The Primer: Week 13 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Spread: Saints -3
Saints vs. Falcons Betting Matchup
Taysom Hill: A pair of starts for Hill… a pair of rushing touchdowns in each game. As expected, his passing totals weren’t as good in a non-Falcons game, as he threw for just 78 yards on 16 pass attempts with one interception. His rushing touchdowns certainly helped salvage his day, but it was hardly a confidence-inspiring game. Speaking of the Falcons, you’d have to go all the way back to Week 4 to find the last time the Falcons allowed more than 27 points to their opponent. They’re playing better under Raheem Morris, though that doesn’t mean they’re a matchup to avoid. Despite holding the Raiders to just three points, they’ve still allowed more fantasy points per offensive snap (1.62) than any other team in the NFL. Quarterbacks have fared extremely well against the Falcons, as evidenced by the 23.7 points per game they’ve allowed to them, which ranks behind only the Seahawks. They’ve allowed a robust 306.9 passing yards per game, which stems from the fact that they’re one of just three teams who’ve allowed more than 8.0 yards per pass attempt. On top of that, they’ve allowed a league-high six rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks. The 5.83 yards per rushing attempt to them also ranks as the third-highest mark in the NFL. Net result: They’ve allowed more fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks than any other team in the league. We’ve already seen this matchup just two short weeks ago when Hill cruised to the tune of 18-of-23 passing for 233 yards while rushing for 49 yards and two touchdowns. Despite not starting until two weeks ago, Hill has rushed for 35-plus yards in five straight games. To finish as a top-five quarterback last year, it took an average of 25.3 fantasy points, which is a number that five quarterbacks (six if you combine Trubisky/Foles) have hit against the Falcons. Hill should be considered a high-floor, mid-to-low-end QB1.
The status of Jones is huge if you’re considering Ryan. On top of those concerns, the Saints are suddenly one of the best defenses in the NFL and have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per game overall to their opponents. They’ve brought the pressure and have generated a sack on 8.3 percent of opponent dropbacks, which ranks as the fourth-highest mark in football. They’ve now held Tom Brady, Nick Mullens, Ryan, and well, Kendall Hinton to fewer than 11 fantasy points in each of their last four games. This is the defense we thought they’d be when the season started. They were also very good when the Falcons played them in Week 13 last year when Ryan threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns, though it did take him 50 attempts to get there. As crazy as it sounds, the Saints haven’t allowed more than 283 passing yards in any of their 11 games this year, as it was touchdowns carrying quarterbacks. But again, since Week 5, they’ve allowed just five passing touchdowns in six games. Even if Jones returns this week, Ryan probably belongs in the middling QB2 territory. If he doesn’t play, Ryan may not return top-20 value.
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray: We’re officially panicked with Kamara now that we’ve seen just three targets over the last two games with Hill under center. Some are wondering if Murray is worth more with Hill under center considering his production in last week’s game, though I’m not there just yet. That game was a blowout and keeping Kamara fresh makes a lot of sense. Still, Kamara’s value has taken quite the hit, as his weighted opportunity is comparable to guys like Melvin Gordon and Kareem Hunt. The Falcons allow a lot of fantasy production, right? Unfortunately, running backs haven’t accounted for too much of it. They’ve allowed a league-low 25.0 percent of skill-player production go to running backs, while no other team in the league is below 26.6 percent. Teams have realized it’s more profitable to throw the ball against the Falcons, and that’s why you’ve seen them face a league-low 17.8 carries per game. That’s turned into just 70.0 rushing yards and 0.36 rushing touchdowns per game to running backs. For those doing the math at home, that’s just 8.55 fantasy points per game on the ground, which is the lowest mark in the league. There have been six running backs who’ve totaled at least 33 yards through the air against them, so that’s where you’d like to see production. How good have the Falcons been against running backs as a whole? Well, they’ve allowed just six of them to hit 11.5 PPR points this year, which is tied for the third-fewest in the league. That number is significant because it’s the average number of points running backs needed to finish as a top-24 running back in 2019. Because of his decrease workload in the passing game, Kamara is more of a high-end RB2 at this point in time who’s in a tough spot here. Don’t forget he totaled just 45 yards on 13 carries against them just two weeks ago, though a touchdown salvaged his fantasy day. As for Murray, this matchup is brutal for his skill set, but he has fantasy value if he keeps getting the 12-plus carries he’s gotten in the two games with Hill. Murray should be considered a mid-tier RB3 that you don’t have to play in this game.
Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, and Ito Smith: Raheem Morris said they’re “hopeful” to get Gurley back this week, though that’s hardly a guarantee. With him out of the lineup Hill and Smith shared the touches, though it was Smith who was more efficient, finishing with 75 total yards and a touchdown on 16 touches compared to Hill’s 55 total yards on 13 touches. We could sit here and talk about what this timeshare is without Gurley, but it won’t make much of a difference in Week 13, as you really don’t want to play either of them against the Saints, who’ve allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs. The competition they’ve played isn’t in question either, as running backs have averaged 6.9 fewer half-PPR points against the Saints than they do in non-Saints games. That’s easily the biggest gap in the league. Of the production the Saints have allowed to skill-position players (63.0 PPR points per game), just 26.6 percent of it goes to running backs, which is the second-lowest percentage in football. There are just three teams in the NFL who’ve allowed fewer than 10.0 fantasy points per game on the ground to running backs. The Falcons, Saints, and Bucs. We know that touchdowns are important to production in this backfield by now, right? Well, the Saints have allowed just five total touchdowns to running backs this year, or one every 53.8 touches. Both of those are the best numbers in the league. They’ve allowed just 27 percent of carries inside the five-yard line be converted into touchdowns, which is the third-lowest percentage in the league, so even if Gurley plays, his touchdown-dependent stat lines are problematic. That should be enough for you to worry, but what about when I tell you they’ve allowed a league-low 1,049 total yards to running backs this year (95.4 per game)? When you factor in weighted opportunity, the Saints have allowed 8.6 percent fewer points per opportunity than any other team in the league. The average RB1 performance in 2019 was 17.2 PPR points. The Saints are the only team in the league who’ve yet to allow a running back hit that mark. Even if Gurley suits up, he’s just a boring RB3 who will bust if he doesn’t score. If he doesn’t play, Smith would be the preferred option, as he at least gets passing-down usage, but he’d be just a low-end RB3/high-end RB4. *Update* Gurley is listed as questionable after getting in two limited practices.
