Friday Walkthrough: Kamara, Breaker of Slates

·85 min read



The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!

Welcome to the Friday Walkthrough. Every week I'll be outlining critical fantasy football context for the upcoming slate of games.

At the end of the article I've included an extensive list of the stats used to write this article, what they are, why they're useful, and where they came from.

Byes: Ravens, Raiders

Already Played: Cardinals, Packers

Bengals at Jets, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Bengals Implied Team Total: 26.75

Last week I tried to stay grounded. Yes, the Bengals were trending up in pass rate over expected. And yes, they had a 4% pass rate over expected when Joe Burrow was just a rookie. But their recent trend toward the pass could simply have been noise.

Good luck keeping me grounded now.

screen_shot_2021-10-26_at_11.04.36_am.png
screen_shot_2021-10-26_at_11.04.36_am.png

It's still possible that this trend could stall out, with the Bengals settling in as a slightly run heavy team. But the Bengals just handed Lamar Jackson the biggest loss of his career when the betting market only had them projected to score 20 points. Their shift to the pass is paying huge dividends, and Burrow looks healthy and comfortable. It would make a ton of sense for them to embrace this new identity. I think we see them settle into the 4% pass rate over expected range going forward, which is where the Bills, Panthers, Packers, Raiders, Giants and Eagles currently are.

The Bengals aren't just coming off a hot passing week, Joe Burrow has been good all season. Burrow ranks seventh in EPA per play (which measures efficiency) and ninth in CPOE (which measures accuracy).*

This week Burrow faces a Jets defense that ranks 27th in EPA allowed per dropback and 27th in PFF's coverage grades. Although, the Jets are even worse against the run, ranking 31st in EPA allowed per rush and 30th in PFF's run defense grades.

Jets opponents have a 1% pass rate over expected this season; so in a sense, the Jets are pushing offenses toward the pass. But it's important to keep in mind that pass rate over expected factors in game situation. And the Jets always find themselves in the same situation. The Jets are averaging an appallingly low 1:49 of game time with the lead this season. Let that sink in... in the average Jets game, they spend less than two minutes with the lead. Washington has been the second worst team this season and they've averaged 7:17 with a lead.

Because the Jets are so bad, teams can shift toward the run and still end up passing much higher than expected. For example, the Patriots entered Week 7 with a 61% pass rate. Then against the Jets they had a 56% pass rate... which was 9% over expected. The Jets were in such bad game script that the Patriots were expected to run the ball nearly 40 times against them. By running something close to their normal offense, the Patriots looked nearly as pass happy as the Buccaneers have been this year.

With that in mind, we're going to see less raw passing volume from the Bengals, who are favored by 10.5 points this week—even if they continue their positive PROE trend. And like in Week 6, when Brandon Allen handled 18% of snaps in a blowout win over the Lions, we're also likely to see curtailed snaps from Joe Burrow this week.

In order for the Bengals' weapons to hit, we're going to need efficiency. Efficiency, thy name is Ja'Marr Chase. Chase now leads the NFL with 3.35 yards per route run. His 15.1 YPT is absurd, and will regress as some point. But if you needed to someone to slow Chase down, the Jets defense wouldn't be your first call. More importantly, Chase is earning targets on 22% of his routes with a 16.5 aDOT, which provides him with elite opportunity for splash plays. Unless the Jets can shock the world and push the Bengals, Chase's ceiling is capped to a degree. But his profile still sets him up for a strong week in a very easy matchup.

Tee Higgins hasn't been efficient this year, but that could be about to change—and he could rack up target volume even in limited snaps for the starters. In Week 7, Higgins was targeted on an ultra-elite 43% of his routes while running a route on 90% of dropbacks. Only three other wide receivers have a 40%+ TPRR with a 85%+ route rate this season: Deebo Samuel (Week 1), Brandin Cooks (Week 2) and Davante Adams (Week 3 and Week 5). Higgins also accomplished this with an 11.8 aDOT, racking up 177 air yards. Higgins didn't deliver a massive week because he turned in a stomach-churning 4.1 YPT. This has been a problem for Higgins all year. He has a 6.0 YPT this season, when his usage sets him up to be around 8.5. Higgins had an 8.6 YPT as a rookie, and I don't think he's suddenly bad. YPT is not sticky; betting on YPT to regress to the mean for talented players is frequently a winning bet. In a matchup with the Jets, if Higgins gets anything close to the volume he saw last week, he could remind the world that the Bengals have two elite young wide receivers, not just one.

Tyler Boyd looks like a thinner bet this week. Boyd's profile is solid. He's been targeted on 20% of his routes with an aDOT of 6.1, playing 90% of his snaps in the slot. But Boyd's spike weeks are likely to be driven by a spike in overall passing volume. His path to big plays is pretty limited by his role, and he looks like a TD dependent option this week.

C.J. Uzomah is in a similar boat. He's only been targeted on 11% of his routes this season. Even in his two TD spike week against the Ravens, he was targeted on just 12% of his routes. So while he's running a route on a strong 75% of dropbacks, Uzomah will likely need to get in the end zone to pay off here.

Joe Mixon faces the same playing time squeeze as the rest of the Bengals' starters. Mixon played 54% of snaps in Week 7 with Samaje Perine close behind at 48%. The backfield snap share was impacted by the Bengals' lead over the Ravens, but we can expect the same dynamic here. Damien Harris, J.J. Taylor and Brandon Bolden combining for five TDs against the Jets last week, so Mixon needs to be in lineups, and Perine has desperation RB2 appeal. But both players have low floors if the TDs end up coming through the passing game.

*(I filter out garbage time for both metrics, and get the data from the invaluable rbsdm.com).

Jets Implied Team Total: 16.25

Zach Wilson was having a solid Week 7, and finished the week ranked eighth in EPA per play. But he was knocked out of the game with a PCL injury. Wilson is now going to be out 2-4 weeks, which leaves Mike White as the Jets' Week 8 starter.

When White was forced into action against the Patriots, the game was already out of reach. White ran exactly one play when the Patriots had less than a 90% chance of winning. Overall, White ranked 18th in EPA per play in Week 7, but given that he spent virtually every snap in garbage time, this likely overstates what he will bring to the table in Week 8.

Corey Davis deserves better. I was skeptical of Davis entering 2021. I viewed his 2020 breakout as a product of the Titans' scheme and A.J. Brown's ability to draw coverage, rather than representing true breakthrough. But Davis has been excellent this season, producing a strong 1.88 YPRR despite having to carry a disastrous Jets passing game. Davis has an 8.3 YPT, which isn't bad but it's great either. This means his per route efficiency this season has been driven by a strong ability to earn targets. Davis has seen a target on 23% of his routes with a 13.8 aDOT, which is an elite target profile. If he were on a competent offense, Davis would be having a very strong fantasy season. Davis picked up an injury in practice this week, and is now doubtful to play. Even if he goes, he should be left on benches at less than full health and with Mike White at quarterback.

Jamison Crowder has also seen a target on 23% of his routes. But while Davis is seeing his average target nearly 14 yards downfield, Crowder has an aDOT of just 5.0. Crowder has played 83% of his snaps in the slot, and his low upside target profile is locked in, even if Davis misses the game. He's a weak FLEX fill in option.

Elijah Moore is turning in a disastrous rookie season... with an embarrassingly low 0.60 YPRR. The crazy thing is that Moore has earned a target on 20% of his routes, with a 13.8 aDOT. His target profile isn't far off from Davis'. It's just that Moore has a 3.0 YPT. Among players with 100+ routes run, only Devin Singletary has been worse. Last week I noted that Moore was also not running a full slate of routes. We may have some good news on that front. While Moore only ran a route on 66% of dropbacks, Davis did as well. The Patriots blowout may have skewed routes for the starting outside wide receivers, as evidenced by Denzel Mims seeing a 34% route rate. With Davis now likely to miss the game, Moore seems very likely to be in a full-time role, or at least to play for as long as the rest of the starters do. Moore holds some desperation FLEX appeal. His YPT is so low that it has to regress substantially at some point.

