The Primer: Week 12 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals
Spread: Giants -6
Giants vs. Bengals Betting Matchup
Daniel Jones: Hopefully, the Giants tried to change a few things in their offensive play-calling during the bye week. Like, for one, taking some deep shots down the field more often, as Jones has a 142.4 QB Rating when throwing the ball 20-plus yards down the field; that leads the NFL. The Bengals don’t generate much pressure, so maybe they’ll take advantage of that. They’ve also allowed a robust 6.29 percent touchdown-rate through the air, which ranks as the second-highest number in the league. The biggest issue is lack of competition here, as the Bengals are likely to struggle to generate points on the board without Joe Burrow. To this point, teams have thrown the ball 57.0 percent of the time against the Bengals, which is slightly below average, but it still amounted to 35.0 pass attempts per game. Even if the attempts decline, Jones should be efficient, as the Bengals have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per actual pass attempt (no rushing). The Giants also don’t have a running back like Nick Chubb who’s going to handle 25-plus carries or anything, so we should still get above 30 pass attempts out of Jones. He’s also rushed for 20-plus yards in 8-of-10 games, including 45-plus yards in five of them, which gives streamers the floor they seek. He might not be a crazy-high ceiling play due to lack of competition, but he should offer a top-18-type floor.
Ryan Finley or Brandon Allen: This is where I wish I could insert a GIF of Michael Scott just shaking his head. Finley has thrown 97 passes in his career. He’s completed 45.4 percent of them for 5.20 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Meanwhile, there have been reports out there that say Allen will be named the starter. Well, he’s started three games in his career that have netted a 46.4 percent completion-rate, 515 passing yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. It really doesn’t matter which quarterback they’re going with because you shouldn’t be considering either of them. Believe it or not, the Giants have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Just say no, guys.
Wayne Gallman: If you’ve sit down to watch the Giants games over the last few weeks, you’d see that Gallman is trying to do everything in his power to earn the workhorse role on this team, and he’s succeeded. He’s now scored in four straight contests, including two rushing touchdowns against the Eagles, who had allowed just seven rushing touchdowns in eight games coming into that one. They have only targeted him five times over the last three games, which is a bit worrisome, though the game against the Bengals should be a positive gamescript. While the routes run over the last three weeks have been Dion Lewis 44, Gallman 32, Alfred Morris 13, teams have targeted their running backs just 14.9 percent of the time against the Bengals, which ranks as the third-lowest mark in the league. That’s led to them averaging just 3.6 receptions and 26.0 yards per game, so that’s not where we should be expecting production. On the ground, however, the Bengals have allowed a massive 5.24 yards per carry. There’s just one other team in the league who’s allowed more than 4.78 yards per carry. There’ve been eight running backs who’ve totaled at least 75 yards on the ground against the Bengals, and that’s while they’ve run the ball just 43.0 percent of the time (hint: that rate will go up moving forward). Gallman has totaled 32 carries over the last two games and is now coming off his bye week with fresh legs. He should be in lineups as a mid-to-low-end RB2 due to his lack of usage in the passing game but should offer a stable floor regardless.
Gio Bernard: Remember when we were playing Bernard because he had the workhorse role with Joe Mixon out? Well, that’s not the case anymore. He’s received just 17 carries over the last two weeks combined, though he has seen 12 targets in those games. On top of the lack of touches, Bernard’s scoring opportunities are going to shift in the wrong direction with Ryan Finley under center. If you’re looking for some good news, teams have loved to target their running backs against the Giants, as they’ve seen a league-leading 23.3 percent target share. That’s allowed them to average 13.2 PPR points per game through the air alone, and where Bernard tends to shine. There have been seven running backs who’ve totaled at least 35 yards through the air. If the Bengals want Finley to build any sort of confidence, they should design some easy completions to Bernard against this defense. Despite allowing the seventh-most fantasy points per game to running backs, the Giants have allowed the 13th-fewest fantasy points on the ground to them. This matchup actually suits Bernard’s skillset very well, though the move to Finley cannot be understated. Because of that, he’s stuck in the RB3 territory with minimal upside. *Update* Bernard was held out of practice on Wednesday with a concussion, which means his status for this game is in real jeopardy. If he were held out, it’d be a mix of Samaje Perine and Trayveon Williams in the backfield. Perine would get the early-down work while Williams would likely take on the passing role. Stay tuned for updates. Bernard’s expected to get cleared after a full practice on Friday.
Sterling Shepard: It’s kind of ridiculous at this point, but in games he’s played from start to finish, Shepard has seen at least six targets in 21 straight games. We’re heading into Week 12 and the only other wide receivers who can say they’ve seen at least six targets in every game are Terry McLaurin and Stefon Diggs. Since returning from his foot injury, Shepard has caught at least six passes in each game, providing a great floor for those in PPR formats. The Bengals have not been a matchup to run from, either. If Shepard gets those six-plus targets, it’s pretty big against a defense that allows 8.68 yards and 1.95 PPR points per target. The Giants have done a great job moving Shepard around the last few weeks, as he’s played a lot more slot snaps than he was earlier in the season, though part of that could’ve been due to Golden Tate discipline. No matter the case, he moves around and doesn’t have one specific cornerback matchup to look at. What I can tell you is that there’ve been 17 wide receivers who’ve seen six-plus targets against the Bengals, and 15 of them totaled at least 69 yards and/or a touchdown. Shepard looks like a high-floor WR3/4-type option.
