Another week, a slightly different setup. The individual player analysis, alternatives to target/avoid remain in place. Quick hitters with brief notes relevant to their Week 15 outlook have been added, as well as some additional players with individual histories against their upcoming opponent pointing toward upside/downside. As always, this analysis should be used as a guide centered around playing the percentages to divulge the matchups at both ends of the spectrum. When you see FPG numbers, they are calculated using PPR scoring.
As it is written earlier in the week, it is very important to take note of all defensive back inactives -- the same goes for difference-making D-linemen facing QBs -- if you plan to tail any recommendations, ATS selections, and/or over-under picks. QBs and receivers can have their fortunes flip in an instant as a result of these absences, shifting target/sit to sit/target outlooks. Sheer target volume can be monumental toward overcoming some of the expected fantasy scoring downside drawn from a history of struggles facing a coverage shell/s.
The same is true for positive game scripts reverting passing attacks to clock-killing ground games, negative scripts massively increasing pace of play in garbage time. If I mention weather as an impacting consideration, make sure you check the updated gameday forecast. With that out of the way, let’s dive into Week 15.
Against the Spread Picks (18-10 ATS)
Kansas City Chiefs (-3.0) at New Orleans Saints
Green Bay Packers (-8.5) vs. Carolina Panthers
Tennessee Titans (-10.5) vs. Detroit Lions*
Los Angeles Rams (-17.0) at New York Jets
Cleveland Browns (-4.0) at New York Giants
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6.0) at Atlanta Falcons
New England Patriots (+2.5) at Miami Dolphins
Pittsburgh Steelers (-13.0) at Cincinnati Bengals
*Lock in the current line before Matthew Stafford’s status is updated.
Total Wagers (7-7)
Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers (Under 51.5)
Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints (Over 51.5)
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (Under 47.0)
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys (Under 45.0)
Matchup of the Week
DK Metcalf, SEA ($8.6K DK | $8.2K FD) vs. Kendall Fuller, WAS
If I had a vote in the NFL Coach of the Year, Washington HC Ron Rivera would take my entry in a landslide. In his very first season, he flipped the NFL roster sans an official team name from a 3-13 record in 2019 to one currently leading the NFC East at 6-7. Do not forget that the Football Team started 2-7 … or that Rivera dealt with squamous cell lymphoma along the way. With winnable matchups over the final two weeks -- Carolina and Philadelphia, a playoff spot is entirely possible. If they can pull out an upset over Seattle this week as host in Prince George's County, they’ll have put together a five-game winning streak.
One of the most important decisions Rivera made upon arrival was the hiring of Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator. Del Rio converted the previous man-heavy scheme into one utilizing either three or four deep defensive backs (Cover 3 and 4). Currently playing zone at the eighth-highest rate (70 percent) permits Washington to drop seven-or-more defenders to oppose the pass. They have been able to achieve the transition so quickly due to the elite play along the D-line from Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Jonathan Allen.
A true breakout from former University of North Carolina walk-on, 2019 fifth-round Sam LB Cole Holcomb led to a featured role following their Week 8 bye. His ascension to the starting lineup directly coincided with Washington’s evolution from an overreliance on 4-3-4 personnel (DL-LB-DB) toward additional snaps with a 4-2-5 and 4-1-6. They are still utilizing a 4-3-4 to defend obvious run situations, but they’ve been able to add CBs to the field -- at the expense of LBs -- while greatly improving both their pass rush, and run defense. Truly remarkable. Holcomb’s outstanding coverage ability has also aided in the containment of slot production from opposing offenses, as I’ll discuss later.
With offenses finding the sledding tough out of the slot, a slight weakness on the outside has emerged. WFT currently ranks first permitting only 10.0 FPG allowed to the slot, but 18th versus outside receivers at 21.6. That’s the fifth-highest difference in the league. DK Metcalf will not be shadowed by Kendall Fuller within any coverage shell he’ll face. Fuller will only be responsible for one-quarter of the field deep -- hence Cover 4 being referred to as Quarters -- when in Cover 4, and one-third of the field deep when in Cover 3. Since Metcalf has run well over half of his routes from left wideout, he’ll face Fuller during every one of those routes.
Fuller is currently allowing 1.00 yards/coverage snap (YPCS, ranked 29th-out-of-96 qualified outside CBs), 0.25 FPs/coverage snap (FPCS, 39th), and 0.142 air yards/coverage snap (AYCS, 17th). Metcalf has turned 21 percent of career routes against Cover 3 into 27 percent of his yardage and 29 percent of TDs. That’s a 19 percent spike to his yards/route run (YPRR), 21 percent increase in FPs/route (FPRt).
It’s the intention of a Cover 4 to funnel receivers underneath at the expense of the deep stuff. Metcalf has still managed 2.24 YPRR (22nd-highest) over 13 percent of career routes against the scheme. Since Tyler Lockett’s ability to generate offense out of the slot is likely to be stunted, it will be interesting to see if Metcalf is the recipient of something similar to the 41 percent target share he received in Week 12. If that proves to be the case, we’ll need a good amount of exposure to the “Wolverine” in DFS.
Matchups to Target
Josh Allen, BUF ($7.2K DK | $8.4K FD) vs. Broncos’ Cover 6 | | 1 | 3
Nobody should need to be told that Josh Allen holds significant DFS upside. He currently ranks fifth among QBs with 26.1 FPG, fifth in pure rushing FPG (5.2) thanks to the fourth-highest backfield share (14.7 percent). However, in spite of his QB5/QB4 salaries, I see him as one of the more significant values at the position in Week 15. He’ll face a Broncos’ defense missing Bryce Callahan -- one of the very elite CBs in the game, A.J. Bouye, and Von Miller. That pair of absences to their zone-heavy secondary have greatly handicapped a defense already middle-of-the-pack against the run.
