Week 18 Matchups

Week 18 Angles Email

Happy Thursday!

New members: Every Thursday morning, we send out the Angles email — in which we take a critical, “overview” look at the slate ahead.

In This Week’s Angles Email…

We’ll be providing a snapshot breakdown of the playoff situation, potential motivation, and macro setup for all 26 teams on the Week 18 Main Slate.

We also have some awesome end-of-season deals that you’ll find at the bottom of this week’s Angles Email(!).

The Lay Of The Land ::

Week: 18

Total Main Slate Games: 13

Slate Overview:

The story stretches back to Peyton Manning, and to his Colts teams that often locked up the number one seed in the AFC before the end of the season. Those teams were trendsetters offensively, but they were also trendsetters in becoming first team to consistently use that final week of the season as if it were an extra bye. It was a big, seemingly-annual story at the time, as most other coaches “played to win,” even if their playoff seeding was settled (perhaps resting injured players, or taking players out early if the game was out of hand, but otherwise treating Week 17 like any other week), while the Colts ‘tarnished the competitive nature of the sport’ by resting their key players. There was a certain level of satisfaction among other fanbases when the Colts would come out rusty in the Divisional round, and the years when they lost that first playoff game as the number one seed were practically national holidays. ‘The Colts lost momentum. Two weeks without football is too much.’ Etc., etc.

Since that time, a couple key things have happened.

Firstly, it has become incredibly rare for season-long leagues to stretch into the final week of the regular season…

And secondly, more and more teams have found value in following the Colts’ example.

Which brings us to the present :: Week 18, 2021. Some teams have playoff seeding set. A lot of teams have nothing to play for. And each team will handle this week a little bit differently.

In this week’s NFL Edge, we’ll dive deeper into what each individual game looks like; but as has become tradition for us at OWS :: we’ll use this week’s Angles Email to provide an overview, snapshot look at what we might be able to expect from each team on this week’s Main Slate.

Packers at Lions

The setup :: The Packers have the number one seed in the NFC locked up. The Lions have nothing to play for…but that has been the case nearly all season.

What to (potentially) expect :: Matt LaFleur has cryptically said the Packers will play to win (over the last few seasons, this has become coachspeak for, “We won’t play starters the whole game, but I don’t want to come out and say that”), but Davante Adams has said he doesn’t envision playing the entire game. It is “likelier than not” (I would go so far as to say, “far likelier than not”) that the Packers play their key starters for limited snaps. We should expect all healthy Lions to play, and to play with the same level of intensity they have been playing with all season.

Colts at Jaguars

The setup :: The Colts need a win in order to take care of business for their playoff spot. The Jags, of course, have nothing to play for.

What to (potentially) expect :: Expect the Colts to be full-throttle in this one, only resting starters if the game is fully and irrevocably in hand (i.e., same as would be the case on any week earlier in the season). The Jags will continue to play what passes for “their best.” This is their Super Bowl, so to speak…but it’s a participation-prize Super Bowl for a not-very-good team.

Washington Football Team at Giants

The setup :: Neither team has anything to play for (duh).

What to (potentially) expect :: Neither team has anything to play for, but that shouldn’t change the approach for either squad. We may see some banged-up players inactive, but each team should be expected to treat this week like any other week.

Bears at Vikings

The setup :: Neither team has anything to play for, and each coach is likely coaching his last game for his respective team.

What to (potentially) expect :: Matt Nagy made the bold move this year of refusing to build his offense around the strengths and weaknesses of his mobile rookie quarterback, which should finally put an end to his reign of terror in Chicago. Mike Zimmer, meanwhile, entered Year Eight as the head coach of the Vikings essentially placing a bet on himself as a superior defensive mind, believing that the “offense compliments defense” structure he prefers could pay off with an overhauled unit on his side of the ball. In my opinion, it’s a tough situation for Vikings fans, as the grass is not always greener on the other side. Zimmer could pretty easily be placed in the top-50% of NFL head coaches; and while he was never going to be a juggernaut…well, who is? There are only eight active NFL head coaches who have won a Super Bowl as the boss of their team…and only one active head coach has won more than one Super Bowl ::

Bill Belichick — 6
Bruce Arians — 1
Andy Reid — 1
Pete Carroll — 1
John Harbaugh — 1
Mike McCarthy — 1
Sean Payton — 1
Mike Tomlin — 1

Zimmer proved in the past that he can keep his team in the mix in the playoffs; and from a standpoint of parity/variance, that’s really all it takes. If you’re good enough to keep your team in the mix, you’re good enough for everything to break your way one year.

That said, Zimmer has plenty of flaws (the most glaring may be his propensity to blame players and assistant coaches for anything that goes wrong; there’s a guy on that list, above, who has more Super Bowl wins than the others, and who always does the opposite :: taking the blame onto himself; interesting strategy Zimmer chooses to employ there), and it seems the time has finally come for the Vikings to try something different. Hey, who knows. Maybe they’ll stumble onto super-green grass…

Anyhow :: expect each team to consider resting severely-banged-up players (i.e., making them inactive), but players who are active should be played in their normal manner, in a game each team will be trying to win.

Titans at Texans

The setup :: The Titans need to win this game in order to lock up the immensely valuable One Seed. The Texans, of course, have nothing to play for.

What to (potentially) expect :: The Titans will be all-in on trying to win this game. They are one of the least imposing “number one seeds” in recent memory, but if they have Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, Mike Vrabel, and two games at home, they could be a legitimate contender when it’s all said and done. This game is the key that unlocks the extra week of rest for Derrick Henry and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Texans, meanwhile, appear to have played David Culley and Davis Mills into another season at the center of the rebuild, and will be doing everything they can to spoil the Titans season.

Steelers at Ravens

The setup :: Technically, each team can still make the playoffs.

What to (potentially) expect :: Each team needs a lot of help, but this game has been placed in the early time slot (the NFL, for all its flaws on the “league office” end, is excellent at setting up Week 18 to maximize the product, with division matchups across the board each year, and with games scheduled in such a way that “teams who could be waiting on news from other games” won’t have the luxury of waiting on that news), which means we can fully expect both teams to be playing all healthy players, and to be playing with “the win” in mind.

Bengals at Browns

The setup :: The Bengals can, theoretically, improve their playoff seeding. The Browns have nothing to play for.

What to (potentially) expect :: The Bengals can improve their playoff seeding (in fact, they can climb as high as the One Seed if A) they win, B) the Titans AND Chiefs lose, and C) one of two additional things goes their way), but the statistical improbability of the Bengals climbing materially higher in the standings should have them treating this week like something of a bye week. Joe Burrow (knee) has already said he does not expect to play, and Zac Taylor (when asked) said Ja’Marr Chase “potentially” could play. Vegas has given the Bengals an implied team total of only 16.0. The Browns, meanwhile, will be starting Case Keenum (Mayfield will finally give his mutilated left shoulder a breather), and could look to take things easy on key, banged-up players, but they should otherwise be approaching this as an opportunity to finish a disappointing, turmoil-filled season on a strong note.

Panthers at Buccaneers

The setup :: The Bucs have something to play for (below). The Panthers do not (duh).

What to (potentially) expect :: While the One Seed still comes with the only bye, the Two Seed comes with home games for the first two rounds — a decidedly meaningful advantage in full stadiums. The Bucs can earn the Two Seed with a win and a Rams loss (to the 49ers, in a game the 49ers need to win in order to make the playoffs), which should have the Bucs treating this like any other week. The Panthers, of course, have been out of the running for multiple weeks, so we shouldn’t expect anything different from them here.

Patriots at Dolphins

The setup :: The Patriots are locked into the playoffs, but they still have a shot at the division title and a home game in the first round. The Dolphins are eliminated from the playoffs, but will be looking to spoil the Patriots season (as they’ve done multiple times in Miami on the last week of the season over the last couple decades), and to finish an encouraging season on a high note.

What to (potentially) expect :: There is a theoretical chance the Patriots will start pulling starters in the fourth quarter if the Bills are annihilating the Jets (the Pats need the Bills to lose if they want to win the division), but given that they never operated this way in the Brady years, it would be surprising if they started doing so now. The Patriots are likeliest to play this game down to the wire. The Dolphins are likeliest to do the same.

Saints at Falcons

The setup :: The Saints make the playoffs with a win and some help. The Falcons have nothing to play for, but should still be playing hard, with “momentum.”

What to (potentially) expect :: The only way the Saints are pulling starters (outside of a blowout win): If the 49ers are beating the Rams by so much, it’s obvious there is no mathematical way the Rams can come back. In other words :: Saints aren’t resting starters, outside of a blowout win. The Falcons, meanwhile, rank near the bottom of the league in pretty much every category, and nevertheless managed to stay in the playoff hunt deep into the season. They should be looking to finish the season strong.

Jets at Bills

The setup :: The Bills win the division with a win. The Jets have nothing to play for.

What to (potentially) expect :: The Bills will be all-in on trying to win this one, and Vegas has given them an implied team total of 28.5. The Jets will still be playing with all-out effort (for whatever that’s worth), as they haven’t let up in the “effort” department all season.

49ers at Rams

The setup :: The 49ers need a win in order to squeeze into the playoffs (they also get in with a Saints loss to the Falcons, but these games will be taking place at the same time, and if the Falcons are winning, they’re almost certainly not winning in a mega-blowout). The Rams need to win in order to lock up the Two Seed, and could fall from “home field the first two rounds” to “no home games at all” with a loss.

What to (potentially) expect :: This is one of the most obvious spots on the slate. Both teams are playing this one as if it’s a playoff game.

Seahawks at Cardinals

The setup :: The Cardinals are in the playoffs, but they need a win and a Rams loss to lock up the division. The Seahawks have nothing to play for, but this is nothing new.

What to (potentially) expect :: Expect both teams to approach this one as if it’s any other week — with the Cardinals, in particular, approaching this as a borderline-playoff game. The Seahawks will be looking to spoil their division rival’s season.

In Conclusion ::

Be sure to read the NFL Edge for deeper thoughts on how each team will try to win, but this gives you a good sense of where teams are from a macro perspective, and what we can expect as a “starting point” for most teams on the slate.

Week 18 Specials :: 

1. OWS For Life

A few weeks ago, we created 200 “OWS For Life” membership levels, and made them available to Inner Circle members. This week, we’re opening the “OWS For Life” membership level to the entire OWS Fam.

How this works:

1. You buy OWS For Life.
2. We cancel your OWS Annual or Inner Circle membership (if applicable)
3. You never pay a dollar for OWS NFL content again

Current price of OWS Annual for new members: $129
Current price of Inner Circle for new members: $179
Current (limited) price of OWS For Life: $399

#math

2. Lock In Your OWS Price For Life

If you joined OWS Free (and dabbled in OWS Week) this season, a heads up :: We have always allowed OWS members to lock in their entry price for life (so that their original subscription price is the price they always pay), and as such, I wanted to remind you that we have one or two price bumps to OWS Annual and Inner Circle coming this next season. If you want to lock in the current price ($129 OWS Annual // $179 Inner Circle), you can find that on the OWS Join Page. (Though…math-wise…OWS For Life would probably be the play, if you think you’ll still be into DFS two or three years from now.)

3. 20% Off All Marketplace

Through the end of the playoffs, we’re taking 20% off all Marketplace courses(!!!).

Code :: OWSFAM20

With that, we’ll call a wrap on this week’s Angles email. I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend.
-JM


Kickoff Saturday, Jan 8th 4:30pm Eastern

Chiefs (
27.75) at

Broncos (
16.75)

Over/Under 44.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Chiefs Run D
19th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O
28th DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
20th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Broncos Pass O
25th DVOA/8th Yards per pass
Broncos Run D
18th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
18th DVOA/10th Yards per carry
Broncos Pass D
4th DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
2nd DVOA/2nd Yards per pass

Slate Overview ::

By Hilow >>
  • Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and backup (but currently starting) right tackle Lucas Niang has yet to practice this week (as of Wednesday), while there are currently no Kansas City players on the league’s COVID list. (UPDATE: Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been ruled OUT)
  • The Broncos will start Drew Lock at quarterback to end their season, as Teddy Bridgewater was placed on IR with his concussion. Joining Teddy B as OUT for the Broncos will be guard Dalton Risner and safety Kareem Jackson. Punter Sam Martin, kicker Brandon McManus, and tackle Calvin Anderson are on the league’s COVID list.
  • The Cowboys enter Week 18 relatively healthy, but they will be without starting perimeter wide receiver Michael Gallup after he suffered a season-ending torn ACL last week. Additionally, linebacker Micah Parsons hit the league’s COVID list on Wednesday and will miss this game. (UPDATE: tackle Tyron Smith and cornerback Anthony Brown were added to the COVID list on Thursday)
  • The Eagles have 12 players currently on the league’s COVID list, most notably running backs Jordan Howard and Boston Scott, tight ends Dallas Goedert and Jack Stoll, center Jason Kelce, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, and cornerback Avonte Maddox. Additionally, guard Landon Dickerson, tackle Lane Johnson, and running back Miles Sanders have yet to practice this week with various ailments.

How Kansas City Will Try To Win ::

The Chiefs have been fairly consistent this season as far as offensive play calling goes, ranking towards the top of the league in overall pass rate (fourth), situation-neutral pass rate (fourth), overall pass rate over the previous month of play (18th), and situation-neutral pass rate over the previous month of play (first). They also continue to be the most efficient offense in the league, ranking first in drive success rate, first in plays per drive, first in yards per drive, first in points per drive, and second in time of possession per drive. Because their offense hasn’t hit the deep areas of the field at the same high success rate as we’ve grown accustomed to, they have resorted to more short area early-down passing and zone run-blocking concepts designed to generate second-and-third-and-manageable situations. This offensive scheme change has led to increased time of possession (30:45 per game, on average) and an elite third-down conversion rate (first in the league). The main knock against the Chiefs offense this season has been turnovers, as the team comes into Week 18 with the second most fumbles per drive and 13th most interceptions per drive. Finally, the COVID issues that plagued the Chiefs over the previous three weeks are seemingly in the rearview mirror, as Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce both returned to their standard snap rate roles in Week 17.

The run game has a few variables at play this week, with Clyde Edwards-Helaire still not practicing and fill-in starting right tackle Lucas Niang also yet to practice this week after sustaining a knee injury in his start in Week 17 (UPDATE: Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been ruled OUT). Left tackle Orlando Brown returned to a full practice on Wednesday and should be good to go this weekend. With CEH out of the lineup last week, Darrel Williams commanded a hefty 80% snap rate en route to 17 running back opportunities, 107 total yards, and two touchdowns. I would expect more of the same this week should CEH miss again (appears likely at this point). Derrick Gore and Jerick McKinnon backed Williams up last week in extremely modest roles (13% snap rate for Gore and 8% snap rate for McKinnon). The matchup on the ground yields a borderline elite 4.54 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Broncos defense allowing 22.0 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields (10th-fewest in the league).

The Chiefs have continued to utilize Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in near every-down roles while rotating all of Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, and Josh Gordon through as situational pass-catchers. Tight ends Blake Bell and Noah Gray operate in modest roles as either situational tight ends or primary blockers. The Broncos have been extremely effective at slowing down their opposition through the air this season, allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers and the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Although there isn’t a true “weakness” of Denver’s pass defense, they are most vulnerable to deep passing, having forced the fourth-deepest aDOT in the league. That has also come with the fourth-lowest completion rate allowed (60.62%), meaning the deeper aDOT faced is by design in an attempt to force teams into lower probability passing.

How Denver Will Try to win ::

The Broncos rank towards the bottom of the pack in overall pass rates this season at 56%, a rate value that hardly changed over the past two weeks. Why is that important? Well, Weeks 15 and 16 were two games without Teddy Bridgewater, one in which the Broncos played tightly with the Raiders and one where they were blown out by the Chargers. In those two games, Drew Lock attempted just 22 and 25 pass attempts, while the combination of Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams combined for 14 and 24 rush attempts (only 42 and 57 offensive plays). Because of the way this Broncos team is built, with an extremely slow pace of play, high rush rates, and a defense that ranks third in the league in points allowed per game, Denver has seen a wild range of offensive plays run throughout the season, and there have been very few instances where their low pass rates have increased, meaning total pass volume is frequently a reflection of the total number of offensive plays run and not a change in game calling. This is important to understand in a game against the Chiefs, one in which they do not have anything to play for.

Here is the split in snap rates between Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III, respectively, over the previous four games: 49%/50%, 59%/41%, 52%/55%, 50%/50%. Williams has seen running back opportunity counts of 17, 19, nine, and 15 over that time, while Gordon has seen running back opportunity counts of 24, 16, eight, and 14 over the same timeframe. This backfield should very much continue to be regarded as a true timeshare outside of the variance associated with us not knowing how the team will handle personnel decisions in a game with no meaning. As in, there is a possibility that the team gives Gordon increased run because his contract expires at the end of the season, there is a possibility we see Williams see increased run as the running back of the future for the Broncos, and there is a possibility we see the two continue to split work evenly in Week 18. The matchup on the ground yields a borderline elite 4.465 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Chiefs defense allowing 24.1 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields.

Both Tim Patrick and Jerry Jeudy missed last week’s game on the COVID list and both have been activated and should be good to go this week. In last week’s game, tight end Noah Fant took advantage of the thinned-out pass-catching corps, putting up his second-most fantasy points and yardage of the season. With Jeudy and Patrick both back, expect a return to a spread passing offense amongst all of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, and the running backs. The Chiefs have really come on over the second half of the season on defense, having allowed 10 points or fewer in five of their previous eight contests. Of note, all five of those games were played at home. But the bigger picture here is that the communication issues, coverage issues, and in-game lapses that we were seeing from the Chiefs early in the season have all but dried up, and we should return to regarding the Chiefs as one of the better “prevent” defenses in the league. The Chiefs have forced the seventh-shallowest defensive aDOT this season, but have really struggled with tackling after the catch, surrendering the third-most yards after the catch.

Likeliest Game flow ::

It is likeliest we see the Chiefs jump out to an early lead, but what happens after that carries a wide range of potential outcomes. We’ve seen the Chiefs take their foot off the proverbial gas in the second half of games this season, a trend that has not been fully realized by the field. This should allow the Broncos the opportunity to continue a ground-heavy approach for deeper into the game, putting a relative cap on the fantasy utility from each side (I say “relatively” because this is only a two-game slate). I would expect this game to land short of each respective team’s combined offensive plays per game number (66.3 for the Chiefs and 61.4 for the Broncos) and there is a legitimate concern that the heavy zone defense from the Broncos mutes the overall fantasy upside of this game as a whole. Furthering the overall “meh” feeling from this game environment is the very clear run-filtering biases exhibited by both defenses.

Slate Scenarios ::

  • The Chiefs need a win and a loss by Tennessee (at Houston) to secure the one-seed in the AFC; they could also fall as far as the five-seed should they lose and the Bengals (head-to-head record), Bills (head-to-head record), and Patriots (better conference record) win. Anything from the one to five-seed is on the table. Playing in the first game of Week 18, we can expect maximum effort from the Chiefs here.
  • The Broncos have been eliminated from the playoffs and currently occupy the 13-seed in the AFC with a record of 7-9, womp womp.
  • The Cowboys can finish anywhere from the two-seed to the four-seed, with most scenarios leaving them in the four-seed. They would require a win plus a loss from the Rams (home versus the 49ers) in order to jump into the two or three-seed. It remains to be seen what their level of effort will be, but we have to think they come out all systems go considering the 49ers need a win to secure their own playoff berth and the Cowboys play on Saturday.
  • The Eagles are locked into either the six-seed or seven-seed in the NFC, with either a win at home versus Dallas or a Saints win in Atlanta securing the six-seed. Either way, we know (and they know) they’ll either be traveling to Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Dallas, or Arizona in the Wildcard Round. Furthermore, the multitude of injuries and COVID issues place the Eagles in a possible short-handed situation.

