The scoring from Week 14 stands as the highest average of the season (25.4). While the deep (20-or-more yards) passing rate (11.4%) remained consistent with the previous seven weeks, the quality of the attempts were, arguably, the best we’ve seen this season. QBs combined to throw for 12 TDs vs. only two INTs – a season-best 6-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio, and the 13.0 YPA from last week is the second-highest over the last seven weeks. You can check the data out for yourse.lf below:
Do these numbers indicate deep passing is back to its early-season form? Unfortunately, no. We have substantial historical evidence indicating that, as we go deeper into a season – sans injury-crippled units, defenses exponentially improve toward sending the production curve toward a downward slope. Proof of that statement can be found in the chart below, showing that, in spite of the big week of the long ball, the metrics for each of the qualified position groups actually improved (nearly) across the board. And air yardage/coverage snap (AY/CS) continued to decline for every qualified position group in Week 14.
How can this information be applied toward actionable lineup construction? Targeting the struggling qualified defenders will always be at the forefront of the process. However, targeting late-week replacements in the secondary that have yet to play a significant role this season (the unqualified) has been a profitable approach, in the right situations, of course. We should never eliminate a QB from orchestrating deep-passing success in a single week. But receiver target share reliability should continue to be held in very high regard – particularly in Cash/Single-Entry (SE) games. DFS success has always been dictated by the players receiving the opportunities. And those opportunity shares are even more important without the deep passing reliability to bust a particular slate.
As always, the following chart provides the full names for the acronyms and the defensive coverage performance numbers for each position group through Week 14:
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 the performance of 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:
*69-71 (49%); 8-6 in Week 14
Kansas City Chiefs (-3.0) vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Cleveland Browns (-3.0) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Indianapolis Colts (-2.5) vs. New England Patriots
Dallas Cowboys (-10.5) at New York Giants
Houston Texans (+4.0) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.0) vs. Tennessee Titans
Arizona Cardinals (-13.5) at Detroit Lions
Miami Dolphins (-8.5) vs. New York Jets
Washington Football Team (+4.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
Buffalo Bills (-10.5) vs. Carolina Panthers
Cincinnati Bengals (+1.0) at Denver Broncos
San Francisco 49ers (-9.5) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Green Bay Packers (-5.0) at Baltimore Ravens
Los Angeles Rams (-4.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks
New Orleans Saints (+10.0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chicago Bears (+3.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings
*64-53 (55%); 9-5 in Week 14
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (Over 52.0)
Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns (Under 40.0)
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (Over 45.0)
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (Over 43.5)
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (Over 39.5)
Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers (Over 41.5)
Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions (Under 47.5)
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (Under 42.5)
Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles (Under 44.5)
Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills (Over 43.5)
Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos (Under 44.5)
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers (Over 46.0)
Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens (Over 43.5)
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (Under 45.0)
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Over 46.5)
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (Over 44.0)
*88-48 (65%); 9-5 in Week 14
Kansas City Chiefs (-150) vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Cleveland Browns (-165) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Indianapolis Colts (-140) vs. New England Patriots
Dallas Cowboys (-525) at New York Giants
Houston Texans (+155) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Pittsburgh Steelers (+105) vs. Tennessee Titans
Arizona Cardinals (-760) at Detroit Lions
Miami Dolphins (-410) vs. New York Jets
Washington Football Team (+180) at Philadelphia Eagles
Buffalo Bills (-490) vs. Carolina Panthers
Cincinnati Bengals (-105) at Denver Broncos
San Francisco 49ers (-450) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Green Bay Packers (-235) at Baltimore Ravens
Los Angeles Rams (-200) vs. Seattle Seahawks
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-510) vs. New Orleans Saints
Chicago Bears (+160) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Matchups to Target
Ezekiel Elliott, DAL ($7.3K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. Giants’ Cover 3 | 4
Entering a Week 8 road showdown with Minnesota averaging 20.1 FPG, Ezekiel Elliott broke a four-game streak of over 100 total yards and at least a TD. While the suggestion is that he first injured his knee the following week against Denver, I have a lingering belief that it was the Vikings game where the ailment first occurred. Since then, his scoring average has declined by 35% (13.0 FPG). It’s completely understandable that headlines popped up calling for Tony Pollard – the NFL leader with 5.63 YPC – to supplant Zeke. Interested in three reasons why that is just not an option? Here you go:
- Elliott is one of the top-five RBs in NFL history at identifying, picking up the blitz
- Whereas most players considered among the top-10 at their position generally lean toward missing games when injured, Ezekiel passed along that he would need to be physically removed from the field before missing any games – a commitment to his team that we just do not see enough of these days
- The outstanding efficiency from Pollard has benefited by being the lightning to Zeke’s thunder
In addition, the narrative calling for Elliott’s job to the benefit of Pollard may see a complete reversal now that Pollard is doing everything he can to get back on the field from tearing the plantar fascia in his left foot. Travis Etienne suffered a Lisfranc fracture that may threaten to keep him out through the 2022 season. The last thing the Cowboys want is to see Pollard rushing through his recovery to get back on the field and doing further damage to the injury. The plantar fascia provides support to prevent the bones in the front of the foot from extending too far from the heel. If this occurs, the dreaded Lisfranc or Jones fracture can result. You have to appreciate Pollard’s dedication, but he simply needs more time for that tear to mend.
Do not read into Corey Clement taking one more carry than Zeke last week. Dallas jumped out to an 18-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. At that point, Elliott had out-snapped Clement 18-to-2, and took five carries vs. one for Clement. And it was the fact that the ‘Boys lightened his workload the rest of the game that assisted Zeke toward making the following declaration:
Ezekiel Elliott said he feels his explosiveness is back: “That’s definitely the best I’ve felt in a while. I’m starting to heal up. Last week I wore a knee brace and it helped a lot, giving me some stability. I definitely felt more comfortable.” He will continue wearing the brace pic.twitter.com/QYsw070O8C— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 15, 2021
For Week 15, Elliott will face a Giants defense allowing the eighth-most rushing YPG (125.0), 11th-most YPC (4.4), 12th-highest rushing first down rate (25.3%), seventh-most red zone (RZ) touches/game to RBs (4.77), and seventh-most FPG (26.2). It should also be noted that Zeke posted his best game of the season against New York in Week 5 (28.2 FPs). I’m going to take the risk that Ezekiel is speaking the truth. And how can we not love RB25 pricing on FD this week? It’s a pricing discount that’s going to result in a high ownership rate that should be focused toward Cash-Single-Entry (SE) games. But I’m also going to have GPP exposure on DK at his RB8 pricing, with tremendous upside.
CeeDee Lamb, DAL ($7.4K DK | $7.4K FD) vs. Jarren Williams, NYG
What can I say? I can likely get away with recommending Zeke since his numbers have been down, but CeeDee Lamb? Just hear me out. It appears as though Adoree’ Jackson is going to miss another game with his quad injury. In the last 2.5 games without Jackson, ‘21 third-rounder Aaron Robinson – one hell of a good looking cover corner – kicks out from the slot to man the left sideline. In Robinson’s place, ‘20 UDFA Jarren Williams is tasked with coverage in nickel packages. With all of two games under his belt this season, we can’t compare his metrics to the field. If his numbers did qualify, his 1.11 YPCS would rank 15th-best, 0.39 FP/CS would rank dead last, 0.88 AY/CS would rank last, and his 104.2 TPR would rank as the 11th-highest. He authorized Josh Palmer’s TD last week, and, on 25 snaps in coverage in Week 13, Miami receivers combined for a 5/48/0 line on eight targets (two drops by Mike Gesicki).
Other than three routes against Jaylen Waddle, Williams has yet to be tested. That changes this week. Outside of physical attributes that we are unable to measure, what separates Lamb from Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup? Two words: play action. Whereas Cooper (1.59 FPG) and Gallup (1.46) haven’t been involved much on play action, it’s where Lamb has collected 27% of his FPG total (4.58 – three times the number of his teammates). NYG has commissioned the second-most receptions (109), the most TDs (12), and the seventh-most FP/CS in defense of play action this season (0.439).
Final notes on Dallas
Dak Prescott ($6.5K/$7.5K) has covered his floor in two-thirds of his 12 games. But he fell short in two of the last two weeks and three of the last four. I’m more than willing to chalk that up to facing the solid defenses of Kansas City, Washington, and New Orleans. And the fourth example came way back in Week 2 against the Chargers’ stout pass defense. In the eight games where he covered, The Raynemaker averaged 26.5 FPG. Combined, his total FPs from those eight games provided a 22.7% profit over value. Unless we see Zeke suffer a setback, I’m expecting a 75/25 carry split this week between Elliott and Corey Clement ($4.3K/$5.4K), respectively.
