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The Primer: Week 14 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Dec 10, 2020
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New York Jets at Seattle Seahawks

Spread: Seahawks -13.5
Total: 47.5
Jets at Seahawks Betting Matchup

QBs
Sam Darnold:
Wait, Darnold finished with 20 fantasy points last week? And he did it while throwing just 23 pass attempts? To be fair, he failed to throw for fewer than 200 yards for the fourth straight game but had his fantasy day saved by 26 yards and a score on the ground. He’s still yet to top 230 passing yards all season. This should be fun to see if that can change against the Seahawks who’ve allowed 10-of-12 quarterbacks to top that number. Overall, the Jets offense has averaged the fewest fantasy points per game (57.4 PPR points), while the Seahawks defense has allowed the most fantasy points per game (107.7 PPR points). Expanding on this a bit more, the Seahawks have allowed the fourth-most points per play (1.53), while the Jets have averaged a despicable 0.98 points per play, which is dead last. The Jets offense has averaged just 58.4 plays per game while the Seahawks have faced a league-high 70.2 plays per game. We can’t ignore the fact that the Seahawks allow the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks (22.7). Teams have chosen to pass the ball a league-high 64.9 percent of the time against the Seahawks, which has led to quarterbacks averaging a massive 42.8 pass attempts per game against them, so it doesn’t even take a whole lot of efficiency to put points on the board. Despite quarterbacks averaging a slightly-above average 7.56 yards per attempt, the volume has carried them to average 323.1 yards per game, which is a number that no quarterback in the league is averaging (Patrick Mahomes is at 317.9). I’m willing to trust Darnold as a decent play in 2QB/Superflex formats.

Russell Wilson: Wilson has struggled in three of his last four games. Those games came against the Rams (2nd-fewest points allowed to quarterbacks), Eagles (12th-fewest), and Giants (6th-fewest). While early-season Wilson would’ve overcome those matchups, there should be no excuses in this game, as the Jets have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. The Jets are facing a robust 68.2 plays per game against them, which ranks second to only the Seahawks themselves. That’s allowed quarterbacks to rack up the passing yards, as the 299.0 per game they allow ranks third behind only the Seahawks and Falcons. What happens when you have a quarterback who’s uber-accurate and put him up against a defense that’s allowing a league-high 70.5 percent completion-rate? You expect efficiency. Despite the lack of scoring on the Jets part, opponents have racked up 29.4 points per game against them, so you don’t have to worry about lack of scoring due to gamescript. The Seahawks need to get their confidence back. Knowing there have been six quarterbacks who’ve racked up 24-plus fantasy points against them, Wilson should be locked and loaded as a high-end QB1 for the first week of the fantasy playoffs.

RBs
Frank Gore and Ty Johnson:
Last week was a bad beat for those who played Gore, as he was hurt on the first drive of the game and ruled out with a concussion. The combination of Ty Johnson and Josh Adams went on to combine for 178 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries against the Raiders, leaving you to wonder what it could’ve been for Gore. He doesn’t have a history with concussions, so I’m expecting him to be cleared in time for this game. The Seahawks have allowed 85.1 PPR points per game to the combination of running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, which is the most in the league, so there’s production out there to be had. Unfortunately, not a lot of that production has come on the ground, as they’ve allowed the 12th-fewest points via rushing to running backs, and that’s despite allowing a rushing touchdown once every 20.3 carries (third-most often). Passing game usage is extremely important, as teams have called a run play on a league-low 35.2 percent of plays against the Seahawks, which has led to just 18.6 carries per game. Running backs have racked up 73 receptions against the Seahawks, which is tied for the third-most in the league. Even with Gore active for both Week 11 and 12, Johnson was running half the routes and getting slightly more targets, so he could carry value even if Gore plays. Despite just two running backs topping 65 rushing yards all year, the Seahawks have allowed 15 different running backs to finish as the RB27 or better in PPR formats. If Gore is active, he’d be the one who I’d prefer, though he’d be stuck in the low-end RB3 territory while Johnson would be a high-end RB4. If Gore misses this game, Johnson would move into solid RB3 territory. *Update* Gore hasn’t been cleared as of Friday but they’re expecting him to on Saturday.

Chris Carson: So, it’s fair to say that things went back to normal with this backfield in Week 13, as Carson out-touched Carlos Hyde, 16-5. Carson was the only Seahawks player who delivered the value he was expected to in last week’s game. The Seahawks will be looking to get back on track against the Jets and don’t be surprised to see them go back to their old ways of pounding the rock. It surely doesn’t hurt that they’re projected for 30.5 points, which should give Carson plenty of scoring opportunities. It’s fun to poke fun at the Jets team as a whole, but when you look at the weighted opportunity they’ve faced, they’ve been really good, allowing the eighth-fewest PPR points per opportunity, right behind the Buccaneers. The 4.09 yards per carry they’ve allowed is below the league average of 4.35, while the 4.97 yards per target is below the league average of 5.40. Despite facing the third-most red zone touches to running backs, the Jets have allowed just nine total touchdowns to them (ranks bottom-12). While the Jets have been tougher than most realize on running backs, they have allowed the most receptions (74) in the league to the position. All in all, they’ve seen a massive 28.8 touches per game, which is enough volume for running backs to make up for the inefficiency. Carson should be considered a high-end RB2 for this game.

