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Week 16 Matchup Analysis: Saturday Slate

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Week 16 Matchup Analysis: Saturday Slate

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) at Detroit Lions (5-9)

Detroit, MI | Ford Field | 1:00 PM ET | Line: TB -9.5 | O/U: 54.0

Let’s begin our special holiday breakdown with the Bucs traveling into Michigan to take on the Lions. With so many teams constructing their stadiums with fixed or retractable enclosures, it’s not all that surprising that each of this Saturday’s games will be unaffected by the outside weather. I was shocked to learn that Detroit is 2-6 this season when playing on artificial turf. Considering the surface of Ford Field is layered with FieldTurf -- essentially plastic on top of plastic with an interior filling of silica sand, it comes as no surprise they are 1-5 at home. Thinking back to some of the disturbing images of the mid-season damage to the Latitude 36 Bermuda grass on FedExField over the years, should we be surprised by the 15 NFL teams making the switch to the plastic grass?

Arecent report passed along that the NFLPA is requesting that all NFL teams switch back to natural grass. In the report, the claim is made that players have a “28 percent overall higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries on turf.” With all of that in mind, here is the injury report for the Lions:

How concerned should we be with the health of Matthew Stafford? In back-to-back games, Chase Daniel has replaced Stafford during the final seven dropbacks. Looking back at the Week 14 film, with 7:07 on the clock during the fourth quarter, you see Stafford scramble from the pocket where he is tackled from his right side by Kenny Clark after his left foot catches the FieldTurf, no less. He immediately grabs at the right side of his rib cage. After handing the ball off to Kerryon Johnson for a two-yard TD on the next play, he departed the game. We now know Stafford is dealing with torn rib cartilage on that right side. That’s in addition to a partial tear on his right thumb he suffered back in Week 10 when Jon Bostic attempted to strip the ball during a sack.

You may be asking yourself why this information is all so important. As outlined in the current issue ofAdvanced Matchups, over the last two seasons, Stafford ranks first overall with 0.52 FPs/dropback (FPDb) versus Cover 6. He also tops every QB with a 121.8 QB rating while gaining the fourth-highest increase to his YPA (41 percent). Stafford ranks fourth with 0.39 FPDb against Cover 4, fueled by the eighth-highest increase in YPA (14.5). Against Cover 2 over the same time, Stafford ranks eighth with 0.36 FPDb. With Tampa Bay packing a collection of shells for the road trip consisting of Cover 6 (11 percent, 10th-most), Cover 4 (16 percent, ninth), and Cover 2 (15 percent, 11th), the status of Stafford could have major DFS ramifications.

If you don’t have NFL GamePass access, you can see that Stafford appears just fine on this amazingno-look TD strike to Marvin Jones Jr., and on this44-yard completion to Hunter Bryant against the Titans in Cover 3. However, on the fourth quarter drive immediately prior to being replaced by Daniels last week, Frank Ragnow’s replacement at C, Joe Dahl, skips the snap to Stafford that ends with 6-foot-3, 290 lb. Teair Tart driving him into the Nissan Stadium ground … natural grass for those scoring at home. On the very next play, Jeffrey Simmons goes unblocked through the E gap, wrapping a stunt around LT Taylor Decker to place another hit on Stafford.

All of that said, with Tennessee scoring a subsequent TD to push their lead to 21 points, Daniel emerged onto the field with around nine minutes remaining. In my opinion, the risk on Stafford exposure is not as significant as it may seem. For starters, the Detroit O-line has played outstanding this season. They’ve only allowed Stafford to be sacked an average of 1.9/game, and hit at 1.8/game. The Buccaneers do offer a vicious pass rush headlined by William Gholston.

