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The Primer: Week 15 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Dec 17, 2020
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Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team

Spread: Seahawks -5.5
Total: 44
Seahawks at Football Team Betting Matchup

Russell Wilson:
Want to know just how good Wilson is? Every wide receiver target has an expected fantasy output based on where on the field it took place and how deep the target was. D.K. Metcalf (3rd), Tyler Lockett (9th), and David Moore (18th) all rank inside the top-20 wide receivers for fantasy points over expectation. Targets from Wilson are worth so much more than the norm. He played so efficiently in Week 14 that they removed him from the game with a full quarter to go. Fortunately, he threw for four touchdowns prior to that happening, but it could’ve been an even bigger game. This game should be an interesting one, as the Seahawks are the offense averaging the third-most PPR points per offensive snap (1.68), while the Washington defense has allowed the third-fewest PPR points per snap (1.29). They’ve limited quarterbacks to just 6.68 yards per attempt, which is the fourth-lowest mark in football behind only the Rams, Ravens, and Steelers. Volume has been an issue (33.8 pass attempts per game), sure, but the 0.413 fantasy points per actual pass attempt they’ve allowed ranks as the fifth-lowest mark in the league. The reason they’ve been so good is due to the pressure their front-seven has generated, recording a sack on 8.32 percent of opponent dropbacks, which is the fourth-highest mark in football. Wilson is still extremely good under pressure (91.4 QB Rating, fourth-best) but he’s struggled in some matchups like this recently, finishing with just 9.9 points against the Rams, 14.4 points against the Eagles, and 15.0 points against the Giants. The common denominator? All of them rank top-11 in sack percentage. You’re starting Wilson as the guy who got you here and hoping for the best, but this projects as a somewhat low-scoring game. If there’s one thing I’ll point out, it’s that Matthew Stafford threw for 276 yards and three touchdowns against them, and he’s the No. 1 quarterback in the league under pressure, so the fact that Wilson does well in those situations makes us feel a bit better.

Alex Smith or Dwayne Haskins: It seems like Washington is expecting Smith to play in this game, though that’s hardly a guarantee, as they do expect him to miss some practice time. It’s obviously not a situation you’re attacking in fantasy leagues, though some in 2QB leagues might have a lot on the line here. The Seahawks are still allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game (21.35) on the season, but that’s not necessarily how you should feel about them anymore. The 0.433 fantasy points per actual pass attempt they’ve allowed ranks as the 11th-lowest number in the league, so volume has played a massive role in them allowing fantasy points. So, when you see they’ve allowed a league-leading 308.4 passing yards per game to quarterbacks, you need to factor in the fact that they’ve also faced a league-high 41.5 pass attempts per game. Teams have thrown the ball a league-high 64.3 percent of the time against them. This defense is likely to smell blood in the water with Smith, and they’ve generated 27 sacks over their last seven games, and Smith has struggled tremendously against pressure, posting just a 61.1 QB Rating in those situations. You’d have to go back to Week 9 to find the last time the Seahawks allowed more than 23 points, so the upside isn’t even there to make up for the risk. Smith is an avoid this week. *Update* Alex Smith has been ruled out for this game, so Haskins will get the start.

Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde:
Many are going to worry about Carson’s touch splits from last week, but this is nothing new. Carson has maxed out at 63.5 percent of the snaps this year, including just one game over 58 percent. Still, he’s finished as the RB26 or better in all but one game, including six games where he was the RB13 or better. The Seahawks are obviously a team that’s primed to make a run in the playoffs, so keeping him fresh makes sense. Washington is one of six teams who’ve allowed fewer than 65 PPR points to the combination of running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. Because of that, running backs have been held to just 19.1 PPR points per game, which ranks behind only the Steelers and Saints. The 3.86 yards per carry they’ve allowed is the eighth-lowest mark in the league, while allowing a touchdown once every 46.8 carries, which is the fourth-least often. There hasn’t been a whole lot of production through the air against them either, as they’re one of just four teams who’ve held running backs to fewer than 330 receiving yards on the year. The 4.57 yards per target they’ve allowed is the fourth-lowest mark in football. This all amounts to just four running backs finishing better than the RB22 against them. The best performance by a running back without a touchdown against them was 11.5 PPR points (no one else more than 9.5 PPR points). Carson has done enough with the work he’s received to garner RB2 consideration, but it’s not a game to expect fireworks. As for Hyde, sure, he totaled 15 touches last week, but that was in a blowout win over the Jets where Carson had most of the work in the first half. Considering Washington is as good as they are against the run, and that we figure this should be a closely contested game, Hyde is just a low-upside RB4 who might finish with fewer than 10 touches.

Antonio Gibson, Peyton Barber, and J.D. McKissic: We heard Washington rule Gibson out pretty early last week, so he was nowhere close to playing. We saw Phillip Lindsay deal with a similar issue earlier in the year where he missed four weeks. For now, we’ll plan to be without him (he’s listed as doubtful). In his absence, Barber essentially took over the Gibson role while McKissic played a slightly bigger role on early downs than usual. The quarterback situation is the thing worth monitoring in this game, as we saw McKissic’s targets in the passing game dip dramatically with Haskins under center. Running backs have racked up 560 receiving yards against the Seahawks this year, which ranks as the seventh-highest number in football, and if Smith is under center, we should see McKissic rack up quite a few receptions against his former team. The Seahawks have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points (11.1 PPR points per game) through the air to running backs. Moving the ball on the ground hasn’t been a big priority for their opponents, as they’ve gone with a run play a league-low 35.7 percent of time. Even when they do face a carry, they’ve gone for just 3.92 yards per carry, well below the league average of 4.36. If there’s any hope for Barber, it’s that the Seahawks have allowed a rushing touchdown every 22.3 carries, which is more often than all but five teams. The issue is getting down into the red zone. In the end, this matchup favors McKissic’s role, especially when you factor a negative gamescript. As long as Smith is under center, McKissic can be played as a high-end RB3 who should have a solid floor. Barber is a touchdown-or-bust RB4 who doesn’t offer much of a floor or ceiling. *Update* Smith has been ruled out, which downgrades McKinnon into the middling RB3 territory. 

