It’s the final week where we will need to deal with bye weeks. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, four teams will get some rest in Week 14. Three of those (Indianapolis, Miami, and New England) are among the hottest defenses in the league. Maybe we’ll see some better numbers from the 28 offenses set to take the field. The combined PPG average from Week 13 (21.39) is the second-lowest of the season (21.38 from Week 7).
The average air yards/coverage snap declined for qualified outside corners, slot corners, linebackers, strong safeties, and free safeties for the sixth-consecutive week — the stretch of time where I’ve been paying particular attention. In addition to seeing more INTs (eight) than TDs (seven) on throws traveling at least 20 yards for only the third week this season, we’ve never seen the poor quality on those attempts (9.9 YPA) than what was put on display last week. Justin Herbert accounted for 16% of the total number of deep completions and 19% of the resulting yardage on only 7% of the attempts. You can check out the updated charts below for more information.
You’ll see a number of coverage metrics throughout this series. The following chart provides the full names for the acronyms and the coverage performance numbers for each position group through Week 13:
To magnify their importance toward processing the matchup data, familiarity with these abbreviations are 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
Offensive abbreviations used when referring to QBs/RBs/WRs/TEs:
FPs/Dropback = FP/Db
FPs/Route = FP/Rt
FPs/Touch = FP/Tch
Yards/Route Run = YPRR
Air Yards/Attempt = AY/Att
Air Yards/Target = AY/Tgt
Yards/Target = YPT
Targeted Passer Rating (i.e., QB Passer Rating When Targeting Receiver) = 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:
Fantasy Shells: Coverage Glossary
Fantasy Shells: Cover 1
Fantasy Shells: Cover 2
Fantasy Shells: Cover 3
Fantasy Shells: Cover 4
*61-65 (48%); 10-4 in Week 13
Minnesota Vikings (-3.0) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Seattle Seahawks (-7.5) at Houston Texans
Las Vegas Raiders (+9.0) at Kansas City Chiefs
Baltimore Ravens (+2.5) at Cleveland Browns
Tennessee Titans (-9.5) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Washington Football Team (+3.5) vs. Dallas Cowboys
New Orleans Saints (-5.0) at New York Jets
Carolina Panthers (-2.5) at Atlanta Falcons
Los Angeles Chargers (-10.5) vs. New York Giants
Denver Broncos (-8.0) vs. Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.0) vs. Buffalo Bills
Cincinnati Bengals (-1.0) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Chicago Bears (+11.5) at Green Bay Packers
Arizona Cardinals (-2.5) vs. Los Angeles Rams
*55-48 (53%); 8-6 in Week 13
Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings (Over 43.0)
Seattle Seahawks at Houston Texans (Under 41.5)
Las Vegas Raider at Kansas City Chiefs (Over 47.5)
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (Under 42.0)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (Under 44.0)
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team (Under 48.0)
New Orleans Saints at New York Jets (Over 43.0)
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (Over 42.5)
New York Giants at Los Angeles Chargers (Over 44.0)
Detroit Lions at Denver Broncos (Under 42.0)
Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Over 52.5)
San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals (Over 49.0)
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (Over 43.5)
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals (Under 51.5)
*79-43 (65%); 12-2 in Week 13
Minnesota Vikings (-165) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Seattle Seahawks (-335) at Houston Texans
Kansas City Chiefs (-450) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Baltimore Ravens (+120) at Cleveland Browns
Tennessee Titans (-410) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Washington Football Team (+150) vs. Dallas Cowboys
New Orleans Saints (-220) at New York Jets
Carolina Panthers (-135) at Atlanta Falcons
Los Angeles Chargers (-510) vs. New York Giants
Denver Broncos (-365) vs. Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-160) vs. Buffalo Bills
Cincinnati Bengals (-115) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Green Bay Packers (-600) vs. Chicago Bears
Arizona Cardinals (-135) vs. Los Angeles Rams
Matchups to Target
Justin Fields, CHI ($5.0K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. Packers’ Cover 4 | 6
Haters are going to hate. Remove his miserable play from Week 7 against Tampa Bay, Justin Fields has been a top-12 QB this season from a scouting perspective. He still has plenty of work to do in order to avoid qualifiers before making statements like that on his play. One component of his game that has kicked into gear extremely quickly: he is deadly against split-safety zone coverages that drop at least four defenders deep. On the other side of the coin, he has yet to do a great job distinguishing between man and zone when defenses maintain a single-high safety.
Isolating all of Soldier Fields’ throws against only Cover 4 and Cover 6, you could make a case right now that he is already one of the top-five QBs in the NFL with his understanding of which is which, identifying the responsibility of each defender, and how to attack them. Altering that filter to throws against Cover 1, Cover 2, and Cover 3, you could make another compelling argument that he is currently at a bottom-five level in each of the previous three areas. Making his first primetime appearance, Fields could be in a position to showcase his amazing arm talent to the NFL fanbase. The Packers are using the sixth-lowest rate of Cover 2, the lowest combined rate of Cover 1 and Cover 3.
