From a half-full point of view, nine teams scored at least 30 points during the last two weeks after only occurring twice in the previous eight weeks. But the half-empty reality is that the five lowest scoring weeks have been submitted in the last six weeks. We haven’t seen the NFL weekly PPG average at least match the season-long average since Week 6. And there is a correlation between deep passing (throws traveling at least 20 yards). During the last six weeks, the deep passing attempt rate has declined by 14% from the first six weeks. It’s been followed by a 39% decline in deep TD strikes, only a 7% drop in deep INTs, a 10% decline in YPA, and a 10% drop in the weekly PPG average.
The same chart depicted in previous weeks is provided below. It’s been updated and the weekly franchise PPG average has been included:
The deep target rate for Week 12 (11.3%) is the highest it’s been since Week 9 and deep TDs (12) are the most since Week 6. However, the added aggression brought about the most deep INTs of the season (11). Qualified outside cornerbacks easily stood as the top performing position group from Week 12. They lowered their season-long target passer rating (TPR) by two full points. And average air yardage/coverage snap (AY/CS) allowed fell for each position group in a sixth straight week.
You’ll see a number of coverage metrics throughout this series. The following chart provides the full names for the acronyms and the coverage performance numbers for each position group through Week 12:
To magnify their importance in processing the matchup data, familiarity with these abbreviations are 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. Instead, 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:
*51-61 (46%); 10-4 in Week 12
Dallas Cowboys (-4.5) at New Orleans Saints
Indianapolis Colts (-8.5) at Houston Texans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-11.0) at Atlanta Falcons
Arizona Cardinals (-7.5) at Chicago Bears
Minnesota Vikings (-7.0) at Detroit Lions
Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
New York Giants (+5.0) at Miami Dolphins
Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5) at New York Jets
Washington Football Team (+2.5) at Las Vegas Raiders
Los Angeles Rams (-12.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Baltimore Ravens (-4.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) at Seattle Seahawks
Denver Broncos (+10.0) at Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots (+3.0) at Buffalo Bills
*47-42 (53%); 10-4 in Week 12
Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints (Over 47.5)
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (Under 45.5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (Over 50.5)
Arizona Cardinals at Chicago Bears (Under 45.5)
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (Under 46.5)
Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals (Over 50.5)
New York Giants at Miami Dolphins (Under 41.0)
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets (Over 45.0)
Washington Football Team at Las Vegas Raiders (Under 49.0)
Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville Jaguars (Under 47.5)
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (Over 44.0)
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (Under 45.0)
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (Under 47.0)
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (Over 43.5)
*67-41 (62%); 11-3 in Week 11
Dallas Cowboys (-200) at New Orleans Saints
Indianapolis Colts (-410) at Houston Texans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-575) at Atlanta Falcons
Arizona Cardinals (-290) at Chicago Bears
Minnesota Vikings (-300) at Detroit Lions
Los Angeles Chargers (+150) at Cincinnati Bengals
Miami Dolphins (-210) vs. New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles (-265) at New York Jets
Washington Football Team (+120) at Las Vegas Raiders
Los Angeles Rams (-675) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Baltimore Ravens (-210) at Pittsburgh Steelers
San Francisco 49ers (-165) at Seattle Seahawks
Kansas City Chiefs (-450) vs. Denver Broncos
New England Patriots (+130) at Buffalo Bills
Matchups to Target
Carson Wentz, IND ($6.1K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Texans’ Cover 1 | 2
If you missed out on watching Carson Wentz against the Buccaneers last week, you missed out on seeing what he is capable of when a defense gameplans a Cover 2-heavy approach. The Bucs used Cover 2 at the fourth-highest rate from Week 12. He totaled 306 passing yards, three TDs, and 26.3 FPs. It was 34% above floor value. He committed three turnovers. But he wasn’t at fault for his fumble or either of his two INTs.
Heading into Week 13, Wentz will work against a Houston defense using the sixth-highest rate of Cover 1 and… eyes widening… Cover 2 at the second-highest. The Texans are yielding 18.6 FPG to opposing QBs (sixth-most). They bring a far-better-than expected pass rush, solid tackling fundamentals, and, from a quality perspective, the coverage prowess of the Detroit Lions — aka not good. The Jets are the only defense to permit a higher rate of passing first downs than Houston (38.6%).
When Wentz has been opposed by Cover 2 during the last three years (40 games), he’s generated 0.39 FP/Db (fifth-best), a 105.4 passer rating (second-best), and boosted by a 33% spike to his YPA (the highest among all qualified QBs). Really putting a shine on the matchup, Wentz’s offense has used the eighth-highest rate of play action. And, when defending play action, the Texans are authorizing the fourth-most FP/CS (0.46) and ninth-highest passer rating (121.2).
Final notes on Indianapolis
Colts HC Frank Reich and OC Marcus Brady decided on a pass-heavy approach during the first three quarters against Tampa Bay’s dominant run defense last week. At the end of the third quarter, Jonathan Taylor ($9.2K/$10.5K) had accounted for all of an 8/25/0 rushing line. On Indy’s second drive of the fourth quarter, JT was handed the ball eight out of ten plays, resulting in an 8/58/1 line. The Texans are endorsing 135.6 rushing YPG (second-most), 4.5 YPC (seventh-most), and 1.55 TDs/game (also second-most). Safe to say that Taylor will be returning value to those willing to shoulder his RB1/RB1 pricing. Houston complying to the seventh-fewest receiving FPG to RBs (10.7) is more than likely a product of being so generous on the ground. But that still works against Nyheim Hines ($4.0K/$5.3K) doing much.
Under the assumption that Wentz is going to get it done through the air, the question is: which receiver do we target? Jack Doyle ($3.3K/$5.0K) got it done last week with a 6/81/1 line, and T.Y. Hilton ($4.4K/$5.7K) vultured a short TD on a 4th & 1. Unless Doyle’s knee proves to be worse than reported, Mo Alie-Cox ($2.6K/$4.6K) is not an option. While it may seem as though I’m chasing last week’s points, Doyle is a rock-solid option this week. It’s no surprise that he did well against the Buccaneers. Over his last three seasons (42 games), Doyle has created 0.43 FP/Rt (sixth-best), a 112.7 TPR (sixth-best), and he’s been targeted on 23% of routes when the defense is using Cover 2 (11th-highest).
Hilton does have a solid matchup across from Desmond King II, but T.Y. has been nothing more than a role player in five games this season. Hilton was only on the field for 65% of team passing snaps, compared to 92% for Zach Pascal ($3.5K/$5.1K), and 94% for Michael Pittman Jr. ($5.7K/$6.8K). Pascal will face the red-hot coverage of Tavierre Thomas out of the slot. With 24% of the targets last week, Pittman is firmly on the radar while working from the right side against Terrance Mitchell on Sunday. Mitchell is allowing 1.11 YPCS (39th-best), 0.28 FP/CS (54th-best), and a 96.9 TPR (44th-best). Unlike Doyle, Pittman didn’t have the luxury of playing with Andrew Luck to boost his Cover 2 numbers. Philip Rivers was not a Cover 2 beast. But it’s only a matter of time until Pittman’s Cover 2 production stands out. That process will continue in Week 13.
Final notes on Houston
I’ve watched all of the film from Tyrod Taylor’s ($5.3K/$7.0K) three games since returning from IR. He made a grand total of one splash throw spanning 93 passing attempts. He looked off single-high safety Jason Pinnock in order to connect with Brandin Cooks for a 40-yard skinny post TD inside the coverage of Bryce Hall last week. Without that hookup, Cooks leaves a mouth-watering matchup against the Jets with a 2/5/0 line. Yikes! Josh Allen and Tom Brady averaged 13.7 FPs during the last two weeks against the Indianapolis defense. Other than Stefon Diggs’ 18.3 FPs, no WR has gone for at least six receiving FPs since Elijah Moore’s 7/84/2 line from Week 8.
The volume that’s been tossed toward Cooks could always rule the day, but this is a spot where fading the entirety of the Texans’ offense stands as the risk-averse approach. David Johnson ($5.0K/$5.4K) and Rex Burkhead ($4.8K/$5.3K) are splitting a flat backfield against an angry Indy defense. Nico Collins ($3.1K/$5.2K) will draw Xavier Rhodes, Chris Conley ($3.5K/$4.8K) will work against the surging Rock Ya-Sin. Brevin Jordan ($2.5K/$4.9K) paced Pharaoh Brown ($2.8K/$4.2K) last week, but it’s been a revolving door at the position all season. The only player that even slightly interests me is Danny Amendola ($3.2K/$5.0K)… but only in a world where Cooks’ current illness forces him to miss Week 13.
