It was a great week to be a qualified strong safety. While a 3.9-point reduction in targeted passer rating (TPR) may only compute 3.7% in the calculator, it’s a massive improvement considering that one week on the field altered the yearly number to that extent. Perhaps it’s simply the product of numbers leveling out. Regardless, qualified air yards per coverage snap (AY/CS) fell for a fourth straight week. Particularly inside the coverage responsibilities of outside cornerbacks. Wrap your head around a 21% plummet in that number solely from Week 11 play. But the average AY/CS declined for every position group with significant coverage responsibilities.
Pre-2020 scoring is still down and rushing efficiency actually improved slightly in Week 11 compared to the first 10 weeks. To bring everyone up to speed, passing attempt rate and efficiency on throws traveling 20 yards-or-more had been on a downward trajectory for five straight weeks since the rate reached its peak in Week 5. Week 11 provided us with some interesting data points. You can check them out for yourself in the updated chart below:
The deep target rate dropped, yet again, by 18%. However, those attempts resulted in 10 TDs vs. six INTs. That’s easily the top TD-to-INT ratio (1.67) since Week 6 (1.78). However, unlike Week 6 when an extremely healthy 13 QBs contributed a deep passing TD, Aaron Rodgers and Trevor Siemian combined to complete seven-of-10 attempts for 223 yards, and five deep TDs last week. With two QBs contributing half of the deep TD total and another decline in attempt rate, it’s safe to say that the issue is far from settled.
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 through Week 11:
To magnify their importance toward processing the matchup data, familiarity with these abbreviations is key. The full names of the data points in the headers of the data table above will not be written out in full within the specific matchups. You’ll find the following acronyms frequently used whenever referencing defensive coverage statistics:
Yards Allowed Per Coverage Snap = YPCS
Fantasy Points Allowed Per Coverage Snap = FP/CS
Air Yards Allowed Per Coverage Snap = AY/CS
Targeted Passer Rating (i.e., Passer Rating on Targets into Coverage) = TPR
Offensive abbreviations used when referring to QBs/RBs/WRs/TEs:
FPs/Dropback = FP/Db
FPs/Route = FP/Rt
FPs/Touch = FP/Tch
Yards/Route Run = YPRR
Air Yards/Attempt = AY/Att
Air Yards/Target = AY/Tgt
Yards/Target = YPT
Targeted Passer Rating (i.e., QB Passer Rating When Targeting Receiver) = TPR
If you’d like to learn more about/refresh yourself with each of the defensive coverage shells and other relevant schematic details mentioned throughout this series, utilize the following resources:
Fantasy Shells: Coverage Glossary
Fantasy Shells: Cover 1
Fantasy Shells: Cover 2
Fantasy Shells: Cover 3
Fantasy Shells: Cover 4
I hope everyone enjoys a Happy Turkey Day on Thursday! As always, we will have the pleasure of a trio of games to consume along with our cooked bird, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Without further delay, let’s dive into a special Thanksgiving Day edition of Advanced Matchups.
