The scoring from Week 14 stands as the highest average of the season (25.4). While the deep (20-or-more yards) passing rate (11.4%) remained consistent with the previous seven weeks, the quality of the attempts were, arguably, the best we’ve seen this season. QBs combined to throw for 12 TDs vs. only two INTs – a season-best 6-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio, and the 13.0 YPA from last week is the second-highest over the last seven weeks. You can check the data out for yourself below:
Do these numbers indicate deep passing is back to its early-season form? Unfortunately, no. We have substantial historical evidence indicating that, as we go deeper into a season – sans injury-crippled units, defenses exponentially improve toward sending the production curve toward a downward slope. Proof of that statement can be found in the chart below, showing that, in spite of the big week of the long ball, the metrics for each of the qualified position groups actually improved (nearly) across the board. And air yardage/coverage snap (AY/CS) continued to decline for every qualified position group in Week 14.
How can this information be applied toward actionable lineup construction? Targeting the struggling qualified defenders will always be at the forefront of the process. However, targeting late-week replacements in the secondary that have yet to play a significant role this season (the unqualified) has been a profitable approach, in the right situations, of course. We should never eliminate a QB from orchestrating deep-passing success in a single week. But receiver target share reliability should continue to be held in very high regard – particularly in Cash/Single-Entry (SE) games. DFS success has always been dictated by the players receiving the opportunities. And those opportunity shares are even more important without the deep passing reliability to bust a particular slate.
As always, the following chart provides the full names for the acronyms and the defensive coverage performance numbers for each position group through Week 14:
To magnify their importance toward 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. 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 the performance of QBs/RBs/WRs/TEs:
FPs/Dropback = FP/Db
FPs/Route = FP/Rt
FPs/Touch = FP/Tch
Yards/Route Run = YPRR
Air Yards/Attempt = AY/Att
Air Yards/Target = AY/Tgt
Yards/Target = YPT
Targeted Passer Rating (i.e., QB Passer Rating When Targeting Receiver) = TPR
If you’d like to learn more about/refresh yourself with each of the defensive coverage shells and other relevant schematic details mentioned throughout this series, utilize the following resources:
Fantasy Shells: Coverage Glossary
Fantasy Shells: Cover 1
Fantasy Shells: Cover 2
Fantasy Shells: Cover 3
*69-71 (49%); 8-6 in Week 14
Kansas City Chiefs (-3.0) vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Cleveland Browns (-3.0) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Indianapolis Colts (-2.5) vs. New England Patriots
Dallas Cowboys (-10.5) at New York Giants
Houston Texans (+4.0) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.0) vs. Tennessee Titans
Arizona Cardinals (-13.5) at Detroit Lions
Miami Dolphins (-8.5) vs. New York Jets
Washington Football Team (+4.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
Buffalo Bills (-10.5) vs. Carolina Panthers
Cincinnati Bengals (+1.0) at Denver Broncos
San Francisco 49ers (-9.5) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Green Bay Packers (-5.0) at Baltimore Ravens
Los Angeles Rams (-4.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks
New Orleans Saints (+10.0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chicago Bears (+3.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings
*64-53 (55%); 9-5 in Week 14
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (Over 52.0)
Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns (Under 40.0)
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (Over 45.0)
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (Over 43.5)
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (Over 39.5)
Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers (Over 41.5)
Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions (Under 47.5)
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (Under 42.5)
Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles (Under 44.5)
Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills (Over 43.5)
Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos (Under 44.5)
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers (Over 46.0)
Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens (Over 43.5)
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (Under 45.0)
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Over 46.5)
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (Over 44.0)
*88-48 (65%); 9-5 in Week 14
Kansas City Chiefs (-150) vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Cleveland Browns (-165) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Indianapolis Colts (-140) vs. New England Patriots
Dallas Cowboys (-525) at New York Giants
Houston Texans (+155) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Pittsburgh Steelers (+105) vs. Tennessee Titans
Arizona Cardinals (-760) at Detroit Lions
Miami Dolphins (-410) vs. New York Jets
Washington Football Team (+180) at Philadelphia Eagles
Buffalo Bills (-490) vs. Carolina Panthers
Cincinnati Bengals (-105) at Denver Broncos
San Francisco 49ers (-450) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Green Bay Packers (-235) at Baltimore Ravens
Los Angeles Rams (-200) vs. Seattle Seahawks
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-510) vs. New Orleans Saints
Chicago Bears (+160) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Matchups to Target
Leonard Fournette, TB ($6.7K DK | $7.8K FD) vs. Saints’ Cover 1 | 4
It’s an extremely volatile approach toward evaluating a matchup by scanning FPG allowance data without referencing the matchups. Not only the matchup, but also the previous health status of the teams they faced. Never more important during these unprecedented days of COVID transmission. Drawing expectations from previous matchup data can also mislead with the appropriate level of qualification. Leonard Fournette was limited to an 8/26/0 rushing line the last time these teams played. The Saints are only offering opposing RBs 18.4 FPG this season (the fewest). But New Orleans built a 23-7 lead with nine minutes to go in that contest. While we can reference Week 4 and Week 6 as examples where Fournette controlled the Bucs’ backfield, It really wasn’t until Week 12 that Playoff Lenny truly left Ronald Jones II in the dust as a distant afterthought.
