With the film and data continuing to mount, the reliability of my process is exponentially rising. A coaching staff is only able to shade their base gameplans underneath a small sample size before the floodgates open. The coverage scheme rotation has already been fully revealed. We may still see slight alterations, but nothing that will alter the process. Individual coverage liabilities will be the final hurdle to fall. Once we are able to isolate issues related to health from the results directly accompanying poor play, we will have reached an ultimate state of matchup preparedness. Performance anomalies will always be present in an NFL stacked with the premier talent in the world. And injuries to key defenders are a constant concern. That said, it’s down the path of the process where we will minimize risk toward maximum profits.
*9-13 (41%) — 1-4 in Week 3
Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) at Seattle Seahawks
Green Bay Packers (-3.0) at Cincinnati Bengals
Tennessee Titans (-4.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Minnesota Vikings (-7.0) vs. Detroit Lions
Carolina Panthers (-3.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Las Vegas Raiders (-5.0) vs. Chicago Bears
New York Giants (-7.0) at Dallas Cowboys
Arizona Cardinals (-5.5) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Buffalo Bills (+2.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
*6-7 (46%) — 1-3 in Week 3
New York Jets vs. Atlanta Falcons (Under 46.0)
Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Over 48.0)
Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals (Under 50.5)
Chicago Bears at Las Vegas Raiders (Under 44.0)
Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers (Over 46.0)
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (Over 52.5)
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (Over 49.5)
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (Over 45.5)
*8-3 (73%) — 3-2 in Week 3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-435) vs. Miami Dolphins
Green Bay Packers (-160) at Cincinnati Bengals
Tennessee Titans (-200) at Jacksonville Jaguars
New England Patriots (-410) at Houston Texans
Las Vegas Raiders (-235) vs. Chicago Bears
Dallas Cowboys (-310) vs. New York Giants
Arizona Cardinals (-235) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Baltimore Ravens (-280) vs. Indianapolis Colts
Matchups to Target
Calvin Ridley, ATL ($6.8K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Javelin Guidry, NYJ
This is the week. Most came into the season with the belief that a Calvin Ridley eruption was imminent. As every one of those individuals is already aware — myself included — it hasn’t exactly happened that way. He ranks 27th with an average of 14.7 FPG. Week 5 is shaping up as prime real estate for a revival. First, the Jets’ secondary is not good. Especially without Marcus Maye. Ridley will see a healthy amount of Javelin Guidry on Sunday. Guidry has permitted 1.13 yards/coverage snap (YPCS, 38th among 84 qualified outside corners), 0.23 FPs/coverage snap (FP/CS, 21st), and a 98.7 targeted passer rating (TPR, 45th).
Calvin Ridley will not make the trip to London for the upcoming game against the New York Jets due to a personal matter. https://t.co/EoTeVc9Xqp— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) October 7, 2021
Ridley has been gifted with a 31% and 33% target share the last two weeks. He’s averaging 10.5 targets/game (fourth-most). The Jets are far more vulnerable out of the slot (19.1 FPG) than wide (7.8), but Ridley works all across the formation. While he is far from poor when facing any scheme, he has done the best work of his career against Cover 1. NYJ uses Cover 1 at the eighth-highest rate (29%). Ridley ranks 12th-best with 0.54 FPs/route and 2.91 yards/route run (YPRR) over the last three seasons against Cover 1. His yards/target (YPT) spikes by 21% and his target rate jumps by 15% vs. Cover 1.
Update: It’s not looking good for Atlanta. Calvin Ridley has been ruled out for personal reasons. Russell Gage will also miss Week 5. It looks like we’ll see a WR rotation of Olamide Zaccheaus, Tajae Sharpe ($3.0K/$4.9K), and Christian Blake ($3.0K/$4.7K) 😲. The main beneficiaries are Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Pitts, and Mike Davis.
Jamison Crowder, NYK ($4.9K DK | $6.0K FD) vs. Isaiah Oliver, ATL
We only have a game’s worth of data, but early signs indicate a strong bond developing between Zach Wilson and Jamison Crowder. Making his 2021 debut, Crowder was instantly greeted with a 27% share of the targets. Elijah Moore has been shifted outside, so this is a relationship that should be allowed to blossom. Atlanta is allowing the most PPG this season (32.0), so it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn they are permitting the fourth-most FPG to entire opposing offenses.
Isaiah Oliver is out for the season with a knee injury.— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) October 6, 2021
Help us wish him a speedy recovery 🙏 pic.twitter.com/gjN2coDgcZ
Much of the allowance to WRs has been on the outside, but Wilson was forcing volume into the slot long before Crowder gained clearance. Nickelback Isaiah Oliver will pack a 17th-ranked YPCS, 25th-ranked FP/CS, and 23rd-ranked TPR to slow down Crowder. The coverage numbers are cloudy on Crowder. Playing with some extremely poor Jets’ offenses will do that to a receiving profile. But the numbers do tell us that he’s performed his best against Cover 1 and Cover 2. The Falcons just so happen to feature both of those schemes. They are using Cover 2 at the highest rate and Cover 1 at the 15th-highest.
Update: With news that Isaiah Oliver is out for the season, Jamison Crowder will now mainly be guarded by Avery Williams. He’s permitting 1.52 YPCS (33rd), 0.29 FPs/coverage snap (27th), 0.67 AY/CS (36th), and a 75.9 TPR (10th). Just to make it very clear, it’s a big upgrade to Crowder’s upside.
Cordarrelle Patterson, ATL ($5.9K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Jets’ Cover 1 | 4
Why not make it three weeks in a row? When I reached out a hand to pull you into the Cordarrelle Patterson bandwagon after a modest Week 1 return, here’s hoping you climbed aboard. Three games and 24.9 FPG later, I know my personal bankroll has been appreciative. The Jets are favoring the most FPG to opposing RBs (33.4), 35.6 over the last two. That gift also includes allotting 7.75 RZ touches/game to RBs. NYJ is handing out the second-most pure rushing (18.2), the most receiving FPG (15.2).
But Patterson has reached a level that is deserving of weekly attention. He leads all RBs with 1.77 FPs/touch, receiving FPG (16.4), YPRR (4.61), YPT (11.75), and target rate when he’s on the field (39.2%). We’re talking Christian McCaffrey-type numbers. Granted, Patterson is only playing exactly half as many snaps as Mike Davis. With the type of efficiency Patterson is providing his team, it’s only a matter of time before he claims a larger share of the pie. It goes without saying that Cordarrelle is unlikely to sustain this level of effectiveness in every game this season. But he demands our DFS attention until that is proven to be true.
Final notes on New York
It’s far from a guarantee that Zach Wilson ($5.1K/$6.6K) will play this game turnover-free. In fact, don’t be surprised if he ends up throwing more than one INT. Wilson has been wildly erratic over the first four weeks. If each of his off-target throws had been picked off, he would be unlikely to dig his career TD-to-INT ratio back over one-to-one for half a decade. That said, we do have some evidence in place indicating he will land on the radar when facing Cover 3-heavy teams. If this were the ‘20 version of Atlanta, this would fit that profile. Not the case.
Wilson may end up doing well anyway, but we don’t have data in favor of endorsing him. But he is worth a weekly GPP stack alongside either Crowder or Corey Davis ($5.6K/$6.2K) due to rock-bottom ownership numbers. In the two games where Wilson has provided decent play, it’s been to the benefit of Davis. We just need to keep the likelihood in mind that the NYJ offense can implode on any given week. And if we continue to see improvements in New York’s O-line (even without Mekhi Becton), Michael Carter ($4.5K/$5.6K) could become an interesting option.
Final notes on Atlanta
We need to see more of what we saw last week from Matt Ryan ($5.7K/$7.2K) before he can regain trust. However, this is a perfect stylistic coverage match to his three-year history of success. I’ll cut it just short of an all-out recommendation, but he is definitely going to be on my GPP radar this weekend. With Cordarrelle Patterson now featured, Mike Davis ($5.4K/$5.9K) will need to get it done on the ground for value. New York is just that bad in run defense that it may actually be a possibility. It just won’t be happening for my lineups.
