiling keeps him in the top-of-the-slate conversation.

BROWNS PASS OFFENSE

The Browns have shown a willingness to lean run-heavy in games they can control, recently holding Mayfield to pass attempt totals of 20 // 26 // 22 // 31 in wins (with 43 pass attempts in the Browns’ lone loss in this stretch). While you can bet on outlier game flow scenarios that would have the Browns playing from behind in this spot, the likeliest scenario calls for Cleveland to take and hold a lead — with their strong offense going up against the Bengals’ weak D, and with their aggressive defense taking on a shattered and depleted Bengals offense. If this proves to be the case, volume will likely be low for this attack once again — making it a difficult unit to bet on in a spread-the-wealth attack.

On a per-play basis, of course, the matchup is excellent for Mayfield, as the Bengals rank 27th in yards allowed per pass attempt, while only three teams have allowed more passing touchdowns this year. As noted above: Mayfield wrecked the Bengals for a career-high four touchdown passes on only 26 attempts the last time these teams met — so while such efficiency cannot be reliably expected, it can be chased in tourneys if you feel like taking a shot.

In the Browns’ four wins in this stretch, targets among primary pass catchers have looked like this:

:: Jarvis Landry — 5 // 5 // 4 // 8
:: Antonio Callaway — 2 // 5 // 1 // 7
:: Rashard Higgins — 1 // 3 // 3 // 3
:: Breshad Perriman — 2 // 1 // 2 // 2
:: David Njoku — 1 // 5 // 4 // 5

Landry is the player whose volume is likeliest to spike if volume rises in this spot, followed by Callaway, then Njoku, then Higgins/Perriman. Upside on all these guys is dependent on broken plays or touchdowns with reliable volume so thin — though the matchup is good if you want to bet on that efficiency, or if you want to bet on some outlier scenario in which the Browns are playing from behind.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Pricing is a bit high on both of the running backs from this game — creeping dangerously close to the same territory as Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, and Todd Gurley — making each guy more tourney-worthy for me than “core play in all types of contests.” Chubb’s pass game role is not locked-in enough for him to quite make the top-of-the-slate cut (from a floor/ceiling perspective), while Mixon is a steep road underdog with a pass game role that is strong, but not quite as strong as the guys priced above him. I like both of these plays. I don’t love either.

That’s more than can be said of either passing attack, as the Browns project for low volume in this spot and spread the ball around too much when they do throw for any of their pieces to be reliable. So far, the Browns’ pass catchers have ranged from “not great” to “solid for the price,” but true blowup games have been out of reach, leaving me off them outside of “betting on extreme outlier game flows.” If going to the Browns, Landry would be the first place I would look. I could also see taking a stab on Baker without a stacking partner. As for the Bengals: I won’t have any interest myself, as there are simply better places to look on a 12-game Main Slate. It won’t be a shock if one of these guys posts a usable game, but the chances of a dud from all of these guys is too high for me to feel the need to go there myself.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Packers (
25.25) at

Jets (
22.25)

Over/Under 47.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Packers Run D
25th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
29th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Packers Pass D
25th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
30th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass
Jets Run D
14th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O
10th DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
31st DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O
6th DVOA/14th Yards per pass

PACKERS // JETS OVERVIEW

The Packers head to New Jersey this week to put the finishing touches on a lost season, with their 5-8-1 record matching up surprisingly nicely with the Jets’ 4-10 mark. The Packers have seen their flaws emerge most regularly on the road, where they have incredibly failed to win a game all year, going 0-7 through their first seven tries. Green Bay has the point differential edge between these teams, ranking 17th in points allowed and 16th in points scored, while the Jets rank 24th and 24th, respectively. The visiting Packers have been installed as three point favorites, in a game with an Over/Under of 46.5.

PACKERS PASS OFFENSE

The Jets’ blitz-and-man-heavy defense has managed to shave 3.3% off the league-average catch rate, but they have otherwise been unspectacular, ranking 15th in yards allowed per pass attempt. Only two teams have faced more wide receiver targets this year than the Jets, and Aaron Rodgers focuses on his wide receivers (that is to say, one wide receiver in particular) as consistently as any quarterback in football. Across his last three games, Rodgers has thrown the ball 50 // 32 // 42 times, with the spiked-volume weeks coming in losses and his drop in volume coming in a breezy Week 14 win. With the Packers rarely attacking on downfield routes, volume is typically valuable for Rodgers to hit his ceiling, so if betting on Rodgers, it is advisable to also bet on a piece from the Jets that might help to keep this game close.

Regardless of Rodgers’ volume, volume for Davante Adams has been absolutely glued in place, with recent target counts of 12 // 8 // 13 // 11 // 13. Adams leads the NFL in touchdown receptions and ranks first in red zone targets, giving him a high weekly ceiling alongside the high floor his alpha role yields. Adams will primarily do battle with Morris Claiborne this week — a mismatch that Adams is likely to win.

Behind Adams, target counts among remaining wide receivers have been thin, with Randall Cobb going for 5 // 6 // 5 // 6 // 7 across his last five games, and with Equanimeous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling continuing to split time in the number three role. Cobb is the safest floor bet with his targets assured and the matchup in the slot working in his favor, though it often takes more than “a good matchup” for Cobb to pop for upside. He’ll still need a touchdown or a huge YAC play to make a dent in this week’s slate. (NOTE: Randall Cobb’s concussion is now looking likely to keep him out this week. If this ends up being the case, we should see both MVS and ESB playing the majority of the Packers’ snaps, though it is anyone’s guess as to which of these two will be featured in the slot and which will be featured in the number two perimeter role, with each guy rotating responsibilities throughout the year. Both will be dart throws — though each carries an obvious path to upside if you want to take on the risk.)

With Rodgers leaning so heavily on Adams and spreading volume around behind him (involving running backs, wideouts, and tight ends), volume has also been tough to bank on from Jimmy Graham. He’ll enter a tough matchup against Jamal Adams and a Jets defense that has allowed the fewest tight end receptions in the league.

PACKERS RUN OFFENSE

The Jets have been middling against the run this year, ranking 18th in yards allowed per carry and middle of the pack in rushing yards to running backs. The Jets have, impressively, allowed the seventh fewest running back receiving yards, in spite of their blitz-heavy ways.

While the spot is fine for Jamaal Williams in the lead role with Aaron Jones on I.R. (and while volume is definitely going to be on his side), we should keep in mind that Williams is a plodding runner who has averaged only 3.7 yards per carry on the year. Somewhere in the range of 15 to 18 carries and three to five receptions is a reasonable expectation here, giving Williams opportunity for useful, volume-driven production. If he sees a spike in workload or finds his way into the end zone once or twice, he’ll prove to be a valuable price-considered piece on this slate — though he does still carry dud potential, even in the lead role.

JETS PASS OFFENSE

The Packers have been a middling defense against the pass this year, in spite of the presence of stud rookie Jaire Alexander and a defense that skews pass-heavy in its approach. This unit shaves over 3% off the league-average catch rate, but they are otherwise unspectacular, and they rank 19th in yards allowed per pass attempt and 17th in passing touchdowns allowed. Consider this a neutral spot for Sam Darnold, who is showing late-season signs of life in his rookie year — topping 225 passing yards for the third and fourth times this year across his last three games. Darnold has still cracked 260 yards only twice, and he has only four games with multiple touchdown passes, but he has generated enough positive momentum for his pass catchers to at least be considered living/breathing elements in tourneys.

Darnold’s main target in his stretch of non-awful play has been Robby Anderson, with target counts of 7 // 7 // 11 in the last three games these two have played together. Anderson has gone 4-32-0 // 4-76-1 // 7-96-1 in these games, which succinctly captures the range in which he can be expected to score. The matchup is nonthreatening, but nothing is guaranteed between a cautious rookie quarterback and a speedy downfield threat. Consider Anderson a low-floor, high-ceiling play.

Behind Anderson, Quincy Enunwa has seen target counts of 4 // 6 // 4 in Darnold’s last three starts, while Jermaine Kearse has gone 9 // 2 // 5. Enunwa has topped 40 yards only once in the last two and a half months. Kearse has topped 30 yards only once in the last two months. (NOTE: Enunwa’s ankle now appears likely to hold him out another week. Look for Robby Anderson, Chris Herndon, Elijah McGuire, and Jermaine Kearse to be the main focal points of whatever positive offense this group is able to generate.)

This passing attack wraps up with Chris Herndon taking on a tough tight end defense, with the Packers allowing the eighth fewest receptions to the position. If you want to take heart in this matchup, the Packers have faced a largely non-notable tight end schedule. They have slowed down Kittle this year (4-30-0), allowed Jordan Reed to reach expectations (4-65-0), and held Austin Hooper to his typical 4-37-0 game. Herndon has been useful enough to at least be considered as a salary saver this week.

