With the release of Matrix 4 on Wednesday, let’s take a venture into the unknown. In my opinion, one of the most intriguing philosophical theories that has been presented “recently” is the possibility that we are living within a simulation. Rather than digging into all of the details, just check out the documentary A Glitch in the Matrix on Hulu. I’m an open-minded individual. When satisfactory evidence is presented in support of a theory and I am unable to refute it, my only course of action is to admit it to be a possibility. And, when some of the top IQs in the world (Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Neil deGrasse Tyson (video below), Mark Zuckerberg, etc.) all come to the exact same conclusion, we, ladies and gentlemen, may be entering some very scary territory.
The odds that the reality we comprehend, per Musk, holds either a billion to one chance that it is a simulation — an insanely frightening thought — or, from deGrasse Tyson’s view, a far more consumable 50:50. As Musk breaks it down: “either we are going to create simulations that are indistinguishable from reality (or) civilization will cease to exist.” To put that another way, our technological advances have progressed so quickly that the only thing that could stand in the way of creating such simulations is literally our own destruction. It all boils down to what’s referred to as the “base reality.” Earth, December, Year 2021 can be one of three things:
- Base Reality
- A simulation within the base reality that has already continued in the creation of another simulation indistinguishable from reality
- A simulation within the base reality that has yet to advance technologically to the point of creating another simulation indistinguishable from reality
According to deGrasse Tyson’s research, he believes we might be able to eliminate the second option. Such an elimination would cut the billion to one odds down to one to one – either Option 1 (or) Option 3:
If you have the stomach for it, forcing some extremely deep thinking, Hawking’s posthumous explanation reinforces the theory. The scariest reality concerning Hawking is that, no matter how unbelievable his theories might have been at first perceived, none have ever been disproven.
Detractors of Zuckerberg sit around every corner. But he undoubtedly possesses one of the preeminent intellects in this Age of Information. And his contributions to simulation theory are quite unique. Zuckerberg has taken a lot of heat in the past for capturing Facebook user tendencies for use in his own ventures. And, as the article suggests, Zuckerberg plans to “to get inside your brain and access your thoughts directly” within the next 50 years. I’ll stand aside to allow the reader to discover the parallels between simulation theory and those future expectations.
Before we go any further, allow me to be clear, as a man of faith in a higher power, I view this theory as no more blasphemous than the theory of evolution. We all have a choice to make in deciding where we invest our beliefs.
However, you might be asking yourself, how does all of this information have anything to do with fantasy football or DFS?
If we do live within a simulated reality – I am not suggesting that I believe we do, only admitting to it being a possibility – the trends we are able to mine from the historical data take on a new life. We’ll never be able to fully encompass all of the infinite in-game variables into an absolute DFS formula for everything. But we have begun the process toward coming as close to reaching that endgame as possible. And I do believe in every numerical ounce of my football IQ that it’s in complete loyalty toward following the process that will take us closer to discovering the result we all strive to achieve.
As always, the following chart provides the full names for the acronyms and a reference point of comparison for the defensive coverage numbers for each position group through Week 15:
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:
Fantasy Shells: Coverage Glossary
Fantasy Shells: Cover 1
Fantasy Shells: Cover 2
Fantasy Shells: Cover 3
*79-77 (51%); 10-6 in Week 15
San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans (-3.5)
Cleveland Browns (+7.0) at Green Bay Packers
Indianapolis Colts (+1.0) at Arizona Cardinals
Detroit Lions (+5.5) at Atlanta Falcons
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-10.5) at Carolina Panthers
Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens
Los Angeles Chargers (-9.0) at Houston Texans
Los Angeles Rams (-3.0) at Minnesota Vikings
New England Patriots (-2.5) vs. Buffalo Bills
New York Jets (-2.5) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
New York Giants (+10.0) at Philadelphia Eagles
Seattle Seahawks (-6.5) vs. Chicago Bears
Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Denver Broncos (+1.5) at Las Vegas Raiders
Washington Football Team (+10.5) at Dallas Cowboys
Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints (+3.0)
*73-60 (55%); 9-7 in Week 15
San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans (Over 44.5)
Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers (Over 44.0)
Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals (Under 50.0)
Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons (Under 42.5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (Over 44.0)
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (Over 44.5)
Los Angeles Chargers at Houston Texans (Over 46.0)
Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings (Under 49.0)
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (Under 43.5)
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets (Over 41.0)
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (Under 42.0)
Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks (Under 44.0)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (Under 44.0)
Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders (Over 41.5)
Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys (Under 47.5)
Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints (Under 38.5)
*99-53 (65%); 11-5 in Week 15
San Francisco 49ers (-180) at Tennessee Titans
Green Bay Packers (-310) vs. Cleveland Browns
Indianapolis Colts (+100) at Arizona Cardinals
Atlanta Falcons (-250) vs. Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-510) at Carolina Panthers
Cincinnati Bengals (-140) vs. Baltimore Ravens
Los Angeles Chargers (-400) at Houston Texans
Los Angeles Rams (-145) at Minnesota Vikings
New England Patriots (-135) vs. Buffalo Bills
New York Jets (-135) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Philadelphia Eagles (-450) vs. New York Giants
Seattle Seahawks (-310) vs. Chicago Bears
Kansas City Chiefs vs. (-365) Pittsburgh Steelers
Denver Broncos (+100) at Las Vegas Raiders
Dallas Cowboys (-475) vs. Washington Football Team
Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints (+150)
Tom Brady has taken his lumps throughout his career, but he may have never received the type of beating handed down on par with the one delivered by the Saints in Week 15. Simply perusing the halftime data does nothing to suggest anything was off. The GOAT delivered solid first halves for Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette. With a Marshon Lattimore shadow, it’s that much of a shock to see Mike Evans’ trailing behind. Looks, as they say, can be deceiving. A nuclear bombshell landed when Godwin was lost prior to halftime with a torn right ACL.
Driving home the dead-horse-kicking daggers, Evans has since been labeled as week-to-week with a hamstring injury after also being ruled out at halftime. Fournette was lost on the second series of the third quarter with his own hamstring tear. Lavonte David injured his foot in the fourth quarter. And Brady was put under pressure on as many snaps during that first half as he faced in any full game since Week 1. Moving forward, it appears Evans, Fournette, and David dodged a bullet. All three should return for the playoffs.
How does Tampa Bay move forward?
Bruce Arians’ comments from October ring true now more than ever:
“It’s always the next man up."— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 15, 2021
🗣️: HC Bruce Arians pic.twitter.com/UVVUmMAGwB
Matchups to Target
Antonio Brown, TB ($4.9K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Stephon Gilmore, CAR
Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards returned from suspension for violating the joint COVID protocols set forth by the NFL and NFLPA. Le’Veon Bell was signed to the roster. And Breshad Perriman should be ready to be re-inserted into the lineup after he’s activated from the COVID list. With an underwhelming wideout rotation consisting of Perriman, Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, and ‘21 fourth-rounder Jaelon Darden, the return of Brown provides the Bucs with its featured playmaker. When he injured his ankle in Week 6, AB81 paced Tampa Bay WRs with 34 receptions, 2.82 YPRR, a 122.9 TPR, was tied with Evans with four TDs, and only trailed Evans by two receiving yards for the team lead. You can’t help but draw parallels from TB’s current situation without Godwin and Evans to both being injured back in 2019 when Perriman closed out the season averaging 5.7 receptions, 116.3 receiving YPG – eclipsing 100 yards in each, 1.3 TDs/game, and 28.4/22.6 FPG over the final three games.
The alignment percentages actually indicate that Brown’s station on the right sideline will place him into the coverage rotation of C.J. Henderson and Rashaan Melvin. But I am confident enough in Brown this week and in his role in this offense that, even if Phil Snow chooses to shadow Brown with Stephon Gilmore, my view of the matchup for AB is unaltered. In fact, I’m counting on Gilmore in coverage.
From a general view, Carolina has put the third-highest rate of single-high shells on the field this season. Far more informative for our purposes, the Panthers are using the seventh-highest rate of Cover 1 and 10th-highest of Cover 3. Gilmore is permitting 0.57 YPCS (third-fewest), 0.21 FP/CS (19th-fewest), 0.11 AY/CS (17th-fewest), and an 85.4 TPR (30th-lowest). He’s also closing off deep receptions at the fourth-lowest rate, and has been targeted at the second-lowest rate among 76 qualified outside corners. Is “The Gilmore Effect” as dominant in coverage as when he collected Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2019? It’s too early to tell. His coverage reps actually fell just shy of qualifying, but I moved him ahead of the line due to the significance of this matchup evaluation.
I feel a compelling argument can be made that, in between all of the off-the-field issues for Brown, his game has remained at such a high level that he should still be viewed as one of the top-10 wideouts in the league. And his metrics across from Cover 1 and Cover 3 during the games he’s played the last three years agree with that statement. When going up against Cover 1, he’s created 0.65 FP/Rt (ninth-most), 2.75 YPRR (14th-most), a 127.4 TPR (14th-highest), and has drawn the eighth-highest target share (32%). Opposed by Cover 3, Brown leads all WRs with 0.78 FP/Rt, has fabricated 3.18 YPRR (third-most), and has garnered the highest target share (41%). Will Gilmore shadow Brown? Considering the poor returns from the sideline corners opposite Gilmore, I consider the chances to be slim. Even if Gilmore did end up tailing AB if he posted big production early, Brown offers the type of single-high dominance that just cannot be disregarded. Especially when we know he’ll be one of the two focuses of Brady’s attention.
Rob Gronkowski, TB ($6.2K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. Panthers’ Cover 1 | 3
The second focus of Brady’s attention? You’ve come to the right place. One of the most important details that can be lost when evaluating matchups is that, even when data is presented that a defense is putting a zone on the field at a __% of snaps, that doesn’t indicate all of the matchups inside those reps are zone-based. The easiest example to convey is from Cover 3. It’s a three-high, four-under zone scheme, where the three deep defenders are responsible for one-third (33%) of the field beyond 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. However, when an offense places trips (three detached receivers) to one side of the field, the CB opposite those trips will defend the No. 1 wideout to that side of the field with man-to-man responsibilities. And that’s only one of an incalculable number of examples.
So, when we see a high-rate of Cover 1 devotion from an opposing defense, Rob Gronkowski’s name should always be highlighted. He will not only claim man matchups from each of those Cover 1 reps, his borderline unguardable presence also forces the opposition to dedicate additional/specific man-to-man assignments during zone situations in order to catalog his whereabouts on every play. The GROAT – just made it up, please don’t judge – will see matchups from a collection including Jeremy Chinn, Jermaine Carter, Shaq Thompson, and Myles Hartsfield. All four have been solid in coverage for Carolina this season and, if left to deal with Gronk on their own, all four will be badly overmatched by the greatest TE in the history of the game.
