The Primer: Week 14 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Spread: Titans -7.5
Titans at Jaguars Betting Matchup
Ryan Tannehill: We don’t see the ultra-negative gamescript from the Titans often, but last week was one where the defense put them in a bad spot where they couldn’t establish the run Derrick Henry. That led to a season-high 45 pass attempts out of Tannehill who finished with 389 yards through the air, which was the fourth-highest mark of his career. It’s not something we should expect every week, particularly in this matchup against the Jaguars. When these two teams met earlier in the year, Tannehill was uber-efficient, completing 18-of-24 passes for 239 yards and four touchdowns. We know the Titans are an efficient team, right? They rank as the 12th-efficient team in regards to fantasy points per offensive play, so when you add that in with the fact that the Jaguars allow the third-most fantasy points per offensive play, it’s a very good thing. Quarterbacks themselves have averaged 21.9 fantasy points per game, which is the fourth-most. The 26 passing touchdowns they’ve allowed ranks behind only the Titans themselves. That’s not because they faced a whole lot of attempts, but rather because they allow a passing touchdown on 6.19 percent of pass attempts, which ranks second to only the Cowboys. Then you look at the league-leading 8.17 yards per attempt they’ve allowed, and you realize they’ve allowed a ridiculous 0.553 fantasy points per actual pass attempt. By comparison, here are the quarterbacks who’ve averaged more: Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Tannehill. Even if Tannehill plays to average efficiency, he’s going to score points here. Tannehill will take a back seat to Derrick Henry, but he should still post low-end QB1 numbers with their massive 30.5-point team-implied total.
Mike Glennon: It was announced right after the Week 13 game that Glennon would be starting in Week 14. Through two starts, he’s completed 62.3 percent of his passes, though he’s averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt, and his lone touchdown pass against the Vikings came down to luck, as the ball ricocheted off a defender right into Laviska Shenault‘s hands (who was not the intended receiver). You also have to keep in mind when considering a quarterback like Glennon, even in 2QB leagues, that he can be benched at any point if he gets off to a rough start because Gardner Minshew is healthy. The Titans are suddenly allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. They’ve allowed 27 passing touchdowns, which is the most in the league. We know Glennon isn’t mobile, right? That doesn’t matter against the Titans, who get zero pass rush (league-low 2.87 percent sack-rate) and have allowed the most fantasy points per game through the air to quarterbacks. They’ve allowed at least two passing touchdowns to 9-of-12 quarterbacks, while just two quarterbacks have finished with fewer than 249 passing yards. Glennon isn’t a bad option in 2QB/Superflex formats but understand the risk you’re taking by playing him. If he doesn’t get benched, he’ll likely finish as a top-20 option.
Derrick Henry: If there’s any bit of good news to take from last week, it’s to be thankful that game came before the fantasy playoffs. It’s still frustrating that Henry isn’t used in the passing game, even when the team falls behind by 30-plus points. He saw just one target in a game where Tannehill threw the ball 45 times, which is inexcusable. This week, there shouldn’t be any gamescript concerns. The Jaguars opponents have called a run play on 46.0 percent of plays, which ranks third-most in the league, while the Titans themselves call a run play on 48.4 percent of their plays, the fourth-highest mark. Because of that, the Jaguars have faced the third-most rushing attempts this season by running backs, as running backs have managed to rack up 24.8 carries per game against them. There are six teams who haven’t seen that many touches by running backs. Speaking of touches, the Jaguars have seen 371 of them (30.9 per game), the second-most in the NFL. The Titans have a 30.5-point team-implied total this week, which is massive. It might seem too high until you hear their offense has hit 30-plus points in 7-of-12 games this year and are playing a Jaguars team who’s allowed 30-plus points in 6-of-12 games. There have been four running backs who’ve totaled 116-plus rushing yards against the Jaguars, and two of them didn’t even need 20 carries to get there. Over the last two weeks, they’ve allowed the Browns and Vikings running backs rack up 337 yards and a touchdown on 63 carries. We know how Henry dominates in December, right? If you forgot, here’s the chart on why he’s a locked and loaded elite RB1 for the fantasy playoffs.
James Robinson: Through two games with Glennon, Robinson hasn’t suffered at all. In fact, he’s been every bit of the RB1 he’s been all season, totaling 51 touches, 267 total yards, and two touchdowns in those two games. Here’s a fun fact: Robinson hasn’t finished outside the top-24 running backs in 10 of his last 11 games, while finishing as a top-12 running back in seven of them. The matchup against the Titans is nothing that should worry you, either. When you factor in weighted efficiency, the Titans rank as the fifth-worst defense against running backs on a per opportunity basis, behind only the Lions, Packers, Texans, and Raiders. Some will look and see they’ve allowed just 4.20 yards per carry, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. They’ve had some easy competition this year, and that’s on full display when you look at their adjusted opponent rank. Running backs have averaged 13.1 percent more PPR points against the Titans than they do in all of their non-Titans matchups, which makes this the sixth-best matchup for them. There have been nine running backs who’ve finished as top-14 options against them, including RB17 or better for every running back with 18-plus touches, which is a number Robinson has hit in each of his last six games. In fact, there hasn’t been a game this year where they haven’t allowed at least 13.5 PPR points to at least one running back. Robinson should be played as a solid RB1 in this contest.
A.J. Brown: He rolled his ankle early in the game, which didn’t look good, leaving fantasy managers bracing for the worst. Fortunately, he returned and finished the game with four catches for 87 yards, though he did fumble twice (lost one). You shouldn’t be surprised to see him miss some practice and/or be limited throughout the week, but I’ll make sure to update you here if there’s anything you need to know. The Jaguars have allowed the fourth-most PPR points per target (1.95) to wide receivers this year, so it would be good to have him at full health. Even better news is that the Jaguars have been missing their top two cornerbacks over the last few weeks and were being forced to start Tre Herndon, Luq Barcoo, and Josiah Scott. I couldn’t tell you who two of them were before a few weeks ago. It’s possible that C.J. Henderson comes off IR to play in this game, though his injury was a groin, which can take some time, and it’s possible they don’t rush him back after almost a month off. Even with him on the field for 9-of-12 games, the Jaguars have allowed nine different wide receivers to post 20-plus PPR points against them. Brown is an every-week start provided he’s healthy, and this matchup should get you excited. *Update* Brown has missed practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. He returned on Friday and is expected to play in this game.
