We’ve been working on something massive behind the scenes at Fantasy Points this year. We have an exceptional team of charters led up by Brett Whitefield and Chris Wecht — two guys we’re convinced are superstars in this field — who have been gathering data native to the website.
Eventually, that data will be available on the site in raw form and in pretty charts and graphics (everyone loves pretty graphics!), but building the foundation of the database has been the big focus for everyone.
With Fantasy Points Data — a project that we’ve had in the works for the better part of a year — we wanted to answer one big question: what if we tailored all of the data our team has gathered (hand-charted from our team of experts) directly to the fantasy player?
Based on years of playing season-long fantasy, dynasty, and DFS — and using all the charted data out there to build models and try to gain an advantage in a game where the margins are shrinking — we believe we’ve found where we can do things better. And we have tools in development that we think fantasy players will go absolutely crazy for. We believe, in all humility, we’re going to do this better than anyone else, and it will unequivocally blow your mind.
I’ll break this article every week into two sections — a macro look at offensive lines vs. defensive lines, and a micro look at wide receivers vs. secondaries — highlighting both the best and worst matchups every week.
(NOTE: All data is from a range of the most recent five weeks unless otherwise noted.)
Top Run Game Mismatches
Our “RUSH GRADE” is based simply on a formula measuring an offense’s average yardage before contact on non-QB rush attempts (a catch-all way to eliminate scrambles) versus a defense’s average yards per contact allowed on non-QB rush attempts.
Best Week 12 Run Blocking Matchups
Last time out before their Week 11 bye, Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert shredded the Browns for 184 rushing yards and 2 TD. Houston’s run-defense struggles have been well documented in this column, and with the Dolphins 12-point favorites as of publication, this looks like a great spot for Wilson and Mostert to continue their strong play. Wilson is a borderline RB1 who will be very popular for DFS, while Mostert is a RB2/FLEX who could be an interesting pivot off the chalk.
Welcome back from bye, Ken Walker. In each of the last five weeks, the Raiders’ defense has allowed a back to post 100 yards from scrimmage, a touchdown, or both. They notably were the “get well” defense for Jonathan Taylor two weeks ago, when the Colts star ran for 147 yards and a score.
Quite frankly, I’m shocked to see Dallas’ run game rank “only” third for the week given that we’ve been picking on the Giants’ run defense for weeks. I anticipate both Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott will be popular on the Turkey Day DFS slate. Pollard erupted for his third straight performance with 21+ FP with 15/80 rushing and 6/109/2 receiving for a season-high 36.9 FP on a promising 54% snap share in Dallas’ 37-point beatdown over the Vikings. Zeke also came through with 15+ FP and 1+ TDs in his third consecutive game, posting 15/42/2 rushing for 17.7 FP on a 29% snap share. The Giants are allowing a generous 5.4 YPC and the eighth-most rushing YPG (109.3) to RBs and Pollard already posted 13/105 rushing against them in Week 3.
As our guy Sam Wagman so astutely pointed out in this week’s Market Report, D’Onta Foreman “has three games where he has over 100 rushing yards and a top-10 RB finish. He ALSO has three games where he hasn’t surpassed 24 rushing yards or cracked the top 40 fantasy RBs. To make it even worse, two of the good weeks came against the Falcons, who are pretty much just the worst fantasy defense in the NFL. All of this adds up to a guy that you just can’t quite trust to start unless he has a very good matchup, and he gets minimized in games where the Panthers are trailing heavily.” Fortunately for Foreman, Denver is a fantastic matchup, and the Panthers are just 2.5-point underdogs, so the game should be close.
Last week in this very space I wrote that Isiah Pacheco was “staring down his first career 100-yard rushing game on Sunday night against the Chargers,” and hark! It did indeed happen. Of course, Pacheco didn’t score or catch a pass, so his fantasy production was mostly of the empty-calorie variety. The Rams are actually, by the YBC/ATT metric, a below-average matchup. The Chiefs’ offensive line has just been creating some big holes. Pacheco will be a RB2 against the Rams in Week 12, with the Chief two-TD favorites on Sunday.
