Walkthrough Week 13: A.J. Brown’s Revenge Game

Walkthrough Week 13: A.J. Brown’s Revenge Game

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Welcome to the Week 12 Walkthrough, outlining critical fantasy football context for this 12th, glorious week of football. 

At the end of this article, I’ve included an extensive list of the stats used, what they are, why they’re useful, and where they came from. As a heads up, I use some terms interchangeably below: 

  • Routes per dropback = route rate = route % = route participation
  • Targets per route run = target rate

Byes: Cardinals, Panthers

Already Played: Bills, Patriots

Titans at Eagles, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Titans Implied Team Total: 20 

I often lump the Titans in with the Falcons and Bears as a true run-heavy team. But that’s a bit unfair, given that they had Malik Willis under center for two games and posted pass rates over expected of -36% and a -20% in those outings. In games with Tannehill under center, they’ve definitely been run-heavy, but they’re clearly in a different tier than the Falcons and Bears.

This has been made especially clear over the last three weeks, most notably when the Titans posted a 2% PROE in Week 11—their first positive PROE of the season. And the fact that it came in a victory over the run-funnel Packers is eyebrow-raising.

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The Titans returned to a run-first approach against the Bengals but weren’t overly ideological about it. So while we can expect them to build their attack around the run this week, their recent trend indicates that they could be reasonably balanced.

Still, it would be odd if the Titans didn’t attempt to establish Derrick Henry against an Eagles defense that ranks just 29th in EPA allowed per rush and 31st in rushing success rate allowed. 

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Henry hasn’t been as efficient this year as he was in his game-breaking prime. But he’s still capable of hitting huge plays, ranking RB8 in breakaway yards per game. He should be able to get going against a vulnerable Eagles run defense, making him a high-end RB1.

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But Henry’s receiving usage also insulates him from negative game script to an extent. His 10% target share isn’t elite, but it’s still far higher than we expected heading into the season, ranking RB13. And Henry, rather hilariously, leads all running backs with an ultra-elite 2.48 YPRR. He’s deadly in space, and the Titans have been making more effort to get him into the open field in the passing game. 

The Titans’ passing game has also received a much-needed boost from the emergence of Treylon Burks. Burks has clearly been the Titans’ top receiver on a per-route basis. He leads the Titans in targets per route run and first-read targets per route. His role is very fantasy friendly. Meanwhile, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine primarily draws defensive coverage downfield, and Robert Woods is… out there. 

The only issue with Burks’ profile has been low route participation, but he was at 81% last week, just behind Woods (84%) and ahead of Westbrook-Ikhine (76%). 

Burks has yet to show he can succeed in the face of a high double coverage rate, but we’re just three weeks removed from a Westbrook-Ikhine blowup game, so the Eagles may be wary of diverting too much attention from the downfield threat. Given the target-earning ability he’s flashed, Burks looks like a solid WR3. 

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Eagles Implied Team Total: 24.5

The Eagles are one of my favorite teams to write up because they clearly game plan based on the matchup. If I thought I could get away with it, the Falcons’ weekly offensive write-up would be: “Falcons gonna Falcon.” But the Eagles don’t just roll out the same attack week after week; their approach can fluctuate wildly depending on their opponent. To that point, the Eagles are coming off a -11% PROE against the run-funnel Packers. But the Eagles aren’t married to a run-first approach. We’ve also seen them attack aggressively through the air—with their Week 8 blowout of the Steelers being the best example. 

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The Eagles now get a Titans defense that is the third-biggest pass funnel in the league. Opponents are averaging a 3% PROE against them and are shifting 3% to the pass. This approach makes a ton of sense because the Titans are extremely strong against the run, ranking first in rushing success rate, second in EPA allowed per rush, and third in PFF’s run defense grades. 

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But the Titans aren’t as strong against the pass. And critically, they don’t get pressure on quarterbacks all that quickly. Allowing quick pressure is the weakness of the Eagles’ passing attack. If they can hold up this week, Jalen Hurts can remind the haters that his downfield passing ability is up there with anyone. Hurts ranks sixth in EPA per play and ninth in CPOE. His efficiency has been very similar to Joe Burrow‘s.

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Granted, Hurts’ efficiency results from his combination of rushing and passing ability rather than pure passing. But he could lean more on his arm than his legs in this matchup as the Eagles attack the weakness of the Titans’ defense.

With the Eagles poised to take to the air, A.J. Brown looks set for another blowup game—which I’m sure isn’t lost on his coaches as Brown returns to take on his former team. 

Brown has a 28% target share to DeVonta Smith‘s 26%, so his target lead isn’t particularly impressive. But Brown’s average target is significantly more valuable than Smith’s. Brown has an 11.4 average depth of target to Smith’s 9.1. As a result, Brown has a substantial lead in air yard share, 41% to 31%. But Brown’s advantages don’t end there. Brown’s rate of middle-of-the-field targets traveling 10+ air yards ranks 78th percentile; Smith is in the 18th percentile. This type of target is extremely valuable. And Brown’s high rate of downfield/middle targets helps explain why his ceiling is so high when Philadelphia’s offense is clicking downfield.

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Brown’s ability to draw downfield volume is pretty self-explanatory. He leads the league in ESPN’s open score. The question isn’t if Brown can beat downfield coverage; he can. Instead, it’s if the Eagles’ downfield passing attack, which runs through Brown, will get going this week. And this matchup, the Eagles should have no trouble fueling a revenge game spike week.

But Smith’s chances for a big day shouldn’t be dismissed. In some ways, Smith is the safer option. If the Eagles are having trouble protecting Hurts but don’t want to risk inefficient run plays against an elite run defense, we could see quite a few screen passes to Smith. Smith has seen 14% of his targets on screens this season, with Brown at just 9%. And Smith is also a strong bet to see significant work in the traditional passing game.

In fact, Smith has seen a 35% target share over the last three weeks, with Brown at just 24%. Brown is the ceiling bet if the Eagles are firing on all cylinders, but Smith should be heavily involved regardless.

Quez Watkins looks like a viable dart throw in this matchup, having posted an 83% route rate against the Packers. Watkins has a very poor 9% target rate this season, but he’s involved in the screen game, seeing 32% of his targets there. That’s an element that Dallas Goedert was adding to the offense, so Watkins increased usage with Goedert out shouldn’t be a huge surprise. He has a 15% target share over the last three weeks, making him a viable DFS play.

In the backfield, Miles Sanders looks hard to trust in this matchup. Sanders played on only 54% of snaps against the Packers, with Kenneth Gainwell at 34% and Boston Scott at 13%. That kind of split workload will likely be a killer against the Titans’ strong run defense. Sanders is also an afterthought in the receiving game, with just a 6% target share. He’ll lead the way in the backfield but is ultimately just a bet on a TD.

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Steelers at Falcons, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Steelers Implied Team Total: 21.75

Kenny Pickett was impressive in relief of Mitch Trubisky in Week 4, posting his highest EPA per play to date. But things were looking pretty shaky in Pickett’s first four starts. He was concerningly bad against the Eagles in Week 8, in particular. But after the Steelers’ Week 9 bye, Pickett’s play improved. For the season, he still ranks 30th in EPA per play, just one spot ahead of Trubisky. But things are trending in the right direction.

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Pickett now gets a Falcons defense that is highly vulnerable through the air. Atlanta ranks 27th in EPA allowed per dropback and 29th in dropback success rate. I’ve noted previously that Pickett seems to be at his best when able to freelance a bit rather than when playing within structure. He should have the opportunity to do both against a Falcons’ defense that ranks 26th in PFF’s coverage grades and 31st in pass rush grade.

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While Pickett hasn’t been particularly efficient this season, he has been impressively accurate, ranking third in CPOE behind only Geno Smith and Tua Tagovailoa. If his accuracy continues to impress, this matchup sets him up for a potential efficiency spike.

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But it’s hard to get overly excited about the Steelers’ passing game, even in this matchup. Because while Pickett has been better since his bye week, the Steelers have also been running a less aggressive offense. Over the last three weeks, the Steelers have a -4% PROE, operating like a run-first team.

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At one point this season, the Falcons look like a major pass funnel. But all five of the Falcons’ most recent opponents have been run first against them. And in four of their last five games, their opponent posted a PROE of -14% or lower—an extreme tilt to the run.

As a result of that recent trend, the Falcons now look like a slight run funnel, if anything. But the simple fact about the Falcons’ defense is that they can’t stop anything. They are similar to the Lions’ defense. How you attack them says more about your offensive approach than about the matchup.

With the Steelers going run-heavy against the Colts, even with Najee Harris injured, they are unlikely to open up the passing game here in a big way, despite what should be an efficient outing from Pickett.

With passing efficiency, rather than passing volume being the bet this week, Pat Freiermuth looks like the most intriguing Steelers pass catcher. Frieiermuth had a quiet game against the Colts, with just three receptions for 39 yards. But the tight end ran a route on 79% of dropbacks last week; we can count on him to be on the field against the Falcons. And if the bet is efficiency, Freiermuth is the best bet. He leads the Steelers with a 1.73 YPRR and is also seeing the most target volume on a per-route basis. He’s essentially the same—”hey, he’s getting targets”—bet as Diontae Johnson… but he’s actually doing something with his target volume.

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Given that volume could be low this week, Johnson looks like an uninspiring bet. Frieiermuth is tied with him for the team lead in first-read target rate. So it’s not entirely clear that the offense is even designed to run through Johnson anymore. Instead, I’d rather take a stab at a big catch from George Pickens. Although, with just a 1.25 YPRR this year, Pickens is definitely a boom/bust play.

