The Primer: Week 13 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings
Spread: Vikings -9.5
Jaguars vs. Vikings Betting Matchup
Mike Glennon: His first game as the starter for the Jaguars wasn’t nearly as bad as we expected. It seems that he may be competent enough to at least consider his receivers in a plus matchup. The Browns were without their best pass-rusher Myles Garrett, but still, Glennon completed 20 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns while missing his best receiver, D.J. Chark. Are the Vikings bad enough to trust Glennon? Well, there have been six quarterbacks who’ve finished with 18.6-plus fantasy points against them, but there are five others who’ve finished with fewer than 14.0 fantasy points, so it’s been kind of a hit-or-miss matchup. Here are the quarterbacks they’ve allowed big performances to: Aaron Rodgers (twice), Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Andy Dalton. While the Dalton one is odd, you can see a trend in the competition. When all is said and done, quarterbacks playing the Vikings have actually averaged 0.8 fewer fantasy points than their season-long average, so it’s a below-average matchup despite them allowing the 13th-most fantasy points per game to the position. When you go to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, they have the Vikings as the 12th-toughest against the pass. I’m not confident saying Glennon should be considered outside of the back-end QB2 range.
Kirk Cousins: I mentioned it last week, but after another great performance, it bears repeating. Cousins ranks second in yards per attempt and third in touchdown percentage this season. Based on passing alone, he’s averaged 0.600 fantasy points per pass attempt, which is behind only Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson. The reason you don’t consider him a great fantasy option is due to the fact that he’s thrown the ball more than 30 times just four times all year. What you need to play him is competence on the other side of the field. The Panthers put points on the board, so Cousins racked up 45 attempts last week. The Jaguars offense haven’t generated more than 25 points in eight of their last nine games, so it seems somewhat unlikely, but there are glimpses of hope. While Cousins has only averaged 60.2 plays per game, the Jaguars opponents have averaged 65.5, which should allow for a bit more production overall out of this Vikings offense. The Jaguars have also allowed 103.7 fantasy points per game to their opponents, which is the second-most in the NFL, behind only the Seahawks. Many will say the Jaguars are a cakewalk matchup and that the Vikings won’t have to throw much, but why have the Jaguars allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this year? I mean, they’ve struggled to be competitive all year, right? When you take Cousins’ massive 8.65 yards per attempt and mix it with the league-high 8.29 yards per attempt the Jaguars are allowing, and you have what should be a very efficient day for Cousins. Oh, and they’ve generated a sack on just 2.84 percent of dropbacks, the second-lowest mark in football. The Vikings can really pick their poison, as the Jaguars have allowed the second-most fantasy points per offensive snap this year, behind only the Falcons. Oddsmakers opened this game with a 30.8-point team-implied total, which bodes well for all Vikings players. Cousins makes sense as a high-floor QB2 streaming option, but you run the risk of 25 pass attempts with the lack of competition on the other side of the ball. For what it’s worth, Cousins has been a seven-plus point favorite in five games over the last two years, and in those games, he’s averaged 0.6 more fantasy points than he does in all other games.
James Robinson: It’s remarkable what Robinson’s been able to accomplish this season, especially considering the Jaguars offensive line is creating just 1.08 yards before contact, which ranks as the second-worst number in the NFL to only the Bears. It’s pretty crazy; Robinson leads the league with 81.8 percent of his team’s red zone carries, but his 27 red zone carries rank 12th among running backs. This team just isn’t in scoring position very often. Then you add in this little tidbit: Of the carries their opponents have had inside the five-yard line, the Vikings have allowed a touchdown on a league-low 25 percent of them. It’ll be interesting to see if Robinson gets any carries in that area of the field, because the Jaguars are the only team to convert all of their carries (there’s only been four) inside the five-yard line into touchdowns. The good news is that running backs have averaged a robust 28.7 touches per game against the Vikings, so despite ranking as the fifth-toughest defense against running backs in efficiency, we should be able to count on 20-plus touches out of Robinson. Here are the six running backs who’ve totaled 20-plus touches against the Vikings this year:
|Player||Finish||Touches||Total Yards||Touchdowns||PPR Pts|
So, five top-14 running backs with just one (Todd Gurley) finishing with fewer than 16.2 PPR points. You’re starting Robinson as a low-end RB1 almost every week, and though this matchup isn’t great, you shouldn’t be fading him.
Dalvin Cook: He went down with what looked like a serious injury last week, but after missing a handful of plays, he returned. It’s something to monitor as the week goes on, but for now, we’ll assume he’s good to go. Here’s an odd stat I found while researching this game: Cook has accounted for just 58.1 percent of the Vikings’ red zone rushing attempts. That’s just the ninth-highest mark among running backs. We watched Nick Chubb rack up 144 yards on the ground against this Jaguars defense last week, which doesn’t quite hit the 150-yard plateau that Cook has established this year. Fun fact: Cook has three 150-yard rushing games this year, while the rest of the NFL has seven of them. He’s now broken 50 tackles on the ground, which is the most in the NFL, and that’s despite missing some time. Even though the Jaguars have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, running backs have been getting theirs as well, averaging the fifth-most points per game. The Jaguars opponents run the ball 46.1 percent of the time bodes well for Cook, as the Vikings run the ball 48.5 percent of the time. The Vikings average 30.8 running back touches per game while the Jaguars see 29.9 running back touches per game. We could be looking at another 25-touch game for Cook against the team that allows the sixth-most fantasy points per weighted opportunity. Oddsmakers have opened this game with a 30.5-point team-implied total, which bodes well for all Vikings players, especially Cook. He’s a smash-play in both redraft and DFS cash games, as he’s now seen 13 targets over the last three weeks, raising that floor you need when paying top-dollar.