Corey Davis: While Brown was trying to play through an ankle injury, it was Davis who took over the alpha role in the offense, racking up 12 targets, 11 receptions, 182 yards, and a touchdown against the Browns Denzel Ward-less secondary. We’re now at 9-of-10 games on the season where Davis has scored double-digit PPR points. Despite seeing two fewer targets than Brown on the year, Davis has nine more receptions and 76 more yards, though he trails in touchdowns (8 to 4). Knowing he’s the 100 percent healthy one going into a matchup with the Jaguars is great, as they’ve already allowed 16 wide receivers to finish with 14.5-plus PPR points against them this year, with 15 of those finishing as top-24 options (WR2 or better). In fact, there have been just two wide receivers (Randall Cobb and T.Y. Hilton) who’ve seen more than five targets against them and failed to finish as a top-35 option. Davis has seen six-plus targets in 7-of-10 games, and though he didn’t in his last game against the Jaguars, he did catch 3-of-5 targets for 36 yards and a touchdown. The Jaguars are also down three of their top four cornerbacks right now, though we don’t know if they’ll get any back for this week. It sure feels like a Derrick Henry week, but Davis has done enough to earn your trust as a high-end WR3 this year.
D.J. Chark: He saw seven targets in his first start with Mike Glennon, which is solid, though his up-and-down season continued with just two catches for 41 yards. He’s now finished outside the top-36 wide receivers (WR3 territory) in six of his last seven games, as he’s topped 56 yards just once since Week 4. He’s no longer a must-start, though you can consider him in good matchups (sadly, last week was supposed to be one of them). This week would qualify as a great matchup, as the Titans have allowed more fantasy points per game to wide receivers than any team not named the Seahawks or Falcons. The 196 receptions they’ve allowed is the second-most in the league, which should present a solid floor for the Jaguars top receiving option. There have now been 22 different wide receivers who’ve totaled 10.7 or more PPR points against them, which is nearly two per game. He’s going to see Malcolm Butler the most, who’s been targeted 78 times this year, which is the second-most in the NFL. On 78 targets, he’s allowed 52 receptions, 642 yards, and three touchdowns. That’s nothing to be worried about, and in fact, you should be happy that teams have been willing to throw at him as much as they have. Chark is a semi-risky WR3 this week, but the matchup should be good enough for him to deliver top-36 numbers.
Keelan Cole: I don’t think he should be considered for the time being. He’s finished outside the top-50 wide receivers in five of his last six games, including each of the last two with Glennon under center where he’s seen just eight targets that have turned into just four catches for 51 scoreless yards against the Browns and Vikings weak secondaries. While the Titans have been one of the worst defenses in the league against receivers, their best cornerback (Desmond King) is in the slot. He does a high catch-rate, but he keeps the play in front of him, allowing just 9.5 yards per reception over his four-year career. He’s also allowed just two touchdowns on his last 81 targets in coverage. Cole is too risky at this time of the year to trust with Glennon under center.
Collin Johnson and Laviska Shenault: There’s clearly a connection between Glennon and Johnson, as he’s caught eight balls for 162 yards and a touchdown while seeing 14 targets over the last two weeks, but the issue is playing time. The snaps from last week were: Chark 62, Cole 49, Johnson 39, Shenault 25. Johnson went from 52 snaps in Week 12 down to 39 with Chark back in the lineup, while Shenault was shockingly playing behind Johnson. That’s noteworthy, which at least gives Johnson opportunity in 3WR sets, which they’re expected to run in a negative gamescript this week. Johnson will see a lot of Breon Borders, a former undrafted free agent from 2017 who’s been forced to play with Adoree Jackson out of the lineup. He’s allowed 21-of-38 passing for 290 yards and three touchdowns in his coverage, which is certainly good news for Johnson (Update: both Borders and Jackson have been ruled out). It’s also good news that Borders is just 6-foot-0 and 189 pounds, while Johnson measures in at 6-foot-6 and 221 pounds. It’s risky considering Shenault and him are sharing snaps, but Johnson deserves WR5 consideration.
Jonnu Smith or Anthony Firkser: We watched Firkser fill in for Smith last week, and he delivered for streamers catching five balls for 51 yards. Want to see something crazy? Here are their stats next to each other in 2020:
That makes you sad, right? There are just two teams who’ve allowed more PPR points per target (2.26) to tight ends than the Jaguars. It’s not touchdowns that have made that number, either, as the 8.51 yards per target ranks as the third-highest number in the NFL. Now, to be fair, the touchdown every 7.9 targets to them certainly doesn’t hurt, as it’s more often than any other team in the league. The biggest concern is lack of pass attempts out of Tannehill, as he threw the ball just 24 times in the first meeting, and it’s been a problem for tight ends against the Jaguars. With so many plus matchups over the field, there have been just two tight ends who’ve seen more than five targets against them, and none who’ve caught more than four passes. If Smith remains out, Firkser can be considered a decent high-end TE2 streaming option, though his ceiling might be a tad limited. In the matchup between these two earlier in the season, Smith caught 4-of-5 passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns. *Update* Smith returned to full practice and is expected to play in this game. He returns to high-end TE2 territory while Firsker moves back to waiver wires.
Tyler Eifert: You won’t hear Eifert complain about Glennon under center, as he’s seen 10 targets over the last two weeks, turning them into 9/61/1 against the Browns and Vikings. I’ve mentioned it before, but Eifert can actually be considered by streamers, as he’s seen at least four targets in eight of his last 10 games. The Titans are a team to consider streaming against, too. They’ve played 12 games and there’ve been just four tight ends who failed to finish as top-16 options against them. Those four tight ends combined for just nine targets (none had more than three targets). All in all, they’ve allowed a 74.7 percent catch-rate (4th), a touchdown every 11.3 targets (9th), 8.10 yards per target (7th), and 2.09 PPR points per target (4th). If you’re desperate and looking for a streamer who’s available in most leagues, Eifert can be considered as a mid-to-high-end TE2.