First, at 6-foot-6, 270-pounds, Gronkowski will have between four (Chinn) and six-to-seven inch advantages (the other three), and between 40-to-60 pounds on each of his coverage matchups. Second, since returning from retirement, Gronk has produced 0.74 FP/Rt (the most and the highest improvement on an overall average), a 126.8 TPR (fourth-highest), 14.0 AY/Tgt (second-most), 2.52 YPRR (fourth-most), 9.9 YPT (fourth-most), and has collected 26% of the target share (third-highest) when a defense dares to put Cover 1 on the field. He’s scored 53% of his TDs on only 22% of his routes across from Cover 1 during that time. TE3/TE3 pricing, you say? The only TE I’ll have more exposure to in Week 16 will be Dallas “The Country's Best Goedert.”
Final notes on Tampa Bay
Should we expect depressed production from Tom Brady ($7.2K/$8.4K)? Not so fast. Working without Brown and Gronk in Weeks 7 and 8, TB12 still managed 27.8/26.3 FPG; more than enough production to justify his floor with QB3/QB3 pricing. No attempt will be made to support The GOAT’s weekly upside. Would just like to provide clarity on the value potential Brady will present if as much of the field doubts him this week without key weapons that I am expecting.
Can we count on Ronald Jones III ($5.1K/$5.4K) putting up good numbers in place of Fournette? Absolutely. We can count on several outcomes with RJ3 in the featured role. Let’s take a look at them:
- We can count on Jones being the highest-owned RB on the main slate – 100% MUST-BE-ROSTERED in Cash/Single-Entry (SE)
- Jones is just as dangerous as Playoff Lenny as a short-yardage, goal-to-go (GTG) back
- About as far removed from Fournette as is conceivable, while RoJo is certainly dangerous any time the ball is already in his hands, Jones may be one of the worst receiving RBs in the NFL
- Also on a different planet from Fournette, Jones is a sack-in-waiting when asked to pick up the blitz
We are likely to see somewhere in the neighborhood of a 75:25 split in carries between Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn ($4.4K/$4.7K). While the ‘20 third-rounder dropped one-of-two targets last week, the Buccaneers need Vaughn to step forward as the up-tempo back since he will be featured in obvious passing situations as the most-skilled back on the roster in blitz pick-ups. If he faceplants in Week 16, Vaughn will be in danger of being situationally-replaced by Le’Veon Bell (Not Listed on DK/$4.5K) in Week 17. For the large-field (LF) GPP junkies of the world, toss at least one dart at Vaughn on the off-chance that Jones is injured. The lead RB function in a Brady-led offense is one of the highest upside roles in the league.
Who can we expect to be the direct replacements for Godwin and Evans? After Godwin went down, Tyler Johnson ($3.9K/$5.0K) spent 67% of his time running routes out of the slot. Scotty Miller ($3.6K/$4.9K) only ran 32% of his routes inside, so Johnson can be expected to hold down Godwin’s alignment number, just not his volume. Miller and Jaelon Darden ($3.0K/$4.6K) did next-to-nothing with their 33 second-half reps on the perimeter last week. The big questions we need answered are:
- Will Breshad Perriman ($4.2K/$4.7K) be activated off the COVID list?
- If activated, will Perriman play at less than 100% if his energy has been sapped during his virus recovery?
I can attest to the damage done during COVID recovery. The Delta variant I acquired was, hands down, the most devastating illness I’ve experienced in my lifetime. And it took me several days after being able to get back on my feet before my energy returned to pre-virus levels. Even with prior vaccination, I have still not recovered my smell or taste senses, a full five months removed from infection. We all saw the effects of COVID on Amari Cooper in Week 13.
Johnson has been handling featured reps since Brown was first injured. He’s provided 0.187 FP/Rt (ninth-fewest among 111 qualified WRs) in return for the opportunity. In an offense led by The GOAT, if I had a say in the rotation, Johnson would take a permanent seat on the bench until all other alternatives were exhausted. Needless to say, I’m avoiding Johnson at Bubonic-levels. If Perriman is out or limited, I am still intrigued by Jaelon Darden ($3.0K/$4.6K) – especially against Carolina’s Cover 3, and Scotty Miller ($3.6K/$4.9K) across from the poor coverage quality offered by C.J. Henderson and Rashaan Melvin this season. We should also keep Cameron Brate ($2.5K/$4.5K) in mind as a decent punt at TE. His role may grow with the offense short at wideout.
Final notes on Carolina
If word is released that Sam Darnold ($4.0K/$6.2K) will play the entire game, I do love his basement, $4K pricing on DK as the QB39. He produced far in excess of his required 12-FP floor in six-of-nine games this season. That said, Cam Newton ($5.6K/$7.2K) is expected to maintain the featured role. And we can never count out a Matt Rhule offense from sacrificing reps on P.J. Walker ($4.9K/$6.2K) – his former Temple University QB. It’s a situation we should all turn a blind eye toward until further information forces us to alter the approach.
Newton – a notorious backfield carry glutton – under center and Tampa Bay’s top-two run defense in Rock Hill? Fadeville tickets in the mail for Chuba Hubbard ($5.4K/$5.5K) and Ameer Abdullah ($4.5K/$5.1K). Providing only 0.81 YPCS (14th-fewest), the majority of Carlton Davis’ 0.22 FP/CS allowance (24th-fewest) has been fueled by three TDs scored inside his coverage – two by Cooper Kupp in Week 3. Without much in the way of trust in Newton’s arm supporting TD potential for DJ Moore ($5.7K/$6.4K), he is another occupant waiting for the Fadeville train’s departure. Since Jamel Dean has returned to full practice participation, get grandma to open up her pocketbook to buy another ticket for Sideshow Bob Anderson ($4.9K/$5.7K) – the collective disappointment across the DFS world can be felt across the globe.
If it were anyone other than Cam, it would be reasonable to look toward options further down the depth chart for production. It is Newton’s noodle arm, the following will join the rest on the outgoing engine:
Brandon Zylstra ($3.1K/$4.9K)
Terrace Marshall Jr. ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Tommy Tremble ($2.6K/$4.5K)
Ian Thomas ($2.5K/$4.3K)
Matchups to Target
Update: Gabriel Davis has been added to the COVID-19 list and is OUT. Rather than forcing the issue with Diggs or Sanders in difficult matchups, I actually prefer throwing darts at Isaiah McKenzie.
Gabriel Davis, BUF ($4.7K DK | $5.3K FD) vs. Jalen Mills, NE
If Emmanuel Sanders has anything to say about it, he’ll be back on the field in time for Week 16 in order to try to slow down the Gabriel Davis hype-machine. Falling at least 33% below his floor production in his last seven games – a 16/193/0 combined line on 28 targets, in comparison, Davis has generated a 23/366/5 combined line on 35 targets. Over his last three games, Davis has generated 17.3 FPG against the Patriots, Buccaneers, and Panthers. Of particular interest for his Week 16 prospects, back in Week 13 against New England, Davis flipped only 10 routes into a 2/30/1 line (11.0 FPs) on four targets. And he collected that TD inside the coverage of Jalen Mills.
Cole Beasley will not play this week, so Davis is going to be heavily-featured. Should Davis maintain his featured role on the left sideline, whether due to Sanders sitting out or a long-overdue decision from Brian Daboll, Davis will do around half of his work across from Mills. Sanders, Stefon Diggs, and Dawson Knox have accounted for all 14 of Josh Allen’s TD throws to a receiver during the last eight games. As will be explained, Diggs and Knox will have their work cut out for them if they intend to add to that number this week. And I’m still recovering from the happy-shock imparted onto me upon seeing Davis’ WR38/WR46 pricing this week.
Matchups to Avoid
Stefon Diggs, BUF ($7.6K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. J.C. Jackson, NE
The spotlight is for the taking when playing for a franchise drawing big-time media coverage and playing for a GM/HC/DC/clotheshorse drawing a ton of potential Coach of the Year attention. If J.C. Jackson manages to ghost Stefon Diggs in Week 16, he will only have Jacksonville and Miami standing in his way of being a significant player alongside Aaron Donald, Myles Garrett, and Micah Parsons for the AP Defensive Player of the Year Award. And he already (kinda) achieved that result in Week 13. Granted, the game was played in extremely poor Orchard Park conditions that only resulted in three passing attempts out of the Patriots, but Jackson still limited Diggsy to 2/32/0 of his 4/51/0 receiving line on 27 coverage snaps where the two crossed paths.
We may see some occasionally strong-ish winds, but the weather forecast in Foxboro for this Sunday will be well-suited to moving the ball through the air. We can view this as a difficult test for both parties. To date, Jackson has only been scored upon once (a 50:50 ball to Chris Moore in Week 5) vs. 18 targets that have either been intercepted or deflected away by Jackson. One of the most insane statistics that you’ll find anywhere, opposing QBs have targeted Jackson’s coverage at the seventh-highest rate, and they’ve gone after Jalen Mills’ responsibilities at the ninth-lowest rate – de gustibus non est disputandum. Targeting Jackson returns a 39.6 passer rating (the lowest) – the exact equivalent of spiking the ball on every dropback, and throws toward Mills are rewarded a 118.7 TPR (fourth-highest).
Diggs would manage some production across from any challenge, but he will get nowhere close to sniffing the 22.8/18.8 FPs he will need to cover this week with WR5/WR7 pricing.
Jakobi Meyers, NE ($4.9K DK | $5.7K FD) vs. Taron Johnson, BUF
I’ve written about the excellent coverage of slot CBs Bryce Callahan, Tavierre Thomas, P.J. Williams, Avonte Maddox, and Nate Hobbs at various points this season. Another of the very elite that I believe I have somehow managed to have not written up beyond a passing comment is Taron Johnson. On just under 500 snaps in coverage this season, no receiver has accumulated more than 34 yards inside his coverage… or scored a single TD under his watch. The ‘18 fourth-rounder out of Weber State’s press-crazed approach has held opponents to 0.78 YPCS (fifth-fewest), 0.17 FP/CS (fifth-fewest), 0.06 AY/CS (seventh-fewest), and a 71.8 TPR (fourth-lowest). You’ll need to embark on an extensive search to uncover another with higher upside expectations for Jakobi Meyers’ future, but this is one matchup where I draw the line.