Matchups to Target
Chris Godwin, TB ($6.6K DK | $7.6K FD) vs. Richie Grant, ATL
The lineups that I invested into Tampa Bay passing components did not pan out. Devoting attention to the Bucs proved to be my biggest miss from Week 12. Tom Brady entered last week with an excellent hit rate with seven-of-10 previously landing profit over value. The Colts presented a difficult test, but they also featured plenty of Cover 2 and Cover 3 looks that Brady has shredded during his career. And those Cover 2 snaps should have provided the food that Chris Godwin has built his career upon. Xavier Rhodes and Rock Ya-Sin combined to limit Mike Evans to 1/9/0 of his 3/16/0 line. Kenny Moore II completely ghosted Godwin on 21 routes inside his zone.
Last week was last week. Always looking forward with a transparent approach to the process. It’s an approach that is as much a part of my routine as the weekly data collection and exhaustive film review. And Tampa Bay will find another prime matchup against a Cover 2-heavy defense from Atlanta. Outside of budding superstar A.J. Terrell — a youngster on the fast-track toward developing into the NFLs top cover-corner before he even turns 25, the Falcons’ secondary is prime for the picking. The Dirty Birds are using the highest rate of Cover 2 and the 10th-highest of Cover 1.
Over his last 37 games, Godwin’s 0.52 FP/Rt against Cover 2 ranks second-best among all qualified wideouts. Boosting that scheme success, Godwin also ranks second-best with 2.81 YPRR and 12th-best with 12.3 YPT. Rod-God will work against untested 2021 second-rounder Richie Grant, a safety-to-nickel convert out of UCF. While Grant’s numbers don’t fulfill the parameters to be included among the 39 qualified slot corners, placing his metrics alongside those that do will undoubtedly draw your interest. His 1.35 YPCS would rank him 29th-best, the 0.42 FP/CS he’s allowed would rank dead last, and only four other qualified defenders at any position (all safeties) have permitted a TPR higher than his 141.8. Oh my. The Godwin Particle is going to skin himself a youngster come Sunday.
Rob Gronkowski, TB ($5.3K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Falcons’ Cover 1 | 2
It took all of two games for Rob Gronkowski ($5.3K/$7.0K) to ascend back into the top-five TE discussion. Why is Gronk sitting inside my top-three TEs for Week 13? Atlanta utilizes a massive amount of Cover 1 and Cover 2. Gronkowski leads the world with 0.98 FP/Rt against Cover 1 since returning from retirement. A truly astounding number. His 125.1 TPR is fifth-best, 14.3 AY/Tgt is second-best, 2.58 YPRR is third-best, and his 9.8 YPT is sixth-best. On 15% of his routes over his last 21 games, he’s collected 28% of his receptions, 30% of his yardage, and 46% of his TDs against Cover 1.
His Cover 1 success must be his swan song, right? He’s the best in the business against Cover 2, as well. He’s manufacturing 0.59 FP/Rt (first overall), a 147.3 TPR (you guessed it, first), 2.77 YPRR (also first), and 12.1 YPT (second-best — what a slouch). On 15% of his routes, he’s accumulated 22% of his receptions, 24% of his yardage, and 15% of his TDs. Dedicate the necessary cap dollars and don’t look back.
Kyle Pitts, ATL ($5.6K DK | $6.2K FD) vs. Buccaneers’ Cover 2
The health status repercussions of underappreciated superstar outside corner Jamel Dean affects extend beyond Atlanta’s wideouts. Without Dean, the Bucs could be forced to rely upon Sean Murphy-Bunting and Pierre Desir on the outside. Rather than using safeties Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield Jr. to track the comings-and-goings of athletic phenomenon Kyle Pitts, they will need to devote quite a bit of their attention toward containing the Falcons’ WRs that, while underwhelming on paper, are more than capable of doing significant damage with Matt Ryan’s are at their disposal.
Murphy-Bunting and Desir combined to allow their Colts’ assignments to generate a 10/143/3 line last week after Dean was forced out with his shoulder injury. There's a chance that Carlton Davis could be activated off IR. But issues in coverage of TEs by Tampa Bay date back long before Dean was forced out. They are surrendering 6.5 receptions/game (second-most), 59.3 YPG (seventh-most), 0.45 TDs/game (ninth-most), and 0.82 red zone touches/game to opposing TEs (eighth-most).
Final notes on Tampa Bay
I’m using a different approach with Tom Brady ($7.2K/$8.1K) this week. Instead of writing him up as one of the top QB plays, I’ll just provide a slight nod in his direction. As already stated, Atlanta uses a ton of Cover 1 and Cover 2. TB12 ranks sixth-best with 0.52 FP/Db and fifth with 0.39 FP/Db against those two schemes, respectively, over his last 43 starts. More than anything the Indy defense did, Leonard Fournette ($7.3K/$7.7K) single-handedly prevented Brady, Godwin, and Evans from adding aerial TDs to salvage their days. He benefited from an unnecessary roughness penalty to reset the downs for his first rushing TD, and then from a 37-yard pass interference drawn by Scotty Miller to collect his second.
Making matters worse, Ronald Jones II ($5.0K/$5.3K) vultured a short TD for a second-consecutive game. All of that said, the comment I passed along last week regarding Fournette’s rushing inefficiency did not age well at all. He came out of the Lucas Oil Stadium tunnel as a man unleashed. Whatever catalyzed his Week 12 motivation following four consecutive under-value performances, it should be bottled and sold to the highest bidder. It doesn’t come as a surprise to see the significant bump in pricing for “Button” (RB9/RB9) this week. While the Falcons’ run defense has been decent the last two weeks, they are tolerating the 26.7 FPG to opposing RBs (seventh-highest), and a 27% rushing first down rate (fifth-highest). A big follow-up performance from Playoff Lenny appears to be a distinct possibility.
In a dimension where Antonio Brown wasn’t just moved to IR, he would have a date set with A.J. Terrell. In this reality, with Terrell working exclusively at RCB, he’ll use those elite coverage skills to ghost Tyler Johnson ($3.3K/$4.9K). While I feel it’s high-time that Johnson is entirely replaced by either Scotty Miller ($3.0K/$4.8K) or Jaelon Darden ($3.0K/$4.6K), OC Byron Leftwich obviously disagrees. With 213 routes invested in Johnson this season, he’s returned all 19 receptions and 225 yards. It’s clearly not him, it’s his worthless, replacement-level QB. On the other side of the field, Mike Evans ($6.7K/$7.4K) will work against Fabian Moreau. To date, Moreau has allowed six TDs to his coverage (second-most), 0.28 FP/CS (56th-best), and a 119.5 TPR (sixth-highest).
Final notes on Atlanta
It’s guaranteed that Matt Ryan ($5.6K/$6.8K) is going to air it out this week. And a few of his playmakers are going to benefit. Despite the health concerns at CB for the Buccaneers, this is a poor stylistic matchup for Matty Ice. During his last 42 starts, he’s thrown nine TDs vs. 14 INTs and ranks 20th in FP/Db against both Cover 2 (0.25) and Cover 3 (0.35). The lifeblood of the Falcons’ offense could be severed if the Bucs’ run defense contains Cordarrelle Patterson ($7.0K/$7.4K) inside the 8.3 pure rushing FPG (the fewest) they’ve permitted to opposing backfields. Patterson should be able to muster up some production through the air since Tampa Bay is also delivering the third-most pure receiving FPG to backs (14.1). But it’s unlikely to be enough to generate value with RB10/RB12 pricing.
Russell Gage ($5.3K/$5.9K) has played his best ball against Cover 2 during his career. And, unless Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis manage to play, he’ll draw Sean Murphy-Bunting in coverage. Kicking outside to carry some of the load for injured teammates, if SMBs 1.94 YPCS, 0.45 FP/CS, and 0.94 AY/CS qualified, they’d each rank dead last. Provided that Dean and Davis are unable to take the field, of course, Tajae Sharpe ($3.7K/$5.0K) will also see soft coverage from Pierre Desir. Whether he manages to do anything with the opportunity is another story. Olamide Zaccheaus ($3.8K/$5.2K) is the one Atlanta receiver facing a difficult matchup in Mike Edwards.
