The Primer: Week 15 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
New York Jets at Los Angeles Rams
Spread: Rams -16.5
Jets at Rams Betting Matchup
Sam Darnold: You’re not going to be starting many quarterbacks against a Rams defense that’s allowed a league-low 6.06 yards per attempt, alongside a league-low 3.06 percent touchdown-rate, so you’re definitely not going to be starting Darnold. Without any rushing, the Rams have allowed a minuscule 0.336 fantasy points per pass attempt. Think about that for a minute. If a quarterback threw 35 pass attempts, that would amount to just 11.76 fantasy points. All in all, the Rams defense is allowing a league-low 1.18 PPR points per play, while the Jets are averaging an even-worse 1.08 PPR points per play. You’re not considering Darnold outside of 2QB formats, and even then, you probably have a better option.
Jared Goff: We didn’t expect a whole lot out of Goff last week, though he did score a rushing touchdown to at least come out with something for those who had to play him in 2QB/Superflex formats. He’s now failed to throw more than one touchdown in five of his last six games. I know this is a bit narrative driven, but don’t you think Sean McVay would like to instill some confidence in Goff prior to the playoffs? What better way to do that than against the Jets? What happens when you combine one of the least efficient defenses in the league with opponents who run a lot of plays? You get the most fantasy points per game allowed in football. The Jets have allowed a massive 1.54 PPR points per offensive snap to their opponents, while also allowing them to run 68.2 plays per game. Quarterbacks themselves have averaged a robust 22.34 fantasy points per game against the Jets, which ranks behind only the Falcons. If you break it down to points allowed strictly throwing the ball (no rushing), the Jets have allowed the most fantasy points to the quarterback position. If Sean McVay wants to give Goff some confidence, he’ll let Goff have some fun against a defense that’s allowed 294.4 passing yards and a league-high 28 passing touchdowns. The volume has been pretty average against them, but when you factor in the league-high 71.0 percent completion-rate, 7.87 yards per attempt, and 5.8 percent touchdown-rate, you have a dream matchup. Teams have scored an average of 30.2 points against the Jets (second to only the Cowboys), and the Rams have a 30.5-point team-implied total, so there’ll be plenty of scoring opportunities for Goff in this game. He should be considered a solid low-end QB1 streamer.
Frank Gore and Ty Johnson: Here are the snaps among Jets running backs last week: Johnson 20, Gore 17, Josh Adams 12. Gross. Not only are the Rams a dominant pass defense; they’re great at defending the run as well, allowing the fourth-fewest PPR points per game to running backs. They’ve allowed just 3.91 yards per carry on the season along with just seven rushing touchdowns through 13 games. Even if you’re projecting a negative gamescript and hoping the Jets will need to pass to their backs, the Rams have allowed a piddly 1.23 PPR points per target to running backs, which ranks as the third-lowest number in the league. Not that you would expect a Jets running back to run for 100 yards, but the Rams are a team who’s yet to allow a running back to hit the century mark. Unless a running back has seen 20-plus carries, none have totaled more than 71 yards. When you add in that just two running back have totaled more than 36 yards receiving, you struggle to find a floor/ceiling with either of these backs. The Jets have averaged just 62.6 PPR points per game (again, gross), while the Rams have allowed a league-low 73.9 PPR points per game. There’s not enough production in this game to be comfortable starting anyone on the Jets.
Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson: I think it’s clear who the Rams lead back is at this point, eh? Over the Rams last 10 quarters of play, Akers has touched the ball a massive 61 times while Henderson has just nine of them. Meanwhile Malcolm Brown didn’t have a single touch last week. Akers looks like a running back that’s fresh for the stretch run while most defenses are simply run down and running on fumes. He rumbled through the Patriots defense for 194 total yards, though Goff stole the goal-line carry. It also doesn’t hurt that the Rams have a full 10 days prior to this game for him to rest up after his 31-touch game and be ready to rock again. The Jets have allowed a league-leading 104.8 PPR points to opposing quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. Meanwhile, the Rams average the ninth-most fantasy points per game as an offense. I know what you’re thinking. “Hey, the Jets are bad and allow a lot of production to running backs!” Well, they have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points per game to them, yeah, but when you look at the weighted opportunity they’ve faced, they’re the 11th-toughest matchup from an efficiency standpoint. But again, volume will mask that a bit, as they’ve seen a massive 29.2 running back touches per game. With the timeshare being what it’s been over the last two and a half weeks, Akers should have plenty of touches. Despite how often the Jets have been blown out, it’s somewhat surprising to see they’ve allowed just five RB1 performances this year, with another five running backs finishing as RB2s. We’ve watched running backs rack up 77 receptions against the Jets (3rd-most), though they haven’t been very efficient, averaging just 4.94 yards per target (10th-lowest) and scoring just one touchdown on them. Still, the high receptions do add to the floor of Akers. He should be played as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 at this point, as we have nothing to suggest he won’t be the workhorse. Considering they’re 16.5-point favorites and projected for 30.5 points in a blowout, we might see more Henderson in this game than previous weeks, but he can’t be played as anything more than an emergency RB4.
Jamison Crowder: We didn’t even know if Crowder was going to suit up last week, and though he did (and played 38-of-53 snaps), he didn’t do anything for your fantasy team in a great matchup with the Seahawks. He’s now failed to hit 50 yards in each of his last six games, so if he doesn’t score, you’re going to be disappointed. The Rams perimeter cornerbacks have been dominant this year, so you’d think the slot is where you’d like to attack. While that’s true, it doesn’t mean it’s a good matchup. Troy Hill has done a good job limiting production, allowing 34-of-46 passing for 307 yards and one touchdown in his coverage. That’s good for a 73.9 percent completion-rate, but also just 6.67 yards per target. When you add in the one touchdown, it’s just 1.54 PPR points per target. All in all, there have been just eight wide receivers who’ve totaled more than five receptions against the Rams, which is essentially what you’d need to confidently start Crowder as a WR3 or better. It certainly doesn’t help to know they’ve faced a wide receiver target on just 54.4 percent of pass attempts (3rd-lowest in NFL), either. Crowder is just a weak WR4/5 option.
Breshad Perriman: Despite Crowder being banged up and Mims being out of the lineup, Perriman caught just three passes for 26 yards against the Seahawks last week. If Joe Flacco were back under center, we’d find more value in Perriman, but with Darnold, it’s just not happening. The Rams secondary has been the best in the NFL at defending wide receivers, allowing just 29.6 PPR points per game to them. It hasn’t been due to a lack of trying, either. They’ve seen 19.2 wide receiver targets per game, and still, there have been just seven wide receivers who’ve finished top-30 against the Rams this season. The fact that Perriman plays almost all his snaps on the perimeter is a problem, too. Both Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams have been dominant in coverage, combining to allow just 53-of-109 passing for 601 yards and five touchdowns. That’s just 5.51 yards per target and a touchdown every 21.8 targets. Perriman isn’t someone you should aim to play in fantasy leagues this week.
Denzel Mims: He was away from the team last week while dealing with some personal matters, but he’s expected to return to the team for this game. Unfortunately, you won’t want to put him in your lineup against a Rams team that’s the best in the league at defending wide receivers. They’ve allowed just 6.95 yards per target to them, which is ridiculously low. When you add in the seven touchdowns they’ve allowed on 249 targets, you get just 1.52 PPR points per target, which is also a league-low. The Jets receivers are question marks in good matchups, so when you get a matchup like this against a great defense, you’re best off avoiding the situation.