If the Steelers go run heavy this week, they’ll likely be doing so without Najee Harris, who is dealing with an abdominal injury. But that shouldn’t be a problem. Harris has been dreadful this season, ranking RB46 in NFL Next Gen’s rush yards over expected / attempt and RB45 in success rate. Only Cam Akers and Melvin Gordon have been less efficient rushers than Harris, and only Darrell Henderson, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Ken Walker have lower success rates. 

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Harris looked to be running better in recent weeks, possibly due to recovering from his preseason foot injury. But progress was halted in Week 12 when Harris posted a terrible -2.53 RYOE / attempt. Only Ken Walker was worse last week. Meanwhile, Benny Snell ran well, ranking RB11. We have a large sample on Snell from previous seasons, and I’m comfortable saying he is not a special rusher. But… Harris isn’t either. With Jaylen Warren back at practice this week, the Steelers should be plenty capable of moving the ball on the ground against a weak Falcons defense. Warren is practicing in full this week, giving him upside for a snap share in the mid-60 % range. He looks like a viable RB2.

Falcons Implied Team Total: 20.75

The Falcons are obsessed with running the ball, and Marcus Mariota‘s backbreaking interception against the Commanders isn’t going to help. Mariota ranks 19th in EPA per play, so he’s playing well enough to hold down the starting job for now, but the Falcons will also be trying to hide him as best they can.

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Against the Steelers, a typical offense might pivot to the pass. Pittsburgh has been decent against the run, ranking seventh in rushing success rate. They’ve been weaker against the pass, ranking 21st in dropback success rate. 

But the Falcons only have one gear. This matchup shapes up similarly to last week’s, when they posted a -19% PROE against Washington’s excellent run defense.

The Falcons seem to be committing a bit more to Cordarrelle Patterson, at least, which should help condense rushing production to one back. Patterson saw 58% of snaps against the Commanders, up from 49% against the Bears. Tyler Allgeier‘s snap share dropped from 48% to 39%. Allgeier is far from being phased out, but Patterson is the better bet to lead the way. At a minimum, he should split time evenly with Allgeier. Patterson’s lack of receiving involvement has been disappointing, but he’s rushed well this season. He’s not all that exciting of a play, but he’s a decent TD-or-bust bet.

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The Falcons’ insistence on running the ball is likely to hurt the efficiency of their overall offense while limiting passing volume. That’s not exactly fertile ground for fantasy production. So things look very shaky for Drake London.

With Kyle Pitts out of the lineup against the Commanders, London saw a first-read target on just 4% of routes. Atlanta instead turned to Olamide Zaccheaus, who saw a first-read target on 18% of his routes while logging 85% route participation. London led the team with 96% route participation… but we care a lot more about his ability to draw targets.

London’s profile still looks strong for a rookie. He has an impressive 23% target rate and is getting valuable volume over the middle of the field. But London will now have to deal with consistent defensive attention as the Falcons’ clear No. 1 option… in the mind of the defense, at least. His 24% double coverage rate is the highest among all rookie wide receivers. But among first round wide receivers, only Jahan Dotson has a lower YPRR. That’s probably not a coincidence.

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ESPN’s open score backs up the idea that London is having trouble getting open; he ranks just 45th percentile in the metric. Zaccheaus ranks 75th percentile, so he’s not likely to go away; he’s getting open.

London would likely be an exciting fantasy option as the No. 2 in a functional passing offense. But he’s nothing more than a dart throw FLEX on the Falcons.

Broncos at Ravens, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Broncos Implied Team Total: 15.5  

Russell Wilson‘s horrible season is somehow getting worse. He finished 29th in EPA per play in Week 12, besting only Kyle Allen, Trevor Siemian, and Bryce Perkins. When the only quarterbacks you can outperform are three backups making their first starts of the season… maybe a backup job is in your future as well.

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For the season, Wilson ranks 26th in EPA per play and 26th in CPOE. He’s been less efficient than Jacoby Brissett, Taylor Heinicke, and Cooper Rush… so it’s not like he’s even outpacing every backup. 

Wilson is now going against a Ravens secondary that ranks 16th in EPA allowed per dropback and 23rd in dropback success rate, so this matchup theoretically gives him some upside. But the Ravens are very capable against the run, which will likely limit the overall efficiency of a Broncos team committed to balance.

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One thing that really jumps out when looking at the Broncos is just how consistent their game plans are. The Broncos have hit 20+ points just once all season and have lost seven of their last eight games. Given that, you might think they’d be wildly experimenting with their offensive approach, searching for something they can build an identity around. But somehow… the Broncos seem content with this identity.

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Outside of their Week 5 loss to the Colts, the Broncos have been remarkably consistent, rolling out balanced or run-first game plans week after week. Look at how they compare to the Buccaneers, another team dealing with a disappointing passing offense and a highly inefficient running game.

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The Buccaneers have been willing to experiment as they try to sort out their ongoing offensive issues. At their most pass-heavy, they doubled the Broncos’ season-high in PROE. But notably, they’ve also twice gone more run-heavy than the Broncos’ season-low. I think this Broncos season is so viscerally painful because it’s the same thing every week. 

Sorry to say, we’re in for another dose of pain this week. There’s no reason to think that the Broncos will meaningfully shift their approach to attack a beatable Ravens secondary.

With the Broncos being consistently unexciting on offense, it would be nice if targets were at least condensing in a big way. But even in essentially three full games without Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton has seen decent but sub-elite volume, with target shares of 28%, 25%, and 29%. Those target shares would provide Sutton with a lot of fantasy upside in a functioning offense. But in this offense, he needs to absolutely dominate targets to have any consistent value. Sutton is getting open, with an 84th percentile open score. But he’s struggling with an 8.0 YPT over a yard lower than expected for his 12.8 aDOT. 

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Given the way Wilson is playing, it’s hard to have a lot of optimism for positive regression. Sutton projects as an unexciting FLEX.

The Greg Dulcich dream also looks to be on life support. The rookie tight end’s rise to relevance has been impressive. But his ability to draw targets definitely looks questionable. He’s been targeted on just 15% of his routes, which is a very low rate. That rate is better for Dulcich than the typical tight end because he’s operating as a seam stretcher with a 12.5 aDOT. But still, his expected YPRR of 1.38 is pretty weak. He looks like a TE2 here.

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The Broncos are at least committing to Latavius Murray as a workhorse back. Murray had an 82% snap share against the Panthers. That could change if Mike Boone returns to action, but for now, Murray can be treated as a volume-based RB2.

Ravens Implied Team Total: 24

Facing a very weak Jaguars secondary, the Ravens shifted away from the run-heavy approach they’ve displayed recently. The Ravens were balanced against the Jaguars overall, with a -1% PROE. But they passed aggressively on first down with a 19% rate. This is in line with their overall philosophy. The Ravens rank fifth with a 5% PROE on 1st-and-10, despite being slightly tilted toward the run overall.

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This approach should help the Ravens maintain efficiency even in weeks when they run heavily. Given that the Broncos rank fourth in EPA allowed per dropback and second in dropback success rate, this could be one of those weeks.

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Lamar Jackson played well last week, ranking 11th in EPA per play. He dealt with bad drops from his receivers, which helps explain his 29th ranking in CPOE. But he delivered efficiently despite it. 

Jackson is in a much more difficult matchup this week. However, given that Sam Darnold just finished seventh in EPA per play against the Broncos… I’m not going to count out Lamar. Still, the Ravens will likely run their offense primarily through the ground game.

That should be easier for Baltimore to pull off if J.K. Dobbins can return from injured reserve this week, although it seems more likely that Gus Edwards will lead the backfield. Edwards played 50% of snaps against the Jaguars, with Kenyan Drake at 25% and Justice Hill at 19%. So he looks like a decent bet for a TD if Dobbins remains out. 

Perhaps Mark Andrews can get in the end zone as well, which would help make up for the TD he dropped against the Jaguars. Andrews has a much more difficult matchup this week, but his profile is spotless. Despite seeing double coverage on 23% of his routes, Andrews leads all tight ends in open score. This is what matchup proof looks like.

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Packers at Bears, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Packers Implied Team Total: 24

With Aaron Rodgers getting in a limited practice on Thursday, He looks likely to suit up against the Bears. Rogers has played poorly this season, ranking 23rd in EPA per play and 18th in CPOE. He ranks between Kyler Murray and Taylor Heinicke in efficiency, which sums it up pretty well. 

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But when Rodgers faced the Bears in Week 2, he had one of his best games of the season. That makes sense since the Bears can’t stop anything. They rank 31st in EPA allowed per dropback and 23rd in EPA allowed per rush.

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Although the Packers were balanced when they faced the Bears in Week 2, they are more likely to play this matchup with a run-first approach. The Packers have a -4% PROE and a -6% PROE on 1st-and-10. They are a firmly run-first team in the mold of the 49ers, Jets, and Saints.

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But while that run-first approach has cost them some games this season by letting lesser offenses hang around, it’s not a bad idea to try and limit Justin Fields‘ snaps against a Packers’ defense that cannot stop the run. We should see plenty of rushing attempts from the Packers. Given how bad the Bears’ defense is, they should be relatively successful in moving the chains with that ground-based attack.

The Packers’ most likely game plan sets up Aaron Jones for a solid game. He saw 71% of snaps against the Eagles and hasn’t seen less than a 66% snap share since Week 6. He’ll be the Packers’ clear lead rusher and should be plenty involved on receiving downs, given his 14% target share, which ranks RB7. He profiles as a high-end RB2.

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In the receiving game, Christian Watson can still deliver a big week, even if the Packers receiving volume is limited—because the dude loves scoring TDs.

Watson is well positioned to continue delivering big plays with a 13.4 aDOT that leads the Packers. But Watson is also set up well by the fact that he is the Packers’ No. 1 receiver.