Michael Thomas: The good news is that Thomas has seen 18 of Hill’s 39 pass attempts over the last two games, which amounts to a massive 46.2 percent target share. The bad news is that he’s finished with just 13 receptions for 154 yards and no touchdowns with that incredible target share. If the Saints are going to throw the ball just 20 times per game, that’s going to be an issue for any pass catcher. The last time they played the Falcons, we watched Thomas rack up nine catches for 104 yards on 12 targets, and he even left some on the table with a rare drop that would’ve been a 20-plus yard reception. Oddly enough, his 8.67 yards per target in that game was lower than the Falcons have allowed to wide receivers this year. That’s right, they’ve allowed a massive 9.46 yards per target to wide receivers on the season, which is the most in the NFL. They simply don’t have the talent to hang with a receiver like Thomas. There have been 14 wide receivers who’ve finished as top-24 options against the Falcons this season, including eight wide receivers who’ve topped 100 yards, and that’s not even including the three games where a receiver totaled 95, 93, and 92 yards. Thomas should come with a top-24 floor, but if he gets into the end zone, he should be a WR1 this week. Let’s split the difference and call him a high-end WR2.
Emmanuel Sanders: After a one-target game, you probably aren’t considering Sanders an option, but knowing the Falcons stop the run well as well as they do, you might want to. The last time they played against the Falcons, he finished with four catches for 66 yards on just five targets, and it could’ve been much more than that had his 57-yard touchdown not gotten called back due to a penalty. The Falcons have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers and have allowed 21 wide receivers finish as top-40 options against them. Sanders can be in the WR4/5 conversation despite his lack of targets in Week 12, but understand he comes with a lower floor than most in that range.
Julio Jones: The Falcons are reportedly “hopeful” to get Jones back this week, but there’s one thing you need to pay attention to, and that’s his practice schedule. If he practices, even limited, he should be good to go. If he doesn’t, don’t count on him taking the field Sunday. The Saints are not the best matchup to be returning to, as they’ve been one of the best defenses in the league over the last month. Jones saw two targets on his 22 snaps that he was able to play in Week 11, which led to two receptions for 39 yards, though it’s worth noting the Saints were also without Marshon Lattimore for that game. He’s the cornerback Jones would see most of in coverage. After a rough start to the season, Lattimore has gotten back on track over his last five games, allowing just 15-of-27 passing for 157 yards, though two of those receptions have gone for touchdowns. Teams seemingly understand the talent in the Saints cornerback unit, as receivers have averaged just 17.9 targets per game, the third-fewest in the NFL. If Jones can suit up, you’re playing him as a WR1, albeit a low-end one in this tough matchup. *Update* Jones got in a few limited practices this week and will likely be a game-time decision.
Calvin Ridley: Despite Matt Ryan throwing for just 185 yards last week, Ridley was able to get his, finishing with 6/50/1 on nine targets. Ridley has played nine full games this year and has finished with 14-plus PPR points in eight of them, giving him a top-24 seemingly every week, while we’ve also seen him post 17-plus PPR points in six of them, highlighting WR1 appeal. The matchup against the Saints is far from great, as they have two top-tier cornerbacks on the perimeter in Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins. Ridley was able to wiggle his way to five catches for 90 yards against them in Week 11, though it’s worth noting that Lattimore was out for that game. There have been nine wide receivers who’ve finished as top-24 options against them, but if Julio Jones returns to the lineup, that would make things a bit trickier. Jenkins is the cornerback Ridley will see the most of and he’s been pretty dang good this year, allowing just 27-of-50 passing for 342 yards and one touchdown in his coverage. Ridley should be considered a high-end WR2 if Jones returns but would creep into the WR1 conversation if Jones has to miss another game. *Update* Jones is considered questionable, but Ridley got a major upgrade when Janoris Jenkins was ruled OUT for this game.
Jared Cook: We can put Cook in the “do not start” category moving forward, and to be fair, he’s been there the last few weeks. He hasn’t seen more than three targets or topped 30 yards since way back in Week 8, which is no coincidence since he hasn’t played more than 26 snaps since that game. It stinks because tight ends have averaged 4.8 more half-PPR points per game against the Falcons than they do in non-Falcons games, which is the largest difference in the league. Despite the blunder by the Raiders last week, the Falcons have still allowed more fantasy points per game than any other team in the league. But again, Cook isn’t playing enough to consider as anything more than a hail-mary tournament play.
Hayden Hurst: We knew to bump Hurst down without Julio Jones in the lineup, which turned out to be right, though Hurst did turn in a competent performance for a tight end, as four catches and 48 yards will hardly bury your fantasy team. He’s now totaled at least 48 yards and/or a touchdown in 8-of-11 games. Now onto a rematch with the Saints, a team that held him catchless in their Week 11 matchup, though his two targets didn’t help. Tight ends have seen a league-high 23.7 percent of targets go to the their way against the Saints, though they haven’t been the most efficient targets seeing that they’ve accounted for 19.4 percent of the fantasy production to skill-position players, which ranks as the 10th-most. The 5.86 yards per target they’ve allowed to the position ranks as the fourth-lowest in the league. If you were to remove the one massive game by Darren Waller against them (12/103/1 back in Week 2), they’d look like a much less appealing matchup. Outside of that game, they’ve allowed just 38.9 yards per game to the tight end position. Hurst has done enough to earn your consideration as a low-end TE1, but don’t hesitate to sit him if you have a safer option.