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Slate DFS+ Interpretation ::


Kickoff Saturday, Jan 8th 8:15pm Eastern

Cowboys (
26) at

Eagles (
20)

Over/Under 46.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Cowboys Run D
10th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
2nd DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D
2nd DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
6th DVOA/5th Yards per pass
Eagles Run D
26th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O
3rd DVOA/14th Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O
17th DVOA/12th Yards per pass

Slate Overview ::

By Hilow >>
  • Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and backup (but currently starting) right tackle Lucas Niang has yet to practice this week (as of Wednesday), while there are currently no Kansas City players on the league’s COVID list. (UPDATE: Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been ruled OUT)
  • The Broncos will start Drew Lock at quarterback to end their season, as Teddy Bridgewater was placed on IR with his concussion. Joining Teddy B as OUT for the Broncos will be guard Dalton Risner and safety Kareem Jackson. Punter Sam Martin, kicker Brandon McManus, and tackle Calvin Anderson are on the league’s COVID list.
  • The Cowboys enter Week 18 relatively healthy, but they will be without starting perimeter wide receiver Michael Gallup after he suffered a season-ending torn ACL last week. Additionally, linebacker Micah Parsons hit the league’s COVID list on Wednesday and will miss this game. (UPDATE: tackle Tyron Smith and cornerback Anthony Brown were added to the COVID list on Thursday)
  • The Eagles have 12 players currently on the league’s COVID list, most notably running backs Jordan Howard and Boston Scott, tight ends Dallas Goedert and Jack Stoll, center Jason Kelce, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, and cornerback Avonte Maddox. Additionally, guard Landon Dickerson, tackle Lane Johnson, and running back Miles Sanders have yet to practice this week with various ailments.

How Dallas Will Try To Win ::

The Cowboys rank towards the top of the league in situation-neutral pass rate over the previous month of play (eighth) and overall pass rate over the previous month of play (10th-ranked 60%). The biggest change to how we should expect the Cowboys to approach the coming games is the season-ending injury to Michael Gallup, who suffered a torn ACL in the first half of Week 17. That’s a relatively massive change for the expected alignments of the primary pass-catchers because of Cedrick Wilson and his hefty slot snap rate (82%). Since Wilson has been the primary fill-in for Gallup this season, and because he plays such a heavy slot snap rate, we should expect CeeDee Lamb to be bumped to the perimeter at a higher rate. What has been most interesting about the shift back to a more pass-balanced approach on offense over the second half of the season is the fact that it appears to have been a dedicated effort to change the identity of this team back to a pass-heavy emphasis, as Dak Prescott comes into this game with seven straight weeks of 37 or more pass attempts (and that includes 37, 39, and 40 pass attempts in convincing wins over the Giants, Washington, and the Saints during that stretch). The final note for the Cowboys involves their playoff situation, with every single playoff scenario except two precise outcomes leaving them with the four-seed in the NFC. This could influence their personnel decisions to some extent. 

The run game for the Cowboys continues to be a “1A/1B” situation, with last week serving as the first game in six weeks that lead back Ezekiel Elliott saw more than a 64% snap rate (70%). During that time, he has not eclipsed a modest 20 running back opportunities (in fact, he hasn’t gone over 20 running back opportunities since Week 8), with the team instead electing to involve Tony Pollard at a greater frequency in games they are able to run the football more. This also appears to be a concerted effort and would be unlikely to change this week. So, while we can be fairly certain Zeke won’t see more than 20 running back opportunities here, there are legitimate paths to Tony Pollard being more involved (a couple of different “outs” there, as both positive game flow and the team’s personnel decisions likely influencing Pollard’s snap rate and opportunity share). The matchup on the ground yields a borderline elite 4.525 net-adjusted line yards metric against an Eagles defense allowing 25.2 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields.

As covered above, the biggest story for the Cowboys passing offense this week will be the absence of Michael Gallup. We’re likely to see CeeDee Lamb shifted to a heavier perimeter snap rate, leaving the slot mostly to Cedrick Wilson. We also have the curious case of Amari Cooper and his interview antics, who has recently stated he has all the tools and talent to lead the league in major receiving categories as long as his team supported him with heavier targets. In the two games since his first spout off, Amari has commanded 18 total targets, his heaviest two-game stretch of targets since Week 6 and 8. The last time Gallup missed time (Week 2 to Week 9), Lamb and Cooper each had only one game of double-digit targets, so there isn’t a ton on paper separating the two here (for comparison’s sake, Lamb and tight end Dalton Schultz each saw four games of seven or more targets during that stretch, while Cooper saw seven or more targets only twice during that same span). Finally, tight end Blake Jarwin saw his 21-day practice window opened in his bid to return from IR. The Eagles have forced the shallowest aDOT in the league, have allowed the third-highest completion rate against, and rank in the middle of the pack in YAC per reception allowed. That theoretically plays into the games of Cedrick Wilson and the tight ends more than the more downfield roles of Cooper and Lamb.

How PhilaDelphia Will Try to win ::

A large piece of the “how Philadelphia will try to win” puzzle depends on who they have available come game day, as they are dealing with a dangerous combination of little left to play for, a COVID outbreak, and multiple injury issues. Two members of their offensive line have yet to practice this week, Miles Sanders has yet to practice this week, and 12 players currently reside on the league’s COVID list. Additionally, the Eagles have locked up a playoff berth and will finish the season in either the sixth or seventh spot in the NFC. Knowing they will be playing on the road in the Wildcard Round regardless of the outcome of all games this weekend could influence their decision-making process amidst no less than 15 players currently either injured or dealing with COVID. Reports from beat writers urge that the team is likely to rest “key guys” on Saturday. What shouldn’t change is the team’s identity, which has grown into one of the heaviest rush rate teams in the league (first in overall rush rate on the season at 52%, second in overall rush rate over the previous month of play at 55%, and 10th in situation-neutral rush rate over the previous four weeks at 56%. We know this team would like to run the football, but the multiple COVID cases and injuries in the backfield could force their hand here.

The backfield is a veritable mess currently, with Miles Sanders ruled out with his hand injury and Boston Scott and Jordan Howard on the COVID list (placed there on Monday, meaning they have a chance to suit up this weekend assuming they clear the updated protocols). As things currently stand, rookie Kenneth Gainwell, recently-signed practice squad member Kerryon Johnson, and practice squad member Jason Huntley are the only healthy running backs in the organization. Should both Howard and Scott miss, I would tentatively expect both practice squad backs to be elevated to the active roster for Saturday, with Gainwell likely stepping into the lion’s share of the backfield work for the Eagles. Should both Howard and Scott make it back, it is likely this backfield will look much more familiar. Last week, Scott led the way with a 52% snap rate, followed by Howard at 34%, and Gainwell at 13%. The matchup on the ground yields a healthy 4.475 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Dallas defense allowing only 20.2 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields (third-fewest in the league).

The Eagles pass game has been a case of “haves and have-nots” for the better part of the season, with only rookie DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert operating in near every-down roles. Quez Watkins was typically amongst that group but has played 51% of the offensive snaps or fewer in two of the previous three weeks since Philadelphia’s Week 14 bye. Further complicating things is the presence of both Goedert and backup tight end Jack Stoll on the COVID list, which is a big deal for an offense that has increased their 12-personnel usage rates over the last three games. Both Goedert and Stoll were placed on the list on Monday, meaning they have a chance to return in time for Saturday’s game. And all that doesn’t even take potential personnel decisions into account. The other wide receivers in play are Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside, each of whom has maintained modest, situational roles in the offense. Basically, there is no shortage of unknowns surrounding the Eagles passing game this week.

Likeliest Game flow ::

Because of all the variance associated with the unknowns surrounding the Eagles this weekend, we have to view this game through the lens of weighted potential outcomes as opposed to the likeliest outcomes. The phrase “weighted potential outcomes” is used to describe the process of leveraging expected ownership versus individual outcome probabilities to generate organic leverage where possible. This means the most optimal way to approach this spot is to build players into lineups that tell very distinct stories with respect to possible game flows, how each coaching staff is likeliest to react to those individual game flows (personnel snap rates, rush-pass rates, game flow decisions, game management decisions, etc), and who would benefit the most from those in-game decisions. We’ll cover a few of the most likely situations and the likeliest beneficiaries in the combined DFS+ section below.

Slate Scenarios ::

  • The Chiefs need a win and a loss by Tennessee (at Houston) to secure the one-seed in the AFC; they could also fall as far as the five-seed should they lose and the Bengals (head-to-head record), Bills (head-to-head record), and Patriots (better conference record) win. Anything from the one to five-seed is on the table. Playing in the first game of Week 18, we can expect maximum effort from the Chiefs here.
  • The Broncos have been eliminated from the playoffs and currently occupy the 13-seed in the AFC with a record of 7-9, womp womp.
  • The Cowboys can finish anywhere from the two-seed to the four-seed, with most scenarios leaving them in the four-seed. They would require a win plus a loss from the Rams (home versus the 49ers) in order to jump into the two or three-seed. It remains to be seen what their level of effort will be, but we have to think they come out all systems go considering the 49ers need a win to secure their own playoff berth and the Cowboys play on Saturday.
  • The Eagles are locked into either the six-seed or seven-seed in the NFC, with either a win at home versus Dallas or a Saints win in Atlanta securing the six-seed. Either way, we know (and they know) they’ll either be traveling to Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Dallas, or Arizona in the Wildcard Round. Furthermore, the multitude of injuries and COVID issues place the Eagles in a possible short-handed situation.

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Slate DFS+ Interpretation ::


Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 1:00pm Eastern

Packers (
24.5) at

Lions (
20.5)

Over/Under 45.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Packers Run D
29th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
7th DVOA/11th Yards per carry
Packers Pass D
12th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
13th DVOA/6th Yards per pass
Lions Run D
27th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O
5th DVOA/8th Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
23rd DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O
16th DVOA/22nd Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By hilow >>
  • Guard/tackle Billy Turner and cornerback Jaire Alexander are the only players on the league’s COVID list for the Packers; tackle David Bakhtiari started the week with a limited showing before being downgraded to a “DNP” on Thursday as he attempts to return from an extended absence, while defensive end Keke Kingsley has yet to practice this week.
  • Tackles Taylor Decker and Penie Sewell are joined by linebacker Austin Bryant on the league’s COVID list; fullback Jason Cabinda is the only player yet to practice this week for the Lions.
  • Although the Packers have secured the number one seed in the NFC, any players they completely rest would go a full three weeks between their Week 17 game and the Divisional Round.

How green bay Will Try To Win ::

The Packers don’t necessarily care as much about winning as they do about making it through this game healthy while getting some live game repetitions along the way. Why is that the case? Since they have the one-seed locked up, the main decision for the Packers this week is whether or not to rest their starters in a meaningless game. That said, any starters that fully rest would go a full three weeks between live NFL action, as they would have last played in Week 17 and wouldn’t until their Divisional Round game. This puts head coach Matt LaFleur in an interesting spot, as he has to play the risk-reward game in order to come to the decision he feels is the best for his team. Although we don’t know for sure (at least not right now) what his final decision will be, the situation that makes the most sense is to get his starters some live game reps before pulling them in the second half. That will be my assumption for the remainder of this write-up. We know the Packers are going to play slow, we know they are going to remain balanced as far as play-calling goes, and we know they should carry top-end efficiency for as long as the starters are in. The matchup with the Lions presents a situation that they should be able to beat anywhere on the field.

Running back Aaron Jones has had his practice reps managed since returning from his missed game with a knee injury. His high in running back opportunities since returning to the lineup has been just 18 opportunities, and I wouldn’t expect more than a handful here. Some will point to AJ Dillon being the likeliest beneficiary, but he has become such an integral part of this offense that I don’t see him taking on much of an increased role even with Jones unlikely to see much run, meaning we should see between six to 10 opportunities from each before they make way for Patrick Taylor, who saw six opportunities last week with Kylin Hill on IR. The matchup on the ground is pristine, yielding a robust 4.645 net-adjusted line yards metric, leaving the only concern the lack of certainty surrounding expected workloads. That would be a different discussion should Jones and/or Dillon rest, in which case the remaining member(s) of this backfield become highly intriguing.

It’s a similar story for the passing game here, as I’d expect Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Josiah Deguara to play about half of the game. They should give way to Jordan Love, Equanimeous St. Brown, Juwann Winfree, Amari Rodgers, and Tyler Davis, likely leaving all members of the Packers passing game highly reliant on efficiency and touchdowns as a means of generating any fantasy utility. The matchup through the air is another pure one, as the Lions have been routinely victimized by deep passing on a league-average completion rate allowed. Should we get a more concrete answer before kickoff of what to expect with respect to personnel usage, we can adjust those thoughts based on who would be on the field this week.

How detroit Will Try To Win ::

The Lions come into their season finale battling through injuries, inconsistent quarterback play, and mass underperformance (outside of D’Andre Swift earlier in the season and Amon-Ra St. Brown later in the season). This is an organization with a lot to figure out in the offseason, but one that has a coaching staff hungry for improvement. They would like nothing more than to end their season with an emphatic victory at home against their divisional rivals. That is, assuming they don’t think the Jaguars can beat the Colts, in which case a victory would be a monumental failure (they currently hold the second overall pick in next years draft and can secure the first pick with a loss and a Jaguars win, however unlikely that may be). We’ve talked about this all season, but this Lions offense is built around the power run and intermediate passing games (of course, they’d like to be more aggressive downfield but are largely incapable of doing so based on the shortcomings of their quarterback room). Their year-long situation-neutral pass rate sits at a low 47%, which jumps all the way up to 63% when playing from behind this year. They run the league’s second-slowest situation-neutral offense, which jumps all the up to the second-fastest offense in the second half.

D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, and Craig Reynolds split the backfield work last week (Swift’s first game back from four missed games) at a 57%/32%/22% clip, and I’d expect that split to remain rather sticky this week. It simply doesn’t make sense to run Swift into the ground, nor does it make sense to sit him entirely. That should lead to somewhere between 12 to 15 running back opportunities for Swift and Williams, with Reynolds left to fight for the six to eight remaining opportunities from the backfield. The matchup on the ground yields an above-average 4.415 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Packers defense ranked second-worst in that regard. The Packers cede only 21.5 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields, primarily due to facing the third-fewest rush attempts against (the combination of routine positive game script and an extremely slow pace of play simply mute the rushing output against).

Amon-Ra St. Brown has seen 11 or more targets in five straight games, which have come with a mixture of Jared Goff and Tim Boyle at quarterback. His crisp routes, ability to separate within five yards of the line of scrimmage, and quickness have made him the favorite target of both quarterbacks and the only real threat from this offense of late. Furthermore, the slot wide receiver has now scored five total touchdowns in his last five games (four receiving and one rushing). It bears mention that his price has come up to almost-prohibitive levels for a pass-catcher with a 6.9 aDOT, but there is nothing here to preclude him from once again cracking double-digit targets. Expect Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds to return to their starting perimeter roles after missing last week on the league’s COVID list, each typically floating around 70% snap rates. The tight end room has been a mess since TJ Hockenson was lost for the season, with all of Brock Wright, Shane Zylstra, Jared Pinkey, and Ross Travis playing significant snaps over the previous four weeks (who?).

Likeliest Game Flow :: 

We’re likely to see the Packers score two to three touchdowns in the first half, assuming the starters end up playing (which, again, I think is most likely here). This should make this game environment a familiar sight for the Lions, who have shown to be extremely aggressive in the second half of games they trail. Expect the Lions to increase their pace of play to extreme levels, their pass rates to above-average levels, and their desperation in the second half. It is also likely the starters for the Packers don’t touch the field in the second half, providing a viable opportunity for the Lions to claw their way back into the game. Whatever production the Lions can muster is likeliest to flow through Amon-Ra St. Brown and the running backs.

scenarios:
  • The Packers have clinched the one-seed and only bye out of the NFC.
  • The Lions have long been eliminated from post-season contention and currently hold the number two pick in 2022’s NFL draft – they could secure the first overall pick should they lose, and the Jaguars win this week. 

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DFS+ Interpretation ::

By Alex88 >>

OVERVIEW

  • Tied for third highest total of Week 18
  • GB’s implied total of 24.25 is the ninth highest
  • The spread (GB -4) dropped seven points Monday afternoon even though Matt LaFleur told reporters about this game that they would “approach it like any other,” indicating Vegas not buying that the starters would have meaningful roles
  • DET’s implied total of 20.25 is the 12th lowest
  • GB has the best ATS record (12-3), DET ranks tied for third (10-6)
  • GB has scored 24+ pts in each of the past six games: 31 // 36 // 45 // 31 // 24 // 37
  • Their opponent scores the past six games: 34 // 28 // 30 // 30 // 22 // 10
  • DET has scored 16 or fewer pts in three of their past six games, and 29 or 30 pts in the other three
  • Their opponents scores the past six games: 16 // 27 // 38 // 12 // 20 // 51
  • On the season, GB ranks 10th in ppg (26.2) while DET ranks 29th (18)
  • GB’s defense ranks eighth (20.9) while DET ranks 30th (27.3)
  • As a team, GB has nothing to play for after clinching the #1 seed last week
  • DET is locked into a top two draft pick, with a chance at the first overall if JAX can upset IND

Jordan Love

  • Aaron Rodgers does have a few contract incentives he could theoretically earn, so he could see some playing time
  • Love ranks 72nd in PFF passing grade this season
  • Lone career regular season start came in Week 9 @ KC after Rodgers tested positive for COVID
  • Stat line from that game: 19/34:190:1:1 for 12.9 DK pts
  • 2021 preseason stat line: 24/35:271:1:1
  • DET ranks 20th in DK ppg allowed to QBs (19)
  • Just two QBs in the last eight games have scored 20+ DK pts vs. DET
  • DK pts (stat line): Kirk Cousins 24.2 (30/40:340:2:0) // Russell Wilson 27.84 (20/29:236:4:0)

GB Passing Attack

  • On Wednesday, Davante Adams said he didn’t expect to play the full game (per NBC Sports Edge)
  • With nothing to play for, the starters are unlikely to see the field beyond a few series
  • Backup WRs in the regular season (stat line): Equanimeous St. Brown (7/11:76:0) // Juwann Winfree (5/10:42:0)
  • WR leaders in the preseason (stat line): Amari Rodgers (13/17:87:0) // Malik Taylor (14/16:185:0) // Reggie Begelton (7/12:80:0)
  • Begelton was released in the final roster cuts before the regular season
  • All four remaining tertiary WRs are priced at the DK minimum in Week 18
  • DET ranks 21st in DK ppg allowed to WRs (35.9)
  • Notable opposing WR scores: Darnell Mooney 20.5 // Mooney 21.5 // Justin Jefferson 22.4 // Davante Adams 23.1 // Christian Kirk 24.4 // DK Metcalf 30.9 // Deebo Samuel 35.9 // Jefferson 38.6 // Cooper Kupp 40.6
  • TE snap share: Marcedes Lewis 43.7% // Josiah Deguara 32.3% // Dominique Dafney 20.7%
  • Targets per game: Deguara 1.9 // Lewis 1.7 // Dafney 0.3
  • Only Deguara has scored double digit DK pts this season
  • DET ranks 24th in DK ppg allowed to TEs (14.2)
  • Notable opposing TE scores: Tyler Conklin 12.6 // Dallas Goedert 13.2 // Zach Ertz 13.4 // Robert Tonyan 14.2 // Cole Kmet 14.5 // Albert Okwuegbunam 15.1 // Mark Andrews 18.9 // Kyle Pitts 19.2

GB RBs

  • Preseason stat lines (attempts:yards:TDs:FUMs): Patrick Taylor 23:89:0:1 // Kylin Hill 19:64:1:0 // Dexter Williams 17:82:0:0
  • Taylor and Hill are priced at the DK minimum in Week 18
  • Starters Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon have combined for seven 20+ DK pt performances this season
  • DET ranks 30th in DK ppg allowed to RBs (28.3)
  • There have been 10 instances of an RB scoring 20+ DK pts vs. DET this year

DET QBs

  • Jared Goff has missed the past two games, and was limited in practice on Wednesday
  • On the season, he ranks 29th in PFF passing grade
  • Tim Boyle has started in the last two games
  • Stat lines: @ ATL (24/34:187:1:1) // @ SEA (22/37:262:2:3)
  • GB ranks 25th in DK ppg allowed to QBs (19.4)
  • Notable opposing QB scores: Joe Burrow 20.34 // Jared Goff 20.44 // Justin Fields 21.36 // Taylor Heinicke 22.22 // Matthew Stafford 26.98 // Kirk Cousins 28.24 // Jameis Winston 29.62 // Tyler Huntley 35.9

