Headline of the game: Two of the best pure runners in the NFL will look to control the ground game
Folks, we are entering prime Derrick Henry season. Henry averaged 5.0 yards after contact from Week 13 through Week 17 across the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Twenty-one running backs had 100 or more carries over that time frame, and the only other to even reach 4 yards after contact per attempt from that group will be on the other sideline — Nick Chubb, with a mark of 4.1.
If you look at the overall rushing totals since 2018, Henry and Chubb are the only two running backs in the league to average over 4 rushing yards per attempt after contact. They rank first and second, respectively, in overall yards after contact and missed tackles forced on the ground. Neither defense will be all that excited to tackle either of them, and both teams have shown a desire to feed them the football whenever possible.
The biggest difference between these two teams is that Tennessee's passing offense has also shown it can be elite when Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown are both firing on all cylinders — something we haven’t necessarily seen from Cleveland in 2020.
This matchup could easily be a preview of what's to come in the playoffs, with the Titans at an 86% chance of winning the AFC South. The Browns have a similar percentage to get into the playoffs but almost no chance of winning the AFC North.
Early-week line movement has been one-sided toward the Titans, with 79% of the cash and 81% of the tickets in this direction.
Both offenses are in the top 10 of our opponent-adjusted grades, so it’s no surprise to see this total as the highest in Week 13. As of now, 73% of the tickets are on the under, but bigger bettors seem to have a small lean toward the over.
The Browns are often thought of having as a quality defense, but their opponent-adjusted ranking of 22nd indicates otherwise. The Titans sit top-five in this same metric, with the third-best coverage grade in the NFL. The total appears to be accurately priced, but value is still available on the spread and moneyline.
The quality of the Titans’ run defense has been affected by the talent of the running backs they face. Players like David Montgomery and Devin Singletary were held to 2.1 and 2.3 yards per carry, respectively. Likely Pro Bowl players Dalvin Cook and James Robinson had no problems, rushing for 8.2 and 6.4 yards per carry, respectively. Eight of the 12 backs to hit double-digit carries against them have also scored a touchdown.
This is great news for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. They both have been given double-digit carries in every game they’ve played, besides Chubb during the game he was injured. They are also both among the top 15 running backs in PFF run grade, so they should both score a touchdown and gain a minimum of 50 yards.
Derrick Henry is approaching MVP levels of production this year. Through the first 12 weeks of the season, he has compiled 1,262 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs, 3.6 yards after contact per attempt and 938 yards after contact. Those marks all surpass Adrian Peterson’s 2012 MVP season.
In seasonal leagues, Henry is a top-three running back this week, but there are strong reasons to fade him on DraftKings. He is priced up all the way to 9.2K. It’s hard to not just want to pay $300 more for Dalvin Cook, who has the better matchup and sees more usage in the passing game.
The Browns have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to RBs over the past four weeks and will be getting an integral piece of their defense back this week with Myles Garrett.
Jonnu Smith goose-egged in Week 12, but we can’t hold grudges against tight ends in bad matchups. The Colts had allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to TEs this season. That’s not the case here in Week 13 as the Browns have allowed the second-most fantasy points to TEs this season and the most points over the past four weeks.
Headline of the game: Keeping Derek Carr clean is key to Raiders’ chances down the stretch
One of the biggest surprises of Week 12 was the egg that the Raiders laid at the feet of the Falcons in the form of a 43-6 blowout loss. Carr was coming off two excellent games against Denver and Kansas City in which he recorded 90.0-plus PFF grades, but he fell over 30 grading points short of that mark against Atlanta. Carr’s performance under pressure was a big part of the problem. He posted a mere 28.4 passing grade on 14 pressured dropbacks in the game. That grade went along with a 9.7 passer rating and three turnover-worthy plays.
Those problems under pressure aren’t an aberration, either. Carr’s 41.9 passing grade under pressure for the season ranks 26th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks. The Jets have their clear issues, but they have gotten to the quarterback at a decent clip so far in 2020. New York’s 33.4% pressure rate as a team ranks ninth in the league heading into Week 13. To avoid yet another potential upset, the Raiders need to make sure that pressure doesn’t lead to another rough outing for Carr.
The early-week spread movement is heading toward the Jets, who have experienced the second-lowest intra-week line movement in the NFL. The cash and ticket percentages are heavily in favor of the Raiders, which is no surprise, as they have seen the majority of cash in six of their 11 matchups.
The Jets are by no means a public team, as they have seen the majority of cash in just three of 11 matchups, which is tied for the second-fewest his year. This is a difficult spread to bet on, with no clear reason for why the market has moved the way it has.
The total could be the more viable betting option after dropping one point from the opening 48. PFF Greenline gives this current number no expected value, but any further drop will become playable on the over.
The Raiders have two star fantasy players, and this week both can safely be inserted into starting lineups.
Josh Jacobs is a must-start assuming he is fully healthy. He averages 94 rushing yards per game in wins compared to 44 in losses, in part because once they are losing he stops seeing as much playing time. He also has eight touchdowns in wins compared to one in losses. If there is any game the Raiders are expected to win, it’s this one.
Darren Waller is TE2 on the season and has the potential for one of his biggest games of the year. The Jets have given up the most touchdowns to tight ends (9), while Waller is tied for the fifth-most touchdowns (5). This is a game where he can move up the ranks.
Over the past two weeks, Frank Gore ranks seventh in rushing yards and has totaled 38 touches in the Jets’ backfield. The running back position is in dire straits right now and Gore’s current workload is too much to pass up on versus the Las Vegas Raiders, who have allowed the third-most fantasy points to the running back position this season.
Week 12 was the first time all season that Sam Darnold started a game with his top trio of WRs. It seems like his affinity to target the slot has ended — Jamison Crowder only saw five targets, fewer than both Breshad Perriman (9) and Denzel Mims (9).