The matchup for Amari Cooper ($6.4K/$7.0K) opposite Aaron Robinson is a concern. If Robinson’s 0.81 YPCS, 0.16 FP/CS, and 70.4 TPR qualified, each measure would be found among the top-10 outside corners. And we’re not discussing scant coverage snaps, Robinson only narrowly missed qualifying. If he logs a full game this week, it’s very likely that he will be ranked next week. That said, Giorgio Amari will still enter a plus spot where he’ll do enough work inside to post quality numbers.
Using the fifth-highest rate of Cover 3 and 10th-highest of Cover 4, the Giants are granting WRs 13.7 receptions/game (eighth-most), 1.23 TDs/game (fourth-most), 2.15 RZ touches/game (second-most), 36.8 FPG on the season (eighth-most), 40.1 over the last four weeks (fifth-most), and 49.0 over the last two (third-most). While I’m still unlikely to have any exposure with James Bradberry in coverage, with the way Michael Gallup ($5.5K/$5.9K) played last week, this could be a nuclear spot for Prescott. And we haven’t even mentioned the impact of Dalton Schultz ($4.9K/$5.6K).
Final notes on New York
G-Men faithful are counting down the days until Daniel Jones’ return. We know Mike Glennon ($5.2K/$6.7K) is not someone you want leading your offense for an extended period of time. That threshold has been breached. The Giants are considering a rotation with Jake Fromm ($4.5K/$6.1K). My condolences. It also appears as though New York is utilizing a two-to-one series rotation for Saquon Barkley ($6.5K/$7.3K) and Devontae Booker ($4.7K/$5.4K), respectively. If Booker is going to split the receiving work with Barkley down the middle, it’s enough to stick a fork in Barkley the rest of the season.
‘21 first-rounder Kadarius Toney obliterated Dallas with a 10/189/0 line for 32.6 FPs in Week 5. After testing positive for COVID, Toney will not be around to bail out Glennon/Fromm. We can hold back much of the blame from Kenny Golladay ($5.3K/$5.4K) and Darius Slayton’s ($4.5K/$5.0K) shoulders after Glennon wasn’t even able to get the ball into the consistently reliable hands of Sterling Shepard ($4.7K/$5.6K) last week. The nail in the coffin for Slayton is going to be provided by the coverage of Trevon Diggs. Interim OC Freddie Kitchens has cut Evan Engram’s ($3.1K/$5.0K) reps by 17% the last two weeks, to the benefit of Kyle Rudolph ($2.7K/$4.5K). Neither offers anything worthy of our attention.
Quick note: News dropped that Urban Meyer was relieved of his HC responsibilities after the following was already written. While I’ve added some italicized Update notes under some of the analysis to include the impact on the Jags’ offense with OC Darrell Bevell taking on the interim HC role, I’ve kept the rest of the information intact that is unaffected by the Meyer firing.
Matchups to Target
Davis Mills, HOU ($5.4K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Jaguars’ Cover 1 | 2 | 3
What a barnburner! Houston at Jacksonville. The NFL at its finest. In reality, it’s a rematch of the two franchises that have paired full-on rebuilds with overwhelmed first-year HCs. That said, Texans head-honcho David Culley did make a pair of solid decisions prior to Week 14:
Davis Mills was named the starter over Tyrod Taylor for the rest of the season
Settling on Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins, and Chris Conley taking all of the WR reps
Mills is far from a finished product. GM Nick Caserio is no doubt using the rest of the season to determine if his ‘21 third-rounder is the long-term answer at QB for Houston. At least for Week 15, Mills offers some intriguing upside. The Jags are pairing the ninth-highest rate of Cover 2 with the 11th-highest of Cover 3. They mix in top-15 Cover 1 rates some weeks, just not reliably enough to project.
Mills began his rookie season with some impressive results against Cover 1. Using Week 5 vs. New England as an example, Mills completed 16-of-20 attempts, amassing 271 yards, and three TDs against the Pats’ man coverage attempts. He took steps forward against Cover 3 in Week 8 against the Rams. He connected on 18-of-21 attempts, for 186 passing yards, and a pair of TDs. Taylor retook his role the following week. During the next five weeks, Mills must have put in work in the film room. He emerged against the Seahawks’ Cover 2 last week to complete 19-of-22 attempts for 187 passing yards. It’s a trio of impressive performances, facing top defenses, and against each of the three coverages he will face in Week 15. And nobody will be considering him.
Brandin Cooks, HOU ($5.8K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Rudy Ford, JAX
Throughout his career, Brandin Cooks has never done well against Cover 1. But he has provided consistency against several zone shells. He worked hand-in-hand with Mills in Week 8 across from Cover 3 (5/77/1 on five targets) and Week 14 against Cover 2 (3/43/0 on three targets). While it would be nice if Jacksonville utilized more Cover 4 – Cooks’ specialty, he’s put in some quality work against both Cover 2 (2.04 YPRR) and Cover 3 (1.86) this season. In addition, Cooks has been on the receiving end of 25% of Mills’ attempts in the seven games he’s started.
Cooks aligns all over the formation in order to create mismatches with his 4.33-speed and crisp route-running. Listing him across from Rudy Ford is a bit misleading since Cooks splits his time evenly inside and outside each week. But Cooks does work more out of the slot than any other Houston wideout. So it’s fitting that Jaguars have evenly split their FPG distribution. This is a matchup that I am expecting will easily cover its 39.5 implied total. To close my reasoning for targeting Cooks this week, here’s some of the metrics provided by Jacksonville to opposing offenses:
71% completion rate (the highest)
7.34 YPA (fifth-most)
15.2% deep completion rate (11th-highest)
37.4% passing first down rate (fourth-highest)
90.9 FPG to opposing offenses (12th-most)
17.5 FPG to QBs (17th-most)
1.85 RZ touches/game (fifth-most)
36.7 FPG to WRs (ninth-most)
James Robinson, JAX ($5.4K DK | $6.3K FD) vs. Texans’ Cover 1 | 2
A lot of things went wrong in the Jaguars at Titans matchup last week. The Jags’ complete inability to move the offense eliminated Tennessee’s need to generate muc of their own. Only a few days removed from Trevor Lawrence’s in-game petitioning of HC Urban Meyer on James Robinson’s behalf to be permanently reinstated as the lead back – the reasoning leading to Lawrence being forced to confront Meyer proving asinine in its entirety, JRob took on an 86% share of the RB carries in Week 14. That’s great until it’s also mentioned that they only ran the ball seven times!
The masses were calling for an explanation when Meyer and OC Darrell Bevell only ran the ball on 24.3% of plays the first two weeks. Jacksonville fans are likely banging their collective heads against the wall after only running on 17.5% of snaps in Week 14. Lucky enough for the Jaguars, they will not have to deal with the Titans’ stout run defense this week. The Texans have provided opposing RBs with the second-most pure rushing FPG this season (19.3). And that allowance is fueled by missing tackles at the third-highest rate. The combined permissions of these defenses project to consent to the highest scoring output on the Week 15 slate at 53.6. More than enough reasons for my taste.
Final notes on Houston
I have no nothing to offer in explanation as to why it’s taken so long for Houston to consider using David Johnson ($4.9K/$5.5K) in a bell-cow role. Instead, we’ve been forced to watch Rex Burkhead ($4.8K/$5.5K) in the role. When Johnson was forced out last week, the Texans were forced to put Royce Freeman ($4.5K/$5.2K) on the field. The results on the ground (11/15/0) pinpoint precisely why he’s been unable to hold down a job. Freeman was able to salvage his day with 6/51/0 on eight targets through the air but, now that Johnson is going to see his first opportunity in that role, Freeman should become a distant memory since Johnson is a substantially superior receiver. (Burkhead is out with an injury.)
The field has been chomping at the bit to get Johnson into their lineups this season. We’ve seen his ownership numbers far higher than they deserved in several weeks. So, count on seeing him populating a ton of lineups this week with his RB60/RB67 pricing. I’ve got to admit that Nico Collins ($3.5K/$5.3K) actually appeared competent last week. The ‘21 third-rounder is going to see coverage from Tyson Campbell while working on the left perimeter of the offense. The ‘21 second-round corner has tolerated 1.53 YPCS (eighth-most), 0.30 FP/CS (15th-most), and a 103.0 TPR (23rd-highest). And it’s convenient that Shaquill Griffin will waste most of his quality coverage work across from Chris Conley ($3.6K/$4.9K). With TE39/TE30 pricing, Brevin Jordan ($2.8K/$4.9K) is in play as a solid TE punt after Mills targeted him seven times last week. Pharaoh Brown ($2.9K/$4.4K) split the route numbers with him, but wasn’t targeted.