We can expect to see Denver’s allowance of pure passing FPG to rise in the coming weeks. Allowing the 20th-most total FPG to opposing offenses (88.6), they’ve given up the seventh-most (96.5) since losing Callahan and Bouye. And they’re already ceding the second-most pure rushing FPG to QBs this season (5.22), rising to the most over their last four (7.18). Making matters worse for the Broncos’ Cover 6, Allen has the seventh-highest increase in FPs/dropback (FPDb, 4.1 percent) among 47 qualified QBs when facing Cover 6 over the last two seasons, and the eighth-highest rate of passing TDs (6.4 percent).
All of that without even mentioning the tremendous matchup faced for one of the most dominant WRs this season, Stefon Diggs, or that Cole Beasley. Week 15 will prove to be another tough one for the Denver faithful to watch. Feel free to avoid Allen in GPPs due to his expected ownership numbers. If you’ve been tracking the winning Millionaire lineups this season, then you already know they have been populated by multiple players owned at 20-plus percent on a weekly basis. Do not be surprised to see them constructed around Allen, Diggs, and possibly Beasley in Week 15.
Kyler Murray, ARI ($7.0K DK | $8.0K FD) vs. Eagles’ Cover 1
Several tough lessons were learned last week. To be honest, that can be considered the case every week of every season from the NFL. Nobody has an ironclad bink strategy free from variance. During some weeks, pure luck can rule over the most dedicated of analysis. Coming from someone who’s dedicated his career to analytics, admitting that luck has any part in DFS results is a tough pill to swallow. Why does luck stick its ugly head into the game? The answer is genuinely pretty obvious. It’s actually every bit of the analysis that we devote our time towards that can turn around to bite us.
For example, let’s say that the metrics tell us to avoid Players X, Y, and Z. Those three have been solid FPG contributors most of the season, but they’ve hit recent bumps in the road, and they will be opposed by an extremely tough matchup. Whereas we limit our exposure to those players, others who avoided much research at all viewed the trio as direct plug-and-plays. Of course, that triplet produces directly in the face of those overwhelming odds, leaving our lineups high-and-dry. That might not be the conventional definition of “luck,” but it certainly applies with DFS.
Such was the case in Week 14 with Kyler Murray, in a roundabout way. As described in last week’s release, Murray’s rushing volume previously dropped by 79 percent heading into Week 14 facing the Giants due to the Type 1 AC Joint sprain in his throwing shoulder. While Murray fell 15 percent short of value, it was not due to a lack of ground production. Kyler ended up carrying the ball 13 times, second-highest this season. Even with the current injury protocols in place, NFL teams are still able to hold back crucial information on current recoveries. With Murray showing nothing from the Week 14 film to suggest he’s still experiencing pain in that shoulder, we can move forward under the narrative that he’s at 100 percent health.
The same cannot be said for the Eagles, Murray’s Week 15 opponent:
Avonte Maddox wasn’t having a great season by any stretch of the imagination but, in addition to improving each week, he provided a stable presence for Philly. I’m relatively confident we’ll see Darius Slay on the field this week. If he doesn’t pass through the protocol, DeAndre Hopkins exposure will no longer be optional. However, the loss of Rodney McLeod should not be underestimated. McLeod was simply one of the top free safeties in coverage this season. He wasn’t an elite run defender, but he was another foundational defender for the Eagles.
In place of the two, expect to see plenty of Kevon Seymour and Will Parks this Sunday. These are precisely the type of forced substitutions that result in bracket-busting performances for playmakers. With Philadelphia already surrendering the seventh-most FPG to opposing teams over their last four games, getting healthy couldn’t have come at a better time for Murray. The Eagles had already allowed 3.72 pure rushing FPG to opposing QBs this season (13th-highest). Expect that number to rise after Week 15.
Jalen Hurts, PHI ($5.9K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Cardinals’ Cover 1
No matter what the Eagles’ front office or anyone else tells you, if Jalen Hurts continues to play as well as he did in Week 14, the starting job will not be changing hands. That’s even considering that he lost a fumble, had an INT dropped by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and really didn’t pop off the screen on many of his throws. However, in addition to defeating New Orleans, Hurts displayed the level of mobility to evade pressure so desperately lacking by Carson Wentz. Not only that, both he and Miles Sanders become the first players to rush for over 100 yards facing New Orleans in 55 games.
Sanders can thank the presence of Hurts for sharing in that honor. The addition of the read option, run-pass option (RPO) to the attack opens up the offense to overcome injuries along the O-line. A properly run read option will always force the conflict defender -- the player left unblocked by design -- to make the wrong decision. RPOs are used to capitalize on either the defensive call or overaggressive defenders. The O-line will block as though they will run, the receivers will run genuine routes. When the QB and RB are joined at the mesh point, the QB will read defenders outside the tackle box to determine if they’ll stick in coverage or spill down to defend the run. If they stick, the QB will hand the ball to the RB, if they spill, he’ll target the abandoned receiver.