Olamide Zaccheaus ($3.6K/$5.1K) will see too much of Bryce Hall for my liking, even as a GPP punt. If it were up to my dynasty-heart, Kyle Pitts ($4.7K/$5.8K) would be listed as a target every single week. We are seeing signs that he’s ready for a breakout. We just need to see a consistent target volume and some scoring potential to buy into his pricing.
Matchups to Target
Tom Brady, TB ($7.4K DK | $8.4K FD) vs. Dolphins’ Cover 1
Things go from bad to worse for Miami. Losing 27-17 at home to Indianapolis leaves a sour taste behind. Now they will bring a 1-3 record on the road to face the GOAT. Tom Brady found quite the challenge from New England last week. But all of those tricks up Bill Belichick’s sleeve will not be shared with the Dolphins. For concentration purposes, this entire tout can be summarized into the following:
- The ‘Phins are using Cover 1 at the highest rate (45%), mixing in a top-three rate of Cover 0 (all-out blitz)
- Brady is averaging the sixth-highest FPs/dropback (FP/Db) at 0.48 over the last three seasons against Cover 1
- That includes 33 TDs to only eight INTs
- Miami is obliging the seventh-most FPG to opposing offenses over the last two weeks
Chris Godwin, ATL ($6.3K DK | $7.6K FD) vs. Nik Needham, MIA
Normally, when Tampa Bay is facing a Cover 1-heavy defense, I look to fade Chris Godwin in favor of Mike Evans. A certain X-factor will stand in the way of Evans this week, so Godwin is now set to be the focal point of the passing attack. Miami’s defense is supporting the second-highest rate of 20-plus completions and rate of 20-plus runs. The Buccaneers will be able to do pretty much anything they want in this one. Considering the Bucs are passing at the second-highest rate (72.5%), that’s likely to involve a ton of passing.
Godwin will need to hurdle Nik Needham to reach his success. The season has seen Needham tolerating 1.16 YPCS (24th among 41 nickel CBs), 0.22 FP/CS (20th), and an 86.6 TPR (16th). In spite of being historically better against a zone, Godwin has produced a 7/90/2 line on 50 reps against Cover 1 this season. Finally, the Dolphins are currently authorizing the 10th-most FPG to receivers out of the slot this season.
Matchups to Avoid
Mike Evans, TB ($6.8K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Xavien Howard, MIA
Xavien Howard hasn’t played quite up to the level that we expect. With Miami sitting at 1-3 with another loss likely headed their way this weekend, it’ll be too little, too late when he finally shakes that rust from sitting out for a new contract. That said, Howard spends his time guarding the opposition's best each week. But his press-heavy man coverage is still relinquishing 1.38 YPCS (56th out of 84 qualified outside corners), 0.31 FP/CS (62nd), 102.4 TPR (48th), and — very uncharacteristically — 0.47 air yards/coverage snap (AY/CS). That AY/CS rate suggests opposing QBs are not shying away from targeting Howard’s coverage. And we will very likely see Brady do the same. Even with all of that in mind, Mike Evans will still face an upward climb to hit profit over value with WR12/WR19 pricing.
Final notes on Miami
The Bucs’ secondary has been playing at far less than 100% health. And they have given up a ton of FPs through the air. But that does equate to trusting Jacoby Brissett ($5.2K/$6.3K) this week. Miami’s O-line is perhaps the worst in football after four weeks. They have permitted nearly 80 QB pressures to lead the league. And nobody is averaging fewer YPA than Brissett’s 4.90. Luckily for Jaylen Waddle ($4.8K/$5.4K), he doesn’t require air yardage to work. But he has been Brissett’s second-most targeted receiver. I’ll have decent lineup exposure to the rookie first-rounder this weekend.
Update: Not sure if it will help or hurt Waddle if DeVante Parker is ruled out with his shoulder injury. The main beneficiary might end up being Mike Gesicki.
As for DeVante Parker ($5.4K/$5.7K), the lack of air yardage has been the root of seeing him fight for scraps. Mike Gesicki ($4.2K/$5.6K) has been Brissett’s most frequent target. He’s posted a 15/143/1 line with 2.17 YPRR since Brissett took over the offense. And Tampa Bay has been eaten alive by TEs to the tune of 17.5 FPG (third-most).
Final notes on Tampa Bay
If last week’s backfield share (67%) in favor of Leonard Fournette ($5.2K/$6.4K) is any indication, he may finally come into some usefulness. Even if he does see the carries between the 20’s, Ronald Jones II ($4.7K/$5.5K) is still seeing twice the goal-line carry share (9.5 to 4.5%). What a mess. I also like Antonio Brown ($5.2K/$6.5K) this week. With one of the premiere Cover 1 TEs in the game, Rob Gronkowski ($5.4K/$6.0K), likely facing a doubtful tag, Brown and Cameron Brate ($3.3K/$5.0K) will see plenty of volume. AB just secured a 5/50/0 line on 19 snaps against the New England Cover 1. Over the last three seasons vs. Cover 1, Brown has generated 0.55 FPs/route (FP/Rt, 14th), commanding the ninth-highest target rate, and a third of those targets at 20-plus yards (20th). Brate will be one of the more intriguing TE punts on the main slate.
Matchups to Target
Joe Burrow, CIN ($6.1K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Packers’ Cover 4 | 6
What was set to be a significant challenge for Cincinnati was nullified with the news that Jaire Alexander was ruled out. You can literally count the number of corners able to impact a passing game like Alexander on one hand. Without him, each of the Bengals’ big-hitters are in play. The leader of that pack of youngsters, Joe Burrow is still at the early portion of his career that he hasn’t compiled qualifying snaps against either Cover 4 or Cover 6, the schemes featured by Green Bay.
LaFleur said they're going to try to avoid surgery "at all costs." Sound like they will eventually try to get him on the field and most likely with a brace on. But when that is...??? https://t.co/79dDRzPejc— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) October 6, 2021
On just under 100 dropbacks against Cover 4, Burrow’s YPA jumps by 12%, air yards/attempt by 18%, and he’s fabricated a 96.1 passer rating. We’ve only seen Burrow face a Cover 6 on 10% of his career dropbacks, but he’s thrown for 11% of his yardage, and 9% of his TDs. Even with much of Burrow’s outlook based on projection, everything the Packers look to achieve is relying on Alexander closing down much of the interior. Even with the news dropping on Alexander’s absence, I am anticipating that many will still fade the Bengals due to the overall numbers for the Packers’ defense. The GB D has been a problem for opposing ground games, so count on seeing plenty of targeting from Burrow on Sunday.
Ja’Marr Chase, CIN ($5.8K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Eric Stokes, GB
This has the makings of one of the finest rookie showdowns of the season. Eric Stokes’ metrics are a bit erratic. The ‘21 first-rounder is warranting 0.89 FPCS (20th), 0.24 FP/CS (39th), 0.57 AY/CS (57th), and a 60.3 TPR (12th). We’ll see Stokes tapping into his 4.31-speed for around one half of Ja’Marr Chase’s routes. And Chase will bring his own 82nd-percentile, 4.34-speed along for the challenge. We have next to nothing on Chase against the coverages featured by new DC Joe Barry. Back in Week 1, Chase connected with Burrow on a 50-yard TD vs. the Cover 4 of the Vikings. And he’s gone 2/32/0 on 21 routes vs. Cover 6. We do like to see that the Packers are allowing the 10th-highest rate of 40-plus completions… but with Alexander.
He’s only a rookie, but Chase is still producing 0.631 FP/Rt (ninth-best), 2.65 YPRR (15th), and a 147.8 TPR (10th). Target shares of 28% and 29% the last two weeks suggest imminent increases to his 101.5 air yards/game (22nd) and 32% of his 6.3 targets/game coming on 20-plus looks (17th). Chase is simply a concentration of potential energy waiting to be unleashed.