Last week, I made the case that Watson had already emerged as the Packers’ No. 1 option, and he cemented his case in Week 12 with a 24% target rate to Allen Lazard‘s 11% and four first-read targets to Lazard’s two. For the season, his per-route numbers look much stronger than Lazard’s—which is what matters, given that Watson ran just two fewer routes than Lazard last week.

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Watson is definitely running hot in the TD department, with six TDs in his last three games. But his yardage production actually looks reasonably sustainable. He could easily have another big game against an extremely vulnerable Bears secondary. 

Bears Implied Team Total: 20.5

With Justin Fields getting in a full practice on Thursday, he will likely give it a go against the Packers. Despite his injured shoulder, he will obviously be a huge upgrade for the offense. Fields is going against a Packers defense that ranks 30th in EPA allowed per rush and 32nd in rushing success rate. Green Bay could be in a ton of trouble against a healthy Fields.

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And the Bears will be happy to build their game plan around attacking a weakness of the Packers’ defense. The Bears have been the most run-heavy team in the NFL this season… even more run-heavy than the Falcons. It’s to the point where they started a backup quarterback last week and were more tilted to the pass than the week before (slightly, but still).

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And when the Bears played the Packers in Week 2, they posted their second-lowest PROE of the season. The only time they went more run-heavy was against the Cowboys, who just so happen to be the biggest run funnel in the league. So we can count on plenty of rushing attempts here, which should suit the Packers just fine as they execute a run-heavy game plan of their own. 

Fields’ return makes David Montgomery far more interesting. Although, it’s worth noting that Montgomery played only 68% of snaps in Week 12. That was down significantly from his 80% snap share against the Falcons, and more in line with the usage he saw when Khalil Herbert was healthy. The issue for Montgomery was that the Bears were mixing in Darrynton Evans. This could have been partially a game script issue—a result of the Bears losing 31-10 to the Jets. But Evans saw work in the first half, and Montgomery played on the final Bears drive, so his chances of hitting an elite snap share definitely appear reduced. Still, he’s set up for a solid game here and looks like a volume-based RB2. 

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Montgomery also has a solid passing game role, which should come in handy with Darnell Mooney out for the season. Obviously, Montgomery won’t be a direct one-for-one replacement, but if the Bears have trouble replacing Mooney’s downfield routes with a receiver who can get open deep, Fields will at least have a check-down option.

Mooney’s role will be more directly replaced by Chase Claypool, who finally approached a full-time role in Week 12, running a route on 75% of dropbacks. Interestingly, Claypool saw only 11% of his snaps in the slot. That fits with his usage in Chicago; he hasn’t topped a 13% slot rate in any of his four games with the Bears.

Claypool was playing primarily out of the slot in Pittsburgh this season, so his outside usage is a shift. But ultimately, this is good news. The big slot role didn’t seem to suit Claypool, who had a very poor 1.03 YPRR in his eight games with the Steelers this year. He hasn’t been all that much better in Chicago, with a 1.36 YPRR, but in his impressive rookie season, Claypool played 77% of his snaps out wide. His move back to the outside raises his ceiling and makes him a direct beneficiary of Mooney’s vacated routes. After getting in a full practice on Thursday, Claypool looks like a FLEX, who probably feels riskier than he actually is.

Cole Kmet also stands to benefit from Mooney’s absence. He ran a route on 93% of dropbacks in Week 12, and the Bears may continue to deploy him as a full-time receiver. Unfortunately, Kmet’s per-route numbers are all pretty bad. He has a low target rate, doesn’t get open, and doesn’t seem to be a core component of the game plan… but he’s out there running a lot of routes and is targeted fairly deep downfield. Those two things are enough to make him startable.

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Jaguars at Lions, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Jaguars Implied Team Total: 25.25

Trevor Lawrence is coming off one of his best outings of the season and has been very impressive over his last three games. Since Week 9, Lawrence ranks 10th in EPA per play and leads the league in CPOE. 

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Lawrence’s play has been exciting, but he’s operating in an offense that isn’t yet built to maximize his passing ability. The Jaguars have a -1% PROE and a -3% PROE on 1st-and-10. They are a slightly run-fist team in the mold of the Patriots. 

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But a balanced attack should yield highly efficient offense this week against a Lions defense that can’t stop the run or the pass. The Lions rank 30th in EPA allowed per dropback and 30th in EPA allowed per rush.

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Lawrence’s potential for continued efficiency makes both Christian Kirk and Zay Jones interesting options. Jones saw 14 targets against the Ravens, which is impressive enough. But all 14 of his targets came on Lawrence’s first read, indicating that the Jaguars were calling plays designed to get him heavily involved. Of course, Jones won’t see that level of involvement again this week, but his per-route volume now looks extremely similar to Kirk’s. 

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Kirk still has a slight lead in first-read target rate, but at this point, he has a weak case even as the Jaguars’ 1A. Jones looks like just as good a bet as Kirk going forward. Of course, both could have strong games this week, given the matchup. 

Evan Engram has been a frustrating fantasy option recently, but he’s worth sticking with here. Engram ran a route on 80% of dropbacks against the Ravens and has elite 80% route participation this season. His per-route volume isn’t impressive. But this is a matchup where he could find the end zone.

Travis Etienne had an injury scare against the Ravens but was cleared to return to the game. However, the Jaguars held him out as a precaution. He should be back in a clear-cut lead role this week after getting in limited practices on Wednesday and Thursday.

However, Jacksonville can now work in Darrell Henderson for additional snaps if they want to keep Etienne fresh. Etienne will still see the bulk of the work, but he played a 78%+ snap share in four straight games before Week 12, and we could see him more in the upper-60% range this week. If Etienne is on the field less, efficiency will be essential for him to put up a big fantasy day.

Fortunately, Etienne has been extremely efficient this season. Even after missing almost all of Week 12, he still ranks RB7 in breakaway yards per game. In a matchup that should set him up for big plays, Etienne’s ceiling looks very exciting.

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Lions Implied Team Total: 25.75

The Lions gave the Bills a real fight on Thanksgiving, and they hung with a superior team by implementing a similar game plan to what they have done for much of this season. The Lions were balanced with a 1% PROE, but they were aggressive on first down, with a 9% PROE on 1st-and-10. Although the Lions have been firmly run-first this season, they have been pass-first on 1st-and-10. 

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This approach limits overall volume for Jared Goff but sets him up for success by giving him additional attempts on downs when the defense has to respect the run. But it is worth noting that the Lions also had a positive PROE against a Bills defense that is weaker against the run than the pass. Presumably, the Lions were more aggressive about passing the ball because they understood their opponent was going to put up points against them.

The Jaguars will command less respect from the Lions’ coaches than the Bills. After all, keeping up with Trevor Lawrence should be easier than keeping up with Josh Allen. But the Lions’ approach in Week 12 still signals that they aren’t afraid to strategically shift to the pass. And this would be a very sensible time to attack through the air.

The Jaguars got let off the hook a bit by the Ravens last week, but their defense still looks highly exploitable via the pass. Most notably, they rank 30th in PFF’s coverage grades.

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The key will be whether the Lions can protect Goff against a Jaguars defense that ranks third in quick pressure rate. If the Jaguars are getting home, the Lions will have to adjust to get the ball out more quickly. Either way, Amon-Ra St. Brown is well-positioned for a big game.

St. Brown’s profile remains spectacular. He’s seeing a target on a ridiculous 32% of his routes and delivering an ultra-elite 2.62 YPRR. St. Brown can deliver an elite week if the Lions attack this matchup.

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Hopefully, the Lions will lean into this passing matchup… because they’re not likely to generate a ton of fantasy value if they go run-heavy. The Jaguars are solid against the run, and more importantly, the Lions are continuing to deploy a three-man backfield. 

Against the Bills, Jamaal Williams scored another TD, but he played just 42% of snaps. And for the fourth straight game, he failed to see a target. D’Andre Swift played just 34% of snaps, with Justin Jackson at 25%. Williams is the most likely back to have value this week, but that value is entirely tied to TD equity. His profile is very uninspiring otherwise. 

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Browns at Texans, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Browns Implied Team Total: 26.75 

The Browns have been a very run-heavy team this season with a -7% PROE; only the Giants, Titans, Falcons, and Bears have been more run-heavy. And the Browns are even more tilted to the run on first down, with a -12% PROE; only the Titans and Falcons are lower.

But the last time we saw Deshaun Watson play football, he led an offense with a 6% PROE and an 8% PROE on 1st-and-10. 

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The Browns seem committed to a play-action-driven offense that incorporates a heavy dose of the run game, but Watson should shift them meaningfully to the pass in the coming weeks. I don’t expect them to operate like the 2020 Texans, but they could look more like the Eagles—a balanced team on average that can crank their passing dial up and down.

Even if the Browns will eventually have a pass-heavy gear, it’s unlikely that they will put it on display this week against a Texans defense that ranks 25th in EPA allowed per rush. I don’t doubt that Watson will have success against a Texans defense that ranks 26th in EPA allowed per dropback. But I’m skeptical that the Texans will push the Browns enough for Cleveland’s coaches to move out of their base offense comfort zone.

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With a more efficient passing game supporting him, Nick Chubb is extremely well-positioned to take advantage of a Texans defense that ranks 25th in EPA allowed per rush. Chubb has only played 60%+ snaps just once all season, so there’s no chance he’ll see workhorse usage in a matchup that could have the Browns pulling their starters. But his rushing efficiency could still make up for his lack of volume. Chubb leads the NFL in breakaway yards per game and elusive rating. Tackling him is a tall task, and when defenders can’t get him on the ground, Chubb makes them pay with explosive runs.

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Increased passing game efficiency should be beneficial for Amari Cooper, who is underperforming with an 8.7 YPT. Part of that is explained by his own play—like last week’s brutal fourth down drop. And, as I detailed last week, he’s also seeing a low percentage of downfield targets over the middle of the field. Instead, he’s asked to make difficult sideline catches more often. But the quarterback upgrade can’t hurt. Cooper’s value might not fundamentally change, but he should definitely be more reliable with Watson under center, and his spike weeks will be more fun.

