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The Primer: Week 17 Edition (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Derek Brown | @dbro_ffb | Featured Writer
Dec 29, 2022
The Primer: Week 17 Edition (2022 Fantasy Football)

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Usually, I start these intros with something randomly nerdy or introspective, considering how I’m feeling on that particular Wednesday. Today it will be none of the above. Today is rant day. Well, I’ll have some slight reflective and prospective resolutions to get off my chest before it’s all said and done.

Back to the first topic of conversation. My rant. I love Christmas and cherish that time of year, but the days that follow it until the dawn of a new year could easily be lopped off the calendar. One of my pet peeves. Something I can’t stand with every fiber of my being.

End of the year lists. “The Best ____ of ____”…” The Top __ of ____.”

As soon as Christmas is in the rearview, here comes the yearly top whatever lists. I know this is a small thing to focus so much disdain on, but we all have small pet peeves that drive our frustration and fuel our intermittent eye twitches. The cap left off of the toothpaste. Pen clicking. Shopping carts left in parking lots. Gym weights not being re-racked. And the list goes on and on. This is mine. We all lived the year. I don’t need television shows, articles, and social media posts to remind me of what transpired over the last 365 days.

Ok. Rant over.

I will say with the new year upon us. I have some goals in the upcoming year that I’d like to put out in the ether. Once I state them, there’s no going back.

Get healthier. Yes, for me, this means going to the gym more consistently, but I also think a more achievable goal for this is to simply move. Every day. To spend a small amount of each day exercising by taking the dog for a walk, heading to the gym, doing a few push-ups randomly, or getting in a quick 30-second plank. It all counts.
Be a more positive person. Sometimes I worry that life in its entirety has left me jaded. Personal and professional struggles in my early and mid 30’s took a toll on me before landing this dream job. While I like to think I’ve kicked those demons to the curb many days, they still come back to haunt me and eat away at me far more than I’d like.

Find one thing that you’d like to accomplish this year. It doesn’t have to be life-changing or monumental. Every small step towards building a better you or a brighter future counts.

“We have to learn to walk before we can run.”
E.L. James

DAL vs. TEN | ARI vs. ATL | CHI vs. DET | DEN vs. KC | MIA vs. NE | IND vs. NYG | NO vs. PHI | CAR vs. TB | CLE vs. WAS | JAC vs. HOU | SF vs. LV | NYJ vs. SEA | MIN vs. GB | LAR vs. LAC | PIT vs. BAL | BUF vs. CIN

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Dallas Cowboys vs. Tennessee Titans

Pace and playcalling notes

  • Across their last five games, Dallas has transitioned from a run-balanced squad to a run-heavy one. In this span, they are fourth in neutral pace and 11th in neutral rushing rate.
  • Since Week 12, Tennessee has risen to 16th in neutral pace. Last week they only ran 20 plays in a neutral setting, but they, surprisingly enough, called passes on 60% of them. We’ll see if that holds entering Week 17.

Quarterbacks

Dak Prescott: Prescott bounced back in a big way last week with 347 passing yards, three scores, 41 yards on the ground, 9.9 yards per attempt, and a QB1 overall finish. Prescott should keep the good vibes rolling this week against Tennessee. Since Week 11, they are 30th in success rate per dropback and 31st in EPA per dropback. Overall they are 30th in deep ball completion rate and 32nd in DVOA against deep passing. Prescott is 11th in deep ball completion rate and fifth in deep ball accuracy rating. Prescott is a strong QB1 with top-five upside this week.

Joshua Dobbs: Dobbs has thrown a total of 17 passes in his NFL career in the regular season, completing 58.8% of them with 2.6 yards per attempt. This is such a small sample that it’s not worth diving into, so let’s look at how he fared this preseason with the Browns. Among 67 quarterbacks with at least 25 dropbacks, Dobbs was 12th in PFF passing grade, 27th in adjusted completion rate, and 40th in yards per attempt. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers by any stretch of the imagination. Dobbs does offer some rushing upside, though. Over his five-year preseason resume, Dobbs has rushed for 6.7 yards per carry (12 attempts) with three rushing scores. The plus for Dobbs is the Dallas secondary has been a shell of their former selves after injuries have left them decimated. Since Week 14, they are 32nd in success rate per dropback, 31st in EPA per dropback, 28th in fantasy points per game, and 29th in yards per attempt allowed to quarterbacks. Dobbs is a basement-level QB2.