Matchups to Target
Christian Kirk, ARI ($5.6K DK | $6.2K FD) vs. Xavier Crawford, CHI
It sounds as though both Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins will suit up in Week 13. The two have taken quite the hiatus from action, last taking the field on October 28th. For a team with playoff aspirations, Murray and Hopkins should feel very fortunate that they still sit atop the NFC South despite missing the month of November with soft tissue strains. At the very least, the presence of Nuk will improve the matchups for his receiver teammates. As a left perimeter devotee, Hopkins will see coverage from Jaylon Johnson — the best the Bears have on the outside — on virtually every one of his routes. With normal nickelback Duke Shelley placed on IR, 2019 sixth-rounder Xavier Crawford stepped into his shoes last week. He may have had a solid game against the Lions, but he’s going to have his hands full with Christian Kirk this week.
The Bears and first-year DC Sean Desai have utilized the third-most exotic coverage rotation in the league. At the heart of that rotation is the second-highest rate of Cover 6. Since Week 1 of the 2019 season, all WRs currently listed on an NFL roster have combined to score 53 TDs against Cover 6. With 16 targets across from Cover 6 during that time, CKII accounted for three of those scores. That’s 6% of the total on 0.88% of the targets. And they account for 23% of his TD total across his 38 games played the last three seasons on only 8% of his total routes. His 0.41 FP/Rt against Cover 6 ranks seventh-best. Rondale Moore might have received the most targets (20 vs. 18 for Kirk) since Murray and Nuk went down, but Kirk has been the most efficient of the two. Whereas Moore totaled an 18/86/0 line on 61 routes (1.40 YPRR), Kirk generated a 15/174/0 line on 100 routes (1.74 YPRR) during the last three games.
Zach Ertz, ARI ($5.4K DK | $5.5K FD) vs. Bears’ Cover 6
Kirk, James Conner, and Zach Ertz deserve to see as much of their expanded roles continue with the return of Murray and Hopkins since they fueled the offense toward claiming a pair of victories. While 19%, 21%, and 21% target shares for Ertz the last three weeks are certainly enticing, the fact that Chicago has surrendered the seventh-most FP/CS (0.43) and eighth-highest passer rating (121.7) when opponents utilize play action lure me toward Ertz. He’s spawned 45% of his FPG average (4.72) on play action this season (third-most). On 29% of his routes, Ertz has created 40% of his receptions, 52% of his yardage, and 40% of his TDs on play action. And the Cards are using play action at the third-highest rate.
Matchups to Avoid
Darnell Mooney, CHI ($5.6K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. Robert Alford, ARI
It appears that Chicago could be without both Allen Robinson II ($5.0K/$5.7K) and Marquise Goodwin ($3.6K/$5.2K). The only coverages we can reasonably expect Arizona to utilize are Cover 1 and Cover 3. As the two most-common schemes in use, that information is of little use. With three consecutive games scoring at least 20 FPs, Mooney is the obvious go-to for Justin Fields. But Mooney will be defended by the more-than-capable combination of Byron Murphy Jr. and Robert Alford on just under two-thirds of his routes.
A WRs chances for producing against Arizona comes down to those tuddies. The Cards are only yielding 11.5 receptions/game (eighth-fewest) and 138.5 YPG (sixth-fewest). But they’ve also allowed 1.18 TDs/game (sixth-most). Be that as it may, Joseph’s defense is only relinquishing a 9.2% completion rate on 20-plus yard targets (second-lowest), and a 1.26% completion rate on 40-plus targets (fourth-fewest). Far from an optimal set of conditions for Mooney’s game to blossom.
Final notes on Arizona
The three Cover 6 TDs scored by Kirk also account for 60% of Kyler Murray’s ($7.5K/$8.3K) total during his 40-game NFL career. A high rate of Cover 6 should be a boon to Baby Yoda’s upside. He’s produced 0.36 FP/Db (eighth-most), adds a boost of 14% to his AY/Att (third-highest), and he’s used play action on 27% of dropbacks (fifth-highest) when a defense throws Cover 6 at him. Regarding the Baby Yoda nickname passed along by teammate Chandler Jones, he broke out the Grogu meditation technique in Week 2 against Minnesota:
While the back-and-forth between Murray and Jones is quite humorous, the following Tweet from Murray dropped my jaw:
Kyler Murray said his TD celebration was not Baby Yoda. Saw everyone talking about it on social media.— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) September 20, 2021
“I’ve never seen Star Wars.”
In what corner of the planet does a kid make it 24 years without watching Star Wars?!? It’s a crisis of epic proportions. Murray’s teammates should hogtie, then force Kyler to watch A New Hope, at the very least.
Some credit is also due to Colt McCoy ($5.4K/$6.8K) for winning two-of-three starts. But McCoy’s best days are long behind him. The three starts could be the final NFL snaps the future assistant coach receives. As unforeseen as it gets, perhaps no Arizona player deserves more of the credit than James Conner ($5.9K/$7.3K). His is another name that should be in consideration for the Comeback Player of the Year award. DK tightened up their pricing for this week. But a few odd numbers are still floating about. One of those is Conner with RB19 pricing. Granted, the matchup is not the best. Chicago is holding opposing RBs to 22.3 FPG (14th-fewest). But they are submitting to 13.9 FPG on the ground (12th-most) and will likely be without star LB Roquan Smith.
Eno Benjamin’s ($4.0K/$5.0K) chances for ‘21 relevancy evaporated without a whimper. I’ll be waiting at least a week with DeAndre Hopkins ($6.2K/$7.2K). If Hopkins is ultimately ruled out, A.J. Green ($5.0K/$5.6K) will be facing an intriguing opponent in Artie Burns. Elevated to a starting role due to Kindle Vildor’s poor play, Burns proceeded to allow Josh Reynolds to put up a 2/55/1 line on him on T-Day. His generosity resulted in 2.12 YPCS, 0.56 FP/CS, 2.92 AY/CS, and a 137.5 TPR… each of which would comfortably pace all qualified players at all positions in each category.
With serious CB quality issues in coverage, when Rondale Moore ($4.7K/$5.5K) takes the field in 10 personnel, he’s likely to run the majority of his routes through the zones of LBs and safeties. Plenty of head scratchers from this Arizona offense. Not only did HC/OC Kliff Kingsbury follow his depth chart to the letter by gifting Antoine Wesley ($3.1K/$4.9K) with three consecutive starts on the left perimeter, he featured him throughout the Cards’ last 3.5 games without Nuk. And Wesley was even provided with at least a 10% target share in three of those four. His 0.177 FP/Rt would rank 103rd, if qualified.
Final notes on Chicago
Andy Dalton served his purpose. He led Chicago to the victory over the Lions. But Bill Swerski's Superfans expect far more from Da Bears. And the future will be very bright when the O-line is finally able to protect Justin Fields ($5.0K/$6.6K). GM Ryan Pace should be fully committed to reserving every one of his early picks on O-line talent. As always, we simply cannot trust the coverage percentages submitted by Arizona DC Vance Joseph. Soldier Fields will have far better matchups in the upcoming weeks. Fully immersed in the analytics game, Dalvin Cook (Week 2) and James Robinson (Week 3) are the only two RBs to generate at least 10 FPs against the Cardinals. Needless to say, David Montgomery ($5.6K/$6.5K) is not an option.
We want nothing to do with Damiere Byrd ($3.1K/$5.0K). He’ll pull the attention of Byron Murphy Jr. when the Bears utilize 11 personnel. The one Chicago player that intrigues me this week is Jakeem Grant Sr. ($3.0K/$4.8K). Goodwin was the direct backup to Robinson. When Goodwin was forced out in Week 12, Grant stepped up to collect an 11% target share. The exact alignment expectations for Grant starting a game fresh are unknown. But his floor pricing as the WR106/WR107 would provide outstanding salary relief if he can put some numbers on the board with his opportunities. He’d also face off with the on-the-job training of ‘21 fourth-rounder Marco Wilson should Grant fill in on the left sideline. Dalton loves to target his TEs. Cole Kmet ($3.6K/$5.3K) saw volume and Jimmy Graham ($2.9K/$4.7K) caught a red zone TD. But the inline pecking order is far different under Fields’ watch. He prefers Jesse James ($2.5K/$4.2K) to Graham after Kmet.
