Chiefs Run D17th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O6th DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D22nd DVOA/5th Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O16th DVOA/8th Yards per pass
Raiders Run D21st DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O17th DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D32nd DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O1st DVOA/2nd Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By Hilow >>
- Skyy Moore missed practice on Tuesday and returned for a limited session on Wednesday (he suffered a laceration that required stitches in Week 17).
- Mecole Hardman was activated from injured reserve on Wednesday and got in a limited practice.
- The Chiefs are the only remaining team in the league to hold a pass rate over expectation (PROE) value at or above league average in every game they have played this season.
- The Raiders have allowed 246.8 pass yards per game and rank 32nd in DVOA against the pass.
- Josh Jacobs was limited on Tuesday before being listed as out during Wednesday’s walkthrough practice.
How kansas city Will Try To Win ::
The Chiefs are caught up in the uncertainty surrounding the NFL schedule that was induced by the horrific situation with Damar Hamlin during the Bills-Bengals game on Monday night. There are too many variables to speculate what will happen with the postponed game, but suffice it to say, the Chiefs want to win this game as they continue to fight for the top overall seed out of the AFC. That removes any of the motivation issues that will plague Week 18, allowing us to approach this side of the game through our normal exploration. Kansas City is the only remaining team in the league to hold a PROE value at or above league average in every game they have played this season, with only three games near league average (and the rest far above league average). Their first half pace of play ranks sixth in the league and their situation neutral pace of play ranks third, giving us a clear indication of how they are trying to win games. And it makes sense as they have this dude named Patrick Mahomes on their team, why wouldn’t they want as many plays run from scrimmage as possible in a game? Basically, they function through the lens that their offense can go toe to toe with any offense in the league, and they want to increase the sample size in a given game to allow more room for that advantage to play out. Expect more of the same against their division rivals here.
You have to go all the back to Week 12 to find a game where Isiah Pacheco handily out-snapped Jerick McKinnon. Furthermore, McKinnon has played more than 85% of the offensive snaps in the red zone since the team’s Week 8 bye week. Basically, Jerick McKinnon is this team’s RB1, even though Pacheco gets the starts on paper. To break that down a bit further, Pacheco has a clearly defined role as the early down back between the 20s, with McKinnon operating as the change of pace back, the primary red zone back, the two-minute offense back, and the clear passing down back. McKinnon also just set the NFL record with receiving touchdowns in five consecutive games (he has seven over that time frame). The pure rushing matchup yields a well above average 4.65 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Raiders defense allowing the fourth most fantasy points per game, third most targets, and 17 total touchdowns to the position this season.
Mecole Hardman’s likely return to the pass-catching corps for the Chiefs introduces further uncertainty to the snap rates behind Travis Kelce and JuJu Smith-Schuster, the latter two of which should be considered the only two players to operate in a near every-down role for Kansas City on a standard week. Expect all of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, Mecole Hardman, Skyy Moore, and Kadarius Toney to fight for playing time in an offense that has utilized 12-personnel between 40 and 50% of their offensive snaps in each game since Week 11. The final consideration for this pass-catching unit as it pertains to fantasy utility is the fact that Hardman had been the primary schemed usage player in the red zone before hitting injured reserve, a role that Jerick McKinnon has soaked up in his stead. It will be interesting to see how that role shakes out with Hardman back. The big picture here is the Raiders have allowed 246.8 pass yards per game this season (fourth most in the league) and are ranked dead last in DVOA against the pass . . . and they are going against the Chiefs.
How las vegas Will Try To Win ::
Titans Run D2nd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O20th DVOA/9th Yards per carry
Titans Pass D27th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O6th DVOA/19th Yards per pass
Jaguars Run D11th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O18th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D30th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O19th DVOA/13th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Joshua Dobbs will draw the start at quarterback for the Titans after throwing for as many yards in one game as Malik Willis did across three starts.
- Treylon Burks has had the exact practice breakdown you’d hope not to see this week, starting with no designation on Tuesday, being limited on Wednesday with a groin injury, and being held out on Thursday.
- The Titans are a bit banged up on the defensive side of the ball, primarily amongst the linebackers and in the secondary.
How tennessee Will Try To Win ::
This one takes a bit of nuance due to the changing dynamics of the Titans over the previous month of play. They first lost Ryan Tannehill to an ankle injury that forced a trip to injured reserve. Then, they started rookie Malik Willis in Week 16 for his third start as a professional before turning to Joshua Dobbs in Week 17, a game played without Derrick Henry (rest). And while Dobbs came out and threw for about the same yardage as Malik Willis had through three starts, we can’t simply assume this team is going to come out chucking the football. The missing context there is that the team’s Week 17 game meant diddly squat, with the team likely tinkering with some things offensively with the ultimate goal to decide which quarterback gave the team the best chances for success against these Jaguars. My thinking is this – I find it highly unlikely the Titans are simply going to turn more pass-heavy with Dobbs at quarterback, with the decision at quarterback likely coming down to who the team thinks can manage their game plan the best. That means limiting turnovers, keeping defenses at least somewhat honest in the box, and being able to convert third downs at a semi-regular rate. Think about how the offense looked with Willis in – the unit was entirely too one-dimensional, lacked any semblance of explosiveness, and relied far too heavily on Derrick Henry. And while the offense is highly likely to continue to flow through Henry here, Dobbs gives them some semblance of pass presence that should serve to keep the Jaguars defense honest. That said, Dobbs passed for just 232 yards on 39 pass attempts last week, good for a measly 5.95 yards per attempt value (would rank 34th in the league this year, if he qualified). I would expect the team to mix in early down quick passing to keep the Jaguars honest in the box, with the design to stay ahead of the chains and grind out a win in a way only Mike Vrabel and the Titans can.
