We were a witness to no less than six upsets last week. Four of those victories were claimed on the road; five of those losing teams still have extremely good odds for earning playoff seeds. Pass rushing ruled Week 9. Outside cornerbacks continued to thrive, cutting coverage metrics across the board — headlined by another 10% drop in AY/CS. And safety coverage quality has been phenomenal this season.
Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen a 15.7% decline in throws of 20-or-more yards compared to the first seven weeks. And that drop-off on 20+ attempts has been accompanied by a decline in efficiency. For instance, an 11.7% drop in YPA, 10.4% in completion rate, 25.9% decline in TDs thrown per INT, 32% decrease in TD rate, and 14.7% dip in passer rating. I’ll provide further insight into how each of those six teams mentioned pulled off their upsets, as well as what went wrong for the losing teams as I work through the Week 10 matchups.
You’ll see a number of coverage metrics throughout this series. The following chart provides the full names for the acronyms and the average numbers for each position group:
To magnify their importance toward processing the matchup data, familiarity with these abbreviations is key. The full names of the data points in the headers of the data table above will not be written out in full within the specific matchups. You’ll find the following acronyms frequently used whenever referencing defensive coverage statistics:
Yards Allowed Per Coverage Snap = YPCS
Fantasy Points Allowed Per Coverage Snap = FP/CS
Air Yards Allowed Per Coverage Snap = AY/CS
Targeted Passer Rating (i.e., Passer Rating on Targets into Coverage) = TPR
If you’d like to learn more about/refresh yourself with each of the defensive coverage shells and other relevant schematic details mentioned throughout this series, utilize the following resources:
*34-35 (49%); 6-7 in Week 9
Baltimore Ravens (-7.5) at Miami Dolphins
Indianapolis Colts (-10.0) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-9.5) at Washington Football Team
Buffalo Bills (-11.5) at New York Jets
Tennessee Titans (-2.5) vs. New Orleans Saints
Atlanta Falcons (+8.5) at Dallas Cowboys
Pittsburgh Steelers (-8.0) vs. Detroit Lions
Cleveland Browns (+1.5) at New England Patriots
Los Angeles Chargers (-3.0) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Denver Broncos (-3.0) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Seattle Seahawks (+3.5) at Green Bay Packers
Las Vegas Raiders (+2.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) at San Francisco 49ers
*23-31 (43%); 4-6 in Week 9
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins (Under 46.5)
New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans (Over 44.5)
Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers (Over 42.5)
Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots (Over 45.0)
Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers (Over 53.0)
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals (Under 44.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos (Over 44.0)
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (Under 49.0)
Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders (Over 51.5)
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (Under 48.5)
*46-22 (68%); 7-7 in Week 9
Baltimore Ravens (-335) at Miami Dolphins
Indianapolis Colts (-490) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-400) at Washington Football Team
Buffalo Bills (-590) at New York Jets
Tennessee Titans (-145) vs. New Orleans Saints
Dallas Cowboys (-400) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers (-335) vs. Detroit Lions
Cleveland Browns (+110) at New England Patriots
Los Angeles Chargers (-155) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Arizona Cardinals (-475) vs. Carolina Panthers
Denver Broncos (-160) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Seattle Seahawks (+145) at Green Bay Packers
Las Vegas Raiders (+120) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Rams (-180) at San Francisco 49ers
Matchups to Target
Derek Carr, LV ($6.0K DK | $7.4K FD) vs. Chiefs’ Cover 2
Week 9 did not go as planned for the Raiders. New York outside CBs James Bradberry and Adoree' Jackson took the opportunity to close down their coverage responsibilities to a 3/17/1 line on 12 Targets (0.18 YPCS and 0.11 FP/CS). But Las Vegas will travel back to their home field to welcome a struggling Kansas City offense only averaging 12 PPG during its last three games. In two games against the Chiefs last season, Derek Carr averaged 311 passing YPG, three TDs, and 23.4 FPG.
KC will utilize the fourth-highest rate of Cover 2 and top-15 rates of Cover 1 and Cover 6. Carr has excelled across all three of these schemes, ranking 14th-best, 13th, and 13th, respectively, in FP/Db. With QB14 pricing on both platforms, Carr will bring 40.9 opportunities/game (pass + run attempts, sixth-most), 343.9 air YPG (fourth), and 8.22 YPA (eighth). The Chiefs are distributing the second-most FPG to opposing QBs this season (21.9).