DET Passing Attack

  • Snap share: Amon-Ra St. Brown 72.9% // Kalif Raymond 67.1% // Brock Wright 41.2% // Josh Reynolds 37.6% // Shane Zylstra 31.2% // Trinity Benson 26.7%
  • Target share: St. Brown 19.4% // Raymond 11.8% // Reynolds 8.2% // Benson 3.9% // Wright 2.7% // Zylstra 1.2%
  • St. Brown is one of six players since 2010 to have five consecutive games of 8+ receptions (per Sam Hoppen)
  • Among all WRs in the past five weeks, he ranks third in targets, fourth in yardage, fifth in target share, and seventh in WOPR (per Koalaty Stats)
  • He’s also rushed six times for 49 yards and 1 TD in the last five games
  • His 25.6 DK ppg ranks third in that time
  • He’s scored 20+ DK pts in four of the past five games: 23.5 // 24.8 // 26 // 38.4
  • Raymond is the only other starting WR to hit 20 DK pts this season
  • Preseason stat lines for remaining non-starter WRs: Tom Kennedy (8/10:107:0) // Javon McKinley (3/3:50:1) // Quintez Cephus (5/6:50:1)
  • GB ranks ninth in DK ppg allowed to WRs (34)
  • Adam Thielen’s 22.2 DK pts & Justin Jefferson’s 40.2 in Week 11 are the last time a WR scored 20+ vs. GB
  • Neither Wright nor Zylstra have scored double digit DK pts this year
  • GB ranks 22nd in DK ppg allowed to TEs (13.4)
  • Six opposing TEs have scored double digit DK pts vs. GB: Ricky Seals-Jones 11.1 // Gerald Everett 14.3 // George Kittle 17.1 // Travis Kelce 17.8 // TJ Hockenson 20.6 // Mark Andrews 38.6

DET RBs

  • Prior to Week 17, HC Dan Campbell said that D’Andre Swift would be cut loose
  • Swift saw just six snaps @ SEA
  • Jamaal Williams led the RBs in snaps with 12 (11:22:1)
  • Craig Reynolds was second with seven (4:4:0)
  • Preseason RBs still on the roster (stat line): Jermar Jefferson (18:72:0) // Reynolds (15:87:2) // Godwin Igwebuike (15:46:2)
  • All three are priced at $4,300 or lower in Week 18 on DK
  • GB ranks seventh in DK ppg allowed to RBs (21.4)
  • Just three opposing RBs have scored 20+ DK pts vs. GB: Najee Harris 21.1 // Dalvin Cook 22.5 // Nick Chubb 30.4

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 1:00pm Eastern

Colts (
28.75) at

Jaguars (
14.75)

Over/Under 43.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Colts Run D
6th DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
17th DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
14th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
11th DVOA/23rd Yards per pass
Jaguars Run D
15th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
32nd DVOA/25th Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
31st DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
31st DVOA/30th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By Hilow >>
  • Only safety Andrew Sendejo finds himself on the league’s COVID list for the Colts; defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and cornerback Xavier Rhodes have yet to practice this week (as of Thursday).
  • The Jaguars currently have eight players on the COVID list, most notably center Brandon Linder and three defensive starters (including both starting safeties); linebacker Myles Jack and tight end James O’Shaugnessy have yet to practice this week (as of Thursday).
  • Win-and-in for the Colts, it’s that simple for them this week.
  • The Colts have the highest Vegas implied team total on the slate at almost 30 points.
  • The Jaguars have no incentive to win here, as a loss would secure the number one overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft.

How Indianaplois Will Try To Win ::

Clog the running lanes and play aggressive, ball-hawking defense while running the football behind a top-five offensive line. That’s basically what the Colts aim to accomplish on a weekly basis. They have both the third-highest overall rush rate and rush rate when trailing, have generated the most turnovers in the league (tied with Dallas), attempt the fifth-fewest passes per game, and allow just 21.2 points per game. Their situation-neutral pace of play is the slowest in the league, while their overall pace of play ranks 31st. That’s really it – very simple to analyze and digest. Their opponent this week should do very little to slow down how the Colts like to approach games. The only hit to the fantasy prospectus of the Colts here is the potential for the team to rest players later in the game should they pull away from the Jaguars, because the team will be playing in next week’s Wildcard Round should they win.

Jonathan Taylor, man. The dude is an animal. Taylor’s high in snap rate over the first five weeks of the season was 55%. In the 11 games since then, he has not dipped below 65%, with eight of the last nine games checking in at 71% or more. He even has a game with a 98% snap rate in that timeframe (Week 15). Taylor is very clearly one of the most well-rounded running backs in recent history, capable of grinding out difficult four-to-five-yard gains inside, bouncing it out off the edge, catching the ball out of the backfield, and breaking away in the second level. Furthermore, Taylor has seen at least 21 running back opportunities in each of the last eight games, an absolutely absurd stretch. Oh, and he has four games in his last eight with 29 or more running back opportunities! As if Taylor needed more going for him, he is currently 266 rush yards short of the vaunted 2,000 yards mark. However unlikely it may be, we’ve seen as many as 253 rush yards from Taylor in his short career (Week 16 of 2020 against this same Jaguars team). It’s actually not outside the realm of possibility that his coach actually calls a game to help him get there, as Frank Reich is one of the more well-liked coaches from his players and has shown a propensity to pay attention to records and the like (although Reich’s primary concern is with winning football games). The matchup on the ground yields an elite 4.55 net-adjusted line yards metric against a defense allowing 25.1 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields, including 4.3 yards per carry. Behind Taylor, expect Nyhiem Hines to mix in for a now-modest role in a primary pass-catching and hurry-up capacity.

Carson Wentz hasn’t attempted more than 28 passes since a Week 12 game against the Buccaneers and we shouldn’t expect more than 24-28 pass attempts here, at the absolute maximum. Wide receiver Michael Pittman is the only pass-catcher with a near every-down role, regularly playing 95%+ of the offensive snaps. Zach Pascal, Ashton Dulin, and TY Hilton have been splitting the remaining wide receiver snaps virtually in three, with all of Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, and Kylen Granson splitting the snaps at tight end. There is no reason to go here on the largest slate of the season.

How Jacksonville Will Try to win ::

First of all, I’m not sure the Jaguars will try or should be trying, to win this game, as they currently hold the number one overall pick in next year’s draft. That said, they have an interim head coach (Darrell Bevell) that could be auditioning for his first head coaching gig (he has assumed interim head coaching duties in back-to-back seasons for different organizations). The Jags are also a very young team, for which additional game reps mean a good deal. Even if we expect the Jags to exhibit maximum effort for the duration of the game, their chances of generating any real success are heavily diminished by a lack of talent and their opponent. Jacksonville averages only 14.2 points per game (lowest in the league), allow 27.9 points per game (second-most in the league), and generate only 304.6 yards of offense per game. All signs point to an increase in their pass play rate against a pass-funnel opponent.

The backfield has been relegated to a three-way, demi-timeshare between Dare Ogunbowale, Ryquell Armstead, and a splash of Tavon Austin. Those three “backs” will be running behind the league’s 11th-most efficient run-blocking offensive line against an opponent that ranks top-three against the run. Ogunbowale should be considered the lead back here, having played 66% of the offensive snaps a week ago, where he turned 11 total opportunities into 68 yards and a score (through the air). The matchup on the ground yields an average 4.33 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Colts defense allowing just 21.2 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields.

Over his last seven games, quarterback Trevor Lawrence has four games of 38 or more pass attempts and three games of 28 and below, with two of those games seeing the Jaguars run 48 offensive plays or fewer. Basically, this team has been forced into increased aerial aggression more often than not, even though they are much more efficient on the ground. Against a Colts team that tilts pass-funnel, in a game environment highly likely to see the Jags playing from behind for the majority of the game, we should tentatively expect Lawrence to land on the higher side of his wildly fluctuating range of pass attempts. The two primary pass-catchers for this offense are Marvin Jones, Jr. and Laquon Treadwell. Each play near every-down roles on the perimeter, with slot snaps being shared between running back/wide receiver hybrid Tavon Austin and LaViska Shenault, Jr. Tight end James O’Shaugnessy has been ruled out for this game, leaving tight end duties to blocking tight end Chris Manhertz, Luke Farrell, and Kahale Warring. The Colts rank near the middle of the league in both opponent completion rate and yards allowed per completion, making narrowing down where pass game production is likeliest to flow rather difficult. What we do know is that MJJ and Treadwell are on the field almost every offensive snap.

Likeliest Game flow ::

It is likeliest we see the Colts come into Jacksonville and walk the Jaguars off the field. The Colts carry the week’s highest Vegas implied team total, hold the week’s largest spread, and very clearly are the better team in all aspects. Although we’ve seen some weird things happen in the league this year, this is definitely not a spot to overthink. The game environment is almost entirely up to the Jaguars to dictate, in that we should loosely expect the Colts to not only take their foot off the gas late if they are handily controlling the game but likely rest starters in the process. If the Jaguars can muster a couple of scores within the first three quarters, wheels up for the main pieces of this game.

Scenarios ::

  • Jacksonville has long been eliminated from playoff contention but they are “playing” for the number one pick in 2023’s NFL draft.
  • The Colts can earn the five-seed with a win and some help and could fall out of the postseason entirely with a loss – very much a win or go-home endeavor here.
  • Finally, the Colts play in the early time slot while the Bills and Patriots play in the afternoon time slot and the Chargers and Raiders (two teams chasing them) play on Sunday Night Football.

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DFS+ Interpretation ::

By LexMiraglia10 >>

Trevor Lawrence:

  • Lawrence has thrown just 10 TDs to 17 INT all season, and has just 2 TD in the last 9g
  • Lawrence has thrown for 225+ yds in just 6/16 games
  • Lawrence first game vs IND: 16/35 for 162 yds, 33 rush yds
  • QBs since that JAC game vs IND: Allen (209:2:2) // Brady (226:1:1) // HOU (94:0:1) // Mac (299:2:2) // Kyler (245:1) // Carr (255:1:2)
  • IND ranks 14th in def pass DVOA and 7th in overall def DVOA

Laquon Treadwell:

  • IND has allowed the 7th fewest WR yds
  • Only two teams have allowed more WR TDs
  • Treadwell has led JAC in receiving since W12: 53, 62, 68, 57, 54, 87 yds
  • Treadwell has still yet to top 15 DK pts during that time and is at his highest price all year

Dare Ogunbowale:

  • Two games of action: 17:51, 2:15 // 9:36, 2:32:1
  • Dare’s only other career games with more than 2 rush att: 14:50 // 14:71
  • IND ranks 3rd in def rush DVOA
  • IND has allowed the 5th fewest RB DK pts/g & RB rush yds

Carson Wentz:

  • JAC has allowed the 6th highest yds per pass att
  • JAC has allowed four 300-yd passers (2 more of 290+)
  • JAC ranks 32nd in def pass DVOA
  • 10 QBs have scored multiple TDs vs JAC
  • Wentz’s first game vs JAC: 180:0:0
  • Wentz pass att_DK pts since JAC game: 34_7.1 // 20_10 // 44_26.3 // 22_11.1 // 12_7 // 28_17.4 // 27_10.9
  • The 44 att game was against Tampa Bay

Michael Pittman:

  • WRs over 70 yds vs JAC: Cooks (132) // Sutton (159) // Green (112), Kirk (104) // Boyd (118), Chase (77) // Waddle (70:2) // Lockett (142) // Diggs (85) // Pittman (71) // Aiyuk (85:1) // Kupp (129:1) // Cooks (102:2) // Meyers (73:1), Bourne (76)
  • JAC has allowed the highest success rate & 4th highest yds/att to WRs
  • 13 WRs have had 8+ tg vs JAC
  • Pittman targets in the aforementioned Wentz games: 5, 5, 10, 8, 5, 12, 6
  • Pittman yds in those games: 71 // 23 // 53 // 77 // 7 // 82 // 47
  • Pittman’s only games of 20+ DK pts: 8:123 in 24-27 L to LAR // 6:89:1 in 25-31 L to BAL // 4:105:1 in 30-18 W vs SF // 10:86:2 in 31-34 L to TEN

Jonathan Taylor:

  • JAC has allowed the 4th most RB rush TDs (17)
  • Taylor has 18 rush TDs
  • RBs with 15+ rush att vs JAC: Ingram (85:1) // Mixon (67:1) // Henry (130:3) // Taylor (116:1) // Wilson (50) // CPatt (108:2) // Michel (121:1) // Rex (41) // Carter (118) // Stevenson (107:2)
  • Taylor has 15+ att in all but two games this year
  • Taylor rush att since W10: 21, 32, 16, 32, 29, 27, 20
  • Taylor’s only sub-20 att game there came against TB
  • Taylor had 8 tg in first JAC game, but just 12 tg in the 6 g since

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 1:00pm Eastern

WFT (
21) at

Giants (
15)

Over/Under 36.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Commanders Run D
2nd DVOA/9th Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O
11th DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Commanders Pass D
16th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O
14th DVOA/25th Yards per pass
Giants Run D
28th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Commanders Run O
25th DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D
24th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Commanders Pass O
28th DVOA/21st Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By papy324 >>
  • The Giants backfield is a timeshare.
  • Jaret Patterson is likely to compliment Antonio Gibson.
  • Both team’s passing attacks are a mess.
  • There isn’t a lot to like for DFS in this game.

How washington Will Try To Win ::

The 6-10 Football Team comes into this game completing another disappointing campaign, coming off four straight division losses, including a 56-14 drubbing by the hated Cowboys. The WFT have talented pieces but when Ryan Fitzpatrick went down early in the year this team was doomed to another tough season. Ron Rivera is among the coaches that must be nervous about their job, giving him an incentive to win this game. Win or lose, it might not be enough to get Rivera another season in Washington. 

The Football Team has become a slow-paced side (19th in situational neutral pace) that doesn’t speed up when losing (30th in pace when trailing), making them a team that sucks the life out of games. The Giants defense has been below average against the pass (17th in DVOA) and poor against the run (29th in DVOA) presenting as a mini-run funnel but also as a defense that is weak no matter how you choose to attack. Rivera is adaptable and likely to attack the Giants run defense rather than turning things over to his shaky QB. Expect the Football Team to try and win with a run balanced approach if they are ahead on the scoreboard.   

How new york Will Try To Win ::

The 4-12 Giants are polishing off one of the worst seasons in recent memory. They lost star RB multiple times throughout the year to lower bodies injuries, had every manner of misfortune befall their WR group, were reminded that their TE isn’t good at football, fired their offensive coordinator mid-season, and lost their starting QB to a mysterious neck injury that seems to be getting worse. All of this behind an offensive line that desperately needs an overhaul, and a defense that can’t stop anyone. The Giants are a mess.

The Football Team’s defense has been weak against the pass (28th in DVOA) and solid against the run (10th in DVOA). The Football Team has been attackable through the air, but the Giants set up exceedingly poorly to take advantage of their opponent’s weaknesses. Jake Fromm is expected to start and Joe Judge might as well throw caution into the wind letting Fromm try to exploit the Football Team’s poor secondary. The Giants have had no continuity in their offensive play calling or personnel the past two months, which has led to point totals of 10/13/9/21/6/10/3 in their past seven games. The G-men are averaging a sorry 10.2 points per game during that stretch.  Expect the Giants to try and pass, but ultimately fail offensively.

Likeliest Game Flow :: 

This game has a comically low total (38) because this game is quite possibly a pairing of the two worst offenses in the league. You can’t expect either team to score many points, even though both defenses are also weak. Washington is still the better side since the Giants are in total shambles. The most likely game flow has the Football Team successfully being able to play “hide the QB,” riding their defense and running game to a sloppy low-scoring victory.


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DFS+ Interpretation ::


Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 1:00pm Eastern

Bears (
20.5) at

Vikings (
24)

Over/Under 44.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bears Run D
25th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O
13th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Bears Pass D
30th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O
23rd DVOA/28th Yards per pass
Vikings Run D
13th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O
10th DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D
19th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O
27th DVOA/16th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By papy324 >>
  • This game means nothing for either team, but means a lot to both coaches who are trying to save their jobs.
  • Vikings games are highly game flow dependent.
  • This is an all or nothing DFS spot.
  • Dalvin Cook is the best floating play from this game.

How chicago Will Try To Win ::

The 6-10 Bears come into Week 18 having been eliminated from the playoffs for the past three weeks. Matt Nagy’s seat is on fire and riding a two-game meaningless winning streak is unlikely to save him. Nagy announced that Fields is expected to return as a full practice participant this week, which means he is healthy enough to start. The Bears want to play slow (23rd in situational neutral pace) but have been aggressive lately as Nagy has been more willing to let Fields throw. Nagy seems to know that his best chance at holding onto his job is showcasing Fields’ development.

The Vikings defense has been beatable through the air (16th in DVOA), and weak against the run (25th in DVOA), presenting as a mini-run funnel. That difference shouldn’t tilt the Bears away from playing a pass-balanced style designed to put up points in Nagy’s last chance to show the Bears brass why he deserves one more year. Fields threw 39 times in these team’s first meeting and it’s reasonable to expect a similar game plan.

How minnesota Will Try To Win ::

The 7-9 Vikings come into Week 18 at the tail end of another disappointing year. They were expected to compete with the Packers for the NFC North, but they failed to even be a threat for a wildcard playoff berth. The Vikings have talent on their roster but continue to underperform and have particularly disappointed on defense. Mike Zimmer is a defensive-minded coach that has a lot of skilled players on offense that should be a good combination but it hasn’t worked in Minnesota. 

The Vikings want to play at a moderate pace (17th situational neutral) but are willing to speed way up if they’re behind (4th in pace), which makes Vikings games highly susceptible to game flow. This week they get a Bears defense that has been respectable against the pass (10th in DVOA), but weak against the run (23rdin DVOA). This sets up well for how the Vikings prefer to attack. Expect them to slam Dalvin Cook and use the threat of run to set up downfield shots; the usual formula, in what is possibly Mike Zimmer’s last game as the Vikings head coach.

Likeliest Game Flow :: 

This game has a moderate total (45) which feels like a hedge between things playing out as a slow-paced division game with a lot of running, and the Bears taking a lead which will turn the Vikings into a fast-paced aggressive team. Neither side has anything to play for, but both coaches do, as they could easily be the first two head coaches released when the season ends. Expect both teams to play hard, with the most likely outcome being the Vikings riding their running game to a win.