*41-57 (42%); 5-7 in Week 11
Chicago Bears (-3.0) at Detroit Lions
Dallas Cowboys (-7.5) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Buffalo Bills (-6.5) at New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.0) at Indianapolis Colts
Tennessee Titans (+6.5) at New England Patriots
Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) at New York Giants
Cincinnati Bengals (-4.5) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Miami Dolphins (+2.0) vs. Carolina Panthers
Houston Texans (-2.5) vs. New York Jets
Atlanta Falcons (-1.0) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Denver Broncos (+2.5) vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Green Bay Packers (+1.0) vs. Los Angeles Rams
Minnesota Vikings (+3.5) at San Francisco 49ers
Washington Football Team (-1.0) vs. Seattle Seahawks
*37-38 (49%); 7-4 in Week 11
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (Under 41.5)
Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys (Under 50.5)
Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints (Over 46.0)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Indianapolis Colts (Over 52.0)
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (Over 43.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (Under 45.5)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (Over 44.5)
Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins (Under 41.5)
New York Jets at Houston Texans (Under 44.5)
Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars (Under 46.5)
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos (Under 48.5)
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (Under 47.5)
Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers (Over 48.5)
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team (Under 47.0)
*56-38 (60%); 6-7 in Week 11
Chicago Bears (-155) at Detroit Lions
Dallas Cowboys (-335) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Buffalo Bills (-265) at New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-155) at Indianapolis Colts
New England Patriots (-265) vs. Tennessee Titans
Philadelphia Eagles (-180) at New York Giants
Cincinnati Bengals (-210) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Miami Dolphins (+110) vs. Carolina Panthers
Houston Texans (-150) vs. New York Jets
Atlanta Falcons (-120) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Denver Broncos (+125) vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Green Bay Packers (-105) vs. Los Angeles Rams
Minnesota Vikings (+150) at San Francisco 49ers
Washington Football Team (-120) vs. Seattle Seahawks
Matchups to Target
Andy Dalton, CHI ($5.5K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Lions’ Cover 2
Just as Justin Fields was hitting his stride, a rib injury knocked him out of Week 11, and will also keep him out on T-Day. At least for this week, as it relates to the matchup, the Bears will be in capable hands with Andy Dalton. Playing the antagonist in Week 12, the Lions have been tinkering with their coverage rotation all season. Working with the least effective passing defense from last season, it’s absolutely no surprise to see DC Aaron Glenn adjusting his weekly ingredients to get his desired flavor. To date, Detroit features the sixth-highest rate of Cover 2, 13th-highest of Cover 6, and competitive rates of a long list of exotic schemes that provide next to nothing in regards to projection value. That Cover 6 rate has been on the decline for several weeks, with those percentage points being devoted to a Cover 1.
The scheme that has stood the test of time during Glenn’s experimentation has been his Cover 2. Over his last 28 games — 24 starts, Dalton’s 0.41 FP/Db leads all qualified QBs, sans Matthew Stafford, when opposed by Cover 2. He’s also thrown a 105.5 passer rating (third-best) and 24% increase in YPA (fifth) at zone schemes where the outside corners sit in the flats with two deep defenders splitting the deep responsibilities. As is entirely expected, defenses make scheme adjustments in response to their opponent. Even if the Lions shockingly shy away from their Cover 2 this week, it’ll be to the benefit of their Cover 1. Dalton hasn’t obliterated a Cover 1 to the extent of Cover 2, but he receives the 11th-highest boost to his FP/DB average (14%), his AY/Att improves by 24% (sixth-highest), and he’s thrown 10 TDs vs. five INTs during his last 28 games.
Dalton is a virtual lock at a profit in excess of his 16.5/18.0 floor FPs with QB19/QB17 pricing.
Darnell Mooney, CHI ($5.7K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Jerry Jacobs, DET
After Fields left Week 11 with 11:22 on the clock in the third quarter, Dalton targeted Darnell Mooney 11 times for 3/70/1 of his total 5/121/1 receiving line. It doesn’t look like Allen Robinson II will manage to take the field after missing Week 11. There is no doubt that the 45% target share collected by Mooney last week would decline with AR12 back on the field, when he makes it back. However, a reduction in that voluminous target share would likely be accompanied by an increase in efficiency. Either way, Mooney is going to see a heavy dose of Jerry Jacobs this week. During his time in coverage this season, Jacobs is allowing 1.16 YPCS (43rd-best out of 80 qualified outside corners), 0.23 FP/CS (30th), 0.23 AY/CS (57th), and a 96.3 TPR (40th). In order for Dalton to attack a Cover 2, the “honey holes” down either sideline beyond the outside corners are extremely vulnerable for receivers with the speed to attack them. Equipped with 4.38-speed, Mooney fits that prerequisite to a T.
David Montgomery, CHI ($6.0K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Lions’ Cover 2
This recommendation is not rocket science. The ownership percentages will likely follow. In spite of actually doing a decent job at limiting the Browns and Steelers to 14.5 PPG the last two weeks, the Lions have continued to bleed the second-most rushing YPG (140.5), sixth-most TDs/game (1.10), and third-most FPG to RBs (28.4). A massive component of that expenditure is due to missing the highest rate of tackle attempts this season. The last time Montgomery faced Detroit, he accumulated 111 total yards, two TDs, and 27.1 FPs.