Final notes on Jacksonville
It’s almost ludicrous that Trevor Lawrence ($5.1K/$6.5K) managed to throw for 332 yards and three TDs against Houston in Week 1. Sunshine has only covered his floor once since Week 6. But this matchup is going to halt that negative streak. Just as in that Week 1 game, T-Law must send at least eight targets in Marvin Jones Jr.’s ($4.6K/$5.7K) direction in order to get the passing offense in gear. Jones will run the highest number of routes across from Desmond King II. While King has registered some impressive weekly performances, he’s still kindly provided his coverage with 1.47 YPCS (ninth-most), 0.32 FP/CS (10th-most), a 96.2 TPR (25th-highest), and targeted at the seventh-highest rate among 76 qualified outside CBs.
Meyer News Update: Jones followed Bevell to Duval County after spending the previous two seasons together in Detroit. A compelling argument can be made that, along with his monster 2013 and 2017 seasons, those two campaigns under Bevell provided us with the finest play of Jones’ career. Now that Bevell will be calling the shots, my expectations in Week 15 for Lawrence, Robinson, and, particularly, Jones have increased.
Lawrence had better focus the attention he usually devotes toward Laviska Shenault Jr. ($4.3K/$5.4K) elsewhere. For all of the gaping holes in their defense, their nickel package is fortified to the teeth with Tavierre Thomas. The ‘18 UDFA out of Ferris State has been nothing short of phenomenal in ghosting his coverage to 0.36 YPCS (the fewest), 0.09 FP/CS (the fewest), 0.05 AY/CS (fifth-fewest), and a 46.0 TPR (the lowest). Thomas hasn’t allowed a single deep reception this season.
Lonnie Johnson Jr. made his long-awaited transition to a featured role on the outside last week. He held DK Metcalf to 2/23/0 of his 4/43/0 total line. Safe to say that Laquon Treadwell ($3.3K/$5.1K) will be a step down in quality. Seeing Jacksonville using Treadwell, Phillip Dorsett ($3.0K/$4.5K), and Tavon Austin ($3.2K/$4.9K) to round out their WR rotation makes it seem as though the clock’s been turned back to the 2016 season. James O'Shaughnessy ($3.2K/$4.6K) can’t hold a candle to Dan Arnold. Very similar volume, night-and-day output. If Carlos Hyde ($4.4K/$5.4K) comes anywhere remotely close to matching Robinson’s usage, Jags fans should storm the field, and take turns kicking Meyer in his leg.
Meyer News Update: Reset the doomsday clock back into the positive. The king is dead, long live the king. No leg-kicking in Jacksonville this week.
Matchups to Target
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT ($5.6K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Titans’ Cover 1 | 4
Don’t look now, Ben Roethlisberger has exceeded his floor with glorious profits the last two games, and in three of the last four. That’s quite a reversal after failing to do so in six of his previous eight contests. What suddenly changed? Our answer lies in better recognition, exploitation of the blitz. Travel back to Big Ben’s prime years, you’ll find a version of Roethlisberger that stood as the very best QB in the NFL against the blitz, and when under pressure. With a 56.6 passer rating under pressure this season, only seven other QBs have manufactured a lower number – three of them are rookies.
Removing the last two weeks and Week 11 when Big Roethlisberger covered value, when defenses sent a blitz, he responded with a 71.7 passer rating, 5.6 YPA, and one TD vs. one INT. In those three games we removed, he’s excelled against the blitz with a 126.0 passer rating (43% improvement), 9.0 YPA (38%), and three TDs vs. zero INTs. An entirely different player. The Steelers will face a Titans’ defense putting the ninth-highest rate of Cover 4 and 12th-highest rate of Cover 1 on the field. In the last five weeks, only three other teams have used Cover 4 at a higher rate. During his last three seasons, Roethlisberger sits above all qualified QBs with 0.44 FP/Db.
Diontae Johnson, PIT ($7.5K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Kristian Fulton, TEN
Care to venture a guess as to which receiver emerged alongside Roethlisberger during his three recent big games? The answer is quite obvious since it’s being asked under Diontae Johnson’s banner. During the nine games Johnson played other than those three big performances from his QB, Diontae produced 1.94 YPRR, a 73.3 TPR, and zero TDs when defenses blitzed. However, in Weeks 11, 13, and 14, Johnson registered 5.03 YPRR (a 61% spike), a perfect 158.3 passer rating (54%), and collected all three of the TDs thrown by Roethlisberger.
Johnson never leaves the field, has garnered at least a 32% target share in 58% of his games, and at least 22% in 92%. Oddly enough Diontae hasn’t mirrored Roethlisberger’s Cover 4 excellence during his career. In addition to his overwhelming RZ presence (44% of career TDs scored), Johnson has done his finest base scheme work against Cover 1. One of my favorite data points on Diontae this season is that in the eight games where he’s faced a defense containing opposing WR FPG production outside of the top-20, Johnson has responded with an average of 21.3 FPG.
He’s the storefront centerpiece exhibit as to the near impossibility in preventing a receiver from reaching and/or exceeding floor value when extreme target shares are on the table. The other two perfect examples are Davante Adams and Cooper Kupp. However, we can somehow still add Johnson to our lineups with WR8/WR16 pricing… whereas Kupp (WR1/WR1) and Adams (WR2/WR3) require a far greater cap number to acquire.
Final notes on Tennessee
Ryan Tannehill ($5.9K/$7.0K) and Julio Jones ($5.4K/$6.0K) were two of my most significant misses of Week 14. I’m unable to quite put my finger on it, but Julio just doesn’t appear to be right at the moment. He’s had his moments, of course, but, off the top of my head, Jones has submitted the best examples of the Julio of old when A.J. Brown was on the field. Lucky enough for Tennessee, Tannehill, and those of us who subscribe to the AJB-is-a-top-five-WR newsletter, Brown will be eligible to return from IR in Week 16. Even with Joe Haden on a path toward another absence, I have little faith in Jones, and none whatsoever in Nick Westbrook-Ikhine ($4.2K/$5.3K), Cody Hollister ($3.0K/$4.6K), Chester Rogers ($3.2K/$4.9K), or Racey McMath ($3.0K/$4.6K).
The one Titan receiver that I have thrown a few large-field (LF) GPP darts at is Geoff Swaim ($3.0K/$4.6K) after finally retaking his place atop Anthony Firkser ($2.8K/$4.7K) and MyCole Pruitt ($2.5K/$4.5K) in route share. We received some clarity on the Tennessee backfield last week. The role for D’Onta Foreman ($5.2K/$5.8K) is entirely as expected. Foreman’s featured-back fringe benefits include half of the carry share, all of the goal line work, and the early-down receiving work. Jeremy McNichols ($4.6K/$5.3K) is the change-of-pace, but it didn’t come with the expected receiving work. Dontrell Hilliard ($4.9K/$5.2K) claimed the up-tempo role and the third-down receiving work that was expected to go to McNichols.
And this information is important for Week 15 since Pittsburgh’s RB defense recently disintegrated. In only four games, Austin Ekeler (41.5 FPs), Joe Mixon (32.3), Devonta Freeman (20.7), and Dalvin Cook (35.2) transformed a Steelers’ defense that held every RB faced to under 17 FPs, and into one permitting the ninth-most FPG to the position (25.5). They are also endorsing 2.31 goal-to-go (GTG) carries/game (eighth-most). And no defense has permitted more FPG to RBs over the last four weeks (36.7). Those GTG opportunities specifically call out to Foreman.
Final notes on Pittsburgh
The Titans have been brutally efficient at containing opposing RBs to the second-fewest FPG this season (19.3). They are tied with the Steelers in obliging the eighth-most GTG carries/game (2.31) but, with RB5/RB5 pricing, the fact that Najee Harris ($7.8K/$8.8K) failed to cover value in the six games prior to Week 14 is enough for me to devote my cap dollars elsewhere. It’s important to understand that I follow one rule of my formula to the letter, unless I see clear evidence with my own eyes of a crippling issue within an offense, the process always trumps a previous week of negative results. That’s likely a decent explanation for being all over Johnson this week. However, since it’s already been passed along that I’m also on Big Ben, Diontae’s a beast, but Roethlisberger needs other hungry mouths to be worthy of our attention. And my expectations out of the slot between Ray-Ray McCloud III ($3.3K/$5.0K) and James Washington ($3.5K/$5.1K) are minimal.
Jackrabbit Jenkins has yet to practice this week, so the expectation is for Buster Skrine and Greg Mabin to combine their coverage-deficient forces in defense of Chase Claypool ($5.9K/$6.4K) stationed on the right side of the offense. It’s also my expectation that Claypool will be starving for opportunities to put last week’s bone-headed mistakes on national television out of memory. Mixing otherworldly athleticism and a ferocious appetite for positive attention, the resulting potion is laced with DFS gold. Even the 15% increase in air yardage rate from Roethlisberger is enough to tilt the balance from Pat Freiermuth’s ($4.5K/$5.3K) underneath stuff, and toward the intermediate-to-deep work for Claypool.