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Tributaries ::

DFS+ Interpretation ::

By Alex88 >>

OVERVIEW

  • Tied for the third highest total of the week
  • CHI’s implied total of 19.5 is the 11th lowest
  • MIN’s implied total of 25 is the sixth highest
  • CHI’s final score the last six games: 16 // 22 // 30 // 9 // 25 // 29
  • Their opponents’: 14 // 33 // 45 // 17 // 24 // 3
  • MIN’s final score the last six games: 26 // 27 // 36 // 17 // 23 // 10
  • Their opponents’: 34 // 29 // 28 // 9 // 30 // 37
  • CHI averages 18.4 ppg (seventh fewest)
  • MIN’s defense allows 25.6 ppg (eighth most)
  • Their defense faces the third most plays per game (67)
  • Neither team has anything to play for 

CHI QB

  • Justin Fields was named the starter on Wednesday, but was then placed on the COVID list Thursday
  • As of Thursday night, no new starter has been named
  • Andy Dalton’s stat lines in his four full starts this year: 27/38:206:0:1 // 24/39:317:1:1 // 26/41:229:2:4 // 18/35:173:1:1
  • Nick Foles started in Week 16: 24/35:250:1:0
  • MIN ranks 28th in DK ppg allowed to QBs (20.5)
  • Notable opposing QB scores: Aaron Rodgers 20.32 // Jared Goff 21.94 // Cooper Rush 22.2 // Ben Roethlisberger 28.82 // Lamar Jackson 35.64 // Rodgers 36.5 // Kyler Murray 38.1

CHI Passing Attack

  • Snap share: Darnell Mooney 87.7% // Cole Kmet 84% // Damiere Byrd 55.2% // Allen Robinson 54.2% // Jimmy Graham 23.4%
  • Target share: Mooney 25.1% // Kmet 17.8% // Robinson 12.6% // Byrd 6.5% // Graham 4.3%
  • Among qualified WRs, Mooney ranks 18th in target share, 17th in air yard market share, and 18th in WOPR (per Koalaty Stats)
  • He’s scored 20+ DK pts four times: 20.5 @ DET in Week 12 // 20.6 @ PIT in Week 9 // 21.5 vs. DET in Week 4 // 26.1 vs. CHI in Week 11
  • Robinson’s Week 18 DK salary is just $4,000
  • He’s yet to hit 12 DK pts this season
  • Byrd has scored 4x his Week 18 DK salary ($3,400) once: 15.6 @ GB in Week 14
  • MIN ranks 32nd in DK ppg allowed to WRs (44.6)
  • Twelve different WRs have scored 20+ DK pts vs. MIN

David Montgomery

  • Among qualified RBs, Montgomery ranks seventh in rush share, eighth in goal line share, eighth in target share, eighth in WOPR, and ninth in RBOPR
  • His 16.1 DK ppg ranks 14th
  • Week 18 DK salary of $6,800 is a season high
  • He’s scored 25+ DK pts twice: 25.6 vs. DET in Week 4 // 28.1 vs. ARI in Week 13
  • MIN ranks 23rd in DK ppg allowed to RBs (25.3)
  • Notable opposing RB scores: Najee Harris 25.4 // Joe Mixon 28 // Elijah Mitchell 30.8

Kirk Cousins

  • Ranks fifth in PFF passing grade
  • Among qualified QBs, ranks 12th in EPA per attempt
  • As a Viking, he averages just 14.61 DK ppg vs. CHI
  • He’s scored 4x his Week 18 DK salary ($6,100) six times: 24.2 @ DET in Week 12 (close enough) // 25.04 @ CIN in Week 1 // 25.26 @ ARI in Week 2 // 28.12 vs. SEA in Week 3 // 28.24 vs. GB in Week 11 // 31.52 @ CAR in Week 6
  • CHI ranks 14th in DK ppg allowed to QBs (18.4)
  • Notable opposing QB scores: Matthew Stafford 27.34 // Jimmy G 30.28 // Kyler Murray 30.82 // Aaron Rodgers 32.64

MIN Passing Attack

  • Snap share: Justin Jefferson 88.6% // Tyler Conklin 81.6% // KJ Osborn 67.2% // Dede Westbrook 18.8%
  • Target share: Jefferson 27.5% // Conklin 14.3% // Osborn 13.4% // Westbrook 2.6%
  • Among qualified WRs, Jefferson ranks third in target share, first in air yard market share, and third in WOPR
  • His 20.5 DK ppg ranks fourth
  • He’s scored 4x his Week 18 DK salary ($8,100) twice: 38.6 @ DET in Week 13 // 40.2 vs. GB in Week 11
  • Osborn has scored 20+ DK pts just once: 20.1 @ ARI in Week 2
  • Despite Adam Thielen missing Week 17, Westbrook saw just one target
  • He’s seen four or fewer in every game
  • CHI ranks 11th in DK ppg allowed to WRs (34.4)
  • Notable opposing WR scores: Allen Lazard 20.9 // Deebo Samuel 26.1 // Cooper Kupp 26.8 // Chris Godwin 28.1 // Mike Evans 31.6 // Davante Adams 37.1
  • Among qualified TEs, Conklin ranks 18th in target share, 22nd in air yard market share, and 21st in WOPR
  • His Week 18 DK salary of $4,200 is a season high
  • He’s scored 15+ DK pts twice: 16.1 @ LAC in Week 10 // 20 vs. SEA in Week 3
  • CHI ranks sixth in DK ppg allowed to TEs (9.1)
  • Notable opposing TE scores: Mark Andrews 15.3 // Gerald Everett 16.8 // Pat Freiermuth 21.3

MIN RBs

  • Snap share: Dalvin Cook 53.2% // Alexander Mattison 32.8%
  • Target share: Cook 8.2% // Mattison 6.5%
  • Touches per game: Cook 22.3 // Mattison 10.7
  • With Cousins OUT and facing an early blowout, Cook was benched after just nine rushes in Week 17
  • As of Thursday night, there is no indication that the typical usage of the RBs will be different for a meaningless Week 18 game
  • Among qualified RBs, Cook ranks third in rush share, fourth in goal line share, 10th in target share, 13th in WOPR, and third in RBOPR
  • His 17.6 DK ppg ranks ninth
  • Cook’s Week 18 DK salary is $7,800
  • He’s scored 25+ DK pts twice: 25.3 @ CAR in Week 6 // 38.2 vs. PIT in Week 14
  • Mattison’s Week 18 DK salary is $6,900
  • He’s scored 25+ DK pts twice: 26.1 vs. SEA in Week 3 // 30.3 vs. DET in Week 5
  • CHI ranks 15th in DK ppg allowed to RBs (22.8)
  • Notable opposing RB scores: Devonta Freeman 20 // Aaron Jones 21 // Jones 21.5 // Rashaad Penny 22.5 // Elijah Mitchell 22.7 // Kareem Hunt 27.5

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 1:00pm Eastern

Titans (
26.75) at

Texans (
16.25)

Over/Under 43.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Titans Run D
1st DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
29th DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Titans Pass D
13th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
30th DVOA/24th Yards per pass
Texans Run D
31st DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O
14th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
25th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O
12th DVOA/7th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By Hilow >>
  • The Titans don’t currently have any players on the COVID list; defensive tackle Naquan Jones has yet to practice this week while cornerback Jackrabbit Jenkins was downgraded from a limited showing on Wednesday to a “DNP” on Thursday.
  • Derrick Henry was designated for return from IR on Wednesday.
  • Only defensive back Justin Reid finds himself on the COVID list for the Texans; wide receiver Chris Conley, tight end Jordan Akins, and wide receiver Chris Moore have yet to practice this week.

How Tennessee Will Try To Win ::

The Titans have really gotten things done on the defensive side of the ball over the last month of play, holding their last four opponents to only 9.75 points per game. These weren’t games against world-beater teams, but they held a Dolphins team in contention for the postseason to just three points, the likely playoff-bound 49ers to 17 points, and the fighting-for-their-lives Steelers to 19 points (not to mention the shutout against the Jags). In a game against another struggling offense (30th-ranked 15.9 points per game this year), we should expect the same macro game plan here. Said game plan involves a slow pace of play (27th overall), elevated rush rates (second-highest overall rush rate this season), a defense designed to get after the quarterback (41 sacks) through organic pressure (fourth-lowest blitz rate), hold opponents to primarily-short passing (7.7 aDOT against), and clamp down against the run (fewest fantasy points per game allowed to opposing backfields). That defensive game plan feels tailored precisely to their opponent this week, one that prefers to run the football and plays at a slow pace.

Derrick Henry saw his 21-day practice window opened on Wednesday this week, giving him at least a shot at returning for the season finale. The team has until 4 pm Eastern on Saturday to make that decision, but I would tentatively expect he is held out to be allowed the extra two weeks to get fully healthy for the playoffs. As in, his 21-day practice window spans all the way until the Wednesday before what would be their Divisional Round game, and they clearly can activate him earlier should they lose this week. Should Henry be held out, the primary rushing duties would fall to D’Onta Foreman, who has seen 20 or more running back opportunities in three of Tennessee’s last five games. He also saw his highest snap rate of the season last week at 65%, which came in a game with both Dontrell Hilliard and Jeremy McNichols active. The matchup on the ground yields an above average 4.42 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Houston defense allowing a robust 28.0 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields. The increase in snap rate for Foreman came at the direct expense of McNichols last week, and I’d expect the same this week in a game that plays to an increase to the already-high rush rates of the Titans.
The Titans pass-catcher are getting healthy at the right time, as Julio Jones’ stint on the COVID list allowed him time for his hamstring woes to heal up. The only regular pass-catcher out this week appears to be MyCole Pruitt, and even then he was only serving a modest role at tight end. Expect Tommy Hudson to see some run as the third tight end this week. It remains to be seen exactly how the snap rates will shake out for the Tennessee pass-catchers, but I would tentatively expect them to take it rather easy on AJ Brown and Julio Jones here, as each has recently returned from multi-week absences due to injury. Their Week 16 game is likeliest the best comparison, a game that saw AJ Brown, Julio Jones, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, and Chester Rodgers all play between 50% and 74% of the offensive snaps in a loose rotation. As in, lead tight end Geoff Swaim could see the highest snap rate of all Tennessee pass-catchers here. Expect him to be joined by Anthony Firkser and the aforementioned Tommy Hudson. Houston has allowed the fourth-highest average yards per completion at 11.3 and have allowed the 12th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks.

How Houston Will Try to win ::

Houston wants to be another slow-paced, high rush rate team, checking in with a 24th-ranked situation-neutral pace of play and an above average 46% rush rate on first and second down with the score within seven points. They are also a team that will open things up in the second half of games they are trailing, bringing the fifth-fastest second-half pace of play and 12th-ranked second-half pass rate into Week 18. This is another example of a team whose motivation for winning is put in question, as a win could cost them a draft slot or two. Houston averages just 59.6 plays per game (second-lowest in the league, ahead of only Seattle), which should primarily be attributed to a combination of slow pace of play, poor offensive efficiency, and poor standing in defensive efficiency.

Rex Burkhead has played his way into a contract extension over the previous seven weeks of play, emerging as the unquestioned lead back of this backfield. He has seen 18 or more running back opportunities in four of those last seven games, but should be thought of as a “borderline yardage and touchdown back,” as the Texans simply don’t target their backfield at a high rate (as in, it’s not that Burkhead isn’t effective through the air, it’s just that this offense doesn’t send the backs on routes, meaning the majority of his targets come from broken plays). Expect Royce Freeman to serve as the primary change of pace back while David Johnson is welcomed back to serve as the primary third-down option. The matchup on the ground could not be worse, yielding a laughable 3.705 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Titans defense allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backfields.

Brandin Cooks has commanded a massive 26.7% team target market share and 40.4% of the team’s available air yards, and that’s with a missed game this season. All of that to say, this pass offense has been “Brandin Cooks or bust,” and when Cooks is removed from the game, the entire Texans pass game has often failed. That said, Cooks has been viable all season in games we can project the Texans to pass more and against opponents they are likelier to achieve success against. Cooks has both working in his favor this week. Behind Cooks, Chris Conley and Niko Collins have operated as the WR2 and WR3 this season. Conley is currently listed as questionable after failing to practice at all this week, possibly opening up snaps for Danny Amendola and Chris Moore (if active, he’s also questionable). The tight end situation has remained a three-way timeshare, just now the snaps are split amongst Brevin Jordan, Pharaoh Brown, and Antony Auclair, with Jordan Akins largely being phased out. The expected range of pass attempts for quarterback Davis Mills should land in the 28-32 range, with a slight chance at more should the Texans fall behind big early.

Likeliest Game flow ::

The Titans are likely to assert themselves sooner rather than later here, with a defense built to handle exactly how the Texans would like to attack and an offense well-suited to take advantage of Houston’s shortcomings. The slow combined pace of play in the first half is likely to lead to a low-scoring half, particularly from the Texans. Similarly, the increase in expected pace of play in the second half from the Texans should lead to an additional possession or two for the Titans, a slight boost to whichever players we can project to still remain in the game should they have the game in hand. Since the Titans are highly unlikely to adjust their offensive game plan unless down by multiple scores into the second half, and since the Texans are highly unlikely to find themselves in that scenario, we should expect this likeliest scenario to carry a higher degree of certainty than other spots on the slate, particularly considering how the various game flows influence the decision-making processes of teams.

Scenarios ::

  • The Titans can clinch the one-seed and only bye out of the AFC with a win.
  • They can also back their way into the one-seed with losses by the Chiefs, Bengals, and Patriots.
  • The Texans have long been eliminated from post season contention.

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DFS+ Interpretation ::

By LexMiraglia10 >>

Davis Mills:

  • Since being shut out by IND, Mills has thrown for averages of 239.3 yds, 1.5 TD, 0.5 INT vs SEA, JAC, LAC SF
  • Those defenses rank as follows in pass def DVOA: 27 // 32 // 23 // 18
  • TEN ranks 7th in def pass DVOA
  • 9/16 QBs vs TEN have scored 2+ TDs
  • 8/16 QBs have passed for 290+ yds vs TEN
  • Tyrod actually beat TEN in W11: he threw for just 107 yds, but ran for 28 yds, 2 TD
  • Mills’s only 5 scores over 11 DK pts have come in 22-25 L to NE, 22-38 L to LAR (down 38-0), 13-33 L to SEA, 30-16 W vs JAC, 41-29 W vs LAC

HOU WRs:

  • Cooks with Mills: 4:28:1 (half) // 9:112 // 5:47 // 3:23 // 9:89 // 5:21 // 6:83:1 // 3:38 (half) // 8:101 // 7:102:2 // 7:66:1
  • 60+ yd games: Cooks (8) // Conley (2) // Moore, Collins (1)
  • One of Conley’s came vs LAC when Cooks missed game
  • Cooks has six 20+ DK pt scores (21.2, 22.8, 23.7, 20.3, 21.1, 32.2)
  • Cooks also has five sub-10 DK pt scores (9.7, 5.3, 7.1, 3.8, 8.4)
  • Cooks’s 129 tg are trailed by Collins’s 53
  • Targets over last four g: Cooks (11, 10, –, 11) // Collins (10, 4, 4, 5)
  • TEN has allowed the most WR rec & 3rd most WR yds on the most WR tg faced
  • Only ATL allowed more WR DK pts than TEN in 2020
  • TEN has allowed the 2nd most WR DK pts in 2021 (40.6)
  • 10 WRs vs TEN in 2021 have scored 20+ DK pts: Hopkins (26.3), Kirk (24) // Lockett (34.8), Swain (21) // Davis (24.1) // Diggs (23.9), Beasley (21.8) // Pittman (30.6) // Kupp (20.5) // Bourne (23.1) // Deebo (31.1)
  • TEN has allowed 17 WR TDs
  • HOU WRs with Tyrod vs TEN: Cooks (2:18) // Conley (4:37) // Collins (1:9)

HOU RBs:

  • TEN has allowed the fewest RB DK pts/g (18.7) and 2nd fewest RB rush yds 
  • TEN has allowed just 9 RB rush TDs, 1 RB rec TD
  • Rush att leader since trading Ingram (8g): Burkhead (109) // Johnson (35) // Freeman (35)
  • HOU RBs vs TEN: Burkhead (18:40) // Johnson (13:18)

Ryan Tannehill:

  • HOU ranks 19th in def pass DVOA
  • QBs with 20+ DK pts vs HOU: Lawrence (332:3:3) // Darnold (304, 2 rush TD) // Allen (248:2:1, 41 rush yds) // Kyler (261:3:1) // Stafford (305:3) // Russ (260:2) // Herbert (336:1:2) // Lance (249:2:1, 31 rush yds)
  • Tannehill has just 3 games of 20+ DK pts in 2021, with a high of just 23.5
  • Since 2020, the game scores of his 10 games of 20+ DK pts read: 46-25, 42-36, 35-41, 42-16, 41-38, 33-30, 30-24, 25-16, 27-3, 34-31
  • That’s 8/10 games in which TEN scored 30+ pts, and 6/10 games in which the combined total finished over 60
  • TEN offensive pts with Henry: 13 // 33 // 25 // 24 // 30 // 34 // 27 // 34
  • TEN offensive pts without Henry: 21 // 23 // 13 // 13 // 20 // 13 // 20 // 34
  • TEN scored just 13 points in the first HOU loss in W11
  • Tannehill has passed for 300 yds in just 5 of his 33 starts since 2020
  • Tannehill pass att since Henry went down: 27 // 27 // 52 // 21 // 31 // 32 // 29 // 18

AJ Brown:

  • WRs with 70+ yds vs HOU: Chark (86:1), MJJ (77:1) // Moore (126) // Diggs (114), Sanders (74) // Hilton (80) // Kupp (115:1), Van (88) // Waddle (83) // Westbrook (107) // Pittman (77) // Lockett (142:1) // Aiyuk (94)
  • HOU has allowed six 20+ DK pt scores to WRs
  • Brown has the 3rd highest rate of targets per route run per PlayerProfiler
  • Brown has four games this year with more than 5 rec: 7:91 // 8:133:1 // 10:155:1 // 11:145:1
  • In those games Tanny has pass att totals of: 29, 27, 33, 29
  • The RBs have rush att totals of: 20, 31, 28, 21
  • The final scores of those games: 34-31 // 27-3 // 34-31 // 20-17
  • Julio in those games (snap %): 3:59 (66%) // 2:38 (43%) // 0:0 (0%) // 1:7 (50%)
  • TEN WRs in first HOU game: Brown (5:48) // Westbrook (7:107) // Rogers (4:41) // Fitzpatrick (3:35:1)

TEN RBs:

  • 11 rush att was an individual TEN RB high in three games with Adrian Peterson
  • Since cutting him::
  • Foreman: 19:109 // 13:47:1 // 22:108 // 9:17:1 // 26:132:1
  • Hilliard: 12:131:1 // 6:13 // 9:49 // 6:20 // 8:45:1
  • McNichols: DNP // 8:16 // 6:26 // 7:31 // 2:14
  • Foreman’s three 100-yd games have come against defenses ranked 7th, 27th, 13th in rush def DVOA
  • HOU ranks 24th in def rush DVOA
  • 23 RBs in 16 games have topped 50 total yds vs HOU
  • 8 RBs have topped 90 total yds vs HOU
  • Total yds from last 7 backfields vs HOU: 166 // 150 // 218 // 171 // 105 // 183 // 145

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 1:00pm Eastern

Steelers (
19) at

Ravens (
22)

Over/Under 41.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Steelers Run D
5th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
1st DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
18th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
8th DVOA/17th Yards per pass
Ravens Run D
14th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
23rd DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
8th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
21st DVOA/31st Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By papy324 >>
  • The Steelers should let Ben throw in what is probably his last game.
  • Dionte Johnson is priced for his floor, but has a great matchup.
  • The Ravens backfield swings between featuring Devonte Freeman and being a timeshare.
  • Mark Andrews is priced $800 above the second most expensive TE (George Kittle).

How pittsburgh Will Try To Win ::

The 8-7-1 Steelers are coming off an emotional win against the Browns and barring a crazy circumstance, it will be Ben Roethlisberger’s last home game. Speaking as a lifelong Steelers season ticket holder that will always remember your first game and your last, thanks Ben. Despite the win last week, the Steelers still need help to make the postseason. They must win, and the Colts need to lose to the Jaguars. The Colts aren’t likely to lose to the Jaguars, but you never know, which will keep Pittsburgh playing hard. 

The Steelers play quickly (8th in situational neutral pace) and stay within the top 12 in pace regardless of score. They want to attack with an up-tempo short passing game designed to hide their deficiencies along the offensive line and Ben’s aging arm. The Ravens are weak against the pass (30th in DVOA) and strong against the run (6th in DVOA) presenting one of the clearest pass funnels in the league. This matches up well with how the Steelers want to attack, and Pittsburgh is unlikely to deviate from its normal short-passing strategy. Considering the narrative that this is probably Ben’s last game, against the biggest rival of his career, there is every reason to think the Steelers will come out throwing.  

How baltimore Will Try To Win ::

The 8-8 Ravens come into Week 18 having totally collapsed down the stretch. A month ago, the Ravens looked as if they would cruise to an AFC North title, with a shot at the top seed. Four weeks later, they aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs but would need a win plus a minor miracle. This sliver of hope will keep the Ravens at full speed, with the added motivation of playing a long-time rival (Ben) in his final game. Three of the Ravens four straight losses have come by a combined five points, and they’d like nothing more than to take that frustration out on Pittsburgh. 

The Ravens play slow (27th in situational neutral pace) and stay slow in all circumstances, only speeding up (15th in pace) if trailing by more than a touchdown. The Steelers defense has been middling against the pass (13th in DVOA) but uncharacteristically pounded on the ground (27th in DVOA), posting one of their worst seasons defending the run in recent history. It’s uncertain if we see Lamar Jackson or Tyler Huntley, but they are similar enough players that it shouldn’t affect the Ravens game plan. The Ravens have been surprisingly pass-heavy recently (probably due to their deficiencies at RB), but this matchup should tilt them towards the ground. Despite the matchup, the Ravens limitations at RB should keep them balanced rather than run-heavy. Expect Baltimore to try and take a lead early by playing balanced, and then relying more heavily on the ground game late to run out the clock.