Hurts will face an Arizona defense that’s actually improved from allowing the 21st-most FPG to QBs this season (17.6) down to the sixth-fewest over their last four (12.5). But we’ve already been handed a full game of film from Hurts facing a surging pass defense, actually limiting him to only 10.7 pure passing FPs. Hurts also faced a far better D-line from the Saints than he will from the Cardinals. Regardless, he still collected 23.3 FPs, 34 percent over value thanks to his legwork. I guess now is a good time to mention that Arizona is offering the ninth-most pure rushing FPG to QBs over their last four games. Even after last week’s production, Hurts is still incredibly underpriced.
A.J. Brown, TEN ($7.6K DK | $8.3K FD) vs. Darryl Roberts, DET
So many great matchups for receivers deserving of individual analysis this week. While I’ll provide some quick hitters on a few of them, it’ll serve you better if I focus the extra attention outside of the top-five salaries. Okay, I did already cover DK Metcalf in the Matchup of the Week. Since true shadow corners are in such short supply, the ones we do have in action are facing vanilla matchups. Anyway, back to the present. At the cost of the WR7/WR6, you can have exposure to the WR, A.J. Brown, who’s racked up the second-highest overall FPRt this season (0.54). Brown will face what arguably amounts to the absolute worst overall defense, the Detroit Lions.
The Lions are terrible against the run, but they are abysmal in pass defense. As if that weren’t enough, they are generating the fifth-fewest QB pressures/game. While I prefer my ATS pick in favor of the Titans giving 10.5 points without him, the absence of Matthew Stafford would be the one reason I might consider a pivot away from Brown. Detroit has allowed the third-most overall FPG to opposing teams this season (104.0). As if allowing the fourth-most FPG to WR units (42.0) wasn’t enough, they’ve been generous in giving out the second-most over their last four (52.9), and the most over their last two (51.3).
Facing the highest rate of Cover 1 snaps (42 percent), Brown will be a kid in a candy store with the ninth-highest FPRt (0.61) -- 28 percent increase to his overall average -- when facing Cover 1 during his career. On 30 percent of snaps facing the scheme, he’s tracked down 37 percent of receptions, 39 percent of yardage, and 44 percent of career TDs. Not only can we expect Derrick Henry to, once again, approach 200 rushing yards, consider Brown a near lock for at least a 5/100/1 line.
T.Y. Hilton, IND ($5.5K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Vernon Hargreaves III, HOU
Prior to Thanksgiving, if I tried to sell you that T.Y. Hilton would become one of the hottest WRs over the next three games, you would’ve scoffed at the idea. That doesn’t make the fact that it happened any less true. During that time, Hilton averaged a 5.7/92.3/1.3 line, 23.1 FPG. Even better, he’s turned a 35, 54, and 40 percent profit over that stretch. Need more? Hilton will face the same team he took for an 8/110/1 line on 11 targets only two weeks ago. Still not enough? His salary would still allow for a 29 percent profit on DK at $5.5K if he matches the same average. On FD at $6.8K, he is still below market value for a WR of his potential.
Hilton scored the first TD of his recent stretch on an end zone fade over Breon Borders in man, also coming one-yard shy of adding a second against Borders on this 50-yard bomb facing Cover 4. He scored his second TD the following week on a crossing route combined with a feinted rub by Trey Burton against Phillip Gaines in Cover 1. Against the Raiders, Hilton found the house on another crossing route when he ate Johnathan Abram alive in a Cover 4, and on a designed back-shoulder timing route facing Nevin Lawson in Cover 1. Further proof of Hilton’s unbelievable, 180 degree turnaround can be directed toward the entirely random drug test the NFL forced him to take.
Rather than digging any deeper into Hilton’s coverage shell history, I feel these performances serve as the better descriptor of his current state. En fuego comes to mind. The Texans are grasping at straws attempting to replace Bradley Roby. Whether they attempt to cover him with Vernon Hargreaves III or Gaines, expect “The Ghost” to continue to ice skate downhill opposed by a secondary granting the ninth-most FPG (39.5), third-most TDs/game to WRs this season (1.38). And he’ll do so as an incredible value.
Brandon Aiyuk, SF ($6.3K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Cowboys’ Cover 4 | 6
A total of 11 WRs have scored eight-or-more TDs this season, 10 are still active (Will Fuller V). For the remainder at the position playing in at least two games, nobody has scored TDs at a rate exceeding 0.54/game. That fact circles the importance of volume at the position. The loss of Deebo Samuel places that ever-important involvement on the shoulders of Brandon Aiyuk.
That will remain entirely true should George Kittle grant us with the mild surprise of being a Week 15 gameday active:
Sans the pair he missed, Aiyuk has run a route on at least 88 percent of dropbacks in all but one game -- 81 percent in Week 7 -- since Week 3. His target shares during his last five games played: 28, 32, 57, 26, and 39 percent. Those percentages amount to a 35 percent target share over the last five games combined. DeAndre Hopkins leads NFL WRs with a 30.1 percent target share over the course of 2020.
The Cowboys have played the ninth-highest rates of Cover 4 (17 percent) and Cover 6 (10). That’s in addition ranks in the to low 20s of Cover 1 and Cover 3, very much the norm in the NFL. Dallas has done well to improve from the defense authorizing the seventh-most FPG to WRs overall (40.5) down to 22nd-most over their last four (34.1). But their pass rush has produced 28 percent fewer QB pressures/game over their last five games than they did the eight games prior. Not the greatest of tradeoffs.
Unfortunately, I do not consider the career sample sizes from Aiyuk facing Cover 4 or 6 as reliable enough to draw conclusions. Since Dallas falls outside the top-20 in Cover 1 and 3 rates, numbers against those shells also provide little value. The number we can focus on is a four-game streak of double digit targets, a 12.5 average/game. Explosiveness to spare combined with volume, in a plus matchup, Aiyuk is clearly optimal chalk that I still deem worthy of consideration in all game types.
