Founded in 1920, the NFL originally based its rules on the collegiate game. It wasn’t until 12 years later in 1932 that the NFL appointed its own Rules Committee to begin customizing the game to their specifications. The Rules Committee made very public their devotion toward growing the popularity of the game, drawing a direct correlation between scoring and attendance. Increased attendance in relation to scoring increases of 2.5 PPG from the 1923 to 1924 seasons – third-most in NFL history – and 1.6 PPG from the 1926 to 1927 seasons – tied for the 11th-most – stood as the evidence. However, teams panicked when league scoring declined by 1.7 PPG from the 1931 to 1932 seasons – third-most in league history.
With scoring down at an unprecedented rate this season — we’ll cover that later — let’s examine the rule changes that the Rules Committee has applied during the years. If you’d prefer to skip past the history of rule adjustments, simply click on the “Longball Lacking in 2021” listing in the table of content.
History of NFL Rule Changes Impacting the Scoreboard
1933: Moved hash marks from 15 to 10 yards in from the sideline
1933: Began placing the ball on the hash marks on tackles anywhere in between the mark and sidelines
1933: To reduce the number of tie games, goal posts were moved from the back of the end zone to the goal line
Ties were reduced from 20% in 1932 to less than 5% of games in 1933
Pulling the goal posts in 10 yards resulted in an 81% increase in successful field goals and a 15% increase in league scoring
1933: Changed the rule that a quarterback couldn’t throw a pass unless he’s at least five yards behind the line of scrimmage to anywhere behind the LoS – instituted in response to Bears’ FB Bronko Nagurski’s jump pass and game-winning TD to Red Grange – it’s “the Nagurski jump pass” NOT “the Tebow,” Gainesville – during the very first playoff game in 1932 to break a tie in the final standings over the Portsmouth Spartans (The “Bronko Nagurski Rule”)
This famous photo of the #Bears' Bill Hewitt's lateral is often attributed to the 1933 NFL Championship Game, captioned as the winning play — Bronko Nagurski's jump pass to Hewitt, who then lateraled to Bill Karr.— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) December 17, 2021
However, it is believed by some to be from a different game. pic.twitter.com/L8P1e1bZbr
1934: Eliminated penalty for multiple incomplete passes during the same drive
1935: Moved the hash marks back to 15 yards in from the sideline
1935: Adjusted the shape of the ball to the “prolate spheroid” to make it more pass-friendly
- Passing TDs increased by 24% in 1937 and league scoring increased by 16%
1936: The first NFL Draft was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 8, 1936
1938: Instituted the 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer
- Scoring immediately spiked by 18%
1941: Sudden-death overtime added for games tied after four quarters
1943: Mandatory use of helmets for all players
1943: In response to depleted rosters due to World War II, the committee instituted unlimited substitutions
- Scoring immediately spiked by 3.6 PPG (18%) – the largest increase in NFL history
1945: Moved the hash marks in to 20 yards from the sideline in response to a league scoring decline of 1.4 PPG from the 1943 to 1944 seasons – tied for the fifth-highest in NFL history – and the last decline in scoring of at least 1.4 PPG for the next 21 seasons
1946: Substitutions limited to no more than three at a time
1947: When a defender uses his hands to intentionally block the vision of a receiver, an illegal use of hands penalty is to be called
- Scoring immediately spiked by 11%
1948: Plastic helmets were banned
- Scoring increased by 7%
1949: Unlimited substitutions adopted for one year
1950: Unlimited substitutions permanently restored – paved the way for permanent offensive and defensive specialization
1955: Declared the ball dead immediately if the ball carrier touched the ground with any part of his body except his hands or feet while in the grasp of an opponent
1956: Grabbing an opponent's facemask – other than the ball carrier – was made illegal
1956: Prohibited the use of radio receivers to communicate with players on the field
1957: Home teams were instructed to wear dark jerseys and the road team would wear white
- Scoring jumped by 12%
1962: Prohibited grabbing any player's facemask
1966: Goal posts were painted bright yellow
1966: Merger of the AFL and NFL and, while their schedules remained separate until the 1969 season, the first annual AFL-NFL World Championship Game was scheduled for January of 1967
- Scoring declined by 3.0 PPG (14%) by the time of the official merger into one league with two conferences in 1970
1970: Names placed on the backs of players' jerseys
1970: The scoreboard clock was made the official timing device of the game
1972: Moved hash marks to their present-day location of 23.5 yards from the sidelines, exactly in line with the goal posts
The number of 1,000-yard rushers doubled in 1973
Scoring increased by 2.4 PPG (12%) in 1975
1974: Moved the goal posts from the goal line to the end line, getting the post out of the way of pass patterns in the end zone
1974: Reducing penalties on offensive players from 15 yards to 10 for holding, illegal use of hands and tripping
1974: A defender is only allowed to block a receiver within five yards of the line of scrimmage but, after those initial yards, any contact will be considered holding, which is a five-yard penalty and an automatic first down – Bengals’ HC Paul Brown called for the rule change after the Dolphins’ HC Don Shula called on his defenders to push, bump, and hold Isaac Curtis during their 1973 AFC Divisional playoff game that resulted in a 1/9/0 receiving line (The "Isaac Curtis Rule")
1976: Adopted the use of 30-second play clocks
Defenses began to take advantage of not having to protect an especially wide side of the field, no longer forced to reveal its coverage by committing players to a side before the snap
Passing YPG significantly declined
Scoring dropped by 1.4 PPG (7%)
1977: No head slapping (The “Deacon Jones Rule”)
1977: Offensive linemen are not allowed to thrust their hands to a defender’s neck, face, or head
1977: Adopted a 16-game regular season, 4-game preseason
- The last season of the “Dead Ball Era” (1970–1977), league scoring declined by 2.0 PPG (10%) – tied for the most significant decrease in NFL history
1978: Passed the rule that, if an offensive player fumbles on fourth down or on any down after the two-minute warning, only the fumbling player can recover and advance the ball for the offense – enacted Oakland QB Ken Stabler fumbled the ball forward, and TE Dave Casper performed a soccer-like dribble before falling on the ball in the end zone (The “Holy Roller” or “Stabler-Casper Rule”)
1978: Loosened the interpretations of holding by offensive linemen by giving them permission to extend their arms and open their hands on pass plays
1978: The penalty for intentional grounding is reduced from a loss of down and 15 yards to a loss of down and 10 yards
1978: Legalized double-touch forward passes (The Immaculate Reception by Franco Harris)
1978: Implemented the illegal contact rule, barring contact with receivers beginning five yards beyond the line of scrimmage – a response to Steelers’ CB Mel Blount’s physical style of play (The “Mel Blount Rule”)
In response to a 17% drop in scoring the last two seasons combined, the committee went to work
League scoring improved by 1.8 PPG (6%) in 1978 and, benefiting from the following rule changes, by a total of 3.4 PPG (21%) by the end of the 1983 season
The NFL avoided annual scoring declines of greater than 1.1 PPG for the next 44 years
1979: One of the first rules to protect the QB was adopted when officials were instructed to quickly whistle a play dead when a QB was clearly in the grasp of a tackler
1980: Personal fouls were added, prohibiting players from directly striking, swinging, or clubbing the head, neck, or face
1981: Eliminated chop blocks on passing plays
1981: Banned stickum after Lester Hayes, who collected 13 interceptions during the run up to the Raiders Super Bowl victory, applied the substance all over his hands and uniform (The "Lester Hayes Rule")
The NFL banned Stickum in 1981, but these were the hands of Oakland Raiders DB Lester Hayes for Super Bowl XVIII on this date in 1984 (📷 from Focus On Sport) pic.twitter.com/LYbVi6uE3l— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 22, 2018
1988: 45-second clock replaced the 30-second version
1994: 2-point conversion following touchdowns
1994: Plays blown dead whenever a defender enters the neutral zone causing the offensive player(s) directly opposite to move
1994: Kickoff is moved from the 35-yard line to the 30-yard line
- Scoring improved by 1.6 PPG (8%)
1995: A receiver knocked out of bounds by a defensive player can now return to the field to make a play
1995: QBs may now receive communication from the bench via a small radio transmitter in their helmets – 39 years after radio communication with the sideline was banned
1996: The five-yard contact rule of receivers more strictly enforced
1996: Made chop blocks illegal for all running-play blocks “away from the flow of play” if the two blockers were not lined up next to each other
1996: To protect the offense, particularly the QB, hits with the helmet or to the head by the defender will be flagged as personal fouls and subject to fines
1998: A defensive player can no longer flinch before the snap to draw movement from the O-line (The “Neil Smith Rule”)
1999: Instant replay restored and challenge system implemented
1999: Called for a officials to rule a completed pass when the ball touches the ground as long as the receiver maintains control of the ball – resulted from a play in the 1999 NFC Championship game, where Tampa Bay WR Bert Emanuel had a catch ruled incomplete since the ball touched the ground (The “Bert Emanuel Rule”)
2001: Fumble recoveries will be awarded at the spot of the recovery, not where the player's momentum carries him
2001: Protecting the QB emphasized
- League scoring spikes by 1.5 PPG (7%) by the end of the 2002 season
2002: A player who touches a pylon remains in-bounds until any part of his body touches the ground out-of-bounds
2002: Batting and stripping the ball from player possession is legalized
2002: Hitting a QB helmet-to-helmet anytime after a change of possession is made illegal
2002: Inside of two minutes, the game clock will not stop when the player who originally takes the snap is tackled behind the line of scrimmage
2004: Further implemented contact restrictions on receivers beyond five yards (The “Ty Law Rule”)
2005: Banned horse-collar tackles – enacted following Dallas Safety Roy Williams breaking Terrell Owens' ankle and Musa Smith's leg on horse-collar tackles during the 2004 season (The “Roy Williams Rule”)
2006: Made it illegal for a defender, sans being blocked in that direction, to forcibly hit a QB below the knees – enacted after a hit by the Steelers’ Kimo von Oelhoffen on Bengals’ QB Carson Palmer during the 2005 AFC Wild Card (The “Carson Palmer Rule”)
2008: Two defensive players, one primary and one backup, will have a radio device in their helmets allowing the head coach to communicate with them through the radio headset, identical to the radio device inside the helmet of the QB (The “Bill Belichick Rule”)
2013: Banned offensive or defensive players from using the crown of the helmet to initiate forcible contact outside of the tackles after a hit from Trent Richardson on Kurt Coleman
They keep showing Trent Richardson crown of helmet hit on Kurt Coleman as "blatant" example of what they're trying to legislate out of game— Aaron Freeman (@falcfans) March 26, 2013
2014: Began allowing replay reviews of fumbles anywhere on the field, rather than limiting them to the sideline or in the end zone – following a fumble by Jermaine Kearse, where NaVorro Bowman displayed a clear recovery during the NFC Championship, but officials awarded possession back to Seattle (The “NaVorro Bowman Rule”)
2015: Expanded the definition of a "defenseless receiver" to include intended receivers in the air during and after an interception
2016: Eliminated “probable” from practice reports; teams must list players as "questionable,” “doubtful,” or “out”
2017: Gave a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection
2018: 15-yard penalty for lowering head to initiate, make contact with helmet
- League scoring improved by another 1.6 PPG (7%)
2020: Increase in number of players designated for return from short-term IR from two to three players
2020: Automatic reviews of scoring plays and turnovers negated by a penalty
- League scoring improved by a massive 2.0 PPG – most significant spike in NFL history, with teams scoring an average of 24.8 PPG – the most in NFL history
2021: Unlimited players can return from a team's injured reserve list and they're eligible after missing three games, rather than eight weeks
2021: Due to a staggering number of COVID infections, multiple adjustments are made by the NFL Committee and NFLPA to the protocols to return players to the field quicker, and bringing us to…
…the Longball Deficient 2021 Season
Scoring jumped to above 23 team PPG in Week 16 for only the sixth time this season. And that’s two weeks after scoring reached 25.43 team PPG in Week 14. However, every bit of the excitement drawn from the record-setting scoring from the 2020 season has been lost. To the extent that scoring has declined to the same number achieved exactly 10 seasons ago (2012). And deep passing is the culprit. Even when we see excellent TD-to-INT ratios in a given week, the depression on the deep (20-or-more yard) attempt rate has come nowhere close to reviving pre-Week 7 rates.