Mims ranks fourth in the NFL in total air yards (380) and has seen eight-plus targets in three straight games, so I love him in this spot against a Raiders defense that has allowed the fifth-most passing yards to WRs over the past four weeks.
Headline of the game: Can Kirk Cousins keep the Vikings in playoff contention?
Over the past three weeks, Cousins has posted PFF grades of 84.8, 81.0 and 87.9, respectively. His 117.4 passer rating over that same stretch ranks third in the NFL — ahead of Patrick Mahomes and behind Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson. He’s playing his best football of the season, and on deck is a Jacksonville defense that ranks dead last in expected points allowed per pass play in 2020. Even if Adam Thielen misses another week on the COVID-19 list, Justin Jefferson has shown he can shoulder the load as a top option in the passing game — particularly against a pass defense like Jacksonville’s.
Expect Cousins to continue his hot stretch against the Jaguars. More important for Minnesota is whether he can keep it going past Week 13 against a tougher slate of opponents, such as Tampa Bay, Chicago and New Orleans.
Captain Kirk led the come-from-behind victory in a game the Vikings badly needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Their playoff chances now sit at 25% — with the ninth-easiest strength of schedule remaining.
The betting market seems more impressed with the Jaguars' recent cover than the Vikings' comeback win. The -10.5 opening-week number dropped quickly down to -9.5, despite 79% of the cash and 75% of the tickets on the Vikings.
This is a tough game to bet on the spread, but the market has signaled a clear direction on the total. It immediately moved out two points after opening at 50, as both defensive units are in the bottom half of the league in our opponent-adjusted defensive grades.
James Robinson has been the only sure thing for the Jaguars offense this season, and nothing about the Vikings' defense should have Robinson fantasy managers worried.
There should also be an opportunity for a Jaguars wide receiver or two to have a good game. All three Panthers wide receivers went over 60 receiving yards last week. They’ve allowed the second-most touchdowns to wide receivers (18). The main question is which Jaguars receiver to rely on. D.J. Chark Jr. is usually the best bet, but he missed the last game with an injury. Laviska Shenault Jr. at his best was seeing up to eight targets a game and had a two-game stretch with 165 yards. He missed a few games recently, but he is overdue for a breakout. Collin Johnson led the Jaguars receivers last week with 96 yards and a touchdown, but it would only take one of three wide receivers to be back from injury for Johnson to see significantly fewer routes run.
Assuming Adam Thielen makes his return to the lineup, both he and Justin Jefferson should be firmly locked into starting lineups as WR1s for Week 13. The decision between the two comes in DFS where Thielen ($7,300) and Jefferson ($6,900) are priced extremely close to one another.
Hands tied behind my back, I’d lean Jefferson due in part to his fantasy production not being tied as strongly to touchdowns as Thielen. In the three games that Thielen has not scored, he has averaged just 6 fantasy points per game.
Kirk Cousins ranks third among quarterbacks in fantasy points scored above expectationthe past three weeks, so regression back to the mean would likely come in the form of touchdown throws. Dalvin Cook ranks third in expected fantasy points below expectation over that same time span, so his stock should rise at the expense of the signal-caller in an absolute layup matchup.
Jefferson has seven games this season with over 65 receiving yards while Thielen has just four. The rookie should be able to put up some insane yardage totals versus the Jaguars, who rank 29th in explosive pass play percentage, 28th in yards per target and 26th in PFF coverage grade versus 20-plus yard throws.
There’s also a chance that tight end Kyle Rudolph could “vulture” some end-zone looks from Thielen. Jacksonville is tied with two other teams for the most touchdowns allowed to tight ends this season.
Headline of the game: Dolphins can’t afford a misstep against Bengals with a tough close to the season
Ryan Fitzpatrick returned to the starting lineup this past week against the Jets, and he took care of business to push the Dolphins to 7-4. Brian Flores reiterated this week that Tua Tagovailoa is the guy if he’s healthy, and you would imagine Miami would like to get him back on the field to build some confidence heading into a crucial four-game stretch to close the regular season that includes games against Kansas City, New England, Las Vegas and Buffalo.
We saw last week that the Bengals don’t pose nearly the same kind of threat with Brandon Allen in the lineup as they did with Joe Burrow. Allen finished the game against New York with a 50.5 passing grade — averaging just 4.7 yards per pass attempt with a 67.6 passer rating. One of the more improved pass coverage units in the league should be able to do a good job of shutting Allen down for the most part, taking some pressure off either Tagovailoa or Fitzpatrick at quarterback on the other side of the field.
This matchup is between two of the four best teams against the spread this season. There has been initial buy-back on the Bengals after their seventh cover of the season last week. Brandon Allen had a lackluster performance, with the Cincy passing offense generating -0.75 expected points added (EPA) per attempt. And while the kickoff return for a touchdown aided their ability to cover, the Dolphins are the team that typically benefits from special teams or defensive touchdowns.
Tagovailoa should return from his thumb injury, but the betting market isn’t adjusting based on who the starting quarterback will be.
The Dolphins' playoff odds swing from 54% with a win to 21% with a loss, making this game their most important season. The Bengals have absolutely no incentive to win, making it difficult to back them from a betting perspective.
PFF Greenline only finds value on the total, which sits at the lowest number on the Week 13 slate.
The Dolphins' defense has been solid this season, which is a big reason why they remain in the playoff race. Their biggest weakness on defense has been against wide receivers, specifically outside receivers. Nine different wide receivers have put together 75 or more receiving yards against the Dolphins, and eight of the nine primarily play as outside receivers.