Keke Coutee, HOU ($5.3K DK | $5.9K FD) vs. Colts’ Cover 2 | 6
The release of Kenny Stills, suspension of Will Fuller V provided a prime opportunity for Keke Coutee over the final six weeks. He has responded to the opportunity with 17.8 FPG facing stout Indianapolis (W13), and Chicago (W14) zone secondaries. Since he’ll once again face the Colts, this two-minute video showing each of his Week 13 receptions provides the detail we need to establish Week 15 expectations. Before digging deeper, let’s establish that Deshaun Watson did a tremendous job in pre-snap coverage diagnosis against Indianapolis. After that’s understood, we can see that Coutee also displays his ability to uncover the holes within Indy’s Cover 3. That strength served him well to collect 4/99/0 of his 8/141/0 total line against the three-high scheme over the last two.
For whatever reason, Watson didn’t look Coutee’s way last week. Keke finished with only three targets, behind Chad Hansen (seven), Steven Mitchell Jr. (five), and Jordan Akins (five). Coutee was on the receiving end of this scramble drill TD, the only of the game from Watson. We also need to consider that the Colts played twice as many of the Cover 3 snaps (14) Coutee feasted upon than did Chicago (seven). An ability to exploit Cover 3 is not the worst speciality since it’s the second-most common NFL shell, nor is it a bad one to have in a rematch with Indianapolis’ collection of zone schemes.
However, NFL defenses will pick up on that trend if it proves to stick. Another difference from Week 14 against the Bears was the absence of Brandin Cooks. But Cooks was able to practice on a limited basis today:
HC Romeo Crennel did pass along that he expects Cooks to return this week. He also said the same prior to missing last week. A return from Cooks would be big to prevent Coutee from drawing DC Matt Eberflus’ opposing No. 1 WR-stopping eye. If he’s unable to return, Coutee will only be worthy of a couple of darts. If Cooks plays, I wouldn’t argue against Coutee in a much wider array of game types.
Travis Kelce, KC ($8.0K DK | $8.5K FD) vs. Saints’ Cover 1 | 4
You just don’t want to pay what amounts to WR4 salaries on a TE outside of some Cash/SE love. Travis Kelce will cost you around 15 percent more than the second-highest priced TE, Darren Waller. However, to make sure I launch my point out of the ballpark, let’s remove Waller and his salary from the equation, and consider Mark Andrews as having the second-highest salaries. Since I am listing Waller as a fade down below, scratching him from our list is warranted. In this scenario, Kelce will cost 31 percent more on DK, 20 on FD than Andrews. Let’s continue with a comparison-narrative on percentages.
In return for your investment, Kelce’s average FPG (22.0) is 42 percent more than the next qualified TE (Robert Tonyan). The Chiefs pass at the league’s fourth-highest rate, eight percent higher than league average. “Zeus” can be counted on to run two-of-every-five routes from out wide -- 68 percent higher than the qualified TE average, two-of-every-three from a detached alignment (from the slot or wide) -- 25 percent above average. Kelce is garnering 28 percent more targets/game over the second number on the list (6.8) to go along with 25 percent more YPRR over the qualified No. 2 (Mo Alie-Cox).
Kelce is averaging 93.6 air yards/game that’s 26 percent more than any other TE, which would tie him at 20th among qualified WRs. Since I’ve already established the lack of TD consistency at WR, Kelce’s nine receiving TDs would rank him above all but six at the position. Finally, that 22.0 FPG average ranks him above all sans two WRs -- Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill, from which Kelce checks in considerably cheaper.
Rostering Kelce is outside of what the kids are into these days … but isn’t that precisely what we’re after in GPPs? We can look at the matchup with New Orleans from the perspective that they’ve only accredited 11.5 FPG to TEs (20th). However, Kelce manufactured at least 24 FPG facing the Raiders (21st, twice), Chargers (16th), Broncos (tied for 23rd), and Dolphins (tied for 23rd). In fact, the difference between teams allowing the eighth-most FPG to TEs and 21st-most is only 2.99 FPG. All the more reasoning in favor of the individual TE over season averages in defense of TEs. For me, Kelce is in play in all game types, and matchup-proof sans anticipated shadows.
Cole Kmet, CHI ($3.0K DK | $5.1K FD) vs. Vikings’ Cover 2
Based on the ownership in recent weeks, far too few DFS degenerates have taken notice to Cole Kmet seizing the starting role from Jimmy Graham. Let’s examine the evidence. Percentage of dropbacks with Kmet running routes over the last four games: 51, 68, 53, 62 percent. For Graham: 43, 34, 42, and 41 percent. Target shares over the same stretch for Kmet: 13, nine, 21, and 19 percent. For Graham: six, nine, three, and 13 percent. Although, Graham did catch the TD in Week 14 to bring his season total to six.
It would be unwise to discount the 166-game experience from Graham providing him with the wisdom to identify the holes in red zone, goal line coverages. With time, Kmet will learn the nuances toward doing the same. However, we are discussing a TE costing around the same capital as a DST at $3.0K/$5.1K. Kmet has responded to the seven target/game opportunity over his last two by establishing a strong connection with Mitchell Trubisky to the tune of 11.5 FPG. With the Bears’ No. 1 WR facing an unexpected challenge this week -- discussed later, Trubisky may need to place even more trust on the shoulders of his rookie TE.