To put it all into perspective, QBs attempted deep throws on 10.19% of attempts last week. In Week 5, QBs attempted deep throws on 13.43% of attempts. That’s a 24% cliff-dive example that simply cannot be salvaged by a couple TD connections or through YPA efficiency. You can check out the data for yourself:
Modern NFL rules are in place to support vertical passing games. And a valid argument can be made that the current crop of WR, TE, and even RB professionals are more talented as receivers than at any point in league history. The finger can be pointed directly at two parties:
- Refusal by certain coaching staffs to spread out their detached offensive personnel, failure to implement analytics into their draft strategies and gameplans, and dragging their franchises behind in the dark ages with a preference for a run-heavy, “Pro Style” approach
- While much of this issue is carried on the shoulders of front offices for their appalling draft scouting, half of the league’s offenses are equipped with a level of QB quality that would even draw ridicule back in the 1970’s
We can break down the current QB crop into nine distinct tiers (using QBs at the 1977 stage of their careers as the namesakes):
The Randy Hedberg tier (massive concerns without evidence of clear strengths): Zach Wilson and Sam Darnold
The Bob Avellini tier (is a backup job in my future?): Baker Mayfield, Daniel Jones, and Taysom Hill
The Joe Namath tier (on their last legs): Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, Tyrod Taylor, and Mike Glennon
The Steve Bartkowski tier (will they develop?): Trevor Lawrence, Taylor Heinicke, Trey Lance, and Davis Mills
The Archie Manning tier (serviceable game managers): Jimmy Garoppolo, Teddy Bridgewater, Jared Goff, and Jameis Winston
The Bob Griese tier (around three years of elite play prior to retirement): Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan
The Kenny Stabler tier (future title potential with the right team): Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr, and Carson Wentz
The Joe Theismann tier (the future): Justin Fields, Mac Jones, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Tyler Huntley, and Gardner Minshew II
The Dan Fouts tier (the now): Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson
The Terry Bradshaw tier (give me my damn rings): Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes II, Dak Prescott, and Matthew Stafford
There you have it. A grand total of 41 QBs ranked. Over half of those should be on their way out of the league due to age, poor play, have significant development concerns, or are headed for backup roles. Sans Rodgers — maybe Jimmy G and Lawrence if all the cards fall properly — none of the QBs in the first six tiers are going to come anywhere close to sniffing a Super Bowl title as a starting QB. The Kenny Stabler tier is stacked with QB talent just searching for that offensive and defensive balance to take home a Vince Lombardi Trophy.
It may surprise some to see Huntley and Minshew listed among the Joe Theismann tier, but I have varying levels of belief in their developmental potential. And the nine QBs listed in the final two tiers already have everything in place – when their teams are at full health – to bring championships to their franchises. Including Rodgers within that group, less than 25% of the QBs in the NFL are title-ready. That’s not good. Not to mention the fact that the majority of the deep passing production is achieved by those 10 elite QBs.
As always, how can we use all of this information toward actionable lineup construction?
Targeting struggling qualified defenders will always be at the forefront of the process. And targeting late-week replacements in the secondary that have yet to play significant roles this season (the unqualified) is another profitable approach, in the proper situations, of course. 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 holding coverage importance through Week 16:
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
*89-83 (52%); 10-6 in Week 16
Kansas City (-5.0) at Cincinnati Bengals
Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) at Baltimore Ravens
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-12.5) at New York Jets
Buffalo Bills (-14.0) vs. Atlanta Falcons
New England Patriots (-15.5) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Miami Dolphins (+3.0) at Tennessee Titans
Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) at Washington Football Team
Chicago Bears (-6.0) vs. New York Giants
Indianapolis Colts (-6.5) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Houston Texans (+13.0) at San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Chargers (-5.0) vs. Denver Broncos
Dallas Cowboys (-5.5) vs. Arizona Cardinals
Seattle Seahawks (-7.0) vs. Detroit Lions
New Orleans Saints (-6.5) vs. Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers (-6.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5) vs. Cleveland Browns
*81-68 (54%); 8-8 in Week 16
Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals (Under 50.0)
Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens (Over 46.5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets (Over 45.5)
Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills (Over 44.0)
Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots (Over 41.5)
Miami Dolphins at Tennessee Titans (Under 41.0)
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team (Over 46.0)
New York Giants at Chicago Bears (Under 37.5)
Las Vegas Raiders at Indianapolis Colts (Over 44.5)
Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers (Over 44.5)
Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (Under 45.0)
Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys (Under 52.0)
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks (Over 42.5)
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (Under 39.0)
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (Over 47.0)
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (Under 41.0)
*110-58 (65%); 11-5 in Week 16
Kansas City (-225) at Cincinnati Bengals
Los Angeles Rams (-195) at Baltimore Ravens
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-720) at New York Jets
Buffalo Bills (-900) vs. Atlanta Falcons
New England Patriots (-1125) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Miami Dolphins (+155) at Tennessee Titans
Philadelphia Eagles (-180) at Washington Football Team
Chicago Bears (-260) vs. New York Giants
Indianapolis Colts (-280) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
San Francisco 49ers (-720) vs. Houston Texans
Los Angeles Chargers (-220) vs. Denver Broncos
Dallas Cowboys (-235) vs. Arizona Cardinals
Seattle Seahawks (-305) vs. Detroit Lions
New Orleans Saints (-280) vs. Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers (-260) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Cleveland Browns (-170) at Pittsburgh Steelers
Matchups to Target
Darrel Williams, KC ($5.8K DK | $6.2K FD) vs. Bengals’ Cover 2
Since the day the Chiefs spent first round capital on Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the returns have been disappointing. More than anything, he simply cannot keep himself healthy. But Darrel Williams has provided that stable presence, and a case could be made that he is deserving of permanently supplanting CEH for the featured role. During the previous five-game stretch when Edwards-Helaire was out of commission, Williams averaged 18.4 FPG.
Williams failed to hit value in two of those games, but they were against the Titans’ elite run defense (Week 7) and in a 13-7 victory over the Packers when FPs were in short supply (Week 9). In his three other starts, he averaged 24.4 FPG. Cincinnati is providing RBs with the fourth-highest rate of FPG production through the air (52.8%) and the sixth-most receiving FPG (12.2). Count on seeing a healthy ownership percentage for Williams, pushing him comfortably into Cash/Single-Entry (SE) territory.
Tyler Boyd, CIN ($5.4K DK | $6.2K FD) vs. L'Jarius Sneed, KC
It took some time for the offensive framework to mesh with the addition of another elite receiving threat in Ja’Marr Chase, but it couldn’t be coming together at a better time. Chase has put together a historic rookie campaign, Tee Higgins has been one of the hottest wideouts in the game over the last five weeks, and Joe Burrow has found plenty of volume left over for Tyler Boyd to average 80.3 receiving YPG, and 15.5 FPG the last four weeks.
We need to be very careful in our efforts to target individuals facing the Kansas City defense. They’ve held opponents to 15-or-fewer points in six of the last seven weeks, and 10-or-less in five. KC is featuring the second-highest rate of Cover 2. And during Boyd’s last three seasons, he’s created 0.38 FP/Rt (19th-most), 1.82 YPRR (26th-most), and drawn a 21% target share (18th-highest) when facing Cover 2. He’ll mostly work across from L’Jarius Sneed in the slot. Among 39 qualified nickelbacks, Sneed is permitting 1.39 YPCS (fifth-most), 0.33 FP/CS (third-most), and a 101.9 TPR (15th-most). It’s no wonder that Sneed is being targeted at the seventh-highest rate since he’s permitting the highest rate of 20-plus completions.
Final notes on Kansas City
I find it difficult squeezing Patrick Mahomes II ($7.8K/$8.5K) – or any other QB with pricing in the $8K range – into many lineups since the elite RB and WR options are far more difficult to fade. The Bengals are far from an insurmountable challenge, but Mahomes has only hit above his floor in three of his last nine games. With Edwards-Helaire week-to-week, Derrick Gore ($5.1K/$5.5K) is going to be a factor. However, Cincy’s defense is far more restrictive to ground production than through the air.
Tyreek Hill ($8.3K/$8.2K) is obviously a problem whenever he touches the ball. Positive factors in the The Cheetah’s favor are the Bengals missing the tackles at the fifth-highest rate and approving the seventh-highest completion rate on 20-plus throws (15.4%). On the down side, Hill’s FP/Rt has declined by 30% against Cover 2, and Cincinnati is utilizing Cover 2 at the ninth-highest rate. They do mix in top-17 rate of Cover 1, 3, and 6, but they will also use a combination of Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton in their attempt to contain Tyreek, and Cincy hasn’t permitted a WR to collect the 24.9/20.5 FPs his floor requires since Week 5. Enough concerns for me to lean toward other elite WR options with my cap dollars this week.
With 0.38 FP/Rt during his career against Cover 2, Byron Pringle ($4.1K/$5.6K) is somewhat interesting after his 6/75/2 and 25.5 FP performance last week against the Steelers. But he will also face a considerable challenge from Eli Apple during his career revival season. Apple is holding his responsibilities to 0.73 YPCS (seventh-fewest), 0.15 FP/CS (fourth-fewest), 0.09 AY/CS (sixth-fewest), and a 76.0 TPR (18th-lowest). When he’s not in coverage over Hill, Awuzie will spend a chunk of his time on Mecole Hardman ($4.0K/$5.4K). Hard pass. Travis Kelce ($7.3K/$8.2K) will return to the lineup from COVID list and, if healthy, he’ll face a defense allowing the most FPG to TEs over the last four weeks (22.1).
Addressing the issue now, we have literally no way of knowing the extent at which individuals coming off of COVID positives will respond this week. In light of that fact, we’ll all need to decide for ourselves how much trust/bankroll we devote to those individuals.
From Kansas City to Fadeville:
Demarcus Robinson ($3.0K/$5.0K)
Josh Gordon ($3.0K/$4.7K)
Marcus Kemp ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Noah Gray ($2.6K/$4.4K)
Blake Bell ($2.5K/$4.3K)
Final notes on Cincinnati
It’s important to understand that, while the Chiefs are one of the hottest teams in the league after pulling off eight-consecutive victories, their defense isn’t packing top-10 restrictions. They are actually permitting the sixth-most FPG to QBs this season (18.2). But I’m still lukewarm concerning Joe Burrow ($6.9K/$7.7K) since his career FP/DB number dips by 46% against Cover 2.
Joe Mixon ($7.5K/$8.5K) better be prepared to attack KC through the air like he did with a 6/70/1 receiving line last week against Baltimore. The Chiefs are handing out 12.8 receiving FPG to RBs (fourth-most) – 53.2% of their FPG allowance to the position (third-highest), but only 11.2 FPG on the ground (eighth-fewest). The fact that Mixon only posted more than two receptions in one of his last five games prior to Week 16 is not all that inspiring.
With Rashad Fenton activated from the COVID list, Mike Hughes’ days as a starter will come to an end. And we should all just prepare ourselves for limited production from Ja’Marr Chase ($7.6K/$7.6K). Fenton is only authorizing 0.76 YPCS (eighth-fewest), 0.17 FP/CS (eighth-fewest), 0.09 AY/CS (yup, eighth-fewest), and an 86.5 TPR (31st-lowest). The most daunting metric of Fenton’s may be restricting opponents to the third-lowest completion rate on 20-plus targets – Chase’s particular wheelhouse. And it should also be noted that Chase’s rookie season FP/Rt average declines by 42% across from Cover 2.
A 27% decline against Cover 2 is not as bad for Tee Higgins ($6.9K/$7.0K), and he’ll work with Charvarius Ward in coverage. He’s delivering 0.95 YPCS (22nd-fewest), 0.23 FP/CS (29th-fewest), 0.21 AY/CS (third-most), and a 67.2 TPR (seventh-lowest) to his coverage. While I prefer the opportunity on deck for Boyd, we simply should not fade Higgins outright after posting results of 26.4, 31.8, and 46.4 FPs (PPR scoring) during the last five weeks.
From Cincinnati to Fadeville:
Samaje Perine ($5.0K/$5.1K)
Chris Evans ($4.4K/$4.6K)
Stanley Morgan Jr. ($K/$K) R
C.J. Uzomah ($3.3K/$5.1K)
Drew Sample ($2.5K/$4.3K)
Mitchell Wilcox ($2.5K/$4.0K)
Matchups to Target
Cooper Kupp, LAR ($9.5K DK | $10.2K FD) vs. Ar'Darius Washington, BAL
Speaking of reserving those cap dollars to elite WRs other than Hill, Cooper Kupp tops my list by a significant margin. Easily hitting profit levels above floor value at the highest rate among wideouts with top-10 pricing prior to Week 16 (71%), his 24.3 FPs fell 10% shy of that mark last week. However, his average ownership number in Cash/SE is simply too high to fade when he’s generating at least 30 FPs at the same rate that the other WRs with top-10 pricing are simply hitting their floor. The Ravens are employing the 11th-highest rate of Cover 1 and seventh-highest of Cover 6. And Kupp just so happens to have specialized in destroying both Cover 1 and 6 during his last three seasons. When working against Cover 1, he’s manufacturing 0.68 FP/Rt (seventh-most), 3.67 YPRR (fourth-most), 12.2 YPT (fifth-most), and luring a 30% target rate (eighth-highest).
When it’s been a Cover 6 that defenses schemed, Kupp has fabricated 0.54 FP/Rt (third-most), 2.43 YPRR (ninth-most), and a 27% target share (second-highest). Thus far, Tavon Young has been absent from practice. Can we really blame him with this matchup up next? If Young is out, it’s entirely unclear where the monumental responsibility of covering Kupp could fall since ‘21 UDFA Ar'Darius Washington was just placed on the COVID list on Wednesday. But it simply doesn’t matter with the number of CB injuries Baltimore has dealt with this season. They are handing opposing WR units the most FPG the last four weeks (47.8!).
Sony Michel, LAR ($5.8K DK | $7.1K FD) vs. Ravens’ Cover 1 | 6
Darrell Henderson Jr. was just placed on IR with an MCL sprain in his right knee. Cam Akers was listed with full involvement during Wednesday’s walkthrough. If Akers plays and manages to handle anything more than five touches, my mind will be blown. His return to the field would be only a few days in excess of five months since rupturing his Achilles during training camp. Baltimore has provided a significant headache to opposing ground games, limiting them to 85.6 rushing YPG (the fewest) and 3.9 YPC (sixth-fewest).
