Friday Update: Weather concerns in Cleveland might put a damper on the outlook of Josh Gordon and DeShone Kizer, who will be discussed throughout the article. Check weather updates Sunday and watch what the Vegas total does. If the total goes down multiple points and/or if the wind is 20 miles per hour or more, exercise caution in using players from that game.
Graphics Tutorial and Reader’s Guide
I've gotten feedback that my graphics aren't as self-explanatory and intuitive as I think they are, so I provided a guide at the beginning of a past version of this article.
- Green text is a good matchup for that team's offensive players.
- Red text is a bad matchup.
- All reference to fantasy points assumes DraftKings scoring rules unless otherwise specified.
- All stats reference the full 2017 season unless otherwise specified.
Bonus: Thursday Night Football Section!
This may as well be called "Ode to Alvin Kamara," but these stats are something we wanted to share this week.
- New Orleans targets running backs on 35.1% of its targets, the highest ratio in the NFL.
- Atlanta allows targets to running backs at a 29.2% rate, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.
- Kamara yards from scrimmage, last five games: 152 vs. TB, 138 at BUF, 116 vs. WAS, 188 at LAR, 126 vs. CAR.
- Kamara receptions, last five games: 6, 5, 6, 6, 5
- Kamara has eight total touchdowns in that five-game stretch.
- Kamara is the overall RB3 in PPR leagues this season, 9.9 points behind LeVeon Bell and 16.2 behind Todd Gurley.
- Kamara (86 carries, 60 receptions) has 190 fewer touches than Bell and 125 fewer than Gurley.
This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
- Follow the Targets
- Funnel Watch
- The Weakest Links
- Are You New Here?
- How Will They Score?
- Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Washington Redskins)
- Los Angeles Rams (vs. Philadelphia Eagles)
- Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Oakland Raiders)
- Houston Texans (vs. San Francisco 49ers)
- New York Jets (at Denver Broncos)
- Cleveland Browns (vs. Green Bay Packers)
Follow the Targets
In this section, we'll look at the worst passing defenses and dissect how they allow their fantasy production. This week, we're looking at the defenses that have allowed the most yards per game since Week 8 and how they've allocated their targets, yards, and touchdowns over the course of the whole season.
|Team||RB Tgt%||Yds/Gm Rank||TD||WR Tgt%||Yds/Gm Rank||TD||TE Tgt%||Yds/Gm Rank||TD|
|Green Bay Packers||22.8%||25||3||58.9%||28||13||18.3%||5||3|
|New York Giants||20.1%||14||2||55.1%||26||11||24.8%||31||9|
We've discussed Green Bay here plenty of times before, and we saw them continue to struggle, allowing 270 yards and 2 touchdowns to Jameis Winston in his return from injury. This week, Cleveland hosts Green Bay, and if the way Green Bay allows the many yards they allow is any indication, players such as Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, and Duke Johnson might be busy. The following tweet won't be the last one you see about Gordon in this article.
Pittsburgh seems like the "one of these things is not like the other" member of this group, but since Joe Haden went down, they have been terrible in the secondary. On Monday night, backup corner Coty Sensabaugh was benched in favor of rookie Cameron Sutton. Seattle isn't the "Legion of Boom" anymore due to their injuries, but their status on this list is buoyed by the 348 yards allowed to Carson Wentz last week. They bent but didn't break, however, allowing just 10 points in the game.
Tennessee has allowed 15+ fantasy points to a quarterback in four of its last five games, including 365 yards to Tom Savage in Week 13. Jimmy Garoppolo performed efficiently at Chicago in his first start. Only limited volume and zero touchdowns kept him from a bigger game. Houston should help in those departments.
Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 41.9 yards per possession yesterday, the 7th highest PaYd/Drive game for a QB this season.— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) December 5, 2017
A "funnel" defense is one with a stout run defense but a suspect (or worse) pass defense. These units "funnel" production to the exterior and deep parts of the field (places where passing games focus) and away from the short middle (where the running game typically occurs).
|Green Bay Packers||242.9||111.9||6.8||3.9||68.5%||31.5%|
Last week, we discussed Philadelphia's status as a "funnel" defense being due, in part, to game scripts against weak competition. Last week, neither of those factors benefited their run vs. pass numbers above, but Seattle's lack of run game did. This week, they are a two-point underdog to the L.A. Rams. Despite the tough-on-paper matchup, Todd Gurley is worth paying up for in all formats due to his touch volume superiority over every other back on the main slate. Gurley led the team in targets last week. Speaking of targets, if Robert Woods is out again, Cooper Kupp is worth a GPP dart throw. There might be many who were burned by him last week, which can suppress ownership.
In the last section, we saw that Green Bay is bad against the pass. Here, we see they're so bad against the pass that most teams don't even bother running. Cleveland will throw, and if last week -- when they threw to Gordon despite being covered by one of the league's best corners -- is any indication, they'll throw to Gordon plenty.
This isn't a passing game-specific item because it pertains to a running back, but LeSean McCoy's passing game involvement and run game involvement make him viable every week. Ang running backs as home favorites always have appeal. But when McCoy, in particular, is a home favorite, he is generally a fantastic play.
Sometimes, the funnel effect can happen in reverse, where a team is very good against the pass but poor against the run (hence, "runnel" defense) Side note: I didn't create this term; I saw it on Twitter last season, but I can't recall who posted it. If you know, drop me a line so I can give proper credit.
|Los Angeles Chargers||205.7||129.8||5.5||4.8||61.3%||38.7%|
|Los Angeles Rams||211.2||122.8||5.8||4.7||63.2%||36.8%|
Semaje Perine leads a committee against a bad run defense. Despite the poor projected outlook of his offense, his touches come somewhat cheap. In DFS, Perine is a solid cash game play, even as a road underdog. He may end the week as a favorite play because he allows you to up and roster Gurley without breaking the bank at the running back spots. The rest of these are difficult spots to recommend. In theory, Jordan Howard should be in play against Cincinnati, but that game features two of the slowest teams in the NFL. And Howard isn't a part of the game when Chicago falls behind. Philadelphia's run game could have some success against the L.A. Rams, but choosing which back to use is a difficult task. Jacksonville's status is improving against the run, and Seattle doesn't run the ball.
The Weakest Links
For the last couple weeks, we've discussed Kansas City allowing fantasy points to quarterbacks. In the targets section above, we've highlighted their inability to stop wide receivers. And in this section, we've discussed running quarterbacks having success as well. We've mentioned that Kansas City has allowed 20+ rushing yards to six quarterbacks and that the only quarterbacks that failed to eclipse that mark were among the most immobile in the league. Last week, Josh McCown also failed to eclipse 20 yards, but he did score two rushing touchdowns.
The only players on this list who didn't crush expectations are Trevor Siemian and Eli Manning, both of whom have endured tumultuous seasons. The Chiefs are officially a tasty quarterback matchup. Alex Smith will be discussed plenty later, but Derek Carr is the forgotten man in this matchup. Carr may be short on weapons, but he's long on matchup. And Kansas City has suspended its best cornerback (Marcus Peters) for unsportsmanlike conduct in last week's game. There is little resistance for Oakland. Don't be afraid to use a Carr-based stack in DFS GPPs.
A Theme is Developing
Green Bay's struggles against the pass have been documented above, but their struggles against WR1s lately are apparent. Prior to holding Mike Evans in check last week, Green Bay had allowed:
- 10-169-2 to Antonio Brown (Week 12)
- 4-56-1 to Mike Wallace (Week 11)
- 6-88-0 to Dontrelle Inman (Week 10)
- 7-107-2 to Marvin Jones and 7-113-0 to Golden Tate (Week 9)
- 7-141-0 to Ted Ginn and 7-82-0 to Michael Thomas (Week 7)
Josh Gordon's 210 air yards in Week 13 were the 15th highest single-game total in 2017.— Ben Gretch (@YardsPerGretch) December 6, 2017
Watching it back, he created multiple opportunities to score. Kizer's accuracy was an issue.