Likeliest Game Flow :: 

This game has a low total (41.5) because both offenses have looked poor lately. Neither defense has been particularly strong, but bad offenses are bad offenses for a reason, and they don’t become good by facing a weak defense. Both defenses have been weak defending one area (the run for the Steelers, the pass for the Ravens), rather than overall sieves, and both are likely to get up for an always physical division rivalry game. The Steelers appear to be in better position to take advantage of the Ravens defensive weakness, but it’s worth noting the Ravens have mostly been victimized by deep passing, something the Steelers don’t do well. The Ravens would normally set up well against a team that can’t defend the run, but injuries have decimated their RBs making it less likely they slam it down the Steelers throat. The most likely game flow is a closely contested contest between two teams that know each other well ending in a one-score game that is decided late in the 4th quarter.  


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DFS+ Interpretation ::

By Alex88 >>

OVERVIEW

  • Tied for the fifth lowest total of the week
  • PIT’s implied total of 18 is tied for the ninth lowest
  • BAL’s implied total of 23.5 is the 11th highest
  • PIT has scored 20+ pts three times in the past six games: 20 // 28 // 26
  • Their opponents have scored fewer than 20 pts in three out of six (19, 13, 14) and 30+ in the other three (41, 36, 36)
  • BAL is in the midst of a five game losing streak, scoring 24+ pts just once
  • During that streak, their opponents have scored: 20 // 24 // 31 // 41 // 20
  • On the season, each team’s defense ranks in the bottom half of ppg allowed (BAL 21st with 23.5, PIT 22nd with 24.1)
  • Technically, both teams are still in the playoff race
  • ESPN’s FPI gives PIT an 8% chance at making the playoffs (need to win, have IND lose to JAX, and to not have LAC/LV end in a tie)
  • BAL has a 4% chance (need to win, and have losses from IND, CLE, LAC, and MIA)

Ben Roethlisberger

  • Unless their 8% chance of a playoff game hits, this should mercifully be Big Ben’s last game
  • In his final home game in Heinz Field, last week vs. CLE, he completed 24 of his 46 passing attempts for an historically low 123 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT
  • That’s an ungodly low 2.7 YPA, the lowest in a win by a QB with 40 attempts
  • On the season, he ranks 33rd in PFF passing grade
  • He’s scored 20+ DK pts twice this season: 22.92 @ LAC in Week 11 // 28.82 @ MIN in Week 13
  • BAL ranks 31st in DK ppg allowed to QBs (21.4)
  • In half of their games, the opposing QB has scored 20+ DK pts

PIT Passing Attack

  • Snap share: Diontae Johnson 84% // Chase Claypool 68.7% // Pat Freiermuth 57.7% // Ray-Ray McCloud 44.5% // James Washington 43.8%
  • Target share: Johnson 25.6% // Claypool 15.8% // Freiermuth 11.3% // McCloud 9.2% // Washington 7.1%
  • Among qualified WRs, Johnson ranks fourth in target share, ninth in air yard market share, and fifth in WOPR (per Koalaty Stats)
  • His 18.2 DK ppg ranks ninth
  • His Week 18 DK salary ($7,600) is a career high
  • He’s scored 20+ DK pts four times in 15 games
  • Among qualified WRs, Claypool ranks 18th in air yard market share and 22nd in WOPR
  • He’s scored 4x his Week 18 DK salary ($5,100) just once in 15 games
  • In the past two weeks, McCloud has out targeted Washington 18 to 3
  • Both of them have scored 4x their Week 18 DK salaries once this season
  • BAL ranks 30th in DK ppg allowed to WRs (40)
  • Nine opposing WRs have scored 20+ DK pts vs. BAL
  • Notable scores: Darnell Mooney 26.1 // Diontae Johnson 33.5 // Ja’Marr Chase 37.1 // Tee Higgins 46.4
  • Freiermuth’s target counts from Weeks 6-11: 7 // 7 // 6 // 9 // 7
  • His target counts from Weeks 12-17: 4 // 4 // 3 // 4 // – // 6
  • Among qualified TEs, he ranks 24th in target share and 21st in air yard market share
  • His 9.4 DK ppg ranks 14th
  • His Week 18 DK salary ($4,600) is a season high
  • He’s scored 12+ DK pts four times in 15 games
  • BAL ranks 27th in DK ppg allowed to TEs (15.8)
  • CJ Uzomah’s 24.1 DK pts in Week 7 are the last instance of a TE scoring 15+ DK pts vs. BAL

Najee Harris

  • Among qualified RBs, Harris ranks second in rush share, fifth in goal line share, fourth in target share, fifth in WOPR, and first in RBOPR
  • His 18.9 DK ppg ranks fourth
  • His 32.6 DK pts last week were a season high
  • His only other 30+ score came back in Week 3 vs. CIN
  • $7,200 Week 18 DK salary is $1,200 lower than his season high back in Week 11
  • BAL ranks 12th in DK ppg allowed to RBs (22.3)
  • Just three opposing RBs have scored 20+ DK pts vs. BAL: D’Andre Swift 23.7 // Joe Mixon 31.5 // Jonathan Taylor 34.9

BAL QB

  • Lamar Jackson is said to have a chance to play but has yet to practice
  • Tyler Huntley practiced in full on Wednesday
  • He ranks 25th in PFF passing grade (Jackson ranks 24th)
  • Stat lines in his three starts: 26/36:219:0:1 @ CHI // 28/40:215:2:0 vs. GB // 20/32:197:0:1 vs. LAR
  • PIT ranks 12th in DK ppg allowed to QBs (18.2)
  • Four opposing QBs have scored 20+ DK pts vs. PIT: Patrick Mahomes 22.32 // Aaron Rodgers 24.12 // Derek Carr 27.18 // Justin Herbert 38.28

BAL Passing Attack

  • Snap share: Mark Andrews 74.3% // Marquise Brown 74% // Rashod Bateman 65.9% // Devin Duvernay 50% // Sammy Watkins 37.3%
  • Target share: Andrews 23.8% // Brown 23.8% // Bateman 11.1% // Watkins 8.3% // Duvernay 8.1%
  • Among qualified WRs, Brown ranks ninth in target share, 19th in air yard market share, and 13th in WOPR
  • His 15.4 DK ppg ranks 20th
  • He’s scored 4x his Week 18 DK salary ($5,900) three times in 15 games: 23.6 vs. MIN in Week 9 // 26.3 vs. KC in Week 2 // 36.5 vs. IND in Week 5
  • Bateman has scored 4x his Week 18 DK salary ($4,900) once in 10 games: 20.3 @ CLE in Week 14
  • Duvernay has scored double digit DK pts once this year
  • Watkins has scored double digit DK pts three times, with a ceiling of 13.9 @ PIT in Week 13
  • PIT ranks 13th in DK ppg allowed to WRs (35.4)
  • Ten opposing WRs have scored 20+ DK pts vs. PIT, but none have hit 30+
  • Among qualified TEs, Andrews ranks first in target share, second in air yard market share, and first in WOPR
  • His 18.7 DK ppg ranks first
  • His $7,500 Week 18 DK salary is a career high
  • He’s scored 20+ pts four times this in 17 games: 29.5 @ CIN in Week 16 // 31.5 @ CLE in Week 14 // 38.6 vs. GB in Week 15 // 44.7 vs. IND in Week 5
  • PIT ranks ninth in DK ppg allowed to TEs (10.5)
  • Just four opposing TEs have scored double digit DK pts vs. PIT: Foster Moreau 11.4 // Darren Waller 11.5 // David Njoku 12.8 // Cole Kmet 14.7

BAL RBs

  • Snap share: Devonte Freeman 45.4% // Latavius Murray 28.9%
  • Target share: Freeman 6.9% // Murray 2.2%
  • Touches per game: Freeman 10.7 // Murray 8.7
  • Freeman has scored 3x his Week 18 DK salary ($5,200) three times in 14 games: 16.3 vs. MIN in Week 9 // 20 @ CHI in Week 11 // 20.7 @ PIT in Week 13
  • Murray has scored double digit DK pts twice in 12 games: 11.9 @ DEN in Week 4 // 13.6 vs. LAC in Week 6
  • PIT ranks 26th in DK ppg allowed to RBs (26.5)
  • Notable opposing RB scores: Freeman 20.7 // Joe Mixon 35.3 // Dalvin Cook 38.2 // Austin Ekeler 41.5

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 1:00pm Eastern

Bengals (
15.75) at

Browns (
22.25)

Over/Under 38.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bengals Run D
16th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
4th DVOA/9th Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
10th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
7th DVOA/11th Yards per pass
Browns Run D
32nd DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
9th DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
27th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
10th DVOA/15th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By hilow >>
  • The Bengals have seven players currently on the league’s COVID list, most notably Joe Mixon; five players have yet to practice this week, with reports out of Cincinnati indicating that key players are likely to rest this week (quarterback Joe Burrow and running back Joe Mixon amongst them).
  • Running backs D’Ernest Johnson and Dexter Williams, and defensive tackle Malik Jackson are currently on the COVID list for the Browns; tight end David Njoku and cornerback Denzel Ward have yet to practice this week, while quarterback Baker Mayfield was placed on IR earlier this week.
  • Reports out of Cincinnati indicate the team will rest key players this week, but it remains to be seen who will be inactive on game day.

How CINCINNATI Will Try To Win ::

The Bengals can finish the season anywhere from the one-seed to the four-seed, and while we don’t currently know how head coach Zac Taylor will approach his personnel decisions this week, we have to assume that the game plan and strategy will be built to maximize the players he has on the field. Taylor is one of the top offensive minds in the league and has shifted the focus of this team throughout the season to maximize his team’s potential. Here’s what we know:

  • Joe Mixon was placed in the league’s COVID protocol on Wednesday and will miss this game.
  • Reports from Bengals beat writers convey a message of caution relating to resting key players.
  • The Bengals need a loss by the Chiefs and Titans to secure the one-seed.
  • The Chiefs play on Saturday, likely influencing personnel decisions for the Bengals.
  • The Titans play at the same time as the Bengals on Sunday.

With those pieces in mind, we really have no clue how Taylor is going to approach this game, but I would contend that his decisions will be heavily influenced by what the Chiefs do on Saturday. Either way, expect max effort from whatever players are active on Sunday. The Bengals have been a highly adaptable team this year, as evidenced by their rush-pass splits against various opponents this season. Against a Cleveland defense better against the pass than the run, we should expect a heavier dose of the ground game here.

Joe Mixon has seen snap rates ranging from 58% to 82% in the seven games since the team’s Week 10 bye. Behind Mixon on the depth chart are Samaje Perine, Chris Evans, and Trayveon Williams, who are all likely to be active without Mixon. The only other game where Mixon was limited this season was Week 5 against the Packers, a game in which Perine handled six times more snaps than Evans, and we have to assume Perine would step into a similar role to what Mixon has exhibited this season. That means 20-22 running back opportunities are the likeliest range of outcomes for Perine here, with Evans likely landing in the six to 10 opportunity range. The matchup on the ground yields a below-average 4.215 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Browns defense allowing 22.6 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields.

The pass game carries a higher rate of unknowns than the ground game does for the Bengals, as current reports are that Burrow and his primary pass-catchers are likely to sit. We’re going to explore the rest of this write-up leaving out any names and just dive into the pure matchup and how things set up for whichever receivers are active. Cleveland ranks in the middle of the pack in completion rate allowed at 64.35%, have held their opposition to the fifth-lowest yards per completion at 9.5, but have allowed 1.8 pass touchdowns per game (24th in the league). Joe Woods’ heavy zone defense utilizes primarily Cover-2 and Cover-3 zone concepts designed to force teams underneath. This has come to fruition as the team ranks top ten in aDOT forced (10th) and total air yards (fourth) while ranking middle of the pack in YAC allowed. Consider the matchup a slight boost to the more moderate aDOT pass-catchers from the Bengals.

How cleveland Will Try To Win ::

Cleveland would like nothing more than to end another disappointing season with a statement win. The problem is they will be playing with a backup quarterback and injuries in the secondary. Considering what we know about this team, expect a heavy reliance on the ground game behind the league’s second-ranked run-blocking offensive line for as long as possible.

Kareem Hunt continues his journey back from an ankle injury and is currently listed as questionable for Sunday. Curiously enough, we haven’t seen a drastic increase to Nick Chubb’s snap rate with Hunt out of the lineup this year, with the team instead electing to give D’Ernest Johnson (who is currently on the COVID list) and Demetric Felton increased run. We should tentatively expect more of the same here, putting a hard cap on Chubb’s expected range of opportunities (21-23 opportunities in three of the Browns last four games). The matchup on the ground yields an average 4.345 net-adjusted line yards metric against the pass-funnel nature of the Bengals defense. The Bengals have allowed 24.4 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields this season.

Case Keenum has been named the starter for the Browns this week, whose 6.4 intended air yards per pass attempt value would rank second to last in the league, just ahead of the 6.3 value for Jared Goff. That means we should expect a heavier dose of Jarvis Landry and the tight ends through the air. The issue for the Browns is that the Bengals defense is built to clog the middle of the field and take away higher probability passing, instead almost daring teams to throw deep against them. Not good, Bob. Expect Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins, and Anthony Schwartz to fill the remaining wide receiver snaps, and all three of David Njoku, Austin Hooper, and Harrison Bryant to see snaps at tight end, assuming Njoku plays. Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant are in a route on only 41% and 39% of their snaps that come on pass plays, so the upside remains limited to touchdown equity.

Likeliest Game Flow :: 

There really is no telling what the likeliest game flow is here outside of the fact that we should expect a run-heavy approach from each team, making this game unlikely to provide team-based upside. As such, the most optimal way of attacking this spot is to utilize targeted one-offs or completely stay away. Basically, there isn’t much in this one to provide enough of a spark to make team stacks and full game stacks viable. Expect a slow-paced, run-heavy game environment with a more conservative approach from each team.

Scenarios ::

  • Although the Bengals are technically still alive for the one-seed in the AFC, they would need to win while both the Titans and Chiefs lose.
  • The Bengals can only fall as far as the four-seed based on having already locked up the AFC North.
  • The latter of those two situations, when paired with the numerous nagging injuries and COVID issues, is likely the driving force behind the decision to rest key starters this week for the Bengals; they know they are hosting a home playoff game in the Wildcard Round regardless of the outcome this week.
  • The Browns were eliminated from postseason contention two weeks ago.

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DFS+ Interpretation ::

By Alex88 >>

OVERVIEW

  • CIN has clinched the AFC North but their chances of the 1 seed are just 4%, per ESPN’s FPI
  • CLE has nothing to play for
  • Now that CIN has announced that multiple starters, including Joe Burrow, will miss the game, the Vegas total is the second lowest of Week 18
  • CIN’s implied total of 16 is the fourth lowest
  • CIN’s final score in the past six games: 41 // 22 // 23 // 15 // 41 // 34
  • Their opponents’: 10 // 41 // 26 // 10 // 21 // 31
  • CLE’s final score in the past six games: 13 // 10 // 24 // 14 // 22 // 14
  • Their opponents’: 10 // 16 // 22 // 16 // 24 // 26
  • CLE ranks sixth in red zone TD rate on offense (63%)
  • Their defense allows the sixth highest rate of red zone TDs (66%)
  • CLE averages the eighth fewest offensive plays per game (61.8)

Brandon Allen

  • Allen started five games for CIN last season, after Burrow was lost to injury
  • He finished 40th in PFF passing grade
  • Stat lines: Week 12 vs. NYG 17/29:136:1:1 // Week 13 @ MIA 11/19:153:1:1 // Week 14 vs. DAL 27/36:217:1:0 // Week 16 @ HOU 29/37:371:2:0 // Week 17 vs. BAL 6/21:48:0:2
  • CLE ranks 10th in DK ppg allowed to QBs (17.8)
  • Three opposing QBs have scored 4x Allen’s Week 18 DK salary ($5,100) vs. CLE: Kyler Murray 25.76 // Patrick Mahomes 36.28 // Justin Herbert 45.82

CIN Passing Attack

  • Tied for second in 11 personnel usage rate (76%, league average is 60%)
  • Snap share: Ja’Marr Chase 89.4% // CJ Uzomah 76.8% // Tee Higgins 68% // Tyler Boyd 77.2%
  • Target share: Chase 23.6% // Higgins 20.9% // Boyd 17.9% // Uzomah 12%
  • Among qualified WRs, Chase ranks 20th in target share, seventh in air yard market share, and 15th in WOPR (per Koalaty Stats)
  • His 19.8 DK ppg ranks fifth
  • HC Zach Taylor said that Ja’Marr Chase may “potentially” play in Week 18
  • He needs just 45 yards for the single-season rookie record
  • After producing the highest DK score this season, and one of the best of all time, Chase’s DK salary rose $700 to $8,300
  • He’s scored 4x that salary twice: 37.1 @ BAL in Week 7 // 58.6 vs. KC in Week 17
  • Among qualified WRs, Higgins ranks eighth in air yard market share and 14th in WOPR
  • His $7,200 Week 18 DK salary is a season and career high
  • He’s scored 4x that salary twice: 31.8 vs. LAC in Week 13 // 46.4 vs. BAL in Week 16
  • Boyd’s Week 18 DK salary ($5,600) is a season high
  • He’s scored 20+ DK pts just twice: 20.6 @ DAL in Week 15 // 23.8 vs. JAX in Week 4
  • CLE ranks 10th in DK ppg allowed to WRs (34.2)
  • Notable opposing WR scores: Rashod Bateman 20.3 // Justin Jefferson 20.4 // DeAndre Hopkins 20.5 // Brandin Cooks 22.8 // Kendrick Bourne 24.1 // Davante Adams 36.4 // Mike Williams 39.5 // Tyreek Hill 40.1
  • Uzomah is averaging 3.9 targets per game
  • He’s scored double digit DK pts three times: 10.5 @ DET in Week 6 // 24.1 @ BAL in Week 7 // 26.5 vs. JAX in Week 4

CIN RBs

  • Snap share: Joe Mixon 66.7% // Samaje Perine 26.4% // Chris Evans 6.2%
  • Target share: Mixon 9.1% // Perine 5.9% // Evans 2.3%
  • Touches per game: Mixon 20.9 // Perine 5.5 // Evans 1.6
  • Mixon tested positive for COVID and is out this week
  • In Week 5 vs. GB, Mixon left early
  • Perine ran 11 times for 59 yards and caught four of his five targets for 24 yards and 1 TD
  • CLE ranks 13th in DK ppg allowed to RBs (22.4)
  • Notable opposing RB scores: Najee Harris 21 // D’Andre Swift 25.6 // Joe Mixon 28 // Rhamondre Stevenson 30.4 // Harris 32.6 // Austin Ekeler 33.9

Case Keenum

  • Ranks 56th in PFF passing grade
  • Made one start as a Brown, vs. DEN in Week 7
  • Stat line: 21/33:199:1:0
  • CIN ranks 22nd in DK ppg allowed to QBs (19.2)
  • Notable opposing QB scores: Jimmy G 20.14 // Mahomes 20.86 // Lamar Jackson 23.08 // Josh Johnson 23.16 // Aaron Rodgers 23.76 // Kirk Cousins 25.04 // Justin Herbert 29.28 // Michael White 31.1

CLE Passing Attack

  • Snap share: Austin Hooper 64.9% // Jarvis Landry 64.6% // DPJ 62.1% // Njoku 60.6% // Rashard Higgins 48.9% // Harrison Bryant 35.4%
  • Target share: Landry 15.9% // Hooper 12.3% // DPJ 10.9% // Njoku 10.3% // Higgins 9.5% // Bryant 5%
  • Landry averages 7.2 targets per game
  • He’s yet to score 20 DK pts
  • DPJ’s target counts in the last four weeks: 7 // 8 // 6 // 5
  • Stat lines: 5:90:0 // 4:48:0 // 1:5:0 // 3:76:0
  • He’s scored 15+ DK pts twice: 16.6 @ CIN in Week 9 // 29.1 vs. ARI in Week 6
  • Higgins has yet to hit 12 DK pts
  • CIN ranks 14th in DK ppg allowed to WRs (35.4)
  • Just three opposing WRs have scored 20+ DK pts vs. CIN: Keenan Allen 22.4 // Adam Thielen 30.2 // Davante Adams 40.6
  • Njoku hasn’t practiced all week and is likely out
  • Hooper’s stat lines from his two games of double digit DK pts: Week 10 @ NE 4/5:25:1 // Week 13 vs. BAL 5/7:30:1
  • Bryant has yet to score double digit DK pts
  • CIN ranks 29th in DK ppg allowed to TEs (16)
  • Notable opposing TE scores: TJ Hockenson 15.4 // Darren Waller 21.6 // Mark Andrews 29.5 // George Kittle 37.1

CLE RBs

  • Snap share: Nick Chubb 44.8% // Kareem Hunt 32.1% // D’Ernest Johnson 27.3%
  • Target share: Hunt 5.4% // Johnson 4.8% // Chubb 4.8%
  • Touches per game: Chubb 18.3 // Hunt 12.5 // Johnson 5.8
  • Chubb saw just 12 snaps in Week 17 and has been limited for two straight days of practice
  • Johnson is currently on the COVID list but has a chance to play
  • Hunt hasn’t played since Week 14 (in which he lasted four snaps), has been on the COVID list recently, and has been limited for two straight days of practice
  • CIN ranks 20th in DK ppg allowed to RBs (24.4)
  • Notable opposing RB scores: James Robinson 20.6 // Dalvin Cook 21.4 // Darrel Williams 25.7 // Najee Harris 31.2 // Michael Carter 32.2 // Nick Chubb 33.3

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 4:25pm Eastern

Panthers (
16) at

Bucs (
26.5)

Over/Under 42.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Panthers Run D
21st DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O
30th DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
21st DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O
9th DVOA/27th Yards per pass
Buccaneers Run D
11th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
16th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D
6th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
32nd DVOA/13th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By mjohnson86 >>
  • This is a rare rematch of a matchup that we saw just two weeks ago, with the Bucs winning the first game in Carolina 32-6.
  • Tampa Bay has a chance at securing multiple home games in the playoffs despite a tumultuous second half of the season.
  • Sam Darnold has continued to look shaky this season for the Panthers, with one last audition for next season against a tough defense.
  • Tampa Bay’s strength lines up with the strength of the Panthers defense.