However, the Ravens’ RB allowances have taken a significant hit since the health of their secondary personnel imploded. They have packaged the 11th-most FPG to RBs during the last four weeks (23.8). And the substantial likelihood that Sony Michel will shoulder a similar workload to the 82/74/11 (percentages of carries/team routes/targets) he took last week, he’ll satisfy the golden rule we must always justify when considering options heading into substantial matchups: is the expected volume at a level high enough to exceed the matchup difficulty? For Michel in Week 17, he will absolutely see that type of volume if he takes anything close to the 28 touches he took last week.
Matchups to Avoid
Marquise Brown, BAL ($5.9K DK | $6.3K FD) vs. Jalen Ramsey, LAR
With disappointing results in pass defense during the first half of the season relative to the expectations of a Jalen Ramsey-led defense, an altered role for Ramsey the last five weeks have initiated the process of correcting the team’s metrics. After not doing so in the first 10 games, in three of his last four games, Ramsey has tailed the opposition’s WR1. In shadow coverage over Davante Adams, DK Metcalf, and Justin Jefferson, Ramsey has limited the trio to an average of 3.7 receptions, 30 receiving yards, zero TDs, and 6.7/4.8 FPs on 18 total targets.
Marquise Brown’s numbers were already on a sharp decline with Lamar Jackson dealing with an ankle injury and Tyler Huntley landing on the COVID list last week. Keep in mind that Ramsey will not be in man coverage on Hollywood. Los Angeles rotates the sixth highest rate of Cover 3, ninth-highest of Cover 4, and fourth-highest of Cover 6. Even though Ramsey will tag along with Brown to the same side of the field, Marquise will have opportunities to collect numbers if his routes are properly coordinated. But I have zero interest in those chances piling up for the 17.7/15.8 FPs he’ll need with WR22/WR26 pricing. Especially since Ramsey will devote even more of his attention on Hollywood if he does begin to put something of substance together.
Final notes on Los Angeles
Washington is the only defense to supply opposing QBs with more FPG this season, and the Ravens have jumped out ahead to take the lead in that department over the last four weeks (24.1). Don’t wait for me to pass along how much I love Matthew Stafford ($7.1K/$7.6K) this week. Odell Beckham Jr. ($5.7K/$6.5K) and Van Jefferson Jr. ($5.3K/$6.0K) are going to be considerable options for big performances with Kevon Seymour and Robert Jackson, respectively, in coverage. They are both producing coverage metrics that would land them dead last across the board, if qualified. Quadruple LAR passing game stacks?!?
From Los Angeles to Fadeville:
Jake Funk ($4.0K/$4.7K)
Buddy Howell ($4.0K/$4.6K)
Bennett Skowronek ($3.0K/$4.7K)
Tyler Higbee ($4.0K/$5.4K)
Kendall Blanton ($2.6K/$4.2K)
Final notes on Baltimore
Lamar Jackson ($7.0K/$7.8K) finally returned to limited practices this week. I’ll need to see some glowing reports on his ankle’s health before I’d consider even tossing a large-field (LF) GPP dart in his direction. If L-Jax is out as I expect, I’d be far more interested in adding stocks in Tyler Huntley ($5.6K/$7.5K). The Rams have been vulnerable to dual-threat QBs, obliging 20% of their FPG allowances to QBs on the ground (ninth-highest). If you struck gold with 23.2 FPs from Josh Johnson last week, count your many blessings, and avoid him at all costs this week if he draws another start.
The Baltimore RB rotation of Devonta Freeman ($5.1K/$5.7K) and Latavius Murray ($4.4K/$5.1K) ranks alongside Houston, Miami, and – now that James Robinson is no longer in the picture – Jacksonville’s as the least exciting in the league. Darious Williams has been far more lenient with his coverage than Ramsey, so a dart throw at Rashod Bateman ($4.8K/$5.7K) would hold some merit. Especially since the Ravens have yet to provide their slot WRs with enough volume to matter this season.
At this stage in the game, Mark Andrews ($7.4K/$8.7K) should be at the top of everyone’s weekly TE target list. MANdrews has created 33.2 FPG over his last three games, transcending the identity of his starting QB. That said, his pricing took a massive upward step to land as the TE1/TE1 for the first time this season. Pacing the position in FPG is a factor that will never go overlooked by those deciding on salary values. When I splurge with an elite TE on FD this week, Kelce will be my guy. But Andrews is out in front for the honor on DK.
From Baltimore to Fadeville:
Devin Duvernay ($3.2K/$5.0K)
James Proche ($3.3K/$5.1K)
Tylan Wallace ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Sammy Watkins ($3.9K/$5.2K)
Eric Tomlinson ($2.5K/$4.0K)
Nick Boyle ($2.5K/$4.0K)
Matchups to Target
Ronald Jones, TB ($6.3K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Jets’ Cover 1 | 3 | 4
The Jets are putting one of the worst run defenses of the last decade on the field. If not for their horrendous defense of the pass, we could extend that worst of the last reference back to 20 years. In addition to the most total YPG (391.3), New York has permitted 141.3 rushing YPG (second-most), 4.5 YPC (eighth-most), 2.97% rate of 20-or-more yards runs (third-most), and 1.8 TDs/game (the most). NYJ has provided opposing RBs with 33.6 FPG (the most), 20.2 FPG to RBs on the ground (the most), 13.3 FPG to RBs through the air (second-most), 3.27 goal-to-go (GTG) carries/game (the most), and 7.13 red zone (RZ) touches/game (the most).
Why go to such lengths to detail a run defense pretty widely known for being awful? The answer will present itself in short order. Ronald Jones II was one of the most-owned RBs last week in the Bucs’ first game with Leonard Fournette on IR. With a 20/65/1 rushing line, RoJo just barely covered his floor. It was certainly a more considerable challenge against Carolina than he’ll see from the Mean Green. And was next to impossible to fade the likelihood for 20-plus touches with his bargain pricing. That said, he will enter Week 17 with RB11/RB12 pricing. We’ll need him to boost his production this week to cover 18.9/17.5 FPs to cover his floor. But he literally could not have a better opponent to have in his way toward those numbers than New York. And we can count on Jones being one of the top-three highest owned RBs, once again. So make sure you go back to the well in Cash/SE.
Ke'Shawn Vaughn, TB ($5.2K DK | $5.6K FD) vs. Jets’ Cover 1 | 3 | 4
Left for dead behind a trio of veteran backs, ‘20 third-rounder Ke'Shawn Vaughn suddenly became relevant again with Fournette and Giovani Bernard shifted to IR. He entered Week 16 with minimal expectations behind Jones. But it was Vaughn who stole the show with a 55-yard TD where he put his burst and elusiveness on full display while breaking tackle attempts by C.J. Henderson and Juston Burris en route to the house. Following the game, Bruce Arians labeled Vaughn as a “lead dog.” Considering Jones’ lackluster performance last week, a storied reputation for falling on his face in blitz pickup, unreliable hands, and Tampa Bay’s lack of trust in handing him lead responsibilities, Vaughn could find himself in the featured role much sooner than the field anticipates.
At the very least, Vaughn’s role is going to grow this week. And a matchup with the Jets is sexy enough to give consideration employing a strategy that should rarely ever be considered in DFS: a stack of RBs from the same backfield. In addition to the factors already presented, the NYJ defense has added the third-most busted tackles over the last four weeks (9.4), and that the rushing lanes will be paved by the Buccaneers’ top-five O-line. Pushing my decision over the top on a TB RB stack in Cash/SE is the very good chance that Vaughn will also be a very highly-owner commodity. And I will also have every bit of the confidence in rocking Vaughn in LF GPPs that I completely lack in RoJo. Why? Simply due to those well-timed statements from Arians. Make no mistakes, the 2021 version of an NFL head coach is far from prone to making lead-anything statements unless fueled by considerable excitement.
Final notes on Tampa Bay
At this stage, Mike Evans ($7.0K/$7.7K) appears to be a longshot to play in Week 17. And the Bucs definitely won’t need his services to take down the Jets. It’s a reality that is going to present a starting WR trio of Antonio Brown ($6.1K/$8.5K) on the right side, Tyler Johnson ($3.8K/$5.2K) in the slot, and one of a list of potential candidates on the left. One of those options was featured with running routes on the second-highest percentage of team passing plays among WRs… drum roll amping up the anticipation… none other than Mr. Cyril Grayson ($3.3K/$4.8K). If you’ve never even heard Grayson’s name, don’t be ashamed since he didn’t even play football while running track for LSU.
During the five years since being signed as an UDFA by Seattle in 2017, Grayson bounced around stints on eight NFL rosters, and had the pleasure of being signed to practice squads and being waived on at least 25 different occasions combined. Following a 3/81/0 performance where he burned ‘21 fifth-rounder Keith Taylor for 12- and 62-yard receptions, Grayson reverted back to the practice squad. His Week 17 status will be determined by what Breshad Perriman ($4.3K/$4.7K) and Jaelon Darden ($3.0K/$4.6K) are able to do in practice following their activation from the COVID list.
For whatever reason, Tampa Bay has not used their current need for WR production to give Scotty Miller ($3.5K/$5.0K) much of an opportunity. Regardless, we might see some early passing volume from Tom Brady ($7.6K/$8.3K), but the one-sided scoring in this game is going to get out of hand very early – likely in the first 15 minutes. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the GOAT connect on three-or-so TDs. And the most likely recipients will be Brown, Rob Gronkowski ($6.2K/$6.7K), Cameron Brate ($2.9K/$4.7K), or one of his RBs. However, the offense is going to ride the run hard throughout. I’ll be pretty surprised if TB12 even takes the time to accumulate 200 passing yards. Such a high likelihood for a massively-positive game script will make trusting in any of the Buccaneers’ passing game options difficult.
Final notes on New York
No two individuals are going to come to a 100% consensus on a ranking of the current NFL QBs. The QB tiers provided above will find about as many that disagree with multiple placements as will read this piece. It may seem very early to be throwing Zach Wilson ($5.4K/$6.5K) into the lowest of tiers, but I attempted to follow an unbiased approach that was grounded in both the film and data. In regards to what Wilson has put on tape, Mormon Manziel is very fortunate that defenders failed to bring in multiple opportunities at INTs on top of the 11 he’s thrown this season.
Some might look to the fact that he’s avoided tossing any INTs over the last three games as an improvement. That’s not an opinion I share. During those games, he looks every bit like a kid failing to push the ball to open receivers due to a fear of making further mistakes. And his rookie profile has yet to detail a single coverage strength that would convince me that his developmental future is on track. There are an enormous number of questions surrounding Wilson after his first 11 games, and the only answer provided is that he’s been far more efficient on the ground while scrambling away from pressure.
The going will be on the extreme end of the difficulty curve for the Michael Carter ($5.1K/$5.7K) and Tevin Coleman ($4.5K/$5.2K) rotation this week. Expose at your own risk. And it’s far from promising that Elijah Moore ($5.2K/$6.0K) is still dealing with the quad injury after three games on IR and that Jamison Crowder ($4.9K/$5.6K) is still hobbled by the calf injury that prevented him from playing last week. While I would still give a little consideration to the explosive Moore if he were to advance his recovery enough to take the field, a face-off with Jamel Dean on around half of his reps would force me to devote some considerable thought. Dean is the best player in the NFL that the average NFL household has no idea he exists. Dean is limiting his coverage to 0.69 YPCS (fourth-fewest), 0.15 FP/CS (third-fewest), 0.15 AY/CS (15th-fewest), and a 57.7 TPR (fourth-lowest).
With firsthand experience on how easily a calf strain can be reaggravated, I will have nothing invested in Crowder, independent of his gameday status. However, should Crowder be ruled out, I will be investing in some Braxton Berrios ($3.7K/$5.3K) stocks again this week. Berrios provided a 30% ROI over his floor last week, fueled by a 102-yard kickoff return that provided the Jets with a second-quarter lead they would not relinquish over the Jags. He would square off with Sean Murphy-Bunting, who has handed his responsibilities 1.77 YPCS (the most among 39 qualified slot CBs), 0.34 FP/CS (the most), 0.30 AY/CS (the most), and a 108.0 TPR (eighth-highest). We want two things to give consideration to Berrios: (1) opportunity and (2) a competitive rate of Cover 3. He’ll have the first covered with an inactive ruling for Crowder and TB is using Cover 3 at the fifth-highest rate. Among WRs running at least 100 routes across from Cover 3, over the last three seasons, Berrios leads all qualified WRs with 0.66 FP/Rt, 3.49 YPRR, ranks fourth-best with a 130.2 TPR, and has drawn a 28% target share (fourth-highest).
From New York to Fadeville:
Ty Johnson ($4.0K/$4.7K)
Austin Walter ($4.0K/$4.6K)
La'Mical Perine ($4.0K/$4.6K)
Denzel Mims ($3.0K/$4.8K)
Jeff Smith ($3.0K/$4.6K)
D.J. Montgomery ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Vyncint Smith (Unlisted/$4.5K)
Tyler Kroft ($2.7K/$4.6K)
Daniel Brown ($2.5K/$4.1K)
Matchups to Target
Cole Beasley, BUF ($4.9K DK | $5.6K FD) vs. Richie Grant, ATL
Publicly representing himself as an unvaccinated player, Cole Beasley became one of the most significant beneficiaries of the recent rule change allowing for the expedited return from the COVID list. The major downside of this matchup for the Buffalo passing offense is the league-leading rate of Cover 2 from the Falcons. Josh Allen’s FP/Db declines by 27%, Stefon Diggs’ FP/Rt drops by 40%, Gabriel Davis’ by 58%, and Dawson Knox’s by 25% when a defense places a Cover 2 on the field.
