We were a witness to no less than six upsets last week. Four of those victories were claimed on the road; five of those losing teams still have extremely good odds for earning playoff seeds. Pass rushing ruled Week 9. Outside cornerbacks continued to thrive, cutting coverage metrics across the board — headlined by another 10% drop in AY/CS. And safety coverage quality has been phenomenal this season.
Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen a 15.7% decline in throws of 20-or-more yards compared to the first seven weeks. And that drop-off on 20+ attempts has been accompanied by a decline in efficiency. For instance, an 11.7% drop in YPA, 10.4% in completion rate, 25.9% decline in TDs thrown per INT, 32% decrease in TD rate, and 14.7% dip in passer rating. I’ll provide further insight into how each of those six teams mentioned pulled off their upsets, as well as what went wrong for the losing teams as I work through the Week 10 matchups.
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:
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
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:
*34-35 (49%); 6-7 in Week 9
Baltimore Ravens (-7.5) at Miami Dolphins
Indianapolis Colts (-10.0) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-9.5) at Washington Football Team
Buffalo Bills (-11.5) at New York Jets
Tennessee Titans (-2.5) vs. New Orleans Saints
Atlanta Falcons (+8.5) at Dallas Cowboys
Pittsburgh Steelers (-8.0) vs. Detroit Lions
Cleveland Browns (+1.5) at New England Patriots
Los Angeles Chargers (-3.0) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Denver Broncos (-3.0) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Seattle Seahawks (+3.5) at Green Bay Packers
Las Vegas Raiders (+2.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) at San Francisco 49ers
*23-31 (43%); 4-6 in Week 9
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins (Under 46.5)
New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans (Over 44.5)
Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers (Over 42.5)
Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots (Over 45.0)
Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers (Over 53.0)
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals (Under 44.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos (Over 44.0)
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (Under 49.0)
Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders (Over 51.5)
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (Under 48.5)
*46-22 (68%); 7-7 in Week 9
Baltimore Ravens (-335) at Miami Dolphins
Indianapolis Colts (-490) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-400) at Washington Football Team
Buffalo Bills (-590) at New York Jets
Tennessee Titans (-145) vs. New Orleans Saints
Dallas Cowboys (-400) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers (-335) vs. Detroit Lions
Cleveland Browns (+110) at New England Patriots
Los Angeles Chargers (-155) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Arizona Cardinals (-475) vs. Carolina Panthers
Denver Broncos (-160) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Seattle Seahawks (+145) at Green Bay Packers
Las Vegas Raiders (+120) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Rams (-180) at San Francisco 49ers
Matchups to Target
Carson Wentz, IND ($5.9K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Jaguars’ Cover 2 | 3
Curious how the Jaguars upset the Bills in Week 9 with a 9-6 victory? Two clear keys to victory, entirely entwined. First, after featuring a top-10 rate of Cover 1 over their first seven games, DC Joe Cullen made an ingenious decision to shift to a Cover 2. Utilizing the Two-High at a 35% clip, he cut his previous Cover 1 rate by 43%. Combining that Cover 2 with the 12th-highest rate of Cover 3, he put two schemes on the field that Josh Allen just so happens to have thrown nine TDs to 18 INTs against over the last three seasons. By pushing Allen outside of his comfort zone, Jacksonville’s pass rush managed to collect 30 total QB Pressures, four sacks, and four hits. Dawuane Smoot (seven pressures, one sack, one hit), Josh Allen (six pressures, one sack) and Taven Bryan (four pressures, two sacks) reaped the benefits.
One issue arises with this sudden adjustment: do we need to be concerned with further scheme shifts? The Jags clearly took advantage of analytics to identify a weakness in Allen’s game. But it would be imprudent to overreact. If we were to see Cullen feature a Cover 4- and Cover 6-heavy rotation where Carson Wentz has thrown three TDs to eight INTs the last three-plus years, the panic button would need to be depressed when dealing with the Jaguars in the future. However, I am proceeding as though the Cover 2 shift will be permanent. And Wentz has destroyed Cover 2 over his last 48 starts. He ranks fourth-best among all qualified QBs with 0.40 FPs/dropback (FP/Db) over those previous three seasons. Inside that success is the second-highest passer rating (106.4) and a 25% increase in YPA.
Michael Pittman, IND ($6.3K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Tyson Campbell, JAX
One of the hottest wideouts in football, try an average line of 6.3/85/1.3 (22.8 FPG) on 25 targets over his last three games. With only a single game with Pittman working with Wentz against a high rate of Cover 2, we need more of a sample size to make accurate projections. But the Jags also feature the 12th-highest rate of Cover 3. And the C3 happens to be Pittman’s early-career specialty. On only 22% of career routes against Cover 3, Pittman has found 25% of his receptions, 32% of his yardage, and 33% of his TDs. Simply stroll back to Week 7 at San Francisco for his most recent performance against a high rate of Cover 3. The highlight of his 3/99/1 performance on three targets against the 49ers’ Cover 3 was a fake screen blockthrough taken for a 28-yard TD that put the game away with ~three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The alignment numbers will place Pittman within the coverage of both Shaquill Griffin on the left and Tyson Campbell on the right in nearly equal amounts. But the reps across from Campbell will be the golden looks. Among 85 qualified outside corners, Campbell ranks 84th-best in YPCS (2.08), 80th in FP/CS (0.37), 68th in AY/CS (0.35), and 80th in TPR (127.5). In my individual coverage power rankings, Campbell ranks 78th out of 85 perimeter CBs. He’s allowed the highest rate of 20-or-more yards completions this season. With Pittman adding the fourth-most yards/target (YPT) at 13.25 and 12th-highest increase in air yards/target at 12% across from Cover 3 during his 22-game career, he will enter a smash spot as Wentz’s go-to target.
Final notes on Jacksonville
The ankle Trevor Lawrence ($5.3K/$6.6K) tweaked is not going to hold him back this week. The Colts have leaked the second-most FPG to opposing offenses the last two games (115.9 to the Titans and Jets). And 26.7 of those FPG have been gifted to QBs (second-most). We are getting closer toward discovering T-Law’s coverage preferences, with Cover 3 leading the way. Indianapolis just so happens to feature the ninth-highest rate of Cover 3, but the TDs have eluded Sunshine thus far. With 31% of his rookie yardage — but only 13% of TDs — gained on 24% of dropbacks, Lawrence enters Week 10 as a yardage-only play.
Getting James Robinson ($6.2K/$7.5K) back would be huge for the Jags. Yes, they upset Buffalo. But they did so on three field goals, while losing the yardage battle to the Bills 301-to-218. Carlos Hyde ($5.0K/$5.7K) only managed 73 yards on 23 touches (3.2 yards/touch), so Jacksonville is clearly lost without their studback. Marvin Jones Jr. ($5.8K/$5.9K) will work across from Rock Ya-Sin’s press-heavy zone coverage. Ya-Sin has limited the opposition to 0.97 YPCS (20th-best), 0.26 FP/CS (45th), 0.25 AY/CS (44th), 114.6 TPR (71st), and the sixth-lowest rate of 20-plus completions. It’s some conflicting data, for sure. On the positive side in favor of Jones, the Colts are distributing the most FPG to receivers on the outside (20.9), and my coverage algorithm is projecting 15.5 FPs for Jones this week (16th-most).