D.J. Chark: He was ruled out early last week, so there’s no guarantee he plays through his rib injury this week, so stay tuned for updates to his status. Of the fantasy production the Vikings have allowed to skill-position players, wide receivers have accounted for 55.4 percent of it, which is the fourth-highest percentage in the NFL. They have allowed 18 wide receiver touchdowns on the season, which ranks as the second-most in football. Only the Cowboys have allowed touchdowns more often than the one every 12.6 targets that the Vikings do. The 2.03 PPR points per target they’ve allowed ranks second again to only the Cowboys. There have been 20 wide receivers who’ve finished as the WR41 or better against the Vikings, including nine top-16 receivers. We don’t know what Chark looks like with Glennon, but Collin Johnson made it look pretty good. If Chark is able to play this week, he belongs in the high-end WR3 conversation with top-15 upside.
Keelan Cole: Despite Chark and Chris Conley being out, Cole was unable to get much going against the Browns last week, finishing with 3/44/0 on six targets. To be fair, we shouldn’t be expecting a whole lot out of Cole considering he’s topped 58 yards just once all season. He’s more of a floor option than one you’re playing to get a ceiling out of. The Vikings have allowed 2.03 PPR points per target, which is tied for the second-most in the league, so him seeing at least five targets in 9-of-11 games this year is somewhat of a big deal. The Vikings have rookie Jeff Gladney covering the slot, and he’s been… well, like a rookie, allowing 30-of-48 passing for 364 yards and five touchdowns in his slot coverage. If you want to play Cole as a high-floor WR5 type option, that’s fine, but understand he’s had a very limited ceiling this year despite seeing solid targets.
Adam Thielen: There were seemingly mixed results on Thielen’s tests for COVID, so I’m guessing he was asymptomatic, which means he has to be out just five days. Because of that, he should be able to get cleared by the time this game happens but stay tuned for updates. Through 11 games, the Jaguars have allowed 14 different wide receivers finish with 14.5-plus PPR points, which is the average number it took to finish as a top-24 wide receiver in 2019. Only the Cowboys and Seahawks have allowed more. Keep in mind that’s with their cornerbacks healthy for most of the year. Last week, they were down their top two starting cornerbacks, and because of that, the Browns receivers combined for 12/189/1 against them. C.J. Henderson is on IR for at least one more week, so he’s out, while Sidney Jones can potentially return, though he’s dealing with an Achilles injury. Whatever the case, Thielen is set up for a big day if he returns to the lineup, though this is starting to look more and more like a 1A/1B situation with him and Jefferson. Provided he’s cleared, Thielen should be started as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2.
Justin Jefferson: Coming into Week 12, he led the NFL averaging 3.16 yards per route run. Oddly enough, he went down to 2.91 after his Week 12 performance. Still, there are just three receivers who’ve averaged more than 2.48 yards in that category and their names are Davante Adams and Julio Jones. Jefferson is a legit stud. He’s tied with Tyreek Hill for the league with 12 receptions that have gone for 20-plus yards. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have allowed 39 pass plays of 20-plus yards, which ranks as the sixth-most in football. Targets haven’t always been the easiest thing to come by for Jefferson in this run-first offense, so it helps to know the Jaguars have allowed 9.32 yards per target to wide receivers, which ranks second to only the Falcons. As mentioned in the Thielen notes, the Jaguars were without both starting cornerbacks last week, and they’re not a team with good cornerback depth. C.J. Henderson will remain out, while Sidney Jones will likely be questionable. Their replacements Luq Barcoo and Josiah Scott combined to allow 8-of-10 passing for 111 yards and a touchdown in their coverage. Jefferson is someone you’re playing as a WR2 every week at this point, as he’s a budding superstar who might have just as much value as Thielen moving forward.
Tyler Eifert: The good news is that he scored a touchdown in a great matchup last week. The bad news is that he split the targets with James O’Shaughnessy and finished with just 16 yards. He has seen 18 targets over the last four weeks, so he’s not the worst option for desperate fantasy managers looking for a streamer, though he doesn’t offer much of a ceiling (hasn’t topped 48 yards all year). The Vikings have allowed a league-high 9.03 yards per target, but teams haven’t felt it necessary to pepper them with targets, as they’ve averaged just 5.9 targets per game. But again, with the efficiency they’ve had, we’ve seen six tight ends finish with 11-plus PPR points against them. It’s worth noting that five of those tight ends saw at least six targets, a mark that Eifert has hit three times this season, but all those games came over the first five weeks of the season. If you’re in a league that starts two tight ends, Eifert can be played as a top-24 option at the position, but his lack of ceiling doesn’t make him a very enticing streamer in standard leagues.
Kyle Rudolph and
Irv Smith Jr: We’ve gone over this plenty of times throughout the year, but when both of these tight ends are active, it’s going to be tough to trust them. With Thielen out, it became a bit more intriguing. When Smith was ruled out, Rudolph became a legitimate streamer. To be fair, we didn’t know Cousins would throw the ball 45 times, but after watching Rudolph see eight targets, he’s on everyone’s radar. If there’s a matchup to play borderline tight ends, it’s this one against the Jaguars, as they’ve allowed a league-leading 2.33 PPR points per target to tight ends. You need to monitor the status of both Thielen and Smith, as both would cannibalize some of the role that we have with Rudolph. Tight ends have averaged just 6.2 targets per game against the Jaguars, which ranks as the ninth-fewest in the league, while the Vikings have targeted their tight ends just 5.7 times per game. Are you starting to see why it’s going to be difficult to trust Rudolph with Smith in the lineup? If Smith misses, Rudolph would be a low-end TE1. If both play, they’re both stuck in the TE2 territory as touchdown-or-bust options. *Update* Smith has been ruled OUT, making Rudolph a solid streamer.
Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins
Spread: Dolphins -11.5
Bengals vs. Dolphins Betting Matchup
Brandon Allen: As my co-host (Dan Harris) on the FantasyPros Football Podcast said, “What did the Bengals see during their practices that made them say this (Allen) was the best option? Like, how bad was Finley?” It’s a bad situation out there in Cincinnati, as Joe Burrow masked a lot of issues on this team. Allen averaged just 4.7 yards per attempt against a Giants team that had allowed a rock-solid 7.62 yards per attempt coming into that game. He’s now going into a matchup with the defense that’s allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per actual pass attempt this year. The only team that’s allowed fewer points per game (18.6) than the Dolphins defense this year is the Steelers. There’s no reason to consider Allen as a streamer, even in Superflex formats.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: We found out late in the week that Tua Tagovailoa would miss the game against the Jets and that it could be a multi-week absence, giving Fitzpatrick a new lease on life. He took advantage of the plus-matchup last week, compiling 257 yards and two touchdowns against the Jets poor secondary. The good news for him and all the pass catchers is that the Dolphins clearly trust him to throw the ball. He’s averaged 33.7 pass attempts in his starts while Tagovailoa has averaged just 25.0 attempts per game in his three full starts (removing Week 11 where he was benched). The Bengals generate a sack on just 3.23 percent of dropbacks, which ranks as the fourth-lowest percentage in the league, and they’ve only gotten worse at generating pressure after trading away Carlos Dunlap. Still, they’ve somehow allowed 20 points or less to three of their last four opponents, allowing 244 or less passing yards in each of them. The one quarterback who did eclipse that mark was Ben Roethlisberger, who threw the ball 46 times that amounted to 333 yards and four touchdowns. What Fitzpatrick has going for him is that the Dolphins really don’t have a 100 percent healthy running back on the roster, which should lead to more pass attempts for Fitzpatrick against a Bengals secondary that’s allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per actual pass attempt. The only quarterback who’s thrown more than 30 pass attempts against the Bengals and failed to finish with at least 20.9 fantasy points was Lamar Jackson when he completed just 19-of-37 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for a season-low three yards. If you want to stream Fitzpatrick, who’s finished with at least 16 fantasy points in 11 of his last 13 starts, including 20.5-plus points in nine of them, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. In fact, I think he’s a fine high-end QB2 for this game. *Update* Brian Flores isn’t going to announce the starter until Sunday, so pay attention, as it could be Tagovailoa.
Giovani Bernard: Bernard has 65 carries on the season, and he finally cracked his first 15-yard run last week. It went for… exactly 15 yards. We’ve watched his opportunity dwindle over the last few weeks, as he’s totaled just 12, 13, and 10 touches over the last three games. He has totaled 63.5 percent of the team’s opportunities in that time, but there just aren’t a lot of touches to go around. There have been two games he’s finished better than the RB20 this year, and he totaled 18 touches in each of those two games, opportunity that feels long gone. He also isn’t part of a high-scoring team with Brandon Allen under center. The Dolphins have allowed 4.53 yards per carry and 6.25 yards per target, which are both well above the league average, though they’ve allowed just the 16th-most fantasy points per game to running backs. The reason? They’ve allowed a running back touchdown once every 30.1 touches, which is obviously not great for a guy like Bernard who’s scored just four times on 99 touches this season. Oddly enough, a league-high 67 percent of carries inside the five-yard line have resulted as touchdowns against the Dolphins. Unfortunately, there haven’t been many carries in that area against them. The Bengals have just a 15.8-point team-implied total in this game, so don’t go attacking this game with Bernard, who’s now down in the low-end RB3 territory.
Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed: Both these running backs were ruled out late in the week, so I’m guessing they both have a shot to play this week, though Gaskin seems like the safer bet. He’s also the one who’ll likely have the bigger role, so he’s the one we really care about. The Bengals have allowed ball carriers 2.46 yards before contact this year, which ranks as the third-most in football. That’s led to them allowing a massive 5.07 yards per carry, which ranks as the second-highest mark in football. It’A also good to know that Gaskin has averaged a team-high 2.58 yards after contact. Running backs haven’t been targeted much against the Bengals, receiving just a 15.5 percent target share, which ranks as the third-lowest in football. Because of that, they’ve averaged just 7.1 PPR points per game through the air, which ranks as the fourth-lowest mark in football. There have been nine running backs who’ve totaled at least 16 touches against the Bengals, and each one of them were able to total at least 87 total yards, while five of them were able to find the end zone. Gaskin had totaled at least 21 touches in each of the last three games he played, and it seems like the Dolphins wanted to hold him out until he was 100 percent, so if he’s active, he should probably be in lineups as a high-end RB3 because he does come with a little bit of risk as a running back coming off a multi-week injury. As for Ahmed, he’d likely fall into the 5-10 touch range, though Matt Breida has been used in some sort of role throughout the year, so we really don’t know what the split would look like. *Update* Ahmed and DeAndre Washington have been listed as doubtful, so Gaskin should return to his full workload for this game. He’s a decent low-end RB2 this week.
Tyler Boyd: The good news is that we were right about Boyd still being the focal point of the offense, gathering a team-high six targets, but efficiency was gone. He caught just three of those targets for a measly 15 yards in Allen’s first start of the season. It could’ve been just one bad game against a tough defense, but it was not a great start to the Burrow-less Bengals. Wide receivers have received a massive 64.2 percent target share against the Dolphins, which ranks as the second-highest number in the NFL, behind only the Seahawks. Unfortunately, wide receivers have only accounted for 52.7 percent of the fantasy production by skill-position players against them, which ranks as the ninth-highest number. It just highlights that wide receivers haven’t been efficient against them despite seeing plenty of targets. The 1.61 PPR points per target ranks as the fourth-fewest in the NFL, behind only the Rams, Bears, and Ravens. The lone positive for Boyd is that Nik Needham is likely the least talented cornerback on the Dolphins roster, but he’s still played fairly well this year, allowing just 28/297/0 on 42 targets in coverage. The only team who aggressively targeted their slot receiver was the Rams back in Week 8 when Cooper Kupp saw 21 targets that netted 11 receptions for 110 yards. We aren’t going to see that for Boyd, but he should continue to lead the team in targets. He’s just a low-end WR3/high-end WR4 with Allen under center.