Robert Woods: We can be mad at the fantasy outcome (8.1 PPR points) out of Woods last week, but we can’t be mad about the role he played in the offense. He saw eight of Goff’s 25 pass attempts for a 32.0 percent target share. Over their last four games, Woods has been holding steady with a 29.9 percent target share, which is phenomenal. If he were to have had that pace all year long, he would’ve finished with 175 targets. Again, sometimes the results won’t match the volume, but you have to keep rolling him out there, especially in a matchup like the one he has this week. The Jets have allowed a massive 345 completions to their opponents this year, which ranks as the second-most in the league. You might hear some say that the Jets lack of competence will limit upside, but the counterpoint to that would be that wide receivers have averaged 41.5 PPR points per game (6th-most) against them, and the Jets have been incompetent all season long. The average number of points it took to finish as a WR1 in 2019 was 19.7 PPR points, a number that eight wide receivers have hit against the Jets, which is the fifth-most in the league. The downside is that teams have chosen to run the ball once in the red zone, and that’s evidenced by the minuscule 22 red zone targets for wide receivers (3rd-fewest) against them. You should have Woods in lineups as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 this week.
Cooper Kupp: It was fortunate that Kupp escaped with a touchdown last week, as his 33 yards were the second-lowest total of the year. He’s been a competent option all year, finishing as a top-40 option in 9-of-13 games, though he’s had just two finishes better than the WR15, so he hasn’t presented the ceiling he did last year. We could see that reemerge in Week 15, though. As mentioned in Woods’ notes, the Jets have allowed a ridiculously-high 345 completions (26.5 per game) this year, which bodes well for the reception-heavy Kupp. Wide receivers have caught a massive 70.5 percent of their targets against the Jets, which is the third-highest mark in the league. All in all, receivers have averaged a robust 1.92 PPR points per target against them. They have Javelin Guidry covering the slot for the injured Brian Poole, an undrafted rookie out of Utah. He’s only seen 10 targets in his coverage to this point but has allowed eight receptions for 82 yards on them. The Rams should have a field day with this secondary, so start Kupp as a solid WR2 with upside.
Chris Herndon: There’s been just one game all year where a Jets tight end has totaled more than 7.7 PPR points, and it was a game where Herndon caught just two passes for 32 yards, but one of those was for a touchdown. The Rams have allowed just 6.00 yards and 1.56 PPR points per target to tight ends, which are both near the bottom of the league, so you don’t have to bother wasting your time to consider if this a week to play a Jets tight end. In fact, the answer is always going to be no.
Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee: It’s going to be difficult to trust either of these tight ends considering their sharing the workload, but if you do want to trust one, it might be Everett. Since the start of Week 3, Everett has totaled 34/344/1 for 61.6 half-PPR points while Tyler Higbee has totaled 26/285/1 for 49.6 half-PPR points. Prior to the snooze fest in Week 14, Everett actually ranked 13th in targets among tight ends from Week 7 through Week 13, averaging 5.2 targets per game during that time. The Jets are the worst in the league against tight ends. How bad are they? Well, they’ve allowed 2.35 PPR points per target this year. Remember the Cardinals last year? They allowed 2.32 PPR points per target, so we’re in the same ballpark of bad. The issue is that the Rams wide receivers have such good matchups that we might not see the tight ends get targeted a whole lot. When you look at the Jets schedule this year, it looks even better for Everett and Higbee, as their opponents have averaged a ridiculous 21.4 percent more fantasy points against them than they have in their non-Jets matchups, making this the best schedule-adjusted matchup for tight ends. Both can be considered middling TE2s who just might pay off if you’re looking for a last minute solution at the position.
Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints
Spread: Chiefs -2.5
Chiefs at Saints Betting Matchup
Patrick Mahomes: It’s now been two straight weeks where Mahomes has finished with fewer than 20 fantasy points, something that happened just once over the first 11 games this season. Let’s not panic too much, as he finished with 19.3 and 18.6 fantasy points, though those aren’t top-five numbers you need. He has thrown for 318-plus yards in six straight games, however, and that’s likely going to continue with how much the run game has struggled. The Chiefs offense ranks as the second-most efficient one in the league while averaging 1.70 PPR points per offensive snap, while the Saints have been getting better and better, and now rank as the sixth-best defense in the league from an efficiency standpoint, allowing 1.31 PPR points per play to their opponents. All in all, the Saints have allowed just 78.5 PPR points per game to their opponents (3rd-fewest). The Chiefs rank No. 1 in the league averaging 110.8 PPR points per game, so something’s got to give. Quarterbacks have been limited, scoring just 15.58 fantasy points per game against the Saints (4th-fewest), which is a number that’s been trending down as the year’s gone on. Don’t forget they allowed the first five quarterbacks they played to score 20-plus fantasy points but have righted the ship since then. Jalen Hurts was the first quarterback since Week 7 who scored more than 16.9 fantasy points against them, and he did it with his legs. The 61.7 percent completion-rate they’ve allowed ranks as the second-lowest in football behind only the Steelers. But here’s the thing: The Saints run a lot of man coverage, which really doesn’t work very well against the Chiefs skill-position players, as they’re too slippery. If the Saints can’t get pressure to Mahomes, they’re going to pay the price. The good news for them is that they’ve generated the second-highest pressure-rate in the league, behind only the Steelers. This may not be the smash spot it was earlier in the year, but if for whatever reason, the Saints have a bad day getting after the quarterback, Mahomes has a ceiling as high as anyone. He obviously remains in your lineup.
Taysom Hill or Drew Brees: The Saints have been extremely precautious with their injuries this year, knowing they’re in it for the long haul, so I’m expecting Hill to start for them once again in Week 15. It’s not like Hill has played terrible, either. In the three “normal” games they’ve played (Broncos didn’t have a quarterback), Hill has completed 73-of-98 passes (74.5 percent completion-rate) for 756 yards (7.71 YPA), four touchdowns, and one interception. He’s also added 165 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in those three games, making him a legitimate QB1. Since taking over as the starter, he is the No. 6 quarterback in fantasy. This should be an interesting matchup because the Chiefs have allowed the third-lowest completion-rate to quarterbacks, behind only the Steelers and Saints themselves. That’s helped to contribute to the 6.82 yards per attempt they’ve allowed (7th-fewest). On the bright side, the Chiefs have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks, which is great news for Hill’s fantasy floor. It was very similar last year, too, as the Chiefs allowed the eighth-most fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks, so the scheme definitely allows for production. The Saints are likely going to try and slow down this game, as they’ve kind of done all year. In neutral gamescripts (this game’s line is in that range), they run a play every 32.1 seconds, which is the third-highest number in the NFL. While quarterbacks haven’t had too much success through the air against the Chiefs, Hill doesn’t really need to in order to have fantasy success, making him a fine low-end QB1 for this contest. *Update* Brees is reportedly going to start for the Saints this week, knocking Hill out of consideration. Brees becomes a mid-tier QB2 in a matchup that’s tougher than most realize.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell: We watched Edwards-Helaire play 62-73 percent of the snaps prior to Bell’s arrival. Since that time, it’d been 40-60 percent of them. Then, suddenly, the Chiefs gave him a season-high 74 percent of the snaps in Week 14 against the Dolphins. Sadly, it didn’t lead to much production, as he totaled just 32 yards on 16 carries, but salvaged his fantasy day with five catches for 59 yards. He’s hardly been a stud in fantasy lineups, but did you know there’ve been just two weeks he’s finished outside the top-30 running backs? This week is going to be a tough one, though. The Saints have allowed running backs a piddly 17.3 PPR points per game, which is kind of crazy when you think about it. If you were driving to work and you knew that there were 10 traffic lights on the way, you’d hit red lights on at least nine of them against the Saints, and maybe one yellow one (which is where Miles Sanders generated nearly half of his fantasy output last week; on one play). Last week was the first time since 2017 where the Saints allowed a 100-yard rusher against them. It was a 55-game streak, the longest since the Super Bowl era. And don’t expect too much from Edwards-Helaire in the passing game, either. The Saints have allowed just 4.41 yards per target this year, which ranks as the second-lowest number in the league. On the year, they’ve allowed just 24.8 receiving yards per game to running backs. When you add in the league-low seven total touchdowns they’ve allowed to them, you have a team that’s allowed the fewest fantasy points per opportunity in the NFL. Edwards-Helaire’s bump in snaps certainly helps, but he’s still just an RB3 for this contest. As for Bell, he wasn’t someone you were starting anyway, but his four touches in Week 14 should be all that you need to avoid him. In reality, he’s probably droppable at this point.