Make no mistake; Josh Gordon is the WR1 in Cleveland, three-year hiatus or not.
Are You New Here?
Not all trends last for an entire season. And the best fantasy owners can spot trends as they develop. So this section will discuss newly-developing trends.
Getting Beaten by the Best
After spending most of the season as a pass defense to avoid, Baltimore has sprung some leaks lately. Note how WR1s (or facsimiles thereof) have fared against them recently:
And This Guy is the Best
This week, Antonio Brown gets Baltimore. Brown has 8+ receptions, 100+ yards, and 1 or more touchdown in each of last three games for an absurd total of 28 receptions, 414 yards, and six touchdowns.Action Items
- In DFS, players often wonder if it's a "Brown or Bell" game. The recommendation here is Bell in cash because #touchesaregold but Brown in GPPs because he's on fire, his matchup is better in reality than on paper, and his ceiling is higher.
The Lions have become a secretly bad defense lately, both against the pass and the run.
- Detroit has allowed 3.1x value or better on DraftKings to six consecutive quarterbacks (and seven of the last eight).
- Detroit has allowed 20+ rushing yards to a quarterback in four of its last five games.
- Detroit has allowed a rushing touchdown to a quarterback in three of its last five games.
- Detroit has allowed 80+ rushing yards and/or a rushing touchdown to seven running backs in its last six games.
- Detroit has allowed 10+ fantasy points to a tight end in each of its last four games.
- Find a few Tampa Bay Buccaneers to enter into your GPP lineups. Jameis Winston-Cameron Brate stacks look particularly appealing considering last week's results and this week's matchup.
- If you're in a traditional league and limped into the playoffs, there have been more improbable playoff heroes than Peyton Barber, who has fresh legs and looked great last week.
After being the poster children for the "Weakest Links" section multiple times season, the New York Giants appear to have fixed their ways.
- Through Week 11, the Giants had yielded an average of 75.75 yards per game to tight ends.
- Since Week 11, they have held Vernon Davis (zero receptions on one target) and Jared Cook (one catch, nine yards) in check nicely despite both of their teams being down at least one prominent pass-catcher.
The Dolphins Are Not Good
This is true of their whole defense, but in the spirit of the recent news of Rob Gronkowski's suspension being upheld, let's look at how the Dolphins fare against tight ends.
- Miami has allowed six touchdowns to tight ends in its last six games.
- Miami has allowed 1+ touchdown to five tight ends in its last six games.
- Don't be scared by the previous game Rob Gronkowski missed where Dwayne Allen did nothing. That was a Thursday night game where Gronkowski scratched late. This week, the team has time to plan with Allen.
- If you play full slates in DFS, look into the extraordinarily cheap Allen.
- For traditional leagues, there are an inordinate amount of viable tight end streamers this week, and Allen is one of them.
A Broad Look at the Last Six Weeks
Here are the best and worst scoring offenses and defenses of the past six weeks.
Most points per game (last 6 weeks)— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) December 4, 2017
Most pts/gm Allowed
(last 6 weeks)
How Will They Score?
I have a confession. What you're about to see and read is not my idea. This is a concept created by Ben Gretch at Rotoviz and now published on FantasyLabs. However, it's one I wanted to share as it is an interesting way to think about how teams score and allow points and can lead to some surprise/contrarian lineup decisions. For some background, check the intro to Ben's Week 1 column from earlier this year, or get a bullet-point summary below.
- Take each team's implied Vegas team total
- Average the percentage of points that team scores via passing touchdowns and the percentage their opponent allows via passing touchdowns
- Multiply that average percentage by the implied total
- Do the same for rushing touchdowns
- An asterisk denotes a home team
- Passing + Rushing won't add up to the total. There are kicking and defense/specials teams points as well. However, those aren't as predictable, so we're focusing on offense only.