Final notes on Green Bay
The Bengals are very stingy on QBs with the sixth-fewest FPG (12.4) surrendered. Nobody is expecting Aaron Rodgers ($7.1K/$8.0K) to be shut down. He’s just a difficult trust at his pricing on the road. The only reason I resisted the urge to post Aaron Jones ($7.9K/$8.4K) as a target is splitting the backfield with AJ Dillon ($4.5K/$5.5K) last week. Jones is averaging 10.9 receiving FPG (fifth-most) that will serve him well vs. a Cincinnati crew giving up the 10th-most through the air to RBs (12.8). Will it be enough to cover? A difficult answer without knowing how many carries he’ll cede to Dillon.
Davante Adams ($8.2K/$8.2K) is an outstanding value of FanDuel (FD). But his DK pricing is difficult to stomach without a defining performance thus far. The Bengals are getting healthy in the secondary at the wrong time for Adams. Both Chidobe Awuzie — who’d likely oppose Adams on at least half of his routes — and Jessie Bates III are likely returning to the lineup this week. Losing a chunk of preparation time with Rodgers this preseason does seem to be impacting their timing. Personally, Randall Cobb ($4.0K/$5.5K) is more appealing from a value perspective after his big Week 4 performance. Cincy is permitting the 11th-most slot FPG to receivers, and he’ll face aggressive, below-average press coverage from Mike Hilton. No idea what’s up with Robert Tonyan ($4.3K/$5.3K), but not paying to find out.
Final notes on Cincinnati
All signs seem to point to Joe Mixon ($6.2K/$7.1K) sitting the week out with an ankle sprain. No worries, Samaje Perine ($4.0K/$5.6K) will be happy to lead the backfield. It just won’t be pretty no matter who starts against a surprisingly stout Packers’ run defense. But Perine could provide sneaky value if he’s asked to tap into his underrated receiving skills with ample volume. Without Alexander, Tyler Boyd’s ($5.3K/$6.3K) prospects have been flipped on its head. He’ll see a ton of coverage from Chandon Sullivan on Sunday. Sullivan is about as far from a Jaire clone as it gets. He’s giving up 1.74 YPCS (37th out of 41 qualified slot CBs), 0.37 FP/CS (36th), and a 134.1 TPR (38th). I’ll be on Boyd even if Tee Higgins ($5.0K/$6.7K) makes his return.
Bengals WR Tee Higgins has looked great all week and will play Sunday, per Zac Taylor.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) October 8, 2021
Higgins would also make for a solid option with Green Bay actually hoping-and-wishing Kevin King will return this week. King’s coverage ranks? Try 77th in YPCS, 74th in FP/CS, 76th in AY/CS, and 83rd in TPR. Keep in mind that only 84 perimeter CBs qualify. I guess it’ll be on me if C.J. Uzomah ($3.0K/$5.5K) does it again. I do love his skills and have been blown away by his swift Achilles recovery. Just not enough to elicit excitement after one outing.
Update: I’m not concerned with Higgins’ return diminishing Boyd’s upside. Burrow is going to go directly at Sullivan with Alexander out and without the ability to grind Mixon. Also, if the Bengals manage to build a lead, Perine is going to be fed. Chris Evans is not going to be asked to carry the ball much or with any pass protection.
Matchups to Target
Derrick Henry, TEN ($9.0K DK | $10.4K FD) vs. Jaguars’ Cover 3
Looking for a cozy place to invest 18%/17% of your cap dollars? Look no further. Over the last three weeks, Derrick Henry has carried the ball an average of 32 times. In return, Henry has manufactured 33.9 FPG. His ceiling is also higher than previous season’s since he’s actually providing efficiency as a receiver, ranking 11th in YPRR (1.79), and ninth in YPT (8.93). Jacksonville is a disaster on defense on the field and another individual has brought down far too much attention to the franchise off it. The Titans are a comfortable favorite to take this game. A looming Tennessee victory is always enough of an occasion for heavy Henry exposure, and with a potential forecast for otherworldly FPG numbers.
Laviska Shenault Jr., JAX ($4.8K DK | $5.8K FD) vs. Kristian Fulton, TEN
After DJ Chark Jr. broke his ankle early in Week 4, Jacksonville split his vacated perimeter reps between Tavon Austin (16) and Laviska Shenault Jr. (7). But it was Shenault who stepped up, turning those routes into a 3/31/0 line on three targets. Austin flopped with a 1/8/0 line on his three targets. But Laviska will have a path to value no matter where he lines up, perhaps more so from his typical slot alignment. The Titans are accrediting the most FPG to receivers out of the slot this season (33.0). And we could not ask for a better matchup for Shenault. Tennessee features a Cover 1 at the fifth-highest rate and Cover 3 at the 18th-highest. During his young career against Cover 1, Shenault is averaging 0.44 FP/Rt (30th), with a 28% increase in YPRR, and a 25% rise in target rate. When facing a Cover 3 on 25% of his routes, he’s collected 25% of his yardage, and 40% of his TDs.
Final notes on Tennessee
Even if A.J. Brown ($6.5K/$6.9K) manages to make his return this week, but what had the makings of a smash spot for Ryan Tannehill ($6.4K/$7.2K) will be lost to uncertainty. Julio Jones ($6.7K/$6.8K) has made a wonderful impression on his new squad. His willingness to work through soft tissue strains is admirable. Take notice of the facetiousness. It’ll be another week of Nick Westbrook-Ikhine ($3.7K/$5.3K) being featured on the outside. If Brown plays, we can comfortably pencil him in for a 5/50/1 line. That leaves quite a bit of volume for Chester Rogers ($3.9K/$5.1K) to attack a Jags’ defense allowing the seventh-most FPG out of the slot.
Anthony Firkser’s ($3.1K/$4.7K) pricing is nice on DK. He’s one of my favorite punts at the position this week.
Update: It does seem the entire Tennessee roster is listed on their injury report. Teams should be penalized for abusing the process. But a full practice for AJB is a very good sign for Tannehill.
Final notes on Jacksonville
Trevor Lawrence ($5.8K/$6.5K) was very impressive last week. His passing efficiency is far from polished, but he put his underappreciated ground skill on display for nice output overall. We just can’t count on rushing TDs elevating his weekly floor. If he begins to show more consistency through the air, Lawrence will become a valued DFS component. For those late to the realization, James Robinson ($6.0K/$7.4K) is back! If he closes out the rest of the season playing like he has the last two weeks, Travis Etienne will need an injury to touch JRob’s workload. We just need to see a slight increase in Robinson’s touches. Improvements from the passing game would help. Marvin Jones Jr. ($5.7K/$6.6K) will be a significant beneficiary of Chark’s absence. He hasn’t been efficient with his looks, but could frequently see double-digit targets. He won’t need efficiency against Jackrabbit Jenkins. He’s permitting 1.79 YPCS (72nd), 0.36 FP/CS (68th), and a 107.6 TPR (57th).
Matchups to Avoid
Davis Mills, HOU ($4.8K DK | $6.3K FD) vs. Patriots’ Cover 1 | 3
When is Tyrod Taylor coming back? It doesn’t matter what colors you wear, nobody wants to see bad football representing the NFL. When your team is better off seeing your QB spike the QB into the ground, bad football is what you have in front of you. New England fields the second-highest rate of Cover 1 and eighth-highest rate of Cover 3. The two schemes account for over half of all defensive snaps across the NFL this season. That’s an ominous number for Davis Mills. He’s averaging 0.10 FP/Db — only a touch higher than Zach Wilson — against Cover 1. That’s accompanied by a 47% plummet in his YPA. Mills saves the coup de grâce for a Cover 3. With an average of -0.19 FP/DB — an unhealthy -219% decline, three INTs on 15 dropbacks account for his 21.4 passer rating. Mills should be thankful for each and every second he’s able to remain on an NFL roster.