How carolina Will Try To Win ::

Carolina was able to stay with their running game in Week 17 against the Saints, despite limited success, because the Saints were unable to generate much offense themselves to force the issue. In this matchup against one of the league’s top offenses, Carolina is unlikely to be able to maintain the near 50/50 run-pass split that they operated with last week. Tampa Bay also operates as one of the more extreme “pass funnel” defenses in the league, so Carolina is likely to need to move the ball with short area to intermediate passing. The Panthers attempted 45 passes compared to just 15 rushes in the Week 16 matchup with the Bucs, and that was with Cam Newton starting and playing a good portion of the game. It is highly likely that the Panthers will be forced to have Darnold throw 40+ times again in this game against a Tampa Bay defense that gave up solid production to Zach Wilson, Braxton Berrios, and the Jets last week. In the Week 16 game, the Panthers only managed a meager 5.58 yards per pass attempt.

The only scenario where I could see the Panthers being able to stay balanced would be if they make a big play or get a turnover that leads to an early score and lead that gives them some control of the game.

How tampa bay Will Try To Win ::

Tampa Bay’s offense is second in the league in pace of play and leads the league in pass rate. While the Panthers have a very good pass defense, which is the easier path to attack them, they will be without star cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and there is a chance that some other key players will sit as well. Coming off an ugly performance in Week 17 and with all of the negativity around the Bucs over the last week, I would expect Tom Brady to come out focused and dice up the Panthers through the air. The Bucs are already without Leonard Fournette, and now Ronald Jones is likely to miss Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, leaving Ke’Shawn Vaughn as the lead running back. Vaughn has looked good the last two weeks, but the Bucs are unlikely to give him 25-30 touches, increasing the likelihood of an aggressive passing attack for Tampa Bay.

Likeliest Game Flow :: 

This is a game that means a lot for the Bucs in terms of playoff seeding, as well as momentum heading into the playoffs. Coming off the bad performance in New York and with a lot of new pieces on offense, the Bucs will treat this game with laser focus and like a dress rehearsal to get things rolling heading into the playoffs. Last year the Bucs won four straight games heading into the playoffs, scoring an average of 37 points per game, as they built momentum for their playoff run. This year, they have an ugly win against the Jets and a shutout loss to the Saints in the last three weeks. I don’t know if the “Angry Tom” narrative is real, but I do know that when good teams with high-end quarterbacks play poor teams whose seasons are over, it usually has a predictable outcome.

With that in mind, this game sets up for the Bucs to take control of the game early and really pour it on. The Bucs control the tempo in that scenario and force Darnold to throw the ball at a very high rate against a secondary that should be in much better shape than they were last week (when multiple starters were on the COVID list and cleared Sunday morning, then had flight issues that kept them from arriving at the stadium until right before kickoff). The Bucs may pull their starters and key players in the 4th quarter of this game if they are in clear control and/or the Rams are able to pull away from the 49ers (thus locking Tampa into the 3-seed), but even in that scenario, they will have likely done a ton of damage already.

scenarios:

The Bucs are currently the 3-seed but can get up to the 2-seed with a win and a Rams loss. The Rams play at the same time as the Bucs in a game that the 49ers also need to win. The 49ers also beat the Rams in their first matchup, so the 2-seed is very viable for the Bucs. This would be a big deal as it would give Tampa Bay back-to-back home games in the first two rounds of the playoffs, as well as a chance for a home game in the NFC Championship if the Packers were to lose in the divisional round. The Bucs also have incentives for Brady and Gronk that are attainable, and Mike Evans can reach his 8th consecutive 1,000-yard season. They will approach this game in a normal fashion until it is fully in control.

Pay attention to news out of Carolina regarding players being surprisingly inactive or limited. They may be looking for a franchise quarterback in the draft and currently would have the 6th pick in the draft. Depending on other results, if they win, they could fall as far as the 9th pick, and if they lose, they could move up as far as the 3rd pick. The Panthers are an analytically driven team and are likely very aware of this situation. They likely don’t need to give the Bucs any help in taking care of this game, but it wouldn’t be surprising for them to be “overly cautious” with some key guys to make sure they don’t hurt their future in a meaningless game.


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DFS+ Interpretation ::


Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 4:25pm Eastern

Patriots (
23.5) at

Dolphins (
17.5)

Over/Under 41.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Patriots Run D
12th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
15th DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D
1st DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
1st DVOA/1st Yards per pass
Dolphins Run D
9th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O
24th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
29th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O
26th DVOA/19th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By MJohnson86 >>
  • A lot has changed for these teams since they faced in Week 1 where the Dolphins won a tight 17-16 game.
  • New England has a chance to win the division with a win and a loss by the Bills.
  • Miami has a chance to have back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2002-2003.
  • New England has a balanced, methodical attack while Miami has a pass-heavy attack that is likely to put a lot on Tua’s plate this week.

How New ENgland Will Try To Win ::

The Patriots have established themselves as a balanced and dangerous offense, ranking top-10 in the league by most metrics in both rushing and passing efficiency. They have a dominant offensive line and use a high rate of heavy personnel with multiple tight ends and/or a fullback. The Dolphins run defense has improved significantly from the poor unit we saw in 2020 and early in this season but is still the easier path to attack them. Mac Jones has been surgical this season with a 67% completion percentage and a solid 7.2 yards per pass attempt. It has been extremely impressive to see him pick up a complex Patriots offense so quickly and make the reads to get the ball to the right spot regularly. The Patriots deploy a diverse set of personnel groups and formations, forcing defenses to adjust and stay on their toes. This makes things easier on both the running game and passing game, as teams are unable to load the box against the run and also forced to respect the two-headed backfield of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, which gives Jones some easier reads when he drops back.

New England is likely to approach this game with their usual balanced approach and personnel groupings, exploiting weaknesses in the Dolphins (including a run defense that the Titans gashed last week). They also operate at the 5th slowest situation-neutral pace in the league and are unlikely to push the tempo in this game.

How Miami Will Try to win ::

Miami does not own their 1st round pick and has a chance to finish the year with a winning record with a win this week. Head coach Brian Flores is a Patriots disciple so this game will mean something extra to him as well, so we should expect a full effort from Miami (who beat New England in Week 1). The Dolphins are eliminated from the playoffs because of tiebreakers, but this game will still mean something to them. Tua Tagovailoa is not in the clear to be the Dolphins starting quarterback next season, with one last audition to prove himself and keep them from pursuing quarterback replacements via trades and free agency.

Miami is middle of the pack in situation-neutral pace of play and ranks 8th in the league in pass rate. Given all of the rumors around Tua this season and his miserable performance in Week 17, I would not be surprised to see the Dolphins put a lot on his plate and give him one last chance to show what he can do, for better or worse. The Patriots have one of the top pass defenses in the league, which would usually be something that would push the Dolphins to a more run-focused attack, but Week 18 is a different animal and long-term evaluations and plans will likely take precedent over just what may be slightly more +EV for them in the context of this week. While I don’t think the Dolphins will just abandon the run and throw every play, I do think that a more aggressive passing attack that asks Tua to push the ball down the field and make more plays is highly likely.

Likeliest Game flow ::

This game is likely to stay close early on, as the Patriots are the better team and have a balanced and methodical offense while the Dolphins are a respectable team who won’t just let them march down the field repeatedly like the Jaguars allowed last week. As noted previously, the Dolphins may become more aggressive in this game but as long as the Patriots are still playing to win and have all their guys on the field it is unlikely that Miami would be able to turn this game’s tempo up significantly. We should expect another competitive game between these teams, who have both changed and improved in the 16 weeks since they last faced each other. However, there is a chance that the “likeliest game flow” gets disrupted by external influences – that scenario is outlined below….

Scenarios ::

  • The Patriots are currently the 5-seed in the AFC but can win the AFC East and move up as high as the 2-seed if they win and the Bills lose to the Jets.
  • If the Bills beat the Jets, the Patriots will be locked into either the 5-seed or 6-seed.
  • The Bills are 17-point home favorites and beat the Jets 45-17 a few weeks ago.
  • If the Patriots don’t see a difference between the 5-seed and 6-seed, this game may actually mean more to the Dolphins than it does to the Patriots. Bill Belichick has lost key players in meaningless games before, I wouldn’t be surprised with him treating this as a glorified preseason game once the Bills take control of the Jets.
  • The Patriots will approach this game like normal, as they can’t let a chance to win the division get away. However, if the Bills perform as expected we can reasonably expect the Patriots to switch gears mid-game with a trip to Cincinnati or Buffalo likely on the horizon for the Wild Card round of the playoffs in just six or seven days.

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DFS+ Interpretation ::


Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 4:25pm Eastern

Saints (
22.25) at

Falcons (
17.75)

Over/Under 40.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Saints Run D
20th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
8th DVOA/6th Yards per carry
Saints Pass D
15th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
15th DVOA/9th Yards per pass
Falcons Run D
24th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O
12th DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
28th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Saints Pass O
24th DVOA/10th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By MJohnson86 >>
  • Very simple for the Saints – must-win game if they want a chance to get in the playoffs.
  • These teams had an eventful game in their first meeting, with the Falcons pulling off a 27-25 last-second win.
  • Both offenses have turned into run-heavy teams over the second half of the season, ranking 21st and 23rd in the league in situation-neutral pass rates.
  • The Falcons were eliminated from playoff contention last week.

How New Orleans Will Try To Win ::

New Orleans will continue to be a run-heavy operation with Taysom Hill operating as their quarterback. The Saints have run the ball on 51% of their offensive plays during Hill’s four starts. This week they face a Falcons run defense that is 30th in DVOA, 26th in yards per carry allowed, and 28th in PFF rush defense grade. The Falcons are also a team who just had their playoff hopes put to rest last week and have nothing to play for, other than ruining the Saints chances at the playoffs.

New Orleans will use their dual-threat rushing attack to stretch the Atlanta defense and attack their overmatched front seven horizontally. The Saints also involve their running backs heavily in the passing game, essentially acting as an extension of the running game at times as a way to stay conservative but give defenses a different look. The Saints had a condensed target tree in last week’s win over Carolina, with Kamara and Marquez Callaway combining for 16 of the 23 targets that Saints pass catchers saw. This week may see a return of Mark Ingram, while Deonte Harris should be practicing in full after missing most of last week on the COVID list; both situations that should work to spread the distribution of targets a bit more evenly than we saw last week. The Saints have their season on the line and will lean into their clear and obvious strength against a team that is dead in the water and is already vulnerable to rushing attacks.

How Atlanta Will Try to win ::

One of the great mysteries of the 2021 NFL season will be how the Falcons were able to stay in the playoff race until Week 17. The Falcons have somehow managed a 7-9 record despite a -136 point differential, which is 27th in the league. Of the nine games the Falcons have lost, seven of them have been by double digits with four of those being by over 20 points. Truly incredible stuff that a team who was that consistently bad was able to find a way to seven wins and also impressive that all seven of their wins were in one-score games.

Atlanta was a pass-heavy team last season and early this year, but the losses of Julio Jones and then Calvin Ridley have transitioned them to a balanced squad out of necessity. Matt Ryan has a potential out in his contract after this season, and the Falcons may be at a point where a change is coming, making this potentially his last game with the franchise. While that is not necessarily likely (it would be a $40 million cap hit to the Falcons to cut him), it also would not be entirely surprising if they let him go, take their lumps in 2022, and draft a new franchise QB in 2023. The Falcons have been splitting their backfield pretty evenly between Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson recently, as Patterson is clearly dealing with some health issues. It wouldn’t be shocking for Patterson to be rested this week. The Saints have an elite run defense, but their pass defense is also very good – which is no surprise as it has been their defense that has kept them in postseason contention despite a disappointing offensive season. Kyle Pitts is also battling a hamstring injury but needs 58 receiving yards to break the NFL single-season record for receiving yards by a rookie tight end. The Falcons will continue their balanced attack but are likely to struggle to move the ball consistently.

Likeliest Game flow ::

The Saints are likely to control this game as the Falcons offense is simply not explosive enough to take a big lead on the Saints defense in a must-win game. New Orleans is methodical and run-heavy, meaning this game is likely to be a grinder with the Saints gradually pulling ahead. This has been a heated rivalry over the years, so I don’t expect the Falcons to just roll over, but the Saints running game is likely to keep the chains and the clock moving as Atlanta has struggled mightily with good running games this year. Just last week the Bills, a normally pass-first team, ran for 233 yards and four touchdowns against them. Buffalo spread the field and ran with their own dual-threat QB, Josh Allen, and their running backs – potentially setting the blueprint for the Saints in Week 18.

Scenarios ::

  • The Saints will make the playoffs if they win and the 49ers lose, a very realistic outcome considering San Francisco is playing in Los Angeles against the current 2-seed Rams who must win to hold on to their division lead.
  • The Falcons were alive for the playoffs until last week when they lost to the Bills 29-15.
  • Perhaps the most unpredictable teams in the last week of the season are those who were just eliminated from the playoffs. Teams who were eliminated long ago have been playing for nothing for a while, so there is less reason to change things for this last week. Teams that were just knocked out often have some players who were playing through injuries that they can now shut down or players who they will protect for future years and/or salary cap purposes in case they want to cut them in the off-season. Something to keep in mind with Atlanta and other teams in similar situations.

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DFS+ Interpretation ::


Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 4:25pm Eastern

Jets (
13) at

Bills (
29)

Over/Under 42.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Jets Run D
8th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O
19th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
5th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O
3rd DVOA/4th Yards per pass
Bills Run D
4th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
21st DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Bills Pass D
7th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
20th DVOA/20th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By mjohnson86 >>
  • The Bills need a win in order to clinch the AFC East and can get as high as the 2-seed depending on other outcomes.
  • The Jets offense has come alive to end the season, averaging 24.7 points per game over the last three weeks.
  • Both teams have shown high pass rates and tempo over the course of the season and recently.
  • These teams previously met in New York, with the Bills winning 45-17.

How new york Will Try To Win ::

The Jets had only scored 24 or more points in one Zach Wilson start this season prior to Week 15. Since then, they have hit that mark in all three of their games, including a game they should have won against a very good Tampa Bay defense. While this comparison may be a stretch, we don’t have to look far in this game to see a highly criticized first-round pick who struggled early in his rookie season before the light bulb came on to end the year – as Josh Allen’s second half to his rookie season certainly propelled him to the improvement we have seen since. Let me be clear, Wilson hasn’t been anything close to great recently, but he at least hasn’t kept the Jets from staying in games. Young players adjusting to the NFL take some time, and players can get better. This will be a game where Wilson will have to show a lot of improvement to keep the Jets competitive.

New York has the second-highest situation-neutral pass rate and plays at an above-average pace this season. Unfortunately, the Bills have one of the top pass defenses in the league and have destroyed many of the weaker teams they have played this season – including the Jets. New York is unlikely to significantly change their play calling or approach for the final game in the season, so that pass rate is something we should expect to stay consistent here unless they can somehow take a lead or the weather turns this game into a mess. The passing game should focus on screens and short-area passing to protect Wilson from the Bills pass rush and keep him from challenging PFF’s #2 graded coverage unit.

How buffalo Will Try To Win ::

Buffalo destroyed the Jets in their first meeting and should be able to have their way again here in a must-win game at home. The Bills have become a much more balanced team this season than we saw last year, running the ball at a 47% rate over the last three weeks. It is important to note, however, that two of those games were against a “run funnel” defense of the Panthers and the poor rushing defense of the Falcons in poor weather.

The Bills need a win and have advantages everywhere. They can attack in any manner that they want. While they have been run-heavy of late and during their first game with the Jets, the Bills are likely to have great efficiency both on the ground and through the air. In the Week 10 meeting with the Jets, Allen threw for 366 yards on just 28 pass attempts. The weather in Buffalo on Sunday looks clear but currently looks like it will have 15-20 mph winds throughout the game. While this may have a small effect on deep passing, Allen has a strong enough arm to overcome the slight weather issues. Also, with a victory appearing to be easily attainable through any mode of attack, it would make sense for the Bills to limit the number of hits Allen takes with the playoffs just a week away. This leads me to think the Bills may lean on their passing game more early in the game and use their running backs rather than Allen when they do decide to run. Last week against the Falcons, Allen ran the ball 15 times, including a lot of designed runs. I would be very surprised to see the Bills use him in that way again this week unless they are pressed in a close game late.

Likeliest Game Flow :: 

The Bills are extremely likely to take control of this game early on. The Bills are likely to be aggressive early in the game in an attempt to knock out their opponent early in the game and let them rest some key players for the last quarter or more of a game they are favored to win by three scores. The Bills are also likely to throw often in an effort to limit Allen’s hits on running plays which, combined with the high pass rate of the Jets, should result in a first half with high play volume and potentially high scoring (at least on the Bills side).

The Jets will attack in a more horizontal and short-area fashion early in this game but will progressively be forced to be more aggressive down the field. The Bills pass rush and secondary are likely to tee off on Zach Wilson early in the game, although if they smash early as expected, it would not be surprising to see some solid second-half production from the Jets passing game against Buffalo’s backups.

scenarios:
  • Buffalo must win to clinch the AFC East. 
  • If they lose, they can drop as low as the 6-seed.
  • If they win, they can jump as high as the 2-seed if the Bengals and/or Chiefs lose.
    • The Bills will know the results of those games prior to kickoff.
  • Both teams should be playing this game like a normal game, with the Jets trying to maintain momentum into the off-season.