WRs
Denzel Mims:
It was a shame to see Mims’ value disappear in Week 13 when he saw just three targets. He did catch two of them for 40 yards and added a two-point conversion, but when it’s already risky starting a Jets receiver who’s seeing eight targets per game, it becomes even more problematic to start one who saw three in their last game, though Darnold did throw just 23 pass attempts, so there’s not much he could do. The Seahawks have seen a massive 42.8 pass attempts per game, so the same concerns shouldn’t apply to Mims this week. The Seahawks have also allowed a league-leading 48.2 PPR points per game to wide receivers, while no other team in the league has allowed more than 43.1 points per game. That’s a massive 10.6 percent gap. Wide receivers have averaged a massive 19.1 receptions per game against the Seahawks, which obviously allows for multiple fantasy-relevant performances. Mims plays most of his snaps at LWR, which means he’ll see Tre Flowers the most, the Seahawks cornerback who’s allowed 37-of-49 passing for 403 yards and one touchdown in his coverage. Mims is by no means a sure thing, but there should be six-plus targets in a plus matchup here, making him a risk/reward WR4. *Update* Mims needed to leave the team early this week to tend to a family emergency, so he’s been ruled OUT for this game. 

Breshad Perriman: The yo-yo of Perriman’s targets continued once again in Week 13. Don’t believe me? Here are his targets by week: 5-2-8-2-7-4-8-4. He should be back in line for an eight-target game this week if all holds true. I’m kidding, obviously, though my prediction has a very realistic chance of happening, as the Seahawks have seen a league-leading 27.0 targets per game go to wide receivers. Because of that, they’ve allowed more fantasy points to wide receivers than any other team in the league. The 225.6 yards per game they’ve allowed to the position is head and shoulders above everyone else, so it’s not like touchdowns have been the cause for them allowing so many points to wide receivers. In fact, they’ve allowed a touchdown once every 24.9 targets to them, which is below the league average of 20.7. Perriman will see a lot of Shaquill Griffin in coverage, the veteran cornerback who’s struggled quite a bit in coverage this year, allowing 33-of-50 passing for 415 yards and six touchdowns. He didn’t allow more than five touchdowns in his coverage over his first three full seasons, so you have to wonder if there’s an injury. I will say that he’s gotten better as the year has gone on and hasn’t allowed a pass of more than 14 yards in his coverage over the last five games he played. The Seahawks have allowed 46 pass plays of 20-plus yards (second-most), so if the Jets move Perriman around a bit, they should be able to find him a big play. He’s the definition of a boom-or-bust WR4 option who’s in a good matchup. *Update* With Mims being ruled out, Perriman’s target floor just went up, moving him into the high-end WR4 territory with a bit more stable floor.

Jamison Crowder: He didn’t see the double-digit targets he saw at the beginning of the year, but he did see seven targets against the Raiders last week, allowing him to get back on the fantasy radar with a five-catch, 47-yard, two-touchdown performance. The Seahawks have allowed a league-high 349 completions this year (29.1 per game), and wide receivers have accounted for 19.1 of them, which should bode well for Crowder’s floor. They’ve also allowed a massive 70.7 percent catch-rate. The 11.82 yards per reception they’ve allowed to receivers is below the league average and suggests they’re beat up underneath the secondary umbrella rather than beyond it. But here’s the thing… the Seahawks have looked much better as of late and have not allowed a receiver more than 17.4 PPR points since back in Week 9. They have Ugo Amadi covering the slot, last year’s fourth-round pick, and he’s done a much better job than most expected, allowing just 28 receptions for 224 scoreless yards on 38 targets in coverage. Still, the Seahawks rank as the fifth-worst team in the league defending the short pass, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metrics. We have seen guys like Julian Edelman and Russell Gage post big games against them, but that was before Amadi was playing full-time in the slot. Crowder isn’t a smash-lock play but he should have a low-end WR3/high-end WR4-type outlook in this game with a decent floor, especially now that we know Denzel Mims won’t play. *Update* Crowder suffered a calf injury in practice and is now highly questionable for this game. If you needed his last-minute replacement, Braxton Berrios would be that guy. 

D.K. Metcalf: Despite ranking 13th in targets among wide receivers, Metcalf is the No. 3 wide receiver in PPR formats. Did you know he leads the league in receiving with 1,119 yards? That puts him on pace for 1,492 yards, so 1,500 is surely not out of the question. We can call Week 13 a “down” week where he had five catches for 80 yards but don’t count on that happening again this week. Not only has the volume been there for receivers against the Jets, but so has efficiency. They’ve allowed a robust 9.10 yards per target to wide receivers (6th-most), including a 69.9 percent catch-rate (4th-highest). There have been 13 wide receivers who’ve posted 16-plus PPR points against them, including four who’ve hit 25-plus points. With the Jets being so stingy against the run, we could see Metcalf used in goal-line situations here. His primary defender in coverage? Lamar Jackson. No, not the quarterback. The undrafted rookie cornerback who was forced into the starting lineup due to injuries. He’s been murdered in coverage, allowing 24-of-34 passing for 381 yards and five touchdowns. Metcalf could have an eruption in this game and should be a cash-game option in DFS lineups.

Tyler Lockett: We’ve reached the point where it’s an outlier when Lockett has a good game. Here are his splits against the Cardinals and versus everyone else this year:

Opponent Tgts/gm Rec/gm Yds/gm TDs/gm PPR PPG
Cardinals 14.5 12.0 133.5 2.0 37.4
All Others 7.2 5.2 56.7 0.4 13.3

There is another great game mixed in there against the Cowboys, so he’s feasted on teams who’ve really struggled with wide receivers. He’s scored 53.9 percent of his PPR points in those three games. Are the Jets the next team on that list? With Brian Poole done for the season, the Jets have turned to a combination of Arthur Maulet and Javelin Guidry in the slot, who’ve combined to allow 19-of-25 passing for 195 yards and a touchdown. The ceiling is simply too high for Lockett in this game to sit him, so stick him back in lineups as a high-end WR2.

TEs
Chris Herndon and Ryan Griffin:
Herndon was someone to avoid when Griffin wasn’t in the picture, but he’s now splitting the routes with him. Herndon hasn’t seen a single target over the last two weeks while Griffin has seen just two of them in that time. Neither of these tight ends have seen more than three targets since Week 3. Avoid.