D.K. Metcalf:
He finished with 6/61/1 in Week 14, which was somewhat disappointing considering what we’ve gotten out of him in 2020. Believe it or not, that was his sixth-worst game of 2020, highlighting just how good he’s been. He enters Week 15 as the leader in wide receiver yards (1,180) while ranking fifth in touchdowns (10). He’s now finished as the WR25 or better in 10-of-13 games. That’s the good news, while the not-so-great of news is that he’s going against the defense who’s been the fourth-toughest one for wide receivers. It’s not due to teams not trying, as they’ve seen the 15th-most targets to the position. Efficiency has been hard to come by, as they rank as the third-toughest team from a PPR points per target (1.60) standpoint. The Seahawks have started to move him around the formation, though he still plays most of his snaps at LWR, which means he’ll get 5-foot-11, 198-pound Kendall Fuller in coverage most of the time. Fuller has intercepted four passes this year, but he’s also allowed 419 yards and five touchdowns on 55 targets in coverage. He’s not built to handle Metcalf. Start Metcalf as the WR1 he’s been all year.

Tyler Lockett: He remained on the struggle bus last week, as he finished with fewer than 13 PPR points in seven of his last 10 games. If you hear someone say, “Player X was a top-12 wide receiver in 2020, so he’s a WR1,” you can throw back that Lockett may be a top-12 wide receiver on the season (he’s the WR10 right now), but he’s definitely not a WR1 for fantasy teams. He’s finished as a top-12 wide receiver just three times all year. Despite seeing the 14th-most targets to wide receivers, Washington has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game (32.7) to them. The 1.60 PPR points per target they’ve allowed is the third-lowest behind only the Rams and Ravens. Their slot cornerback Jimmy Moreland has been extremely impressive this year, allowing just 41-of-59 passing for 366 yards and no touchdowns in his coverage. That amounts to just 6.20 yards per target. The best performances by slot-heavy receivers against them this year have been Tyler Boyd 9/85/0, Larry Fitzgerald 7/50/0, and Cooper Kupp 5/66/0. So, in other words, not great. Lockett plays with one of the best quarterbacks in football and reminds us from time-to-time that he can blow up, though it’s tough to see in this matchup, making him a high-end WR3 rather than a must-play WR1/2.

Terry McLaurin: After seeing seven-plus targets in each of his first 11 games this year, McLaurin has seen just six targets in each of the last two games. That’s problematic because a target in the Washington offense is worth a lot less than a target in most other offenses. They also have much fewer scoring opportunities, which is evidenced by McLaurin’s measly three touchdowns on the year. He’s starting to fall into that Robby Anderson territory as someone who gets the targets but doesn’t generate a whole lot of excitement when you place him into lineups. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this:

Player Tgts Rec Yds TD PPR PPG
McLaurin 114 73 1001 3 14.8
Anderson 114 83 996 2 15.1


The good news is that the Seahawks have been a defense that’s been extremely giving to the wide receiver position. It certainly helps that they’ve seen a league-leading 63.6 percent target share against them. That’s also led to them allowing the most PPR points per game (46.1) to them. The Seahawks have allowed a league-high 363 completed passes this year, which is 18 more than any other team in the league. Wide receivers have accounted for 18.4 of those receptions, which also leads the league, so we should see McLaurin rack up the receptions in this game. Volume is a huge thing because the Seahawks have actually better than most in efficiency, allowing 1.75 PPR points per target to receivers (14th-fewest). It’s also worth noting that the Seahawks have gone three straight games without allowing a top-50 wide receiver, so they’ve clearly been getting better, though matchups with Colt McCoy and Sam Darnold certainly help. McLaurin should be comfortably placed into lineups as a WR2.

Cam Sims: He’s playing a full-time role in the offense and it’s led to him totaling 54-plus yards in three of the last six games, but we were reminded in Week 14 why we can’t consider any wide receiver outside of Terry McLaurin in this offense. Yes, the Seahawks have allowed a ridiculous 24 wide receivers to finish with double-digit PPR points, but they haven’t allowed any over the last three weeks as they’ve started to round into form. You simply can’t trust a non-McLaurin Washington receiver to help you advance in the fantasy playoffs.

Will Dissly and Jacob Hollister:
We watched Dissly find the end zone in Week 14, which saved what was a disappointing fantasy game against a truly bad Jets secondary that hasn’t been able to stop tight ends. He’s still failed to top 38 yards in any game this year, making him a touchdown-or-bust option. He and Hollister continue to split the snaps at tight end, so for a team that’s targeted their tight ends just 6.9 times per game, it’s going to be difficult to recommend either of them. Washington has been what can best be described as an average matchup for tight ends, allowing the 15th-most PPR points per game to them, though the 6.74 yards per target is below the league average of 7.45 yards. Volume has helped save some tight ends, as they’ve seen an average of 7.3 targets per game, which ranks as the 12th-most. Still, even if the Seahawks tight ends hit that mark, you’re likely looking at four targets, tops. You can’t play either of these tight ends with any level of confidence.