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DFS+ Interpretation ::

By LexMiraglia10 >>

Josh Allen:

  • Allen has thrown for 225+ yds in 11/16 games, and all 6 of his games of 275+ yds have gone for 300+ yds
  • 10 of 16 QBs have passed for 250+ yds vs NYJ (4 over 300 yds)
  • Allen has 13 games of 2+ TDs, 8 games of 3+ TDs
  • Every QB since W4 has scored 2+ TDs vs NYJ except Lawrence
  • QB rushing vs NYJ: Teddy (24) // Tyrod (30) // Taysom (73:2) // Lawrence (37)
  • Allen has 8 rush TDs in every previous season of his career (6 so far in 2021)
  • Allen has 11 games in 2021 of 30+ rush yds (6 of 50+)
  • Allen went for 366:2:1 vs NYJ in W10 (BUF won 45-17)

BUF WRs:

  • Jets have allowed the 8th fewest WR DK pts/g thanks to the 7th fewest WR TDs allowed (12) & 5th fewest faced WR tg
  • WRs with 70+ yds vs NYJ: DJ Moore (80) // Patrick (98) // Higgins (97) // Diggs (162:1), Davis (105) // Hollins (72:1) // MJJ (74) // Grayson (81:1)
  • Diggs has 70+ yds in 7/16 games after reaching 70+ yds in 15/18 games in 2020
  • Diggs has five 20+ pt DK scores this year (21.4, 23.9, 33.2, 20.4, 21.5) after 10 in 18 games in 2020
  • Diggs had 25+ DK pts in 7 games last year
  • Diggs has 25+ DK pts in just 1 game this year
  • That game came against the Jets when he had 33.2 DK pts

Devin Singletary:

  • Singletary’s touches since W12: 16 // 10 // 11 // 23 // 18 // 24
  • Singletary’s yds in those games: 48 // 36 // 89 // 96:1 // 78:1 // 110:2
  • Singletary’s DK pts in those games: 5.8 // 3.6 // 14.9 // 16.6 // 18.8 // 26
  • Jets have allowed the most DK pts to RBs by wide margin
  • RBs with 80+ total yds vs NYJ: CMC (187) // Gordon (81:1) // Henry (177:1), McNichols (85) // CPatt (114) // Harris (113:2) // Mixon (91:2) // Taylor (200:2), Hines (108:1) // Gaskin (96:1) // Sanders (142), Gainwell (87:1) // AK (145:1) // Duke (127:2)
  • BUF RBs in first NYJ matchup: Singletary (49:1) // Breida (50:2) // Moss (27:1)

Zach Wilson:

  • Wilson’s only games of 20+ DK pts: 226:2:1, rush TD vs PHI // 102:1, 91:1 vs JAC
  • BUF ranks 2nd in def pass DVOA
  • BUF has allowed just 11 pass TDs to 19 INT
  • Only QBs over just 200 yds vs BUF: Tua (205), Heinicke (212), Tanny (216), Mahomes (272), Brady (363)
  • BUF intercepted Mike White 4 times in first matchup

NYJ WRs:

  • BUF has allowed the fewest WR DK pts/g (25.4)
  • BUF has allowed just five WR TDs, and 115.2 WR yds/g

Michael Carter:

  • Of BUF’s 14 RB rush TDs allowed, 10 of them came from Henry, Taylor, & Harris alone
  • RBs with 50+ yds vs BUF: Gibson (104:1) // Henry (156:3) // Gaskin (55) // Hyde (73) // Carter (82:1) // Taylor (204:1) // Harris (111:1), Stevenson (78) // Fournette (132:1) // Abdullah (55:1) // Harris (103:3) // Davis (57:1)
  • Carter vs BUF: 16:39:1, 4:43 (White was QB)
  • Carter receiving in Wilson games: 81 yds in 8 games
  • Carter receiving without Wilson: 244 yds in 5 games
  • Carter left concussed last week (Coleman also out) and Walter got 14 rush att
  • Rush att in two weeks before last week: Carter (24) // Coleman (22)

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 4:25pm Eastern

49ers (
21.5) at

Rams (
25)

Over/Under 46.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
49ers Run D
3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per carry
Rams Run O
26th DVOA/31st Yards per carry
49ers Pass D
9th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per pass
Rams Pass O
22nd DVOA/29th Yards per pass
Rams Run D
5th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
49ers Run O
22nd DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Rams Pass D
26th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
49ers Pass O
5th DVOA/3rd Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By mjohnson86 >>
  • The nature of the San Francisco offense hinges significantly on the health and availability of Jimmy Garoppolo. 
  • These teams played earlier this season, with San Francisco leading wire-to-wire in a 31-10 victory.
  • These teams have very different offensive approaches in terms of pace and play calling, but both are very effective.
  • Both teams need a win to maximize their playoff situations, making this close to an actual playoff game.

How san francisco Will Try To Win ::

The big question for the 49ers this week surrounds the health of Jimmy Garoppolo, who has a torn tendon in his right thumb (his throwing hand). This, understandably, makes playing quarterback in the NFL very difficult. Throwing the ball becomes harder, but there is also the dynamic of taking snaps, ball handling on handoffs and fakes, and taking hits. Jimmy has been throwing in practice this week and reportedly looks pretty good, but there is a difference between a controlled environment and a live game when that thumb will take some hits early and often. If Garoppolo is not able to play, Trey Lance will start again. Lance has struggled twice this season but looked better in the second half last week against the Texans as he led the 49ers to a victory.

When evaluating San Francisco, the reality is that they will either be playing with a raw, athletic quarterback who has been inconsistent and underwhelming in his first two starts, or they will have a quarterback who was already a game manager that they will now have to take extra care to protect and preserve. Either scenario calls for a run-heavy game script, as the 49ers will try to slow the game the way their 28th ranked situation-neutral pace has done to opponents all season. In the first meeting of these teams, the 49ers ran the ball 44 times compared to only 19 pass attempts. While that tells one story, the reality is they were not very effective (averaging only 3.2 yards per carry on 37 running back attempts) and were only able to maintain that high run rate because of the big lead they built due to the Rams offensive struggles (which we will get to shortly). The Rams defense is no joke, ranking top-5 against both the run and the pass, and Aaron Donald can single-handedly ruin a game for an offense. The 49ers will definitely lean into their running game and perhaps would be most effective doing so with Lance under center to act as another threat to the defense with his legs. When the 49ers do throw the ball, they will likely look to find ways to get the ball in the hands of their elite playmakers (Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk), who can change a game in a blink with their ability to break tackles and outrun defenders. The method by which the 49ers attack through the air will change dramatically depending on who is under center, as Jimmy throws mostly underneath and over the middle of the field while Lance is able to make more throws to the perimeter and down the field.

How los angeles Will Try To Win ::

Los Angeles is a top-5 team in terms of both pass rate and pace of play. They have a division title and multiple home playoff games riding on this game, so I would expect them to lean into “what got them here” by continuing to play to their strengths. This is especially true against a 49ers team whose secondary has been ravaged by injuries and COVID recently. Four of San Francisco’s top five cornerbacks are currently on the COVID list, placed there on either Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. The only one left from those top five who are practicing this week is 34-year-old Josh Norman, who is PFF’s 82nd graded cornerback out of 87 players who have played at least 50% of the snaps this season. The 49ers also have one of their starting safeties on the COVID list and another starting safety battling a shoulder injury. This is not good news against a highly efficient Rams passing offense.

All season, the 49ers have been easier to throw the ball on than it has been to run against them. The 49ers also have the 2nd best run defense DVOA in the league due to a great front seven, and with the current state of the secondary, that difference should only grow in terms of “path of least resistance.” The Rams expect Cam Akers back just six months removed from tearing his Achilles, but he should only mix in for 10-15 snaps in his first game back. The 49ers will likely get several of their defensive backs off the COVID list prior to Sunday, but even in that case, they will not have practiced all week. We have seen several times in the past few weeks that players returning from the COVID list often struggle, especially without practice time to get their conditioning back. The sharp thing for the Rams to do would be to take an extremely pass-heavy attack and play at a blistering pace, as playing defensive back in the NFL is not for the faint of heart, and high pass volume and pace would wear those players down very quickly.

Likeliest Game Flow :: 

The first time these teams played, Matthew Stafford had a couple of early turnovers, and the 49ers took an early lead that allowed them to control the pace of the game and make Los Angeles one-dimensional. That was a Monday night game in San Francisco when the Rams offense was dealing with a lot of unexpected changes – they had just lost Robert Woods to a torn ACL that week in practice, and Odell Beckham Jr. was signed three days before the game. The Rams were also heading into their bye week and playing on the road. This week, the Rams enter the game on a five-game winning streak, are at home, and have a division title on the line.

The likeliest game flow here is a close game that ultimately the Rams are slightly more likely to control. Their passing game should be more effective than it was the first time these teams met, and with so much riding on the game and in a home environment, I would expect that the Rams won’t hand the 49ers early control again. The 49ers personnel issues in the secondary continue to be an issue, and they will likely struggle to hold the Rams down because of this, while the 49ers offense has a lot of questions at the most important position right now, making it difficult to expect a high level of offensive output from them. If the Rams can take control, I would expect much more pace and scoring from this game than we saw in the first meeting, which combined for 41 total points and 117 total plays (well below league average), especially with so much on the line.

scenarios:
  • Los Angeles must win to secure a division title and the 2-seed.
  • San Francisco must win to secure a playoff spot.
  • If San Francisco loses, they would still have a chance to get in the playoffs if New Orleans were to lose.
  • The only scenario for either team’s motivations to change mid-game would be if Atlanta were to jump out and dominate the Saints, making the game meaningless for San Francisco. This is an unlikely outcome in that game, meaning we should expect both teams to give everything they have.

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DFS+ Interpretation ::

By Alex88 >>

OVERVIEW

  • Tied for the third highest total of the week
  • SF’s implied total of 20 is the 11th lowest
  • LAR’s implied total of 24.5 is the eighth highest
  • SF has scored 23+ pts in five of their last six games
  • Their opponent scores in those games: 26 // 30 // 23 // 13 // 20 // 7
  • LAR has won five games in a row, scoring 20+ pts in each game: 37 // 30 // 20 // 30 // 20
  • They’ve held each opponent to fewer than 24 pts: 7 // 23 // 10 // 23 // 19
  • On the season, LAR ranks ninth in ppg (27.2) and 15th in ppg allowed (21.6)
  • SF ranks 13th in ppg (25) and 14th in ppg allowed (21.3)
  • SF leads the league in offensive red zone TD% (68%)
  • LAR’s defense ranks eighth in red zone TD% allowed (51.9%)
  • With a win, LAR will secure the NFC West division title (they’ve already earned a playoff berth)
  • SF currently hold the six seed out of the NFC
  • If they win, they guarantee their spot in the playoffs
  • They can also get in with a NO loss
  • SF averages just 61.2 offensive plays per game (sixth fewest)
  • LAR averages 62.1 (11th fewest)
  • Opponents of SF average just 60.5 offensive plays per game (fifth fewest)
  • Opponents of LAR average 65.7 offensive plays per game (fifth most)

Jimmy Garoppolo

  • Ranks 17th in PFF passing grade
  • On Wednesday, HC Kyle Shanahan reiterated that Jimmy G is the starter if he’s healthy enough to play
  • He got in a limited practice that same day
  • Scored 4x his Week 18 DK salary ($5,500) twice in 14 games
  • Stat lines: 28/40:326:2:1 vs. ARI // 17/28:322 & 2 rushing TDs @ CHI
  • LAR ranks seventh in DK ppg allowed to QBs (17.5)
  • Notable opposing QB scores: Kyler Murray 22.42 // Murray 24.27 // Davis Mills 24.4 // Aaron Rodgers 29.28 // Tom Brady 31.68

SF Passing Attack

  • Leads the league in 21 personnel usage (36%, league average is 7%)
  • Snap share: George Kittle 91.7% // Brandon Aiyuk 82.4% // Deebo Samuel 76.3% // Jauan Jennings 28.7% // Trent Sherfield 25%
  • Target share: Samuel 23.9% // Kittle 18.1% // Aiyuk 16% // Jennings 6.4% // Sherfield 4%
  • Among qualified WRs, Samuel ranks eighth in target share, 23rd in air yard market share, and 17th in WOPR (per Koalaty Stats)
  • His 3.4 rush attempts per game lead the position (second best is 1.3)
  • His 21.6 DK ppg ranks third
  • 7.7 targets per game ranks 22nd
  • Week 18 DK salary is $8,500
  • Scored 30+ DK pts four times in 15 games: 30.3 vs. LAR in Week 10 // 31.1 @ TEN in Week 16 // 35.9 @ DET in Week 1 // 38.7 vs. SEA in Week 4
  • Aiyuk’s DK salary in Week 18 is $5,600
  • He’s scored 15+ DK pts three times in 15 games: 18.6 @ CIN in Week 14 // 19.7 vs. ARI in Week 9 // 21.5 @ JAX in Week 11
  • Jennings and Sherfield have yet to score 12 DK pts
  • LAR ranks 15th in DK ppg allowed to WRs (35.5)
  • Notable opposing WR scores: AJ Green 20.2 // Brandin Cooks 20.3 // Kalif Raymond 20.6 // Davante Adams 21.4 // Mike Evans 21.6 // Justin Jefferson 22.6 // Michael Pittman 23.3 // DK Metcalf 26.8 // Deebo Samuel 30.8
  • Among qualified TEs, Kittle ranks second in target share, third in air yard market share, and second in WOPR
  • His 15.5 DK ppg ranks third
  • Kittle has five games of fewer than five targets
  • He also has five games of eight or more targets
  • Kittle’s Week 18 DK salary is $6,700
  • He’s scored 20+ DK pts three times in 13 games: 24.1 vs. ARI in Week 9 // 37.1 @ CIN in Week 14 // 42.6 @ SEA in Week 13
  • He had eight or more targets in all three games
  • LAR ranks 14th in DK ppg allowed to TEs (12.5)
  • Notable opposing TE scores: Geoff Swaim 12.9 // Jack Doyle 13.4 // Mark Andrews 14.9 // George Kittle 16 // Maxx Williams 17.6

Elijah Mitchell

  • Mitchell has dominated RB opportunities in every game he’s played
  • He averages 40 snaps per game, two targets (JaMycal Hasty averages 2.6), and 20.5 touches (second best, Jeff Wilson, averages 10.8)
  • Among qualified RBs, he ranks sixth in rush share, 20th in goal line share, 22nd in target share, 23rd in WOPR, and 19th in RBOPR
  • His 17.1 DK ppg ranks 10th
  • His $6,000 Week 18 DK salary is tied for a career high
  • He’s scored 4x that salary twice in 10 games: 24 vs. HOU in Week 16 // 30.8 vs. MIN in Week 12

Matthew Stafford

  • Ranks 11th in PFF passing grade
  • 352 yards short of his second 5,000 yard season
  • He would be the second QB in history to have multiple 5,000 yard seasons, and the only one to do it for two different teams (Drew Brees achieved 5,000 yards five times at NO)
  • Among qualified QBs, Stafford ranks fourth in EPA per attempt and fifth in ADoT
  • His 21.9 DK ppg ranks ninth
  • Scored 4x his Week 18 DK salary ($6,700) five times in 16 games: 26.98 @ GB in Week 12 // 27.2 @ HOU in Week 8 // 27.34 vs. CHI in Week 1 // 30.16 vs. DET in Week 7 // 32.52 vs. TB in Week 3
  • SF ranks 11th in DK ppg allowed to QBs (18.5)
  • Notable opposing QB scores: Joe Burrow 25.22 // Justin Fields 29.3 // Jared Goff 32.92

LAR Passing Attack

  • Leads the league in 11 personnel usage (84%, average is 60%)
  • Snap share: Cooper Kupp 93.8% // Van Jefferson 81.1% // Tyler Higbee 80.3% // OBJ 60%
  • Target share: Kupp 32% // Jefferson 15% // OBJ 13.4% // Higbee 13.4%
  • Among qualified WRs, Kupp ranks first in target share, 15th in air yard market share, and first in WOPR
  • His 27.7 DK ppg ranks first
  • To break single season records, Kupp needs 12 receptions and 136 receiving yards
  • Needs 171 receiving yards for the first ever 2,000 yard season
  • His $9,700 Week 18 DK salary is a career high
  • He has an incredible six games of 30+ DK pts this year, four more of 25+, and just three games of fewer than 20 pts (floor of 11.4)
  • Jefferson has scored 20+ DK pts just once: 21 vs. ARI in Week 4
  • OBJ has yet to score 20+ DK pts as a Ram
  • SF ranks 24th in DK ppg allowed to WRs (36.8)
  • Notable opposing WR scores: DeAndre Hopkins 20.7 // Russell Gage 23.1 // Adam Thielen 23.2 // Michael Pittman 23.5 // Ja’Marr Chase 25.3 // Cooper Kupp 26.2 // Davante Adams 34.2 // AJ Brown 34.5
  • Among qualified TEs, Higbee ranks 15th in target share, 23rd in air yard market share, and 17th in WOPR
  • He’s scored 3x his Week 18 DK salary ($4,000) twice in 14 games: 12.9 @ BAL in Week 17 // 15 vs. TB in Week 3
  • SF ranks fifth in DK ppg allowed to TEs (8.5)
  • Notable opposing TE scores: Tyler Higbee 11 // Mo Alie-Cox 11.5 // Kyle Pitts 11.7 // Jesse James 12.8 // TJ Hockenson 25.7

Sony Michel

  • Since taking over for Darrell Henderson in Week 13, Michel ranks first in rush share, first in goal line share, 18th in target share, 22nd in WOPR, and third in RBOPR (among all qualified RBs)
  • His 17.7 DK ppg ranks 11th during that time
  • Michel’s $6,000 Week 18 DK salary is a season high
  • He’s scored 20+ DK pts twice this season, both times while relieving Henderson: 23.5 @ MIN in Week 16 // 24.9 vs. JAX in Week 13
  • SF ranks 14th in DK ppg allowed to RBs (22.6)
  • Four opposing RBs have scored 20+ DK pts vs. SF: Jonathan Taylor 22 // D’Andre Swift 24.4 // Jamaal Williams 25 // James Conner 40.3

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 4:25pm Eastern

Hawks (
21.5) at

Cards (
27)

Over/Under 48.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Seahawks Run D
17th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O
27th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
17th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O
29th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass
Cardinals Run D
23rd DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
20th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D
22nd DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
4th DVOA/20th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By mjohnson86 >>
  • These teams are very different now than they were a couple months ago when Arizona beat Seattle 23-13 on the road.
  • This game may quietly have the most offensive upside of any game on the slate.
  • Both teams are playing at a fast pace and throwing often recently.
  • Motivation is there on both sides, as Arizona has a lot to play for and Pete Carroll would love to play spoiler.

How seattle Will Try To Win ::

Despite some inconsistent results, these are not the Seahawks that the public often perceives as a team that pounds the ball and plays at a slow pace. Seattle is 10th in the league in situation-neutral pace this year, increasing their no-huddle rate and general offensive tempo significantly from past years. Also of note, the Seahawks ranked 6th in the league in situation-neutral pass rate from Weeks 10 through 16. Week 9 was the Seahawks bye week and Russell Wilson returned after that, while in Week 17, the Seahawks went to a run-heavy approach as they throttled an overmatched Lions defense in a home game with sloppy weather. Other than that, Russ has been letting it rip a bit, with the added caveat being that they have had some tough matchups and some health issues that have kept them from truly being explosive or effective at many times.

There has been a lot of talk about the Seahawks possibly parting ways with Pete Carroll after this season. This means this could be the final game of a historic run in Seattle for Carroll. On the other hand, this is a chance for the Seahawks to make a statement win to end the season and build into next year, perhaps mending the relationship with Russell Wilson and becoming the offense they should/could have been the last couple of years. I would expect a highly aggressive approach to this game from Seattle in a “nothing to lose, everything to gain” spot. The Cardinals have a very formidable defense against both the run and the pass but have been beatable of late, giving up 25 points per game over the past four weeks. Rashaad Penny has finally emerged as the talented lead back the Seahawks envisioned when they drafted him, and his efficiency of late has unsurprisingly coincided with the Seahawks being more aggressive through the air. Russell Wilson has had some big games in Arizona over the years, and after playing in bad weather the last two weeks, a dome game will be a welcome sight as Russ and the boys look to get cooking one last time to end the season.