With Tevin Coleman unable to play, Michael Carter handled 72% of snaps and ran a route on 59% of dropbacks. Ty Johnson played 29% of snaps and ran a route on 34% of dropbacks. Johnson finished with seven targets to Carter's eight, but Carter looks like the far stronger bet going forward. Stronger doesn't mean strong. Carter offers some viability as a RB2 this week, with the hope that he racks up dump off passes. But even with Tevin Coleman out again this week with a hamstring injury, Carter isn't a particularly exciting option.

Titans at Colts, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Titans Implied Team Total: 24.25

The Titans finally opened up the passing game in Week 7. Well, sort of. The Titans set in a new high in pass rate over expected against the Chiefs, by passing 1% less than expected. This is possible because they had a -8% pass rate over expected entering Week 7, so -1% was a big positive shift.

The Titans' "pass heavy" attack also came with Ryan Tannehill in his classic play action role. Tannehill attempted play action on 40% of his dropbacks, enough to jump him from 19th to 13th in play action rate this season. With a 28% play action rate this year, he's still well behind last year's league-leading 36%, but he's headed in the right direction.

Tannehill, as has been the case for two years now, was hyper-efficient in this role, leading the league in both EPA per play and CPOE in Week 7. In Weeks 1-4, Tannehill ran play action on 25% of his dropbacks. Since Week 5, he's at 35%, essentially back to his 2020 rate.

In a total and complete coincidence, Tannehill leads the NFL in in EPA per play since Week 5.

tanny_5-7.png
tanny_5-7.png

Tannehill finished second in EPA per play to Patrick Mahomes in 2019-2020, while running play action at a league-leading rate. So while we have a small sample of him being ultra-efficient this year, I'm much more willing to buy into it because it's paired with a restoration of his play action role. Tannehill also now looks fairly strong from a season long perspective, ranking eighth in EPA per play this season.

Tannehill has a middle of the road matchup this week against a Colts defense that ranks 14th in EPA allowed per dropback, 20th in PFF's pass rush grades and 23rd in PFF's coverage grades. The Colts are much better against the run, ranking third in EPA allowed per rush and fourth in PFF's rush defense grades. Teams are have still preferred to run on them, which makes more sense once you realize they've played three of the NFL's five most run-heavy teams: the Texans, 49ers and Titans.

When the Titans faced the Colts in Week 3, they went extremely run heavy with a -10% PROE. The Titans ran play action at a high rate (42%) against the Colts as well, and Tannehill had a strong day, finishing sixth in EPA per play. So although the Titans are a safe bet for low passing volume, Tannehill looks very likely to remain in the heavy play action role that has helped him recapture his 2019-20 efficiency.

Unfortunately, we'll need Tannehill to be very efficient in this game to deliver sufficient passing production. Because, there's one element of the 2019-2020 Titans that new OC Todd Downing has full abandoned: pace. Per pace guru Pat Thorman, the Titans had the sixth slowest pace in Week 7, and they had a bottom 10 pace when facing the Colts in Week 3.

Although overall passing volume will likely be low, targets should condense this week with Julio Jones out with a hamstring injury. The combination of condensed targets and Tannehill's revived efficiency unlocks elite upside for A.J. Brown. The third-year star posted a 5.32 YPRR in Week 7 with a target on 36% of his routes. He now has a 2.23 YPRR this season with a target on 26% of his routes, which is an elite target rate for his 13.7 aDOT. He got off to a slow start, but he looks poised to win leagues down the stretch, like he did last season.

The Colts run defense may be ranked 3rd in EPA allowed per rush, but it ranked 22nd the last time it faced Derrick Henry. It's not a perfect matchup, but Henry should be able to get rolling here once again. There's no question the Titans will lean on him. Henry's 191 rushing attempts in seven games this year are more than Nick Chubb saw in 12 games last season. Henry is earning his work. He has already racked up 264 yards on 15+ yard runs this year, which is behind only 10 running backs from all of 2020. Last week, he finished with 102 scrimmage yards, which was somehow disappointing... he's having that kind of season. The Colts should be able to keep him in check to an extent, but I said the same of Buffalo and Henry totaled 156 yards and three TDs against them.

Colts Implied Team Total: 26.75

Play action has helped elevate Ryan Tannehill, and it may be saving Carson Wentz's career. In Weeks 1-4, Wentz ranked 26th in play action rate and 30th in EPA per play. Since Week 5, Wentz leads the NFL in play action rate and is eighth in EPA per play.

I know this is starting to read like I signed a product placement deal with Play Action Corp (Do you have a broken quarterback? Give Play Action a try!), but it's genuinely shocking how effective play action passing is.

The Titans are a pass funnel this season. That's partly due to facing pass heavy teams like the Chiefs, Bills and Cardinals. But Titans' opponents are also shifting to the pass against them. This was evident when the Colts finished with a 3% pass rate over expected in Week 3, despite having a -1% PROE this season. The Colts won't go nuts, but we could see moderately increased passing volume this week. Hopefully that passing will include a continued commitment to of play action.

Wentz ran play action on just 20.5% of his dropbacks when he faced the Titans in Week 3. A healthy dose of run fakes should help him avoid a repeat of his QB26 finish in EPA per play that week.

The Titans defense ranks 22nd in EPA allowed per dropback and 27th in PFF's pass rush grades. So Wentz should have time to throw, and could have a nice day against an exploitable defense. The Titans are up to third in PFF's coverage grades however, so Wentz is a good bet to make a few mistakes as well.

The Colts passing game will be more effective if T.Y. Hilton (quad) can return to the lineup. Hilton has only run 16 routes this season but Wentz targeted him on four of them, with a deep threat aDOT of 16.5. Even in a limited role, he could help the Colts take advantage of a good passing matchup.

Michael Pittman has run a route on 96% of dropbacks this season, so Hilton's presence won't impact his snaps, but Pittman's ability to earn targets could be affected. Pittman saw a target on 14% his routes in Week 6 with Hilton active, which was his lowest rate since Week 1. In Week 7, Hilton was absent but Pittman saw a target on 14% of his routes once again, this time due to his deep threat usage (22.5 aDOT). Pittman has been targeted on 20% of his routes this season, which is good but not great. He doesn't have a lot of margin for error and his outlook will improve if Hilton is ruled out.

Mo Alie-Cox has TDs in back-to-back weeks, and four TDs over the last four weeks, but doesn't have a single week with a route rate over 50% this year. He's helping best ball portfolios, but he will remain a very thin option unless Jack Doyle (48% route rate) is phased out of the offense.

You know this, but it's worth reiterating: Jonathan Taylor is a star. He ranks first in NFL Next Gen's rushing success rate, first in breakaway percentage, fourth in yards per route run and eighth in elusive rating. This week he gets a Titans defense that ranks 21st in EPA allowed per rush, and one that he went for 6.4 yards per carry against in Week 3. If Wentz is able to play more efficiently than he did in Week 3, Taylor has upside to (gasp) outrush Derrick Henry.

Rams at Texans, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Rams Implied Team Total: 31.25

After two weeks of facing fake run funnels, the Rams finally get the real deal. The Texans are tied with the Chargers and Raiders as the NFL's second biggest run funnel. Only Arizona's opponents have a lower pass rate over expected. Houston's opponents also shift to the run against them in big way. Only the Chargers and Raiders are creating a bigger downshift in pass rate over expected.