Matchups to Target
A.J. Green, ARI ($4.9K DK | $5.7K FD) vs. Nickell Robey-Coleman, DET
The resiliency of the Cardinals will not be tested on a road trip into Wayne County. The date for that exam will take place on Christmas Day against Indianapolis. That stated, Week 15 will be important preparation since it will provide a glimpse into Kliff Kingsbury’s post-DeAndre Hopkins approach. Arizona already lost the services of Nuk for a three-game stretch prior to retaking the field in Week 13. However, that plan always included a guarantee of a Hopkins’ return following rest. Nuk is going under the knife to repair significant damage to his MCL. This offense cannot wait around for their star wideout to guide them during the playoffs. He might rejoin the team in late January. No guarantee.
Kingsbury needs at least one wideout to emerge as the lead-dog for Kyler Murray. And with Baby Yoda playing at a truly elite level, the receiver that does emerge will be set up for fortune and glory. The Lions are blending together the fifth-highest rate of Cover 2, 12th-highest of Cover 6, and, a very recent addition, a top-10 rate of Cover 4 in each of the last two weeks. Considering the unveiling of that competitive Cover 4 rate occurred during their 29-27 victory over Minnesota – their only win of the season, it’s an additive that’s already been written into the official recipe. On 61 dropbacks against Cover 4 with both Murray and A.J. Green on the field this season, Green leads Arizona receivers in receptions (seven), yardage (102), and YPRR (1.85). During his career against Cover 4, Murray has created 0.35 FP/Db (11th-most), the second-highest yardage rate (17%), and third-highest TD rate (12%).
As one of the top Cover 6 threats in the game, Christian Kirk will always hold the advantage in that department. But Green also leads the team with 2.56 YPRR vs. Cover 2. Detroit lost Jerry Jacobs for the season last week. In his place, 5-foot-8 Nickell Robey-Coleman will be asked to guard the 6-foot-4 Green. That, or he can take his chances with the 6-foot-5 Antoine Wesley. NRC played every one of his snaps at left corner last week, so the expectation is for Robey-Coleman to cover Green. We only have 24 coverage snaps from NRC this season. But it’s a matchup screaming out for a 5+/100+/1 game from Green.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, DET ($5.2K DK | $5.9K FD) vs. Byron Murphy Jr., ARI
Another clear-cut example of target rate overruling individual coverage, Amon-Ra St. Brown has been fed with 32% target shares in back-to-back weeks. When ARSB put the finishing touches on his 10/86/1 statement receiving line – including the game-winning 11-yard TD after the clock had expired, the takeaway was more toward it-was-only-a-matter-of-time than anything approaching let’s-get-ready-for-a-late-season-breakout. Minnesota’s coverage is one thing, that of Denver’s is an entirely different ballpark. St. Brown showcased more in last week’s loss than in Week 13’s victory. The Broncos used five different defensive backs in an attempt to contain ARSB. He generated an 8/73/0 line on 11 targets, including 2/18/0 on only three routes into Patrick Surtain II’s coverage.
If St. Brown receives another 30+% target share, ARSB will work against a variety of defenders, and the fine coverage of Byron Murphy Jr. is simply not going to be enough to hold him under his floor with WR42/WR41 pricing. When I’m constructing my Cash/SE lineup each week, when the word “if” is being tossed around in my head on a player, it’s circled in red as an indication of GPP-only status. ARSB falls within that category for me this week. Love what I’m seeing, just want to see more before threatening Cash/SE investment’s chances of remaining above the money line.
Final notes on Arizona
My hope is that we’ll see Kyler Murray ($7.9K/$8.8K) dedicate more of time to gaining yardage on the ground without Nuk. But it’s unlikely that we see a significant bump this week, as the Cards are understandable 13.5-point road favorites. The results of the MRI on James Conner’s ($6.4K/$8.0K) ankle could really throw a curveball at this offense’s resiliency. If he is forced to miss time, the up-tempo role will, of course, be locked down by Chase Edmonds ($5.1K/$6.5K). But the early-down, short-yardage work could be up for grabs between Eno Benjamin ($4.4K/$5.5K) and, if healthy, Jonathan Ward ($4.0K/$4.5K). It’s too early in the game for those answers.
My jaw will hit the floor if something crazy like Antoine Wesley ($3.0K/$4.7K) emerging as the go-to ensues now that he’s locked into a featured role. Short of that unlikelihood, Rondale Moore ($4.4K/$5.5K) has been about as useful to Murray as Andy Isabella. So, Green, Christian Kirk ($5.3K/$6.0K), and Zach Ertz ($5.4K/$5.3K) each appear to be on a level playing field to absorb the vacant targets. My money will obviously be on Green this week. But Kirk and Ertz could absolutely eat well against this generous defense.
Final notes on Detroit
My expectations for the Lions’ offense begins-and-ends with Jared Goff ($5.1K/$6.4K) feeding St. Brown with a massive target share. D’Andre Swift sounds as though he’ll be listed as doubtful or simply ruled out, Jamaal Williams will miss Week 15, and it’s unlikely that Detroit will remain in contention with Arizona long enough for either Craig Reynolds ($4.3K/$5.3K) or Godwin Igwebuike ($4.2K/$5.0K) to piece together enough production.
ARSB can thank Josh Reynolds ($4.3K/$5.1K) for emerging as the second perimeter WR across from Kalif Raymond ($4.4K/$5.2K) to draw his share of safety attention away from the middle. Was it going to be more of Brock Wright ($2.8K/$4.5K) without T.J. Hockenson ($5.2K/$6.0K) last week? No sir. Shane Zylstra ($2.5K/$4.3K) – a ‘21 UDFA out of Minnesota State – came out of nowhere to be the featured inline option last week. Hock is out for the year due to thumb surgery, so get used to seeing the Zylstra-Wright mixture for the remainder.
Matchups to Target
Tua Tagovailoa, MIA ($5.7K DK | $7.4K FD) vs. Jets’ Cover 1 | 3 | 4
Love me some Tua Tagovailoa this week. And the feeling should be mutual. At this late stage in the season, nobody risking anything of substance in DFS should require a reminder of just how amazingly-awful the Jets’ defense has played this season. If anyone needs to verify a defensive metric of New York’s, allow me to save you the trouble… they are allowing one of the top-five most/highest numbers/rates of ______________. And, yes, the previous statement also includes their allowances to the _____ position.
As explained multiple times in the past, Tagovailoa is one of the most difficult QBs to project on a weekly basis since he has completed such a high rate of his TDs inside the RZ when opposing defenses have their short-field schemes on the field. For those wondering, while I have plans in place to include the short-field scheme variables into my process for the 2022 season, I still need to collect quite a bit more of that data before we can use it with the same level of reliability. However, Tagovailoa has provided more than enough success against Cover 3 – 0.39 FP/Db during his career (12th-most) – for an actionable response. In addition to the third-highest rate of Cover 4, New York fields a Cover 3 on one-third of their snaps (14th-highest rate). Money in the bank 🏦.
DeVante Parker, MIA ($4.3K DK | $5.8K FD) vs. Bryce Hall, NYJ
As I was all set to feature a write-up dedicated to Jaylen Waddle, the ‘Phins added their ‘21 first-rounder to a disgustingly-long list of players expected to miss Week 15. When we are targeting the Jets, it’s all about smiles. He may seem like he misses more games than he plays, but DeVante Parker is still one of the top-10 wideouts when working against Cover 3. He’s assembled 0.45 FP/Rt (16th-most) and 2.33 YPRR (15th-most) against Cover 3 during his last three campaigns.
In addition, a statement provided by Ryan Fitzpatrick – former Miami QB – really summarized Parker’s ability against Cover 3. To paraphrase Fitzmagic, he praised Parker’s complete understanding of the scheme to the point that he already knows where the holes in coverage will emerge before the ball is even snapped. The lamb set to be the slaughter the most on Sunday will be Bryce Hall. While he’s actually been one of the better NYJ defenders, he hasn’t been tasked with defending Parker.
Final notes on New York
Rather than continuing to list Zach Wilson ($5.2K/$6.5K) as an Avoid, rock-bottom ownership rates seem to indicate that message has already infected the field. Miami is no longer blindly putting Cover 1 on the field; they've converted toward featuring Cover 3 as their base shell. However, partly due to their extremely high rate earlier in the season, they are still using a top-three rate of Cover 1. More than high enough to avoid Mormon Manziel entirely. Tevin Coleman will wish he had the opportunity to headline this backfield back in his hands. Michael Carter ($4.7K/$5.9K) is set to resume his role as the featured back. Just hit the brakes before considering Carter against the airtight run defense of the Dolphins.
La’Mical Perine ($4.2K/$5.0K) and Ty Johnson ($4.8K/$5.4K) will likely still mix in with Carter this week, but none of the three will offer anything of value from their watered-down rotation. That’s especially true with Wilson under center. Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Denzel Mims have all landed on IR. It’s about the worst possible scenario for Wilson to face. The Patriots are the only defense to permit fewer FPG to opposing offenses than Miami over the last four weeks. For those hoping to strike gold with Jamison Crowder ($5.0K/$5.7K), just keep in mind that he’ll need a considerably-high target share to get it done against this defense.