There is no hiding the fact that the Titans are likely to go as Derrick Henry goes here. You know it, I know it, and the Jaguars know it. The trick is going to be making it so he’s not running into eight and nine-man boxes, which I believe is the reason Dobbs is getting the start at quarterback over Malik Willis. If this team can complete some passes on first and second down, even if they are just four to six yard hits, it will do wonders for the run game and allow the Titans to continue with their grind-it-out style throughout the game (they also have to keep the Jaguars from passing all over them and establishing an early lead, but we’ll get to that in a minute). Henry had been between 71% and 75% of the offensive snaps played in the three games prior to sitting out Week 17, which should be considered his likeliest range of outcomes here. And as we’ve highlighted in the past, Henry’s ultimate workload is less a function of touches per snap and more a function of how many snaps he plays, as he has consistently remained around the same spot in touches per snap over the previous three seasons in Tennessee. Expect Hassan Haskins to serve as the primary change of pace option in a role likely to be lower than has been in the past. The pure rushing matchup yields a below average 4.22 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Jacksonville defense holding opposing backs to just 3.96 yards per carry this season.
The biggest news out of the Tennessee pass-catching corps is the steady decline in activity of rookie wide receiver Treylon Burks, who started the week out off the injury report before being listed as limited on Wednesday and DNP on Thursday with a groin injury. That is a significant development considering Burks had returned to snap rates of 82% and 72% after missing Week 14 and Week 15. Either way, I’d expect the Titans to operate with increased rates of 12-personnel here, which is likely to continue the increased involvement from rookie tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo. Okonkwo’s usage splits with and without Burks in the lineup have been stark this season, leaving the door to fantasy viability open should Burks miss (I’ve already hammered Okonkwo’s receiving total and receiving yardage overs for Saturday). An absence from Burks would also likely force the Titans to give increased run to the combination of Chris Conley and Racey McMath to fill their WR3 role behind Robert Woods and Nick Westrbook-Ikhine. Also of note, the Titans have moved to a four-headed rotation at tight end, meaning all parties involved would need a touchdown in order to return fantasy relevancy. From a macro perspective, this is still a low expected volume pass offense that is highly likely to be confined to usage over the short-to-intermediate areas of the field, keeping all players reliant on finding paint in order to return fantasy utility.
How jacksonville Will Try To Win ::
Buccaneers Run D13th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O4th DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D15th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O17th DVOA/12th Yards per pass
Falcons Run D23rd DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O30th DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D30th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O11th DVOA/28th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are locked into the four-seed in the NFC.
- The Falcons have long been eliminated from postseason contention.
- Carlton Davis, Julio Jones, Logan Ryan, Donovan Smith, and Vita Vea have yet to practice this week for the Bucs, and considering their playoff situation, it would make sense that all five primary contributors rest in Week 18.
How tampa bay Will Try To Win ::
First off, the Buccaneers are locked into the four-seed in the NFC. Head coach Todd Bowles indicated that his starters would start in Week 18, but the team is also expected to carry third-string quarterback Kyle Trask as active on game day, which should serve as our indication that the team is likely to rest as many primary contributors as possible at some point during the game. The problem is we don’t know exactly how long the starters will play, introducing some level of uncertainty regarding any fantasy utility to come from this side of the game. What we do know is that the Bucs have been at or above league average in pass rate over expectation (PROE) in all but three games this season, play at an elevated pace of play (first overall, second with a lead of seven or more points, first second half), and average 44.8 pass attempts per game this season. With the team having only so many inactive spots available on game day, expect veterans like Tom Brady, Leonard Fournette, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin to have their snap rates limited in some capacity in a meaningless game.
Leonard Fournette let it slip on social media that he has been dealing with a Lisfranc injury that “makes it hard to push off,” making it extremely likely that he is one of the first players off the field once Todd Bowles has seen enough from his typical starters. The team has typically kept four running backs active on game day with Giovani Bernard a special teams contributor, making it highly likely we see Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Bernard get some additional reps out of the backfield this week. Along the same lines, I find it highly unlikely that Rachaad White would see additional opportunities as a primary contributor. All things considered, this is a great spot to give Vaughn an extended run as a back that would be entering the fourth year of his rookie contract in 2023. The matchup on the ground yields an above average 4.55 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Falcons defense ceding 23.4 DK points per game to opposing backfields this season.
With reports out of Tampa Bay that the team will carry three quarterbacks on the active roster for game day, it is difficult to project the distribution of snaps amongst both the quarterbacks and pass-catchers this week. That said, Julio Jones has yet to practice this week and would make sense as a game-day inactive, likely leaving Scotty Miller, Breshad Perriman, and punt/kick returner Deven Thompkins as the wide receivers to join Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Russell Gage on the active roster for Sunday. I wouldn’t expect Evans or Godwin to play beyond when Brady does, opening up an interesting scenario where Russell Gage is almost required to play the entirety of the game. If that is the case, there is upside to be had at his $4,400 price tag against a Falcons team allowing the ninth most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers.
How Atlanta Will Try To Win ::
Patriots Run D10th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O11th DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D3rd DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O2nd DVOA/4th Yards per pass
Bills Run D3rd DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O21st DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Bills Pass D9th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O25th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By Hilow >>
- The Patriots need a win to secure the final playoff spot out of the AFC as they hold the tiebreaker over the Dolphins.
- The Bills can still overtake the Chiefs for the number one seed in the AFC, but they need the Chiefs to lose on Saturday in order to have a chance due to the lost game.
- Either way, the Bills have a lot left to play for with everything from the one-seed to the three-seed on the table.
- Both teams are relatively healthy at this point in the season (prayers up to Damar Hamlin for a continued recovery).
How New England Will Try To Win ::
The Patriots had their third-highest pass rate over expectation value the last time these two teams played back in Week 13, with Mac Jones attempting 39 passes to just 13 combined rush attempts from the team. It is highly unlikely we see splits that drastic here, particularly considering the Patriots have only four games all season with a pass rate over expectation value above league average. But the point remains – the Bills present a difficult matchup for how the Patriots want to try and win ball games. New England has been forced into a shell of how they used to operate under Tom Brady, with the same “march the field and sustain drives” mentality utilized on offense, but with far less effectiveness. That has put increased strain on their defense throughout the season, a defense that has eight defensive scores (five of which have come in New England wins, with the other three coming in losses with a combined margin of victory of 13 points). As in, the identity of this team is to control the time of possession and not give the game away on offense, while their defense looks to disrupt the game environment and provide additional possessions through the standard Bill Belichikian ball-hawking ways. This brings us back to why this is a difficult matchup for the Patriots, as the Bills hold the league’s top net points per drive value and the fourth-best net drive success rate in the league.