It's clear why teams are attacking the Texans on the ground. Houston rank 13th in EPA allowed per rush. That rank, like all EPA ranks I reference in this column, has garbage time filtered out. With garbage time added back in, the Texans rank 31st in EPA allowed per rush. They also rank 31st in PFF's run defense grades.

But before we get to garbage time, the Rams aren't a lock to follow the pack here. The Texans are also have a bad pass defense. Houston ranks 24th in EPA allowed per dropback and 29th in PFF's coverage grades. And the the Rams strongly prefer the pass. Only the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Chargers have a higher pass rate over expected. So for as long as the game script makes it acceptable, the Rams could choose to score on the Texans through the air instead of on the ground.

The Rams were robbed of some upside when Davis Mills was named the starter this week. Tyrod Taylor was unlikely to find a ton of success against the Rams defense, but had a far greater chance of keeping the offense frisky than Davis Mills.

The Rams probably can't justify going all out with their passing attack this week. But when they do pass, there's no question about who the offense will flow through: Cooper Kupp.

What Kupp is doing is mind-blowing... because it might be sustainable. Yes, Kupp's 10.2 YPT is probably going to regress. Based on his aDOT I'd expect him to be closer to 8.4. But Kupp has a career 9.2 YPT over five seasons. It's not completely out of the question for him to sustain his per target efficiency, and even if he does regress, he doesn't have very far to go.

More importantly, Kupp's 33% target share is elite, but not a historical outlier. Davante Adams has a higher target share this season, and finished with a 34% target share in 2020. There have also been nine 33%+ target share seasons from 2012-2019: Michael Thomas, 34% in 2019; DeAndre Hopkins, 33% in 2018, and 35% in 2017; Julio Jones, 34% in 2015; Antonio Brown, 33% in 2015; Andre Johnson, 33% in 2014; Anquan Boldin, 34% in 2013; Vincent Jackson, 33% in 2013; and Brandon Marshall, if you want to talk about historical outliers, 41% in 16 games in 2012. What Kupp is doing is rare, but we see this type of season almost every year, and sometimes from multiple wide receivers.

Robert Woods is having a very solid season, with a 1.82 YPRR on a high volume passing offense. Woods' production has of course been dwarfed by Kupp's, and Kupp has been far more efficient with a 3.30 YPRR. But Woods has a 8.6 YPT that's right in line with what we should expect from his 9.1 aDOT. He's locked in as a low-end WR2.

I'm less bullish on Tyler Higbee. Higbee has had some near misses on TDs, but TDs are fluky. Missing on a couple TDs one week just means you missed out on a big week, not necessarily that another opportunity for a big week is imminent. That's especially true for a player like Higbee who is only being targeted on 16% of his routes with a 4.7 aDOT. Higbee, at least, has run a route on 82% of dropbacks. He's an effective way to get exposure to the Rams offense at a low cost, but profiles as a weekly TD or bust option. He remains in play because this offense produces a lot more passing TDs than most.

If the Rams do the right thing, and run the ball on the dispirited Texans, Darrell Henderson could fully deliver on his elite workload. Henderson has an 81% snap share this season; only Najee Harris and Alvin Kamara rank higher. And Henderson ranks RB7 in PFF's expected fantasy points this season. The Rams could decide to play to their strength through the air, but if they play the matchup, Henderson will be in for a massive workload.

Texans Implied Team Total: 15.25

Davis Mills will be under center in Week 8, which is bad news for fans of the Texans, and of football.

Mills ranks 31st in EPA per play this season and now faces a Rams defense than ranks 10th in EPA allowed per dropback, 14th coverage grade and seventh in pass rush grade.

And the Texans won't be able to take much pressure off of Mills with their rushing attack. The Rams rank 11th in EPA allowed per rush and second in PFF's run defense grades.

Overall this shapes up as a brutal matchup for the Texans who will be forced to throw in obvious passing situations against a difficult defense.

Brandin Cooks remains the only fantasy relevant Texan with Mills under center. He has a 32% target share and 49% air yard share. And Cooks is actually, somehow, converting his volume into production. Cooks has an elite 2.22 YPRR. He's not converting all of his volume into production. His 8.0 YPT is lower than expected for his 12.4 aDOT, but he's been respectable on a per target basis. Considering the context of his offense, his YPT jumps from respectable to miraculous.

Steelers at Browns, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Steelers Implied Team Total: 19

Ben Roethlisberger ranks 24th in EPA per play this season. That's barely better than Jacoby Brissett has been, yet somehow understates how bad Roethlisberger has seemed this year. Luckily we have another predictive metric: completion percentage over expected. Roethlisberger ranks 32nd in CPOE. Only Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson have been less accurate this season.

Regardless of how bad Roethlisberger has been, Diontae Johnson is going to get target volume. Johnson has been targeted on an elite 29% of his routes, with a deeper than expected 10.3 aDOT. Johnson was infamously peppered with targets around the line of scrimmage last year. And while he's still seeing plenty of those, he's also been able to mix in some deeper targets as well. Johnson has an inefficient 7.5 YPT, which sets him up for some positive regression. Given Roethlisberger's level of play, Johnson will probably underperform in per target efficiency. But any time he spikes in YPT he can deliver a huge fantasy week due to his elite target profile.

Facing the Browns, this looks like a boom/bust week to bet on Johnson. The Browns rank 28th in EPA allowed per dropback. By that metric they're highly exploitable. But the Browns also rank fifth in PFF's pass rush grades and sixth in coverage grades. The Browns have a good defense that limited the Bears and Vikings to six and seven points, and the Broncos to 14 points. But the Chiefs, Chargers and Cardinals all dropped 30+ on them. The Steelers offense belongs firmly in the first category, but the matchup still has enough upside to make Johnson a high-end WR2.

Similarly, Chase Claypool looks like a boom/bust bet this week. Claypool has a deeper, 12.3 aDOT. He's paired that with a very strong 23% targets per route run. He has also has a 2.07 yards per route run, his second season with an elite mark in the metric. There's risk of the Steelers offense cratering here, but Claypool should still be in lineups.

I was a little surprised by the Pat Freiermuth hype this week. Many of you may not be as entangled in deep league weeds as I am, but trust me, there's been hype. Freiermuth ran a route on just 54% of dropbacks in Week 6. He was targeted on 32% of his routes, which was great to see. And with JuJu Smith-Schuster out for the season, maybe this is indicative of a new role for Freiermuth. Or maybe he's a part-time tight end who is coming off a spike week.

However... Eric Ebron has since been ruled out for Week 8. Ebron has run a route on 53% of dropbacks this year and his absence opens up considerable opportunity for Freiermuth. Coming off their bye, the Steelers may have already planned to give their rookie more playing time, but they have no choice now. I wasn't on the bandwagon on Wednesday, but I'm jumping on it now.

Anthony McFarland will make his 2021 debut this week. He's unlikely to make a ton of noise with Najee Harris entrenched as the NFL's biggest workhorse, but it's possible that McFarland cuts Harris' snap share down from his league leading 86%. Harris could drop to the 75-80% range and still be in elite territory. Although, because the Steelers offense isn't efficient, Harris' fantasy managers shouldn't feel great about him potentially losing any snaps at all.

Harris leads the NFL with an expected points workload of 24.3 points per game, per PFF. He's left 4.1 points per game on the table. Harris hasn't been helped by an offensive line that ranks 30th in adjusted line yards. But Harris also bears some of the blame. The rookie ranks 32nd in NFL Next Gen's success rate, 26th in breakaway percentage, 18th in elusive rating and 17th in yards per route run. Harris is well rounded, but hasn't shown elite efficiency in any facet of the game. With an inefficient passing game and a bad run blocking line, he needs all the snaps he can get. McFarland won't shake things up in a major way, but he adds meaningful risk to Harris' profile this week.