As is the case every week, across all dimensions of existence, Keelan Cole Sr. ($3.5K/$5.0K) is a comfortable fade. If any New York player is deserving of a dart throw, take a look at ‘19 UDFA D.J. Montgomery ($3.0K/$4.8K). He grew legs out of antimatter to land a featured role last week. If he somehow manages to reach paydirt, WR125/WR121 pricing will be accompanied by 0.0001% field ownership. Who led NYJ receivers in target share last week? None other than Braxton Berrios ($3.2K/$5.3K). Give that kid a featured role already. Ryan Griffin ($4.0K/$6.0K) runs occasional routes for the Mean Green.
Final notes on Miami
There’s one individual that I plan to have considerable ownership of in Week 15… I just don’t know his name yet. Very likely responsible for Waddle’s positive test 😠, Phillip Lindsay ($4.6K/$5.5K), Myles Gaskin ($5.6K/$6.6K), and Salvon Ahmed ($4.0K/$5.4K) have all been placed on the COVID list. However, they do hold the potential to provide the required negative tests in time to take the field. If they are out this week, Malcolm Brown ($4.0K/$5.0K) is set to return from IR, and Miami also has Duke Johnson Jr. ($4.0K/$4.5K) and Gerrid Doaks ($4.0K/$4.5K) isolated from humanity and encased in bubble wrap, just in case. Lamar Miller also set aside his pride to add his name to the emergency contact list of his former team. I don’t care who ends up tanking the starter reps for the Dolphins this week. I want some exposure.
Another wideout nobody will be touching, possibly feeding on a decent chunk of Waddle’s workload, will be Albert Wilson ($3.4K/$5.0K). Just don’t count on any TDs if you take the bait. The left perimeter of the Miami is a toxic wasteland that consists of a Mack Hollins ($3.1K/$5.1K)-Preston Williams ($3.0K/$4.6K)-Isaiah Ford ($3.0K/$4.7K) rotation 🤮. Mike Gesicki ($5.0K/$6.2K) wasn’t able to get it done the last time these teams played, but he’s still an integral component in Tagovalioa’s toolbox. Even more so this week without Waddle.
Matchups to Target
Dallas Goedert, PHI ($5.3K DK | $6.0K FD) vs. Washington’s Cover 2 | 3 | 4
With all of the makings of a 15-14 final score, the Football Team and the Eagles have about as much love for one another as Daniel Snyder has in the legal process. Both teams enter Week 15 sitting with a record of 6-7. And both have around a 30% chance to make the playoffs. Do I like more individuals from this matchup? Of course I do. I typically want to write up more individuals from most matchups. But my least favorite moment of each week of the NFL season is the moment news is passed along ruling out a player for a game/the year that I’ve already devoted over an hour of my time toward analyzing, writing up.
The only matchup that I see both the upside worthy of our attention and lacking significant question marks as to health status and/or role in the offense is Dallas Goedert. In the seven games since Zach Ertz was traded to Arizona, Goedert has been on the field for at least 83% of the offensive snaps in six. Goedert left Week 10 early due to a concussion, so we can toss that failure in the data aside. Since Week 8 – sans Week 10, Goedert has garnered an average target share of 30%. Any TE that’s on the field for an average of ~87% of team passing plays and a 30% target share is a weekly target. We’re talking numbers only approached by Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Mark Andrews, and the guy who used to be Darren Waller. A couple others are on the cusp of reaching that elite grouping, but Goedert already holds membership to that elk lodge.
With TE8/TE8 pricing, we have our first example of sheer volume rendering every matchup for a player as insignificant. Plug-and-play my people.
Final notes on Washington
I had zero doubts that Taylor Heinicke ($5.5K/$6.9K) would be ready to go for Week 15. Heinicke is one of the toughest kids playing QB in the NFL today. I am enamored by his potential. In my scouting opinion, Washington has already uncovered their QB of the present and future. With a game-ready O-line already in tow, WFT needs to dedicate a first-rounder on a stud wideout to take the field across from Terry McLaurin ($6.8K/$6.9K). And the ‘22 draft just happens to offer an incredibly deep WR crop. For Week 15, I am not thrilled about McLaurin’s chances of clearing the concussion protocol. No F1 McLaurin = no interest in Heinicke. That stated, I will go to work adding John Bates ($3.0K/$4.6K) to additional lineups if Terry McScorin is ruled out. No defense has phlebotomized FPs at the rate of Philadelphia this season.
With Darius Slay – my choice for Comeback Player of the Year – and Steven Nelson on the outside dedicated toward closing down any-and-all deep target aspirations, the vast majority of the passing volume is funneled inside. Just don’t get carried away with the idea that the inside funnel will in any way be to the benefit of Adam Humphries ($3.9K/$5.2K). A certain antihero referred to as Avonte Maddox roams those parts. No to DeAndre Carter ($3.8K/$5.1K), Curtis Samuel ($3.7K/$4.8K), and Dyami Brown ($3.0K/$4.7K). Antonio Gibson ($6.0K/$6.9K) was benched last week after losing his sixth fumble of the season. My concern obviously doesn‘t lie with Gibson’s ability, it’s with the chance that he could be benched again if he loses another ball. It’s a decent matchup with an Eagles’ defense handing out the 10th-most FPG to RBs (24.7) and fourth-most GTG carries/game (2.85).
It’s no surprise whatsoever that J.D. McKissic ($5.0K/$5.3K) has been unable to clear the concussion protocol. I was hoping that Jaret Patterson ($4.2K/$4.9K) would get some extended run after Gibson was benched. He didn’t get it. Jonathan Williams ($4.0K/$5.0K) split the touches with him.
Final notes on Philadelphia
I’ll be out-of-mind confused if HC Nick Sirianni uses a vanilla cake-fight with the Jets’ defense as grounds toward Gardner Minshew II ($5.2K/$6.2K) unseating Jalen Hurts ($6.6K/$7.8K). Give me – yes, me, a nobody fantasy analyst – the Eagles’ offense and my pick of five collegiate QBs, and at least three of those selected QBs will meet-or-exceed Minshew’s FPG output from Week 13. Hurts led Philadelphia to victories over New Orleans, Denver, and came within one score of beating the Buccaneers and Chargers. Don’t confuse my belief that Hurts should maintain his starting job as my unbelief in Minshew. In actuality, based on his excellent results leading an atrocious Jacksonville team, Minshew should already be featured as the face of an NFL franchise. But Hurts has put too much on film to be tossed aside for the greener grass. Of course, if Hurts is injured, that’s another thing.
If we shouldn’t be reading into Minshew’s results against the Jets, the 20/120/0 rushing line for Miles Sanders ($5.8K/$6.5K) should also be swept under the rug. The Houston and Jacksonville defenses are bad, the NYJ defense is one of the worst units, even by their standards, in the last half decade. Sanders reaggravated the same ankle injury that already previously landed him on IR. It could be the Jordan Howard ($4.3K/$5.7K) show coming out of the bye. Whatever Howard has been drinking to revitalize his career should be patented. Any RB that averages 6.6 YPC against the Saints and Broncos’ defenses should be held in high regard. If Howard manages to replicate the success showcased prior to the knee injury that kept him out of the last two games, Philly should seriously consider looking to trade Sanders away for draft capital while he still has one year remaining on his rookie contract.
After every sign pointed toward Howard being on his way out of the NFL, adding in some incentive-laden bonuses to beef up the potential bottom line, Howard would likely pounce on the opportunity to extend his NFL veteran minimum contract. SAnders just hasn’t been a necessary component of this Philadelphia offense. Even if Howard flops the rest of the way, Boston Scott ($4.2K/$5.4K), Kenneth Gainwell ($4.5K/$5.2K) – given a bit of time to work on allowing his blocking to develop in front of him, or even an outside option could fill Sanders’ role without the offense missing a beat.
I’m avoiding DeVonta Smith ($6.1K/$5.9K) entirely this week. And it doesn’t matter which QB takes the field. Smith will try his best to motion away, but he can expect to see a lot of William Jackson III on Sunday. In his last five games, WJ3 has held his coverage responsibilities to a 2.4/20/0.4 average receiving line (6.8 FPG). But his excellence extends back to the beginning of the seasons. He’s limited his responsibilities to 0.81 YPCS (10th-fewest among 76 qualified outside CBs) and 0.22 FP/CS (20th-fewest). If Minshew were to draw the start, he immediately established connections with Goedert, obviously, and Quez Watkins ($3.9K/$5.3K). The pressure should be on Jalen Reagor’s ($3.2K/$5.0K) shoulders to figure out a way to contribute. He’s in immediate danger of establishing a Nelson Agholor-like reputation. Reagor’s 0.169 FP/Rt this season is the fourth-lowest number among 109 qualified wideouts.