Logan Thomas: He had the two worst matchups a tight end could ask for the last two weeks against the Steelers and the 49ers, but he came out of them looking like an every-week starter. He finished with 9/98/1 against the Steelers and 6/43/0 against the 49ers, which were both more than enough to be started. Unfortunately, he didn’t play nearly as well with Dwayne Haskins as he did with Alex Smith and Kyle Allen, so we have to keep that in mind. Teams have targeted their tight ends against the Seahawks a league-low 15.0 percent of the time, which is obviously not ideal, but they’ve had success when they do target them. They’ve allowed just a 59.3 percent catch-rate, but again, when those passes are completed, they go for a league-high 13.13 yards per reception. When you factor in the level of their competition and what they’ve averaged versus them, as well as what they’ve averaged in their other matchups, the Seahawks are the 14th-toughest matchup for tight ends, so essentially average. Provided Smith is back under center, Thomas should be trusted as a low-end TE1. If Haskins is forced to play, we have to lower expectations a bit.

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

Spread: Vikings -3.5
Total: 46
Bears at Vikings Betting Matchup

Mitch Trubisky:
As we talked about last week, the Bears have been a much better offense with Trubisky on the field. They’ve rattled off 25, 30, and 36 points over the last three weeks with him under center, and Week 14 was arguably Trubisky’s best game of the season, throwing for 267 yards and three touchdowns on just 33 pass attempts against the Texans. It sounds crazy but Trubisky has thrown three touchdowns in 3-of-6 starts this year. Trubisky hasn’t run the ball much this year and that’s unlikely to change this week, as the Vikings have allowed just 127 yards on the ground to quarterbacks, and they’re one of just four teams who’ve yet to allow a rushing touchdown to them. Trubisky seems to understand some schemes better than others and has shown consistency in that aspect, so when you see his stat lines against the Vikings over the last few years, you have a little concern. He’s failed to throw a touchdown in each of his last three games against them (though he was hurt very early in one of them), and he’s never thrown for more than 207 yards against them in six career games. It’s still Mike Zimmer’s defense, but with that being said, this defense has been worse in 2020 than in years past. Here are their ranks against quarterbacks in each of the four years: 2017 – 9th, 2018 – 12th, 2019 – 11th, 2020 – 15th. It does seem like they’ve turned a corner as of late, as no quarterback has topped 18.6 fantasy points against them in each of their last six games. They’re actually the ninth-toughest matchup when you factor in their strength of schedule to this point. There should still be plenty of pass attempts for Trubisky to give him a stable floor in 2QB leagues, but there are better streaming options in 1QB leagues.

Kirk Cousins: He didn’t have the game we hoped for last week even though he threw the ball 37 times, as the Bucs continually put him under duress. It wasn’t a complete waste because he did throw for 225 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 41 yards (which is worth more than another passing touchdown). Bottom line is that he didn’t cost you the game, though he didn’t carry you to victory, either. The Bears defense hasn’t been one to completely avoid as of late, but they’ve still allowed the fourth-fewest PPR points per offensive snap (1.30) this year. We watched Cousins play well against them back in Week 10 where he completed 25-of-36 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns, so it’s far from a must-avoid matchup. After not allowing a quarterback more than 16.2 fantasy points in the first six games of the year, the Bears defense has allowed six of the last seven quarterbacks they’ve played to hit that number. The only quarterback who failed to finish as a top-18 option in those games was Ryan Tannehill, who threw just 21 passes. To be fair, that’s always a possibility with Cousins as well, though when Dalvin Cook has issues getting going on the ground (like he has the last few times against the Bears), Cousins is asked to pick up the slack. This game is also taking place in a dome, which eliminates weather concerns. You probably shouldn’t aim to play Cousins as a streamer but he’s also not the worst mid-tier QB2 this week.

David Montgomery:
I’m always trying to find interesting stats to show you just how much opportunity running backs have, so I thought you’d like this one: When active, Montgomery has played 72.1 percent of the Bears offensive snaps, which is the highest percentage by a running back not named Christian McCaffrey or Ezekiel Elliott. He’s turned it on when fantasy managers have needed him most, averaging 136.7 total yards and 1.3 touchdowns over the last three weeks. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that his three opponents in those games ranked as the No. 30, No. 31, and No. 32 defenses against running backs, while his Week 15 matchup isn’t all that great. The Vikings ranks as the 15th-toughest matchup for running backs, but once you factor in weighted opportunity they’ve faced, they’re the ninth-toughest matchup for running backs from an efficiency standpoint. Going back to his last three matchups, the Texans, Lions, and Packers were the three best matchups from an efficiency standpoint. They’re not an impenetrable defense, allowing 4.39 yards per carry, but they’ve tightened up when they need to and have allowed just eight rushing touchdowns on the year. There have been just three running backs who’ve topped 80 yards on the ground against them, and each of those running backs saw 21-plus carries, a number Montgomery has seen just once all season. Even through the air, it’s been tough sledding for running backs, as the Vikings have yet to allow a running back total more than 36 receiving yards. Montgomery is getting enough work to play even in tough matchups but dial back expectations in this game to the mid-to-low-end RB2 territory.

Dalvin Cook: Despite going into a matchup with the brutal Bucs run defense where we tempted expectations for him, Cook walked out of that game with 110 total yards and a touchdown. He was just the second running back who’s run for more than 75 yards against them since the start of the 2019 season. It’s pretty remarkable to say at this stage of the year, but there have been just three times all season where Cook finished outside the top-12 running backs. Unfortunately, one of those games was against his Week 15 opponent. It wasn’t due to lack of trying, as the Vikings gave Cook a massive 34 touches against the Bears in Week 10, but he was only able to muster up 112 total yards without a touchdown. It’s funny that I say “only” but those are the expectations that Cook has set for us, and it was based on a lot of touches. Even going back to when he played against the Bears in 2019, he finished with 70 total yards on 20 touches, but did find the end zone, salvaging his fantasy day. There have been just two running backs (Alvin Kamara, Adrian Peterson) all season who can say they’ve been an RB1 against the Bears. In terms of efficiency, they’ve allowed just 0.70 PPR points per opportunity to running backs, which is the third-lowest mark in the league, behind only the Saints and Steelers. All in all, running backs average 4.4 fewer PPR points against the Bears than they have in non-Bears matchups, making the Bears the third-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for running backs. Look, you’re starting Cook as an RB1 every week, even if there’s a tough matchup on the schedule, which is what we’re looking at here.

