Unless your season-long utilizes the entirely chaotic Week 17, you’re either playing for the championship, or find yourself in a consolation bracket. In any case, we can jump into some playoff leagues, or direct that attention toward DFS. No matter what football needs you might have, make sure you take advantage of the tremendous early-bird offer on a 2021 subscription toFantasy Points. Sign up now for a 30 percent discount that’ll provide you access to every bit of my analysis beyond this series and so much more extending until after the 2022 Super Bowl.
As for Week 16, the response I received following the adjustments last week to the setup were entirely positive. Adding the quick hitters proved to be a quality addition. For this week, I’ve added even more quick hitter blurbs. 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. Whenever you see those FPG numbers, remember they are calculated using PPR scoring.
With this article written each Wednesday, it is very important to take note of all defensive back and other difference-making defender inactives if you plan to tail any of my recommendations, ATS selections, and/or over-under picks. QBs and receivers can see those fortunes flip as a result of these absences. Sheer target volume is monumental toward overcoming expected fantasy scoring downside due to struggles facing the various coverage scheme/s.
The same is true for positive game scripts reverting passing attacks to clock-killing ground games, and negative scripts massively increasing pace of play in garbage time. If I mention weather as an impacting consideration -- ever important during these latter weeks, make sure you check the updated gameday forecast. With that out of the way, let’s cannonball into the Week 16 analysis.
Against the Spread Picks (21-15 ATS)
Minnesota Vikings (+7.0) at New Orleans Saints
Miami Dolphins (-3.0) at Las Vegas Raiders
Cincinnati Bengals (+8.0) at Houston Texans*
Cleveland Browns (-9.5) at New York Jets
Chicago Bears (-7.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Pittsburgh Steelers (+1.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts
Washington Football Team (-2.5) vs. Carolina Panthers
Los Angeles Rams (+1.5) at Seattle Seahawks
Green Bay Packers (-3.5) vs. Tennessee Titans
*If Brandon Allen draws the start.
Total Wagers (9-9)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions (Over 54.0)
Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs (Over 54.0)
Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (Over 48.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (Over 49.5)
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (Under 47.5)
Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers (Under 56.0)
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (Under 46.0)
Matchup of the Week
Russell Wilson, SEA ($7.3K DK | $7.9K FD) vs. Rams’ Cover 4 | 6
We have sufficient evidence in support of fading the Seattle passing attack in Week 16. These teams met twice last season: a 30-29 victory for Seattle in Week 5 and a 28-12 triumph in favor of the Rams in Week 14. However, Jalen Ramsey was not involved in Week 5. In Week 14, he did his part in holding DK Metcalf to 5/69/0 of his 6/78/0 receiving line. For a more recent example, back in Week 10 of this season, Los Angeles was the first team to hold the previously trailblazing Seahawks’ offense to under 20 points, and only the second-of-nine to under 30.
Only in that Week 10, 23-16 loss to the Rams was Russell Wilson held without a TD pass, under 60 percent completions, and to below a 73.2 passer rating all season. DangeRussWilson’s 5.1 YPA from Week 10 -- a 35 percent decline to his season average -- would rank him below all 46 qualified QBs this season, even Ryan Finley, Carson Wentz, and Colt McCoy. Seeing The Professor find a way to succeed against DC Brandon Staley’s fortified Cover 4 and 6 shells would not be the most shocking headline of the season. We already saw that when the Jets took down Los Angeles last week. I’ll cover some of the keys from that particular upset further down.
Since I feel the matchup deserves zero consideration whatsoever, I’ll simply pass along that Ramsey held Metcalf to a 0/0/0 receiving line on a pair of targets during their last showdown. His only production (2/28/0) was found within the coverage of Micah Kiser. He made it all of four combined yards after the catch. Unless Wilson surrenders all hopes of attacking vertically, his offense's recent string of uninspiring results will continue. One of the most important takeaways from the Rams’ loss last week was Sam Darnold’s complete acceptance of attacking underneath to push his team inch-by-inch. Anything Wilson pushes over the top will pull his team further away from a victory.
Matchups to Target
Justin Herbert, LAC ($7.4K DK | $8.2K FD) vs. Broncos’ Cover 6 | 1 | 0
As much as I appreciate everything Justin Herbert has been able to do as the likely ROY, I can’t help but wonder what might have been had Joe Burrow’s leg not been bent 90º in an unnatural direction. We very well could’ve been witness to a rookie QB season comparable to 1984 featuring Dan Marino and John Elway. Alas, we still have our Hairbert. With victories in three-of-five, a showdown with the walking training table of a defense from the Broncos could add another notch to Herbert’s belt.
The loss of Von Miller to a dislocated peroneal tendon prior to the season was simply a harbinger of things to come. They lost Jurrell Casey and Mike Purcell from the interior, A.J. Bouye was popped for juicing, and then, the most significant loss sans Miller, breakout stud Bryce Callahan hit IR with another foot ailment. An entirely unremarkable CB trio of Michael Ojemudia, De'Vante Bausby, and Davontae Harris now stand in the way of Herbert.
The Chargers do have some health concerns of their own. Keenan Allen is highly questionable to face Denver at the time of this writing. And, while Mike Williams was able to play through a back injury last week, he left after running routes on only 50 percent of dropbacks. Williams appears the more likely of the two to play. Even without Allen, the return of Austin Ekeler, emergence of Tyron Johnson have provided Herbert with more than enough firepower to overcome Allen’s absence.