But things might not change a ton for David Njoku unless Watson favors him as a target significantly more than Jacoby Brissett did. Njoku’s 8.9 YPT is actually higher than expected, so quarterback improvement is essentially already baked into his efficiency. Still, if Njoku can maintain his current YPRR (which is impressive) on strong route participation, he will be one of the best options at the tight end position.

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Texans Implied Team Total: 19.75

The Texans made the switch to Kyle Allen at quarterback last week and will be sticking with him against the Browns. Unfortunately, Allen’s first start was not inspiring in any sense. He ranked 30th in EPA per play and was over 2x as inefficient as Davis Mills has been this season. And Allen’s poor play wasn’t just the result of a few bad throws. It was a slow grind of awful. Allen ranked dead last in success rate on the week.

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If the Texans are going to have any offensive success this week, it is unlikely to be built around their passing game. Instead, their best chance of moving the ball is by attacking a Browns defense that ranks dead last in EPA allowed per rush. The Browns also have a below-average pass defense, so Allen could do enough through the air to help move the chains. But the engine of the offense will still need to be Dameon Pierce.

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Pierce is coming off an exceptionally poor two games stretch in which he has logged 15 carries for 16 yards. Pierce has also turned nine targets into 17 yards. So putting him in lineups is suddenly a leap of faith. But Pierce has shown elite tackle-breaking ability, with strong chunk play ability. 

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Only Nick Chubb ranks higher in elusive rating, and Pierce ranks RB10 in breakaway yards per game. Pierce is worth trusting as a high-end RB2 here.

If Pierce gets going, it will help pump some life into a lackluster Texans passing game. The biggest beneficiary of that is likely to be Nico Collins. Last week I speculated that Collins might be taking over as the Texans’ top wide receiver. Cooks turned in 59 yards last week to Collins’ 44, but I’m increasingly confident that Collins is the top wide receiver in Houston. He saw eight targets against the Dolphins, twice as many as Cook. And Collins saw six first-read targets to Cooks’ three. Collins also ran a route on 80% of dropbacks, with Cooks at 71%.

Collins and Cook have the exact same expected YPRR, so it makes sense to bet on the receiver that has the higher route participation and first-read target rate over the last three weeks… which is Collins.

Jets at Vikings, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Jets Implied Team Total: 20.75

Zach Wilson only has six career games with a positive EPA per play… which, considering that he’s played 20 games, is already pretty bad. But even when Wilson has played well, he hasn’t been anywhere near as impressive as White was against the Bears. In Wilson’s best game of his career, he produced 8.4 EPA… exactly half of the 16.8 EPA that White dropped on Chicago. Even Fireman Ed’s projections were light on Mike White last week. 

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White might not be the long-term answer for the Jets, but he looks far more capable of producing competent offense, which is all they are looking for to pair with their elite defense.

To that point, even with White playing out of his mind last week, the Jets were operating as a very run-heavy team, with a -8% PROE and a -8% PROE on 1st-and-10.

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They were essentially a version of the Packers with a better quarterback. I’m kidding, I’m kidding… although… no, I’m kidding, I’m definitely joking around. 

The Jets benefited from debuting White against a Bears defense that ranks 31st in EPA allowed per dropback and 32nd in PFF’s run defense grades. A run-first offense with a passing counter punch will always be set up for efficiency against the Bears. But the Vikings are a much more competent defense. They rank 19th in EPA allowed per dropback and second in PFF’s run defense grades. 

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However, from a fantasy perspective, the upgraded defensive difficulty might not be a big deal for the Jets passing game. Mike White will be less efficient than last week, but he could also log more than 30 dropbacks assuming the Vikings are far more effective on offense than the Trevor Siemian Bears. 

Solid volume and non-Zach Wilson efficiency are a great combination for Garrett Wilson. Wilson passed his final test last week to become the Jets’ true No. 1 receiver. With Corey Davis back in the lineup for the first time since Week 7, Wilson led the Jets with 90% route participation, a 21% first-read target rate, and an elite 29% targets per route run. Wilson’s emergence as the Jets’ top option isn’t hard to figure out; he gets open.

Wilson ranks WR8 in ESPN’s open score. And he leads all rookie wide receivers in the metric—although Chris Olave is a close second. Wilson isn’t the deep threat that Olave is, but that’s an advantage in his current surroundings. Mike White‘s 5.9 aDOT ranks QB48 this season, ahead of only Colt McCoy and Kyle Allen. Wilson’s shallow 8.4 aDOT makes explosive plays less likely, but it should also allow him to rack up target volume, especially if the Jets play from behind.

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Even with Mike White greatly improving the Jets passing efficiency, Wilson is the only viable fantasy receiver in this offense. Davis’ 74% route participation makes him a part-time player. And Elijah Moore‘s 42% route participation keeps him completely off the fantasy radar, even though he scored a TD last week.

The Jets backfield looks similarly shaky. Michael Carter exited with an ankle injury last week, which allowed Zonovan Knight to carry the load with a 47% snap share. But James Robinson was a surprise inactive against the Bears, and he will likely be involved this week, given that Carter has logged back-to-back DNPs. Knight looks like the best TD dart throw, but he’s hard to bet on against a solid Vikings run defense.

Vikings Implied Team Total: 23.75

Kirk Cousins is coming off an impressive game against the Patriots; he finished fourth in EPA per play and fourth in CPOE in Week 12.

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Cousins’ play was all the more impressive because it came against a Patriots defense that ranks first in EPA allowed per dropback and first in dropback success rate. Given that the entire nation was watching Cousins in prime time, it was a narrative-shattering performance from the mercurial quarterback.

Cousins had the backing of his coaches against New England. Despite the matchup, the Vikings posted a 5% PROE, with a 9% PROE on 1st-and-10. They implemented a pass-heavy game plan, and strongly prioritized the pass on first down. This set up Cousins for success, and he delivered.

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Last week was a very positive sign for how the Vikings might attack this Jets defense. The Jets have had a tougher schedule than the Patriots… so perhaps the lesson of last week is simply that the Patriots’ defense is a bit fraudulent and that the Jets are for real. But last week is still a positive indicator that the Vikings are willing to play to their strengths in the passing game, even in difficult matchups.

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Last week I speculated that Bill Belichick would build his game plan around taking away Justin Jefferson—really went out on a limb there, I know. But Jefferson made me look silly by going off with a 9-139-1 receiving line on 11 targets. But I wasn’t wrong to assume that Belichick would attempt to limit Jefferson… he just wasn’t able to.

Jefferson saw double coverage on a ridiculous 49% of his routes last week. It didn’t matter. 78% of Jefferson’s yards came against double coverage, and he posted a “wait, what?” 6.00 YPRR against double teams. I noted last week that Jefferson had performed efficiently against double coverage this season, but Week 12 was a statement game. Now that the Jets’ offense has some potential to make this a game, this matchup shouldn’t be a concern for the superstar wide receiver.

Jefferson wasn’t the only Vikings wide receiver to go off against the Patriots. Adam Thielen had a 9-61-1 receiving line on 10 targets. But Thielen still looks like the third option in the passing game going forward behind T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson had 72% route participation to Thielen’s 92%, which makes sense given that he is a tight end. But Hockenson saw five first-read targets to Thielen’s three. Since joining the Vikings, Hockenson has a 20% first-read target rate, with Thielen at just 10%. The offense has been designed with Hockenson as the No. 2 option in the passing game, and he looks like the best bet after Jefferson this week.

With the Vikings’ offense back on track in Week 12 after getting blown out by the Cowboys, Dalvin Cook was back in a workhorse role. He saw 85% of snaps—the fourth time in the last five weeks that he has seen an 85%+ snap share. Cook remains a low-end RB1 as a workhorse with breakaway ability.

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Commanders at Giants, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Commanders Implied Team Total: 21.5

With Taylor Heinicke under center, the Commanders have been clear about how they want to run their offense. Since Week 7, they have a -9% PROE. Only the Titans, Panthers, Falcons, and Bears have been more run-heavy.

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The Commanders have been less committed to the run on first down, with a -5% PROE that ranks 21st since Week 7. But they’re still going to attack good rushing matchups, much like Arthur Smith would, as we saw last week when they posted a -15% PROE against the Falcons. This week, they get a Giants defense that ranks just 26th in EPA allowed per rush. We can expect the Commanders to pound the rock.

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While the Commanders’ offensive approach has been predictable, their decisions in the backfield have kept me guessing. In Week 11, Antonio Gibson saw 68% of snaps, but he fell to just 42% in Week 12. Brian Robinson led the way with a 48% snap share, up from 34%. Given that this matchup profiles very similarly to last week’s, in that the Commanders are facing a bad run defense and an offense that will play conservatively on the other side, Robinson is probably the better bet.

And Robinson ran well last week, which should keep him in place as the lead early-down rusher. He finished RB4 in RYOE / attempt and first in success rate in Week 12. Robinson’s overall efficiency leaves a lot to be desired, but the Commanders have repeatedly given him chances to flash better efficiency. Now that he’s actually done it, they’ll likely stick with him as their early down hammer.

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With passing volume likely to be low, Terry McLaurin looks like the only viable option in the passing game. He ran a route on 83% of dropbacks against the Falcons, with Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel at 61%. But Dotson was targeted just once, and Samuel wasn’t targeted at all. McLaurin dominated with a 29% target share and a 40% air yard share. He’s a TD-dependent option with the Commanders likely to succeed in executing a run-heavy attack, but McLaurin is a safe bet to dominate market share.