Running Backs

Ezekiel Elliott: Elliott is the RB16 in fantasy points per game. Since Week 12, he hasn’t finished lower than RB18 in any week. He has been a touchdown machine, scoring in each of his last eight games. Elliott is 14th in red zone touches and sixth in total touchdowns. Over his last five games, he’s been running extremely well, ranking 15th in yards after contact per attempt, 11th in breakaway rate, and 11th in missed tackles forced (minimum 20 carries). Since Week 11, Tennessee has been sixth in rushing success rate, seventh in EPA per rush, and seventh in fantasy points per game allowed to running backs. With Pollard out, look for Elliott to be the workhorse for as long as this game is competitive. The Titans’ defense is decimated with Denico Autry doubtful, Bud Dupree out, Jeffrey Simmons out, Dylan Cole out, and Zach Cunningham out. I’m taking their previous run defense prowess with a grain of salt in Week 17, with this depth chart looking like a shell of its former self. Elliott is an RB1.

Tony Pollard: Pollard has been ruled out.

Derrick Henry: Henry has been listed as doubtful, so we should proceed as if he’ll be out. Hassan Haskins is the waiver wire pickup RIGHT NOW! The Tennessee Tank is the RB4 in fantasy soaking up the second-highest opportunity share while ranking first in carries, third in red zone touches, and second in rushing yards. Henry has seen an uptick in his receiving usage this year, with a 10.8% target share (17th), 32 receptions (22nd), and 379 receiving yards (eighth). He is first in yards per route run and eighth in catch rate. These are beautiful usage metrics to go along with his fifth-most evaded tackles and breakaway runs as the early down hammer. Henry is still a volume-based RB1 if he plays.

Hassan Haskins: Haskins has looked good this season with his limited work. He has 3.27 yards after contact per attempt (11 carries) and a 72.7 PFF elusive rating. He’s also secured all seven of his targets through the air (0.56 yards per route run). Haskins should be the workhorse for this backfield as he worked ahead of Julius Chestnut, who was regulated to kick-off duties in Week 16. Haskins is an RB3 with RB2 upside this week as a volume play. Since Week 11, Dallas has been seventh in rushing success rate, third in EPA per rush, 11th in yards per carry, and fourth in fantasy points per game allowed to running backs.

Wide Receivers

CeeDee Lamb: Watching Lamb assert himself as one of the league’s emerging alpha wide receivers has been one of the highlights of 2022. Lamb is WR8 in fantasy with a 28.9% target share (eighth), 34.9% air yard share (12th), and the eighth-best open rate among wide receivers tied with Stefon Diggs. Lamb is 11th in deep targets and ten red zone targets in his last 11 games. Lamb is a WR1 that will run about 80% of his routes against Roger McCreary (72.5% catch rate, 116.3 passer rating).

Michael Gallup: Gallup has started to flash a fantasy heartbeat with top-40 fantasy finishes in three of his last five games (WR16, WR38, WR28). Over that span, he has eight red zone targets with at least seven targets in three contests. Since Week 11, Tennessee has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to perimeter wide receivers. Gallup is a WR4 that will run about 93% of his routes against Tre Avery (55.2% catch rate, 101.4 passer rating) and Greg Mabin (61.5% catch rate, 93.1 passer rating).