Dallas Cowboys at Cincinnati Bengals
Spread: Cowboys -3.5
Cowboys at Bengals Betting Matchup
Andy Dalton: He’s been more of the quarterback we all expected over the last three weeks, as he’s completed 67.8 percent of passes, averaged 234.3 yards per game, and has thrown six touchdowns to three interceptions. When you add in the fact that two of those games were against the Ravens and Washington, his number look better. And on top of all that, we have a revenge game! The Bengals are generating no pass rush and have generated a sack on just 2.95 percent of dropbacks. That’s the second-lowest mark in the league behind only the Titans. They haven’t generated higher than a 22.2 pressure-rate since way back in Week 8. We all know Dalton is strictly a pocket passer, so the passing numbers are really all we care about. The Bengals have allowed 0.488 fantasy points per actual pass attempt, which ranks as the ninth-highest mark in football, right behind the Vikings, the team Dalton threw for 203 yards and three touchdowns against just a few weeks ago on just 32 pass attempts. The downside is that this game has one of the lowest totals we’ve seen all year, so oddsmakers aren’t expecting there to be a whole lot of scoring in this game. We could see the Cowboys take a run-heavy approach to simply come away with a win against a weak run defense, too. Still, I think Dalton can be considered a solid play in 2QB formats.
Brandon Allen: He’s thrown for 289 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions… in his two games combined. Even if your league allowed you to combine his two games into one, he wasn’t startable with his 14.56 fantasy points. If there’s a team you consider most quarterbacks against, it’s the Cowboys. They’ve allowed a league-high 0.561 fantasy per actual pass attempt this season. That’s subtracting all rushing production and looking at strictly passing. Think about that for a minute; if a quarterback were to throw the ball 35 times, he’d wind up with 19.64 fantasy points, which is great for streamers. They have allowed a league-high 6.90 percent touchdown-rate, which has contributed to that in a big way. Unfortunately, they’ve seen a league-low 365 pass attempts against them, or 30.4 per game. When you add that in with Allen’s 24.0 pass attempts per game over the last two weeks, there shouldn’t be a whole lot of volume expected. But let’s be real, you’re not considering Allen unless you’re desperate and have no other options.
Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard: It was a quiet 95-yard performance for Elliott last week against the Ravens, though his managers would’ve appreciated a touchdown, as he hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown since way back in Week 5. Since losing Dak Prescott (in Week 5), Elliott has been the RB27 despite not missing any games during that time, behind guys like Adrian Peterson and Chase Edmonds. Can he give you one last hurrah this year? The Bengals, Cowboys, and Texans are the only teams in the league who are averaging 5.00-plus yards per carry to running backs, though the Bengals seem to tighten up around the goal-line, as they’ve allowed a touchdown once every 40.7 carries, which is the sixth-highest number in the NFL. The Cowboys haven’t shied away from Elliott in scoring position, as he still leads the league with 18 carries inside the five-yard line. Through 12 games, the Bengals have allowed eight different running backs to finish as the RB9 or better against them. That gives him a 75 percent chance to finish as an RB1 by default. Worst case scenario, you have a situation like last week where he totals around 100 total yards, though I’d expect more in a game the Cowboys are actually favored to win. Start him as a low-end RB1 this week.
Giovani Bernard: The Bengals ruled out Joe Mixon early this week, which tells me that we’re not likely to see him for the remainder of the season. Bernard hasn’t been a prized waiver wire addition recently, as he’s finished as the RB30, RB36, RB35, and RB45 over the last four weeks. It’s clear the loss of Joe Burrow has derailed this whole offense, Bernard included. He hasn’t topped 12 carries or 32 rushing yards in each of the last four games, and he’s also failed to top 55 total yards in each of them. That doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence in starting him for the first week of the fantasy playoffs, but if there’s a team you really need to consider him against, it’d be the Cowboys. Their opponents have run the ball a league-high 49.8 percent of the time, and that’s led to 26.8 carries per game for running backs. There are 15 teams who don’t see that many touches per game to running backs. Those carries have been very profitable, too. There have been 13 different running backs who’ve finished with 60-plus rushing yards against them this year, and it’s thanks largely in part to the 5.09 yards per carry they’ve allowed. Remember those lack of carries we talked about with Bernard? He’s still totaled 37-of-58 team carries over their last four games, which amounts to 63.8 percent. So, even if the Bengals reached even 20-25 carries in this game (much below the Cowboys opponents), we should see Bernard get 13-15 carries. Running backs haven’t done much of anything in the passing game against the Cowboys, as they’ve allowed a league-low 44 receptions, 251 yards, and no touchdowns. Bernard should be considered a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 with a solid floor in this game, though we do have to worry about his ceiling considering the Bengals haven’t topped 17 points without Burrow in the lineup. They also just lost their starting left tackle Jonah Williams for the year, though that will affect the pass game more than the run game.
Amari Cooper: I was sitting around talking with some friends the other day about CeeDee Lamb and they were saying how great he was going to be without Cooper around. I do think Lamb is going to be a good one, but why does everyone continually dismiss Cooper like the Cowboys should move on from him when there’s an out in his contract? Remember last year when it was Michael Gallup who was “better” than him? Cooper opens up a lot of things in the offense for guys like Lamb/Gallup. He’s also finished as the WR32 or better in 10-of-12 games this year despite all the issues they’ve had at quarterback. He’s currently on pace for 101 receptions, 1,188 yards, and five touchdowns. Sorry, just defending one of the better wide receivers in the game. The Bengals haven’t been a defense to shy away from with wide receivers, allowing the 15th-most fantasy points to the position. Teams have chosen to run the ball quite a bit against them, while tight ends have also done well, so it’s more of a pick-your-poison situation against them. Will Cooper continue to see his escalating targets (last five games have gone 5-6-7-8-9 targets)? He’ll likely get shadow treatment from William Jackson, who’s allowed 31-of-58 passing for 448 yards and three touchdowns in his coverage, so he’s certainly a decent cornerback who just held DeVante Parker in check, though Cooper is a different animal all together. Cooper has done enough to be played as a low-end WR2 on a consistent basis.