Darius Slayton: His target totals are a thing that’ll make you go crazy, as they’ve gone 4, 4, 9, 1, 7 over the last five weeks. He’s certainly the more volatile between him and Shepard, but he’s also the one with more upside, as he’s finished with 93 yards and/or a touchdown in three games this year, while Shepard has finished every game with 29-74 yards and has scored just once. There have been 11 wide receivers who’ve finished as a top-30 wide receiver against the Bengals, though all of them saw at least six targets, a number that’s hardly guaranteed with Slayton. The good news is that the Bengals have allowed 39 pass plays that have gone for 20-plus yards, which is the third-most in the NFL behind only the Falcons and Seahawks. Slayton has 11 deep targets, while no other receiver on the Giants has more than three of them. There’s certainly splash-play potential here with him, making him a risk/reward high-end WR4 option.
Tee Higgins: It feels like we’re at a funeral for all the Bengals pass-catchers, as they lost a ton of value once Joe Burrow was announced as out for the season. Higgins felt it last week, finishing with just three catches for 26 yards on 10 targets. Maybe he becomes a favorite of Finley but knowing he hasn’t thrown for more than 192 yards in a game, it’s problematic. The Giants have been a neutral matchup for wide receivers to this point, allowing 8.40 yards per target, which is right around the league average. We don’t know if they’ll use James Bradberry to shadow Higgins, but my guess would be that they just play sides. On top of that, the Bengals have moved Higgins around as of late, as he’s even played 47-of-117 snaps in the slot the last two weeks. We really don’t know how to properly value Higgins with Finley/Allen under center, but it’s not great. However, we can’t just forget about Higgins, as he has seen at least nine targets in each of his last three games. For now, we’ll consider him a low-ceiling high-end WR4 option, though he should still have a semi-decent floor.
Tyler Boyd: He’s the only receiver who has playing time with Finley, and the results were somewhat of a mixed bag. Boyd finished with 6/62/0 on eight targets against the Ravens (tough matchup), 1/0/0 against the Raiders (eww), and 5/101/1 against the Steelers (tough matchup). So, while we’re certainly downgrading from Burrow to Finley, Boyd may retain the most value as the safety valve over the middle of the field (we don’t know much about Allen in this offense). Boyd also has a plus matchup in the slot with fourth-round rookie Darnay Holmes. He’s seen 41 targets in coverage this year, allowing 33 receptions for 321 yards on them, though he hasn’t allowed a touchdown yet. Surprisingly, the Giants have allowed just three wide receivers to top 74 yards against them this year, with two of them being Washington players (Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims). It needs to be noted that four of the top-six performances they’ve allowed to receviers have gone to those who are slot-heavy, which is what Boyd is. He’s my favorite Bengals receiver in this game, but he’s still in WR3 territory.
A.J. Green: Coming into Week 11 he was averaging a ridiculously low 0.92 PPR points per target, which ranked No. 110 among the 112 wide receviers who’d seen 20-plus targets. By comparison, Tee Higgins ranked 33rd while Tyler Boyd ranked 49th, so wasn’t a quarterback issue. There’s certainly a quarterback issue now. Green is just not generating separation and it’s unlikely we see Finley or Allen try to force the issue. You shouldn’t be starting Green right now.
Evan Engram: After seeing 29 targets over a three-week sample size, Engram fell off the face of the earth against the Eagles, seeing just three targets. Fortunately, it was a low-scoring week for tight ends, so he may not have buried you, but it’s not great. Engram still hasn’t finished a game this year with more than 65 yards, as his measly 5.2 yards per target is among the lowest in football. His 5.7-yard average depth of target is the third-lowest among pass-catchers with 40-plus targets. The Bengals opponents have targeted their tight ends 23.1 percent of the time against them, which is the third-highest mark in the league, so we can hope his targets come back. There have already been seven tight ends who’ve totaled double-digit PPR points against the Bengals, including five of them who totaled 56-plus yards, so it wasn’t just touchdowns they were leaning on for production. From an efficiency standpoint, they’ve been relatively average, allowing 1.79 PPR points and 7.72 yards per target, but the volume has allowed some consistent production. We have to consider his three-target game a blip on the radar, as he’s seen five-plus targets in 7-of-10 games. Engram remains in the low-end TE1 conversation.
Drew Sample: Despite Burrow averaging over 40 pass attempts per game, Sample has topped four targets just three times all season, and just once in his last six games. We can’t expect the Bengals to throw the ball as much as they were, so when you lower the attempt ceiling, it lowers the target floor even more for Sample. When you add in the inefficiency of Finley, you have a weak streaming option, even in good matchups. The Giants have allowed the ninth-fewest points per target to tight ends, so it’s not like it’s a great matchup, either.
Los Angeles Chargers at Buffalo Bills
Spread: Bills -5
Chargers vs. Bills Betting Matchup
Justin Herbert: I’m continually amazed by what Herbert is doing in his rookie season where he had no preseason and wasn’t abruptly named the starter an hour before Week 2. Since that time, he’s compiled five 300-yard games, thrown multiple touchdown passes in each of his last nine games, and has added another 187 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Since taking over in Week 2, Herbert is the No. 4 fantasy quarterback behind only Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson. Even better, the Chargers are allowing him to drop back and pass a ton, as he’s thrown at least 42 pass attempts in four of his last five games. The Bills matchup was one to be worried about last year, but that’s not the case in 2020. They’ve allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to the position, including 60.0 fantasy points on the ground alone to quarterbacks, which is the most in the league. We’ve seen Herbert offer mobility, so that’s an added benefit to his fantasy floor in this game. Even through the air, the Bills have allowed a 67.9 percent completion-rate and 7.58 yards per attempt. Both of those numbers are slightly above the league average, and though they’ve had some tough competition, Football Outsiders has them ranked as just the 14th-toughest pass defense in DVOA. Through 10 games, their opponents have averaged 0.7 more fantasy points against them than they have in non-Bills games, so it’s nothing to be worried about with Herbert. In fact, the only quarterback who’s failed to score at least 18.36 fantasy points against the Bills was Sam Darnold (twice). Start Herbert as a QB1.