Tee Higgins is best suited to take advantage of the Miami defense. Higgins remained the most productive receiver for Cincinnati despite the quarterback change, leading the team in receptions (5), yards (44) and touchdowns (1). This was despite Tyler Boyd having the better matchup. Higgins should have an even higher target share this time around. A.J. Green will also have a good matchup, but he’s been too inconsistent in recent weeks to put in lineups.
The Cincinnati Bengals have not been able to stop any WRs over the past four weeks, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to the position over that time span. DeVante Parkerhas returned to 2019 form with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, so he is set up to dominate in Week 13.
Since 2019, he has averaged just under 10 targets and over 100 receiving yards per game in games where Parker has played with Fitzmagic under center and Preston Williams inactive.
Mike Gesicki leads the team in touchdown receptions and targets inside the 10-yard line in those games as well, so I like his chances to score for a second straight week versus the Bengals. They have faced the third-most end-zone targets to tight ends and the second-most raw targets to TEs lined up in the slot.
Gesicki leads all TEs in snap share from the slot (70%).
The Bengals have allowed the fourth-most touchdown passes per game (2.2) to quarterbacks and the seventh-most fantasy points to the position this season. Fitzmagic has scored 20-pus fantasy points in his last six starts this year.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (17) searches to pass the ball at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Tennessee Titans defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 45-26. Credit: Imagn
Headline of the game: Philip Rivers’ Jekyll-and-Hyde season rolls on in Houston
Rivers has graded above 78.0 on five occasions this season, topping out at 88.4 against Green Bay just two weeks ago. He’s also recorded PFF grades of below 59.0 on four occasions. One of those was this past week against Tennessee in what was the Colts’ biggest game of the season — one that carried significant AFC South implications.
Indianapolis has seen both the good and the bad from Rivers this season. His arm strength is clearly not a selling point as he nears 39 years old, and that has led directly to turnover opportunities for the opposing team, at times. Paired with some of the worst mobility from a starting quarterback in the NFL, there are going to be times when it looks ugly for Rivers. However, he is also one of the best anticipation throwers in the league — showcasing impressive touch on crossers and throws to the sideline.
After breaking the turnover dam against Detroit on Thanksgiving, Houston will be looking for a few more against the quarterback that trails only Carson Wentz (49) in turnover-worthy plays since the start of the 2019 season (46).
The Texans have seen a slight pull-back in their direction from the opening number, with the hook dropping off the field-goal spread. Their offensive ability was on full display on Thanksgiving, as Deshaun Watson should still be considered one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. He is fourth in PFF's wins above replacement (WAR) metric this season, with the three leading MVP candidates in front of him. Things continue to disintegrate around him, as he will be without his top pass-catching option, and the Texans have also lost their best cover cornerback. This is devastating for a coverage unit that already has the worst opponent-adjusted coverage grade in the NFL.
Things look promising for a Colts rebound game in a matchup they have to win in order to stay relevant in the playoff race. The cash and ticket percentages are heavily in their favor, which means we could see the spread move back to the opening number.
The market expects points, as this is tied for the third-highest total on the weekend. It has moved down 1.5 points since the open behind 98% of the cash on the under. The Colts’ defense has been badly exposed the past two weeks and now sits slightly above league average in our opponent-adjusted grades. If the market continues to move down, value could open up on the over in an overcorrected market.
Almost every team that has faced the Texans has been able to run all over them. Derrick Henry put together a 212-yard game against them earlier in the season. More recently, both Browns running backs were able to hit the 100-yard mark. Along with the rushing yards, the Houston defense has allowed a league-leading 14 rushing touchdowns to running backs this season. At a minimum, one running back from the Colts backfield should be in starting lineups.
Jonathan Taylor was on the Covid-19 list last week as a close contact. It’s unknown if he will be back for this game, but he needs to be in starting lineups if he returns. Nyheim Hinesracked up 10 carries and 10 targets last week against the Titans. He should also be started and will have a higher upside if Taylor is out. Jordan Wilkins was “pretty banged up” according to coach Reich, so this should either be a one-man backfield or a two-man.
Impending free agent Will Fuller V is going to miss the remainder of the 2020 season due to a six-game suspension for PED usage. His loss is a massive blow to the entire Texans’ offense, but especially hurts the ceiling for Deshaun Watson.
Dating back to 2017, without Fuller in the lineup Watson averages 1.4 fewer yards per pass attempt less (8.7 vs. 7.3), 55 fewer passing yards and nearly a passing touchdown per game (0.96).
Fantasy managers should expect Brandin Cooks to easily maintain his 25% target share, which he has sustained over the past eight weeks and expect more 12 personnel with the team’s only other wide receivers on the active roster Keke Coutee, Steven Mitchell Jr.(practice squad) and Isaiah Coulter (fifth-round 2020 rookie).
Since Bill O’Brien was let go, the Texans have run 12 personnel at the sixth-highest rate (32.1%). Over the past two weeks without Cobb, the team has run 12 personnel at the highest rate (38.5%) in the NFL.
Headline of the game: Does Matt Patricia's firing give Detroit new life?
It was becoming increasingly clear as the season progressed that a lot of the players in Detroit were not the biggest fans of Matt Patricia. Beyond the player-coach relationships, Patricia’s refusal to adapt schematically sticks out as one of the biggest downfalls of his time with the Lions. PFF’s Seth Galina wrote earlier this week about Patricia sticking with league-high rates of man coverage for the bulk of three seasons despite ample evidence to suggest that he simply didn’t have the personnel to run it effectively. Needless to say, it’s not unrealistic to think that Detroit — a team many were high on coming into the year — could go on a late-season surge following the coaching change.