Final notes on New England
Mac Jones ($5.3K/$6.7K) is a rookie QB on the other end of the spectrum. He will be an NFL starter for at least a decade, perhaps two, thanks to his accurate arm, and game-managing presence. Until we see him provided with a full assortment of possession-receivers, watching the Patriots will continue to be about as exciting as watching paint dry. All the same, Jones plays good football. That’s far more than can be asked from a rookie QB. If my life depended on selecting a target in this game, it would come down to Damien Harris ($5.5K/$6.5K) or Jakobi Meyers ($5.6K/$5.9K). Count on seeing Harris receiving a healthy carry share against a Houston run defense indulging the fifth-most rushing YPG (137.0) and the most TDs/game (2.0). But Brandon Bolden 😫 ($4.0K/$4.9K) kills all the fun of Harris exposure, siphoning off all of the passing-down work.
Jones isn’t concerned with the Texans being stingy against slot production, he’s going to support Meyers’ double-digit target average anyway. Meyers just needs to figure out how to separate inside the red zone. He leads New England WRs in routes (15) and targets (3) inside the 20, and he’s been on the field for 94% of red zone passes. He has zero TDs and 0.47 YPRR to account for his efforts. With Jones completing 4-of-17 attempts of 20-plus yards (two INTs) — zero completions of 30-plus on six attempts, the red zone is about the only area of the field where Nelson Agholor ($4.4K/$5.5K) can provide some value. Even in a week where both Hunter Henry ($3.7K/$5.4K) and Jonnu Smith ($3.3K/$4.9K) found the end zone, an utter lack of air yardage handicaped their potential upside.
Final notes on Houston
Until Tyrod Taylor returns, Mark Ingram II ($4.3K/$5.4K) is dead for DFS purposes. Brandin Cooks ($6.1K/$6.3K) has already proven (Week 3) that he can overcome Davis Mills to be useful. But any defense featuring an above-average secondary is simply going to shade multiple defensive backs to Cooks’ side without anything resembling a second receiving threat. New England is not in the business of using double coverage on a single wideout, but Belichick will align his Cover 1 in a way that smothers Cooks. He will have his hands full on snaps against a Jalen Mills that’s currently embedded in a top-15 season. But, should Mills manage to get his act together, J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones have underwhelmed. Apparently Anthony Miller provided literally nothing in the way of candidacy toward filling the WR2 role, since he got cut. Yikes!
Matchups to Target
Dalvin Cook, MIN ($8.4K DK | $9.0K FD) vs. Alex Anzalone, DET
Wasting any of your time promoting Dalvin Cook should be reserved for the special matchups. This is a special matchup. Opposing offenses are so caught up with Detroit relinquishing the most pure rushing FPG to RBs (20.2) that they overlook the Lions’ deficiencies against the pass. Detroit is providing opponents with the fourth-most PPG (29.8) and missing tackles at the highest rate (18%). Cook split backfield carries with Alexander Mattison in his return from an ankle injury. He is going to limit his practice reps this week, but has stated that he will play.
Same attendance as yesterday at practice. Michael Pierce, Ihmir Smith-Marsette not practicing. Dalvin Cook here again w/helmet but he was DNP last 2 days. Imagine he’s listed as questionable on final injury report. Been watching OL individuals this morning. Christian Darrisaw— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) October 8, 2021
Anyone who trusted Cook in their lineups last week were rewarded with around 75% under floor value. Is that a concern this week? Absolutely. I would not recommend going entry fee crazy in high-stakes GPPs or featuring him in your Cash/Single-Entry (SE) lineups. But this is the kind of matchup where Cook could go nuclear if he suddenly feels his ankle is healthy enough for a full workload. That is the exact kind of addition to a Milly-maker lineup that could be rewarded with life-changing money.
Justin Jefferson, MIN ($7.7K DK | $8.0K FD) vs. Amani Oruwariye, DET
Do not trust any of the analytics stating this is anything less than an outstanding spot for key passing game components for Minnesota to blow up. They may only be allowing the 12th-fewest FPG to opposing WR units, but Detroit’s defense is pacing the NFL in YPA (9.84), completion percentage on 20-plus throws (28.4%), second-from-last on 40-plus throws (5.97%), and second-worst passing first down conversion rate (43.6%). It’s likely a big chunk of the field will simply see Detroit and instantly think big numbers without verifying the specifics. So it’s unlikely that Justin Jefferson will be overlooked. On the one-third of snaps the Lions will field a Cover 3, Jefferson will utilize his career 0.56 FP/Rt (fourth-best), 2.77 YPRR (fifth), 26.3 target rate (eighth), and where he’s scored 30% of his career TDs (seventh).
T.J. Hockenson, DET ($5.5K DK | $6.4K FD) vs. Vikings’ Cover 2 | 6
This is the week T.J. Hockenson gets it going again. After previously reinventing themselves as a Man-heavy defense early in the season, the Vikings have re-reinvented themselves toward featuring a Cover 2 and Cover 6 at top-four rates. They managed to reduce their PPG allowed from 30.5 the first two weeks, down to 15.5 over the last two. But several factors point to this being a plus spot for Hock. Minnesota is only giving up 11.1 FPG to TEs, but that number is deflated due to keeping them out of the end zone.
#Lions HC Dan Campbell said TE T.J. Hockenson (knee) and OT Penei Sewell (ankle) both have a chance to play this weekend against the Vikings.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) October 8, 2021
Minny is actually granting the fifth-highest YPA (7.9) and fifth-highest YPC (4.8). Considering the Lions’ lack of WR production, Hockenson will be the beneficiary of a big chunk of the Vikings donating the 13th-most FPG to wideouts (39.3). During his career against Cover 2, he ranks with the ninth-highest boost in air yards/target (10%) and seventh-highest increases in YPT (20%). On 4,221 routes compiled over the last three seasons from all active TEs, a grand total of 15 TDs have been scored against a Cover 6 shell. And Eric Ebron is the only player to hit color on two occasions. Hockenson is not among that group yet, but he does rank 11th-best with 0.32 FP/Rt, 12th with 1.66 YPRR, and eighth with a 22.1% target rate.
Final notes on Detroit
Just when it appears the odds are against Jared Goff ($5.3K/$7.1K), he finds a way to hit above value. It’s an accomplishment he’s managed in three-of-four games. He’s an easy fade priced as the QB18 on FD, but he is a tremendous GPP value on DK as the QB26. D’Andre Swift ($6.1K/$6.9K) should do well in this spot, but Minnesota has limited RBs through the air to the 10th-fewest FPG (8.6). And the 14.4 FPG the Vikings limited him to in two games last season would land him under value at his current pricing. Jamaal Williams’ ($5.2K/$6.0K) floor is just too low for me. If Swift misses a game, be ready to pounce. It’s no wonder Bashaud Breeland and Patrick Peterson are struggling. They signed on with Minnesota as man-to-man specialists, likely told the defense would convert to a Cover 1.
Now that Minnesota is all about leaving the middle of the field open with two-high safeties, Breeland and Peterson are being forced to retool their approaches. After being eaten alive the first three weeks, Breeland was benched in favor of Cameron Dantzler. And Dantzler was the barrier that removed Quintez Cephus ($4.3K/$5.1K) from being listed as a target. He’s done well against Cover 2 in his brief career. It was quite shocking the Vikings didn’t feature Dantzler from the very beginning. He is simply too good to put any trust in Cephus generating useful numbers. Amon-Ra St. Brown ($3.5K/$4.8K) had a mini-breakout last week. Fingers crossed he’s able to string together some consistency.
Update: Looks like the Vikings are claiming Breeland missed last week with an illness. Convenient excuse. If he starts over Dantzler, Cephus’ upside greatly improves.
Final notes on Minnesota
A lightning-fast scoring strike to Justin Jefferson gave the impression Kirk Cousins ($6.5K/$7.5K) would transcend a very difficult matchup for another big game. It didn’t end up being the case against Cleveland, but Cousins is priced for profit against the cupcake defense. You can almost be guaranteed that Adam Thielen ($6.6K/$7.5K) will find a way to reach the end zone for his fifth TD. But the Lions are not presenting the schemes we want to see for heavy investment in Thielen.
K.J. Osborn ($3.8K/$5.2K) would find himself with an excellent opportunity if Detroit’s offense manages to keep pace. Only Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios are averaging at least 4.8 targets/game and priced at $3.8K or less on DK. Don’t sleep on Tyler Conklin ($3.5K/$5.1K) this week. He is setting up as a great value on both platforms against a defense hemorrhaging splash plays to opposing TEs.