The formula is also calling for 11.9 FPs for Laviska Shenault Jr. ($4.6K/$5.5K). Viska will see more coverage from Xavier Rhodes. He’s surrendering 1.70 YPCS (seventh-most), 0.34 FP/CS (13th), a 111.0 TPR (20th), and the seventh-highest rate of 20-plus completions. Rhodes is 21st-worst in my individual coverage power ranking. Now that Jamal Agnew’s ($4.5K/$5.3K) salaries require 13.5/13.3 FPs to hit floor value, he’s become too TD-dependent for my taste. The ownership numbers for Dan Arnold ($3.5K/$5.1K) have kept me off him the last few weeks. Indy is passing out the fifth-most FPG to TEs (16.6), but Bobby Okereke is limiting big plays this season.
Final notes on Indianapolis
Jonathan Taylor ($8.1K/$9.4K) was a boss last season with 253 rushing yards, two TDs, and 38.4 FPs against Jacksonville in Week 17. And, with 25.7 FPG over his last six, JT is going to boss the Jaguars again this week. Nyheim Hines ($5.0K/$5.6K) collected his 108 combined yardage on only 10 touches last week. I’ll need to see him consistently produce before I consider him lineup-worthy. T.Y. Hilton ($4.7K/$6.0K) is set to make his return this week, squaring off with the same Griffin-Campbell coverage combo as described for Pittman above. Hilton’s return will push Ashton Dulin ($3.0K/$5.0K) back to the sideline and lock Zach Pascal ($4.5K/$5.6K) in the slot. The Jags are pouring out the 11th-most FPG to TEs (14.3). That said, I’ve, once again, lost all faith in OC Marcus Brady’s maddening usage of Mo Alie-Cox ($3.1K/$4.8K). Lunchpail-hero Jack Doyle ($3.1K/$4.6K) caught the TD in Week 9.
The Football Team have also tinkered with their scheme rotation the last two weeks. DC Jack Del Rio has dealt with consecutive absences from William Jackson III by reducing his Cover 1 rate by 40%. In both games, Del Rio deposited those percentage points into his Cover 3 rate. The results were not at all obvious dealing with Aaron Rodgers in Week 7, but a 44% increase in Cover 3 worked wonders in Week 8 at Denver. If we didn’t know Washington made the same shift in Week 7, seeing WFT pivot to the exact coverage that Teddy Bridgewater has thrown only two TDs, compared to seven INTs over his last 33 starts would be cause for the analytic-alarm. The fact that the same Washington defense that had permitted 31.7 PPG over their previous six games held the Broncos to a stalemate at 10-all until Melvin Gordon III scored on a seven-yard run with 4:27 remaining in the fourth quarter is significant progress.
Matchups to Target
Chris Godwin, TB ($7.1K DK | $7.8K FD) vs. Danny Johnson, WAS
Unfortunately for Washington, a schedule that already ranks as the most difficult will not be providing any relief when they welcome Tampa Bay and the GOAT to Landover in Week 10. It will be a rematch of the 2020 Wild Card Round that resulted in favor of the Bucs 31-23. It was a game that Chris Godwin would probably like to forget. He managed a 5/79/1 line, but dropped five-of-12 targets. Godwin is coming off 8/111/1 and 8/140/1 lines the last two weeks. What was the commonality in those two matchups? Top-five rates of two-high zone schemes from Chicago (Cover 6) and New Orleans (Cover 4). The split-safety alignments of those coverages leave the middle of the field open to attack. And that is an area of the field Godwin lives to attack.
As with the Saints also using the fifth-highest rate of Cover 1, as described above, it’s very likely that Washington will use another high rate of Cover 3. It’s a shell that will station a free safety deep to defend centerfield. But, on average, WFT will still use a two-high on around a third of their snaps. Del Rio had been featuring an exotic personnel package with five defensive linemen, three safeties, two corners, and one linebacker. However, ‘21 first-rounder Jamin Davis has forced his way into featured reps the last three weeks, and they’ll be without Montez Sweat for the next several weeks. So, we should expect to see a personnel shakeup. We haven’t received word on if Jackson’s knee injury will allow him to play. If he’s out again, a chunk of the slot responsibilities will fall on 2018 UDFA Danny Johnson. Let’s just say that it will be a sparkling matchup opportunity for Godwin to erase that Wild Card performance from memory.
Mike Evans, TB ($6.9K DK | $7.4K FD) vs. Benjamin St-Juste, WAS
In that Wild Card matchup, Mike Evans put a 6/119/0 line on Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby. Unless we see Antonio Brown return with his fourth-best FP/Rt number (0.62) from his last 29 games — which appears to be unlikely, Evans will provide the Bucs with their best Cover 3 success (0.43 FP/Rt). With Darby in Denver and Jackson missing the last two games with a knee injury, coverage responsibility for 56% of Evans’ routes from the left side would fall upon ‘21 third-rounder Benjamin St-Juste. The rookie is enabling the eighth-most YPCS (1.69), 12th-most FP/CS (0.34), 20th-most AY/CS (0.33), 16th-highest TPR (114.5), and eighth-highest 20-plus completion rate.
J.D. McKissic, WAS ($5.2K DK | $5.4K FD) vs. Buccaneers’ Cover 2
I know, I know. J.D. McKissic has been extremely volatile this season. In the negative-numbered weeks, he’s averaged 4.5 FPG. In the positive-numbered weeks, he’s posted 18.4 FPG. And this will be a positive-numbered week so… all of that means absolutely nothing. Purely coincidental. What does matter is that in three of his four good performances, he faced a defense (Giants, Falcons, and Chiefs) ranking in the top-10 in the most pure receiving FPG warranted. It makes quite a bit of sense for the back averaging the seventh-most pure receiving FPG (9.0) to do well in matchups across from defenses vulnerable in that domain. And, while the Buccaneers are closing down ground production to the fewest in the league (6.8 FPG), they are allowing the third-most through the air (15.3).
Final notes on Tampa Bay
The GOAT collected 381 passing yards and 23.2 FPs against Washington in that Wild Card victory. And that defense Tom Brady ($7.6K/$8.3K) faced has been far more lenient during this calendar year. Leonard Fournette ($6.1K/$7.4K) assembled 132 yards and, one of John Hansen’s favorite references, one TUDDIE on 23 touches in that playoff matchup. Montez Sweat’s absence will impact the run defense as much as it will the Washington pass rush. Without Antonio Brown ($6.1K/$7.5K) around to pester Kendall Fuller, that responsibility might fall upon Scotty Miller ($3.0K/$4.8K) if he’s able to return from his turf toe injury:
Scotty Miller says he hopes to play this Sunday but will wait and see how the week goes and what the coaches and trainers decide. He said today’s practice was good.— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) November 10, 2021
Whether it’s Miller or Tyler Johnson ($3.3K/$5.1K) that draws another set of featured reps, that individual will be on the GPP radar at near-minimum pricing, and with explosive Cover 3 results in their histories. If Rob Gronkowski ($4.4K/$6.1K) is ruled out for Week 10 with back spasms, I just have zero confidence in drawing reliable conclusions from the Cameron Brate ($2.7K/$4.5K)-O.J. Howard ($2.7K/$4.6K) rotation. Brate has doubled Howard’s route percentages since Gronk’s been out, but Howard has the edge in targets 13-to-nine.
Final notes on Washington
Taylor Heinicke ($5.4K/$5.9K) has done his best work across from Cover 2 during his career. Tampa Bay just so happens to feature the third-highest rate of Cover 2. However, it’s difficult to get behind a QB only averaging 12.8 FPG over his last four games. The same goes for trusting Antonio Gibson ($5.5K/$6.2K) against the most ground production-stingy defense in the league. If we could see Terry McLaurin ($7.6K/$7.1K) work with a top-10 QB, what wonders might we behold? I’d settle for seeing him simply working across from a competent wideout.
