Week 17 SNF & MNF Advanced Matchups

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Week 17 SNF & MNF Advanced Matchups

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”)

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")

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

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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

Fantasy Shells: Cover 4

ATS Picks

*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

Game Totals

*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)

Moneyline

*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

Matchup to Target

Aaron Rodgers, GB ($7.3K DK | $8.4K FD) vs. Vikings’ Cover 2 | 6

Get ready for some chalky waters. The primetime matchups of Week 17 are not tailored for the tastes of the contrarian. If the desire is for discovering miniscule ownership percentages, this is not the place to satisfy the pursuit. As always, the purpose of this series is detailing the matchups with the most upside/downside. And you want to invest in the Green Bay dyad with Hall of Fame ambitions. When Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams clashed with the Vikings in Week 11, they connected on seven occasions, advanced the ball 115 yards, placed 14 points on the board, and combined for 70/61 FPs.

That 34-31 loss to the Vikings began a five-game stretch where Mr. Rodgers has averaged 28.4/26.6 FPG. With QB4/QB3 pricing headed into the rematch, Rodgers will return a 23%/21% profit over floor if he manages to match the average from his last five games. And investors can be comforted by the fact that Bashaud Breeland, recently released and scooped up by Arizona, accounted for permitting only 4/46/0 of Rodgers’ accumulated total in Week 11. Minnesota has been rotating the seventh-highest rate of Cover 2 and sixth-highest of Cover 6. When working across from Cover 2 during his last three seasons, he’s posted 0.34 FP/Db (ninth-most) and a 102.3 passer rating (seventh-highest). Opposite Cover 6 over that time, 0.42 FP/Db (third-most) and a 107.2 passer rating (third-highest).

Davante Adams, GB ($K DK | $K FD) vs. Patrick Peterson, MIN

In addition to averaging 29.0/22.5 FPG over his last five games, Davante Adams has submitted three of his five best games from his 14-game season. If Baltimore didn’t bend over backwards to lock a double-team on Tae throughout their game in Week 15, he would have easily added another monster output to his impressive heat-streak. In the three games between these teams since Adam Zimmer and Andre Patterson were officially titled as co-DCs, Adams has accumulated 28 receptions, 324 receiving yards, and seven TDs on 36 targets. Investigating further into that productivity, he fostered 0.86 FP/Rt, 2.72 YPRR, and a 141.2 TPR. Adams also only averaged 10.8 AY/Tgt on those 36 throws, so the product offers a high probability toward sustainability.

Devote a little over six minutes of your time to witness why Adams is a virtuoso of safety manipulation. Diving into the film on Adams working against Minney’s free safeties in those three games, I recorded four instances where the position held direct responsibility for targeting to Adams. The result: Xavier Woods, Anthony Harris, and Josh Metellus surrendered a 4/54/4 receiving line (33.4 FPs) on four targets. That’s 32.6% of his total fantasy scoring on only 11.1% of the targets. And the fact that Adams scored a TD on every fifth target (19.4%, to be exact) speaks to the upside from averaging 10 targets over Adam’s last five games.

Patrick Peterson is only listed across from Adams to account for the defender stationed over the alignment where Davante has run 38% of his routes. But the Vikings spend over 70% of their time in a zone scheme, so the responsibility will be on the entire defense. An average of 36.1/29.5 FPG against the Vikings the last two seasons would obliterate the justification of an Adams investment with WR3/WR3 pricing – 29%/26% profit over floor. All of this analysis in promoting a wideout of Adams’ caliber may all seem a bit excessive but, with the first game of the week kicking off on Sunday at 1:00 PM eastern, this information will be delivered with plenty of time to include Adams in the Sunday-to-Monday and Primetime slates on DK and Sunday-to-Monday, Late Sunday-to-Monday, and SNF-to-MNF slates on FD.

Dalvin Cook, MIN ($7.9K DK | $8.5K FD) vs. Packers’ Cover 4 | 6

Independent of the QB situation, we are likely to see Minnesota running the ball on 70+% of their plays. Under that estimation, it would be a 57% increase in their rushing rate. But the Packers currently rank fourth-best in time of possession, while the Vikings – obviously aided by the presence of Kirk Cousins – rank 15th. If we keep with the total play average during Green Bay’s 15 games this season, Minnesota would have the ball for 61.7 plays. Using that 70% handoff estimation, the Vikings would optimally-provide their RBs with 43 carries. In nine healthy games this season, Dalvin Cook has averaged 25.7 carries/game and, in those games, Alexander Mattison has averaged 4.3 carries. That massive 85.6% carry share for Cook would result in 36.8 carries in Week 17, under optimal conditions.