New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks
Spread: Seahawks -9.5
Giants vs. Seahawks Betting Matchup
Daniel Jones and Colt McCoy: It seems that Jones will be forced to miss at least one game, which means McCoy will be the starter against the Seahawks. There have been 38 quarterbacks who’ve attempted at least 100 passes this year. When you break it down to passing only (no rushing), Jones ranks 35th in fantasy points per pass attempt. Missing him won’t be the end of the world for the Giants pass catchers, though it’s tough to say McCoy would be an upgrade, especially considering he totaled just 31 yards on 10 attempts against the Bengals. He couldn’t ask for a better matchup this week, as there’s not a team in the league who allows more fantasy production to their opponents than the Seahawks. The 111.6 PPR points per game they’ve allowed is head and shoulders above every other team in the league (closest is Jaguars with 103.7 points). Not only are their opponents running a ridiculous 71.5 plays per game, but they’re also passing the ball a league-high 65.2 percent of the time against the Seahawks, which is why quarterbacks are averaging 23.96 fantasy points per game against them. The 7.68 yards per attempt isn’t that bad, as there are six teams who’ve allowed more. The Seahawks defense has looked better over the last three weeks, though the competition hasn’t been very good (Jared Goff, Kyler Murray playing through shoulder injury, and Carson Wentz). The three of them combined for just 786 yards on 124 pass attempts (6.34 yards per attempt) with four passing touchdowns over the three games combined. McCoy isn’t someone I’d recommend streaming, as there’s a reason he’s started just three games since 2014. Let the recent play of the Seahawks defense be the final nail in the coffin.
Russell Wilson: It’s funny how quick people are to throw Wilson under the bus, saying he’s just a game manager. Guys, he’s finished with 20-plus fantasy points in 9-of-11 games this year. He struggled against the Rams and Eagles, two of the better defenses in the league. Most would be surprised to learn that the Giants have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game (15.6) to quarterbacks, and that’s despite facing the 12th-most pass attempts. There have been six quarterbacks who’ve scored fewer than 14.0 fantasy points against them, which is the second-most in the NFL behind only the Rams. It hasn’t really been the competition, either, as quarterbacks have averaged 0.9 fewer fantasy points per game against the Giants than they have versus their season average, making it the 10th-toughest schedule adjusted matchup in football for quarterbacks. The reason for hope is the Football Outsiders’ DVOA ranking of the Giants, as they have them as the eighth-worst pass defense in the league. There have been four opponents who’ve averaged more than 8.35 yards per attempt against them, but the 3.85 percent touchdown-rate has kept quarterbacks in check overall, as has the fact that they’ve allowed just 12.2 fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks this year, which stems from allowing just 1.68 yards per rushing attempt to them, the lowest mark in the NFL. Knowing there have been three quarterbacks (Carson Wentz, Nick Mullens, Alex Smith) have thrown for 300-plus yards against them, I’m not running away from this matchup. Start Wilson as the QB1 he’s been in 9-of-11 games this year.
Wayne Gallman: In case you haven’t realized it, Gallman has been a stud over the last five games. He’s finished as a top-16 running back in each of those games, which included matchups with the Eagles (twice), Bucs, and Football Team. With McCoy under center, I’m sure the Giants would prefer to give the ball to Gallman a ton in this game, but Seahawks opponents have run the ball against them a league-low 33.7 percent of the time. It’s kind of crazy to see, but the Giants running backs are averaging the second-most yards before contact, behind only the Cardinals. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are allowing 2.50 yards before contact to ball carriers, which is the second-highest mark in the league. So, when Gallman actually gets carries, he should be relatively efficient, though volume concerns are real. Just one running back has topped 65 yards on the ground against the Seahawks this year, which is due to there being just two running backs who’ve totaled more than 14 carries. Running backs have averaged just 24.2 touches per game against the Seahawks, but the good part is that Gallman has totaled 72 percent of the Giants running back touches over the last two games, so we should still get 15-18 touches for him. The Seahawks have allowed the 13th-most fantasy points per weighted opportunity, which factors in targets, so Gallman needs to get some passing-down work. Gallman did run two more routes than Dion Lewis last week, which is certainly a positive. It’s not a great matchup like last week, but Gallman has done enough to stay in lineups as an RB2.
Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde: What in the heck happened on Monday night? Hyde out-snapped Carson 41-25 and out-touched him 17-10. In totally unrelated news, Hyde totaled 29 total yards on his 17 touches. -_- Please stop this as soon as possible, Mr. Pete Carroll. Fortunately, Carson was hyper-efficient totaling 59 yards on his 10 touches, including a powerful touchdown run that 95 percent of running backs wouldn’t have scored on. This timeshare is a real issue because the Giants have only faced 19.4 running back carries per game, which is the third-fewest in the league. Those carries have netted 4.23 yards per carry, which is slightly below the league average, so they’re not a team who’s going to allow heavy production on the ground. It is worth noting that a league-high 67 percent of carries inside the five-yard line have resulted as touchdowns against the Giants. If we can get Carson back as the primary pass-catching running back, it’ would be a good thing because that’s where the production stems from against the Giants. Running backs have been targeted a league-high 22.8 percent of the time against the Giants, and that’s led to 12.7 PPR points per game through the air alone, which ranks as the third-highest mark in football. There have been 11 running backs who’ve caught at least three passes, while seven of them have racked up 35-plus receiving yards. I’m willing to write-off last week’s game as them easing Carson back into the lineup, because he’s clearly the better running back. You should feel pretty confident playing him as a solid RB2 in this game. Hyde should still have a role but knowing that the Giants have faced just 25.4 running back touches per game, it’s tough to see two starter-worthy options out of this backfield. Hyde should be in the high-end RB4 range in case last week wasn’t just a fluke. *Update* Hyde was downgraded during the week and is now questionable with a toe injury, so don’t count on him.