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray: Was there something going on with Kamara during Taysom Hill‘s first two starts? He played just 48 percent of the snaps in each of those two games, but then watched that number jump to 62 percent in Week 13 and 71 percent in Week 14, which was more in line with what he’s averaged this year. He was also targeted 10 times in Week 14, so things are looking up for the superstar running back. The targets are important in this week’s matchup, as the Chiefs have allowed the third-most yards (623) through the air to running backs this year and it’s not just volume, as they’ve allowed the fourth-most yards per target (6.77) to them, too. As a whole, the Chiefs have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to running backs, which seems solid, but it’s even better than that when you consider they’ve allowed just eight running back touchdowns, which drag that number down. Touchdowns can be tricky to predict, but we know Kamara is getting the ball in the red zone, right? Well, him or Hill. The Chiefs have allowed the seventh-most yards before contact to ball carriers, which is obviously a good thing for the elusive Kamara. With his targets coming back to their normal state last week, Kamara needs to be in lineups as an RB1. This is not a bad matchup for Murray given the Chiefs have allowed 4.55 yards per carry (8th-most) but gamescript will play a big role in the number of touches he’ll get, so he’s more of a high-end RB4 who just might find the end zone. *Update* With Brees back under center and Michael Thomas out, Kamara moves up to an elite RB1 play this week.
Tyreek Hill: So, it turns out that this Hill guy is pretty good at the game of football. Every target has an expected fantasy output based on how deep the target is and where on the field the target takes place. Hill has scored 71.7 more PPR points than the average wide receiver would be expected to. Sure, it helps that Patrick Mahomes is his quarterback, but that leads the league. To no surprise, his 2.53 PPR points per target is tops in the league among receivers with 50-plus targets. Week 14 was the first time in five weeks where Hill didn’t receive double-digit targets, which is kind of a bummer, as those were propelling him to new heights. The Saints don’t have a cornerback who’ll shadow Hill into the slot, so he’s going to see a lot of second-year cornerbacks Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in coverage. He’s allowed 45-of-65 passing for 402 yards and a touchdown in his coverage this year, and while that’s not horrendous, he is the weakest link of the Saints cornerbacks. There have been seven occasions where a slot-heavy receiver has finished with double-digit PPR points against the Saints, though just one of them (Allen Lazard) finished better than the WR24. All in all, there have been just four wide receivers who’ve finished as top-12 options against the Saints, though none of them saw more than eight targets. Playing in a dome should only help Hill’s speed, as well as presenting no weather risk at this time of the year. You’re playing Hill no matter what, even though the Saints have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to the wide receiver position.
Sammy Watkins: It was another ho-hum performance for Watkins last week, as he’s now finished with 24-62 yards in each of his last six games while scoring just one touchdown in that stretch. He’s a floor play that’s presented almost no ceiling despite playing with Mahomes. I don’t think that ceiling is going to reemerge in this game, either. The Saints have allowed just 20.1 pass completions per game this year, which ranks as the third-fewest in the league, while wide receivers have accounted for just 11.5 of them. They’ve allowed the sixth-fewest PPR points per game to the wide receiver position, thanks large in part to the perimeter duo of Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins. After a rough start to the season, Lattimore has turned things around, allowing just 23-of-40 passing for 292 yards and three touchdowns in his coverage since the start of Week 7. Meanwhile, Jenkins has played at a Pro Bowl level all year, allowing just a 59.1 QB Rating in his coverage. Watkins does go into the slot a lot more than most realize, though it hasn’t amounted to much production. He’s just a boring WR5 who is going to have a big game at some point, but it doesn’t seem likely against this defense.
Michael Thomas: Every target has an expected outcome fantasy-wise and based on the number of targets Thomas has received combined with where they were on the field, he’s scored 11.1 fewer PPR points than expected, which is the 14th-worst mark in the league. He has been seemingly getting better with Hill under center, catching 30-of-37 passes for 342 yards over the last four games, though he’s still yet to find the end zone. Against the Chiefs, wide receivers are being targeted a league-low 52.7 percent of the time. It’s not just a lack of volume that’s the problem, either. They’ve allowed them just 44.7 percent of the fantasy production to skill-position players, which is also the lowest mark in the league. Remember how dominant the Patriots were last year? You know how dominant the Rams have been this year? Yeah, well the Chiefs have allowed fewer yards to wide receivers than both of them. Last year, it was just 9.6 receptions and 122.3 yards per game to wide receivers. This year, it’s been just 11.2 receptions and 133.0 yards per game to them, which are both league-lows. Despite allowing a touchdown every 20.0 targets to them, the Chiefs have allowed the second-fewest PPR points per game (31.0) to wide receivers this year, behind only the Rams. All in all, they allow the fourth-fewest PPR points per target (1.62) to the position. There have been just three top-12 performances against them all season, and each of them scored at least one touchdown. Thomas should be the only Saints wide receiver you consider, as he’s accounted for 51.9 percent of the wide receiver production with Hill under center, but that’s not enough to get him into WR1 territory in this matchup. Consider him a solid WR2 given his newfound chemistry with Hill. *Update* Thomas has been ruled OUT for this game with an ankle injury.
Emmanuel Sanders: He’s seen 11 targets over the last two games, which is certainly something that should get him consideration in fantasy lineups. He’s turned those targets into eight receptions, 87 yards, and a touchdown, though they were great matchups against the Falcons and Eagles. This week’s matchup is not so great. Despite the thought that many have about teams falling behind and racking up production through the air against the Chiefs is simply not true. They’ve allowed a league-low 133.0 yards per game to the position, which was the same story last year when they allowed just 122.3 yards per game to them. They’ve allowed just 14 wide receivers to finish as top-36 options, and eight of them had to score touchdowns to get there. If you’re starting Sanders, you’re doing it hoping he scores, though that’s probably not advisable while playing with a quarterback who’s thrown four career touchdowns on 132 pass attempts. Sanders is nothing more than a touchdown-dependent WR5 here. *Update* With Thomas ruled out, Sanders and Tre’Quan Smith become desperation WR4 options in a tough matchup.
Travis Kelce: Despite playing the tight end position, Kelce leads all pass-catchers with 1,250 yards. The closest to him is D.K. Metcalf, who is a full 70 yards behind him. It’s kind of ridiculous at this point. Even if you were to put him up against all running backs and wide receivers, he’d rank as the fifth-best PPR option behind only Alvin Kamara, Tyreek Hill, Dalvin Cook, and Davante Adams. This matchup is a tough one, I’m not going to lie. The Saints have allowed tight ends just 5.63 yards per target this year, which ranks as the second-fewest in the league, and it’s not like teams haven’t tried, as they’ve faced the seventh-most targets to the position. If you were to go back to their bye week in Week 6, they’ve been dominant. Over the first five games, they allowed 91.0 PPR points to tight ends, but have allowed just 56.2 PPR points in the eight games since that time. It seemingly took Malcolm Jenkins some time to settle with his new team. There have been just two tight ends who’ve eclipsed 50 yards against them this year, and one of them was the only tight end even close to Kelce, Darren Waller. He saw 16 targets that netted 12/103/1, though that was way back in Week 2. Still, the opponent could have 12 men on the field all the time, and they still wouldn’t be slowing Kelce down. He’s totaled 109-plus yards in five of his last six games. Start him wherever possible despite the tough matchup here.