A defense that has been at the root of a lot of their issues will not face a tough test here against Chicago. Whether it’s Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles in at quarterback, the Bears' offense has looked inept for much of the season, ranking 30th in expected points added per play — ahead of only the Broncos and Jets. We have a stoppable force meeting a movable object here. The lone bright spot for Chicago is that Trubisky has had some success against Detroit if he remains the starting quarterback. His 79.5 PFF grade against the Lions is well above the 61.1 grade he has posted against the other 30 NFL defenses.
Bettors seem to be buying into the narrative that a head coach change spurs on a positive performance, as the -4 opening spread quickly moved to a field goal — with 68% of the cash and 64% of the tickets on the Lions. A loss would all but bury the Bears’ playoff chances, but most appear to be making the wise choice of not backing Mitchell Trubisky at all costs.
Both offenses rank in the 20s for our opponent-adjusted offensive grades, which makes this game total the second-lowest for Week 13. PFF Greenline finds little betting opportunity in this matchup, as the one play close to value sits on the moneyline. This looks like a situation that seems best to avoid in favor of other marquee matchups happening in the early slate.
The Bears defense has been good at stopping pretty much everyone except for tight ends. Six different tight ends have reached at least 50 receiving yards against them, while eight different tight ends have scored a touchdown. Two of those touchdowns came on Monday Night against the Packers. T.J. Hockenson hit 50 yards and scored a touchdown when he faced Chicago in Week 1. Hockenson is up to TE3 on the season thanks to his 530 receiving yards ranking third-most for all tight ends. Hockenson has also become one of the best red-zone targets for tight ends, as he’s tied for the second-most red-zone targets at nine. He’s converted four of those passes into touchdowns.
No team has been worse versus running backs in fantasy football than the Detroit Lions, so fantasy managers need to continue to trudge out bell-cow David Montgomery coming off his first 100-yard game of the season. Keep in mind that he is hardly a lock-button play on DraftKings despite the matchup, as we could see an inspired Lions defense show up to play now that they have been freed from the grasp of Matt Patricia’s coaching tenure.
Montgomery also failed to surpass double-digit fantasy points when these teams met in Week 1.
I’d be extremely interested in both Darnell Mooney ($3,400) and Cole Kmet ($2,500) as salary savers. Mooney has been an air yards machine all season long — 155 air yards on 11 targets in Week 12 — and the Lions have allowed the highest percentage of explosive passing plays (18.4%) this season.
Kmet has been quietly operating as the team’s TE1 over the past two weeks,
playing ahead of Jimmy Graham. In Week 12, Kmet ran more routes and played 80% of the snaps. Graham played just 35% of the team’s snaps.
Two of Kmet’s three total targets from Sunday came inside the 10-yard line, so I like his chances to score in Week 13 versus the Lions. Over the past six weeks, Detroit has faced the third-most targets to TEs inside the 5-yard line.
Headline of the game: Can the Falcons force Taysom Hill to become a straight dropback passer?
Hill is now 2-0 as the Saints' starting quarterback after picking up a free square last week against a practice squad wide receiver who was forced into action at quarterback for Denver. With Hill at quarterback, the Saints have the most efficient rushing offense in the NFL over the past two weeks. That was the expected part. His athleticism gives them the ability to be diverse in the run game, and Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray behind one of the better offensive lines in the NFL are more than capable of leading an elite backfield
The game against Atlanta just two weeks ago showed that Hill could operate as a passer, as well. However, as PFF’s Mike Renner wrote after the game, Hill was playing with a pretty heavy dose of play action and screen passes and was able to operate from ahead the entire second half. Obviously, that was the case even more so against Denver this past weekend. The Falcons need to get out to a lead early in this game to force Hill and the Saints away from what they’re comfortable doing offensively.
The spread has held to the field goal opening despite 68% of the cash being on the Saints. The look-ahead number had the hook added, which could indicate where this spread will finally settle. PFF Greenline will move close to finding value on the Falcons at +3.5, but the current number offers no value.
One-and-a-half points have come off the opening total, as both defenses sit in the top half of the league in our opponent-adjusted defensive rankings. This line movement does appear to underrate both offenses and the performances of both teams in their Week 11 matchup. That game total closed 3.5 points above where we currently sit, making recency bias the main driver for this lower total. PFF Greenline does find value at the current 46 number and sees a viable play on the current moneyline, as well.
The Saints offense has plenty of potential fantasy starters against the Falcons. Michael Thomas‘ only 100-yard game of the season came two weeks ago against Atlanta. The big question is at running back. Alvin Kamara has seen three combined targets over the last two games. Latavius Murray earned season highs in rushing yards (124) and carries (19) last week, including two rushing touchdowns. Against most teams, the suggestion would be to start both.
The Falcons have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season. Neither back hit 50 rushing yards the first time around, and Taysom Hill is taking a lot of the rushing touchdown opportunities. Much of this decision will depend on the injury report. Kamara was limited in practice last week with a foot injury, which has likely contributed to Murray playing so much. If Kamara is at full participation, then Murray should stay on fantasy benches.
We have a five-game sample size with Matt Ryan this season with and without Julio Jonesin the lineup. With a healthy Jones, Ryan is averaging 23.7 fantasy points per game. The other six games? Ten fantasy points per game. The New Orleans Saints’ defense has hit its stride in pass defense — no quarterback has thrown for three touchdowns against them since Week 5.
During Weeks 8-11, no team allowed fewer fantasy points to the quarterback position per game than the Saints. They also own PFF’s No. 1-ranked run defense, so there isn’t a single Falcons running back that should be in the starting lineups.
Before last week’s offensive performance by the Broncos, New Orleans had faced the third-most targets and most end-zone targets to the tight end position. Hayden Hurst tied a season-high eight targets in Week 12 and should be firmly in the TE1 conversation for Week 13.
Hurst currently ranks fourth in receptions (41) and in routes run (374) among tight ends in 2020.
Headline of the game: Do the Giants have a chance with Colt McCoy at quarterback?