Will Dissly and Jacob Hollister: In the two games without Greg Olsen, we’ve seen Dissly out-snap Hollister, but it’s Hollister who has run more routes (50-44) and seen more targets (9-5), though it’s worth noting that Dissly did see a season-high five targets last week. The Jets just allowed a massive performance to Darren Waller, but the writing was on the wall well before then. They’ve allowed a league-high 17.4 PPR points per game to tight ends this year. It’s efficiency just as much as it is volume, as they’ve allowed a league-high 2.29 PPR points per target to the position. The 11 touchdowns they’ve allowed to the position is two more than any other team in the league, and that’s likely because they do so well in the red zone against running backs. Tight ends have seen 11 goal-to-go targets against the Jets, which is the most in the league. If you’re looking for a hail-mary tight end, one of the Seahawks tight ends just might score. The problem is figuring out which one, though I’ll lean Dissly if forced to choose.

Indianapolis Colts at Las Vegas Raiders

Spread: Colts -2.5
Total: 51
Colts at Raiders Betting Matchup

QBs
Philip Rivers:
Can you believe that we’ve now had top-16 performances in six of the last seven weeks, including each of the last four? The only negative mark during that streak came against the Ravens, who are one of the best defenses in the league. It seems like his chemistry with the receivers took some time, but he eventually got there. The unfortunate part is that he might be down to their third-string left tackle for this week’s game. Fortunately, the Raiders have struggled to generate any pressure this year and have reached the opposing quarterback for a sack just 3.27 percent of the time, which is the third-lowest number in the NFL. They are coming off a game in which they brought tons of pressure to Sam Darnold, but that’s more of an outlier than the norm. The downside for Rivers is that he’s obviously not a mobile quarterback, so if he has an off-day throwing the ball, it can crush his streaming appeal. The Raiders have allowed just one quarterback to throw for more than two touchdowns, and that was Tom Brady way back in Week 7. That’s a bit worrisome for Rivers, as he hasn’t topped 19.2 fantasy points in a game he hasn’t thrown at least three touchdowns. When you factor in his low floor without mobility, that’s not a great combination, though we have seen 7-of-12 quarterbacks throw at least two touchdowns against the Raiders. Rivers did play this Gruden team last year, and though it was with the Chargers, it’s something. He completed 44-of-70 passes for 486 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions in the two games combined, so it wasn’t all that great. The Colts do have a 26.8-point team-implied total, which is solid, but Rivers’ floor/ceiling combo keeps him in the middling QB2 conversation.

Derek Carr: As we discussed last week, we should’ve never overexaggerated to one bad game from Carr, especially when it was the Jets that were next up on the schedule. We didn’t see him throwing the ball 47 times, but we’ll take it. His 31.72 fantasy points in that game was his highest total since Week 8 of 2016. Carr is essentially giving you Kyler Murray passing totals (they’re nearly identical in yards and touchdowns) but without the sky-high rushing totals. The Colts rank as the third-best defense against quarterbacks this year, allowing just 15.2 fantasy points per game to them. It doesn’t help that they’ve allowed just 15 passing touchdowns on the season. If you look at strictly fantasy points that defenses have allowed through the air (no rushing totals), the Colts have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game, behind only the Rams. With that being said, we just watched Deshaun Watson complete 26-of-38 passes for 341 yards without two of his starting wide receivers. Still, when you factor in their competition, they rank as the sixth-toughest matchup for quarterbacks, as they’ve allowed 14 percent fewer fantasy points than their opponent’s seasonal-average. It also hurts to know that the Colts should limit Carr’s biggest weapon (Waller), as they’re arguably the top defense in the league against tight ends. The total in this game is pretty solid for what appears to be a tough matchup, which keeps Carr in the middling QB2 range, maybe a smidge lower than the quarterback on the other side of the ball.

RBs
Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines:
Here are the snaps and touches between these three running backs in the last three games they’ve all played:

Player Snaps W10 Snaps W11 Snaps W13
Taylor 17 46 33
Hines 39 29 23
Wilkins 14 9 13

 

Player Touch W10 Touch W11 Touch W13
Taylor 9 26 16
Hines 17 9 9
Wilkins 8 5 7

It sure seems like there’s a transition to Taylor over those games, but I made sure to leave Week 10 in there because that’s a scenario that’s happened on multiple occasions in this Frank Reich offense. Sure, Taylor has posted RB13 and RB3 finishes over the last two games he’s played, but don’t forget those games came against two of the three worst run defenses in all of football. Fortunately, he’ll play the fourth-worst run defense this week, as the Raider have allowed a massive 28.0 PPR points per game to the running back position. Not only have they allowed a touchdown every 18.4 carries (most often in NFL), but they’ve also allowed 4.71 yards per carry, which is the fifth-highest mark in the league. The odd part is that the Raiders have seen just 21.4 carries per game against them, as teams have chosen to run the ball just 41.2 percent of the time. That carry number is scary for a team that has a three-way timeshare, even if Taylor is getting 62.5 percent of them, like he has in the last two games he’s played. But here’s the good news: Taylor has run 27 routes in his last two games, which trails Hines by just six routes. The Raiders have allowed 5.4 receptions and 42.9 receiving yards per game to running backs, which should provide an additional safety net for Taylor. There have been four running backs who’ve scored two rushing touchdowns against the Raiders and Taylor has received 47.5 percent of the team’s red zone carries. He doesn’t come without risk, but Taylor has done enough to be considered a mid-to-low-end RB2 for this game. Hines remains in the low-end RB3 range as someone who can lead the team in touches at any random point.