JETS RUN OFFENSE

The Packers have been a perfectly middling run defense this year on a per-play basis, ranking 17th in yards allowed per carry, while facing the 11th most running back rush attempts and allowing the 11th most rushing yards. The Jets prefer to lean run-heavy for as long as they are able to keep games close, ranking 22nd in pass play rate in spite of their 4-10 record, which should open enough volume for Elijah McGuire to join the “cheap running back” discussion this week. McGuire has touched the ball 20 and 21 times the last two weeks (with three receptions in each of these games), with a pair of touchdowns floating his fantasy value behind poor yardage totals. McGuire is no one’s idea of an explosive back, but volume has a chance to turn him into a viable piece once again in this one. If you want to dig deep, Trenton Cannon has seen six and 10 touches across the last two weeks, and he has game-breaking speed. There is an outside chance he breaks off a long touchdown run to provide a low-owned spiked week.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

The Packers’ offense consists of Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Jamaal Williams for me, with all other pieces too speculative for me to want to get involved. Nothing in this game pops off the page for any of these guys, keeping Rodgers and Adams in whatever range you typically keep them (for me: Rodgers is a tourney play, while Adams remains what he is every week: a strong play in all formats), and making Williams a bet-on-volume play in tourneys.

On the Jets’ side, I don’t quite like the upside on Darnold enough to want to chase myself (that is to say: I don’t quite like Darnold’s chances of reaching his upside enough), but I do like Anderson as a tourney play, while McGuire and Herndon at least join the salary-saver conversation. Cannon is also an interesting name to consider in large-field tourneys, as he could easily reach 11 or 12 touches, and this could be enough for him to break off a long play if things line up just right.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Texans (
22.5) at

Eagles (
24.5)

Over/Under 47.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Texans Run D
23rd DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
25th DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
8th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
29th DVOA/26th Yards per pass
Eagles Run D
15th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
23rd DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
29th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
8th DVOA/3rd Yards per pass

TEXANS // EAGLES OVERVIEW

Texans at Eagles is not quite living up to the early-season billing, but this game is still clinging to relevance with the 7-7 Eagles keeping their season alive last weekend in their upset of the Rams. If the season ended today, the Eagles would not make the playoffs, but with two weekends remaining in the year, Philly needs a couple wins and a bit of help. The Texans, meanwhile, currently control their own destiny for a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs, and they will be looking to grab a win in this spot before returning home to close out the season against the Jags. This game opened as a pick ’em, with an Over/Under of 45.0. Bettors have since backed the home team, with the game total climbing to 46.0, and with the Eagles rising to -1.5.

TEXANS PASS OFFENSE

In spite of the Eagles ranking 29th in yards allowed per carry, teams continue to attack this defense through the air, with no team in football facing a higher opponent pass play rate than Philadelphia, and with no team facing fewer rush attempts. On average, the Eagles face only 21.5 rush attempts per game, compared to 39.9 pass attempts.

This creates opportunity for Deshaun Watson and the typically low-volume Texans passing attack (only one game in their last nine above 31 pass attempts) to pile up more attempts than normal. With Watson notching an awesome 8.4 yards per pass attempt on the year, “a few more attempts” is often enough for him to become an upside option. Watson is boosting his floor with 31.1 rushing yards per game.

Independent of volume for this Houston passing attack as a whole, DeAndre Hopkins continues to operate as the clear alpha in this offense, ranking second in the NFL in percentage share of team air yards and piling up recent target counts of 12 // 6 // 6 // 12 // 10 // 11. With only two games of 100+ yards in his last nine contests, he typically needs to float his value with red zone opportunities. Working in his favor, of course, is the fifth most red zone targets in the NFL and a tight-spaces skill set that is second to none in the league, allowing Hopkins to dominate in the end zone. Expect the Eagles to go out of their way to isolate Hopkins and force the Texans to win in other ways — though Watson is one of the few quarterbacks who can typically be counted on to lean on his top target regardless, which should still create plenty of opportunities for Hopkins to hit.

Behind Hopkins, we are (once again) expecting the return of Keke Coutee, where he will join Demaryius Thomas in three-wide sets and (if in fact healthy) occupy an underneath role in this offense. Coutee’s speed will obviously give him opportunity to break off a big play, though his uncertain health and the uncertain passing volume on this team will make him a risky piece.

This attack rounds out with Thomas, who has recent target counts of 5 // 5 // 6 // 8, but who has not topped 61 yards since Week 5 when he was still with the Broncos. Quite simply, Demaryius no longer has the burst or separation ability to pop for big games outside of busted plays, but he is providing floor in this offense at the moment, with touchdown or outlier yardage opportunities giving him some path to ceiling.

The rest of this attack is a collection of iffy volume and typically thin production, with targets concentrated heavily on Hopkins and the remaining wide receivers behind him.

TEXANS RUN OFFENSE

This is a potentially solid spot on the ground for a Houston offense that ranks fifth in rush play rate on the year, as the Eagles continue to give up solid production to running backs when teams attack in this manner. Working in favor of Lamar Miller is a role that has led to recent touch counts 23 // 13 // 20 // 19. Working against Miller is the way in which the Eagles filter opponents to the air and an ankle injury for Miller that kept him on the sidelines for most of the Texans’ Week 15 game and may have him at less than 100% in Week 16. While Miller is not heavily involved in the pass game, he did see five targets against a Colts team that has faced the second most running back targets in the league. The Eagles rank third in running back targets faced, with only one fewer target on the year than Indy.