I’ll be including a new feature this week. At various locations throughout Advanced Matchups covering the main slate, you’ll find my top five positional targets of the week – the first example listed under Josh Allen’s write-up. The order is important. I’ll be listing those that I feel possess the most reliability at the top of each list. Since I never expose my analysis to outside opinions or projected ownership numbers, utilizing my lists will require responsibility for determining the appropriate game type to be placed upon the audience. The players added to the bottom of each list should not be disregarded as unreliable, only that the results envisioned required more projection than those above.
Matchups to Target
Josh Allen, BUF ($8.1K DK | $8.7K FD) vs. Panthers’ Cover 1 | 3
Is this dope actually touting the QB1/QB2 of the week? Most definitely. If you were able to catch Buffalo at Tampa Bay last week, you had the pleasure of watching the game of the week. San Francisco at Cincinnati was a lot of fun – if only Ja’Marr Chase managed to control that overtime TD reception. And Los Angeles at Arizona is always must-watch-TV whenever they clash. But the Bills and Buccaneers put the most exciting 60 minutes of play on film. With TB building a 24-3 lead at halftime, Josh Allen tossed for 130 yards, zero TDs, one INT, a 58.3 passer rating, and only 8.5 FPs. We can give all of the credit to halftime adjustments by OC Brian Daboll and DC Leslie Frazier, or we can attribute the comeback to the actual source.
Up to that point, the Bucs remained true to their rotation of the fourth-highest rate of Cover 2, ninth-highest of Cover 3, and 12th-highest of Cover 4. While coming out for the second half, it was announced that an illness would prevent Jamel Dean from playing the rest of the game. Unless Tom Brady was removed from the offense, how could the absence of a single player, to be clear, other than the GOAT, single-handedly lead to Buffalo very nearly overcoming a 21-point deficit? It’s high time the populus begins to understand that Dean is no mere mortal. When Dean is on the field, the entire right sideline is eliminated as an option for the opposing offense. He’s cutting off the oxygen to his coverage with 0.72 YPCS (seventh-fewest), 0.16 FP/CS (third-fewest), 0.11 AY/CS (12th-fewest), and a 59.7 TPR (fifth-lowest).
It’s extremely important to remember that some of the other outside corners among the very elite, i.e., A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward Jr., etc., play on teams with lackluster offenses. Nobody should attempt to condescend their coverage metrics, but life is quite different for those of the elite corners that play for elite offenses, i.e., Dean, Jalen Ramsey, Tre'Davious White, etc. They have their coverage put to the test nearly every week of the season as opponents attempt to keep pace with the scoring.
When Dean left the field, the entire strategy of the Tampa Bay defense had to be rewritten. Rather than following the Cover 2, 3, and 4 rotation that had confounded Allen up to that point, DC Todd Bowles was forced to go Cover 1-heavy in order to account for each of the Bills’ dangerous receiving weapons. During the next two quarters, Allen passed for 175 yards, two TDs, zero INTs, a 105.6 passer rating, and 27.6 FPs – 76% of his total. How can we use this information to our advantage? The Panthers are using the sixth-highest rate of Cover 1 and have been a weekly threat to use a Cover 1 rate approaching half of their plays. And Carolina has delivered 15.0 pure passing FPG to QBs over the last four weeks. With 24 TDs vs. 10 INTs against Cover 1 the last three seasons, Allen is generating 0.41 FP/DB (15th-most), and the highest passing yardage rate among qualified QBs (34%).
My Top-Five QB Targets for Week 15:
Gabriel Davis, BUF ($3.7K DK | $4.9K FD) vs. Rashaan Melvin, CAR
The direct recipient of Allen’s love when facing Cover 1, the individual who should be the first focus of our attention is Stefon Diggs ($7.7K/$7.8K). However, he’s likely to draw coverage from Stephon Gilmore this week. If Gilmore’s metrics qualified, his 0.09 FP/CS would tie A.J. Terrell for the second-fewest this season. With Donte Jackson landing on IR prior to Week 14, Carolina re-signed Rashaan Melvin – released earlier in the season – and paired him with C.J. Henderson to man the right sideline. We still need more coverage data collected on Melvin. For Henderson, he’s allowing 1.94 YPCS and 0.48 FP/CS, averages that would pace all outside CBs for the most, if qualified.
With Emmanuel Sanders out for the foreseeable future with a knee injury, Gabriel Davis is going to step into an every-snap role on the outside. While Davis doesn’t have the type of counting stats of Diggsy due to previously being the fourth wideout option, he has posted the 10th-highest TPR (129.6) and eighth-most YPT (11.3) during his 29-game career against Cover 1.
Final notes on Carolina
I’m steering completely clear of Panthers’ QBs with word out hinting at some type of rotation between Cam Newton ($5.4K/$6.9K) and P.J. Walker ($5.0K/$6.3K). The Bills have had their run defense exploited recently by Jonathan Taylor and Leonard Fournette, so Chuba Hubbard ($5.7K/$6.0K) should not be immediately discounted. It appears he’s going to take on around 65-to-75% of the carry share, with Ameer Abdullah ($4.4K/$4.9K) working in the change-of-pace role. Buffalo has gifted opposing RBs with 5.0 RZ touches/game during the last four weeks (eighth-most). But I would proceed with caution. The Bills dropped to 7-6 after losing to Tampa Bay last week. They are going to welcome the Panthers into their house with homicidal intentions.
Losing Tre'Davious White for the season is absolutely devastating. The Bills would be able to replace White’s dominance with a couple individuals… IF they were permitted to select players from any NFL team. Levi Wallace is just not on the same level as white, but Buffalo is still equipped with the top safety duo in the league: Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. DJ Moore Jr. ($4.8K/$5.8K) is going to see his target share, but the quality of arms delivering the ball depresses his floor. As was the case when Walker earned the start in Week 10, my interest in Sideshow Bob Anderson ($4.8K/$5.8K) with his college QB dictating the targets is elevated. However, it may only require a single turnover from Walker before Newton takes over. Needless to say, Brandon Zylstra ($3.0K/$5.0K), Terrace Marshall Jr. ($3.0K/$4.6K), Tommy Tremble ($2.6K/$4.6K), and, particularly, Ian Thomas ($2.5K/$4.3K) can be disregarded.
Final notes on Buffalo
The Buffalo backfield may be the most egregiously mismanaged group in the NFL. Nobody can justify reasoning for Devin Singletary ($5.0K/$5.4K) taking the lead over Matt Breida ($4.8K/$5.3K) after he actually generated some production for this backfield with 13.4 FPG and three TDs in three games from Weeks 10 through 12. From what’s been explained to me, a false narrative is being passed around that Cole Beasley ($4.9K/$5.8K) is “the best zone receiver” on Buffalo, and off limits against man coverage. Choosing matchups based upon man vs. zone is an approach only landing positive results entirely due to luck, nothing more.
When the specific coverage scheme data is unavailable, look at the individual matchup. Digging any deeper is akin to blindly tossing a dart at a moving target. We will likely see a bit more of Isaiah McKenzie ($3.0K/$4.6K) in Davis’ old role. Just not enough to get excited about. After Davis, Dawson Knox ($5.1K/$6.5K) should receive the second-most attention. He’s one of the TEs on the brink of reaching elite status. He’s on the field enough, but falls short in the target share department.
Matchups to Target
Albert Okwuegbunam, DEN ($3.3K DK | $5.2K FD) vs. Bengals’ Cover 2
I’m looking for more from Albert Okwuegbunam this week. Since being activated from IR prior to Week 8, he’s provided palatable returns in four-of-six games. We have the option of chasing after the miracle known as Noah Fant ($4.4K/$5.6K) covering floor value – failing in that regard in six-straight – with TE14/TE13 pricing, or targeting reasonable returns from Okwuegbunam with TE26/TE20 pricing. Provided he plays, if you want an absolute guarantee of big production from a TE, independent of price, you want George Kittle. If you don’t have that much cap space to devote to the position, Dallas Goedert is the call. And Albert-O falls in to provide much-needed salary relief. For comparison’s sake, Detroit put the 15th-highest rate of Cover 2 on the field against Denver last week. The Bengals are scheming the 15th-highest rate of Cover 2 this season.
My Top-Five TE Targets for Week 15:
- George Kittle
- Dallas Goedert
- Zach Ertz
- Albert Okwuegbunam
- John Bates
Final notes on Cincinnati
I have Joe Burrow ($6.1K/$7.3K) featured on both small-field and LF GPP lineups this week. The Broncos are using the fifth-highest rate of Cover 1 and seventh-highest of Cover 6. During his career, Burrow has manufactured 0.56 FP/Db (second-most), a 108.0 passer rating (third-highest), and fueled by a 22% increase in YPA against Cover 1 (third-highest). On 23% of career dropbacks, Burrow has created 28% of his yardage, and 37% of his total TDs. And it doesn’t end there, when facing Cover 6 during his career, Burrow has generated 0.33 FP/Db (15th-most). While 12% of total yardage and 11% of TDs on 13% of dropbacks against Cover 6 may not seem to be anything worth writing home about, those are some of the best numbers among all qualified QBs.