Damien Harris, finally healthy after a slew of injuries during the middle portion of the season, saw his highest snap rate since Week 8 last time out, handling 12 running back opportunities on a 48% snap rate. Compare that to the 12 running back opportunities on a 57% snap rate for Rhamondre Stevenson and we’re back to this backfield being a tilting two-headed monster. There is no reason to expect that trend to reverse course back to a backfield dominated by Stevenson considering the relative health of Harris. The saving grace is the fact that New England running backs have seen the eighth most targets in the league this season at 113, but even that works out to just over seven per game, split between Stevenson and Harris when both are healthy. The pure rushing matchup yields a gross 4.065 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Bills defense ranked first in stuff rate and second in power success rate allowed.
You have to go all the way back to Week 7 to find a game where both DeVante Parker and Jakobi Meyers were fully healthy, during which the two carried snap rates of 92% and 100%, respectively. The problem is neither should be considered completely healthy this week, with Parker coming off a whopping three missed games with a concussion and Meyers battling a multitude of injuries since Week 12. If ready for a full allotment of snaps, expect Meyers, Parker, and rookie Tyquan Thornton to serve as the top three wide receivers, with Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne on hand to soak up any snaps left behind by the top trio. Prior to the two alternating missed weeks over the last two games, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith had been splitting the tight end snaps with 12-personnel rates largely dependent on the opponent. The last time these two teams played, the Patriots utilized only 13% 12-personnel rates, instead electing for increased rates of 11-personnel. I would tentatively expect this trend to continue here. The Bills started the season playing almost exclusively from zone coverages but have become one of the higher man-rate defenses in the league now that they have returned to health on the back end. Jakobi Meyers is by far this team’s top option against man coverage this season while DeVante Parker has excelled against man.
How Buffalo Will Try To Win ::
Vikings Run D19th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O12th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D26th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O27th DVOA/18th Yards per pass
Bears Run D29th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O28th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Bears Pass D29th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O15th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Justin Jefferson needs 194 receiving yards to break Calvin Johnson’s single season receiving yardage record.
- The Vikings can regain the two-seed out of the NFC with a win and a 49ers loss – expect max effort with the 49ers playing in the afternoon.
- The Vikings are likely to play with their third-string center and various injuries along the offensive line.
- Justin Fields has been shut down for the season, narrowly missing out on the record for most rushing yards in a season from a quarterback.
- Nathan “Pick” Peterman will start for the Bears, which is likely to fundamentally change how their offense is run with the team moving from one of the most mobile and dynamic quarterbacks in the league to a pocket passer.
How minnesota Will Try To Win ::
We should see a standard Vikings game plan this week considering they can regain the two-seed with a win and a San Francisco loss, and the Vikings play in the early time slot while the 49ers play in the afternoon. As such, expect the same pass-balanced offense that utilizes the short-to-intermediate areas of the field for most of their aerial work and a backfield primarily running through workhorse back Dalvin Cook. Expect an offense run primarily from 11-personnel, with Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, and T.J. Hockenson seeing the vast majority of the work throughout. Finally, the Vikings operate one of the fastest offenses in the league, ranking third in overall pace of play, fourth in situation neutral pace of play, and second in pace of play with the score within six points.
Dalvin Cook regained his workhorse status this season after seeing his usage and snap rate decline last year. To highlight just how much he is relied on in this backfield, consider this – Dalvin Cook has seen 75% or more of the offensive snaps in every non-blowout game since Week 6, averaging 21.75 running back opportunities across those eight games. For comparison’s sake, that’s more than three opportunities per game more than Saquon Barkley is averaging this season. The primary knock to Dalvin’s game this season has been an offensive line ranked 27th in run-blocking metrics, which has kept Dalvin from routinely eclipsing the 100-yard bonus. Those worries largely go out the window against the Bears, with the matchup yielding an above average 4.48 net-adjusted line yards metric against a defense ceding 29.2 DK points per game to opposing backfields.
Justin Jefferson needs 194 receiving yards to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season record. While that doesn’t necessarily mean we should expect Jefferson to see an increase to his already-lofty target expectation on a per-play basis, it does leave open the possibility that Jefferson could continue playing into the fourth quarter in a blowout game environment if he is approaching that milestone. Again, not likely to influence play calling more as it could allow Jefferson to remain in the game when other starters are pulled late. Similarly, we shouldn’t expect Kirk Cousins to approach the 48 and 54 pass attempts he held the two weeks prior to last week’s trouncing at the hands of the Packers, but the season average of 39.9 pass attempts per game gives us a solid baseline from which to base our expectations. All of that to say, I see no reason to expect any departure from the 12-16 target range for Jefferson in a matchup that he should absolutely destroy. Consider Jefferson one of the top one or two on-paper plays on the slate. Behind Jefferson are the standard culprits for the Vikings, with Thielen being held under six targets in four of his last five games, K.J. Osborn seeing five or fewer targets in all but four games this season, and T.J. Hockenson confined to a low aDOT role that requires both schemed usage and touchdowns in order to return a GPP-viable score.
How chicago Will Try To Win ::
Ravens Run D7th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O4th DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D11th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O7th DVOA/16th Yards per pass
Bengals Run D14th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O2nd DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D12th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O16th DVOA/17th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- Baltimore has clinched a playoff berth and is still alive to win the AFC North if they win this game, depending on what the NFL decides to do with the delayed BUF // CIN game.
- As of this writing, the status of Lamar Jackson for this game is still in question. He has not practiced in weeks, and the Ravens have not scored more than 17 points without him.
- The Bengals playoff situation is a mess, given the uncertainty of their postponed game against the Bills, but they are likely to want/need a win this week.
- These teams have differing philosophies, with the Bengals having an aggressive offense built around their passing game while the Ravens are built around their running game and dual-threat quarterback(s).