We can expect the Broncos to defend LAC from a variety of schemes. They play the NFL average number of Cover 1 and 3, but feature a Cover 6 at the fifth-highest rate (15 percent). Herbert ranks sixth among 48 qualified QBs with 0.43 FPs/dropback (FPDb) when facing a Cover 6. His passer rating ranks 10th (102.4), his YPA increases by 31.1 percent (seventh-most), and his air yards/attempt by 13.5 percent (13th). On 13 percent of dropbacks against Cover 6, Herbert has collected 18 percent of his yardage (the highest), and 15 percent of his career TDs (the highest). He’ll cost you QB6/QB7 dollars to roster, but I fully expect this game to exceed the combined implied total of 48.5 points.
Matthew Stafford, DET ($5.6K DK | $7.4K FD) vs. Buccaneers’ Cover 4 | 6 | 2
It’s been a frustrating season for Lions’ fans. Outside of an easy 34-16 victory over the hapless Jaguars, Detroit only managed to secure their four other wins by an average of 2.8 PPG. With their defense indulging a league-high 31.1 PPG, Matthew Stafford has been forced to air it out at the seventh-highest rate (65 percent). While he currently ranks 10th with 269.6 passing YPG, it was his success in Chicago three weeks ago that highlights what he’s able to do if utilized in the proper matchups.
Passing for 402 yards with three TDs, Stafford willed his squad to a 34-30 result. He topped 30 FPs thanks to 9.6 YPA, with 26 percent of that yardage earned against the Bears’ Cover 6, and including a 49-yard TD strike to Quintez Cephus. Over the last two seasons, Stafford ranks first overall with 0.52 FPDb versus Cover 6. He also tops every QB with a 121.8 QB rating while gaining the fourth-highest increase to his YPA (41 percent). Stafford also ranks fourth with 0.39 FPDb against Cover 4, fueled by the eighth-highest increase in YPA (14.5). Against Cover 2 over the same time, Stafford ranks eighth with 0.36 FPDb.
The Bucs play a collection of shells consisting of Cover 6 (11 percent, 10th-most), Cover 4 (16 percent, ninth) and Cover 2 (15 percent, 11th). The biggest obstacle for Stafford will not come from Tampa Bay, it’ll be his ability to play through a right thumb sprain, and a slight tear to his rib cartilage. His practice reps are currently being monitored. But we don’t simply need to guess if Stafford is healthy enough to play, we have plenty of evidence from last week’s game.
For our first example, on first appearances, this goal-to-goTD pass to Marvin Jones Jr. may not seem to be out of the ordinary. However, let’s take a look at that same throw from theend zone cam. The extra perspective places a red circle around a couple Tennessee defenders as they take the bait laid down by Stafford. Rashaan Evans is biting down on a Stafford staredown directed at T.J. Hockenson and the hesitation from Desmond King II opens this window just enough for Stafford’s no-look laser to Jones crossing under the uprights.
On thisdime to Hunter Bryant, which happens to be his first career reception, we have a perfect illustration of Stafford’s current locked-in vision to perfectly hit his receiver in stride with a defender in tight coverage. Both of these examples present the Titans in a Cover 3, the fourth shell he’ll face from the Buccaneers this Sunday. Simply put, I can pass along without a single doubt that the only reason Stafford left last week’s game was to rest those injuries with the score out of hand. For as long as Detroit remains competitive in Week 16, Stafford will be on the field. That does present significant risk, but he will only cost us QB19/QB18 cap dollars. The matchup couldn’t be more perfectly suited to Stafford’s abilities.
Drew Lock, DEN ($5.0K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Chargers’ Cover 3 | 4
What if I told you that a QB with massive current week-upside was available at less than the cost of Cam Newton, Gardner Minshew II, or Nick Foles on DK. This QB will face a defense featuring the highest rate of the exact scheme that that QB just ate alive for 26.6 FPs in Week 14. Would you bite? I know I would/will. I’ve made it clear that I am not on the horse pulling the Drew Lock wagon but, under nearly every failed QB experiment, a coverage shell expertise existed that allowed that QBs inferior abilities to make it to the highest level.
In the case of Lock, that scheme is a Cover 3. In Week 14, Lock connected on 13-of-15 attempts for 209 yards, and a pair of TDs against that particular coverage. The useful DFS performance prior to that came in Week 9 at Atlanta (33.22 FPs). Lock acquired 38 percent of his 313 passing yards against the Falcons on only 21 percent of dropbacks against their Cover 3. During his only other useful outcome -- which happens to be a rematch of this week’s opponent, Lock captured every one of his 248 passing, three TDs, and 20.82 FPs facing the Chargers’ Cover 3. At only $5K/$6.8K, we have a damn near guarantee for at least a 25 percent ROI over floor value on DK, and to cover value on FD, an extremely rare occurrence.
Mike Evans, TB ($6.1K DK | $7.6K FD) vs. Alexander Myres, DET
For those with the subscription access to read last week’s Bottom Line, the upside in a smash spot for Mike Evans was laid out with an ownership of only 7.2 percent. Only Marvin Jones Jr., CeeDee Lamb, and teammate Antonio Brown offered more value from WR at under 10 percent ownership, and under $6.5K on DK. After Atlanta pulled ahead 17-0 in the second quarter, Tom Brady took to the skies to outscore the Falcons 31-10 the rest of the way to secure the W. Brown and Chris Godwin were gifted with the TDs, but Evans assembled receptions of 10, 32, 26, 24, and 11 yards following that 17-0 deficit to aid in the comeback.