Due to the fact that I view replacement-level abilities, at best, for 34-year-old Emmanuel Sanders, and that it’s very unlikely that we’ll see another significant role for Isaiah McKenzie with Beasley and Davis activated from the COVID list, I will be investing several of my LF GPP lineups into Beasley hitting in excess of his floor. During his last three campaigns, Beasley has generated 0.43 FP/Rt (10th-most), 2.13 YPRR (14th-most), and he’s collected a 26% target share (fourth-highest) when attacking a Cover 2. Even better, Atlanta has dangled ‘21 second-rounder Richie Grant and ‘21 fourth-rounder Darren Hall in nickel packages. And Grant appears to have pulled ahead in recent weeks. On the year, if Grant’s coverage metrics qualified, his 1.71 YPCS, 0.48 FP/CS, and 141.3 TPR would each rank as the worst marks at the position.
Final notes on Atlanta
Perhaps it’s premature to limit the playing future for Matt Ryan ($5.3K/$6.6K) at three seasons. A return of Calvin Ridley next season could invigorate Ryan’s play with a three-pronged passing attack, along with Kyle Pitts ($5.9K/$6.0K) and – after being provided with some incredibly invaluable experience as the WR1 this season – Russell Gage ($5.6K/$6.1K). That said, when the annual calendar was flipped forward a season in my three-year coverage history database, the rankings for Matty Ice against the five most-common schemes dropped him out of the top-20 in all but one category (Cover 6). As for this season, after providing profit over value in six of his first eight games, Ryan has failed to do so in seven straight. We can add another failure to the streak with a road trip into Orchard Park.
In a season in which it appeared Cordarrelle Patterson ($6.9K/$6.7K) could do no wrong, his production has dovetailed faster than the league’s deep passing decline. He will absolutely be fighting for his future role over these final two games. Patterson will always enter the equation as an elite receiving option at RB, but he’s been a clear liability on the ground, ranking last among qualified backs in rate of negative and zero-yardage carries. The absence of the receiving work that fueled Mike Davis’ ($5.1K/$5.4K) career dating back to his South Carolina days will all but guarantee that the Falcons will move on from him next season. It’s an evaluation that is not going to change in matchups against the Bills and Saints on the schedule.
Buffalo has been rotating the fifth-highest rate of Cover 1 and the second-highest rate of Cover 4. Gage has secured 38% of his career TDs on only 17% of his routes across from Cover 1. However, three long TD connections with Ryan have entirely infused his Cover 1 numbers with misleading viability. Still, Gage’s numbers are coming up across the board. But a matchup with Dane Jackson pushes me off Gage this week. In the place of Tre'Davious White, Jackson has emerged to hold his responsibilities to 0.84 YPCS (15th-fewest), 0.16 FP/CS (sixth-fewest), and a 75.7 TPR (16th-lowest). If investing in a Dirty Bird is a must, Pitts is the play. The Prototype has carried his collegiate dominance over Cover 1 to the NFL, posting the sixth-highest improvement in YPRR (19%), eighth-highest in AY/Tgt (23%), and the highest in target rate (24%). It is truly jaw-dropping that Pitts has yet to extend one of his receptions into the end zone against Cover 1. When that finally happens – and it most definitely will, his 0.39 FP/Rt average (11th-most) will shoot into the top-five.
From Atlanta to Fadeville:
Qadree Ollison ($4.0K/$4.6K)
Olamide Zaccheaus ($3.6K/$5.1K)
Tajae Sharpe ($3.2K/$4.8K)
Christian Blake ($3.0K/$4.7K)
Marvin Hall ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Frank Darby ($3.0K/$4.5K)
Hayden Hurst ($2.9K/$4.8K)
Final notes on Buffalo
As has already been explained, the Falcons’ league-high rate of Cover 2 is likely to limit the upside of Josh Allen ($8.0K/$8.8K) and several of his receivers. We can never rule Allen out of putting up position-topping numbers due to his elite rushing potential, but QB1/QB1 pricing is as unattractive as it gets. Just not as unattractive as the backfield with Devin Singletary ($5.4K/$6.0K) featured and the erroneous treatment of Zack Moss ($4.5K/$5.2K) and Matt Breida ($4.4K/$4.9K). As if the 40% reduction in Stefon Diggs’ ($7.9K/$8.0K) FP/Rt numbers weren’t enough, he will run in the neighborhood of 50% of his routes across from A.J. Terrell. For those uninitiated, Terrell has been the most lockdown of perimeter CBs all season. He’s inhibited his coverage to the fewest YPCS (0.32), the fewest FP/CS (0.12), the fifth-fewest AY/CS (0.09), and third-lowest TPR (53.3).
If Diggsy is rendered unavailable, it would be reasonable to expect Gabriel Davis ($5.0K/$5.3K) and/or Dawson Knox ($5.5K/$6.2K) stepping forward for the offense. And the Falcons are also fielding the ninth-highest rate of Cover 1. The matchup is right for Davis, Cover 1 and 2 shells are not. But Knox has managed to track down 33% of his catches, 37% of yardage, and 25% of his career TDs on only 29% of his routes against Cover 1. We just need to decide if Knox’s TE6/TE6 pricing is worth the risk of being shut out when running routes against that Cover 2.
From Buffalo to Fadeville:
Emmanuel Sanders ($4.2K/$5.5K)
Isaiah McKenzie ($4.3K/$5.2K)
Jake Kumerow ($3.0K/$4.5K)
Matchups to Target
Damien Harris, NE ($6.6K DK | $7.4K FD) vs. Jaguars’ Cover 2 | 3
This is one of the least appealing games on the main slate. The Jaguars are in an entirely decrepit state, and it’s very unlikely that Bill Belichick will keep his foot on the gas very long against the suffering franchise. It’s a near-guarantee, with Jacksonville destined to fail in every one of their efforts to generate offense, that Josh McDaniels will put the offense on the shoulders of his ground attack from the onset. And we are going to see a massive carry distribution passing through the hands of Damien Harris.
Harris will be fresh off of an 18/103/3 rushing line and 31.3 FPs against the Bills. The Jags may be limiting RBs to the second-fewest FPG through the air (7.4), but that number coincides with allowing 15.2 FPG on the ground to RBs (seventh-most). And they are providing RBs with 2.73 GTG carries/game (fourth-most) and 4.93 RZ touches/game (seventh-most). Another most appealing metric is offering up the fourth-most rushing TDs/game (1.2).
Final notes on Jacksonville
Without D.J. Chark Jr., James Robinson, or Travis Etienne, Trevor Lawrence ($5.0K/$6.5K) just does not have the horses in the stable with the type of talent to assist him in succeeding. Dire times in Jacksonville with Dare Ogunbowale ($4.0K/$4.5K) set to be featured in the offense. Don’t worry, if Ogunbowale falters, Nathan Cottrell ($4.7K/$4.5K), Ryquell Armstead ($4.0K/$4.6K), and Mekhi Sargent (Unlisted/$4.7K) are ready to showcase their wares. In all seriousness, among this group, I would actually like to see what Sargent could do in the featured role. He had himself a decent preseason, for what it’s worth.
I definitely would have listed Marvin Jones Jr. ($4.4K/$5.7K) as an Avoid since he’s set to draw primary coverage from J.C. Jackson on Sunday if the Jaguars’ offense had any chance whatsoever of extending drives. They will be lucky to kick a field goal with their starting personnel. Laviska Shenault Jr. ($3.8K/$5.3K) and Laquon Treadwell ($4.0K/$5.2K) will see a good amount of volume, but the Patriots have only indulged the fourth-fewest FPG to WRs (29.8). If Dan Arnold ($2.5K/$4.9K) does return to the field this week, he’ll do so against a defense that’s shut the position down all season.
From Jacksonville to Fadeville:
Tavon Austin ($3.4K/$5.0K)
Tyron Johnson ($3.4K/$5.0K)
James O'Shaughnessy ($3.2K/$5.1K)
Jacob Hollister ($2.5K/$4.3K)
Final notes on New England
It has not been the ending to the season New England hoped to see from Mac Jones ($5.3K/$6.8K) over the last two weeks. During that time, the Joker compiled a pair of TDs vs. four INTs, 5.8 YPA, completed 51.9% of his attempts, and registered a 56.4 passer rating. If we wanted to further the narrative on issues for Jones to clean up, on 20-plus attempts this season, he connected on three TDs vs. four INTs, averaged a miniscule 10.9 YPA, and paltry 63.0 passer rating. And he relied on throws under 10 yards for far too much of his production. This isn’t the platform for this line of thought, but the numbers are out there detailing these distinct issues for public consumption. If not for a top-three defense shutting down opposing drives and a top-three O-line providing substantially more breathing room than any of his rookie QB peers, Jones would not find himself with the gaudy opinions so undeservedly in his favor.
We’ll likely be watching the Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson ($5.3K/$5.7K) show on Sunday. With four INTs and putting another ball on the ground from their rookie QB the last two weeks, Belichick – a man known for his affinity for detesting turnovers – is likely to demand a greatly restricted passing plan in Week 17. That’s a complete death sentence to Brandon Bolden’s ($4.1K/$4.8K) fantasy upside. It’s also going to pull the rug out from under Jakobi Meyers’ ($5.1K/$5.8K) floor. If we’re tossing opinions around, the Pats would have done their rookie QB a big favor had they replaced Nelson Agholor ($3.5K/$5.2K) in the starting lineup around the midseason mark. He’s been a black hole for opportunities and has stood as one of the opposing team’s MVPs on a weekly basis – see what I did there 😜.
Even with ‘21 second-rounder Tyson Campbell, one of the most generous coverage matchups to target each week, Agholor is still an absolute fade. An embarrassing 95% of his potential for production – a slapstick estimate for dramatic purposes – is centered on the opposition busting a coverage. To be fair, a stat to support the analysis in order. Among 55 WRs running at least 375 routes this season, Agholor ranks 48th-best with 0.261 FP/Rt, and ahead of a murderer’s row consisting of Emmanuel Sanders, Bryan Edwards, Sideshow Bob Anderson, Zach Pascal, Adam Humphries, Jalen Reagor, and Demarcus Robinson.
Another matchup that would be deserving of a write-up if we could expect the Patriots to actually pass the ball in Week 17 is Shaquill Griffin vs. Kendrick Bourne ($5.0K/$5.5K). Bourne has easily paced New England WRs with his 0.418 FP/Rt, and is just ahead of Hunter Henry’s ($4.2K/$5.7K) 0.406. Griffin is one of the extremely rare CBs to toss shadow threats at the opposition's WR1 this season. However, when the Patriots enter into a clear devotion to the run, on the heels of an imminent positive script, all travel designs will be scrapped. N'Keal Harry ($3.0K/$4.9K) finally received his first start of the season and he landed inside the coverage of Levi Wallace. Entirely unacceptable. Some of the potential matchups he could face in Week 17 would be a solid Litmus test toward determining his current developmental progress. However, even if Agholor misses another game, it’s unlikely Jones would pass enough to provide the 2019 first-rounder with enough volume to make a difference for DFS purposes.
From New England to Fadeville:
Gunner Olszewski ($3.0K/$4.5K)
Jonnu Smith ($2.5K/$4.5K)
Matchups to Target
Jaylen Waddle, MIA ($6.7K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Elijah Molden, TEN
Everyone drooled when dreaming about all of the targets DeVonta Smith would receive in Philadelphia, Ja’Marr Chase is drawing all of the attention for the Rookie of the Year Award – rightfully so, and Mac Jones is landing Tom Brady comps on the reg for his elite hand-off and underneath targeting efforts for a playoff challenger. Just don’t forget about the kid putting his über-talents on display in Miami-Dade County. Only 14 games into his rookie season, Jaylen Waddle is only six receptions shy of breaking the all-time NFL rookie record of 101 receptions set by Anquan Boldin in 2003 as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.
Waddle would need to post 266 receiving yards in each of the next two games to tie Bill Groman’s all-time record of 1,473 yards set in 1960 during the inaugural season of the Houston Oilers. You might be asking yourself: who in the hell is Bill Groman? Well, after graduating from Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio, Groman began teaching eighth grade science in his hometown of Perrysburg, Ohio. He just happened to be invited to lunch by a fellow teacher who was joined by her husband – who just so happened to be a former NFL coach. After tossing the ball around, Groman was encouraged to try out for the Oilers.
Statement from Amy Adams Strunk on the passing of Oilers wide receiver Bill Groman pic.twitter.com/XJ1ZGxLGIt— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) June 24, 2020
In only 28 games 😳, Groman posted 122 receptions, 2,648 receiving yards, and 29 TDs combined during his first two seasons for Houston. During the 1962 season, a defender dove into the frontside of one of Groman’s knees that resulted in major ligament damage. However, back in the 1960’s, ACL tears were not easy to diagnose since the technology had yet to be invented, the monumentally important “pivot shift” test wasn’t introduced until the 1970s, and no surgical procedures even existed for ACL ruptures. During those days, that type of knee damage was treated with very stiff immobilization braces to prevent further damage.