Sterling Shepard: Keeping the streak alive after seeing eight targets in Week 12, Shepard has now seen six-plus targets in 22 straight games (removing the game he left early in the second quarter against the Bears). He managed to turn those targets into seven catches for 64 yards despite both Daniel Jones and Colt McCoy struggling to get much going. Shepard has totaled at least six receptions and 39 yards in each of the six games he’s played from start to finish, which may not sound like much, but that 9.9 PPR point floor is hard to find on a weekly basis, especially when the receiver isn’t considered an auto-start. We now mix his target floor with the fact that wide receivers have been targeted a ridiculous 63.5 percent of the time against the Seahawks. The Dolphins are the only other team higher than a 61.7 percent share. It’s not just targets, either. Wide receivers have also accounted for 58.4 percent of the fantasy production against them by skill-position players. The average number of points it took to finish as a top-36 wide receiver in 2019 was 11.2 PPR points. Despite not allowing any on Monday night, there have been a league-high 22 wide receivers who’ve hit that mark against the Seahawks this year. In fact, there have been no other teams who’ve allowed more than 18 such performances. The quarterback situation is ugly, but it’s really been all year. It’s a small sample, but Shepard did see four of McCoy’s 10 pass attempts last week. Shepard is in the WR3/4 conversation as someone who should offer a stable floor, though his ceiling is extremely limited.
Darius Slayton: Well, this is not great. We talked about Slayton being a boom-or-bust option last week, though nobody (myself included) expected a zero-catch game. Once McCoy came into the game, Slayton didn’t see any of his 10 pass attempts. The Giants weren’t taking many shots down the field with Daniel Jones under center, so it’s extremely unlikely we see many more with Slayton. Some will still be considering Slayton considering the Seahawks have allowed a ridiculous 12 wide receivers to hit 20-plus PPR points against them this year while no other team has allowed more than nine such performances. There have been 26 wide receivers who’ve posted top-48 numbers against the Seahawks, which is WR4 or better territory. Slayton lines up all over the formation, though LWR is his primary spot, which means he’ll see Tre Flowers most of the time, a cornerback who’s been beat for 37-of-49 passing with 403 yards and a touchdown in his coverage, which is good for a 106.1 QB Rating. Slayton is a risky play with McCoy under center, though the matchup doesn’t make him the worst hail-mary WR4/5 option.
D.K. Metcalf: We talk about this all the time, but there’s a positive and negative when shadow cornerbacks are on the schedule. The downside is that the receiver is covered by the most talented cornerback on the other team. The positive is that he’s often trusted in one-on-one coverage, which is something you cannot do against Metcalf, as he’s too big, too strong, and too fast. Darius Slay is one of the better cornerbacks in football who was made to look slow on Monday night trying to keep up with Metcalf, who racked up 10 catches for 177 yards. The Giants have James Bradberry, who’s done a solid job in coverage this year, allowing just 33-of-59 passing for 343 yards and three touchdowns in his coverage. Prior to seeing Metcalf, here were Slay’s numbers in coverage: 35-for-48 for 387 yards and one touchdown. Will they trust him in one-on-one coverage? I think it’s fair to say that Metcalf and Russell Wilson hope so. You’re starting him as a WR1 every week and you better not be left without exposure in tournaments.
Tyler Lockett: Has there been a more frustrating player to own than Lockett this year? He’s taken a backseat to the D.K. Metcalf show, and has finished outside the top-30 wide receivers in six of his last eight games. And we should note that both games he did finish inside that territory were against the Cardinals. The Giants have been the 16th-best schedule adjusted matchup for wide receivers, though it’s important to note that Football Outsiders has the Giants ranked as the No. 4 DVOA defense against No. 1 receivers, but they rank as the No. 22 and No. 32 defense against No. 2 and No. 3 receivers. Clearly, Lockett is no longer the No. 1 option on the Seahawks. He’s going to see a lot of fourth-round rookie Darnay Holmes in the slot, which should go well for Lockett. Of the top four performances the Giants have allowed to wide receivers this year, three of them were to slot-heavy receivers (JuJu Smith-Schuster, CeeDee Lamb, and Cooper Kupp). If the Giants use Bradberry on Metcalf and bracket him with a safety, Lockett could have one of his “boom” performances, so keep him in lineups as a WR2 with upside.
Evan Engram: He posted a career-high 129 yards in Week 12, which nearly doubled his previous high for the season. He’s now seen nine-plus targets in four of the last five games, which makes him a must-start in fantasy leagues. The only downside is that once Colt McCoy came into the game, Engram saw just one of the 10 passes he threw, but that’s a small sample size. For whatever reason, tight ends just haven’t see a lot of targets against the Seahawks, as they’d seen just 12.4 percent of the targets before the Eagles walked in and targeted their tight ends 16 times, which netted 10/128/2, by the way. They were the first two tight ends to finish with 10.6 or more PPR points against the Seahawks, which is a significant number because it’s the average number of points it took to finish as a top-12 tight end in 2019. Maybe the Giants take note of the Eagles usage because when targeted, tight ends have averaged 1.92 PPR points per target, which is the 10th-highest number in the league. It’s not touchdowns that have raised that number, but rather the yardage, as the 8.25 yards per target they’ve allowed is the fifth-most in the league. McCoy is more of the conservative quarterback, which should benefit someone like Engram, who is locked into lineups as a TE1 right now.