With all appearances pointing to Curtis Samuel ($4.1K/$5.3K) being out at least another week, we would see a lopsided matchup of DeAndre Carter ($3.0K/$5.2K) across from one of the top corners this season, Jamel Dean. He’s limiting his coverage to the fifth-fewest YPCS, fourth-fewest FP/CS, and the lowest TPR (39.6) that happens to be the same QB reward for spiking the ball. With about as much trust in Adam Humphries ($3.5K/$5.0K) as Carter, the starting TE for WFT could be of interest in this spot. The Bucs are certifying the eighth-most FPG both to TEs (15.2) and to receivers aligned inside (21.7). If Logan Thomas ($4.0K/$5.5K) manages to gain clearance for Sunday action, he’d be an interesting option. If not, Ricky Seals-Jones ($3.7K/$5.3K) will be gifted with an excellent spot for meaningful production.
Matchups to Target
Cole Beasley, BUF ($5.2K DK | $6.1K FD) vs. Michael Carter II, NYJ
I’m going against my better judgment on this one. My coverage algorithm is calling for Stefon Diggs to produce WR8 numbers on Sunday. Even if that result is matched to the letter, it’ll still fall short of Diggs’ floor with his outrageous pricing as the WR7/WR6. Both platforms are valuing Diggs based on his ‘20 play. And we can have Cole Beasley with WR35/WR35 pricing and a 21.5% target share that is only a smidge under that of Diggs’ (23.9%). Diggs began the season with a 27.8% share over the first four weeks. But that rate has fallen to 20.1% since. The target distribution in Buffalo’s last three games: 19 for Emmanuel Sanders, 25 for Diggs, and 30 for Beasley.
The Jets have been great in defense of WRs this season, only tolerating 32.1 FPG (seventh-fewest). But they’ve begun showing signs of issues, licensing the sixth-most over the last four weeks (41.7). And the clearest avenue of attack for wideouts is aligned on the inside. Beasley will do a good amount of his work across from ‘21 fifth-rounder Michael Carter II. While Carter’s coverage held up during the first four games of his rookie season, he’s distributed 71% of his total yardage on 49% of coverage snaps during the last four games. Beasley may not reach paydirt, but he’s a PPR darling worth every bit of your consideration on DK in Week 10.
Matchups to Avoid
Corey Davis, NYJ ($4.9K DK | $6.2K FD) vs. Tre'Davious White, BUF
Corey Davis is set to make his return from a two-game absence due to a hip injury. But he’ll have the odds stacked against his favor against his Week 10 opponent. The Bills are ghosting opposing WR units to the fewest FPG this season (25.4). And half of his work will fall within the territory of Tre'Davious White on the right perimeter. White has limited his coverage to the 16th-fewest YPCS (0.88), eighth-fewest FP/CS (0.18), 16th-fewest AY/CS (0.16), and the ninth-lowest TPR (66.8).
Final notes on Buffalo
The Bills will need to invest in O-line quality if they are to assist Josh Allen ($7.9K/$8.7K) in collecting a Super Bowl. Allen is being pressured at the fifth-highest rate this season. But the sixth-lowest pressure rate from the Jets will fall short of taking advantage of that weakness. Even facing New York’s sixth-highest rate of Cover 1, my coverage formula is calling for Allen to get back on track with the QB2 performance of Week 10. I’ve learned my lesson several times over that straight recommending Zack Moss ($5.1K/$6.0K) is akin to bathing with vipers. The only way I’d even consider exposure to Moss or Devin Singletary ($4.7K/$6.0K) is if one were ruled out, preferably Singletary. Even then, I’d still warn of the risks.
Call me crazy, but the identity of the Buffalo offense was far superior without the addition of Emmanuel Sanders ($5.7K/$6.3K). Stefon Diggs ($7.5K/$7.9K) thrived to unguardable levels when he was the featured option on the outside, without question. Based on the alignment rates, Diggs will do his most work across from the Jets’ most consistent corner, ‘21 sixth-rounder Brandin Echols. And Sanders will face off with Bryce Hall. Over his last four games, Hall has surrendered 67% of his total yardage and each of his three TDs on 48% of snaps in coverage.
You’d have about the same odds of rolling snake eyes as predicting meaningful production for Gabriel Davis ($3.4K/$4.9K). One week after finally being provided with a double-digit target share, Davis ran fewer routes and saw the same target share as Isaiah McKenzie ($3.0K/$4.6K). It appears Dawson Knox ($4.5K/$5.8K) will return in a great spot with plenty of C.J. Mosley in coverage. Mosley is delivering 1.25 YPCS (20th-most among LBs), 0.33 FP/CS (15th-most), and a 115.6 TPR (18th-most).
Final notes on New York
This spot is the definition of downside for Mike White ($5.1K/$6.7K). Buffalo is sealing off QB production to the lowest overall FPG (11.1) and pure passing FPG (7.4). If White is able to make the start as expected, Michael Carter ($5.6K/$6.1K) would see a spike in upside. But the Bills spoil that party, as well, only permitting 7.0 FPG through the air to opposing backs (third-fewest). The lone saving grace for Carter and Ty Johnson ($4.5K/$5.3K) is White’s insistence on loading RB targets into an automatic rifle.
Davis’ return will bring an end to Keelan Cole Sr. ($3.2K/$5.3K) and Denzel Mims’ ($3.0K/$5.0K) meaningful roles. Elijah Moore ($4.7K/$5.7K) will not have it easier on the opposite sideline with Levi Wallace. But he’ll at least continue to be on the field for two-thirds of team passing plays, and seeing around 15% of the targets. If Taron Johnson is unable to clear the concussion protocol, Jamison Crowder ($4.8K/$5.8K) might see some daylight through the coverage of Siran Neal. With Tyler Kroft landing on IR, Ryan Griffin ($4.0K/$4.6K) will handle the bulk of the snaps. Not that it’s a position on the team that holds much opportunity.
Matchups to Target
Ryan Tannehill, TEN ($6.2K DK | $7.4K FD) vs. Saints’ Cover 1 | 4
New Orleans DC Dennis Allen is focusing over half of his defense's time on the fifth-highest rate of Cover 1 and fifth-highest rate of Cover 4. We can focus on the fact that the Saints are only giving up 19.4 PPG (fifth-fewest). Or that they are binding opposing RBs to the fifth-fewest FPG (19.2). But New Orleans will face a very unique challenge in Week 10. A Derrick Henry-less Tennessee offense leading a team atop my power rankings that consider strength of schedule faced and playoff odds. The Titans have played the fifth-most difficult schedule and are currently tied with the Cardinals for the highest chance to make the playoffs.
With Henry in the fold, the passing offense will always play second fiddle. But losing Henry will place the spotlight on Ryan Tannehill to showcase why he’s been one of the very best QBs in the game for longer than most realize. The sexy numbers haven’t been there this season for Tannehill… and that’s about to change. Quality and efficiency. Across his last 48 starts, Tannehill has procured the seventh-most FP/Db (0.47), and seventh-highest passer rating (98.4) against Cover 1. But Tannehill is no one-trick pony. He ranks inside the top-10 qualified QBs against four of the five most common defensive schemes during those three-plus seasons. One of those has been Cover 4. He ranks fourth-best with 0.38 FP/Db and sixth with a 97.4 passer rating. To put an emphatic end to these production numbers, none of them account for the 764 yards and 15 additional TDs he’s collected on the ground.
