The XFP Report: Week 14

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The XFP Report: Week 14

Hello, and welcome to the Week 14 XFP Report. If you’re unfamiliar with XFP, I’ll get to that in a little bit.

But basically, every week we’re going to be telling you which players are seeing the best volume for fantasy, as measured by Expected Fantasy Points (XFP). We’ll be telling you who the best buy-low and sell-high candidates are, as measured by Points Above Replacement (PAR), or the differential between actual- and expected fantasy points. This is an especially effective approach in DFS, where players are typically priced by production rather than volume, though PAR will regress to the mean. And (at the end of the article) we’re going to be telling you who the best volume-per-dollar DFS plays are.

What is XFP?

Premium subscribers can access XFP (and other advanced stats like air yards, deep targets, end zone targets) here.

Expected fantasy points (XFP) is flat-out the best and most comprehensive way of measuring a player’s volume. It’s telling you – based on a player’s unique usage – how many fantasy points that player should have scored. It’s telling you how many fantasy points a perfectly league-average RB, WR, or TE would have scored with that same exact volume. It looks at every individual carry by down and distance and distance from the end zone and every individual target by depth of target and distance from the end zone, and then cross-references each carry and target to each carry and target with those specific qualifiers over a multi-year sample to tell you what exactly those carries and targets are worth (historically).

Expected touchdowns (XTD), same thing. RBs score from the one-yard line on 54% of their attempts. RBs score from the 17-yard line only 3.6% of the time. So why ever use “red zone carries,” which treats both carries the same, as a fantasy stat? I have no idea.

Why doesn’t everyone point to XFP in their fantasy research? I have no idea. Once you have XFP and XTD you can contrast that with a player’s actual fantasy points or actual touchdown total to tell you how efficient a player has been (PAR). This is especially useful in highlighting regression candidates, buy-low targets, and mispriced players for DFS.

Through 13 weeks of action, here are the top-25 players in expected fantasy points (XFP) per game:

The Top 25

Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos
[FPG: 12.6, XFP: 12.8, Diff: -0.2]

By my favorite RB-stat (also the stickiest and most-predictive), Williams is easily the most efficient RB in football. He came into last week’s game averaging 0.33 missed tackles forced per touch, which not only led the league, but ranks best ever in PFF history (since 2007, of 733 qualifiers). And this comes one year after setting the PFF College record for missed tackles forced per touch (0.47).

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Clearly, he’s awesome, and really good at football. And, as such, we have long awaited his ascendance to bell cow-status. Or, if not a full-on bell cow-workload, at least a larger share of the work than the 50/50 committee we’ve seen all season — technically he's seen 48% of the backfield XFP to Gordon's 52% in games both were active.

That full-on bell cow workload finally came last week, albeit by way of injury to Gordon (hip). And it was glorious. Williams played on 78% of the team’s snaps, earning 23 carries and 9 targets. He scored 30 fantasy points on a 26.9-point expectation — or, the most fantasy points and the 2nd-most XFP among all RBs on the week. And, well, that’s his upside.

So, the question now is: “What happens next? Has Williams earned (at least) a 70/30 split moving forward? Could he be a full-on bell cow? Or do the Broncos simply go back to the 50/50 committee we saw prior to Gordon’s injury?”

Gordon hasn’t been bad at all (14th of 31 qualifiers by missed tackles forced per touch), but he also hasn’t been quite as good as Williams, who is looking fairly elite. And a full-on usurping of Gordon wouldn’t be unprecedented.

On average, rookie RBs see a 54% jump in carries, a 40% jump in targets, and a 50% jump in fantasy points across the second half of their rookie season. And of the rookies who made the greatest second-half leap, most were similarly highly-efficient and highly-regarded rookies carrying high-end draft capital.

But, unfortunately, I don’t think Gordon is going to “go quietly into that goodnight.” And HC Vic Fangio was asked about this on Tuesday, and answered, “They’re two good players, and we’ll use them both.”

But any bit of extra work for Williams could go a long way. For instance, if this backfield tips 60/40 in Williams’ favor, he’d rank 18th in XFP/G (14.6), up from 28th (12.8). If it’s 70/30, he’d rank 10th (17.0). And if 80/20, he’d rank 4th, tied with Jonathan Taylor (19.4).

Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
[FPG: 12.4, XFP: 13.8, Diff: -1.5]

As a rookie in 2018, Barkley led the position in total fantasy points, averaging 24.1 FPG. He totaled the most fantasy points by any rookie all-time, and the 15th-most fantasy points by any running back in any season ever.

2019 didn’t go as smoothly. He suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 3, and it was clear he was rushed back just a bit too soon. From Weeks 3-14 Barkley averaged only 3.06 YPC and 13.6 FPG. Across Barkley’s other five games he averaged a whopping 27.1 FPG along with a ridiculous 6.74 YPC.

2020 was even more disappointing. He saw a whopping 15 carries and 9 targets in Week 1, and then suffered a season-ending ACL injury on the first play of the second quarter in Week 2.

And now 2021 is looking a lot like that rough stretch in 2019. He wasn’t quite 100% to start the year, recovering from the ACL surgery, and then suffered an ankle injury in Week 5. He only missed 2 games, but it’s clear (and by his own admission) he’s not quite 100% and might not be for the remainder of the season.

We already have a fairly robust sample of Barkley not playing particularly well whilst fighting through an ankle injury. And it’s clear he’s not playing particularly well now, falling 6.0 FPG shy of his expectation over the last 2 weeks. The injury is a key issue, but so is the dumpster-fire nature of this Giants offense, now led by either QB Jake Fromm or Mike Glennon.

And so, while Barkley’s profile is enticing — a generational prospect, who has played on 80% of the team’s snaps over the last two weeks, averaging 12.0 carries, 7.5 targets, and 17.4 XFP/G over this span — I think it would be unwise to view this current iteration of Saquon Barkley as comparable to the Saquon Barkley of old.

Instead, I think the Barkley we have on our rosters now is just a mid-range RB2 for fantasy (despite the fact that he’s seeing mid-range RB1-levels of volume). Or, at least that’s how I’m viewing him until proven otherwise.

Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets
[FPG: 12.6, XFP: 13.4, Diff: -0.8]

Elijah Moore, the humble farmer’s son, ranks 2nd among all WRs in fantasy points scored since Week 9. Keep in mind, he’s accomplished this feat while catching passes from Mike White, Josh Johnson, Joe Flacco, and Zach Wilson. He ranks as PFF’s 4th-highest graded WR since Week 8 (83.2), and ranks top-6 in separation rate across the full season.

And his Week 13 performance was his most encouraging yet, earning 12 targets (32%), 187 air yards, 2 end zone targets, 4 deep targets, and 1 carry. He scored 20.6 fantasy points, his third performance with 20-plus fantasy points in 5 games, but saw a season-high in XFP (28.4). That ranked most among all WRs on the week, and was 71% more than his prior season-high. And those 187 air yards were also 48% more than his prior-high. So, although he’s been performing like a fantasy WR1 for quite a while now, this was the first week he’s actually seen WR1-levels of volume.

Obviously, QB-play is still a massive concern. Zach Wilson ranks dead-last of 31-qualifying QBs in PFF pass grade. But the good news is, any upsurge in volume should go a long way in helping to negate that deleterious effect.

Corey Davis will be out for the remainder of the season, and Moore draws an attractive on-paper matchup this week. The Saints rank 5th-worst in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs. I’m biased, and will always be biased, but I’d start Moore with confidence as a high-end WR2 this week.

Update: Apparently, Elijah Moore has a quad injury and his status for Sunday is now in question.

David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
[FPG: 14.5, XFP: 14.4, Diff: +0.1]

Up until last week, Montgomery was sort of looking like 2020 Miles Sanders. Which is to say, he was no doubt a high-end bell cow, but one with inexplicably low levels of raw production and volume. (Sanders was an all-time outlier in this regard.)

Prior to last week, Montgomery had played on at least 80% of his team’s snaps in 5 of his last 6 healthy games, handling 87% of the backfield XFP over this span. For perspective, only Najee Harris has a snap share over 80%, and he’s also the only RB with a backfield XFP% over 80%. Still, Montgomery ranked just 27th in XFP/G (12.3) and only 28th in FPG (12.6) heading into last week.