Jared Cook: Heading into Week 14, we hadn’t seen Cook play more than 38 percent of the stats since way back in Week 8. I’m not sure what changed, but he played 57 percent of snaps in that game, which was his highest mark since way back in Week 2. He’s seen nine targets over the last two weeks, turning them into six receptions, 65 yards, and two touchdowns, putting him back on the fantasy radar as a streaming option. The Chiefs have allowed seven different tight ends to finish as the TE13 or better, including Mike Gesicki‘s eruption last week where he caught five balls for 65 yards and two touchdowns before getting hurt. That was the third tight end they’ve allowed to post top-five numbers since their bye in Week 10. Based on the competition they’ve played, they rank as the sixth-best schedule-adjusted matchup for tight ends, as their opponents have averaged 15.6 percent more fantasy points against them than they do in non-Chiefs games. If you want to use the narrative that most do with wide receivers (that they see a lot of targets in comeback mode/garbage time), you can, but unlike wide receivers, it’s actually true for tight ends. And when they do get targeted, they average 1.90 PPR points per target, which is the 11th-highest mark in football. Cook has worked his way back into the high-end TE2 conversation.
Cleveland Browns at New York Giants
Spread: Browns -4.5
Browns at Giants Betting Matchup
Baker Mayfield: His confidence is growing by the week and that’s been reflected in his fantasy numbers, too. Over the last three weeks, he’s finished as the QB12, QB4, and then QB2 on Monday night football against the Ravens. Here’s the one thing you need to watch for with Mayfield. His quarterback rating is 114.1 when in a clean pocket but drops all the way down to a 37.9 when he’s pressured. That 76.2-point gap is the largest in the NFL. The league average is right around a 40-point dip. The next question would be: Do the Giants generate pressure? In terms of average pressure rate, they rank 16th, so they’re nothing to worry significantly about. However, the Giants have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks (15.79), and that’s despite seeing the 10th-most pass attempts against them. There have been just three quarterbacks who’ve finished as top-12 options against the Giants, and none have since Week 8. They’ve held all but three quarterbacks to 7.16 yards per attempt, which is problematic when you know that Mayfield has thrown the ball 33 times or less in 10-of-13 games, including six games with 25 or less. The Giants are struggling with their quarterback situation, which means they’ll struggle to put points on the board, so this game screams one where the Browns will run the ball a lot. Unless Mayfield throws three touchdowns, he’s not going to give you a top-12 ceiling, and knowing he doesn’t offer much of anything on the ground, he’s just a low-end QB2.
Daniel Jones: Even with Jones healthy for most of the season, the Giants offense has averaging just 1.12 PPR points per offensive snap, which ranks as the second-worst mark in the league, behind only the Jets. It’s not a good time to be a football fan in New York, especially if you like offense. The Giants don’t even know if Jones will start this week after aggravating his hamstring injury in Week 14. Don’t consider a Giants quarterback this week, regardless of who it is under center.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt: I saw a stat last week that said Chubb gains 10-plus yards on 19.4 percent of his carries while no other running back in the league does it on more than 15.2 percent of their carries. That’s nuts, but not surprising, as Chubb just might be the best two-down back in the NFL. Unfortunately, he’s still been capped at just 62 percent of the team’s snaps as his season-high, while he’s typically in the 44-54 percent range. Still, that hasn’t stopped him from finishing as a top-10 running back in 6-of-9 games this year, including four of the last five. The Giants have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points per game (24.8) to running backs, but they’ve been much better against the run than that number. Looking at production strictly on the ground, they’ve allowed just 11.98 fantasy points per game, which ranks as the eighth-fewest in the league. The 4.18 yards per carry they’ve allowed is nothing crazy, just a little below average, while they’ve allowed a rushing touchdown once every 32.3 carries. The real reason the rushing numbers are low is due to volume, as they’ve faced just 19.8 carries per game. There have been just eight teams who’ve run the ball 19-plus times against them, and five of those teams rushed for at least 112 yards, while three of them rushed for multiple touchdowns. The Browns running backs have combined to average 28.1 carries per game, so… yeah. Running backs have seen a league-leading 22.9 percent of the targets against the Giants, which bodes well for Hunt, who saw a season-high seven targets last week. That target share has led to 79 receptions (2nd-most) and 653 yards (2nd-most) for running backs, and the second-most PPR points per game (12.9) through the air. The Browns running backs are going to get theirs in this game, one way or another. Chubb should be in lineups as a rock-solid RB1 while Hunt can be played as a low-end RB2.
Wayne Gallman: It was disappointing to see the Giants give the one scoring chance they had to Dion Lewis last week, as that one carry would’ve made the difference in Gallman finishing as the RB25 where he did, versus finishing as the RB14 where he would’ve with that touchdown. It’s part of what we love about fantasy football, but it’s also part of what we hate about it. It was the first time since way back in Week 6 where Gallman didn’t finish as the RB16 or better. But the scoring opportunities are a real problem, as this team isn’t getting into scoring position very often, which can crush a running back’s ceiling, especially considering Gallman has just one game with more than three receptions. At first glance, this matchup doesn’t suit Gallman’s strengths at all. The Browns have allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points to running backs, and many of the fantasy points they have allowed have come from touchdowns, as they’ve allowed one every 21.0 carries (just four teams allow one more often than them). Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen Alfred Morris and Lewis get some of those valuable goal-line carries, and not Gallman. The 4.14 yards per carry the Browns have allowed is below the league average, and there’ve been just three running backs who’ve topped 66 yards on the ground against them. They have allowed a rock-solid 6.36 yards per target to running backs, but as we’ve already discussed, Gallman isn’t heavily used in the passing game, seeing two or less targets in four of the last six games. This game seems like it’ll have a negative gamescript, and we’ve seen Gallman split the routes with Lewis, though Gallman has still been capped at 50 and 55 percent of the snaps over the last two weeks. Considering the lack of scoring opportunities and no guarantee he’ll get them, Gallman falls into the low-end RB2 conversation.
Jarvis Landry: We knew it was a tough matchup for Landry last week against the Ravens, though it was disappointing to see him finish with just 11.2 PPR points despite the Browns hanging 42 points on the Ravens defense. The great news is that Landry has seen 30 targets over the last three weeks, so even if he’s averaging 8.4 yards per target (like he is), that’s a rock-solid fantasy receiver. The Giants have allowed just 13 wide receivers finish as top-36 options against them this year, so it hasn’t been what I’d describe as a great matchup. The good news for Landry is that their top cornerback, James Bradberry, doesn’t really travel into the slot. Fourth-round rookie Darnay Holmes has been the one defending them, allowing 35-of-45 passing for 337 yards, though he’s still yet to be charged with a touchdown in his coverage. There have been eight slot-heavy receivers who’ve seen six-plus targets against the Giants, and all but one finished as the WR46 or better, which tells you Landry comes with a stable floor. Just three of them (JuJu Smith-Schuster, CeeDee Lamb, and Cooper Kupp) finished better than the WR30. The Browns aren’t likely to throw a whole lot in this game, but when they do, I’d expect Landry to be the primary target. He should be considered a relatively safe WR3 with a limited ceiling.