Last week, New York was tied 10-10 with Cincinnati and driving in Bengals territory when Daniel Jones injured his hamstring and was forced to exit the game. They settled for the field goal with McCoy on that drive and were gifted two more field goals via turnovers in Cincinnati territory to hold onto the game 19-17.
McCoy didn’t inspire a ton of confidence in relief, though. Across 12 dropbacks, he went 6-for-10 for 31 yards with a turnover-worthy play on a throw to Akeem Davis-Gaither that would have taken a field goal off the board had the linebacker come away with the catch.
As crazy as it sounds, Jones had been playing like the best quarterback in the NFC East, given the injury to Dak Prescott and shaky quarterback situations in both Washington and Philadelphia. His 80.4 PFF grade on the year ranks 12th out of 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL. That alone gave the Giants a chance at coming out of the NFC East.
His absence likely won’t be long term, but he will miss some time, which leaves McCoy at the helm of this offense. With a week of preparation, McCoy will look to improve upon his Week 12 performance when he takes on a much-maligned Seahawks defense.
The Seahawks have been historically bad against wide receivers this season, but a lot of the damage occurred earlier in the year. They’ve given up nine 100-yard games, and seven of them occurred in the first four weeks of the season. The Seahawks’ defense hasn’t exactly been great since then, but it’s hard to think and injured Daniel Jones or a healthy Colt McCoywill be able to take advantage of them too much.
Wayne Gallman is the most likely Giant to have a big game. Seattle has given up an average of 24.8 fantasy points per game to running backs. Gallman has scored a touchdown in each of his last five games and is coming off his best rushing total with 94 yards on 24 carries. His last game was against an average defense, and the previous four were against top-eight defenses in fantasy points allowed to running backs. This will be his first one against a below-average run defense since becoming the starter.
Chris Carson made his return to the lineup in Week 12 but played fewer snaps (41 vs 25) and saw fewer carries (15 vs eight) than Carlos Hyde. Coming off a four-week absence, it’s not too surprising to see the team slowly integrate Carson back into the lineup, but I would expect Carson to see the higher share of early-down work in Week 13.
It was encouraging that on his eight carries he compiled more yards (41) than Hyde (22). Hyde also played a lot on third down Monday night, but that hardly matters for Carson’s usage as a pass-catcher because he was never targeted on third downs during Weeks 1-5.
All of Carson’s targets this season have come on early downs. He should also benefit from the Seahawks’ philosophy change to run the football more. Their pass-play rate in neutral game scripts was No. 1 in the NFL Weeks 1-8 (73%). That has dropped off to closer to the league average (63%) the last four weeks.
Carson should flirt with RB1 numbers versus the Titans, who have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to RBs over the past four weeks and the fourth-most targets to RBs on early-downs this season.
Cardinals' Kyler Murray (1) scrambles away from Bills' Justin Zimmer (61) during the first half at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. on Nov. 15, 2020. Credit: Patrick Breen/The Republic via Imagn Content Services, LLC
Headline of the game: Will Kyler Murray be contained on the ground for the third straight week?
Both of these teams are competing for positioning in the NFC playoff picture and coming off disappointing losses in games they were favored to win this past week.
The Cardinals are coming off two consecutive losses in which they posted 21 and 17 points against Seattle and New England, respectively. The common thread between those two games is that Murray has not been able to get loose on the ground. Across those two weeks combined, Murray has 10 carries for 46 yards and just two first downs on the ground. He’s had single games this season with significantly more production than that. With the value he was adding on both designed runs, and scrambles being such a big part of what Arizona did offensively, shutting that down has to be a top priority for every defense they face.
Surely, it will be for the Rams here. Brandon Staley has orchestrated one of the best and most unique defenses in the league this season, and seeing how he looks to contain one of the most electric athletes in the NFL will be a must-watch this weekend.
The betting market doesn’t seem fazed by the Rams’ most recent performance — they opened as a pick ‘em but quickly pushed out to a field goal spread. The cash percentage leans heavily toward the market movement, but the tickets favor the Cardinals.
Jared Goff is coming off his second-lowest passing game grade of the season, and he now sits 20th in this metric on the season. His average depth of target has risen in recent weeks, but the yards after catch production he enjoyed early in the season has all but dissipated. Kyler Murray is eight spots ahead of Goff, but our spread points above replacement have these two quarterbacks within a half a point of each other. Defense could play a crucial role in this game, as the Rams have the second-best unit in the NFL — with the Cardinals in the bottom fourth of the league.
PFF Greenline finds value opportunities on all three game markets, with this matchup offering playoff and betting intrigue.
The Rams’ strength on offense in recent weeks matches up nicely with the Cardinals’ weakness on defense. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are both in the top eight in receiving yards over the last two weeks. The Cardinals are in the bottom 10 in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Three of the four wide receivers to hit 100 or more yards against Arizona are primarily slot receivers. Kupp is primarily a slot receiver but Woods also sees significant time in the slot. Both should have big games.
Arizona has been better against both running backs and tight ends. Los Angeles has plenty of talent at both positions, but the players are all in rotations, making it hard to trust any one of them. This is not a week to gamble on one having a breakout game.
Kyler Murray scored fewer than 20 fantasy points for the first time all season (7.9) in Week 12 versus the New England Patriots. Clearly, his shoulder injury is hampering him — his rushing attempts per game (9.4 vs. five) and his average depth of throw (8.6 vs. 7.1) have substantially dropped since he sustained the injury back in Week 11.
If we don’t hear positive reports about Murray’s shoulder heading into Week 13, temper expectations for the Cardinals’ quarterback, who will face a stout Rams defense that has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to QBs over the past four weeks.