It’s very possible that Tampa Bay is able to exceed those averages in getting after Stafford. But in no stretch of the imagination do the Bucs match the pass rush from that of the Saints. In Week 4, New Orleans managed one sack, four hits on Stafford. That is the likely cap. All hits are different, but we play the percentages. We’d also love it if Ragnow returned from a fractured esophagus (yikes!), but Dahl hasn’t been a severe liability. A limited practice on Thursday from Ragnow does provide hope. At the end of the day, we have this:

My literal money will be on Stafford playing every snap unless the game turns into a blowout. As for his surrounding weapons, I’ve alsodetailed the significance of this matchup for Jones. During his last six-games when facing the Cover 6, 4, and 2 shells of such vital importance for Week 16 on 31 percent of routes, Jones has simply secured 51 percent of receptions, 48 percent of yardage, and 67 percent of total TDs. Thisfootage from their Week 13 win over the Bears illustrates how Stafford read the defense from high-to-low, working from digs over the top, to underneath hitches in order to attack Chicago dropping multiple defenders deep. The result was over 400 passing yards. Interim HC/OC Darrell Bevell will miss the game due to COVID-19 proximity protocols, but we can still expect the offense to attack Tampa in the same manner.

Jones has collected 57 percent of his receiving yardage down the middle of the field this season. That number is significant since we can expect Tampa Bay to leave the middle of the field open on around half of all passing snaps within their Cover 2, 4, and 6 formations.

With Kenny Golladay already ruled out, T.J. Hockenson’s upside arrow is pointing skyward since he’s also collected over half of his yardage over the middle (53 percent). Hock went for a 7/84/0 line on Chicago in Week 13.

As for the ground game, it’s all about D’Andre Swift. In two games since returning from a scary concussion, Swift has more than doubled the snaps played by both Johnson and Adrian Petderson. Digging deeper into the metrics, when Swift has played more than 30 snaps -- Week’s 8-10 & 14-15, Detroit RBs have garnered a 20 percent target share, taken 23 percent of receptions, 18 percent of yardage, and 20 percent of total TDs. In the remaining nine games, RB target share dropped by 15 percent, catches by 13 percent, yardage by 28 percent, and TDs by 65 percent. There are no guarantees that either Johnson or Peterson doesn’t vulture goal-line work. It is what it is.

Tampa Bay has been tough against the run allowing only 20.4 FPG to opposing backfields overall (fifth-best). But some chinks in their armor have emerged. Over the last two games, that FPG allowance has increased by 15 percent. Landing Swift directly into our consideration, the Buccaneers have been extremely susceptible to receiving backs. They’ve indulged those RBs with 11.7 pure receiving FPG overall (sixth-most), remaining consistent over their last four (10.7).

Flipping to the other side, the Detroit defense provides their opponent with multiple avenues of attack. The Lions are supporting the fourth-most rushing YPG (137.3), fifth-highest third-down conversion rate (49 percent), and the most rushing TDs/game this season (1.7). With Detroit’s secondary already missing CBs Jeffrey Okudah, Desmond Trufant, and Tony McCrae, they could also be without Darryl Roberts. That would leave Amani Oruwariye, Mike Ford -- who’s actually been a solid find, Justin Coleman, and Alexander Myres to defend an outstanding receiver unit from the Pewter Pirates. Considering the number of absences, it’s no surprise that the Lions are obliging the second-most FPG to WR units the last four weeks (48.3).

The most significant injury for the Buccaneers’ offense is out of their backfield:

On defense, they will likely be without a skilled CB:

During his Week 15 absence, Leonard Fournette took 19 touches for a replacement-level 65 yards. Be that as it may, he also vultured a pair of one-yard TDs to end the day with 21.5 FPs. As nice as it would be to see some significant action for 2020 third-rounder Ke’Shawn Vaughn, HC Bruce Arians and OC Byron Leftwich have only allotted him with an average of 6.1 offensive snaps in eight active games. Prior to Antonio Brown taking on his defined role in Week 10, Mike Evans led the team with 37 percent of receiving TDs on a 22 percent target share. Rob Gronkowski was finally shaking off the rust from a year off, running routes on 61 percent of dropbacks. In the five games Chris Godwin actually played, he led the attack with a 24 percent target share, 31 percent of receptions, and 30 percent of the yardage.