In Week 13, Montgomery’s usage was about the same (91% backfield XFP%), but the raw volume and production finally came through. He earned 21 carries, 10 targets, and 7 opportunities inside the red zone. This was good for 29.1 XFP (most by any player at any position in Week 13) and 27.8 fantasy points (2nd-most among RBs). For perspective, 29.1 XFP wasn’t just a season-high, but it was 2.4X more than his season-long average up to that point, and marked just the 2nd time all year he’s exceeded 13.0 XFP.

If you look at Montgomery’s numbers this year, in contrast to last year (without Tarik Cohen), everything looks about the same. He’s seen a lot less work near the end zone (XTD/G), but that can’t really be helped because, simply, the offense is a lot worse this year. The Bears are averaging 1.2 fewer red zone drives per game, and scoring is down by 37%. But, despite that fact, gamescript is just about the same. Chicago has trailed on 56% of their plays this season, after trailing 53% of the time without Cohen last year.

But, the thing is, negative gamescript is an especially massive liability for your fantasy RB if they’re not catching passes. And, for whatever reason, up until last week, Montgomery wasn’t catching passes.

So, it seems, the only meaningful difference between Montgomery’s usage this year and last year is the target volume. And, on that point, his 10 targets last week is highly encouraging. That was 2X high prior season-high (5) and 4X his per-game average up to that point (2.5).

Hopefully this wasn’t a one-week outlier. And, hopefully, Andy Dalton will remain the starter, because Justin Fields has only targeted Montgomery on 7.6% of his throws (in contrast to Dalton’s 10.5%). And mobile QBs historically tend to neglect their RBs in the passing game.

This week will be an important test. Chicago enters as 12.5-point underdogs, and Green Bay ranks top-12 in rushing FPG allowed but bottom-12 in receiving FPG allowed to opposing RBs.

Update: QB Justin Fields will start this week.

Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
[FPG: 15.2, XFP: 15.6, Diff: -0.4]

Last week, RB Jalen Richard was out (COVID) and Kenyan Drake played on just 7 snaps prior to a season-ending ankle injury. And Jacobs was (for the first time in his career) a full-on bell cow in their absence, setting a career-high in snap share (85%) and catches (9).

On 13 of 13 carries, 10 of 11 targets, and 2 of 2 opportunities inside the red zone, Jacobs scored 24.0 fantasy points on a 24.0 expectation (4th-most among RBs on the week). Both marks were season-highs for Jacobs.

I think it remains to be seen whether or not this was outlier usage, or if Las Vegas will let Jacobs be a bell cow when Richard returns. But this question is of massive importance, and is probably worth about 6.0 FPG at minimum to Jacobs-owners.

And maybe 6.0 FPG is too conservative. Jacobs has long been one of the most gamescript-sensitive RBs in fantasy. Across his career, he averages 8.8 more FPG in wins (20.0) than losses (11.2). And Las Vegas’ RBs lead the league in receptions and receiving yards, and average 14.3 receiving FPG. But Jacobs himself averages just 6.3 receiving FPG.

I’m not sure why he was so long an afterthought in the passing game, and why he was never given a chance to be a true bell cow — he was a promising pass-catcher in college, leading his class in career YPRR (2.06) and career YPT average (10.4) — but maybe this is his chance. And maybe now you’ve got yourself a league-winning RB1 down the stretch.

Again, it wouldn’t take much. Jacobs has handled just 63% of the team’s backfield XFP (18th), but ranks 13th in XFP/G (15.6). If that moved to just 75% (7th-most), he’d rank 6th in XFP/G (18.6), in between Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Through 6 full games, Rob Gronkowski averages 8.0 targets per game, 14.0 XFP/G, 72.7 YPG, and 18.8 FPG. Among all TEs, those numbers rank 4th, 4th, 1st, and 1st (22% more FPG than next-closest, Travis Kelce). Heck, among WRs, he ranks 15th in YPG and 7th in FPG… At age 32, Gronkowski has shown no signs of slowing down. He ranks 2nd-best among all TEs in PFF receiving grade, he leads all players at all positions in end zone targets per game (1.14), and he’s eclipsed an 80% route share in each of his last 2 games (up from 59%).