Final notes on Buffalo
The Patriots are devoting just under 90% of defensive snaps to a scheme rotation consisting of the fourth-highest rate of Cover 1, 14th-highest of Cover 2, and seventh-highest of Cover 3. The first shell on that list is a solid supplement to Josh Allen’s ($7.5K/$8.5K) rushing ability. However, the latter two have continued to frustrate into his fourth season in the NFL – nine TDs vs. 10 INTs the last three seasons, combined. A perfect matchup would land massive rates of Cover 4 and Cover 6 – perhaps a touch of Cover 1 – onto “The Winter Soldier’s” porch. But a high Cover 1 rate isn’t going to be enough at QB2/QB2 pricing since the Pats are holding QBs to the sixth-fewest FPG on the ground (2.1). And it is a list that includes some of the most dangerous QB legs in the league.
Hey, I don’t have to agree with the recent decision to hand Devin Singletary ($5.1K/$5.8K) the entire backfield. At 5-foot-7 and 203-pounds, Singletary is built for the change-of-pace, up-tempo role. His play nullifies that notion entirely. His 0.57 YPRR this season is the fifth-fewest among 65 qualified RBs, his ability to pick up the blitz easily falls among the bottom-10, and he puts the ball on the ground at a rate high enough that he’d be permanently benched/released if he played for several other coaching staffs – including the one he’ll face in Week 16. Between the treatment Matt Breida ($4.2K/$5.0K) received following his Week 10 through 12 stretch when he infused the offense with three TDs and Zack Moss ($4.3K/$5.1K) holding a higher chance of being a healthy scratch than developing his game, quality free agent RBs are going to turn a cold shoulder to Buffalo and nobody would blame top RB draft prospects for informing the Bills to take their interest elsewhere.
Pretty sure I already managed to adequately convey my minimal expectations for Emmanuel Sanders ($4.0K/$5.6K) this week. Without Beasley, unclaimed reps inside will fall into the lap of Isaiah McKenzie ($3.0K/$4.6K). The matchup for Dawson Knox ($5.3K/$6.1K) could not be much worse. The Patriots are holding the position to 2.7 receptions/game (the fewest), 25.9 receiving YPG (the fewest), 0.36 red zone (RZ) touches/game (fourth-fewest), and 6.6 FPG (the fewest). He collected 2/14/0 on six targets in Week 13.
Final notes on New England
Speaking of difficult matchups, even without Tre'Davious White, Buffalo’s pass defense may be the most elite offering in the league. They feature the top safety duo (Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde), one of the top-three nickel corners (Taron Johnson), and excellent perimeter corner depth behind White and Levi Wallace (Dane Jackson and Siran Neal). Combining their talents, these Bills are rocking allowances of a 58% completion rate (the lowest), 175.6 passing YPG (the fewest), 5.4 YPA (the fewest), and 287.9 total YPG (the fewest). It’s a chance for Mac Jones ($5.3K/$6.7K) to really showcase his skills, but it’s a massive obstacle on par with the Indianapolis challenge he failed against in Week 15. The last thing The Joker will want is being forced into an aggressive attack-mode from behind against this defense.
If their defense and ground game can combine to allow Jones to maintain his game manager role that serves as his safety blanket, the Pats should be able to take this game. And the area of attack for New England in this spot will be on the shoulders of Rhamondre Stevenson ($5.0K/$5.9K) and/or Damien Harris ($5.6K/$6.6K). The Buffalo run defense is good enough to bully underwhelming O-lines but, when facing the other end of that spectrum (the Colts and Buccaneers), opposing RBs quickly recognize they are in for a big day.
The Bills feature the fifth-highest rate of Cover 1 and second-highest of Cover 2. Kendrick Bourne ($5.0K/$5.6K) will face quite a direct challenge from Dane Jackson while running two-thirds of his routes inside his coverage. Jackson is only agreeing to 0.72 YPCS (sixth-fewest), 0.14 FP/CS (third-fewest), and a 71.2 TPR (11th-lowest). With Nelson Agholor ($3.6K/$5.4K) questionable while working through the concussion protocol, N’Keal Harry ($3.0K/$4.9K) might have an outstanding opportunity to showcase his wares with a featured , and working against Levi Wallace. If Harry fails to step up, Hunter Henry ($4.7K/$6.0K) will be asked to be the guy, once again. But Henry is facing a daunting challenge that’s not much less difficult as the one Know will face. Travis Kelce (20.7) was the last TE to post at least 15 FPs against Buffalo all of the way back in Week 5.
Matchups to Target
Mike Williams, LAC ($6.1K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Desmond King II, HOU
As always, whenever touting Mike Williams, it’s important to note that Keenan Allen will both play more snaps and see a superior target share. In a one-or-the-other decision, independent of the difference in salary, Allen is always going to be my choice between the two. But the difference between the two options may reduce to the point where Williams’ pricing would win out due to the unbelievable number of COVID infections forcing Houston defensive backs to be ruled out for Week 16. With Lonnie Johnson Jr., Terrance Mitchell, and Eric Murray all ruled out, Tavierre Thomas, Desmond King II and Jonathan Owens are currently the only starters left standing in the secondary. There is no point in wasting any time evaluating individual matchups since the remaining defensive back dominoes could fall for Houston prior to Sunday.
The Texans are rolling out the sixth-highest rate of Cover 1 and third-highest of Cover 2. It’s a give-and-take between Allen and Williams when working against Cover 1 the last three seasons. Allen draws his value by drawing the fourth-highest target rate among qualified WRs when a Cover 1 is on the field (31%). Williams has attacked Cover 1 with a more balanced approach of extracting 36% of his TDs, 30% of his total yardage, and 32% of receptions on only 25% of his routes. Williams manages to make up ground on Allen against Cover 2. He has created 0.45 FP/Rt (eighth-most), 2.48 YPRR (seventh-most), 17.3 YPT (fourth-most), and a 124.3 TPR (14th-highest) against Cover 2 the last three campaigns. He’s assembled 21% of his TDs and 19% of his total yardage on only 14% of routes across from a two-high. Those particular skills are going to come in quite handy when he works across from Lovie Smith’s beloved Tampa 2 on Sunday.
Matchups to Avoid
Davis Mills, HOU ($5.5K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Chargers’ Cover 6
I drank the Davis Mills Kool-Aid last week with the Jaguars’ competitive Cover 2 and 3 rates coming into play last week. The Texans took their feet off the gas just a hair early, leaving Mills 4% under his floor. But it wasn’t enough to prevent a good number of my devoted lineups from cashing out since I stacked Brandin Cooks with Mills in all of them. But this is not going to be a week where we want Mills headlining our lineups. The Chargers have been featuring the third-highest rate of Cover 6 and 12th-highest of Cover 4. They use bottom-five rates of the Cover 2 and Cover 3 shells that Mills has excelled against during the second-half of his rookie season. The singular reprieve that LAC could potentially provide is a repeat of the very high Cover 1 rate they put on the field against Kansas City last week. Considering the Cover 1 rate they used in the previous six weeks never ranked higher than 18th, the odds are not in Mills’ favor.
In addition, Brandin Cooks is another of the Texans currently found on the COVID list. He’s been 85% of the receiving catalyst for Mills’ success this season. While his presence on Sunday would lessen the blow, the schematic matchup is so poor that Cooks will not be enough to make up the difference. With zero TDs vs. three INTs against Cover 6 this season, Mills’ FP/Db ruptures the earth’s core by a staggering 116% decline, his 46.2 passer rating is one poor throw away from reaching spike quality, and Mills (-0.04) joins C.J Beathard (-0.01) as the only QBs with a negative FP/Db value against Cover 6 over the last three seasons.
Final notes on Los Angeles
If Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are entering a matchup favoring their profiles and of the vanilla variety, the green light for Justin Herbert ($7.2K/$8.4K) exposure has been engaged. It will be a damn shame if Austin Ekeler ($8.1K/$9.4K) is unable to take the field on Sunday. The Texans are providing opponents with the following:
145.0 rushing YPG (the most)
4.7 YPC (second-most)
1.64 TDs/game (second-most)
2.29 GTG carries/game to RBs (seventh-most)
5.36 RZ touches/game to RBs (third-most)
18.9 FPG on the ground to RBs (second-most)
With Joey Bosa’s absence set to handicap their defense, potential absences of Ekeler and Jalen Guyton ($3.9K/$5.3K) would certainly make Houston feel better about their own COVID list. If Ekeler is ruled out, Justin Jackson ($4.2K/$5.4K) and Joshua Kelley ($4.0K/$4.9K) will sit right alongside James Robinson and Ronald Jones II as the premium RB plays of Week 16.
Keenan Allen’s ($7.7K/$7.7K) Week 16 output would only be limited by a massively positive game script if Tavierre Thomas joins his brethren on COVID list prior to Sunday. The path Thomas took toward submitting his phenomenal ‘21 season in the NFL that began as a walk-on at Ferris State is one for the ages. The one Texan defender I don’t mind detailing, Thomas is ghosting his coverage to 0.40 YPCS (the fewest among 37 qualified slot CBs), 0.10 FP/CS (the fewest), 0.05 AY/CS (fourth-fewest), and a 52.8 TPR (second-fewest). However, Slayer does more than enough work on the outside to submit a big day in spite of Thomas.
It will be go-time for Josh Palmer ($3.3K/$4.9K) exposure with all of his WR73/WR71 pricing if Guyton is unable to test off the list. And we have no way of knowing who would even be tasked with covering him the most. Donald Parham Jr.’s horrifying brain injury last week will push Jared Cook ($3.5K/$5.1K) toward far more opportunities. Tre’ McKitty ($2.5K/$4.0K) and Stephen Anderson ($2.5K/$4.3K) will still mix in, but Cook is going to get the cherry opportunities while the Chargers are still airing it out.
Final notes on Houston
We finally received word that David Johnson ($4.4K/$5.2K) would be the bell-cow for Houston when a quadriceps strain pulled the opportunity rug from under his feet. We can always count on Rex Burkhead ($4.5K/$5.4K) for a 25/50/0 rushing line, so there’s that. Royce Freeman ($4.0K/$4.9K) does offer some unexpected efficiency as a receiver but, if it’s even possible, his efficiency on the ground is inferior to Burkhead’s.
If Brandin Cooks ($6.3K/$6.9K) takes the field, his day will be entirely built on underneath volume. Chris Harris Jr. and his LAC brothers bend over backwards to prevent completions over the top. I noticed some attention being pulled toward Nico Collins ($3.4K/$5.2K) as a potential pivot off Cooks – provided he’s ruled out – while collecting the latest batch of COVID list placements from Twitter.
Keep in mind, the potential for Collins to excel with insane volume should not be compared directly to a similar opportunity being provided to Cooks. The kid is still learning how to play football after mainly being used as a decoy for much of his collegiate career. And we can count on the Chargers adjusting their defense toward entirely eliminating Collins since he would be the only speck of playmaking talent still on the field for the Texans without Cooks.