Even if Groman did somehow manage to find a surgeon willing to attempt a procedure to repair his ACL, the medicine at the time was archaic, to say the least. An immobilization brace was in the cards for Groman. In fact, while his production obviously fell off of a cliff, Groman wouldn’t miss a single game in that, or the following season with the Denver Broncos. He was finally relegated to a backup role after being traded to the Buffalo Bills in 1964, and retired after the following season with the Bills.
Groman’s rookie receiving yard record has stood for 61 years! However, if Chase manages to post a single over averaging 155 receiving yards during his final two games, he will manage to surpass Gorman. For Waddle, he has already put a historic season in the books. In addition, he will most likely break Boldin’s reception record in one fewer game. Attempts could be made to discount Waddle’s production based upon averaging 8.86 targets/game, but exactly half (48) of Jaylan’s receptions were collected during the Dolphins’ current seven game winning streak. He is not just posting video game numbers for a team being pulverized on a weekly basis.
In Week 17, Waddle will face a Tennessee defense offering wideouts the second-most FPG (41.4), the most receptions/game (14.9), and the sixth-most RZ touches/game (2.0). Activated from the COVID list on Monday, ‘21 third-rounder Elijah Molden will be tasked with matching skills with Waddle. Tennessee is relying on the mixture of the eighth-highest rate of Cover 4 and top-15 rates of Cover 1 and Cover 2. Be that as it may, short of Shane Bowen slapping double teams on Waddle, the Titans will be unable to slow the rookie’s momentum through tricky scheme rotations. Waddle has submitted a diversified coverage profile during his first professional season. Molden has recognized 1.26 YPCS (12th-most), 0.28 FP/CS (10th-most), and a 108.3 TPR (seventh-highest). Even with WR11/WR12 pricing, Waddle has been peppered with 28, 32, 28, and 46% target shares during his last four games to push our decision into uncomplicated-land.
A.J. Brown, TEN ($7.2K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Xavien Howard, MIA
Did your eyes gaze upon A.J. Brown doing whatever he wanted against the San Francisco defense in his first game since being activated from IR last week? If not, quickly remedy that deficit in your knowledge. HE… TOOK… OVER. AJB made the 49ers’ defense appear to be on the level of a collegiate spring game. An 11/145/1 receiving line (34.5 FPs) on 16 targets later, Brown laid any and all questions as to his health to rest. In Week 17, Miami will put the highest rate of Cover 1 and 13th-highest rate of Cover 3 on the field. It needs mentioning that the ‘Phins have utilized the fourth-highest rate of Cover 3 during the entirety of their seven-game winning streak.
When opposed by Cover 1 during his career, AJB has fashioned 0.74 FP/Rt (fifth-most), 3.35 YPRR (sixth-most), a 131.5 TPR (eighth-highest), and has drawn a 31% target share (eighth-highest). On 31% of career routes, Brown has registered 41% of his receptions, 41% of his yardage, and 50% of his total TDs across from single man coverage. When defenses have placed a Cover 3 on the field across from Brown, he’s responded with 0.58 FP/Rt (fourth-most), 3.04 YPRR (fifth-most), 11.9 YPT (eighth-most), a 119.1 TPR (12th-highest), and has collected a 26% share of the targets (10th-highest).
With all of those numbers in mind, does the individual matchup even matter? We’ll take a look anyway. Brown will draw Xavien Howard on around 40% of his routes. The X-Factor has granted 1.08 YPCS (36th-fewest among 78 qualified perimeter CBs), 0.26 FP/CS (34th-most), a 91.5 TPR (36th-lowest). And those numbers have come down quite a bit during the second half of the season, particularly during the last three games when his coverage has been nearly flawless. Even with a streaking Howard tracking AJB on enough reps to matter, Brown is a top-six fantasy wideout that packs together outstanding hands and second-to-nobody physicality. In my eyes, for my cap dollars, Brown is one of the top bargains on the entire slate with WR7/WR8 pricing. He was the very first addition to my Cash/SE lineup this week. Enough said.
Final notes on Miami
Considering the fact that I unintentionally included a Waddle runback stack with AJB in my Cash/SE lineup, I’d love to love Tua Tagovailoa’s ($5.8K/$6.7K) matchup this week to the extent that I could throw together a collection of Tua-Waddle lineup stacks with Brown runbacks. The problem I am running into is Tennessee’s uncompetitive Cover 3 rate. Without checking off the box that determines my exposure to Tagovailoa, I would need to rely on Tua connecting for scores in the RZ, since that’s where he’s collected the remaining majority of his career TD passes. The final tally against the elder Tagovailoa QB is the Titans’ defense defending play action so well. Tua has used play action at the highest rate this season. I actually think Miami will add another victory to their winning streak and expect Tagovailoa to obviously assist the Dolphins toward that achievement, but I’m not motivated enough for exposure.
A final note on Tagovailoa, it might’ve come as a surprise to see Tua listed in “the future” tier above, but the sophomore signal caller has not received the attention he deserves for his play this season. Consider, at least by my count, that Miami’s O-line has not only permitted the most QB pressures this season, they’ve handed out 17% more than the next worst team in the ranks. In spite of the completely absurd mediocrity of his O-line, Tagovailoa has only been sacked at the 20th-highest qualified sack rate. In addition to dealing with long stretches this season short of quality receiver options sans Waddle and Mike Gesicki ($5.3K/$5.9K), the ground game has been in competition for the worst in the league all season.
Do not read into DeVante Parker ($5.2K/$5.9K) failing to be targeted last week. Tagovailoa is the type of QB that puts the ball into the windows that the opposing defense provides. He holds ball security in such high regard that loosening up his approach stands as one of the factors requiring the most development in his game. When his coaching staff has attempted to push him to increase his aggressiveness, from the throws where I’ve decided Tua has been coaxed, those throws have resulted in four of his ‘21 INTs. Parker is going to draw coverage from Jackrabbit Jenkins. To date, Jenkins ranks in the 25th-to-35th best in YPCS, FP/CS, AY/CS, and TPR this season. And, like Tagovailoa, we want to see a competitive Cover 3 rate to get out of bed.
From Miami Gardens to Fadeville:
Myles Gaskin ($5.1K/$5.9K)
Phillip Lindsay ($4.5K/$5.2K)
Salvon Ahmed ($4.0K/$4.8K)
Duke Johnson Jr. ($5.0K/$5.8K)
Malcolm Brown ($4.0K/$4.7K)
Albert Wilson ($3.3K/$4.9K) S/R
Mack Hollins ($3.1K/$4.8K) L Kristian Fulton
Preston Williams ($3.0K/$4.6K) R
Isaiah Ford ($3.2K/$5.0K) R
Durham Smythe ($2.8K/$4.4K)
Adam Shaheen ($2.5K/$4.2K)
Hunter Long ($2.5K/$4.0K)
Final notes on Tennessee
On the other side of the ball, I was motivated enough to populate several of my lineups with Ryan Tannehill ($5.9K/$7.3K) and AJB stacks, and a runback with Waddle. Tannethrill has generated 0.48 FP/Db (ninth-most), a 100.2 TPR (ninth-highest), and fueled by the third-highest usage rate of play action during his previous three seasons against Cover 1. Unlike the Tennessee defense, the Dolphins are permitting 0.38 FP/CS (12th-most) and a 114.8 passer rating (13th-highest) against play action. When the opposition has used Cover 3 to attack Tannehill’s offense during the last three campaigns, he’s created 0.43 FP/Db (eighth-most), a 100.7 TPR (ninth-highest), his numbers are boosted by a 16% increase in his YPA average (eighth-highest), and while utilizing the highest rate of play action.
Derrick Henry ($6.8K/$5.0K) would make for an otherworldly value with RB7/RB65 pricing if he actually took the field this week. Unfortunately, it sounds as though he’ll wait until Week 18, and it will likely only be a minimal role. And it’s unfortunate that the replacement rotation has resulted in a mishmashed mess between D'Onta Foreman ($5.3K/$5.8K), Jeremy McNichols ($4.5K/$5.1K), and Dontrell Hilliard ($4.9K/$5.3K). McNichols got hot for a stretch last week and, even though he ended up with the same carry share as in Week 15, it did seem as though his handoffs came in situations of added importance.
Without Brown, news coming down the wire that Nick Westbrook-Ikhine ($4.2K/$5.3K) and Julio Jones ($5.0K/$5.6K) were placed on the COVID list Monday, the outlook for the Tennessee offense would be deflated. But with AJB in the lineup, the only player the Titans must have on the field is Tannehill. No matter who ends up lining up at WR with Brown, they will not catch any consideration from me. In Week 16, Brown drew a 53% target share. Watching the game, that number seemed so much higher.
From Nashville to Fadeville:
Chester Rogers ($3.4K/$4.9K)
Cody Hollister ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Dez Fitzpatrick ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Racey McMath ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Anthony Firkser ($2.6K/$4.6K)
Geoff Swaim ($2.7K/$4.5K)
MyCole Pruitt ($2.5K/$4.4K)
Matchups to Target
Dallas Goedert, PHI ($5.1K DK | $5.8K FD) vs. Washington’s Cover 3 | 4
For a second-straight week, Dallas Goedert stands as the only Target in Philadelphia’s matchup. It would be silly to state it wasn’t disappointing to see Goedert only score 4.8 FPs last week. When I see a player that entered a matchup with a multitude of arrows pointing toward production, when it doesn’t happen, I want answers. We begin with the obvious: Goedert did not depart Week 16 due to injury. The next consideration is game script. Philly pushed themselves toward a 20-3 lead over the Giants at the midway point of the third quarter. Most definitely a factor. Next, we want to track down his involvement. And the numbers are disappointing. Since Zach Ertz’s trade to Arizona in Week 7, sans being removed from Week 10 due to a concussion, Goedert has run a route on 88% of team passing plays and collected a 26% target share. Both elite rates at the position. Even after Week 16, he ranks fourth-best with 0.452 FP/Rt. All of the metrics leading me to Goedert last week are entirely sound.
However, Goedert only ran a route on 70% of team passing plays (21% decline), and he was only fed with a 13% target share (51% faceplant). It should be noted that a holding penalty on a designed screen to Goedert nullified a 12-yard TD, and Jalen Hurts only completed 17 throws. It’s an unfortunate series of events. That said, Goedert is still the hottest TE at the moment, and we can roster his awesomeness with TE10/TE10 pricing. Since Goedert ranks inside the top-12 TEs against each of the five common coverage schemes, the scheme specifics from Washington are redundant. WFT is permitting 13.1 FPG to TEs this season (14th-most), 22.2 during the last two games (fourth-most). Perhaps of more importance, the Football Team has handed out the most total FPG to opposing offenses (98.5). It’s another excellent matchup to feed out Goedert addiction.
My Top-Five TE Targets for Week 15:
Darren Waller/Foster Moreau
Matchups to Avoid
Terry McLaurin, WAS ($6.2K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Darius Slay, PHI
No player in the NFL has been punished more this season due to the inadequacy of his surrounding offense than Terry McLaurin – Trevor Lawrence would land second on that list. The number that exploded my mind is seeing that F1 McLaurin has failed to hit at-or-above value in 73% of his games this season. Washington is scoring the ninth-fewest PPG (19.8) and their defense is supplying opponents with the third-most PPG (27.1). But, go figure, the overwhelming deficiency of the offense is its starting QB. A five-week stretch from Week 10 to Week 13 provided me with hope that the offense might be headed in the right direction.
At the end of the day, it’s impossible to excuse away the pair of poor performances against Dallas, and Taylor Heinicke’s inability to put the ball into Terry McScorin’s hands might be his ultimate death sentence. For this week, the coach-speak indicates it’ll be a combination of Heinicke and Kyle Allen under center. But the far more concerning factor is in McLaurin drawing a travel from Darius Slay. In four career games with a Slay shadow, McLaurin is averaging 11.9 FPG, and a 4.75/56/0.25 receiving line. Even if he provided us with his best outing across from Slay (17 FPs), it would still fall below the 18.6/17.5 FPs we need from his WR17/WR12 pricing.
Final notes on Philadelphia
The lingering ankle injury for Jalen Hurts ($6.6K/$7.9K) is clearly hindering his production. He only ran for a 2/7/0 line last week. In addition, we might be tempted to look at his Week 15 output against Washington when he generated 29.6 FPs. Digging deeper, 41% of that scoring was added on one-yard GTG TDs runs. Hurts has taken 20 GTG carries, resulting in eight TDs. And Washington is tied with two other teams in providing nine total GTG carries to QBs. To be honest, initial efforts looking to discount the upside for Hurts this has only been reinforced toward a positive outcome.
After Miles Sanders ($5.2K/$6.3K) cracked a bone in his hand last week, expect a heavy dose from Jordan Howard ($5.2K/$6.0K) this week if he can play (stinger). If not for Hurts converting 42% of his team’s GTG TDs (the highest rate), I’d be all about promoting Howard in this spot. The Football Team’s run defense had been solid all season until the wheels fell off in three of the last four weeks (25.5 FPG to RBs). Boston Scott ($4.9K/$6.0K) and Kenneth Gainwell ($5.0K/$5.4K) will likely get in on varying levels of the fun, but Howard is the focus of my attention.
An injury to William Jackson III has devastated Washington’s defense. It was amazing to see WFT play so well without WJ3 and Chase Young earlier in the season, but eventuality finally caught up with them. When these teams clashed in Week 15, the passing offense was all about the Hurts-and-Goedert show. Since it was early in that game when Jackson was injured, I’m not expecting anything different in Week 17. DeVonta Smith ($6.3K/$6.1K) will once again do the most work across from Kendall Fuller. Even though Fuller has been up-and-down all season, Smith has scored 50% under his floor in four of his last five games.
