2023 Week 18 DFS Coverage Shells


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2023 Week 18 DFS Coverage Shells

Week 18 marks the last opportunity during the 2023 NFL regular season to exploit a larger sample of games before the paralysis of overanalysis that is postseason football takes shape.

In this article, I’m fading all of the contract-incentive discourse that seems to get brought up every year around this time. Instead, I’ll be sticking to the process and going over three different coverage matchups and envisioning game scripts based on the markets, with a heightened attention to games with lasting implications beyond this week (seeding, postseason berths, etc).

Team Defenses

Opposing offenses are dropping back a whole lot against the Rams. LA finds itself as a 3-point underdog in San Francisco this Sunday.

As it stands, the Cowboys own the highest team-implied total of the week at 29.25, as they’re 13.5-point favorites at the Washington Commanders.

After Dallas, the next “tier” of projected-scoring offenses primarily find themselves within games favored by a field goal or less.

Texans @ Colts

The Houston Texans are currently 1-point road favorites in this divisional showdown at Lucas Oil Stadium vs the Colts on Saturday evening. Houston’s 24-point team total is good for 5th-highest on this weekend’s game slate.

This game has all the necessary ingredients to be entertaining, given the projected close matchup and the fact that the winning team earns a postseason berth, while the loser goes home for the offseason.

I don’t think many thought that rookie QB C.J. Stroud ($7,300) would be in this scenario right now- surely exceeding any preseason expectations through seventeen weeks.

Defensively, the Colts deploy zone coverage at the highest rate in the NFL (84%). Stroud ranks 2nd out of 36 qualifying QBs in points per dropback vs. zone coverage this season (0.44):

Likewise, Stroud’s WR1 Nico Collins ($7,600) has an encouraging coverage matchup against this Colts defense.

Collins is averaging 3.16 YPRR vs. zone coverage, which ranks Top 5 in the NFL among 140+ qualifiers (upper-right):

On the other sideline, QB Gardner Minshew ($5,900) and Indy’s offense are set to face a defense shelling out two-high coverage looks at a Top 5 rate this season (57%).

Although two-high defenses are prone to opening up production opportunities to opposing secondary weapons, Colts WR1 Michael Pittman Jr. ($7,500) is comfortably his team’s top target vs two-high this season:

The Colts rank 3rd among NFL offenses in neutral pass rate on offense over the last month of the season (64%). This projects to be a close matchup that also means something to both organizations — for the skill players, a volumed-packed back and forth would set up nicely.

Seahawks @ Cardinals

The Seahawks are coming off a tough loss to the Steelers. They’re looking to keep their playoff hopes alive in their Week 18 matchup against the Cardinals, a team coming off an impressive victory vs. the reigning NFC champions.

Seattle is currently 3-point road favorites and owns the 3rd-highest team total of the week (25).

Seahawks QB Geno Smith ($6,100) has an encouraging coverage matchup. The Cardinals deploy two-high shells at a 64% rate, good for the 2nd-most among defenses this season.

Geno averages 0.50 FP/DB vs two-high looks, which ranks inside the Top 5 of qualified QBs:

As for the Seahawks’ pass catchers, there are numerous ways to go. They don’t have a clear number 1 against two-high defenses, so there is some flexibility at play here:

If we want to break things down to the more nitty gritty, Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf ($7,200) owns a 2.56 YPRR and 35% yards share vs Cover 4, Top 5 out of 27 qualifying WRs and is a coverage that Arizona deploys at the highest rate in the NFL this season (33%).

WRs Tyler Lockett ($5,600) and/or Jaxon Smith-Njigba ($4,800) are cheaper alternatives, as both have been right in the mix with DK in terms of garnering volume/usage vs two-high defenses all year long.

This game is tricky, as both defenses are hemorrhaging rushing yards over the last month of the season, but the potential is there for some big plays.

Buccaneers @ Panthers

This game is literally a must-win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. They’re coming off a tough loss to the Saints, while the Panthers continue to melt in all facets of the game.

Assuming he’s healthy enough to play, Bucs QB Baker Mayfield ($6,200) is an underrated play this week against Carolina’s defense.

The Panthers deploy single-high coverage looks at the league’s 3rd-highest rate this season (64%). Baker averages 0.52 FP/DB against single-high defenses, Top 5 among qualified QBs this season:

Pro Bowl WR Mike Evans ($7,400) is pretty dominant vs single-high defenses. His 3.12 YPRR ranks Top 5 out of 83 qualifiers this season, and he’s the clear number 1 option vs. single-high among this crop of Tampa Bay pass catchers:

Quick Notes

Texans WR Nico Collins is averaging 3.16 YPRR vs zone coverage

  • 4th-highest out of 143 qualifiers this season

  • Colts deploy zone at the highest rate in the NFL (84%)

Dolphins WR Jaylen Waddle owns a 3.14 YPRR vs two-high defenses this season

  • 3rd-highest out of 113 qualifiers this season

  • Bills deploy two-high at the league’s 3rd-highest rate (58%)

Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown owns a 2.58 YPRR vs two-high defenses this season

  • Top 10 out of 113 qualifiers this season

  • Vikings deploy two-high at the league’s 6th-highest rate (56%)

Bucs QB Baker Mayfield has produced 0.52 FP/DB vs single-high defenses this season

  • Top 5 among QBs in the Week 18 game slate

  • Panthers deploy single-high coverage 3rd-most among all defenses (64%)

Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf owns a 2.56 YPRR and 35% yards share vs Cover 4

  • Top 5 among 27 qualified WRs this season

  • Cardinals use Cover 4 the most out of any defense this season (33%)

Originally coming from a baseball background — both as a player and where his analytics journey began — Nick uses a broad range of perspectives to form substantive opinions with matchups and higher-level trends. Prior to joining Fantasy Points, Nick began work as a college base data analyst for Pro Football Focus