What schemes does Green Bay feature? As it just so happens, Cover 4 and Cover 6. We still need more of a sample size on every rookie QB in play this season. But Fields’ FPs/dropback improves by 23%, his passer rating by 14%, his air yard rate is 69% – which is very high, and he’s completing 71% of his attempts against Cover 4. And, if the metrics Fields has generated against Cover 6 continue, he’ll threaten to be the top signal caller in the world in opposition. To date, he’s completed 14-of-19 attempts, his air yardage sits at 72% (13.7 air/yards/attempt), he’s averaging 0.48 FPs/dropback – extremely high, posted a 115.6 passer rating, and collected 21% of passing yardage on 9% of his dropbacks.
We are dealing with a rookie QB, so tread lightly in DFS. Fields is strictly in the GPP conversation. But don’t be concerned with Jaire Alexander returning to practice. The Packers have already stated that Alexander is going to be brought along at a snail's pace. If he’s active, don’t count on seeing him on the field for more than a couple plays.
Aaron Jones, GB ($6.2K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Bears’ Cover 4 | 6
Aaron Jones returned much earlier than expected from an MCL sprain to face the Rams in Week 12. But he only did so at what I would estimate to be at 50-60% health. He was clearly moving around a bit stiff while regaining confidence in that knee. And, absolutely zero surprise, AJ Dillon (63%) doubled up Jones (31%) in the carry share department. Those responsible for the salary decisions at DK either forgot to update the pricing to reflect Jones regaining the backfield with 14 days at his disposal to get back to 100% health — Jones’ salary was increased $200, they think Dillon has played well enough to make this a 1A-1B situation, or they are simply pricing Jones to reflect ranking 17th among RBs in FPG.
Make no mistake, as of this season, the Green Bay backfield belongs to Jones. No matter what the reason for Jones’ pricing, he should/likely will be the highest-owned RB in Cash/Single-Entry games on the Sunday-to-Monday slate. As long as particular attention is paid to keeping the surrounding ownership percentages to a minimum, he can also be an excellent source of salary relief as a back with RB1 upside, RB15 pricing. Another player that returned extremely quickly from injury was Chicago LB Roquan Smith against Arizona last week. If he were out, we could go bat-crazy with Jones' exposure. Regardless, Chicago’s run defense has only been slightly above average, they are providing opposing RBs with the sixth-most red zone (RZ) touches/game (4.75), the eighth-most goal-to-go (GTG) carries/game (2.42), and the seventh-most rushing TDs/game (1.0)
Final notes on Chicago
David Montgomery ($5.7K/$7.0K) is full-go for Week 14. He is another back worthy of serious consideration. GB is allowing 2.17 GTG carries/game (11th-most), 4.3 YPC (14th-most), and a 29% rushing first down rate (third-highest). If you want to stack a wideout with Fields in a GPP, you really have your pick between Darnell Mooney ($5.7K/$6.4K) and Allen Robinson II ($5.0K/$5.5K) – now that he’s finally back in the mix. Mooney will work against Eric Stokes and hold the quality advantage when the Packers are in a Cover 4. AR12 will face off with Rasul Douglas and represents one of the top-five WRs when attacking Cover 6.
Damiere Byrd ($3.3K/$4.9K) had better get some quality play on tape or Jakeem Grant Sr. ($3.5K/$5.0K) will overtake him for the featured slot role. Grant outplayed Byrd in each of the last two games. Now that Fields is running the offense again, the love affair between Andy Dalton and Jimmy Graham is over. Cole Kmet ($3.6K/$5.1K) will be the featured inline option.
Final notes on Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers ($7.2K/$7.9K) has made it very public that he still views himself as owing the Bears – the rivalry between these teams is brutal and a lot of fun. Chicago utilizes the exact same schemes as Green Bay. And Mr. Rodgers ranks fifth-best against Cover 4 (0.39) and Cover 6 (0.43) in FPs/dropback during the last three seasons. I am expecting the role for AJ Dillon ($5.9K/$7.5K) being reduced enough that we can safely disregard him this week. With his WR2/WR5 pricing, it is slightly concerning that Davante Adams ($8.6K/$8.4K) is dealing with a hamstring injury. He was also only able to muster 12.9 FPs against the Bears and Jaylon Johnson in Week 6. But he has had full ownership of Cover 4 during the last three seasons. He’s generated 0.51 FPs/route (fifth-most), 2.78 YPRR (fifth-most), and drawn a 30% target share when defenses put a Cover 4 on the field (second-highest).
Randall Cobb is set to miss significant time, so the situations for Allen Lazard ($3.5K/$5.1K) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($4.3K/$5.4K) improves. If Adams is unable to play or reports surface that he’ll be limited, prepare to pounce. Lazard will be my focus if either of those scenarios plays out. Josiah Deguara ($2.6K/$4.7K) may be GBs featured TE, but he’s only surpassed five FPs once.