Matchups to Target
Alexander Mattison, MIN ($7.6K DK | $8.7K FD) vs. Lions’ Cover 2
It’s likely very obvious by now to those reading this series each week that I definitely do not set out to beat around the bush with my analysis. As it relates to Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison this season, in the two games when Mattison was the featured back from beginning-to-end, he’s been the better of the two. The reasoning behind it is irrelevant, the receiving numbers that provided Cook with the opportunity to become one of the NFL’s premiere backs have vanished. It’s quite ironic that, in the Week 12 game Cook dislocated his shoulder, he registered his finest receiving output of the season (6/67/0). Even so, he hasn’t reached the end zone through the air, and he’s averaged less than 4.0 YPC in the two games (Weeks 1 and 12) where his receiving numbers made a difference. The very last thing we need in DFS, season-long, and Dyno/Devy formats would be for Cook to rush back onto the field before he’s at 100% health.
On the other side of the coin, a compelling argument could be made that the two starts Mattison made were against two of the weakest run defenses in the league (Seattle and Detroit). And it’s true. The Seahawks are hemorrhaging 31.7 FPG to RBs (second-most), while the Lions are bleeding out 26.9 FPG (fifth-most). If Cook only sits out one week, that argument against Mattison is not going to be settled since he’ll face Detroit, once again. Why are the Lions so bad against the run? For one, they are easily the least fundamentally sound club in their tackling fundamentals. Two out of every 12.5 tackle attempts (16%) miss their mark. That’s the highest rate in the league. Over the last four weeks, they have missed an average of 12 tackles/game. Mattison is priced at a premium, but the ROI on those cap dollars will be well spent.
Matchups to Avoid
Adam Thielen, MIN ($7.3K DK | $7.6K FD) vs. Amani Oruwariye, DET
For most, trying to decide when we should expose our lineups to Adam Thielen has been a weekly struggle. I’m here to tell you that the answer is plain as day. I’ll save the three-year data on Thielen for another day. Let’s focus entirely on the ‘21 season. When Thielen has faced off with either Cover 1 or Cover Free (0) on 96 routes, he’s turned 22 targets into a 17/240/6 receiving line. Against Cover 2, 3, 4, 6 and each of their variants on 293 routes, Thielen has used 52 targets to generate a 39/410/2 line. For the kids at home, I’ll break those numbers down further. When facing the two man schemes (Cover 1 and Cover 0), he’s averaging 2.50 YPRR, and 0.80 FP/RT. He’s only creating 1.40 YPRR and 0.31 FP/Rt against the rest.
For complete transparency, a means toward projecting production against short-field schemes utilized specifically for red zone and goal-to-go situations does not exist. It’s a hole in the system that I intend to close up prior to next season. And Thielen has killed it with a 5/21/2 line on 15 routes and five targets in those situations this season. Beyond that weakness, the data clearly tells us to limit our Thielen usage to the Cover 1- and Cover 0-heavy matchups. As you likely know, pinpointing the Cover 1-heavy opponents is a weekly factor in this series. But uncovering the defenses most likely to field the most Cover Free is easier said than done.
I could pass along that the Lions are using Cover 0 at the ninth-highest rate, or I could state that they’ve used it more than all sans one other team over the last three weeks. Both entirely true. But the latter statement would need the qualification added that the Lions have only used Cover 0 eight times during those three weeks, and that the other team using it more (Dolphins) put it on the field for 31 snaps. It’s frequently exploited, but rarely used. Since the focus here is to identify each player’s current week validity, the likelihood that Thielen will have two, maybe three opportunities to punish Detroit’s Cover 0 isn’t enough to recommend exposure. And the Lions have used the ninth-lowest rate of Cover 1. Thielen is likely to post somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-17 FPs against a defense featuring the fifth-highest rate of Cover 2. Look elsewhere.
Final notes on Minnesota
It pains me to fade, but one only needs to look back to Kirk Cousins’ ($6.5K/$7.7K) Week 5 matchup with Detroit to see the downside (14.4 FPs). Minnesota is passing the ball on 60% of snaps this season. But that number dropped to 55% against the Lions due to Cousins failing to find a complement through the air to go along with Justin Jefferson ($8.2K/$8.0K). Speaking of the devil, Jefferson put together a 7/124/0 line in that contest. Even if he provides a repeat performance, he’d still fall below floor value on both platforms with WR4/WR5 pricing. And Detroit has only obliged 0.73 TDs/game to opposing WR units (eighth-fewest). Since it’s been six weeks since K.J. Osborn ($3.4K/$5.0K) held any fantasy relevance, the entirety of the Vikings’ receiving core is a hard fade for me in Week 13. Even with the Lions succumbing to some TE production during the last four weeks, I’m also fading Tyler Conklin ($3.7K/$5.2K) since I actually really like more than a handful of other TE options.
Final notes on Detroit
Jared Goff ($5.2K/$6.4K), fade. I am not expecting any miracles from the Detroit backfield without D’Andre Swift. Jamaal Williams ($5.4K/$6.5K) hasn’t killed it with 0.72 FPs/opportunity (47th-best), but he has averaged 1.33 YPRR and 4.17 YPC. And the Vikings are promoting the 10th-most FPG to RBs (25.1). If we count on Williams absorbing a decent share of Swift’s receiving volume, he just might do enough to cover his 16.2/16.3 floor with RB27/RB21 pricing. As with all shiny injury replacements, just expect to see Williams in a lot of lineups.
For large-field GPP junkies, the bruising playstyle of Godwin Igwebuike ($4.0K/$5.2K) has always intrigued me. He was the only RB other than Williams to touch the ball after Swift was injured. He’s got some breakaway potential, just keep the investment in check. No on Amon-Ra St. Brown 😢 ($4.4K/$5.4K) vs. Mackensie Alexander, Josh Reynolds ($3.4K/$5.1K) vs. Patrick Peterson, or even Kalif Raymond ($4.5K/$5.2K) vs. Bashaud Breeland. If you must tickle your D-town bone, stick to the dedicated volume devoted to T.J. Hockenson ($5.2K/$6.1K). Just keep in mind that I loathe Hock this week with Eric Kendrick lurking in the shadows.
Matchups to Target
Justin Herbert, LAC ($6.7K DK | $8.2K FD) vs. Bengals’ Cover 2
For this analyst’s hard-earned dollars, New England at Buffalo may pit teams with the most guaranteed playoff clout, but Los Angeles at Cincinnati is where it’s at in Week 13. The Chargers have a 40% chance to earn a playoff spot after losing four of their last six. The Bengals’ back-to-back victories over the Raiders and Steelers extends some comfort with 69% playoff odds. They may be down, but they are far from out. And I love the idea of Justin Herbert facing uphill odds, threats of elimination. That said, the INT from last week where he deserves the blame came on a 3rd-and-14 when pressure forced him out of the pocket. Herbert is putting up some outstanding numbers through two seasons in the NFL, but he is far from a finished product. Few veteran QBs ever breach that threshold.
Herbert had two enemies in Week 12. Patrick Surtain II and, to an extent, Cover 6. A miscommunication between Herbert and Austin Ekeler led to a tipped ball that Surtain collected for a 70-yard Pick-6. Denver had Cover 6 on the field, but nobody was to blame for the result. On Herbert’s other INT, forced out of the pocket, Herb threw off of his back foot while scrambling to the right in an attempt to target Jared Cook on a scramble drill. He badly underthrew the ball, gift-wrapping Surtain’s second INT of the game. Luckily for Herbert, Cincy uses Cover 6 at one-third the rate of Denver, and they will not have the services of Surtain.
The Cincinnati defense features the ninth-highest rate of Cover 2. And that rate jumps to fourth-highest during the fourth quarter. They also dabble with top-17 rates of Cover 3 and Cover 6, and, a wrinkle added during their last three games, DC Lou Anarumo has put the eighth-highest rate of Cover 1 on the field during the first three quarters. Since the Cover 1 numbers for Herbert are excellent sans facing a Bill Belichick defense, single coverage is not a concern. And that high rate of Cover 2 is the crowning stroke. During his career spanning 26 games, Herbert has averaged 0.38 FP/Db (sixth-most), a 107.1 passer rating (the highest), and augmented by a 25% rise in YPA contra Cover 2.