Browns Implied Team Total: 23

Baker Mayfield still has a fracture in his shoulder, but he was not listed on the Browns' final injury report and so should be a full-go for Sunday. But at the same time, it's hard to believe that Mayfield's injury won't have an effect on the Browns' play calling.

The Steelers' pass defense has some similarities to Washington's. Pittsburgh ranks fourth in pass rush grade, but just 25th in coverage grade. The overall result has been a lot less disastrous than Washington's pass defense, however. The Steelers rank 11th in EPA allowed per dropback. The Browns will likely pick their spots here, looking to hit big plays downfield. But unless they get down big, there's no way they're going to expose Mayfield to the Steelers' pass rush.

The Browns are already extremely run heavy—with a -6% pass rate over expected. Only the Titans have been more run heavy this season. The Browns also rank 31st in PROE on 1st-and-10 and 28th in situation neutral pass rate. They already testing the bounds of how run heavy a team can get... so maybe they won't be more dramatically run heavy than we've seen so far. Still, they're a lock to pass below expected this week.

One reason we can be so confident that the Browns will game plan through the run game, is that Nick Chubb is healthy and off the injury report. For the second straight season, Chubb leads the NFL in elusive rating. No running back is better and avoiding tackles and picking up yards after contact than Nick Chubb. Chubb is also second in NFL Next Gen's success rate and seventh in breakaway percentage. He's a truly elite rusher, and making a case to be considered as a historically elite rusher.

Chubb is aided by a Browns offensive line that ranks second in adjusted line yards, which is partly why the Browns rushing attack stays good no matter who it run through. The Browns also have incredible depth at the running back position, as we learned in Week 7, when D'Ernest Johnson got his chance to shine. Johnson was fourth on the week in success rate against the Broncos, and he ranks third in elusive rating this year.

This week the Browns face a Steelers defense that ranks 24th in EPA allowed per rush, although PFF grades them much more favorably. They rank third in PFF's rush defense grades. Teams have sided with EPA here, averaging a -1% PROE against the Steelers, while shifting 2% to the run from their season-long rates. The Browns will follow suit, making Chubb a high-end RB2 play, and putting Johnson in play as a RB2 fill-in option.

When Mayfield does pass it looks like he could have both Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry to throw to. Landry has been quietly excellent this season, while Beckham has repeatedly come up short. Landry has an elite 2.34 YPRR, while Beckham has a thoroughly mediocre 1.57. But Beckham's underlying opportunity has been far more exciting. Landry has been targeted on 26% of routes with a shallow 5.7 aDOT. His usage is solid, but his high YPRR is aided by an unsustainable 9.0 YPT. Beckham has been targeted at nearly as high of a rate (23% TPRR). But Beckham has a 14.8 aDOT that comes with far more upside. Assuming that Beckham is active, he's my preferred way to play this passing game.

Eagles at Lions, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Eagles Implied Team Total: 25.75

The wheels seem to be coming off for Jalen Hurts as a passer, with his accuracy in free fall over the last few weeks.

screen_shot_2021-10-28_at_12.10.34_pm.png
screen_shot_2021-10-28_at_12.10.34_pm.png

Luckily, he's now enters the get-right spot of all get-right spots: Detroit. The Lions ranks 32nd in EPA allowed per dropback, 23rd in PFF's pass rush grades and 32nd in PFF's coverage grades. It should be pitch and catch this week.

Last week I flagged the Lions as a fake run funnel. The Rams agreed, passing 13% over expected in their 28-19 win. Now exposed, Detroit now looks like a true pass funnel. Their opponents are averaging a 2% pass rate over expected, and teams are shifting to the pass against them. Considering that they're 0-7, Detroit's ability to draw opposing pass attempts is almost impressive.

The early season Eagles would have jumped at the opportunity to throw all over the Lions. But as Hurts has gotten shakier as a passer, the Eagles have started to shift away from the pass. From Weeks 1-5 the Eagles had an 8% pass rate over expected. That's dropped to -7% over the last two weeks. Oddly, the Eagles' shift to the run started against the Buccaneers' pass funnel defense. They are the only team this season to shift to toward the run against the Buccaneers. Everyone shifts to the pass against the Bucs... except the Eagles apparently, who posted just a 1% PROE in Week 6, despite an 11% PROE entering the game. Then they got a run funnel Raiders defense and ran with it, posting a -13% PROE in Week 7. Detroit sets up as a high upside get-right spot for Hurts, but he won't get there if Philadelphia has gotten cold feet on his passing ability.

Luckily, Hurts also runs the ball effectively and is second to only Lamar Jackson in quarterback rushing yards this season. The Lions are 12th in EPA allowed per rush, so they're not terrible on the ground, but they're also not a shutdown run defense either. The Eagles also rank fifth in situation neutral seconds per play, so they have upside to put up quite a few points as long as the they haven't completely lost faith in their starter.

If the Eagles do get back to their early season passing, DeVonta Smith would be the primary beneficiary. The rookie has run a route on 94% of dropbacks, and is earning a target on 19% of routes, with an aDOT of 14. His target profile is both impressive for a rookie wide receiver and a little too close to Robby Anderson's (91% route rate, 17% TPRR, 12.7 aDOT) for comfort. The nice thing about Smith's profile is that he doesn't need high volume to have a nice week, just efficiency on his deep targets. He should be able to deliver that this week, with additional upside if the Eagles take advantage of the matchup.

The Eagles may not be ready to commit to Jalen Hurts, but they're all in on Dallas Goedert. In Ertz's first week in Arizona, Goedert ran a route on 88% of dropbacks. Only Tyler Higbee and Ricky Seals-Jones ran a route on a higher percentage of dropbacks in Week 7. The targets weren't there for Goedert, with a TPRR of just 11%, and Goedert only has a 14% TPRR on the season. The good news is that Goedert had a 21.8 aDOT last week and is at 9.4 for the season. Only four tight ends have a 70%+ route rate with a 9+ aDOT: Darren Waller, Mark Andrews, Kyle Pitts and Mike Gesicki. All four of those players have been targeted on 21%+ of their routes. With a TPRR of 14%, Goedert looks like a poor man's version of this profile. But considering that this is the profile, you can do a lot worse at tight end this week.

Quez Watkins tied Jalen Reagor on routes run last week and the flippening appears to be underway. Watkins leads the team with a 1.86 YPRR, while Reagor has an egregious 0.73. Watkins is in play as a FLEX fill-in this week, while Reagor can be safely dropped in all redraft formats.

With Miles Sanders on injured reserve, the Eagles will be splitting work between Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. Gainwell saw 51% of snaps in Week 7 to 33% for Scott and had a 25% target share to Scott's 4%. But as Ben Gretch detailed in Stealing Signals, Scott saw three straight carries inside the 10 yard line last week, while Gainwell only had one green zone carry.

Gainwell has played ahead of Scott all year and is a clear favorite to lead the backfield this week. But the two will likely form a committee, with Scott potentially stealing goal line work again. Gainwell profiles a Chase Edmonds type start this week, with upside for a big day as a receiver if the Eagles attack the Lions where they're weakest.

Lions Implied Team Total: 22.25

Jared Goff ranks 32nd in EPA per play ahead of only Justin Fields and Zach Wilson. It's a tough, tough scene.