Josh Allen: There was definitely a lull in Allen’s production from Week 5 through Week 8, though he appeared to get back on track in the two games before his bye week, racking up 699 yards and five touchdowns through the air, and another 52 yards and a touchdown on the ground. It helps that he went against the Seahawks and Cardinals, two of the softer defenses in the league. He also went into his bye week with 41 passes that went for 20-plus yards, which was the most in the NFL (Patrick Mahomes was second with 38). Do the Chargers struggle with those plays? Unfortunately not, as they’ve allowed just 27 pass plays of 20-plus yards all season, which ranks as the seventh-fewest in the league. On the year, they’ve allowed just 6.79 yards per attempt, which ranks as the sixth-lowest mark in the league, but have allowed a touchdown on 5.70 percent of attempts, which is the sixth-highest mark. Something has to give and it’s always the touchdowns. This matchup isn’t as great as the “seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks” suggests. Just two quarterbacks have averaged more than 7.17 yards per attempt against them. They’ve also allowed just a 62.1 percent completion-rate on the season, which ranks as the third-lowest mark in the league, and that’s despite all the injuries they’ve had to deal with. The good news is that four quarterbacks have thrown the ball 40-plus times against the Chargers and all of them finished with 19.8-plus fantasy points. Considering the Bills don’t like to run the ball (61.2 percent pass-rate ranks as the 11th-highest mark), Allen should have enough volume to carry him through to QB1 production, but it’s not a guaranteed stud performance for him, so I wouldn’t recommend him in cash lineups.
Kalen Ballage and Austin Ekeler: We don’t know if Ekeler will play as of right now, but there’s certainly a chance after he tweeted saying he’s been medically cleared. If he does return, there will likely be some sort of timeshare between these two, but we’ll cross that bridge once we get word that he’s playing. This game certainly favors the early-down work, as the Bills have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points on the ground to running backs but have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points through the air to them. They’ve still yet to allow a receiving touchdown to a running back and are one of four teams who can say that. When you break it down with weighted volume, the Bills are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points per opportunity, so it’s not a bad matchup. Considering Ballage has received an average of 16.3 carries per game over the last three weeks, the 4.65 yards per carry the Bills have allowed looks fantastic. Not just that, but they’ve also allowed a touchdown every 25.2 carries. Ballage has also earned some credit in the passing game, as he’s received 15 targets over the last two weeks. With that type of volume, he’s an RB2, at minimum. That hinges on Ekeler’s absence. If Ekeler plays, I’d expect them to keep him on some sort of snap count. The Bills have seen 26.8 running back touches per game, which isn’t great for a messy timeshare. Ekeler would have to move back into the most valuable back, though there’s enough risk to keep him in the low-end RB2/high-end RB3 territory, while Ballage would move back to a low-end RB3 who should still offer some value. *Update* Ekeler is still considered extremely questionable to play, while Ballage is also listed as questionable for this game. You’ll need to pay attention on Sunday morning.
Zack Moss and Devin Singletary: We’ve witnessed a trend develop as the year has gone on, and it’s not very favorable for Singletary. Here are the snap and touch counts of each running back over the last four games:
In reality, it’s not great for either of them, as they’ve combined to touch the ball just 19.5 times per game this year. If that continues, there’s no way you can consistently rely on either of them to be a usable fantasy option. The Chargers have allowed a massive 4.78 yards per carry this year, which ranks as the third-most in the league. While they didn’t allow a rushing touchdown in each of their first five games, they’ve now allowed seven of them over their last five games, including at least one in every game. This bodes well for Moss, who’s received 33 percent of the teams carries inside the five-yard line (Allen is leading with 38.9 percent). Teams have chosen to concentrate a lot of their targets against the Chargers to the running back position, as they’ve seen a 22.8 percent target share, which ranks as the fourth-highest mark in the league. Singletary has run eight more routes than Moss over the last four games, but production is nearly identical. There have been nine running backs who’ve totaled 10-plus carries against the Chargers, and eight of them finished with at least 13.0 PPR points and as a top-26 option. Moss should be in the RB3 conversation due to how his strengths align with this matchup, while Singletary is just an RB4.
Keenan Allen: If we were to pretend the Week 1 game with Tyrod Taylor never happened, Allen’s 16-game pace with Herbert would be 185 targets, 137 receptions, 1,419 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Yeah, I know. Allen hasn’t topped six touchdowns in a season since back in 2013, yet he has six of them with Herbert through eight and a half games together. The Bills matchup used to be one we were worried about for pass catchers. And knowing Allen is the top receiver, the matchup against Tre’Davious White may seem like a daunting task, but he’s allowed 2.48 PPR points per target, which ranks as the ninth-most among 123 cornerbacks who’ve played 100-plus snaps in coverage. On top of that, Allen spends nearly half the time in the slot, which is not somewhere White goes. When Allen goes there, he’ll see Taron Johnson, who’s allowed a 101.8 QB Rating in his coverage. There’s no matchup that would cause you to consider benching Allen, and this matchup isn’t anything to be concerned with for a guy who’s seeing 10-plus targets practically every game.