You'll get the hang of it with the help of the charts and some examples.
|Offense||Defense||LV Total||Off PaTD%||Def PaTD%||Pass|
|New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins*||29.00||44.83%||44.30%||12.92|
|Kansas City Chiefs*||Oakland Raiders||25.50||45.54%||43.17%||11.31|
|L.A. Chargers*||Washington Redskins||26.00||47.01%||38.22%||11.08|
|L.A. Rams*||Philadelphia Eagles||26.00||33.24%||47.44%||10.49|
|Houston Texans*||San Francisco 49ers||23.00||48.65%||42.28%||10.46|
|Philadelphia Eagles||L.A. Rams*||24.00||48.20%||37.84%||10.32|
|Pittsburgh Steelers*||Baltimore Ravens||24.50||46.98%||34.78%||10.02|
|Arizona Cardinals*||Tennessee Titans||20.50||49.32%||46.81%||9.85|
|Dallas Cowboys||New York Giants*||23.00||37.76%||47.42%||9.80|
|Miami Dolphins*||New England Patriots||18.00||54.55%||51.12%||9.51|
- It's never a bad idea to pay for Tom Brady, but the way Miami allows their points makes it even more attractive.
- Week 13 showed us an Alex Smith resurgence, which should provide even more confidence to play him this week in a juicy matchup. Prior to facing Denver and the New York Giants, Oakland had allowed at least 27.4 fantasy points in three out of four games. The only game in which they did not was against Tyrod Taylor. They struggle mightily against traditional passers with good weapons. I'd play Alex Smith in any format this week, particularly in cash games where his potentially chalky ownership levels don't matter as much.
- Philip Rivers has been on a tear lately, throwing for 778 yards and 5 touchdowns in his last two games. If you remove three games against Dak Prescott and Eli Manning (one of the Prescott games came in a rainstorm, and the other was a positive game script enhanced by a punt return touchdown and a dominant run game), Washington has allowed 1,254 passing yards and 12 passing touchdowns in a four-game span. In the game prior to that, they also yielded 14.2 fantasy points in a half to then first-time player C.J. Beathard. Ride the wave; Rivers is a great option this week and a nice GPP pivot away from Smith at a similar price tag.
- For a couple weeks, it was looking like playing Blaine Gabbert at cheap prices was going to be a regular occurrence. Then, he put up a stinker against the L.A. Rams last week. Gabbert, however, gets a nice bounce-back spot here against Tennessee, which (it's worth mentioning again) just allowed 365 passing yards to Tom Savage. While DeShone Kizer might actually be chalky this week, Gabbert represents a nice pivot against a Tennessee team that can't stop anyone through the air.
|Offense||Defense||LV Total||Off RuTD%%||Def RuTD%%||Rush|
|Tennessee Titans||Arizona Cardinals*||23.50||36.09%||21.29%||6.74|
|Oakland Raiders||Kansas City Chiefs*||21.50||28.92%||28.47%||6.17|
|Philadelphia Eagles||L.A. Rams*||24.00||14.96%||32.43%||5.69|
|Dallas Cowboys||New York Giants*||23.00||31.47%||16.49%||5.52|
|Jacksonville Jaguars*||Seattle Seahawks||21.25||24.08%||24.32%||5.14|
|New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins*||29.00||17.24%||18.12%||5.13|
|Cleveland Browns*||Green Bay Packers||18.75||30.68%||19.22%||4.68|
|Minnesota Vikings||Carolina Panthers*||21.75||25.26%||17.65%||4.67|
|Washington Redskins||L.A. Chargers*||20.00||19.85%||25.47%||4.53|
|L.A. Chargers*||Washington Redskins||26.00||15.67%||19.11%||4.52|
- While Arizona is busy throwing the ball on Tennessee, the Titans will try to stick to what makes them successful. DeMarco Murray looked completely terrible for a couple weeks before a strong game last week against Houston. However, Derrick Henry had an even better game, perhaps speaking more to Houston's defense than Tennessee's offense. In the last three weeks, Henry has seen his snaps rise from 23.5% to 50.8% and then slightly decrease to 42.9%. He has averaged 4.6, 6.1, and 9.9 yards per carry to Murray's 1.3, 0.8, and 6.0. Henry makes for an interesting GPP flyer. If Tennessee can control the game and finally realize he is the back that makes them better, he will have success against Arizona.
Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Washington Redskins)
Per the tweet from Pat Thorman above, Washington is allowing the fourth-most points per game over the last six weeks. Los Angeles is allowing the fifth-fewest. That is a recipe that lines up well for all facets of the Chargers offense. What has been working best lately is the passing game. We discussed Philip Rivers in the "How Will They Score" section above. His main weapon during that stretch has been Keenan Allen, who has almost as many PPR points in his last three games as he did in his first nine.
Keenan Allen’s first 9 games: 44-596-1, 80 targets, 109 PPR points, WR26.— Josh Moore (@4for4_Josh) December 5, 2017
Keenan Allan’s last 3 games: 33-436-4, 41 targets, 100 PPR points, WR2.
The potential for positive game script also bodes well for Melvin Gordon, who seems to be a bit of a "forgotten man" in this offense, despite a fantasy pedigree that made him a consensus first-round pick this season who has come through with multiple RB1 games so far.Action Items
- Allen is as good a cash game receiver as we have this week.
- Gordon's salary is probably a bit too high for his recent production but he has as good a chance to exceed value on it as anyone. That sounds like a great GPP play.
Los Angeles Rams (vs. Philadelphia Eagles)
This is one of the more interesting matchups of the week. Los Angeles averages 5.9 yards per play, fifth-most in the NFL, while Philadelphia allows 4.9 yards per play, tied for third-fewest. The matchup when the Rams pass is just as intriguing; Los Angeles averages 7.4 net yards per attempt, third-most in the NFL, while Philadelphia allows 5.5 net yards per attempt, second-fewest.
The scoring numbers shown in Pat Thorman's tweet above suggest that the offenses will be able to move the ball and score. The Rams are scoring the fifth-most points per game and the Eagles the most points per game in the last six weeks. In the passing game, Philadelphia allows 12.3 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, the 12th-most in the NFL. Though, it's not only backs who do damage via the pass. They also yield 60.2% of their targets to wide receivers, the seventh-highest ratio in the NFL. Los Angeles targets its wide receivers 63.6% of the time, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.Action Items
- Play Todd Gurley...in any format.
I understand; you need more than that because it seems obvious. But we're at the point in the season where Gurley is similar to 2016 LeVeon Bell and David Johnson, but he's still not priced that way. Keep playing him until he's $9,000 or more on DraftKings, at which point we can re-open discussions on whether not he's a slam dunk.
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Oakland Raiders)
The "How Will They Score" section discussed Oakland's passing defense, but the reason Kansas City was ranked so high there was in part due to their own rushing offense. It doesn't take more than one Kareem Hunt owner crying in the corner to tell you how infrequently Kansas City rushes for touchdowns. If they're scoring on anyone, it's likely via the pass. If they're scoring on Oakland, it's very likely via the pass.
The question then becomes who is the preferred passing option. Let's look at how these teams gain and allow yardage.
- Kansas City targets its wide receivers on 44.3% of its pass attempts, the third-lowest ratio in the NFL. The Chiefs gain 55.3% of their total passing yardage via wide receivers, the fourth-lowest ratio in the NFL
- Oakland allows 55.3% of its targets to wide receivers, the third-lowest ratio in the NFL. The Raiders allow 55.6% of their total passing yardage to wide receivers, the fourth-lowest ratio in the NFL.