Giants Implied Team Total: 19

Like the Commanders, the Giants have been very consistent in their offense of approach. Only the Titans, Falcons, and Bears have been more run-heavy this season, and the Giants haven’t had a positive PROE since Week 3. 

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But this week, they’re facing a Commanders defense that ranks fifth in EPA allowed per rush and fifth in rushing success rate. The Giants have been a fairly efficient rushing offense, but this is a difficult matchup.

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Saquon Barkley is coming off three easy rushing matchups against the Texans, Lions, and Cowboys. But over the last three weeks, he’s produced 36 fewer rushing yards than expected. His RYOE / attempt over that stretch is better than the season-long rates of only Najee Harris, Cam Akers, and Melvin Gordon. A difficult matchup is not likely to make things better.

But Barkley is a boom/bust rusher. He ranks just RB32 in success rate this season but is RB2 in breakaway yards per game. Barkley is often inefficient… until he isn’t… for a long gain.

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In the passing game, this isn’t an ideal matchup for Giants receivers, but Darius Slayon’s 13.5 aDOT puts him in FLEX consideration as a bet on a big play. I will note that Isaiah Hodgins ran a route on 74% of dropbacks against the Cowboys, making him a part-time player. Hodgins is just the latest receiver who the Giants are trying out on the outside. But his profile looks substantially better than previous contenders like Marcus Johnson and David Sills. He’s worth keeping an eye on going forward, but he’s a very thin dart throw in this matchup.

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Seahawks at Rams, 4:05 PM Eastern, Sunday

Seahawks Implied Team Total: 24

I owe Pete Carroll some apologies. The Seahawks aren’t just way better than I expected; they’re also running a well-designed, explosive passing attack. The Rams’ defense calls for opponents to pass heavily against them… and somehow, the Seahawks are one of the best bets in the league to actually implement that plan. With a 4% PROE, the Seahawks are a firmly pass-first team and their 8% PROE on 1st-and-10 trails only the Bills and Bengals.

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And the Seahawks are now facing a Rams defense that ranks 27th in EPA allowed per dropback and 27th in dropback success rate. Meanwhile, the Rams are excellent against the run, ranking first in EPA allowed per rush and third in rushing success rate.

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The Seahawks haven’t suddenly fallen in love with the passing game. They’re instead playing to an advantage that Geno Smith is unexpectedly providing for them.

Smith ranks eighth in EPA per play and leads the league in CPOE. It’s been an incredible comeback performance.

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Like Tua Tagovailoa, he’s been an accurate offensive facilitator. The results aren’t quite as impressive, but he’s still supporting two strong fantasy receivers. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are both having outstanding seasons. Lockett has been more efficient with a 1.99 YPRR to Metcalf’s 1.94, but Metcalf’s underlying volume is significantly stronger. If he can run a bit hotter in per target efficiency, Metcalf has a very high ceiling. But that’s not to take anything away from Lockett, who ranks 97th percentile in ESPN’s open score. Lockett is more than a secondary option; he’s handling significant extra attention from defenses but still getting open easily. Both receivers are strong starts this week, even though the Seahawks might not need to keep their foot on the gas for very long.

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Ken Walker will lead the way in the backfield, but his recent performances won’t give the Seahawks confidence heading into this difficult rushing matchup. Over the last two weeks, Walker has just 43 rushing yards on 24 attempts, good for 1.8 yards per carry. The Seahawks have a much better chance of consistently moving the ball through the air rather than leaning on Walker. Consistency has been a major issue for Walker all season; he ranks dead last in NFL Next Gen’s success rate metric. 

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However, Walker offers true home run hitting ability. In a sense, the Seahawks’ offense is the reverse of what we sometimes see from run-heavy teams. Seattle can stay on schedule with a quarterback who ranks fifth in success rate and can mix in big plays with the running game. It’s not all that dissimilar to what the Packers are trying to do this season… it’s just that the roles of the running and passing games are flipped. Walker—the Christian Watson of running backs—will need to hit some big plays to pay off, and this isn’t an ideal matchup for that to happen. But the rookie is seriously explosive in the open field. If the Seahawks are moving the ball effectively through the air, we can’t rule out a big day for Walker on the ground.

Rams Implied Team Total: 16.5

With Matthew Stafford doubtful this week, the Rams will start either Bryce Perkins or John Wolford. But it really doesn’t matter who they roll out because both have been terrible. Only Skylar Thompson, Sam Ehlinger, and Malik Willis have been worse than Perkins this season. And Wolford has only been better than that group, plus Kyle Allen. It’s gross.

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The Rams’ backup quarterbacks have primarily served to highlight how bad this offense is without Stafford, which provides a little hope for better days in 2023 if the Rams can fix an offensive line that ranks 30th in pass blocking grade and 32nd in run blocking grade. But the Rams aren’t going to figure anything out this week—even against a Seahawks defense that ranks 29th in EPA allowed per dropback and 21st in EPA allowed per rush. 

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Assuming the Rams stick with Perkins, we can expect another ultra-run-heavy game plan. Over the last two weeks, the Rams have posted a -17% and -15% PROE, their lowest rates of the season.

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A run-heavy Rams team is not a fun one… because they can’t run the ball. The Rams handed the backfield over to Kyren Williams last week, and he performed as poorly as every other Rams running back this season, rushing for 25 yards less than expected. Only Najee Harris and Ken Walker had a lower RYOE / attempt last week. Williams will likely see his snap share decline from last week’s 71% after his poor showing. But his versatile skill set should keep him involved. And it’s not like the Rams will be eager to turn the backfield back over to Cam Akers, who has been a complete disaster.

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And as it turns out, the Rams can’t even support a fantasy-relevant tight end… even in this horrible year for the position. Tyler Higbee ran a route on only 37% of dropbacks against the Chiefs and was not targeted. Higbee was nursing a knee injury heading into the week and is not on the injury report this week, so he may return to a full-time role against the Seahawks. But I’ll sit this week out.

Dolphins at 49ers, 4:05 Eastern, Sunday

Dolphins Implied Team Total: 21.5

In what is definitely the story of the week that won’t be overshadowed in any way, Mike McDaniel is returning to San Francisco to take on his former team. This is a difficult matchup for the Dolphins, but unlike last week they’ll at least have their starters on the field for four quarters. That won’t be a problem here, at least. However, they will be taking on a 49ers defense that is strong against both the pass and the run. 

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The Dolphins are far more effective through the air than on the ground. But when it has made sense to keep things balanced, Mike McDaniel has been willing to do that. And he’s also been willing to go conservative with Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson at quarterback. But unlike Kyle Shanahan, McDaniel is willing to abandon the run. This makes him a prime target for boomer vitriol whenever the Dolphins stop winning; it also makes him a great coach. And in games that Tua Tagovailoa has finished this season, the Dolphins have been a pass-first team.

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In those nine games, the Dolphins have a 6% PROE and a 5% PROE on 1st-and-10. And the Dolphins were especially aggressive last week against a Texans run defense that can’t stop anyone. Even still, the Dolphins played to their own strengths with an 11% PROE and a 17% PROE on 1st-and-10. 

The Dolphins won’t be at their most efficient this week, but they shouldn’t unnecessarily slam into the 49ers’ stout run defense. Instead, they will likely build their primary attack around the arm of Tua Tagovailoa

How successful that is will likely come down to how well the Dolphins can deal with a 49ers pass rush that ranks ninth in PFF’s pass rush grades. Because the Dolphins will be without their starting LT Terron Armstead. And per Rich Hribar’s Worksheet, losing Armstead could be a huge deal for the Dolphins: “Tagovailoa has only 16 dropbacks this season with Armstead off of the field, but has been pressured on 53.3% of those dropbacks compared to a 22.8% pressure rate with him in the game.”

Tua looks like a strong bet to see additional pressure this week, but as the line can keep him occasionally upright, Tua can afford to drop off somewhat in efficiency. Tagovailoa leads the NFL in EPA play with a rate over 2x Geno Smith, who ranks eighth. 

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It’s definitely not going to be good if Tagovailoa’s efficiency is cut in half this week… but if he has an average Geno Smith game in terms of efficiency… that should still be plenty efficient to support this highly concentrated passing offense.

The 49ers will be very well prepared to face the Mike McDaniel offense, having faced it every day in practice last year. But… it’s not like other defenses have had trouble figuring out what will happen. Every opponent knows where the ball is going when they face Miami; they just can’t stop it. 

Tyreek Hill has seen double coverage on 29% of his routes; Jaylen Waddle is at 28%. Those rates are in the 97th and 93rd percentile. Defenders are trying to take both receivers away; they just haven’t been able to. And man… they really haven’t been able to. Hill and Waddle are combining for a 53% target share and a 67% air yard share. Literally, two-thirds of the downfield attack runs through these two receivers despite defenses scheming to take both away. The 49ers may know something that other defensive coordinators do not. But McDaniel’s genius may simply be understanding that he has two elite receiving talents on the same offense and acting accordingly.

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The other Dolphins receivers can be ignored this week. Mike Gesicki continues to be a part-time tight end. He had a 60% route rate against the Texans and is at 61% this season. With a very poor 1.03 YPRR, he actually cannot afford lower passing efficiency. 

But while Jeff Wilson isn’t likely to see his biggest workload of the year, he isn’t a terrible RB2 play this week. Even while dealing with cramps and on an offense that was pulling starters, Wilson had a 61% snap share. He should play around 60% of snaps, even with Raheem Mostert looking set to return from injury. Wilson’s efficiency isn’t likely to impress, but he’s a decent bet for a TD.

49ers Implied Team Total: 25.25

The 49ers will likely shift to the pass this week, although what counts as pass-heavy here needs to be graded on a curve. San Francisco has gone pass-first just four times this season and has yet to post a PROE above 6%. 