Treylon Burks: Last week was a dud for Burks, but some of this is out of his control. Burks had an 89% route per dropback rate, which is fantastic, but he only saw three targets and failed to secure any of them. The Titans’ passing offense, from a volume and efficiency standpoint, is on thin ice with Willis under center. This week’s matchup with Dallas could help in the efficiency department, but the volume isn’t likely to skyrocket. Burks has a 16.1% target share this season which isn’t great, but he’s excelled with the ball in his hands, ranking 24th in yards per route run and 19th in yards per reception. With his volume capped and the low-quality targets he’s likely to see, Burks is a boom-or-bust low-end WR4 or WR5. Burks has nine deep targets in his nine games played. He’ll run about 73% of his routes on the perimeter against Trevon Diggs (69.7% catch rate, 98.7 passer rating) and DaRon Bland (74.6% catch rate, 98.7 passer rating).

Robert Woods: Woods is unplayable at this stage. He has been toast all season. Tannehill’s return couldn’t inject life into his dusty legs at this stage, so Willis doesn’t have a shot at helping him to a productive stat line in Week 17. Woods hasn’t seen more than four targets or finished with more than 30 receiving yards in any of Willis’s three starts. A wide receiver like Burks, who has the explosive ability to create on his own on any play, has an out with Willis playing quarterback. That isn’t something at this juncture that Woods can call upon. He’s 78th in yards per route run and 76th in yards after the catch.

Tight Ends

Dalton Schultz: In the nine games Prescott has started since his return, Schultz has finished as a TE1 in five. This season, Schultz has a 17.5% target share while ranking seventh among tight ends in red zone targets. He’s had an 80% or higher route run rate in three of his last four games. Since Week 11, Tennessee has been giving to opposing tight ends, ranking 23rd in catch rate, 26th in yards per reception, 32nd in receiving yards per game, and 28th in fantasy points per game allowed. Schultz is a high-end TE1.

Chigoziem Okonkwo: Okonkwo takes the same volume and efficiency hit as every other pass catcher in the Tennessee offense with Willis under center. Okonkwo hasn’t seen more than three targets in any game Willis has started. He’s only once produced more than ten receiving yards (48 receiving yards) which were done on one reception which screams noise more than substance. Since Week 11, Dallas has been seventh in fantasy points per game and 11th in yards per reception allowed to tight ends. Okonkwo is a basement-level TE2 this week.

DAL vs. TEN | ARI vs. ATL | CHI vs. DET | DEN vs. KC | MIA vs. NE | IND vs. NYG | NO vs. PHI | CAR vs. TB | CLE vs. WAS | JAC vs. HOU | SF vs. LV | NYJ vs. SEA | MIN vs. GB | LAR vs. LAC | PIT vs. BAL | BUF vs. CIN

Arizona Cardinals vs. Atlanta Falcons

Pace and playcalling notes

  • This game will feature more plays than many fantasy gamers understand. Over the last two weeks, with different quarterbacks under center, each of these teams has been running at a blistering pace in neutral environments. Since Week 15, Arizona has been third in neutral pace, while Atlanta has been tenth.
  • Over that same period, Arizona has been fourth in neutral passing rate while Atlanta checks in at 20th.

Quarterbacks

David Blough: Colt McCoy’s concussion symptoms cropped back up, so Blough will draw the start this week. Let’s travel back in time. In 2019 Blough made five starts with QB12, QB32, QB28, QB29, and QB21 finishes. Among 44 quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks, he was 38th in PFF passing grade, 41st in adjusted completion rate, and 42nd in yards per attempt. Blough was also 16th in aDOT and fifth in deep ball completion rate (minimum 15 deep ball attempts), so he has no qualms about chucking it deep. Blough is a bottom-of-the-barrel QB2 this week, but there’s some small glimmer of hope for Cardinals’ pass catchers considering the matchup and Blough’s YOLO approach. Since Week 11, Atlanta has been 27th in success rate per dropback, 32nd in EPA per drop back, and 26th in yards per attempt allowed. The Falcons have allowed the fifth-most deep passing yards this season.

Desmond Ridder: Ridder is a low-end QB2. Since Week 15 among 38 qualifying quarterbacks, Ridder has been 34th in PFF passing grade, 33rd in yards per attempt, and 33rd in adjusted completion rate (minimum 20 dropbacks). The plus for Ridder is that the Cardinals’ pass defense has been a pushover, so this could be the week he posts new career highs across the board. That’s a low bar to clear, though, as he’s yet to throw for a touchdown or surpass 250 yards or 7.0 yards per attempt passing. Since Week 11, Arizona has been 25th in success rate per dropback, 18th in EPA per drop back, and 19th in passing yards per game.