How baltimore Will Try To Win ::
There are a few moving parts for the Ravens in this game, as the uncertainty surrounding the Bengals postponed game with the Bills casts a shadow of doubt on what this game means for each team. Recently there has been speculation the NFL could just cancel that game and use winning percentage to determine final regular season standings. That decision would lock up the AFC North title for the Bengals and leave the Ravens as either the #5 or #6 seed in the AFC. There is, however, a lot of benefit to being the #5 seed due to the fact that they would get to face the AFC South champion (Jaguars or Titans) rather than the Bills or Bengals in the first round. The Ravens would need to win this game, plus have the Chargers lose to the Broncos, in order for that to happen. Considering that this scenario is becoming increasingly likely, the biggest effect is likely to be the handling of star quarterback Lamar Jackson who has been out since Week 13 with a knee injury. Jackson was once again held out of practice to start this week, and if the Ravens can’t win the division, then there is no reason to push him – especially with a potential rematch with the Bengals looming in the first round of the playoffs.
With all of that in mind, I am approaching this game as if Jackson will not play this week. As for how Baltimore plays, they have averaged 12 points per game in the five games that Jackson has been out for. They have played some tough defenses and in some rough weather during that stretch, but it is hard to find much offensive optimism at this point for a team whose receiving corps resembles a preseason lineup and who has received almost zero production from their quarterback Tyler Huntley for the last month. The Bengals defense is a solid but not great unit – but the Ravens managed only 20 total points against the Browns and Falcons bottom-tier defenses in recent weeks, which mutes the expectations we can have this week for Baltimore. Mark Andrews is the focal point of the passing game, seeing 34% of the team’s targets in Huntley’s starts, and Andrews appeared close to full health for the first time in a while last week with his best game since Week 6. The Ravens are, however, a run-based offense and will split carries between JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards, with Huntley also being used as a runner to keep defenses honest. Dobbins took the majority of snaps last week in a very low-volume game for Baltimore, but head coach John Harbaugh spoke openly this week about the need to get Edwards more involved. The Bengals have been mediocre against the run this year, and we should expect the Ravens to pound the ball on the ground once again and Andrews to be the focal point of the low-volume passing attack that focuses on the intermediate areas of the field.
How cincinnati Will Try To Win ::
mike johnson >>
- The news that the NFL will go to a “coin flip” to determine who gets the home game between these teams if Baltimore wins this week and they are slated to play each other again in the playoff, meaning that this game definitely has a lot of value for both teams regardless of how other games play out. The scenario where the coin flip would happen would be if Baltimore wins and the Chargers (who play at 4:25 EST) lose. As such, both teams should be full throttle here.
- I am in lockstep with JM’s assessment of the ceiling for Joe Burrow and the Bengals receivers, as well as the viability of Mark Andrews as a core piece of a Ravens offense that has a lot to play for and should be pushed more than they have been recently. Burrow plus one or two receivers make a ton of sense, any of the Bengals receivers as a solo piece also makes sense, and Andrews could be played alone or opposite Bengals players/stacks.
- Demarcus Robinson has only been targeted four times in total over the last two weeks in low-scoring games that the Ravens controlled throughout, but in the three weeks prior to that, he was targeted 20 times. Assuming the Bengals control this game as expected, Robinson has a great chance for another 6 to 9 target game at a very low price tag.
- Gus Edwards is averaging 6.5 yards per carry on 34 carries over his last four games, yet is priced at just $4,500. He barely played last week in a game with very low play volume, but his coach spoke of the need to get him on the field, and the Ravens have a huge incentive to win this game as it would open the chance for them to get a home playoff game. At that price tag, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Edwards get 12-15 touches, and with his efficiency and past goal-line usage, an 18-22 point game is very viable.
Texans Run D24th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O31st DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Texans Pass D18th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O32nd DVOA/31st Yards per pass
Colts Run D15th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O32nd DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D13th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O31st DVOA/25th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- These two teams have nothing left to play for, unless you consider Houston currently holding the first overall pick in the 2023 draft something left to play for – if the Texans find a way to win this week, they could lose that pick to the Bears with a Chicago loss.
- Sam Ehlinger will start for the Colts after the failed experiment earlier in the season.
- The Colts managed a combined 19 points across Ehlinger’s first two starts this season.
- Kylen Granson and Stephon Gilmore have both yet to practice this week for the Colts.
How houston Will Try To Win ::
First off, the Texans should want to not win (it’s difficult to say an NFL team should want to lose, but here we are). Houston currently holds the top pick in the 2023 NFL draft, a spot they would send over to Chicago should they win and the Bears lose (entirely possible here). Furthering the weird dynamics of this game is a matchup with the Ehlinger and Jeff Saturday-led Colts, who basically just have try-hard syndrome going for them, and nothing else. Houston’s pass rate over expectation values (PROE) have been all over the map this season for several reasons – from personnel issues (wide receiver injuries, running back injuries, changing quarterback dynamics, etc) to defensive issues to the opponent. As we’ve seen over the last month of play, the Texans are now experimenting with a dual-quarterback system, similar to the one employed by the Saints. Jeff Driskel has played between 21% and 29% of the offensive snaps over the previous three games after surprising everyone with a 50% snap rate in Week 14. But while that system adds a bit of dynamism to an otherwise static offense, it hasn’t been fully embraced enough to truly matter, nor do the Texans possess enough top-end talent on offense to utilize it to its full potential. Basically, it’s a cute idea that lacks an overarching purpose.
The ground game situation has been a veritable disaster since rookie running back Dameon Pierce was lost for the season, with Dare Ogunbowale, Royce Freeman, Red Burkhead, and fullback Troy Hairston now sharing the load in the backfield, with no singular option of any fantasy utility. There’s really not much else to say about this backfield other than there is no real indicator of anyone gaining traction over any other in the last week of the season. The rushing matchup yields a borderline laughable 4.00 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Colts defense holding opposing backs to just 4.13 yards per carry this season.
What’s more, the Texans have been utilizing a three to four-man rotation at tight end and four primary wide receivers, with Chris Moore and Brandin Cooks the likeliest to operate in near every-down pass-catching roles to end the season. There are no incentives in play for anyone on this team this week. Furthermore, the Colts have clamped down on opposing pass games this year, ranking above average in most metrics against the pass. Again, Cooks and Moore are the likeliest to see some semblance of bankable volume, but neither should be considered solid options here.
How Indianapolis Will Try To Win ::
Jets Run D9th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O14th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Jets Pass D6th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O2nd DVOA/1st Yards per pass
Dolphins Run D9th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O21st DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D25th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O25th DVOA/11th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By Hilow >>
- After dropping five consecutive contests, the Dolphins cling to hope for the final spot in the playoffs out of the AFC – they need to beat the Jets and have the Bills beat the Patriots.