A.J. Brown, TEN ($7.8K DK | $7.6K FD) vs. Marshon Lattimore, NO
The new Derrick Henry? That may read as lunacy since we’re comparing King Henry to a wide receiver. However, don’t be so fast to discount the comparison. A.J. Brown joins Deebo Samuel and DK Metcalf as the most physical wideouts in the NFL. That list is shortened to Brown and Samuel when sorting for the most dynamic run-after-the-catch/RB-like WRs in the game. If Rondale Moore manages to both remain healthy and to produce WR1 seasons, he’ll be in consideration to be added to the latter list. If I were to choose between AJB and Deebo as the most dynamic receiver, Brown would take the prize.
The singular shortcoming preventing Brown from placement among the top-three WRs is his inability to solve Cover 2 and Cover 6. Since Cover 2 is built directly into Cover 6, the two are intertwined. On 52 routes this season vs. those two shells, Brown has a 5/58/0 combined line (1.11 YPRR & 0.21 FP/Rt). On 169 routes opposed by all other schemes, he’s collected a 35/493/3 line (2.92 YPRR & 0.61 FP/Rt). Thankfully, the Saints will employ a Cover 2 and 6, based on average rates, on less than 11% of defensive snaps.
The metrics I’m about to throw at you that Brown will bring to face their Cover 1 define why he’s on the cusp of ascending to the top of the mountain. He ranks third-best with 0.76 FP/Rt, fourth with 3.45 YPRR, eighth with 11.2 YPT, and has tossed his coverage aside for the fourth-highest target share (31%). On 31% of his career routes against Cover 1, he’s fabricated 42% of his receptions (second-most), 43% of his yardage (second-most), and 52% of his TDs (third-most). When he’s attacking the Saints’ Cover 4, he only ranks behind teammate Julio Jones with his 0.57 FP/Rt, 3.45 YPRR, and leads all qualified WRs with 14.9 YPT during his career.
The alignment numbers place Brown across from ‘21 third-rounder Paulson Adebo for the most work. That said, it’s always possible that Marshon Lattimore is tasked with shadowing AJB. But Lattimore has remained planted to the right sideline on 79% of his total coverage snaps, 100% last week. And the coverage metrics tell us why. Lattimore is delivering 1.79 YPCS (fifth-most), 0.38 FP/CS (fifth-most), 0.42 AY/CS (11th-most), and a 114.8 TPR (14th-highest).
Final notes on New Orleans
The Titans have lost Caleb Farley and Kristian Fulton from their perimeter corner ranks. DC Shane Bowen has been forced to sign Greg Mabin off the street to a featured role, but Mabin was also lost last week to an ankle injury. Chris Jackson shifted from the Nickel to start on the outside right, and Chris Jones was added from the practice squad. It’s a game of rotating chairs that has gift-wrapped the most FPG to opposing WR units (47.2). But Bowen has circumvented his corner issues with an elite pass rush and a stout run defense.
In order to pull off the “upset” of the Rams last week, Bowen threw a scheme rotation at Matthew Stafford that consisted of at least 10% usage of Cover 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. It took Stafford until the second half to get his bearings straight. All told, Tennessee forced 26 QB pressures, six sacks, and five Hits. Jeffery Simmons continued to show why he’s one of most feared pass rushers in the game with 10 pressures, three sacks, and a hit that forced an INT at Los Angeles’ eight yard line early in the second quarter. On the very next possession after Simmons forced the INT, Kevin Byard played a Cover 3 perfectly for a Pick 6 on Out to Robert Woods. Harold Landry II and Denico Autry further combined for 12 pressures, three sacks, and three more hits.
The Saints have managed to keep their QBs relatively clean. Washington’s is the only pass rush that’s been able to compile at least 15 pressures. But New Orleans is not equipped with the type of WRs capable of punishing the Titans’ corner concerns. Trevor Siemian ($5.2K/$7.0K) has played well the last two games but, in spite of appearances, I will not be trusting him. The name I’ll be after is Taysom Hill ($5.2K/$7.3K). Hill has the rushing ability to push issues with WR depth to the backburner. And that could be of utmost importance with Alvin Kamara ($8.2K/$8.8K) extremely iffy with a knee injury.
A big chunk of the field will go after Mark Ingram II ($4.5K/$5.5K) if Kamara is unable to play. I will not follow the crowd against a quietly gritty Tennessee run defense. They’ve restricted the position to the eighth-fewest FPG this season (20.9), fifth-fewest over the last four weeks (18.9). The only wideout I like that will be on the field for New Orleans is Deonte Harris ($4.0K/$5.4K). If his career Cover 2 numbers qualified, he’d rank first overall with 0.59 FP/Rt. Harris will also have an excellent matchup opposed by Jackrabbit Jenkins. However, the Saints are foolishly wasting looks on Marquez Callaway ($5.1K/$5.6K), Tre’Quan Smith ($4.3K/$5.5K), and even Kenny Stills ($3.3K/$5.0K). Nothing we’ve seen out of Adam Trautman ($3.0K/$4.7K) provides any indications he’s ready for meaningful production.
Final notes on Tennessee
The Titans have managed to put together a decent patchwork collection of backs between Adrian Peterson ($4.9K/$5.9K), Jeremy McNichols ($5.5K/$6.4K), and D’Onta Foreman ($4.0K/$5.0K). They are perfectly capable of holding the backfield together while Tannehill distributes the ball. And Julio Jones ($5.4K/$6.7K) — either working across from Lattimore or Adebo — will also find plenty of room to work against schemes that he’s decimated during his impressive career.
The arm injury suffered by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson appeared significant, so we’ll likely see Bradley Roby defend the slot. Horrendous news for Chester Rogers ($3.1K/$5.0K) and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine ($3.2K/$5.3K). Anthony Firkser ($2.6K/$4.4K) might have led team TEs in routes, but Geoff Swaim ($2.5K/$4.5K) got the targets, and the money target for the TD. None of them will be worth exposure with Demario Davis in coverage.
Matchups to Avoid
Amari Cooper, DAL ($6.2K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. A.J. Terrell, ATL
The most significant storyline from this matchup will be from sophomore corner phenoms containing/eliminating the WR2 threats on both rosters. Amari Cooper will face the most daunting task in coverage from A.J. Terrell. While his rookie season did not go down as planned, Terrell has more than made up for it this season. He’s shutting down his coverage to the fewest YPCS (0.30), second-fewest FP/CS (0.11), 10th-fewest AY/CS (0.15), and the eighth-lowest TPR (65.2). Working against the highest rate of Cover 2 that’s twice the number of every defense sans Houston, Cooper will not only need to deal with Terrell on over half of his routes, he’ll also be working against himself. Cooper’s 0.22 FP/Rt against Cover 2 during his previous 46 starts ranks 67th among qualified WRs. He has zero TDs on 290 routes over that time.
Russell Gage, ATL ($5.0K DK | $6.0K FD) vs. Trevon Diggs, DAL
For Russell Gage, he’ll have more than a handful with Trevon Diggs in coverage. It’s certainly true that Diggs has taken some liberties in order to collect his league-leading seven INTs. It’s an approach that has resulted in seven receptions of at least 32 yards. But removing those seven receptions from his numbers, Diggs is only permitting 0.76 YPCS and 0.15 FP/CS over his other 315 snaps in coverage. Both values would rank within the top-10 among outside CBs. Either deflecting or collecting INTs on 23% of his targets, Diggs ranks 11th-best with a 69.8 TPR. Dallas employs the third-highest rate of Cover 1. And Gage ranks 78th with his 0.29 FP/Rt vs. Cover 1 during his 52-game career.