Running Backs

James Conner: Since Week 10, Conner has been a volume monster and weekly RB1. He has averaged 21.7 touches and 100.8 total yards. Conner has finished as the RB3, RB16, RB4, RB5, RB12, and RB4. Over his last six games, he’s 26th in yards after contact per attempt, 22nd in missed tackles forced, and 30th in PFF elusive rating (minimum 20 carries). Conner faces an Atlanta rush defense without a prayer to stop him. Since Week 11, they are 31st in rushing success rate, 21st in EPA per rush, 26th in yards per carry, and 28th in yards per reception allowed. Conner logged DNPs all week while dealing with an illness, but he returned to practice Friday and is off the injury report for Week 17. Consider him good to go for this week.

BETTLE MATCHUP OF THE WEEK

Each week, we’ll pick a matchup of the week, presented by Bettle. For Week 17, James Conner is our Bettle Matchup of the Week.

Beettle, Play the Field

Tyler Allgeier: Last week Allgeier took over the backfield. If you’ve been reading the Primer then you already know he’s been a late season efficiency darling screaming for more work. Against the Ravens, Allgeier played 59% of the snaps earning 22 touches and turning them into 117 total yards. He rocked a 54% route run rate with a 15.1% target share. Since Week 10, Allgeier has been third in yards after contact per attempt, second in missed tackles forced, 12th in breakaway rate, and second in PFF’s elusive rating. He’s been a stud. Allgeier is an RB2 with RB1 upside this week. Since Week 11, Arizona has been 23rd in rushing success rate, 27th in EPA per rush, 31st in fantasy points per game, and 28th in yards per carry allowed to running backs.

Cordarrelle Patterson: Since Week 11, Patterson has averaged 12.2 touches and 54.6 total yards with only one week higher than RB25 (RB21) in fantasy. Over his last five games, he has seen 13 carries inside the 20 yard line, so Patterson still has an abundance of touchdown equity in this offense. His play hasn’t fallen off from an efficiency standpoint either. Since Week 11 (minimum 20 carries) he ranks ninth in yards after contact per attempt, 16th in breakaway rate, and 16th in PFF’s elusive rating. The team has been incorporating Allgeier more and leaning on Patterson less since his return. His pass game role this season has been a major disappointment as he has only two games with more than four targets. He saw his third-lowest route run rate (28.6%) of the season last week which is also his lowest since Week 11. With the Falcons out of contention for a playoff spot, it makes sense that they see what they have in Allgeier. Patterson remains an RB3 with a beautiful matchup this week.

Wide Receivers

DeAndre Hopkins: Hopkins has been ruled out. 

Marquise Brown: Brown has seen eight targets in three of his last four games, but sadly he still hasn’t topped 60 receiving yards or WR42 in fantasy in any game. With six red zone and deep targets over his last four games, the high-value usage is there for more weekly production. With Hopkins out, Brown will be the number one option for Blough. Brown is a strong WR3 (with WR2 upside) who will run about 70% of his routes on the perimeter against A.J. Terrell (since Week 10: 36.8% catch rate, 67.0 passer rating) and Cornell Armstrong (70% catch rate, 121.5 passer rating).

Greg Dortch: Dortch took over as the starting slot receiver last week, commanding a 24.4% target share with 98 receiving yards and a WR8 finish for the week. In the five games he’s played at least 75% of the snaps this season, he has seen an 18.8% target share with WR29, WR22, WR19, WR10, and WR8 finishes. Dortch is a volume play with little touchdown equity in this offense. He has only three red zone targets all season. Dortch is a WR3/4 with a small bump in PPR formats that will run about 84% of his routes against Richie Grant (65.1% catch rate, 96.5 passer rating). If Hopkins is sidelined, Dortch inches closer to a midrange WR3 play, especially in PPR formats.

Drake London: London has been a volume-swallowing alpha since Week 13 with a 38.5% target share averaging 87 receiving yards per game. Since Week 13, he has been fifth in PFF receiving grade and yards per route run (minimum ten targets). He has finished as the WR20, WR36, and WR22 without scoring a touchdown and only one red zone target. London is a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 that’s seeing elite volume. If he finds the endzone, he’ll likely finish the week as a WR1. London will run about 76% of his routes against Antonio Hamilton (72.5% catch rate, 100.0 passer rating) and Marco Wilson (60.5% catch rate, 81.9 passer rating). Hamilton and Wilson have operated in zone coverage on 71-72% of their coverage snaps. London is a zone dominator, ranking tenth in PFF receiving grade and 23rd in yards per route run against zone with 62.6% of his target volume against the coverage.

Tight Ends

Trey McBride: McBride has finished no higher than TE16 since taking over the starting role at tight end. He has seen a recent volume spike since Week 14, with at least five targets in two of his last three games. He’s seen only empty calorie targets with zero red zone and deep targets this season. McBride is a TE2.

DAL vs. TEN | ARI vs. ATL | CHI vs. DET | DEN vs. KC | MIA vs. NE | IND vs. NYG | NO vs. PHI | CAR vs. TB | CLE vs. WAS | JAC vs. HOU | SF vs. LV | NYJ vs. SEA | MIN vs. GB | LAR vs. LAC | PIT vs. BAL | BUF vs. CIN

Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions

Pace and playcalling notes

  • Detroit continues to operate up-tempo. Since Week 11, they have been ninth in neutral pace while ranking 13th in neutral passing rate.
  • In their last five games, Chicago has slowed to 31st in neutral pace as they sit at first in neutral rushing rate.

Quarterbacks

Justin Fields: Last week’s dud as the QB25 in fantasy could not have come at a worse time for fantasy managers. This was Fields’ first game outside the top-eight fantasy quarterbacks since Week 5. His seven rushing attempts were his second-fewest of the season. Considering he had 15 rushing attempts (95 rushing yards) in Week 15, this feels like an outlier, so don’t fret in Week 17. His rushing upside is still present. Fields has stepped forward as a passer which is an asset for his weekly floor and ceiling. Since Week 8, he’s 20th in yards per attempt, 14th in passing touchdowns (despite missing a game), seventh in adjusted completion rate, and tenth in big-time throw rate (minimum 100 dropbacks). Detroit can still be torched through the air. Since Week 11, they have been 30th in pass defense DVOA, 28th in success rate per dropback, 30th in EPA per drop back, and 31st in fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks. Fields remains a top-five fantasy quarterback.

Jared Goff: Goff at home has been an entirely different beast than Goff on the road. At home, Goff has completed 65.1% (road 63.6%) with a 20:3 touchdown to interception ratio (road 6:4) and 277.1 passing yards per game (road 248.9). At home, he’s averaged 23.9 fantasy points per game compared to 15.4 on the road. If Goff had played all of his games this season at home and maintained that level of production, he’d be the QB4 in fantasy points per game immediately ahead of Joe Burrow (QB23 on the road). Goff arrives home just in time to crush a floundering Chicago secondary. Since Week 11, the Bears have been 29th in success rate per dropback, 29th in EPA per drop back, and 32nd in fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks. Goff is a QB1.

Running Backs

Week 16

Player Rushing attempts Targets Routes Red zone opportunities
David Montgomery 16 4 19 2
Khalil Herbert 6 3 11 1

 

David Montgomery: Last week, with Herbert back in the lineup, Montgomery played his usual allotment of snaps (67%) while handing 20 touches for 84 total yards. Montgomery maintained his edge in playing time, pass game usage, and red zone work over Herbert. Montgomery is the RB23 in fantasy points per game this season, ranking 14th in red zone touches, fifth in evaded tackles, eighth in juke rate, and sixth in yards per route run. Outside of his inability to break off long runs, he’s had an extremely productive season. Montgomery is an RB2 facing an improved Lions run defense. Yes, they were lit on fire last week by Carolina, but that was the exception to the rule. In Weeks 8-15, the Lions were tenth in rushing success rate, 14th in EPA per rush, first in yards per carry (2.8), and first in fantasy points per game allowed to running backs. This is a large enough sample of run defense excellence to believe it’s valid.

Khalil Herbert: Herbert rolled back into his familiar role last week. He played 41% of the snaps, which is in line with his previous usage. He just had a rough game turning his eight touches into three total yards. In his three previous games played, he averaged 11 touches and 59.7 total yards. Herbert has been an excellent rusher this season, ranking fifth in juke rate, 24th in evaded tackles, and seventh in yards created per touch. With 8-12 touches likely in this tough matchup, he’s an RB3/4.

Week 16

Player Rushing attempts Targets Routes Red zone opportunities
Jamaal Williams 7 2 6 3
D’Andre Swift 4 5 24 3
Justin Jackson 2 1 9 0

 

Jamaal Williams: Williams is practicing in full and isn’t on the injury report. Since Week 10, he’s averaged 14 rushing attempts and 43.6 rushing yards per game. In those seven games, he’s seen only three targets, so don’t plan on getting any pass-game production from Williams. He’s the RB22 in fantasy because of his red zone role, as he’s second in red zone touches and second in total touchdowns. Williams is the plodder poster boy ranking 52nd in juke rate, 37th in evaded tackles, and 28th in breakaway runs. Williams is a touchdown-or-bust RB3 against a swiss cheese Chicago run defense. Since Week 11, they are 31st in rushing yards per game, 30th in EPA per rush, and 31st in explosive run rate allowed.

D’Andre Swift: Swift saw a jump in his snaps while not finding his way to the injury report last week. His 56% of snaps played was his highest mark since Week 1. The issue is that the volume didn’t follow with the increase in playing time, as Swift only managed five touches and 25 yards. The peripherals are exciting here, though, as Swift split the red zone work with Williams while maintaining a huge lead in routes run. Swift is 19th in juke rate, fifth in yards per touch, and ninth in breakaway run rate. He’s an RB3 in a beautiful matchup that could easily walk away with RB1 production this week.

Wide Receivers

Chase Claypool: Claypool managed limited practices on Thursday and Friday. He’s been listed as questionable (knee). In Claypool’s last two games, he’s played 63-67% of the snaps with a 22.4% target share, 25.9% air yard share, and 73.2% route run rate. Claypool is a WR4/5 that will run about 88% of his routes against Jerry Jacobs (since Week 10: 60.9% catch rate, 77.8 passer rating) and Jeffrey Okudah (since Week 10: 44.4% catch rate, 70.0 passer rating).

Dante Pettis: Pettis is a deep league flex play this week. Over the last two games, he’s logged an 81.8% route run rate, 14% target share, and 72% slot rate for the Bears. Pettis has finished as a WR4 or higher three times this season (WR35, WR10, WR41). He’s managed three games this year with at least five targets while drawing a red zone target in each of the last two games. Pettis will tangle with Will Harris (71.7% catch rate, 104.2 passer rating) in the slot. Detroit has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to slot receivers this season. Watch Pettis’ status for Sunday. He’s been listed as questionable with two limited practices and a DNP this week (ankle).

Amon-Ra St. Brown: The Sun God continues to do god-like things. He’s the WR9 in fantasy with a 28.8% target share (tenth), 33.2% target per route run rate (second-best), and 21 red zone targets (fifth). He has the sixth-most targets, fourth-most receptions, and ninth-most receiving yards among wide receivers. The Lions have made him the focal point of their red zone offense over the last four games, as he’s racked up 57% of his season-long red zone targets in this span. St. Brown will run about 69% of his routes as a WR1 this week against Josh Blackwell (50% catch rate, 66.7 passer rating).

D.J. Chark: Since Week 13, the Jets were the only secondary that could slow down Chark. Since Week 13, outside of that matchup, he’s managed at least 94 receiving yards in every game with WR23, WR9, and WR21 finishes. In those three games, he’s seen a 14.7% target share as the team’s field stretcher. The big plays will be there in this role, but his touchdown possibilities are limited to long receptions as he hasn’t drawn a red zone target since Week 12 and has only three this season. Luckily for Chark, the Bears are 24th in deep ball completion rate allowed. Chark is a WR3 that will run about 67% of his routes against Kyler Gordon (82.9% catch rate, 111.2 passer rating) and Jaylon Jones (67.6% catch rate, 90.2 passer rating).

Tight Ends

Cole Kmet: After his hot mid-season stretch with Fields exploding, Kmet has cooled off with only one TE1 finish in his last five games (TE6). Kmet has a 19.5% target share (sixth-best0 which has amounted to 4.1 targets per game. Since Week 8, Kmet has been the TE6 in fantasy points per game, which is a bigger statement about the tight end position than Kmet’s season. Kmet is seventh in deep targets this season which should serve him well against Detroit. The Lions are 26th in DVOA against tight ends, allowing the seventh-highest yards per reception, fifth-most fantasy points per game, and fourth-highest catch rate. Kmet is a TE1.

DAL vs. TEN | ARI vs. ATL | CHI vs. DET | DEN vs. KC | MIA vs. NE | IND vs. NYG | NO vs. PHI | CAR vs. TB | CLE vs. WAS | JAC vs. HOU | SF vs. LV | NYJ vs. SEA | MIN vs. GB | LAR vs. LAC | PIT vs. BAL | BUF vs. CIN

Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Pace and playcalling notes

  • Since Week 11, Denver has been 15th in neutral pace and 18th in neutral passing rate. When they trailed, they were 14th in negative script passing rate.
  • Over their last six games, the Chiefs have slowed to 16th in neutral pace while passing at the tenth-highest rate in neutral situations. In that same sample of games, they have been sixth in positive script passing rate.

Quarterbacks

Russell Wilson: Wilson faces the same defense that he excelled against in Week 14 this week. The last time against the Chiefs, he tossed three touchdowns with 247 passing yards and 57 yards on the ground to a QB3 finish. Last week showed Wilson is still wrestling with demons as he imploded with three picks and a benching. Wilson is a QB2 that I would only consider for my lineup in a 2QB or Superflex format. The team has stated they will continue to roll him out there this season as the starter, but last week showed that could change any week at the drop of a hat. Wilson is the QB21 in fantasy, ranking 15th in yards per attempt, 25th in fantasy points per dropback, and outside the top 20 in nearly every completion rate metric. Since Week 11, Kansas City has been fifth in success rate per dropback, 11th in EPA per drop back, and sixth in yards per attempt allowed.

Patrick Mahomes: Mahomes is never on the bench. I don’t care if it’s a four-team league. No. Not ever. Mahomes is the QB3 in fantasy, ranking fourth in pass attempts, first in passing yards, first in passing touchdowns, and fifth in fantasy points per dropback. Since Week 13, Denver has been 14th in success rate per dropback, 20th in passing yards per game, and 18th in explosive pass rate allowed. Mahomes is a top-three quarterback weekly.

Running Backs

Latavius Murray: Last week Murray played his lowest snap count (46%) since Week 10 as the team worked in Chase Edmonds and Marlon Mack alongside Murray. He saw nine touches turning them into 40 total yards. The appeal of Murray has been his stranglehold on volume in Denver. Now, that doesn’t look to be the case anymore. Murray doesn’t have the explosiveness to overcome a reduction in volume and retain the same value based on efficiency with his touches. Murray is 47th in evaded tackles, 52nd in yards created per touch, and 48th in yards per touch. Since Week 11, Kansas City has been 11th in rushing yards per game, ninth in rushing success rate, and 13th in explosive run rate allowed. Murray is an RB4.