Murray’s lack of conviction to run has boosted the stock of Kenyan Drake because his QB now looks to his running back in the passing game instead of running himself. He has seven catches over the past two weeks; he had eight catches on the season entering Week 11.
This obviously helps Drake’s bottom line, but it will still be a tall task for him to find running room versus the Rams, who rank second in yards allowed before contact per attempt (0.8) since Week 2. Drake faced the Rams twice during his elite run with the Cards last year and totaled just 91 rushing yards.
He’s gonna have to score to pay off in fantasy, and his odds of that are decent. L.A. has allowed three of its six rushing TDs to RBs over the past three weeks.
Headline of the game: This Patriots’ defense is more susceptible to the big play than you might think
Good defenses have come to be expected under Bill Belichick in New England, but that is not what we’ve seen in the 2020 version of the Patriots. They enter Week 13 ranked 23rd in expected points added (EPA) allowed per play this season, and one of the biggest issues has been that their pass defense has been one of the most susceptible in the NFL to the big play. New England has allowed an explosive pass rate — otherwise known as the percentage of passes allowing 15 or more yards — of 18.1% this year. That ranks 30th in the NFL, ahead of only Atlanta and Detroit.
Justin Herbert has shown that he is more than capable of hitting big plays if you give him the opportunity to do so. His 10 touchdowns on passes thrown 20 yards or more downfield this season rank third in the NFL behind only Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson. His 21 big-time throws are also a top-10 mark in the league. The Chargers’ path to victory here is Herbert bouncing back from a down performance against Buffalo this past week and taking advantage of more holes than we’re used to seeing from the Patriots downfield.
The Patriots’ stunning upset over the Cardinals kept their slim playoff hopes alive. Those odds would drop to 4% with a loss this week, but a win over the Chargers would increase them to 20.7%. The betting market is leaning in this direction after an opening -2.5 spread dropped to a pick ‘em. The 92% ticket percentage indicates that the public is all over the Chargers, but the cash and line movements indicate big bettors on the Patriots.
The total has seen similar line movement; an opening of 49.5 quickly dropped to 47. PFF Greenline finds this to be an overcorrection, with 0.3% value available on the total. No viable betting opportunities exist on the spread, which makes a higher-scoring game the only viable path for bettors to take.
The strategy for the Patriots will be the same regardless of opponent. Damien Harris has racked up 561 rushing yards since he returned to the Patriots in Week 4. That’s the fifth-most for running backs in that time. His problem is a lack of touchdowns, but he’s been a low-end RB2 since becoming a starter. Harris picked up a season-high in snaps this past week with Rex Burkhead landing on injured reserve before the game. Harris is an even safer play going against the Chargers defense. Los Angeles is tied for the third-highest yards per carry given up to runners at 4.8. Harris should be able to run effectively throughout the game.
Cam Newton should also have plenty of success running against the Chargers defense, but he may struggle through the air against their top-tier cornerbacks.
Reports surfaced before Week 12 that Austin Ekeler would see a full workload coming back from his injury. These reports came to fruition as Ekeler saw 16 targets and 14 carries in Week 12.
Unfortunately, he was vultured at the goal-line by Joshua Kelley (eye roll) despite breaking what seemed to be three tackles to get the team within scoring distance. But I digress. He’s a top-six RB in what is a plus-matchup versus the Patriots. Any running back that has seen 15 or touches versus New England this year has posted double-digit fantasy points.
Ekeler is a strong play on DraftKings at 7.1K with a presumed 20-25 touch projected workload. There hasn’t been a game this season when Ekeler hasn’t seen at least 20 touches when healthy.
Mike Williams is also worth going back to after a tough matchup last week. The Bills had faced the fewest deep pass rate (9%) this season. The Patriots have faced the highest deep pass rate (25%) since Week 5.
Headline of the game: Carson Wentz continues to dig himself a deeper hole
There was chatter leading up to the Eagles Week 12 game against Seattle that Jalen Hurtsmay see some playing time, but it was once again Wentz who dropped back to pass 54 times in another Eagles loss. It was another less than impressive performance for Wentz, as well. His passing grade of 51.6 was one of the worst in the league this past week. The traditional numbers, which include 4.8 passing yards per attempt, a 73.8 passer rating and six sacks taken, don’t paint a better picture, either.
The only real explanation behind continuing to run Wentz out there is that the team feels like they have to, given what they’ve committed to him, but their playoff chances continue to dwindle in large part because of Wentz’s play. This game against 8-3 Green Bay is followed by matchups with 9-2 New Orleans and 6-5 Arizona.
It took a Hail Mary, but the Eagles covered the closing spread to the dismay of most public bettors. This hasn’t slowed bettors' appetites to fade them every chance they get, as this opening week number of -7.5 already climbed two points. Some 86% of the cash is on the Packers, which indicates the early-week line movement is driven by big-money bettors.
Another loss would drop the Eagles to a 14.1% chance of winning the NFC East, but a win moves them up to 35.7%. PFF Greenline has their win probability at 19.4%, which is significantly lower than the betting market expectation. There seems to be a slight overreaction to the Eagles needing to win this matchup, as Green Bay comes close to offering value on the -425 moneyline.
Miles Sanders needs to have a big game in order for the Eagles to have a chance to win. He’s been given 10 or more carries or gained 100 rushing yards in every game except this past week on Monday Night Football. The Packers defense has allowed a running back to hit 109 yards, 90 yards and 103 yards in their last three games. Sanders shouldn’t have a problem putting up one of the better games of his career.
The rest of the Eagles’ offense won’t be so lucky. The Packers have only allowed one receiver to hit 100 yards from the outside, and it was during a week where Green Bay didn’t have their top two cornerbacks for most of the game. Travis Fulgham has not been nearly as effective these last three weeks compared to his first five games, which has led to a decrease in playing time. This is not a game for Fulgham to turn things around.