Tee Higgins: Some might walk away from Week 12 thinking, “hey, this won’t be too bad for Higgins,” after he totaled five catches for 44 yards and a touchdown against the Giants, but if you were to stop the game with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, he had just three catches for 25 yards and no touchdown. Believe me when I say that he’ll need more than five targets per game to be productive with Allen under center. Against the Dolphins, there should be targets up for grabs. They’ve faced a healthy 22.5 targets per game to wide receivers, which ranks as the third-most in the league, but you have to wonder why teams target them so much because when they’ve been targeted, they’ve averaged just 1.61 PPR points per target, which ranks as the fourth-lowest mark in the league. They’ve also allowed a league-low 59.0 percent catch-rate to them. Despite seeing all those targets, there have been just nine wide receivers who’ve totaled more than 70 yards against them this year. They’ve allowed a touchdown every 30.9 targets to wide receivers, which ranks as the third-least often in the NFL, so it may not be wise to expect a bailout touchdown from Higgins this week. He should be considered a high-end WR4 who has a tough matchup with the combination of Xavien Howard and Byron Jones.
DeVante Parker: Once we found out that Fitzpatrick was starting last week, Parker should’ve been locked into starting lineups. He saw a season-high 14 targets that netted 8/119/0 against the dreadful Jets secondary. The Dolphins trust Fitzpatrick to throw a lot more than they do Tagovailoa, so you don’t have to panic so much about his efficiency. The matchup against the Bengals certainly isn’t a bad one, as they’ve allowed the 13th-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers, including a solid 1.88 PPR points per target. We are likely to see a bit of a shadow matchup with William Jackson, who’s been a bit hit-or-miss in coverage this year while allowing just a 56 percent catch-rate, but when he does allow a completion, it goes for 14.8 yards a pop. He’s also allowed a touchdown every 16.7 targets, which is hardly shutdown material. Of the 19 wide receivers who’ve seen six-plus targets against the Bengals, 16 of them have finished as the WR38 or better, which presents a great floor for Parker. 10 of those receivers finished as the WR20 or better, providing with him with a ceiling as well. He should be in lineups as a low-end WR2 who has a WR3-type floor with Fitzpatrick under center.
Drew Sample: He saw five targets in Brandon Allen‘s first start, which accounted for a solid 17.2 percent target share. It was just the fourth time this year where Sample has seen five-plus targets, so he’s not completely off the map, but rather someone who comes with a high degree of variance. It should be noted that he’s totaled at least 40 yards in each of those four games. The Dolphins are not a team to attack with borderline streamers, though. There’s been just one tight end all season who’s reached double-digit PPR points against them, and it was Hunter Henry who totaled just 30 yards… but he scored a touchdown. Just one tight end has topped 44 yards against them all year, and it was Noah Fant with 55 of them. Sample isn’t someone you should be looking to stream this week.
Mike Gesicki: It’s kind of frustrating playing Gesicki this year, as both Adam Shaheen and Durham Smythe have been thorns in our sides. Those two combined for as many targets (5) as Gesicki last week. On the year, they’ve combined for five touchdowns, while Gesicki himself has three of them. Gesicki does lead all tight ends with an 11.1-yard average depth of target. Just two other tight ends have an average depth of target over 9.8 yards, so theoretically, his targets should be worth more than the average target to tight ends. The Bengals have faced a tight end target 23.3 percent of the time, which ranks as the fourth-most in the NFL. Those targets have been worthwhile too, as they’ve allowed a league-high 65.3 yards per game to tight ends. The Bengals are one of four teams in the league who’ve allowed four 15-plus point performances to tight ends. Even lowering the bar a bit, there have been seven tight ends who’ve cracked 10.6 PPR points, which is the average number of points it took to finish as a top-12 tight end last year. Even factoring the level of competition they’ve played, they rank as the eighth-best matchup for tight ends. Gesicki doesn’t have the guaranteed targets that most tight ends inside the top-10 do, but he’s close. Consider him a low-end TE1 for this week’s game who comes with some upside if he gets the end zone targets instead of Shaheen and Smythe.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Spread: Colts -3
Colts vs. Texans Betting Matchup
Philip Rivers: He had another solid fantasy outing in Week 12 and has now scored at least 16.3 fantasy points in five of his last six games, with the lone exception coming in an obvious bad game against the Ravens. This week isn’t one of those obvious bad games, but rather an obvious good one. The Texans are a team to attack in fantasy matchups, as they’ve allowed a massive 102.3 PPR points per game to their opponents, which ranks as the fourth-most in the NFL. They also just lost their best cornerback for the season, as Bradley Roby was suspended for six games. Even with Roby on the field, the Texans had been allowing a 68.0 percent completion-rate, 7.83 yards per attempt, and a 5.3 percent touchdown-rate, which are all well above the league average. They’ve also allowed opponents 27.0 points per game, which ranks as the 10th-most and explains the 28-point team-implied total that the Colts have for this game. It helps to know that the Texans have intercepted a league-low three passes all year, or one every 126.0 pass attempts, so Rivers might be able to take more chances. For what it’s worth, the Texans did play one game without Roby earlier this season, and let’s just say it was great for Rivers’ prospects in this game, as Jake Luton was able to throw for 304 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL start. We all know what happened after that. Rivers comes with the risk of the ground game stealing a lot of production, but he’s delivered solid enough numbers as of late to consider as a middling QB2.
Deshaun Watson: All Watson has done this season is take advantage of good matchups when they present themselves. He had a brutal start to his schedule against the Chiefs, Ravens, and Steelers, but since that time, he’s posted 20.9-plus fantasy points in 7-of-8 games, with the only exception being that game in Cleveland where they were playing through rain and wind. He’s also thrown for 300-plus yards in six of his last eight games. What’s crazy is that he’s posted those numbers while failing to throw 40 passes in any one game. There’s bad news, however. Watson will be without Will Fuller for the remainder year after he was suspended for using a banned substance. Here are the splits from Watson’s career with and without Fuller in the lineup:
This is obviously not a good thing, and keep in mind that all 16 of those games without him, he had DeAndre Hopkins. He also runs into a tough test in Week 13. The Colts defense may have slipped against Derrick Henry last week, but they were shorthanded. On the year, they’re still one of just six teams who’ve allowed less than 80 PPR points per game to opposing offenses. They’ve allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per game (14.77) to quarterbacks on the year, which is a combination of everything, really. Volume (31.4 attempts per game), efficiency (0.423 fantasy points per actual pass attempt), and lack of rushing production. They aren’t untouchable, as we’ve seen Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, and Gardner Minshew each throw three touchdowns against them, but they also weren’t without their best wide receivers for those games like Watson will be. The Texans are still projected for 25 points, so not all hope is gone, but it’s possible we’ve lost the ceiling he’s flashed throughout the year. Consider him a mid-to-low-end QB1 this week who should be left out of DFS lineups.
Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines: The Colts are supposed to get Taylor back this week, which is something they seem to need more than they know. With him out, Hines and Jordan Wilkins combined for just 51 yards on 16 carries against the Titans, though it didn’t help they were without starting center Ryan Kelly (who they hope to get back this week). Fun fact: Hines doesn’t have a single carry of 15-plus yards this year. There’s not a running back who’s seen as many carries as him (61) without one. Taylor should be happy to return to this matchup against the Texans, as its’ arguably the best in the league for his skill set. We know there are a lot of fantasy points up for grabs against the Texans, right? Well, of the production they’ve allowed to running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, we’ve watched running backs account for 37.3 percent of it, which is the third-highest mark in the league. They’ve now allowed a league-high 1,564 yards on the ground to running backs, which is more than 23 teams have allowed to running backs as a whole (receiving included). When you look at strictly production on the ground, the Texans have allowed a league-high 240.4 fantasy points. No other team has allowed more than 215.8 of them. It’s not the competition that’s made them look bad, either. Running backs average 6.3 more half-PPR points per game against the Texans than they do versus their season average; that ranks as the second-most in the league. All-in-all, the Texans have faced more weighted volume to running backs than any other team in the league. That’s led to them allowing a league-high 185.7 total yards per game to the position. The average top-24 running back performance in 2019 required 11.5 PPR points. That’s a number that a league-high 14 running backs have hit against the Texans. This is your reminder that they’ve played just 11 games. Taylor is never a full 100 percent trust under Frank Reich, but he should be trusted enough to be played as a low-end RB2 with upside, because the last time we saw him on the field, he netted a massive 26 touches. Let’s just hope Jacoby Brissett getting a few goal-line touches was due to Taylor being out, and not a regular thing moving forward. Production is there through the air as well for running backs in this matchup, as seven different backs have totaled 35-plus receiving yards, which bodes well for Hines’ role. He should remain in the RB3 conversation, particularly in PPR formats.
David Johnson and Duke Johnson: We’re expecting David back to the lineup this week after missing three games due to his concussion he suffered back in Week 9. It seemed like Duke injured himself early in the Thanksgiving game, which led to C.J. Prosise stealing some work, though Duke did wind up playing 42-of-56 snaps and posting 80 total yards with a touchdown. It’s clear they didn’t want him taking over David’s role, which has netted 16.7 touches per game this year. He’s not returning to a matchup that should get you excited, though. The Colts have allowed ball carriers just 1.13 yards before contact this year, which is the third-lowest mark in the league. This is bad news for Johnson. There have been 64 running backs who’ve rushed 50-plus times this year, and Johnson’s 2.13 yards after contact ranks 62nd on that last, behind only Peyton Barber and Devonta Freeman. Sure, Derrick Henry ran all over them last week, but they were without their best defensive lineman (DeForest Buckner) and one of their starting linebackers (Bobby Okereke) for that game. Henry is also the only running back to run for 100-plus yards against the Colts under Matt Eberflus (span of 43 games). In fact, Henry is the only one who’s topped 72 yards on the ground against them this year. In non-Henry games, the Colts have allowed just 641 rushing yards on 196 carries with five rushing touchdowns. That’s just 3.27 yards per carry and 71.2 rushing yards per game, and that’s to entire teams of running backs. Even factoring in schedule adjusted fantasy points, the Colts rank as the fifth-toughest matchup for running backs. David should return to 15 touches but they’re not likely to net a whole bunch of yardage, putting him in that high-end RB3 territory without much of a ceiling. If he can’t go, Duke would take his spot in the rankings. It does seem like David is going to return, which make Duke an RB4 who you’re hoping gets more usage in the passing game.
Michael Pittman: There will be many fantasy managers upset with the 2/28/0 line that Pittman put up in Week 12 but I’m not one of them. I’m actually happy about the nine targets he saw, as he’s now seen at least seven targets in three of the last four games, which is enough to make me feel better about recommending him in plus matchups. The running backs aren’t the only ones that get to have fun against the Texans, as wide receivers have averaged a robust 1.98 PPR points per target, which ranks as the fourth-most in football. We know touchdowns have been hard to come by for Colts receivers, but the Texans are one of just four teams who’ve allowed one fewer than every 15.0 targets (they’ve allowed one every 14.2 targets). They also just lost their best cornerback for the remainder of the season, as Bradley Roby was suspended. That means Pittman will see a mixture of Vernon Hargreaves and Keion Crossen in coverage. Hargreaves is a veteran who’s been a stomping ground for wide receivers over his entire career and this year is no different, allowing 40-of-59 passing for 566 yards (seventh-most in NFL) and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Crossen is a seventh-round pick from 2018 who’s seen just 20 targets over his three years in the league, netting 17/218/0. Pittman should get back on track this week, but seeing as consistency has been an issue for all Colts receivers, he must remain in the risk/reward WR4 range.
T.Y. Hilton: He found the end zone against the Titans for the first time since Week 7 of last year. He also saw five targets, which makes it five-plus targets in 8-of-10 games this year. Hilton has not lived up to his reputation, but he has started to make strides to be considered as a streamer. Can he be trusted against the Texans, who are one of just three teams who’ve allowed a 70-plus percent catch-rate to wide receivers? As mentioned in the Pittman notes, they lost their top cornerbacks Bradley Roby for the season, which will force them to move forward with Vernon Hargreaves and Keion Crossen. Over the course of their careers, the two have combined to allow 253-of-358 passing for 3,331 yards and 13 touchdowns. That’s a massive 9.30 yards per target, which is more than Stefon Diggs is averaging this year. Even with Roby there were 15 wide receivers who were able to finish as the WR42 or better against them, which puts Hilton into the WR4 conversation, though I prefer Pittman.