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But this week, the 49ers are a good bet to be pass-heavy, at least by their standards. The Dolphins are a solid run defense, ranking 11th in EPA allowed per rush and seventh in rushing success rate. However, they are much more vulnerable through the air, ranking 17th in EPA allowed per dropback and 25th in dropback success rate.

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Jimmy Garoppolo is coming off an unimpressive performance against the Saints; he finished just 20th in EPA per play. But Garoppolo was at least accurate last week, ranking 12th in CPOE. Garoppolo’s accuracy was especially nice because he’s struggled in CPOE this season, ranking just 26th heading into the week; he’s now up to 24th. Garoppolo will never be a highly accurate quarterback by CPOE. Still, Garoppolo ranks fifth in EPA per play this season… and that’s easier to buy into when his accuracy isn’t a bright red warning sign. Garoppolo still looks at risk of negative regression, but he should be decent enough in this matchup.

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With Garoppolo set up for an efficient outing on solid volume, the 49ers pass catchers look interesting individually. Like most weeks, it’s hard to see several 49ers skill players all hitting together, but the individual ceilings for 49ers skill players all look solid.

Although, predicting which 49ers receiver will hit is becoming increasingly difficult with the emergence of Jauan Jennings. Jennings only has 52% route participation this season, so he’s off the fantasy radar, but his per route involvement has been just as strong as the 49ers we want to play.

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Although Jennings isn’t on the field as often as the primary receivers, the 49ers still call plays with him in mind. He has a 15% first-read target rate, which trails only Brandon Aiyuk (16%) and leads Deebo Samuel (13%) and George Kittle (13%). As a result, he’s a genuine thorn in the side for all three pass catchers. 

Things don’t appear to getting any less crowded this week, with Christian returning to practice Thursday and stating that he will be a full go for Sunday. Although McCaffrey expects a “full workload,” I don’t expect him to return to a near every snap role. In his last three games, he’s seen snaps shares of 65%, 66%, and 63%. He’s been nowhere near the 80% snap share he had in Week 8. With Eli Mitchell now out for the season, we could see more work for McCaffrey, but the 49ers have Super Bowl ambitions; it would be odd for them to give McCaffrey a huge snap share as he works through a knee issue. Still, even in the last three weeks, McCaffrey has 18.0 expected points per game, which ranks RB4. As long as he’s healthy, CMC is a clear-cut RB1.

Chiefs at Bengals, 4:25 Eastern, Sunday

Chiefs Implied Team Total: 27.5

After experimenting with being balanced in Week 11, the Chiefs went back to an ultra pass-heavy game plan against the Rams, posting a 10% PROE and a 5% PROE on 1st-and-10. Given that they went pass-heavy against Bryce Perkins… it is a safe bet they’ll lean on the passing game against Joe Burrow. The Chiefs have posted a positive PROE in every game this season and are a lock to do so again this week.

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The Chiefs get a Bengals defense that is pretty solid against the pass and weaker against the run. If the Chiefs operated like the Eagles, we might see them pivot hard to the run here. However, the Chiefs excel in the passing game, and an above-average but non-elite Bengals pass defense is not likely to push them off script. 

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Although Patrick Mahomes is second to Tua Tagovailoa in EPA per play, he’s maintained his lead in EPA per game. Tua is adding more points per dropback, but Mahomes’ ability to dropback at a higher rate while still generating elite efficiency is a skill in its own right. Mahomes is also highly consistent. Along with Tagovailoa and Josh Allen, he is one of three quarterbacks with positive EPA on 54%+ of his plays. 

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Mahomes isn’t set up for his most efficient outing of the year here, but the bet he offers is high-end efficiency plus volume. With Joe Burrow pushing the Chiefs to score, that combination could be in full force this week.

Volume and efficiency are what Travis Kelce is delivering this season as well. He leads the Chiefs with an elite 2.25 YPRR while also leading the team in target rate (25%), target share (25%), and air yard share (25%). But after Kelce, things get complicated—as evidenced by Skyy Moore being second on the team in expected YPRR, despite being a clear option of last resort.

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Even with JuJu Smith-Schuster limited last week, Moore had just a 33% route rate, and only one of his six targets came on a first read. Moore is third on the team in YPRR and seems to be making the most of his opportunities. But for some reason, his coaches don’t seem to trust him. Could that be because he fumbles every other punt return? Hard to say. We’re looking into it. But Moore obviously can’t be trusted in fantasy with just an 11% first-read target rate.

If Moore’s lack of first-read targets is a red flag (and I think it is), we should talk about Marquez Valdes-Scantling. MVS has the same 11% first-read target rate and a 1.31 YPRR that bests only Justin Watson among Chiefs wide receivers with 100+ routes. But while MVS is seeing the same first-read target rate as Skyy Moore, the cause is likely different.

Because Moore barely sees the field… there’s a strong chance that he is not the first read on many of the plays the Chiefs are calling. But in Valdes-Scantling’s case, the issue may be partly related to playcalling and partly related to the fact that he isn’t open. MVS ranks WR72 in ESPN’s open score; only Corey Davis, Robbie Anderson, and A.J. Green rate lower.

Unfortunately, Valdes-Scantling is the receiver we can count on being out there for a full slate of routes. He leads the Chiefs with 79% route participation and was at 74% against the Rams. Still, Smith-Schuster looks like a better bet, even with the risk that he may not be on the field full-time.

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Smith-Schuster had just a 46% route rate in his first game back from a concussion, but it’s reasonable to think he’ll be back to his regular role this week. Smith-Schuster’s profile isn’t worlds better than Valdes-Scantling’s, but he’s definitely a more reliable target earlier, with an 18% target rate to MVS’ 12%. With passing volume likely to be high here, betting on Smith-Schuster to have a high target day is a viable path.

Things could become more concentrated in the backfield after being spread out last week. Even with Clyde Edwards-Helaire inactive, this was a three-man backfield in Week 12, with Ronald Jones seeing 14% of snaps. That was actually more than CEH saw in Week 10 (6%) or Week 11 (8%). Isiah Pacheco led the team with a 51% snap share, but given that the Chiefs were beating up on the Bryce Perkins Rams, that doesn’t seem like a great showing. 

However, Jerick McKinnon has missed practice this week with a hamstring injury. His 34% snap share last week would likely have jumped closer to 50% in this pass-heavy game environment. But if Pacheco can inherit a decent chunk of McKinnon’s role, he can play off in a big way. Granted, Melvin Gordon will likely be active in that scenario. But Gordon just joined the team and has been terrible this season, ranking dead last in RYOE / attempt. Pacheco looks like a strong RB2 play if McKinnon is out.

Bengals Implied Team Total: 27.5

The Bengals started the season with an inconsistent commitment to the pass. But since Week 6, they have been downright Chiefs-ian with a 12% PROE and a 17% PROE on 1st-and-10.

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The Bengals don’t have Patrick Mahomes, but Joe Burrow has still been playing very well this season. He ranks seventh in EPA per play and eighth in CPOE. 

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The Chiefs have a solid pass defense but aren’t overly imposing, ranking 15th in EPA allowed per dropback and 14th in dropback success rate. The biggest impact they’re likely to have is forcing Burrow to get the ball out quickly. The Chiefs rank second in quick pressure rate, which could limit the Chiefs’ downfield passing attack. 

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But the Bengals will be getting reinforcements this week, with Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Mixon both set to return to the lineup. Both players should help in the quick passing game. Chase has seen 10% of his targets on screens, which is far more than the next-highest wide receiver, Tyler Boyd (2%). His ability to get up the field on quick-hitting wide receiver screens could be a feature of this week’s game plan. 

And Chase’s overall profile is strong. He still leads the team in expected YPRR, despite Tee Higgins having several games as the clear No. 1 receiver. 

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Of course, Chase’s health will play a major factor this week. He’s seen double coverage on 30% of his routes, which is in the 97th percentile. If he’s not ready for extra defensive attention, he could serve primarily to open up additional targets for Higgins and the other receivers.

Of those non-Chase/Higgins receivers, Hayden Hurst looks the most interesting. His 15% target share matches Tyler Boyd‘s—although Hurst runs fewer routes, he’s been targeted at a higher rate. And his tight end eligibility is obviously a major tiebreaker. 

Mixon isn’t the threat in the passing game that Chase is, but his return is still positive. Mixon should still be a frequent contributor as a quick outlet for Burrow. He ranks RB6 in target share and RB11 in YPRR. Because of his receiving involvement, Mixon doesn’t need this game to “fail” from a DFS perspective to have a big game. He can deliver a huge week as part of a back-and-forth shootout, making him one of the most interesting ways to play this game, assuming he is expected to be a full go in his return from a concussion. Mixon profiles as an elite RB1 play.

Chargers at Raiders, 4:25 Eastern, Sunday

Chargers Implied Team Total: 24.75

Justin Herbert needs a get-right spot. He ranks just 20th in EPA per play and 17th in CPOE. He’s been playing like a slightly more efficient version of Kirk Cousins and a slightly less efficient version of… Daniel Jones.

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But there’s a big difference between how the Giants are treating Daniel Jones and how the Chargers are treating Herbert. Even though he hasn’t lived up to preseason expectations, the Chargers still run their offense through their quarterback. Los Angeles has a 5% PROE this season and is coming off a 16% PROE against the Cardinals, their highest rate of the season.

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If the Chargers stay aggressive this week, it could pay off in a big way. The Raiders rank 32nd in EPA allowed per dropback and 32nd in dropback success rate. In other words, they have the worst pass defense in the entire league.

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Last week the Chargers were looking to attack a Cardinals defense that ranks 20th in EPA allowed per dropback. But it also seems likely that they were more aggressive now that they have Keenan Allen close to full health. Allen ran a route on 92% of dropbacks and caught one of Herbert’s three passing TDs. But Allen was only targeted on 14% of routes as he dealt with extra defensive attention, seeing double coverage on a ridiculous 45% of his routes. 