I am fading Joe Mixon ($7.2K/$8.3K) and Samaje Perine ($4.6K/$5.2K) entirely in Week 15. Denver has thrived against teams who attempt to attack on the ground when QBs are unable to crack their coverage rotation. This is not going to be one of those games with Burrow’s perfect stylistic matchup to what the Broncos put on the field. I left Ja’Marr Chase ($7.1K/$7.5K) off from being a featured Target since his pricing is just too damn high at this stage in his career. And that opinion stands with the knowledge that Chase has produced 0.77 FP/Rt (fourth-most), 4.05 YPRR (third-most), and 16.4 YPT (the most) against Cover 1 during his rookie season. The alignment numbers inform us that it’ll fall on Ronald Darby to defend Chase. Darby is packaging 1.16 YPCS (28th-most), 0.23 FP/CS (28th-fewest), 0.73 AY/CS third-most, and an 86.2 TPR (30th-lowest). I was able to free up enough cap space to add Chase to several GPP lineups, but I did not make the same allowances for Tee Higgins ($6.5K/$6.8K) or Tyler Boyd ($4.9K/$5.7K). I’m not completely scared off Higgins against ‘21 first-rounder Patrick Surtain II, but his WR20/WR22 pricing does not reflect the difficult opponent on deck. I cannot say the same for Boyd’s matchup. For those unaware or others that require a reminder:
The expectation is that Bryce Callahan will immediately be reinserted as the starting nickelback. Prior to his injury, he limited his coverage to 0.98 YPCS (seventh-fewest) and 0.19 FP/CS (fourth-fewest). And his footwork and glove-like coverage explodes my scouting brain. The other receiver I am expecting to produce for Cincinnati is C.J. Uzomah ($3.1K/$5.1K). I’m fully aware of Denver’s exploits against TEs, but Uzomah has created the 11th-most FP/Rt (37%), the highest TPR (142.2), and the second-most YPT (10.4) during the last three seasons.
Final notes on Denver
It’s far more important that Teddy Bridgewater ($5.5K/$6.6K) has led Denver to a 7-6 record – four wins in their last six – than it is that he’s failed to become anything close to a serviceable DFS option. He’s covered value once in the last seven games. A big reason for that lack of passing production is the recent rushing success from Javonte Williams ($6.1K/$7.0K) with an average of 24.7 FPG during the last three weeks. And Melvin Gordon III ($5.9K/$7.0K) has also played well with 16.8 FPG in his last five games. Javonte is in play in all game types this week. He’s simply been too scorching hot on the ground and through the air to even consider fading him.
I’m having a difficult time trusting Jerry Jeudy ($5.4K/$6.1K) after failing to capitalize on back-to-back matchups with top-five Cover 2 rates. One of the top free agent additions for Cincinnati, Mike Hilton is holding his responsibilities to 1.00 YPCS (10th-fewest) and 0.25 FP/CS (16th-fewest). Bridgewater’s underwhelming passing prowess has completely eliminated Courtland Sutton ($4.6K/$5.6K) and Tim Patrick ($4.5K/$5.5K) from consideration. Perhaps, if the Bengals manage to build a considerable lead, Teddy will open things up. I will not be investing a dime in seeing that unfold.
Matchups to Target
Russell Gage, ATL ($5.8K DK | $6.0K FD) vs. Josh Norman, SF
The 49ers are featuring a pair of rookie CBs opposite struggling free agent Josh Norman. He’s giving up 1.27 YPCS (21st-most), 0.30 FP/CS (14th-most), 0.18 AY/CS (19th-most), and a 122.1 TPR (second-highest). They have managed to sidestep the CB attrition to maintain their rotation of the seventh-highest rate of Cover 3 and fifth-highest of Cover 4. Atlanta has been forced to just put the ball into the hands of the available options.
Nobody is going to confuse Russell Gage with a No. 1 wideout, but that doesn't alter the fact that it’s the role he’s filling for the Falcons. As sad as it may seem, with the status of Elijah Mitchell in doubt, sans pointing an obvious finger toward George Kittle or Deebo Samuel, Gage represents the top matchup to target on the slate. We’ll just skip over Gage’s numbers against Cover 3. On only 16% of career routes, Gage has collected 17% of his receptions, 19% of his yardage, and 29% of his total TDs against Cover 4. An average of 18.2 FPG in his last three games would comfortably return value with a repeat.
Final notes on Atlanta
The issues at corner are significant enough that Matt Ryan ($5.3K/$6.5K) could provide some utility. But not compelling enough to draw my interest. When I advanced my sample size forward a season in Week 10, Ryan’s coverage profile really suffered. Another individual hitting the proverbial and literal wall recently is Cordarrelle Patterson ($6.9K/$7.0K). And I’m not just referring to the fact that we needed Patterson to generate 61.5 combined FPs in Weeks 10, 13, and 14 to cover value. He gave us 31.4 – 49% under his floor. Yikes! No, I’m also referring to Patterson pacing all NFL RBs with 15% of his carries resulting in zero-or-negative yardage. Double yikes!
Don’t expect to see Mike Davis ($5.1K/$5.6K) or Qadree Ollison ($4.0K/$4.7K) coming to the rescue. Tajae Sharpe ($3.3K/$4.9K) will draw the pleasure of working across from the rookie rotation of Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir. I’m not expecting much.
The most difficult challenge will fall on Olamide Zaccheaus ($3.5K/$5.0K) with K'Waun Williams. Teams have gone after Azeez Al-Shaair as the most-targeted LB this season, but San Fran has still contained TEs to the fourth-lowest FPG this season. Kyle Pitts ($5.5K/$5.8K) is a different beast altogether. The production just hasn’t been there since posting 20-plus in Weeks 5 and 7.
Final notes on San Francisco
If his play continues over the rest of the season, Jimmy Garoppolo ($5.8K/$6.7K) is going to keep the starting job for the ‘22 season. If Elijah Mitchell ($6.2K/$7.8K) manages to gain clearance, he’ll overtake the Miami collection to join my top-five RB targets. Jeff Wilson Jr. ($5.0K/$5.8K) is a one-dimensional bore.
If Wilson draws the start, Deebo Samuel ($8.2K/$8.2K) is going to sacrifice much of his receiving volume to take on around 40% of the backfield carries. It’s a scenario that will eliminate a superstud matchup across from A.J. Terrell. And taking on an RB role has prevented Samuel from reaching value the last three games. Deebo surrendering targets has been to the benefit of Brandon Aiyuk ($6.3K/$6.6K). Finally some good news on his end. And I actually convinced myself to add some LF GPP exposure to Aiyuk for the first time this season. Jauan Jennings ($3.6K/$4.9K) is still figuring out how to get open.
While the rest of the world has been content with mortality, George Kittle ($7.5K/$7.8K) has been a demigod unleashed. An average of 39.9 FPG the last two weeks should have the DFS world convinced that he simply cannot be faded. While I don’t have 100% exposure, I’m currently sitting with a massive 60% of my lineups featuring Kittle. That number will only rise when his status for this week is clarified.
Matchups to Target
Aaron Rodgers, GB ($7.5K DK | $7.6K FD) vs. Ravens’ Cover 1 | 6
No Marlon Humphrey, no Marcus Peters, no Jimmy Smith, and no Chuck Clark. When the evaluation of this matchup for Aaron Rodgers was initiated, attacking absences in the secondary weren't even factored as compelling reasons to spend QB5/QB10 dollars on Mr. Rodgers. When Rodgers put up 341 passing yards, four TDs vs. 0 INTs, and 32.6 FPs on the Bears last week, Chicago utilized the seventh-highest rate of Cover 6. A Week 15 date with the Baltimore Ravens will present Rodgers with a matchup that goes far beyond measly secondary personnel. The Ravens are using the ninth-highest rate of Cover 1 and 10th-highest of Cover 6 this season. Yes, Baltimore is granting the fourth-most FPG through the air to QBs (16.4), second-most passing YPG (266.1), third-most YPA (7.44), the highest completion rate on 20-plus throws (19.9%), and the highest completion rate on 40-plus throws (4.63%).
Those allowances are great, but the true appeal is found in Rodgers’ scheme history.
When he’s gone against Cover 1 during the last three seasons, he’s thrown 27 TDs vs. 3 INTs, manufactured the fourth-most FP/Db (0.53), and the fourth-highest passer rating (107.7). It doesn’t stop there. When working against Cover 6 during the same stretch of time, he’s constructed 0.42 FP/Db (second-most) FP/Db and pairs that with a 107.1 passer rating (third-highest). Choose Kittle in a head-to-head decision between the two but, if Kittle isn’t involved in the decision, Rodgers is my QB1 for Week 15.