From Philadelphia to Fadeville:
Jalen Reagor ($3.3K/$5.0K)
Quez Watkins ($3.9K/$5.3K)
Greg Ward ($3.0K/$4.7K) S
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Jack Stoll ($2.5K/$4.2K)
Tyree Jackson ($2.5K/$4.1K)
Final notes on Washington
The loaning official has declared all trust in WFT QBs used up for the rest of the season. Prove me wrong, Taylor Heinicke ($5.3K/$6.9K) and Kyle Allen ($4.6K/$6.2K). The exact same goes to Antonio Gibson ($5.9K/$6.8K) while he’s dealing with another bout of turf toe… and landed on the COVID-19 list on Friday.
From Washington D.C. to Fadeville:
Jaret Patterson ($4.8K/$5.4K)
Jonathan Williams ($4.6K/$5.0K)
Adam Humphries ($3.8K/$5.2K)
DeAndre Carter ($3.7K/$5.1K)
Dyami Brown ($3.0K/$4.7K)
Cam Sims ($3.5K/$5.0K)
Dax Milne ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Ricky Seals-Jones ($K/$K)
John Bates ($2.9K/$4.6K)
Sammis Reyes ($2.5K/$4.0K)
Matchups to Target
David Montgomery, CHI ($6.5K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Giants’ Cover 3 | 4
The Giants have been one of the most generous run defenses all season. They are supplying opposing RBs with 26.3 FPG (eighth-most), 2.0 GTG carries/game (11th-most), and 5.13 RZ touches/game (fifth-most). And their GTG carry/game (3.5) and RZ touch/game (7.5) allowances shoot up to the most over the last four weeks. The RB9/RB9 pricing may seem a bit high, but he is going to be fed with another 70+% carry share and his significant spike in receiving work is nothing short of the cherry on the investment. The analysis is far from complicated, and the same goes for the decision.
Final notes on New York
How is it that the Giants’ offense seems to be tagging along with the Jaguars’ for most pitiful in the league when NYG clearly possesses superior talent on their roster? It’s the type of question that should have led the front office toward ending the relationship with Joe Judge. How they managed to conclude Judge deserved another season is beyond my understanding.
The only individual that can be argued as bringing anything of value into Week 17 is Saquon Barkley ($6.0K/$6.6K). Even then, it’s not an argument that could be won if the intended result is to convince me to waste a single dollar of my bankroll on Barkley in one of my lineups. And, if rumors of shutting Barkley down are true, big yikes. The situation for the Giants has reached concerning proportions.
From East Rutherford to Fadeville:
Mike Glennon ($5.0K/$6.2K)
Jake Fromm ($4.8K/$6.2K)
Devontae Booker ($5.1K/$5.3K)
Kenny Golladay ($5.1K/$5.5K)
Darius Slayton ($3.9K/$5.0K)
Kadarius Toney ($4.6K/$5.3K)
John Ross III ($3.0K/$4.9K) R
Collin Johnson ($3.0K/$4.9K) L/R
Pharoh Cooper ($3.0K/$4.6K) S
Evan Engram ($3.5K/$5.1K)
Kyle Rudolph ($2.6K/$4.4K)
Chris Myarick ($2.5K/$4.2K)
Final notes on Chicago
The signs on the wall are signaling the Bears will rest Justin Fields ($5.5K/$7.0K) another week. I really would like to find an avenue of exploitation in using either Nick Foles ($4.8K/$6.3K) or Andy Dalton ($5.2K/$6.3K). But nothing in the data suggests we should be giving them a second thought.
We can discount Foles all day, but he at least provided a stable foundation to manage the game last week. He also fed Darnell Mooney ($5.5K/$6.0K) with nine targets, but he will likely see enough shadow snaps from James Bradberry to buff out his shine. Allen Robinson II ($3.8K/$5.5K) does appear set to finally rejoin the lineup. In response, it also appears Adoree' Jackson will finally make his return. Bradberry has been good in coverage this season. Jackson has been better. And it certainly seems that Cole Kmet ($3.4K/$5.0K) is entirely reliant on Soldier Fields leading the offense for his production to reach beyond the 5/50/0 baseline.
From the Windy City to Fadeville:
Khalil Herbert ($5.1K/$5.3K)
Damien Williams ($4.4K/$4.8K)
Damiere Byrd ($3.4K/$4.9K)
Marquise Goodwin ($3.5K/$5.0K)
Dazz Newsome ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Jimmy Graham ($3.1K/$4.6K)
J.P. Holtz ($2.5K/$4.0K)
Matchups to Target
Hunter Renfrow, LV ($6.5K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Kenny Moore, IND
It’s now been two games in a row where Hunter Renfrow fell well short of covering his floor and two with only three receptions. First of all, the Browns and Broncos are using Cover 2 at literally the two lowest rates this season. But a road trip to Lucas Oil Stadium will supply The Slot Machine with the eighth-highest rate of Cover 2. During his career, Renfrow has manufactured 0.49 FP/Rt (third-most), 2.61 YPRR (third-most), and he’s collecting targets on 26% of the plays when the opposing defense puts a Cover 2 on the field (fifth-highest). Much of the responsibility for defending Renfrow will fall on the shoulders of Kenny Moore II. He’s delivered 1.25 YPCS (13th-most), 0.29 FP/CS (eighth-most), and he’s been the most targeted slot corner this season.
Michael Pittman, IND ($5.8K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. Brandon Facyson, LV
Reading up on the COVID list activations, learning that some of the Las Vegas faithful are excited about the return of Brandon Facyson means we share something in common. While initially evaluating the matchup for Michale Pittman Jr., coverage from Desmond Trufant had my fingers crossed for a speedy recovery from Facyson. In all honesty, I have no idea why Trufant wasn’t already installed across from Casey Hayward Jr. as the permanent starter on the outside. But I am thrilled for the return of Facyson.
Among 78 qualified perimeter CBs, Facyson is gift-wrapping 1.46 YPCS (seventh-most), 0.36 FP/CS (third-most), 0.29 AY/CS (the most), and a 105.2 TPR (22nd-highest). Opposing QBs have targeted Facyson at the second-highest rate this season in order to take advantage of the corner allowing the third-highest completion rate of 20-plus targets. The Raiders are employing the highest rate of Cover 3 in the league. When MPJ has faced Cover 3 during his career, he’s fabricated 0.43 FP/Rt (19th-most), the 10th-highest qualified improvement to an FPG average (25%), 2.29 YPRR (17th-most), and 10.9 YPT (17th-most). On only 21% of career routes, Pittman has found a home for 26% of his catches, 30% of his yardage, and 33% of his total TDs.
Final notes on Las Vegas
It would be convenient to explain away Derek Carr’s ($5.8K/$6.9K) struggles as being due to the extended absence of Darren Waller ($6.3K/$6.5K). But those struggles began four weeks prior to his injury. The pressing matter is facing off with a red-hot Indianapolis defense. However, while the Colts have completely shut down opposing RBs, QBs are being provided with 15.4 FPG through the air (seventh-most). A significant factor working toward the opposition posting passing numbers is from Indy’s offense scoring 28.0 PPG (fifth-most).
The supporting metrics in the defense of the pass for Indianapolis mostly fall within the 12-15 ranking range. It’s clear they are fielding a quality pass defense that’s only surrendered production due to the opposition's desperation. In addition to their Cover 2 usage, the Colts are also relying on the ninth-highest of Cover 6. Carr is generating 0.31 FP/Db (17th-most) and a 94.8 passer rating (12th-highest) across from Cover 6 the last three years. He’s also supplying his offense with 0.32 FP/Db (12th-most) and a 99.6 passer rating (eighth-highest) when attacking Cover 2. The metrics are decent, but are they convincing enough to consider Carr-Renfrow stacks? Not in my current plans for Week 17.
The placement of Waller on the COVID list Wednesday is at the heart of the reasoning for my hesitancy to directly invest in Carr. I was hoping Waller would make his return, but I’ve learned my lesson hoping the COVID will cooperate with my plans. If Waller does return, I’ll revisit my plans for Carr. What is absolutely clear, independent of his teammates, is that Josh Jacobs ($6.2K/$6.6K) may be one of the bottom-five values of Week 17. The Colts have completely closed down the end zone to RBs. No rushing TDs, no Jacobs.
If Waller does sit, I will pivot all of the attention I intended to send Waller's way to Foster Moreau’s ($3.8K/$5.2K) front porch. The scoring drought for Moreau is now at five games, but he has really clicked with Carr the last two weeks (12.1 FPG). That’s particularly true since neither performance was fueled by a score. Add a TD to those numbers and we have ourselves some outstanding value potential. Indy has bled out the most receptions/game (6.6), the most YPG (67.4), the fifth-most TDs/game (0.53), and the most RZ touches/game (1.2).
From Sin City to Fadeville:
Peyton Barber ($4.9K/$5.3K)
Jalen Richard ($4.6K/$4.6K)
Bryan Edwards ($3.3K/$5.3K)
Zay Jones ($3.9K/$5.1K)
DeSean Jackson ($3.8K/$5.2K)
Dillon Stoner ($3.0K/$4.5K)
Daniel Helm ($2.5K/$4.0K)
Final notes on Indianapolis
I have zero trust issues with Carson Wentz ($5.7K/$7.0K) this week if he plays (COVID). The offense should be able to do whatever they want against the Raiders. I’ve collected some excellent payouts from targeting RBs facing Las Vegas this season, and I see this game for Jonathan Taylor ($9.0K/$10.0K) as an opportunity to exceed 30 FPs. With the ground game forcing the issue and Pittman having his way against his favorite coverage, Wentz should continue to see his supporting metrics improve against Cover 3. Wentz was never gifted with a WR that specialized in attacking Cover 3, so the tandem should assist the QB toward adding the Cover 3 TDs his metrics are lacking. I may finally have my window of opportunity to feed my Mo Alie-Cox ($2.8K/$4.6K) addiction. Jack Doyle ($2.7K/$4.7K) appears to be headed toward a doubtful tag. He’s as tough as they come, so it could end up as a disappointment, but I have already invested heavily in MAC this week.
From Indianapolis to Fadeville:
Nyheim Hines ($5.2K/$5.1K)
Marlon Mack ($4.8K/$4.6K)
Deon Jackson ($4.0K/$4.5K)
Zach Pascal ($3.5K/$5.2K)
T.Y. Hilton ($4.5K/$5.6K)
Ashton Dulin ($3.4K/$4.8K) R
Dezmon Patmon ($3.0K/$4.6K) L
Keke Coutee ($3.0K/$4.5K) S
Kylen Granson ($2.5K/$4.2K)
Matchups to Target
Trey Lance, SF ($5.7K DK | $7.1K FD) vs. Texans’ Cover 1 | 2
Jimmy Garoppolo ($5.7K/$7.1K) sounds as though he fully intends to play on Sunday with the torn ligament in his right thumb. You can read the full interview here. After making some head-scratching throws against Tennessee last week, it’s no surprise whatsoever that Jimmy G wants to get back on the field to erase those toxic memories. And taking the field will prevent Trey Lance from gaining any ground toward stealing the starting role away from Garoppolo.
My consideration toward listing Lance as a target was directed at taking advantage of Lance’s dual-threat skillset. It’s an outstanding matchup across from the second-worst run defense in the league, but this listing has essentially become a recommendation toward exposure in either QB. Lance would obviously provide the salivating upside, but Jimmy G would also come into value since he’ll likely air it out to prove his thumb is a non-issue.
Brandin Cooks, HOU ($6.0K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. K'Waun Williams, SF
It’s unwise to evaluate matchups fo Cooks from a mindset that he’s a slot receiver. If we did view him from that lens, he would have a very difficult matchup on deck from K'Waun Williams. Easily the top cover corner for the 49ers that has maintained his health, Williams is limiting his coverage to 0.88 YPCS (eighth-fewest), 0.20 FP/CS (sixth-fewest), 0.05 AY/CS (seventh-fewest), and an 85.1 TPR (13th-lowest). However, Cooks has devoted just as much of his time to running routes from left and from the right sidelines. That’s a full 66% of his workload where, based on overwhelming statistical evidence, Williams will not travel from his interior roots. And every one of the 66 percentage points will draw the coverage of either Ambry Thomas or Josh Norman.
If Thomas’ coverage metrics qualified, he’d rank dead last with his 2.37 YPCS, 0.45 FP/CS, 0.47 AY/CS, and a 145.4 TPR allowances. Norman’s numbers do qualify, and he’s distributing 1.29 YPCS (25th-most), 0.31 FP/CS (ninth-most), 0.15 AY/CS (27th-most), and a 126.7 TPR (third-highest). San Francisco is using the eighth-highest rate of Cover 3 and, of particular importance for Cooks, the sixth-highest rate of Cover 4. During his last three seasons of play, Cooks has generated 0.54 FP/Rt (third-most), a 46% improvement to his overall FPG average (fourth-highest), 2.62 YPRR (eighth-most), a 115.6 TPR (18th-highest), and has drawn a 25% target share when attacking a Cover 4 (10th-highest). On 12% of his routes the last three years, Cooks has assembled 19% of his receptions, 18% of his yardage, and 15% of his total TDs against Cover 4.