In the five games Brown has had full involvement, he’s garnered a 22 percent target share, and ranks second among team receivers with 24 percent of the receptions. Evans has maintained his TD rate (36 percent), but his target share rose by 12 percent to lead the team at 25 percent. He’s also turned those looks into the most yardage (25 percent). Gronk is now up to running routes on 73 percent of dropbacks, but his involvement has dipped around 10 percent across the board. Godwin has seen the most significant decline. His targets have decreased 17 percent down to a 20 percent share, he still leads in receptions (31 percent), but they’ve dropped 19 percent, and his yardage rate fell 23 percent.

In my view, Gronkowski will be very TD dependent. Since his salary on DK is 38 percent lower than FD, he is only an option on DK. The Lions are stingy to TEs but, as shown above, Gronk’s former teammate, Jamie Collins Sr. has yet to practice with a neck injury. If he misses, the future HOF TE could put up some season highs. At wideout, the involvement numbers are close enough for Godwin in an excellent matchup to realistically have a solid game. Although, my choice when paying up for a TB WR is Evans and his dominant TD numbers. That doesn’t mean I’m off Brown. He really impressed me last week. Despite that season-best game, his salaries dropped slightly. When I’m constructing my Saturday lineups, I will absolutely have some exposure to these passing attacks in each creation.

San Francisco 49ers (5-9) at Arizona Cardinals (8-6)

Glendale, AZ | State Farm Stadium | 4:30 PM ET | Line: ARI -5.0 | O/U: 49.0

The injury situation for San Francisco has reached rock bottom. But before we dive in there, let’s take a look at the home team. Were the 49ers at full health, I would only give serious consideration to the Arizona core. As I just stated, that is not the case. Here is the injury report for the Cards:

A good amount of these players don’t interest me much. The players that are of interest on offense: Darrell Daniels, Chase Edmonds, and Maxx Williams. On defense: Dennis Gardeck, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Jalen Thompson. I seriously doubt Edmonds misses this ultra-important game. It’s very likely that they are managing his ailments in order to have him ready for his usual role. Were Daniels and Williams to be ruled out, it would be push Dan Arnold from a dart to a locked-in option. As covered inAdvanced Matchups, I’ll be on Arnold, regardless, provided he plays which I think he will.

It does sound as though the Cardinals will be without the madman presence of Gardeck. He will be a significant loss from a pass rush already struggling to consistently pressure the pocket. Arizona’s secondary would get a massive boost if Thompson is able to return to cover centerfield. Prior to his ankle injury, Thompson only allowed 0.18 yards/coverage snap (YPCS, eighth-best out of 77 qualified free safeties), 0.05 FPs/coverage snap (FPCS, ninth), and 0.028 air yards/coverage snap (AYCS, seventh). If Kirkpatrick is unable to give it a go, we’ll likely see Kevin Peterson fill his role. The Cardiac Cardinals’ secondary that’s already allowing the 11th-most FPG to opposing WR units this season could dig their hole a little deeper.

After four losses in five games, Arizona has pulled off consecutive wins facing NFC East opponents. Their offense is implied with the eighth-highest total (27 points), joining with the 49ers for the third-highest combined pace of play of the weekend (140.7 plays/game). With the SF D-line in disarray, the Cards O-line should easily handle their best efforts. With all of the absences, it’s so surprising that San Francisco has been able to maintain their stifling run defense. They’re limiting backfields to the sixth-lowest FPG overall (20.2), but it has increased just a bit to 24.4 over their last two. With better options on the three-game slate, I’ll likely fade {{Kenyan Drake|RB|ARI}} unless Edmonds is ruled out.

As for Kyler Murray, he is the absolute chalk at the position. The only scenario where I would start another QB in Cash/SE is if a certain Hawaiian QB were to draw a start in the desert, and only on DK. The opponent might seem to push Murray’s outlook in the opposite direction, but he’s actually owned the 49ers in three career games. In the matchup, Murray holds a 103.6 passer rating, five TDs to one INT, rushing for 192 yards, two more TDs, and 25.7 FPG. His aerial counterpart, DeAndre Hopkins, has also pwned the Niners. In three career games, he’s averaged lines of 9/108/0.7, and 23.4 FPG. That level of production will make it nearly impossible to remain above the cash line without exposure.