Final notes on Atlanta
The Falcons and Matt Ryan ($6.0K/$7.3K) will face a sixth-straight defense that features a top-10 rate of Cover 1. Removing his Week 8 faceplant (6.14 FPs), Ryan has averaged 24.1 FPG in the four other games. And he’ll face another top-10 Cover 1 rate from the Patriots in Week 11. Nobody on the planet should be doubting Cordarrelle Patterson ($6.6K/$7.8K) at this stage. He’s averaging 20.7 FPG over his last seven games. However, that number is juiced up from his 34.6 FPs in Week 4. Patterson has only managed to post an output that would cover his floor pricing for this week in three of those seven games.
The real Mike Davis ($4.6K/$5.4K) has been kidnapped and we would like to have him returned. What happened to the elite receiving RB that earned a respectable reputation over the last seven seasons? Tajae Sharpe ($3.9K/$5.2K) has quietly run away with the starting slot gig. And Sharpe has done quite well against Cover 1 during his last 43 games. On 25% of routes opposed by Cover 1 over that stretch of time, Sharpe has collected 34% of his receptions, 31% of his yardage, and 67% of his total TDs. If he can garner another 20+% target share, we could be in business. Granted Sharpe will need to deal with Jourdan Lewis.
Olamide Zaccheaus ($4.4K/$5.5K) acquired both of Ryan’s TDs last week. Both were inside the 10, so Zaccheaus has clearly caught the eye of Ryan as a preferred red zone target. That said, he has collected one reception on 41 routes against Cover 1 this season. And it came last week on the first TD grab where he sat under the coverage of Paulson Adebo. During his 29-game career, he has just one other reception when working against Cover 1. As in every other week, we need to be prepared for a big game from Kyle Pitts ($5.8K/$6.9K). He’ll see a lot of the press man coverage of Jayron Kearse in Week 10. Among qualified strong safeties, Kearse is permitting 0.78 YPCS (26th-best), 0.20 FP/CS (30th), 0.11 AY/CS (32nd), and a 118.8 TPR (29th).
Final notes on Dallas
Another week with DK pricing for Dak Prescott ($6.9K/$8.1K) under $7.0K and, in my view, another opportunity. I’m hoping we’ll see his ownership dip after his poor output last week.
Another player that I’m hoping will have depressed ownership is Ezekiel Elliott ($7.0K/$8.0K). He’s only averaged 12 FPG during his last two games, so enough folks were likely burned to get that number down this week. But Atlanta is handing out the seventh-most FPG to RBs (27.5) and the touch rate for Zeke held strong at north of 70%. We did see Tony Pollard ($4.6K/$6.5K) with more passing game involvement, unsurprisingly considering Dallas trailed by 30 points until 4:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.
With Cooper locked up by Terrell, plenty of volume will be available for the taking by CeeDee Lamb ($7.0K/$7.7K). The Falcons are hemorrhaging the fourth-most FPG to receivers stationed on the outside (18.4). And Lamb will do a good amount of his work against Fabian Moreau from the left side. Moreau has been burned for five TDs, 0.28 FP/CS (24th-most), and a 120.6 TPR (ninth-highest). The Cowboys will also get Michael Gallup ($4.0K/$5.5K) back this week to pick up the slack:
Cowboys WR Malik Turner was a bright spot in loss to Broncos (two TDs, blocked punt). WR Michael Gallup is expected to return Sunday vs. Falcons. Turner: "I’m so happy to get MG back. We have a very explosive receiver room, a very explosive offense. ...Can’t wait to get him back"— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) November 8, 2021
Gallup’s return will kick Cedrick Wilson Jr. ($3.5K/$5.2K), Noah Brown ($3.0K/$4.6K), and Malik Turner ($3.4K/$4.8K) down the depth chart. And Dalton Schultz ($5.0K/$6.0K) is always a consideration when we have some cap dollars remaining.
Matchups to Target
Pat Freiermuth, PIT ($3.9K DK | $5.1K FD) vs. Alex Anzalone, DET
Significant targets could be up for grabs in Pittsburgh this week. Chase Claypool is likely facing a doubtful tag after picking up a toe injury in Week 9. The Steelers were already dipping into their wideout depth with JuJu Smith-Schuster done for the year. James Washington kicked inside to work out of the slot the last two weeks. If Claypool does miss time, as expected, Washington would revert back outside, and Ray-Ray McLoud III would see a featured slot role. OC Matt Canada has already kicked the tires on McLoud. His three games with a featured role resulted in 0.63 YPRR (111th-best, if qualified) and 0.139 FP/Rt (112th, if qualified). Rather than relying on McLoud — who has always proved his worth is on special teams, Canada may decide to feature a much higher rate of two-wide sets, and field both Pat Freiermuth and Eric Ebron.
Either way, Baby Gronk has shown enough during Ebron’s absence to maintain his featured role. In addition to posting a 16/145/3 line the last three games, Freiermuth is clearly the better of the two in run blocking. That is a massive advantage in Freiermuth’s corner. But the possible return of Ebron could depress Freiermuth’s ownership. The Lions have not given up much production to TEs, but that has far more to do with their atrocious run defense splattering yardage all over the field. Even with eight consecutive defeats, teams are still passing for 244.4 YPG on Detroit. And, without Claypool, Pittsburgh will need to keep Freiermuth rolling as they look for ways to distribute their targets.
Final notes on Detroit
It’s painfully clear at this stage that Jared Goff ($5.2K/$6.5K) is only keeping the seat warm for Detroit’s unknown QB of the future. One TD pass, four INTs, and an 8.6 FPG are the only details necessary to describe Goff’s last four games. Yes, the odds are stacked cruelly against him with little in the way of WR talent at his disposal. And the Lions have played against the ninth-most difficult schedule. It would be nice to see Goff against another defense not expected to make the playoffs, and featuring both D’Andre Swift ($6.8K/$7.3K) and T.J. Hockenson ($5.5K/$6.5K). The only example we have under those conditions came in Week 1 against San Francisco. Until Goff is displaced as the starter, he should move Heaven-and-Earth to distribute at least eight targets to both Swift and Hock.
All of the blame for the results should be put on Goff’s shoulders. Without a productive ground game to keep defenses honest, Goff has consistently dealt with over-aggressive pass rushes. Jamaal Williams ($4.5K/$5.4K) was always miscast as the early-down answer. While he’s dealing with his thigh injury, Detroit might have another opportunity to evaluate Godwin Igwebuike ($4.0K/Not Listed) and Jermar Jefferson ($4.0K/$5.1K) in the role.
The Steelers feature the second-highest rate of Cover 3 and fifth-highest of Cover 2. Amon-Ra St. Brown ($3.8K/$5.4K) has easily been the most efficient wideout against Cover 2. And ARSB will work against the replacement-level coverage of Arthur Maulet. St. Brown could do well here if he receives another 16+% target share. The reality of the Steelers’ defense is that none of their corners have played all that well. Cameron Sutton will work against Kalif Raymond ($4.9K/$5.5K), Joe Haden across from Trinity Benson ($3.0K/$4.6K), and KhaDarel Hodge ($3.0K/$4.8K) and Tom Kennedy ($3.0K/$4.6K) will clean up the scraps from the end of the depth chart.
Final notes on Pittsburgh
Ben Roethlisberger ($5.6K/$7.1K) may ultimately end up feeding Najee Harris ($7.9K/$9.4K) with more targets. It goes without saying that Harris is set up for top-two RB output this week. My coverage algorithm takes that a step further, positioning him for the most RB FPs in Week 10. With RB5 pricing on DK, Harris presents as a solid value. We know Big Ben always looks toward Diontae Johnson ($6.8K/$7.4K) first. If Chase Claypool ($6.4K/$6.5K) is ruled out, Diontae could be targeted with the highest share of Week 10. Johnson will work across from ‘21 UDFA Jerry Jacobs at right corner. Jacobs is permitting 1.38 YPCS (19th-most), 0.28 FP/CS (25th), 0.32 AY/CS (22nd), and a 118.5 TPR (ninth-highest).