Final notes on Chicago
Montgomery put an emphatic end to Khalil Herbert’s ($4.5K/$4.9K) days of utility with a 70% share of the carries vs. 5% for Herbert last week. If Allen Robinson II ($5.1K/$6.0K) does play, he would also be someone worth considering. In his five quarters playing with Dalton early in the season, he was fed with 11 targets for a 7/46/1 line. Those numbers would improve with the Lions putting their Cover 2 on the field. If ARob is out again this week, don’t feel too bad about chasing after Marquise Goodwin’s ($3.8K/$5.4K) 23.4 FPs from Week 11. Dalton provided 3/82/1 of his 4/104/1 total line in less than two quarters of play. Goodwin hasn’t brought in a single reception across from Cover 2 over the last three seasons, but the eight-year veteran will have experience on his side.
Oddly enough, Damiere Byrd ($3.0K/$4.8K) paces team wideouts with 2.06 YPRR against Cover 2 since 2019. Jakeem Grant ($3.0K/$4.6K) got some field time with Robinson out last week. Just not enough to matter. Cole Kmet ($3.7K/$5.0K) disappointed in a smash spot with the Ravens’ defense in Week 11. For all of their issues, Detroit’s coverage has limited TEs to only two TDs scored, and the 11th-fewest FPG (10.8). Jimmy Graham ($2.8K/$4.4K) actually led Chicago TEs with a 10% target share against Baltimore. And all of his 2/25/0 line on three targets was collected with Dalton under center.
Final notes on Detroit
Does it really matter if Jared Goff ($5.1K/$6.7K) or Tim Boyle ($4.8K/$6.2K) draws the start on Thursday? Chicago doesn’t exactly field the level of pass defense that was headlined by Brian Urlacher in the early-2000s, and the Lions’ offense could be motivated by the primetime Thanksgiving Day coverage. My money will not be placed on the line hoping for that to come to pass. D’Andre Swift ($7.3K/$8.0K) is obviously the guy we want to target in all game types. My mind was blown that he managed to rush for 136 yards and a tuddy in Week 11 after touching the ball 39 times the previous week. That’ll be the last time I doubt Swift’s toughness. We may see a slight adjustment to the touch numbers now that Jamaal Williams ($4.0K/$5.2K) is reintegrated further after missing multiple weeks. Be that as it may, Swift has clearly established himself as the featured back. It’s amazing it’s taken this staff so long to realize that fact.
Josh Reynolds ($3.0K/$4.9K) led Detroit WRs in reps last week. He responded with a 0/0/0 line on three targets. Breaking news: Reynolds continues to be found alongside Demarcus Robinson and Ian Thomas as the least effective/efficient receivers in all of football. It’s a shame that Kalif Raymond ($4.6K/$5.1K) hasn’t received more looks. Especially since he proved himself as a tremendous deep threat during his time in Tennessee. In spite of all of his gifts, we need to be patient with Amon-Ra St. Brown ($4.2K/$5.5K) until they put a capable arm under center. Pat Freiermuth collected a 5/43/2 line in Week 10 and Mark Andrews followed with an 8/73/0 line last week against the Bears. That’s good news for T.J. Hockenson’s ($5.2K/$6.1K) chances of success this week.
Matchups to Target
Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (6.9K DK | $8.2K FD) vs. Raiders’ Cover 3
Kansas City’s defense held up last week. The recent adjustments on the defensive side that fueled drastic improvements limited the Cowboys to nine points. But it certainly helped that Amari Cooper had been placed on the COVID list, CeeDee Lamb left with a concussion, and Ezekiel Elliott picked up a knee injury. Zeke has already made it clear that he will play this week. And that should be music to our ears. The Raiders are supporting the fourth-most rushing YPG (132.1), seventh-most YPC (4.5), fourth-highest rate of 20+ yard runs (3.05%), and seventh-most FPG to opposing RBs (26.7). At his RB6/RB5 pricing, the concern will be the number of touches consumed by Tony Pollard. Elliott has taken 56% of the carries during the last two weeks. And the pair have evenly split 18 targets. Despite that reality, Zeke is going to have a shot at good yardage and multiple scores against a defense that’s gifted 73 points the last two weeks.