Keenan Allen, LAC ($7.5K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Mike Hilton, CIN
After the first five weeks, Mike Williams appeared to be on a path toward posting top-three WR numbers with an average of 30.0 FPG! In the six games since, he’s only averaged 8.7 FPG. That’s a 71% decline! Herbert targeted Williams on 24.7% of attempts during the first five games, but that number has plummeted by 40% over the last six (14.8%). Unlike Williams, Keenan Allen’s target share from the first five weeks (26.3%) has remained consistent during the last six (28.2%). A big chunk of Williams’ loss in target share was used to boost Ekeler’s share by 32% over the last six weeks. The rest was spread out among multiple receivers.
All of that to state that, while the coverage history points to Williams as having the most Cover 2 upside, Allen utilizes consistent volume toward providing us with reliable, Cash/SE-worthy returns. Fueling Allen as the LAC wideout to target, the Bengals are delivering 60% of their FPG allowance to receivers working out of the slot (fifth-most). The responsibility for that slot production does not entirely fall on the shoulders of Mike Hilton. MIKE LB Logan Wilson and FS Jessie Bates III are allowing 15.1 combined FPG, while struggling with bottom-five coverage metrics at their relative positions. And Allen is one of the best in the business at using his elite route-running to attack those zone vulnerabilities.
Tee Higgins, CIN ($5.8K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Tevaughn Campbell, LAC
As anticipated with Joe Haden ruled out — last week’s piece offered matchup love even if Haden attempted to play at less than 100% health, Tee Higgins finally provided a statement performance to his season. Dealing his wares across from James Pierre, Higgins collected 4/83/1 of his 6/114/1 total line at the expense of Pierre. And the data suggests another result worthy of our attention is on deck. With ‘21 second-rounder Asante Samuel Jr. ruled out for another game while recovering from a concussion and Ryan Smith previously suffering an ACL tear in Week 9, the Chargers have been forced to feature Tevaughn Campbell at left CB.
Considering Campbell’s numbers were subpar while working out of the slot, one doesn’t need to be a former NFL veteran to reason his chances did not improve on the outside. Still measured in comparison to his 39 qualified nickelback peers, Campbell is permitting 1.59 YPCS (second-most), 0.28 FP/CS (15th-most), 0.20 AY/CS (fourth-most), and a 107.0 TPR (ninth-highest). Facing coverage from a situational player forced into a featured role provides us with our first parallel. The second is obtained from the fact that Pittsburgh and Los Angeles utilized top-nine Cover 3 rates in Week 12. It was a surprising pivot from first-season DC Renaldo Hill. And it was most likely directly correlated to asking Campbell to kick outside. If so, we can expect to see another big Cover 3 number from LAC this week. Higgins extracted 4/63/0 of his line on only 13 routes across from Cover 3 last week.
Final notes on Los Angeles
Another factor I love about these teams matching up is that they are both vulnerable to the run. Cincy has provided opposing RBs with 25.6 FPG (eighth-most). But it’s the fact that 14.0 of that FPG average has been surrendered through the air to backs (fourth-most). Need I say more in Austin Ekeler’s ($8.3K/$9.0K) case? Just because Allen stands as the Cash/SE target, it doesn’t indicate Mike Williams ($5.7K/$6.5K) is unworthy of GPP ownership. He’s one of the very few NFL WRs with the capability of throwing 40 FPs down on an opponent. Granted, much of his production will need to be collected within the excellent coverage of Chidobe Awuzie. But the risk doesn’t eliminate the potential reward.
OC Joe Lombardi just loves that speed from Jalen Guyton ($3.0K/$4.9K). He’ll eventually grow tired of watching Guyton run down the field without providing anything of value in return. Josh Palmer ($3.0K/$4.9K) doesn’t possess Guyton’s track speed, but he does have the ability to attack coverage vulnerabilities. Such a disappointing situation with Jared Cook ($3.1K/$5.1K). Three TDs in 11 games and only one performance (19.0 FPs in Week 4) that made a difference in DFS. If Herbert could just have a single playmaker step forward beyond Allen, Ekeler, and Williams, this offense could conceivably blow up.
Final notes on Cincinnati
The Chargers’ defense presents a collection of layers to be deciphered. Joe Burrow ($6.3K/$7.4K) is an efficient QB, taking what the defense allows, no matter what he’s offered. The fourth-highest rate of Cover 6 — a plus to Burrow — is a guarantee. If Burrow can simply get Los Angeles’ 14th-highest rate of man coverage, it’ll be a perfect mix to attack the zone fronts with Higgins, and the man-to-man with Ja’Marr Chase ($7.0K/$7.5K). We just don’t know how much Cover 3 they’ll put on the field. It proved to be too many unknowns for significant Chase exposure during my GPP lineup construction process.
The guy I did populate my lineups with at a healthy clip is Joe Mixon ($8.1K/$9.4K). The Superchargers have been diced up on the ground all season. They are supporting the second-highest pure rushing FPG average to opposing RBs (19.4), and sixth-most overall (26.7). Following some atypical allowances after returning from IR, the coverage metrics for Chris Harris Jr. have settled in nicely. It’s a difficult test for Tyler Boyd ($5.0K/$5.7K). Unless that Cover 1 rate spikes, the stylistic side of the matchup does not stand out for C.J. Uzomah ($3.2K/$5.2K). And that’s with the understanding that LAC has released the fourth-most FPG to opposing TEs.
Matchups to Target
Tua Tagovailoa, MIA ($5.5K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Giants’ Cover 3
Projecting the optimal matchups for Tua Tagovailoa is quite difficult since he’s thrown so many of his TD passes against in situations where defenses have the red zone packages on the field. However, one avenue we can follow in favor of attacking with Tua is against high rates of Cover 3. Two AFC East defenses feature a substantial Cover 3 rate (Patriots and Jets), and it just so happens that Tagovailoa has a 3-0 record in those matchups — two wins against the Pats, and he’s provided a profit in excess of floor value in all three. The Giants are using the fourth-highest rate of Cover 3. And they put the highest rate of three-high on field in Week 12.
Another detail from New York’s profile stands out to the benefit of Tagovailoa: they are submitting to the sixth-most FP/CS (0.44) and 12th-highest passer rating (116.3) against play action this season. It’s a weakness you do not want to bring into a game against the sophomore QB. Tagovailoa has been utilizing the second-highest rate of play action to his advantage. During his 18-game career, Tagovailoa has attacked Cover 3 with a 96.6 passer rating (12th-best), as his YPA average increases by 17% (seventh-most), and when he deploys play action on 42% of his dropbacks (fifth-highest). While I like Tua this week regardless, a return from DeVante Parker would push Tagovailoa's upside over the top.
Matchups to Avoid
Darius Slayton, NYG ($4.6K DK | $5.3K FD) vs. Xavien Howard, MIA
Listed as an Avoid two straight weeks, few will be disappointed at the notion of fading a WR averaging 6.2 FPG. It’s just the wrong time of the season for Darius Slayton to be working against Xavien Howard. During his first seven games, Howard nearly allowed as many TDs to his coverage responsibilities (seven) as his number of combined INTs and pass deflections (eight). That’s obviously far from an even one-for-one trade. But he hasn’t permitted a TD in his last four games and, over that time, he’s limited his assignments to 0.80 YPCS, 0.18 FP/CS, and a 69.3 TPR. Each of those values would place inside the top-15 among 79 qualified outside CBs. And a massive amount of the production he has commissioned was by DJ Moore last week on a 64-yard splash when the X-Factor read his coverage assignment incorrectly. OVer the rest of that game, Howard held Moore to 1/18/0. Just too many checks on the wrong side of the board to consider Slayton this week.
Final notes on New York
While Miami still kicks out a decent number of Cover 1 to keep offenses honest, DC Josh Boyer has fully-engaged a scheme shift toward Cover 3. That’s, of course as mentioned earlier, in addition to his Cover Free rate that essentially encircles the globe compared to all other defenses. And, placing an overly dramatic fade stamp across Slayton’s forehead, Daniel Jones’ ($5.5K/$7.2K) FP/Db declines by 15%, his passer rating by 10%, and he’s thrown six TDs vs. 11 INTs during his 38-game career against Cover 3. Sinking any semblance of upside he might have managed, it appears Danny Dimes will most likely be without Sterling Shepard ($4.9K/$6.0K) and — the Cover 3-dynamo — Kadarius Toney ($5.4K/$5.6K), once again.
As strange as it may sound, the most daunting challenge will fall upon Saquon Barkley ($6.3K/$7.2K). The last RB to post at least 7.0 FPs against the Dolphins’ defense purely in the run game came all of the way in Week 8 when Cordarrelle Patterson put 12.0 on them. Looking on the bright side, at least they won’t be facing the prospect with Devontae Booker ($4.9K/$6.0K) as their featured back. Kenny Golladay ($5.0K/$5.8K) has actually been serviceable against Cover 3 the last three seasons, he just wasn’t working with Jones as his QB.