Rashard Higgins: There have been just four non-heavy wind/rain games where Higgins has played without Odell Beckham this year. His performances in those games? 6/110/0, 1/15/0, 6/95/1, and 6/68/1. That one-catch performance is what stands out because it came against the Jaguars, a team that presents almost no competition on the other side of the ball, which led to minimal pass attempts. The Giants are likely one of those teams, too. While Higgins isn’t a clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver, he’s likely going to see James Bradberry in coverage the most. He’s their best cornerback, but he doesn’t go into the slot, which is why he’ll either be stationary, or just stay on Higgins. He’s allowed just 39-of-70 passing for 428 yards and three touchdowns in his coverage this year and has been among the best cornerbacks in the league. Higgins is squarely on the fantasy radar, though this matchup has too many negative variables to trust him more than a WR5 but next week against the Jets might be an opportunity to play him.
Sterling Shepard: I’m sad to announce that the streak has come to an end. Shepard had seen at least six targets in 23 straight games (he didn’t leave early), as his five targets in Week 14 did not qualify. He’s also failed to reach 50 yards in four of his last five games and has one touchdown on the year, so his ceiling is just not there, especially knowing Daniel Jones isn’t healthy and might not even play. In Colt McCoy‘s start, Shepard saw six targets, catching one of them for 22 yards. The Browns have been a team to attack with wide receivers, allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game (39.4) to them, though volume has been necessary. The 1.78 PPR points per target they’ve allowed is essentially the league average against wide receivers. However, when you look at the level of competition they’ve played, the Browns have had it easy. How do you quantify that? The Browns opponents have averaged 9.8 percent more PPR points against the Browns than they have in non-Browns matchups, making them the sixth-best schedule-adjusted matchup for receivers. But again, this comes back to the quarterback issue. Without knowing if Jones is playing and healthy, Shepard is just a low-upside WR4/5 option.
Darius Slayton: He’s finished with three or less receptions and fewer than 42 yards in six of the last eight games, which essentially eliminates him from fantasy consideration. On top of his struggles, we have no idea about who his quarterback will be, and even if it is Daniel Jones, he’s not fully healthy. In the one game Slayton played with Colt McCoy, he saw one target. The Browns have been a good matchup for receivers (10th-most fantasy points per game), but there have still been just 16 wide receivers who’ve finished as top-36 options against them, with just three of them getting there without a touchdown. It would help if Denzel Ward were out another week with his calf injury because that’s who Slayton would see in coverage most of the time, but it all comes back to the quarterback play. McCoy has yet to hit a receiver 20-plus yards down the field, and we know Slayton won’t consistently rack up the receptions. He’s nothing more than a low-upside WR5.
Austin Hooper: The Browns are reportedly “hopeful” Hooper returns to practice this week, which is not a vote of confidence for the tight end. Let’s not pretend you’d be using him anyway, as he’s failed to finish better than the TE14 since way back in Week 4, including three performances outside the top-20 tight ends over his last four games. Since coming back from his appendectomy, he’s failed to top three catches and 33 yards in every game. The Giants aren’t a team who you need to target with streamers regardless, as they’ve still yet to allow a tight end to hit 15 PPR points and have allowed just five tight ends to finish better than the TE18. Even if Hooper plays, the Browns could decide to rest him if they’re playing with a comfortable lead. It’s not like they don’t have two other competent tight ends on the roster. If he missed another game, Harrison Bryant and David Njoku would split the reps as they did last Monday night, though I don’t believe either are worth streaming in a game we’re not expecting many pass attempts for the Browns offense. *Update* Hooper is listed as questionable, though he did get in a full practice on Friday.
Evan Engram: Like all the Giants pass-catchers, Engram has struggled to do much as of late, finishing with 32 or less yards in three of his last four games. The one game he did well came against the Bengals, the team who’s allowed the fourth-most points to the tight end position. That’s what you’re looking for; a great matchup against a team who struggles with tight ends. The Browns fit that description, as they’re one of three teams who’ve allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than the Bengals. Their opponents have targeted tight ends 106 times this year, which is the fourth-most in the league. They’ve played 13 games this year, right? Well, there have been 15 different tight ends who’ve finished with at least 7.1 PPR points against them, including 11 of them who’ve hit the double-digit mark. There have also been 11 tight ends who’ve totaled at least four receptions, which presents the floor you want in tight ends, especially one who’s targeted as much as Engram is. While the quarterback play is certainly concerning for his ceiling, he has the looks of a low-end TE1 this week. *Update* Engram popped up on the injury report Friday with a calf injury, which is never a good thing. He’s listed as questionable, so we’ll have to pay attention for clues on his status Sunday morning.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Spread: Steelers -12.5
Steelers at Bengals Betting Matchup
Ben Roethlisberger: You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but Roethlisberger’s receivers have dropped a league-high 35 passes this year. No other quarterback has dealt with more than 30 of them. He’s also had a league-high 15 passes batted at the line of scrimmage, so he’s just had flat-out bad luck this year. Still, he sits as the No. 11 fantasy quarterback through 14 weeks, though it helps that he’s thrown the ball a league-high 521 times. That puts him on a 641-attempt pace. We all know Roethlisberger doesn’t get touched back in the pocket, right? In case you didn’t know, he’s been sacked just once in his last six games. Then you go and add in the fact that the Bengals have recorded a sack on just 3.22 percent of pass plays (3rd-lowest), and you’re going to have a ton of time for Roethlisberger to scan the field. The Steelers also pass the ball on 63.6 percent of plays, the third-highest percentage in the league. Sure, the spread suggests this will be a one-sided game, and it should be, but the Steelers have thrown the ball 58 percent of the time in positive gamescripts, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the league. So, knowing Roethlisberger will have time to throw, and that the Bengals allow the eighth-most fantasy points per actual pass attempt (no rushing), he should rack up some fantasy points here. You should feel confident using him as a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 this week.
Brandon Allen: The Steelers defense has allowed just 1.21 PPR points per offensive play this year, which ranks as the second-lowest mark in the league. Quarterbacks have averaged just 13.95 fantasy points per game against the Steelers, which is the second-fewest to only the Rams. They’ve also intercepted a league-high 17 passes. The 56.1 percent completion-rate they’ve allowed is the lowest in the league by a full 5.6 percent, which is ridiculous. While the Steelers pass-rush has taken a hit in recent weeks with injuries, they’re still generating a sack on 9.05 percent of dropbacks, which is the second-most in the league. The Bengals have a team-implied total of 14.0 points. You’re not playing Allen anywhere.
James Conner and Benny Snell: After his abysmal performance against the Bills in Week 14 where he finished with just 18 yards on 10 carries, the Steelers came out and said Conner is dealing with a quad injury. Some may wonder if Snell is worth picking up to start, but you need to know that the problems aren’t all on the running backs. The Steelers offensive line is giving them a league-low 1.07 yards before contact this year, as they’re a great pass-blocking unit, and that’s about it. Now, to be fair, the matchup this week does make things a lot better, as the Bengals have given ball-carriers 2.07 yards before contact, which is the sixth-most in the league, and a big reason they’ve allowed a massive 4.91 yards per carry to running backs. That’s on a big sample size, too, as they’ve seen 23.7 carries per game by running backs alone, which is the sixth-most in the NFL. Teams have chosen to run the ball 44.2 percent of the time against them, though the Steelers won’t follow that trend. Even with a three-plus point lead, the Steelers run the ball just 42 percent of the time. Despite all the production the Bengals have allowed on the ground, they’ve only allowed seven rushing touchdowns. In the first meeting between these two teams, Conner rushed 13 times for 36 yards while catching two passes for 12 yards. He hasn’t scored since back in Week 8, so it’s tough to call him anything more than a high-end RB3 for this game. If you have Conner and want to play him, you’ll need to grab Snell as a handcuff with this game being on Monday night.