Brandin Cooks: Going back to the time where Bill O’Brien was fired, Cooks has become an integral part of this offense, averaging 8.14 targets per game, including at least five targets in every game. Outside of the wind/rain game against the Browns, he’s totaled at least 60 yards in every one of those games. To know that he’s done this while Will Fuller has been a WR1, and that Deshaun Watson has failed to throw the ball 40 times in a game is pretty remarkable. But what changes now that Fuller is out for the year? Do teams double Cooks? Do they bracket him? You’d be surprised at how hard it is to do that with a wide receiver who moves around as much as Cooks, who plays 43 percent of his snaps at RWR, 29 percent at LWR, and 28 percent of his snaps in the slot. The Colts haven’t been a matchup to flat out attack with wide receivers, as they’ve allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to them. However, the good news for Cooks is that they’ve allowed 14.16 yards per reception, which is the second-highest mark in football. On top of that, their starting safety Khari Willis was injured during their Week 12 game. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson has completed 21 passes that’ve gone 20-plus yards down the field, which ranks as the fourth-most in football. It’s not a great spot for Cooks to straight up dominate, as there have been just four wide receivers who’ve totaled more than five receptions against the Colts. Still, you’re starting a wide receiver who just might see double-digit targets no matter what, so put him in lineups as a WR2.
Keke Coutee: Thank goodness Bill O’Brien isn’t still the coach. He’d probably snag a few guys off the street rather than play Coutee. If you didn’t watch the Thanksgiving game, you’d see Coutee’s finishing line of 2/17/0 as horrendous, but he just missed what would have been a 40-yard completion, but the ball was slightly overthrown. Coutee has the speed (4.4) to stretch the field for Watson, even though many view him as a slot receiver. The Colts have allowed 33 pass plays of 20-plus yards, so even though they’ve been one of the better defenses in the league, they’re not incapable of being beat down the field, and that’s evidenced by the 14.16 yards per reception they’ve allowed, which ranks second in the NFL. I’m guessing they’ll keep Coutee in his slot-heavy role, which would put him against Kenny Moore in the slot, who’s been solid in coverage, allowing just 32-of-50 passing for 337 yards and two touchdowns on the season. There have been just seven wide receivers who’ve topped 70 yards against the Colts this year, so this doesn’t set up for a big game out of Coutee, but he should be added in all leagues to see what Fuller’s absence means for him in the pecking order.
Trey Burton: He started out last week’s game on fire, snagging three balls for 50 yards and a touchdown in the game’s first 16 minutes, but he failed to do anything after that. He out-targeted Mo Alie-Cox in the game 6-2, but if you look at the routes run, you’re not feeling great: Alie-Cox 23, Burton 21, Jack Doyle 11. This is a timeshare every single week and why we can never play a Colts tight end with much confidence, though we certainly want to try, as they’ve combined for seven performances with 9.8-plus PPR points. The Texans haven’t allowed a lot of touchdowns (4) to tight ends, but the 58.7 yards per game they’ve allowed to them ranks as the third-most in the NFL, as does the 8.61 yards per target they’ve allowed to them. Over the last two weeks, we’ve watched Ryan Izzo and T.J. Hockenson combine for seven catches and 148 yards on just 10 targets, so it’s not as if they’re trending in the right direction, either. Football Outsiders has them ranked as the fifth-worst team in DVOA against tight ends, which factors in level of competition they’ve played. Knowing it’s Burton who’s seen 14 targets over the last three weeks while Alie-Cox has eight of them, I suppose Burton’s the best bet, though the Colts have plus-matchups all over the field in this game, so he’s just a middling TE2.
Jordan Akins: There were some who believed that with Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills out, we might see more of Akins in the offensive gameplan. Nope. He was targeted just twice against the Lions, and though they were both in the end zone, he couldn’t haul either of them in (one was a drop). When you’ve seen more than four targets just twice all year, you need to make the most of your opportunities. Will he get more with Fuller out of the lineup? The targets have to go somewhere. Unfortunately, it’s not a great week to consider him against a Colts team that’s allowed just 1.21 PPR points per target to tight ends. It’s not just lack of touchdowns either, as they’ve allowed just 5.31 yards per target, which is the second-lowest mark in the league. The competition they’ve played hasn’t been all that great, but still, tight ends have averaged 35.7 percent fewer PPR points against the Colts than they do on the season, which makes it the fifth-toughest schedule adjusted matchup for tight ends. Like I said, the targets have to go somewhere, which is why Akins should definitely be added for those who constantly stream tight ends, but this matchup keeps him well into the TE2 range. All we want to see is targets this week.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
Spread: Bears -3
Lions vs. Bears Betting Matchup
Matthew Stafford: It was another forgetful fantasy game for Stafford in Week 12, who’s now finished with 16.1 or less fantasy points in 6-of-11 games this season, including three with 12.3 or less points. He’s averaging 35.1 pass attempts per game, which is a decent number, though you’d think with the way their defense has played he’d have more. He’s going into a matchup with the Bears, a team he sees twice per year, and that hasn’t been a good thing for him. Over his last seven games against them (including Week 1 of this year), he’s averaged 254.1 yards, 1.14 touchdowns, and 1.28 interceptions. He’s finished every game in-between 213-297 yards and has failed to throw more than two touchdowns in any of the games. The Bears have started to slip as of late, but still allow just the third-fewest fantasy points per offensive snap to opponents. They’ve allowed the sixth-fewest points per game to quarterbacks, but again, that number has been on the rise as of late. Over their last five games, they’ve played against Jared Goff, Drew Brees, Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins, and Aaron Rodgers, and four of them were able to post at least 16.9 fantasy points against the Bears, which is an improvement over the first six games of the year where not one since quarterback topped 16.2 fantasy points. Still, Rodgers’ 25.6 points in Week 12 was just the second time the Bears allowed a quarterback to hit the 20-point barrier since the start of the 2019 season (span of 27 games). The Bears were missing Akiem Hicks last week, which presents all sorts of issues for their defense, so his status means a lot to Stafford’s potential. Will the firing of Matt Patricia ignite this Lions offense? Oddsmakers don’t seem to think so, as the Lions have just a 21-point team-implied total. The matchup isn’t as bad as it once was, but given Stafford’s struggles, he remains in the mid-to-low-end QB2 territory.