For the Gold Rush’s offense, both Nick Mullens and Raheem Mostert were lost last week for their remaining two games. C.J. Beathard will step in to lead the attack. We can expect a lot of Jeff Wilson out of the backfield. Here is their full injury report:

Since we already knew Deebo Samuel wouldn’t play along with the two I just mentioned, the remaining potential absences making the most impact are on defense. It does appear that Jason Verrett will return after missing Week 15. But his return is completely overshadowed by the monumental loss of Richard Sherman. With both Jimmie Ward and Tavarius Moore listed as questionable after Wednesday’s practice, hope still existed. Now that Ward has been ruled out … oh my.

Over their last four games, the San Francisco O-line has tolerated more than 15 QB pressures/game. However, they’ve been one of the most dominant run defenses I’ve seen all season. Even facing the solid Zona run defense, Wilson is a tremendous value with plenty of upside at only $5.0K/$6.2K. It wouldn’t be the first time Kyle Shanahan has shocked our expectations with his RB distribution. Tossing a dart at Tevin Coleman is reasonable logic since he returned to play 19 offensive snaps last week (five touches).

For Brandon Aiyuk, a new QB pretty much scrubs out the reliability of his man coverage production. And Beathard does have a big arm able to match the speed of Aiyuk. On his 55 dropbacks this season, Beathard has averaged 10.13 air yards/attempt. If you are wondering whether Aiyuk is an option, check out these target shares from his last six games: 28, 32, 57, 26, 39, and 34 percent. The final decision to make is concerning George Kittle:

Thankfully, we actually have a good amount of history with both Kittle and Beathard on the field. In two games together this season, Kittle is averaging a line of 10/117/0.5, and 26.2 FPG. Yeah, I know. Back in 2018, they played together in five games. Beathard provided him with an average line of 5/79/0.4, and 15.7 FPG. In those seven games combined, Kittle is averaging 19.1 FPG. It’s always possible that Kittle could reinjure his foot on his very first route. And this could always happen (brace yourself):

Even if Kittle were only to run routes on half of Beathard’s dropbacks, you can count on him receiving a target share matching any TE on the Saturday slate sans Darren Waller. One thing is for sure, we will likely never see a healthy-enough-to-play Kittle priced at only $5.0K/$6.0K again.

Miami Dolphins (9-5) at Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)

Las Vegas, NV | Allegiant Stadium | 8:15 PM ET | Line: MIA -3.0 | O/U: 47.5

It’s so disappointing that Marcus Mariota will not receive a followup opportunity to his outstanding performance from Week 15 filling in for Derek Carr. As I hinted at above, Mariota is the only QB sans Kyler that I would give a single bit of Cash/SE consideration. His ability to use his legs to elevate his floor would’ve presented him as an option in spite of facing a tremendous Dolphins defense. I want nothing to do with Carr. Perhaps he’ll do something, but the Raiders have proven themselves as a run-first team. Passing on only 59 percent of offensive snaps (ninth-lowest), the DFS options on Las Vegas are limited. Perhaps my opinion will be proved to be nonsense, but I find the Raiders only giving three points to Miami as a ludicrous opportunity to collect some cash.

Yes, Las Vegas is playing host to the Phins at the brand-spanking new Allegiant Stadium located in literal Paradise. Paradise, Nevada, that is. Thankfully, they decided on natural Bermuda grass. But the Silver and Black are 2-5 at home, and have lost four of their last five games. It even took them a very late TD pass to Henry Ruggs III to take that single victory over the Jets. The defense approved those last five opponents to average 36 PPG. With the Dolphins’ defense only parting out 18 PPG behind some truly elite defenders, that Vegas line should be blown out of the water.