Worst Week 12 Run Blocking Matchups
The Patriots had a couple of offensive linemen hurt in Week 11, with David Andrews suffering a thigh contusion and Isaiah Wynn picking up a foot injury. Over the last five weeks, only the Cardinals are opening fewer yards before contact than the Pats, so those injuries will be critical for this matchup. Damien Harris had some success last week against the Jets’ awesome defense last week, picking up 65 yards on 8 carries, but Rhamondre Stevenson did not find the same room to run with just 1.73 YPC on 15 carries (26 yards). Fortunately, Stevenson continues to be an asset as a receiver. His 6 receptions and 56 receiving yards led the Pats last week. Minnesota got crushed by Dallas on the ground last week, so this isn’t a horrible matchup from the defensive perspective (especially if DT Dalvin Tomlinson can’t play again).
Latavius Murray will be a popular pickup this week for good reason — the Broncos just released Melvin Gordon. But it’s not the best spot for him given it’s the second-worst matchup on the board by our numbers.
The Lions have a three-man RB rotation right now with Jamaal Williams, Justin Jackson, and D’Andre Swift. Buffalo is ceding the fewest yards before contact to RBs over the last five weeks and just held Nick Chubb to 19 yards on 14 carries.
The good news for Najee Harris is that his last two games have been as good as he’s looked, potentially, in his entire NFL career. And now Jaylen Warren could be set to miss time with a hamstring injury. But the Colts have had one of the best run defenses in the NFL this season, and over the last five weeks have been a bottom-10 matchup for fantasy RBs by schedule-adjust FPG allowed.
Minnesota’s offensive line hasn’t opened a ton of holes before contact for Dalvin Cook of late, and star LT Christian Darrisaw will be out on Thanksgiving against the Patriots with a concussion.
Top Pass Game Mismatches
Our “PASS GRADE” is a formula developed using “QB Pressure Rate Over Expectation.” It measures how much a quarterback should be expected to face pressure, adjusted for the quarterback’s average time to throw (a quarterback with a 3.0-second aT2T should be expected to be pressured more than one with a 2.0-second aT2T, for instance).
The higher the number, the worse it is for an offense, and the better it is for a defense.
Best Week 12 Pass Rush Matchups
I don’t like to be too general overall, but each of the top four matchups here stands out to me because all of them feature quarterbacks who get the ball out really quickly, which is going to skew the pressure numbers. Over the last five weeks, among 39 QBs with 20 or more dropbacks, Colt McCoy is averaging 1.95 average time to throw, which is staggeringly low (lowest in the NFL — Kyler Murray is 7th-lowest). Tom Brady is 2nd-lowest over that time. Both Mac Jones and PJ Walker are among the 10th-quickest as well.
Yes, Walker/Baker Mayfield/Sam Darnold/Jake Delhomme or whoever starts at QB has a good matchup because Denver isn’t getting home to the QB, but are we actually going to use that for fantasy? Come on. I’m much more excited about the Panthers’ top-five run-game matchup this week.
Dak Prescott also gets the ball out quickly — 12th-quickest over the last five weeks — but Dallas’ offensive line does such a good job in protection as well. Dallas should be able to do whatever it likes this week against the Giants’ defense.
Worst Week 12 Pass Rush Matchups
The Rams don’t have their best receiver (Cooper Kupp) and might not have either Matthew Stafford (concussion) or John Wolford (neck) against the Chiefs in Week 12. This is going to be a massacre if Bryce Perkins has to start. Heck, it’d be a massacre even if Stafford starts.
If you’re looking for a bounceback spot for Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ offense after last week’s loss to Dallas… look somewhere else. The Vikings rank bottom-five in both our run game and pass game line matchup metrics this week, and that doesn’t even fully account for the fact that star LT Christian Darrisaw has already been ruled out for Thanksgiving night as he battles his second concussion in as many weeks.