Mitch Trubisky: There were bumps and bruises throughout Trubisky’s first start since Week 3, though he did lead the Bears to score 25 points, a number they didn’t get to in any of Nick Foles‘ starts. Sure, garbage time was necessary to hold up his value, but he has thrown nine touchdowns in just three and a half starts this year. One of the games he started this year was against the Lions, a team that he’s continually dominated throughout his career.
If you were to remove his rookie year under John Fox, the splits would look even better, as he’s totaled at least 19.72 fantasy points in each of the four games against the Lions under Matt Nagy. The Lions are one of just four NFL teams who’ve allowed at least 1.55 fantasy points per offensive snap to their opponents. So, it should come as no shock that they’ve allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing offenses. From an actual scoring standpoint, the Lions have allowed 29.8 points per game, which ranks as the second-highest mark in football. That’s why you’ve seen seven different quarterbacks finish with 18.8-plus fantasy points, including five who scored 20-plus points (Trubisky was one of them). The 7.99 yards per attempt they’ve allowed ranks as the fourth-highest mark in the league, which stems from the lack of pressure, as they’ve sacked the opposing quarterback just 4.0 percent of the time. The variable in this game is Matt Patricia being fired, as his scheme was the one Trubisky did well against. Will the Lions defense turn things around without him? We’ve seen it work for the Falcons this year. That presents enough of a question to make you fade Trubisky a bit in standard 1QB leagues, though he’s a great play in 2QB formats because he does have top-12 upside in this matchup.
D’Andre Swift: He was held out once again with his concussion symptoms last week and based on what Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson did against the Texans (153 total yards, two touchdowns), you wonder what could’ve been. We should still be expecting Swift to take over as the lead back despite the solid performances by Peterson and Johnson, as we can’t forget about Swift’s breakout performance in Week 10 that netted him 21 of the 27 touches available to Lions running backs, as well as 149 total yards and a touchdown. The firing of Matt Patricia shouldn’t change the offense too much. There’s one big injury you need to pay attention to on the Bears this week, as defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is the centerpiece of the Bears defense, and if he were to remain out with his hamstring injury, it upgrades the entire offense. Without him last week, the Packers running backs combined for 163 yards and a touchdown on the ground. They’ve allowed a slightly below average 4.14 yards per carry to running backs and have also done a good job limiting production through the air to running backs, as the 7.2 PPR points per game through the air suggests. All in all, the Bears have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per weighted opportunity to running backs, behind only the Saints and Steelers. We’ve seen just one running back total 17.2-plus PPR points against the Bears this year, which is the mark it took to finish as an RB1 last year. While Swift is a must-play if he has the role he had pre-concussion, this matchup isn’t nearly as good as the one the Lions backs had last week, though if Hicks is out, it’s not as bad as it could be. Consider Swift a solid RB2 for now. *Update* Swift did not practice on Thursday or Friday and is listed with an illness, so there’s no guarantee he plays. If he were to be ruled out, Johnson would be a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 while Peterson would be a touchdown-dependent RB4.
David Montgomery: Is Montgomery a plodder? Sure. Is it all his fault he doesn’t have success? No. Montgomery averages 3.02 yards after contact, which ranks 22nd among the 64 running backs who’ve carried the ball at least 50 times. The Bears running backs are averaging a league-low 1.00 yards before contact. The good news is that the Lions have allowed ball carriers a massive 2.45 yards before contact this year, which ranks as the fourth-highest number in the league. Not only have the Lions allowed the most fantasy points per game to running backs, but even when you factor in the level of competition, they’re the best matchup in the league based on schedule adjusted rankings, as running backs have averaged a league-high 8.3 more half-PPR points per game against the Lions than they do in non-Lions matchups. Of the fantasy production the Lions allow to skill-position players, we’ve watched running backs score 40.0 percent of those points, which is the second-highest mark in the NFL. Who’s the only team who’s allowed more? The team he played last week (Packers). It certainly doesn’t hurt to know the Lions have allowed a league-high 14 rushing touchdowns and seven receiving touchdowns to running backs. That’s 21 touchdowns they’ve allowed to running backs, while no other team in the league has allowed more than 16. There are just three teams in the league who allow more than 16.5 fantasy points per game on the ground to running backs, and the 19.3 points the Lions have allowed certainly qualifies as one of them. It’s not just on the ground, as the Lions allow a massive 13.8 PPR points per game through the air alone to running backs, which ranks as the second-most in the NFL. The average RB1 performance in 2019 was 17.2 PPR points, which is a number that nine running backs have hit against the Lions. No other team has allowed more than seven such performances. Montgomery should be considered a high-end RB2 this week.
Kenny Golladay: He’s now missed four straight games with his hip issue, and knowing the Lions are a team that’s seemingly out of the playoff race, we shouldn’t expect him to try and push through an injury. Stay tuned as the week goes on. Does the fact that he “liked” an Instagram post about Patricia getting fired help matters? Can’t hurt, I suppose. Golladay ranks fourth among all wide receivers, averaging a robust 2.47 yards per route run. There hasn’t been a whole lot of fantasy production for skill-position players against the Bears to begin with (66.6 PPR points per game), and wide receivers have accounted for just 45.1 percent of it, which ranks as the lowest mark in the league. It doesn’t help Golladay’s cause to know the Bears have allowed just a 59.6 percent catch-rate to wide receivers, which is the third-lowest mark in the league. Golladay himself averages just a 58.1 percent catch-rate over the course of his career and relies on winning contested catches. In two games against the Bears last year, he posted 3/57/1 in the first game, and then 4/158/1 in the second one, so big plays were clearly necessary. The Bears defense has allowed just four pass plays of 40-plus yards this year, which ranks as the fourth-fewest. There have been just four wide receivers who’ve posted more than 81 yards against the Bears, and all of them totaled at least nine targets, a number that may seem unrealistic in Golladay’s first game back. If he plays, Golladay should be considered a risk/reward WR3 against this tough secondary. *Update* Golladay hasn’t practiced all week and is out once again.