- Skylar Thompson has been named the starter for the Dolphins, with Teddy Bridgewater set to serve as the backup if he makes it back from injury – it’s a similar situation to the one we saw earlier in the year against the Vikings, where McDaniel did the same thing, only to see Thompson go down with an injury early in the game.
- Skylar Thompson came on in relief of Bridgewater after just one series against these same Jets back in Week 5, attempting 33 passes in a game where the Jets blew the Dolphins out 40-17.
- Week 18 marks the return of Joe Flacco as the starting quarterback for the New York Jets.
- Garrett Wilson saw a combined 33 targets over the first three games of the season (while Flacco was starting), with a high snap rate of just 63% during that span – he is now playing 100% of the offensive snaps for the Jets.
How New York Will Try To Win ::
The Jets have been at or below league average in pass rate over expectation in all but three games this season. That said, and even though their defense has allowed the fourth fewest points per game this season, an inability to sustain drives on offense has led to the team attempting 37.1 passes per game this year – a number that increases to a laughably high 50.33 in Mike White or Joe Flacco starts (a sample size of six games this season). Joe Flacco makes his not-so-triumphant return as the starting quarterback after he watched as the team cycled through three other starters, having attempted 155 passes across his three starts this season. While we can’t simply pencil in Flacco for 50 pass attempts here, we can safely assume that the team will lean into the pass in the right game environments, and a game against a divisional rival could be one of those spots. Furthering that potential is the state of the backfield, which lost standout rookie Breece Hall earlier in the season.
Michael Carter, Zonovan Knight, and Ty Johnson have been splitting time in the backfield since Hall went down with an injury, with none of the lot exceedingly likely to surpass a modest 50% snap rate. What we do know is that Knight has been utilized as the primary early-down rusher, Johnson as the primary change of pace back, and Carter as a demi-change of pace/passing down hybrid. That leaves very little room for one of the bunch to emerge as a viable fantasy option, particularly considering the difficult matchup on the ground. The pure rushing matchup yields a laughably low 3.955 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Dolphins defense holding opponents to just 3.81 yards per carry this season.
Things get interesting through the air for a combination of reasons. First off is the robust pass volume numbers previously mentioned that have come in Mike White or Joe Flacco starts this year. Second is the matchup with a Dolphins defense that is clearly a pass funnel. Lastly, and this one might be the most important, both offensive tackles for the Jets have yet to practice this week with various ailments, which would likely lead to a heavier reliance on short-area pass game work. That last bit is extremely important, as it is likely to fundamentally alter the way in which the Jets can move the ball through the air, denting the fantasy upside to deeper aDOT players like Corey Davis and boosting the expectations of Garrett Wilson and Ty Conklin. Furthermore, Garrett Wilson saw a combined 33 targets during Flacco’s three starts earlier in the season, all while playing no more than 63% of the offensive snaps in any one game – the electric rookie is now playing every snap for the Jets.
How Miami Will Try To Win ::
Panthers Run D18th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O22nd DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D26th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Saints Pass O19th DVOA/7th Yards per pass
Saints Run D21st DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O10th DVOA/10th Yards per carry
Saints Pass D11th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O30th DVOA/8th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By papy324 >>
- There isn’t much to like in this game.
- Neither team has anything to play for.
- Taysom Hill hurts everyone on the Saints offense.
- The Panthers backfield is a three-way timeshare.
- Rashid Shaheed is underpriced for his upside.
How Carolina Will Try To Win ::
“Woe to the vanquished.” This is how the 6-10 Panthers must feel after giving up twenty points in the fourth quarter of a heartbreaking loss to the Bucs that ended their season last week. Despite a disappointing end, it’s fair to say the Panthers had the most remarkable 6-10 season of all time. They fired their head coach (Matt Rhule) after a 1-4 start, before kicking off a fire sale on anything that wasn’t nailed down. They traded their best player (Christian McCaffrey), and their WR2 (Robbie Anderson), and started a QB carousel that led to P.J. Walker playing for a month. The entire world thought the Panthers were rolling over. Yet, somehow, after starting 1-4, they managed a much more respectable 5-6 down the stretch and were a bad fourth quarter away from being a favorite to make the playoffs. Quite a year for a team that looked like it was giving up in Week 6.
The Panthers found a power running identity after moving on from CMC, and part of that has been a slow pace of play. They are generally plodding (22nd in overall pace), which is their preference (23rd in situational neutral pace), and it could be argued they’d rather play even slower (31st in first half pace) but are willing to speed up if losing (15th in pace when trailing), which at 6-10 is often the case. The Panthers profile as a team that wants to run the ball a ton, and play slow, but are willing to play fast and chase points if they’re behind, which explains why they can create “must-have” game environments but also create a ton of duds.
The Saints have been strong against the pass (7th in DVOA), and weak against the run (19th in DVOA) which sets up perfectly for how the Panthers want to attack. Since Week 6, the number of passing attempts from the Panthers has been: 16 // 22 // 36 // 10 // 16 // 19 // 24 // 23 // 22 // 37. It’s possible we never again see a team throw the ball under 25 times in 10 out of 12 games. The Panthers O-line has been middling overall (15th ranked by PFF) but they’ve been stronger run blockers (8th in adjusted line yards), and they get to take on a struggling Saints front (20th in adjusted line yards given up). The Panthers were going to try and run anyway, and facing a run funnel defense probably assures us they will attempt under 30 passes (likely under 25), hoping to ride their running game to victory.
How new orleans Will Try To Win ::
Browns Run D30th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O10th DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Browns Pass D15th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O20th DVOA/29th Yards per pass
Steelers Run D4th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O8th DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D19th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O11th DVOA/17th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- Cleveland is eliminated from the playoffs but does not own their first round pick and is trying to build momentum for next year while maximizing reps and evaluating their team with Deshaun Watson.
- Pittsburgh is still alive for a playoff berth with a win and some help, while also having the goal of keeping head coach Mike Tomlin’s 15-year streak of non-losing seasons intact.
- In the last six weeks, neither of these teams has been involved in a game where more than 41 points were scored.