Using the efficiency rates from Cooks’ last three games against the Packers, those 36.8 carries would result in 171.9 rushing yards and 3.45 TDs! Keep in mind, the 99.7 rushing YPG and 2.0 TD/game averages generated by Cooks in those three matchups were earned with Cousins under center. We will see a decline in Cook’s efficiency with Green Bay fully expected to stack the box with eight-or-nine defenders with Sean Mannion at QB. However, even if we cut out one third of that efficiency, Cooks would still create 28.3/25.3 FPs on his rushing production alone. With his RB3/RB4 pricing, we’d still be looking at a 16% profit over floor on both platforms. And those calculations do not even account for the 6/90/1 receiving line Cooks provided in his last three games against Minnesota.

My Top-Five SNF and MNF Targets:
  • Davante Adams

  • Aaron Rodgers

  • Dalvin Cook

  • Nick Chubb

  • Pat Freiermuth

Final notes on Minnesota

Losing Kirk Cousins to IR greatly influenced – as in, obliterated – my confidence in Minnesota’s skill positions. Call me crazy, but Sean Mannion ($4.8K/$6.0K) is going to need to prove me wrong. In two career starts, Mannion has averaged 4.1 FPG. With a 7-8 record – factoring in the 4.5 point impact Vegas considers Cousins contributing to the Vikings’ offense, Minnesota brings a 12% chance (at best) to earn a playoff bid. To state that the Vikings will need help to secure a postseason spot is a monumental understatement. Even if they somehow manage to defeat the Packers and Bears in their final two games, they will only have 39% odds of advancing. If they lose this week, those odds would crash-dive down to 3%. If Week 17 breaks down precisely as my MoneyLine picks have been selected above, Minnesota will have a 0% chance to earn a playoff berth.

So, you can imagine my disappointment that the Vikings aren’t putting their 2021 third-rounder, Kellen Mond ($4.0K/$6.0K) on the field this week. However, if Mannion continues with the nightmarish play he put on the field in his two career starts, perhaps Mond will end up seeing the field anyway. Worst of all, the fault for Cousins contracting the virus falls on Mannion’s shoulders after he tested positive earlier in the week. I have zero hesitation to state that, even though it would come nowhere close to as with Captain Kirk leading the offense, the presence of Mond would provide the offense with its greatest potential to advance the ball.

Does it come as a surprise to learn that I will have zero stocks in Justin Jefferson ($7.9K/$8.5K) this week? If you value my opinion, Mannion is drawing this start solely due to his understanding of the playbook. Jefferson’s comments following the loss to the Rams in Week 16 that the Vikings must be aggressive on offense Sunday night are completely nullified in importance without Cousins. We can expect to see one of the least aggressive offensive approaches of the ‘21 season. Not to mention the fact that JJ will deal with the cover skills from Rasul Douglas on around half of his routes.

Douglas – my current selection for Comeback Player of the Year – has held his coverage to 0.81 YPCS (11th-fewest), 0.21 FP/CS (16th-fewest), a 50.0 TPR (second-lowest), and the 13th-lowest rate of 20-plus completions. Over the last three weeks, he has crushed the hopes of his coverage responsibilities with 0.36 YPCS, 0.13 FP/CS, and a 48.5 TPR. K.J. Osborn ($5.0K/$6.3K) will not have it any easier with ‘21 first-rounder Eric Stokes in coverage. In those last three games, Stokes is only allowing 0.48 YPCS, 0.17 FP/CS, and a 77.5 passer rating. On the season, Stokes is surrendering 0.99 YPCS (29th-fewest among 78 qualified perimeter CBs), 0.23 FP/CS (26th-fewest), and an 81.4 TPR (25th-lowest).

My typical approach to projecting attention from replacement starters at QB is in added target shares directed toward the TE position. Tyler Conklin ($4.0K/$5.1K) would step in front of that opportunity, and will benefit from a Green Bay defense providing the third-most red zone touches/game (1.13) to the position this season and the fourth-most FPG over the last four weeks (18.6). Even with expectations for the additional carries being available, Alexander Mattison ($5.7K/$7.5K) would only receive a little over six carries.