Evans also gained 13 yards for his team on a pass interference penalty. He may only be averaging 55.6 receiving YPG this season (38th) but, combined with the yardage gained on the interferences, defensive holds, and illegal contacts that secondaries commit to prevent long gains, Evan’s is averaging 85.2 YPG, 20th-best. Evans leads all receivers with 21 of those penalties. It may be difficult to buy into, but those additional 29.6 penalty YPG speak to a future correction in production. His status as an underperforming 2020 WR is not very far removed from one completely living up to expectations when we also consider the potential TDs also lost due to penalties.
Independent of the penalty yardage drawn, Evans will face a Detroit secondary missing CBs Jeffrey Okudah, Desmond Trufant, Darryl Roberts, Mike Ford, and Tony McCrae. Evans will draw a large amount of snaps across from Alexander Myres. With only 17 snaps played during his career for the UDFA out of the University of Houston via Ouachita Baptist University, you begin to get a sense of Evans’ Week 16 upside. It’s no surprise whatsoever that the Lions have licensed the second-most FPG to WRs over the last four weeks (48.3).
Adam Thielen, MIN ($7.1K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Janoris Jenkins, NO
Judging by my calculations, this game is setting the Saints up for something of a trap. Last week, playing against a Chiefs’ offense calling pass at the fourth-highest rate, just as predicted, New Orleans utilized their Cover 3 and 4 shells on over 20 percent more snaps than their previous 13 game averages. This week, they’ll face a Vikings’ offense running the ball at the fifth-highest rate. The Saints’ rate of Cover 1 increases by 14 percent when they anticipate the run. Adding those additional Cover 1 snaps to their season average, New Orleans could play the shell upwards of 42 percent of snaps on Friday. That rate of man coverage would be money in the bank for this Minnesota attack.
Placing the cherry on top, the vast majority of the field will fade these Vikings from their Friday-to-Monday lineups facing a N’Orleans defense allowing the 10th-fewest FPG to opposing WR units. When Adam Thielen has been opposed by Cover 1 the last two seasons, he ranks third with 0.84 FPs/route. That’s a 77 percent rise in his overall average, tops in the league. On 23 percent of total snaps facing Cover 1, Thielen has brought in 37 percent of yardage, and 53 percent of his TDs. His 10 Cover 1 TDs over that time are one more than Tyreek Hill and three more than Davante Adams. Even if the Saints toss out more Cover 4 to counter the pass, Thielen ranks 10th out of 80 qualified WRs over the same time against that zone shell.
Marvin Jones Jr., DET ($4.9K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Carlton Davis, TB
As an impending unrestricted free agent, the timing couldn’t be more perfect from Marvin Jones Jr. to have a late-season surge. Over his last six games, Jones is averaging 18.5 FPG. As we are all well aware, the analytical layers underlying that number are far more important. During that six-game stretch facing the Cover 6, 4, and 2 shells of vital importance to Week 16 on 31 percent of routes, Jones simply secured 51 percent of receptions, 48 percent of yardage, and 67 percent of total TDs.
The upside for Jones is directly tied to Matthew Stafford. These zone schemes are not simply aced on the fly by backup QBs plucked from the sidelines. With that in mind, we must have faith in these numbers for exposure to this stack. If they hold true to form, the Lions’ offense should have no issues scoring with Tampa Bay. The ability to keep pace would present Stafford with another opportunity to hit 300 yards in excess. That opportunity for Stafford would trickle down to Jones for a repeat of his 8/116/1 line at Chicago, and 28.6 FPs. Find me one other WR with that upside on DK at $4.9K-or-less.
Tyron Johnson, LAC ($4.0K DK | $5.6K FD) vs. Michael Ojemudia, DEN
Well, since I asked, here is that WR fitting those Marvin Jones Jr. criteria: Tyron Johnson. For clarity, I am a huge believer in the talents of Mike Williams. That said, I am also beginning to believe that the former Clemson University standout may need a change of scenery to fulfill his potential. Judging from the last two games, the Chargers could be grooming Johnson to be his replacement. Coming out of Oklahoma State via LSU, Johnson went undrafted despite posting this4.34 40 at his Pro Day.
It actually wasn’t that much of a surprise to see TyJ go unclaimed after doing very little in college sans his junior year with the Cowboys. However, as you can plainly see from that Pro Day video, Tyron is shredded to the literal bone. As I’ve already established, the Chargers will see a ton of Cover 6 from Denver. From his 15 routes run against Cover 6, Johnson has pulled down three receptions for 89 yards, and a pair of TDs. We need more of a sample size for reliability, but now is the time to populate GPP lineups with Johnson.
Austin Hooper, CLE ($3.5K DK | $5.1K FD) vs. Neville Hewitt
As I’ll explain later, landing on Austin Hooper and Dan Arnold at these spots are not the initial TEs selected. Regardless, they both provide our Week 16 lineups with plenty of potential for ROI. The shocking upset over the Rams ended a six-week stretch from the Jets allowing the most overall FPG to opposing offenses. The one position that continued to score within the top-five in FPs allowed was at TE (21.5). The fact that Hooper ran a route on 71 percent of dropbacks -- his highest since Week 10, and garnered a 17 percent target share -- highest since Week 11, perfectly coincides with this tremendous upcoming opportunity.