CeeDee Lamb: It’s been a bit of a bumpy road with Lamb since Prescott’s injury, as he’s finished as a top-30 receiver in three of the games but has also finished outside the top-50 wide receivers in four of them. The good news is that he’s seen a rock-solid 29 targets over the last four weeks, which is why he remains someone to consider in fantasy, especially now that Dalton’s playing a bit better. The Bengals have allowed 18 different wide receivers to finish with double-digit PPR points and top-40 wide receivers, so there’s certainly much more hope in this matchup than there was last week against the Ravens. The downside is that the toughest matchup the Bengals offer is in the slot with Mackensie Alexander. He’s allowed just 39-for-54 passing for 341 yards and one touchdown in his coverage, while William Jackson (Cooper’s matchup) has faced just four more targets but allowed 107 more yards and two more touchdowns. Lamb can still win and is obviously a force in the red zone, and the Cowboys should have more scoring opportunities in this game than usual. He should be considered a low-end WR3/high-end WR4 who just might find the end zone.
Michael Gallup: Just when you’re about ready to forget about Gallup, he goes and finishes with 7/86/1 against the Ravens stiff secondary (to be fair, they were down a starting cornerback). Regardless, Gallup has seen a very respectable 43 targets over the last five games. Did you realize he’s just 72 yards off Lamb’s yardage this year? Lamb has racked up more receptions and is a better red zone option, but maybe we dismissed Gallup too easily. He might get the best matchup this week, too. While Cooper likely draws William Jackson in coverage, Gallup will get Darius Phillips, who was just activated from IR with a groin injury, or his backup cornerback LeShaun Sims. This is certainly something to watch as the week goes on, as Phillips was decent before his injury while Sims has been horrendous, allowing 39-of-49 passing for 465 yards and five touchdowns in his coverage. Either way, Gallup does have what’s likely the best matchup for the Cowboys, so he’s in the WR4 conversation, though we’ve certainly seen some volatility among the Cowboys receivers this year, making him a risk/reward option.
Tyler Boyd: So, it was a good thing that Boyd caught that 72-yard touchdown early in the game against the Dolphins, as he was ejected in the second quarter for what was an extremely weak penalty. Let me be clear: He should not have been ejected. It was clear that he was going to be a big part of their gameplan, as he received four targets very early on. The matchup with the Cowboys hasn’t been a very profitable one for slot receivers, as Jourdan Lewis seems to be the one bright spot in their secondary. There have been 39 cornerbacks who’ve played 100-plus snaps in slot coverage this year. The 1.21 PPR points per target he’s allowed ranks as the third-fewest among them. He’s still yet to allow a touchdown on his 44 targets in coverage. That on top of the fact that the Cowboys have faced just 18.3 wide receiver targets per game is problematic. With that being said, the Cowboys don’t always have him on the field and there’ll be times Boyd gets the other cornerbacks (who’ve been bad), so you can’t just hard-fade Boyd, especially knowing Tee Higgins is dealing with some sort of hamstring issue. For now, Boyd can be considered a high-end WR4 who’d certainly get a bump if Higgins is out and/or limited.
Tee Higgins: He reportedly suffered a slight hamstring strain towards the end of the Dolphins game, which is something to pay attention to as the week goes on. He was at practice on Wednesday but was listed as a limited participant. If we’ve learned anything the last two seasons, it’s that we cannot trust the Bengals medical staff to tell us the truth (see: A.J. Green and Joe Mixon). Higgins has now played two and a half games without Joe Burrow, and while they haven’t been great, they haven’t been horrendous. He’s finished with 10 receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks combined, which included a tough matchup with the Dolphins cornerbacks. The matchup with the Cowboys this week is the opposite of a tough matchup, as they’ve allowed a league-high 2.13 PPR points per target, which is 6.1 percent more than any other team. The cornerback duo of Chidobe Awuzie and Rashard Robinson have combined to allow 22-of-29 passing for 308 yards and five touchdowns in their coverage. They’re simply leaking fantasy points everywhere, so if Higgins is healthy, he should produce at least WR3 numbers, so we’ll pay attention as the week goes on. *Update* He was limited throughout the week and is considered questionable for this game.
Dalton Schultz: Despite not starting until Week 2 and losing Dak Prescott in Week 5, Schultz remains a top-12 tight end on the season. He’s offered a solid floor most of the time, totaling 7.4-plus PPR points in 9-of-11 starts though he’s topped 12.5 PPR points just twice, so the ceiling is limited. Can this matchup give him a shot at that ceiling? The 16.1 PPR points per game the Bengals have allowed to tight ends ranks as the fourth-most in the NFL. It sure helps that they’ve seen a league-high 8.7 targets per game to them, but still, that’s led to a league-high 822 yards. Touchdowns have been a slightly tougher, though the seven touchdowns they’ve allowed still ranks as the seventh-most. Through 12 games, they’ve allowed nine different tight ends to post double-digit PPR points against them. The only downside to Schultz is that we’ve seen his targets go 8-7-6-5-4 over the last five weeks, trending downward, but in this matchup, he can be considered a sturdy high-end TE2.
Drew Sample: He’s seen an increased role with Brandon Allen under center, totaling 12 targets over the last two games that have netted 11 receptions for 89 yards, which has put him on the fantasy radar, though you can’t really feel all that confident about playing a tight end with a limited sample size who has a quarterback who’s thrown for fewer than 200 yards in each of his two starts. Does that matchup with the Cowboys give you any more confidence? Well, yes and no. They’ve allowed the 13th-fewest PPR points per game (12.0) to tight ends, which is the bad news. That’s because tight ends have only been targeted 63 times on the year, which is the lowest total in the NFL. That’s likely because teams have chosen to pass the ball just 50.2 percent against them and there are plus matchups all over the place. But when they are targeted, production follows. They’ve allowed 2.09 PPR points per target, which is the fourth-highest mark in the league, though much of that is due to touchdowns. There’s been just three tight ends all year who’ve topped 40 yards receiving against them, so do you really want to rely on a touchdown out of Sample? The risk you’re taking is not worth the potential reward.