If Miller misses, the Texans may finally activate D’Onta Foreman to compliment Alfred Blue. If this ends up being the case, Foreman would carry more upside, while Blue would almost certainly handle the larger share of the work. Blue has still not topped 54 rushing yards in a game this season.

EAGLES PASS OFFENSE

Houston has been perfectly average against the pass this year, ranking middle of the pack in catch rate, aDOT, and YAC/R rate allowed, adding up to a number 20 ranking in yards allowed per pass attempt. The Texans rank 17th in passing touchdowns allowed — with the sixth fewest touchdowns allowed to wide receivers, but with the eighth most touchdowns allowed to tight ends and the fourth most receiving touchdowns allowed to running backs.

Last week in their stunning upset of the Rams, Nick Foles and the Eagles focused on a short-area, ball-out-quick attack, with 19 of Foles’ 31 attempts coming within five yards of the line of scrimmage, and with only seven of Foles’ passes traveling more than 12 yards downfield. Boosting Foles’ line in Week 15 was an almost perfect completion rate on these short-area throws and four completions to Alshon Jeffery of 15+ yards (with these two connecting on all four of their downfield looks). This type of efficiency is difficult to bet on, but Foles proved last week that he does at least carry some upside in this offense once again. Against a stout Houston run defense, Foles’ arm will likely be the Eagles’ best means of moving the ball.

Alshon topped 50 receiving yards last week for the first time in almost two months — doing so with a perfect eight-for-eight connection with an inconsistent backup. Alshon remains capable of another big game in this spot, but his production is by no means guaranteed. Consider him a boom/bust option, with his locked-in volume making it difficult for him to completely miss, but with his offensive situation also making last week’s blowup the “hope,” rather than the “expectation.”

The Eagles continued to run a strange wide receiver rotation behind Alshon in Week 15, with Nelson Agholor playing 63 of a possible 64 snaps and running 32 of a possible 32 pass routes, but seeing only two targets, while Golden Tate (22 snaps // 19 pass routes) was targeted five times. This has been a consistent pattern across the last few weeks, with Agholor hogging all the snaps, but with Tate seeing the larger share of the targets. Agholor carries some broken-play upside with all the snaps he is playing, but his volume cannot be considered assured. Tate, meanwhile, is seeing his ceiling capped by this limited deployment, but he should continue to see some schemed, underneath looks when he is on the field.

The best matchup goes to Zach Ertz, against a Houston defense that has allowed the eighth most receptions and the seventh most yards to the tight end position. With Foles in place to limit the downfield looks Ertz is likely to see, he will need a heavy volume game or extreme efficiency in order to stand out on this slate, making him more “risky with upside” than “high-floor, high-ceiling.” Last week, the Eagles also played Dallas Goedert on 39 of a possible 64 snaps, though he ran only eight pass routes and was on hand primarily to block. As with the Eagles’ backfield situation, Goedert’s deployment changes from week to week depending on this team’s game plan, so there is a chance he sees a spike in work against this tight-end-attackable defense, though this is merely a guess-and-hope scenario.

EAGLES RUN OFFENSE

The Texans’ run defense continues to dominate this year, now ranking first in the NFL in yards allowed per carry while holding running backs to the second fewest rushing yards in the league. This is a better spot for pass-catching backs, as the Texans rank middle of the pack in catches and yards allowed to the position — creating an interesting setup for this multi-headed backfield that can choose to attack in various ways. Last week, Josh Adams played 24 snaps while Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood each played 20 snaps. With zero catches in his last four games, Adams has the toughest road to upside; Sproles will continue to see a few manufactured touches every week, and the Eagles like his ability close to the goal line, which gives him an outside shot at a score each week; Smallwood took a turn impressing with his performance last week, though such upside game are hardly predictable with his uncertain role and his up-and-down play this year.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I don’t dislike the Eagles’ offense this week, but it’s tough to get too excited about them, either. I’ll likely view Alshon, Ertz, and this backfield as tourney-only options — and I likely won’t have strong interest in going there in tourneys over the other options available on this slate. Foles is not incapable of moving this offense, but there are certainly higher-floor ways to hunt for upside this week.