Matchups to Target
Chuba Hubbard, CAR ($6.0K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. Eric Wilson, PHI
Over the last two weeks, Philadelphia has permitted a total of 380 rushing yards. The two-game total allowed over the first two weeks stood at 241 yards. You can comfortably hide away a 33% increase in supported rushing YPG from an opponent among the 130 FBS schools in college football. The same cannot be accomplished in the 32-team NFL. When Carolina HC Matt Rhule and OC Joe Brady completed their film and analytical study of the Eagles’ defense, you can guarantee they were acutely aware of two facts.
- Philly’s new DC Jonathan Gannon devoted a great deal of time installing an exotic setup of coverage shells forcing opposing QBs into attacking the short and intermediate levels of the field.
- Without Brandon Graham on the field to enforce ground games at the point of attack, those dropping so many defensive backs deep with the primary concern of closing off the third level leaves a chunk of the field exposed to run.
Injuries to key players can alter the NFL landscape in a matter of seconds. And every team practices a no mercy approach on injury replacements. The Eagles will be hard-pressed to replace Graham. But the Panthers are attempting to replace a key member of their team, as well.
All reports are suggesting Carolina will be without Christian McCaffrey again this week. Chuba Hubbard is tasked with filling in until CMC is healthy enough to return. He faced an immense first test against Dallas in Week 4. He only managed 71 yards on 15 touches, but the most important takeaway is that he managed to finish the game without damaging his hold on this opportunity. Now he will face a reeling Philadelphia run defense on his home field. Misleading comprehensive data on the Eagles vs. the run and Hubbard’s meh Week 4 make it unlikely that the field will be on him this week. Don’t follow the pact.
Update: A potential return this quickly for CMC is quite the surprise. Needless to say, Hubbard should not be in anyone’s lineups if McCaffrey is cleared.
Zach Ertz, PHI ($3.4K DK | $5.0K FD) vs. Panthers’ Cover 4 | 3
My eyes widened when I noticed Zach Ertz was listed at two-thirds the price of Dallas Goedert. Make no mistake, all things being equal, Goedert is easily my choice between the two. Goedert is averaging more FP/Rt (0.107 vs. 0.087), FPG (11.0 vs. 8.6), YPRR (1.84 vs. 1.55), and a higher TPR (155.2 vs. 116.2). That said, DFS is a game of opportunities. And Ertz has only run three fewer routes, collected a higher target share (13.7% vs. 12.2%), and devoting less snaps to blocking (45% vs. 52%). We do have the luxury of having additional TEs in favorable matchups this week than we had in Week 4. But, with Jalen Hurts devoting over a fourth of his target volume to his TEs, we can add Ertz as another potential TE value to our list.
Final notes on Philadelphia
Jalen Hurts ($7.0K/$8.1K) didn’t quite reach his 9.5 pure rushing FPG he’d averaged over his first six starts (4.7), but throwing for 387 yards and a pair of TDs more than made up for it. The metrics suggest that Carolina has limited opposing QBs to the eighth-fewest FPG (16.5). But that number does not account for the loss of Jaycee Horn. Backfield timeshares are simply a necessary component of the modern game. However, for the offenses with the seven lowest rates of running the ball, only the Steelers and Giants offer reliable fantasy options at RB, and both (Najee Harris and Saquon Barkley) are among the last remaining remnants of bell-cow backs.
The Eagles are running the ball at the third-lowest rate. Simply not enough to go around between Miles Sanders ($5.7K/$5.9K) and Kenneth Gainwell ($4.9K/$5.7K) after Hurts collects his share. If we could only see every offense work against the Kansas City defense on a weekly basis. Even without Horn, DeVonta Smith ($5.9K/$6.0K) will do more than half of his work dealing with Donte Jackson. The primary defender that limited CeeDee Lamb to a 2/13/0 line last week. After Hurts is finished targeting his TEs, RB, and DeVonta, Quez Watkins ($3.6K/$4.9K) and Jalen Reagor ($4.2K/$5.3K) are forced to fight over the remaining scraps. Dallas Goedert ($5.1K/$6.1K) is simply not being provided with a target share in proportion to his abilities. Until he does, it’s impossible to trust him with TE7 dollars on both platforms.
Final notes on Carolina
Don’t look now, but Sam Darnold ($6.6K/$7.6K) is leading the NFL in rushing TDs with five. He hasn’t set the world ablaze with his arm, but he’s giving plenty of reasons for optimism. Even though 14 other QBs are taking more opportunities/game (passing + rushing attempts, 40.0), his 8.1 pure rushing FPG (second-most) has boosted his overall FPG to the third-highest at 26.9. And don’t be too quick to discount his rushing production. He’s always been one of the more elusive QBs since entering the league. And we can still roster him priced outside 11 (DK)/12 (FD) other QBs.The catalyst for a massive chunk of Darnold’s passing work is D.J. Moore ($7.5K/$7.9K). His playmaking has certainly caught the eye of salary makers, currently priced as the WR6 on both platforms.
It was fun watching DJM work against Trevon Diggs last week. Assembling a 4/82/0 line in Diggs’ coverage informs us that no corner is immune to the ‘21 version of Moore. Darnold-Moore GPP stacks make a ton of sense. At some point, Robby Anderson ($5.0K/$5.6K) is going to need to do something in return for his two-year, $29.5 million contract extension. It hasn’t happened to date, but I still fully believe a monster outing from Terrace Marshall Jr. ($3.6K/$4.9K) is nie. Until eyes are finally opened to the fact that Ian Thomas ($2.5K/$4.4K) is the least effective TE in football, Tommy Tremble ($2.5K/$4.4K) will remain a DFS afterthought.
Matchups to Target
Drew Lock, DEN ($4.9K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Steelers’ Cover 3 | 2
I know how it looks. Try to bear with me. If Teddy Bridgewater manages to clear the concussion protocol, we can all safely fade Denver’s passing game. If Drew Lock ends up making the start, it may not be the best idea to simply look the other way. For all of his flaws, Lock is safely found within the top-five QBs against Cover 3 with 0.45 FPs/dropback during his career. During his last four starts opposed by a defense featuring a Cover 3, Lock has averaged 23.4 FPG. With pricing as the QB37 on DK, that output would provide a 37% profit. Pittsburgh has been as stingy as ever in run defense and still field a nasty pass rush. But the Steelers have been uncharacteristically poor in pass defense. When lineups are constructed this week, you can count on Lock finding his way into less than 2% of GPP lineups.
Per source, the expectation is Teddy Bridgewater will be cleared by independent docs this morning and fully practice today. He’ll meet with Bronco medical staff post practice, but barring setback, the expectation is he’ll be fully cleared for Sunday’s game. #9sports— Mike Klis (@mikeklis) October 8, 2021
Update: It’s great news to learn that Bridgewater’s concussion is not serious, but his return is terrible news for the Broncos’ offense. I’ll be fading everyone other than Fant this week. I still think Fant will do well with his history of success against Cover 3.
Noah Fant, DEN ($4.9K DK | $5.9K FD) vs. Steelers’ Cover 3 | 2
To my surprise, Noah Fant has not missed a beat without Drew Lock. The singular concern of catching his passes from Teddy Bridgewater was how ineffective his new QB has been the last three seasons against Cover 3. Fant ranks fifth-best with 0.46 FP/Rt, ninth-best with 2.14 YPRR, and sixth-best among 66 qualified TEs with a 24% target rate when facing a Cover 3 during his career. On 24% of career snaps vs. the three-high scheme, Font has generated 31% of his receptions, 34% of his yardage, and 38% of TDs. He and Lock had obviously established quite the connection, with Font averaging 14.6 FPG in Lock’s last four games against those Cover 3-heavy teams. Font also mashed together 18.7 FPs against these Steelers in Week 2 last season.