Devontae Booker: We heard Jon Gruden say on Monday that he doesn’t expect Josh Jacobs to play this week based on what he’s seen, so we’ll prepare for another week of Booker. He did wind up seeing the 15-plus touches that we anticipated, but the Jets defense proved to be too much for him as he finished with just 51 total yards on 17 touches. Don’t be done with him just because of that because the Jets are a tougher matchup than you think (allow the seventh-fewest fantasy points per weighted opportunity) but know that this week’s matchup isn’t going to get much better. The Colts have allowed just 110.3 total yards per game to running backs this year, which ranks as the sixth-fewest in football. It doesn’t help that running backs have averaged just 25.8 touches per game against them, which is also one of the lower numbers in football. Because of that, there have been just five running backs all season who’ve totaled more than 11.9 PPR points to running backs, which is tied for the fewest in football. Still, when you get a running back who’s going to get 15-plus touches, he’s worth considering as a high-end RB3, especially in a game that has a 51-point total. The only running back who saw more than 12 carries against the Colts and finished with fewer than 10.0 PPR points and worse than the RB34 was Frank Gore, who finished as the RB42 with 62 total yards.

WRs
Michael Pittman:
He took a backseat to Hilton last week, though Pittman did everything he should’ve with his five targets, converting them to five receptions for 46 yards. He’s now seen at least five targets in four of the last five games, which certainly puts him on the map, especially in a matchup with the Raiders who’ve allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year. After suffering a concussion in Week 12, rookie cornerback Damon Arnette returned to the lineup and suffered another concussion on the second snap he played. He’s not likely to play in this week’s game, which means Pittman will see a mixture of Trayvon Mullen and Nevin Lawson in coverage. While Mullen has been good, Lawson has struggled, allowing 30-of-45 passing for 302 yards and four touchdowns in his coverage. Over the last two weeks, Pittman has played 54 snaps at LWR (where Lawson will be) and 45 snaps at RWR (where Mullen will be), so he will have the better matchup 55 percent of the time. He’s not a locked-and-loaded must-play but he can be considered, which puts him in WR4 territory. The crazy part is that he’s scored just one touchdown this year, which is odd for someone who’s 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds.

T.Y. Hilton: He’s seemingly had a revival the last few weeks, finishing as a top-15 wide receiver in each of the last two games after not being a top-30 receiver in any of his first nine games. Did chemistry really take that long or was it a product of great matchups? While the matchups were as good as you could ask for, him outproducing Pittman has been the surprise. The Raiders have been a good matchup for wide receivers as well, allowing 20 different wide receivers to finish as top-48 options (WR4 or better), including three top-20 wide receivers over the last three weeks. Hilton plays on both sides of the formation, so he’ll see a mixture of Trayvon Mullen and Nevin Lawson because rookie Damon Arnette suffered another concussion last week. Both him and Pittman are playing such similar roles right now, it’s tough to say which one has more value as the better WR4 options. Here are their last four weeks side-by-side:

Player Tgts Rec Yds TD
Pittman 25 17 241 1
Hilton 27 19 267 2

Henry Ruggs: The Raiders have actually targeted Ruggs nine times over the last two weeks! It’s crazy that makes us satisfied, but after averaging just 3.3 targets over the first eight games, beggars can’t be choosers. Ruggs has turned them into six catches for 140 yards and a touchdown, though they did come against the Falcons and Jets secondaries, which are likely the two worst ones in the NFL. The Colts aren’t in that tier or bad, but suddenly, they have allowed the most yards per target (9.33) to wide receivers. They’ve only faced 18.2 wide receiver targets per game, so that’s definitely part of the reason they’ve only allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to the position, but they’re clearly trending in the wrong direction. Ruggs also clearly benefits from the league-high 14.53 yards per reception they’ve allowed to receivers this year. It should be noted that Ruggs played in the slot a career-high 29 snaps last week, which accounted for nearly 50 percent of his snaps. Moving him around will certainly create mismatches, and now that they’re adding targets to the mix, he should be in legitimate consideration. We watched Keke Coutee tag this Colts secondary last week for 8/141/0 on nine targets. There’s certainly risk considering how little he’s targeted, but if you’re willing to gamble on the recent surge, I wouldn’t blame you, but he’s still in the risk/reward WR4 territory.

Nelson Agholor: He’s seen eight more targets than Ruggs over the last two weeks but has 48 fewer yards. To be fair, Agholor should’ve scored last week but Carr overthrew him. Just like all Raiders receivers, Agholor has been extremely hot-and-cold this year, though he has been more involved as of late, posting 54-plus yards in five of his last eight games. With Josh Jacobs likely out again, we should assume the Raiders pass the ball more. The Colts have seen just 18.1 wide receiver targets per game this year but have allowed a league-high 9.33 yards per target. Over the last three weeks, we’ve seen six different wide receivers post double-digit PPR points against them, including three Texans wide receivers who posted 11.5-plus PPR points, and two of them weren’t even starters a couple weeks ago. Clearly, they’re struggling a bit. The downside is that Agholor plays most of his snaps on the left side of the formation, which is where Xavier Rhodes has lived. He’s allowed just 23-of-53 passing for 344 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage this year, which amounts to just 6.49 yards per target and a touchdown every 26.5 targets. He’s played at a Pro Bowl level and hasn’t allowed a reception of more than 20 yards since back in Week 8. Agholor remains in the fantasy conversation, but I’d prefer the surging Ruggs to him, which makes Agholor a WR4/5-type option.