Since Week 4, Leonard Fournette averages 14.4 carries, 6.7 targets (most), 0.97 XTD (3rd-most), 20.4 XFP (2nd-most), and 21.1 FPG (4th-most)… He’s now clearly a full-on bell cow, and, on the juggernaut-like Tampa Bay offense, with predominantly excellent gamescript, clearly a top-5 fantasy RB… And like Gronkowski, his usage is significantly better of late. His market share over the backfield XFP has jumped from 61% to 77% over the last 4 weeks. And he’s played on 84% of the team’s snaps over the last 2 weeks, up from 60%. And, what’s most impressive is his involvement in the passing game. He’s seen at least 5 targets in 8 of his last 9 games, and averages 7.8 targets per game over his last 4. And he’s productive as well, averaging 14.1 receiving FPG over his last 4 games. (For perspective, Christian McCaffrey averages 13.1 receiving FPG throughout his career.)

Antonio Brown hasn’t played since Week 6, but averages 19.1 FPG, which ranks 6th-most among all WRs across the full season… In games all 3 WRs were active, Brown led in FPG (19.1), well above Mike Evans (15.8) and Chris Godwin (14.7). However, he ranked third in XFP/G (14.7), closely behind Evans (16.4) and Godwin (15.9).

Since Week 7, Chris Godwin averages 10.2 targets per game (7th), 16.8 XFP/G (11th), and 20.3 FPG (4th).

Over the same span, Evans averages: 7.3 targets per game (30th), 13.3 XFP?G (30th), and 16.7 FPG (11th).

Congrats to those of you who went all-in on this offense. Basically every Tampa Bay player was a massive win at their respective ADPs. Unless, of course, you drafted Ronald Jones.

Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
[FPG: 16.7, XFP: 13.9, Diff: +2.8]

Tee Higgins has hit at least 23.0 fantasy points in back-to-back games, and at least 13.0 fantasy points in 5 of his last 6 games (averaging 16.1 FPG over this span). He now ranks 16th in targets per game (8.9), 17th in XFP/G (15.6), 21st in FPG (14.6), and, interestingly, 1st in end zone targets per game (1.1).

But, what happened to Ja’Marr Chase?

Chase averaged 20.9 FPG across his first 7 games, but just 10.8 FPG over his last 5.

What happened? Well, basically, everything we warned about in Week 8. His ultra-absurd levels of hyper-efficiency were incredibly unstable. (He had the highest PAR of any player in at least 14 seasons.) And especially so, because so much of his production was coming on deep targets, which is inordinately unstable and heavily tends to regress to the mean. That, and also, the volume never really picked up. He averages just 10.9 XFP/G over the last 3 weeks, which ranks 43rd among WRs, and well behind Higgins (16.4).

It’s also possible that opposing defenses are now going out of their way to stop Chase — intentionally gameplanning against him; bringing safety help over the top or increasing their rate of bracket coverage against him specifically. And, thus, leaving Higgins in the far more advantageous matchup.

But, beyond all this, Chase has also gotten extremely unlucky. As have his fantasy owners.

Drops aren’t a sticky stat. It’s not something to worry about long-term. But they can be pretty costly.

Chase has 7 drops over his last 5 games. 3 of those targets have come deep, and 2 of those targets have come in the end zone. He averages just 10.8 FPG over this span. But if he caught all 7 of those passes, he’d be averaging somewhere between 16.8 FPG and 27.8 FPG.

So, earlier in the season we were projecting a negative regression to the mean. This week, I’m projecting a positive one.

Quick Hits

Diontae Johnson currently leads all players at all positions in XFP/G (22.0). In 9 of 11 games, he’s hit at least 20.5 XFP. (Kupp is the only other WR averaging over 20.5 XFP per game, and he’s hit that mark in just 6 of 12 games). He’s seen double-digit targets in 10 of 11 games. And he’s scored at least 15.0 fantasy points in 9 of 11… And he’s finally flashed a ceiling, scoring 30.5 fantasy points last week.

Over the last two seasons Courtland Sutton averages 17.9 FPG without Jerry Jeudy (6 games), but only 4.9 FPG with Jeudy (7 games).