Matchups to Avoid
Najee Harris, PIT ($6.9K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Alexander Johnson, DEN
The last time I followed the process toward listing Najee Harris under the avoid category (Week 3), he proceeded to generate a season-high output of 28.2 FPs. If Harris manages to come anywhere close to that number against this Denver defense, don’t count on me fading him over the rest of the season. Even after qualifying that reality, Najee’s receiving ability still leaves me with a level of doubt. After four games, no defense has placed RBs on lockdown with more ferocity than the Broncos. They are sanctioning the fifth-fewest pure rushing FPG to RBs (6.6), the fewest through the air (3.6), and also the fewest red zone touches/game (1.25). The longest run Denver has permitted is a 13-yarder from Ty Johnson in Week 3. Harris is having a tremendous first season, potenting landing him in the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation. But he will see far softer matchups than the one facing him in Week 5.
Final notes on Denver
To reiterate, if Teddy Bridgewater ($5.4K/$6.6K) clears the protocol, I recommend fading the entirety of the Broncos’ passing game. Melvin Gordon III ($5.3K/$5.9K) has another questionable label this week. It wouldn’t impact the upside of Javonte Williams ($4.9K/$5.8K) if Gordon is ruled out against this Pittsburgh run defense. Perhaps we’ll see better numbers from Tim Patrick ($4.7K/$6.0K) and Courtland Sutton ($5.5K/$6.1K) when Jerry Jeudy returns from IR. They’ve really disappointed in what should’ve been an outstanding opportunity to establish their future workloads.
Final notes on Pittsburgh
It’s only a matter of time until Ben Roethlisberger ($5.3K/$6.6K) either retires or is forced to do so. No soft tissue injury designations can toss shade over how repugnant he’s played this season. At least Big Ben is devoting some of his best throws to keep Diontae Johnson ($6.5K/$7.0K) fed. To the extent that we can typically count on frequent profits from Diontae. It’s possible Patrick Surtain II could miss Week 5. But Ronald Darby is nearing his IR return from a hamstring injury. Either way, ownership of a third of the target share forces Johnson into the conversation, and in spite of facing a defense limiting teams to 12.3 PPG this season (second-lowest).
It’s odd timing to see Chase Claypool’s ($6.0K/$6.0K) salary bumped by $200 after missing Week 4 and facing Denver. All the athleticism in the world is not going to do a bit of good with Roethlisberger’s flaccid arm under center. JuJu Smith-Schuster ($5.0K/$5.9K) will be the next victim ghosted by Bryce Callahan. He currently ranks third-best with 0.38 YPCS, second with 0.07 FP/CS, and leads all slot corners (41 qualified) with a 45.1 TPR.
Matchups to Target
J.D. McKissic, WAS ($5.0K DK | $5.3K FD) vs. Demario Davis, NO
The way Week 4 shook out for Washington very likely stands as a pretty good example of what we can expect in the coming weeks. Logan Thomas departed early enough in the game for us to see how the touches might be distributed. The fact that J.D. McKissic collected the go-ahead points on a 30-yard reception is ominous for Antonio Gibson’s chances of absorbing the available targets normally designated to Thomas. The touches were split 16-to-12 in favor of Gibson. But McKissic (5) was the second-most targeted player after Terry McLaurin (13). The Saints do not mess around with their allowance of FPG to RBs (eighth-fewest at 19.5 FPG). That stated, only four teams have apportioned a higher percentage of overall FPG allowed on receiving production (59%).
Final notes on New Orleans
Until Michael Thomas arrives to save this offense, everyone is shaping up as a weekly fade. Jameis Winston ($5.6K/$7.0K) is now confidently found within the do not touch category after ceding a combined 12/60/3 rushing line to Taysom Hill ($5.1K/$6.1K) over the last two weeks. Those three TDs from Hill match the three Winston has passed for over the last two games. And missing out on those goal-line carries is not doing Alvin Kamara ($8.6K/$8.6K) any favors. That’s four straight weeks of under-value production. How does zero targets sound for Kamara in a game New Orleans lost to the Giants?!? Fade city. I cannot be convinced otherwise. Sure hope that we see Deonte Harris ($4.1K/$4.9K) provided with similar targeting to last week. He is easily the most talented WR on the roster without Thomas. Marquez Callaway ($4.7K/$5.4K) is dead to me.
Final notes on Washington
Taylor Heinicke ($5.9K/$7.3K) is exceeding any and all expectations. I wish Ryan Fitzpatrick luck in getting that starting job back. Assuming DC Dennis Allen is done with his idiotic plan to apparently save Bradley Roby for the playoffs, Heinicke is only a mildly appealing target against the Saints. Rushing volume alone is not going to get it done for Antonio Gibson ($6.4K/$6.6K) in this spot. Terry McLaurin ($7.4K/$7.4K) is going to be targeted at a machine gun-pace without Logan Thomas. It’s WR production that’s stood as the kryptonite of New Orleans. Roby is the latest elite corner shifting inside to patrol the slot. But Curtis Samuel ($3.0K/$5.2K) is simply priced to profit as the WR116 on DK. While he may still need time to get back up to speed, WFT needs him to immediately contribute.
Washington's injury report for Week 5:— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) October 8, 2021
RG Brandon Scherff (knee)
WR Dyami Brown (knee)
WR Cam Sims (hamstring)
RB Antonio Gibson (shin), WR Curtis Samuel (groin), LB Cole Holcomb (shoulder) all limited at practice Friday and "questionable" for Sunday.
Update: If Gibson and Samuel are ruled out, WFT should just forfeit the game. Things will get very ugly. In my opinion, Washington has no other choice but to put Gibson and Samuel on the field.
Matchups to Target
Derek Carr, LV ($6.1K DK | $7.1K FD) vs. Bears’ Cover 6
The 196 passing yards Derek Carr posted last Monday night snapped a six-game stretch where he collected the three-point bonus for 300 passing yards, averaging 373/game. Week 5 will bring a Chicago defense to Sin City with a strong pass rush, but with distinct vulnerabilities in the secondary. Featuring one of the two (Denver) highest Cover 6 rates I’ve ever charted, whereas most QBs buckle under the challenge, Carr has thrived against the Cover 6 challenge. For those unaware, a Cover 6 is essentially a Cover 4 on one half of the field, and a Cover 2 on the other half.
A QBs ability to, first, recognize that what he’s seeing is Cover 6 rather than either Cover 2 or 4, and, second, determining which side of the scheme represents the Cover 2- and Cover 4-half is absolutely vital toward success. Carr ranks 13th-best over the last three seasons with 0.34 FP/Rt vs. Cover 6. He will also be heading back home where he’s averaged 23.8 FPG, with a 10-5 TD-INTs over his last 5 healthy games.
Hunter Renfrow, LV ($4.9K DK | $5.8K FD) vs. Duke Shelley, CHI
One of the catalysts of Carr’s post-30 revolution has been Hunter Renfrow. Landing right behind Davante Adams with the 19th-highest FP/Rt (0.34) against Cover 6, Renfrow ranks 15th with 2.12 YPRR, and eighth with 12.23 YPT. The Bears also utilize the 13th-highest rate of Cover 2. And a Cover 2 happens to be Renfrow’s speciality. Over the last three seasons, Hunter has generated the third-highest FP/Rt (0.51), third-highest YPRR (2.67), and coerced the third-highest target rate (27%) against Cover 2. Chicago has been kind to all WRs. However, Renfrow will see coverage from their most generous benefactor: Duke Shelley. After missing Week 1, Shelley handed over 1.63 YPCS (34th out of 41 qualified slot CBs), 0.32 FP/CS (31st), and a 102.4 TPR (27th).
Damien Williams, CHI ($5.6K DK | $5.8K FD) vs. Cory Littleton, LV
Damien Williams is the top value at any position on FD this week. That might read dramatic, just keep in mind that Las Vegas is supporting 132.3 rushing YPG (10th-most), 4.9 YPC (fourth), and 1.5 TDs/game (third). But the stat that stands out above all others is allowing the highest rate of 20-plus runs at 4.59%. That number is 15% higher than the second-highest rate and double that of the 10th-highest rate. Williams will hold down the fort for David Montgomery while he mends an MCL strain against the team that’s giving up the seventh-most FPG to RBs. And he’ll do it with FD pricing as the RB35.