- Kansas City targets its tight ends 30.9% of the time, the highest ratio in the NFL and gains 32.6% of its passing yardage via tight ends, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
- Oakland allows 23.6% of its targets to tight ends, the seventh-lowest ratio in the NFL and allows 25.6% of its yardage via tight ends, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
- Smith is far from a contrarian play this week, but Smith-Kelce stacks should help GPP differentiation and are great "cash-plus" plays due to all of the cheaper tight end options DFS players will be plugging in.
Houston Texans (vs. San Francisco 49ers)
The top-scoring running back vs. San Francisco over their last 25 games is averaging 22.2 fantasy points per game.— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) November 30, 2017
Only David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell have averaged more fantasy points per game over the past two seasons. pic.twitter.com/V4RmzzSBjq
They're also not good against any position, meaning teams generally can stay within their offensive comfort zones to beat San Francisco. For Houston, that comfort zone is DeAndre Hopkins, whose prior "boom-bust" history has leveled out this season.
DeAndre Hopkins' floor/ceiling has been incredible. Has 70 yards and/or a TD in every game after meeting that feat in just half his games last year.— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) November 28, 2017
This tweet was actually prior to last week's game. Hopkins has since added an 8-80-0 performance on top of this.Action Items
- Break ties in favor of Houston players this week.
- Hopkins is a solid cash game play in any week due to volume; he's a great play this week due to the matchup adding further value.
- Miller isn't the safest running back play on the board, but a lineup containing two backs at his price range (such as Miller and Semaje Perine) would provide a safe-yet-contrarian GPP option.
New York Jets (at Denver Broncos)
How bizarre is it to see the greenest spot on the chart above? The fact that Denver is allowing 49.5% of its total points, the third-highest ratio in the NFL, is shocking when considering their personnel. Meanwhile, the Jets are flying high on the strength of Josh McCown's surprising season. On a macro scale, look at how incredible this season has been for low-profile quarterbacks.
Current top-12 QBs for Week 13 and their preseason ADP. Don't raise your kids to spend capital on QBs in August. pic.twitter.com/owbmdxDWzY— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) December 4, 2017
Particular to McCown, he's not only ranked high on the season-long fantasy standings, but he's doing it with remarkable consistency as opposed to just a couple of huge games.
Sure, McCown and his teammates have performed well, but their opponent this week is Denver. And the Broncos are an elite defense, right?
From their 5th game on, the #Broncos have scored the fewest points per game (12.8) and allowed the most points per game (30.1) in the NFL.— Chris Raybon (@ChrisRaybon) December 5, 2017
- Robby Anderson has been great. Jermaine Kearse has been an actual NFL receiver. But don't forget about Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He has cooled off over the past few weeks, but Denver has been poor against tight ends all season. Seferian-Jenkins is a great streamer if he was dropped in your traditional league and a solid DFS play if loading up at other positions.
Cleveland Browns (vs. Green Bay Packers)
In addition to Gordon, the man throwing him the ball is a solid play this week as well, especially under the salary constraints of the DFS format. Kizer's rushing ability provides him with a built-in floor, and the matchup against Green Bay (plus Gordon's ability) gives him an achievable ceiling as well. Kizer is actually cash game viable this week but also a nice GPP option stacked with Gordon.
In order to avoid beating a dead horse, let's just drop one last Josh Gordon nugget here. This one is the most impressive of them all.
#Chargers CB Casey Hayward said on @SiriusXMNFL that #Browns WR Josh Gordon has been his toughest matchup all year. Hayward has faced Odell Beckham Jr., Dez Bryant, Brandin Cooks, Demaryius Thomas, Michael Crabtree, Tyreek Hill, and Alshon Jeffery all his season.— Kyle Kelly (@KyleKellyCLE) December 5, 2017
Questions, comments, suggestions, and other feedback on this piece are always welcome via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org