In an attempt to provide some perspective, would we throw Chris Conley ($3.3K/$4.9K) into a bunch of lineups since he might see double-digit targets? I really hope not. A 4/21/0 line on 10 targets would offer up an extremely rude slap in the face of reality. We saw another spin of the Wheel of Footling from Houston. The latest attempt to polish a turd resulted in Jordan Akins ($2.7K/$4.5K), Pharaoh Brown ($2.6K/$4.4K), and Antony Auclair ($2.5K/$4.1K) rotating. Brevin Jordan ($2.5K/$4.8K), the only Texan TE to return any type of value this season, wasn’t intentionally left out in the cold. He was simply recovering from a bruised hand – another in a long line of soft tissue injuries that have resulted in absences from Jordan dating back to his days with The U.
Matchups to Target
Tyler Huntley, BAL ($6.0K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Bengals’ Cover 1 | 2
We don’t have enough of a sample size to withdraw reliability from Tyler Huntley’s work across from any scheme. I can pass along that it’s obvious what Baltimore sees in Huntley. Groomed as a direct replacement if/when Lamar Jackson is unable to take the field, distinguishing Huntley from L-Jax can be difficult, at times. Huntley doesn’t have the blazing fastball of Jackson to laser a throw 30 yards on a rope, but he does have a nice touch on his deep ball. Huntley also understands exactly where his bread is buttered, peppering Mark Andrews with all of the volume he can handle. He doesn’t pack the otherworldly, sudden direction changes of Jackson, but Huntley does possess every bit of his length, long-stride, and straight-line speed to take it the length of the field when breaking contain.
It’s in Huntley’s scrambling ability that turns a QB still refining his coverage reads, mode of attack, and understanding of the resulting blitz packages into a one fully capable of catapulting himself toward top-five QB scoring in every start. The Bengals have faced QBs with dual-threat ability in two games this season. They surrendered 88 rushing yards to Jackson in Week 7. And, while he’s not the greatest example of a dual-threat skillset, they let Trevor Lawrence rush for 36 yards and a TD in Week 4. They also had MIKE LB Logan Wilson on the field in both games. No Wilson and no watered-down levels of Lawrence’s dual-threat in play this week. With QB10/QB8 pricing, all of the potential is in place for Huntley to go nuclear for Baltimore in a second-consecutive week.
Joe Burrow, CIN ($5.9K DK | $7.1K FD) vs. Ravens’ Cover 1 | 6
We’ve been here before. The Ravens blend the third-highest rate of man coverage, ninth-highest of Cover 1, and ninth-highest of Cover 6. It’s the exact same blend that may not have resulted in big FP numbers against Denver in Week 15, but allowed Joe Burrow to control the game with precision, and efficient placement to counteract the sputtering ground game. But I am counting on so much more from Cincinnati’s passing attack in Week 16. When the Ravens dealt with Burrow in Week 7, they were destroyed 41-17, Joe threw for 416 passing yards, three TDs, and posted 30.6 FPs.
He worked with Ja’Marr Chase for an 8/201/1 line on 10 targets that generated a career-high 37.1 FPs. And all of that production was collected with Marlon Humphrey, DeShon Elliott, Jimmy Smith, and Chuck Clark on the field. Humphrey and Elliott are out for the rest of the season, while Smith, Clark, and Chris Westry are in danger of missing another game due to COVID infections. During his career, Burrow has attacked Cover 1 with 0.56 FP/Db (second-most), a 108.0 passer rating (third-highest), with a 22% spike in YPA (third-highest), and 24% increase in AY/Att (sixth-highest). Combining his work across from Cover 1 and Cover 6, Burrow has thrown for 48% of his TDs and 40% of his yardage on only 32% of his career dropbacks.
One final detail of note, it was an extremely odd approach from Don “Wink” Martindale to (respectfully) call out the inexperience of Burrow and Chase in the following quote:
Ravens DC Wink Martindale said he will not double/triple team Ja'Marr Chase like he did Davante Adams.— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) December 23, 2021
"Adams is one of the top 2 receivers in the league and he's not No. 2. Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Fame QB, and I don't think we're ready to buy a gold jacket for Joe (Burrow)."
Most would completely disregard the comment. Burrow does not subscribe to the “Most” newsletter. He is known for mocking defenses while under center when he deems poor play to be worthy of ridicule. It’s that type of competitive fire that drives his competitiveness. Do not count on seeing a lackadaisical Burrow take the field on Sunday. Count on a highkey Burrow taking every opportunity to spit fire in the direction of Martindale. And count on seeing profit numbers over Burrow’s QB11/QB12 pricing.
Final notes on Baltimore
Devonta Freeman ($5.3K/$5.6K) is exactly who we thought he was. Someone who cannot be trusted for FPG consistency. That shelf life expired in the 2010s. Even more so for Latavius Murray ($4.4K/$5.3K), period. Greg Roman must be prepared to enter into a shootout with the Bengals. Unlike the Packers, Burrow is surrounded by dangerous receiving weapons in all directions.
Huntley will likely have free reign to use his legs whenever he sees an opportunity, and Roman will want to attempt to get Marquise Brown ($5.8K/$6.4K) going after only generating modest, sub-floor production in five-straight games. Be that as it may, he’s going to find a lot of resistance from the version of Eli Apple that previously made him a first round selection. Apple is only delivering 0.75 YPCS (ninth-fewest), 0.16 FP/CS (fifth-fewest), 0.10 AY/CS (11th-fewest), and a 75.4 TPR (17th-lowest among 76 qualified perimeter CBs). With Chidobe Awuzie’s status up in the air, Rashod Bateman ($4.5K/$5.6K) may be the most efficient path toward production with Trae Waynes standing in for Awuzie. If Waynes’ coverage metrics qualified, his 1.51 YPCS, 0.38 FP/CS, 0.75! AY/CS, and 142.7 TPR would each stand as the worst marks for an outside corner.
Devin Duvernay ($3.7K/$5.1K) and Sammy Watkins ($3.9K/$5.2K) have yet to practice this week. Duvernay’s absence would hand James Proche ($3.0K/$4.7K) the featured role inside. Just don’t confuse any of the other options available to Huntley as holding a candle to Mark Andrews ($7.0K/$8.0K), particularly with Huntley determining the direction of the targets.
Final notes on Cincinnati
Some of the reason is likely tied to opponents being fully aware of Baltimore’s deficiencies defending opponents through the air, but the front-seven of the Ravens deserve some of the credit for limiting opponents to the fewest rushing YPG (86.2), seventh-fewest YPC (3.9), second-lowest rushing first down rate (21.5%), second-lowest third down conversion rate (33.9%), and ninth-fewest FPG to RBs (21.2). With Joe Mixon ($6.9K/$7.5K) providing us with zero reasons the last three games – ankle injury or no – to invest in him with RB5/RB7 pricing, the decision to devote our cap dollars elsewhere is really made for us.
Is this one of the weeks where we want stock in Ja’Marr Chase ($7.1K/$7.1K)? As it relates to efficiency, Chase is fabricating 0.77 FP/Rt (fourth-most), 4.05 YPRR (third-most), and 16.4 YPT (the most) against Cover 1. And he’s adding 0.45 FP/Rt (11th-most) across from Cover 6. Pertaining to volume, his combined Cover 1 and Cover 6 production entails turning 37% of his rookie season routes into 38% of receptions, 52% of his yardage and 50% of his TDs. Best of all, the attrition in the secondary for Baltimore may force them into choosing between Chase and Tee Higgins ($6.2K/$6.5K) for Robert Jackson’s coverage. The ‘18 UDFA handed a 3/21/2 line on four targets into his coverage, 0.71! FP/CS, 1.75! AY/CS, and a 126.0 TPR to the Packers last week.
Whoever loses the Robert Jackson lottery will draw a matchup with Anthony Averett. It’s an outstanding consolation prize. Averett is agreeing to 1.46 YPCS (fourth-most), 0.28 FP/CS (15th-most), and 0.18 AY/CS (13th-most). Tyler Boyd ($5.1K/$6.2K) was nothing short of masterful last week while forming his 5/96/1 receiving line. Why? He sidestepped Bryce Callahan’s coverage to assemble 3/75/1 of that line while still working inside the numbers. He will have much more space to work against Kevon Seymour. The Ravens are just as bad at defending TEs as the Bengals. And C.J. Uzomah ($3.0K/$5.0K) will see enough of the Cover 1 looks where he’s generated a 144.2 TPR against the last three seasons to pace all TEs.
Matchups to Target
Amon-Ra St. Brown, DET ($5.6K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. Richie Grant, ATL
Allow me the pleasure of taking a step back to look at some rookie WR data. Ja’Marr Chase (61/1,038/10) and Jaylen Waddle’s (86/849/4) production currently stand head-and-shoulders above the rest of the rookie crop. But the next tier of rookie wideouts is quite interesting:
DeVonta Smith = 53/741/4 on 85 targets (10th pick)
Elijah Moore = 43/538/5 on 74 targets (34th pick)
Rondale Moore = 54/435/1 on 64 targets (49th pick)
Amon-Ra St. Brown = 65/601/2 on 84 targets (112th pick)
Eliminating those that have missed significant time due to injury, Terrace Marshall Jr., Josh Palmer, Dyami Brown, Amari Rodgers, Nico Collins, Anthony Schwartz, and Dez Fitzpatrick were each selected prior to ARSB at the 112th pick in the ‘21 draft. And the drop-off after St. Brown is meteoric. ARSB has garnered at least a 32% target share in three straight, at least 25% in four-of-six. Amon-Ra will have an opportunity to reach 1K yards in his rookie season if he averages 133 YPG over the final three weeks. And he would need to increase his 8.7 reception average over his last three games by three in order to reach 100 receptions by the end of the regular season. But he will post 91 receptions if he maintains that average. He’ll fall short of the TD totals generated by the top rookie wideouts in NFL history. He’ll also play one more game – an unavoidable asterisk. But only 25 rookie wideouts have ever eclipsed 1,000 yards. And only four have collected at least 90 receptions.
As for Week 16, Atlanta will be forced to pick their poison between Darren Hall and Richie Grant. Arizona attempted to contain St. Brown with seven different defenders. They failed. ARSB pieced together an 8/90/1 line and 23.5 FPs to carry Detroit to their 30-12 victory over the team with the highest odds to reach the playoffs. Consider that St. Brown managed a 5/41/0 line the last two weeks on six targets and on only six total routes inside the coverage of Patrick Surtain II and Byron Murphy Jr. Amon-Ra is simply one of the hottest WRs in the NFL over the last three weeks. His game has been on fleek to the extent that I’ll still be all over him this week with Tim Boyle drawing the start while Jared Goff sits on the COVID list. He would have certainly drawn a ton of attention from the DFS field with Goff active, so I am counting down the hours to see how low his ownership will extend with WR21/WR20 pricing. No matter what might be floating about, nobody can accurately project St. Brown’s ownership numbers with Boyle under center. He is one of my favorite GPP wideouts (all sizes) of Week 16.