Jacob Hollister and Will Dissly: Well, we were right about Dissly playing more snaps as the primary tight end with Greg Olsen out of the lineup, but Hollister ran just as many routes as Dissly did, and he saw all five targets that Wilson directed at his tight ends. That’s eight targets over the last two weeks while Dissly has seen just one. This will likely even out with Dissly on the field as the full-time player, but it’s Hollister as the primary pass-catcher for now. The Giants have allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, so it’s not like it’s a matchup you need to attack anyway. They’ve seen just 6.5 targets per game to tight ends, and those targets have netted just 49.6 yards per game and two touchdowns over 11 games. They have allowed four top-12 performances to tight ends this year, but two of those tight ends only got there because of touchdowns. You shouldn’t be trusting either of these tight ends as a streamer right now.
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
Spread: Rams -3
Rams vs. Cardinals Betting Matchup
Jared Goff: We simply just don’t know what to expect out of Goff in any given week, as he has thrown zero touchdowns in two of his last three games against the Seahawks and 49ers, while he decided to throw for 376 yards and three touchdowns against the Bucs sandwiched in-between those games. On the season, he has four games with 23-plus fantasy points, but also has five games with 11.7 or less. This is the definition of a headache for streamers. His matchup against the Cardinals has fared well with him the last two times these teams met. In fact, two of this top three performances last year were against them, as he threw for 424 yards and two touchdowns in the first game and then 319 yards and three touchdowns in the second game. The Cardinals have allowed at least 18.5 fantasy points and two passing touchdowns to every quarterback not named Joe Flacco, Dwayne Haskins, Andy Dalton, and Cam Newton this year. Don’t forget they’ve lost their top edge rusher in Chandler Jones and best interior lineman in Corey Peters during the season. Still, they’ve managed to hold all but one quarterback (Russell Wilson) to less than 285 yards through the air. We know Goff offers nothing on the ground, so it’s tough to say he’s a great streamer, though I do believe he can be considered if you’re willing to take on some risk. He’s a top-18 option this week with top-12 in his potential range of outcomes.
Kyler Murray: The concern against the Patriots was always going to be lack of plays, as the efficiency should’ve been there. We all know it wasn’t, but in this week’s matchup, efficiency and volume have been hard to come by, as the Rams are facing just 63.2 plays per game, but more importantly, they’re allowing just 1.19 fantasy points per offensive play. That’s the lowest number in the league. So, when you factor all of that in, they’re allowing just 75.6 PPR points to the combination of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, which is the lowest number in the NFL. Quarterbacks playing against the Rams are averaging 3.7 fewer fantasy points than their season-long average, which makes it the toughest schedule adjusted fantasy matchup in the NFL for quarterbacks. Through 11 games, they’ve allowed just 11 passing touchdowns while intercepting 11 passes. The 6.21 yards per attempt they’ve allowed is a full 5.8 percent lower than any other team in the league. If you were to look at strictly passing, the Rams have allowed just 11.94 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and a ridiculously-low 0.332 fantasy points per attempt, which is why Murray’s rushing totals need to come up for him in a game like this. The Rams haven’t faced many rushing attempts (31) this year, but when quarterbacks have run, they’ve had success. The Rams have allowed 5.35 yards per carry (6th-most) and have scored a touchdown every 10.3 carries. All in all, the Rams have allowed their opponents just 19.5 points per game, so this isn’t going to be a blowup performance for Murray. It’s quite remarkable, but there have been eight starting quarterbacks who’ve finished with fewer than 14.0 fantasy points against the Rams. No other team has more than six such instances. With Murray’s shoulder clearly ailing, we must dial back expectations, especially in a matchup like this. He’s just a low-end QB1 in this matchup, and it could be worse than that if he doesn’t start running again.
Darrell Henderson, Cam Akers, and Malcolm Brown: We’ve talked about this backfield and it’s unpredictability on a weekly basis. In fact, you may not be able to predict it from quarter-to-quarter, as Akers saw just one carry in the first half, but then saw eight of them in the second half. Over the last three weeks, here are the touches and yardages for each back: Henderson (28 – 61), Akers (25 – 141), and Brown (17 – 98). Akers has had the most success, but 61 of his yards came on one play. He’s been stuck in the 5-10 carry range for the last month, so it’s tough to see that changing overnight. The Cardinals haven’t faced more than 21 carries by a team of running backs since way back in Week 7, which doesn’t bode well for this timeshare. The good news is that the Cardinals have allowed a massive 2.44 yards before contact to ball carriers this year, which ranks as the fifth-most in the league, and much of that was with interior lineman Corey Peters in the lineup (he’s out for the year). All in all, the Cardinals have faced 25.5 running back touches per game, so even if Akers were to get a bump into 40-45 percent of the touches (he’s averaged 35.7 percent over the last three weeks), we’re talking about 10-12 touches if that number holds true. There have been six running backs who’ve totaled 15-plus PPR points against the Cardinals, but five of them totaled at least 16 touches. Akers might be the preferred option right now, but he’s still nothing more than an RB3 until we see him get a larger share of the touches. Henderson is still in the high-end RB4 conversation, as he’s received the most touches over the last three games, and it’s possible he is still the most valuable one, though he’s been trending downward. Brown is seemingly an afterthought with Akers earning a bigger role.
Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds: I remember earlier in the year where I was feeling bad about recommending Drake as an early second-round pick. The process seemed right, and he was getting tons of work, but he just wasn’t performing. He’s starting to look like the player I thought he’d be when the season started:
Despite missing a game in that stretch, Drake has been the RB8 since the start of Week 5. Here’s a crazy stat that not many people would think to be true, but the Cardinals running backs are averaging more yards before contact (1.84 yards) than any other team. The Rams haven’t been so kind to ball carriers, as they’ve allowed just 1.24 yards before contact, which is the 11th-fewest in the NFL. They’ve allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per weighted opportunity to running backs, behind only the Saints, Steelers, and Bears. Those are three teams you don’t want to see on your schedule for running backs. What helps Drake is that with Kyler Murray dealing with his shoulder injury, he’s getting practically all the carries inside the five-yard line (had five in Week 12 alone), as Edmonds has received just one carry inside the 10-yard line all year. Touchdowns will be important, as there’s been just two running backs who’ve topped 71 yards on the ground against the Rams all year, and both backs saw 20-plus carries. The 5.33 yards per target they’ve allowed to running backs ranks as the 14th-lowest mark in the league, so that’s where some production can be had, and it helps to know Drake has seen nine targets over the last two games (had 11 in the previous eight games). Drake should be considered a somewhat touchdown-dependent low-end RB2 this week in a tough matchup. As for Edmonds, he’s more of a high-end RB4 who’s still getting 8-12 opportunities per game, though they’re likely to be inefficient in this matchup.
Robert Woods: Have we watched a shift in the offensive philosophy for the Rams over the last few weeks? Sean McVay has done this multiple times in his coaching career, so when we see Woods get 27 targets over the last two weeks after averaging just 6.7 targets per game in the first nine games, we have to pay attention. Woods has also totaled 20 carries on the year, which provide that little bit of extra value. Wide receivers have seen a 61.7 percent target share against the Cardinals, which is the third-highest number in the league, so that bodes well for Woods, who crushed this team for 13/172/0 in their first meeting last year, and then 7/67/1 in the second one. They did add Dre Kirkpatrick this offseason, and he’s been an upgrade on the perimeter, allowing 45-of-63 passing for 486 yards and two touchdowns. Still, we’ve watched them allow 10 receivers to finish as top-24 options this year. It is worth noting that eight of them saw at least nine targets, which is seemingly a very reachable number for Woods. He should be in lineups as a solid high-floor WR2.
Cooper Kupp: We’ve watched Kupp’s targets vary anywhere from five to 20 targets this season, which has made him a bit inconsistent to rely on as a WR2, but he’s still reached double-digit PPR points in 8-of-11 games, giving him a decent floor, and we’ve seen his upside (three 100-yard games this year). Of the fantasy production the Cardinals allow to opposing skill-position players, wide receivers make up 55.7 percent of it, which ranks as the third-highest mark in the league. The best news for Kupp this week is that the three biggest performances the Cardinals have allowed this year were slot-heavy receivers, as Tyler Lockett (15/200/3), Cole Beasley (11/109/1), and Jamison Crowder (8/116/1) all finished as top-seven options against them, and that’s not even including Lockett’s follow-up performance where he totaled 9/67/1. The Cardinals have put Byron Murphy into the slot, which is not his natural position, and he’s struggled a bit in that role. He’s also the weakest link in the Cardinals secondary, so we should expect Kupp to get peppered with targets in this game. Go ahead and start him as a solid WR2.
Josh Reynolds: It’s now been five straight games where Reynolds has seen six-plus targets, which puts him on the fantasy map, though three of those games have netted 9.0 or less PPR points. Is the matchup against the Cardinals great enough to consider him? Probably not considering Reynolds plays almost all his snaps on the perimeter, which is where Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick play, the Cardinals two top cornerbacks. Here’s the list of perimeter-heavy wide receviers who’ve finished top-36 against them: Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Kenny Golladay, and D.K. Metcalf. That’s it. The only other perimeter receiver who totaled more than 51 yards was DeVante Parker, who caught six balls for 64 yards. Reynolds isn’t a recommended start in this matchup.
DeAndre Hopkins: Weeks 11 and 12 was the first time all season where Hopkins finished outside the top-12 wide receivers in back-to-back weeks in a Cardinals uniform. He’s now finished with 55 or less yards in three of his last four games, though there were a couple tough shadow matchups in there. Unfortunately, Week 13 won’t be any different. When playing against the Rams, wide receivers have scored 6.7 fewer PPR points per game against the Rams than they do on average, making it the second-worst matchup when you adjust for schedule. It surely doesn’t help wide receivers knowing they’ve seen just 52.3 percent of the targets thrown, which is the lowest percentage in the NFL. The Rams have allowed just six wide receiver touchdowns all season, and that’s over a span of 207 targets. That’s not it, either. They’ve allowed just 7.24 yards per target to receivers, which is the league-low (closest team is at 7.51). If the Cardinals want to move the ball, they’ll have to do it via the short passing game, as the Rams have allowed a league-low 10.94 yards per reception. Last year, the average top-12 wide receiver performance took 19.7 PPR points, which is a number the Rams have allowed just once this season, and it was to Deebo Samuel last week, who saw 13 targets and was continually getting the ball behind the line of scrimmage. Hopkins is going to see Jalen Ramsey in coverage, which has been a chore for almost every receiver this year. I’d feel better about Hopkins if we knew Murray were healthy, but it doesn’t seem like he is, which makes Hopkins just a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 this week.
Christian Kirk: He’s seen at least six targets in each of his last five games, so volume isn’t the issue, but something clearly is, as he’s failed to top 50 yards in four of those five games, including each of the last three. With Kyler Murray struggling, Kirk is no longer a receiver you must start, especially when you look at the matchup this week. Wide receivers have averaged a league-low 136.3 yards per game against the Rams this year. They’ve allowed a league-low 29.9 PPR points per game to opposing receiving corps, which isn’t even due to a lack of volume, because the 1.56 PPR points per target they’ve allowed is also the league-low. They’ve allowed a touchdown once every 34.5 targets, which is a tad ridiculous. If you think that he’ll get more production because Hopkins will draw Jalen Ramsey, you’re overlooking Darious Williams, who’s been nearly as good as Ramsey, allowing just a 49.8 QB Rating in his coverage. There have been just 10 wide receivers all year who’ve finished as top-36 options against the Rams, which is obviously not great. Even lowering the bar to top-50 performances, they’ve allowed just 13 of those, which makes Kirk just a WR4/5-type option.
Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett: Over the last three weeks, we’ve watched Higbee run 65 routes while Everett has run 58 of them. Their stat lines are Higbee 8/85/0 and Everett 8/70/0. Good times. Since Higbee’s big three-touchdown game in Week 2, there have been just two double-digit PPR performances out of Rams tight ends, and both were Everett. Whatever the case, it’s not a tight end unit you need to attack unless it’s an obviously great matchup. The Cardinals are no longer the defense you target with tight ends, as they’ve held tight ends to just 9.5 PPR points per game, which is the sixth-fewest in the league. It’s not even due to a lack of trying by opposing teams, because the 1.47 PPR points per game they’ve allowed ranks as the fifth-fewest. There has been no starting tight end who’s finished with more than 9.8 PPR points in a game against them this year, which is quite the departure from the team that allowed 13 top-10 tight end performances. Unless one of these tight ends misses time, you don’t want to try and predict which one might have success. In this game, it’s probably neither of them.
Dan Arnold: We’ve still yet to see a Cardinals tight end finish with more than 9.1 PPR points in a single game. A big part of that is due to the fact that none of them have ever seen more than four targets. No matter how good the matchup, you cannot trust any of them.
New England Patriots at Los Angeles Chargers
Spread: Chargers -1
Patriots vs. Chargers Betting Matchup
Cam Newton: If you were to put Newton’s passing yardage in Derrick Henry‘s game log for rushing yards, I don’t think it would look too far out of place, as Newton has finished with 174 or less passing yards in 7-of-10 games, including 118 yards or less in three of his last six games. Considering he’s rushed for 21 yards or less in four of his last six games, this is a big problem. Chargers opponents have averaged just 61.3 plays per game, while the Patriots have netted just 62.9 plays per game, so it’s not a week to expect a whole lot of volume out of the Patriots offense. Here’s a fun fact that you can use in Newton’s favor: The Chargers are the only team in the NFL who hasn’t held a quarterback to fewer than 14.0 fantasy points. Just three of them have topped 19.8 fantasy points, but the fantasy floor has been there. The Chargers have allowed just 6.78 yards per attempt, so don’t go expecting Newton to get his passing yards up very much in this game. The ground is where we have to look for production, and the Chargers have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks. When you factor in rushing yards from all positions, the Chargers have allowed 4.77 yards per carry, which is the third-most in the league, behind only the Texans and Cowboys. They’ve also allowed 11 rushing touchdowns, which isn’t near the league leaders, but it’s enough. Newton has fallen out of the QB1 range, but based on the floor that the Chargers have allowed, he should be a high-floor QB2 option.
Justin Herbert: We’ve watched a rookie throw for 300-plus yards six times through 10 NFL games. Seriously, what? The only quarterback who has more of those games is Patrick Mahomes, who has seven such games (he’s also started one more game than Herbert). It helps that Herbert has averaged 40.2 pass attempts per game, but he still has to get the job done in the end. When you mix Herbert’s high pass attempts with the Patriots’ 69.0 percent completion-rate they’ve allowed, you could get big results. Despite Kyler Murray‘s best efforts to bring the number down, the Patriots are still allowing a league-leading 8.29 yards per pass attempt. You see, the Patriots aren’t used to seeing a team throw the ball a lot, as their opponents have thrown the ball a league-low 51.2 percent of the time. This should be interesting to see how the game flows, as the Chargers’ games have netted a massive 133.9 plays per game (3rd-most), while the Patriots’ games have netted a league-low 121.6 plays per game. Meanwhile, the Chargers have been running a league-high 72.6 plays per game while the Patriots opponents have averaged a league-low 58.7 plays per game. Something must give. The Patriots could choose to try and pressure the rookie, but that hasn’t affected him to this point, as his league-leading 98.1 QB Rating under pressure proves. No quarterback has thrown more than 37 pass attempts against the Patriots, though I’m not really sure why, as 9-of-11 quarterbacks have averaged at least 7.32 yards per attempt, including seven who averaged at least 8.14 yards per attempt. I’m okay playing Herbert as a rock-star QB1 with how this matchup aligns for him.
Damien Harris and James White: Despite the fact that Harris has been a very good running back on the ground, we were reminded why it’s tricky to evaluate him last week. Since taking over the starting job, Harris has averaged 13.8 carries per game. Heck, let’s pretend that number has been 16.0 just for this exercise. He’s failed to receive a target in four of the last five games, so we can’t count on that. Even if Harris gets 16 carries and averages a rock-star-like 5.0 yards per carry, he ends the game with 80 yards. If he doesn’t score, he’s not getting into startable territory, especially in PPR formats. The Chargers have allowed 1.0 rushing touchdown per game this year, which is tied for 15th. Going back to what we were just talking about, the Chargers have allowed 4.98 yards per carry, which is the third-most in the NFL. So, that 5.0 yards per carry I mentioned was very relevant. There have been nine running backs who’ve totaled at least 61 yards on the ground against them. Harris should be considered an RB3 right now who’s extremely touchdown dependent because of how little he’s used in the passing game. As for White, he could have a decent outlook in this game. Running backs have been targeted 22.7 percent of the time against the Chargers, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the NFL. We were hoping that with Rex Burkhead out of the lineup that we’d see more targets for White, and we got them in Week 11 when he saw nine of them, but he followed that up with just one target last week. Fortunately, he snuck into the end zone twice on just five carries, which is something we’ll likely never get again, as White had just eight rushing touchdowns over the course of his 86-game career coming into that game. We need the passing game usage, so Week 12 was certainly a letdown. White should be considered a high-end RB4 in fantasy right now who apparently has a lower floor than we thought with Burkhead out of the lineup.