Allen Robinson:
He hasn’t missed a beat with Trubisky back as the starter, catching 23 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns over the last three games. Two of those games were great matchups against the Lions and Texans, but it’s important to deliver when you get those type of matchups. The Vikings have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game (41.9) to wide receivers and it’s not even due to much volume. They’ve allowed 8.97 yards per target (5th-most) and have allowed 20 touchdowns to them, which ranks second to only the Cowboys. That amounts to 2.02 PPR points per target, the second-highest mark in the league. To be fair, rookie Cameron Dantzler has played better after a brutal start to his career. Over the last five games he’s played, he’s allowed just 9-of-22 passing for 98 scoreless yards. However, Robinson moves around the formation and will see plenty of Chris Jones in coverage, the backup who’s allowed 18-of-21 passing for 192 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage. It was Nick Foles under center back in Week 10 when Robinson caught six passes for 43 yards, so we can’t assume that’ll be the case again, though Trubisky hasn’t thrown a touchdown against the Vikings in each of his last three games against them. Robinson should be in lineups as a high-end WR2 who should be a lock for eight-plus targets.

Darnell Mooney: He’s seen five-plus targets in 10-of-13 games this year, which is plenty to be considered in fantasy, but he’s yet to finish a game with more than 69 yards (just two games over 43 yards), and he’s scored just two touchdowns all year. All targets are not created equal. The Vikings have allowed 2.02 PPR points per target to wide receivers (2nd-most in NFL), so the matchup isn’t a problem, but that didn’t stop Mooney from finishing with a career-low three yards in their first meeting. That was with Foles under center, though Mooney hasn’t fared that much better with Trubisky. If there’s one thing you’re holding out hope for, it’s a big play, as the Vikings have allowed 48 pass plays of 20-plus yards, which is the second-most in the NFL. Still, Mooney is nothing more than a WR5 hail mary play whose quarterback hasn’t been able to connect with him.

Anthony Miller: His six-game streak of seeing five-plus targets came to a screeching halt in Week 14, as he finished with just two targets, two receptions, and 16 yards against a weak Texans secondary. By sitting Miller, you’re not sacrificing much upside, as he hasn’t topped 76 yards all year, and he hasn’t scored a touchdown since way back in Week 3. Even if the matchup against the Vikings is a good one for wide receivers, you can’t play him with any confidence. There’s been one game since Week 3 where he’s finished as a top-50 wide receiver.

Adam Thielen: It was a bad game for the Vikings pass-catchers last week. Look, it happens. While it’s upsetting that Thielen finished with just four targets, he’d seen 29 targets in the previous three games, so we’ll call it a blip on the radar. He had also finished as a top-13 wide receiver in each of those previous three games. The last time he played the Bears (in Week 10), Thielen finished with four catches for 43 yards and two touchdowns. That was a game where Jefferson was kind of having his breakout party, totaling 135 yards, so there will be a bit more focus on the youngster in this contest. The Bears have allowed the third-fewest PPR points per game (32.2) to wide receivers this year, though they haven’t been as potent as of late. They’ve allowed multiple wide receivers to score 11-plus PPR points in each of their last four games, including Chad Hansen and Keke Coutee last week. Here’s a fun fact: Thielen has played 12 games (nine with a significant role) against the Bears over his career and has failed to record more than 68 yards in any of them, though this secondary looks as ripe as ever. You’re playing Thielen as a WR2 and hoping he follows the trend of receivers in recent weeks.

Justin Jefferson: What Jefferson has done in his rookie season is nothing short of amazing. You may have forgotten, but he was on the COVID list during a few weeks of training camp, which is why he didn’t have a big role in the offense for the first few weeks. Based on where his targets have taken place and how deep they’ve been, Jefferson has scored 66.6 PPR points over expectation, which ranks fourth among wide receivers, behind only Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, and D.K. Metcalf. Did he have a dud in Week 14? Yeah, it happens to the best of wide receivers at times, and it was the first time since Week 9 where Jefferson failed to finish as a top-15 wide receiver. One of those games came against this Bears secondary that he tagged for eight catches and 135 yards, though it was Thielen who stole the two touchdowns in that game. The Bears secondary has allowed eight different wide receivers to finish as top-36 options against them over their last five games, which is quite the difference from their first eight games that netted just six top-36 wide receivers. In fact, they’ve allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers over the last four weeks. He’s going to see a lot of Jaylon Johnson, who’s struggled after a solid first quarter of the season. Since the start of Week 5, he’s allowed 29-of-46 passing for 403 yards and five touchdowns in his coverage, good for a 127.4 QB Rating. Go ahead and keep Jefferson in lineups as a rock-solid WR2.

Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham:
After hovering around the 24-47 percent of snaps range in Weeks 1-9, Kmet has now played at least 70 percent of the snaps in each of the last four games, including a career-high 85 percent last week. Meanwhile, Graham has dipped to fewer than 50 percent of snaps in each of the last three games. Graham stole the touchdown last week, but it was Kmet running more routes and getting seven targets. He’s now seen 14 targets over the last two games despite Graham’s presence. This bodes well for his matchup this week. The Vikings haven’t faced much volume this year, but when tight ends have been targeted, they’ve produced. The 8.34 yards per target they’ve averaged is more than every team not named the Jets or Jaguars. There have been six tight ends who’ve seen more than four targets against them, and every one of them finished with at least 10.5 PPR points. They’ve only allowed five tight end touchdowns on the year, but again, part of that comes down to lack of volume. Knowing Montgomery is likely to struggle a bit more in this matchup, we could see Kmet have a better shot to find the end zone. He should be considered a high-end TE2 with his growing role in a plus-matchup. Graham is more of the touchdown-or-bust TE2 who’s fallen behind Kmet as the primary tight end on the team.