Giovani Bernard: Despite not fumbling the entire season, Bernard was benched last week for his fumble early in the game. That’s kind of ridiculous if you ask me, especially when you have a quarterback who can’t get anything done. Not that Bernard has been effective, either. In the three games without Joe Burrow, the Bengals running backs have combined for 156 yards on 49 carries (3.18 YPC) and no touchdowns. They’ve also combined for just 14 receptions and 69 yards through the air. No one has scored a touchdown. Take that into a matchup against the Steelers defense that’s allowed a minuscule 75.5 PPR points per game to their opponents, which is the second-lowest mark in the NFL. That’s obviously funneled down to running backs, who’ve averaged a league-low 17.2 PPR points per game against them. While volume is an issue for the Bengals running backs in general, it’s also an issue against the Steelers who’ve faced just 23.5 running back touches per game. It’s not just lack of volume, though. They’ve allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per opportunity to running backs as well. Even worse is that running backs have caught just 45 passes against them all season, which is easily the lowest mark in the season, and it’s led to just 81.4 PPR points, or 6.3 per game. Ideally, you’re not playing any Bengals running back, as Bernard is just an RB4 for this game.
Diontae Johnson: He’s had a good fantasy season, though much of his success has come from sheer volume, as he’s scored 13.5 PPR points fewer than what’s been expected, which is the eighth-worst mark among wide receivers. His drops finally caught up with him and got him benched in Week 14. He’s now had seven drops over the last three games (12 on the season). He’s extremely talented and one of the best in the NFL at gaining separation, but his hands have been a real problem. The benching only lasted one quarter, and he caught all three of his targets after returning. He’s too big of a part of their offense for them to leave him on the sidelines. The last time they played the Bengals (Week 10), Johnson racked up a career-high 116 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets. Teams haven’t chosen to throw the ball much against the Bengals, but the Steelers are going to (as they always do), and when you look at what the Bengals allow on a per-target basis (1.84 PPR points), you get excited about the possibilities of Johnson, who’s seen double-digit targets in eight games this season, including five of his last six. There have been 12 wide receivers who’ve finished as top-24 options against the Bengals this year, so the upside is certainly there. In fact, all three Steelers wide receivers finished as top-12 options in their Week 10 meeting. Get Johnson back in lineups as a solid WR2 with upside.
Chase Claypool: We’ve now watched Claypool play fewer than 67 percent of the snaps in each of the last five games. He didn’t fall below 65 percent in each of his previous six games. It should come as no shock to find out that James Washington has received a significant bump in snaps during that time. According to Mike Tomlin, he said they’re managing Claypool’s snaps to ensure he doesn’t hit the rookie wall. He’s still seen at least six targets in six of the last seven games, so it’s not like Claypool isn’t involved at all. The issue is that he hasn’t reached 70 yards since way back in Week 6, so when he hasn’t scored in each of the last three games, everyone takes notice. The last time they played the Bengals, he saw a massive 10 targets, and though he finished with just four receptions for 56 yards, two of them were for touchdowns. It is worth noting that the Bengals were down one of their starting cornerbacks for that game, which allowed them to attack backup Tony Brown with 12 targets. Darius Phillips returned from injury last week, the cornerback who’ll see Claypool the most, and he’s allowed 16-of-30 passing for 253 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage this year, so not good, but not bad either. The snaps coming down are certainly worrisome, but Claypool still has a big enough role to be considered as a WR3.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: If there’s one Steelers wide receiver you don’t have questions about, it’s Smith-Schuster. Johnson continues to drop passes, while Claypool and Washington fight for snaps. That’s led to Smith-Schuster getting 44 targets over the last five games. 13 of those targets came against his Week 15 opponent, the Bengals. He arguably has the toughest matchup of all the receivers, as Mackensie Alexander has done a good job covering the slot for them, allowing 43-of-58 passing for 411 yards and one touchdown in his coverage. Just last week we watched him limit CeeDee Lamb to just two catches for 46 yards, though he wasn’t targeted nearly as much as Smith-Schuster’s been. There have been five slot-heavy receivers who’ve seen seven-plus targets against the Bengals, with three of them (Smith-Schuster, Greg Ward, Zach Pascal) hitting 15-plus PPR points, while the other two had quarterback issues (Keenan Allen with Tyrod Taylor, Golden Tate with Daniel Jones). Considering the circumstances with all the other receivers, Smith-Schuster is probably the safest receiver, even if he doesn’t offer the highest ceiling (Johnson does). I’d consider him a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 for this game.
Tee Higgins: It’s no secret that no one wants to play the Bengals wide receivers without Burrow under center. Here are the stats from the three games without him:
Higgins is the one who’s been able to maintain the most value, though it’s been very unexciting, as he’s finished as the WR24, WR53, and WR50. Now onto a matchup with the Steelers, which isn’t as bad as some have thought. The Steelers have allowed a league-low 253 completions this year, which amounts to just 19.5 per game. By comparison, the Seahawks have allowed 18.4 completions per game… to wide receivers alone. However, wide receivers have accounted for 58.3 percent of the production by skill-position players against the Steelers, which is the highest mark in the league. Football Outsiders has the Steelers ranked as the 10th-best matchup for No. 1 wide receivers, according to their DVOA metric. There have been 10 wide receivers who’ve been able to post 70-plus yards against them, including six who’ve crossed the century mark. Five of them were perimeter wide receivers. While Stefon Diggs lit them up for 10/130/1 last week, they were without Joe Haden, so it’s a bit skewed. Haden will be back for this game. Still, it’s not the worst matchup in the world and Higgins has shown a five-catch, 44-yard floor with Allen under center, so he should still be viewed as a mediocre WR4 option.
Tyler Boyd: It’s been a mixed bag for Boyd with Allen under center, as he’s had a horrible game (3/15/0), a mediocre game (5/43/0), and an incomplete one that could’ve been big (1/72/1). That’s obviously not what you want when in the fantasy playoffs, but some may not have a choice. The last time he played against the Steelers, he caught 6-of-8 targets for 41 scoreless yards, and that was with Joe Burrow under center. His two games against almost the same defense last year were 3/33/0 in the first meeting with Andy Dalton, but then 5/101/1 in the second meeting with Ryan Finley. It’s almost as if Boyd is unpredictable with bad quarterback play. Who’d have thought? The Steelers have Mike Hilton in the slot, who’s been inconsistent himself, allowing 31-of-40 passing for 342 yards and one touchdown in his coverage, though he’s also intercepted two passes. Knowing the Bengals have zero run-game and are going to be in a negative gamescript, we should have at least five targets for Boyd, which puts him in the WR4 conversation with plenty of different outcomes, though if I’m torn between two receivers, I usually lean with the one who has the better quarterback… that’s not going to be Boyd, especially when his team is projected for just 14 points.
Eric Ebron: It might not sound like much but Ebron has finished with at least 30 yards in 10 of his last 12 games, including 43-plus yards in seven of them. The volume has been good, as he’s seen five-plus targets in each of the last eight games, including seven or more in four of them. With all the questions about the Steelers wide receivers, Ebron should be considered an ultra-safe option to hit that five-plus targets and has a phenomenal matchup to boot. Tight ends have seen a league-high 24.1 percent target share against the Bengals, which has led to them also generating 20.9 percent of the fantasy production by skill-position players against them, which is the fourth-highest mark in the league. They’ve allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game (15.5) to tight ends, though it certainly doesn’t hurt when they’ve seen a league-high 108 targets against them. There have been nine tight ends who’ve finished with 10-plus PPR points against them, including six of them who’ve scored 14-plus points and finished as top-six options. That’s nearly half of their games. The downside is that Ebron finished with just 2/38/0 in their first meeting, but that was while all three of the Steelers wide receivers were finishing as top-12 options. Expect that production to be spread out a bit more this week, so start Ebron as a rock-solid TE1.