Austin Ekeler: The return to the lineup was a major success for Ekeler, as he saw a ridiculous 16 targets to go along with his 14 carries. This was one of the biggest weighted opportunity games in the NFL this year. In PPR formats, it was the most in a single game this year. Despite not finding the end zone, Ekeler still managed to rack up 23.9 PPR points, highlighting a floor that’s ridiculously high. The Patriots opponents have chosen to run the ball a league-high 48.8 percent of the time, which is fine for Ekeler, as he’s averaged 4.6 yards per carry on the year. Despite teams running the ball at a high rate, it hasn’t amounted to much success, as they’ve allowed just five running backs score 11.5-plus PPR points against them, which is the number it took to hit top-24 numbers in 2019. The Saints are the only other team in the league who’s allowed fewer than them through 12 weeks. They have allowed the 19th-most fantasy points to running backs, so the production against them has just been spread out. They’re also allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per weighted opportunity, so you shouldn’t shy away from using Ekeler as a low-end RB1 this week.
Jakobi Meyers: Despite Newton not throwing the ball very well, Meyers has finished with at least six targets and 52 yards in five of his last six games. Over that time (Week 7-12), Meyers is the No. 16 wide receiver in half PPR formats. He’s not someone you play for a ceiling, but his floor is respectable. Wide receivers have seen just a 53.1 percent target share against the Chargers, which ranks as the second-lowest mark in the league. Meanwhile, the Patriots quarterbacks have targeted their wide receivers 70.0 percent of the time. Lack of production has followed the lack of targets, as receivers have accounted for just 45.7 percent of the fantasy points the Chargers have allowed to skill-position players. The only team who’s allowed a lower percentage is the Bears. All in all, there have been just 10 wide receivers who’ve scored 11.2-plus PPR points against the Chargers this year, which ranks as the second-fewest in football. They were without Casey Hayward last week but did get Chris Harris Jr. back into the lineup. If Hayward returns, the Chargers suddenly have a deadly trio between Hayward, Harris Jr, and Michael Davis. It would be Harris Jr. in coverage with Meyers most of the time, as he’s their slot cornerback. Harris has just returned from a seven-game absence, so maybe he’s catching him at the right time? He hasn’t been shutdown in his coverage to this point, so Meyers isn’t a must-avoid or anything, as the bigger risk is his quarterback. Consider him a decent WR4-type option who you’re sacrificing a bit of ceiling to play.
Keenan Allen: Another week goes by… another week Allen has seen 10-plus targets. He’s also scored in seven of the last nine games, including each of the last five games. Because of all that, he’s the WR4 in fantasy, behind only Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, and D.K. Metcalf. Now, what happens when you mix a wide receiver who is essentially a lock for 10 targets against a defense that’s allowed the second-most PPR points per target? The 2.03 PPR points per target the Patriots have allowed to wide receivers is behind only the Cowboys. Some will be concerned about Stephon Gilmore shadowing him, but you need to know that Allen plays 51 percent of his snaps in the slot, which is an area of the field that Gilmore doesn’t typically travel. And to be fair, he really shouldn’t be going in there, as he’s allowed four catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns on just seven targets in slot coverage. It’ll likely be Jonathan Jones on Allen most of the game, the cornerback who’s allowed the fourth-most yardage in the slot this year. There have been eight wide receivers who’ve finished with 15-plus PPR points against the Patriots this year, and the best part is that none of them even required 10 targets to get there. Start Allen as a WR1 every week.
Mike Williams: He’s now seen a solid five-plus targets in five straight games, which is something we couldn’t rely on earlier in the season. He’s still a bit of a boom-or-bust play but it helps when your quarterback is throwing for 300-plus yards in 60 percent of his games. The one thing we need to pay attention to is how much of an effect Austin Ekeler has on his target totals because even though Williams saw five targets, it was just 9.6 percent of the targets. Herbert isn’t going to throw the ball 52 times every week. In fact, the Patriots see just 17.3 wide receiver targets per game, which is the lowest mark in football. The good news is that they’ve allowed a massive 9.24 yards per target to wide receivers (5th-most) and have allowed a touchdown once every 13.6 targets, which is the third-most often. As you can see, it’s somewhat of a mixed bag, but the reason I’m fading Williams this week is because I believe he’s going to see a lot of Stephon Gilmore, as Keenan Allen goes into the slot far too often to be shadowed by Gilmore. Because of that, Williams is a high-risk WR4 this week.
Ryan Izzo: I could just copy and paste his notes from last week because nothing has changed, as he didn’t see a single target in Week 12. He has 19 targets on the year: you’re not contemplating him.
Hunter Henry: Despite Austin Ekeler coming back to the lineup, Henry managed to see a season-high 10 targets against the Bills. He also turned them into a season-high seven receptions for 67 yards, so he’s now finished with at least 13.7 PPR points in each of his last three games. It took a little while for him and Herbert to get on the same page, but it appears we’ve finally gotten there. This is the game where we’re going to find out how a smaller portion shakes out, as the Patriots haven’t faced more than 37 pass attempts in any one game. The Chargers would be wise to look at others for production, as the Patriots have been one of the worst matchups in the league for tight ends, and that’s backed up by Football Outsiders’ DVOA that has them ranked as the seventh-toughest matchup for the position. No tight end has topped 13.3 PPR points against them this year, and they’ve played against Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller, and Mark Andrews. Tight ends have scored 3.5 fewer PPR points per game against the Patriots versus what they’ve averaged in non-Patriots game, which makes them the fourth-worst schedule adjusted matchup for tight ends. It’s impossible to sit Henry considering the stability he brings to lineups but dial back expectations this week and avoid him in cash DFS lineups.