The Bengals have been getting after quarterbacks lately, but Tennessee’s high QBPROE is entirely because of Malik Willis’ unpreparedness in Weeks 8 and 9. Willis was pressured on an insane 61.1% of his dropbacks in his two starts. That’s been back down to just 22.9% with Ryan Tannehill back under center.
Texan coach Lovie Smith has opened the door to potentially benching Davis Mills for Kyle Allen. If it doesn’t happen before Week 12’s matchup with the Dolphins, it could well happen after Mills and the Texans’ offensive line faces off with Miami’s dynamic pass rush, led by Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb.
Dallas has the league’s best pass rush so it’s no surprise to see the Cowboys on this list. But things could be even more precarious for the Giants on Thanksgiving Day — both starting C Jon Feliciano and backup RT Tyre Phillips went down with neck injuries in Week 11’s loss to the Lions and are looking iffy for Week 12. New York is certainly hoping rookie RT Evan Neal (knee) is ready to return from the MCL sprain that’s cost him the last four weeks.
Top WR/CB Mismatches
NEW on Fantasy Points is our WR/CB Matchup Tool, sortable with loads of matchup data!
A note on our process: there are very few situations in the NFL in which one receiver will match up with one corner for the vast majority of his routes. So honestly, WR/CB matchups in the traditional sense are perhaps the most overrated form of fantasy analysis.
We aim to do them better: our process breaks down how many routes a receiver runs from a certain alignment, and assigns a weighted score based on how much that receiver is expected to see a given defender based on those alignments. So it will measure how often we expect a receiver to face all defenders in a matchup, not just one particular defender, and weigh a score by those expected percentages.
So really, this is more of a WR/Secondary breakdown, as opposed to individual WR/CB matchups. And if we do believe there could be a shadow situation, I will mention that.
I will write up what I feel to be some of the more interesting matchups, not necessarily every top or bottom matchup.
Best Week 12 WR/CB Matchups
Mike Evans and Julio Jones (TB) vs. Cleveland — Cleveland’s corners made an appearance in this column last week and, in general, did a solid job on a Bills’ receiving group that might have been thrown off by both a bizarre travel schedule and a dinged-up Josh Allen. Top CB Denzel Ward’s numbers, in general, are thrown off by some early-season struggles. He’s cleaned things up since his return from a concussion two weeks ago. But Martin Emerson, as well as he’s playing for a third-round rookie, has still been someone exploitable for fantasy. Over the last five weeks, Emerson has allowed 0.56 FP/coverage snap, most among any CBs with 50 or more coverage snaps over that span. That’s really good news for Evans but also potentially Julio if you’re looking for a cheapish DFS option.
Tyler Boyd (Cin) vs. Tennessee — This is one where we have to watch the injury reports. On Thursday night against the Packers, both of the Titans’ top slot defenders — CB Elijah Molden (groin) and S Amani Hooker (shoulder) — missed on a short week. With both guys out, Joshua Kalu was the fill-in against Green Bay, and he allowed 5/44/1 on 6 targets while playing 13 coverage snaps, all from the slot. Boyd disappointed against the Steelers last week, posting 2/42 on 7 targets, but could go under-rostered in DFS if Ja’Marr Chase returns to the fold this week. Of course, things get a lot tougher for Boyd if Molden and/or Hooker is able to play.
Keenan Allen (LAC) vs. Arizona — This is another “watch the injury reports” situation, and a big one. Byron Murphy, the Cardinals’ versatile CB who plays the slot roughly 45% of the time and would almost certainly be the primary matchup for Allen, has missed the last two games with a back injury. In his stead, Arizona’s top two slot defenders have been S Jalen Thompson and reserve CB Antonio Hamilton, along with hybrid player Isaiah Simmons. I don’t think the Cardinals will trust Simmons there against a route technician like Allen, while Thompson is allowing 0.45 FP/CS over the past five weeks, and Hamilton 0.37. It’s not like you’re sitting Professor Keenbean even if Murphy plays, but it’s a potential blowup spot if he does not.