My Top-Five WR Targets for Week 17:
Amon-Ra St. Brown
Final notes on Houston
The singular factor that prevented me from listing Davis Mills ($5.5K/$6.4K) as a confident target is the fact that Week 17 will represent his first game facing a high rate of Cover 4. On the Cover 3 side of the matchup, Mills has quickly established a secondary baseline – the first being Cover 1, his specialty – from which to build. He’s created 0.36 FP/Db (18th-most), and standing as an 11% improvement on his overall average (seventh-highest). On 24% of his rookie dropbacks, Mills has accounted for 25% of his passing yardage, and 25% of of his TD passes when passing into Cover 3. While I chose to write up Mills in Final Notes rather than adding him as a Target, that doesn’t indicate I don’t have several lineups already invested in Mills-Cooks stacks.
From Houston to Fadeville:
Rex Burkhead ($5.0K/$5.6K)
David Johnson ($4.6K/$5.1K)
Royce Freeman ($4.3K/$4.9K)
Nico Collins ($4.0K/$5.2K)
Chris Conley ($3.9K/$5.1K)
Danny Amendola ($3.0K/$4.7K)
Davion Davis ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Jordan Akins ($2.5K/$4.4K)
Pharaoh Brown ($2.5K/$4.3K)
Brevin Jordan ($2.8K/$4.8K)
Antony Auclair ($2.5K/$4.1K)
Final notes on San Francisco
Elijah Mitchell ($6.0K/$7.8K) finally rejoined his team for practice this week. If he is given clearance to play, we can be guaranteed that Mitchell will be one of the three highest-owned RBs on the main slate. It’s very important that we track the news for definitive word on the starting QB for the ‘9ers if we invest in Deebo Samuel ($8.7K/$9.0K), George Kittle ($7.1K/$7.3K), or Brandon Aiyuk ($5.9K/$5.9K). While I intend to fade all three if Lance starts the game, I plan on replacing my investments into SF receivers with a far greater exposure number in Lance.
If Garoppolo is leading the attack, I’ve already tossed a few GPP darts at each receiver, but nothing substantial. For those looking for avenues to distinguish the matchup for the trio, Houston will put the sixth-highest rate of Cover 1 and the third-highest of Cover 2. Deebo is the guy on this roster to use to attack Cover 1. Kittle ranks either first- or second-best in FP/Rt among qualified TEs against every coverage scheme. And Aiyuk is more appealing to me this week than usual since the competitive Cover 1 and Cover 2 rates from the Texans perfectly suit his profile.
From San Francisco to Fadeville:
Jeff Wilson Jr. ($5.6K/$6.7K)
JaMycal Hasty ($4.4K/$5.0K)
Jauan Jennings ($3.8K/$5.0K)
Trent Sherfield ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Travis Benjamin ($3.0K/$4.5K)
Ross Dwelley ($2.5K/$4.2K)
Charlie Woerner ($2.5K/$4.3K)
This is the matchup that I have spent the most time evaluating. The Broncos beat the Chargers 28-13 in Week 12. On the LAC side, sans the supporting characters only needing a heartbeat to cover their floor, all of the big players for the Chargers were held under value. On the other side, The only significant performance was submitted by Javonte Williams. He managed 20.1 FPs with quality production on the ground and through the air. However, Javonte has a lingering knee injury that has sapped his efficiency since breaking out for his big three-game stretch from Week 12 through Week 14. In the two games since, he’s been held to 11.1 FPG. Completely flipping the table upside down for Denver’s offense, it’s only a matter of time until Teddy Bridgewater is ruled out. Drew Lock looked like a CFL-quality QB last week. It’s a downgrade across the board for the offense. All of that to say that nobody in this matchup was elevated beyond the initial analysis phase of the process.
Final notes on Denver
The only viable considerations in this version of the Broncos’ offense are Javonte Williams ($6.4K/$6.1K) and Melvin Gordon III ($6.2K/$6.1K). However, as I’ve already passed along, a knee injury for Javonte is a concern toward his chances of hitting profit levels. The Chargers have hemorrhaged FPs to opposing RBs all season, but an offense is only as good as its starting QB. And the Denver offense may enter the week with the most not-good-at-football QB in the league. In addition, Gordon just didn’t appear to be healthy last week against a Raiders’ defense that has also donated production to RBs this season. Do not simply discount the horrendous ground efficiency on a down week. Lock has simply exhausted his welcome as an NFL starting QB. I have absolutely zero trust in the Broncos’ entire offense for Week 17.
From Denver to Fadeville:
Drew Lock ($5.1K/$6.5K)
Courtland Sutton ($4.5K/$5.3K)
Tim Patrick ($4.4K/$5.4K)
Jerry Jeudy ($5.1K/$5.7K)
Kendall Hinton ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Diontae Spencer ($3.0K/$4.5K)
Noah Fant ($4.4K/$5.3K)
Albert Okwuegbunam ($3.0K/$4.5K)
Final notes on Los Angeles
If Denvers’ offense does implode in front of our eyes for a second-straight week, does that lend evidence toward the Chargers’ offense erupting? Not even close. I am frightened to the core from this game. The Broncos feature an elite secondary that has already held this offense to under 14 points this season. I would never eliminate Justin Herbert ($6.8K/$8.2K) from potentially passing for over 300 yards and a pair of scores – essentially the exact numbers he managed against Denver in Week 12 — but it is a touch matchup.
The concern for Herbert in this matchup is from the Broncos using the third-highest rate of Cover 1. It’s the scheme that has continued to elude improvements from Herbert. LAC did next to nothing on the ground against Denver. Austin Ekeler ($8.2K/$9.0K) caught a TD, but he fell well below value. His ability to generate double-digit receptions is a factor that must always be considered. Is this one of those opportunities? Denver has actually controlled receiving production from RBs more efficiently than on the ground. We all need to make our own decisions, but devoting the required cap space toward RB2/RB3 pricing just doesn’t present as viable in a game that could quickly transition into a defensive struggle.
The most compelling factor in favor of Keenan Allen ($7.5K/$7.3K) is his decent history against the Broncos. If we dip into the coverage profiles, Allen (0.44 FP/Rt) and Mike Williams ($6.0K/$6.6K) (0.43 FP/Rt) hold nearly identical success against Cover 1 the last three years. Denver also utilizes the highest rate of Cover 6. In that regard Allen (0.28 FP/Rt) and Williams (0.26 FP/Rt), once again, offer nearly identical production. However, those FP/Rt average are not representatives of their scheme specializations. Just more evidence leading me in circles, away from all participants in this game.
From Los Angeles to Fadeville:
Justin Jackson ($6.0K/$6.5K)
Joshua Kelley ($4.4K/$5.2K)
Jalen Guyton ($3.7K/$5.3K)
Josh Palmer ($3.6K/$5.2K)
Jared Cook ($3.7K/$4.9K)
Stephen Anderson ($2.5K/$4.4K)
Tre' McKitty ($2.5K/$4.1K)
Matchups to Target
Amari Cooper, DAL ($6.6K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. Antonio Hamilton, ARI
If the information has yet to reach your doorstep, both Marco Wilson and Robert Alford will miss Week 17 due to injury. The next man up is 2016 UDFA Antonio Hamilton. His 1.49 YPCS would rank fifth-most, 0.28 FP/CS (19th-most), 0.20 AY/CS (fourth-most), and 93.4 TPR (38th-highest), if qualified. The Cardinals are using top-15 rates of Cover 1, 3, 4, and 6. From the surface, attempting to exploit Arizona’s scheme rotation can end in migraines. However, they do have a pretty consistent pattern of rotating their Cover 1 and Cover 3 rates. If the pattern holds, this should be a week where they use a top-10 rate of Cover 1.
Under that scenario, over the last three years, Amari Cooper has produced 0.62 FP/Rt (10th-most), 3.00 YPRR (ninth-most), and he’s drawn a 30% target share when opponents utilize a Cover 1 (ninth-most). He’s generated 33% of his catches, 38% of his yardage, and 40% of his total TDs on only 24% of his routes. The other factor lending credence to a top-10 Cover 1 rate is that, in Week 16 when Alford was out, Arizona shifted to a top-10 Cover 1 rate after they lost Wilson to injury. It’s possible that’s the scheme where Hamilton and Kevin Peterson, their replacements, are most comfortable in coverage. If the Cards go with a high Cover 3 rate at the direct expense of Cover 1, it will benefit CeeDee Lamb more than Cooper. Either way, Wilson and Alford have been on the field for over 1,250 snaps, combined, this season. Arizona will obviously be at a distinct disadvantage. The play is not designed for Cash/SE lineups. But it is the definition of the moderate-risk, high-reward development for small- and LF GPP consideration.
Final notes on Arizona
The defensive side of the ball isn’t the only area of concern for the Cards. Kyler Murray ($7.3K/$8.2K) is without DeAndre Hopkins the rest of the season, Rondale Moore has an ankle injury, and James Conner ($6.1K/$6.7K) hasn’t been able to practice in two weeks. Chase Edmonds ($5.7K/$6.5K) is dealing with a back injury, but he is expected to play. If Conner is ruled out, he becomes an excellent target. Edmonds not only managed to score a rushing TD against the Colts, nearly unheard of – possibly impacted by the absence of Darius Leonard — but Chase also generated an 8/71/0 receiving line on nine targets. If Conner plays, I’ll entirely back off this backfield. As for Murray, just too many unknowns to invest my cap dollars at QB4/QB4 pricing – the type of QB pricing I typically shy away from anyway.
We know one thing for sure in the post-Nuk world, Christian Kirk ($5.8K/$6.4K) is the recipient of the target volume. Kirk (0.402 FP/Rt) has run circles around A.J. Green ($5.3K/$5.6K) (0.312 FP/Rt) in efficiency. The Cowboys are fielding the second-highest rate of Cover 1 and 13th-highest of Cover 2. During the last three seasons, Kirk (0.33 FP/Rt) is also running circles around Green (0.21 FP/Rt) when facing Cover 1. Moore and Antoine Wesley ($3.6K/$5.1K) have been non-factors across from Cover 1. Passing out 34.1 FPG to WRs, the number from the Dallas defense is extremely receiving YPG-sourced (168.1 – eighth-most). They are only permitting 11.4 receptions/game (seventh-fewest), so we need to be extremely careful when targeting Arizona wideouts this week.
The ‘Boys are at more than 100% at corner, in addition to Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis, ‘21 second-rounder Kelvin Joseph has been inserted into the rotation, and he has been outstanding in coverage. The level of play Joseph has infused into the secondary is a really scary proposition for any team that draws Dallas in the playoffs. As for Zach Ertz ($5.2K/$5.5K), the allowances for TEs from the Cowboys have a little more lenient: 4.73 catches / 56.4 yards / 0.33 TDs and 12.8 FPG (16th-most), on average. However, two straight games running routes on 91+% of team passing plays and 24% and 33% target shares. Those are absolutely elite percentages at TE people. He is easily going to be a top-five option at TE over the final two weeks with anything close to his TE9/TE13 pricing this week. As for the specific WR matchups, they are anticipated to be as follows:
Antoine Wesley on the left sideline vs. Trevon Diggs/Kelvin Joseph
Christian Kirk in the slot vs. Jourdan Lewis/Kelvin Joseph
A.J. Green on the right sideline vs. Anthony Brown/Kelvin Joseph
Rondale Moore/Andy Isabella (10 personnel) vs. Kelvin Joseph
From Arizona to Fadeville:
Eno Benjamin ($4.0K/$4.6K)
Jonathan Ward ($4.0K/$4.5K)
Rondale Moore ($4.1K/$5.1K)
Andy Isabella ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Demetrius Harris ($2.5K/$4.1K)
Darrell Daniels ($2.5K/$4.2K)
Final notes on Dallas
I’m far more interested in targeting Dak Prescott ($6.7K/$7.4K) this week than Murray. No, he doesn’t offer anything close to Kyler’s rushing potential, but The Raynemaker is surrounded by elite receivers that are all at 100% health, and supported by a defense that has been shutting down their opponent’s drives early with regularity. And we simply do not need to be concerned with whether Arizona goes Cover 1- or Cover 3-heavy. Prescott has played at a truly elite level across from both during the last three seasons… and his career, for that matter.
The Cards have limited opposing RBs in all but one area: inside the RZ. They are distributing 6.0 RZ touches per game (fourth-most) and 2.67 GTG carries/game (eighth-most) over the last four weeks. Since Ezekiel Elliott ($7.1K/$7.5K) has scored 88% of the Cowboys’ GTG TDs (second-highest rate), he is clearly the beneficiary of that vulnerability. However, will it be enough without the contributing counting statistics to justify RB5/RB7 pricing. While Zeke has looked better in every game removed from the source of his knee injury, Tony Pollard ($5.9K/$6.2K) simply did not offer the same explosion last week against Washington that he displayed in Week 15 against the Giants since partially tearing his plantar fascia.
One is left to wonder if Pollard’s workload will be reduced over the final two weeks to rest his foot since Dallas has already clinched the division and a playoff berth. In the very least, resting Pollard from positive game scripts would make quite a bit of sense. However, a first-round bye and home-field advantage are still up for grabs. Either way, I am not particularly interested in either RB for the Cowboys this week. As mentioned, a high Cover 3 rate from Arizona would be to the benefit of CeeDee Lamb ($7.1K/$7.2K). However, as detailed, the trends are pointing toward a featured Cover 1. Not only that, but Lamb will have the one healthy starting corner from the Cardinals in coverage: Byron Murphy Jr. I invested attention into Michael Gallup ($4.8K/$5.8K) last week after looking so damn good the previous week against New York. But the target volume was dedicated toward Cooper and Dalton Schultz ($5.0K/$5.9K).