While John Ross III ($3.4K/$5.1K) might seem to be the most viable candidate to fill the slot role with both Shepard and Toney unavailable last week, the Giants went and featured Pharoh Cooper ($3.0K/$4.7K) on 65% of team routes, and leaving Ross to languish in sorrow at only 18%. Uhh… well, not sure how best to appropriately respond to that information. At this stage in the game, my trust in Evan Engram ($3.5K/$5.2K) following the script is at rock bottom. His refusal to generate numbers within his coverage success profile — or at all, for that matter — leaves me little reason to support any type of exposure.
Final notes on Miami
It’s already in motion. Phillip Lindsay ($4.2K/$5.4K) has claimed the lead duties in the Miami backfield. And he managed to swipe the role from scatback-forced-into-mold-as-early-down-back victim/survivor Myles Gaskin ($5.8K/$6.4K) in around 34 seconds of practice time. Gaskin will continue to maintain the up-tempo role with his elite receiving skills, but we will see Lindsay actually run some routes in future weeks. However, until he does run more than 0% of team routes he ran last week, Lindsay’s floor is too low for consideration. Jaylen Waddle ($6.4K/$6.9K) has exceeded the Dolphins’ expectations three times over. Managing to carry this poor excuse for a WR room during Miami’s four-game winning streak, and while DeVante Parker ($3.9K/$5.4K) rehabbed his hamstring is simply Oscar-worthy. I can’t be persuaded otherwise.
I am looking forward to watching how ‘21 third-rounder Aaron Robinson and his 4.39-speed fares across from Waddle. During the pre-draft process, I passed along my belief that Waddle would’ve submitted athletic testing in competition with the numbers created by Ja’Marr Chase and Kadarius Toney. For those unaware, Waddle is only one 20-plus FP performance from matching Chase at four. Breaking news: Will Fuller V is still alive! He’s been recovering from cuticle surgery on the sands of South Beach. It would be huge for the Miami offense to get Parker back on the field. I’m not expecting him to go nuclear in his first game back, with James Bradberry rudely staring him down. But he’ll provide the vital know-how to find gaps in NYGs Cover 3 to extend the chains.
We can count on Adoree' Jackson continuing to ghost his assignments this week. Not that it’ll matter in the slightest. Shutting off production from Albert Wilson ($3.2K/$5.1K), Mack Hollins ($3.1K/$4.8K), Preston Williams ($3.0K/$4.7K), and/or Isaiah Ford ($3.0K/$4.7K) will not set the ‘Phins back one bit. The other reason I’m excited for Parker’s return is to see him alongside Waddle, and Mike Gesicki ($5.1K/$6.0K) within an offense with a healthy Tagovailoa at the helm.
The only reason I am listing Durham Smythe ($2.5K/$4.8K) and Adam Shaheen ($2.5K/$4.3K) is to highlight a point. It’s very easy to mistake the roles of players listed at the same position as being in opposition to one another’s workload. Gesicki has done his work at the highest detached rate among all TEs, qualified or not. And he’s also served as a blocker for the Dolphins at the lowest rate at the position. While he’s listed as a TE, he is essentially a massive wideout. Shaheen (55%) and Smythe (40%) have worked as detached receivers either at (Shaheen) or well below the 55% qualified average (Smythe). Shaheen (54%) and Smythe (58%) have been utilized in blocking roles in excess of the qualified 52% average. When either are added to the offense without Gesicki, it’s not at the expense of Gesicki’s role, it’s simply what’s referred to as Heavy personnel. Gesicki is very rarely a part of Heavy personnel packages. Most of which are running plays.
Matchups to Target
Dallas Goedert, PHI ($4.5K DK | $5.8K FD) vs. Jets’ Cover 3 | 4
We all know how this one’s going to play out. The Jets are coming off an unexpected victory over the Texans. New York has strung together consecutive wins six times during their last six seasons (96 total games). And an argument can be made that the current demonstration of “full rebuild mode” is on par with the 2020 version.
Anyhow, we’re going to see the Eagles put up 30-plus points on the defense conceding the most FPG to entire opposing offenses (103.0) this season, over the last four games (105.1). On the field for 89% of team routes, it’s literally only a matter of time before Dallas Goedert explodes. The Jets are ceding the ninth-most FPG to TEs (14.1) with the 10th-highest rate of Cover 3, seventh-highest of Cover 4. Over his last 37 games, Goedert has produced the seventh-most FP/Rt vs. Cover 3 (0.43), and 11th-most vs. Cover 4 (0.33).
Final notes on Philadelphia
Jalen Hurts ($7.0K/$8.0K) didn’t get it done across from his Cover 3 wheelhouse last week. He gets another against another substantial rate this week. But it’ll be enacted by New York. If Hurts had the desire, he could no doubt surpass Michael Vick’s single-game rushing yardage record by a QB (173). Should Miles Sanders ($5.2K/$6.6K) manage to join Boston Scott ($4.6K/$6.6K) on the field in Week 13 after injuring his ankle last week, the pair will have their dials set to seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale. And make sure to make a note of Scott’s DK salary. It may provide the top value potential on the main slate.
Since Jordan Howard ($4.7K/$6.4K) was inactive, we actually saw Kenneth Gainwell ($4.2K/$4.9K) run a few routes after Sanders was injured. With their high rate of Cover 3 opposing the Hurts’ 0.43 career FP/Db (eighth-best), DeVonta Smith ($6.1K/$6.3K) and, brace yourself, Jalen Reagor ($3.2K/$5.1K) could throw down some numbers in East Rutherford. Hell, this defense is bad enough that Goedert, Smith, Reagor, and Quez Watkins ($3.6K/$5.3K) could go for profit over value if the Jets’ offense finds a way to match their scoring step-for-step.
Final notes on New York
No, I am not expecting to see Zach Wilson’s ($5.2K/$6.3K) offense keep paced with Philadelphia’s. Not even close. The sexiest backfield option for the Jets, Michael Carter, hit IR. Tevin Coleman ($4.5K/$5.8K), Ty Johnson ($4.6K/$5.3K), and Austin Walter ($4.2K/$5.4K) will vie for the honor of leading the backfield with 10 FPs. Since Morman Manziel refuses to target his RBs, the floor for all three reaches into the planet’s core. If Corey Davis ($4.9K/$5.9K) plays, we should fade him across from Darius Slay. If he sits, we fade Denzel Mims ($3.0K/$4.8K) for the same reason.
Jamison Crowder ($K/$K) is another hardcore fade across from Avonte Maddox. Elijah Moore ($5.5K/$6.1K) is the only Jet deserving of our time in a matchup against Steven Nelson… just keep in mind that he’ll go up against the two schemes (Cover 3 and 6) that he’s yet to crack during his rookie season. Keelan Cole Sr. has already been ruled out. We may actually see Braxton Berrios ($3.0K/$4.9K) absorb some of those reps along the left sideline. Ryan Griffin ($2.6K/$4.7K) starts at TE for NYJ.
Matchups to Target
Antonio Gibson, WAS ($5.7K DK | $6.2K FD) vs. Raiders’ Cover 3
I’ve turned a solid profit by simply targeting the RB opposing the Raiders each week. It’s not foolproof, but it’s certainly served its purpose. Las Vegas has been amiable to 27.4 FPG by opposing RBs (fourth-most). We get it, Antonio Gibson is entering into a smash spot. But the plot thickens when the concussion suffered by J.D. McKissic last week is folded into the equation. It was a scary hit where McKissic had to be carted from the field. Even if McKissic manages to clear the team protocol, whichever independent doctor he visits to request final clearance will have a difficult time signing on the dotted line when viewing footage of the hit for him-or-herself. We can expect to see Jaret Patterson taking a portion of McKissic’s role if he’s ruled out. But Gibson is going to gain the invaluable up-tempo role that supports ~85% of McKissic’s production.
Derek Carr, LV ($6.0K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Washington’s Cover 2 | 3 | 4
It’s been a roller-coaster of a ride for Derek Carr’s production all season. But his 373 passing yards and 24.0 FPs from Thanksgiving Day holds additional weight in that he was also able to lead the Raiders to victory. All of the arrows have pointed downward since the Henry Ruggs III incident. Getting back into the win column could be the catalyst for another string of ridiculous yardage performances from Carr that are stupid enough that he doesn’t even need to throw for more than a single TD to eclipse 20 FPs. Oh yeah, that’s exactly what he did in Week 12.