Aaron Rodgers, GB ($7.8K DK | $9.2K FD) vs. Panthers’ Cover 3
In home games with Aaron Rodgers under center since 2016 playing in freezing temperatures, the Packers are 8-1, have outscored their opponents 28.3-to-17.6, and Rodgers has 17 TDs to zero INTs. The average double-digit leads have resulted in releasing the gas (17.6 pure passing FPG), but it has resulted in big games for Aaron Jones. Thus, exposure to the “King in the North” does hold some positive script-risk. That said, he could blow up should Carolina keep pace.
Taysom Hill, NO ($6.0K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Chiefs’ Cover 1 | 2 | 4 | 6
One has to wonder why the Saints didn’t utilize Taysom Hill’s legs more last week, especially after the loss of Rodney McLeod. Even without most of that anticipated legwork, Hill still provided five percent over value. And don’t be scared away by the Kansas City defense. After a strong start, the Chiefs have dropped from allowing the 14th-fewest FPG to QBs overall to the ninth-most over their last four games.
Baker Mayfield, CLE ($5.6K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Giants’ Cover 2 | 3
It certainly hasn’t paid to bet against Baker Mayfield the last two weeks. Some might point to the back-to-back 30-plus FPG outings as a sign of turning the corner. However, he found that production against the Cover 1-heavy schemes he’s proved himself against in the past. A date with the zone-heavy New York squad will tell us more about Mayfield than anything he achieved facing Tennessee or Baltimore.
Derek Carr, LV ($5.7K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Chargers’ Cover 3 | 4
Speaking of QBs punishing the opposition in consecutive weeks, Derek Carr’s manhandling of the Jets in Week 13 (35.7 FPs) was expected. Following that up with 28.8 on the Colts came out of nowhere. On the other hand, only 10.2 percent of those 64.5 FPs were collected facing Cover 3. The Chargers play Cover 3 at the league’s highest rate (50 percent). I’m still expecting Carr to cover floor value on DK, but fall short of the mark on FD.
Gardner Minshew II, JAX ($5.3K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Ravens’ Cover 0 | 1 | 3
The Mike Glennon-experiment came to an end in disastrous fashion after some decent signs of improvement. But HC Doug Marrone’s incessant disbelief in Gardner Minshew II will likely cost him his job at season’s end. Do not expect Minshew to blow the doors off Baltimore’s quality defense, but he might do just enough on the ground to actually cover on both platforms with the Ravens allowing the ninth-most pure rushing FPG to QBs.
Devante Adams, GB ($9.4K DK | $9.5K FD) vs. Panthers’ Cover 3
To piggyback off the same freezing temperature data above for Rodgers, Davante Adams has, unsurprisingly, been the catalyst to his success. Adams has put together average lines of 6.3/97.3/1.2 (23.4 FPG) during those nine games. Not quite enough from him to cover, but more than enough for consideration to blow up should Carolina throw together competitive scoring.
Michael Thomas, NO ($7.2K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Chiefs’ Cover 1 | 2 | 4 | 6
It hasn’t been the typical output from Michael Thomas after the record-setting stuff of 2019. However, he is showing out as healthy, he’s still priced outside the top-10 WRs, and he’ll be defended by a struggling Bashaud Breeland on a good number of routes. Over the last four games, Breeland has surrendered five-of-the-six TDs by Kansas City CBs.
Justin Jefferson, MIN ($7.3K DK | $7.6K FD) vs. Bears’ Cover 4 | 6
For an in depth breakdown of Justin Jefferson’s previous results facing Chicago, go here. JJ’s skills have him destined for the highest of expectations. A rematch with the Bears should result in much of the same in Week 15.
Injuries have entirely derailed the Bengals’ roster, that much is 100 percent clear. What’s not clear is the reason for Cincinnati’s refusal to travel their stud CB, William Jackson III, with opposing No. 1’s. He will follow that guy on the other side in some obvious passing situations, but not enough to consider him an active shadow. As long as Diontae Johnson avoids more of the drops that have placed him in the doghouse, another care-free outing with Cincy should be fruitful.
Chris Godwin, TB ($6.2K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Falcons’ Cover 1 | 2 | 3
Week 14 should have ended with a monster outing for Chris Godwin. His team collected the victory, but Godwin only saw a 13 percent target share, his lowest of the season. Perhaps the Bucs intended him as more of a decoy after having 11 pins removed from his surgically-repaired finger. Even with another smash spot facing Atlanta up next, we need to make a difficult decision with Godwin.
Gerald Everett, LAR ($3.1K DK | $5.0K FD) vs. Jets’ Cover 4
We could have a solid opportunity at value with the Rams’ TEs in Week 15. The Jets’ defense has imploded over the last six weeks. Every opposing skill position has been indulged with ample FPG-opportunity. Be that as it may, Tyler Higbee has seen his end of the target timeshare with Gerald Everett decrease slightly in recent weeks. Over the last two, Everett has target shares of 16 and 13 percent with Higbee at 14 and eight percent. Despite these numbers, Higbee is priced 18/12 percent higher.
Season-long fantasy aficionados are extremely salty with Noah Fant after he left in Week 14 following only five snaps with an illness in the first round of the fantasy playoffs. Complicating the matter, he’s been unable to practice through Wednesday. If he were to sit against a Buffalo defense suffering the sixth-most FPG to the position (15.3), do not hesitate to consider Troy Fumagalli. We obviously can’t qualify his numbers with only 30 routes to his name in ‘20, but he’s done well to generate the second-highest FPRt (0.083), nonetheless.