Drew Sample: As expected, Sample went back to his irrelevant role with Boyd back in the lineup, seeing four targets and finishing with just three catches for 21 yards. It’s no secret that he has more of a connection with Allen than he did with Burrow, as he’s finished with 4/40/0, 7/49/0, and 3/21/0 with Allen under center. That’s far from exciting, but it at least allows you to question him as a streamer. That question gets answered “no” rather quickly this week. The Steelers rank as the second-best team against tight ends when looking at fantasy points per game allowed to them, but they’re the best as far as I’m concerned. They’ve allowed a stupid-low 53.3 percent completion-rate and 5.39 yards per target, which are both the lowest marks in the league. When you compare their opponents’ average in non-Steelers games versus what they’ve done against them, they’ve averaged 41.9 percent fewer points against the Steelers, which makes them the second-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup. Sample isn’t someone to stream in this matchup.
Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
Spread: Raiders -3.5
Chargers at Raiders Betting Matchup
Justin Herbert: Since when did Herbert become a check-down artist? Sure, he completed 36-of-44 passes against the Falcons last week, but they went for just 5.5 yards per attempt. He averaged just 5.3 air yards per attempt, which was the fourth-lowest mark among quarterbacks last week. It may have had something to do with them trying to build his confidence back up after that horrific outing against the Patriots. It also could’ve had something to do with Mike Williams getting hurt on their first drive. We must keep everything in mind moving forward, but it seems like the return of Ekeler has toned down the downfield passing in this offense. The Raiders fired their defensive coordinator last week, which stems from the fact that they’ve allowed 30.1 points per game to their opponents, which is the third-highest total in the league. It’s odd that they did it during a shortened week where they only have four days to prepare for. The Chargers run a play every 28.4 seconds in a neutral gamescript, which ranks as the third-highest number, so when you see the Raiders allow the sixth-most fantasy points per offensive play, you have the recipe for success. You also add in a game with a 54.5-point total and it should pique your interest. The Raiders have faced 36.2 pass attempts per game (7th-most) while Herbert has now thrown at least 42 passes in seven of his last eight games, so the volume and floor should be intact. The downside is that Herbert hasn’t used his legs at all as of late. After rushing for 183 yards and three touchdowns in his first nine games, he’s actually scored negative points on the ground over the last three games. But given his volume through the air combined with the fact that the Raiders have allowed 9-of-13 quarterbacks throw for at least 7.73 yards per attempt should be enough to get him into the QB1 conversation, though he’s in the lower end of that territory with his lack of mobility and unwillingness to push the ball down the field lately. If there’s one thing that’s concerning, it’s that he is likely going to be without two starting offensive linemen, as both Bryan Bulaga (he’s OUT) and Trai Turner suffered head injuries. *Update* With injuries to Keenan Allen (expected to be limited) and Mike Williams (expected to be out), we have to dial back expectations for Herbert into high-end QB2 territory.
Derek Carr: After failing to throw the ball more than 38 times in 10 of his first 11 starts this year, Carr has suddenly thrown the ball 47 and 45 times over the last two weeks. He’s delivered in those games, throwing for 381 yards and three touchdowns against the Jets, and then 316 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts. He also rushed for a touchdown in each of those games after not having any rushing touchdowns over the first 11 games. He’s clearly bounced back from that dreadful game against the Falcons. Everyone talks about the fact that the Chargers have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Well, they’ve struggled with some mobility issues, and not so much against the pass. In fact, the 222.7 passing yards per game their opponents have averaged ranks as the fourth-fewest in the league while the 6.75 yards per attempt ranks as the fifth-fewest. If you were to remove the massive 59.9 fantasy points the Chargers have allowed on the ground, they’d rank as just the 17th-best matchup for quarterbacks. There have been just three quarterbacks who’ve thrown for more than 248 yards against the Chargers, and all those games came back in Weeks 2, 4, and 5. In fact, there have been just two quarterbacks who’ve averaged more than 7.17 yards per attempt against them. Carr wasn’t one of them, as he completed just 13-of-23 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns in their Week 9 meeting. Touchdowns have saved a lot of what would’ve been bad fantasy days against the Chargers, as they’ve allowed a robust 5.6 percent touchdown-rate, which is the seventh-highest mark in the league. In two games against the same Chargers defensive scheme, Carr threw for 218/1/0 in the first meeting and then 291/1/0 in the second one, so we have an idea who he is against them, which is a competent QB2, though not someone who’s an obvious must-stream kind of player, though his 29-point team-implied total is definitely a nudge in the direction of the mid-to-high-end QB2 territory. *Update* The total on this game has dropped 1.5 points, as he’ll be without Henry Ruggs, which moves him into the middling QB2 discussion.
Austin Ekeler and Kalen Ballage: Since returning to the lineup in Week 12, Ekeler has managed to rack up 58.3 PPR points despite the Chargers offense not moving the ball so well. He’s seen a ridiculous 34 targets in those games, which certainly helps. That’s huge here because running backs have seen the third-highest target share (21.7 percent) against the Raiders, which obviously bodes well for Ekeler’s role. That’s led to 72 receptions, 551 yards, and two touchdowns, which amounts to 139.1 PPR points, and the 11th-most in the NFL. Think about that for a moment… On average (Ekeler is far from the average pass-catcher), they’ve allowed 10.7 PPR points per game through the air to running backs. And that’s not the best part of this matchup. Despite running backs seeing the 14th-most carries against the Raiders defense, they’ve allowed the fourth-most fantasy points on the ground. That’s thanks to a massive 4.99 yards per carry and a league-high 16 rushing touchdowns. There have been three running backs who’ve totaled 96-plus yards on the ground and five running backs who’ve scored at least two touchdowns. The way Ekeler is used in this offense is a bit like Alvin Kamara, who totaled nine receptions for 95 yards against them earlier this year. Heck, even Ballage and Joshua Kelley were able to total 143 total yards and a touchdown against them back in Week 9. Start Ekeler as an RB1 who has a top-five ceiling in this game because of his work in the passing game. We did see Ballage play 37.5 percent of the snaps against the Patriots in Week 13, but that number dipped to 31.5 percent last week with Justin Jackson back in the lineup (whose role may grow), so he’s not to be trusted. *Ekeler is reportedly dealing with a quad injury, and though he is expected to play, he may not be 100 percent. I’d still be starting him.
Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker: Jacobs decided to play a joke on the fantasy community last week, posting something on Instagram saying he wasn’t playing, though he was active. Fantasy managers may have wished he sat the game out, as he finished with just 74 scoreless yards against the Colts. Here are the buckets Jacobs has fallen into this year:
Now go ahead and tell me what’s predictable about that. You’d like to think that this is one of those RB1 weeks against a Chargers team that’s allowed a massive 4.82 yards per carry to running backs this year. They’ve only allowed seven rushing touchdowns through 13 games, though they hadn’t allowed any through their first five games this year. So, seven rushing touchdowns in their last eight games doesn’t sound all that bad. Jacobs was one of them when he tallied 65 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in their Week 9 matchup. Running backs have been targeted 22.8 percent of the time against the Chargers, which ranks as the second-highest number in the league. It’s odd why that’s happened, though, as they’ve allowed just 4.55 yards per target on them, which is the third-lowest mark behind only the Cowboys and Saints. You’re not starting Jacobs for his receiving usage (hasn’t topped 25 receiving yards since Week 1). Knowing Jacobs wasn’t heavily used in the game against the Colts, he should be ready to rock for this contest in a game where his team is a home favorite and projected for 29.0 points. That’s like perfect correlation for an RB1 performance, though we’ll say he’s in the low-end RB1 territory due to his lack of usage in the passing game. Booker played just 19 snaps last week, falling behind Jalen Richard, making him strictly a handcuff in fantasy. It also helps to know that the Chargers are without their best run-defending linebacker Denzel Perryman for this game.