TEs
Trey Burton and Mo Alie-Cox:
Over the last three weeks, the routes run for the Colts tight ends go like this: Alie-Cox 58, Burton 52, Jack Doyle 32. The targets in that span have gone Burton 14, Alie-Cox 9, and Doyle 4. Clearly, this is not a tight end unit with a whole lot of predictability. However, they have been very productive at times, so when we find a good matchup, we want to find the right one to play. This week is not one of those matchups, as the Raiders have been a tough matchup for tight ends not named Travis Kelce. In fact, the only other tight end who’s eclipsed 48 yards against them was Rob Gronkowski. Despite allowing Kelce 43.7 PPR points in their two matchups combined, the Raiders have allowed just 11.6 PPR points per game to tight ends. If you were to remove those two Kelce games, they’d allow just 9.7 PPR points per game. It’s not due to lack of volume, either; tight ends have seen 91 targets against them, which is the eighth-most in the NFL. If you’re forced to pick one, it’s Burton, but he’s nothing more than a middling TE2.

Darren Waller: If you went against Waller last week, I’m sorry. His 45.0 PPR points were the most by a tight end since Shannon Sharpe posted 12/124/2 back in 2002. Oddly enough, Waller recorded the best tight end performance in 2019 as well, though his 31.6 PPR points in that game pale in comparison. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t expect much of an encore this week. The Colts have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game (8.6 PPR points) to tight ends, behind only the 49ers. Not only have they allowed the third-fewest yards to them, but they’ve also allowed just one receiving touchdown on 83 targets. When you look at it on a per-target basis, the Colts have allowed opposing tight ends 0.62 fewer fantasy points per opportunity than they average in non-Colts games. That makes this the worst schedule-adjusted matchup in the NFL from an efficiency standpoint. Heck, even when you don’t factor in the competition, they’ve allowed just 1.17 PPR points per target. When the Colts do allow a reception, it goes for an average of just 8.65 yards, which is another league-low. You’re playing Waller every week in season-long, but don’t get aggressive with him in DFS this week, particularly in cash games.

Washington Football Team at San Francisco 49ers

Spread: 49ers -3.5
Total: 43.5

Football Team at 49ers Betting Matchup

QBs
Alex Smith:
Before we get into anything, Alex Smith needs to be named the Comeback Player of the Year. What he’s come back from is miraculous in every way, though it’s not going to help fantasy managers much. He’s still yet to throw more than one touchdown, though he has thrown for 296-plus yards in three of his five starts this year, including against the Steelers last week. Much of the quarterback production against the 49ers has come on the ground, as they’ve allowed a league-high 346 rushing yards to them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean anything to Smith, who doesn’t have mobility in his bag of tricks anymore. We did see the 49ers struggle against Josh Allen last week, though that was more of an outlier to what they’ve been doing. There have been just five quarterbacks who’ve thrown multiple touchdowns against the 49ers this year, and those quarterbacks were Allen, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Jared Goff (had just two). The only quarterbacks who averaged more than 7.0 yards per attempt against them were Allen, Rodgers, and Fitzpatrick. The 49ers have given you reasons to bench non-mobile quarterbacks, while Smith hasn’t given you many reasons to start him. It may be a revenge game, but Smith is just a low-end QB2.

Nick Mullens: With both Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk back in the lineup, Mullens threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns against the Bills, though it wasn’t all pretty, as he also threw two interceptions. Those games can happen when the 49ers fall behind, but I promise you Kyle Shanahan doesn’t want this offense in its current state throwing the ball 39 times. Washington has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per offensive play this year, so when you add in the fact that their opponents have averaged a meek 61.5 plays per game, it’s not great. That’s obviously leaked down to quarterbacks, as they’ve scored just 17.0 fantasy points per game (10th-fewest). The pass rush is what gets opponents in trouble, and Mullens himself has struggled mightily when pressured, posting just a 48.2 QB Rating in those situations. They have allowed plenty of production on the ground due to scrambling, but we know that’s not happening with Mullens, who has precisely one rushing yard on the year. When you see they allow just 223.4 passing yards per game, it should be enough to make you think, “Maybe I don’t want to play Mullens in my 2QB leagues.”

RBs
Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic:
After watching Antonio Gibson get knocked out of the game on one of the first few plays, it wasn’t good. After hearing he was ruled out shortly thereafter with a toe injury, it’s even worse. Because of that, we’re going to assume he misses this game, but stay tuned for updates here on Friday/Saturday. In his place, Barber led the way with 14 carries, though they led to just 23 yards against a top-tier Steelers run defense. Meanwhile, McKissic was there reeling in the targets. Since Week 4, he’s seen 69 targets and caught 52 of them for 370 yards. No other running back has more than 55 targets in that time. Heck, his 69 targets in that period are more than Jerry Jeudy‘s had in that timeframe. Unfortunately, Barber is not going to be someone you should aim to play this week, as the 49ers are still one of the best run defenses in the league, allowing the third-fewest yards per carry (3.60) on the season, while allowing a touchdown every 40.3 carries (seventh-most). They haven’t allowed a single running back to top 86 yards on the ground, and in fact, they’ve allowed just two of them to top 63 yards. Barber has zero role in the passing game, so you’re not going to want to start him outside of the most desperate times as an RB4. As for McKissic, he just caught 10 passes against the team who’d been allowing practically no production to running backs through the air, so you can say he’s matchup-proof. But even better, the 49ers are a team that running backs have had success through the air against, averaging 6.22 yards per target, which is the eighth-highest mark in the league. There have been four running backs who’ve caught five-plus balls against them, which should provide him with a sturdy floor. McKissic has totaled at least six catches and 40 receiving yards in six of his last nine games. He can be played as a high-end RB3 and maybe even get into the RB2 conversation in PPR formats.

Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson: Here we go again. It seemed like we could trust Mostert in fantasy lineups with all the uncertainty the 49ers have at other positions, but after getting just nine carries against the Bills, we’re right back where we were last year with this 49ers backfield. Wilson’s 12 opportunities led the team, as did his 59 total yards. Never fully trust a 49ers running back. This is worrisome for Mostert because that game against the Bills was a much better matchup than what he has this week against Washington. They’ve been among the better teams against the run, allowing the third-fewest PPR points per game (18.4) to them. Volume has been an issue, as they’ve faced the third-least amount of weighted volume against running backs. Even worse, they rank as the fourth-best team in the league from an efficiency standpoint, behind only the Saints, Rams, and Steelers. The good news for Mostert is that he’s essentially a two-down guy, and 21.3 of the 25.1 touches that running backs have received against them have come via carries. The 49ers are slight favorites here and are at “home” which bodes well for his success, but know that there have been just five running backs who’ve finished as top-24 running backs against them all year, and each of them totaled 15-plus touches. Mostert should be considered an RB3 who has to get the touches to perform in this matchup, otherwise we’ll end up with another Week 13-like game. As for Wilson, it’s tough to say he’ll keep the role he had, so when you add in the tough matchup, he’s nothing more than a desperation RB4.

WRs
Terry McLaurin:
Who would’ve thought that Washington would’ve beat the Steelers 23-17, Antonio Gibson would miss essentially the entire game, and Alex Smith threw for 296 yards, yet McLaurin would finish with just 3.4 PPR points? You have to shake it off. It was the first game all year McLaurin saw fewer than seven targets (he saw six). It was the first time since Week 5 against the Rams where he finished outside the top-36 wide receivers. Heck, it was the first time he’d he finished with fewer than 74 yards since Week 5. That’s a number he’s hit in nine of his last 11 games. The 49ers have allowed some big performances to wide receivers this year, including five who’ve cracked the 100-yard barrier, and that doesn’t even include Stefon Diggs‘ 92-yard performance on Monday night. The only receiver who’s finished outside the top-30 wide receivers with eight-plus targets against them was Cooper Kupp in a game he dropped what was likely two touchdowns. The downside is that they do have Richard Sherman and Jason Verrett both healthy, who’ve been their top-two cornerbacks this year. Still, that didn’t stop Josh Allen from throwing four touchdowns on Monday night. McLaurin may not have the highest ceiling in a low-scoring offense, but he needs to remain in lineups as a mid-to-high-end WR2 with a solid floor.

Deebo Samuel: The game started out slow for Samuel last week, but he ultimately came around and delivered a solid 6/73/0 performance. Samuel has now totaled at least 65 yards in each of his last four games, and those games were against the Rams (twice), Patriots, and Bills, so none were cake matchups. This week isn’t one, either. Washington has been a tough defense for nearly all positions, as they allow the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game overall to opponents. The 32.2 PPR points per game they’ve allowed to receivers ranks as the third-fewest in the league, though they’re not Rams-like great, as both Ronald Darby and Kendall Fuller are beatable in coverage, provided the quarterback has enough time to get the ball out. They’ve allowed 12 different receivers total 60-plus yards against them, and 10 of them were perimeter-based, as Jimmy Moreland has done a great job covering the slot. Samuel played 80 percent of his snaps on the perimeter against the Bills, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense, as he’s typically moved around a lot more. But it’s a good thing for this week’s game. It’s clear that Aiyuk will be a thorn in his side, but Samuel should remain in the mid-to-low-end WR3 conversation as someone who’s had a solid floor.

Brandon Aiyuk: He’s now totaled a touchdown and/or 115 yards in each of his last five games. He’s averaged 10.0 targets over his last four games, though it’s important to note that two of those games were without Samuel in the lineup. We thought he might be limited in his targets with Samuel back, but that wasn’t the case, as Aiyuk totaled 95 yards and a touchdown against the Bills. It’s pretty clear that Mullens has a connection with him that Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t have, though having George Kittle out of the lineup certainly doesn’t hurt his involvement. Based on his alignment, he’ll see a lot of Kendall Fuller in coverage, who’s allowed 28-of-47 passing for 370 yards and five touchdowns in his coverage. Those are not bad numbers, though he has intercepted four passes, which keeps the QB Rating in his coverage down. But that’s 13.2 yards per reception in his coverage to Aiyuk, who’s averaged a rock-solid 13.5 yards per reception on the year. The issue is that Washington has allowed just 12 wide receivers to finish as top-36 wide receivers this year, which may not allow for both Aiyuk and Samuel to finish in that territory. It’s tough to say which one you prefer right now, as it would seem Aiyuk, but it’s easier for them to manufacture touches to Samuel. Aiyuk is still in the back-end WR3 conversation as someone who’s been playing very well.

TEs
Logan Thomas:
In what’s been the toughest matchup in the league for tight ends, Thomas walked in and said, “I don’t care.” He caught all nine of his targets for 98 yards and a touchdown in what was a true breakout performance. It was the first time he’d seen more than six targets since Week 3, but after we heard Ron Rivera say that Thomas had that “aha” moment two weeks ago, it’s not a surprise to see him play well. After playing against what was the league’s best defense against tight ends, Thomas now has to go against the team that’s inherited that spot as the team who’s allowed the fewest points per game to the position, the 49ers. Tight ends have averaged just 7.8 PPR points per game against them, which is obviously not great. That’s not just one tight end, but rather the entire team. Even when you factor in their competition, they rank as the fourth-toughest schedule adjusted matchup for tight ends. Meanwhile, Football Outsiders has them as the sixth-best team against the position in their DVOA metric. But again, the Steelers were No. 1 in all these categories, and Thomas overcame that. Now, to be fair, one great game doesn’t erase a season of inefficiency, but let’s not pretend we have much confidence in many tight ends not named Kelce or Kittle. With Antonio Gibson likely out, we should expect a few more targets to go Thomas’ way, and he’s seen at least four in every game, so go ahead and plug him in as a low-end TE1 this week and hope he repeats even 75 percent of what he did last week.