On the Texans’ side, Watson and Hopkins are both very much in play, with the Texans carrying more potential than normal to lean pass-heavy, and with Hopkins certain to be an integral part of the game plan regardless. I can also see a case in tourneys for Miller, Demaryius, or even Coutee, though all three of these guys are obviously low-floor plays with only slim paths to ceiling.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Jaguars (
18) at

Dolphins (
21)

Over/Under 39.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Jaguars Run D
22nd DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
32nd DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
11th DVOA/16th Yards per pass
Dolphins Run D
32nd DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
17th DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
10th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
21st DVOA/13th Yards per pass

JAGUARS // DOLPHINS OVERVIEW

Even on a Main Slate that boasts only six teams with a Vegas-implied team total above 25.0, this is one of the uglier games available, with a 4-10 Jags team that ranks 30th in points per game traveling down to Miami to take on a 7-7 Dolphins team that ranks 31st in pace of play, 32nd in plays per game, and 23rd in points per game. Only three teams have piled up fewer yards this year than the Dolphins, while only six teams have gained fewer yards than the Jags. This game has opened with an unattractive Over/Under of 38.5, with the Dolphins installed as four point favorites.

JAGUARS PASS OFFENSE

In spite of the presence of 2018 Pro Bowler Xavien Howard on the perimeter for the Dolphins, this team has been one of the more attackable units through the air this year, ranking 31st in yards allowed per pass attempt and allowing the fourth most passing touchdowns in the league. The Dolphins rank a middling 13th in yards allowed to wide receivers, but they have allowed a solid 63.4% completion rate to the position, and their 16 touchdowns allowed to wideouts is the 11th most in the league.

Working against Jacksonville, of course, is a dink-and-dunk attack that has topped 156 passing yards only once in four Cody Kessler starts, with two passing touchdowns and two interceptions across their last four games. The Jaguars’ players, more than any other team in football, look like they are just waiting for the season to end, and the Jaguars’ coaches are calling games accordingly — shortening each contest as much as possible in an apparent effort to reach the end of the season as quickly as they can.

If you feel compelled to roster a piece from the Jaguars’ passing attack, your best bet is Dede Westbrook, who has target counts with Kessler of 4 // 5 // 10 // 5, and who continues to show genuine effort on the field. Dede will see the least of Xavien Howard in his slot/underneath role. He’s a low-floor play who will likely need volume in this passing attack to rise in order to go for ceiling (his 10 target game came in Kessler’s 43-attempt game in a 21 point loss to the Titans), though he is at least the likeliest player to hit through the air on this side of the ball.

Behind Dede, Donte Moncrief has recent target counts of 4 // 4 // 10 // 2, while Keelan Cole continues to operate as an afterthought, going 2 // 2 // 7 // 0 with Kessler under center. Moncrief is the better bet for upside, if for some reason you want to chase. On the off chance D.J. Chark finally returns this week, he should cut into Cole’s playing time while being fed a few looks of his own. Of course, if you have ignored this passing attack completely all season, you haven’t been missing much.

JAGUARS RUN OFFENSE

The clearest way for Jacksonville to move the ball this week will be on the ground, with the Dolphins facing the second highest opponent rush play rate in the NFL and ranking 26th in yards allowed per carry. Only two teams have allowed more rushing yards to running backs than the Dolphins this year.

Less clear is what the Jaguars’ coaches are doing with this offense on their way out the door, as this team (in their home loss to a fourth string quarterback) somehow gave the ball to Leonard Fournette only once in the second half last week — holding him to only 14 touches in a game that was close from start to finish. While Fournette was listed with a foot injury heading into this week, Doug Marrone has said that the injury had nothing to do with Fournette’s limited workload last week — instead saying the team wanted to get a closer look at David Williams, who saw five carries of his own. This offense as a whole was hurt by low volume (49 total plays), so there is clear opportunity for Fournette to spike back up to 20+ touches — though the 25 to 30 touches that appeared to be a foregone conclusion a month ago now appear to be something to hope for rather than something to bank on. If Fournette does see his workload return this week, the matchup could not be much better, making him a strong tourney play even if his floor is lower than lovely.

DOLPHINS PASS OFFENSE

In spite of all their flaws as a team this year, the Jaguars continue to play stout pass defense, with the second lowest catch rate allowed this year, and with a number four ranking in yards allowed per pass attempt. The Jags have been especially tough on wide receivers, with the second fewest catches, the fourth fewest yards, and the fewest touchdowns allowed to the position. This is a tough setup for a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill whose game manager role has kept him under 29 pass attempts in all but one game this year (with only two games all year north of 25 pass attempts), and whose inability to attack downfield has left this offense with 204 or fewer passing yards in five of his last six starts. From both a floor and ceiling perspective, there have been much better passing attacks to chase this year.

If you feel compelled to go here, the most reliable weapon with Tannehill has been Kenny Stills, who saw only three targets last week, but who entered that game with recent target counts of 4 // 6 // 9. Stills has topped 40 yards only once in his last 10 games, keeping his floor extremely low.