With Claypool out, James Washington ($3.5K/$5.1K) would see the right-around-average coverage of Amani Oruwariye. Detroit will put top-10 rates of Cover 2 and Cover 6 on the field. But Washington has not done well across from those schemes. If Canada forces the Ray-Ray McLoud III ($3.0K/$5.0K) card, it would only be a matter of time before Cody White ($3.0K/$4.5K) replaces him in the offense.
The respect for this New England team is getting a bit out of hand. Yes, they have built a 5-4 record, but they’ve defeated the Jets (twice), Texans, Panthers (four relatively easy W’s), and Chargers. Taking down LAC is no joke. But it was an achievement the ‘20 squad also accomplished, in more dominant fashion. As explained in the Week 8 edition of this series, the Pats are a poor matchup for Justin Herbert’s game. At the end of the day, the Patriots have played the second-easiest schedule. Nearly every one of the metrics supporting New England as an impact defense has been bloated to unreliable proportions based on the low quality of their opponents. They are currently fifth-from-last in my power rankings.
Matchups to Target
Baker Mayfield, CLE ($5.4K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Patriots’ Cover 1
The Patriots are utilizing the highest combined rate of Cover 0, Cover 1, and Cover, the second-highest rate of single-high safety shells, fourth-highest rate of combined man-to-man schemes, and second-highest rate of Cover 1. Baker Mayfield appeared all the better last week without the distraction of Odell Beckham Jr. pouting for more touches. During their surprising 41-16 victory over Cincinnati, the Bengals made themselves the only defense this season to put a Cover 1 on the field for at least 10 of Mayfield’s dropbacks. Mayfield completed five-of-eight attempts for 64 yards. New England has utilized Cover 1 on at least 10 dropbacks of the opposing QB, and, in every competitive game for the Pats, they never used single coverage on less than 17 dropbacks. That’s significant.
During Mayfield’s 54 career starts, he’s generated 0.46 FP/Db (eighth-best), and a 98.2 passer rating (eighth) against Cover 1. On 24% of his career dropbacks vs. Cover 1, he’s thrown 30% of his total TDs. That’s 26 TDs to seven INTs for the kids at home. As already explained, the FPG numbers for QBs opposing New England are unreliable. The Pats have faced three legit fantasy QBs. The deal with Herbert has been covered. The jury is out on whether Bill Belichick dipped into what must be an insanely massive collection of previous practice footage of Tom Brady while earning his living in Foxboro. The only legit QB without outlying factors to face New England has been Dak Prescott. He shredded the Patriots for 445 yards and three TDs.
For an example of Mayfield attacking man coverage, look no further than last week on 3rd-and-18 at the 4:31 mark of the fourth quarter. Mayfield caught the Bengals in a Cover 0 — no high safety — with a six-man blitz that Baker perfectly identified. Mayfield nails David Njoku on the second step of his Post inside the coverage of Mike Hilton for the score.
Donovan People-Jones, CLE ($4.8K DK | $5.6K FD) vs. J.C. Jackson, NE
Let’s begin with two examples of Mayfield connecting with Donovan People-Jones from last week. The first is at 10:18 of the second quarter. DPJ looks like DK Metcalf in comparison to Eli Apple on this corner-to-skinny post combo where Mayfield hits him stride for a 60-yard TD against Cover 4. Not the coverage scheme the Browns will see this week, but it speaks to the presence of Peoples-Jones. The second play is against Cover 1, located at 6:49 of the final quarter. On 3rd-and-9, please feast your eyes on how DPJ obliterates the outside leverage attempt by Chidobe Awuzie. With only the single-high safety in the middle of the field to assist Awuzie, he must force Peoples-Jones away from the sideline, toward his left shoulder. But DPJ had other plans, tossing Awuzie aside before collecting the 27-yard toss from Mayfield.
The difficulty Peoples-Jones presents in maintaining leverage does a lot to explain why no other qualified WR has a higher increase in FP/Rt against Cover 1 (67%). Over his 19 career games, DPJ ranks 13th-best with 0.58 FP/Rt against Cover 1. On 26% of career routes, he’s made a home for 35% of his receptions, 38% of his yardage, and 60% of his TDs when opposed by Cover 1. If I’m discounting the reliability of the New England defense, I’m also discounting the coverage metrics of its players. But J.C. Jackson is still permitting the 24th-most FP/CS (0.29) among outside corners.
Final notes on Cleveland
It appears the odds are stacked against Nick Chubb ($7.4K/$8.3K) supplying two negative COVID tests in time to be cleared to play on Sunday. If I had 100% clarity on the situation, D’Ernest Johnson ($4.7K/$5.4K) would be written up as a Target. If Chubb is out, Johnson will obviously be too popular for GPP consideration with RB45/RB48 pricing. Jarvis Landry ($5.2K/$6.1K) will work against Myles Bryant in the slot. Landry has had quality games against Cover 1-heavy teams. But the consistency of those performances have been low enough that he’s an easy fade. I wish I had more NFL coverage data on Anthony Schwartz ($3.0K/$4.7K). His world class speed is a problem for everyone on the planet, that list includes Jalen Mills. Rashard Higgins ($3.3K/$4.9K) has fallen out of the rotation, to the point that Demetric Felton ($4.0K/$4.9K) appears to be working ahead of him. Until I see evidence to the contrary, I consider David Njoku ($3.2K/$4.9K) as having the lead role at TE for the Browns. But that means very little while splitting routes and targets three ways with Austin Hooper ($2.8K/$4.8K) and Harrison Bryant ($2.5K/$4.4K).
Final notes on New England
A recurring theme from each of the upsets from last week, Cleveland routed Cincy by putting consistent pressure on Joe Burrow. A total of 25 QB pressures and six sacks, to be precise. It’s no surprise to see Myles Garrett collect five pressures, two sacks, and a hit. But Troy Hill got home on Burrow four times, including two sacks, and another hit. Zone-phenomenon Greg Newsome II also deflected away three of the 9 targets into his coverage. The Browns put plenty of information on tape that the Patriots must account for this week. And, unlike New England’s, Cleveland’s defense is actually legitimately elite.
I have been blown away by the pocket presence from Mac Jones ($5.3K/$6.5K). Yes, he’s easily working behind the best O-line provided to any of this season’s rookie QBs, but his blitz pickups are legit. The downside of Jones’ efficient game-managing is game manager FPs. Both Damien Harris ($5.9K/$6.3K) and Rhamondre Stevenson ($4.5K/$5.4K) are currently located in the concussion protocol. It’s nearly guaranteed that at least one is cleared by Sunday. However, if Harris were to sit, Stevenson would definitely be in play with RB51/RB48 pricing, even against the Browns’ excellent run defense. Rhamondre’s goal line potential, receiving chops, and the O-line in front of him would be too much to pass up.
Of course, Brandon Bolden ($4.4K/$5.1K) is still around to spoil everyone’s fun. If Harris were to miss, J.J. Taylor ($4.0K/$4.8K) would also join the active roster. The first order of business for Patriots’ WRs, Kendrick Bourne ($4.6K/$5.5K) is an easy fade with Newsome in coverage. And Nelson Agholor ($4.0K/$5.3K) has ghosted himself this season, so coverage from Denzel Ward is not going to help his cause. Breaking News: Jakobi Meyers ($4.8K/$5.5K) will be the Pats’ wideout to target. We can likely expect another TD for Hunter Henry ($4.1K/$5.4K) this week. The ghost of Jonnu Smith ($2.5K/$4.5K) should be avoided.