We have nothing to evaluate in regards to Kevin Peterson this season – all of 10 snaps in coverage. A high Cover 1 number does slightly favor Gallup over Lamb, just not enough to go crazy since Peterson could end up spoiling the party if his coverage proves to be game-ready. Really a coin flip. As for Schultz, he’s run routes on 89, 90, and 79% of team passing plays the last three weeks, and has run 89+% in five of his last eight games. The issue for Schultz this season has been in the target share department. However, he’s drawn 22% and 23% the last two weeks. That is very significant with each of Dallas’ three talented wideouts healthy. And TE11/TE8 pricing offers excellent value potential if he receives another 20+% target share. For me, it’s simply too much in favor of Schultz to fade.
From Dallas to Fadeville:
Corey Clement ($4.0K/$5.0K)
Cedrick Wilson Jr. ($3.4K/$4.9K)
Noah Brown ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Malik Turner ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Sean McKeon ($2.5K/$4.2K)
Jeremy Sprinkle ($2.5K/$4.3K)
Matchups to Target
Amon-Ra St. Brown, DET ($6.0K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Ugo Amadi, SEA
To piggyback off of the information passed along on Waddle’s historic rookie season, another 11 targets resulted in nine more receptions for Amon-Ra St. Brown. If he catches eight balls in each of the final two games, he will join Waddle as one of only six wideouts to catch 90 passes during their rookie season. He will need to average 154 receiving yards over the final two to hit 1,000 receiving yards. It’s a feat only accomplished by 24 WRs in league history. But “just” posting his average yardage (85) from his monster four-game stretch would give him 862 yards for the season. Considering he only averaged 29.1 receiving yards over his first seven games, coming anywhere close to 900 receiving yards is a considerable achievement.
Make no mistake, ARSB is one the hottest offensive players in the NFL since Week 13. After posting the only reception inside A.J. Terrell’s coverage last week, one of the most impressive data points I’ve collected this week: St. Brown has carried seven of his routes into the coverage of Terrell, Byron Murphy Jr., and Patrick Surtain II the last three weeks. He was targeted on every one of those seven routes, assembling a 6/44/0 receiving line (6.29 YPRR!) and resulting in four first downs. No defender has attempted to devote anything remotely close to their full attention on Amon-Ra during his offensive explosion.
Denver managed to hold ARSB out of the end zone in Week 14, but they did not keep him from reaching profit levels. The Broncos offer one of the three-most difficult matchups for opposing wideouts. Seattle has been a difficult defense for wideouts in scoring TDs but, overall, they are permitting 33.0 FPG to WRs (10th-fewest). One of the instant draws for St. Brown – other than the obvious – is that the Seahawks are permitting 13.2 receptions/game to WRs (ninth-most). Seattle had offered one of the easiest coverage rotations to read: massively Cover 3-based. However, they have made a drastic shift to Cover 2. In the last five weeks, Atlanta is the only defense to utilize a Cover 2 rate higher than the ‘Hawks.
One of the reasons that I shift my coverage database forward after Week 10 each season, keeping the timeframe focus to three years, is for rookies and players coming into their first opportunities at significant playing time during the present season to qualify for ranking purposes. With over 450 routes during his rookie season, St. Brown has begun to qualify for ranking against some coverages. One of those is Cover 2. He currently leads all qualified WRs with 0.58 FP/Rt, fueled by a 65% boost to his overall average (second-highest rate of improvement), and he’s drawing a target on 31% of his routes across from Cover 2 (the highest). At a certain level of volume and production, the decision is entirely made for us in regards to exposure.
Rashaad Penny, SEA ($6.1K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Lions’ Cover 2
On only 33 carries in Weeks 14 and 16, Rashaad Penny accumulated 272 rushing yards, and three TDs. Derrick Henry carried the ball 35 times in Week 2 and 33 times in Week 4. He cranked out 185 and three and 157 and 1 in those weeks, respectively. Granted, at 5-foot-11 and 220-pounds, Penny simply doesn’t have the 6-foot-3, 247-pound frame of King Henry to handle that level of volume. The point is simply to highlight the (mostly) out-of-nowhere efficiency from Penny. However, if Seattle coaches were to just tack on another five carries, using the production rates from those two games, 22 carries would result in 181 rushing yards and a pair of TDs.
The Lions are delivering 26.4 FPG to RBs overall (seventh-most), 16.6 on the ground (fifth-most), and have missed an average of 12.0 tackles attempts/game the last four weeks (second-most). They are also providing RBs with 5.0 RZ touches/game (sixth-most). One of the most impressive data points on Penny is that he’s averaging 4.11 yards per attempt after contact. It’s a number that only ranks behind Nick Chubb’s 4.14. We will, of course, need to factor in the projected ownership number, but Penny easily lands inside my top-five RBs Week 17.
My Top-Five RB Targets for Week 17:
Final notes on Detroit
Jared Goff ($5.4K/$6.7K) could be one of the sneakiest QB value plays of Week 17 if, of course, he manages to retake the field (he’s doubtful). If Tim Boyle ($4.6K/$6.2K) draws another start, we should look elsewhere. Boyle did actually play pretty well last week, completing 70% of his attempts, and peppering ARSB – including a TD. However, he did not look to push the ball downfield, practiced a little too much patience, and the 20-16 loss to Atlanta ended on the Falcons’ nine-yard line with an INT. On the play where he attempted to hit Kalif Raymond on a slant with A.J. Terrell in coverage – his first mistake, Boyle lost sight of LB Foyesade Oluokun, and dealt with instant pressure as Dante Fowler Jr. blew up RT Penei Sewell.
D'Andre Swift ($6.0K/$7.7K) is now practicing in full, so the usefulness of Jamaal Williams ($5.1K/$6.0K) and Craig Reynolds ($4.7K/$5.4K) has run its course. Swift does have sexy RB16 pricing on DK. He’s likely to collect a big ownership number, but it’s something to keep in mind, regardless. No definitive word has been passed along on D.J. Reed Jr. following his activation from the COVID list. If Reed plays, I will ignore Josh Reynolds ($4.5K/$5.2K) but, if John Reid draws another start, Reynolds would enter intriguing territory.
From Detroit to Fadeville:
Godwin Igwebuike ($4.0K/$4.7K)
Jermar Jefferson ($4.0K/$4.8K)
Kalif Raymond ($3.8K/$5.0K)
KhaDarel Hodge ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Tom Kennedy ($3.0K/$4.7K)
Brock Wright ($2.7K/$4.5K)
Shane Zylstra ($2.5K/$4.2K)
Final notes on Seattle
The data does suggest the passing game for Seattle should have decent success. However, I have a bad feeling about this matchup. Part of the concern for Russell Wilson ($6.2K/$7.3K) is that the ‘Hawks will most definitely lean on Penny and, to a far lesser extent, DeeJay Dallas ($4.4K/$4.9K). But the Lions have somehow managed to contain opposing WRs this season. And they have continued that fascinating achievement after Amani Oruwariye was lost for the year. Safety-to-corner-by-necessity-convert Will Harris has provided more than the Lions could have ever imagined after making the position switch. We still need more data on ‘21 third-rounder Ifeatu Melifonwu, but the results have been serviceable.
I’m not interested in either D.K. Metcalf ($6.5K/$6.6K) or Tyler Lockett ($6.4K/$7.1K) this week. The most intriguing receiver for Seattle is Gerald Everett ($4.1K/$5.2K). His involvement has greatly increased since Week 10. And he’s responded with double-digit FPs in five-of-seven of those games. In the two games he failed to do so, he faced the elite TE coverages of San Francisco and Arizona. In Week 17, Everett will be opposed by a Detroit defense providing TEs with 14.0 FPG (10th-most) and 19.1 over the last four weeks (third-most).
From Seattle to Fadeville:
Alex Collins ($5.1K/$5.5K)
Travis Homer ($4.0K/$4.8K)
Freddie Swain ($3.3K/$4.7K)
D'Wayne Eskridge ($3.5K/$4.6K)
Penny Hart ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Will Dissly ($2.9K/$4.3K)
Colby Parkinson ($2.5K/$4.1K)
Matchups to Target
Taysom Hill, NO ($6.0K DK | $7.7K FD) vs. Panthers’ Cover 1 | 3
Taysom Hill is averaging 59.4 rushing yards and has scored six rushing TDs in seven career starts behind center – 11.1 FPG on ground production alone. If we assume he puts that same average rushing output on the field this week, we would only need Hill to provide 6.9/8.5 FPs with his arm to hit profit levels. The Panthers are allowing 12.8 FPG through the air this season (seventh-fewest), but 14.4 over the last four weeks (13th-most).
Adding 14.4 FPs to that 11.1 rushing FPG average would provide devoted exposure with 29%/24% profit. Need more convincing? Carolina is using the 11th-highest rate of Cover 3. Over the last three seasons, Hill has created 0.45 FP/Db (fifth-most), a 64% increase to his overall FP/D average (the highest), and he’s thrown 67% of his TDs on only 32% dropbacks against Cover 3.
My Top-Five QB Targets for Week 17:
Lamar Jackson/Tyler Huntley
Jimmy Garoppolo/Trey Lance
Marquez Callaway, NO ($4.6K DK | $5.7K FD) vs. C.J. Henderson, CAR
When Donte Jackson hit IR, the Panthers were forced to move C.J. Henderson into a featured role. Among 78 qualified perimeter corners, Henderson is feeding his coverage with 1.65 YPCS (third-most), 0.40 FP/CS (second-most), 0.18 AY/CS (ninth-most), and a 142.1 TPR (the highest). He’s also allowing the ninth-highest rate of 20-plus completions. Running two-thirds of his routes on the left side will put Marquez Callaway into the coverage of Henderson.
As was already passed along, Carolina is relying on the 11th-highest rate of Cover 3. In addition to essentially being the offensive hero for the Saints in their 9-0 victory of Tampa Bay with his 6/112/0 receiving line, Callaway has posted 46% of his receptions and 45% of his yardage on only 31% of his routes against Cover 3.
Matchups to Avoid
D.J. Moore, CAR ($5.6K DK | $6.4K FD) vs. Marshon Lattimore, NO
We can view the well below-average coverage metrics for Marshon Lattimore to evaluate this matchup, or we can look at the fact that he’s held his responsibilities to a combined 13/145/0, an average of 6.9 FPG, two INTs, six passes defensed, 0.04 FP/CS, 0.85 YPCS, and a 34.9 TPR. The otherworldly reversal of fortune for Lattimore could be due to finally having his surgically-repaired hand being 100% healed. Whatever the reason, the 48% of reps D.J. Moore will be devoting to the left sideline will completely go to waste with the way Lattimore is locking down his responsibilities. With Cam Newton and/or Sam Darnold delivering the ball, I want nothing to do with the Carolina offense.
Final notes on Carolina
Sideshow Bob Anderson ($4.9K/$5.7K)
From Carolina to Fadeville:
Sam Darnold ($5.0K/$6.6K)
Cam Newton ($5.0K/$6.6K)
Chuba Hubbard ($5.0K/$5.4K)
Ameer Abdullah ($4.6K/$5.0K)
Terrace Marshall Jr. ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Brandon Zylstra ($3.0K/$4.8K)
Shi Smith ($3.2K/$4.7K) S/L
Willie Snead IV ($3.0K/$4.5K)
Keith Kirkwood ($3.0K/$4.5K)
Alex Erickson ($3.0K/$4.5K)
Ian Thomas ($2.5K/$4.2K)
Tommy Tremble ($2.5K/$4.5K)
Final notes on New Orleans
Panthers’ owner David Tepper recently tossed some concerning words around on his team’s performance this season. It’s not going to get any better for his team this week. After permitting 29.1 FPs to Ronald Jones II and Ke’Shawn Vaughn last week, the Hill and Alvin Kamara ($7.9K/$9.2K) tandem are going to eat their fill on the ground this week. Much of Carolina’s scoring has been drawn from TD runs by Newton. But that avenue of attack is going to be eliminated by New Orleans’ elite run defense.
The one concern for Kamara is that, if the Panthers are unable to put points on the board, his target share could plummet. Simply too much of a risk to bear with RB3/RB2 pricing. Sans Callaway, the only receiver of interest is Lil'Jordan Humphrey ($3.3K/$4.8K). When he’s played at 100% health since seeing his involvement grow in Week 12, Humphrey has created 0.51 FP/Rt, 2.77 YPRR, 13.8 YPT, and 20.8 YPR on a combined 8/166/1 line.
From N’Orleans to Fadeville:
Mark Ingram II ($5.5K/$5.8K)
Tony Jones Jr. ($4.0K/$5.0K)
Tre'Quan Smith ($4.5K/$5.4K)
Ty Montgomery ($3.1K/$4.8K)
Kenny Stills ($3.0K/$4.6K)
Easop Winston Jr. ($3.0K/$4.5K)
Adam Trautman ($2.5K/$4.3K)
Juwan Johnson ($2.7K/$4.2K)
Nick Vannett ($2.5K/$4.4K)
Garrett Griffin ($2.5K/$4.1K)