DeVante Parker has eight catches for 71 yards across his last four games combined, while Danny Amendola has gone 5-53-0 on 10 targets across his last three contests. This offense is also trying to get Brice Butler involved, with a 6-60-1 line on nine targets across his last three games. All of these plays are nothing more than cross-your-fingers-and-hope options.

DOLPHINS RUN OFFENSE

The Jaguars’ usually-tough, sometimes-awful run defense showed up to play last week against the run-leaning Redskins, with this squad holding Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson to a combined 24 rushes for 60 yards (2.5 yards per carry). Of course, Jacksonville also got punched in the mouth by Derrick Henry in Week 14, allowing 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns on only 17 carries. Consider this a difficult matchup for the Dolphins’ rushing attack, with some chance for the low-effort version of this defense to show up again this week and to make this matchup softer than it ought to be.

The Dolphins’ backfield will belong to rookie Kalen Ballage this week with Frank Gore done for the season. Ballage has only 20 carries all season, and he was working on a line of eight carries for 11 yards before popping off for a 12-123-1 line last week on the strength of a 75-yard scamper. Ballage is a decent athlete with good size who should be more than capable of filling the Gore role for this team, which has yielded 11.1 carries per game so far, with 16 targets on the season. Ballage will probably need a volume spike in order to truly produce value this week, but absent a volume spike, he’ll have an outside shot at production on another long run or a touchdown.

Working behind Ballage is Kenyan Drake, who continues to see limited usage in spite of a top-end skill set. He will need a spike in workload or a massively efficient day in order to matter in this spot.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

As is the case most weeks, the Jaguars’ offense is tough to get excited about, with this low-volume passing attack producing almost no upside right now, and with this backfield now unpredictable from a usage standpoint. I won’t be trying to guess on any of the pass catchers on this team myself, but I do have some tourney interest in Fournette as a guy who may go overlooked by the masses, and who still has potential to pop for a big game if he returns to his 25+ touch role. Obviously, nothing on this offense is guaranteed at the moment, making even Fournette a high-risk play.

I see nothing to like on the Dolphins’ side of the ball myself, with slate-winning scores almost never emerging from this offense, and with the Jaguars’ defense still talented enough to make life tough on this low-upside attack. If you feel compelled to target the Dolphins’ offense yourself, your best bet is on Ballage or on some outlier scenario that leads to big plays for one of the other weapons on this team.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Vikings (
24.5) at

Lions (
18)

Over/Under 42.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Vikings Run D
27th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
13th DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D
8th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
19th DVOA/22nd Yards per pass
Lions Run D
30th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O
2nd DVOA/8th Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
12th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O
20th DVOA/21st Yards per pass

VIKINGS // LIONS OVERVIEW

After their commanding Week 15 win at home against the Dolphins, the Vikings continue to control their own destiny in the NFC playoffs — with games against the Lions and the Bears standing between this team and a return to the postseason. The trade- and injury-wrecked Lions, meanwhile, are sitting on a 5-9 record in the first lost season of Matt Patricia’s tenure at the helm. The Lions’ defense has managed to show gradual (though non-notable) improvement throughout the year, but this offense has gone into the tank of late, with this team now ranked a disappointing 25th in points per game. When these teams met in Minnesota in Week 9, the Vikings won 24-9. The only teams to top 17 points against the Vikings since Week 5 have been the high-powered offenses of the Saints (30 points), the Bears (25), the Patriots (24), and the Seahawks (21). Minnesota has been installed as healthy 6.0 point favorites midway through the week, in a game with an Over/Under of 42.5.

VIKINGS RUN OFFENSE

Last week, the Vikings — who entered their game with the second highest pass play rate in the NFL — threw the ball on only 36.51% of their plays, riding both Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray to an easy win against an overmatched Dolphins run defense. While the Vikings’ run-heavy ways were aided by a matchup against a bottom five run defense in a game with a huge lead, they were committed to the run from the start, and they stayed committed throughout the game, even as the Dolphins tightened up the score in the third quarter. In his first game calling plays for this team, Kevin Stefanski simplified the team’s concepts and relied on their star power to cruise to an easy win. Impressively, Stefanski opened the game running Cook between the tackles as the Dolphins focused on taking away the perimeter runs on which Cook is so lethal — and as the Dolphins adjusted on defense, Stefanski did the same on offense, allowing Cook to run wild around the edge.

The matchup this week will be more difficult for Cook and company against a Lions run defense that has been one of the better units in the league since acquiring Snacks Harrison from the Giants. The only backfields to top 100 yards against the Lions since the trade have been the Rams (Gurley went 23-132-2), the Seahawks (Chris Carson and Mike Davis combined for 138 yards, though it took them 35 carries to get there), and the Vikings (with Cook ripping off a 70-yard run en route to a 10-89-0 line, and with Latavius adding a 10-31-1 line of his own). Consider this to be a below-average matchup, but also recognize that Cook is simply better than most players on the field, giving him plenty of room to hit on his likely 20+ touches. He’s a modest-floor, high-ceiling bet this week.