CeeDee Lamb has led Dallas’ WRs in XFP in 9 of his 10 healthy games this year, averaging 17.6 XFP/G. That ranks 8th-most among WRs, sandwiched in between Justin Jefferson (18.4) and Stefon Diggs (16.7).

If we treat Dontrell Hilliard and Jeremy McNichols as one player… Tennessee’s scatback is averaging 6.7 carries, 8.0 targets, 100.0 YFS, and 17.0 FPG (low of 16.2) over Tennessee's last 3 losses.

Since Week 7, Marquise Brown ranks behind only Diontae Johnson in targets per game (12.2) and XFP/G (23.0). Unfortunately, the production hasn’t been there, as he ranks just 22nd in FPG over this span (14.6)… Lamar Jackson is mostly to blame here, as he ranks dead-last in PFF pass grade (43.5) over this span.

Keep an eye on Keenan Allen’s status (COVID) this week. If he’s out, that could be huge for Mike Williams… From 2018-2020, there were only four games in which Allen sat out or played on fewer than 35% of the team’s snaps. In those games, Williams averaged 8.5 targets and 22.5 FPG. In all other games, he averaged just 4.9 targets and 9.7 FPG.

Since Week 2 (and excluding Week 10 due to injury), Cordarrelle Patterson averages 20.5 FPG (low of 14.1) and 15.6 XFP/G. If over the full season, those numbers would rank 4th- and 12th-best among all RBs. Or, 3rd- and 17th-best among all WRs.

Gerald Everett put together a historically poor performance last week. He earned 16.9 XFP (4th-most among TEs) on 7 targets; 2 of which coming inside the 10-yard-line and 2 coming in the end zone, but scored only 4.7 fantasy points… Since the team’s Week 9 bye, he ranks 5th among all TEs in XFP/G (12.7), and not far behind Tyler Lockett (14.7) and D.K. Metcalf (14.2). He averages 10.1 FPG over this span, which ranks 9th most among TEs, and well ahead of Metcalf (6.5).

In 5 career starts, Alexander Mattison averages 20.8 carries, 4.6 targets, 124.6 YFS, and 21.3 FPG…. Or in his last 4 starts / his 4 starts Minnesota has won, he averages 23.5 carries, 5.3 targets, 148.3 YFS, and 26.6 FPG… Though, granted, 3 of these 4 games have come against the Detroit Lions.

Since 2019, Saints RBs average 31.2 FPG with Drew Brees under center, 27.6 FPG with Teddy Bridgewater, 24.1 FPG with Jameis WInston, and only 20.5 FPG with Taysom Hill under center… Last season Alvin Kamara averaged just 4.0 targets per game with Hill under center (14% target share), though he averaged 8.3 (25%) in all other games.

Jamaal Williams wasn’t quite a bell cow without D’Andre Swift last week, though Swift certainly was without Williams (Weeks 9-10)… In Week 9, a 38-point blowout loss, Swift played on 95% of the team’s snaps through the first three quarters. In Week 10, Swift played on 93% of the snaps, earning 33 carries and 7 targets (24% target share)… Williams, meanwhile, played on just 47% of the team’s snaps last week, earning 17 of 24 carries and 1 of 4 targets out of the backfield.

With Chase Edmonds active, Conner was just a touchdown-or-bust (49.0 YFS) mid-range RB3 (11.5 FPG). Without Edmonds, he’s proven to be one of the highest-end bell cow RBs in fantasy. Over the last 5 weeks, he averages 18.5 carries, 4.5 targets, 20.3 XFP (5th), and 23.6 FPG (5th), on 82% of the snaps (2nd).

After a Week 9 loss against the Ravens, Vikings OC Klint Kubiak said Justin Jefferson was “deserving of more targets.” And that’s exactly what we’ve seen play out, as he’s averaging 12.3 targets, 23.8 XFP (low of 21.0), 144.3 receiving yards (low of 83), and 29.5 DK FPG in the 4 games since. For perspective, Jefferson averaged just 15.6 XFP/G through his first 8 games (a 53% increase)…. With Adam Thielen (6 snaps last week) out for at least the next few weeks, I’d view Jefferson comparably to Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. Or, really any WR except Cooper Kupp.