Philly’s secondary got exposed by D.K. Metcalf on Monday night, so it should be another smash spot for Davante Adams who owns a 28% target share over the team’s past two games. Those games have featured Allen Lazard back in the starting lineup and in Week 12 — his six targets trailed only Adams among Packers’ pass-catchers.
Lazard is a great player to add to Aaron Rodgers stacks in DFS.
Robert Tonyan also fits into that category — he has 10 receptions on 10 targets over the past two weeks and always has touchdown upside attached to Rogers.
Aaron Jones has been splitting time with Jamaal Williams in the backfield, but he is an interesting player to go back to in GPPs. Jones has averaged 23.6 DrafKings fantasy points per game at home versus 15.5 on the road. Green Bay owns the third-highest implied team total on the main slate because the Eagles are in freefall.
The Eagles have been trailing in their last few games and have faced the most rushing attempts per game to opposing RBs.
Headline of the game: Drew Lock is running out of opportunities to show he should be Denver’s starting quarterback in 2021
There was a lot of optimism about what Lock had to offer in Denver this season, but a year that has included both injury and poor play has largely squashed any of that optimism heading into Week 13. His 57.0 PFF grade on the season ranks just 30th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks on the year.
Two areas stick out as the biggest concerns. First, Lock’s accuracy has not been on par with a starting quarterback in the NFL — a league-high 27% of his passes so far this season have been uncatchable. Second, he has been by far the worst passer in the league when under pressure. You don’t expect lights-out play from a quarterback with pressure in his face, but a 26.5 passing grade on 89 dropbacks is tough to stomach.
If he doesn’t turn things around a little bit down the stretch, then Denver will be in a position where they have to look to add a quarterback this offseason through either the draft or free agency.
Denver returns to some semblance of normal after a week beyond everyone’s wildest imagination. Drew Lock will be an improvement at quarterback over Kendall Hinton, but it might not be a matchup improvement with Lock taking on Patrick Mahomes. The two-touchdown spread is significant, but this Broncos team has been trending in the wrong direction for weeks. They now have the worst offense in the NFL, according to our opponent-adjusted grades, with their passing and receiving units sharing the same ranking.
The total market has moved up 2.5 points from the opening 48.5, but it is tough to picture the Broncos being able to keep pace with the Chiefs. The cash and ticket percentages appear to be driving this line movement, but PFF Greenline leans in the opposite direction. No value plays are available on any of the game markets, but any further line movement is expected to open up opportunities.
These teams played each other just over a month ago, and it went largely as expected. The Broncos completed just over half of their passes, didn’t score a passing touchdown and none of the starters had more than 45 receiving yards. There isn’t any reason to expect the Broncos’ passing game to be better this time around.
Denver’s hope for a strong offensive game depends on its running backs. Melvin Gordon IIImanaged to reach 68 rushing yards against Kansas City on 17 carries, including a touchdown. Backup Phillip Lindsay put up better numbers with 79 yards on nine carries, but didn’t score. Lindsay was hurt in the Broncos’ last game, so his status for this week is in question. If Lindsay doesn’t play, Royce Freeman will step right into Lindsay’s role. The injury likely won’t have any impact on Gordon’s playing time.
Hopefully with a quarterback playing for Denver this week, the Kansas City Chiefs will have to at least try to score points for three full quarters. That being said, as such heavy home favorites (14 points) Clyde Edwards-Helaire should see some solid run against an extremely pitiful Broncos defense that has allowed the second-most rushing yards and fantasy points to RBs over the past four weeks.
Patrick Mahomes attempted a season-low 23 passing attempts the last time these teams faced off. Should KC elect to run the ball more with a massive lead, CEH should be set to smash expectations.
It will be difficult for Hill to replicate his performance from last week with a tougher matchup against Bryce Callahan in the slot. He’s allowed a league-low (10.7) quarterback rating when targeted in the slot this season.
Oct 11, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young (99) cheers from the sidelines against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half at FedExField. Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Headline of the game: Two of the better defenses in the NFL face off in a game that carries playoff implications for both teams
In terms of PFF grade, the Steelers are currently the best defense in the NFL. Washington joins them in the top three in third place behind Denver. Both teams also reside in the top three according to EPA allowed per play.
When you combine a pass rush that can get to the quarterback with solid coverage on the back end, good things are going to happen on defense, and that’s what we’ve seen from both Washington and Pittsburgh so far this season.
Washington’s defense has the more difficult matchup in this contest, if only because it’s difficult to get pressure on the quarterback when he’s getting rid of the ball as quickly as Ben Roethlisberger is in 2020. His average time to throw this season of 2.18 seconds is on pace to be the fastest time of any qualifying quarterback in the NFL since PFF began tracking the stat in 2011. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for Chase Young and company to get home, which puts pressure on the Washington secondary to make plays on passes in front of them.
Gibson has scored a rushing touchdown in five consecutive games. He’s coming off the best game of his career against Dallas with 20 carries for 115 yards and three touchdowns. The Steelers haven’t allowed a single running back to hit 115 yards this season, and they’ve allowed a total of five rushing touchdowns to running backs. This has added up to the Steelers being the second-worst team for running backs to face in fantasy football. Gibson should still be starting lineups, but expectations need to be lowered.
McLaurin should have more luck. He’s put together at least 74 receiving yards in nine of his last 10 games. This includes multiple games against some highly graded cornerbacks. The Steelers have allowed 95 or more yards six times to wide receivers, so McLaurin very well could be the seventh. The Steelers have allowed 13 touchdowns to wide receivers, which is tied for seventh-most. This gives McLaurin a decent chance of scoring.
Whether James Conner is back in the fold or not, the Steelers running game isn’t one to target in this matchup. The Football Team has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to RBs this season and I expect their eighth-graded run defense to overpower Pittsburgh's 31st-ranked run-blocking unit.