Carr will face a Washington defense that has really cleaned up the act of its pass defense in recent weeks. The return of William Jackson III really put a fire into the unit. And they’ve somehow overcome the absences of Chase Young and Montez Sweat without missing a beat. WFT has undergone multiple scheme shifts this season. The current ledge finds Washington featuring a rotation of Cover 2, 3, and 4. And they are willing to toss in some of the Cover 1 they heavily featured early in the season, when the situation calls for it.
Where does Carr fit in? If the Football Team throws any Cover 1 snaps at him, he smiles back with 0.51 FP/Db (seventh-most) over his last 43 starts. If the flavor is a Cover 2, Carr will counter with 0.34 FP/Db (12th-most) and one of the top Cover 2 receivers in the game — more on him later. The one we’re holding out hope for the fewest snaps is Cover 3. His FP/Db declines by 32%, and he’s thrown three TDs vs. seven INTs. The scheme we want to see them go crazy to their heart’s content with is Cover 4. He’s sculpted the coverage to his will with 0.39 FP/Db (fifth-most), a 103.2 passer rating (fourth-highest), and boosted by a 16% jump in YPA (third-highest).
Hunter Renfrow, LV ($5.8K DK | $6.4K FD) vs. Danny Johnson, WAS
In the market for a wideout that was chiseled alongside the manufacture of Cover 2 to serve as it’s feared nemesis? Hunter Renfrow is your guy. He may not look the part, but the footage (Thanksgiving Day), and the numbers leave no doubt as to the validity of his hold over the scheme. During a career spanning 40-games, the Slot Machine has manufactured 0.48 FP/Rt (third-most), 2.47 YPRR (sixth-most), and he’s drawing 27% of the targets when a defense dares to populate his field with a Cover 2 (third-highest). Danny Johnson will be on the field when Renfrow is ready to attack. That is all. Oh, nearly forgot… Renfrow added another wrinkle to his method last week: 28 snaps at perimeter receiver that currently stands as a career high.
Matchups to Avoid
Terry McLaurin, WAS ($7.4K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Casey Hayward Jr., LV
Listing F1 McLaurin under the Avoid banner is in no way suggesting that Casey Hayward Jr. is going to ghost his Week 13. The expectation is actually for Terry McScorin to score in the neighborhood of 17-19 FPs. But that’s just not going to cut it with Terry McLaurin’s pricing, especially on DK as the WR7. Casey Hayward Jr. has been one of the top-five corners this season, providing an excellent face-off for our viewing pleasure.
Final notes on Washington
If a few cards properly fall into place for Taylor Heinicke ($5.6K/$7.1K), this could result in one of his best outputs of the season. The first is that Logan Thomas ($4.0K/$5.6K) proves he’s ready to crush against the defense that’s relinquishing the second-most FPG to opposing TEs (17.4). The second is that Curtis Samuel ($4.0K/$5.0K) will prove his hamstring is sturdy enough to keep breakout Nate Hobbs busy and draw enough attention from ‘21 second-round FS stud-in-the-making, Trevon Moehrig, for his receiver teammates to operate.
The final piece of the puzzle — potentially proving to be extremely important — is for DeAndre Carter ($3.6K/$5.4K) to prove that his poor Cover 3 numbers are just a product of limited reps, and not an indicator of that being a flaw to his game. The Raiders are employing the highest rate of Cover 3 in the league. Carter will draw the mouth-watering snaps across from Brandon Facyson on Sunday. Facyson has provided his coverage with 1.61 YPCS (ninth-most), 0.38 FP/CS (third-most), 0.43 AY/CS (the most), and a 112.1 TPR (12th-highest). The remaining touches will be distributed between Jaret Patterson ($4.0K/$5.4K) — if McKissic is out, Adam Humphries ($3.3K/$4.8K), Dyami Brown ($3.0K/$4.7K), Cam Sims ($3.0K/$5.0K), and John Bates ($2.6K/$4.5K).
Final notes on Las Vegas
Even without Young and Sweat, the run defense of Washington has remained steadfast. Josh Jacobs ($6.0K/$7.0K) and Kenyan Drake ($4.4K/$5.4K) are of little interest to me in Week 13.
Seeing Renfrow threaten his excellent Slot Machine nickname by working on a substantial number of reps outside due to the complete ineptitude of Bryan Edwards ($3.6K/$5.1K) is a damn shame. Kendall Fuller, meet the softest matchup of your ‘21 season. Zay Jones ($3.2K/$5.3K) may not offer much more than Edwards, but the Raiders didn’t exhaust a ‘20 second-rounder to acquire him. William Jackson III is going to fall asleep in coverage over Jones.
Few players draw a more immediate roll of the eyes than upon seeing DeSean Jackson ($4.2K/$5.2K) listed as questionable with somethin-ruther-whatever. Don’t count on seeing Darren Waller ($6.2K/$6.8K) for a while. IT Band damage is no joke and Waller has not proven to be the toughest opponent to soft tissue ailments. I certainly didn’t intend for Waller to go down while calling for more reps bestowed upon Foster Moreau ($2.7K/$5.0K). Moreau is a walking TD factory in the red zone. He is found with the highest ownership among my top TE punts on both platforms with TE38/TE25 pricing.
Matchups to Target
Van Jefferson, LAR ($5.3K DK | $5.8K FD) vs. Tyson Campbell, JAX
Had Van Jefferson Jr. only drug his foot an inch before stepping it out-of-bounds, his Week 12 would’ve concluded with four receptions, 133 receiving yards, two TDs, and… wait for it… 32.3 FPs. Sean McVay knew exactly what he was doing when he selected Jefferson with his ‘20 second-rounder. And he appears to be a clone of Robert Woods. We can still have exposure to Jefferson while his pricing still presents a Himalayan value as the WR35/WR41. The upside plot would thicken if Jacksonville continues to hold Shaquill Griffin out due to concussion symptoms. If Griffin is out again, Jefferson’s responsibility will fall to Tyson Campbell. The ‘21 second-rounder is coughing up 1.72 YPCS (third-most), 0.33 FP/CS (10th-most), 0.21 AY/CS (17th-most), and a 105.8 passer rating (20th-highest).
Matchups to Avoid
Marvin Jones Jr., JAX ($4.7K DK | $5.6K FD) vs. Jalen Ramsey, LAR
The 2021 Ferrari 812 GTS of NFL CBs: 0.98 YPCS, 0.23 FP/CS, 0.09 AY/CS, and a 79.2 TPR.
Final notes on Jacksonville
This is not going to turn out well for Trevor Lawrence ($5.1K/$6.7K). The offense, once again, is going to be carried on the shoulders of James Robinson ($6.2K/$7.1K). Carlos Hyde ($4.2K/$5.1K) will take on his complementary role. As expected, Laviska Shenault Jr. ($4.4K/$5.4K) kicked into the slot with Jamal Agnew landing on IR. Those “handoffs” Urban Meyer mentioned didn’t do the trick. When Shenault manages to hide from Ramsey, Dont'e Deayon will take the call. Laquon Practice Squad Treadwell I Guess Using My First-Rounder On Him Was A Bad Call ($3.2K/$4.9K) will be “defended” by Darious Williams. Tavon Austin ($3.1K/$5.0K) is still on the roster. James O'Shaughnessy ($2.6K/$4.5K) returned at the perfect time for Dan Arnold to take his warm IR seat.
Final notes on Los Angeles
As much as I want to believe that the Jaguars’ defense will manage to keep this one close, those memories of Matthew Stafford ($7.3K/$7.8K) and the Rams scoring 28 points against the Packers on Lambeau Field disintegrate that vision. Los Angeles’ offense is going to eat at the buffet the Jags generously pack for the cross-country trip. Do we trust McVay enough that his 80-to-15% carry share distribution between Darrell Henderson Jr. ($6.1K/$7.5K) and Sony Michel ($4.3K/$5.3K) will last longer beyond Week 12? Not in the slightest. With three consecutive defeats, every scenario with this backfield is on the table. Henderson has been one of the most meh RBs in the NFL in four of the last five weeks. Sell all stocks now. Fade everywhere. Overreact with impunity. Seriously, sell and fade.