Jordan Reed: He didn’t see his usual six-plus targets last week, but he did manage to find the end zone, salvaging a 3/32/1 line against the Bills. It was a great matchup and Mullens did throw the ball 39 times, so it’s upsetting to see him not finish with more targets. It was just the second time he’s played without Kittle where he’s seen fewer than six targets, so we can’t overreact. We have a revenge game this week! Reed gets to go against the Washington team he played with for six years. They’re a brutal defense to go against for most positions, though if there’s one that they might be average against, it’s tight ends. Check this out. Here are the DVOA rankings for Washington against pass-catchers: WR1 (3), WR2 (4), WR3 (3), RB (3), TE (26). As you can see, they’re a top-four team against every other position but rank as the seventh-worst team at defending tight ends. They’ve allowed a solid 67.8 percent catch-rate, 6.98 yards per target, and a touchdown every 14.5 targets to the position. Tight ends have made up 20.4 percent of the production they’ve allowed to skill-position players, which ranks as the sixth-highest mark in the league. There have been six tight ends who’ve seen more than five targets against them this year, and all of them finished with 10.8-plus PPR points, so if we can see Reed get back to that six-target mark, he should be good for low-end TE/high-end TE2 production.

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles

Spread: Saints -6.5
Total: 45.5
Saints at Eagles Betting Matchup

QBs
Taysom Hill:
We now have a three-game sample size for Hill, though two of those games were against the Falcons, so how much can we really take from them? He’s finished as a top-12 quarterback in each game, which is obviously a great thing for his fantasy floor. Despite not starting until Week 11, Hill has somehow had 35-plus rushing yards in every game since Week 8, including a season-high 83 in Week 13. Will the Saints choose to go through the air with Hill again this week? The Eagles have generated a league-low three interceptions all season, which is sad because if there’s one thing the Eagles have done well this year, it’s generate pressure. The 8.8 percent sack-rate they have ranks as the third-highest mark in football. That’s led to scrambling, which bodes well for Hill, as the Eagles have allowed the second-most rushing yards per game (27.6) to quarterbacks. The 5.52 yards per carry they’ve allowed ranks as the fourth-highest mark in football. We’ve watched Lamar Jackson rush for 108 yards and a touchdown, while also watching Daniel Jones rush for 156 yards and a touchdown in his two games combined against this Eagles defense. Most of the time, we look at a 53.8 percent pass-rate as a bad thing because we want our quarterbacks to throw, but we’d rather have Hill running the ball against this team that’s allowed a mediocre 7.28 yards per attempt and a 4.3 percent touchdown-rate through the air. It’s not a locked-and-loaded QB1 game for Hill, but he at least deserves to be in the conversation of low-end QB1s with his floor.

Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts: The Eagles made the announcement on Tuesday that Hurts would be starting this week, as they continue to look for a “spark” in the offense. Hurts came into the game against the Packers last week and completed 5-of-12 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, while adding 29 yards on the ground. He was fine and while I understand why they did it, having him start this week may not be the best thing, as he’s going to make his first NFL start against one of the hottest defenses in the league. The Saints opponents are now averaging a league-low 59.5 offensive plays per game, which is extremely problematic because they’re also allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per offensive snap. After allowing the first five quarterbacks they played to score 20-plus fantasy points, the Saints have transformed into one of the best defenses in the league, and have now allowed just 15.3 fantasy points per game to them, which is the fourth-lowest number in the league. No quarterback has topped 16.9 fantasy points against them since back in Week 7. They’re one of just four teams in the league who have a sack-rate higher than 8.0 percent, which doesn’t bode well for the Eagles quarterbacks who’ve been sacked on 10.2 percent of their dropbacks. Not only do the Saints completely shut down opposing running backs, but they also shut down quarterbacks in the run game, as they’ve allowed a league-low 68 rushing yards to them. On the year, they’ve allowed just 12.8 fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks, also a league-low. Hurts does present a higher floor than Wentz with his mobility, but I’m afraid this matchup is too much for a rookie playing behind this offensive line. He’s just a back-end QB2 for me in this matchup.

RBs
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray:
In a game against an actual opponent with a quarterback, things got back to normal for the Saints backfield, as Kamara out-touched Murray 17-7 against the Falcons. Kamara looked great against a stiff Falcons run defense, rattling off 88 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He also saw three targets from Hill, which still isn’t much, but it’s a step in the right direction. The Eagles have allowed the fourth-fewest yards per carry (3.68) to running backs, but teams have still chosen to run the ball 46.2 percent of the time against them, which is the second-highest percentage in the NFL. We talked about how the targets have been lacking for Kamara since Hill took over as the starter and that’s likely to continue against the Eagles, who’ve allowed the third-fewest receptions to running backs this year. They’re also one of just three teams who’ve yet to allow a receiving touchdown to running backs. When you add that all together, you have the defense who’s allowed the third-fewest fantasy points through the air to running backs. They’ve allowed just nine running backs to hit double-digit PPR points this year, with all but one of them (Nick Chubb, who rushed for 114 yards) scoring at least one touchdown. This is not a great matchup for running backs outside of the fact that the Eagles have allowed a rushing touchdown once every 23.9 carries, which is the sixth-most often. We have to worry about Hill stealing some of that goal-line work, too. Kamara is more of a mid-to-high-end RB2 this week than the RB1 you drafted. With Murray going back to five carries last week, it’s tough to say he gets many opportunities on the goal-line, as Kamara has out-touched him 10-3 inside the five-yard-line. Murray is a great handcuff to Kamara, but he is just a weak RB4 this week.