Final notes on Chicago
We knew it was only a matter of time before the Bears fully committed to Justin Fields ($5.2K/$6.4K). The Raiders have done a tremendous job transforming their pass defense. Presenting Fields with a significant challenge against the highest Cover 3 rate in the NFL. A pass rush that assembled the most QB pressures this season will not help matters. Fields placed a 30-yard strike right into the hands of Allen Robinson II ($5.5K/$6.1K) in Week 2. He dropped the beautiful TD toss. Since that throw, Fields and AR12 have been searching for their timing. Darnell Mooney ($4.7K/$5.6K), on the other hand, found an instant connection with Fields last week. His 4.38-speed is a perfect match for Fields’ arm cannon.
Final notes on Las Vegas
The only qualified RBs averaging south of Josh Jacobs’ ($5.9K/$7.2K) 3.22 YPC are Mike Davis, Larry Rountree III, Phillip Lindsay, and… Kenyan Drake ($4.9K/$5.7K). Henry Ruggs III ($5.6K/$5.9K) has begun to establish some consistency with an average receiving line of 4/84/0.33 (15.7 FPG) over the last three games. But it’s best to wait a week to invest in seeing a continuation of that production. Bryan Edwards ($3.8K/$5.4K) was nearly ghosted (1/4/0) by the Chargers last week. It’s only a matter of time before we see a Darren Waller ($7.3K/$7.4K) eruption. Roquan Smith has closed down opposing TEs this season. Waller will easily stand as his most significant challenge.
Matchups to Target
Keenan Allen, LAC ($6.5K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Troy Hill, CLE
Only Davante Adams (11.3), Cooper Kupp (11.3), and Diontae Johnson (11.7) are being provided with more targets/game than Keenan Allen (10.5). That volume will be one of the keys toward Allen potentially providing a profit this week. The Browns feature the highest rate of Cover 4 and the fifth-highest rate of Cover 3. That 33% Cover 4 rate is the other factor pointing toward a productive day for Allen. Dating back to Week 1 of the 2018 season, Allen has generated 0.53 FP/Rt (third-highest) against Cover 4. It’s when he’s facing that scheme that Allen commands the highest target rate of any WR at 35%. Troy Hill will be tasked with containing Allen on Sunday. Hill is authorizing 0.79 YPCS (14th among slot CBs), 0.16 FP/CS (10th), and a 69.3 TPR (ninth). Cleveland is giving out 61% of their FPG to receivers out of the slot.
Final notes on Cleveland
A disturbing universal trend has emerged this season. NFL defenses are utilizing Cover 1 (Man with a single-high safety) at a rate 12% lower than last season, 25% less than in 2019. It’s disturbing from the standpoint that predicting success against a Cover 1 offers the highest reliability. At this time, in order to reach that same level of reliability from the schemes engaging a pair of high safeties, we need to factor in dates beyond three seasons. If the trend continues, nothing changes with the current process. By the end of the 2023 season, a collection of the three-year shift toward more split-safety zone snaps will provide us with everything we need.
Less Cover 1 is bad news for QBs such as Baker Mayfield ($5.5K/$6.8K). The Chargers are featuring Cover 1 at the seventh-highest rate, but it’s the same exotic mixture used by the Broncos that seems to perplex opposing QBs. As far as values are concerned, Nick Chubb ($6.7K/$7.5K) is setting up as a fine one on FD. He is, oddly, only priced $500 more than Kareem Hunt ($5.8K/$7.0K). Los Angeles is permitting the 16th-most pure rushing FPG this season. It should’ve happened last week for Odell Beckham Jr. ($6.0K/$6.4K). It didn’t. Now we need to wait for another appealing matchup. LAC has had issues with TEs this season. They are providing 14.5 FPG (12th-most), 17.8 over the last two weeks (ninth). And Austin Hooper ($3.2K/$4.9K) is priced to profit.
Final notes on Los Angeles
Who doesn’t enjoy watching Justin Herbert ($6.8K/$7.7K) work? The kid has emerged as a transcendent threat at every stop. He’ll need to tap into that overwhelming talent against a Cleveland defense cutting the floor out from QBs by limiting them to the third-fewest passing YPG (183.8) and the seventh-fewest YPA (5.98). When their top-two pass rush is accounted into the projection, Herbert’s outlook is not so bright. After Allen, Austin Ekeler ($7.6K/$7.7K) is the most likely to succeed. The Browns are absolutely game against the run. But Ekeler is unlike any back in the NFL. His skill set is nearly impossible to defend. Mike Williams ($7.2K/$7.7K) hit his first roadblock of the season against the Cover 3-heavy Raiders. Cleveland plays a ton of Cover 3, as well, and Williams has not stood out against Cover 4. Jared Cook ($3.6K/$5.2K) will be tracked by Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Among 79 qualified LBs, JOK is limiting his coverage to 0.69 YPCS (22nd), 0.15 FP/CS (12th), and a 62.9 TPR (ninth).
Matchups to Target
CeeDee Lamb, DAL ($6.2K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. James Bradberry, NYG
It took the New Orleans WR unit for James Bradberry to shake a three-game streak of surrendering a TD. He is still allowing 1.41 YPCS (57th), 0.38 FP/CS, and a 108.3 TPR (58th). After watching the game twice, as well as viewing the coaches tape on each of his routes, the only explanation for CeeDee Lamb’s 2/13/0 line last week is game script. Dallas entered the fourth quarter with a 22-point lead over Carolina. If you simply look at the final 36-28 score, that context is entirely lost. This will be the first time Dak Prescott has faced the Giants since suffering his brutal Week 5 ankle injury. In that game, after New York jumped ahead 17-3 early in the second quarter, the score differential never exceeded eight points before the Cowboys took the contest 37-34.
In the early stages of his breakout season, Bradberry spent his time shadowing Amari Cooper toward a 2/23/0 final line. With Lamb working exclusively out of the slot, he torched a variety of Giants for an 8/124/0 line. DC Patrick Graham is featuring a Cover 2 at the sixth-highest rate, mixing in top-15 rates of Cover 3 and Cover 4 toward my estimation as the fourth-most vanilla scheme rotation. Attacking NYG on the outside is key since they are giving up the fifth-most perimeter FPG (21.9). Dallas is implied to score the most Week 4 points (29.75), and the Giants will not have the luxury of shifting any assistance in pass defense since the ground game of the ‘Boys is firing on all cylinders.
Dalton Schultz, DAL ($4.4K DK | $6.2K FD) vs. Tae Crowder, NYG
It’s no longer a Dalton Schultz (or) Blake Jarwin situation. The featured TE role for the Cowboys belongs to Schultz. His rate of team passing routes over the last three weeks (50%, 63%, and 76%) has risen in 13% increments. And his target share spiked from 7% in Week 2, up to 28% in Week 3, and finally to 37% last week. Considering Schultz is fabricating 2.16 YPRR (second-best) and a 144.3 TPR (fourth-best), nobody should be blaming OC Kellen Moore for solidifying his role. A good amount of the responsibility for guarding Schultz will fall on Tae Crowder. His coverage is being gifted with 1.51 YPCS (74th out of 79 qualified LBs), 0.27 FP/CS (55th), 0.31 AY/CS (79th), and a 109.2 TPR (53rd). As a team, New York has been accosted by TEs for the fifth-most FPG (16.9) and the most red zone touches/game (1.75).
Kadarius Toney, NYG ($4.0K DK | $5.3K FD) vs. Jourdan Lewis, DAL
A 6/78/0 line is unlikely to draw a ton of attention. That said, that performance from Kadarius Toney, in combination with John Ross III’s own 3/77/1 line, has resulted in banter being tossed around in favor of providing the Week 4 breakout duo with featured roles.