All of the Steelers pass-catchers should be started, including tight end Eric Ebron. Washington ranks 23rd in touchdown percentage allowed to tight ends this season. The Steelers’ tight end leads all TEs in touchdowns (three) over the past four weeks.
Headline of the game: Kyle Shanahan and Robert Salah give the 49ers a chance despite major injuries
Few teams have been hit more by injuries — and significant injuries, at that — to key players than San Francisco has this season. Multi-week and season-long absences for guys like Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Nick Bosa and Richard Sherman is tough to overcome. As a result, the 49ers sit at just 5-6, but they showed last week that they are starting to get a little healthier and that they can compete.
Shanahan has the 49ers sitting at 18th in EPA per play offensively this season, despite the 30th-ranked team passing grade in the NFL and injuries to top running backs and receiving threats all year. Meanwhile, Robert Salah has orchestrated a top-10 defense in EPA allowed per play despite a similar story on the injury front and San Francisco trading away one of the best interior defenders in the league in DeForest Buckner. Coaching matters and few teams have better coaching than the 49ers. That will make them a dark horse in the NFC playoff picture down the stretch.
The early-week line movement initially tested +3 before retracing back to the opening of 2.5. With this being the most important number, we see a significant shift in value based on where the spread sits. Some 78% of the cash and 59% of the tickets have been on the Bills.
These teams are separated by only one spot in our ELO rankings, with all units ranking in the top half of the league in our opponent-adjusted grades. Josh Allen is the far superior quarterback to Nick Mullens in PFF grade, which makes PFF Greenline’s lean obvious at +2.5.
The total has held to the opening 48 despite 76% of the cash and 60% of the tickets on the under. This also offers betting opportunities, making this a Monday night that will be filled with action.
San Francisco is in the top 10 at preventing fantasy points to quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. This is bad news for everyone on the Bills offense. Both running backs for the Bills have been inconsistent facing average run defenses, so the 49ers makes both running backs very difficult to start. Dawson Knox hasn’t reached more than 16 yards since Week 2, so starting a tight end from Buffalo is out of the question.
This leaves quarterback and wide receivers as possible starts. Josh Allen was QB2 the first six weeks and fell to QB8 over the last six. The 49ers defense should push him down even further, but the number of passing attempts he’s likely to have along with his rushing floor still makes him a 12 quarterback for the week. Stefon Diggs' target floor is far too high to leave him on the bench, but this is not a high upside game for him.
Brandon Aiyuk is returning to the lineup after being placed on the COVID/reserve list and should also return to starting fantasy lineups. We have a three-game sample size of Aiyuk playing alongside Deebo Samuel — in those games, Aiyuk was the team’s leader in air yards and was third in targets (17).
Those games also featured George Kittle with a whopping 26% target share, so I expect Aiyuk and Samuel to dominate the targets on Monday night.
Raheem Mostert (40% snap share, 16 carries) and Jeff Wilson Jr. (34% snap share, 12 carries) split the 49ers backfield evenly in Week 12, with Jerick McKinnon working in on third downs. It was a bad matchup to trust any of them, but Mostert emerged as the lead back in the committee. He should have a field day versus a Bills defense that owns PFF’s 32nd-ranked run defense.
Headline of the game: Can Andy Dalton put up another solid performance against Baltimore’s unique defense?
The Cowboys didn’t get the win on Thanksgiving, but Dalton posted his second consecutive PFF grade north of 70.0 in the game (75.5). Compared to what we saw from Dalton in his first two starts of the season, this version of the 33-year-old quarterback at least looks capable of leading an offense that can win a couple of games down the stretch.
However, it’s difficult to see him having much success in this specific matchup with a patchwork offensive line that is now set to miss both Zack Martin and Cameron Erving for multiple weeks. Baltimore blitzes more than any team in the NFL (48%), and it’s an effective blitz. The Ravens fall inside the top 10 defenses in the NFL in EPA allowed per play when they do bring those extra rushers. Even with all the COVID-19 cases throughout the Baltimore roster, this feels like a spot where Dalton’s streak of games with a 70.0-plus PFF grade ends at two.
The Cowboys’ offensive potential will depend on the status of injuries and Covid-19 cases. Dallas’ strength this season has been at wide receiver, but the Ravens have been great at stopping wide receivers. Only one wide receiver has topped 75 yards against the Ravens in the last eight weeks. None of the Ravens defensive backs have been dealing with injuries or covid cases recently, so start the wide receivers at your own risk.
There is a chance for Ezekiel Elliott to turn his season around. He’s running on six consecutive games without a rushing touchdown. Elliott has been held to less than 65 rushing yards in seven of his last nine games despite consistently seeing double-digit carries. The Ravens typically are great against the run but allowed both Damien Harris and Derrick Henry to gain 100 yards in their last two games. They’ve dealt with several injuries and Covid-19 cases to their front seven, which has hurt their run defense considerably. The availability of those players will go a long way to determining how excited to be about Elliott.
If Marquise Brown is available on waivers, add him. The Baltimore Ravens are going to be extremely short-handed when it comes to pass-catchers on Monday night because both Mark Andrews and Willie Snead IV are unlikely to have completed their 10-day quarantine by game time. They lead the team in targets since Week 8, with Brown ranking just behind them.
Brown’s share of team air yards and end-zone targets have all ranked highly all season long, so he is worth going back to because the team will have no choice but to throw it his way. The matchup is also great against a Dallas defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to WRs over the past four weeks.
The Cowboys have also allowed the second-most rushing yards to RBs this season, so J.K. Dobbins should be in starting lineups. He’d likely also be leaned on more in the receiving game without Snead or Andrews available. He is fourth on the team in targets since Week 8.