How Cleveland Will Try To Win ::
Deshaun Watson played his best game as the Browns quarterback in a Week 17 victory over the Commanders despite completing only 9 of 18 pass attempts. Watson had thrown only two touchdown passes through his first four games this year before throwing three against Washington last week. Watson’s contract ties him to the Browns for a long time and the team has every incentive to keep trying to build for the future with a game against a division rival to close out the season. The Washington game was very slow paced and had extremely low play volume on both sides of the ball, and the Browns ran the ball on 63% of their offensive plays. The Browns have been a team that relies on their running game as the foundation of their offense for a long time now, but there was some thought that they would open things up with the dynamic Watson under center. However, Cleveland has run the ball on over 50% of their plays in four of the five games since Watson entered the lineup. The one exception was their 23-10 loss to the Bengals during which they trailed by 2+ scores for the majority of the game.
Looking at this week’s matchup, Cleveland faces a very strong Steelers defense that ranks top-5 in the league against the run and has been extremely strong against the pass as well, with the exception of some poor performances against elite passing offenses. The Bills, Eagles, and Bengals passing games each had massive games against Pittsburgh with point totals of 38, 35, and 37 respectively, and most of the production in those games came through the air. Since their Week 9 bye, the Steelers defense has only allowed one of their eight opponents to score more than 17 points in a game. Considering the Browns are averaging only 12.6 offensive points per game with Watson under center, and the Steelers are fully motivated to finish with a winning record and can potentially still make the playoffs, it appears that it will be tough sledding for the Browns offense. We should once again expect a very run-centric game plan for Cleveland with them leveraging Watson’s legs to extend plays and/or drives. Pittsburgh’s offense has not been explosive by any means this season, making it likely that the Browns will settle into their high run rate and slow offensive tempo for the majority of the game.
How Pittsburgh Will Try To Win ::
Giants Run D32nd DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O1st DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D22nd DVOA/18th Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O6th DVOA/3rd Yards per pass
Eagles Run D19th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O7th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D1st DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O10th DVOA/29th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- The Eagles will be approaching this as a “must-win” game, with a win securing the division title and NFC #1 seed and a loss possibly meaning they fall to a Wild Card spot.
- The Giants are locked into the #6 seed in the NFC and have no motivation to risk starters or key players in this game.
- Philadelphia dominated the first meeting between these two teams, 48-22.
How new york Will Try To Win ::
I could make this section extremely short this week by simply saying, “they won’t,” but I don’t think JM would appreciate that! All jokes aside, the fact is that the Giants are locked into the #6 seed in the NFC and are likely to face the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs – a team that they played to a close loss just two weeks ago and who looked awful as they were demolished by the Packers in Week 17. The Giants will almost certainly be resting a majority of their key players for this matchup with an Eagles team that destroyed them a few weeks ago and is looking to lock up the #1 seed in the playoffs. There is some thought of trying to build momentum for the playoffs, but the same can be said about the momentum lost if they play everyone and get destroyed again the week before the playoffs start.
Assuming the Giants take this approach, Tyrod Taylor is likely to start or at least play a majority of the game. It seems reasonable the Giants could take a “preseason” approach by starting many of their guys but pulling them after a series or two. Taylor has seen limited work this season and has five rush attempts compared to eight pass attempts. This underscores the likelihood of a run-heavy game plan for the Giants, especially against an Eagles defense whose Achilles heel all season has been stopping the run – as evidenced in their surprising loss to the Saints last week. We should expect New York to run the ball and have a spread-out passing attack that focuses on short areas of the field and simple concepts that get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly. With Saquon Barkley also likely to sit out or be extremely limited, it seems likely that the Giants offense will struggle to move the ball this week, and consistent scoring will be hard to come by.
How philadelphia Will Try To Win ::
mike johnson >>
- JM hit the nail on the head here with the Eagles offense. They scored 24 first-half points in the first meeting with the Giants, and with Hurts back and some key Giants defenders likely taking a rest, that outcome is once again very much in play. Hurts should have a very good game here, with it being likely that either multiple of AJ Brown, Devonta Smith, Miles Sanders, and Dallas Goedert have solid games, or one of them posts a truly elite game for this slate. I will likely employ an “at least one Eagle” rule for most of my lineups this week.
- Hurts himself should be a high-floor and high-ceiling option this week, although his potential ceiling is likely limited by what I would expect will be limited rushing attempts and a situation where Philadelphia may not want to put him in a big scrum near the goal line that could lead to a shoulder setback. However, even with a lower rushing projection, the nature of the slate does lend itself to Hurts being an elite quarterback option this week.
- AJ Brown and Devonta Smith now have similar price tags, and I prefer Brown as both of them project for relatively low ownership, while Brown has had a more consistent role with Goedert in the lineup and Hurts under center.
- Let’s first be clear about the fact that while the Giants don’t “have anything to play for” from a playoff perspective, they are still going to play this game and have players on the field. From that lens, it is likely that many of those players will have very low salaries, and while the matchup isn’t great, cheap volume can be quite valuable, and the Giants have a relatively predictable game script.
- Marcus Johnson has operated as the 4th wide receiver for the Giants recently and would seem very likely to have a significant amount of run this week. Johnson has played well in several preseason situations and could be the focal point of the Giants passing attack this week.
- Lawrence Cager is a former wide receiver who now plays tight end and could be active this week. Cager has the prototype to make big plays for his position and is a much higher upside prospect than fellow bottom-of-the-depth chart tight end Chris Myarick, making him an intriguing option if given the opportunity to get on the field.
Cowboys Run D5th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Commanders Run O29th DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D3rd DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Commanders Pass O27th DVOA/18th Yards per pass
Commanders Run D10th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O10th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Commanders Pass D17th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O13th DVOA/10th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- Dallas has a lot left to play for with the NFC East division title still a possibility if the faltering Eagles lose.
- Washington has been eliminated from the playoffs but still has a chance at a .500 season with a win this week and we should expect their best shot this week.
- Dallas won the first meeting between these teams without the services of quarterback Dak Prescott.
- Rookie quarterback Sam Howell will make his first career regular-season appearance for the Commanders.