Davante Adams, GB ($8.9K DK | $8.5K FD) vs. Anthony Averett, BAL
Secondary absences didn’t alter my view of Rodgers, but it’s a mountainous draw toward Davante Adams. In order to get properly motivated toward WR2/WR3 pricing, roadblocks are difficult justifications. Adams only ranks 36th-best with 0.34 FP/Rt against Cover 6 the last three seasons. For a wideout of Adams’ caliber, that number is a 45% decrease to his overall average. Before completely dismissing Adams – my WR1 of the week, consider that he’s shaping 0.77 FP/Rt (the most), 4.05 YPRR (third-most), and 16.4 YPT (the most) across from Cover 1. On 21% of routes, he’s seized 30% of his catches, 38% of his yardage, and 30% of his total TDs.
Responsibility for surrendering monster numbers to Adams will fall on the shoulders of Anthony Averett. The Ravens will count on Averett to be their lockdown corner 😳. He’s gift-wrapping the 1.57 YPCS (fifth-most), 0.30 FP/CS (15th-most), 0.21 AY/CS (seventh-most), and, oddly enough, a 79.0 TPR (22nd-lowest). That TPR is going to be put to the ultimate test. And Baltimore is going to have nothing in response to the hailstorm the Packers’ passing offense is going to bring down on their heads.
My Top-Five WR Targets for Week 15:
Marvin Jones Jr.
Van Jefferson Jr.
Final notes on Green Bay
Green Bay may ultimately decide to hold Aaron Jones ($6.6K/$7.5K) out with his various ailments considering the current state of the Ravens’ defense. If that scenario unfolds, I’ll be creating additional lineups just to get some AJ Dillon ($5.7K/$7.5K) exposure. When Dillon’s bell-cow opportunity is finally provided to him, the only thing that will eventually stand in his way of being a top-five RB is his advancing age. Allen Lazard ($4.0K/$5.3K) also enters an excellent matchup across from Tavon Young, but the question will be if Rodgers will even want to look away from Adams long enough to get him the ball. Baltimore will be unable to keep Chris Westry on the field if he plays as badly as he did last week. Add Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($4.9K/$5.5K) to the list of GB wideouts about to outclass the Ravens’ secondary. The best part about targeting passing offenses against Baltimore is that their run defense is game enough to prevent opponents from running up the score on the ground. Josiah Deguara ($2.7K/$4.6K) and Marcedes Lewis ($2.5K/$4.3K) still play TE for the Pack.
Final notes on Baltimore
Get Lamar Jackson ($7.2K/$7.7K) out of those lineups, even if he plays, he’s been sidelined at practice all week. L-Jax wasn’t exactly setting the world ablaze prior to the injury. Tyler Huntley ($5.4K/$6.4K) is going to be the starting QB for John Harbaugh this week. I was thoroughly impressed with Huntley this preseason. He has impressive zip on his ball, combined with some sexy mobility. If he can find his groove in Week 15, don’t say I didn’t warn you when he pushes out a ~25% profit. Nothing changes this week for the Baltimore backfield. I have too much interest elsewhere to consider Devonta Freeman ($5.5K/$5.9K). And I’m fully aware he took ahold of the entire backfield share from Latavius Murray ($4.6K/$5.1K) last week.
Huntley darts here-and-there are one thing, actually stacking him to a receiver is going to require trust. With Marquise Brown ($5.9K/$6.7K) dealing with a Christmas list of ailments, Rashod Bateman ($5.0K/$5.8K) took the opportunity in Week 14 to establish himself as a trusted target of Huntley’s with a 7/103/0 line on eight targets. But we’ve also got to decide if pitting Hollywood across from Eric Stokes or Bateman in opposition to Rasul Douglas is a good idea. Neither scenarios are of particular interest to me. Devin Duvernay ($3.6K/$5.0K) vs. Chandon Sullivan in the slot… I’ll pass.
Just two weeks removed from Harbaugh playing coy about Bateman’s involvement suffering from Sammy Watkins’ ($4.1K/$5.2K) activation, Sammy falls to fifth in the WR pecking order, even behind James Proche. As always, my choice of receiver stackage in Baltimore is Mark Andrews ($6.4K/$7.4K). If I remember correctly, I was able to pivot off Kittle for a couple shares of MANdrews, but those lineups would likely end up with Kittle if he is removed from the injury report.
Matchups to Target
Rashaad Penny, SEA ($5.4K DK | $6.1K FD) vs. Rams’ Cover 3 | 4 | 6
I’m not going to take anyone by complete surprise with Rashaad Penny this week. He’s always teased us with his explosiveness. The only thing that has stood in his way – sans Chris Carson – has been his health. Even with the field already aware of Penny’s featured role, I’m counting on a good number shying away from the Rams’ defense. To be clear, I’m not going exposure-crazy with Penny. But I will have enough of him to ensure I bring in a nice profit if the game-changing explosiveness that led to him being selected in the first round takes Los Angeles by surprise.
My Top-Five RB Targets for Week 15:
Phillip Lindsay/Myles Gaskin/Salvon Ahmed/Malcolm Brown/Duke Johnson Jr.
Van Jefferson, LAR ($5.6K DK | $6.2K FD) vs. Sidney Jones, SEA
For the third week in a row, the Rams and Van Jefferson Jr. will square off with a defense featuring a high rate of Cover 3. For the third week in a row, I have Jefferson inside my top-five WR targets. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll find the end zone for the fourth week in a row. The timing of Odell Beckham Jr.’s ($5.4K/$6.0K) placement on the COVID list while Jefferson has been blazing hot could foreshadow big things this week. An additional 20% of the target share floating around is not going to be eaten up by Cooper Kupp. He’s already taking on a ridiculous target share each week.
During his career against Cover 3, Jefferson is generating 0.49 FP/Rt (10th-most), 2.42 YPRR (12th-most), 10.9 YPT (16th-most), and a 131.0 TPR (third-highest). He’s collected 38% of his receptions, 38% of the yardage, and 25% of his total TDs on 24% of his routes against Cover 3. Seattle has been a stout passing defense, but Jefferson will draw the softest matchup across from Sidney Jones. He’s licensing 1.24 YPCS (23rd-most), 0.27 FP/CS (25th-most), 0.18n AY/CS (17th-most), and a 112.5 TPR (10th-highest). Kupp garners so much of the safety's attention that Jefferson is free to do his bidding. And we can still roster him with WR32/WR33 pricing.
Final notes on Seattle
I’m anticipating that this will be a forgettable week for the Seattle passing offense. I’m also counting on Jalen Ramsey rejoining the lineup. With Tyler Lockett’s ($7.0K/$7.3K) COVID status up in the air, listing Ramsey across from either Lockett or DK Metcalf ($6.2K/$6.8K) as an Avoid would create too much unguaranteed hesitation in rostering the option outside of Ramsey’s coverage. So, Week 15 will be the first week of the season where Ramsey will not be listed across from a receiver that should be avoided. If anyone entered this matchup with an avoid listing due to Ramsey, it would be Russell Wilson ($6.4K/$7.2K). He’s struggled in each of his four career matchups against Ramsey’s Rams.
The number of alterations that will unfold from now until Sunday’s kickoff will change the entire landscape of Week 15. This was, by a wide margin, the craziest week in the NFL since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. We have no way of knowing if Dont'e Deayon will be available to hold down the slot against D’Wayne Eskridge ($3.0K/$4.7K) and Freddie Swain ($3.0K/$4.7K). If not, Terrell Burgess will hold down the role. We just can’t extend reasonable expectations with less than 50 snaps in coverage from Burgess. Gerald Everett ($3.5K/$4.9K) could be headed for added opportunities… against a LAR defense shutting down TE production.
Final notes on Los Angeles
One thing is entirely clear, previous FPG allowances are not going to dictate the action in Week 15. Available personnel will determine whether teams will be able to carry the practice session game plans they dedicated their week of reps toward. As long as the Rams have Matthew Stafford ($7.0K/$7.7K), Cooper Kupp ($9.0K/$9.0K), Ramsey, and Aaron Donald on the field, this is not going to end well for Seattle.
It’s anyone’s guess what will happen with Darrell Henderson Jr. ($5.9K/$6.8K) this week. Without much information pointing in a determined direction, the expectation is for Sony Michel ($5.8K/$6.8K) to carry the ground game. COVID also threw the TE rotation into chaos, with Tyler Higbee ($4.0K/$5.2K) out, Kendall Blanton ($2.5K/$4.0K) jumped ahead of Brycen Hopkins ($2.5K/$4.0K) for the featured inline role. None of that matters in Week 15. Higbee was activated and Hopkins is now taking his turn on the COVID list.