Somewhat capping Cook’s touch ceiling is a team that trusts Latavius when game script allows them to go truly run-heavy, with the Vikings’ big back racking up 15 carries of his own last week. If this game gets out of hand, Latavius will have an outside shot at mattering again in this spot.

VIKINGS PASS OFFENSE

Volume on the Vikings’ passing attack unsurprisingly took a nosedive last week, with Kirk Cousins throwing only 21 passes — a far cry from the 40+ passes he had uncorked in seven of the Vikings’ first 13 games. This week sets up for the Vikings to lean on the pass more than they had to last week, but we should also keep in mind that the Lions have allowed the fewest opponent plays per game in the league, and the Vikings are making a clear and obvious effort to build their new offense around a run-first approach. We should go into this game expecting around 33 to 36 pass attempts for Cousins, with anything over that mark considered a bonus.

This creates an interesting setup for rostering Minnesota pass catchers, as pricing on Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs has risen throughout the year to account for this team’s identity as one of the pass-heaviest offenses in the NFL. With Thielen seeing an aDOT of only 9.2, volume is especially important for him to reach his price-considered ceiling (unless you want to bet on a broken play or a multi-touchdown game), making him overpriced on paper. Diggs has an even lower aDOT (9.0), though as noted throughout the year, this aDOT is somewhat misleading, as the Vikings mix and match short-area looks and downfield looks for Diggs, giving him an outside shot at upside even on weeks in which volume suffers. From a purely matchup-based perspective, there is little cause for concern, as the Lions are allowing the fourth most yards per pass attempt in the league — though with the Lions facing the fourth fewest wide receiver targets this year, and with volume a slim concern for this passing attack as a whole, these guys are better viewed as “ceiling only” options, rather than being viewed as floor/ceiling plays.

This passing attack thins out quickly behind Diggs and Thielen, with Aldrick Robinson seeing two targets last week but playing only 15 snaps, and with Laquon Treadwell seeing one target on 22 snaps. The Vikings leaned on two tight end sets last week to help them further emphasize the run game, creating more “Thielen and Diggs only” formations than this team has run throughout the season. Everyone on this team behind Cook, Thielen, and Diggs (including Kyle Rudolph) should be viewed as an afterthought in this offense at the moment, with touchdown-hunting the name of the game if trying to find a player to roster.

LIONS RUN OFFENSE

Minnesota has been one of the tougher teams to run on this year, ranking ninth in yards allowed per carry and allowing the fifth fewest touchdowns on the ground to enemy backs. The Vikings have been below-average against pass-catching backs this season, but the Lions make it difficult to harvest fantasy goodness from their backfield, with LeGarrette Blount (11 out of 58 snaps last week), Zach Zenner (26 out of 58 snaps last week), and Theo Riddick (25 out of 58 snaps last week) all seeing work. Blount — who ranks dead last in the NFL in yards per carry among qualified backs (with an embarrassing 2.8 yards per carry on the season) — continued to waste this offense’s time last week with nine yards on seven carries, while Zenner ran circles around him with a 10-45-1 line (one week after going 12-54-1). Sadly, Blount does not appear to be going away any time soon, leaving Zenner as a bet-on-efficiency play in a below-average matchup. Riddick contributed eight carries and two receptions of his own — with this run-leaning backfield taking away valuable reps from this passing attack, and with the spread-out nature of these carries making it difficult to bet on any Detroit backfield members with authority.

LIONS PASS OFFENSE

The Vikings rank a middling 12th in yards allowed per pass attempt this year, but the good news ends there for opponents, as this team has allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the league while holding wide receivers to the fourth fewest catches and the third fewest yards. The Lions have turned into an ultra-conservative offense that aims to win games through the run game, short passes, and defense, with Matthew Stafford failing to top 245 passing yards in six of his last seven games, with a disappointing two touchdown passes across his last four games combined. Stafford has recent pass attempt totals of 33 // 23 // 29. This once-powerful offense has been absolutely wasted this year.

If looking for signs of life on this attack, your best bet is Kenny Golladay, who lit a similarly difficult matchup against the Bills on fire last week for a 7-146-0 line on only eight targets, with Stafford — suddenly and without warning — taking some downfield shots to Golladay and allowing him to win tight, contested catches. Golladay should be trailed by Xavier Rhodes this week, but the matchup is less of a concern than the nature of Golladay’s usage lately, with timid play-calling limiting his upside most weeks. Consider him a low-floor, solid-ceiling play in a difficult draw.