Mike Williams: He’s starting to climb into the reliable conversation now that he’s totaled 27 targets over the last four games and has totaled 72-plus yards in three of them. The Chargers are allowing Herbert to throw the ball a ton (42-plus attempts in four of the last five games), which allows for Williams to get targets despite Keenan Allen getting 10-plus per week. If the Bills were going to use Tre’Davious White in shadow coverage this week, it would most likely be Williams considering Allen goes into the slot half the time. They could choose to play sides because it’s not like White has been a shutdown cornerback this year. As a whole, the Bills defense has allowed 8.10 yards per target to receivers while allowing a touchdown once every 21.1 targets. Both of those marks are right around the league average. There have been three games where they’ve allowed multiple top-30 wide receivers (DeVante Parker/Isaiah Ford, Robert Woods/Cooper Kupp, D.K. Metcalf/David Moore), so it’s not out of the question that both Allen and Williams can succeed. Williams should be placed into the low-end WR3/high-end WR4 conversation.
Stefon Diggs: There are just two wide receivers who’ve seen at least six targets in every game they’ve played this year. Diggs and Terry McLaurin. In fact, Diggs hasn’t seen fewer than eight targets since way back in Week 4. Through 10 games, he ranks as the No. 2 wide receiver in yards, just six yards behind DeAndre Hopkins. The Chargers opponents have chosen to target wide receivers just 51.9 percent of the time, which ranks as the second-lowest number in the league. That’s led to them scoring just 44.7 percent of the points the Chargers allowed to skill-position players, which is the lowest percentage in the NFL. If you make a catch against the Chargers, it’d better be for a lot of yards, as they’re allowing just 11.1 wide receiver receptions per game, the lowest mark in the NFL. The 13.83 yards per reception they’ve allowed (5th-most) helps even things out, but there’s a reason they’ve allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to receivers. The combination of Casey Hayward and Michael Davis have been pretty good, allowing 61-of-110 passing for 898 yards, though six of those receptions have gone for touchdowns. The Chargers have allowed Hayward to shadow some receivers, which isn’t a bad thing for Diggs, as he’s allowed five of those six touchdowns, and they’ve all come over the last seven games. He doesn’t allow a whole lot of receptions, but he is susceptible to the big play, allowing at least one 20-plus yard catch in each of his last four games. Diggs can win one-on-one with any cornerback in the league, so given his massive target share, keep him in lineups as a low-end WR1. *Update* John Brown has been ruled out, and so has Casey Hayward. These are both great things for Diggs.
John Brown: After two rock-solid performances of 8/99/0 and 6/72/0 that earned his way back into fantasy owners’ hearts, Brown suffered an ankle injury that could limit practice time and availability. Brown hasn’t played well through his injuries earlier in the season, so let’s hope he practices in full this week. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter all that much because you shouldn’t be relying on him for much production. Receivers have only been targeted 18.2 times per game against the Chargers and that’s led to just 11.1 wide receiver receptions per game, the lowest in the league. On top of that, we’re likely to see Diggs draw Casey Hayward in coverage, which would leave Michael Davis for Brown. On the year, Davis has been the better of the two, allowing just 35-of-53 passing for 430 yards and one touchdown in his coverage. There have been just eight top-36 wide receivers against the Chargers this year, so feel free to look elsewhere, as Brown’s just a risky WR5 if he plays at all.
Cole Beasley: We were worried the Bills started to move on from Beasley, only to watch him get targeted a career-high 13 times against the Cardinals. He also turned in a career-high 11 receptions for 109 yards, which was the fourth-highest total of his career. The Cardinals were without two starting cornerbacks for that game, but still, it shows that Beasley is alive and well. Now onto a matchup with the Chargers who’ve allowed just two wide receivers total more than five receptions all season. That’s problematic for a receiver who averages just 11.7 yards per reception. It’s not just that, as there’ve been just seven wide receivers who’ve totaled more than 60 yards against them. You might want some good news, so I’ll point to the matchup Beasley has in the slot against Tevaughn Campbell, who’s allowed 11-of-15 passing for 124 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage. It needs to be noted that we could see Chris Harris Jr. return for the Chargers, which severely downgrade his matchup. As of now, Beasley should be considered a low-end WR4 with a limited ceiling. *Update* John Brown has been ruled out, which raises Beasley’s target floor in this game. We don’t have word on Harris Jr’s status just yet. Beasley is in the stable WR4 territory.
Hunter Henry: I feel like I’m living out Groundhog Day with Henry. I swear he’s had like the same game for each of the last eight games. It feels like that because he’s finished with exactly four receptions in five of his last six games and has posted between 23-50 yards in each of his last eight games. Oh, and he’s finished between 4-8 targets in every game this season. Here are his weekly finishes: 14, 12, 17, 28, 10, 29, 18, 26, 2, 6. So, he’s been a top-10 tight end three times, yet we always rank him as a top-10 option because, well, tight ends. Opponents have given their tight ends a 24.0 percent target share against the Bills, which is the second-highest mark in the league. That’s obviously led to production, as tight ends make up 21.3 percent of the production by skill-position players against them, which is the fourth-highest mark. They’ve allowed a league-high 5.9 receptions and 64.2 yards per game to tight ends, which is massive for Henry, who’s obviously been struggling with his yardage. There have been five tight ends who’ve seen five-plus targets against the Bills, and four of them were able to finish with 17.8 or more PPR points. Could this be the week where Henry enters beyond four-catch territory? It probably should be. Start him as a rock-solid TE1.
Dawson Knox: This tight end room in Buffalo is a mess, as neither Knox or Tyler Kroft have more than 16 targets on the season, though Knox appeared to take back the lead role over the last two weeks, running 37 routes to Kroft’s 11. Still, there’s been just one game all season where a Bills tight end has seen more than four targets, and it was way back in Week 3. It’s not like production has been there, either, as there’s been just two games all year where a Bills tight end has topped 7.1 PPR points. You’re not playing Knox if you have a choice, and that’s despite the fact that the Chargers have allowed a league-high eight touchdowns to tight ends.