Russell Gage, ATL ($5.9K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. Amani Oruwariye, DET
Has it been a magical season for the Falcons? Far from it. But the front office must have expected significant struggles when they devoted six of their first eight picks to the defensive side of the ball. Some of those selections will have a chance to pay off down the road, but the offense really required some love in addition to bringing in Kyle Pitts and Jalen Mayfield. When Calvin Ridley announced that he would step away from the team to address his mental health, the decision not to add WR and RB talent in the draft really presented itself. However, if nothing else, Russell Gage’s development has taken a step forward over the second half of this season. The ability to create his own offense without the support of an elite WR presence keeping the high safety occupied is unique for Gage to the ‘21 season.
Detroit will put the fifth-highest rate of Cover 2 on the field on Sunday. They will also use top-15 rates of Cover 4 and Cover 6, but I want to focus on that Cover 2 rate for Gage’s matchup. Working as the third-option, at best, behind Ridley and Julio Jones during his career, it would be foolish to expect Gage to hit us with eye-popping percentages against any coverage. But he has managed 0.33 FP/Rt (30th-best – an excellent rank for an offenses WR3), an improvement of 4% on his overall FP/Rt average (18th-highest), and he’s drawn 20% of the targets (26th-highest) when defenses have put a Cover 2 on the field during his career. Amani Oruwariye hasn’t practiced this week and Detroit has activated most of their secondary off the COVID list the last couple days. Dan Campbell is the only one who knows who might take on the most responsibility for Gage this week.
Final notes on Detroit
I can offer up zero guarantees in support, but the DK pricing for Tim Boyle ($4.0K/$6.0K) is definitely something to keep in mind in LF GPPs. Atlanta’s defense is hindered by bottom-five coverage quality and the most anemic pass rush in the game. One of the factors that has allowed the Lions to play so well in five-of-six games since their Week 9 bye is an O-line that held opposing defenses to single-digit QB pressures the last six games. It’s an entirely unique situation of strength for a rebuilding franchise that will be searching for their QB of the future next season. It’s an O-line that will provide Boyle with enough time to find St. Brown, and may potentially be enough for Boyle to make things interesting for himself.
We don’t have any definitive word, but the Lions are shaping to have all of D’Andre Swift ($6.3K/$7.8K), Jamaal Williams ($5.0K/$6.7K), Craig Reynolds ($5.9K/$6.7K), Godwin Igwebuike ($4.0K/$4.8K), and Jermar Jefferson ($4.0K/$5.0K) all available this week. Swift would be the obvious choice from the group. However, it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll take on a full complement of reps after missing the last three games with a shoulder injury. I’m expecting the touches to be split between Swift, Williams, and Reynolds. It really is an unfortunate situation for Reynolds. He would’ve been one of my top-five RBs targets this week if he had been featured again in Week 16.
John Hansen called Josh Reynolds’ ($4.6K/$5.4K) TD reception last week. I am not the biggest supporter of Reynolds’ game, but I would be going against the process by looking past his 5.8/64.8/0.5 average line (15.2/12.4 FPG) the last four weeks. His emergence has coincided with the ARSB explosion, and Boyle will need to keep feeding Reynolds if he’s going to cover his floor. The biggest factor in Reynolds’ favor is his primary alignment on the left sideline, only placing him across from coverage luminary A.J. Terrell on around a third of his routes. I’ll have too much Amon-Ra exposure for any shares in Reynolds, but a Boyle-Reynolds stack would present a perfect portrayal of avoiding the majority persuasion.
Unfortunately for Kalif Raymond ($3.9K/$5.2K), he’ll take one for the team by being situated across from Terrell on over half of his routes Sunday. Terrell is not a kid to tamper with. He’s terminating the opposition at 0.33! YPCS (the fewest), 0.12! FP/CS (the fewest), 0.09 AY/CS (eighth-fewest), a 54.6 TPR (second-lowest), and the lowest rate of deep receptions. My healthy respect for Terrell’s ability runs so deep that it’s enough for me to avoid all perimeter WRs running at least one-third of their route on his side of the field.
Disregard the following receivers anticipated to play minimal roles on Sunday:
Tom Kennedy ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Shane Zylstra ($2.5K/$4.3K)
Brock Wright ($2.5K/$4.5K)
Final notes on Atlanta
The Lions have made impressive strides on offense, but their defense is still a complete mess. Facing a unit providing opposing offenses with the third-most FPG the last three weeks (96.4), it would be unwise to eliminate Matt Ryan ($5.4K/$6.8K) from consideration. Detroit has indulged opposing QBs with 16.0 FPG through the air (eighth-most), WRs to 36.0 FPG (seventh-most), and 19.0 FPG to TEs (fourth-most) during their last four games. And the Lions will put enough Cover 6 on the field to finally unwrap Olamide Zaccheaus ($3.8K/$5.1K) for a GPP dart. It’s the singular scenario when he provides utility, creating 20% of his career TDs, 18% of his yardage, and 16% of receptions on only 9% of his routes.
The catalyst that could propel Ryan to being of use for the first time in six games could be Kyle Pitts ($5.8K/$5.9K) and Detroit’s inability to defend the position. An opposing TE has scored at least 15 FPs in four straight games. Cordarrelle Patterson’s ($6.7K/$7.2K) RB7/RB8 pricing is still structured around his early-season success. It has not adjusted for the fact that he’s been held to under 14 FPs in four of his last five games. He has managed to maintain his elite receiving efficiency, but the decline in his target shares correspond exactly with his plummeting FPG number. And pacing all RBs with the highest rate of negative or zero gain carries certainly doesn’t work in his favor. Patterson, Mike Davis ($4.9K/$5.5K), and Qadree Ollison ($4.0K/$4.7K) are all somehow complete fades against the Lions.
Remaining list of Atlanta receivers to fade:
Tajae Sharpe ($3.4K/$4.8K)
Christian Blake ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Hayden Hurst ($2.6K/$4.7K)
Matchups to Target
James Robinson, JAX ($5.9K DK | $8.2K FD) vs. Jets’ Cover 4
After failing to cover floor value in the previous four games, James Robinson fully embraced an opportunity to punish a pitiful Houston run defense for around a 10% profit over his Week 15 pricing. Was it an optimal result? Not even close. Falling behind 23-10 with over 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter did not do his final line any favors. He was only provided five opportunities to run the ball over the rest of the game. But Robinson won’t just have another smash opportunity this week, he will have the smash opportunity.
The Jets are handing out blank checks to opposing RBs with the following funds available for withdrawal:
7.43 RZ touches/game (the most)
3.29 GTG carries/game (the most)
20.7 FPG on the ground (the most)
34.8 overall FPG (the most – 16% more than any other team)
If Duke Johnson Jr. can score 28.7 FPs against New York, Robinson could reasonably exceed 30 if J-ville can figure out how to stay out in front of the Jets.
My Top-Five RB Targets for Week 15:
Ronald Jones II
Austin Ekeler/Justin Jackson/Joshua Kelley
Final notes on Jacksonville
At this stage of Trevor Lawrence’s ($5.0K/$6.5K) season, attention should be devoted by the coaching staff to ensure this season’s No. 1 overall selection isn’t struggling with his confidence. T-Law is still just as much of a future stud at the position, but he will need some dedicated attention toward surrounding him with a considerable upgrade in surrounding talent before he is going to be of any use to the DFS field. It’s certainly some interesting timing for the Jags to place Carlos Hyde ($4.4K/$5.3K) on IR after Urban Meyer’s firing. Hyde has clearly played his last snap for the franchise. I greatly overestimated the impact that Darrell Bevell taking on the interim HC tag would have on Marvin Jones Jr.'s ($4.4K/$5.6K) role.
I never thought that I would admit to Laquon Treadwell ($3.5K/$5.3K) being the top receiving option for Jacksonville. But none of the WRs on the roster are offering anything close to DFS utility. Perhaps reinstering Dan Arnold ($2.9K/$5.0K) into the lineup will provide a spark. It would be great if some connections between Lawrence’s excessive struggles over the second half the season and personnel losses existed. Nothing like that exists – trust me, I’ve looked at everything. The only asset currently worthy of our attention are matchup-based spot starts for Robinson.
Do yourself a favor and fade the following:
Laviska Shenault Jr. ($4.1K/$5.4K)
Tavon Austin ($3.1K/$4.8K)
Phillip Dorsett ($3.0K/$4.7K)
James O'Shaughnessy ($3.2K/$5.3K)
Dare Ogunbowale ($4.0K/$4.8K)
Final notes on New York
The Jags will put top-10 rates of Cover 2 and 3 on the field this Sunday. As long as they continue derailing their Cover 1 rank, this will be the very last opportunity of Zach Wilson’s ($5.3K/$6.6K) rookie season to put some positive examples on his tape. We obviously need to dig through the weeds to find matchup positives for a rookie QB throwing 0.5 TDs for each INT, and averaging 0.222 FP/DB (second-fewest among all qualified QBs). When he’s dealing with Jacksonville’s Cover 2, it’ll be against the scheme where he’s thrown for 23% of his yardage on 21% of dropbacks.
We want the Jaguars to use another top-five rate of Cover 3 they’ve utilized in three of their last four games. Wilson’s FP/Db improves by 33% (third-highest such increase), his YPA surges by 31% (the highest), and his passer rating enlarges by 13% (fourth-highest). After 10 games into his rookie season, what Wilson has shown against Cover 3 is the singular factor favoring his NFL future. But it’s the absolute best scheme to excel against since it’s easily the most common shell he will see.
I’m consistently surprised by the amount of trust that Michael Carter ($5.2K/$5.8K) draws each week. Does he have a bright future? Absolutely. But we do not want to be investing our hard-earned bankroll on NYJ RBs in most matchups. And I’m also fading Carter this week in a plus matchup across from the Jags since it’s entirely possible that he splits the backfield carries with Tevin Coleman ($4.8K/$5.7K) again.