Matchups to Target
Justin Herbert, LAC ($7.3K DK | $8.0K FD) vs. Vikings’ Cover 2 | 6
The Vikings utilize the sixth-highest rate of Cover 2 and third-highest of Cover 6.
With 23 career starts under his belt, the reliability of Justin Herbert’s coverage success continues to solidify. His 0.39 FP/Db against Cover 2 ranks fifth-best and 0.42 FP/Db when opposed by Cover 6 ranks fourth-best. But Herbert’s dominance of these schemes has not been accomplished without efficiency; he's manufactured the highest passer rating vs. Cover 2 at 110.6, and the fifth-highest across from Cover 6 at 106.5.
Oddly enough, Herbert has generated 27% increases to his average YPA against both shells. Minnesota has limited opposing QBs to the 16th-fewest FPG (18.3), but that rank flips to the fifth-most over the last four (21.0), and third-most over the last two weeks (23.9). Those allowances are of little consequence to presenting Herbert with the schemes he’s already mastered.
Keenan Allen, LAC ($7.0K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Mackensie Alexander, MIN
As with all elite fantasy QBs, we are left deciding which of at least two receiving options will eat each week. For Los Angeles, we obviously need to decide between Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. The optimal path toward differentiating the upside of the two this week is by determining what the Vikings are willing to allow. Minnesota was pummeled for the most receptions and resulting yardage on targets of 20-plus yards last season. Co-DCs Adam Zimmer and Andre Patterson employed a significant scheme rotation shift toward the featured Cover 2 and 6 that cleaned up that area quite well. They are currently limiting opponents to the ninth-fewest FP/CS on 20-plus throws.
For Williams, 47% of his total yardage and half of his six TDs have come on only seven receptions of 20-plus yards this season. But, exactly like Week 9 against a nearly identical Cover 2 and Cover 6 rotation from the Eagles, Herbert didn’t attempt a single pass of 20-plus yards, yet he still threw for 356 yards and two TDs. It was clear that Philadelphia was intent on limiting the deep stuff, so Herbert peppered Allen with a 12/104/0 line on 13 targets. The Vikings have been more vulnerable to receivers stationed outside. That said, Allen runs just under 40% of his routes from the perimeter.
Final notes on Minnesota
Chargers’ DC Renaldo Hill will field a lot of Cover 4 and 6. Over his last 55 starts, Kirk Cousins ($6.1K/$7.6K) has thrown seven TDs vs. 10 INTs against Cover 4 and Cover 6 combined. On 20% of his total dropbacks against those coverages, he’s only thrown for 6.4% of his TDs. I’m still floored by the pricing on Dalvin Cook ($8.0K/$8.5K). Yes, it’s a potential smash spot for Cook but, despite Minnesota OC Klint Kubiak’s voicing his desire to get Cook more involved, he’s still not seeing enough receiving work for such a steep cap commitment. With only seven TDs passes on well over 400 dropbacks from Cousins against the main coverages he’ll work against on Sunday, each of Justin Jefferson ($7.7K/$7.5K), Adam Thielen ($6.7K/$7.0K), K.J. Osborn ($3.4K/$5.3K), and Tyler Conklin ($3.4K/$5.3K) will have distinct upside caps.
Final notes on Los Angeles
My coverage formula is projecting Austin Ekeler ($7.6K/$8.6K) for sixth-best RB output to go along with his RB6/RB5 pricing. Not the most exciting outlook but, as I’ve stated numerous times, we should never discount Ekeler’s potential to make projection limitations look silly.
Choosing to feature Allen as a Target should not be construed as an expectation for Mike Williams ($6.6K/$6.9K) to be ghosted by Cameron Dantzler. I actually think both will do quite well in this spot. It’s telling that two of the three TDs scored by Williams against Cover 2 and Cover 6 over his last 54 games have been collected since Herbert took over the offense.
The weekly Jalen Guyton ($3.6K/$4.8K) vs. Josh Palmer ($3.0K/$4.9K) watch continues. After running at least 69% of team routes in six of his first seven games, Guyton was cut off at 46% last week. And Palmer was the direct beneficiary, increasing his team routes by 38% from the previous week. This could be the week that Palmer overtakes the inefficiency of Guyton. The TE situation in Los Angeles took a disappointing turn last week, route and target shares were split between Jared Cook ($3.2K/$5.2K), Donald Parham ($2.6K/$4.7K), and Stephen Anderson ($2.5K/$4.4K). They’ll have the pleasure of being closed down by Eric Kendricks in Week 10.
Matchups to Target
Robby Anderson, CAR ($4.4K DK | $5.2K FD) vs. Marco Wilson, ARI
Going out on a limb here. I’ve made it crystal clear just how poorly Robby Anderson has played this season. No, Anderson did nothing in Week 9 to change my mind. He rode a cool 1/2/0 line toward 1.2 FPs during their 24-6 defeat. But Sam Darnold fractured his right shoulder blade and will miss significant time. In his place, P.J. Walker will direct the offense. Do I believe that Walker will perform miracles for Carolina? By no means.
Walker does possess one interesting quality: he’s thrown for 40% of his career yardage and his only TD on 27% of dropbacks facing Cover 1. However, the most intriguing factor motivating me to list Anderson as an option in large-field GPPs is being reunited with the QB he played with at Temple University (Walker), and under the HC that recruited them both to the school (Matt Rhule). It’s a suggestion that’s not for the faint of heart, with a basement-level floor. Just something to keep in mind.
Final notes on Carolina
The Cardinals have featured a top-10 rate of each of the five-most common coverage schemes at one point or another this season. DO NOT TRUST THE ARIZONA PERCENTAGES! That’s some very bad news for P.J. Walker’s ($5.0K/$6.2K) Week 10 outlook — and beyond, with Cam Newton likely to start soon. If DC Vance Joseph is feeling kind, he might utilize one of his high Cover 1 rates. That would be excellent for Walker. I’m still not ready to splurge on Christian McCaffrey’s ($8.4K/$9.0K) pricing. The Panthers’ offense is a complete mess. The pricing on D.J. Moore ($6.3K/$6.8K) has finally come down. But it coincides with losing all projection reliability. At least the collapse of the Panthers will guarantee that Terrace Marshall Jr. ($3.2K/$4.8K) will continue to have a featured role the rest of the season, independent of the results.
Final notes on Arizona
It’s truly an amazing accomplishment for Arizona that they beat San Francisco 31-17 on the road, without Kyler Murray ($8.0K/$8.3K), Chase Edmonds, DeAndre Hopkins ($6.7K/$7.1K), and A.J. Green ($4.6K/$5.6K). Murray appears to be itching to get back on the field. Count on seeing James Conner ($6.3K/$7.0K) as one of the highest owned RBs on the main slate. But I plan to use Eno Benjamin ($4.4K/$5.2K) as leverage. Nuk will have a decent challenge from Donte Jackson if he manages to take the field. But Hopkins is easily Arizona’s most accomplished Cover 1 wideout. And the Panthers are relying on the eighth-highest rate of Cover 1.
If Hopkins sits again, Green would be the next-best option based on his single coverage history. Rondale Moore ($4.4K/$5.4K) appears to be on the wrong side of questionable this week. If he sits, Antoine Wesley ($3.0K/$4.8K) will fill his WR4 role. This matchup will present Christian Kirk ($5.5K/$6.7K) with another Litmus test to prove he can succeed against Cover 1. The Panthers have been stingy enough to TEs — mostly thanks to Jermaine Carter — that I won’t have any exposure to Zach Ertz ($4.6K/$5.2K).
None of the options stand out in this matchup. This game is likely to be the Week 10 matchup most dictated by the defensive side of the ball.