Las Vegas Raiders at Atlanta Falcons
Spread: Raiders -3
Raiders vs. Falcons Betting Matchup
Derek Carr: He continued his efficient ways against the Chiefs last week, throwing for 275 yards and three touchdowns on just 31 pass attempts. On the year, he’s completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 7.7 yards per attempt, and a 19:3 TD to INT ratio. The downside is that he’s thrown more than 32 passes just three times all year. I’m expecting him to get to that mark this week against the Falcons, who’ve seen 37.3 pass attempts per game. They are allowing a robust 107.0 PPR points per game to their opponents, which ranks second to only the Seahawks. The only reason they don’t allow as many points as the Seahawks do is due to their opponents running just 63.4 plays, not the 72.1 plays the Seahawks face. From an efficiency standpoint, they’ve allowed 1.68 PPR points per play, which is six percent higher than any other team. The NFL is a hard game to predict because there are so many small details, but when you see that type of gap, it stands out. Quarterbacks have outscored running backs by 5.03 fantasy points in PPR formats against the Falcons. Not one other team in the NFL can say that quarterbacks outscore running backs against them. The Raiders should find some consistency through the air, as Falcons opponents have averaged 8.41 yards per attempt, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the league. By comparison, Russell Wilson is averaging 8.25 yards per attempt this year. If you remove rushing production allowed to quarterbacks, the Falcons have allowed more fantasy points through the air than any other team in the league, which is good for the immobile Carr. The 0.55 fantasy points per actual pass attempt ranks as the second-most behind only the Cowboys. When you add in his 29.3-point team-implied total, he looks like a great streamer in the low-end QB1/high-end QB2 range.
Matt Ryan: With Julio Jones in and out of the game for big chunks of the game, Ryan struggled as he has all season when Jones has been out. It’s pretty ugly. In the four games that Jones has missed all or significant time in, here are Ryan’s passing totals: 238/1/1, 285/0/0, 226/0/1, and 232/0/2. If Jones were to be held out for this game, you have to downgrade Ryan. The Saints generated a lot of pressure (rank fifth in the NFL with an 8.29 percent sack rate), which led to Ryan getting happy feet. It should help to know the Raiders generate a sack on just 2.80 percent of dropbacks, which is the second-lowest number in the league. They’ve faced plenty of pass attempts (38.1 per game), but despite that lack of pressure, they’ve held quarterbacks to a pedestrian 7.33 yards per attempt and a 4.20 percent touchdown-rate. Adding in everything, they’ve allowed just 0.440 fantasy points per actual pass attempt, which ranks as the 12th-lowest mark in football. Still, volume has carried six quarterbacks to top-15 performances against the Raiders, though it’s worth noting that two of those performances were Patrick Mahomes, one was Justin Herbert, one was Josh Allen, and one was Tom Brady. None of them averaged over 8.47 yards per attempt, and just one of them threw for more than two touchdowns, so it’s tough to see the ceiling that oddsmakers do, as the Falcons are projected for 26.3 points in this game. If Jones plays, Ryan would enter the low-end QB1 conversation, but if Jones sits this one out, I’d downgrade Ryan into the QB14-16 range.
Josh Jacobs: After failing to score in 5-of-6 games from Week 2 through Week 8, Jacobs has bounced back and scored four touchdowns over the last three weeks. He’s received at least 14 carries in 9-of-10 games this year, which is great news, though the matchup in Week 12 might cause some issues. We all know Jacobs isn’t heavily involved in the passing game by now, right? He’s seen just seven targets over the last four games combined. Well, this is a problem because the Falcons have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points on the ground to running backs. If you remove all the receiving totals against them, running backs have averaged just 9.1 fantasy points per game, which is behind only the Saints. Of the fantasy production the Falcons have allowed to skill-position players, running backs have accounted for just 25.7 percent of it. Again, the only team who’s allowed a lower percentage is the Saints, a team we try to avoid with running backs. It doesn’t help that running backs have combined to touch the ball just 23.9 times per game against the Falcons, which ranks as the second-fewest in the league. They’ve allowed just 3.63 yards per carry and a touchdown every 46.0 carries, which means it’ll be tough for Jacobs to smash on the ground, though his 29.3-point team implied total is golden. Through the air, the Falcons have allowed 5.5 receptions and 40.6 yards per game to running backs, so we must hope the Raiders get him involved there, though it’s concerning they haven’t targeted him more than four times since way back in Week 1. He also hasn’t topped 25 receiving yards since Week 1. You’re going to start him as a high-end RB2 in this game because of the scoring potential but understand the Falcons have allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season.
Todd Gurley and Brian Hill: I mentioned last week that if he didn’t score, he’d bust. That was certainly the case against the Saints. He’s now failed to top 63 yards on the ground in 8-of-10 games, and he’s failed to reach 30 receiving yards in any game this year, so again, you’re relying on those touchdowns. How has Gurley kept it up with the touchdowns? Well, he plays in a high-scoring offense, and he ranks No. 2 in red zone carries (43), behind only Derrick Henry. The Raiders have allowed a touchdown every 16.5 carries, which makes this matchup heaven for the touchdown-dependent Gurley. It doesn’t get any better than that. When looking at efficiency, the Raiders have allowed the third-most fantasy points per opportunity to running backs, behind only the Packers and Lions. The odd part is that they’ve faced just 19.8 carries per game by running backs, which is odd when you think about how generous they’ve been on the ground. Gurley gets 70 percent of the team’s carries and all the goal-line work, so it’s not a kill shot or anything, but it’s worth noting that teams have chosen to run the ball just 39.4 percent of the time against them, which is the seventh-lowest rate in football. Gurley should deliver an RB2 performance this week with a good shot to score, as there have been four running backs who’ve scored multiple rushing touchdowns against the Raiders this year. *Update* Gurley has been ruled OUT for this week’s game, meaning Brian Hill will take his place as the starter. Hill should be viewed as a low-end RB2 who won’t get all of Gurley’s work, but he should receive about 80 percent of it.