I’m actually keeping my fingers crossed that Jamison Crowder ($5.0K/$5.6K) misses Week 16. Without him, Wilson will work with Braxton Berrios ($3.5K/$5.3K) out of the slot. Berrios has eaten Cover 3 alive during his career. Looking back, I wish I had just ranked his numbers since he only fell six routes short of qualifying. I’ll pass along his numbers anyway. He has generated 0.66 FP/Rt, 3.47 YPRR, 12.5 YPT, a 131.6 TPR, and a 28% target share against Cover 3. If Crowder sits, I will construct a few LF GPP lineups around a Wilson-Berrios stack. Denzel Mims ($3.0K/$4.9K) definitely doesn’t come remotely close to Berrios’ success, but he will represent Wilson’s next-best after Berrios and Crowder across from both schemes. However, he will also see the most coverage from Shaquill Griffin.
Fade the following with a clear conscience:
Keelan Cole Sr. ($3.3K/$5.0K)
Vyncint Smith ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Tyler Kroft ($2.5K/$4.4K)
Austin Walter ($4.0K/$4.7K)
Matchups to Target
Cooper Kupp, LAR ($9.1K DK | $9.8K FD) vs. Mackensie Alexander, MIN
Why should we be investing 15-18% of our Cash/SE cap dollars in Cooper Kupp every week? All we need to do is to compare him to the other WRs listed with top-10 pricing. We’ll use the salary numbers on DK this season. Looking at the group without Kupp, the remaining nine WRs covered at least 93% of their floor value in 43% of their games. None of the other wideouts managed to hit at 93% or above value in at least half of their games. As for Kupp, even with WR1 pricing in each of his last eight games, he has at least covered 93% of his floor in 71%! of his games. It’s really that simple.
Taking it a step further, in three of the four games where Kupp failed to cover 93% of his floor, the Rams lost the game. In the other defeat handed to LAR, we have the 93% example that led to it being the baseline for the study. In the 10 games where the Rams captured the victory, Kupp averaged 32 FPG. Los Angeles is favored by three points over the Vikings this week, but I am expecting a clear victory over Minnesota this week. Another 32 FPs from Kupp would present us with a 15% profit over value. No other WR on the main slate comes remotely close to the profit guarantee offered to us by Kupp. He is worth every bit of the devoted 15-18% of our Cash/SE lineup’s cap dollars.
My Top-Five WR Targets for Week 15:
- Cooper Kupp
- Amon-Ra St. Brown
- Antonio Brown
- Tyler Lockett
- Russell Gage
Alexander Mattison, MIN ($6.8K DK | $5.5K FD) vs. Rams’ Cover 3 | 4 | 6
How many opportunities will we have to roster a RB with a very high probability of touching the ball 30 times this season? For RBs on the main slate this week, 30 touches have been achieved on only nine occasions. Three by Dalvin Cook, two by Najee Harris, once by D’Andre Swift, and twice by Alexander Mattison. Direct your attention to the fact that, with five total 30-touch examples, the Vikings have fed their featured RBs with that number in 36% of their games this season. And Mattison took 30 touches in two-of-three starts (67%).
Mattison is averaging exactly 30 touches in his three starts this season. We also need to dedicate some thought to the fact that Mattison has RB31 pricing on FD. Whatever the ownership number will be, it should overtake Ronald Jones II for the highest on the slate. The number will be so high that it will be of no consequence if Mattison fails to cover his floor. The optimal Cash/SE lineup on FD is likely going to require Mattison seated alongside Jones. On the flip side, Mattison is one of my favorite LF GPP targets at RB on DK this week.
Matchups to Avoid
Justin Jefferson, MIN ($8.1K DK | $8.4K FD) vs. Jalen Ramsey, LAR
The potential return of Adam Thielen might help, but Justin Jefferson will need Thielen to post consistent numbers right out of the gate for Jalen Ramsey to redirect his attention. And the fact that JJets is going to be chasing history in Week 16 will almost guarantee a devoted shadow:
Justin Jefferson is on the brink of @NFL history.— Troy Vincent, Sr. (@TroyVincentSr) December 22, 2021
On #MNF, @JJettas2 reached 2,735 career rec. yards, passing @ProFootballHOF-er @RandyMoss for 2nd most in a player's first 2 seasons in the Super Bowl era.
He needs 21 more yards to pass @obj and set a new record. #Skol pic.twitter.com/FcUmczBSH5
For anyone somehow convinced that investing in Jefferson’s WR3/WR3 pricing, don’t forget that you’ll need 24.3/21.0 FPs in return before you see an ounce of profit. Far better matchups the next two weeks for the Vikings. As much as I love Jefferson’s game, he has never faced a challenge on par with the one he’s going to see on Sunday. If he blows up against Ramsey, I will immediately anoint him as the top perimeter wideout in the game. Until then:
Final notes on Los Angeles
This is a complete smash spot for Matthew Stafford ($6.7K/$7.9K). The Vikings are rotating the sixth-highest rate of Cover 2, 11th-highest of Cover 4, and the sixth-highest of Cover 6. Over Stafford’s last three seasons, He ranks first overall with 0.42 FP/Db across from Cover 2, fifth-best with 0.39 FP/Db against Cover 4, and first overall with 0.50 FP/Db when defenses put a Cover 6 on the field. It is in the Rams’ best interests that they are featuring Sony Michel ($5.5K/$6.9K) over Darrell Henderson Jr. ($5.7K/$6.9K) since Henderson has put uninspiring play on the field for far too long to hold down the lead role. While it’s a complete surprise to see Cam Akers designated to return from the ruptured Achilles that landed him on IR, I can’t imagine a scenario where he is added to a game day roster prior to the playoffs. But it is the fastest Achilles recovery I have ever seen.
This should be Michel’s show with ~60% of the carries for the foreseeable future. However, I am not overwhelmed with this matchup for Los Angeles’ backfield. Yes, Minnesota is allotting 128.5 rushing YPG (sixth-most), 4.7 YPC, and a 27% rushing first down rate (seventh-highest). But the clearest path toward success is through the air since the Vikings are one of the most fundamentally-sound tackling defenses and have completely stifled offenses with the third-lowest third down conversion rates.
I must admit that Odell Beckham Jr. ($5.3K/$6.6K) has fit in with LAR far better than I ever imagined. He is thriving in the WR2 role for Stafford. And he is to enjoy such a high rate of Cover 2 from the Purple People Eaters with Stafford delivering him the ball. OBJ is averaging the 11th-most FP/Rt (0.44) the last three seasons when working against Cover 2. However, he will also find Cameron Dantzler across from him on around two-thirds of his routes. I am amazed it has taken Minny this long to feature Dantzler over the recently released Bashaud Breeland. Dantzler is limiting his coverage to 0.82 YPCS (15th-best), 0.20 FP/CS (16th-best), 0.13 AY/CS (34th-best), and a 77.7 TPR (20th-best).
On the other side of the field, Van Jefferson Jr.’s ($5.5K/$6.3K) streak of facing Cover 3-heavy defenses comes to an end. It’s time to view him simply as the WR3 in this matchup. He has had success across from Cover 6 – 14th-best with 0.14 FP/Rt during his career, but he ranks 59th (0.23 FP/Rt) against Cover 2, and 59th (0.29 FP/Rt) across from Cover 4. He’ll essentially see Patrick Peterson most of the game since he’ll run nearly two-thirds of his routes from Peterson’s dedicated sideline. Tyler Higbee ($3.8K/$5.5K) is finally ready to return from the COVID list, but I am always against targeting my tight ends when Eric Kendricks is in coverage.
The following are simply situational options for the Rams:
Ben Skowronek ($3.0K/$4.8K)
Kendall Blanton ($2.6K/$4.5K)
Brycen Hopkins ($2.5K/$4.1K)
Final notes on Minnesota
Is it surprising to learn that I do not love starting QBs against Ramsey and the Rams? I have complete trust in Kirk Cousins’ ($6.2K/$7.3K) arm, pre-snap reads, and understanding of how far he can push a defense. But I am also aware that Cousins isn’t going to force throws into the Rams’ secondary at the expense of turning the ball over. And Cousins has never faced Los Angeles with Ramsey roaming the sidelines. Since I am expecting Ramsey to tail Jefferson, Cousins will need to rely on Mattison, Adam Thielen ($6.9K/$7.2K), K.J. Osborn ($4.8K/$6.0K), and Tyler Conklin ($3.9K/$5.2K) for his production. Thielen will enjoy attacking the Cover 4 of the Rams – his 0.45 FP/Rt the last three seasons is the 12th-highest, but he is a complete non-factor across from Cover 2 (0.23 FP/Rt ranks 61st-best), and Cover 6 (0.18 FP/Rt ranks 88th).
Thielen’s return will drop Osborn’s role back down to earth. He hasn’t excelled against a particular coverage enough to get that excited about a matchup with Dont'e Deayon. That stated, Deayon has provided his coverage with 1.33 YPCS (eighth-most), 0.26 FP/CS (16th-most), 0.28 AY/CS (second-most), and a 97.1 TPR (16th-highest). The optimal situation for Conklin is centered on volume. When Cousins grows tired of looking for Jefferson and Thielen getting open, a decent target share could be on deck for Conklin. We just need to keep our expectations within reason since the Rams have been a top-five defense in coverage of TEs. As long as his absence doesn’t extend into Week 17, Dalvin Cook’s unvaccinated status isn’t a big deal. He was never going to clear the testing protocol in time for Week 16 anyway.
Thielen’s return will result in Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s ($3.0K/$4.5K) exposure to a featured role ending after one game.
Matchups to Target
Dallas Goedert, PHI ($5.1K DK | $5.9K FD) vs. Giants’ Cover 3 | 4
After George Kittle was essentially eliminated from the game plan against Tennessee on Thursday night – 9% target share, I am now comfortable considering Dallas Goedert the hottest TE in the league. Removing Week 10 from the table when Goedert was removed from the game early due to a concussion, he has been on the field for at least 83% of the passing plays dating back to Zach Ertz being traded, and has drawn 26% of the total target share. However, the singular concern is that Goedert suffered through his worst game of the season in Week 12 against these Giants (one FP).
Don’t expect an explanation involving a masterful defensive performance from a NYG defender on Goedert. The lousy performance was on the shoulders of Jalen Hurts. However, it should also be noted that it was the game when Hurts injured his ankle enough to be held out in Week 13. A complete dud on the box score for Goedert the last time these teams met might be enough to trim his ownership number down a tad, but it is still likely to be high enough that he will only be viable in Cash, SE, and SF GPPs. Dalton Schultz had zero issue assembling an 8/67/1 line last week against the G-Men. And TEs have posted at least 15 FPs in four of the last six weeks against New York. I’ll cover the most significant factor pushing Goedert just ahead of Rob Gronkowski and Mark Andrews on my target list next.