Matchups to Target
Van Jefferson, LAR ($5.5K DK | $6.1K FD) vs. Marco Wilson, ARI
Cooper Kupp is going to take one for the team by drawing the coverage of Byron Murphy Jr. And the alignment percentages will place Robert Alford over Odell Beckham Jr. A matchup on the right side of the offense between Van Jefferson Jr. and Marco Wilson is simply music to the ears. Jefferson isn’t quite ready to be featured as the No. 2 option in the Rams’ offense. While I do feel he is very close, he doesn’t need to worry about defenses focusing their attention on him after they account for Kupp. The addition of OBJ may add the potential for personality clashes, but it also guarantees a ton of defensive attention will be focused in his direction — whether it’s deserved or not.
The one coverage scheme that has emerged in the Cards’ rotation at a high enough rate each to be counted on is Cover 3. They are currently using it at the 16th-highest rate, but have finished with a top-12 rate in each of the last four weeks. A top-12 rate amounts to around one-third of their defensive snaps. And Jefferson has created 0.43 FP/Rt (22nd-most), 2.18 YPRR (23rd-most), a 115.2 TPR (17th-highest), and his targeting increases by 24% when defenses put a Cover 3 on the field during his career (third-highest). Finally, Wilson is permitting 1.20 YPCS (29th-most), 0.31 FP/CS (15th-most), and a 123.9 TPR (fourth-highest).
Matchups to Avoid
DeAndre Hopkins, ARI ($6.5K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Jalen Ramsey, LAR
Can I guarantee that Jalen Ramsey will shadow DeAndre Hopkins this week? I cannot. However, two factors led to my decision to list this matchup as an Avoid, as though Ramsey will cover Nuk enough to make a difference:
- When the Rams faced the Packers in Week 12, Davante Adams broke out for excellent yardage right out of the gate. LAR entirely altered its scheme rotation to include the ninth-highest rate of Cover 1 that week – unheard of during any other week that Ramsey has been a member of the Los Angeles franchise, and locked Ramsey into tailing Adams the rest of the game. Needless to say, Adams did next-to-nothing the rest of the game.
- After spending 46% of his time in the slot in the 11 games prior, Ramsey played 87% of his coverage reps on the outside last week.
It’s an extremely simple scenario in my view. If Ramsey is straight-up tasked with shadowing Hopkins, we fade. If Ramsey spends 80+% of his time on the outside again, we fade since DeAndre remains locked into his favorite spot on the left perimeter. And, since we have no way of knowing how Ramsey will be used, just the fear that he’ll be used under the guidelines of either scenario is enough to fade Nuk with WR17/WR12 pricing.
Final notes on Los Angeles
Matthew Stafford ($7.5K/$7.6K) is leading all QBs this season with 0.532 FP/Db. The fact that he holds QB5/QB10 pricing holds quite a bit of value potential. If he improves upon the 20.3 FPs he assembled against Arizona in Week 4, he will be well worth the investment. Sony Michel ($5.6K/$6.5K) deserves the featured role after his excellent play last week. But it sounds as though it’ll be a 50/50 deal with Darrell Henderson Jr. ($6.1K/$6.7K). Bummer.
Even though Byron Murphy Jr. held Cooper Kupp ($9.2K/$9.0K) to his lowest output of the season the last time these teams played, I refuse to list him as an Avoid. The simple fact that Kupp currently leads all wideouts with 0.671 FP/Rt – a full 15% higher than second on the list (Adams) – is enough to keep him in consideration. I personally have no interest in Odell Beckham Jr. ($5.3K/$5.9K) exposure since he’ll be dealing with Robert Alford. But he has collected 24% and 14% target share the last two weeks. As for Tyler Higbee ($3.9K/$5.5K), he ranks 41st! this season with 0.252 FP/Rt 🤮.
Final notes on Arizona
The QB3/QB2 pricing for Kyler Murray ($7.7K/$8.5K) is more in line with what I was expecting for Stafford. And Murray is worthy of every penny of his pricing after proving his ankle to be ready for action with a 10/59/2 rushing line last week. He generated 22.62 FPs against LAR in Week 4. Chase Edmonds ($4.5K/$5.5K) has been designated to return from IR, he will be well worth some GPP darts with RB53/RB40 pricing. And his return would be enough for me to fade James Conner ($6.2K/$7.2K) this week.
If Nuk is eliminated by Ramsey, Christian Kirk ($5.4K/$5.8K) will draw the lightest coverage matchup from Dont'e Deayon, and has the best Cover 6 profile of Arizona wideouts. The Rams are using Cover 3 at the sixth-highest rate and Cover 6 at the 10th-highest. On the Cover 3 side sans Nuk, A.J. Green ($5.0K/$5.6K) has the best history of success. As expected, Rondale Moore ($4.4K/$5.3K) came back down to earth last week after a big Week 12. Granted, Murray only completed 11 passes. Zach Ertz ($5.3K/$5.3K) will be one of the new faces that didn’t play in the last matchup of these teams. And Los Angeles has been quite vulnerable to TEs this season. He is easily my favorite receiver play for the Cardinals this week.