Hunter Renfrow, LV ($5.1K DK | $6.0K FD) vs. L'Jarius Sneed, KC
Seeing Hunter Renfrow entering a face-off with KC’s fourth-highest rate of Cover 2 immediately stands out upon review. Renfrow ranks fourth-best among all qualified wideouts with 0.51 FP/Rt vs. Cover 2 during his career. He’s accomplished this feat by posting 2.76 YPRR (third-best) and garnering a 28% target share. On only 11% of career routes coming against Cover, Renfrow has still collected 18% of his receptions, and 19% of his career yardage. He’ll work across from Kansas City nickelback L’Jarius Sneed on Sunday night. Among qualified slot CBs, Sneed is surrendering 1.51 YPCS (eighth-most), 0.33 FP/CS (sixth), 0.14 AY/CS (16th), and a 112.9 TPR (seventh-highest).
Matchups to Avoid
Patrick Mahomes II, KC ($7.2K DK | $8.4K FD) vs. Raiders’ Cover 3
Curious what is going on with Patrick Mahomes II? Let’s take a look. During his last three games (TEN, NYG, GB), he’s posted 6.7 YPA, a 71% completion rate, 89.7 passer rating, 6.2 air YPA, and zero TDs or INTs. However when he’s gone up against all other schemes, 4.9 YPA (21%⬇), 51% completion rate (28%⬇), 61.4 passer rating (32%⬇), 9.6 air YPA (35%⬆), zero TDs, and one INT.
During Mahomes’ previous six games (CLE, BAL, LAC, PHI, BUF, WAS) against Cover 2 and 6, he entered 8.3 YPA, 71% completion rate, 94.5 passer rating, and 8.1 air YPA. Against all other schemes, he provided 8.0 YPA (3.6%⬇), 69% completion rate (2.8%⬇), 98.0 passer rating (3.6%⬆), amd 8.3 air YPA (2.4%⬆).
Mahomes was clearly far more consistent when facing all coverage types prior to his dramatic recent three-game struggles. As it stands, identifying those matchups against defenses featuring high rates of Cover 2 and Cover 6 will offer us the most stability in exposure to Mahomes. As difficult as it might be to stomach, until we see some signs of turning things around, it will be best to avoid Mahomes in all other matchups. That includes this week across from Las Vegas’ league-leading rate of Cover 3, 21% higher than the next team on the list.
Final notes on Kansas City
If Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($5.5K/$6.0K) manages to be activated in time for Sunday Night Football, he’ll face a Raiders’ defense giving up the ninth-most pure rushing FPG (14.6), fifth-most YPG (133.5), fifth-highest YPC (4.6), and sixth-highest rate of 20-plus runs (3.02%).
If not, Darrel Williams ($5.4K/$6.0K) will find another opportunity for utility before being supplanted. Derrick Gore ($4.0K/$5.0K) is a poser either way, masquerading around as a decent RB.
No trust in Mahomes = no spendy top cap dollars on Tyreek Hill ($7.7K/$8.4K), especially when he’ll see enough reps across from Casey Hayward Jr. to matter. Hayward is limiting his coverage to the second-fewest YPCS (0.43), the fewest FP/CS (0.08), 13th-fewest AY/CS (0.16), and seventh-lowest TPR (64.0). Same dealio for Mecole Hardman ($3.9K/$5.4K) working against Nate Hobbs out of the slot. Hobbs is still cutting down the opposition to the second-fewest YPCS (0.58), third-fewest FP/CS (0.14), the fewest AY/CS (0.02), and 14th-lowest TPR (92.2).
Well, what do you know? Byron Pringle ($3.4K/$5.2K) (58%) and Josh Gordon ($3.0K/$4.9K) (29%) ran a higher percentage of team routes than Demarcus Robinson ($3.1K/$5.1K) (24%) last week. The one KC playmaker who I will still look to invest is Travis Kelce ($6.9K/$7.5K). Las Vegas has been pummeled by TEs for the third-most FPG this season (17.1).