Marvin Jones: It was another uninspiring performance out of Jones last week, as he finished with just six catches for 48 yards, and that’s despite seeing a team-high 12 targets. He wasn’t gaining much separation against the weak Texans cornerback unit, which has been a common thing for him this year, averaging just 2.6 yards of separation, which ranks in the bottom-20 among wide receivers. He’s averaged just 1.18 yards per route run this year, which ranks 51st among 57 wide receivers who’ve seen 50-plus targets. He’s topped 55 yards just twice all season, with one of those games coming against the Falcons, so we need to start looking at Jones as if he’s nearing the end of his career as a fantasy option. The Bears are allowing 1.57 PPR points per target to wide receivers, which ranks as the second-lowest mark in the league, behind only the Rams. They’ve allowed just six wide receivers to top 61 yards against them all season, and that’s despite 13 wide receivers seeing seven or more targets. Jones saw eight targets in their first matchup this year with Golladay out of the lineup but finished with just four catches for 55 yards. The good news is that Jones has been playing about 33 percent of his snaps in the slot, which is where Buster Skrine is, a cornerback who’s been struggling as of late. Jones’ target floor goes down if Golladay returns and would be just a low-end WR4, but if Golladay were held out, he’d move into high-end WR4 consideration. *Update* Golladay has been ruled OUT, so Jones moves into the high-end WR4 territory.
Allen Robinson: A lot of time, social media screams about something that makes no sense, but when it comes to the Bears targeting Robinson, they have it right. Here are the Bears’ QB Rating when targeting each receiver: Robinson 90.5, Mooney 74.8, Miller 69.9. Despite playing for a team that’s averaging just 19.6 points per game (29th), Robinson sits as the No. 10 wide receiver on the season in PPR formats. The Lions have been abused by the run, sure, but they’ve also allowed a massive 9.30 yards per target to wide receivers, which ranks as the third-highest mark in the league. Robinson has had their number over the last few years, finishing with 5/74/0, 8/86/1, and 6/86/0 in their last three games, and that’s not even including his 6/133/2 line back in 2018 against the same scheme. The cornerback the Lions have had shadowing No. 1 receivers is Desmond Trufant, who suffered a hamstring injury on Thanksgiving, which means he’s unlikely to play here. They were already without first-rounder Jeff Okudah, so they’re starting to thin out quite a bit. Even with those guys healthy for most of the year, the Lions have allowed 18 wide receivers to finish as top-36 options against them, including six who scored 20-plus PPR points. Robinson should be locked into lineups as a WR1 who has more scoring opportunities with Trubisky under center.
Darnell Mooney: It’s kind of crazy to think that Mooney has 65 targets on the year, which ranks 37th among wide receivers, and is precisely as much as A.J. Brown. It puts him on pace for 95 targets for the year, though his projected 560 yards are nowhere close to where they should be. Mooney saw nine targets in Week 12, so they’re not shying away from targeting him despite the 5.9 yards per target. He’s the one they take deep shots down the field to, as his 14.8 average air yards suggests (11th-highest) in the league. Meanwhile, the Lions have allowed 42 pass plays of 20-plus yards, which ranks as the third-most in the league. The 12.1 yards per reception they’re allowing to pass catchers in general is the highest in the NFL. They’ve been moving players around the defense with injuries to both Desmond Trufant and Jeff Okudah, so we are likely to see Mooney against some backup cornerbacks. He’s nothing more than a hail-mary WR4/5 but one who sees more targets than almost everyone in that range.
Anthony Miller: I almost didn’t write Miller up for this game because it’s so hard to recommend playing him, but he has seen at least six targets in each of his last four games. Similar to Mooney, he’s averaging a minuscule 6.0 yards per target, but the targets mean you should at least consider him. The Lions have been a matchup that Miller has done well with in their last two meetings, as he totaled 4/76/1 against them back in Week 1 and finished with 9/140/0 in Week 13 of last year. The Lions have been shifting cornerbacks around with the injuries to Jeff Okudah and Desmond Trufant, so it’s tough to say which cornerback Miller will see in this game. Knowing the Lions have allowed 1.89 PPR points per target (7th-highest), Miller’s targets need to be accounted for, putting him in the WR5 conversation.
T.J. Hockenson: It was a very productive game for Hockenson on Thanksgiving, as he racked up five catches for 89 yards, but it was maddening at the same time. He caught a 51-yard pass early in the game where he had nothing but green in front of him towards the sideline, but instead, he cut back towards the middle of the field and was tackled by two defenders. It was odd to say the least. Most see the Bears on the schedule and worry, but if there’s a position you shouldn’t worry about against them, it’s tight ends. The Bears have watched tight ends get targeted 23.2 percent of the time, which ranks as the fifth-highest mark in the league. That’s not all… the Bears have also allowed tight ends a league-high 23.4 percent of the skill-position players’ production while no other team in the league is over 20.8 percent. That all amounts to them allowing the third-most fantasy points per game (15.6) to tight ends this year. There have been just two tight ends who failed to finish top-18 against them, and both tight ends were targeted fewer than four times, something Hockenson doesn’t have to worry about. With six tight ends topping 50 yards, Hockenson should have a stable floor in this matchup. He should remain in lineups as a TE1.
Jimmy Graham: The Bears have started to include rookie Cole Kmet a bit more in their offense the last few weeks, and that’s led to Graham losing his target floor. He’s seen just six targets over the last two games, which is hardly enough to consider him as a must-start, so you need a great matchup. Tight ends have been targeted just 15.3 percent of the time against the Lions, which ranks as the second-lowest mark in the league. The team Graham played last week (Packers) had seen the third-fewest targets. Then you look at the fact that tight ends have accounted for just 11.4 percent of the fantasy production by skill-position players against the Lions (2nd-lowest in NFL), and you have a lot of concern for Graham’s production in this game. Those lack of targets show up in the box score, as tight ends have caught just 56.9 percent of their targets and combined to average a league-low 3.0 receptions per game. If Graham doesn’t score, he’s going to hurt your fantasy team, which puts him in the lower end of the TE2 discussion.