Henry Ruggs: Just how bad has it gotten for Ruggs? Well, NFL’s NextGenStats requires 28 targets to be a part of the results. Ruggs is no longer part of the results. It’s maddening and confusing, as he’s averaging 9.8 yards per target, so he hasn’t been bad or anything. When playing against the Falcons, wide receivers have outscored running backs by a massive 22.1 PPR points, which is the second-largest gap in the league. Touchdowns aren’t even required against them, as they’ve allowed a massive 9.54 yards per target to wide receivers. Even better is that they’ve allowed a massive 14.64 yards per reception, which is the most in the league. Ruggs has a ridiculously-high 19.5 air yards per target, so maybe he connects with Carr deep down the field? That’s what we have to hope for considering he’s go what seems like a four-target ceiling. For what it’s worth, no receiver who’s played the Falcons and seen fewer than five targets has finished as a top-50 option. If you’re playing Ruggs, you’re doing it because you know how great the matchup is and you’re willing to take the risk. You’re going to need a major offensive philosophy change for that upside to happen. He’s just a boom-or-bust WR5.
Nelson Agholor: He’s leading all wide receivers in efficiency, averaging 2.74 PPR points per target. Naturally, the Raiders have targeted him just 38 times on the year. The difference between him and Ruggs is that he’s actually had two games with good volume, including last week when he saw nine targets against the Chiefs. Now going into a matchup with the Falcons, it could be another big one. They’ve seen a remarkable 22.1 wide receiver targets per game, which is much more than the 13.0 per game the Raiders are averaging. The Falcons have also allowed 210.8 yards per game to wide receivers alone, which ranks as the second-most in the league. There have already been 17 wide receivers who’ve posted 11.2 or more PPR points against them this year, which is the average number it took to finish as a top-36 wide receiver last year. Seeing the 29.3-point team implied total, you’re hoping Agholor gets a piece of that action in this great matchup. He should be considered a WR4 with upside this week, though you’re likely sacrificing a floor to put him in lineups.
Julio Jones: It’s not looking good for Jones suiting up in Week 12, as he suffered a hamstring injury in Week 11 that had him out of the lineup for a majority of the game, and even when he tried to return to the game, he re-injured it. Considering he’s had hamstring injuries at multiple times throughout the year, I don’t expect him to play this week.
Calvin Ridley: The loss of Julio Jones certainly hurts the Falcons offense, but if there’s someone who gains a bit of value, it’s Ridley. He’s going to be in line for double-digit targets if Jones sits, which is huge against a Raiders secondary that’s allowed a rock-solid 8.66 yards per target to the wide receiver position. There have been five different wide receivers who’ve been able to rack up 100-plus yards against that secondary. Damon Arnette, the cornerback the Raiders took in the first round in this year’s draft, has allowed 2.34 PPR points per target in his coverage, which is more than all but eight cornerbacks. Receivers have only seen a 53.8 percent target share against the Raiders, which is tied for the third-lowest mark in the league, but the Falcons have targeted their wide receivers 64.9 percent of the time. Ridley can beat every player in this secondary and is likely a lock for eight-plus targets. Here are the games in his career where he’s hit that number. Go ahead and start him as your WR1.
Darren Waller: There’s Travis Kelce… then there’s Darren Waller… then there’s everyone else. Waller might not have the ceiling of Kelce, but his floor is mighty close. Waller has produced at least 7.0 PPR points in 24-of-26 games dating back to the start of last year. While that may not seem like much if you own Waller, you need to try and stream for a couple weeks. If you are buying into the fact that the Raiders are likely to throw the ball 40-plus times in this game, you should absolutely love Waller, as he’s received a 27.8 percent target share this year, which is easily the most among tight ends (Travis Kelce is at 23.8 percent). On top of that, he leads the NFL with 17 red zone targets, which account for 35.4 percent of the Raiders’ red zone targets. Despite tight ends being targeted just 6.8 times per game against the Falcons, they’ve generated 5.7 receptions, 62.2 yards, and 0.8 touchdowns per game, which are all near the top of the league. Remember how bad the Cardinals were against tight ends last year? They allowed 2.39 PPR points per target to them. The Falcons have played 10-of-16 games and have allowed 2.46 PPR points per target to them. Yeah, this matchup is extremely good. Waller just might beat out Kelce this week.
Hayden Hurst: Just when it felt like Hurst was becoming one of the top-tier tight ends, he goes out and posts his third game of the season with fewer than 10 yards. I’m not sure what happened for him to get just two targets on the day, but we must consider it a blip on the radar considering he’d seen at least six targets in five of the last six games. He’d also finished as a top-14 tight end in six of his previous eight games, which is consistency that’s hard to find at the tight end position. One thing I’d like to note, and it could be a coincidence, but all three games Hurst finished with fewer than 10 yards came with Julio Jones out of the lineup for all/most of the game. It’s incredible how Jones opens things up for everyone else. The Raiders have allowed two massive games to Travis Kelce, a solid game to Rob Gronkowski, and nothing to anyone else, which include seven-target games to Hunter Henry and Noah Fant (neither of them topped 33 yards). Despite Kelce ruining their day twice, they’ve still allowed just 1.58 PPR points per target to tight ends, which ranks as the sixth-fewest in football. Football Outsiders have them listed as the third-toughest matchup for tight ends in their DVOA metric. Hurst isn’t likely to put up a dud again, but this matchup isn’t a great one. He’s just a low-end TE1 for this game. *Update* Hurst is listed as questionable for this game after not practicing for much of the week. It’s something you need to pay attention to on Sunday morning.