Worst Week 12 WR/CB Matchups
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle (Mia) vs. Houston — No, no, no, no. I am not telling you to sit these guys. But let’s put some respect on the name of veteran Steven Nelson, who plays both the right and left side of Houston’s defense equally. Among 106 DBs with 50 or more coverage snaps over the last five weeks, Nelson’s 0.15 FP/CS is 19th-lowest. Remember that rookie Derek Stingley (hamstring) got hurt in practice last week and missed last week’s game, so he’s up in the air for this one, so the Texans could be shorthanded.
Christian Kirk (Jax) vs. Baltimore — Against the Panthers last week, Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey worked equally as much inside as outside, facing 19 routes in the slot (most against Shi Smith) and 17 routes on the perimeter. He gave up 1 catch for 5 yards in his primary coverage. Over the last five weeks, Humphrey has surrendered 0.13 FP/CS, 11th-fewest in the NFL. He’s playing at an extremely high level, and the read here is that Baltimore will want him matching on Kirk — the Jaguars’ primary slot WR — more often than not.
Darnell Mooney (Chi) vs. New York Jets — I wrote Mooney up as a “best” matchup in last week’s column, and it was kind of a mixed bag. Yes, he scored, but he caught just 4 passes for 29 yards and didn’t hit his receiving prop against the Falcons. This week, his matchup is far worse, and QB Justin Fields (shoulder) is hurt. Jets slot CB Michael Carter gave up 4 catches for 33 yards to Jakobi Meyers in his primary coverage last week. It was the first time all year that Carter surrendered more than 2 receptions to a single receiver.
Week 12 Potential Shadow Situations
DJ Moore (Car) vs. Patrick Surtain (Den) — I would expect Surtain to shadow Moore when Moore runs routes on the perimeter, which is about 75% of the time. That is, of course, unless the Panthers decide to get Moore into the slot more often to avoid the coverage of Surtain. Last week, Davante Adams got the better of the superstar CB, scoring both of his TDs — including the overtime game-winner — in Surtain’s primary coverage, though the Raiders also moved Adams into the slot quite a bit to avoid Surtain’s coverage (Surtain lined up across Adams on just 47.2% of his routes in Week 11, down from 71.1% in Week 1). I would not anticipate Moore having the same success given the state of the Panthers’ QB play.
Brandin Cooks (Hou) vs. Xavien Howard (Mia) — It’ll actually be really interesting to see if the Dolphins shadow Cooks, Nico Collins, or neither with Howard given the fact that it appears Collins has actually overtaken Cooks as Houston’s top receiver. But when these two teams squared off last year, Howard lined up across from Cooks on 22 routes, surrendering just 2 catches for 19 yards in his primary coverage. This year, Howard’s been a mixed bag of a matchup, allowing five different receivers to catch at least 3 passes, three receivers to top 85 yards, and two receivers to score on him. Over the last five weeks, opposing QBs have a rating of 104.3 when targeting him, so this isn’t the shutdown matchup we’ve gotten used to.
Terry McLaurin (Was) vs. AJ Terrell (Atl) — Terrell, the Falcons’ top CB, returned from a hamstring injury last week after not playing since Week 7. Terrell gave up just 2 catches in his primary coverage in Week 11, and incidentally, neither was to a WR (both were to Cole Kmet, for 29 yards). Terrell has shadowed four different receivers to an over 50% route share this year, and it’s been up and down for him. He completely shut down Amari Cooper and DK Metcalf (3/28 on 11 targets combined), but Mike Evans put up 4/81 on him, while both Michael Thomas and Brandon Aiyuk got him for 2 TDs a piece. So McLaurin, who exorcised the Darius Slay demon two weeks ago, can still get his, and we know Taylor Heinicke will look to him.