But facing a defense that ranks 24th in EPA allowed per dropback, Goff shouldn't be a total disaster this week. More importantly, the Lions can get away with hiding him. The Eagles rank 28th in EPA allowed per rush and opposing offenses are shifting to the run against them, dropping 3% from their season long PROE averages. The Lions ranks 23rd with a -2% pass rate over expected. They'd like to be a run-first team, they just rarely get the chance to be. The Lions also rank 24th in situation neutral seconds per play. They're only to playing the scrappy underdog out of necessity. If the Eagles decide to hide Hurts, the Lions will happily hide Goff in turn.

Jamaal Williams is questionable for this game. If he is ruled out, D'Andre Swift is an elite play. But if Williams is active, this sets up as a risky matchup for the second-year star. Swift has a 70% snap rate this season, and is RB5 in PFF's expected points per game. He's hardly a part-time player. But Swift ranks RB19 in expected rushing yards, while William is RB24. Swift also has just 52% of backfield attempts to 48% for Williams. Swift still has plenty of upside, facing an Eagles defense that will allow big plays on the ground and through the air. But his potential for failure is higher than usual this week if Williams plays.

T.J. Hockenson remains a TE1, but it's hard to get excited about him. Hockenson has a run a route on 85% of dropbacks this season, which great. And he ranks fifth in both target share and air yard share among tight ends. But Hockenson is racking up a high share of one very worst passing offenses in the league—and one that could be planning to limit passing attempts this week. He needs to be in lineups, but fantasy managers should be pulling hard for a TD.

49ers at Bears, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

49ers Implied Team Total: 21.75

Jimmy Garoppolo is coming off a brutal game in the rain. In Week 7, he finished ahead of only Sam Darnold in EPA per play and ahead of only Mac Jones, Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts in CPOE. Garoppolo has never been great, but he's trending toward legitimately bad. He ranks 19th in EPA per play this season and 28th in CPOE.

This week he faces a Bears defense that the metrics disagree on. By EPA, the Bears are a solid pass defense that is more vulnerable on the ground. They rank ninth in EPA allowed per dropback and 18th in EPA allowed per rush. PFF has their strengths reversed, ranking them as a weak pass defense (16th in pass rush grade and just 28th in coverage grade) and a strong rush defense (fifth in rush defense grade). Teams have sided with the EPA here, shifting slightly to the run when facing the Bears. Although, in general, teams have simply played to their strengths against Chicago.

The Rams, Packers and Buccaneers all went pass heavy against the Bears, while the Bengals (in protect-Burrow mode) and the Browns went run heavy. The Lions and Raiders played it balanced. The 49ers are tied for 29th with the Saints in pass rate over expected, and are a strong bet to choose the run if both options are on the table.

The 49ers rushing attack will flow through Elijah Mitchell. The rookie handled 86% of backfield attempts in Week 7 and 66% of snaps. For the season, Michell has handled 80% of backfield attempts and has a 65% snap share. Mitchell wasn't targeted against the Colts, but he ran a route on 52% of dropbacks, while backup JaMycal Hasty saw five targets but only ran a route on 41% of dropbacks. Michell's routes give him upside for some dump-off passes, but he can't be counted on for receiving work, with just a 4% target share this year. With the 49ers as four point favorites, Mitchell should be in the right game script to produce a solid RB2 week, but he's a fragile play.

Deebo Samuel should be able to deliver, regardless of game script. Samuel is tied with Cooper Kupp for second in the NFL with a 33% target share, behind only Davante Adams. And he ranks third in the NFL in YPRR, behind Ja'Marr Chase and Kupp. If PFF ends up being the source to trust this week, their 28th ranking on the Bears' pass coverage signals major upside for Samuel. Unfortunately, he'll likely need to get there on efficiency, because passing volume is likely to be limited.

The 49ers aren't just run heavy; they're slow. The 49ers rank 20th in situation neutral pace, and are playing a Bears team that ranks 26th. This game has strong potential to bog down. Pace guru Pat Thorman notes that 49ers games have averaged "the ninth-fewest combined snaps (second fewest during the last four weeks)."

On this slow, run heavy offense, we need our fantasy options to dominate snaps. Coming out of the 49ers' Week 6 bye, Brandon Aiyuk saw his routes go in the wrong direction. After running a route on 77% of dropbacks in Week 5, he dropped to 69% in Week 7. I'm holding onto him in some deep leagues, but I can't give you a rational reason for that. Aiyuk can be cut if you're less willing to go down with the ship.

Bears Implied Team Total: 17.75

I am not going down the ship with Justin Fields. Last week I compared his rushing profile in this offense to Ryan Tannehill's. In Week 7 he rushed for 38 yards, which is nice... but the way he got there was not bullish. Fields picked up all 38 yards on seven scramble attempts. He had just one designed rush attempt, which went for zero yards.

Since taking over as a starter in Week 3, Fields is seventh in quarterback rushing yards... but 93% of his yards have come on scrambles. This is going to sound like a joke, but it's not—I've begun cheaply acquiring Mitchell Trubisky in superflex dynasty leagues. The offensive design here is so suboptimal, that I'm questioning if Trubisky is bad. Send help.

It's not just a lack of designed rushing attempts. October's winner for blurb of the month puts it best:

As noted by my anonymous, kicker-loving colleague, Fields' completion percentage is 11% higher on play action and he's averaging 1.8 more yards per attempt. Yet Fields ranks 20th in play action rate. As you can read above in Titans at Colts, A Novella - play action is extremely effective at improving passing efficiency. With Fields showing promise as a play action passer, it's especially maddening that the Bears won't help him out more.

It's especially infuriating that the Bears won't fake the run at a high rate, because they love the real thing. The Bears rank 27th with a -4% pass rate over expected this season and they have a -5% PROE since Justin Fields became the starter. The 49ers love to run the ball too... but they then take advantage of defenses who begin to overplay it. Jimmy Garoppolo ranks fourth in play action rate and Trey Lance ranks eighth.

The Bears' offensive design and Fields' lackluster play has created a disastrous environment for Bears receivers. Darnell Mooney has a mediocre 1.61 YPRR, Allen Robinson has a poor 1.19 YPRR, and Cole Kmet has a borderline benchable 1.04 YPRR. All three players are below expectations in YPT, so it's possible that we see some positive regression. As we talked about on Monday, Allen Robinson is legitimately droppable in shallow leagues. In deeper leagues however, his 13.6 aDOT does provide some hope of a usable FLEX performance. Robinson leads the team with a 39% air yard share and has a solid 24% target share. He's the number one wide receiver on his team... and barely fantasy relevant. The Bears are really something.

The run game is the one piece of the Bears offense that's actually working. Khalil Herbert has been a star as a rusher, and the Bears immediately turned him into a workhorse. Herbert saw 89% of snaps in Week 6. With Damien Williams back in the lineup, Herbert maintained an elite 77% snap share and handled 86% of the backfield attempts in Week 7. Herbert saw his route rate drop from 81% to 53%, but his targets actually increased from three to five. The passing game is not Herbert's strong suit (he ranks RB36 in YPRR), but it's bullish that he's seeing some involvement there. Herbert also hasn't been great a breakaway runner, ranking RB28 in breakaway percentage. But Herbert has consistently gained yardage, ranking ninth in NFL Next Gen's success rate, and he's been great at avoiding tackles and picking up yards after contact, ranking RB7 in elusive rating.

Herbert faces a difficult matchup against a 49ers defense that ranks ninth in EPA allowed per rush. But he just put up 100 yards with 5.6 YPC against the Buccaneers' top ranked run defense. With the Bears likely to go run heavy here, he's the only piece of the offense that can be trusted this week.