Other matchups to consider:
Ryan Tannehill, TEN ($6.7K DK | $7.7K FD) vs. Lions’ Cover 1 | 2
Tom Brady, TB ($6.6K DK | $7.9K FD) vs. Falcons’ Cover 1 | 2 | 3
Matthew Stafford, DET ($5.8K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Titans’ Cover 1 | 2
Nick Mullins, SF ($5.1K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Cowboys’ Cover 4
Tyreek Hill, KC ($8.8K DK | $9.3K FD) vs. Saints’ Cover 4 | 1
Stefon Diggs, BUF ($7.9K DK | $8.2K FD) vs. Broncos’ Cover 6 | 1 | 3
Adam Thielen, MIN ($7.1K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Bears’ Cover 4 | 6
Terry McLaurin, WAS ($6.6K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. 49ers’ Cover 3 | 2 | 6
Irv Smith Jr., MIN ($3.6K DK | $5.4K FD) vs. Bears’ Cover 4 | 6
Will Dissly, SEA ($2.9K DK | $4.9K FD) vs. Washington’s Cover 3 | 4
Upside Based on Matchup History:
Deshaun Watson, HOU ($6.8K DK | $8.1K FD) vs. Colts’ Cover 2 | 6
Justin Herbert, LAC ($6.9K DK | $8.0K FD) vs. Raiders’ Cover 2 | 6
Cam Newton, NE ($5.5K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Dolphins’ Cover 0 | 1 | 3
Philip Rivers, IND ($5.9K DK | $7.1K FD) vs. Texans’ Cover 1 | 3
Keenan Allen, LAC ($7.8K DK | $8.4K FD) vs. Raiders’ Cover 2 | 6
Jared Cook, NO ($3.4K DK | $5.6K FD) vs. Chiefs’ Cover 1 | 2 | 4 | 6
Jordan Reed, SF ($3.2K DK | $5.1K FD) vs. Cowboys’ Cover 4
Matchups to Avoid
Russell Wilson, SEA ($7.3K DK | $8.4K FD) vs. Washington’s Cover 3 | 4
We may not be able to count on “The Professor” to provide us with outings approaching the 30 FPG like he could over his first eight games, but 25 is not out of the question. The reasons for the seemingly extreme shift in strategy can most likely be explained as an effort to reduce the workload on the defense. But, however slight, changes to the offense at this juncture might assist the defense for the playoffs, but the effect it will have on the offensive momentum is still to be determined. Let’s examine the data to figure what actually has been altered.
First let’s attempt the fast route with a recent quote from HC Pete Carroll himself: “That's the element of our football that makes us this style of team that we are and it makes Russ' job different than it is when he has to throw the ball 40 times or 50 times. He certainly can do it and loves doing it and we don't mind doing it, but our football is better shaped when we're balanced and we're attacking you and we can play off of that.” As can obviously be pulled from his description, Carroll wants to use Wilson’s passing success to feed the running game.
Looking into the specific data, over their first eight games, the Seahawks passed on 68 percent of snaps, averaged 67 plays/game, and scored 34.3 PPG. Over their last five, they passed on 65 percent, ran 69 plays/game, and generated 23.8 PPG. A 31 percent plummet in scoring is jaw dropping. But we still need to figure out the “why.” Prior to Week 10, Wilson completed an astonishing 43 percent of 20-plus throws for 700 yards, 10 TDs, and a pair of INTs. Over the following five weeks, he completed 28 percent for 220 yards, three TDs, and two INTs. Despite that obvious fall-off-the-cliff production, Wilson actually attempted a higher percentage of 20-plus attempts during the most recent five games (14.1 percent) than over his first eight games (13.5).
Looking at his most recent opponents, only the Rams stand out as a threat to the upside for “DangeRussWilson.” When it comes to passing deep, the most fundamental requirement to simply delivering the football is the pass protection. Over his historic eight-game stretch, the Hawks gave up an average of 10.9 QB pressures/game. Over their last five, 18.0/game. Nearly doubling the amount of pocket pressure on Wilson is easily the metric that has thwarted the QBs output. The added pressure combined with Carroll redistributing a full three percent of plays to the run are most definitely the underlying causation.
With the top-five pass rush from Washington coming to the plate, we can expect to see the issue compound rather than resolve. Looking over the health of their O-line, right tackle could be the culprit. Brandon Shell missed Week’s 12-13 with his direct backup, Cedric Ogbuehi, failing to play since Week 12. However, Shell returned to face the Jets, offering us some hope that Wilson’s production could rebound. Be that as it may, I’m unwilling to wager in favor of Week 15 standing as the starting point. WFTs defense is simply playing too well for $7.3K/$8.4K of my cap dollars.
Teddy Bridgewater, CAR ($5.2K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Packers’ Cover 6 | 2 | 3
Further dipping into Green Bay’s most recent nine games on Lambeau Field with freezing temperatures since 2016, the opposing QB in those games averaged only 13.5 pure passing FPG. They also turned the ball over 14 times compared to 12 TD passes. You should put a Google search out on the dropoff in efficiency for QBs from warm weather states traveling to play games in freezing temperatures. The resulting data is compelling enough to allocate the time. Rather than capitalizing on other’s dedicated work, I’ll leave it to you to read it for yourself. However, I will add this graphic that’s properly credited:
As is clearly labeled, the historical data suggests Teddy Bridgewater is facing an uphill battle of the 90 degree incline-variety. If Christian McCaffrey were to return, Bridgewater’s outlook would be appropriately invigorated. Without CMAC, Teddy is an easy fade with the forecast in Green Bay currently calling for a 31 degree game time temperature.