Final notes on Las Vegas
Dallas may not have pulled away victorious, but the ‘Boys still limited Patrick Mahomes II to 260 passing yards, zero TDs, and one INT. The Cowboys are featuring the second-highest rate of Cover 1. They also field top-15 to top-20 rates of Cover 2 and 4. As frustrated as I am in Derek Carr ($5.9K/$7.4K) for his poor play in recent weeks, this is a road spot where he could rebound. Darren Waller ($6.4K/$7.3K) finally stepped forward with a 7/116/0 line last week, and Hunter Renfrow ($5.6K/$6.2K) continues to be his most reliable target. But Josh Jacobs ($5.9K/$6.7K) has averaged just 3.3 YPC the last two weeks. It’s high time Las Vegas considers expanding the role of Kenyan Drake ($4.6K/$5.6K) at Jacobs’ expense.
The other issue on offense is Bryan Edwards ($3.9K/$5.3K). He continues to eat up routes without any production in return. Edwards is following a path toward Bustville. As if that weren’t enough, Zay Jones ($3.0K/$4.9K) is miscast in a featured role, and DeSean Jackson’s ($3.1K/$5.0K) days of starter reps went over the hill a few years back. It’s also time for the Raiders to get Foster Moreau ($2.9K/$4.7K) more involved in the offense. I wouldn’t get my Cash/Single-Entry (SE) lineup anywhere close to a Raider in Week 12, but Carr, Waller, and Renfrow are in GPP consideration.
Final notes on Dallas
If CeeDee Lamb ($6.9K/$7.7K) manages to clear the concussion protocol, I’ll be investing in some Dak Prescott ($6.9K/$8.2K). Over his last 30 starts, Prescott has generated 0.51 FP/Db (third-most) and a 103.6 passer rating (sixth-best) when facing a Cover 3. Las Vegas is utilizing Cover 3 at the highest rate this season. If Dallas follows the example of the Chiefs and Bengals, another route of the Raiders would put the ball into Tony Pollard’s ($5.6K/$5.9K) hands enough times to make a difference. A scenario that would provide particular value on FD with RB31 pricing.
Michael Gallup ($5.9K/$6.5K) is going to get his share of targets. However, Lamb and Dalton Schultz ($5.3K/$6.0K) have been the beneficiaries of Prescott’s Cover 3 success. Schultz ranks ninth among qualified TEs with 0.44 FP/Rt with a 134.0 TPR (fourth-best) during his career against Cover 3. On 23% of his career routes, Schultz has accumulated 30% of his receptions, 34% of his yardage, and 43% of his TDs when the opposing defense puts a Cover 3 on the field. And the Raiders are packaging the ninth-most FPG to opposing TEs (14.5).
Cedrick Wilson Jr. ($3.5K/$5.6K), Noah Brown ($3.0K/$4.7K), and Malik Turner ($3.0K/$4.6K) were tasked with handling the work with Lamb and Cooper last week. The results were not great. Even if Lamb is unable to gain clearance, I would steer clear of all three.
Matchups to Target
Stefon Diggs, BUF ($7.9K DK | $8.3K FD) vs. Marshon Lattimore, NO
After being planted on the right side of the field on nearly 90% of snaps the previous two weeks, Marshon Lattimore split his time evenly between both sidelines in Week 11. Adding further uncertainty to the mix, Paulson Adebo and Bradley Roby followed Lattimore’s example. Why? Lattimore spent the majority of the game shadowing DeVonta Smith. And he did a solid job limiting the rookie to 3/53/0 of his 4/61/0 line. However, Stefon Diggs is not a rookie. In fact, Diggs is one of the most accomplished WRs against Cover 1 in the NFL. He’s also fit in extremely well with Buffalo’s collection of Cover 4 destroyers since being acquired from Minnesota. Oh yeah, it’s probably important to note that the Saints are using the sixth-highest rate of Cover 1 and fifth-highest of Cover 4. When they’ve made adjustments to one of those rates, it’s been to the benefit of the other.
During his 41 games the last three seasons, Diggsy ranks seventh-best with 0.70 FP/Rt, fourth with 3.79 YPRR, and third with a 33% share of the targets when he’s on the field against Cover 1. When he’s worked against Cover 4 over that time, Diggs has manufactured 0.45 FP/Rt (15th-highest). As for Lattimore, among 80 qualified perimeter CBs, he’s relinquishing 1.94 YPCS (the most), 0.38 FP/CS (second-most), 0.29 AY/CS (eighth-most), and a 122.2 TPR (eighth-highest). As a whole, the Saints are providing opposing WR units with the ninth-most FPG (37.3). It’s a ninth-most ranking that’s remained consistent over the last four weeks with 35.6 FPG.