Dan Arnold, ARI ($3.2K DK | $5.1K FD) vs. 49ers’ Cover 3 | 4 | 6
The Rams have allowed a total of six TDs to TEs all season. Three of those were, amazingly, scored by Tyler Kroft and Lee Smith in Week 3. One was seized by George Kittle in Week 6. Who is the only TE to reach the end zone against LAR the last eight weeks? None other than Dan Arnold with two in Week 13. One of those was on thisblown coverage, but the simple fact that the Cardinals were utilizing a TE against the Cover 6 on that play is noteworthy.
Toss it up as an anomaly? Well, he did the same exact thing to these Rams playingCover 4 last season. For those still on the fence,here is his second TD scored in Week 13. Dead set on making you realize his potential, Arnold high-pointedthis TD against the Giants in Week 14. While he may not have scored in Week 15, he threw together receptions of 10, 21, and 23 yards. Should he maintain the 13 percent target share from the last two weeks, that number would rank within the top-15 at the position. At $3.2K/$5.1K, he’ll face a mirror image defense to the Rams from the 49ers.
Other matchups to consider:
Patrick Mahomes, KC ($8.5K DK | $9.4K FD) vs. Falcons’ Cover 1 | 2 | 3
Lamar Jackson, BAL ($8.0K DK | $8.8K FD) vs. Giants’ Cover 2 | 3
Deshaun Watson, HOU ($7.6K DK | $8.5K FD) vs. Bengals’ Cover 1 | 2
Tom Brady, TB ($6.8K DK | $8.0K FD) vs. Lions’ Cover 1 | 2
Andy Dalton, DAL ($5.5K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Eagles’ Cover 1 | 2 | 0
Robert Woods, LAR ($7.0K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Seahawks’ Cover 3
Jerry Jeudy, DEN ($3.7K DK | $5.2K FD) vs. Chargers’ Cover 3 | 4
Upside Based on Matchup History:
Kyler Murray, ARI ($7.5K DK | $8.7K FD) vs. 49ers’ Cover 3 | 4 | 6
Kirk Cousins, MIN ($5.9K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Saints’ Cover 4
Drew Brees, NO ($5.9K DK | $7.7K FD) vs. Vikings’ Cover 2
Matt Ryan, ATL ($5.8K DK | $7.7K FD) vs. Chiefs’ Cover 2 | 4 | 0
Willie Snead IV, BAL ($3.9K DK | $5.2K FD) vs. Giants’ Cover 2 | 3
Eric Ebron, PIT ($4.2K DK | $5.5K FD) vs. Colts’ Cover 2 | 6
Matchups to Avoid
Ryan Tannehill, TEN ($6.9K DK | $7.9K FD) vs. Packers’ Cover 6 | 2
How can we fade Ryan Tannehill after averaging 25.4 FPG over his last five games? Unfortunately, avoid him we must. First of all, the forecast for Lambeau Field on Sunday night is calling for below freezing temperatures that’ll feel close to zero degrees, and plenty of snow. It certainly gets cold in Nashville, Tennessee, but nowhere close to the experience in Wisconsin. History tells us that QB efficiency will exponentially decline over the course of a game played under these conditions.
After that, we must consider that the style of passing defense from the Packers has given Tannehill fits as the Titans’ starter. Against Cover 6, Tannehill’s FPDb plummets by 55 percent, his QB rating by 30 percent, his YPA by 25 percent, and he’s yet to connect on a single TD. GB plays Cover 6 at the fourth-highest rate. When defended by Cover 2, Tannehill’s FPDb skydives by 50 percent, his passer rating by 23 percent, and he’s also failed to connect for a TD. Green Bay will play Cover 2 at the 14th-highest rate. Look elsewhere.
Teddy Bridgewater, CAR ($5.3K DK | $7.1K FD) vs. Washington’s Cover 3 | 4
The Packers’ most recent QB victim to bare the freezing temperatures of Lambeau in December, now a date with the WFT is far from a get-right opportunity for Teddy Bridgewater. Even if we look past the fact that Washington has limited opposing QBs to the sixth-fewest FPG this season (16.3), Bridgewater’s own history of struggles facing Cover 3 and 4 shells are daunting.
On 23 percent of total dropbacks the last two seasons, Teddy has thrown for only one TD (four percent of total TDs). His FPDb drops by 23 percent, his air yards/attempt by 26 percent. The Football Team will play Cover 3 at the ninth-highest rate (34 percent). Facing Cover 4 on 14 percent of dropbacks, Bridgewater’s FPDb collapses by 36 percent, his air yards/attempt by 20 percent, and he’s still looking for his first TD pass. Washington rolls out Cover 4 at the second-highest rate (25 percent). You know what to do.
A.J. Brown, TEN ($7.6K DK | $8.2K FD) vs. Jaire Alexander, GB
So much of Ryan Tannehill’s two-year ascension to top-five elite QB status is thanks to the work done by A.J. Brown. It would stand to reason that, if Tannehill has struggled facing a particular shell, the same should apply for Brown, and vice-versa. That reasoning holds true. Against Cover 6 over his career, Brown has a total receiving line of 2/19/0 over 51 routes. Against Cover 2, a 5/89/0 line from 74 routes. That’s a 62 percent tumble to his overall FPDb. One of the easiest fades of the entire weekend at $7.6K/$8.2K.