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
Spread: Rams -6.5
49ers vs. Rams Betting Matchup
|Player||Comp %||Yards/Att||TD||INT||QB Rating|
If you ever contemplated Garoppolo as a streamer, then you should be considering Mullens, though that’s probably not a good idea this week, as the Rams are arguably the best defense in the league. Despite facing 36.1 pass attempts per game (10th-most), the Rams have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Mullens isn’t mobile, so let’s just look at the fantasy production through the air alone against the Rams. They’ve allowed just 0.339 fantasy points per actual pass attempt, which ranks as the lowest mark in football, while the closest team (Bears) have allowed 0.393 points per attempt. That’s a remarkable 13.7 percent gap. They’re good. The crazy part is that Garoppolo is the one of just two quarterbacks who had a good game against them this year, throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Does Kyle Shanahan have their number? I’m not willing to recommend Mullens to find out.
Jared Goff: After throwing just 10 touchdowns in his previous seven games, Goff goes off and throws for 376 yards and three touchdowns against a Bucs defense that was one of the best in the league coming into that game. Goff has now thrown for 300-plus yards in three straight games, though the matchup in Week 12 is a rematch of the game he threw for a season-low 198 yards back in Week 6. The 49ers pass defense isn’t the one it used to be, but it’s worth noting that just two quarterbacks have averaged more than 7.05 yards per attempt against them this year. There have been five quarterbacks who’ve finished top-12 against them, but two of them did solely because of their rushing totals, something we don’t get out of Goff. Since the start of last year, Goff has played them three times, completing just 59-of-108 attempts (54.6 percent) for 599 yards (5.55 yards per attempt) with four touchdowns and two interceptions. The 49ers have seen just 31.4 pass attempts per game against them, so volume seems to be out of the question, too. The 219.6 passing yards per game they’ve allowed ranks as the second-fewest to only Washington. I wouldn’t be pushing my luck with Goff this week.
Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Jerick McKinnon: It’s going to be odd to have all three of these running backs back on the field, but that’s what we should be expecting in Week 12. Unfortunately, we have zero clue about how Kyle Shanahan will use them. Mostert was the surefire starter through the four games he did play, but do his touches get dialed back now that multiple injuries have happened? Shanahan has always had an affinity for Coleman despite his inefficiency. And while McKinnon has played well in spurts, they clearly don’t want him in the primary ball carrying role. This isn’t a great matchup for timeshares, as the Rams have faced just 24.4 running back touches per week. Here are the 49ers running back touches against them over the last three games:
|2020 – W6||19||DNP||17|
|2019 – W16||11||5||17|
|2019 – W6||4||20||0|
There’s not a whole lot to take from that, as the only trend you can spot is that Mostert’s role has grown. In that Week 6 matchup this year, they all combined for 120 yards on 32 carries (3.75 yards per carry) while chipping in with another four receptions for 21 yards. That’s a lot of volume but not a lot of production, which has been the case for most running backs as the Rams are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per weighted opportunity. Provided Mostert returns, he should be the top play, but he’d be stuck in the high-end RB3 territory as someone who may be eased back in. Coleman’s inefficiency combined with the Rams efficiency amounts to almost zero upside, so he’s not a recommended option. McKinnon is a better play than Coleman, but we haven’t seen him get many touches with Mostert and Coleman in the lineup, which makes him a hail-mary RB4-type option who you hope gets it done through the air. *Update* Coleman has been ruled out, while Mostert is still considered 50/50 to play. If Mostert plays, you plug him in as a low-end RB2/high-end RB3, while McKinnon becomes a usable high-end RB4. If Mostert sits, McKinnon is a decent low-end RB2/high-end RB3.
Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, and Cam Akers: Whew boy. It seems like Sean McVay has made good on his promise to model his run game after Kyle Shanahan. We now have a three-man timeshare where none of them have finished with more than 10 touches in either of the last two games. Even worse, there are just five teams in the NFL who’ve held running backs to 3.50 or less yards per carry this season, and the 49ers are one of them. The 49ers are also one of five teams who’ve allowed less than 10.0 fantasy points per game on the ground to running backs. Running backs have combined to touch the ball just 24.9 times per game against them, which doesn’t bode well for a three-way timeshare. There hasn’t been a game this year where the 49ers have allowed more than 96 yards on the ground to an entire team of running backs. They’ve been less efficient through the air as a defense, but even when you add the receiving production in, they’ve allowed just 110.1 total yards per game to running backs. While Henderson looks better than the others, he’s totaled just 15 carries over the last two games combined, so when you look at his limited involvement in the passing game, there’s no way you can start him with confidence as anything more than a back-end RB3/high-end RB4. Brown is the primary receiving back but with Akers’ involvement as of late, Brown has totaled just 12 touches over the last two weeks and is just a low-ceiling/low-floor RB4. Akers’ role is growing but he’s played just 30 snaps over the last two games combined. He’s just a touchdown-or-bust RB4/5 option, and not a great one in this matchup.
Deebo Samuel: We thought he might come back before their bye, but they played it safe and held him out. As long as he practices in full at some point this week, we should feel confident he’ll be playing a full-time role in this offense. The last time they played the Rams, he had one of the best games any wide receiver has against them, racking up six catches for 66 yards and a touchdown, though if you recall, he totaled 98 yards AFTER the catch in that game. How is that possible? His average depth of target was 5.3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Odd, I know. But give them credit for finding a way to get the ball into his hands. That’s basically the only thing they’re below average against, is allowing a 64.9 percent completion-rate to receivers, though those receptions go for a league-low 10.68 yards a pop. Unfortunately, the Rams are also the only team in the NFL who’s allowed negative yards on wide receiver carries. Seriously, they’ve faced nine carries by wide receivers, but those have netted -1 yard. You’re best off playing it safe and waiting to see Samuel play a full game before putting him back in lineups, as he’s just a risky WR4 option this week.