Panthers at Falcons, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Panthers Implied Team Total: 21.75

Sam Darnold's play has absolutely cratered this season.

screen_shot_2021-10-28_at_4.14.22_pm.png
screen_shot_2021-10-28_at_4.14.22_pm.png

He now ranks 29th in EPA per play, ahead of only Jared Goff, Justin Fields and Zach Wilson. If Darnold has any of his early season magic left, this is the spot to show it. The Falcons rank 19th in EPA allowed per dropback, 21st in PFF's coverage grades and 31st in PFF's pass rush grades.

The Falcons lack of a pass rush is just what the doctor ordered. Darnold has been pressured on 106 of his 278 dropbacks this season. No quarterback has seen more pressures this year, and Darnold ranks ninth in pressure rate. Darnold is partly to blame for this—he ranks eighth in time time to throw per attempt—but the Falcons are unlikely to punish him for holding onto the ball as badly as his recent opponents have.

If Darnold can take advantage of some cleaner pockets, D.J. Moore could be in for a very nice week. Moore has a very strong 2.10 YPRR, and has achieved that with a 8.1 YPT that is actually slightly lower than expected based on his 11.2 aDOT. His production this season actually understates his opportunity. Moore is tied with Diontae Johnson for sixth in weighted opportunity rating. Only Davante Adams, Brandin Cooks, Terry McLaurin, Cooper Kupp and Deebo Samuel have accounted for a larger share of their team's passing offense. Moore is a Darnold bounce-back game away from an elite week.

Robby Anderson has been targeted on 17% of his routes with a 12.7 aDOT. His underlying target profile is solid, but he's paired it with a 4.3 YPT, leading to a shockingly bad 0.76 YPRR. Anderson isn't going to be a fun play and you'll almost certainly be mad you played him. But his WOPR is virtually identical to Adam Thielen's. He's most likely to burn you again, but he's still capable of a spike week.

Chuba Hubbard had a strong grip on the backfield in Weeks 5-6, handling 91% of backfield attempts and playing 65% of snaps in close losses to the Eagles and Vikings. In a more decisive loss to the Cowboys in Week 4, Hubbard handled 81% of backfield attempts and played 47% of snaps. In last week's blowout loss to the Giants he saw 80% of backfield attempts and 53% of snaps. Hubbard is locked in as the Panthers lead back with Christian McCaffrey out, but he'll be far better off if the three point underdog Panthers can keep the game close.

Falcons Implied Team Total: 24.75

The Falcons are yet another play action success story, after dramatically increasing the use of play action following a slow start to the season. Matt Ryan ranks eighth in play action rate and ranks second in EPA per play since Week 3.

This week Ryan faces a good Panthers defense ranked 3rd in EPA allowed per dropback, 12th in PFF's coverage grades and 17th in pass rush grades. Ryan will likely cool off a bit this week, but we've seen enough to trust that he won't totally fall apart in a challenging matchup.

Last week I wrote that Ryan's continued success could lead to strong production for both Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts. Pitts delivered in a big way... but we're still waiting on Calvin Ridley. It's going to be worth the wait. Ridley has been targeted on 26% of his routes with an aDOT of 9.9. He has a brutal 5.5 YPT, which is creating a poor 1.43 YPRR. But nothing has changed here. Ridley has a 27% target share and a 37% air yard share. He's still a high-end talent seeing borderline elite volume.

Kyle Pitts now has an elite 2.28 YPRR, but it's worth noting that he's running very hot with an 11.0 YPT. He'll likely cool off over the next few weeks. But when he does, he'll still be an elite tight end. Pitts has seen a target on 21% of his routes with a deep aDOT of 11.3. This target profile puts him in elite company. Pitts, Darren Waller, Mark Andrews and Rob Gronkowski are the only full-time tight ends to have a target on 20%+ of their routes with aDOT of 10+. He's locked in as high-end TE1 despite facing negative regression.

In Week 5, Cordarrelle Patterson played 59% of snaps and Mike Davis 64% of snaps. Coming out of the bye we saw similar usage with Patterson at 73% of snaps and Davis at 60%. Expect... it wasn't similar. In Week 5, Patterson handled 50% of backfield attempts to 46% for Davis. In Week 7, Patterson handled 74% of backfield attempts with just 21% for Davis. Davis still gets to play running back when Patterson is playing wide receiver, but this now looks like Patterson's backfield.

That doesn't mean that Davis' value is completely gone. Patterson played only 46% of his snaps in the backfield in Week 7, so Davis can still be fill-in as a TD or bust RB2 option. Although, as Ben Gretch noted in Stealing Signals, Patterson got the only carry inside the 10 last week.

Patterson's mix of wide receiver usage and rushing upside makes him a legitimately exciting fantasy option. Facing a Panthers defense ranked 17th in EPA allowed per rush, he should be able to build on his Week 7 success if given similar opportunity.

Dolphins at Bills, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Dolphins Implied Team Total: 17.25

Tua Tagovailoa faces the top ranked Bills defense on Sunday. The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday. It's not hard to see how this might go.

The Dolphins are doing what they can to help their quarterback. Tagovailoa leads the NFL with a 41% play action rate. Kyler Murray ranks second, trailing Tagovailoa by nearly 3%. The Dolphins have also been passing 1% over expected on 1st-and-10 since Tagovailoa returned from injury. They're setting him up for success, and to a degree, it's working. Tagovailoa ranks 14th in EPA per play over the last two weeks. The issue is that he's played the Jaguars and Falcons in those two starts.

This week Tagovailoa faces the top ranked defense in EPA allowed per dropback; a defense that has had two weeks to prepare for him. The Bills rank 11th in PFF's pass rush grades and first in their coverage grades. They are legitimately the league's best defense. Tagovailoa should have an easier time of it than Jacoby Brissett did in Miami's Week 2, 35-0 loss to the Bills, but this matchup still sets him up for a rough game.

At least DeVante Parker looks likely to play this week. Parker is helping to take the top off defenses with a 14.5 aDOT. And he's earned targets at strong 19% for his usage. He's a decent FLEX play if expected to be fully healthy. Jaylen Waddle has been used much more shallowly, with a 5.7 aDOT. Waddle has earned targets at a decent 21%, but he has less upside with Parker in the lineup.

Mike Gesicki leads the Dolphins with 1.87 YPRR and has a sustainable 8.7 YPT. He's not a truly elite option, but he does appear to have broken out this year, and remains in play despite the difficult matchup.

With Malcolm Brown playing just 6% of snaps in Week 7 and heading to injured reserve with a quad injury, the Dolphins backfield is a bit simpler to predict. Myles Gaskin led the way against the Falcons with a 63% snap share, with Salvon Ahmed seeing 30%. Gaskin also had a 10% target share to just 5% for Ahmed. The Dolphins have been all over the place with their backfield touches this year, so while I wouldn't completely rule out Ahmed seeing more work than last week, Gaskin looks to be pretty safely ahead here. The problem is that, even after getting wrecked by Derrick Henry, the Bills rank eighth in EPA allowed per rush. Gaskin has limited upside but still provides RB2 value. His easiest path to value is a high volume receiving day.

Bills Implied Team Total: 31.25

Josh Allen ranks 14th in EPA per play, and fifth in CPOE. He's had two weeks to prepare for a decent, but exploitable Dolphins defense that ranks 24th in EPA allowed per dropback, 15th in pass rush grade and 15th in coverage grade.

The Bills understand that Allen is their path to victory. They rank sixth in pass rate over expected, first in pass rate over expected on 1st-and-10, and first in situation neutral pass rate. The Bills really don't mess around when the defense has to defend the pass and the run... the Chiefs, who are second in situation neutral pass rate, are closer to the eighth place Eagles than they are to the Bills.

sn_wk7.png
sn_wk7.png

The Bills are also well aware that going pass heavy with a good quarterback provides them with an advantage that they should press. Buffalo ranks third in situation neutral pace. Miami ranks 14th and struggles to run the ball with an offensive line ranked 29th in adjusted line yards. The only way that the Miami can slow the Bills down is by being completely noncompetitive, like they were in Week 2. But provided Tagovailoa can push the Bills to some extent, Allen should have solid passing volume.