Brandin Cooks, HOU ($6.2K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. William Jackson III, CIN
It’s been three weeks since Will Fuller V was suspended, we’re still waiting for the ascension from Brandin Cooks to claim WR1-status. If he’s not careful, Cooks may end up supplanted by Chad Hansen. Think I’m kidding? It was made abundantly clear that Deshaun Watson weeps for no man in sustaining his production after DeAndre Hopkins was traded to Arizona for a box of footballs over the offseason. In spite of facing the Colts twice and the Bears -- coverage schemes that resonate within the nightmares of many a QB -- since Fuller was tagged for his spiked cocktails, Watson calmly averaged 22.8 FPG without anything to speak of from Cooks.
Would Watson benefit from some proof of life from Cooks? Absolutely! But his is not going to be the week. After finding the decision odd not to travel star CB William Jackson III with opposing No. 1’s for much of the season, the Bengals have finally released him to do his work. Over the last four weeks, shadow coverage on Terry McLaurin, Darius Slayton, DeVante Parker, and Amari Cooper has generated a combined line of 6/118/0, and 4.5 FPG. Hard pass.
Christian Kirk, ARI ($3.8K DK | $5.2K FD) vs. Richard Sherman, SF
Week 15 was Christian Kirk’s prime opportunity to carve out his fill against an Eagles secondary running on scout team-fumes. His 11 percent target share reeled in a line of 3/33/0 (6.2 FPs). If we’re viewing this offense with complete transparency, Dan Arnold has ascended to claiming the secondary receiving role behind DeAndre Hopkins. If he couldn’t do it against Kevon Seymour, how do you think he’ll fare defended by Richard sherman?
Sherman is permitting 0.41 yards per coverage snap (YPCS, second-lowest among 91 qualified outside CBs), 0.11 FPs/coverage snap (FPCS, second-lowest), and 0.178 air yards/coverage snap (AYCS, 46th-lowest). As you can see from his AYCS average, OCs are attempting to defeat Sherman deep toward exposing his decreased speed during his latter years. It’s yet to work out that way this season. Kirk will receive scant opportunities to fail the same as his predecessors.
Keke Coutee, HOU ($5.4K DK | $6.1K FD) vs. Mackensie Alexander, CIN
Since Brandin Cooks seems to have no interest in claiming the lion's-share of targets, why not Keke Coutee? I do love me some Coutee. That said, his skillset only applies to exploiting zones. Over 25 percent of routes the last two seasons against Cover 1 (man), Coutee has only attained 17 percent of yardage, and nie a single TD. His FPRt plunges by 55 percent, his yards/route run (YPRR) by 63 percent, and air yards/target by 27 percent. Cincinnati plays from a Cover 1 at the fifth-highest rate (36 percent).
Hunter Henry, LAC ($4.7K DK | $6.1K FD) vs. Alexander Johnson, DEN
With the amount of attrition on defense for Denver, it’s truly remarkable their LB unit has remained intact. None more so important as Alexander Johnson. Johnson is limiting his coverage responsibilities to 0.70 YPCS (12th-best among 70 qualified LBs), 0.16 FPCS (ninth), and 0.026 AYCS (eighth). Denver is only allowing 11.2 FPG to TEs overall (ninth-best), improving to 8.3 over their last two (fourth-best).
When Hunter Henry has faced Cover 6 the last two seasons, his FPRt dips by 49 percent, his YPRR by 31 percent, and he’s gone without a TD. Against Cover 1 over 24 percent of routes, 18 percent decline in FPRt, and only 11 percent of total TDs. We can do better with our cap dollars.
Dalton Schultz, DAL ($3.2K DK | $5.2K FD) vs. Jalen Mills, PHI
It was surprising to see Dalton Schultz score a TD last week against San Francisco. No, the 49ers have not been very kind to TEs, but Andy Dalton’s history of struggles against the coverage shells presented were the overriding concern for me. While I certainly think Schultz’s value could skyrocket next season should Dallas finally sign Dak Prescott to the long-term contract he deserves, a Week 16 fade is in order.
For starters, Schultz is at his best identifying zones, sitting within neglected holes. When he’s carried a man defender, the results have not been pretty. Schultz’s FPDb decreases by 45 percent, his YPRR by 21 percent, and he’s yet to enter the end zone on 20 percent of routes facing Cover 1 the last two seasons. His counterpart, Jalen Mills, is authorizing 0.58 YPCS (ninth-best out of 41 qualified strong safeties), 0.14 FPCS (seventh), and 0.064 AYCS (19th). No thank you.
Other matchups to avoid:
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT ($6.4K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Colts’ Cover 2 | 6
Philip Rivers, IND ($5.6K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Steelers’ Cover 1 | 3
Cam Newton, NE ($5.4K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Bills’ Cover 1 | 3 | 4
Gardner Minshew II, JAX ($5.2K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Bears’ Cover 4 | 6
DJ Chark Jr., JAX ($4.8K DK | $5.9K FD) vs. Bears’ Cover 4 | 6
Jalen Reagor, PHI ($4.6K DK | $5.7K FD) vs. Cowboys’ Cover 4 | 6
Downside Based on Matchup History:
Jared Goff, LAR ($5.9K DK | $7.4K FD) vs. Seahawks’ Cover 3
Sam Darnold, NYJ ($5.0K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. Browns’ Cover 3 | 4
C.J. Beathard, SF ($5.0K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Cardinals’ Cover 1
Darren Waller, LV ($7.0K DK | $7.7K FD) vs. Dolphins’ Cover 1 | 0 | 3
Aaron Rodgers, GB ($7.8K DK | $9.0K FD) vs. Titans’ Cover 1 | 2
➥It’s gonna be extremely cold on Sunday night.AccuWeather is currently expecting temperatures of 15º that’ll feel like 2º on Lambeau Field.