Final notes on Buffalo
If not for the QB2/QB1 pricing on Josh Allen ($7.8K/$8.8K), I’d be all about promoting him in Week 12. He’s still a tremendous bounce-back candidate in what should be an explosive game for the Bills’ passing offense. The Buffalo O-line has played really poor this season. But Allen ranks sixth-best in passer rating under pressure. Even with the struggles of the ground game, the Bills are still utilizing the seventh-highest rate of play action. That’s key since New Orleans has given up the ninth-most FP/CS against play action. Allen isn’t flattening Cover 1’s to the level of Kirk Cousins — Diggs' former QB, but it’s when facing that scheme that Allen has catalyzed the second-highest percentage of passing yardage, and 23 TDs vs. nine TDs the last three years. It’s against Cover 4 where Allen really stands out, pioneering 0.43 FP/Db (second-most), a 109.5 passer rating (fifth), and with a 17% spike in YPA.
It may just be temporary, but Matt Breida ($4.8K/$5.3K) led team RBs with a 38% carry share last week. OC Brian Daboll’s patience with Devin Singletary ($4.9K/$5.8K) (23%) and Zack Moss ($4.7K/$5.7K) (23%) seems to be thinning. How Emmanuel Sanders ($4.8K/$5.8K) has managed to keep his starting role ahead of Gabriel Davis ($3.6K/$4.8K) is beyond this analyst. Davis is outperforming Sanders in YPRR (1.71 vs. 1.40), YPT (11.0 vs. 9.7), yards after the catch (3.73 vs. 1.97), and FPs/touch (0.345 vs. 0.291). Perhaps this will be the week where Davis’ role increases.
If we can trust that Cole Beasley ($4.5K/$5.7K) is back to full health, he joins Davis inside the top-five most dangerous wideouts against Cover 4. Davis leads all qualified WRs with 0.56 FP/Rt and Beasley is sixth-best with 0.52 since 2019. As if that’s not enough firepower for Allen, Isaiah McKenzie ($3.0K/$4.6K) has also produced 0.45 FP/Rt with 14% of his TDs on 8% of his routes the last three seasons. After leading the offense with six receptions and 80 yards last week, it’s clear Dawson Knox ($4.4K/$5.9K) is back to 100% health. During his career, Knox invoked the seventh-highest TPR (118.8), fourth-most YPT (13.8), and the most AY/Tgt (13.2) across from Cover 4 among qualified TEs during his career.
Final notes on New Orleans
As much as I love what Taysom Hill is able to do, I simply cannot argue with the play/numbers from Trevor Siemian ($5.6K/$7.0K). He’s not collecting victories, but he’s thrown eight TDs to only two INTs, averaging the ninth-most air yards/game (307.1), and has the fifth-best passer rating under pressure (89.3). All of that in mind, don’t believe for a second that I’ll have a single stock in Siemian against this secondary of Buffalo. And whatever vulnerabilities that exist in his game will be placed front-and-center given Alvin Kamara ($7.8K/$9.0K) isn’t ready in time for T-Day. Siemian got away with not having Kamara against Tampa Bay and Atlanta. The Bills will eat him alive without the Saints’ stud back attacking their suddenly vulnerable run defense.
Mark Ingram II ($6.2K/$6.6K) is also highly questionable. Meh. I’d much rather see Tony Jones Jr. ($4.0K/$4.8K) with a featured role than the over-the-hill game of Ingram. Keep in mind, if Jones does draw the start, he’ll be the highest-owned RB on every slate where he’s available. Tre’Quan Smith ($4.4K/$5.9K), Marquez Callaway ($5.0K/$5.7K), Deonte Harris ($3.7K/$5.2K), and — oh, yes — even the one-trick skill of Kenny Stills ($3.0K/$4.6K) should be considered complete fade fodder this week. We’ll see a combination of Nick Vannett ($2.5K/$4.2K) and Juwan Johnson ($2.6K/$4.5K) striking fear into opponents now that Adam Trautman has hit IR.