How dallas Will Try To Win ::
The dream is still alive for the Cowboys, as they can win the NFC East with a win plus an Eagles loss, and have an outside shot at the 1-seed if the 49ers were to lose as well. Due to that possibility, we can expect Dallas to be fully focused and prepared as they enter this game and try to “control what they can control” with a statement victory to finish off their season with a terrific 13-4 record. The one caveat here is that the Eagles are playing a New York Giants team that is locked into the NFC’s 6-seed and has nothing to play for or gain by risking key players against a team that has already beaten them handily once this season. If Philadelphia were to take significant early control of that game, it is feasible that the approach of the Cowboys coaches could change mid-game as far as protecting their own key players. If the Eagles win, the Cowboys will end up as the 5-seed in the NFC and have a road game against the Bucs next week, which is coincidentally where they started their season and they were thoroughly dominated in a 19-3 loss.
As we have discussed all year, the Cowboys offense is built around the strength of their offensive line and running backs. They build off of the pressure their running game puts on the opposing defense by using play action and other concepts to open things up through the air. Dak Prescott does a lot of very good things but it should be noted that he is tied for the league lead with 14 interceptions despite missing five games early on. Dak has only one 300-yard passing game and that was in Week 16 against the Eagles which was primarily fueled by his own early pick-6 which put the Cowboys in an early deficit. The Cowboys play at one of the league’s fastest paces (2nd in situation-neutral pace for the season) and run the ball at the 4th highest rate in the league, providing a unique blend of speed and power. This week, they expect to get Pro Bowl running back Tony Pollard back from his one week absence, bringing the Cowboys 1-2 running back punch with Pollard and Elliott back into the fold. Pollard’s absence was noticeable last week as the offense lacked the explosion and speed that has been evident for much of the season, especially with Prescott healthy. Due to Dak’s mistake-prone ways, the importance of this game, and the strength this offense is built on, we should expect the Cowboys to lean heavily into their identity and lean on their running backs against a good but not unbeatable Washington front. Shot plays and intermediate concepts will also be used, primarily off of play action, as a means to leverage the attention that Washington will surely be giving to the running game.
How washington Will Try To Win ::
Chargers Run D29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O29th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D10th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Broncos Pass O28th DVOA/15th Yards per pass
Broncos Run D22nd DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O22nd DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Broncos Pass D4th DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O17th DVOA/26th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By Mjohnson86 >>
- The Chargers are seeking the coveted 5-seed which would avoid a first-round game with the Chiefs, Bills, or Bengals – however, there is also a path to them not needing a win in order to secure that spot.
- Denver gave Kansas City a good game last week and they are always very competitive at home.
- The Broncos do not own their first-round pick and a win would be a positive note to end an unbelievably disappointing season.
- This should be a very competitive and spirited AFC West battle to end the season.
How LOs Angeles Will Try To Win ::
The Chargers have found their way into the playoffs with a fast-paced offense and a defense that has had ups and downs but has found ways to make plays at the right times this season. Los Angeles will be either the 5-seed or 6-seed in the AFC, with Sunday’s games determining exactly where they end up. The difference between the #5 and #6 seeds is relatively large, with the better seed getting to face either the Titans or Jaguars in the first round of the playoffs rather than the Bills or Bengals. The Ravens travel to Cincinnati for a 1:00 pm game on Sunday and if the Ravens lose that game (they are currently 9-point underdogs with a 17% implied probability to win) then the Chargers will be locked into the 5th seed regardless of the outcome of their game and will be aware of that fact when their game starts. The Chargers will have to submit their list of inactive players before knowing the outcome of the Ravens game, so we should expect them to have all of their key players dressed and ready, but if the Ravens lose then this game could quickly be turned into a glorified preseason game for many of the key Chargers players.
From a philosophical standpoint, the Chargers have built their offense as a high-volume passing unit that also plays with great tempo – ranking 5th in the NFL in both Pass Rate Over Expectation and Situation Neutral Pace of Play. The Chargers passing game operates primarily in the short and intermediate areas of the field, mixing in occasional deep shots that become more frequent when their backs are against the wall and/or when big play receiver Mike Williams is healthy. The Chargers have run the ball a bit more lately and have been using backup running back Joshua Kelley more consistently to spell Austin Ekeler in running situations. The Denver defense was lights out for the first half of the season but has dropped off considerably of late – allowing 31.8 points per game over the last four weeks (albeit, two of those games were against the Chiefs and one was the Christmas Day “we’re not playing for Hackett anymore” performance). If the Chargers need to win and their offense is all systems go, we should expect them to continue their renewed focus on their running game (the relative weakness of the Broncos defense) and pepper short-area targets to Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler, as they did in their first matchup where they actively avoided challenging star Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain who was shadowing Mike Williams.
How Denver Will Try To Win ::
Rams Run D7th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O23rd DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Rams Pass D20th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O8th DVOA/24th Yards per pass
Seahawks Run D25th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Rams Run O24th DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D17th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Rams Pass O22nd DVOA/30th Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- The Rams are still giving it everything they have despite being eliminated from the playoffs weeks ago.
- Seattle needs to win and get some help in order to make the playoffs, while regardless of that outcome, they are surely focused on finishing the season with a winning record.
- After being involved in many “shootouts” this season, Seattle’s defense has tightened up recently and their offense has struggled against some tough defenses.
How los Angeles Will Try To Win ::
The Rams have competed well down the stretch of the season, going 2-2 since acquiring Baker Mayfield with wins over the Raiders and Broncos while losing to the Packers and Chargers. One thing you can notice about that information is that the good performances came against teams that are out of the playoff race while the losses were against teams that are likely to make the playoffs. This week, the Rams face a Seahawks team that is fighting for their playoff lives and who beat them just a few weeks ago in Los Angeles.
The Rams offense has revolved primarily around running back Cam Akers the last few weeks after Akers was nearly cut from the team due to some disagreements earlier this season. Akers has looked like his former explosive self recently as he finally appears to be recovered from his torn Achilles suffered in the summer of 2021. Akers has amassed 380 total yards from scrimmage over the past three weeks while quarterback Baker Mayfield has thrown for only 473 yards during that time. Basically, Akers has accounted for around half of the Rams offense and this matchup with a Seahawks run defense that has struggled all season sets up perfectly for the Rams to continue leaning on Akers. The Seahawks secondary has been very good, especially of late, as their scheme discourages deep passing and their young secondary has been playing at a high level. Their pass defense has held four consecutive quarterbacks to 240 passing yards or less and their only real issue was in containing George Kittle three weeks ago, but most of that damage was done after the catch. The Rams are limited in perimeter talent and tight end Tyler Higbee is nowhere near the tackle breaker that Kittle is, making it very likely that once again the Rams offense relies on field position and the running game to be competitive.
