Dealing with four teams on a bye is easy enough. Week 7 schedules six teams for a week of rest. Devoting our efforts toward rostering the highest-owned individuals in Cash/Single-Entry (SE) will be of the utmost importance, and differentiating our lineups in GPPs will be more difficult. Digging into every matchup on the slate to reduce the number of names on our list, the reduced number of teams does nothing to devalue the benefits of concentrating the focus of our DFS investment.
You’ll see a number of coverage metrics throughout this series. The following chart provides the full names for the acronyms and the average numbers for each position group:
If you’d like to learn more about/refresh yourself with each of the defensive coverage shells mentioned throughout this series and other relevant schematic details, utilize the following resources:
Fantasy Shells: Coverage Glossary
Fantasy Shells: Cover 1
Fantasy Shells: Cover 2
Fantasy Shells: Cover 3
Fantasy Shells: Cover 4
*18-20 (47%); 4-3 in Week 6
Denver Broncos (+3.5) at Cleveland Browns
Washington Football Team (+9.5) at Green Bay Packers
New England Patriots (-6.5) vs. New York Jets
Tennessee Titans (+5.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
New York Giants (+3.0) vs. Carolina Panthers
Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) at Miami Dolphins
Philadelphia Eagles (+3.0) at Las Vegas Raiders
New Orleans Saints (-4.5) at Seattle Seahawks
*14-15 (48%); 3-5 in Week 6
Atlanta Dolphins at Miami Dolphins (Over 47.5)
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (Over 47.0)
Carolina Panthers at New York Giants (Over 43.0)
Philadelphia Eagles at Las Vegas Raiders (Under 49.5)
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Over 47.0)
New Orleans at Seattle Seahawks (Under 43.0)
*23-7 (77%); 8-3 in Week 6
Denver Broncos (+145) at Cleveland Browns
Green Bay Packers (-450) vs. Washington Football Team
New England Patriots (-320) vs. New York Jets
Baltimore Ravens (-275) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Tennessee Titans (+200) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Atlanta Falcons (-140) at Miami Dolphins
Los Angeles Rams (-900) vs. Detroit Lions
Philadelphia Eagles (+150) at Las Vegas Raiders
Arizona Cardinals (-1500) vs. Houston Texans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-720) vs. Chicago Bears
San Francisco 49ers (-210) vs. Indianapolis Colts
New Orleans (-235) at Seattle Seahawks
From a fantasy perspective, this will be the least exciting Thursday Night Football (TNF) faceoff of the season. Both QBs are banged up. The entirety of one RB committee has been ruled out, the other has been rendered unusable by a 36.6% run rate (18th). Baker Mayfield would be worth a look if not for some troubling numbers, discussed below, from Week 6. The arrows are pointing toward the Broncos stealing this game as road ‘dogs. Cleveland had the look of a team headed toward another playoff run. They still have a 59% chance to earn a playoff bid, but losing at home to Denver would cut that number in half.
Matchups to Target
Courtland Sutton, DEN ($6.4K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. Browns’ Cover 3 | 4
It’s always risky placing Cash/SE trust into Thursday matchups. Anticipated ownership percentages released prior to the game’s kickoff are vulnerable to significant alterations as early rule-outs are passed along for those playing on Sunday and Monday. You can roll the dice on the field staying true to those percentages, but the name of the Cash/SE game is minimizing risk. That’s nearly impossible with the TNF playmakers. Perhaps the only matchup that should provide dividends is the one on the schedule for Courtland Sutton. He was brought along slowly over the first two games with low-80% route shares. That number has averaged 93% since.
Far more important than route numbers, Sutton’s target shares have been north of 28% in three of the last five games. And it just so happens that, in all three of those games, Sutton has faced a defense featuring a top-six rate of Cover 3. The Browns haven’t used a top-six Cover 3 rate, but eighth-highest is close enough. Cleveland does add a wrinkle that is different from those three other defenses: they feature the highest rate of Cover 4. However, over the last three seasons, Sutton has posted his highest FPs/route (FP/Rt) against a Cover 4 at 0.45 (13th-best). The Browns do have some promising corners but, as a unit, have surrendered the sixth-most FPG to opposing WR groups (40.6). I still won’t be trusting Sutton in Cash/SE, but he is a solid GPP option.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, CLE ($4.1K DK | $5.4K FD) vs. Kyle Fuller, DEN
NOTE: After writing up DPJ, the following news dropped. The analysis remains the same, but without the confidence I had in Mayfield exploiting this matchup.
Browns announce QB Case Keenum will start versus Broncos.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 20, 2021
Take this “plus” matchup with a grain of salt. Unlike Teddy Bridgewater’s foot injury, we know the injury to Mayfield’s non-throwing (left) shoulder impacted his play. He was clearly hindered by the ailment during the second half of Week 6. Enough so that, down by 23 points with five minutes remaining, Mayfield was replaced by Case Keenum. If Keenum starts, no matchup for Cleveland would be in play. If Mayfield can play, he would bring along the ninth-highest FPs/dropback (FP/Db) at 0.46 against Cover 1 during his career to face the sixth-highest Cover 1 rate — which is a surprising rate.