Not only the temperature, Green Bay is also expected to see 2.1 inches of snow during the game. In games fulfilling all of these criteria, it’s been Aaron Jones and Davante Adams that have been the beneficiaries. What we need in order to give Rodgers serious consideration is for the Titans to score some points. Over those 10 games, opposing offenses averaged 17.4 PPG. As I’ve already explained, not the best of matchups for Ryan Tannehill. Think Derrick Henry can get it done?
Jalen Hurts, PHI ($7.0K DK | $8.2K FD) vs. Cowboys’ Cover 4 | 6
➥So few teams have the personnel, know-how to execute Cover 4 or Cover 6 schemes properly that we only have 19 such dropbacks from Jalen Hurts for his evaluation. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 19 falls well short of offering anything in the way of reliability. From his tape on those 17 attempts, Hurts does lean a bit to the risky side facing those four- and six-deep coverages. However, I am basing that opinion from his status as a rookie. Were he a veteran, his approach would fall in line with that of Matthew Stafford’s -- one of the most accomplished when facing those shells. Really doesn’t matter in Hurts’ case. Jalen is facing a middling Cowboys’ defense allowing the most rushing YPG this season (161.8).
Tua Tagovailoa, MIA ($5.4K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Raiders’ Cover 2 | 6
➥It’s not literally the case, but it sure does seem like the Fins are pulling guys from the street to catch passes from Tua Tagovailoa. Zero idea if Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, or even Jakeem Grant will be available this Sunday. If they all sit, it’s likely the risk averse approach to avoid. Just in case you haven’t noticed, it seems pretty damn clear that Gesicki is Tua’s preferred, No. 1 receiver. If Gesicki returns, I’m perfectly comfortable stacking the two in GPPs.
Mitchell Trubisky, CHI ($5.7K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Jaguars’ Cover 1 | 3
➥It’s the Jags, he’ll be chalk. Allen Robinson II will likely have somebody named Greg Mabin defending him. Coverage issues over his WR1 are usually a clear sign to get sumadat exposure. Proceed.
Dwayne Haskins Jr., WAS ($5.2K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. Panthers’ Cover 3
➥Now that the $40,000 fine has been handed down for his maskless strip club fiasco, Dwayne Haskins Jr. could actually get the start. If Alex Smith starts, “yawn” and “meh” come to mind. Unlike Smith, Haskins actually possesses some talent outside of his brain. He may not yet have the coverage diagnosing ability of Smith, but he is still undoubtedly the Football Team’s future at the position. When dealing with Carolina, it’s all about dem Cover 3 shells. They use it the second-most (45 percent). Against Cover 3 during his career, 38 percent jump in FPDb, 16 percent in YPA, 34 percent of TDs, and earned on only 25 percent of dropbacks.
Marcus Mariota, LV ($5.0K DK | $7.6K FD) vs. Dolphins’ Cover 1 | 0 | 3
➥Call me crazy, I am on the side of Marcus Mariota. No matter what happens in 2021, Mariota should be starting for an NFL team. If Derek Carr returns this week, I’ll be fading him. If he doesn’t, Mariota will be firmly on my DK radar. He’s far from matchup-proof, but the added rushing element missing from Carr’s game elevates Mariota’s floor. And … Marcus has punished Cover 3 schemes over his career. Since we have six games from 2019 with the Titans to go along with last week, 248 dropbacks -- 83 facing Cover 3 -- is a decent sample size. Mariota ranks seventh with 0.511 FPDb along with a 28 percent increase in YPA. Miami plays Cover 3 at the 12th-highest rate (32 percent).
Brandon Allen, CIN ($4.8K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Texans’ Cover 1 | 3
➥I simply do not care that Cincinnati defeated the Steelers last week. Ryan Finley is hands down the worst QB in the NFL. If Finley starts, hit the panic button, and remove every bit of your Bengals’ passing game exposure. If Brandon Allen returns, we have some bidness. The Texans play Cover 3 at the seventh-highest rate (35 percent). On 26 percent of dropbacks (53) the last two seasons against Cover 3, Allen has passed for 50 percent of his TDs. His 0.56 FPDb ranks second-best -- a 98 percent increase, his 103.1 passer rating is 11th-best, and joined by a 12 percent spike in YPA.
Baker Mayfield, CLE ($6.1K DK | $7.6K FD) vs. Jets’ Cover 2 | 6
➥How did the Jets stun the Rams in Week 15?
Exhibit A: LARs hottest player, Cam Akers, suffered an early high-ankle sprain.
Exhibit B: Time of possession differential victory (Jets: 34:15, Rams: 25:45).
Exhibit C: Punting distance differential victory (Jets: 49.4, Rams: 35.8).
Exhibit D: Third Down conversion differential victory (Jets: 41 percent, Rams: 18).
How can the Jets defeat the Browns? To be perfectly honest, I really don’t think they’ll want another win taking them out of the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. With the way Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb have been playing, that decision is likely out of their hands. I don’t love the matchup for Mayfield, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to tell you fade one of the hottest QBs in the game over the last three weeks without rock-solid reasoning. I don’t have it.
Josh Allen, BUF ($7.3K DK | $8.8K FD) vs. Patriots’ Cover 1 | 0 | 2
➥As if HC Bill Belichick holds some type of pull with the weather in Foxborough, expected freezing temperatures, 60 percent chance of snow could reduce the separation between the Bills and Pats just enough to keep this one close. Based on the recent play from Josh Allen, betting against him is a risky endeavor. I’ll leave it at this, it would be unwise to avoid considering the history of success for road teams traveling to fields with freezing temperatures:
➥The Titans have been dabbling in the shadow business with Malcolm Butler throughout much of the season. Over the last two weeks, they’ve also been traveling Tye Smith. Both CBs have similar builds and reported 40-times. The only factor I’ve been able to pull from their assignments is that Smith draws the WR with the thicker build. Butler is taking the leaner, speedier wideouts. Under those conditions, Butler would actually cover Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and with Smith on Davante Adams. With the forecast in Green Bay calling for 15º, 12-plus MPH winds, and 74 percent chance of snow, the weather may be the shadow coverage providing the most concern.
➥Re: Adam Thielen analysis above, rinse-and-repeat. The most significant factor working against the Vikings’ passing offense comes from the Saints plethora of penalties in the secondary. Whenever a receiver threatens to defeat a New Orleans defender for a significant gain, they’ve simply bit the bullet on a penalty.
Just check out these outlandish numbers:
Marcus Williams leads all free safeties with 29 flags thrown.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson leads all slot CBs with 27 flags thrown.
Malcolm Jenkins leads all strong safeties with 27 flags thrown.
Demario Davis leads all outside LBs with 26 flags thrown.
Marcus Lattimore is only two behind Jenkins with 20 flags thrown.
Whenever you hear the Saints being compared with the top passing defenses in the league, remind the uninformed that they are bleeding untracked yardage from every pore.
➥After it was ruled that Freddie Swain stepped out of bounds on a long TD pass last week, Russell Wilson never attempted another deep pass to that left side. Rather than attacking deep outside of both hashes where Washington is vulnerable, Wilson was perfectly content grinding out a razor thin victory with only a single attempt of 20-plus yards. If Teddy Bridgewater wants to advance the ball through the air in Week 16, D.J. Moore has the best history against the shells he’ll face, and he’ll need to find him deep down those sidelines.
➥The Steelers’ offense has every reason to make Week 16 a get-right game. They’ll just need to do it against an Indianapolis team allowing the eighth-fewest FPG to opposing offenses (84.4). The Colts are far more vulnerable from the slot (2.04 FPs/target, 10th-most) compared to wide (1.77, 28th). And Indy’s defense has shown plenty of flaws the last four weeks. During that time, they’ve permitted the fourth-highest YPG to WRs (199.5). I think JuJu Smith-Schuster gets it done this week.
➥Were James Bradberry to be another surprise inactive, we would have plenty of reasons to play Marquise Brown. Even against Bradberry, Brown has seen his 18.8 percent target share from the first 10 weeks rise to 27.6 percent the last four. Hollywood just hasn’t faced anyone on Bradberry’s level during his current hot streak to push me toward exposure.
➥We need to keep in mind that Jarvis Landry has only covered value in two games this season (W12 and W13). Yes, he’s facing the Jets. Yes, his QB has been hot. Yes, Landry is averaging 9.5 targets over his last four. Allow me to introduce you to Javelin Guidry. He’s not at the level of the guy whom he’s been holding the slot -- Brian Poole, very few are. But the UDFA out of Utah has been phenomenal the last three weeks.
➥He’s still on the active roster. He hasn't played since Week 8. If he suits up, he’ll likely draw the tougher, Jamel Dean matchup. I believe, when healthy, Kenny Golladay is a top-five NFL WR. Should Detroit deem him healthy enough to play, he’ll fall squarely into the excellent stack potential along with his QB facing a perfectly-suited stylistic matchup.
Terry McLaurin, WAS ($6.7K DK | $7.1K FD) vs. Panthers’ Cover 3
➥On my first pass through the matchups, I originally circled Terry McLaurin as a having a matchup worthy of analysis. Following the news of Dwayne Haskins’ maskless strip club adventure, it’s very possible that no player now has me more conflicted for Week 16 than McLaurin. The Panthers’ split in allowing WR production from the slot (11.1 FPG, third-lowest) compared to out wide (25.0, fifth-most) is the most significant for any team. Carolina plays the second-highest rate of Cover 3 (45 percent), McLaurin’s numbers spike facing that scheme. Since F1 McLaurin’s numbers dip with Alex Smith under center, I’m simply torn. If Haskins starts, I’ll be on Scary Terry. If it’s Smith, I’m fading.
➥Nobody in their right mind would call for an outright pivot off Stefon Diggs the way he’s been playing. But we do need to cover our bases. Diggs is dealing with a foot issue. Could be nothing. Then we have the New England weather. Diggs could do enough on two splash plays to render that concern nonsense. With Stephon Gilmore now out for the season, a J.C. Jackson matchup is still entirely arduous. I’ll let you decide how to proceed.