Brandon Aiyuk: He’s become a mainstay in this offense, racking up 31 targets over the last three games, or 10.3 per game, which ranked seventh among wide receivers from Week 7 through Week 10. However, with Samuel and the running backs due back to the lineup, he’ll take a hit in the target department. It also needs to be noted that he contracted COVID and may not be able to play in this game. If he does play, the matchup isn’t one to get excited about, as the Rams have allowed the fewest points per game to wide receivers, and it’s not even volume. The 1.53 PPR points per target they’ve allowed ranks as the second-lowest number in the NFL. The last time these two teams met, Aiyuk only saw three targets and turned them into two catches for 12 yards, though one was for a touchdown. That was one of just six touchdowns the Rams have allowed to wide receivers all year. Aiyuk is almost strictly a perimeter player, which means he’ll see nothing but Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams, who’ve both played at a Pro Bowl level this year. Do yourself a favor and just prepare without Aiyuk available for this game, as there’ll be better days ahead. *Update* He’s not expected to play in this game, as he’s still on the COVID list.
Robert Woods: Sure, Woods sees in-between 5-8 targets in 8-of-9 games coming into Week 11 against the Bucs, but then suddenly gets targeted 15 times. Sometimes you just have to accept the volatility of the NFL and move on. Woods now has seven touchdowns on the season, which ties a career high. There have been times where McVay changes the offensive plan mid-season and you wonder if that happened a few weeks back, as Goff is throwing the ball a lot more over the last month. Unfortunately, Woods did see 10 targets against the 49ers the last time they played, though they only netted four catches for 29 yards, but he did sneak in a touchdown to salvage his fantasy day. There have been rumors that the 49ers might get Richard Sherman back from injury this week, though Jason Verrett has done a great job in his place, allowing just 16-of-25 passing for 162 yards and one touchdown. Whichever one plays, that’s who Woods will see about 40-45 percent of the time, but the Rams have done a great job moving him around to get him better matchups. With the increased passing volume, the arrow is pointing up for Woods, even if this matchup isn’t all great. Consider him a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 who comes with a solid floor.
Cooper Kupp: It was great to see the Rams exploit the best matchup on the field last week, getting the ball in Kupp’s hands 11 times for 145 yards. It’s so great when coaches actually use mismatches to their advantage. Is Week 12 another one of those games? It should be considering the 49ers are missing their starting slot cornerback K’Waun Williams, who suffered a bad ankle sprain. In steps Jamar Taylor, a slot cornerback who’s been on six different teams in the last four years. He’s had limited playing time with the 49ers, allowing 14-of-20 passing for 185 yards in his coverage. We have a large 300-plus target sample size with him in coverage that shows he’s allowed 9.30 yards per target in his career. When you think about the fact that Richard Sherman is likely coming back, the perimeter matchup against him and the combination of Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley, the slot is where they should be attacking. Kupp only finished with 3/11/0 in their first meeting, but he lost a bomb that would’ve gone for a touchdown in the lights, and then he dropped a touchdown later in the game, so it should’ve looked a lot different. Keep plugging him in as a WR2.
Jordan Reed: Back in a full-time role before their bye, Reed hauled in 5-of-6 targets for 62 yards against the Saints. In three full games without Kittle in the lineup, he’s posted lines of 7/50/2, 2/23/0, and 5/62/0. I understand having worries about playing him every week due to his health concerns, but while he’s healthy, he’s playable. The Rams cornerback trio has been arguably the best in the NFL, which will certainly limit the appeal of the 49ers receivers, and why tight ends have accounted for 20.6 percent of the production to skill-position players against them, which ranks as the fifth-highest number in the league. It helps that opponents have also given their tight ends a 23.8 percent target share (2nd-most in NFL) against them, so you’d think Reed should come with a solid floor. The issue is that those percentages are on small numbers overall. On the season, there have been just two tight ends who’ve finished with 10-plus PPR points against them, so it’s not like this is a smash spot or anything. One of the tight ends who did do well against them was George Kittle, who caught 7-of-10 targets for 109 yards and a touchdown. Obviously, Reed isn’t Kittle, but it helps to know that Kittle’s done well against the Rams every time they play. Seriously, they’ve had no answer, as he’s totaled at least 79 yards in each of their last six meetings. In a world where surefire tight ends are hard to find, Reed can be considered as a high-end TE2 this week.
Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett: The Rams are moving back to more 2TE sets, as Higbee was on the field for 52-of-72 snaps Monday night while Everett was out there on 41 snaps. They’ve combined to run 86 routes over the last two weeks and have seen 31 targets the last three weeks, which is more than enough to be considered, though they’re kind of canceling each other’s upside out. Tight ends have combined to average just 3.4 receptions and 32.9 yards per game against the 49ers, which puts a damper on our parade. It’s not like touchdowns have helped make up for the lack of yardage, either, as they’ve allowed just two tight end touchdowns this year. However, if we go back to the Week 6 meeting between these two teams, Higbee finished with 3/56/0 on four targets while Everett totaled 3/27/0 on four targets, so the Rams didn’t shy away from targeting their tight ends in that game. Still, it’s a tad worrisome that the 3/56/0 performance by Higbee in that game was the second-best tight end performance against them all season. They’re both hanging out in the mid-to-low-end TE2 conversation in this tough matchup, with Higbee getting the nod as he’s the only one who’s been targeted inside the 10-yard-line (twice).