Upside has been invisible in this passing attack behind Golladay, but if Bruce Ellington returns to the field this week, he should step back into the short-area role that yielded recent lines of 6-52-0 // 6-28-0 // 7-35-0 // 4-17-0. If Ellington misses, the Lions will go back to what they did last week: mixing in plenty of six-lineman and two-tight-end sets to support the run, while rotating snaps (and providing limited volume) to T.J. Jones, Andy Jones, and Brandon Powell. These guys are nothing more than low-upside dart throws in this offense — with “hoping for outlier production” being the only real justification for taking a shot in this spot.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Cook’s price has (unsurprisingly) climbed fairly quickly this week, and the matchup on the road against the Lions is tougher than what he had last week at home against the Dolphins — making him a strong bet-on-talent play for upside, but with the floor less obviously secure than it was last week. Away from Cook, I’ll have a difficult time betting on this Vikings offense until they show that they can still support strong volume for pass catchers — but if you want to take that leap yourself, there is certainly still room for Thielen and Diggs to smash if things go right. These two are tourney-only plays right now, but they are obviously still part of that conversation.

The Lions — as has been the case ever since Kerryon Johnson and Marvin Jones went down — will be difficult to bet on this week, especially in a tough matchup against the Vikings. Your best bet for production is Golladay, though the floor in this offense is low. Behind Golladay, it’s simply hoping to guess right on a touchdown or a broken play in a spread-the-wealth offense that rarely generates upside looks.


Kickoff Sunday, Dec 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Giants (
19.25) at

Colts (
29.25)

Over/Under 48.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Giants Run D
15th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
22nd DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D
23rd DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
15th DVOA/10th Yards per pass
Colts Run D
6th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O
30th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O
29th DVOA/30th Yards per pass

GIANTS // COLTS OVERVIEW

After getting trucked on the road last week by the 8-6 Titans of the AFC South, the Giants will travel to Indy to take on the 8-6 Colts of the AFC South — a game the Colts have to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive ahead of their Week 17 showdown in Tennessee. With the Ravens playing the Chargers on Saturday, there is potential for Titans/Colts wins in Week 16 to set up a win-and-in game in Week 17 — but first, these squads have to take care of business this week. The Colts have unsurprisingly been installed as nine point favorites in this spot, in a game with an Over/Under of 47.0.

GIANTS PASS OFFENSE

There is no team in football forcing a shallower average depth of target than the Colts, and only three teams have given up fewer pass plays of 20+ yards — though the Colts do allow the second highest catch rate in the league, which should allow the Giants to pile up short completions with volume-based production potentially floating a few worthwhile fantasy scores. The best bet for this passing attack is for Odell Beckham to return this week (which currently appears unlikely) — but there is a chance that the Giants fall behind by enough points in this spot for Eli Manning to have to pile up volume through the air. Yardage upside is thin outside of broken plays, but perhaps the Giants push across a couple touchdowns to create a bit of ceiling.

With Beckham missing two practices to begin the week, we’ll approach this game assuming that he will be out this week (NOTE: Beckham is now officially out for Week 16) — which will leave Sterling Shepard miscast once again as the number one receiver. Working in Shepard’s favor is a locked-in role that has led to 15 targets across his last two games. Working against him is an Indy defense that has faced the fewest wide receiver targets in the NFL, while facing the second most running back targets and the second most tight end targets. With Shepard failing to top even 40 yards in seven consecutive games, he remains nothing more than a speculative play even if Beckham misses.

Standing out quite a bit more than Shepard is Evan Engram, who has seen target counts of five and 12 with Beckham sidelined, and who projects for a volume spike this week in a matchup that filters targets to his position. While Engram has been an up-and-down player this year, he carries the highest on-paper floor at the always-iffy tight end position this week if Beckham misses, as the matchup and the narrowed target distribution on this team should lock him into volume. Engram has the athletic ability to make the most of this volume if things click into place.

If Beckham returns, he will step into a difficult matchup against an Indy defense that is designed to push targets away from wideouts, but the Giants tend to force the issue with him regardless of matchup, which will keep him in the high-ceiling discussion.

Regardless of whether or not Beckham plays, the rest of the Giants’ pass catchers are simply dart throws in this floundering offense.

GIANTS RUN OFFENSE

The Colts have quietly been one of the more difficult run matchups in football, ranking sixth in yards allowed per carry and eighth in adjusted line yards while allowing the fifth fewest rushing touchdowns in the league to enemy backs. On the flip side of that: the Colts have allowed the second most running back receptions in the league, as this team’s Tampa 2 coverage scheme has largely erased wide receivers this year while leaving running backs open underneath. With this team tackling well, they have not been interested in adjusting coverage to take away this hole — instead opting to take down backs once they get the ball in their hands. This approach will be put to the test this week against the incredible ball-in-his-hands skills of