The Buccaneers have lost six straight regular season games to N’Orleans. Tampa Bay did come away with a 30-20 victory over the Saints in the playoffs last season; Fournette collected 107 total yards and a TD during that game. It’s of vital importance that TB involves Fournette in Week 15 if they want to come away victorious. They already know that, from that Week 8 loss, that having Tom Brady pass for 375 yards and four TDs may not be enough. New Orleans offers up one of the most difficult tests for an opposing ground game, but the Bucs are the highest scoring team in the league (31.5 PPG), and The GOAT currently has his team on a similar winning streak (four-in-a-row) that he led the Buccaneers toward their 2020 Super Bowl victory.
Chris Godwin, TB ($6.7K DK | $8.0K FD) vs. P.J. Williams, NO
One box score result that I am entirely chasing is Chris Godwin garnering 32 targets over the last two weeks. That’s exactly twice the number offered to teammate Mike Evans. Is this a difficult challenge with P.J. Williams acting as the featured nickel? No question. But we also have data from that Week 8 matchup informing us that Rod-God posted 8/140/1 on 12 targets the last time these teams played. Brady has already sent out a notice to the rest of the league that, if you want a victory over his team, you will need to stop him from putting the ball into Godwin’s hands. And I am entirely uncomfortable wagering against TB12 doing what he intends to do on a football field.
Final notes on New Orleans
Taysom Hill ($5.9K/$7.4K) is finally receiving the respect he deserves based upon his DFS salaries. I, for one, will be hoping that he manages to lock down the starting role for the Saints. Does that mean I am going to go nuts with my Thor-terback exposure this week? Not a chance. The Bucs’ corner depth chart is at full strength and they present as much of a challenge to opposing ground games as New Orleans’ run defense… but entirely without the supporting passing attack.
It is far from Hill’s fault that the Saints are featuring Marquez Callaway ($3.5K/$5.3K), Tre'Quan Smith ($4.2K/$5.4K), Kenny Stills ($3.0K/$4.6K), and Nick Vannett ($3.0K/$4.8K) in the passing game. Someone will need to step in if Sean Payton intends to continue drafting all defensive players, once again, with his early 2022 draft capital. Alvin Kamara ($7.0K/$9.4K) is going to showcase why he is a top-five RB in a variety of ways. But don’t confuse that statement with an intention on my part to invest in him covering floor values of 21.0/23.5 FPs.
Final notes on Tampa Bay
I already passed along that Tom Brady ($7.4K/$8.5K) shredded this defense in Week 8. And nobody stopped Brady on his rampage toward his title last season. Nothing the Saints will do in coverage on Sunday night is going to make a difference. The only question will be if we can fit his pricing under the cap. Marshon Lattimore hasn’t been shadowing opponents this season. So the typical Lattimore-Mike Evans ($6.4K/$7.4K) showcase will not be in play. It’ll be to the benefit of Evans that New Orleans is using Cover 1 at the eighth-highest rate. However, will Evans see enough money targets to push those FPs up high enough on the targets he’s provided to hit profit? I think it’ll be close, but not enough to invest that much of my cap dollars. In each of the lineups where I had enough space to include Evans, I chose to clear enough to move up to Brady, instead.
If Breshad Perriman ($3.2K/$4.7K) collecting the 58-yard, overtime TD strike to defeat Buffalo 33-27 last week isn’t enough for him to move ahead of Tyler Johnson ($3.0K/$4.8K) on the depth chart, someone will need to investigate the Bucs’ coaching staff and front office for one of Johnson’s relatives making internal decisions. In all seriousness, Johnson is dead weight. It’s high-time for the Bucs to look elsewhere. Rob Gronkowski ($5.8K/$7.0K) is light years ahead of all other TE options on the primetime slate. Either invest in Gronk, or look for a pulse below the $3K range.
My Top-Five SNF and MNF Targets:
Jakeem Grant Sr.
Matchups to Target
Justin Fields, CHI ($5.2K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Vikings’ Cover 2 | 4 | 6
This is two weeks in a row that Justin Fields will have the opportunity to showcase his stuff on national television. It’ll also be the second-straight week that Soldier Fields will get to work across from a competitive rate of Cover 6. The Vikings are featuring the sixth-highest rate of Cover 2, 11th-highest of Cover 4, and sixth-highest of Cover 6. As explained in last week’s Advanced Matchups for SNF & MNF, Fields is well on his way toward establishing himself as one of the top-five practitioners against Cover 6. During his rookie season, Fields is generating 0.36 FP/Db (fifth-highest) – the highest spike in an overall FP/Db average, adding a 26% increase in air yards/attempt (third-highest), and a 26% jump in passer rating when working against Cover 6 (the highest).