Houston Texans at Chicago Bears
Spread: Texans -1.5
Texans at Bears Betting Matchup
Deshaun Watson: He managed to clear 300 yards for the seventh time in his last nine games, though they didn’t lead to any touchdowns through the air. Watson did salvage his fantasy day by rushing for 38 yards and a touchdown, but his three turnovers on the day really hurt his finish. That was a tough divisional game against the Colts, who’ve been a tough matchup to opponents, so I felt like it was a positive game overall considering how many weapons he’s lost. This week’s matchup was one of the worst in football for the first half of the season, but the Bears defense seems to have slowed down as of late. They’ve allowed at least two passing touchdowns in each of their last six games, which included Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford. In their first six games, there was no quarterback who topped 16.2 fantasy points. Over their last six games, they’ve allowed at least 16.9 fantasy points to five quarterbacks, including 25-plus points in each of the last two. We can’t get too sure of Watson, though, as the Bears have allowed just two quarterbacks to average more than 7.5 yards per attempt and have allowed just one quarterback to top 297 yards, so it’s not a clear-cut great matchup, though volume has made it a solid one. They’ve faced a solid 35.1 pass attempts per game, and we know the Texans don’t have much of a run-game. It should be noted that the Bears have kept quarterbacks in check on the ground, allowing just 14.1 fantasy points on the entire season, which ranks as the third-fewest in the NFL. Watson showed enough last week to be considered a low-end QB1 for this contest, but pay attention to the weather, as it’s supposed to be near freezing (forecast says a high of just 33 degrees) in Chicago on Sunday. We haven’t seen Watson play in a game with sub-40 degree weather during his five-year career.
Mitch Trubisky: In games Trubisky starts, the Bears have generated 25.8 points per game, which is respectable. In games where Nick Foles starts, the Bears generated 16.7 points per game. While Trubisky will take the blame for the Bears losing last week, he was not the problem; his fumble just came at the wrong time. For the most part, he looked extremely competent last week against a banged-up Lions secondary. While David Montgomery found the end zone twice, that’s not something to expect every week (he had just one rushing touchdown coming into that game). That could’ve just as easily been a three-touchdown game for Trubisky. Will things go his way in this contest that is extremely similar? The Texans have not been a team to force many turnovers, as they have just three interceptions on 413 pass attempts against them (0.7 percent). They’ve also allowed a 68.8 percent completion-rate, which is the fourth-highest mark in the NFL. Don’t expect to see Trubisky’s mobility make an appearance in this game, as the Texans have allowed just 95 yards on the ground all year to quarterbacks, which is the second-fewest in the NFL, while the 2.21 yards per carry they’ve allowed is a league-low. The Texans have played three games without Bradley Roby (who’s suspended for the rest of the season), and in them, they’ve allowed 76-of-107 passing for 872 yards (8.15 yards per attempt), and seven touchdowns, which included a game against Jake Luton. If there were a week you could consider Trubisky as a streamer, it’s this one, though it’s tough to actually recommend him knowing Matt Nagy likely has him on a short leash with Foles healthy.
David Johnson and Duke Johnson: In his first game back to the lineup, David looked solid while carrying the ball 10 times for 44 yards and a touchdown against a stiff Colts run defense. Unfortunately, the loss of Will Fuller didn’t result to any more targets for him, as Duke saw six to his two targets. It was the first time since Week 2 where he’s finished with fewer than 15 touches. That’s not great when going into a tough matchup against the Bears run defense. Factoring in weighted opportunity (targets are worth more than carries), the Bears are the fourth-toughest matchup for running backs from an efficiency standpoint. They’ve allowed just 4.08 yards per carry and a touchdown every 32.6 carries, which are both below the league average. There have been six running backs who’ve totaled more than 68 rushing yards against them, but it should be noted that five of them had 17-plus carries, a number that David may have trouble getting to. They’ve allowed the fifth-fewest receiving yards to running backs and are one of just four teams who’ve still yet to allow a receiving touchdown to them. When you add it all up, they’ve allowed a league-low 1.17 PPR points per target to running backs. That amounts to just 6.8 PPR points through the air, the fourth-lowest mark in the NFL. In the end, they’ve allowed 11 top-24 running backs this year, but just two of them have finished better than the RB15. David is the preferred option but is just a low-end RB2 with a lackluster ceiling. This matchup doesn’t suit Duke very well, though his six targets last week do keep him in the RB4 conversation. *Update* David Johnson may wind up not making the trip to Chicago, as he had a personal issue come up that forced him to miss practice, according to Adam Schefter. You’ll want to ensure he’s active on Sunday. If he were held out, Duke Johnson would be playable as a low-end RB3 who doesn’t have a whole lot of upside in this matchup.
David Montgomery: He came into last week with just two rushing touchdowns in his previous 20 games, so to say it was a surprise that he found the end zone twice against the Lions would be an understatement. We talked about the matchup and how good it was considering how many yards before contact the Lions allowed. Montgomery seems to have caught fire at the right time, totaling 254 total yards and three touchdowns over the last two weeks, as his concussion and bye week may have given him enough of a break to recharge his batteries. His matchup this week may not be as good as it was last week, but it’s close. The Texans allow a massive 102.4 PPR points per game to their opponents, and of the production allowed to skill-position players, running backs have accounted for 38.0 percent of it. The only teams who’ve allowed a higher percentage are the Packers and Lions, the two teams that Montgomery just dismantled the last two weeks. Speaking of the Lions, they’re the only team in the league who’s allowed more fantasy points per game to running backs than the Texans. Even better, the Texans have allowed most of that production on the ground, as they’ve faced a league-high 322 carries, allowed a league-high 1,677 rushing yards, and allowed the second-most rushing touchdowns (15). Production can be had through the air, too, as they’ve allowed 6.64 yards per target (4th-most), but there are plus matchups throughout the secondary, which is why running backs haven’t seen tons of targets in the passing game. All in all, the 185.7 total yards per game the Texans have allowed to running backs is more than any other team in the league, including the Lions. They’ve faced 74 red zone touches by running backs, which ranks second to only the Lions, while Montgomery gets almost all those touches for the Bears. Montgomery deserves low-end RB1 consideration once again this week.