Drew Lock, DEN ($5.0K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Bills’ Cover 1 | 3 | 4
Seemingly out of nowhere, Drew Lock popped for his second-best output (26.6 FPs) of the season. Out of nowhere due to Lock’s horrendous play rather than from facing the Panthers’ Cover 3. Carolina has obliged the 13th-most FPG to QBs overall (19.1), second-most the last two weeks (25.6). Rather than facing the one coverage shell against which he’s actually done something during his career, Lock will face a Buffalo defense featuring Cover 1 (32 percent, 12th-highest) and Cover 4 (20 percent, 18th) alongside some Cover 3 (28 percent, 13th). The Panthers ran out a Cover 3 at the second-highest rate (45 percent).
When facing Cover 1 on 27 percent of career dropbacks, Lock’s FPDb plummets by 37 percent, his YPA by 16 percent, and he’s only connected on 12.5 percent of TDs. When facing Cover 4 on 10 percent of dropbacks, his FPDb falls by 20 percent, and he’s yet to pass for a TD. His FPDb increases by 55 percent when facing Cover 3 during his 21 percent of career dropbacks with the seventh-highest rate of TDs passes (31 percent) out of 47 qualified QBs. Unfortunately for Lock, the Bills have begun correcting the wrongs that led to allowing the eighth-most FPG to QBs this season (19.7). Over their last four games, that allowance has dropped to the 17th-most at 16.9. I’ll be focusing my attention elsewhere.
Calvin Ridley, ATL ($8.2K DK | $8.4K FD) vs. Carlton Davis, TB
With news dropping that Julio Jones is looking at a week-to-week absence, unlikely to play this week, we would need substantial reasoning to fade Calvin Ridley. One of the reasons Tampa Bay can be a stiff challenge for some offenses comes from bracketing -- a true double-team on a single receiver -- opposing WR1s with both Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean in some instances. For some teams, viable options behind their No. 1 can eliminate the option. For Atlanta, their injury-riddled unit does not have such a luxury.
Should the talented CB tandem focus on Ridley, do not be surprised if Russell Gage ends up with a solid line. During three previous games facing the Buccaneers, Ridley has averaged 14.6 FPG. In order to cover value, we’ll need 24.6/25.2 FPs at $8.2K/$8.4K. With only two games this season producing less than 14 FPs, do not expect Ridley to be ghosted. However, I am not anticipating more than 20 FPs. If you must, Ridley’s salary on FD offers the more salary-friendly option of the two.
Tyler Lockett, SEA ($6.7K DK | $7.4K FD) vs. Jimmy Moreland, WAS
He may not be setting the world ablaze with splash plays, but Jimmy Moreland has provided consistency in defense of the slot. He’s brokering out 1.13 YPCS (25th-best out of 103 qualified slot CBs), 0.24 FPCS (26th), and 0.084 AYCS (12th). When facing an athlete of Tyler Lockett’s calibur in zone coverage, skilled support is usually required. Sam LB Cole Holcomb provides that in excess. Holcomb is hindering his coverage responsibilities to 0.44 YPCS (third-fewest among 99 qualified LBs), 0.14 FPCS (eighth), and 0.026 AYCS (12th).
Their combined efforts have limited slot WRs to the lowest FPG this season (10.0). Following his 56-point explosion in Week 7, Lockett has only hatched greater than 12.3 FPs once (W11 against the same Arizona secondary). “The Rocket’s” $6.7K/$7.4K salaries have simply been constructed around his early-season production. Facing the preeminent NFL slot defense, let the rest of the field chase after a Lockett resurrection.
Allen Robinson II, CHI ($7.4K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Cameron Dantzler, MIN
Matchups with the Lions and Texans allowed both Mitchell Trubisky and Allen Robinson II to hand us significant DFS value. One might look to a Week 15 showdown with the Vikings as another chance at profit. That actually might not go down as planned. Minnesota’s defense has rode closely behind its offensive success during their current 5-2 stretch. Whereas their secondary was once considered to be exploitable, they’ve decreased their overall FPG allowance to opposing offenses from 12th overall (94.5), to 18th over their last four (87.6), and down to 21st over their last two (85.4).
While Robinson is unlikely to draw a shadow, as he aligns evenly across the formation, he will draw a significant number of snaps across from Cameron Dantzler. Following a brutal five-game start to his NFL career, Dantzler has really come into his own over his last four. Receivers inside his coverage are only collecting 38 percent of targets, an average of 23.3 YPG, and zero TDs. We really don’t know how reliable the 6/43/0 line for Robinson will be from when these teams met in Week 10 since Nick Foles was under center. Regardless, his $7.4K/$7.3K salaries present him as more of a dart in a GPP stack with Trubisky.
Robby Anderson, CAR ($6.2K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. Jaire Alexander, GB
We’ve finally come to our first significant shadow situation. All the same, the Packers may end up planting Jaire Alexander to his left side should the anticipated freezing weather-effect come to fruition. During those same nine cold weather games in Green Bay, opposing starting WRs are averaging 15.6 FPG. Without an Alexander shadow messing with things, that average would nearly be enough for Robby Anderson to cover floor value.