Miles Sanders and Boston Scott: Here are Sanders’ snap percentages since returning from injury: 72-60-61-56. There’s a clear trend going on there. He was averaging 76-83 percent of snaps prior to his injury, so this is bad news. It feels like they’re trying to shake things up because what they’ve done hasn’t worked, when in reality, Sanders was the only thing working earlier in the season. Of the fantasy production the Saints have allowed to skill-position players, running backs have accounted for just 25.7 percent of it, which ranks as the second-lowest number in the NFL. There are just two teams in the league who allow fewer than 19.2 PPR points per game to running backs, and the Saints are one of them, allowing a league-low 16.1 PPR points per game to them. That’s not one running back but rather entire teams of running backs. Here, let me give you an example of a stat line that would suit those points: 20 carries, 61 rushing yards, 5 receptions, 50 receiving yards, and no touchdowns. That is essentially what teams of running backs average against the Saints. They’ve been dominant against the run while allowing just 3.45 yards per carry (second-lowest), and they’ve also been dominant through the air, allowing a league-low 4.33 yards per target. It’s not just lack of yardage, either. The Saints have allowed just three rushing touchdowns on 241 carries this year, which is one every 80.3 carries. No other team has a number lower than 56.0. All in all, they’ve allowed just five total touchdowns to running backs while no other team has allowed fewer than seven. Going by efficiency against weighted opportunity, the Saints are the best in the league, and they’re 11.1 percent better than any other team. Unless Sanders breaks a long run, he’s extremely likely to bust. With his limited snaps/opportunities, he has a lesser chance to break off that long run, making him a very risky high-end RB3 against a team who hasn’t allowed a running back to finish better than RB15 all season. Scott totaled just four opportunities last week in a great matchup, so it’s apparent he can’t be trusted right now, as Jordan Howard just complicates matters.

WRs
Michael Thomas:
In the two games against the Falcons, Thomas has averaged 9.0 receptions and 104.5 yards. In the other four games he’s played, he’s averaged 3.5 receptions and 36.3 yards. Yikes. He’s still yet to score a touchdown this season. And please don’t take this as me saying Thomas is bad, but rather about the offense not revolving around him this year, and it’s crushing his stability. Let’s not forget this is the same receiver who totaled 5,512 yards and 32 touchdowns over his first four seasons in the league. We should expect Darius Slay to shadow Thomas if he’s active, though that may not be the case, as he suffered a knee injury last week. While it’s not major, it’s still an ailment that could cause him to miss time. They switched to have Avonte Maddox cover Davante Adams last week once Slay went down, so I’m guessing he’d be the one who’d cover Thomas. Maddox has allowed 29-of-47 passing for 395 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage, which is good for a 102.7 QB Rating, and remember that he hasn’t had to cover No. 1 wide receivers to this point. With Slay on the field, the Eagles have allowed just seven wide receivers to finish as top-30 options against them, though when they get hit, they get hit hard. There have been three wide receivers who’ve produced 10-plus receptions and 120-plus yards against them (Adams, D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Boyd), though each of them saw at least 12 targets. Thomas should be considered a WR2 for this game, but one who comes with high variance.

Jalen Reagor: He and Greg Ward are the only two wide receivers playing nearly every snap, so he’s the only one you can consider starting, but even then, it’s probably not a good idea. Reagor hasn’t topped four receptions all season and is coming off a game where he caught just one ball. He hasn’t offered the ceiling we were hoping he would, as he’s failed to top 55 yards all season and has scored just one touchdown. While the Saints were allowing production to receivers earlier in the year, they’ve clamped down as of late, though missing Janoris Jenkins last week proved to be an issue. They’re going to need him back, as they did watch backup Patrick Robinson go down with a hamstring injury last week. Still, teams have avoided heavily targeting their wide receivers, as they’ve averaged just 18.8 targets per game, which is the sixth-fewest in the league, and we are expecting the Eagles to be a bit more run-heavy under Jalen Hurts. We need to see something out of Reagor before trusting him as anything more than a hail-mary WR5.

Travis Fulgham and Alshon Jeffery: These two are cannibalizing each other’s snaps, as they’re essentially splitting the No. 3 wide receiver role, though Jeffery appears to be the front runner. Does it matter all that much? Probably not considering the both of them have combined for just six catches, 47 yards, and no touchdowns… over the last four games combined. Don’t play either of these receivers right now.

TEs
Jared Cook:
Hey, he caught a touchdown last week! Does that mean he’s back on the fantasy radar? No, because he finished with three catches for 28 yards and a touchdown against what’s been the league’s worst defense against tight ends, it does not mean he should be considered someone you can trust. He hasn’t topped 32 yards in eight of his last 10 games and his starting quarterback has two passing touchdowns over his career. The Eagles also haven’t allowed a tight end more than 53 yards since back in Week 4. After allowing five tight end touchdowns over the first four weeks, they’ve cracked down and allowed just two over their last eight games. Cook is playing less than 30 snaps per game, so feel free to let someone else trust him.

Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz: Goedert caught all five of his receptions in Week 13 with Wentz under center, so there’s certainly room for volatility in his role moving forward. Going through Hurts’ 12 pass attempts last week, we saw Goedert get targeted just once, while Ertz saw two of them. We don’t know if Hurts will target the tight ends as much as Wentz did, but you have to think the offense should still run through them. The next problem is the matchup, as the Saints have allowed the third-fewest yards per target (5.63) to tight ends this year, and they’ve seen 89 targets, so it’s a good sample size. They have allowed a touchdown every 14.8 targets to them, which is certainly a good thing, as it can salvage a bad yardage day, but do we see the Eagles scoring a ton of points or getting into the red zone very often in this game? They’re projected for just 19.5 points, which is one of the lower totals on the week. Outside of that Darren Waller performance against the Saints back in Week 2, the Saints haven’t allowed a tight end more than five catches or 62 yards. All in all, tight ends average 20 percent fewer PPR points against the Saints than they do versus their season-long average. We can’t say anything definitive with Hurts under center, but this matchup causes all sorts of doubt. Goedert is still the one who’s the most valuable, as he played nearly twice the snaps that Ertz did, but he’s a risky low-end TE1. As for Ertz, he’s more of a mid-tier TE2 who’s clearly being eased back into the offense.

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