Irv Smith and Kyle Rudolph: With Rudolph out of the lineup, Smith made his mark in Week 14, as he led the team with 63 receiving yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, he saw just four targets, which is not a very large bump. In fact, Tyler Conklin out-targeted him in that game (5 to 4). Tight ends have seen a massive 23.7 percent target share against the Bears, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the league. The Vikings did target their tight ends seven times the last time they met, though it was Smith who was out for that game, allowing Rudolph to see five targets and rack up 63 yards on four receptions. Going back to the start of Week 7, here are the tight ends the Bears have played, along with their finish in that game: Gerald Everett TE8, Jared Cook TE2, Jonnu Smith TE9, Kyle Rudolph TE12, Robert Tonyan TE2, T.J. Hockenson TE6, and Jordan Akins TE29. The only one who didn’t finish top-12 was Akins, who legit let a touchdown bounce off his chest because he lost the ball in the sun. If he catches that, he’s a top-12 tight end, too. If both of these tight ends play, it’s nearly impossible to guess which one to play, as evidenced by last week when Rudolph was out of the lineup, and Smith didn’t even lead the tight ends in targets. However, if Rudolph were to sit again, you should be willing to take a shot on Smith as a high-end TE2 who’s a solid streaming option. *Update* Rudolph has been ruled out, which means Smith can be streamed with some confidence.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

Spread: Dolphins -2
Total: 41.5
Patriots at Dolphins Betting Matchup

Cam Newton:
We heard Bill Belichick come out right after last week’s game and say that Newton will be the starter moving forward. It’s never good when a coach has to answer that question a handful of times throughout the year. If the Patriots fall into a negative gamescript, it feels like there’s no coming back, as Newton just hasn’t been able to get anything done through the air. He’s thrown just five touchdowns through 12 games, which feels rather impossible in today’s NFL that promotes passing. The Patriots offense has only been able to generate 21.3 points per game this year, so when you combine that with the fact that the Dolphins have allowed just 18.8 points per game (2nd in NFL), we have an issue. The Patriots offense as a whole ranks as the third-worst in the league, averaging just 1.14 PPR points per offensive snap, behind only the Jets and Giants. Many saw Patrick Mahomes get intercepted three times last week and think, “wow,” but the Dolphins have been doing it all year and rank second in interceptions (16). They’ve also allowed the second-fewest passing touchdowns (16) on the season. Your only hope with Newton is that he gets it done on the ground, and the Dolphins have allowed 281 rushing yards (7th-most) and four rushing touchdowns (10th-most) to quarterbacks, so it’s possible. But even then, you need that for almost all his production, leaving him in the middling QB2 territory. The lone piece of good news for him is that he’s still yet to have back-to-back weeks finishing outside the top-14 quarterbacks, and he did finish as the QB6 when these two teams met the first time, but that seems so long ago.

Tua Tagovailoa: It seems the Dolphins are becoming more content with allowing Tagovailoa to throw the ball, as he’s racked up 87 pass attempts over the last two weeks. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s likely going to be without his top four pass-catchers for this contest, as Mike Gesicki suffered a shoulder injury, DeVante Parker is dealing with a hamstring injury, Jakeem Grant is out multiple weeks, as is Preston Williams. The Patriots are allowing just 21.5 points per game as a defense, which is due to the fact that opponents have averaged fewer than 60 plays per game. They have what are the slowest pace games in the league, which doesn’t bode well for fantasy scoring. When you add in the Dolphins lack of total plays in their games (third-lowest), you have the recipe for disaster. The Patriots have allowed a respectable 7.53 yards per attempt, though that number has been on the decline as of late with Stephon Gilmore back in the lineup and playing well. The last three quarterbacks to play them (Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert, and Jared Goff) have combined for just 65-of-112 passing for 516 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions. That amounts to just a 58.0 percent completion-rate, 4.61 yards per attempt, and 8.97 fantasy points per game. When you add in the fact that teams have chosen to throw the ball just 53.0 percent of the time against the Patriots, you’re not going to want to play Tagovailoa against the Patriots in the fantasy playoffs. Heck, even if Ryan Fitzpatrick were starting with the pass-catchers healthy, I don’t think he’d be a great option.

Damien Harris, Sony Michel, and James White:
Another week has passed, and Harris remains the lead back in this offense. We wondered if Michel would continue to gain ground on him, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The opportunities last week were Harris 13, Michel 8, White 5. That was in a negative gamescript, so it’s clear we’re not going to be able to trust White with any role moving forward. Despite the loss of Rex Burkhead, White has now played fewer than 40 percent of the snaps in three straight games. Harris has looked good running the ball this year (5.04 yards per carry), but with no pass-game role in a low-scoring offense (21.3 points per game) combined with a quarterback who steals most of the goal-line looks, he’s just not going to offer much of a ceiling. The Dolphins have allowed the 13th-fewest fantasy points per weighted opportunity to running backs this year, which doesn’t bode well for the Patriots running backs, as we can’t guarantee any of them for any set number of touches. What I can tell you is that there’ve been nine running backs who’ve finished with double-digit points against them, and eight of them recorded at least three receptions, which is a mark neither Harris nor Michel will reach. Melvin Gordon was the one who did, but he scored two rushing touchdowns. He’s one of three running backs to accomplish that feat, so it’s not impossible that Harris finds his way into the end zone, but his floor is low enough to keep him in the mid-to-low-end RB3 territory. Michel isn’t someone you should be considering given his single-digit touches and lack of involvement in the passing game, and we’ve already discussed White’s lack of role in this offense, making him impossible to trust.