Minnesota is allowing 25.6 PPG to opposing offenses (eighth-most). They are delivering 19.1 FPG to QBs this season (fourth-most), 22.3 over the last four weeks (the most). Add the eighth-most passing YPG (251.9), eighth-most YPA (7.12), fourth-most total YPG (381.5), and fourth-highest completion rate on 20-plus throws (16.9%) to see the extent of the smash matchup opportunity for Fields. But wait… there’s more! With sub 4.4-speed, Fields presents a truly unique threat to approach 100 rushing yards in every game played without the requirement for designed rushing attempts. That’s really an incredible value to the Chicago offense.
Jakeem Grant, CHI ($3.4K DK | $5.2K FD) vs. Patrick Peterson, MIN
Along with what seems like a fourth of the league, Allen Robinson II recently landed on the COVID list. Without taking part in any practices this week, it also appears as though Marquise Goodwin will miss a third-straight game. Scoring 17.7 FPG over his last two games, Jakeem Grant Sr. has developed into a trusted source for the Bears’ offense. And he offers the perfect compliment to Fields’ Cover 6 excellence. Over the last three years, Grant has posted 0.44 FP/Rt, 2.15 YPRR, and a 102.5 targeted passer rating against Cover 6. His route numbers need some seasoning before we can rank those metrics but, trust me, they are each in the excellent range.
Grant will most likely add a good number of perimeter reps on Robinson’s left perimeter if he’s unable to clear the COVID protocol. That will place Grant across from Patrick Peterson on those routes. Peterson recently shared his desire to play for Dallas next season. It’s an attitude that the Vikings will not receive kindly. Not that it will affect his play in any way, but putting himself before his teammates is never an intelligent approach in a game where every player depends so heavily on one another. Perhaps Fields is a bit too aggressive while showcasing the rocket he packs on his right arm, but it certainly guarantees that his lid-lifting speedsters will see their fair share of the long ball. That’s what I’m expecting for Grant on Monday Night Football.
Final notes on Minnesota
Don’t come away with the impression that I am down on the Minnesota offense since I am not featuring any Vikings as a dedicated Matchup to Target. Kirk Cousins ($6.2K/$7.3K) and Justin Jefferson ($7.7K/$8.6K) are going to light up the field on Monday night. Jefferson is actually my WR1 of the primetime slate. But nobody needs my recommendation for that expectation. As for Cousins, not having Adam Thielen ($6.0K/$7.5K) last week really left the offense without one-third of the threats Captain Kirk has been using to post his typical passing volume. K.J. Osborn ($4.1K/$5.9K) has certainly played outstanding the last two weeks, but Dede Westbrook ($3.0K/$4.9K) was not able to replicate the type of play Osborn previously offered from the slot to lure in safety attention.
Since Thielen has yet to take part in a practice this week, the expectation is that he’ll be out. That’s enough to push me in favor of Brady and Fields. If Dalvin Cook ($7.5K/$9.0K) puts the numbers on Chicago that he did last week in Pittsburgh, I’ll walk back every complaint issued about his lack of receiving work. It’s nearly impossible not to expose a few primetime lineups on Cook, but I am dedicating too much cap space to Gronk and premium wideouts for crazy exposure numbers. As stated, I either want Gronk or a punt at TE, I have zero interest in Tyler Conklin ($3.9K/$5.4K) with Roquan Smith in coverage.
Final notes on Chicago
In order of my RB exposure percentage, it’s Fournette > David Montgomery ($5.3K/$6.5K) > Cook. Monty’s season had the rug pulled out from underneath it with that IR stay. But he nearly doubled his floor in Week 13, and got close enough last week for me to consider him a prime target. That said, it would be nice to see him clear the injury report from the vague illness that is plaguing him. Grant’s near-basement pricing is what resulted in landing him as a Target over Darnell Mooney ($4.8K/$6.0K). However, I am also fully invested in Mooney showing out with Bashaud Breeland attempting to keep pace with his blazing speed.
I need to see so much more from Damiere Byrd ($3.3K/$5.0K) before declaring his free from being in danger of Grant supplanting him in the slot. I prematurely declared Jimmy Graham ($2.8K/$4.6K) as a non-factor last week with Fields back leading the offense. He only had a fourth of the passing work as Cole Kmet ($3.2K/$5.0K), but he still collected a 9% target share vs. 16% for Kmet. With Jesse James landing on the COVID list, Graham is on the second-most of my primetime lineups after Gronk.