How arizona Will Try To Win ::

Arizona leads the league in no-huddle rate and plays at the 7th fastest situation-neutral pace in the league. Also of note, the Cardinals lead the league in situation-neutral pass rate over the last four weeks. The loss of DeAndre Hopkins took a noticeable toll on this offense for a couple of weeks as everyone was forced into new roles. However, the Cardinals seem to have found themselves a bit in a huge win at Dallas last week. Also of note is the return of Kyler Murray’s dual-threat ability, as he has been dynamic as a runner since returning from their Week 12 bye after dealing with ankle and shoulder injuries earlier this season.

The Seahawks defense has given up 27 points per game the last two weeks against the Bears and Lions. Now they face a Cardinals team that is getting its groove back and has a lot on the line. I would expect Arizona to play at a very fast pace and spread out this talent deficient Seattle defense with an aggressive attack. The Seahawks actually have a solid run defense, but run defense metrics don’t necessarily account for having to deal with a dual-threat quarterback like Murray. The Cardinals backfield is beat up right now, with James Conner missing the last two games (he has been back at practice in a limited capacity this week) and Chase Edmonds failing to practice so far this week after handling heavy workloads in Conner’s absence. The Cardinals are likely to put the ball in Kyler’s hands often against a Seattle pass defense that ranks 30th in PFF pass-rush grade and 26th in coverage grade, while also grading poorly in both DVOA and yards per pass attempt. Any way you slice it, the Seattle defense is attacked most effectively through the air and with speed, which fits the Cardinals just right.

Likeliest Game Flow :: 

The first time these teams played Colt McCoy was the Cardinals QB, the game was outdoors in Seattle, Rashaad Penny played a very small role, and both defenses were healthier and playing at a higher level. This game is likely to be highly competitive and may have the most upside of any game on the slate, in my humble opinion. Arizona is the most likely team to take control of this game, but it would not surprise me if Seattle is able to find some explosive plays early against a familiar opponent. 

Due to the quarterbacks involved, if either team falls behind we can expect them to aggressively try to get back in the game. Arizona is likely to put the game in Kyler Murray’s hands, due to the nature of the matchup and the state of their backfield. Seattle is likely to put the ball in Russell Wilson’s hands, as they have been doing the second half of the year, and they have a chance to play spoiler and make themselves relevant in an otherwise irrelevant season. The prospects of a game between these teams with the ball in the hands of two dynamic players like Kyler and Russell Wilson is extremely exciting. Let’s not forget the game between these two teams in Arizona last year, when the teams combined for 71 points and almost 1,100 yards of total offense. That was early in the year before Kyler got hurt and the Seahawks offense went into a shell. While an output like that may be a pipe dream, something that far exceeds current market perception and expectations is very much in play.

Scenarios ::

  • Arizona can win the division if they win and the Rams lose.
  • Winning the division would result in at least one home playoff game, as the Cardinals would be either the 2-seed or 3-seed, depending on the outcome of the Bucs game. 
  • Arizona has locked up a playoff spot and is currently the 5-seed in the NFC.
  • Arizona can’t drop any lower than their current seed.
  • Seattle has been eliminated from the playoffs for several weeks.

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DFS+ Interpretation ::

By LexMiraglia10 >>

Overview:

  • ARI can jump from the 5 seed to 3 seed with a win & LAR loss to SF
  • SEA can “spoil” that chance for ARI, but a loss doesn’t affect ARI with a win by LAR

Kyler Murray:

  • 11/16 QBs have thrown for 240+ yds vs SEA (5 of 300+)
  • Kyler has thrown for 240+ yds in 10/13 games (3 of 300+)
  • Kyler since losing Hopkins: 257:1:1 // 245:1, 74 // 263:2, 44
  • QB rushing vs SEA: Wentz (23) // Tanny (27) // Lance (41) // Winston (40)
  • SEA ranks 27th in def pass DVOA
  • Kyler’s history vs Carroll’s SEA D: 241:0:1, 27:1 // 360:3:1, 67:1 // 269:2, 15
  • Final scores of those games: 10-27 // 37-34 // 21-28
  • ARI beat SEA 23-13 in W11 with McCoy throwing for 328:2:0

ARI WRs:

  • ARI WRs in games Hopkins has missed::
  • Kirk: 91 // 58 // 25 // 94:1 // 48 // 79
  • Green: – // 4 // 78 // 64 // 33 // 74
  • Wesley: 62 // 0 // 44 // 19 // 29:1 // 30:2
  • Moore: 25 // 11 // 51 // 9 // – // –
  • Targets in those games: Kirk (49) // Green (29) // Wesley (21) // Moore (23)
  • Kirk’s games of 20+ DK pts: 5:70:2 // 8:104 // 9:94:1
  • The only game Kirk didn’t predominantly play slot WR was when Hopkins & Green both missed
  • Per Majesstik, ARI has the 3rd best slot WR rec pts matchup of the week
  • SEA has allowed the 9th most WR yds on the 4th most WR tg faced
  • Only three teams have allowed fewer WR TDs than SEA (10)

Zach Ertz:

  • Ertz without Hopkins: 3:27 // 4:46 // 8:88:2 // 6:74 // 8:54 // 7:41
  • The 8:88:2 game came against SEA
  • SEA has allowed the 2nd highest success rate to TEs
  • TEs with 40+ yds vs SEA: Pruitt (43) // Conklin (70:1) // Kittle (40) // Freiermuth (58) // Arnold (68) // Ertz (88:2) // Kittle (181:2) // Kmet (49)

ARI RBs:

  • Edmonds is out and Conner has only practiced in limited capacity so far this week
  • Jonathan Ward & Eno Benjamin are the others to touch the ball this season for ARI
  • SEA has allowed the 2nd most RB DK pts/g (30.1)
  • SEA has allowed just the 13th most RB rush yds, but the most RB rec yds by 161 yds
  • SEA has allowed 13 RB rush TDs and 3 RB rec TDs
  • SEA ranks 8th in def rush DVOA
  • SEA has allowed the highest success rate on RB tg

Russell Wilson:

  • Russ’s first big game since returning came last week vs DET (236:4)
  • Russ has the highest average intended air yds among QBs
  • DET faces the highest aDOT and has allowed the 3rd highest yds/att
  • ARI has faced the 4th lowest aDOT
  • ARI ranks 6th in def pass DVOA
  • ARI has allowed the 8th fewest pass yds (213.5 yds/g)
  • Russ vs Vance Joseph ARI D: 240:1 // 169:1 // 388:3:3, 84 // 197:2, 42 // 207:0
  • Russ pass att in those games: 28 // 31 // 50 // 28 // 26
  • Russ has been sacked 18 times in those 5 games

SEA WRs:

  • ARI has allowed the 2nd fewest YAC despite the 4th lowest faced aDOT
  • ARI has allowed the 7th most WR DK pts/g (38.2) despite the 12th fewest WR yds
  • ARI’s problem has been TDs, allowing the most WR TDs by far (24)
  • Lockett has four scores of 29+ DK pts: 29 // 34.8 // 29.2 // 30.2
  • Lockett has seven scores of sub-11 DK pts: 7.1 // 6.4 // 10.7 // 5.5 // 3.2 // 4.3 // 6
  • Lockett vs Joseph ARI D: 4:51 (4 tg) // 1:12 (7) // 15:200:3 (20) // 9:67:1 (9) // 4:115 (5)
  • Metcalf vs Joseph ARI D: 1:6 (4 tg) // 0:0 (1) // 2:23 (5) // 3:46:1 (5) // 4:31 (8)
  • Metcalf’s games of 20+ DK pts this year: 6:107:1 (9) // 5:98:2 (5) // 6:43:2 (6) // 6:63:3 (9)
  • Metcalf has scored 8 of his 12 TDs in those four games
  • Since Russ returned in W10 (8 g), Metcalf has averaged 3.9 : 41.1 : 0.5 on 7.8 tg/g

Rashad Penny:

  • Penny since W13: 10:35 // 16:137:2 // 11:39 // 17:135:1 // 25:170:2
  • Def rush DVOA ranks of those teams: 2nd // 24th // 4th // 23rd // 31st
  • ARI ranks 8th in def rush DVOA
  • ARI has allowed the fewest RB TDs (5 rush, 1 rec)
  • ARI has allowed the 6th fewest RB DK pts/g (21.5)

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 8:20pm Eastern

Chargers (
25.75) at

Raiders (
22.75)

Over/Under 48.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Chargers Run D
30th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O
6th DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
11th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O
18th DVOA/14th Yards per pass
Raiders Run D
22nd DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
31st DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D
32nd DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
19th DVOA/26th Yards per pass

XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT

Sunday Night Football brings us an awesome game as the Chargers visit the Raiders. Whoever wins this game gets into the playoffs, so we have plenty of motivation on both sides – no questions around who’s going to play the full game in this one. The game also has a 49 point total, the highest of Week 18, with the Chargers favored by 3. We can expect both teams to be going all-out here, and for their primary players to be heavily utilized. In a game like this, I personally think there’s less risk of random dudes finding a bigger role unless there’s an in-game injury.

Showdown Ownership Projections!

Ownership updates automatically

Los Angeles

On the Chargers side, Austin Ekeler should get all the workload he can handle. I expect his snap count to be higher than the 58% he saw in Week 17, and more in the 70-75% range that we’ve seen earlier in the season (possibly even higher). Ekeler’s pass game role is elite and he’s been getting the goal-line carries that eluded him earlier in his career, making him the strongest skill position play in this game. The Raiders are 9th in run defense DVOA and 25th against the pass, but where they’re most vulnerable in the passing game is in the short areas of the field, right where Ekeler gets his work. Gimme. Behind Ekeler, Justin Jackson should still see a few RB2 snaps, but in this must-win game, I’d expect Jackson’s role to be pretty modest unless the Chargers get out to a huge lead and want to protect Ekeler for the playoffs. At $5,200, I’d be off Jackson unless you want to either bet on an injury to Ekeler or a blowout win.

In the passing game, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are the main wide receivers (duh), with Jalen Guyton and Josh Palmer having moved into something of an even split as the season has gone on (something I wrote about ages ago and was, unfortunately, several weeks too early on). We know the deal with these guys by now: Allen is the short area volume hog, while Mike Williams was moved out of his early-season X receiver role and back to the deep threat route tree that he has spent most of his career in. Allen brings a rock-solid floor but I feel he’s overpriced for his likeliest range of outcomes. We’ll have to see if the field agrees or not. If he’s highly owned, I would aim to be underweight, but if the field overlooks him because of his price, he still definitely has upside. Williams brings a theoretical high ceiling but he’s only exceeded 15.3 DK points twice since Week 5, which is when he was moved out of the X receiver role, but at $7,200, I feel like his upside easily justifies his price – just know that his floor is also quite low. And speaking of low floors, Guyton and Palmer both have floors of zero, but they also have significantly more upside than the kickers they’re priced near. Personally, I prefer Palmer as the receiver whose role has been growing throughout the season. Either one is viable here in tournaments and neither should be considered safe for cash. I will have more Palmer than Guyton exposure in my MME builds. At tight end, Donald Parham was placed on injured reserve but that did not lead to a large increase in workload for Jared Cook, as he saw 63% of the snaps in Week 16 which is just slightly above his season average. I view Cook as a higher floor but lower ceiling play compared to Guyton and Palmer, and he’s also more expensive, but that whole “middle of the field” weakness of the Raiders plays to the Chargers attacking them with tight ends. To go back to the rankings, I’d go Palmer, then Cook, then Guyton in tournaments. Cook will be backed up by Stephen Anderson, who played 78% of the snaps last week and saw one target, and then Tre McKitty, who played 52% of the snaps and saw three targets. Both can be considered as MME punt plays.

Las Vegas

On the Raiders side, Josh Jacobs is listed as questionable but got in limited practices all week and thus seems likely to play. Jacobs seems to be in and out of games frequently with little injuries and thus has only seen 20+ carries twice this year and has only hit the 100-yard bonus once, but his passing game role has been relatively solid with at least three targets in every game but two this year. The Chargers are dead last in run defense DVOA, and so we can expect the Raiders to run the ball as much as possible (and as much as the game script allows for). Jacobs feels underpriced to me at $7,800, as while he isn’t quite a full-fledged bell cow, he is extremely likely to see at least 18 running back opportunities with several of them being targets in a fantastic matchup. Behind Jacobs, Peyton Barber should steal a handful of carries and a target or two, while passing-game specialist Jalen Richard has actually been out-targeted by Barber since making his return in Week 15. Barber gets the “RB2 in Showdown” exposure level (which for me is about 8-10% of my MME entries), while Richard can be considered a thin punt option.

In the passing game, the big question is if Darren Waller returns. Waller is questionable and appeared like he might have been ready to come back in Week 17 until being put on the COVID list. He cleared the protocols in time to get in some practice sessions so this isn’t a “he didn’t practice all week but he’s active” situation. If he plays, I expect he’ll be ready to rock. My guess is that given the importance of the game, he’ll be in, which obviously puts a dent in all of the other Raiders pass-catchers as his 8.4 targets per game leads the team. If he plays, he’s really the WR1 of this offense, and he would reduce all of Zay Jones, Bryan Edwards, DeSean Jackson, and Foster Moreau to MME-only plays in my eyes. Hunter Renfrow is the other Las Vegas receiver who is viable no matter Waller’s status (Renfrow has smashed several times with Waller playing beside him). We know the deal with Renfrow by now: he’s Las Vegas’s version of Keenan Allen, vacuuming up short-area targets at high volume. Renfrow is a full $2,000 cheaper than Allen, leading me to prefer him to Keenan. Zay Jones has earned himself a real role with this team, and while that role would be dinged a bit by Waller’s return, I think it’s still a solid one with 34 targets in the last four weeks (and strong performance on those targets as well). Jones is in that salary wasteland range, slightly cheaper than Mike Williams and more than Jared Cook, and players in that price range tend to end up under-owned. As uncomfortable as it sounds, I want to be overweight on him. Edwards and Jackson are tourney-only plays as both are highly volatile and neither have had many “boom” performances. Of the two, I prefer Jackson, as he tends to at least earn targets when he’s on the field, while Edwards just runs wind sprints down the sideline on every play. Foster Moreau is an MME punt play if Waller is active, and an extremely strong on-paper option if Waller misses, as at $2,600, he’s the cheapest full-time player in the game (besides Edwards, who is a full-time sprinter but does very little else). 


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Outlook

The way this game should play out is a close-fought affair. The Raiders are likely to prefer to keep the ball on the ground, to take advantage of the matchup and keep it out of Justin Herbert’s hands, so the thing likeliest to drive a different outcome is if the Chargers get out to a multi-score lead that forces more aerial aggression out of Las Vegas. It’s worth noting here that the Chargers are catching the Raiders at a time when Derek Carr has looked pretty atrocious, having not exceeded 12.52 DK points in his past FIVE games and with five interceptions against just four touchdowns in that span. The Raiders have also scored 17 or fewer points in four of those five games. Obviously, missing Daren Waller is a relevant factor here, but worth noting because if Waller misses, we could potentially see Las Vegas really struggle once again. 

Normally, this is where I talk about other scenarios of how the game could play out, and of course, there are different ones, with the most likely one to me being the Chargers just stomping on the Raiders. But frankly, I think the most likely option is a relatively close game and I expect ownership will be pretty reasonably distributed between the run and passing games (i.e. the old “flip the script of betting on touchdowns coming where the field isn’t expecting” doesn’t seem especially viable here). 

Cash Games

In cash games, my player pool consists of the quarterbacks and running backs, the kickers, Moreau (if Waller is out), and then if you need a mid-range play, I’d look to someone like Jones (if Waller is out) or Palmer. 

Tournaments

In tournaments, I want to be overweight captain on Ekeler, Jacobs, Waller, and Mike Williams.

Some groups to consider
  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain pass catchers with their QBs (or consider boosting the QB if using a captain receiver if you don’t want 100% exposure to this pairing – discussed in further detail in the 2020 update to my Advanced Showdowns course)
  • If using an RB captain, apply a negative correlation to the opposing defense and kicker (you can see how to do so in my FantasyLabs tutorial video)
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 2 pass catchers
  • If Ekeler captain, no Jackson (unless building a 5-1 Chargers onslaught)
  • At most 1 of Barber and Richard
  • At most 1 of Edwards and Jackson
  • At most 1 of Guyton and Palmer (or, at most 2 of Guyton, Palmer, and Cook)

By Dwprix >>

Overview:

  • Total of 49.5, highest of the Week (no 50+ point totals this week)
  • LAC won the first matchup between these two 28-14
  • LV scores 21.2 pts/g (18th)
  • LAC scores 27.6 pts/g (6th)
  • LV has won 3 straight facing IND, DEN, & CLE
  • They allowed just 23, 17, & 16 pts in those 3
  • LAC is 2-2 in their last 4 facing DEN, HOU, KC, & NYG
  • They’ve scored 34, 29, 28, & 37 in those
  • They’re 6-0 when scoring 30+
  • LAC will clinch playoff berth with win

Justin Herbert:

  • Herbert vs LV: (21.3, 31.0, 26.4)
  • Herbert’s scored in the 20’s 6 times, in the 30’s 3 times, & has broke 40 once
  • 300+ pass yds in 8
  • LV allows 214.6 pass yds/g (10th fewest)
  • Last 7 DK pts (17.7, 21.9, 24.0, 24.9, 29.3, 24.7, 38.3)
  • LV allows 17.9 DK pts/g to QBs (11th fewest)

LAC Receiving:

  • Tgts last 3: Allen (8, 6, 10) // Williams (4, DNP, 9) // Guyton (2, 0, 2) // Palmer (5, 6, 1) // Ekeler (3, DNP, 4)
  • Snaps last week: Guyton 32 // Palmer 31
  • Allen has scored in the 20’s 4 times & hasn’t broke 30 DK pts this season
  • Williams has scored in the 20’s 3 times but also in the 30’s twice early in the season
  • His high score in the past 10 games: 20.7
  • LV allows 29.5 DK pts/g to WRs (3rd least)

LAC Rushing:

  • Ekeler has scored a TD in all but 3 games he’s played
  • 11 Rush TDs // 7 Receiving TDs
  • 8 games over 100 scrimmage yds
  • Only hit DK bonus once
  • LV allows 116.1 rush yds/g (12th most)
  • Over their last 3 they’ve allowed 76.3 (2nd fewest)
  • In their last 3, they faced CLE, DEN, & IND, all run heavy teams (IND 2nd in rush yds/g, CLE 4th, DEN 14th)
  • LV allows 28.2 DK pts/g to RBs (4th most)

Derek Carr:

  • Carr vs LAC: (15.4, 2.1, 15.0, 21.9, 13.1, 8.9, 14.2, 11.8, 8.8, 12.0, 26.0, 16.2, 23.9, 5.9, 26.5)
  • First 7 games: 5 games w/ 300+ yds // Since: 1
  • DK pts last 5: (12.2, 10.5, 12.1, 12.5, 12.4)
  • $10k is his cheapest Showdown price since WK 2
  • LAC allows 18.6 DK pts/g (16th)

LV Receiving:

  • Darren Waller (Q) hasn’t played since WK 12
  • Tgts last 3: Jones (10, 8, 9) // Renfrow (9, 3, 5) // Edwards (2, 0, 4) // Jackson (3, 5, 3) // Moreau (1, 4, 9)
  • Renfrow has 8 or more tgts in 10 games this season
  • TDs in 3 of 4 // 7 total TDs // 3 games w/ 100+ yds
  • Jones tgts have increased since WK 11 (2, 7, 5, 7, 9, 8, 10)
  • LAC allows 30.1 DK pts/g to WRs (4th least)

LV Rushing:

  • Last game vs LAC: Josh Jacobs (13:40, 5:17, 5 tgts) 
  • Last 3 games: Jacobs (16:63:1 TD, 4:17) // (27:129, 1:-5) // (15:52, 3:42) Peyton Barber (6:3, 2:9) // (5:22, 1:0) // (5:34, 1:12)
  • In 13 games, Jacobs has rushed for 100+ once (vs DEN WK 16, 129 yds)
  • LAC allows 136.7 rush yds/g (3rd most)
  • Over their last 3, LAC allowed 119.3 (16th)
  • Jacobs has 8 TDs while missing 3 games
  • LAC allows 27.1 DK pts/g to RBs (6th most)