Brandin Cooks: He took a hit late in the game last week that made me wonder if his season was over, as he was clearly unconscious on the field for a moment. They cleared him of a concussion, though I don’t know if we’re in the clear just yet based on his history with head injuries. It’s something to monitor as the week goes on. The Bears defense has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers this year, though they have been slipping a bit as of late. Over their last three games, they’ve allowed six top-36 wide receiver performances, including both Marvin Jones and Quintez Cephus last week. The Bears aren’t a team who’ll allow tons of receptions to a wide receiver (60.5 percent completion-rate to wide receivers), but they do allow 13.54 yards per reception, which is one of the higher marks in the league. The 8.19 yards per target they allow to receivers is right in line with the league average. While this used to be a matchup to run from, Cooks gets enough volume to warrant a low-end WR2 start, provided he’s good to go.
Keke Coutee: We knew he’d have a bigger role in the offense with Fuller out, but it was hard to see a nine-target game coming his way. In a tough matchup against the Colts, he rattled off eight receptions for 141 yards. He did stay in the slot-heavy role he was playing with Fuller, as that’s where 75 percent of his routes were run from. That’s a good thing against the Bears, who have Buster Skrine defending that area of the field. There have been just two cornerbacks who’ve allowed more than 399 yards in their slot coverage. Skrine has allowed 539 yards. Yes, that leads the league. He’s allowing a robust 119.9 QB Rating in his coverage and will likely have issues with Coutee. The Bears have allowed just 13 wide receivers to finish top-36 against them, but six of them have come in the last three games. We don’t have a massive sample size of a lot of targets with Coutee, but based on what we do, and combined with the plus-matchup against Skrine (who’s been ruled out), he’s in the low-end WR3/high-end WR4 conversation.
Allen Robinson: He popped up with a knee injury during Friday’s practice and was listed as questionable, though it didn’t seem to affect him much while snagging 6-of-7 targets for 75 yards against the Lions. Despite the massive instability at quarterback for the Bears, Robinson has finished as the WR44 or better in 11-of-12 games this season, including four top-10 weeks. With no contract, it’ll be interesting to see where he lands next year, though I’m guessing he’ll want to go somewhere with a stable quarterback in place. When teams aren’t running all over the Texans, they’re passing with high efficiency, especially when wide receivers are the targets. They’ve averaged 1.98 PPR points per target against the Texans this year, which is a sample that includes a lot of Bradley Roby, who was suspended for the remainder of the season prior to last week. Not by coincidence, the Colts receivers combined for 167 yards and a touchdown on just 17 targets last week, including 8/110/1 by T.Y. Hilton. The other two games they were without Roby, we watched Davante Adams go for 13/196/2 and D.J. Chark 7/146/1 with Jake Luton as his quarterback. Robinson should be played as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 in this game.
Darnell Mooney: At this point, we don’t even care that much about the high target volume Mooney’s been getting because it hasn’t resulted in fantasy production. He’s finished as the WR47 or worse in 10-of-12 games, including each of his last four games. It really is hard to overlook a wide receiver who’s seen five-plus targets in nine of his last 10 games against the Texans who’ve allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to the position, including the third-most PPR points per target (1.98), but when Mooney hasn’t topped 43 yards in seven of his last eight games, the risk is just too great for the potential reward. He makes for an interesting one-percent tournament option, though.
Anthony Miller: He’s averaged 7.0 targets over his last six games, which is more than enough to be fantasy relevant, but unfortunately, he’s finished as a top-50 wide receiver just once during that time. It’s hard to consider a receiver like that in the fantasy playoffs because it’s not like his targets can rise as a 3WR set-only player, so you’re simply left hoping for increased efficiency. While the Texans have allowed plenty of that to wide receivers, they haven’t been bad in the slot, which is where Miller plays most of his snaps. No slot-heavy receiver has topped 64 yards against them this year, so you’re left relying on a touchdown for Miller to sneak into startable territory. He’s stuck in WR5 territory right now.
Jordan Akins: We didn’t see Akins get a big share of the targets last week, which made sense. We talked about how brutal the matchup against the Colts was, so you shouldn’t have been shocked by the two-catch, 10-yard performance. The great news is that Akins ran 36 routes in that game, which ranked second to only Darren Waller last week. This is the week where we should be expecting more out of the athletic tight end. Of the fantasy production the Bears have allowed to skill-position players, tight ends have accounted for a league-high 23.3 percent of that production. No other team in the league is above 21.4 percent. Suddenly, they’ve allowed the third-most fantasy points per game (16.2) to tight ends. There is no team in the NFL who’s allowed more receptions (70) to the tight end position, so should see the Texans actually target Akins in this game. The Bears have played 12 games and have allowed 11 tight ends to finish as the TE18 or better, highlighting what should be a high floor for Akins. If you’re looking for a streamer available on most waiver wires, Akins should be considered a high-end TE2 streamer this week.
Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham: We’re witnessing a change of the guard in Chicago, as Kmet out-snapped Graham 54 to 34. He also ran more routes (20 to 15) and saw more targets (7 to 1). It’s not likely to end after Kmet flashed on those targets, racking up five catches for 37 yards and a touchdown. It was the third-best performance by a Bears tight end this season. While the Texans have been a better matchup for offenses in general, they haven’t been a particularly great one for tight ends. Going through their opponents, they’ve averaged 0.4 fewer PPR points against the Texans than they have in their non-Texans matchups, making them the 12th-worst schedule-adjusted matchup for tight ends. They’ve allowed just one tight end (T.J. Hockenson) to finish with more than 8.8 PPR points over their last six games, and he recorded most of his production on one long reception. The only other starting tight ends who’ve finished as top-12 options against them were Travis Kelce and Eric Ebron, two of the better options at the position this year. I’d rather play it safe this week than risk it with such a small sample size. If we see another five-plus target game for Kmet here, he could be in the streaming conversation in Week 15.
Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers
Spread: Panthers -3.5
Broncos at Panthers Betting Matchup
Drew Lock: There was a two-week stretch in Weeks 8-9 where Lock really made everyone feel he was onto something. Unfortunately, that proved to be a small sample size, as they were the only two games this year where he finished better than the QB20. He’s failed to crack even 11.1 fantasy points in each of his last three games. You’re probably not considering him, but if you were, let’s talk about the matchup. If you were simply looking at fantasy points allowed, the Panthers rank as a top-12 matchup for quarterbacks. However, when you look at things a bit closer, it’s not as great for pocket passers. Sure, they’ve allowed a 68.7 percent completion-rate, but they’ve also averaged just 6.91 yards per attempt with a 4.22 percent touchdown-rate, which are both below the league average. When you break it down to fantasy points per actual pass attempt, the Panthers rank as the 12th-toughest matchup for quarterbacks. The 163 yards and four touchdowns they’ve allowed on the ground to quarterbacks doesn’t really apply to Lock. The pass attempts need to be there to consider Lock but knowing the Broncos defense has played pretty well this year, it’s unlikely this game turns into any sort of shootout, as evidenced by the low total. If there’s one thing that works in Lock’s favor, it’s that the Panthers lack a pass-rush. That’s big for his floor in this game, as his league-low 20.1 QB Rating under pressure suggests. Still, Lock isn’t someone I’d want to trust with your playoff hopes and dreams on the line.
Teddy Bridgewater: He played solid coming off his injury in Week 12, which allows us to consider him moving forward. He’s still yet to throw more than two touchdowns in a game, which doesn’t allow for big performances out of a quarterback with limited mobility. So, when you play him, you’re simply hoping for enough volume to carry him to 250-plus yards and two touchdowns. By all passing metrics, the Broncos are a bad matchup for quarterbacks. They’ve allowed a 65.1 percent completion-rate (18th-highest), 6.74 yards per attempt (28th), and a 3.87 percent touchdown-rate (28th), which all amount to just 0.405 fantasy points per actual pass attempt (28th). It certainly hurts Bridgewater to know they’re still generating pressure up front, as they’ve recorded a sack on 7.14 percent of dropbacks. The Broncos have allowed plenty of rushing production to quarterbacks (fourth-most in the NFL), which has inflated their overall numbers, and Bridgewater has rushed for at least 10 yards in 9-of-11 games this year, while scoring a rushing touchdown twice in his last three games. If he had all his pass-catchers healthy for this game, he’d be considered as a decent QB2 but knowing he might be without one or two of his top receivers, it’s problematic. His ranking will change based on the status of those two, but my guess is that you can find a safer option this week. It does help that the Broncos are likely down to three backup cornerbacks for this game.
Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay: Despite looking like he’d miss the game early last week, Lindsay played and received essentially the same number of touches as Gordon. This timeshare clearly isn’t going away any time soon, though it should based on what they’ve each done the last three weeks. Gordon has racked up 246 yards on 42 carries while Lindsay has only been able to muster 128 yards on 39 carries. Neither have been involved heavily in the passing game (just three targets for the two of them combined), so when the carries are divided, it’s hard to trust either of them. The Panthers aren’t the run defense they were last year, but they’re still not a matchup to run away from. There have been six running backs who’ve been able to rack up 22-plus PPR points against them this year, which stems from the fact that they’ve faced a rock-solid 27.4 touches per game by running backs. In terms of efficiency by weighted opportunity, they’ve allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per opportunity to running backs. Still, if you look at the recent games, they’ve been getting better against the run. Over their last five games, they’ve allowed just one running back top 61 yards on the ground and have allowed just two rushing touchdowns in that time. That includes a game against Dalvin Cook, who finished with 61 scoreless yards on 18 carries. During those last five games, there’s also been no running back who’s topped 21 yards through the air, so it’s suddenly not looking like a must-attack matchup it was at the start of the season. Gordon is the preferred option as a middling RB3 while Lindsay is just an RB4 who needs to score to be more than that.
Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis: They didn’t rule McCaffrey out until late in Week 12, so after another week to heal up, he should be back in the lineup for those of you who made the playoffs this year. You still have to pay attention to updates (I’ll update the notes at the bottom of this paragraph on Friday). The matchup against the Broncos was among the worst in the league earlier this season, but the injuries have added up and they’re now one of the better matchups for running backs. Since the start of Week 7, here are the splits for their defense:
|First 6 Games||104||382||3.67||1|
|Last 6 Games||179||857||4.79||9|
Clearly, injuries have affected their run defense. If there’s one thing they’ve done all year, it’s limit production in the passing game to running backs, allowing the fifth-fewest yards per target (4.67) to them. Overall, they’ve allowed the seventh-fewest PPR points through the air to running backs. Does any of that apply to McCaffrey? Probably not. It didn’t matter to James White who caught eight passes for 65 yards against them back in Week 6. You should be starting McCaffrey as an RB1 whenever he’s active. Davis moves back into a handcuff role, though it the Panthers are missing multiple receivers, we could see them utilize two running back sets where McCaffrey lines up as a receiver. Still, Davis is nothing more than an emergency RB4. *Update* McCaffrey is now expected to miss this game with a new quad injury that popped up during practice. Davis steps in for him and should be treated as a high-end RB2 against the struggling Broncos defense. Davis’ floor should be high considering the lack of options available at wide receiver for the Panthers, too.