Since Week 7, Van Jefferson ranks: 26th in targets per game (7.8), 20th in XFP/G (15.1), and 30th in FPG (12.7). Over this span, he’s seen at least 7 targets in every game but one, and in that game he gained 88 yards on 6 targets.

Antonio Gibson has hit at least 21.5 fantasy points in 3 of his last 4 games. Prior to last week, he had only 1 career game with over 20 carries and just 2 career games with at least 5 receptions. He hit both marks in each of the last 2 weeks. Since the team’s bye, he averages 24.5 carries, 4.0 targets, 21.6 XFP/G (4th), and 18.5 FPG (8th). We dug in deep on him last week here.

Top Regression Candidates

Most Fantasy Points Negated by Penalty

1. Jonathan Taylor, RB (15.1)

2. Najee Harris, RB (14.7)

3. Mark Andrews, TE (14.4)

4. Dallas Goedert, TE (13.6)

5. Josh Jacobs, RB (12.1)

6. Derrick Henry, RB (12.0)

7. Austin Ekeler, RB (11.9)

8. Kenny Stills, WR (11.6)

9. Keenan Allen, WR (11.5)

10. Rhamondre Stevenson, RB (11.3)

11. Ezekiel Elliott, RB (10.8)

12. Donald Parham, TE (10.6)

RB Team XFP%

1. Alvin Kamara (30%)

2. Derrick Henry (28%)

3. Christian McCaffrey (26%)

4. D’Andre Swift (25%)

5. Jonathan Taylor (25%)

6. Najee Harris (25%)

7. Dalvin Cook (23%)

8. Joe Mixon (23%)

9. David Montgomery (22%)

10. Austin Ekeler (21%)

11. Elijah Mitchell (21%)

12. Antonio Gibson (20%)

RB Team Pos XFP% (The Bell Cow Stat)

1. Najee Harris (88%)

2. Dalvin Cook (80%)

3. Alvin Kamara (79%)

4. David Montgomery (78%)

5. Derrick Henry (78%)

6. Austin Ekeler (76%)

7. Darrell Henderson (75%)

8. James Robinson (71%)

9. Elijah Mitchell (70%)

10. Joe Mixon (69%)

11. Saquon Barkley (67%)

12. Leonard Fournette (67%)

WR / TE Team XFP%

1. Diontae Johnson, WR (28%)

2. Davante Adams, WR (26%)

3. Cooper Kupp, WR (25%)

4. Calvin Ridley, WR (24%)

5. Tyreek Hill, WR (24%)

6. Deebo Samuel, WR (23%)

7. Keenan Allen, WR (23%)

8. D.J. Moore, WR (23%)

9. Justin Jefferson, WR (22%)

10. Brandin Cooks, WR (22%)

11. Tyler Lockett, WR (22%)

12. Tee Higgins, WR (21%)

DFS Values (DK)

1. Sterling Shepard, WR (3.5X)

2. James O’Shaughnessy, TE (3.0X)

3. Michael Gallup, WR (2.9X)

4. Dontrell Hilliard, RB (2.9X)

5. Marvin Jones, WR (2.7X)

6. D’Andre Swift, RB (2.7X)

7. Evan Engram, TE (2.7X)

8. Jared Cook, TE (2.7X)

9. D.J. Moore, WR (2.6X)

10. Marquise Brown, WR (2.6X)

11. Antonio Gibson, RB (2.6X)

12. Brandin Cooks, WR (2.6X)

DFS Values (Last 5 Weeks)

1. Gerald Everett, TE (4.1X)

2. Antonio Gibson, RB (3.6X)

3. Cedrick Wilson, WR (3.6X)

4. Marquise Brown, WR (3.1X)

5. David Njoku, TE (3.1X)

6. Melvin Gordon, RB (3.1X)

7. Leonard Fournette, RB (3.0X)

8. Michael Gallup, WR (3.0X)

9. James O’Shaughnessy, TE (2.9X)

10. Javonte Williams, RB (2.9X)

11. Mark Andrews, TE (2.9X)

12. Dontrell Hilliard, RB (2.9X)

Scott Barrett combines a unique background in philosophy and investing alongside a lifelong love of football and spreadsheets to serve as FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and Lead DFS Writer.

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