From the Land of 10,000 Lakes to Fadeville:

  • Sean Mannion ($4.8K/$6.0K)

  • Dede Westbrook ($3.4K/$4.9K) S Chandon Sullivan

  • Ihmir Smith-Marsette ($3.0K/$4.8K) S

  • Dan Chisena ($3.0K/$4.5K) S

  • Chris Herndon ($2.7K/$4.2K)

  • Luke Stocker ($2.5K/$4.1K)

Final notes on Green Bay

It was far from a positive spin on Aaron Jones’ ($6.9K/$6.8K) outlook that it took late-week clearance to get the green light from a reaggravation of the MCL strain that previously forced him to miss time. My hopes-and-dreams were dashed when Jones was cleared for Week 17, since the upside opportunity for AJ Dillon ($5.5K/$6.3K) against a defense already offering RBs 23.7 FPG (12th-most) would be greatly magnified within the conditions presented by Mannion at QB for the Vikings.

Perhaps my most contrarian tout from the primetime slate, Allen Lazard ($4.0K/$5.6K) will have a very sexy matchup with Mackensie Alexander. The Cincinnati decision-makers are looking very intelligent, allowing Alexander to walk after a single season with the team. Alexander’s coverage has taken a cliff dive over his last nine games, currently delivering 1.47 YPCS (third-most among 39 qualified slot CBs), 0.31 FP/CS (fourth-most), a 113.2 TPR (seventh-highest), and the sixth-highest completion rate on 20-plus throws.

If not for a 1/19/0 faceplant in Week 8 last year, Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($4.7K/$5.8K) would also come into the matchup with a combined 8/210/2 line in the two other games across from Minnesota the last two seasons. He collected 130 of those yards and both TDs on scoring strikes of 45 and 75 yards. That said, Cameron Dantzler is now locking the left sideline with 0.78 YPCS (ninth-fewest), 0.21 FP/CS (15th-fewest), a 78.8 TPR (20th-lowest), and the 20th-lowest completion rate on 20-plus targets.

From America’s Dairyland to Fadeville:

  • Equanimeous St. Brown ($3.0K/$4.8K)

  • Juwann Winfree ($3.0K/$4.5K)

  • Josiah Deguara ($2.8K/$4.6K)

  • Marcedes Lewis ($2.5K/$4.5K)

  • Tyler Davis ($2.5K/$4.2K)

Matchup to Target

Nick Chubb, CLE ($7.4K DK | $8.0K FD) vs. Steelers’ Cover 3

If you love defensive struggles, set the DVR. Cleveland at Pittsburgh is going to feature subpar QB play, constant checkdowns, and time of possession dictated by the RBs. Neither of these teams pack even an ounce of momentum into this game. Both have lost four of their last six games, both have a 15%-or-less chance to make the playoffs, and combine to average less than 20 PPG (19.25) in their last four. The likelihood of another 15-10 decision as offered up from the Week 8 face-off of these teams in Week 8 – one of the most mind-boring games from the ‘21 season – does not provide much motivation toward devoting much time to evaluating this matchup.

To be clear, my recommendation is to completely eliminate this game from consideration when constructing Sunday-to-Monday and Late Sunday-to-Monday lineups. The only value offered is to the Primetime slate. And, with four examples of 16 FPs-or-less in the last five games from Najee Harris – two with less than seven FPs, Nick Chubb only emerges slightly ahead to land as my optimal RB2 behind Cook. He’s healthy, the Steelers are providing RBs with 26.7 FPG (sixth-most) and Kareem Hunt is only going to see a token role, at best. Could go for over 30 FPs? Sure, it’s always on the table with Chubb’s league-leading 4.14 yard after contact average. But the passing offense has been so bad that Chubb has been forced to shoulder all responsibility for moving the sticks. It’s almost guaranteed that Pittsbugh will stack the box and force Baker Mayfield to beat them. An unlikely result.

Pat Freiermuth, PIT ($3.7K DK | $5.0K FD) vs. Browns’ Cover 3 | 4

If I had any say in a player’s future after suffering two concussions in a season, not to mention two in a single month, he would immediately be moved to season-ending IR for the brain bruising to properly heal. Not the case in Pittsburgh. Pat Freiermuth was cleared for a Week 17 game with next-to-nothing for his team to gain. Don’t get lost in the shade of the call being on independent doctors in this case, 100% of the fault is on Mike Tomlin since he makes the final call on player activity.