Jerry Jeudy: There was a stretch in there where it seemed like Jeudy was going to ascend into the top-30 wide receivers after three straight top-40 performances, but we’ve taken about 10 steps back, as he’s failed to finish as a top-50 wide receiver in each of the last three games. It’s not just fantasy finishes to worry about; it’s his targets. If there’s one thing to note, it’s that he saw just four targets in both Chiefs games, a team that’s extremely good against receivers. The Panthers have been dealing with some injuries in their secondary this year, so while their run defense has seemingly gotten better, their secondary has started to leak a bit. They’ve allowed six top-26 wide receiver performances over their last three games, and while the Bucs and Vikings receivers are much better than the average group, it’s all relative. The 68.8 percent catch-rate the Panthers have allowed to wide receivers is one of the higher marks in the league, but the average catch against them goes for just 11.32 yards, which is the third-lowest number in the NFL. This is not great for Jeudy’s 14.6-yard average depth of target, which leads the team. All in all, there have been just 13 wide receivers who’ve finished top-36 against the Panthers, so Jeudy is far from a must-play this week. He should be considered a mediocre WR4 option whose quarterback is struggling a bit.
Tim Patrick: He’s been undervalued by everyone, including myself. If you exclude the game where the Broncos didn’t have a quarterback, Patrick has finished as a top-36 wide receiver in 7-of-9 games this year. The issue with putting complete trust in him is due to his disaster of a quarterback situation and lack of elite targets. He also has just two games with more than four receptions, which means he’s relied on the big play and/or touchdowns. The Panthers have allowed a competent 1.76 PPR points per target to wide receivers, which is essentially the league average. However, they’ve struggled a bit as of late, and part of it comes from them missing starting cornerback Donte Jackson in the lineup, as he’s missed a few games with a toe injury. That’s significant because if Jackson misses another game, Patrick will primarily see Troy Pride, the rookie cornerback who’s struggled a bit in coverage this year, allowing 25-of-34 passing for 366 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage. If Jackson were to miss this game, Patrick should be considered a playable WR3/flex option. If Jackson plays, Patrick would be more of a WR4 option who is still someone to consider with how he continually exceeds expectations.
D.J. Moore: There have certainly been some bumps in the road with Moore this year, but he’s totaled at least 49 yards in 11-of-12 games, including 93-plus yards in six of them. You may not know it, but Moore is on pace to finish with 1,232 yards and six touchdowns, which trumps his 1,175 yards and four touchdowns in 2019. Unfortunately, it seems like he won’t play this week. Not only did he suffer an ankle injury at the end of Week 12, but he also tested positive for COVID. If there’s news that comes out that suggests he might play, I’ll come back and update, but you should prepare to be without him.
Robby Anderson: The new offense shine has worn off just a bit with Anderson who’d averaged just 44.5 yards per game from Week 8 through Week 11, though he popped back onto the WR2 radar in Week 12 with his 94-yard, one-touchdown performance. It was against the Vikings, which is a team that has been trampled by wide receivers all year, so we can’t automatically assume he’s back into the every-week top-24 territory, though he’s going to be there this week with D.J. Moore likely out of the lineup. Even with Moore, Anderson has still seen at least five targets in every game, including seven-plus targets in 9-of-12 games. The matchup against the Broncos hasn’t been great this year, so we figure he’d likely need that added volume to make up for a lack of efficiency. The Broncos are one of just four teams who’ve held wide receivers to fewer than 7.50 yards per target this year, and they’ve been pretty consistent about not allowing the huge splash game, as no wide receiver has topped 104 yards against them, though there have been eight who’ve finished with 80-plus yards. That was with a healthy cornerback unit. Their top cornerback A.J. Bouye was just suspended for the rest of the season, their No. 2 cornerback Bryce Callahan was just placed on injured reserve, and their slot cornerback Essang Bassey has also been placed on injured reserve. That’s a lot of injuries on a team that has almost no depth. Anderson moves all over the formation, so there’s not one cornerback matchup he’ll have in particular, but his projected target share and upgraded matchup makes him close to an auto-start as your WR2 in this game.
Curtis Samuel: Over the last five weeks, Samuel is the Panthers top wide receiver in fantasy. Despite his 34 targets trailing Anderson’s 43 and Moore’s 36, Samuel has outscored the both of them by 23.7 PPR points. From Week 7 through Week 12, Samuel was the No. 7 wide receiver in fantasy, so maybe it was a shame the bye week came when it did. Whatever the case, he’s carved out a nice role in this offense. He did wind up on the COVID list this week as a close contact to D.J. Moore, though as far as we know, Samuel himself doesn’t have it, but the Panthers don’t have to release those details. You’ll want to stay tuned as the week goes on, but for now, we’ll assume Samuel plays. The Broncos have been a tough team to crack in the slot, though they’re not unbeatable, as rookie Essang Bassey has allowed 24-of-28 passing for 242 yards and a touchdown in his slot coverage. He was placed on injured reserve this week, so we really have no idea who’ll be covering the slot for them. But looking at the correlation of matchups that Samuel has done well in, it’s against teams who’ve struggled to stop the run, and the Broncos fall into that category. According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA, the Broncos rank as the 11th-toughest passing matchup in the short-area of the field, though that was with a healthy cornerback unit (they’re down three of their top four cornerbacks). With Moore likely out of the lineup, Samuel is likely to see an uptick in targets, which puts him smack dab in the middle of the WR3 conversation, provided he’s cleared from the COVID list. I’ll update his notes throughout the week. *Update* Curtis was cleared and back to a full practice on Friday.
Noah Fant: It hasn’t been the breakout season that most hoped it would be, as Fant has failed to finish as a top-10 tight end since way back in Week 2. He hasn’t finished worse than the TE24 in any week they’ve actually had a quarterback under center, which is at least something. If you find a tight end who has a top-18 floor in this wacky 2020 season, it’s a pretty good thing, believe it or not. Against the Panthers, we’ve watched 12 different tight ends finish as top-18 options, including six of them who finished as top-10 options. That’s the floor you’re looking for from a non-Kelce, Kittle, or Waller tight end. The odd part is that they’ve allowed just 1.70 PPR points per target to the position, which is slightly below the league average. Volume has been a real thing against Phil Snow’s defensive scheme, as tight ends have seen a massive 8.2 targets per game against them. So, is it just the opponents they’ve played? Not necessarily, as tight ends have averaged 0.3 more PPR points against the Panthers than they do versus their season-long average. Fant should be considered a solid low-end TE1 who should come with a decent floor.
Ian Thomas: No. Just no.