In a sense, though, this is good news. Allen’s low target rate probably says more about the Chargers’ offense not being at full health—with Mike Williams injured—than about any lingering issues with Allen’s hamstring. Against even weaker coverage this week, Allen should be able to get open at a decent rate. 

Josh Palmer also saw an extreme double coverage rate of 45%. He didn’t fare well against the extra defensive attention, posting just a 9% target rate. Palmer’s per-route target opportunity is much weaker than Allen’s. If he is going to see defensive attention at a similar rate, he’s a much weaker bet for production.

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But with Mike Williams very unlikely to play, the Chargers could find themselves struggling to push the ball downfield, as usual, even against a weak Raiders secondary. That would once again set up Austin Ekeler to feast on short passes. Ekeler leads all running backs with a 22% target share and ranks RB6 with a 1.67 YPRR. His 21.6 expected points per game is the highest mark among running backs, which is another way of saying that his receiving game usage has turned him into a fantasy superstar. And even if the Chargers are more functional downfield this week… that will only create more scoring opportunities for the offense, which could greatly benefit Ekeler. He’s as good a play as there is in fantasy this week.

Raiders Implied Team Total: 25.75

Two weeks ago, I noted that Josh McDaniels appeared to have lost faith in Derek Carr as the centerpiece of the Raiders’ offense. After opening the season with a positive PROE, the Raiders went eight straight games with a 0% PROE or below. In the two weeks since then, the Raiders have reinforced my belief that they do not want their offense running through Carr. Against the Seahawks, the Raiders posted a -11% PROE, their lowest of the season.

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The Raiders now get a Chargers defense that is very vulnerable to the running game, ranking 28th in EPA allowed per rush, 27th in rushing success rate, and 29th in PFF’s run defense grades.

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Last week, I noted that Josh Jacobs‘ fantasy value was primarily tied to his elite workload. Heading into Week 12, Jacobs ranked RB3 in snap share, RB1 in share of team attempts, RB10 in target share, and RB6 in expected points per game. But his rushing efficiency was pretty middling. He ranked RB19 in RYOE / attempt, RB21 in success rate, and RB16 in breakaway yards per game. 300 yards later… things look a little different.

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McDaniels looks ahead of the curve for treating Jacobs as an elite running back. Looking at his profile now… nothing suggests that he isn’t elite. Sure, he’s more good than elite in the NFL Next Gen rushing metrics, but we’re unlikely to notice this week against a Chargers defense that will have a lot of trouble containing him. And even if the Chargers offense can push the Raiders off a pure rushing script, there should be plenty of opportunities through the air. Jacobs is set up for another huge week. 

If the Raiders are forced to throw more than they’d prefer… the offense as a whole should be fine. Derek Carr ranks ninth in EPA per play and should provide an efficient counterpunch to the run game. Granted, his accuracy has been concerning; he ranks just 27th in CPOE.

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But Carr is going against a Chargers defense that is very poor against the pass as well as the run, ranking 25th in EPA allowed per dropback. This would be an embarrassing time for a meltdown.

Although the Raiders’ passing game will probably have modest volume, Davante Adams will have no trouble soaking up plenty of targets. Adams has an elite 2.41 YPRR while slightly underperforming his per-route volume. In addition, Adams has a 98th-percentile first-read target rate, indicating the offense is designed to run through him. And that’s not a surprise since Adams is getting open at will with a 92nd percentile open score.

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Last week was the Josh Jacobs show… and this week could be as well, but Adams has about as high a ceiling as any receiver in the league.

Behind Adams, Mack Hollins and Foster Moreau look like TD-or-bust bets. Both receivers have uninspiring target volume but also see enough targets to be viable dart throws in this plus matchup.

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Colts at Cowboys, 8:20 Eastern, Sunday

Colts Implied Team Total: 17  

The Colts are coming off a matchup with the Steelers, who were an interesting test for Jeff Saturday‘s philosophical approach. Saturday has had a clear lean to the run, but the Steelers are more easily passed on. Saturday handled the matchup by moderating his run-heavy instincts somewhat, but the Colts were still a run-first team with a -4% PROE and a -9% PROE on 1st-and-10. Since Saturday took over the team, the Colts have shown a clear preference for the running game, with a -6% PROE that matches the 49ers’ rate over the last three weeks.

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Saturday will have the chance to return to a true run-heavy game plan this week against a Cowboys defense that now ranks as the biggest run funnel in the league after the Dolphins refused to go run-heavy against the Texans. Cowboys opponents are averaging a -8% PROE against them and are shifting 5% to the run. Saturday has been looking to pound the rock since he took over in Indianapolis, but this is likely to be the week he establishes it.

Opponents are running on the Cowboys for two reasons. First, they aren’t very good at defending the run, ranking 20th in EPA allowed per rush. But rushing also limits dropbacks against a Cowboys’ pass defense that ranks first in pass rush grade and first in quick pressure rate.

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Matt Ryan was literally benched this season because of the Colts inability to handle pressure… so this is an extremely poor matchup for the Colts’ passing game. They are likely to lean on the running game for as long as they can get away with it. With Dallas playing somewhat conservatively on offense, that might be longer than expected.

Of course, the Colts have also struggled to run the ball. But they are at least handing the ball off to an elite talent. Despite running behind an offensive line that ranks 29th in PFF’s run blocking grades, Taylor has been running better recently—now that he’s getting healthy. The third-year star is up to RB16 in RYOE / attempt and RB17 in success rate. And Saturday has no concerns about over-utilizing his star rusher. Over the last three weeks, Taylor has a ridiculous 87% snap share. He will be the centerpiece of the Colts’ game plan this week. And while his offensive line will likely cost him some efficiency, that won’t matter if the Colts can stay in the game long enough to feed him an enormous workload.

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Assuming the Colts are eventually forced to the air, we can count on Michael Pittman to see plenty of targets. Pittman has literally not taken a single route off in Saturday’s tenure, logging 100% route participation over the last three weeks. And the Colts are consistently calling plays with Pittman in mind. He has an elite 26% first-read target rate since Saturday took over. This is not a matchup that makes Colts pass catchers very appealing, but Pittman’s role is about as locked-in as it gets.

At tight end, Jelani Woods‘ mini-breakout looks pretty encouraging. The rookie ran a route on 69% of dropbacks and was targeted on 33% of his routes, going 8-for-98 on nine targets. And intriguingly, all nine of Woods’ targets came on first reads. This occurred without Kylen Gransen being available, but it’s worth noting that Mo Alie-Cox was. The veteran saw his route participation drop from 47% to 28% as the team got a look at Woods. Saturday has been pretty extreme about how he’s doling out playing time. And after the way Woods played in his audition, we could see him take over as the top tight end going forward. This matchup makes him a very shaky start, but he’s worth adding in leagues where he’s still out there because Saturday seems to still be searching for his No. 2. Parris Campbell and Alec Pierce combined for just three first-read targets last week. 

Cowboys Implied Team Total: 27.5

The Cowboys operated as a balanced offense in Dak Prescott‘s first two games back from injury. That approach made a ton of sense while facing the Lions and Bears defenses, neither of which can stop anything. But following the Cowboys’ Week 9 bye, they have shifted to the running game. Last week they posted a -11% PROE against the Giants with a -25% PROE on 1st-and-10. They essentially run their offense like the Cleveland Browns. 

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While a balanced approach made sense against the Lions and the Bears, an ultra-run-heavy approach was a very odd choice against the Giants. New York ranks just 31st in PFF’s coverage grades and has been a bit of a past funnel this season. Moreover, with a run-heavy Giants team on the other side desperate to hide their quarterback… it would have made sense for the Cowboys to force as many Daniel Jones dropbacks as possible. But that’s not the way the Cowboys played it. That’s very notable, given that the Colts are a similar matchup.

The Colts run defense is a bit stronger than the Giants, but they don’t have an elite unit. And the Colts also have a solid pass defense. So this matchup should allow the Cowboys to play to their own offensive philosophy. If last week is any indication, we should see them pound the rock.

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Perhaps the Cowboys are intent on running the ball heavily because it’s the only way they can get Tony Pollard enough touches while still feeding Ezekiel Elliott his team-mandated carries. Tony Pollard led the backfield with a 59% snap share against the Giants, seeing 20 touches. But Elliott wasn’t far behind, with a 51% snap share and 17 touches. Elliott ran well, and we can expect a similar distribution this week. Given Jerry Jones‘ infatuation with saying, “we go as Zeke goes” while grimacing at reporters, we can’t rule out Elliott regaining a snap advantage after his strong Thanksgiving performance.

But even with the risk that he is the 1B in the backfield this week, Tony Pollard looks like a solid RB2 play. He ranks RB2 in RYOE / attempt, RB3 in breakaway yards per game, and RB7 in YPRR. He’s repeatedly demonstrated game-breaking ability as both a rusher and receiver. With the Cowboys potentially going run-heavy this week, Pollard should get his opportunities, even if Zeke does as well.

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Although their recent game plans indicate that passing volume could be limited, there’s really no reason for the Cowboys to limit Dak Prescott‘s dropbacks. He has been excellent this year, ranking fourth in EPA per play and seventh in CPOE. As good as Jalen Hurts has been this season, Hurts isn’t even the most efficient quarterback in the NFC East.

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Prescott has been aided by the fact that he has a true No. 1 receiver in CeeDee Lamb. Lamb is literally doing everything we’re looking for from a top fantasy wide receiver. He’s been targeted at an extremely high rate, and the offense is designed to run through him. He sees a high rate of extra defensive attention but gets open anyway. And he’s moving around the formation while seeing valuable over-the-middle-of-the-field targets. Lamb is delivering an ultra-elite 2.54 YPRR, and everything in his underlying profile suggests we can continue to count on elite efficiency. If the Cowboys decide to open up the passing game… and let’s be honest, they should—Lamb’s ceiling is immense.