I've predicted a Diggs spike week before, and we didn't get it... but I'm going back to the well here. The Bills should have solid volume and Diggs has an elite target profile in an elite passing offense. Diggs has been targeted on 25% of his routes with a 12.6 aDOT. His 8.4 YPT isn't terrible, but he's still underperforming what we'd expect from his aDOT. He's also below his career 9.1 YPT and well below the 9.6 YPT he posted in his first year with Allen. Diggs and Allen haven't been completely on the same page this year. I have to imagine that was a point of emphasis during the bye, and I expect a them to demonstrate a much stronger connection against the Dolphins.

Emmanuel Sanders is set up well because he doesn't need high volume to produce a nice week. His 18.6 aDOT gives him a path to upside on just a few big plays. Sanders has earned targets at a solid 16% for his deep threat usage. Of course, if the Bills do keep their foot on the gas, his fantasy managers won't turn away a second helping of targets.

Dawson Knox is out for this game with a hand injury, which will open up snaps for Tommy Sweeney. Sweeney has 81 career routes, so he's a bit of an unknown. He has a passable 1.46 career YPRR, but with such a small sample it's difficult to know how involved he'll be.

The change from Knox to Sweeney creates upside for Cole Beasley. Beasley needs volume to deliver fantasy value. He has been targeted on 20% of his routes, but has a very shallow 5.7 aDOT. If Sweeney isn't the receiving weapon that Knox is, we could see additional intermediate targets for Beasley. Knox's absence probably won't have an impact on the slot receiver's routes, however. The Bills have had at least three wide receivers on the field for 90% of their pass attempts this season.

Knox's injury is unlikely to have a meaningful positive impact Gabriel Davis. The Bills have run 4WR-5WR sets this year at the same rate as last year. The second-year wide receiver looks locked into a low volume role. He'll need to steal work from Emmanuel Sanders to regain fantasy relevance.

The Bills' Week 5 loss to the Titans was a shocker, and wrecked hopes that Zack Moss might be able to get going on the ground while the Bills salted away a lead. He finished with just eight carries for 24 yards. But Moss still led the backfield with a 55% snap share, with Devin Singletary at 45%. Moss also tied Singletary in route rate at 43%. Unless the Bills are in for another shocking upset, Moss should be able to deliver solid RB2 value, as the Bills' 1A back.

Editor’s Note: Drafting is only half the battle! Get an edge on your competition with our NFL Season Tools - available in our EDGE+ Roto tier for $3.99/mo. (annually) or $9.99/mo. (monthly) - that are packed with rankings, projections, a trade evaluator, start/sit tools and much more. And don't forget to use promo code SAVE10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more!

Patriots at Chargers, 4:05 PM Eastern, Sunday

Patriots Implied Team Total: 22.5

Mac Jones hasn't been spectacular this season, but he remains far above the other rookie quarterbacks. He ranks 18th in EPA per play, while Trevor Lawrence ranks next highest at 25th. And the Patriots have been willing to utilize Jones. They are in a six way tie for sixth in pass rate over expected, and are in a four way tie for fourth in PROE on 1st-and-10.

This week though, New England will likely shift to the run. The Chargers' opponents are averaging a -4% PROE, and no team has seen it's opponents shift to the run more than the Chargers. It's easy to understand why the Chargers are such a run funnel. They rank a respectable 13th in EPA allowed per dropback; dead last in EPA allowed per rush.

The Patriots are capable of taking advantage of the matchup. Damien Harris ranks 11th in NFL Next Gen's success rate, 11th in elusive rating and seventh in breakaway percentage. He's handled 45% of snaps and 57% of backfield attempts. His usage is understated by being banged up a few weeks ago and not playing in garbage time, but it's true that he won't have a complete lock carries. It's helpful then that the matchup sets him up for high-end efficiency as a rusher.

Beyond Harris, things remain in flux in this backfield. J.J. Taylor was active over Rhamondre Stevenson against the Jets and punched in two garbage time TDs. Brandon Bolden was in the James White role against the Jets, with an 18% target share, but he had just a 5% target share the week prior, while Rhamondre Stevenson had a 16% target share. There's double uncertainty for the backs behind Harris. We have to guess the right game script, and then we have to guess which running backs will be in which roles. Harris is the one constant, and this looks like the right game script for him.

As far as the wide receivers go, Jakobi Meyers is the clear top option. The slot receiver has a target on 22% of his routes. With an aDOT of 9.0, he leads the team with a 24% target share and a 27% air yard share. Having literally never scored a TD, he's not the picture of upside, but he is a FLEX option.

Jonnu Smith's outlook for Sunday is uncertain, which will potentially open up additional routes for Hunter Henry in his revenge game with the Chargers. Henry has run a route on 67% of dropbacks, and has been targeted on 17% of his routes with a 9.4 aDOT. Even if he gets additional routes this week, he looks like a TD or bust option. Considering that he leads the team with four TDs, there will be worse TEs that make lineups this week.

Chargers Implied Team Total: 27

Justin Herbert ranks ninth in EPA per play. Much like the Bills, the Chargers know what they have and are pushing their advantage as much as possible.

The Chargers rank third in pass rate over expected, third in pass rate over expected on 1st-and-10 and third in situation neutral pass rate. Los Angeles also plays with the fastest pace in the league—the Chargers are slightly faster than the Rams, leading the NFL in situation neutral pace.

Patriots' opponents have averaged a -1% pass rate over expected, but teams are shifting heavily to the run against them averaging 3% below their season long rates. Only the Eagles, Texans, Raiders and Chargers are creating a bigger shift to the run. Even the Buccaneers, the pass happiest team in the league shifted down to a 0% pass rate over expected against the Patriots.

The Chargers have only gone run heavy once this year: when they faced the Raiders' run funnel defense in Week 4, posting a -1% pass rate over expected. The Raiders are a bigger run funnel than the Patriots, so even if the Chargers attack this rushing matchup again, the effect might not be as big.

Moreover, it's not clear that the Chargers should shift to the run here. The Patriots rank 23rd in EPA allowed per dropback and fifth in EPA allowed per rush... they're actually much better against the run than the pass. PFF backs this up, although to a lesser degree. New England ranks 17th in coverage grade, 30th in pass rush grade, and 21st in run defense grade. The Chargers are likely best off if they stick to their strengths here.

Mike Williams' fantasy managers are in full agreement. The fifth year wide receiver is turning in a stellar season. He has an elite 2.45 YPRR and his 9.4 YPT is completely in line with his 12.4 aDOT. His elite per route efficiency is entirely sustainable. He's a locked in WR1.

Keenan Allen offers a little less upside with his 8.7 aDOT, but he's been targeted on a strong 23% of his routes and has a good 24% target share and 27% air yard share. Allen definitely profiles as the secondary wide receiver at this point, but he's still in a very valuable role, particularly if the Chargers stay aggressive through the air this week.

Austin Ekeler has been one bright spots of the fantasy season, but he's a bit fragile as an "elite" running back. Ekeler has played 64% of snaps this year, which is solid. And he's averaging 15.6 expected points per game, which is also solid. But Ekeler has been extremely efficient this season, leading the league in fantasy points over expected. Cordarrelle Patterson and Derrick Henry have been less efficient on their workloads than Austin Ekeler, which feels like it can't be true... but it is. Ekeler is RB12 in expected points per game and he'll likely settle into a low-end RB1 / high-end RB2 here rather than the elite fantasy running back he's been so far. If Ekeler (questionable, hip) can't play this week, Justin Jackson will likely do a pale imitation of the receiving dynamo, with Joshua Kelley likely handling additional early down duties.