Nobody is going to supplant either Sterling Shepard (when healthy) or Kenny Golladay from the starting roles. If you don’t know, it’s only a matter of time before Ross outruns one of his hamstrings. But it comes as zero surprise that Toney is collecting supporters. His ability to create his own offense is unlike any of the other NYG WRs. Dallas has provided equal support to receivers, independent of their alignment. They are distributing the fourth-most FPG to WRs overall at 45.1. It only broadens the scope of the potential for value that the Cowboys are also commissioning 2.75 red zone touches/game (second-most). Even with top-15 metrics from nickel corner Jourdan Lewis, Toney could be an excellent source of profit if New York is without Shepard this week.
Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Jabrill Peppers all on the side again today with the training staff. Would think they are ruled out later today with the hamstring injuries, but they appear to be making significant progress, especially Shepard. So we'll see.— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) October 8, 2021
Final notes on New York
Four games into the season, Daniel Jones ($6.0K/$7.4K) is averaging the seventh-most FPG (24.8), and is set to enter another smash spot against Dallas. The Cowboys are allowing 23.5 FPG to opposing QBs (fourth-most). Danny Dimes’ optimal opponent features a Cover 4. Getting the third-highest rate of Cover 1 from Dallas is a close second. It was great to see Saquon Barkley ($7.3K/$7.8K) healthy enough to handle 19 touches. Collecting 126 yards and a pair of TDs against an excellent New Orleans defense. He’s likely to collect quite a following after that performance, but I’ll be fading him in what I view as a letdown matchup.
Kenny Golladay ($5.9K/$6.2K) didn’t “simply” put 6/116/0 on ‘21 third-rounder Paulson Adebo. He acquired half of that production inside the coverage of Marshon Lattimore. If Golladay emerges as the player he was in Detroit, things could get interesting in East Rutherford. All due respect to John Ross III ($3.4K/$5.2K) and his otherworldly speed, I’m not investing. It’s too early to determine what we should do with Sterling Shepard ($5.3K/$6.4K). That’s not the case for Darius Slayton ($4.1K/$5.3K). His time with the Giants could get lonely seated on the sideline over the remainder of his rookie contract. Evan Engram ($3.2K/$5.3K) is playing football like someone in his late 30’s. He’s 27.
Final notes on Dallas
Seated among the very elite QBs, you never need to worry about the coverage Dak Prescott ($6.9K/$8.1K) will be playing against. He is a weekly plug-and-play independent of the opponent. Until I see evidence to the contrary, as the difficulty of the opponent increases, Prescott’s game simply elevates to meet it. Ezekiel Elliott ($7.0K/$8.0K) is fully aware his many vocal detractors will never hone up to admit their error in spreading rumors of his demise. Tony Pollard ($5.6K/$5.6K) is an outstanding change-of-pace complement to Zeke. But this is Elliott’s backfield. Bradberry simply shut down Amari Cooper ($6.1K/$7.1K) in two matchups last year. However, Bradberry is no longer shadowing opposing No. 1’s with Adoree’ Jackson’s skills on the other sideline. So it will be interesting to see how Cooper fares on Sunday.
Matchups to Target
Trey Lance, PIT ($5.7K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Cardinals’ Cover 1
Before we can expose our lineups to Trey Lance, we obviously need clarity on the status of Jimmy Garoppolo’s calf injury. It’s likely we receive clarity soon enough, but Rob Guerrera does pull some interesting comments on the situation from Kyle Shanahan’s recent presser.
With a Week 6 bye upcoming, resting Jimmy G this week makes a ton of sense. If Lance is the Week 5 starter, he will share one advantage with Mac Jones that they hold over their other rookie QB counterparts: far superior O-lines.
Lance has utilized that top-five O-line to his advantage, averaging 0.74 FPs/dropback over his first 25 dropbacks. He still has a ways to go in reading defenses, but he certainly knows where his bread is buttered (see Deebo Samuel below). Supplementing his passing numbers with 41 rushing yards in only two quarters of play last week, it would not be that outlandish to envision him doubling-down on his floor value. I know it's always a common narrative whenever a team inserts a rookie QB into their lineup for the first time but, if Lance plays like he did last week in this spot against Arizona, Garoppolo will return in Week 7 with the underappreciated assignment of holding the sideline clipboard.
Update: If Jimmy G is even on the field for situational snaps on Sunday, Lance should be avoided. If not, Lance will be the highest-owned QB on the main slate.
Deebo Samuel, PIT ($7.1K DK | $7.7K FD) vs. Marco Wilson, ARI
Entering last week’s game after halftime, Lance peppered Deebo Samuel with seven targets during those two quarters of play vs. Seattle. Samuel converted those touches into four receptions, 107 yards, two TDs, and 26.7 FPs… in two quarters! If that isn’t enough in and of itself to support Samuel as the highest-owned WR on all slates, prepare yourself for the rewards. Just take a gander at these qualified numbers: Samuel is averaging 25.2 FPG (third-most), 10.5 targets/game (fourth), 3.55 YPRR (first), and 9.68 YAC/reception (first). Arizona is kindly offering 44.3 FPG (fifth) and 2.0 red zone touches (sixth) to opposing WR units. Samuel will face several defenders, but a third of his reps will be across from ‘21 fourth-rounder Marco Wilson. The rookie CB is allowing 1.44 YPCS (58th), 0.43 FP/CS (77th), and a 139.4 TPR (76th). I will have maximum exposure to Samuel, once again, as my overall WR1 for Week 5.
Final notes on San Francisco
The higher the hype meter rises, the closer Jimmy Garoppolo ($5.5K/$6.9K) will be to being dealt to another team. When Lance is on the field, he’ll demand respect from opposing defenses on RPOs and read options with either Trey Sermon ($5.0K/$5.8K) or Elijah Mitchell ($5.2K/$5.5K). We need more clarification from Mitchell’s practice participation before making any SF RB decisions. And Lance adding that additional layer to the defense’s read keys should boost their output.
It was concerning for Brandon Aiyuk’s ($4.5K/$5.3K) outlook that Lance didn’t target him during his two quarters of play. Perhaps that’s a product of Aiyuk simply carrying his routes further upfield. If so, a full week of game prep could give Lance the confidence to involve him over the top. If not, Mohamed Sanu ($3.4K/$4.7K) could be a sneaky source of salary relief after he assembled a 3/26/0 on four targets from Lance. I’m also very high on seeing the very best pulled out of George Kittle ($5.6K/$6.5K) with Lance leading the offense. But Kittle is currently dealing with a calf injury of his own.
John Lynch said there's a chance the #49ers could be without George Kittle vs. the Cardinals who has been playing through injuries.— Keiana Martin (@KeianaMartinTV) October 8, 2021
49ers hopeful he can get at least one practice on today in advance of Sunday. https://t.co/IdVoiyVVGB
Update: If Kittle is out this week, Ross Dwelley would have some punt appeal.
Final notes on Arizona
All of the factors that find Arizona as a near-TD favorite considered, with Kyler Murray ($8.0K/$8.5K) priced out of the range I’m willing to invest at QB, none of the skill position options for the Cards are drawing much of my interest this week. Chase Edmonds ($5.9K/$6.2K) is the closest. He’s impressed me with his rushing effectiveness against the Rams last week. I am about as uninterested in James Conner ($5.6K/$6.3K) as it gets. TD-dependent plodders are not my style.
It blows the mind that Arizona is playing so well without DeAndre Hopkins ($7.6K/$7.5K) performing anywhere close to a WR1 level. That is sure to change in future weeks, possibly in this spot. I’m just not willing to invest in hoping it will happen. A.J. Green ($5.1K/$5.7K) has played really well the last two weeks. He’s actually been provided with more targets than Nuk over that span… and only costs 67%/75% of the cost to roster Hopkins. As much as the efficiency metrics tell me to endorse Christian Kirk ($4.9K/$6.1K), he’s only breached five targets in one-of-four games. If Kirk isn’t getting the volume for difference-making numbers, Rondale Moore ($4.6K/$5.2K) will not see anything better. Do not forget that well over a third of Moore’s receiving yardage and FPs were collected on a single busted coverage. Without it, Moore would be averaging 7.4 FPG. Is Maxx Williams ($3.4K/$5.2K) really a thing? It sure seems as though Murray is convinced the answer is yes.