Houston Nickel Tavierre Thomas did not envelop Cooper Kupp ($9.0K/$9.0K) within his glove-like embrace. But Kupp did fall below value. I throw Kupp into a token GPP lineup with a Stafford stack each week, but I have a boatload of Jefferson exposure, in comparison. Rudy Ford has been tested twice (Tyler Lockett without Russell Wilson and Cole Beasley) and he emerged shiny-and-chrome. As with Thomas last week, if Ford prevents the filling of Cooper’s Kupp, I’ll extend a ton of respect in his direction. Is Odell Beckham Jr. ($5.5K/$6.0K) going to play? It’s a situation worth monitoring with Nevin Lawson in coverage. Is Tyler Higbee ($3.8K/$5.3K) aware the season is underway? He’s in desperate need of a routine adjustment.
Matchups to Target
Diontae Johnson, PIT ($6.8K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Anthony Averett, BAL
The effort submitted by the Steelers last week alone transforms what should be another in a storied history of the Baltimore-Pittsburgh rivalry into just another game. Everything fell apart for the Steelers, shedding all semblance of its identity… sans one. The receiving trio of Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth continued to showcase their wares. And they managed to do it without Ben Roethlisberger doing anything worth writing home about. Diontae continues to be first-and-second in the pecking order determined by Whig Ben.
It’s truly remarkable that Johnson has maintained his WR10/WR13 pricing in spite of his massive role. Put Diontae’s exact numbers on the Chiefs, Chargers, Cowboys, etc. and his pricing is permanently locked above $7.0K on both platforms. But it only highlights his value potential. The Ravens have stagnated within the middle of the pack with 34.0 FPG offered to opposing WR units (19th-most). Johnson is devoted to spending two-thirds of his game time on the left side of the formation, so he’s likely to see more time across from Anthony Averett. And the former Alabama CB is distributing 1.45 YPCS (17th-most), 0.28 FP/CS (21st-most), 0.24 AY/CS (12th-most), and a 78.3 TPR (20th-best). With double-digit targets in eight-of-11 and overcoming tight coverage at multiple stops along the way, Diontae has one of the most reliable floors at the position.
Final notes on Baltimore
It’s not looking great for a Joe Haden return, so Lamar Jackson ($7.8K/$8.5K) could be in for a big game. But will it be on the ground or through the air? The Steelers were completely vulnerable in both departments last week. As I was about to begin his write-up among the Targets in the 11th hour, I happened to look back at each of Mark Andrews’ ($6.0K/$7.3K) games against the Steelers. He has failed to even post 10 FPs in a single one of his career games against Pittsburgh. Needless to say, I made some lineup adjustments before dropping MANdrews to Final Notes.
Devonta Freeman ($5.5K/$6.1K) and Latavius Murray ($5.1K/$5.9K) continue to combo together for one of the top-three most mind-boring backfields in the league. Marquise Brown ($6.5K/$7.1K) is going to shred James Pierre without Joe Haden around to mediate this matchup. But Hollywood has been a top-seven wideout all season. Writing up this individual matchup isn’t going to alter that reality. It was such a disappointment to see that Sammy Watkins ($4.2K/$5.5K) ate into Rashod Bateman ($4.9K/$5.5K) role last week. Until further notice, Bateman, Watkins, and Devin Duvernay ($3.65.1K/$K) are not worth a moment of our time dealing with their watered-down roles.
Final notes on Pittsburgh
Has the retirement party for Ben Roethlisberger ($5.0K/$6.5K) been scheduled yet? What in the name of all things cherished did OC Matt Canada do to Najee Harris’ ($7.7K/$8.0K) bell-cow role last week? He wouldn’t even dare to split the carries in four between Harris, Kalen Ballage ($4.0K/$5.0K), Benny Snell Jr. ($4.0K/$4.9K), and Anthony McFarland Jr. ($4.0K/$4.8K). Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it was entirely due to the scoring differential.
Chase Claypool ($6.0K/$6.5K) will draw the most difficult coverage vs. Marlon Humphrey, fall in the neighborhood of the third-or-fourth option in the passing game, and will deal with Roethlisberger rubber-arming the ball out of the pocket before he can complete his routes. Another revelation from Week 12 is that James Washington ($3.5K/$5.0K) may have more competition for the starting job in the slot beyond Ray-Ray McCloud III ($3.3K/$4.8K). Anthony Miller ($3.0K/$4.8K) nearly split the inside snaps with Washington in Week 12. With Eric Ebron landing on IR, keep Pat Freiermuth ($4.2K/$5.4K) on your weekly speed dial until his pricing is inside the top-12 at the position.
Matchups to Target
Jimmy Garoppolo, SF ($5.7K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Seahawks’ Cover 3
No Deebo Samuel for at least this week. We also just witnessed a down performance from Jimmy Garoppolo last week. And Jimmy G will also be facing the defense that he only managed 9.6 FPs against in Week 4, Seattle. None should stand as problems for Garoppolo this week.
First of all, Jimmy G was injured during that Week 4 game. Second, without the rushing success from Samuel, the 49ers will likely end up passing more this week against the third-highest rate of Cover 3 from Seattle. Third, over the last three years (32 games), Garoppolo ranks seventh-best with 0.45 FP/Db, ninth with a 101.8 passer rating, collecting 38% of his total passing yardage when facing Cover 3 (the most), and with a 17% boost to his YPA. Finally, the ‘Hawks are endorsing 31.7 FPG to opposing QBs (second-most).
George Kittle, SF ($5.9K DK | $6.3K FD) vs. Seahawks’ Cover 3
Jimmy G will be relying on Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings, in particular, stepping up to absorb Samuel’s touches. But it’s George Kittle that will benefit the most from Deebo’s absence. During his last three seasons, he ranks second-best with 0.55 FPs/route, first-overall with 2.91 YPRR, and drawing the highest target rate among all TEs when working across from a Cover 3 (35%). Seattle is delivering 14.0 FPG to opposing TEs (10th-most).
DK Metcalf, SEA ($6.7K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Josh Norman, SF
After a hot start, Josh Norman’s metrics have followed the direction of his career trajectory. He’s currently registering 1.36 YPCS (18th-most), 0.32 FP/CS (13th-most), 0.21 AY/CS (19th-most), and a 126.3 TPR (fourth-highest) to his coverage assignments. DK Metcalf may not withdraw 42% of his FPG total on play action like Tyler Lockett, but he does extract 32% of his production. And the “Wolverine” will easily face the softest coverage opposition. It’s the perfect get-right opportunity for Metcalf to get his season back on track.
Final notes on San Francisco
Elijah Mitchell ($6.0K/$7.6K) has been a tremendous find for San Francisco, only costing the ‘9ers a sixth-rounder to acquire. He’s completely locked up this backfield to the point that Jeff Wilson Jr. ($4.8K/$5.3K) has been reverted to a clipboard holder position. Let’s bullet the SF WRs FP/Rt and YPRR during the last three seasons against Cover 3:
Brandon Aiyuk ($5.6K/$7.0K): 0.28 FP/Rt and 1.69 YPRR
Jauan Jennings ($3.1K/$5.3K): 0.23 and 1.06
Trent Sherfield ($3.0K/$5.0K): 0.10 and 0.65
Travis Benjamin ($3.0K/$4.5K): 0.03 and 0.00
Final notes on Seattle
Whatever is going on with Russell Wilson ($6.4K/$7.3K), it’s a pretty easy fix on our end. Put him on ice until we see signs of life. The 49ers are limiting QBs to the seventh-fewest pure passing FPG this season (13.5). Now that Alex Collins ($5.1K/$5.8K) has clearly showcased he has nothing left in the tank, how long will the Seahawks wait before trying out DeeJay Dallas ($4.9K/$5.5K) with the featured role? The present is a great opportunity with Travis Homer, Rashaad Penny, and Chris Carson all dealing with varying levels of injury.
Tyler Lockett ($6.5K/$6.9K) will have the capable coverage from Emmanuel Moseley to deal with this week. Lockett has been playing well in spite of Wilson’s struggles, but Moseley is enough of a reason to choose Metcalf across from Norman. You’re not considering Freddie Swain ($3.2K/$4.7K) anyway, so the knowledge that K'Waun Williams has been a top-10 nickel shouldn’t change anything. Another solid, somewhat-cheap TE option can be found in Gerald Everett ($3.8K/$4.9K). He’s returned 14-plus FPs in two of his last three games.