However, this game will still be plenty exciting, even without Mariota. Miami’s run defense is outside of the top-15. They’re allowing the fifth-highest YPC (4.63), fifth-highest rate of first downs per rushing attempt (29 percent). But they’ve also been the most difficult team to convert third downs against (33 percent success rate). I still think Josh Jacobs will do well as long as they get some good news on the injury front. Speaking of, here is their current injury report:

From all appearances, Las Vegas appears to be getting healthy. In addition to Carr, Ruggs will return after a one-game absence, and Hunter Renfrow has cleared the concussion protocol. On defense, Clelin Ferrell’s inability to return from the shoulder injury suffered last week is a major loss. Were Maurice Hurst to also miss the game, Miami could literally approach 40 points. Johnathan Abram returns after a missing Week 15, and we might actually see Damon Arnette contribute in the secondary. What would really destroy all hope for this defense is if Nick Kwiatkowski is unable to clear the COVID-19 protocol.

Other than Jacobs, the only viable DFS option from the Raiders is Darren Waller. I’ve gambled against Waller at some of the worst possible times this season. He has a habit of suffocating the historical data with a deluge of targets. His rock-solid 27 percent target share is three more than Travis Kelce, and a full six percent more than third in the ranks. They’ll need every bit of production from Waller and Jacobs to keep pace. But Waller is going to draw some very skilled coverage from Eric Rowe.

For Miami, they simply love playing on the road (5-2), on natural grass (8-4), and have won nine-of-12 after opening 0-2. Tua Tagovailoa may not be putting up Hairbert numbers, but his record as a starter (5-2) is far superior to Herbert’s (4-9). Not entirely fair since the Dolphins have the superior roster, but you get the point. Tagovailoa has been able to overcome what seems like the loss of his entire receiving unit. With HC Brian Flores hoping to improve his playoff seeding, we have this report:

The Raiders are limiting outside WRs to the third-fewest FPG (18.3), but the most production out of the slot (18.4). No other defense comes close to that split. LV DC Paul Guenther is in the business of literally planting his CBs to one side of the field, so traveling will not come into play. Miami OC Chan Gailey loves rotating his WRs all over his formation. The one WR that should do well independent of the status of his running mates: Lynn Bowden Jr.. He’s run over 70 percent of routes from the slot, taking on target shares of 18 and 30 percent the last two weeks. However, from my point of view, it was clear that Tagovailoa’s go-to target became Mike Gesicki until he injured his shoulder in Week 14.

Gesicki has blocked on 75 percent of all snaps this season. That number ranks him second in the NFL. A rate that makes perfect sense, Gesicki is one of the top blocking TEs in the league. But he is also emerging as one of the top receiving TEs, as well. As long as everyone is active in Week 16, my DFS TE rankings will be: Waller > Kittle > Gesicki > Hockenson > Arnold. As for Tagovailoa, we need to remember that, in addition to his passing abilities, he is also dangerous with his legs:

Although, the rushing volume just isn’t consistent enough for our purposes (3.0 FPG). Miami is pulling out all of the stops to make a playoff run, and they badly want this victory:

Until we see Tagovailoa string together some consistent ground production -- likely not until 2021, the absence of the vertical passing simply places too much of the responsibility on his receivers to work after the catch for our attention. A GPP dart? Absolutely. But I would not wager anything significant with Tagovailoa located in my QB slot.

Finally, we have the Dolphins’ backfield. Just when it appeared we could rely on some Salvon Ahmed, Myles Gaskin returns to practice. However, the Raiders’ run defense is so porous that there may actually be enough to feed both of their bellies. Las Vegas is permitting the eighth-most YPG (125.8), sixth-highest YPC (4.62), and second-most TDs/game (1.64). Add in those defensive injuries and the rushing yardage could exceed 200 if all of the cards fall into place. Pretty risky relying on two RBs from the same backfield. I will be putting my money on Gaskin returning to the RB1 role with Ahmed cleaning up the scraps.

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

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