Final notes on Las Vegas
Seemingly gone are the days of Josh Jacobs ($6.2K/$7.2K) being force-fed as many touches as his joints can manage. It appears the interim management actually expects efficiency from their backfield. That said, Jacobs has actually been efficient with his touches (6.52 yards/touch the last two weeks). But the real beneficiary continues to be Kenyan Drake ($5.1K/$5.7K). Miscast as a between-the-tackles back, Las Vegas has provided the green light for Drake working out the tackles. How dare they?!? It’s resulted in 18.1 FPG over his last three games.
The Raiders desperately need Bryan Edwards ($4.2K/$5.3K) to get it going this week against Rashad Fenton. It did appear that Zay Jones ($3.1K/$4.8K) would be asked to play a ton of snaps, then Las Vegas signed DeSean Jackson. This is a spot where the 2020 version of Darren Waller ($6.3K/$7.0K) would go nuclear. And it could be the spot where he provides his first statement game of the season.
Matchups to Target
Elijah Mitchell, SF ($5.7K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. Rams’ Cover 3 | 4 | 6
Elijah Mitchell is the only playmaker in this matchup that stood about for potential value above the entirely obvious suspects. Even when he wasn’t able to get it going on the ground against Arizona, he added 9.3 FPs through the air to salvage his day. That’s an important trait for Mitchell’s development: take everything the defense gives you. It still feels wrong to recommend RBs against the Rams. But they continue to hand over 4.78 red zone touches/game to backs (eighth-most). My coverage algorithm is projecting Mitchell for the third-highest output of Week 10. That does seem a bit high, but it certainly highlights the opportunity with RB20/RB18 pricing.
Final notes on Los Angeles
Matthew Stafford ($7.0K/$8.0K) and Cooper Kupp ($9.5K/$9.5K) are going to eat. It’s science. It’s also very expensive to stack. Kupp will work against the capable coverage of K'Waun Williams, but Kupp should be among the top-three candidates for NFL MVP. That is not to be taken lightly from a WR. Looking past last week’s result when James Conner did his best Terminator impression, the 49ers have begun to defend the run very well. My confidence in Darrell Henderson Jr. ($6.4K/$7.6K) is low this week. The algorithm agrees, only projecting him for 15.5 FPs.
Will this be the last week that Robert Woods ($6.2K/$7.0K) can erupt before Odell Beckham Jr. begins throwing his hissy fits down the Los Angeles sidelines? In all seriousness, how long until we see OBJ blowing up at the Rams’ coaching staff because he’s not being targeted enough? Without question, this will be the last opportunity for Van Jefferson Jr. ($4.1K/$5.5K) to stake his claim until an injury arises. Another lost season for Tyler Higbee ($4.0K/$5.2K). So much promise, results so disappointing.
Final notes on San Francisco
Deebo Samuel ($7.4K/$7.7K) vs. Jalen Ramsey! We only see this level of matchup quality a couple times a season. An unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Yes, Ramsey is still the best. But Deebo is essentially his offensive equivalent. No, Ramsey will not be shadowing Samuel. I’m anticipating that we’ll see Deebo provide profit over value, and Ramsey submitting another in a historic string of elite performances. Yeah, those George Kittle ($6.0K/$6.5K) “on a pitch count” reports did not age well (20.1 FPs). If you ignored those reports for Week 9 Kittle exposure, a tip of the cup to you, my friend.
Jimmy Garoppolo ($5.5K/$7.0K) has actually thrown for over 300 yards in back-to-back weeks! The last/only time he pulled that off was all of the way back in Weeks 14 and 15 of the 2017 season. His third and fourth games as a 49er. We’re still awaiting word on Jeffrey Wilson Jr.’s impending role. For now, JaMycal Hasty ($4.0K/$5.0K) continues to fill the change-of-pace role. Brandon Aiyuk ($4.7K/$5.8K) played one of his better games of the season last week — really not saying much. He’ll have the pleasure of facing Darious Williams in his second game back from IR. Dont'e Deayon emerged when Williams was injured, but he’s played so well that he’s forced his way into a permanent nickel role. Mohamed Sanu ($3.1K/$5.0K) won’t even see him coming… or even know his name.