Baker Mayfield's Hail Mary 57-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones traveled 66.4 yards in the air, the longest completed pass in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016) by 2.0 yards.
🔸 Completion Probability: 15.4%#AZvsCLE
We can toss out the 57-yard Hail Mary TD Donovan Peoples-Jones collected at the end of the first half. Removing that play from his Week 6 receiving line, DPJ provided us with 3/44/1. Unsurprisingly, 100% of that line was assembled during the first three quarters prior to Mayfield tweaking his shoulder injury. And 100% of the line came against Arizona’s Cover 1. When Peoples-Jones is facing every other coverage type, he is replacement-level, at best. Against Cover 1 during his career, he has collected 28% of his receptions, 35% of his yardage, and half of his TDs on only 24% of total routes. DPJ will see the most man-to-man from Kyle Fuller, who has permitted 1.68 YPCS (70th out of 84 qualified outside CBs), 0.33 FP/CS (67th), and a 120.2 TPR (70th).
Matchups to Avoid
Teddy Bridgewater, DEN ($5.6K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Browns’ Cover 3 | 4
Unlike Mayfield, Teddy Bridgewater actually hit value with 25.3 FPs last week. He put nearly two-thirds of that number (16.1) together during the fourth quarter with his team down by 21 points. It’s unlikely that we’ll see a repeat of the factors that led to that outbreak. It was surprising to see Bridgewater complete all eight of his attempts against Las Vegas’ Cover 4, but he continued to languish against Cover 3 by throwing all three of his INTs. Over the last three seasons, Bridgewater ranks 29th among Week 6 starting QBs with 0.24 FP/Db — a 33% decrease in his overall average, 25th in passer rating (82.9), and he’s thrown two TDs compared to seven INTs.
Three straight games opposing stud QBs have done a number on the Browns’ defensive metrics, rightfully so after facing rookie QBs during the two games prior. Vulnerabilities in Cleveland’s Zone-heavy rotation have emerged toward accrediting the fourth-most FPG to QBs overall (23.0), the most over the last two games (34.1). For those reasons, Bridgewater is not a complete fade with DraftKings’ QB18 pricing. Just keep those expectations in check since Bridgewater is a far cry from Justin Herbert or Kyler Murray, the QBs who put those numbers on the Browns the last two weeks. We can take it to the bank that Teddy will struggle when Cleveland fields a Cover 3, and that he’ll be serviceable — not explosive — against their Cover 4. Like last week, it’ll be the number of red zone opportunities that will dictate Bridgewater’s results. As for his health status:
Final notes on Denver
I want nothing to do with Melvin Gordon III ($5.2K/$5.9K) or Javonte Williams ($5.1K/$5.7K) this week. Cleveland has held opposing backfields to the third-fewest YPC (3.6), rushing first down rate (22%), and 20-plus yard rate (0.68%). Tim Patrick ($4.9K/$6.0K) is the kind of wideout that always seems to do better than the general expectations. But he ranks 108th vs. Cover 3 and 93rd vs. Cover 4 in FP/Rt during the last three seasons.
Kendall Hinton ($3.0K/$6.0K) has been on the field for 61% of passing plays the last three weeks. He’s seen 10 targets (8.7% share) for an average of 7.2 FPG, but only 2.9 FPG against Cover 3 and 4. I’ll pass. Noah Fant ($5.0K/$6.0K) was very nearly listed as a target. He simply crushes Cover 3. In Denver’s three victories, he averaged 9.7 FPG. In defeats, 15.4 FPG. Like Bridgewater, too much of Fant’s volume is assembled when the Broncos are attempting comebacks.
Final notes on Cleveland
Baker Mayfield ($5.8K/$6.7K) was another early entry in the Matchups to Target category before being ruled out. Denver is throwing out far more Cover 1 than I ever remember seeing from an Ed Donatell defense. Be that as it may, we saw Mayfield’s health cap his upside last week. Without his superstud RB duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the responsibility of moving the offense will fall on the passing game. The Browns needed the same from Mayfield during the second half last week. He gave them 8-of-13 passing for 69 TD-less yards. They probably made the right decision to sit him.
D’Ernest Johnson ($4.8K/$5.7K) will be a popular pickup this week. Both platforms already priced him up enough that he is a clear fade. Some may delve into Demetric Felton ($4.9K/$5.3K) pivot-territory. John Kelly ($4.0K/$4.5K) is, at least, priced at the minimum. But the Browns’ RBs will struggle on the ground against a Denver defense permitting the third-fewest YPG (85.5), YPC (3.7), and the lowest first down rate (16.1%).
With Case Keenum ($5.0K/$6.0K) under center, Odell Beckham Jr. ($5.0K/$6.1K), Austin Hooper ($2.7K/$4.6K), and David Njoku ($3.3K/$5.0K) are not in play for me. The initial view of his history against Cover 6 did stand out for Jarvis Landry ($4.9K/$6.0K)… if he were to be activated. If not, Rashard Higgins ($3.5K/$5.1K) will continue to work out of the slot. Someone named Bryce Callahan happens to roam the inside. Just in case a reminder is required: