Friday Walkthrough

Walkthrough Week 16: Zeus Storms to Victory

by Pat Kerrane
Updated On: December 23, 2022, 9:02 am ET

Welcome to the Week 16 Walkthrough, outlining critical fantasy football context for this 16th, glorious week of football. 

At the end of this article, I've included an extensive list of the stats used, what they are, why they're useful, and where they came from. As a heads up, I use some terms interchangeably below: 

  • Routes per dropback = route rate = route % = route participation
  • Targets per route run = target rate


Byes: None

Already Played: Jaguars, Jets


Seahawks at Chiefs, 1 PM Eastern, Saturday

Seahawks Implied Team Total: 19.75

Geno Smith is coming off his second-worst game of the season in EPA per play (which measures efficiency). But he was facing an imposing 49ers defense, so it's hard to hold it against him too much. And Smith is having a very impressive season overall. He ranks 10th in EPA per play and leads the NFL in completion percentage over expected (which measures accuracy).


And Smith has delivered high-end efficiency on far more volume than we expected entering the season. The Seahawks have the sixth-highest pass rate over expected this season (5%), and only the Bills and Bengals have a higher PROE on 1st-and-10. They are a legitimately pass-first team.

However, some of the Seahawks' lean to the pass has depended on game script. Unlike the Chiefs, Bengals, and Bills, the Seahawks haven't been consistently dictating pass-heavy scripts to their opponents. However, they also haven't passed purely because of negative game script. Instead, they are operating a bit like the Dolphins—in other words, they are comfortable leaning on the run when it makes sense but are also happy to open up the passing game as needed.


This matchup is one where the Seahawks will need to be aggressive. They will be playing in single-digit temperatures in Kansas City, but winds are expected to be light, so the passing game should not be overly affected. More importantly, they will be dealing with Patrick Mahomes on the other side of this game. As a result, a run-first game plan is not likely to get the job done.

And the Chiefs are somewhat vulnerable through the air. They rank 21st in EPA allowed per dropback but a more respectable 14th in dropback success rate. So it's not necessarily a good passing matchup, but it's not a bad one, either.


And this passing game will be highly condensed now that Tyler Lockett is out with a finger injury. Lockett is a huge part of the Seahawks' offense, with a 23% target share and a 32% air yard share. So his absence should funnel additional target volume to DK Metcalf. However, Metcalf has not been lacking target volume. He has a 27% target share this season and has seen a first-read target on 24% of his routes, which ranks 96th percentile. So the Seahawks are certain to feed Metcalf the ball this week... but they were already doing that.


The issue for Metcalf is that Lockett was seeing double coverage at nearly as high a rate as he was. Without Lockett in the lineup, the Chiefs can completely focus on shutting down Metcalf. This dynamic is particularly worrying because Metcalf was already struggling with a subpar 7.8 yards per target. His efficiency isn't likely to improve with more defensive attention.

Lockett will be replaced by Marquise Goodwin. Goodwin is a viable dart throw, given what could be a heavy passing environment for the Seahawks. But it's hard to describe Goodwin as anything but a massive downgrade from Lockett. He has been impressive when targeted this season... but per-target efficiency is not sticky. The ability to draw targets is much more predictive, and Goodwin has been extremely lacking in that regard.


I would love to tell you that Noah Fant will instead be the primary beneficiary of Lockett's absence. But there's no real evidence to suggest that that will be the case. Fant had 46% route participation last week, hasn't topped 50% since Week 12 and has been under 65% route participation in every game this season. He's simply not a major part of the offense. Of course, it's possible that changes with Lockett out, but I'd really like to see that first.

Ken Walker might be the biggest beneficiary of Lockett's absence in a normal matchup, with the Seahawks pivoting to the run game. That's harder to imagine this week, assuming Mahomes is putting up points on the other side of this game. But despite missing practice this week, Walker should carry the load for the Seahawks.

Against the 49ers, Walker handled 75% of snaps—meaning he picked up right where he left off before his ankle injury. Walker is the type of running back who can legitimately help the Seahawks' offense hang with the Chiefs. He's that explosive. Of course, that assumes that Walker can get back to delivering some game-breaking runs. But that part of his profile does not look any less exciting than it did when he was torching defenses. Walker ranks RB4 in breakaway yards per game. 


The issue for Walker is that when he's not hitting big runs... he's really not doing anything. He ranks RB50 in NFL Next Gen's success rate, ahead of only Clyde Edwards-Helaire. But there are two types of running backs with low success rates. You have your CEHs, Michael Carters and Najee Harrises, who pair a lack of consistency with a lack of explosion. But you also have runners like D'Andre Swift and Dalvin Cook, who are hitting big runs despite being frustratingly inconsistent this year. Walker is very much in the latter camp and is worth sticking with as an RB2.

Chiefs Implied Team Total: 29.75

The Chiefs are coming off a matchup with a Texans' defense that is horrendous against the run and has been a massive run funnel. And even the Chiefs are not going to completely ignore that type of matchup. They shifted dramatically to the run last week, with a PROE 11 points lower than their season average. However, for the Chiefs to go run-heavy by their standards... they only need to be balanced by everyone else's.

The Chiefs have an 11% PROE this season; they had a perfectly balanced 0% PROE against the Texans. For the Chiefs, balanced is run-heavy. And their balanced outing marked just the third time all season that they have dropped below an extremely pass-heavy 10% PROE. In case you haven't heard, the Chiefs like the pass the ball.


After going to overtime against the Texans, the Chiefs will likely be looking to get back to a vintage pass-heavy game plan. If so, they get a good matchup for a return to their typical approach. The Seahawks rank 26th in EPA allowed per dropback, and they are not getting to opposing passers. They rank just 28th in PFF's pass rush grades and 24th in quick pressure rate. Allowing quick pressure has been a weakness for the Chiefs, who rank 20th in quick pressures allowed per dropback. But Mahomes should have time to throw this week against a vulnerable secondary.


A good passing matchup is excellent news for Travis Kelce, who is coming off a 10-catch 105-yard performance against the Texans. Everyone knows that Kelce is the engine of the Chiefs' passing offense, including opposing defenses. He has been double-teamed on 31% of his routes, which ranks 98th percentile among tight ends. But that hasn't mattered. Kelce ranks 96th percentile in open score among tight ends, draws very impressive target volume, and delivers efficiently when targeted. He's the clear-cut TE1, and this shapes up as a potential spike week.


Outside of Kelce, Chiefs pass catchers have been a guessing game for much of the season. But JuJu Smith-Schuster has had 85%+ route participation in back-to-back weeks, totaling 20 targets. With an ultra-shallow 7.3 aDOT, Smith-Schuster is a volume play. But this game should have substantial volume, making Smith-Schuster a solid play.


Unfortunately, there just isn't much else here. Outside of Kelce, per-route volume is middling across the board. And only Kelce and Smith-Schuster have reliable roles in the offense. Marquez Valdes-Scantling's route participation dropped to 67% against the Texans, and it's hard not to think it was a performance-related reduction. Valdes-Scantling ranks just third percentile in ESPN's open score. He simply isn't adding much to the offense. But Valdes-Scantling's routes were replaced in a way that will not help fantasy managers. Justin Watson had only 52% route participation, Skyy Moore just 20%, and Kadarius Toney ran just three routes on 46 dropbacks. There are only two trustworthy receivers in this offense.

Although, that doesn't include Jerick McKinnon, who has become a surprisingly reliable fantasy starter. McKinnon ran a route on 67% of dropbacks against the Texans, which tied MVS for the third-highest rate on the team. He also played on 62% of snaps after seeing a 57% snap share in Week 14. McKinnon is still a part-time back, but he's the preferred back in competitive games and a much better option than Isiah Pacheco in pass-heavy scripts. With the Chiefs likely to shift back toward the pass this week, McKinnon is a high-end RB2.

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Bills at Bears, 1 PM Eastern, Saturday

Bills Implied Team Total: 24.5

The Bills played in wintry conditions last week, but they played winter ball their way. The Bills were less committed to the pass than usual but were still pass-first. They operated with a 1% PROE and a 4% PROE on 1st-and-10. They also deployed passing personnel at a high rate, utilizing 3WR sets on 86% of their snaps.


The Bills' approach in last week's bad weather is highly relevant because it looks like they'll be playing in ugly conditions once again. And unfortunately, conditions might be worse this week for the passing game, with sustained winds up to 25 mph and gusts up to 35 mph. The Bills had to deal with snow last week, but that generally doesn't have as big of an impact on passing volume as heavy wind.

Under normal conditions, I would expect the Bills to attack the Bears through the air. The Bears rank dead last in EPA allowed per dropback. They are also a great matchup for the Bills specifically because they cannot get to the quarterback. 

The Bills rank 23rd in PFF's pass blocking grades and 29th in quick pressures allowed per dropback. But the Bears are not well-positioned to exploit this weakness, ranking dead last in PFF's pass rush grades and 30th in quick pressure rate.


But the Bears are also very vulnerable on the ground, ranking 26th in EPA allowed per rush and 26th in rushing success rate. Normally, the bills would be a strong bet to rely on their offensive strengths rather than focus their attack on the Bears' weak run defense. However, weather looks likely to get in the way here, which could limit Josh Allen's efficiency and volume.

But even in conditions that could be more difficult than last week, it's hard to be overly concerned about Allen. Against the Dolphins, Allen ranked sixth in EPA per play and sixth in CPOE. The weather did not prevent him from turning in a strong performance. And only Kirk Cousins (66) logged more plays than Allen's 56. So it wasn't like volume was a concern either.


Bad weather can have a big effect on both passing volume and efficiency, but it's important to consider how high of a starting point Allen provides on both fronts. Among the 43 quarterbacks with 110+ plays (which now includes Deshaun Watson and Brock Purdy), Allen ranks fourth in EPA per play. It gets even more impressive when factoring in his high volume of passing attempts per game. Allen ranks second to only Patrick Mahomes in EPA per game. The weather won't be great, but the conditions will have to be horrendous for Allen to be anything other than a high-end fantasy quarterback. 


But high winds are definitely not welcome news for the Bills' wide receivers. This is especially true since the only wide receivers who are reliably running routes are downfield options. 

Cole Beasley was on the field for the Bills again in Week 15. He ran only seven routes and is completely off the fantasy radar. However, he had a negative impact on Isaiah McKenzie. Despite the Bills running a high rate of 11 personnel, McKenzie only had 63% route participation. If we felt confident that the Bills would be able to drop back heavily in good conditions, McKenzie would still be in the fantasy mix. But for this week at least, he's a very uncertain bet, even as a dart throw.

That leaves Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis as the only viable options at wide receiver. Davis logged 100% route participation against the Dolphins but continued to be used in his typical deep threat capacity, with a 16.9 aDOT. Diggs was also used downfield against Miami, with a 13.0 aDOT. In a sense, this provided some hope that the Bills won't stray too far from their normal approach this week. But both receivers look more high variance than usual due to the wind.

Still, I don't want to bet against Diggs. He has an ultra-elite 2.52 YPRR, which is fully supported by his target volume. Diggs also rotated into the slot for 38% of his snaps against the Dolphins; even if conditions are very bad, the Bills will still be looking for ways to get him involved.


As you can see above, Dawson Knox isn't seeing a ton of target volume on his routes. His 1.10 YPRR is not impressive and driven by a very weak 14% target rate. However, Knox runs a lot of routes. His 76% route participation ranks 79th percentile among tight ends, and he posted an 80% route rate against the Dolphins. Unlike McKenzie, we can at least be confident that Knox will be on the field.

If the inclement weather has a chance to be good for anyone, it's Devin Singletary. Singletary saw a 60% snap share against the Dolphins after back-to-back weeks below 50%. He also handled 13 carries to James Cook's five. The Bills are likely to be fairly balanced this week, which means another week of solid involvement for Singletary.

However, James Cook doesn't look to be going away. The rookie has only three games this season with a snap share above 26%... and they've all been in the last three weeks.


It's clear that Cook will be a bigger part of the offense than he was at the start of the season. This is not great news for Singletary, who has logged snap shares of 70%+ in eight games this season. He no longer appears to have access to that kind of workload, making him a TD-dependent play. The silver lining is that Nyheim Hines appears to have been phased back out of the offense. After a 31% snap share against the Patriots, Hines declined to 17% in Week 14 and just 4% last week. This is at least a two man committee, even if the split is fairly even.

Bears Implied Team Total: 16

The Bears appear to be changing up their offensive approach somewhat. Against the Eagles, they had a -5% PROE and a -11% PROE on 1st-and-10. By normal standards, this would be considered a truly run-heavy game plan. However, it was pretty reasonable by the Bears' standards. Week 15 marked just the fourth time that the Bears have had a PROE above -10% all season.


Granted, the Bears also appeared to be moving toward the pass back in Week 6. That trend was ultimately a fake-out, and the Bears rededicated themselves to the run through the middle of the season. However, they posted a ridiculously aggressive 23% PROE on first down in Week 13 and were only moderately run-heavy against a weak Eagles defense. With that in mind, it seems likely that they are changing things up... at least to an extent.

Given the weather in this game, I would have expected the pre-Week 13 Bears to go extremely run heavy this week. We could have been talking about 25 dropbacks less for Fields, as he had in each of the first three weeks of the season.

However, the Bears are not likely to go to that extreme this week. And as the Bills showed last week, they have the potential to push their opponents into high-scoring game environments even in bad conditions. So we'll probably avoid a crazy Malik Willis-esque game plan. But this still doesn't look like a great setup for Fields, who is facing a Bills defense that ranks ninth in EPA allowed per dropback. 


Fields could be particularly impacted by a Bills pass rush that ranks fifth in PFF's pass rush grades. Fields ranks fourth in allowed pressure per dropback this year behind Malik Willis, Lamar Jackson, and Deshaun Watson.

For fantasy purposes, Fields should be just fine, even if he's running for his life. The combination of the Bills' pass rush and the conditions could lead to an increased scramble rate, which is music to fantasy managers' ears. But Fields will likely struggle to facilitate the passing offense in this matchup.

For fantasy, there's really only one option we care about in the passing game: Cole Kmet. Kmet was held to just 25 yards against the Eagles and isn't a great bet to outperform that in a big way this week. However, we can be very confident that Kmet will be out there running routes. Kmet has seen route rates of 93%, 96%, and 88% over the last three weeks. He's not necessarily a very good receiver, but he is essentially just a wide receiver with tight end eligibility. And that's enough to put him in the low-end TE1 mix.


If the Bears revert to their ultra-run-heavy tendencies, they will have some extra firepower on the ground. Khalil Herbert has been activated from injured reserve after missing the last four games with a hip injury. And Herbert has been a far more impressive rusher than David Montgomery this season. Herbert ranks RB1 in RYOE / attempt and RB3 in success rate; Montgomery ranks a lowly RB39 and RB33. Montgomery at least breaks tackles well, ranking RB10 in elusive rating. But even there, Herbert is stronger, ranking RB4. 


Montgomery has been far better than Herbert in the passing game, ranking RB16 in YPRR. So we can expect Montgomery to meaningfully out-snap Herbert. However, Herbert makes his snaps count. Over his last four games, Herbert has averaged 11.25 carries on just a 33% snap share. If healthy, he will significantly impact Montgomery's touch count this week.


Saints at Browns, 1 PM Eastern, Saturday

Saints Implied Team Total: 14.75

Last week, the Saints faced a Falcons defense that ranked just 28th in EPA allowed per rush and 31st in rushing success rate. They didn't mess around. New Orleans passed on just 39% of their plays, the second lowest of the week. And they posted a -12% PROE with a -16% PROE on 1st-and-10. They were operating within a run-heavy game environment, but they did everything they could to keep it that way.


This week they have an even more clear-cut matchup. The Saints are facing a Browns team that ranks 32nd in EPA allowed per rush, 30th in rushing success rate, and 32nd in PFF's run grades. The Browns have the worst run defense in the NFL.


And the Saints will be playing the Browns in ridiculous conditions that may include snow. More importantly, wind gusts are expected to be as high as 50 mph with sustained winds of 25-30 mph. Even the most committed pass-first teams would be considering a run heavy game plan in Cleveland this week. The Saints don't need any convincing.

And, even if the Saints wanted to air it out, unlike the Falcons, the Browns are actually competent against the pass, ranking 11th in EPA allowed per dropback. Of course, the Saints won't be facing a rookie quarterback on the other side of this game. That would normally make it much more likely for the Saints to be pushed off a conservative run-heavy script. But the weather will make it more difficult for the Browns to disrupt the Saints' primary plan of attack. And the Saints preferred approach to this game is not difficult to predict. They want to run the ball.

Disappointingly, Alvin Kamara was not used as a true workhorse against the Falcons. Sure, he had 23 touches, so it wasn't like he was uninvolved. But Kamara had just a 62% snap share, with David Johnson seeing a surprisingly healthy 33% snap share. And Johnson's involvement hurt. He ran a route on 48% of dropbacks, a higher percentage than Kamara (43%). This helps explain why Kamara saw just two targets. Johnson wasn't targeted in the game, but he still ate routes that could have otherwise gone to Kamara.

If the Saints use Johnson, or new addition Eno Benjamin, in a similar role this week, Kamara will be more TD-dependent than he ought to be. And Kamara does not profile is a very exciting early down banger. He ranks just RB42 in RYOE / attempt and RB32 in success rate.


Instead, Kamara is far more interesting as a receiver. He continues to look like a playmaker in the passing game, ranking RB4 in YPRR. So in a sense, this is not an ideal matchup for Kamara. At the same time, it's hard to get overly worked up about the downside risk for a back who should see plenty of touches against the worst run defense in the league. Kamara profiles as a high-end RB2.

With Chris Olave ruled out for this game, it's worth noting that Rashid Shaheed appears to have emerged as a legitimate starting wide receiver. He ran a route on 95% of dropbacks against the Falcons, which led the team. And Shahid has been spectacular this season, with a 2.76 YPRR. However, what Shaheed is doing is the definition of unsustainable. He has an absurd 17.6 YPT, 7.5 yards higher than expected for his aDOT. 


Shaheed also has just a 12% first-read target rate, which is half of Olave's. In fairness, Olave sees first-read targets at an elite rate. But Shaheed's rate is still very unimpressive and indicates that he hasn't been a big part of the game plan... at least so far. That could change this week, of course, with the Saints needing playmakers in the passing game. But the Saints' lack of receiving weapons could just as easily result in an inefficient receiving day on what is almost certain to be low volume.

Still, Shaheed has flashed some serious deep speed, and that speed doesn't strictly have to be used downfield. In windy conditions, we could see Shaheed featured in the quick game. He's seen 16% of his targets on screens, which leads the Saints (Kamara is second at 12%). As a cheap volume play, he has a couple of outs.

Browns Implied Team Total: 17.75

We're three weeks into Deshaun Watson's tenure with the Browns, and he has yet to really flash anything. Watson was going against an exploitable Ravens secondary last week but finished just 16th in EPA per play and 20th in CPOE. For the season, Watson ranks just 31st in EPA per play and 36th in CPOE.


But the Browns are flashing signs of a team that is beginning to trust its quarterback. Against the Ravens, the Browns had a 2% PROE and strongly prioritized the pass on first down with a 14% PROE.


This plan was likely driven by the Baltimore matchup but was still a great sign that the Browns were willing to go pass-first. And it was by far their most aggressive approach on 1st-and-10.


This week sets up a bit differently. They're going against a Saints defense that is middling against both the pass and the run. With a neutral matchup on tap, 25-30 mph sustained winds are likely to have the biggest impact on the Browns' game plan. Under normal conditions, they might start opening things up. But conditions look pretty out of the ordinary for Saturday.


Even with the Browns likely shifting back to a run-heavy game plan, last week's approach is still a signal that we could see more passing on first down than in Watson's first two games. If so, it should help improve the efficiency of the passing game and keep the Browns from being completely one-dimensional.

Still, given how bad the conditions are likely to be in Cleveland, it's a tough week to start Browns pass catchers. Amari Cooper looks like the best of the bunch, with a team-leading 1.96 YPRR. Cooper had a 43% target share in Watson's first game with the Browns but has posted target shares of 16% and 20% in the two games since. He looks like the top option in the passing game, but his lead on Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Njoku might not be strong enough to weather these windy conditions.


David Njoku actually looks like the most interesting Browns receiver this week. Njoku isn't a pure underneath option, but he sees his targets closer to the line of scrimmage than Cooper and Peoples-Jones. On non-screen routes, Njoku has a 9.3 aDOT; Cooper is at 13.6, and People-Jones is at 13.0. That's a significant difference.

More importantly, Njoku has a big lead on the shallowest targets—screens. Njoku has seen 15% of his targets on screens this season. Cooper is at just 4%, and Peoples-Jones has yet to be targeted on a screen a single time this season. With the downfield passing game likely hampered, Njoku could see an additional screen target or two.

In the backfield, we may see legitimate workhorse usage for Nick Chubb. Chubb is coming off a 70% snap share, his highest of the season. And Chubb's 63% snap share in Week 14 was tied for his second-highest of the season. Given that they are essentially eliminated from the playoffs, it doesn't make a ton of sense for the Browns to ramp up Chubb's usage. But this team is in a precarious position with its fan base. It does not want to end 2022 on a sour note on offense. Chubb could continue to see true lead-back usage this week, making him an extremely interesting play, given his excellent efficiency and sky-high talent level.



Texans at Titans, 1 PM Eastern, Saturday

Texans Implied Team Total: 19.5

The Texans have been frisky in back-to-back games, making things more complicated than expected for the Cowboys and Chiefs. They now get a Titans defense that has become a major pass funnel. Teams are passing on the Titans partially because they are not very good at defending the pass. They rank 22nd in EPA allowed per dropback and 20th in dropback success rate.


But in passing on the Titans, teams also avoid an elite run defense that ranks first in EPA allowed per rush and first in rushing success rate. The weather won't be great in Tennessee this weekend, but only light winds are expected, despite the subfreezing temperatures. The Texans should be able to attack this matchup through the air.

And the Texans have not been allergic to passing the ball. Despite operating as a run-first team with a -2% PROE, the Texans have been pass-first on first down. 


I've heaped praise on the Lions for simultaneously setting up Jared Goff for success with first-down passing attempts while also not leaning on Goff more than they have to. But the Texans have actually operated with a very similar game plan this season. In fact, their 3% PROE on 1st-and-10 is higher than the Lions (2%). It's hard to get as excited when the Texans do this because the ceiling for the offense is so low. But this staff deserves some credit for getting the most out of their quarterbacks. There just isn't much to get.

Of course, the Texans are aware of this, which is how you get a Davis Mills/Jeff Driskel platoon at quarterback after a Kyle Allen experiment. The platoon has worked surprisingly well over the last two weeks, but only because the Mills side has been successful. Mills ranks eighth in EPA per play over the last two weeks and eighth in CPOE; Driskel ranks just 32nd and 35th. 


Mills has not been good this season, ranking 38th in EPA per play and 39th in CPOE. But it's fair to say he gives the Texans their best chance of winning. He also has a chance of a more productive day than usual against this Titans' defense.

Brandin Cooks got in two full practices this week and looks set to return. But that is arguably a negative because it ends the fantasy viability of Chris Moore, who has racked up 19 targets over the last two weeks. Moore has run behind Phillip Dorsett this season, so he's likely to be a part-time player with Cooks back in the lineup.

But with Nico Collins out again, Cooks looks like a worthwhile FLEX option. His target opportunity hasn't been as strong as it was last year, but should help soak up some of the volume with Collins out.


The Texans don't have a shot of running the ball effectively this week... which is almost fortunate because the backfield is a total mess. Dare Ogunbowale led the Texans running backs with a 43% snap share and 42% route participation. But Ogunbowale handled just eight carries and was not targeted. That is Ogunbowale's signature move. He is a snap eater who sees very little involvement per snap. Despite playing just 38% of snaps, Royce Freeman led the team with 11 carries. This backfield should be avoided in all formats.

Titans Implied Team Total: 19.5

In a week defined by bad weather, it will only be absolutely frigid in Tennessee on Saturday. This should have a manageable impact on the passing game. But the Titans might use the weather as an excuse to go extremely run-heavy.

Ryan Tannehill may be done for the season, meaning Malik Willis will be quarterbacking the Titans. Willis has started two games, and the Titans have been intensely run-heavy in both outings. Over those two weeks, the Titans had a -28% PROE and a -23% PROE on 1st-and-10. Without Tannehill, the Titans make the Bears look balanced.


To the extent that the "DHember" narrative relied on cold weather conditions in December, Derrick Henry will certainly have those this week. Henry is coming off a 25-touch outing and his third-best fantasy game of the season. But he could be in for an absolutely massive workload this week and is facing a Texans defense that is horrible against the run. I have the Browns as the worst run defense in the league, but the Texans rank 31st in PFF's run grades and could recapture the belt this week.


But although Henry can be counted on to see additional carries with Willis under center, it absolutely tanks his receiving value. And Henry has been involved as a receiver this season with an 11% target share that ranks RB11.

Henry hasn't been electric as a receiver so much as a steam-powered locomotive. But the results are just as good. He leads all running backs with a stunningly good 2.34 YPRR. And Henry still has his signature breakaway ability on the ground, ranking RB8 in breakaway yards per game. He profiles as a clear-cut RB1, even with his profile more one-dimensional this week.


Treylon Burks looks set to return to action after practicing in full this week, but his outlook takes a massive hit with Tannehill out. Burks wasn't in the lineup for Willis' two starts this season, which left Robert Woods as the Titans' top receiver. Woods totaled 28 routes in those two games. When Tannehill returned in Week 10, Woods ran 37 routes in that game alone. Burks returned in Week 10 as well, running 29 routes in a part-time role. In other words... it's hard to overstate just how little passing volume there could be in the Titans' offense with Willis under center. Burks could lead the team in routes and still see the route volume of part-time tight end.

Burks is facing a defense that ranks 31st in coverage grade, and he has been very efficient this season. Burks is one of just four rookies with 2+ YPRR on 150+ routes—the others being Chris Olave (2.47), Christian Watson (2.18), and Garrett Wilson (2.03). But the volume simply won't be there with Willis at quarterback.


Speaking of efficiency, Chig Okonkwo is technically not a part of the group of receivers above... but he will be as soon as he runs eight more routes. Okonkwo's playmaking ability has been impressive this season, and he leads the Titans with a 2.63 YPRR. And Okonkwo is seeing impressive target volume on his routes, with a 2.06 expected YPRR that leads the Titans and an 18% first read target rate tied with Burks for the team lead. Okonkwo has benefited from being the last playmaker left standing with Burks out of the lineup for nearly three full games, but his first read target rate has held steady at 18%. The big change has been his playing time, which is now much more consistent than it was before Week 13. Still, Okonkwo remains a part-time tight end. Even over the last three weeks, he has posted route rates of just 57%, 52%, and 56%. The lack of routes is frustrating, and he can't be in lineups with Willis under center. But the rookie is flashing talent. 



Giants at Vikings, 1 PM Eastern, Saturday

Giants Implied Team Total: 22

The Giants have been a run-heavy team this season with a -6% PROE and a -6% PROE on 1st-and-10. But they are coming off a game where they posted a pass-heavy 4% PROE against the Commanders—their highest mark since Week 3. They also posted a 13% PROE on first down, the Giants' highest of the entire season. However, it's important to consider the type of game script the Giants were in against the Commanders. Thanks to a defensive TD, they were in control of the game from early in the second quarter and never trailed by more than three points. Relative to a run-heavy game script, the Giants were willing to lean into the pass.


However, that does not necessarily mean they will be willing to attack the Vikings through the air this week. The Vikings are much more vulnerable to the pass than the run, ranking 19th in EPA allowed per dropback, and seventh in EPA allowed per rush. But the Giants have been more comfortable in conservative game environments. Given their suspect defense and a clear lack of faith in Jones, they do not seem like a good bet to willingly play aggressively—despite this being a good passing matchup. 


But if the Giants are forced to air it out here by the Vikings' offense, Jones could have some success. He ranks 16th in success rate and 15th in EPA per game. The Giants have avoided featuring him, but he's done well with what they've asked him to do.


But even if Jones is productive through the air, it's hard to get excited about any of his weapons for fantasy. Darius Slayton looks like the best option but isn't ideal for the fantasy playoffs. Still, with a 1.94 YPRR and the ability to hit plays downfield with a 12.8 aDOT, he is a viable FLEX.


Daniel Bellinger is also viable. He ran a route on 97% of dropbacks against the Commanders, which is a very impressive rate for any tight end, let alone a rookie. Bellinger has a very weak expected YPRR of 0.90, but if he's going to run routes at an elite rate, that doesn't matter quite as much. He's in the low-end TE1 mix, given the plus matchup.

But Saquon Barkley is the only exciting play in this offense. Barkley's profile screams boom/bust, but the Giants could move the chains efficiently this week, giving him additional opportunities for big plays. Barkley leads all running backs with a 79% snap share and is RB5 in breakaway yards per game. When he doesn't hit a long run or get in the end zone, it can lead to frustrating results, as evidenced by his RB36 success rate. However, Barkley stands to benefit if the Giants pass more than usual. He ranks RB5 in target share and RB11 in YPRR.


Vikings Implied Team Total: 22

The Vikings are coming off a game with an expected pass rate of 73%. That's the type of thing that happens when you get down 33-0 before halftime. But the Vikings answered the call, passing 1% over expected, despite the extremely pass-heavy game script. 

This has been a bit of a trend for the Vikings. They are a pass-first team with a 3% PROE, but they are more of a balanced team with a pass-heavy gear than a team that is reliably committed to the pass. Another way of putting this is that they tend to go pass-heavy in game scripts that call for it like the Buccaneers have tended to do. They have not been dictating the pass to their opponents like the Chiefs do.


This makes Minnesota's passing volume tougher to trust this week. The Vikings are facing a Giants defense that ranks 30th in EPA allowed per rush and a more respectable 20th in EPA allowed per dropback. The Giants are also 25th in rushing success rate and 14th in dropback success rate. In other words, the path of least resistance is on the ground.


This could lead to a game plan that calls for a heavy dose of Dalvin Cook. Cook posted an 85% snap share last week, his third time in the previous four games with 85% of snaps. And while Cook hasn't been all that efficient this season, he's still showing big-play ability, ranking RB11 in breakaway yards per game. So he's in line for both volume and efficiency this week and profiles as a clear-cut RB1.


And although this game looks like it could be one that both teams approach with fairly conservative game plans, both quarterbacks shouldn't have trouble producing efficiently if called upon. Kirk Cousins has been solid this season, ranking 12th in success rate and 18th in EPA per game.


Given that this game is in a dome in a week of disastrous weather, it's not hard to imagine it being on the higher-scoring end. With that in mind, fantasy managers should keep the faith with T.J. Hockenson. The tight end has posted just 33 yards in two of his last three games and hasn't scored a TD since Week 12. However, Hockenson has posted route rates of 92%, 91%, and 84% over his last three games. He remains a fixture of the passing offense. And Hockenson has seen decent target volume in Minnesota; he has a solid 1.58 expected YPRR. If he can deliver more efficiently on his target volume, Hockenson can improve considerably on the efficiency he's demonstrated with the Vikings so far. This isn't an ideal matchup for volume, but the Giants rank dead last in PFF's coverage grades, so Hockenson could at least turn in an efficient outing.


Obviously, Justin Jefferson is an incredible play. And it's legitimately an unfair advantage that his fantasy managers get to play this profile in a dome during winter storm week.




Bengals at Patriots, 1 PM Eastern, Saturday

Bengals Implied Team Total: 22.25

The Bengals had a frustrating start to the season. They opened with losses to the Steelers and the Cooper Rush Cowboys. They then beat the Jets and Dolphins but lost to the Ravens for a 2-3 start. Starting in Week 6, they changed things up in a big way by committing fully to the pass.


Since Week 6, the Bengals have gone run-first just once. And that was in a 42-21 victory over the Panthers, one week after they struggled to protect Joe Burrow against the Browns in a 32-13 loss. Following their Week 10 bye, they've recommitted to a consistently pass-heavy approach.

And the Bengals are one of three teams going pass-heavy from a position of strength. Like the Chiefs and Bills, the Bengals have operated in game scripts that would allow them to justify much more run-heavy game plans. The Bengals have an expected pass rate of just 59% this season; only the Ravens, Chiefs, and Eagles are lower. Yet they are passing on 67% of their plays, the seventh-highest rate in the league. The Bengals are not passing because they have to; they're passing because it is their most effective path to winning games.


The Bengals' philosophy is highly relevant this week because they are facing a Patriots pass defense that is one of the best in the NFL. The Patriots rank first in EPA allowed per dropback and second in dropback success rate. Therefore, a normal team would be a good bet to shift to the run in this matchup.


But the Patriots don't necessarily profile as a scary matchup for the Bengals offense. For one thing, their pass rush is not elite. The Patriots rank 11th in PFF's pass rush grades and 13th in quick pressure rate, so it's not like they don't have any pass rush to speak of. But they're hardly the Cowboys. And protecting Burrow is the biggest weakness of the Bengals' passing game. They rank 28th in PFF's pass blocking grades and 18th in quick pressures allowed per dropback.

If Joe Burrow is decently protected this week, he should be able to handle the Patriots' secondary. Burrow has been excellent this season, ranking seventh in EPA per play and sixth in success rate. And Burrow's season is all the more impressive when considering that the Bengals' offense is designed to run through his arm. Burrow can handle a lot more passing volume than the average quarterback. He ranks fifth in EPA per game behind only Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, and Tua Tagovailoa


This is far from an ideal matchup, but Burrow could still be solidly productive against this defense. And although he's playing in very cold New England weather, winds are not expected to be a significant issue. With that in mind, both Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are very strong plays this week. 

Chase will undoubtedly see a lot of defensive attention, but that is nothing new for the superstar receiver. Chase just saw double coverage on 48% of his routes against the Buccaneers. That absurdly high rate actually marked his lowest rate of the last three weeks; he had a 54% double coverage rate against the Browns and a 61% rate against the Chiefs. Chase has averaged 12 targets over the last three games, so it's hard to imagine that Bill Belichick can effectively take him away. Chase has seen double coverage at the highest rate in the NFL, yet he is still getting open and an 87th-percentile rate. Chase is simply too good not to be considered an elite fantasy option this week.


After logging 95% route participation against the Buccaneers, Tee Higgins looks like a trustworthy WR2. And with Chase likely to draw coverage throughout this game, Higgins is well-positioned to deliver some big plays this week. When compared to Chase, his profile doesn't look all that strong. However, Higgins has an impressive 2.04 YPRR and could directly benefit if the Patriots have trouble pressuring Burrow. His 11.2 aDOT is the deepest on the team, giving him access to big plays downfield.


Hayden Hurst will likely return this week, which should help keep the Bengals passing. From a fantasy perspective, Hurst looks like the No. 3 option in the passing game. That's arguably the case from a real-life perspective as well, given that Hurst has a 17% target rate to Tyler Boyd's 14%. Boyd runs more routes, but Hurst also has a meaningful role in the offense, with a 71% route rate this season.

We're now two games into Joe Mixon's return to the offense, and Samaje Perine has not gone away. Perine had a 43% snap share in Week 14 and was at 38% last week. Perine needs to see more playing time to be fantasy relevant but he is definitely hurting Mixon's fantasy value. Mixon had a five-game stretch from Week 4-8 when he was a 70%+ snap share in every game. Since returning from injury he seen snap shares of 58% and 64%.

Mixon is still the clear lead back, but Perine is eating into his upside. Perine's involvement is especially troubling because he's stealing routes, not just snaps. And Mixon has been far more efficient as a receiver than a rusher this season. Mixon still has strong TD equity as part of a high-scoring offense, but he profiles as more of a high-end RB2 than an RB1.



Patriots Implied Team Total: 19.25

The Patriots are coming off a game against the Raiders, who have one of the weakest pass defenses in the entire league. But in that matchup, the Patriots went extremely run-heavy with a -10% PROE and a -21% PROE on 1st-and-10. And the Patriots weren't even running the ball from a position of strength. In a great passing matchup, they demonstrated a lack of willingness to call passing plays despite a game environment that called for passing volume.


Two weeks ago, the Patriots went pass-heavy against a Cardinals pass funnel defense. But refusing to pass on the Raiders is a very telling sign of how this offense wants to operate. And the Patriots now get a Bengals defense that is stronger against the pass than the run. They rank eighth in EPA allowed per dropback, but just 16th in EPA allowed per rush. 


With that in mind, Rhamondre Stevenson is set up for another high volume this week. While battling through an ankle injury, Stevenson played on 66% of snaps... which isn't exactly the 98% snap share he posted in Week 13. But Stevenson certainly got the job done, delivering 168 yards and a TD on 21 touches. With the potential for Damien Harris to return this week, it was nice to see Stevenson deliver such a big week on a normal lead running back snap share. We'd obviously prefer him to play every snap this week, but he can still deliver RB1 value without doing so.


Of course, I'm assuming that Stevenson won't be in the dog house for his role in the disastrous Jakobi Meyers pitch-back that lost the Patriots the game. Stevenson is probably safe... but it's hard not to worry about Meyers, who "executed" one of the most bizarre plays in NFL history last Sunday. 

But Meyers will need to be straight-up benched not to operate as the top option in the passing game. Tyquan Thornton led the Patriots with 32 routes last week, with Meyers at just 23. But Meyers still drew two more targets for a team-leading six. Meyers has a very strong 1.97 expected YPRR this year, indicating that he will be Mac Jones' favored target when he is on the field.



Lions at Panthers, 1 PM Eastern, Saturday

Lions Implied Team Total: 23

The Lions are a well-coached team. They adapt their game plans to that week's matchup and appear to have a good understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. But at their core, the Lions are a run-first team. They've been willing to open up the offense in the right environment—most notably, they posted a 12% PROE against the Jaguars' weak pass defense. But the Lions have also been very run-heavy at times, hitting a -5% PROE or lower in half of their games.


And this looks like a matchup where we could see the Lions lean on the ground game. The Panthers rank 12th in dropback success rate but just 22nd in rushing success rate. The path of least resistance is on the ground this week, which matches up nicely with the Lions' preferred approach.


And the Lions won't have to worry about Sam Donald pushing them off of a run-heavy game plan. The Lions can be expected to play this game fairly conservatively, with an eye on minimizing the contribution of Jared Goff.

Goff has not been bad this season. In fact, he's been pretty impressive—ranking ninth in EPA per play. However, Goff's accuracy has been a concern; he ranks just 33rd in CPOE. This creates some risk of regression, particularly if the Lions are forced to lean on Goff in suboptimal passing situations.


The Lions have generally attempted to avoid this. They have been pass-first on 1st-and-10 and 2nd-and-short. But they have been run first in every other down-and-distance situation.


But Goff looks unlikely to get exposed here. Instead, he's positioned to operate as a counterpunch to the Lions' rushing attack and has the weapons to play that role efficiently.

In particular, Goff will be helped by the presence of Amon-Ra St. Brown. St. Brown has played 59% of his snaps in the slot, and his very shallow 6.6 aDOT definitely limits his ceiling a bit. However, St. Brown has only seen double coverage on 20% of his routes, which is in just the 57th percentile among wide receivers. His role in the offense isn't the most explosive but he's a great bet to draw target volume every single week.


Behind St. Brown, things get a bit dicey. But it's worth noting that D.J. Chark's role in the offense still looks locked in. He had 84% route participation against the Jets after 90% in Week 14. If you're interested in a non-St. Brown Lions receiver, Chark is still the guy. Jameson Williams ran just six routes for the second consecutive week and may not make a fantasy-relevant contribution until 2023.


We should get rushing attempts from the Lions week, but unfortunately, this backfield is a total mess. D'Andre Swift had a 40% snap share in Week 15, which somehow led the backfield. You have to go all the way back to Week 9 to find a game when a Lions back (Jamaal Williams) posted a 60%+ snap share. And the Lions have had just one game all season with a back hitting a 65%+ snap share. That season-high came in Week 1 when D'Andre Swift logged 67% of snaps. So we can count on things to be heavily split this week once again. Williams remains the best bet for a TD, and Swift looks like the best bet for a big play. If you're considering these guys in the fantasy playoffs, congratulations on a fantasy roster that must be absolutely star-studded.

Panthers Implied Team Total: 20.5

We still have a very small sample on Sam Darnold this year, but... he's playing shockingly well so far. Among quarterbacks with 80+ plays, Darnold ranks seventh in EPA per play and leads the NFL in CPOE.


Obviously, we're talking about Sam Darnold here. This isn't going to last forever. But it's hard to believe that Darnold will completely fall off the rails this week against a Lions defense that ranks 31st in EPA allowed per dropback.


Even better, the Lions are not great at defending the run. They rank just 25th in EPA allowed per rush. This sets up well for the Panthers, who are very much a run-heavy team. Since Steve Wilks took over in Week 6, they have gone pass-first just one time.


But this approach can get the Panthers into trouble if they can't get the run game going. That was the case last week against the Steelers, who do not have a particularly strong run defense. But they still managed to hold Panthers running backs to just 19 yards on 14 carries. But despite a horrible running game and an efficient passing game, the Panthers refused to pivot to the pass. 

So it's a safe bet that the Panthers' passing volume will be low this week, especially if the Lions play somewhat conservatively on the other side of this game. But Darnold does at least provide the prospect of more efficiency than we've become accustomed to for Carolina receivers.

For the third straight week, D.J. Moore logged 100% route participation against the Steelers, and he scored a TD for the second time with Sam Darnold under center. It was a nice bounce-back performance after he failed to secure a catch in Week 14. Even with that goose egg in the mix, Moore has averaged an elite 2.29 YPRR over the last three weeks. That is both a positive sign and a reminder of the limits of per-route efficiency. Moore might be performing well on each route, but his lack of route volume limits him to FLEX status, even in this plus matchup.


Similarly, it's tough to get excited about Terrace Marshall, whose per-route target volume is far less valuable. He looks like a dart throw option this week, but not a particularly exciting one.

We may have seen a changing of the guard in the Panthers backfield, with Chuba Hubbard seeing a 63% snap share to D'Onta Foreman's 30% against the Steelers. Although it's also possible that Hubbard's increased involvement was game script related, with the Panthers planning to lean on Foreman as their early down hammer this week. But Foreman hasn't seen a 55%+ snap share in four straight games, making him very difficult to trust as an RB2.


Falcons at Ravens, 1 PM Eastern, Saturday

Falcons Implied Team Total: 14.5

Desmond Ridder got his first start against a Saints defense that does not pressure the passer at a high rate. This was great news, given that Ridder struggled against pressure in college. And Ridder was protected reasonably well. He faced pressure at the 19th-highest rate last week. But, concerningly, Ridder was absolutely atrocious from a clean pocket. Only Trace McSorley ranked lower in PFF's quarterback grades when kept clean. Granted, we're talking about a one-game sample. But being able to deliver from a clean pocket was Ridder's most realistic upside case. To see him bomb in that facet of the game is tough.

Unsurprisingly, Ridder's struggles from a clean pocket did not lead to an efficient outing. Ridder finished 22nd in EPA per play and 31st in CPOE.


The trouble for Ridder this week is that he is facing a Ravens defense that ranks fifth in EPA allowed per rush and sixth in rushing success rate. The Ravens are more vulnerable against the pass, ranking 18th in EPA allowed per dropback and 23rd in dropback success rate.


Usually, this would be a good situation for a quarterback, as it would likely lead to a pass-first game plan. However, we can safely bet on Arthur Smith to roll out a run-heavy attack regardless of the opponent and situation. The Falcons are no strangers to pass-heavy game scripts; they just ignore them. With a 49% pass rate, the Falcons are playing a different brand of football.


Because we can count on the Falcons to run the ball regardless of what is happening around them, it suddenly becomes a problem that they are facing a team that is weak against the pass but strong against the run. 

The best bet for the Falcons' passing game to go off is for them to be efficient on the ground, with the passing game as an effective counterpunch. Alternatively, there's a chance of them airing it out if down by enough points. But they'd have to be down by a lot. Unfortunately, this week doesn't set up great for either scenario.

This is all bad news for Drake London. London is in the midst of a two-game resurgence. He posted 12 targets in Week 13 and then 11 targets in his first game with Ridder. But to deliver those impressive target totals, London has had to post insane target shares of 50% and 44%. It's awesome that the rookie has that type of target dominance in his range of outcomes. But to hit that level of target share and only average a 6.5-82.5-0 receiving line... is pretty disappointing. London looks like a high-floor option in the sense that he is a safe bet for a strong target share. But calling someone a high-floor option in this passing game is somewhat unhinged. Sure, London is a safe bet for target share, but in terms of raw targets, his floor remains frustratingly low. Still, London is doing enough to be in FLEX consideration. And his target profile promises better days ahead... someday.


Last week was a strong outing for Tyler Allgeier, who delivered 139 rushing yards and a TD. However, Allgeier was wildly efficient, with 8.2 yards per carry. He saw a very solid 17 rushing attempts but was still in a split backfield with Cordarrelle Patterson, who saw 14. And Patterson had a 50% snap share, with Allgeier at 49%.

The situation isn't ideal, with the Falcons now facing a Ravens defense that is fifth in EPA per rush and sixth in rushing success rate. But we should at least see plenty of volume for both running backs. And after Allgeier's big game, it's worth noting how efficient he looks as a rusher across the board. Allgeier is up to RB9 in RYOE / attempt and RB9 in success rate. It's not a great matchup, and his touch ceiling is limited by Patterson, but he's a viable RB2 play.



Ravens Implied Team Total: 21

In two games without Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have been pretty clear about their plan. They have shifted heavily to the run, with a -12% PROE in both games. 


This week sets up exceedingly well for a similar game plan. The Falcons rank 26th in EPA allowed per rush and 31st in rushing success rate. If the Ravens had a healthy Jackson and some healthy wide receivers, they might consider attacking a Falcons pass defense that ranks 30th in EPA allowed per dropback and 31st in dropback success rate. But, given how things stand, we can count on them to pound the rock.


With J.K. Dobbins back, the Ravens are well-positioned to take advantage of this soft run defense. Dobbins hasn't yet met the attempt minimum to appear in NFL Next Gen's rushing stats, but he's flashing breakaway ability with 25.8 breakaway yards per game. That ranks RB8 this season, one spot behind Josh Jacobs and one spot ahead of Derrick Henry. Dobbins clearly doesn't have his top-end speed all the way back yet, but his burst is impressive.

The issue for Dobbins is that he remains in a split backfield. He saw just 38% of snaps against the Browns, with Justice Hill at 38% and Gus Edwards at 17%. That split creates some downside risk if the Ravens find themselves in negative game script. However, this game is much more likely to play out as a run-heavy slog. Dobbins should see a solid workload, even if he is below a 50% snap share. He's a viable RB2.

With passing volume very likely to be limited, only Mark Andrews is in play in the Ravens' passing game. This game could be low-volume enough that even a player of Andrews' caliber isn't safe. But Andrews has 90%+ route participation in five straight games and leads all tight ends in target share (28%), air yard share (34%), WOPR (0.65), and ESPN's open score... he's more than capable of going off in a run-heavy game environment.



Commanders at 49ers, 4:05 PM Eastern, Saturday

Commanders Implied Team Total: 15.25

Taylor Heinicke has been a solid improvement on Carson Wentz this year. He ranks 30th in success rate and 31st in EPA per game, with Wentz at just 38th and 40th. But being an improvement over Wentz and being good are two different things.


And Heinicke now gets an absolutely brutal matchup against a 49ers' defense that ranks third in EPA allowed per dropback, third in dropback success rate, second in EPA allowed per rush, and second in rushing success rate. The 49ers are an elite defense across the board; it will be challenging for the Commanders to get anything going against them.


And Heinicke could find himself behind the 8-ball if the Commanders try and establish the run against one of the best run defenses in the league. That would be a rather obvious mistake, but we haven't seen the Commanders shift from a run-first approach in quite some time. The last time they posted a positive PROE was Week 5, when Wentz was still at quarterback.


At the same time, it's tough to imagine Heinicke fairing all the well if the Commanders were to aggressively air it out against this defense. It's a tough situation for the Commanders' passing offense, which is likely to struggle with efficiency and could do so on somewhat low volume.

With that in mind, Terry McLaurin is the only strong option in this passing game. His 23% target share should help keep him relevant even in a bad day for the offense. 

Despite a strong two-game stretch, Jahan Dotson looks like a very risky bet. Dotson has had expected YPRRs of 1.66 and 1.45 over the last two weeks, so he's not exactly swimming in target volume. And Dotson's per-route target profile has been much weaker than McLaurin's. He looks like an unappealing dart throw in this matchup.


The backfield looks similarly risky. Brian Robinson led the way with 12 carries against the Giants, with Antonio Gibson at just five. But Gibson out-targeted Robinson 4-to-1 and had a 60% snap share to Robinson's 38%. With the Commanders as 7-point road underdogs, Gibson looks like the better bet for playing time. But there's a good chance both backs are held to low fantasy totals. 

49ers Implied Team Total: 22.25

Through three games, Brock Purdy has put together an impressive Jimmy Garoppolo impression. Like Garoppolo, his accuracy has been a bit of a concern, but that hasn't stopped him from facilitating efficient offense. Purdy ranks eighth in EPA per play, with Garoppolo at fifth.


But this matchup will be a major test for Purdy. He's going against a Commanders defense that ranks seventh in EPA allowed per dropback and sixth in dropback success rate. 


The Commanders are also strong against the run, which could disrupt the 49ers' plan of attack. Although, one of the interesting things about Purdy is that the 49ers haven't actually been all that run-heavy with him at quarterback. They went run-heavy against the floundering Buccaneers but were balanced against both the Dolphins in Week 13 and the Seahawks last week.


The 49ers' willingness to deploy a reasonably normal offense with Purdy is definitely a positive sign—because they will have a tough time simply pounding the rock here.

But one way or another, Christian McCaffrey should see plenty of work. McCaffrey has seen snap shares of 82%, 70%, and 89% over the last three weeks. He's back to true workhorse usage. And obviously, McCaffrey is game script proof. Honestly, with a 22% target share that ranks RB1 and an elite 1.83 YPRR that ranks RB3, he's better off if the 49ers attack the Commanders through the air. The Commanders' pass defense is slightly more vulnerable than their run defense, so that plan of attack would help move the chains and provide PPR volume. Either way, he's an elite play.


Outside of McCaffrey, the 49ers' offense is difficult to predict, especially with efficiency in question this week. However, it was great to see George Kittle come to life against the Seahawks with a 4-93-2 receiving line. That success was primarily driven by an outrageous 18.6 YPT, but Kittle is running routes at an elite rate for a tight end, so his talent was bound to shine through eventually. 

Still, Kittle's per-route volume is a legitimate concern. His 1.28 expected YPRR is pretty weak. With Deebo Samuel out, he should be a more consistent part of the target pecking order, but that's no guarantee. Although, it's not like Kittle has fallen off from a talent perspective. He ranks in the 86 percentile among tight ends in ESPN's open score and now has an 86 percentile YPRR. He's not drawing targets like we're used to, but his profile is still TE1 worthy.


But with Deebo out, the biggest beneficiaries are just as likely to be Brandon Aiyuk or Jauan Jennings. Aiyuk has a solid 1.69 expected YPRR and has logged 100% route participation in two of his last three games. He'll be the top downfield option this week. 


Jennings has been flashing on a per-route basis all season. His 1.54 expected YPRR is significantly higher than Kittle's 1.28. And he's seen a first-read target on 15% of his routes, tied with Aiyuk for the team high. Jennings isn't just a random fill-in; he's been a part of the 49ers offense all season and is now getting a chance to run more routes with Samuel out of the lineup. Jennings saw 86% route participation against the Seahawks, and he can be expected to have a significant role in the offense once again. He's an interesting DFS dart throw, despite the difficult matchup.

Fantasy football guru Matthew Berry has joined the team and his two shows have you covered all season long. Spend weekdays at noon with the Fantasy Football Happy Hour and then, every Sunday at 11am getting ready for kickoff with the Fantasy Football Pregame. Watch both shows live on Peacock and catch replays for the weekday show on the NFL on NBC YouTube channel.


Eagles at Cowboys, 4:25 Eastern, Saturday

Eagles Implied Team Total: 21

With Jalen Hurts out, Gardner Minshew will be starting for the Eagles. Minshew got a bit of run last year and played extremely well. On his small sample, he actually led the NFL in EPA per play and finished seventh in CPOE.


Of course, as we look forward... this doesn't tell us a whole lot. Jalen Hurts has been lights out this year, and we know that Minshew will be a significant downgrade from what Hurts is brought to the table, especially against a formidable Dallas defense. The Cowboys rank fifth in EPA allowed per dropback and second in dropback success rate. But more importantly, they have an elite pass rush that ranks second in PFF's pass rush grades and first in quick pressure rate. Critically, the Eagles have struggled at preventing quick pressures all season, ranking 26th in quick pressures allowed per dropback.


As I've noted in the past, the Eagles have flashed multiple modes of attack this year. In games where they can protect Hurts, they have aggressively attacked vulnerable secondaries. But the Eagles have also been prudent about protecting their quarterback. And with Minshew under center, they are a safe bet to attack the Cowboys on the ground. The Cowboys aren't terrible against the run, ranking 10th in EPA allowed per rush, but they have become a massive run funnel anyway. Opponents are averaging a -8% PROE against the Cowboys and are shifting 6% to the run. The Eagles' season low in PROE is -16%. That's the type of game plan they could roll out this week.


But even if the Eagles are run-heavy relative to game script, we could see solid passing volume if the 4.5-point underdogs are behind for most of the game. The Eagles have been playing from ahead for much of this season. Their 56% expected pass rate is the lowest in the NFL. So even if they shift to the run relative to the scoring environment, there could still be decent passing volume in a game script that could demand a higher pass rate than usual.


This has been a long way of saying that A.J. Brown should be fine this week. Brown has generally been the ceiling play in the Eagles offense, with DeVonta Smith a safe play for involvement every week. But it's hard to imagine that Minshew won't be looking for his clear top option... especially because Brown is getting open at will. Brown recaptured the lead in open score last week as part of his 9/118 receiving line on 16 targets. 


But DeVonta Smith should see his targets as well. Smith has seen 15% of his targets on screens this season, and the downgrade in quarterback mobility should open up some additional shallow targets. Smith looks far more likely to capitalize on those than Brown, who has seen just 6% of his targets on screens.

And Smith has an important role in the offense, generally. He has a strong 1.77 expected YPRR and is delivering efficiently with an impressive 1.88 YPRR. Smith also leads the Eagles with 96% route participation. He remains a WR2/3 despite playing with a backup quarterback in a bad matchup.

With Dallas Goedert back this week, targets will be less condensed. However, Goedert's production has far outweighed his target opportunity this season. If he can continue playing like he did before injury, he'll add an efficiency boost to the Eagles offense without necessarily drawing many targets. More likely, Goedert will play more in line with the below-average target volume he has seen this season. He's definitely harder to trust in his first game back. But, like Smith, he should be involved in the screen game. The tight end has seen 27% of his targets on screens this year, which leads all tight ends (min. 10%+ target share). Goedert is definitely the toughest Eagles pass catcher to trust, but given the state of tight end, you probably don't have a better option.


With the Eagles likely to shift to a run-heavy approach, this could be a Miles Sanders week. Of course, he's much less likely to hit the ultra-elite upside that he's flashed as part of the Hurts-led Eagles attack. However, he's a safe bet for volume. And that volume might not be limited strictly to carries. 


Sanders has been very unproductive in the passing game, with an absolutely atrocious 0.30 YPRR. But keep in mind that Kenneth Gainwell also has a very weak 0.71 YPRR. Gainwell entered the league as a receiving back and posted an impressive 1.53 YPRR as a rookie. The fact that he's now completely uninvolved as a receiver says a lot about how the Eagles have designed their offense. This is not a system that is feeding targets to the running back. With Hurts under center, the Eagles would much rather look to hit big plays downfield, which also allows Hurts to generate big plays with his rushing ability.

This isn't to say that Sanders is a great receiving back who is being held back by his offense. But he's probably not as bad of a receiver as his current receiving efficiency suggests. So it wouldn't be all that surprising for him to set a new season high in targets this week—which is admittedly a low bar, given that he has topped out at just three so far. He profiles as a very solid RB2.



Cowboys Implied Team Total: 25.5

Can a loss be a statement game? I guess it depends on what the statement is. In the Cowboys' case, Week 15's loss to the Jaguars was a clear statement that they will play their style of football, regardless of the opponent. 

Facing a Jaguars defense that ranks 27th in EPA allowed per dropback and 26th in dropback success rate... the Cowboys pounded the rock. 

In fairness, the Cowboys got out to a 14-0 lead that they extended to 27-10 before the Jaguars scored three quick TDs to take the lead. So the Cowboys were mostly running from a position of strength.


But still... given the matchup, it's pretty wild that the Cowboys posted a -8% PROE and a -19% PROE on 1st-and-10. Who knows, maybe if they got another shot at the Jaguars, they do it differently. But instead, they are facing an Eagles defense that is extremely strong against the pass but ranks just 29th in rushing success rate. And, of course, Gardner Minshew will be going up against their elite pass defense. It's an obvious spot for any team to attack on the ground. But, given what the Cowboys showed last week, we can be very confident they will establish the run once again.


We can also count on the Cowboys to deploy a split backfield. Tony Pollard has led Cowboys running backs in snaps in each of the last two weeks, but just barely. He had a 58% snap share against the Texans and a 55% snap share against the Jaguars. Ezekiel Elliott has been right there with him; he has snap shares of 49% and 51%. Zeke could plausibly play slightly ahead this week, as he did against the Colts in Week 13.

But on a split workload of some kind, Pollard remains the more interesting play. He's simply a far more explosive back, ranking RB2 in RYOE / attempt, RB3 in breakaway yards per game, and RB6 in YPRR. He profiles as a low-end RB1.


Elliott's efficiency leaves a lot to be desired, but he has enough TD equity to be in the RB2 mix.


Although the Cowboys are a good bet to be run-heavy this week, Dak Prescott looks capable of an efficient day—even against a very talented Eagles defense. The Cowboys' dedication to the running game really doesn't have anything to do with Prescott's efficiency, which has been excellent. Prescott ranks third in success rate this season, behind only Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. And he ranks seventh in EPA per game. He's also been solidly accurate, ranking 11th in CPOE.


It's a difficult test for Prescott, but at the bare minimum, he should be able to move the chains efficiently. And if the Cowboys end up leaning on him at any point, he should be able to put up points through the air. But with volume likely in question, this doesn't seem like an ideal spot to chase ancillary Cowboys receivers. 

That's particularly true after Michael Gallup completely disappeared against the Jaguars. Gallup has been dramatically underperforming his target volume this season, but he'd also been reliably earning targets. That changed in a big way last week when he saw just a 7% target share and a 6% air yard share. Instead, Noah Brown led the team with a 30% target share and 37% air yard share. The re-emergence of Brown could ultimately be a one-week blip, but it is still not a great sign heading into a matchup where passing volume is in question.

Brown's heavy involvement against the Jaguars included four first-read targets, second most to CeeDee Lamb. And Brown's involvement in the game plan didn't just affect Gallup. Dalton Schultz also had a rough day, with a 13% target share in a 9% air yard share. Again, Schultz will be fine long term. But in this game, targets could be at a premium, making Schultz more of a low-end TE1 play in an offense that doesn't look very condensed right now.


However, Lamb remains a locked-in WR1. Lamb has been a big part of Prescott's success this season. He's getting open reliably and delivering efficiently on massive target volume. He's more than capable of vacuuming up targets this week.




Raiders at Steelers, 8:15 Eastern, Saturday

Raiders Implied Team Total: 18

Derek Carr is having a quietly efficient season. He ranks 12th in EPA per play, just behind Trevor Lawrence. However, Carr's efficiency has been quiet for a reason. The Raiders are very clearly hiding their passing game. Week 15 marked the seventh straight week when the Raiders have posted a negative PROE.


The Raiders were also run-heavy on first down in each of these seven games—with a PROE of -5% or lower. This indicates that they have prioritized the run in key situations rather than simply limiting Carr's overall attempts.

I've been puzzled by this approach, given that Carr is playing pretty well. However, the Raiders may be understandably nervous that Carr's efficiency is unsustainable. Carr is struggling badly with accuracy, ranking 34th in CPOE. And he's also struggling with consistency, ranking 33rd in success rate.


By EPA per game, Carr is playing similarly to Geno Smith. But when looking at success rate, he's been worse than Matt Ryan. I'm not saying that the Raiders are worried he will start playing like Ryan... but they don't seem to want to test that theory, either.

And this matchup isn't a great spot for a team looking to hide its passing game. The Steelers run defense isn't elite, but they've been solid on the ground, ranking 17th in EPA allowed per rush and eighth in rushing success rate. They've been much more vulnerable through the air, ranking 25th in EPA allowed per dropback and 19th in dropback success rate. Going run-heavy against the Steelers is a challenging way to put up points.


But the Raiders have yet to show any real indication that they are willing to play the matchups and pivot to a pass-first game plan. That could lead to some frustrating series on offense. But at least the Raiders continue to lean on Josh Jacobs, which could power another strong outing for the star running back. 

Jacobs played on 75% of snaps against the Raiders, his sixth straight week with a 75%+ snap share. Jacobs ranks RB3 this season in snap share. And Jacobs isn't just seeing empty snaps; he ranks RB1 with an 86% share of team attempts. His efficiency isn't off the charts, but he's playing well across the board and pairing that solid efficiency with an elite workload. Even after a bit of a down game last week, Jacobs still profiles as a locked-in elite option.


The Raiders' run-heavy approach on offense hasn't necessarily been that frustrating for fantasy managers. Because for much of the season, Davante Adams has been the only enticing fantasy play in the passing game. Sure, Mack Hollins and Foster Moreau have had some DFS viability, but no one is losing their mind if Hollins doesn't get enough targets. 

However, things are getting a lot more crowded in this offense. Both Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow returned to the lineup against the Patriots and could make the target distribution less predictable. Neither player had a huge impact last week. Both saw only three targets, although Waller did at least get in the end zone. But we could see an increase in routes for Waller, in particular, this week. The tight end ran a route on only 66% of dropbacks—well below the 80% route participation he logged in his first four games of the season. He could be out there quite a bit more this week.

But deciding whether or not to put Waller in your fantasy lineup is tricky. He has major target competition from Adams, has to contend with the return of Renfrow, and has uncertainty surrounding his route volume—both in terms of his own participation and the Raiders' total number of dropbacks. As a result, he's more of a TE2 this week. But showdown sickos should note that Waller's 11.8 aDOT is the third-highest at the position. So he can still have a productive day even if he only sees a few targets again this week.


Renfrow looks a lot less interesting. He saw only 59% route participation in his Week 15 return. So, like Waller, he has volume concerns this week. And Renfrow has a very weak 0.98 expected YPRR, so he isn't earning target volume at a high rate. If we knew for a fact that Renfrow would be on the field for every route, he'd at least be the Raiders version of Tyler Boyd, which... actually, never mind; we wouldn't play him then either.


The return of Waller and Renfrow shouldn't be a real concern for Davante Adams. Adams was held to 28 yards last week, but he was double-teamed on 51% of his routes, nearly twice his season-long rate. But even that coverage did not prevent Adams from seeing a team-high nine targets. The issue for Adams last week was that he simply ran bad on per-target efficiency. His efficiency is likely to be much better against a Steelers secondary that is far weaker than the Patriots'.



Steelers Implied Team Total: 20.5

The Steelers will be moving back to Kenny Pickett at quarterback this week. That's a sensible decision, given that they need to know what they have in their first-round pick, and they've already seen more than enough to know that Mitch Trubisky is not the answer. 

However, while Pickett has more long-term promise than Trubisky, he's flashed far less this season. Trubisky has been more efficient than the rookie, ranking 24th in EPA per play, with Pickett at 33rd. 


Pickett has at least been accurate, ranking seventh in CPOE, which theoretically gives him some hope of positive regression. And if Pickett is ever going to flash a legitimate ceiling, this would be the matchup. The Raiders are absolutely terrible at defending the pass in this matchup looks well-tailored for Pickett. Pickett has shown some ability to handle an NFL pass rush. He's mobile enough to scramble around and doesn't melt down under pressure. Pickett ranks fifth in PFF's quarterback grades under pressure. However, Pickett has struggled badly when asked to play within structure. He ranks 33-of-36 in PFF's quarterback grades from a clean pocket. The perfect matchup for Pickett would be one where he faces a taste of pressure from a middling pass rush combined with a secondary that can't stop anybody. That's exactly what he gets here.


The other nice thing about this matchup is that the Raiders are solid against the run. They rank fourth in EPA allowed per rush, although they rank a much more modest 20th in rushing success rate. Still, they are not especially vulnerable on the ground. This is important to note because when the Steelers faced the Falcons' extremely vulnerable pass defense in Week 13, they operated with a tilt to the run. It was a defensible decision but one that wasted a good passing matchup for Pickett. But unlikely against the Falcons, the Steelers should be dialed in on the Raiders' weakness in the passing game.

Given the matchup, I'm cautiously optimistic about what Pickett can do through the air. And my confidence is boosted by the fact that Pat Freiermuth has been a full participant in practice. Freiermuth has been a key target for Pickett and looks worth sticking with after his dud last week.

He has seen a first-read target on 19% of his routes. That matches Travis Kelce's rate this season and is bested by only Kyle Pitts (22%) and Mark Andrews (20%).


Freiermuth's improving health is bad news for Diontae Johnson. The quarterback change could also be a problem. With Trubisky under center last week, Johnson saw a target on 45% of his routes. He was the true engine of the offense against the Panthers. But Johnson saw those targets from a different quarterback than the one he will be playing with this week.

We also have a bit of a Drake London problem with Johnson. He just went absolutely nuts with a 53% target share and a 52% air yard share, yet it yielded only 98 scoreless yards.

Still, Pickett is now in a matchup that could produce his best games of the season, making Johnson a WR3. As frustrating as his season has been... the dude is still getting open. Johnson ranks WR3 in ESPN's open score.


If you're in the George Pickens business, this is as good a week as you're going to get. I've been unimpressed with Pickens this year. He has yet to show an ability to draw targets. And his lack of targets has been especially concerning because he has not faced extra defensive attention at a high rate, ranking just 32nd percentile in double coverage rate. Instead, Pickens' lack of targets looks pretty clearly related to the fact that he isn't getting open. He ranks just 17th percentile in ESPN's open score. The rookie is sensational at the point of the catch, but he needs to work on earning more catch opportunities. Still, he won't have to work as hard as usual against a weak Raiders secondary.

In the backfield, Najee Harris could benefit from a Steelers offense that has a chance to be efficient through the air. But Harris' role in the offense is considerably less valuable than it was to begin the season. 


Harris looks to have settled into a clear lead-back role over the last three weeks but is nowhere near the bell cow usage that made him so appealing as a rookie. And Harris is particularly vulnerable to losing snaps because he has not been efficient as a rusher or a receiver.


Harris' receiving efficiency in particular, is a concern this week because the Steelers' best chance of success is through the air. Harris won't be completely shut out of the passing game, but with just a 9% target share, Harris isn't a critical factor in the receiving game. He's also not doing a ton when running routes, ranking RB37 in YPRR. He profiles as a TD-dependent RB2.


Packers at Dolphins, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Packers Implied Team Total: 23

The Packers are coming off a matchup against the Rams, who have a very strong run defense but are more vulnerable through the air. And, credit where credit is due, the run-first Packers shifted to a pass-first game plan—posting a 3% PROE. It was the first time since Week 9 that they posted a positive PROE and only the fifth time all season.


But the Packers had the advantage of playing from ahead against the Rams. They ran a little less than expected in a game environment that called for quite a bit of running. However, the Packers didn't exactly air it out against the Rams with a 53% pass rate, which was the 24th highest of the week.


And the Packers are now facing a somewhat similar test against the Dolphins. But there's a twist—the Dolphins should be much more capable of putting up points on the other side and creating a game script that calls for a high pass rate. If the Packers insist on running the ball in a game environment that calls for passing attempts, they could get into trouble. The Dolphins have been solid against the run this season, ranking 14th in EPA allowed per rush and seventh in rushing success rate. However, they have been far more vulnerable through the air, ranking 24th in EPA allowed per dropback and 24th in dropback success rate.


But I'll be surprised if the Packers play aggressively. They do not seem interested in featuring the passing game, and that hesitancy is somewhat understandable. Aaron Rodgers ranks just 26th in EPA per play and 20th in CPOE. He's been less efficient than Tom Brady. And even since Week 8, when Christian Watson returned to the lineup, Rodgers ranks 18th in EPA per play. He's been better than he was early in the season, but he's not lighting it up to the point that we can expect the Packers to dramatically shift their offensive of approach.


The Packers' conservative play style doesn't take away from the fact that Christian Watson is having a great season. And the rookie has fully emerged as the Packers' No. 1 receiver. Against the Rams, Watson led the Packers in first-read targets for the third straight week. He also ran a route on 94% of dropbacks, his third week in a row at 89%+. Watson has an elite 2.15 expected YPRR and is producing efficiently, with a 2.18 YPRR. The fact that he is now running a full slate of routes makes his elite per-route efficiency all the more exciting. The Packers could be frustratingly conservative this week, but they could also be highly efficient through the air against a weak Dolphins pass defense. With the potential for the Dolphins to turn this into a high-scoring game, Watson profiles as a high-end WR2.


Romeo Doubs returned to the lineup last week but did not affect Allen Lazard. Lazard led the team with 97% route participation, with Doubs at just 30%. As a secondary option in a conservative offense, Lazard is an unexciting FLEX option. But he'll be out there running routes against a weak secondary.

Although the Packers may not be looking to aggressively attack the Dolphins through the air, they seem less likely to go full ground and pound this week. With that in mind, Aaron Jones looks like an excellent bet. He saw only 56% of snaps against the Rams but was at 71% in Week 12 and 68% in Week 13. Assuming that the Packers are in a competitive game this week, Jones should return to a clear-cut lead-back role. Jones has been efficient this season, ranking RB6 in rushing success rate and RB15 in YPRR. He profiles as a low-end RB1.



Dolphins Implied Team Total: 27

It's been a very impressive season for Tua Tagovailoa. The third-year quarterback ranks second in EPA per play, behind only Patrick Mahomes.


However, when we zoom into the last three weeks, things look a lot shakier. Heading into Week 13, Tagovailoa had posted positive EPA per play in every game. He's now gone three straight games with negative EPA per play. Over that stretch, he ranks 32nd in EPA per play and 35th in CPOE.


The most concerning element of Tua's drop-off in play is that he has been very poor from a clean pocket over the last three weeks. He ranks just 32nd in PFF's quarterback grades when kept clean. Through 12 weeks, Tagovailoa ranks second to only Patrick Mahomes. Tua has had to deal with poor pass blocking all season and hasn't been great when pressured. But the fact that he is also not playing well from a clean pocket in recent weeks makes his drop-off hard to explain.

But even though his clean pocket efficiency has cratered... we'd still prefer him to be well protected. And Tagovailoa should have plenty of opportunities from a clean pocket this week, at least. The Packers rank 18th in PFF's pass rush grades and 25th in quick pressure rate. The Dolphins' pass protection is bad enough that we could see a decent rate of pressure, but the Packers are unlikely to blow up the Dolphins' passing game plan.


Moreover, even if the Packers are successfully harassing Tagovailoa, the Dolphins can pivot to the run game to keep the pass rush on its heels. The Packers rank just 31st in EPA allowed per rush and 32nd in rushing success rate.

But even with a struggling quarterback and a great rushing matchup on tap, the Dolphins are likely to maintain offensive balance. Over the last four weeks, they have faced two of the most vulnerable run defenses in the NFL, the Texans and the Chargers. In Week 12 against the Texans, they mostly ignored the rushing matchup and instead attacked through the air, posting an 11% PROE. In Week 14, they pivoted to the run against the Chargers, but they did not fully establish it, with a -2% PROE.


The Dolphins can be expected to go run-first in the matchup, but they are unlikely to lose sight of their biggest advantage on offense... the deadly combination of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.


As you can see above, Hill and Waddle have absolutely feasted on over-the-middle targets traveling 10+ yards in the air. They rank WR1 and WR2 in the rate at which they see these targets. But defenses are beginning to pay attention to this tendency. Benjamin Solak notes below how the Chargers were unwilling to let the Dolphins have the middle of the field.

This defensive emphasis could be partly responsible for Tagovailoa's drop-off in play. From Weeks 1-12, Tagovailoa ranked second in PFF's quarterback grades on downfield-middle throws; he's down to 32nd over the last three weeks. But while Tagovailoa's efficiency on these throws hasn't been great recently... he's still attempting a lot of them. He led the league in downfield-middle throws through the first 12 weeks and led the NFL over the last three weeks as well. Tagovailoa's reduced efficiency on these throws is definitely a concern, but we have not yet seen any signs of a shift away from these high-value targets. If you're rooting for Tua alone, a shift to a new game plan could be a good thing. But for Hill and Waddle's sake, I'm fine if the Dolphins keep forcing it to the middle. Hill remains a locked-in elite option, and Waddle profiles as a low-end WR1.

When Tagovailoa drops back to pass, we know where the targets are going. But the backfield has been far less predictable. When Jeff Wilson arrived in Week 9, he immediately forced a split with Raheem Mostert. Wilson played 50% of snaps, with Mostert at 46%. Wilson then jumped to 61% of snaps in Week 10. Week 12 was a missed opportunity for Wilson. With Mostert out of the lineup, Wilson dealt with injuries and maintained a 61% snap share. His playing time tailed off in Week 13, and he suffered a hip injury in the first half of the Chargers game, ending his day.


Mostert returned to the lineup in Week 13 and has operated as the Dolphins' clear lead back. He's had a borderline workhorse role in the two games since.


Wilson is now practicing and is expected to return against the Packers. But as we sit here today, Mostert has a better chance of operating as the Dolphins lead back this week. The only issue with betting on Mostert is that he hasn't been all that efficient this season. He ranks RB34 in RYOE / attempt and RB40 in success rate. Mostert hasn't been terrible, but it's easy enough for him to disappoint on a split workload.


Wilson has been more impressive as a rusher, ranking RB6 in RYOE / attempt and RB20 in success rate. But Mostert has looked pretty good in his absence. And Wilson hasn't been so efficient that the Dolphins will feel obligated to feature him in his first game back from injury.


So we're likely looking at a 60/40 split in Mostert's favor. With a super soft rushing matchup on tap, Mostert looks like a solid RB2. But given the uncertainty surrounding how snaps will be allocated, Wilson is a viable dart throw as a bet that he gets in the end zone.


Broncos at Rams, 4:30 Eastern, Sunday

Broncos Implied Team Total: 19.75

Russell Wilson will return to the lineup this week, which will significantly boost the offense. As bad as Wilson has been this season, he has still been far better than Brett Rypien. Among the 46 quarterbacks who have logged 90+ plays, only Kyle Allen ranks lower in EPA per play than Rypien... although, to be fair to Rypien, Allen has been a lot worse.


Wilson has not been good, but he's in the mix with other disappointing professional quarterbacks Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, Aaron Rodgers, Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson, and Matthew Stafford. In other words, he's still a big improvement over a true backup quarterback. 

And the Broncos actually showed a bit of life in their most recent game with Wilson. Against the Chiefs, they posted a 5% PROE and were impressively aggressive on first down, with a 20% PROE. It was the Broncos' second most past heavy game of the season and their most aggressive showing on first down.


This would be a good week for some continued aggression. The Broncos are going up against a Rams defense that ranks 28th in EPA allowed per dropback and 28th in dropback success rate. And while the Broncos are not very good at passing the ball, ranking just 24th in EPA per dropback... they are even worse at running the ball, ranking 30th in EPA per rush. Going run-heavy against a Rams defense that ranks third in EPA allowed per rush and third in rushing success rate would be malpractice.


To be clear, given how the Broncos have operated this season, I am not ruling out a run-heavy game plan. But after they implemented a logical approach against the Chiefs, I am somewhat hopeful that they will play this matchup through the passing game.

However, the Broncos passing game is about to get more crowded, with Courtland Sutton returning to the lineup this week. Sutton has had a disappointing season but has been good enough to put Jerry Jeudy's mini-breakout at risk. Jeudy has seen slightly better per-route volume than Sutton, with a 2.03 expected YPRR to Sutton's 1.89. Jeudy has also been more efficient, with an impressive 2.03 YPRR to Sutton's disappointing 1.60.


But Sutton still has a solid profile. He is running a lot of routes, with 93% route participation. And he is getting open; he has an 87th percentile open score, slightly besting Jeudy's 85th percentile score. 


This isn't really an argument about which receiver is better. My point is that Jeudy's chances of continuing as the clear No. 1 option take a big hit with Sutton back. To that point, Sutton has seen first-read targets at a higher rate than Jeudy. It's quite possible that the Broncos still view Sutton as the 1A to Jeudy's 1B. Fortunately, this matchup makes both viable options. Jeudy's recent run of form puts him in low-end WR2 territory, with Sutton as a WR3.

When Latavius Murray saw a workhorse snap share, he was a defensible fantasy starter. However, Murray had 64% of snaps against the Cardinals and was at just 53% against the Chiefs. Now going against a strong run defense, Murray looks like a pure desperation play.



Rams Implied Team Total: 16.75

Baker Mayfield has been significantly more efficient than he was with the Panthers. But that is the lowest of bars... literally. Heading into Week 13, Mayfield ranked dead last in EPA per play; he was also dead last in CPOE. When you start out as the least efficient and most inaccurate quarterback in football, it's easier to improve.

But Mayfield has been legitimately mediocre (in a good way) over the last two weeks. He ranks 17th in EPA per play, and his accuracy has improved from horrific to very bad; he ranks 28th in CPOE.


It's been nice to see Mayfield improve on his dreadful start to the season, but it's hard to imagine that the Rams will be interested in testing him against a Broncos defense that ranks fourth in EPA allowed per dropback and first in dropback success rate.


Instead, the Rams are likely to lean on the run, like they did last week against a weak Packers run defense. Against Green Bay, the Rams posted a -10% PROE and a -12% PROE on 1st-and-10. They are incentivized to lean on the run this week and will likely roll out a similar game plan.


Even still, Cam Akers is difficult to trust. He played on 76% of snaps against the Packers and 72% of snaps in Week 13. However, Akers' role in the offense is fragile; he had a 39% snap share in Week 11 and a 42% snap share in Week 14. There's also the small issue that Akers is not very good. He ranks RB49 in RYOE / attempt and RB39 in success rate. And frankly, just isn't doing anything interesting across the board.


And if you're not starting Akers here as a desperation RB2, you don't have to worry about this game. Tyler Higbee is coming off just a 56% route rate against the Packers. With that level of route participation in his range of outcomes, he cannot be in lineups. 


Buccaneers at Cardinals, 8:20 Eastern, Sunday

Buccaneers Implied Team Total: 24

I've previously noted that the Buccaneers are running their offense in a sub-optimal way. In five of their last six games, the Bucs have posted a negative pass rate over expected on first down. This is generally not an efficient way to run an offense. On first down, defenses have to respect both the run and the pass. Given that passing is more efficient than running, most offenses will benefit from prioritizing the pass on 1st-and-10. Of course, if you have a particularly efficient rushing offense, there would be an argument for going against this general rule. However, it is much harder to make a case for prioritizing the run on first down when you literally have the worst running game in the NFL.


And this isn't just about first down. Inefficient run plays on first down put the offense in difficult situations on second down. That in turn, creates a higher chance of reaching third down and hitting third-and-long. And these situations make life a lot harder on the Buccaneers' 45-year-old quarterback. And when taking a look at the situations where the Buccaneers are passing more than normal... they are not optimal.


Over the last six games, the Buccaneers have been extremely run-heavy on 2nd-and-short. But they're putting Brady in a position where he is passing more than expected on 2nd-and-medium, 2nd-and-long, and 3rd-and-long. So basically, when defenses are forced to respect the run, Buccaneers tend to run the ball. And when defenses expect them to pass, they do that too.

Understandably, this has not led to efficient quarterback play. Brady ranks 23rd in EPA per play and 20th in success rate. Don't get me wrong, Brady has not played well this season; this isn't just on his coaches. Brady ranks only 21st in CPOE, showing below-average accuracy this year. It's just that his poor play is being amplified by his surroundings.


This matchup will tell us a lot about how lost the Buccaneers really are on offense. Because if they don't go pass-heavy in this matchup, it's honestly indefensible. The Cardinals rank dead last in dropback success rate, and teams have attacked them relentlessly through the air. No team is a bigger past funnel than the Cardinals—teams are averaging a 4% PROE against them and are shifting 4% to the pass.


Sure, the Cardinals aren't great at defending the run, either. They rank just 22nd in EPA allowed per rush and 24th in rushing success rate. But, again, the Buccaneers are absolutely atrocious at running the ball. There is no reason for them to ignore the established game plan for beating the Cardinals. They probably still will... but there's no reason for it.

With the potential for a 2020-21 Buccaneers-style game plan this week, both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans look like solid WR2 plays. Both players, especially Godwin, are struggling to get open. But both players are earning volume on their routes and should see more route volume this week than usual.


But we have to consider that the Buccaneers are playing a Trace McSorley-led Cardinals team that is not good at stopping the run. If the Buccaneers are philosophically committed to running the ball, they will be able to talk themselves into doing it pretty easily.

Unfortunately, the Buccaneers' backfield isn't just inefficient; it is split. Leonard Fournette played 60% of snaps in Week 13, fell to 47% in Week 14, and was back to 57% last week. He appears slightly ahead of Rachaad White, who has maxed out at 53% over the last three weeks. And Fournette is performing ok in NFL Next Gen's success rate, ranking RB22. He's not breaking tackles and not providing any explosion. But if the Buccaneers are looking to grind out a victory here, Fournette could help them inefficiently struggle to put up 20 points. He looks like a TD-dependent RB2. White is a similar bet but has less TD equity and a lower floor.


Cardinals Implied Team Total: 16.5

Any time a backup quarterback sees the field, the bar is pretty low. Anytime the backup to that backup sees the field... the bar gets even lower. That's where we're at with Trace McSorley. We have a small sample on McSorley, but what we have is not at all promising. Only Skylar Thompson, Kyle Allen, and Malik Willis have been less efficient this season. As bad as Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy have been, McSorley has been much, much worse.


And the Cardinals are now going against a Buccaneers defense that is stronger against the pass than the run. The Buccaneers rank 10th in EPA allowed per dropback, but just 20th in EPA allowed per rush. 


The Buccaneers aren't a horrible run defense, but there's a case to be made that a normal offense could benefit from shifting slightly to the run against them. This is not at all a normal offense with McSorley under center—so we're likely to see the Cardinals shift heavily to the run in an attempt to hide their passing game.

And as far as volume plays go, James Conner is the real deal. He is consistently seeing snap shares in the 90%+ range, which is very rare for a running back. He's been at 92%+ in four of his last five games, and the Cardinals are very likely to lean on him this week.


I definitely think efficiency is important to keep in mind in general. But we can handle far more inefficiency with Conner than with most backs, given the sheer volume we can project for him. And while Conner hasn't been efficient this season, he's not delivering bottom-of-the-barrel efficiency either. His RB30 success rate can get it done against this defense, given what is likely to be a high-end workload.


In the passing game, I wouldn't be touching anyone except for DeAndre Hopkins. Marquise Brown was added to the injury report with a groin injury on Thursday. He was listed as limited after not being on the injury report on Wednesday, which looks like an in-practice injury. The news makes Brown a stayaway but should open up additional targets for Hopkins. To play a McSorley receiver, we need him to be the true engine of the passing game. Hopkins certainly qualifies.



Chargers at Colts, 8:15 PM Eastern, Monday

Chargers Implied Team Total: 25

In the last three weeks, Justin Herbert has faced the Raiders, Dolphins, and Titans. That's about as easy of a three-week stretch as you can realistically ask for. And, to Herbert's credit, he put up 300+ yards in all three games. However, Herbert's efficiency wasn't exactly off the charts. Over the last three weeks, he ranks 22nd in EPA per play and 12th in CPOE.


Herbert has actually been slightly less efficient over the last three weeks than over the course of the entire season. He got his weapons back and the schedule got softer and somehow... Herbert got worse. Granted, Herbert has been more productive, but that has largely been the result of the Chargers leaning into good passing matchups. Over the last three weeks, they have a 7% PROE and a 7% PROE on 1st-and-10.


Unfortunately, the Chargers face a more competent pass defense this week. That's not to say the Colts are impressive against the pass, but they are not a liability. Indianapolis ranks 12th in EPA allowed per dropback and 12th in PFF's coverage grades. 


But the Colts lack a pass rush, which is helpful considering that the Chargers allow quick pressures at the highest rate. Herbert isn't set up for success quite as well as he's been over the last few weeks, but if the Chargers can protect him he still has potential for an efficient outing.

And if Herbert has time to throw this week, we could see some additional targets for Mike Williams.

Williams has operated as a true deep threat this season, with a 13.1 aDOT. When it comes to deep throws, Herbert is picking his spots, to put it mildly. Per Kyle Dvorchak on Rotoworld Football Show, Herbert has yet to post an aggressive aDOT this season. Even if his protection holds up, that's unlikely to change this week. But the Colts' lack of pass rush should at least help Williams get downfield. The bigger issue for Williams is that he's not getting open. He ranks just 22nd percentile in ESPN's open score. Still, Williams has a well-established role in the offense, even if he's not playing great football. Williams looks like a solid WR2. 


Keenan Allen looks like a strong play this week. Although his outlook doesn't necessarily receive a boost from this matchup, he has been a more reliable part of the offense than Williams. Allen has been targeted on 22% of his routes and has an impressive 1.95 YPRR. He's also getting open at a significantly higher rate than Williams, and his shallow aDOT gives him more potential for a high target volume day. He profiles as a high-end WR2.

The return of Williams and Allen gives the Chargers' offense a much higher ceiling, but it hasn't been ideal for Austin Ekeler's fantasy value. Ekeler has seen target shares of 14%, 17%, and 8% over the last three weeks. He's hardly being phased out of the offense, but Ekeler has feasted on underneath receiving volume this year. His 20% target share ranks RB2. Ekeler remains an elite option this week, but he's not quite as bankable as he was earlier in the season.



Colts Implied Team Total: 20.5

Matt Ryan was benched following the biggest blown lead in NFL history, which seems fair. The Colts will now move to their third starter this season, Nick Foles

Foles played only one game last year but had an extended run in 2020. He did not play well, ranking 37th in EPA per play over 2020-21, just behind Cam Newton. 


But he still posted a higher EPA per play than Matt Ryan has this season. So it's possible we won't see a massive drop off in efficiency.

But whatever efficiency we get is very likely to be on a small sample. The Chargers are terrible at stopping the run, ranking 29th in EPA allowed per rush and 28th in rushing success rate. Even if they haven't benched Ryan, and he was playing well, we would expect the Colts to shift to the run this week. With Foles in his first start, they are likely to be very conservative.


With passing volume up in the air this week, only Michael Pittman looks like a viable option in the passing game. Pittman isn't a dominant No. 1 receiver, but he has a clear lead in expected target volume per route and runs routes at an extremely high rate. With 98% route participation this season, only Ja'Marr Chase (99%) ranks higher. He profiles as a volume-based WR2.


In the backfield, Zack Moss looks like the favorite for snaps after posting a 67% snap share against the Vikings. However, his lead in playing time looks very fragile. He should only be in starting lineups in 16-team triple FLEX, double Superflex leagues.















To write this article I relied on the following stats, metrics and grades.  

  • Expected Points Added per Play (EPA/Play).
    • Efficiency metric based on how much a play improved a team's likelihood of scoring. 
    • I use this metric primarily for QB efficiency, but also for defensive efficiency.
  • Completion Percentage Over Expected
  • Pass Rate over Expected
    • Measures passing decisions against what would be expected given the game situation.
  • Situation Neutral Pass Rate
    • Measures pass rate on downs and in situations when a team truly has the choice to pass or run.
  • Situation Neutral Seconds per Play
    • Seconds between plays in neutral game script.
    • Faster play generally means more plays, which provides more opportunity for fantasy scoring.
  • Adjusted Line Yards
  • Snaps and Snap Share
    • Probably the single most important stat for running back opportunity.
      • Teams check in and out of runs with only one back on the field. Being on the field is critical.
      • Data from Pro Football Focus, AddMoreFunds and RotoViz
    • Third down and Red Zone Snaps from Sam Hoppen's Player Stat Explorer at
  • Target Share and Air Yard share
    • The combination of these is called WOPR. Created by Josh Hermsmeyer, this metric scales from 0-1.
      • Data from Pro Football Focus and RotoViz
  • Routes run per dropback
    • Snap share for receivers... since I'm not concerned with who is playing run-blocking snaps.
      • Data from Pro Football Focus
  • Yards Per Route Run
    • A YPRR of 1.8+ is good and anything 2+ is very good. 
    • This metric is particularly useful for young wide receivers whose role could grow as a result of strong play.
    • It can also help identify truly elite wide receivers.
    • It filters out in-game injuries and blowouts much better than target share does.
      • Data from PFF 
  • Expected YPRR
    • Derived from Ben Gretch's Weighted Targets per Route Run calculation
      • Scaled to 0 - 3.5, in line with YPRR instead of 0 - 1 scale.
  • Target per Route Run
    • TPRR and Yards per Target combine to make up YPRR. 
    • TPRR is especially useful for tight ends.
      • Some offenses and quarterbacks prioritize throwing to the tight end much more than others.
      • Some tight ends are far better at getting open than others.
    • TPRR is much more stable than YPT, so in small samples especially, I'd rather know who is drawing targets than what happened afterward.
  • Expected Fantasy Points. 
    • Both RotoViz and PFF have similar Expected Points metrics that adjust opportunity based on the context of each play.
      • I am referencing PFF's metric unless otherwise stated.
  • A number of other PFF stats including Time to Throw, Play Action Rate, Pressure Rate, Screen Passes and Defensive Grades.