➥The Pittsburgh defense has been slightly exposed the last three weeks. Exposed in that they were outscored. The 25.3 PPG they allowed during those three weeks is 34 percent above their season-long allowance (18.9). The real issue is on offense. For T.Y. Hilton, the nature of WR FPs was on full display when he was tripped up three yards shy of the end zone after splitting the Houston safeties down the seam for 41 yards. Had he scored for a fourth straight game, the 17.4 FPs would have covered his floor. Since he didn’t, his ownership will likely plummet. We are in business.
➥This is extremely simple. Darius Slayton is easily the most accomplished receiver against man coverage for New York. If he’s up against Anthony Averett, we are in business. If it’s Jimmy Smith -- who missed Week 15, look elsewhere.
Jalen Guyton, LAC ($3.2K DK | $5.4K FD) vs. Broncos’ Cover 6
➥Were Keenan Allen and/or Mike Williams to miss Week 16, the fact that Jalen Guyton ran routes on 84 percent of Week 15 dropbacks for 4/91/0 could be somewhat appealing. At basement salaries, 13.5/11.5 FPs are quite the value. It’s always possible that we see a repeat with another set of added reps. Just make sure you consider Tyron Johnson first.
➥If he’s playing, George Kittle coming in as the TE5/TE8 deserves serious attention. We may simply never see his salaries this low again.
After my first run through of each game, the TEs that stood out the most were Rob Gronkowski, Mark Andrews, and, if he were to play, George Kittle. The way my system is set up, it’s tough to remember who makes that list until the very end. Anyone can tell you to start Gronk, MANDrews, and Kittle. So, I made the decision to pivot into the deeper-side of the darkness with Austin Hooper and Dan Arnold. That said, Gronkowski’s matchup against his former New England teammate is mouth watering. He ranks first among TEs with 0.64 FPRt this season when facing Cover 1. On 19 percent of routes against the man coverage, he’s pulled 39 percent of yards, and 40 percent of TDs.
➥Including last week, Green Bay TEs have averaged a 2.2/31.5/0.2 receiving line in the last 10 games played on Lambeau Field, with freezing temperatures, and Aaron Rodgers starting. A TD reception in five straight games does complicate the matter.
Mark Andrews, BAL ($5.7K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Giants’ Cover 2 | 3
➥I’m frustrated with Mark Andrews. When the data suggests he should score, he doesn’t. When it calls for a fade, as in several instances, he does well. The Giants play Cover 2 at the NFLs highest rate (27 percent). Andrews has scored the highest FPRt (0.70) among all receivers the last two seasons. Do we trust him?
Noah Fant, DEN ($4.8K DK | $6.2K FD) vs. Chargers’ Cover 3
➥Following a fast start, Noah Fant had fallen off a cliff with double-digit FPs in only one-of-nine subsequent games. However, he was gifted with a 37 percent target share in Week 15. That level of involvement is some rarified-air at the position. Only Darren Waller (thrice), Mark Andrews, and George Kittle have received at least a 37 percent share in a single game this season. In a smash spot for Drew Lock, Fant could blow up with a repeat of that attention.
Mike Gesicki, MIA ($4.4K DK | $6.0K FD) vs. Raiders’ Cover 2 | 6
➥If he returns to the starting lineup, you want some Mike Gesicki exposure. Tua Tagovailoa has taken a massive step forward in recent weeks. His ability to move the offense without much help at WR speaks volumes. When we call upon coverage shell history on receivers, the QB under center overrides any previous statistics. Tagovailoa’s ability to read zone schemes is one of his absolute strengths. Gesicki finally has the opportunity to showcase the elite athleticism that made him a first-round selection.
➥I simply love me some Hayden Hurst this week. In order to keep pace with Kansas City, we know Atlanta will need to air it out. Hurst appeared to have regained his early season burst last week. It appears the Atlanta brass are looking to limit his routes to around two-thirds of dropbacks after he ran 80-plus percent in nine of the first 10 games. Squaring off with Anthony Hitchens has been a great spot for TEs this season.
➥True to their word of attempting to get Cole Kmet more involved on offense, the rookie ran a route on a season-high of 77 percent of dropbacks in Week 15. However, he was still out-targeted by Jimmy Graham 14-to-10 percent in spite of running over twice as many routes. Go figure.
➥Don’t worry about the long term value of Dallas Goedert. You also don’t need to worry about his routes run in Week 16 across from Joe Thomas. We do need to worry about Zach Ertz overtaking Goedert’s lead in snap share from Week 15. The Eagles are very likely showcasing Ertz for an offseason swap.
➥Dawson Knox has really stepped forward over the last four weeks (9.5 FPG) to provide some inline production for Buffalo. It’s true that the Patriots are one of two teams (Ravens) that have prevented a single TD to TEs over the last four weeks. It’s also true that only the Steelers have allowed fewer FPG (7.90) to TEs over that stretch -- New England has allowed 7.93. But, as I’ve already clarified, history suggests that we must slightly downgrade both passing offenses due to the weather in Foxborough on MNF.
Ian Thomas, CAR ($2.5K DK | $4.7K FD) vs. Washington’s Cover 3 | 4
➥Has there been another skill position player across the entire NFL providing the level of empty return as Ian Thomas? For starters, his blocking technique, footwork are lacking, to put it mildly. And he’s run a route on 74 percent of dropbacks while only returning 0.34 YPRR. Were Carolina to select either Pat Freiermuth (Penn State), Kyle Pitts (Florida), or Hunter Long (Boston College) in the 2021 draft, the Panthers could teater toward offensive juggernaut-status.