My Top-Five TE Targets for Week 15:
Matchups to Avoid
DeVonta Smith, PHI ($6.0K DK | $5.9K FD) vs. James Bradberry, NYG
James Bradberry completely ghosted DeVonta Smith in Week 12. It was a full-on shadow that really exposed the Eagles’ lack of depth at WR. Smith was able to shift his way out of Bradberry’s coverage on two occasions that resulted in all of his 2/22/0 line. Regardless, it’s in these shadowing matchups with physical corners that drew so much attention to Smith’s paper-thin size during the pre- and post-draft process. If not for the dedicated volume sent in Smith’s direction and complete absence of viable wideouts surrounding him, this would’ve been a miserable season for the rookie. I am simply unable to get the sight of Smith being bullied about by Josh Norman in Week 2 – yes, even after 13 weeks. And things are not going to improve at all this week.
That 13-7 victory over Philadelphia in Week 12 was the last time the Giants sniffed a victory. Daniel Jones was at QB, but he didn’t exactly set the world on fire. He took on a game manager role. It is very likely that Joe Judge will follow the same strategy in allowing his defense to dictate the pace. The two-game stretch in Weeks 9 and 10 that made so many drop everything to nominate Smith as the greatest thing on two legs must seem like a lifetime ago. In the four games since, Smith has averaged under three receptions, and 6.2/4.8 FPG – one of those matchups brought the Jets to South Philly. The game film clearly depicted Bradberry establishing his alpha male dominance over Smith. And it’s another depiction from Smith’s rookie season that will take some time to clear from the memory banks.
Final notes on New York
The Giants finally made the decision to plant Daniel Jones on IR for the rest of the season with what has only been referenced as a sprained neck. It’s tough to imagine New York dedicated another start to Mike Glennon ($5.1K/$6.4K). His days in the NFL must be coming to an end. It truly speaks to the dire state of QB quality in the NFL that he is still being permitted to be featured under center. Although, check out the end of the Dallas game to take a look at Jake Fromm’s ($5.0K/$6.4K) NFL debut. He is only a game manager-type, but the entire atmosphere surrounding the NYG offense transformed when he took the field. It would be a travesty of epic proportions if Fromm isn’t the starting QB for the Giants in their final three games of the season. And his patient playstyle focused on ball security will work perfectly with an approach where their defense dictates the pace.
Saquon Barkley ($6.5K/$7.0K) looked better on tape than his 10.4 FPs from last week depicts. He did lose the first fumble of his career, but he also had some chunk plays eliminated due to penalties. That said, he is still surrendering a massive amount of work to Devontae Booker ($4.9K/$5.6K). To the extent that dedicating RB8/RB9 cap dollars to Barkley is simply out of the question. Sterling Shepard displayed so much promise at the beginning of the season. But it was a season that will be remembered for a string of injuries. After rupturing his left left Achilles tendon last week, Shepard’s days in New York have likely come to an end.
Speaking of shadow concerns, expectations for shadow coverage on both sides of the ball is unheard of from the ‘21 season. Yet that is exactly what we have in store between these teams. Kenny Golladay ($5.3K/$5.5K) is simply the final piece of talent remaining at wideout for the Giants. And Darius Slay is going to make every effort to eliminate him. Philadelphia has even begun incorporating a top-15 rate of Cover 1 into their rotation over the last five weeks. The Eagles are still featuring the seventh-highest rate of Cover 6 and 11th-highest of Cover 2. So, Golladay will have opportunities to cut away from Slay’s zone on certain routes, but he can expect to see Darius moving to his side of the field if he tries to use pre-snap motion to break completely free.
A Pharoh Cooper ($3.0K/$4.6K) vs. Avonte Maddox matchup doesn’t offer anything close to the intrigue as one with Kadarius Toney ($4.9K/$5.3K) involved. But Toney is still dealing with the quad and oblique injuries. Perhaps Fromm will find a way to recharge the pulse of Darius Slayton ($4.2K/$5.2K). He’s been a complete non-factor. But Slayton will have an okay matchup with Steven Nelson if he comes to play.
We can send the following down the path toward Fadeville:
Collin Johnson ($3.0K/$5.0K)
John Ross III ($3.0K/$4.9K)
Evan Engram ($3.4K/$5.0K)
Kyle Rudolph ($2.7K/$4.4K)
Final notes on Philadelphia
I want to get excited about Jalen Hurts ($6.4K/$7.7K) and I am most definitely interested. Enough to include him in some SF GPP lineups. But we aren’t going to catch anyone by surprise. His floor is so high due to his rushing potential that he’s become a weekly staple at the very top of the QB ownership list. Back-to-back games where Miles Sanders ($5.6K/$6.4K) finally provides Philly with some production, back-to-back games where Sanders leaves the field with serious doubts he’ll manage to take the field the following game. He is clearly too fragile to be taking on 20 carry/game workloads. He is better suited as a high-energy, change-of-pace option. He is not a bell-cow RB. For Week 16, Jordan Howard ($4.3K/$5.7K) is looking like he’ll be the lead back. If Sanders is ruled out, Howard’s ownership is going to soar. While I don’t think New York’s run defense is quite as bad as the allowances suggest, that doesn’t eliminate the fact that they are handing opposing RBs the seventh-most RZ touches/game (4.79), and sixth-most FPG (26.4). It’s nothing short of a smash spot for Howard.
The following can be disregarded in Week 16:
Jalen Reagor ($3.1K/$5.1K)
Quez Watkins ($3.8K/$5.3K)
Greg Ward ($3.0K/$4.8K)
Tyree Jackson ($2.5K/$4.1K)
Matchups to Target
Update: Fields has been ruled out. Dalton? Oh no, let’s throw Nick Foles into the lineup. If I were ranking QBs for Week 16, Foles would land at No. 32.
Justin Fields, CHI ($5.2K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Seahawks’ Cover 2 | 3 | 6
All things being equal, my interest in Justin Fields is legit. News that his ankle has been an issue this week does dampen the outlook until we get some definitive word. If Andy Dalton draws the start, Seattle’s recent focus on Cover 2 would essentially flip this Matchup to Target directly from Fields to Dalton. Check out these ranks for the Seahawks’ Cover 2 usage the last four weeks: 10th-most, seventh-most, second-most, the most. Dalton’s 0.39 FP/Rt the last three seasons against Cover 2 ranks fifth-best. However, this space is to tout Fields.
In addition to their Cover 3 staple – third-highest rate, the ‘Hawks are also putting the eighth-highest rate of Cover 6 on the field. And I’ve clearly stated the case over the last two weeks for Soldier Fields to be considered among the very elite when attacking a Cover 6. If you have the footage available, check out the play 11:03 of the fourth quarter from last week. You’ll see Fields going right after, arguably, the top cover LB in the game, Eric Kendricks, on a back-shoulder nine to Cole Kmet down the seam. It’s an intentional assault of the vulnerable middle of the field and highlights Fields’ pre-snap recognition, understanding of the shell’s vulnerability. When we add his elite scrambling ability into the equation, Fields should be found on everyone’s list for Week 16.
Tyler Lockett, SEA ($6.7K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Artie Burns, CHI
It’s so difficult to trust that individuals being activated off the COVID list will enter their games at 100% health. Especially when they were forced to miss a game the previous week. But I am willing to take the chance on Tyler Lockett this week due to the lovely matchup he’ll face. The first order of business is establishing the fact that Chicago has permitted 0.44 FP/CS (fourth-most) and a 125.4 TPR (fourth-highest) when defending play action this season. The Rockett has generated 37% of his FPG total this season (6.05 FPG – eighth-most) on play action routes.
In addition, Lockett will work across from a CB that was just activated off the COVID list after also missing Week 15, Artie Burns. Since Burns has only been active during the three games prior to Week 15, his metrics do not qualify to be ranked. But 1.84 YPCS, 0.40 FP/CS, 0.87 AY/CS, and a 117.6 TPR should be more than enough to draw your attention. Chicago is delivering the ninth-most FPG to WRs (36.5) that has been fueled by allowing the most TDs/game (1.36).
Final notes on Chicago
Another run defense that appears to be far better than their permissions to the run suggests is Seattle. But who am I to argue about the potential the matchup offers to David Montgomery ($5.7K/$6.6K)? At the end of the day, the Seahawks are being destroyed by RBs with 15.1 FPG through the air (the most). It needs to be noted that Khalil Herbert ($4.3K/$5.5K) and Damien Williams ($4.5K/$5.4K) have been doing nearly all of their work in passing situations. However, we don’t need Montgomery to go nuclear as a receiver, we just want enough to supplement the ‘Hawks allowance of the ninth-most FPG on the ground (14.3) enough to push him into as much profit above his 17.1/16.5 floor as possible with RB15/RB14 pricing.
Since Allen Robinson II ($4.0K/$5.5K) will return to the lineup this week, he is going to take on his customary role as on the left sideline. And he will be the one concerned that D.J. Reed Jr. might also return for Week 16. If not, he’ll still have his hands full with Blessuan Austin on enough snaps to matter. Darnell Mooney ($5.4K/$6.1K) hasn’t provided anything of interest the last three weeks. But this is the week where I want to invest some stock into the speedster. He’ll be working against Sidney Jones IV on Sunday. And Jones is supplying 1.24 YPCS (23rd-most), 0.26 FP/CS (26th-most), 0.16 AY/CS (19th-most), and a 111.6 TPR (ninth-most). Cole Kmet ($3.3K/$5.0K) has played much better of late. He is absolutely worth some attention this week with TE17/TE17 pricing.
It sure would’ve been nice to have received a head’s up last week that the Bears planned on benching Jakeem Grant Sr. ($3.7K/$5.1K) in favor of Dazz Newsome ($3.0K/$4.5K). Sure, let’s bench our hottest WR for a rookie with very little upside. Include Grant and Newsome in the following list of avoidable Chicago receivers:
Damiere Byrd ($3.3K/$4.9K)
Jimmy Graham ($2.9K/$4.6K)
Final notes on Seattle
We only need 18.3/18.8 FPs from Russell Wilson ($6.1K/$7.5K) to cover his floor. Khalil Mack is set to undergo foot surgery and Chicago was already distributing a ton of FPs to QBs with Mack on the field. That’s enough of an explanation to fire The Professor up in all game types since it’s guaranteed that he will have low ownership. In fact, Wilson may be my favorite QB in LF GPPs this week. Calling it now: Wilson will post at least 23 FPs in Week 16.
It was so disappointing to see Rashaad Penny ($5.5K/$6.1K) nearly split carries with DeeJay Dallas ($4.2K/$4.8K) only days after Pete Carroll passed along how much Penny deserved the opportunity to handle the featured role. That’s exactly the type of coaching uncertainty that could lead to Wilson abandoning the franchise. What is going on with DK Metcalf ($6.4K/$6.7K)? Rather than digging into every factor to figure what might be up, a big game this week would go a long way toward easing concerns. I just can’t bring myself to invest anything more than LF GPP dart after six weeks of worthless results. However, that approach would change if Jaylon Johnson is unable to take the field for a second-straight game, and Thomas Graham Jr. draws another start. Since the LB in coverage that I fear the most after Kendricks and Darius Leonard is Roquan Smith, Gerald Everett’s ($3.7K/$4.9K) is just not a serious target for me in spite of hitting double-digit FPs in three-of-four.