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Behind Lamb, Michael Gallup is cemented as the Cowboys’ No. 2 wide receiver. Noah Brown ran a route on just 52% of dropbacks in Week 12, with Gallup at 94%. Gallup also saw a first-read target on 28% of his routes, the third time in the last four games that he has been at 18%+. Gallup’s profile is far less appealing than Lamb’s, but he’s underperforming his target volume by a wide margin, which creates room for positive regression if he can run hot on per-target efficiency.

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Dalton Schultz knows something about running hot after scoring two TDs on just four targets and only 18 routes on Thanksgiving. The tight end has solid per-route volume and a solid 71% route rate as well. He’s a worse bet for production than Gallup, but given that he plays tight end, he can be viewed as the No. 2 fantasy option in this passing game.

Saints at Buccaneers, 8:15 PM Eastern, Monday

Saints Implied Team Total: 18.5

The Saints have been playing left-handed for the last two weeks. Against the Rams and 49ers, two high-end run defenses, the Saints pivoted to the pass, posting a 7% and 6% PROE. Both performances were out of character for the Saints, who have been a firmly run-first team. They have a -4% PROE and a -5% PROE on 1st-and-10. Seeing them go pass-heavy is a bit like seeing the 49ers take to the air; it’s uncomfortable for everyone.

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But the Saints now get a Buccaneers run defense that is a far cry from the elite unit of years past. They rank just 22nd in EPA allowed per rush and are actually much stronger against the pass, ranking seventh in EPA allowed per dropback. As a result, the Saints should be expected to shift back to a run-first approach here, particularly if the Buccaneers continue to put together a stop-and-start effort on offense. 

But that’s not necessarily great news for Alvin Kamara, who ranks just RB38 in RYOE / attempt. His path to elite fantasy value is very much through the passing game.

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Kamara should be fine if the Saints go with a run-heavy game plan. But he’ll be better off if the Buccaneers can make this a game, pushing the Saints to drop back more often.

More dropbacks would also be great for Chris Olave. Olave has only hit 15+ fantasy points once in his last five games, but his underlying profile remains extremely strong. Olave is seeing a 26% target share, which, combined with his 15.4 aDOT, makes him the rare deep threat who is commanding No. 1 receiver-level targets. Olave’s targets aren’t just the result of injuries to the Saints’ other starting receivers. He has gotten open at a high rate and is in the 88th percentile in open score. 

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This helps explain why Jarvis Landry‘s return hasn’t had much impact on Olave. He’s seen target rates of 19%, 30%, and 31% since Landry returned from injury. Olave isn’t the No. 1 option in New Orleans by default; he is the Saints’ best receiver. This isn’t an ideal game environment for Olave, with the Saints likely leaning on the run. But hey, as long as New Orleans doesn’t get shut out again… Olave has a shot at a big game.

Buccaneers Implied Team Total: 24.5

The Buccaneers are still a pass-first team. But they don’t have the same commitment to the pass we’re used to. In 20 games last season, the Buccaneers had a negative PROE just once. They’ve already gone negative four times this season. And their 4% PROE is half of what it was last year. The Buccaneers are still pass-first, but they’re in the mix with the Chargers, Dolphins, and Vikings rather than the true-believer tier they were in last season. 

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The Buccaneers’ more tepid approach to the passing game makes sense, given Tom Brady‘s reduced efficiency. Brady ranks 16th in EPA per play and 19 in CPOE. He’s been an average quarterback this season. That’s actually pretty damn impressive for a 45-year-old human being. But given that we’re talking about Tom Brady, his performance has been a disappointment. 

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Brady now gets a Saints defense that is pretty middling against the pass. Most notably, they rank 31st in quick pressure rate. The Buccaneers have been excellent at protecting Brady this season… despite what he might say about it. No team has allowed quick pressure at a lower rate than Tampa Bay. Brady should have time to get to his second read at least this week. When that hasn’t happened, it’s been a major issue. The Buccaneers rank just 28th in EPA per play on dropbacks with quick pressure. 

But Brady could struggle this week after Mike Evans inevitably gets ejected… joking, I hope. But Evans has struggled a bit this season with an 8.6 YPT that’s over a yard lower than expected for his 14.1 aDOT. And Evans is also struggling to get open; he’s in the 41st percentile in open score. Moreover, Marshon Lattimore is set to return from his abdomen injury, and a rematch with his nemesis isn’t an ideal way for Evans to get going.

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But the thing about Evans… is that he’s at least getting open at a higher rate than Chris Godwin. Godwin’s open score is in the 16th percentile. Teams are attempting to take away Godwin; his 28% double coverage rate is in the 91st percentile. And that extra defensive attention seems to be working. Godwin is still getting targeted at a high rate. In fact, his 24% target rate is actually up from last year’s 22%. But Godwin has been targeted extremely shallowly with a 6.3 aDOT. That’s down over a full yard from last year’s 7.6 aDOT. And before 2021, Godwin had never had an aDOT below 10. He’s turning into a pure underneath option, which makes his value highly dependent on overall passing volume. With the Buccaneers less committed to the pass, he’s a much shakier option than he used to be. And if his aDOT is dropping because he can’t get open downfield as easily as he used to… that’s not great either.

It’s hard to say how much of this is on Brady. If his receivers aren’t getting open, that’s clearly not on him. But Brady is also shying away from deep throws, which seems like the type of thing you might see from an aging quarterback. His 7.7 aDOT is his lowest since 2004. 

And while Godwin is hurt most by lower overall passing volume, Evans is most directly impacted by Brady’s shallow aDOT. Both receivers look like decent WR3 bets this week but aren’t the locked-in options they used to be. Of the two, I actually lean Evans’ way as a bet that Brady can hit some plays downfield with time to throw. Perhaps he can get one over on a less-than-fully healthy Lattimore.

With Leonard Fournette set to return this week, Rachaad White‘s role will be significantly reduced. But let’s take a moment to absorb just how massive that role was last week. White played 90% of snaps against the Browns, ran a route on 76% of dropbacks, and had an elite 21% target share. His contingent value is as off the charts as his most deranged supporters (me) were hoping.

Of course, Fournette’s return will cut into White’s workload in a big way. But given that he started in Week 10 and out-snapped Fournette before injury, White looks likely to lead a committee. Ultimately, it could be similar to what we saw in Dallas last week, albeit with fewer overall rushing attempts.

White’s chances of operating as a lead back probably aren’t great. But he’s run well with more opportunities over the last two weeks. In Week 10, he ranked RB6 in RYOE / attempt and was RB15 last week. White still ranks just RB32 in RYOE / attempt this season—because he was legitimately terrible as a rusher before his last two games. But his recent efficiency, combined with his RB17 ranking in YPRR, provide at least some upside that the Buccaneers will choose to move forward with him as their lead back. After all, Fournette offers the same receiving efficiency but paired with even worse rushing efficiency. White is a gamble as an RB2, but not a crazy one.

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Sources

To write this article I relied on the following stats, metrics and grades.  

  • Expected Points Added per Play (EPA/Play).
    • Efficiency metric based on how much a play improved a team’s likelihood of scoring. 
    • I use this metric primarily for QB efficiency, but also for defensive efficiency.
  • Completion Percentage Over Expected
    • QB accuracy metric
  • Pass Rate over Expected
    • Measures passing decisions against what would be expected given the game situation.
  • Situation Neutral Pass Rate
    • Measures pass rate on downs and in situations when a team truly has the choice to pass or run.
  • Situation Neutral Seconds per Play
    • Seconds between plays in neutral game script.
    • Faster play generally means more plays, which provides more opportunity for fantasy scoring.
  • Adjusted Line Yards
    • Run blocking stat that has been correlated with elite fantasy running back seasons.
  • Snaps and Snap Share
    • Probably the single most important stat for running back opportunity.
      • Teams check in and out of runs with only one back on the field. Being on the field is critical.
      • Data from Pro Football Focus, AddMoreFunds and RotoViz
    • Third down and Red Zone Snaps from Sam Hoppen’s Player Stat Explorer at 4for4.com
  • Target Share and Air Yard share
    • The combination of these is called WOPR. Created by Josh Hermsmeyer, this metric scales from 0-1.
      • Data from Pro Football Focus and RotoViz
  • Routes run per dropback
    • Snap share for receivers… since I’m not concerned with who is playing run-blocking snaps.
      • Data from Pro Football Focus
  • Yards Per Route Run
    • A YPRR of 1.8+ is good and anything 2+ is very good. 
    • This metric is particularly useful for young wide receivers whose role could grow as a result of strong play.
    • It can also help identify truly elite wide receivers.
    • It filters out in-game injuries and blowouts much better than target share does.
      • Data from PFF 
  • Expected YPRR
    • Derived from Ben Gretch’s Weighted Targets per Route Run calculation
      • Scaled to 0 – 3.5, in line with YPRR instead of 0 – 1 scale.
  • Target per Route Run
    • TPRR and Yards per Target combine to make up YPRR. 
    • TPRR is especially useful for tight ends.
      • Some offenses and quarterbacks prioritize throwing to the tight end much more than others.
      • Some tight ends are far better at getting open than others.
    • TPRR is much more stable than YPT, so in small samples especially, I’d rather know who is drawing targets than what happened afterward.
  • Expected Fantasy Points. 
    • Both RotoViz and PFF have similar Expected Points metrics that adjust opportunity based on the context of each play.
      • I am referencing PFF’s metric unless otherwise stated.
  • A number of other PFF stats including Time to Throw, Play Action Rate, Pressure Rate, Screen Passes and Defensive Grades.

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