Jerick McKinnon: Last week McKinnon saw his role decrease as he played 47% of the snaps with eight touches and 38 total yards (one touchdown). The touchdown saved his day. He still led the backfield with an elite 61.3% route run rate, but the volume didn’t follow. It’s just a reminder that the KC backfield remains a fluid week-to-week situation. McKinnon is the RB29 in fantasy points per game with RB2 or higher finishes in six of his last eight games. McKinnon is ninth in yards per route run, third in yards per touch, and first in yards created per touch. Since Week 11, Denver has been 21st in rushing success rate, 25th in EPA per rush, and 15th in explosive run rate allowed. McKinnon remains a low-end RB2.

Isiah Pacheco: Pacheco played 49% of snaps last week with 15 touches that he turned into 90 total yards. Pacheco is 28th in yards after contact per attempt, 45th in breakaway run rate, and 48th in PFF’s elusive rating. He’s a JAG that’s been propped up with a high-scoring offense around him. Pacheco has been an RB2 or better in four of his last six games (RB23, RB16, RB15, RB17). Pacheco likely sees 15-17 opportunities this week with at least 80 total yards, but he needs a touchdown to really pay off. He’s an RB3.

Wide Receivers

Jerry Jeudy: In Jeudy’s last four games played with Sutton at his side, he’s led the team with a 26.9% target share. He’s also seen a 33.3% end zone target share and 31% air yard share with 2.28 yards per route run. Jeudy continued to play on the perimeter last week despite Sutton’s return (88% out wide). Jeudy is 13th in deep targets with four red zone targets over his last three games played. Jeudy is a WR3 that will see Trent McDuffie (50% catch rate, 83.6 passer rating), Jaylen Watson (63.8% catch rate, 98.6 passer rating), and Joshua Williams (66.7% catch rate, 130.4 passer rating) in coverage all day. Jeudy has been listed as questionable after limited practices all week (ankle).

Courtland Sutton: In his last four games with Jeudy, Sutton has a 17.7% target share, 33.3% end zone target share, and 0.80 yards per route run. In his first game back from injury last week, he had a 20.6% target share, 88.1% route run rate, and 1.73 yards per route run to finish as the WR37 in fantasy. Sutton has only two red zone targets over his last eight games played. If he gets into the endzone, it’ll have to be on a long reception. Sutton will run nearly all his routes against McDuffie, Watson, and Williams as a WR4.

JuJu Smith-Schuster: Smith-Schuster has been the Chiefs’ only full-time receiver over the last four games, with an 80.8% route run rate. In this span, he has a 21.1% target share (seven targets per game), 5.0 aDOT, and 1.82 yards per route run. Smith-Schuster has been a WR2 or better in two of his last four games (WR6, WR18). He is 15th in red zone targets among receivers. Smith-Schuster is a WR2 that will run about 63% of his routes against Patrick Surtain (59.4% catch rate, 84.0 passer rating) and Darmarri Mathis (70% catch rate, 96.4 passer rating).

Kadarius Toney: Toney only handled a 7.4% target share and 29% route run rate last week, as the team is still cautious about ramping up his snaps after the hamstring issues.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling: Valdes-Scantling has been a fantasy point black hole for much of the season. His role in this offense is declining, as he saw a 7.4% target share and 54.8% route run rate last week. Don’t play Valdes-Scantling. His routes could decline further this week.

Tight Ends

Greg Dulcich: Dulcich has been placed on season-ending IR. 

Travis Kelce: Kelce remains the unquestioned TE1 in fantasy. He’s third in target share, third in air yard share, first in receptions, first in receiving yards, and first in total touchdowns. No signs of age or decline here, as he’s second in yards per route run and first in YAC. Kelce could be headed for a week-winning performance. The Broncos have been 29th in fantasy points per game, 32nd in receiving yards per game, and 28th in yards per reception since Week 11.

DAL vs. TEN | ARI vs. ATL | CHI vs. DET | DEN vs. KC | MIA vs. NE | IND vs. NYG | NO vs. PHI | CAR vs. TB | CLE vs. WAS | JAC vs. HOU | SF vs. LV | NYJ vs. SEA | MIN vs. GB | LAR vs. LAC | PIT vs. BAL | BUF vs. CIN

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