Myles Gaskin, DeAndre Washington, and Salvon Ahmed: After finding out that Gaskin tested positive for COVID last Saturday, it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be able to take part in this game with the NFL’s protocol. That would mean another start for Washington, though Ahmed could also get involved. We watched Cam Akers run through holes the size of Texas last week against this Patriots run defense on his way to 171 yards on 29 carries. Have they been that bad all year? To be clear, no. Coming into that game, no running back had topped 112 yards on the ground against them, though volume has always been the issue. Their opponents run just 59.8 plays per game, which is the second-lowest number in the league, and that’s limited production, because the 4.51 yards per carry they’ve allowed is a solid number for the Dolphins backs. They’ve faced an average of 22.9 carries per game this year, which is not a whole lot. When you look at the weighted volume they’ve faced and ask how the efficiency has been, they rank as the 14th-toughtest defense in terms of points per weighted opportunity. So, again, it’s not the per-touch production you have to be concerned with in this matchup but rather the volume. There have been eight running backs who’ve totaled 15-plus touches against the Patriots this year, and while all of them finished with double-digit PPR points, just three finished as top-12 options. In the end, the Patriots have allowed the fifth-fewest PPR points per game overall to their opponents while the Dolphins have scored the ninth-fewest PPR points per game. Washington did receive 17 opportunities in last week’s game, so he needs to be at least considered, but it’s hard to say he’s anything more than a low-upside RB3 in this game. If Ahmed returns to a full practice at some point, we might see him overtake Washington as the lead back. If you’ve learned anything here, it’s that we have an extremely cloudy backfield in a not-so-great of matchup. I’ll post updates later on this week when we hear more about the status of Gaskin/Ahmed. *Update* Gaskin has still yet to be removed from the COVID list and should be expected to miss this week’s game. Ahmed is listed as questionable after being limited in practice all week, so this backfield is nothing but question marks as we head into the weekend.

Jakobi Meyers:
He’s topped 60 yards just once this year and has averaged just 5.0 targets per game over the last four weeks. His quarterback has thrown just five touchdowns on the year and Meyers hasn’t caught a single one of them. Tying yourself to this offense is just a recipe for disappointment. There have been just five times all season where a Patriots receiver totaled more than 13.8 PPR points, and just three since Week 2. The Dolphins have watched wide receivers get targeted on 62.2 percent of pass attempts, which ranks as the third-most in football, so that’s good. They’ve also allowed 8.51 yards per target to them, which ranks as the 12th-highest mark in the league. Much of that has come on the “big” play, as they’ve allowed 43 pass plays that have gone for 20-plus yards, including nine that were 40-plus yards. We know that’s not Meyers’ role. He’ll see Nik Needham in coverage most of the time, a cornerback who’s allowed 36-of-53 passing for 379 yards and no touchdowns in his coverage this year. I don’t think this matchup is good enough for Meyers to consistently get targets from Newton (and in an accurate fashion), making him a low-upside WR4/5-type option.

DeVante Parker: It doesn’t seem like Parker will have a good shot to play this week after tweaking his hamstring in Week 14. Even if he does, it’s not a matchup you really want to play him in. Ever since the Patriots got Stephon Gilmore back from his injury, they’ve been playing great defense. Over the last three weeks, they’ve held DeAndre Hopkins to 5/55/0, Keenan Allen to 5/48/0, Robert Woods to 5/32/0, and Cooper Kupp to 5/33/1. That’s not a lot of production from legitimate top-24 wide receivers. Gilmore is going to shadow Parker in this game, which is a problem. After starting the year a bit shaky, he’s really turned things around, allowing just 13-of-22 passing for 154 yards and no touchdowns in his coverage over the last six games played. The Patriots have only faced 18.0 wide receiver targets per game, which is the second-fewest in football. We already knew to downgrade Parker with Tagovailoa under center, but this matchup takes that to another level, making Parker a low-upside WR4-type option who’ll need a touchdown to avoid busting, and that’s if he plays at all.

Lynn Bowden: I’m listing him under wide receivers, but he’s able to be played as a running back in most formats, which is nice. He jumped in to play a bigger role with Jakeem Grant out the last game and a half, seeing 13 targets and hauling 11 of them in for 123 yards while adding another 13 yards on the ground. With so few options for Tagovailoa, we should expect Bowden to have a five-target floor in this game. The Patriots have allowed 8.39 yards per target to wide receivers, which is slightly above the league average, though the issue comes back to volume. They’ve seen just 234 targets this year (18.0 per game), which is the second-fewest in the NFL, and it’s limited production overall. He’s playing most of his snaps in the slot, which is a good thing, as the five of the top-nine wide receiver performances against the Patriots this year have been by slot-heavy receivers, including Hunter Renfrow and Willie Snead. If you’re looking for a last-minute replacement in your lineup who should offer a solid floor with the way he’s being used. As a running back, he’s in the low-end RB3 territory. As a wide receiver, he’s in the WR4 territory.

Devin Asiasi:
You almost have to try to be this bad with tight ends, but the Patriots have had just one tight end performance with more than 4.8 PPR points. Do you want to know what their best tight end performance was? Two catches for 59 scoreless yards. Yeah, keep on moving.