How seattle Will Try To Win ::
Cardinals Run D27th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
49ers Run O13th DVOA/10th Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D19th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
49ers Pass O3rd DVOA/5th Yards per pass
49ers Run D2nd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O27th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
49ers Pass D5th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O29th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass
Game Overview ::
By Mike johnson >>
- David Blough will make another start at quarterback for the Cardinals.
- The 49ers are currently the 2-seed in the NFC and could end up as high as the #1 or as low as the #3.
- The 49ers dominated the first meeting between these two teams a few weeks ago and are 5-0 in games with Brock Purdy at quarterback.
- San Francisco has significant advantages on both sides of the ball and is likely to control what should be a low tempo game.
How Arizona Will Try To Win ::
The Cardinals season is lost and many key players are out for them already. David Blough will make his second consecutive start after a fine performance in Week 17 against a much less intimidating Falcons defense. As Hilow discussed last week, the Cardinals offense doesn’t really change much regardless of who the quarterback is. They throw the ball on roughly 60% of their offensive plays and their scheme is more horizontal than vertical, with a low yards per attempt in the passing game and a methodical running game that lacks explosive plays. We should expect much of the same here, as head coach Kliff Kingsbury is embattled amid rumors he may step down from the Cardinals or, more likely, be let go as the team has many internal issues they are dealing with. The 49ers defense presents a very tough challenge and dominated the Cardinals in their first matchup despite the presence of Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, who will both miss this game. The Cardinals should once again have a spread offense that plays with mixed tempos but consistently short area concepts in the passing game while trying to create running lanes through their spread formations. Against a top-notch 49ers run defense trying to lock in home field advantage through at least the divisional round of the playoffs, this task looks like a tough one for a lame duck Cardinals offense. The stout nature of San Francisco’s run defense will likely keep Arizona from moving the ball at all on the ground, which will leave Blough in a lot of third-and-long situations that will be difficult to convert.
How san Francisco Will Try To Win ::
Lions Run D26th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O3rd DVOA/11th Yards per carry
Lions Pass D28th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O15th DVOA/21st Yards per pass
Packers Run D32nd DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O15th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Packers Pass D8th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O7th DVOA/6th Yards per pass
XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
Week 18 and the regular season close out with one of the worst scheduling screw-ups I’ve seen as the Lions visit the Packers. This game currently has a juicy 49-point total with the Packers favored by 4.5, but this could change based on the outcome of the earlier games on Sunday. The Packers are in it to win it no matter what, as they can lock in the 7 seed with a win, but the Lions need the Seahawks to lose to the Rams. If the Seahawks win, the Lions are eliminated from the playoffs. If the Seahawks lose, the Lions are in the playoffs if they beat the Packers. The Seahawks are six-point favorites against the awful Rams, so the likeliest scenario here is that the Lions are eliminated before this game kicks off. I’ll try to write this up to cover both scenarios as best I can, but just recognize that if the Lions are eliminated, they might rest some guys, and while I will try to take some educated guesses, I may not be right (i.e. this game could change a LOT based on later news and inactives).
On the Packers side, things should be a little more straightforward. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon will be the primary running backs, however, Jones’ workload has varied significantly from week to week as he’s battled through various injuries. The Packers need this game, so I expect Jones to play and to be in a normal role to start, but he’s someone who is definitely at risk of having his workload managed if the Packers get out to a big lead (which also makes Jones a riskier play if the Seahawks win earlier in the day and the Lions decide to rest guys). Jones was initially hurt in Week 9, and since then he has seen 26, 19, 16, 14, 22, 8, and 17 running back opportunities, so a “normal” expectation here is somewhere in the 15-18 range, but there’s a wide range of outcomes. If the Packers are struggling, they may lean more heavily on him if he’s able to deliver, but if they’re up big, we could see another sub-10 touch game. Dillon, on the other hand, has a more bankable workload of at least 12-14 touches but relatively modest odds of going much beyond that. At $6,800, you don’t need a full bell cow role, and while you’re likely to need a touchdown for Dillon to pay off, he’s scored one in five straight weeks (and, if the Packers are trying to protect Jones, it makes sense that they would try and shelter him from bruising goal-line work). If the game gets out of hand and the Packers decide to take it easy, we could see Patrick Taylor getting mixed in for more reps. The matchup here is solid, as while Detroit has not been QUITE the dumpster fire on defense that we saw to begin the season, they’re still 28th in overall defensive DVOA and 27th against the run.
Ownership updates automatically
In the passing game, Christian Watson is questionable but he played through that tag last week (albeit with a slightly diminished role of 60% of the snaps vs. 80%+ in his four healthy games from Weeks 11-15), and I expect he’ll play through it again. Watson is clearly the most explosive pass catcher the Packers have, but just be aware that a huge portion of his fantasy production has come via touchdowns, with nine TDs in just 65 total touches. Watson is a high variance, high ceiling play. Allen Lazard is the safer option of the Packers wide receivers, as he’s playing the WR1 role and the bulk of the snaps, he’s averaging a healthy 11.7 points per game, and yet he’s just $7,400 despite an elite matchup – he’s a strong option. Romeo Doubs has been one of the least effective wide receivers in the NFL and is in a split role as long as Watson is healthy, leaving him as a high-variance tourney option, while slot receiver Randall Cobb is on the tail end of his career and is a part-time player at this point with just two games of double-digit DK points all season. Cobb can be viewed as a reasonable floor but modest ceiling play, though priced below the kickers, maybe that’s all he needs to be. Samori Toure will rotate in for a handful of snaps and is a thin MME punt play. At tight end, Robert Tonyan is the only guy with any semblance of floor, and Green Bay’s insistence on managing his reps and keeping him in the 50-60% of snaps range most weeks has limited his ceiling. He’s a touchdown-or-bust option. The other Packers tight ends (Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, and Tyler Davis) are all tourney punt options.