Moving past my view of some of the worst personnel decisions in the league, Freiermuth’s routes are very frequently branched at under 10 yards. That’s short enough for Ben Roethlisberger’s archaic vision to interpret and Baby Gronk’s route conclude quickly enough to draw targets to still be targeted by Roethlisberger’s insistence on a two-step-and-throw-within-1.5-second window. That is all, nothing more to see here.

Final notes on Cleveland

I resisted the urge to send Baker Mayfield ($5.1K/$6.5K) packing to Fadeville… (bye bye Big Ben) … but don’t take it as a recommendation. Cleveland may have exercised Mayfield’s fifth-year option for 2022 but, torn labrum or not, he is on a clear path toward a backup role and under a backup’s contract in the 2023 season if his play doesn’t completely reverse course. To be honest, I really like Mayfield’s personality. His commercials are actually pretty funny. He comes across like a guy that would be a lot of fun to hang out with and share a 12-pack. He had his moments last season, but those memories will fade extremely fast if he doesn’t get it together next season.

Kareem Hunt ($5.0K/$6.0K) may want to get back on the field – can’t blame him since the Browns will not be participating in the playoffs, but the requirement should be in getting that ankle back to full health for the ‘22 season. I have been very impressed by the presence of Donovan Peoples-Jones ($3.9K/$5.6K) on film. His physical development is obvious. But his ceiling may not be understood until he manages to emerge from under Mayfield’s shadow. Jarvis Landry ($4.9K/$6.2K) is easily the best investment among Cleavland’s receivers, but his upside falls well short of the levels reached in previous seasons. Let’s not forget that we could be wagering on uncovering ownership of a single TD opportunity – as in Week 8 – for the entire offense. Austin Hooper ($3.4K/$5.2K) is just too talented for this level of mediocrity. He needs a change of scenery as badly as any player in the league.

From the Birthplace of Aviation to Fadeville:

  • D'Ernest Johnson ($4.6K/$5.9K)

  • Rashard Higgins ($3.2K/$4.9K)

  • Anthony Schwartz ($3.0K/$4.8K)

  • Demetric Felton ($4.0K/$4.6K)

  • David Njoku ($3.0K/$5.0K)

  • Harrison Bryant ($2.5K/$4.8K)

Final notes on Pittsburgh

While it’s nice to see Najee Harris’ ($7.0K/$8.2K) pricing down to pre-Week 6 levels, the cap investment still comes with too much downside against a rock-solid run defense to develop confidence. First-and-foremost, the Browns’ secondary will be at full strength with Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II, and Greedy Williams all coming into the game at 100% health. They’ve been a considerable challenge working under the seventh-highest rate of Cover 3 and the highest of Cover 4. Making matters easy in my view, Diontae Johnson ($7.0K/$7.6K) appears to have lost quite a bit of his motivation in recent weeks. The Dr. Pepper of Roethlisberger’s targeting tunnel vision certainly appears to be growing tired of the veteran’s presence.

Even with an average of 11.6 targets/game over his last nine games, Johnson has failed to cover his floor in seven of those games. The reception numbers are always nice, but we can circle his 8.5 AY/tgt number from those nine weeks as the reason for his underwhelming results. What player is ahead of Hooper as being in need of a change of scenery? It’s Chase Claypool ($4.8K/$5.8K). He’s not going anywhere fast, but the kid really needs Steelers’ management to bring in a QB with arm strength to finally push this offense into the 21st century. We are going to see some teams at the top of the ‘22 draft order that will not have an imminent need at QB (the Jaguars and Jets, to be specific). If GM Kevin Colbert is unable to land the services of a QB fitting the big-arm profile – Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson would really be the only examples on the market, acquiring one of those picks to land a QB should be the entirety of his focus.

From the Steel City to Fadeville:

  • Ben Roethlisberger ($5.1K/$6.8K)

  • Benny Snell Jr. ($4.5K/$4.8K)

  • James Washington ($3.1K/$5.1K)

  • Ray-Ray McCloud III ($3.3K/$4.9K)

  • Cody White ($3.0K/$4.5K)

  • Zach Gentry ($2.9K/$4.5K)

  • Kevin Rader ($2.5K/$4.0K)

With a dedicated focus on studying game film and a faithful commitment to metrics & analytics, Huber’s specialties include DFS (college and NFL), Devy & Dynasty formats, and second-to-none fantasy analysis of high school prospects.

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