Mike Gesicki and Adam Shaheen: It sure doesn’t seem like Gesicki is going to play in this game, so be prepared for that. Even if he does play, it’s not a matchup to attack with borderline options. The Patriots defense hasn’t been as scary this year as many remember them being last year, but if there’s one position they’ve flat-out dominated against, it’s tight ends. They rank as the third-toughest matchup in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, which factors in level of competition. They’ve allowed just 8.9 PPR points per game to the position, and that’s despite playing guys like Mark Andrews, George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, Hunter Henry, and Gesicki himself. They’ve yet to allow a tight end more than 13.3 PPR points. If you go by schedule-adjusted matchup rank, the Patriots are the worst matchup in the league for tight ends. Why? Their opponents have averaged 46.5 percent fewer PPR points per game against the Patriots than they do versus all their opponents’ non-Patriots games. When you see Gesicki’s 9.7 PPR points per game average, it’s not great. The last time they played, with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, Gesicki finished with three catches for 30 yards. Don’t aim to play any Dolphins tight end this week, Gesicki or not.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens

Spread: Ravens -13.5
Total: 46.5
Jaguars at Ravens Betting Matchup

Gardner Minshew:
He’s back! Unfortunately, he’s not returning to the most ideal scenario but it’s good to have him back regardless. He stepped in mid-game against the Titans last week and completed 18-of-31 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 22 yards. Many have forgotten just how useable Minshew was earlier in the season, as he finished as a top-14 quarterback in 6-of-7 games, but all everyone wants to remember is that one game where he struggled against the Dolphins, who turned out to be a pretty good defense. The Ravens are not the matchup you want to see for streamers, though. They’ve allowed just 6.45 yards per pass attempt on the season, which is behind only the Rams, while the 3.58 percent touchdown-rate they’ve allowed ranks as the third-lowest mark. So, how is it they allow the 15th-most fantasy points? Volume. They’ve faced a massive 38.7 pass attempts per game, and they’ve also allowed five rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks. Minshew has thrown 40-plus attempts in 5-of-7 starts, and has some rushing upside, too. It’s not a great matchup but Minshew’s volume should carry him into the top-24 quarterbacks, making him perfectly fine play in 2QB/Superflex leagues.

Lamar Jackson: You’re starting to see that confidence return in his play, which is a great thing for fantasy managers, as he’s finished as the QB7 or better in three of his last four games. Sure, the matchups were fantastic against the Titans, Cowboys, and Browns, but get ready for the same thing in Week 15. Not only do the Jaguars opponents average a rock-solid 66.9 plays per game, but they’ve also averaged 1.56 PPR points per offensive snap, which ranks as the third-highest mark in the league. When you add everything up, they’ve allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to their opponents. Sure, you can run the ball on them, but you can also pass it. They’ve allowed the third-most fantasy points per game (21.66) to quarterbacks despite seeing the 10th-fewest pass attempts. Teams have only thrown the ball on 52.9 percent of plays against them (2nd-lowest), but when they do, they have a ton of success. The Jaguars have allowed a league-high 8.20 yards per attempt (no one else over 8.04), a ridiculously-high 69.8 completion-rate (2nd-highest), and a touchdown on 6.3 percent of pass attempts (2nd-highest). They’ve allowed a league-high 28 passing touchdowns while intercepting just nine passes, which is a 3.1:1 touchdown to interception ratio. The Jaguars are also one of five teams who’ve allowed 29-plus points per game to their opponents, so there should be plenty of scoring opportunities regardless. Jackson is back to elite must-start QB1 territory.

James Robinson:
He set the record last week for most yards in a season by an undrafted rookie and he’s obviously still not done. If there’s one thing that’s a bit worrisome about his lackluster Week 14 performance where he finished with 83 total yards without a touchdown was that he played just 56 percent of the snaps, which was his lowest mark since back in Week 3. Doug Marrone said that the game was out of hand and that Robinson was just getting beat up, so he pulled him to rest up a bit. Knowing he was on the injury report coming in, it makes some sense. The Ravens matchup hasn’t been a death wish for running backs, as they’ve been right around the league average in every statistical category, including yards per carry (4.36), yards per target (5.44), total touchdowns (11), and points per weighted opportunity (rank 20th). They’ve faced a decent 26.4 running back touches per game, which is able to happen because their opponents have averaged a stable 66.3 plays per game. Provided Robinson can get back to full health, he should hit 18 touches in this game. There have been 10 running backs who’ve totaled more than 13 touches against the Ravens this year, and nine of them totaled at least 81 total yards, while every one of them hit at least 12.1 PPR points. As long as Robinson is healthy and plays, he should be in lineups as a low-end RB1 with a high floor.

JK Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Mark Ingram: Despite us all wanting Dobbins to get the workhorse role, it doesn’t seem likely at this point. He’s failed to top 65.9 percent of the snaps all season, and that includes when Ingram was out of the lineup. To be fair, his 61.7 percent of snaps in Week 14 was his third-highest mark of the season. He also made the most of his touches, turning his 13 carries into 53 yards and a touchdown, though Edwards continues to be a thorn in his side, stealing two touchdowns. But the best news I can share is that Ingram has been phased out, playing just one snap last week. The Jaguars have allowed 104.3 PPR points per game to their opponents, which ranks second to only the Jets. They’re also one of just five teams who’ve allowed 28-plus PPR points per game to the running back position. The 25.8 running back carries per game they face is the second-most and allows for timeshares like the Ravens to be worth much more in fantasy football, as it gives them a much higher floor. All in all, they’ve faced a league-high 31.6 running back touches per game which have amounted to 160.6 total yards per game to running backs. Teams have run the ball on 47.1 percent of plays against them (2nd-most) while the Ravens themselves run the ball 53.7 percent of the time, which is more than any other team in the league. If you’re looking for a true breakout performance from Dobbins, this could be the week, as the Jaguars have allowed five different running backs to top 115 yards on the ground, including two 150-plus yard performances. His lack of involvement in the passing game really stinks and what keeps him out of true RB1 territory, but he should be flirting with it this week, so start him as a high-end RB2. As for Edwards, he should be getting double-digit touches in this game, provided they continue down the path of not playing Ingram. That makes him a low-end RB3/high-end RB4 who’s a bit touchdown-dependent, but in this game, against a team who’s allowed the seventh-most rushing touchdowns, it might be okay.