Final notes on Philadelphia
If you were disappointed by Jalen Hurts’ ($6.5K/$7.7K) results from last week, don’t expect much more in Week 10. The Broncos are featuring the highest rate of the Cover 6 that perplexed Hurts against the Chargers last week. After his first 13 starts, Hurts has been hammered by a 48% decline in FP/Db against Cover 6. If not for Hurts’ capability of using his legs to push his floor up to the ceiling, I would’ve listed him as an Avoid this week. What in the Jordan Howard ($4.9K/$5.9K) is going on here? Nobody wanted anything to do with Howard over the last year. One day he signs on as a depth option when Miles Sanders hits IR. Two weeks later, he hits color on three occasions, and supplanted both Boston Scott ($4.9K/$5.6K) and Kenneth Gainwell ($4.7K/$5.1K).
Sanders had better watch out. His inefficiency could bring his featured role into question if Howard continues his post-Age-27 revival. If DeVonta Smith ($5.9K/$6.2K) saw a 35+% target share every week, he’d be a weekly no-brainer. But he’s mixed those massive rates with those of 20-or-less to deflate the excitement. Smith will face enough of the Broncos’ most vulnerable corner, Ronald Darby. If only we could count on consistent involvement. This is not a matchup for Hurts where we should be getting cute with Quez Watkins ($3.6K/$5.3K) or Jalen Reagor ($3.5K/$5.1K). As for Dallas Goedert ($4.7K/$5.9K), despite considerable injuries at LB, Denver continues to eliminate TE production on a weekly basis.
Final notes on Denver
On the good side, Teddy Bridgewater ($5.5K/$7.2K) played error-free ball, and recaptured hopes for his team’s playoff chances with back-to-back victories. On the down side, he wasted two opportunities against what appeared to be Cover 1-heavy defenses. As detailed in Washington’s write-up, WFT actually eliminated a massive chunk of its Cover 1 rate in favor of Cover 3. But there is no question that Bridgewater underperformed against Dallas. If Denver hadn’t been able to push itself back into the playoff picture, it’s a near-guarantee that Melvin Gordon III ($5.3K/$6.3K) would take a backseat to Javonte Williams ($5.0K/$5.8K). But it appears the team feels more comfortable featuring MG3 with a slight involvement advantage over Javonte. This is a matchup where one of them could do quite well. The advantage in money carries for Gordon standing as the decisive factor.
Jerry Jeudy ($5.3K/$6.2K) was the closest player to being featured as a Target from this matchup. Over his 19 career games, Jeudy ranks second-best with 0.55 FP/Rt against Cover 2. On only 15% of his career routes across from Cover 2, Jeudy has compiled 24% of his catches, 26% of his yardage, and 33% of his TDs. He will face a tough opponent in Avonte Maddox. And his presence is what persuaded me away from a featured write-up. Maddox ranks fourth-best in YPCS, 10th in FP/CS, fifth in AY/CS, and with the eighth-lowest TPR. Without confidence in Bridgewater succeeding through the air, confidence in Courtland Sutton ($5.6K/$6.6K) and Tim Patrick ($4.9K/$6.0K) is dismally low. If Patrick is unable to take the field in Week 10, Kendall Hinton ($3.1K/$4.7K) would likely play his role. Nothing to see there. Noah Fant ($4.3K/$5.7K) was activated from the COVID list, so expect to see him taking his typical workload.
Matchups to Target
Russell Wilson, SEA ($6.7K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Packers’ Cover 4 | 6
This is not rocket science. We know The Professor gives his all with every snap when he’s on the field. We also know Russell Wilson is one of the most aggressive QBs at attacking the third-level of the defense. What some may not know is that Wilson is a member of a truly elite group without a single coverage vulnerability. In fact, he ranks inside the top-10 qualified QBs in FP/Db against each of the most common schemes. Even though Wilson will be playing in his first game since undergoing finger surgery, finding out that he’s been gifted to us with QB10/QB12 pricing is nothing short of an early Christmas present.
Tyler Lockett, SEA ($6.5K DK | $7.1K FD) vs. Rasul Douglas, GB
Another of the more difficult DFS decisions made each week is selecting between Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. During Wilson’s three-game absence, Metcalf was able to produce decent numbers (17.2 FPG). But Lockett was overlooked during Geno Smith’s first two starts, only seeing the love against Jacksonville in Week 8. Lockett ended up averaging 11.6 FPG with Smith under center. While I think Wilson absolutely noticed Lockett being underutilized and will make every effort to get his involvement back on track, this is also a matchup that favors Lockett more than Metcalf.
The Packers feature the sixth-highest rate of Cover 4 and fourth-highest of Cover 6. During the last three seasons, Lockett has posted 0.47 FP/Rt compared to 0.33 for Metcalf vs. Cover 4. And he’s submitted 0.38 FP/Rt compared to 0.30 for Metcalf against Cover 6. Lockett also holds the five-to-one combined TD advantage against those two schemes. Without Jaire Alexander and potentially without Eric Stokes for another week, a beat up Green Bay secondary will face off with a Seattle offense the very week they get healthy.
Final notes on Seattle
Sitting at 3-5, the Seahawks only have a 24% chance of making the playoffs. Just don’t think for a second that this team will take a single play off toward challenging those odds. If Chris Carson ($5.7K/$6.7K) can gain clearance, he’ll infuse stability at a position that lingered in chaos-mode during his absence. If Carson is unable to play, it’s very possible Alex Collins ($5.2K/$5.7K) could also be out. That would leave a rotation of Rashaad Penny ($4.0K/$5.2K), Travis Homer ($4.5K/$5.0K), DeeJay Dallas ($4.1K/$4.9K), and zero guarantees which of the three would see lead duties. Let’s keep the situation real for DK Metcalf ($6.8K/$8.0K). The alignment numbers place him across from Kevin King. That’s a plus matchup regardless of the particular shell on the field. The remainder of the target scraps will be split between Freddie Swain ($3.0K/$5.0K), Penny Hart ($3.0K/$4.7K), Gerald Everett ($2.6K/$4.7K), and Will Dissly ($2.5K/$4.6K).
Final notes on Green Bay
Nothing functions properly in Green Bay without Aaron Rodgers ($7.1K/$7.8K). Jordan Love ($5.1K/$6.4K) is a long ways off from delivering performances of DFS utility. When Love is on the field, he even saps the awesomeness of Aaron Jones ($6.9K/$8.2K). The depths of not aging well cannot even be calculated regarding the selection of Love. That said, even if Mr. Rodgers plays, AJ Dillon ($4.8K/$5.3K) will not be an option. But Davante Adams ($7.9K/$8.7K) will catapult to becoming the Week 10 WR1 if ARod is under center. The ‘Hawks endorse the third-highest rate of Cover 3. Adams ranks eighth-best with 0.51 FP/Rt over his last three campaigns against Cover 3. And he’s targeted at the fourth-highest rate (31%) when that scheme is used to defend him.
Rodgers’ presence would also allow Allen Lazard’s ($4.4K/$5.5K) hot streak to continue. He’s scored in three straight, but appeared to be on his way toward separating himself from the team’s other wideouts behind Adams in Week 7. Randall Cobb ($4.3K/$5.5K) will face a decent challenge from Seattle nickelback Ugo Amadi. Look elsewhere. The same goes for Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($3.5K/$5.3K) while he works to involve himself back into the offense.
The Packers are not distributing the TE opportunities between Josiah Deguara ($2.5K/$4.3K), Dominique Dafney ($2.5K/$4.0K), and Marcedes Lewis ($2.5K/$4.2K). Yikes.