In spite of garnering 12 targets for 17.7 FPs last week, D.J. Moore is set to make his return from testing positive. During Anderson’s previous seven games with Moore on the field, he’s averaged 12.5 FPG. A repeat would fall 33/40 percent short of value. Anderson will face Alexander limiting his coverage to 0.67 YPCS (fifth-best), 0.16 FPCS (sixth), and 0.116 AYCS (10th). With substantial historical data calling for a significant decline in passing efficiency for Teddy Bridgewater, I’ll avoid banking on Anderson finding the end zone for only the third time this season.
Mark Andrews, BAL ($5.5K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Myles Jack, JAX
The Ravens will fall into a dream matchup against the sputtering Jaguars defense. The most substantial weakness for Jacksonville has been in coverage. They’ve generously provided opposing WR units with the seventh-most FPG this season (42.7). Coinciding with some surrounding help in support of Myles Jack’s excellent play, the Jags’ allowance to TEs has dried up as the season has progressed.
Enduring the 11th-most FPG to the position overall, Jacksonville improved to 15th-best over their last four (11.4), and ninth-best the last two (10.1). Jack’s man coverage has inhibited his coverage responsibilities to 0.80 YPCS (29th), 0.19 FPCS (29th), and 0.039 AYCS (25th). Should Mark Andrews shake Jack’s coverage toward that of Joe Schobert, “MANdrews” might put something together. I’m counting on Jack avoiding that outcome.
Rob Gronkowski, TB ($4.2K DK | $6.3K FD) vs. Falcons’ Cover 1 | 2 | 3
Another defense that struggled facing opposing TEs over much of the season, the Falcons have significantly improved in that department in recent games. Nobody on the roster deserves as much credit for that improvement than Deion Jones. The LSU product has continued to climb the ranks to currently place seventh in YPCS (0.55), 13th in FPCS (0.16), and 11th in AYCS (0.025). Much of that improvement in coverage can be attributed to his improved tackling efficiency, reducing missed tackles.
He ended up finding the end zone, but the two-yard connection for Rob Gronkowski ended up being one of only two targets in Week 14. Gronk has now traded outings with at least 13.1 FPG with others of 7.2-or-less over his last six. Now that Atlanta is limiting TEs to only 9.2 FPG over their last four due to the combined efforts of Jones and Mykal Walker, Gronkowski’s upside will most likely be capped, regardless of his anticipated field ownership. The Falcons are currently far more lenient toward WRs than inline receivers.
Jared Goff, LAR ($6.3K DK | $7.8K FD) vs. Jets’ Cover 2 | 6
I love the matchup against an outrageously generous New York defense. That said, I am very concerned that the Rams will build a lead, shift the entire focus of the offense to running the ball with Cam Akers. That’s exactly how last week’s game with the Patriots went down. Love Akers, think we’ll see at least one LAR receiver eat, but do not think Jared Goff will do enough in return of our attention..
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT ($6.5K DK | $7.7K FD) vs. Bengals’ Cover 1
That outlook for Goff directly translates here for Ben Roethlisberger. The Bengals are actually better than some might imagine in pass defense. That doesn’t mean that Steelers’ receivers will fail to find the end zone. I am actually anticipating they’ll do so on multiple occasions. What I do not expect is for the Cincy offense to score many points. The limited passing yardage will prevent Big Ben from covering this week.
Tua Tagovailoa, MIA ($5.7K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Patriots’ Cover 0 | 1 | 2
Make sure you do yourself a favor, check out Tua Tagovailoa’s film opposed by Kansas City. Despite losing the majority of his receivers, Tua picked the Chiefs’ defense apart to nearly bring Miami back from a significant early deficit. No matter which receivers end up playing for the Dolphins, New England’s defense is getting healthy, and playing their best ball of the season.
Mitchell Trubisky, CHI ($5.5K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Vikings’ Cover 2
With Allen Robinson II gathering the tough Cam Dantzler coverage, Mitchell Trubiskey will rely on a promising but unproven set of replacements. For my cap dollars, gambling on Trubisky piecing together a fourth consecutive quality fantasy result is too remote for anything outside of GPP darts.
Amari Cooper, DAL ($6.4K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. 49ers’ Cover 3 | 4 | 6
Do I really need to convince you to avoid the coverage responsibility of Jalen Ramsey?
If you agree that Ramsey should be avoided, make sure you realize that Xavien Howard may be his man coverage-equivalent. Howard could also end up shadowing Damiere Byrd, tough to tell.
The Lions defense has presented very few positives this season. Jamie Collins Sr. aiding Detroit in limiting opposing TEs to the seventh-fewest FPG (10.4) tops my list.
Other matchups to avoid:
Matt Ryan, ATL ($5.4K DK | $7.4K FD) vs. Buccaneers’ Cover 4
Andy Dalton, DAL ($5.4K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. 49ers’ Cover 3 | 4 | 6
Alex Smith, WAS ($5.0K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. Seahawks’ Cover 3
Sam Darnold, NYJ ($4.8K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Rams’ Cover 4 | 6
Austin Hooper, CLE ($3.3K DK | $5.2K FD) vs. Giants’ Cover 2 | 3
Dalton Schultz, DAL ($3.2K DK | $5.2K FD) vs. 49ers’ Cover 3 | 4 | 6
Downside Based on Matchup History:
Brandin Cooks, HOU ($6.0K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Colts’ Cover 2 | 6
Mike Williams, LAC ($4.8K DK | $5.8K FD) vs. Raiders’ Cover 2 | 6
Darren Waller, LV ($6.9K DK | $7.1K FD) vs. Chargers’ Cover 3
Jordan Akins, HOU ($2.8K DK | $5.0K FD) vs. Colts’ Cover 2 | 6