D.J. Chark:
Have we reached the point of no return with Chark, who’s now finished outside the top-36 wide receivers in seven of his last eight games? He’s coming off two plus-matchups against the Vikings and Titans, yet he failed to record more than two receptions or 41 yards in either game. It’s possible he’s not playing at full health, because we can’t forget he sat out Week 12 with a rib injury. The Ravens rank as the 14th-toughest matchup for wide receivers, though I believe it’s tougher than that. They’ve faced a ton of volume (21.8 wide receiver targets per game, fourth-most in the NFL), leading to some production, but when you look at the efficiency metrics, they’re a bottom-three matchup for receivers. They’ve allowed just 7.26 yards per target (3rd-lowest) and a touchdown every 31.6 targets (second-least often), which amount to just 1.57 PPR points per target, which ranks only behind the Rams defense. Wide receivers have averaged 10.4 percent fewer fantasy points against the Ravens than they have in their non-Ravens games, making it the fifth-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup. If you look at the top-100 targeted wide receivers and their efficiency, Chark ranks as the 17th-worst in points per target. It should help to get Minshew back under center, but he’s hard to trust as anything more than a low-end WR3/high-end WR4.

Keelan Cole: If there’s one player who’s been extremely different with/without Minshew in the lineup, it’s Cole.

Situation Tgts/gm Rec/gm Yds/gm TD/gm PPR PPG
With Minshew 6.4 4.4 55.1 0.5 12.9
Without Minshew 4.4 2.4 26.0 0.2 6.2


As you can see, everything goes up, across the board. He’s totaled at least four catches and 43 yards or scored a touchdown in every one of Minshew’s games. That’s definitely a plus, while the matchup against the Ravens is a negative. He’s going to see a lot of Marlon Humphrey, the slot cornerback who’s allowed a ridiculously low 5.16 yards per target in his coverage while not allowing a touchdown on 57 targets. Outside of Tyreek Hill, the best game we’ve seen out of a slot-heavy receiver against them was JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s eight-catch, 37-yard, one-touchdown game against them. Cole should have a WR5-type floor, but he doesn’t have a ceiling in this matchup. He does have a matchup against the Bears who’ve struggled against slot receivers next week, in case you were wondering if you should cut him.

Marquise Brown: He’s now scored in three straight weeks, though I can’t say his managers have felt extremely comfortable putting him in lineups. He’s coming off two great matchups where he finished with seven receptions, 89 yards, and two touchdowns in the two games combined. If he didn’t score, there would’ve been plenty of drops in the transaction log. Still, he’s seen 22 targets in the last three games, so the Ravens are clearly trying to get him involved. The Jaguars have allowed 21 wide receivers to finish as top-40 options against them. In fact, there have been just two wide receivers who’ve finished outside the top-40 while seeing more than five targets (Randall Cobb WR42, T.Y. Hilton WR50). The downside is that once teams get down into the red zone against the Jaguars, they don’t target their wide receivers, as evidenced by the minuscule 18 red zone targets they’ve faced all season, which is the lowest total in the NFL, and we know there have been plenty of trips there by opponents. Still, they’ve allowed a massive 9.24 yards per target (second-most) and 1.96 PPR points per target (4th-most), so if you’re not going to start him here, you might as well cut him. He should be considered a back-end WR3 who obviously comes with some risk, but things have been better as of late. *Update* Brown was placed on the COVID list on Wednesday. If he was just a close contact, he can still be cleared to play, but we won’t know that until Sunday. You’ll want to have a contingency plan for him in place. John Harbaugh said that they are expecting to have Brown, for what it’s worth. 

Tyler Eifert:
If there’s a player who’s seen fewer opportunities with Minshew under center, it’s probably Eifert, who was coming off five straight games where he’d seen four-plus targets, but he finished with just two of them in Week 14. It was a disappointing game against a Titans defense that had allowed plenty of fantasy points to the position. It’s not like we were all that excited, as Eifert hasn’t totaled more than 48 yards all season and has just two touchdowns through 12 games. He’s never finished better than TE13, though he’s been top-20 in three of his last six games. The Ravens haven’t been a matchup to run away from with tight ends, as they’ve allowed seven different tight ends to finish as top-18 options, which is essentially where you want streaming options to finish. They’ve seen 102 targets to the position, which ranks as the sixth-most in the league. Despite all those targets, though, tight ends have averaged just 0.2 more PPR points against the Ravens than they have versus their season-long average, so that doesn’t do much for us with Eifert, whose season-long average is 5.8 PPR points. You can likely find a better option this week who has a better shot at finding the end zone.

Mark Andrews: It was a solid game for Andrews last week with five catches for 78 yards, though it was somewhat disappointing he didn’t score in a game where they totaled 47 points, especially given the fact that it was the Browns, who’ve allowed the second-most points to tight ends. But again, let’s not pretend like 5/78/0 is bad when his quarterback threw the ball just 17 times. While the Jets may have allowed the most fantasy points per target (2.35) to tight ends, the Jaguars aren’t far behind, allowing a massive 2.32 PPR points per target. Remember the Cardinals defense last year where we played every tight end possible against them? Yeah, they allowed… you guessed it, 2.32 PPR points per target. The difference is that teams have plus-matchups all over the field, and it’s led to tight ends getting just 5.9 targets per game against them, which is the fourth-fewest in the league. But that’s the thing – most teams don’t have a tight end as their primary receiver like Andrews is for the Ravens. He’s seen five-plus targets in 8-of-11 games this year, including three with eight-plus targets. As crazy as it sounds, the Jaguars haven’t allowed more than four receptions to any tight ends through 13 games, but have allowed touchdowns to eight different tight ends, including two to Jonnu Smith. Andrews should be in lineups as a high-end TE1 this week.

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