Fade the following:
Freddie Swain ($3.4K/$4.8K)
D’Wayne Eskridge ($3.5K/$4.7K)
Penny Hart ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Alex Collins ($4.9K/$5.5K)
Matchups to Target
Drew Lock, DEN ($5.1K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Raiders’ Cover 3
This joker must be crazy! I get it, for the most part, Drew Lock has not been good at football during his NFL career. However – and some might remember me beating this detail to death in the past, he is good at one thing, and by good… I really mean he is among the very best in the NFL. If, while playing Madden on your PS4/5 or XBox One/S/X, you decided you wanted to play a game using the Broncos with Lock as your starting QB, and devoted some time toward selecting a defense that would present the best matchup to his skillset, one team stands out above all others. In addition to his cannon for a right arm, the reason Lock drew – pun intended – NFL interest is due to his utter dominance of Cover 3. And no defense in the league uses a higher rate of Cover 3 than the Las Vegas Raiders.
Keep in mind, turning the calendar back a year to view how Lock fared against the Raiders last season is not going to help since they only switched to their Cover 3 this season under Gus Bradley. On 22% of his dropbacks during his career, Lock has generated 31% of his passing yardage, and 30% of his total TDs across from a Cover 3. His AY/Att spikes by 20%, his passer rating by 16%, and he’s thrown seven TDs vs. three INTs. And Taysom Hill (69%) is the only QB with a greater improvement to his FP/Db when facing Cover 3 than Lock (43%). In all honesty, if Denver has selected Lock to lead the offense this season, the numbers for all of their featured receivers would be superior to those we currently see. However, the Broncos would also likely have a record placing them at the bottom of the division.
My Top-Five QB Targets for Week 15:
Noah Fant, DEN ($4.4K DK | $5.6K FD) vs. Raiders’ Cover 3
The receiver that would’ve benefited the most from Lock leading the offense would be Noah Fant. Teddy Bridgewater has played poorly against Cover 3 during his career. Even after playing 13 games this season out of his three-year career with Bridgewater under center, the work Fant put in against Cover 3 the last two seasons still shine bright. He’s created 0.44 FP/Rt (sixth-most), 1.99 YPRR (10th-most), and he’s drawing 25% of the targets (fifth-most) when defenses put a Cover 3 on the field. On 26% of his career routes, Fant has tracked down 35% of his catches, 35% of his yardage, and 33% of his TDs against Cover 3. Las Vegas has stood aside to allow TEs to collect 15.1 FPG (fourth-most) this season. As with Lock, the Week 16 opportunity for Fant could not be better.
Final notes on Denver
The Broncos only have an 18% chance to make the playoffs in spite of playing the second-easiest schedule. Needless to say, they badly need a victory this week. Both Javonte Williams ($6.1K/$6.3K) and Melvin Gordon III ($5.8K/$6.3K) continue to be limited at practice. But it’s really become the status quo for the two. Williams wasn’t able to get into the end zone to make it four weeks in a row, and a TD would’ve been more than enough to justify his pricing last week. No time better than the present to get the motor firing than the present. And the Raiders are one of my favorite defenses to target for my RB exposure. MG3 is also someone worthy of consideration in this matchup, but I prefer Javonte. He is one of my top-five RB targets of Week 16.
If Nate Hobbs is activated from the COVID list, I’m out on Jerry Jeudy ($5.0K/$5.8K). If Keisean Nixon fills in for Hobbs again, I’m drinking the Jeudy Kool-Aid. Courtland Sutton ($4.2K/$5.4K) would be of particular interest against the LV Cover 3 rate if he weren’t dealing with Casey Hayward Jr. Sutton has scored 50% of his TDs the last three seasons on only 28% of routes against Cover 3. Brandon Facyson was added to the COVID list and Trayvon Mullen landed on IR, so it could be Desmond Trufant, Amik Robertson, or someone listed on a practice squad that covers Tim Patrick ($4.5K/$5.6K) this week. Just in case it’s not immediately obvious, Patrick is an excellent salary-saving, LF GPP dart this week. Do not forget about Albert Okwuegbunam ($3.1K/$4.9K), either. His 0.62 FP/Rt, 2.60 YPRR, 131.4 TPR, and 28% target share against Cover 3 during his career are each superior to Fant’s numbers. And he’s collected 50% (one 😜) of his TDs on 27% of routes against a three-high.
Fade the following:
Kendall Hinton ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Diontae Spencer ($3.0K/$4.5K)
Final notes on Las Vegas
On the other side of the field, Derek Carr ($5.8K/$7.0K) has really done a number on my trust. He hasn’t thrown for multiple TDs in five straight, and he’s only eclipsed 300 passing yards in one of those games. When he tossed for 341 yards and two TDs against Denver in Week 6, Henry Ruggs III and Darren Waller were his featured receivers. He will have neither this time around. I simply have enough options at QB that I trust more this week. And the one receiver that I would look toward, Hunter Renfrow ($6.8K/$7.1K), will have Bryce Callahan’s watchful eye. Callahan limited Renfrow to a 3/36/0 line in Week 6. However, even with the threat of Callahan, Renfrow has simply been too hot to disregard – prior to seeing his lowest target share of the season last week for whatever asinine reason. I have Renfrow in a pair of LF GPP lineups in case he is peppered with another 30+% target share.
I washed my hands of Josh Jacobs ($6.0K/$6.8K) awhile back. Of course, I still take a look at each of his matchups, but they always come across as disappointments.
We have an extensive list of fades from the Raiders:
Peyton Barber ($4.0K/$5.4K)
Bryan Edwards ($3.2K/$5.2K)
Zay Jones ($3.5K/$5.0K)
DeSean Jackson ($3.7K/$5.1K)
Foster Moreau ($3.6K/$5.2K)
Matchups to Target
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KC ($5.8K DK | $6.4K FD) vs. Steelers’ Cover 3
I’m going back to the well after Clyde Edwards-Helaire wasted an excellent opportunity against the Chargers. But I will hesitate to trust CEH again if he flops in this opportunity. What was even more frustrating about only managing nine FPs against LAC last week is that ran more than twice as many routes as Darrel Williams, and all of the RB targets. That said, the Chiefs could be without both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce this week. It’s an unprecedented situation for the Kansas City offense. Patrick Mahomes II has never started a game for the Chiefs without both Zeus and Cheetah.
Any possibility of CEH seeing an uptick in his workload is worthy of our attention. Especially against a Pittsburgh defense packaging 5.25 RZ touches/game (10th-most), 2.0 RZ touches/game (the most), and 34.5 FPG (the most). Kansas City puts one of the top-five run blocking O-lines on the field each week. It’s time for CEH to reward their efforts with results that will draw attention to their efforts. And I am willing to invest in him doing just that in an excellent matchup.
Matchups to Avoid
Chase Claypool, PIT ($5.1K DK | $5.9K FD) vs. Charvarius Ward, KC
This will only take a second. We need justice for Chase Claypool. Did he make a couple stupid character mistakes on Thursday Night Football in Week 14? He did. But, if the Steelers are so unsatisfied with him for whatever reason, 31 other NFL teams would pounce at an opportunity to add him to their teams. I really have tried to get behind this version of Ben Roethlisberger. Especially his efforts in Weeks 11, 13, and 14. But I simply cannot stomach Roethlisberger ignoring Claypool to this extent, even at the expense of putting game outcomes at risk. However, this is not all on Big Ben. Claypool was on the field for less passing plays and saw the same target share as Ray-Ray McCloud III! Ray-Ray McCloud III! In case that was unclear… Ray-Ray McCloud III! The same guy that ranks 108th out of 111 WRs in FP/Rt.
Final notes on Pittsburgh
I’ve said all I’m going to say about Ben Roethlisberger ($5.5K/$6.8K). The countdown to his retirement is just taking too long. The one area of the Chiefs’ defense that has proved vulnerable is in run defense. But we are already aware of the impressiveness of Najee Harris ($7.4K/$8.4K). DO NOT put Najee into your cash lineups. You will fall below the cash line if he even falls 10% shy of his floor. But Harris is totally in play in LF GPPs.
As always, the volume Diontae Johnson ($7.5K/$7.4K) receives can potentially overcome any matchup. But the Chiefs have been far too good against the pass and Mike Hughes’s play has improved immensely during the second half of the season. And it could be Rashad Fenton that Diontae is forced to deal with if L’Jarius Sneed’s return kicks him back outside. Fenton has been a bona fide top-five perimeter corner this season. Sneed’s return does offer a decent matchup to James Washington ($3.7K/$5.2K), but it very could be Ray-Ray McCloud III ($3.1K/$4.8K) that plays all of the snaps inside. Ray-Ray McCloud III!
A second concussion in a month for Pat Freiermuth ($4.3K/$5.1K) should have resulted in the Steelers immediately placing the rookie on IR. Instead, they are trying to get him ready to play this week. It may be time for Pittsburgh to replace Mike Tomlin. It’s out there, I said it. This franchise needs a fresh start with a staff offering an approach that will result in Super Bowl appearances for this team.
Final notes on Kansas City
How do we approach Week 16 with Patrick Mahomes II ($7.7K/$8.7K) possibly being with Kelce and Hill? He may manage to do well without them, but I’m not adding exposure with QB1/QB1 pricing. So much volume is distributed toward Kelce and Tyreek that the coverage histories for their remaining receivers are entirely incomplete, or are watered down to the point of being impossible to identify any strengths. We will learn so much about these KC receivers if Kelce and Hill and ruled out.
Take a coin, flip it, and add the winner to your lineup. Demarcus Robinson ($3.0K/$4.9K) is completely excluded from that flip-off. The two that interest me the most are Byron Pringle ($3.3K/$5.2K) and Mecole Hardman ($3.5K/$5.2K). Between those two, Pringle is the most intriguing. How many times have we been burned by Hardman when entering matchups where he should’ve blown up?
If Kelce is ruled out, Noah Gray ($2.5K/$4.1K) will be inserted into some of my LF GPP lineups. Blake Bell ($2.5K/$4.2K) doesn’t have the same type of skill-set that could result in a big profit percentage like for Gray. If you doubt CEHs chances, Darrel Williams ($4.6K/$5.7K) would make some sense. One of these two backs is going to put up good numbers.