Keenan Allen: It was kind of a disappointing week for Allen against the Falcons. Sure, he scored, but he finished with 52 yards, making it three straight games where he’s failed to top that number. He did have to leave a little bit here and there with what’s being described as soreness, but he should be good to go here. With Herbert struggling a bit, Allen is clearly being affected. He’s still scored in six of his last seven games, so you’re not too concerned, but this has more to do with those playing DFS. The Raiders are a team he lit up for 9/103/1 back in Week 9, which makes him one of seven wide receivers who’ve finished with 21-plus PPR points against them. The 16 wide receiver touchdowns they’ve allowed is the fourth-most in football. It seems that when teams get down in the red zone against the Raiders, they like to target their wide receivers, as they’ve totaled 46 red zone targets against them. There are just two other teams who’ve faced more than 38 wide receiver red zone targets. Allen will see a mixture of all the Raiders cornerbacks, especially with Mike Williams likely out for this game, though it should still be Lamarcus Joyner most of the time. Joyner’s still yet to officially allow a touchdown in his coverage, but he’s allowed a solid 40-of-56 passing for 437 yards in his coverage, good enough for a 94.1 QB Rating and has been struggling a bit as of late. You’re starting Allen as a WR1, who’s now seen double-digit targets in 10-of-12 games with Herbert. You do need to ensure he’s active on a short week after experiencing soreness on Sunday, but they’re expecting him to play. *Update* There are reports that Allen may be active but limited, adding levels of concern for him, as this team is not in the playoff race and there’s no reason to play if he’s in pain. It’s extremely hard to bench him unless you have a can’t-miss option.
Mike Williams: He needed to leave the game in the first quarter last week with back issues. Take it from someone who’s dealt with back issues ever since I was in my early 20’s… they rarely go away and can pop up at any time. Knowing this game is being played on a short week, you should exercise caution with Williams, as it’s almost better if he doesn’t play so you don’t have to flirt with disaster. He’s someone who relies on winning contested catches more than most, so when you’re dealing with back issues, that can’t be a good thing. The matchup this week is a great one, as the Raiders have allowed the 12th-most PPR points per game to wide receivers despite seeing the 19th-most targets. The perimeter is where Williams plays practically all his snaps, and that’s where the Raiders have been most susceptible. Williams highlighted that when he caught 5-of-7 targets for 81 yards in their first meeting back in Week 9. The Raiders will also be without one of their starting cornerbacks for this game, as Damon Arnette was already ruled out. That means Nevin Lawson will be out there, who’s allowed 33-of-50 passing for 350 yards and five touchdowns in his coverage to this point. If Williams suits up, he’s going to be a risk/reward WR4 where you have to know what you’re getting yourself into. If you’re planning on playing him, just make sure he’s active an hour before the game. *Update* He’s reportedly expected to be inactive for this game. If you’re looking for a last-minute replacement, Tyron Johnson should step in and offer WR4/5 potential.
Henry Ruggs: The Raiders were seemingly involving Ruggs more and more, which was giving us a little more confidence to play him in good matchups. Unfortunately, he regressed once again in Week 14. After playing a season-high 80.8 percent of snaps in Week 13, he dropped to just 60.3 percent in Week 14 and saw just three targets against the Colts. He’s now finished with 35 or less yards in 7-of-11 games this year, which is not someone you want to trust. On top of that, wide receivers have seen just a 54.3 percent target share against the Chargers, which is the second-lowest number in the NFL. The last time these two teams met (Week 9), Ruggs saw just three targets and finished with zero receptions. The average number to finish as a top-36 wide receiver last year was 11.2 PPR points, which is a mark that just 12 wide receivers have hit against the Chargers. There’s really nothing that suggests Ruggs should be played this week. Sure, he could always hit that one big play (the Chargers have allowed a league-high 10 pass plays of 40-plus yards) but given his 3-5 targets, he just doesn’t have enough chances to trust in lineups. He could make for an interesting tournament play, though. *Update* Ruggs has been ruled OUT for this game and is on the COVID list.
Nelson Agholor: The Raiders have slowly cut some of Agholor’s snaps, as he’s played just 66.5 percent of the snaps in Weeks 12-14, while giving Hunter Renfrow a slight bump. It hasn’t negatively impacted his targets, though. He’s now seen at least six targets in each of the last four games, including 20 of them over the last two weeks, though Carr has thrown the ball 92 times in them. Still, that’s good enough for a 21.7 percent target share. The last time they played the Chargers, Agholor saw just three targets, though he did turn them into 55 yards and a touchdown. Wide receivers have seen a league-low 17.9 targets per game to the wide receiver position, which is a big issue when the Raiders target theirs as little as they do. However, with Ruggs out for this game, Agholor should see plenty of opportunities. There have been just 12 wide receivers who’ve finished as top-36 options against the Chargers this year, and that’s while missing Chris Harris Jr. for most of the year. He’s back now, so they didn’t get any worse. They’ve allowed the fewest receptions per game (11.2) to wide receivers, so you’re likely going to be left looking for the big play, which is something Agholor has done quite a bit this year, totaling 20-plus yards on six of his 38 receptions. If you’re considering a Raiders wide receiver against the Chargers, it’s Agholor, but he’s still a semi-risky WR4.
Hunter Henry: He walked away from last week’s game with a decent 10.1 PPR points, but his six catches for 41 yards was a disappointment when you consider the matchup against the Falcons. He did see eight targets, so volume wasn’t the issue. It’s pretty crazy to think about how inefficient Henry has been this year, as he ranks fifth in targets (86) and fourth in receptions (55), but his piddly 6.4 yards per target ranks 43rd among the 60 tight ends who’ve seen 15-plus targets this year. He’s at least offered a floor, totaling 30-plus yards in 10-of-13 games, which, as crazy as it sounds, has been a decent floor for tight ends. Now onto a matchup with the Raiders, who’ve been one of the better teams in the league against the tight end position, allowing the 12th-fewest points per game to them. It’s even worse than that, though, as they’ve held 10-of-11 tight ends not named Travis Kelce to fewer than 10 PPR points. If you were to remove the two Kelce games, they’ve allowed just 43 receptions, 437 yards, and two touchdowns in the other 11 games. Henry saw seven targets against them back in Week 9 where he finished with just four catches for 33 yards. Henry remains in the low-end TE1 conversation because of his high target share but he’s not someone who should be expected to light the world on fire this week.
Darren Waller: It’s a shame Waller isn’t getting more recognition for how good he’s been this year, but when you compare him to the record-setting pace that Travis Kelce, he doesn’t appear to be that great. While Kelce has a 61.4-point gap on him, Waller has a 44.0-point gap on the remaining tight ends. There have been a few lemons along the way for him, but he’s posted double-digit PPR points in 9-of-13 games this year. The Chargers have allowed just the 17th-most PPR points to tight ends this year, but volume has dictated that, as they’ve allowed 1.99 PPR points per target, which is the seventh-highest mark in football. That’s more than the 1.76 PPR points per target that Waller himself averages. The last time they played, he saw 10 of Carr’s 23 pass attempts, and though they only netted five catches for 22 yards, he did find the end zone. They did a good job containing him last year in their two matchups too, as he finished with 3/40/0 and 4/37/0, so it’s possible they’ve figured out a scheme to slow him down. It’s not like you’re sitting him or anything, but it just may not be that massive top-three game you’re hoping for.