Jaguars at Seahawks, 4:05 PM Eastern, Sunday

Jaguars Implied Team Total: 20.25

Trevor Lawrence ranks 25th in EPA per play, but he's trending in the right direction.

screen_shot_2021-10-28_at_11.55.09_pm.png
screen_shot_2021-10-28_at_11.55.09_pm.png

He's also looking much more accurate after a horrendous start to the season.

screen_shot_2021-10-28_at_11.59.14_pm.png
screen_shot_2021-10-28_at_11.59.14_pm.png

Lawrence still ranks 33rd in CPOE this season, ahead of only Zach Wilson. But since Week 3, he's a respectable 19th in both CPOE and EPA per play.

This week he faces a Seahawks defense that ranks 12th in EPA allowed per dropback, 21st in pass rush grade and 26th in coverage grade. The Seahawks are better against the run, ranking 14th in EPA allowed per rush and sixth in run defense grade. Teams are running on them anyway. Seahawks opponents are averaging a -2% pass rate over expected—presumably because Pete Carroll has a handshake deal in place with opposing coaches to run the ball, so that he can run the ball in turn. The Jaguars won't need much convincing.

Jacksonville's -3% pass rate over expected is tied with the Vikings for 25th in the league, and they also rank 25th in situation neutral pass rate. It's hard to completely fault the Jaguars for this. They rank fourth in adjusted line yards. Running the ball is actually what they do best, and it's contributing positively to their offense. Only the Browns, Buccanneers, Packers and Jaguars have positive EPA per rush this season. Of those teams, only the Browns and Jaguars are actually better at running the ball than they are passing it.

With the "book" on the Seahawks playing directly to the Jaguars' strengths, they're likely to follow the pack here. That sets up James Robinson for a nice week. Robinson's 73% snap share ranks fourth in the NFL, and he ranks 13th in expected points per game. With the Jaguars as 3.5 point underdogs, they should be able to keep the game close enough to deploy Robinson as much as they want to. He looks like a low-end RB1 this week.

When they do pass the ball, Marvin Jones looks like the safest option. Jones has been targeted on 20% of his routes with a 13.2 aDOT and has a strong 32% air yard share. With a YPT of 8.0 he's due for some positive regression... although betting on positive regression from a 31 year-old, catching passes from a rookie doesn't always work out so well.

Laviska Shenault is the more exciting bet, and as the team leader in YPRR for the second straight season, arguably the objectively better bet. In the week after D.J. Chark's injury, Shenault's route rate perplexingly dropped to 61%, when he had a route rate of 79% entering the week. He rebounded to 82% in Week 6 however, with Jones barely ahead at 86%. Shenault also showed an ability to earn targets from the outside. While playing only 26% of his snaps from the slot, he earned a target on 25% of his routes. He still had a low 5.9 aDOT, but his ability to draw targets at a high rate was bullish. Truthfully, he probably isn't an objectively better play than Jones, but he's the objectively more exciting play. Live a little.

Coming out of the bye we could also see bigger roles for Dan Arnold and Jamal Agnew. Given the nature of the matchup, I'm in wait and see mode with them where possible. Arnold's routes dipped in Week 6, and Agnew needs to pass Shenault or Jones in target share to be fantasy viable. But both players are interesting as bench stashes.

Seahawks Implied Team Total: 23.75

Geno Smith, predictably, has been bad. He ranks 30th in EPA per play, ahead of only Davis Mills, Justin Fields, Jared Goff and Zach Wilson. Seattle has gone into a shell since Smith came into the game in the fourth quarter against the Rams.

screen_shot_2021-10-29_at_12.39.05_am.png
screen_shot_2021-10-29_at_12.39.05_am.png

Over the last three weeks, the Seahawks have a -7% PROE and they are at -9% over the last two weeks. The Titans are currently the most run-heavy team in the league with a -7% PROE. The Seahawks have fully shifted to the run.

The Seahawks latest exercise in handoffs came agains the Saints, who are pass funnel. The Jaguars are an even bigger pass funnel, but I doubt it will matter much. Only Tampa Bay and Washington are shifting teams to the pass more than the Jaguars, but the Seahawks clearly plan to be very run heavy with Smith at the helm. A "shift" to the pass could still mean a -5% pass rate over expected or lower.

I guess I can't blame Carroll for doing what he wants to in this matchup. The Jaguars aren't good at stopping anything. Jacksonville ranks 30th in EPA allowed per dropback, but they also rank just 26th in EPA allowed per rush. If Russell Wilson was healthy, this matchup would put a pit in my stomach. But I say we let Pete have this one.

Rashaad Penny returned in Week 7 and played 36% of snaps, but Alex Collins still carried the load. Collins played only slightly more, with a 39% snap share, but he dominated carries with 70% of backfield attempts, to 26% for Penny. Penny ran a route on 39% of dropbacks, compared to 14% for Collins. If Chris Carson is still out when Russell Wilson gets back, Penny could be interesting, given his lead in the passing game. But for now, Alex Collins looks like the only running back worth playing.

In Smith's two starts, Tyler Lockett has been targeted on 14% and 12% of his routes. It has not been good. DK Metcalf remains more heavily involved, seeing a target on 19% and 21% of his routes. But Smith isn't always willing to go to his best players, most notable giving Freddie Swain a 32% target share in Week 7. For now, only Metcalf looks worth trusting, with Lockett sadly looking like a weak FLEX option until Wilson returns.

Washington at Broncos, 4:25 PM Eastern, Sunday

Washington Implied Team Total: 20.75

Taylor Heinicke ranks 23rd in EPA per play and 21st in CPOE. He's not a terrible quarterback, but we signed up for a fun season of Ryan Fitzpatrick football. This is not that.

This week Washington faces a Broncos defense that ranks 20th in EPA allowed per dropback and 24th in both pass rush and coverage grades. The Broncos aren't great against the run either, ranking 27th in EPA allowed per rush.

Teams have been balanced in how they've attacked the Broncos. Washington has been balanced this season as well, with a 0% pass rate over expected. When they do pass, they tend to do so from a position of strength. Washington ranks 10th in situation neutral pass rate and 10th in pass rate over expected on 1st-and-10. Heinicke has looked shaky at various points this year, but Washington is willing to let him throw when the defense has to play the pass and the run, which is setting their backup up for success. Washington is also using play action at a very high rate. Heinicke has run play action on 34% of his dropbacks, which ranks fifth in the league.

Washington is the doing what they can to get good play out of Heinicke... there just doesn't seem to be much there. In this matchup, Washington will likely roll out a similar, intelligent, balanced game plan. But with both overall volume and efficiency likely to be low, only Terry McLaurin and Ricky Seals-Jones hold any interest as receivers.

McLaurin has an 8.1 YPT, which is well below what is expected for his 13.5 aDOT. McLaurin could see some positive regression soon. But even if he doesn't, he's soaking up such a huge share of the offense that he still has plenty of upside. McLaurin has a 30% target share and 49% air yard share this season. He trails only Davante Adams and Brandin Cooks in WOPR. McLaurin really has no business being a low-end WR1 this week, yet somehow he is.

Ricky Seals-Jones isn't seeing ton of target volume, but with tight end eligibility, his elite route share is enough. Seals-Jones has run routes on 92% and 91% of dropbacks over the last two weeks. He's seeing a target on 16% of his routes, which is both fairly weak, and better than what Logan Thomas was doing this year. The system is what drives tight end value in this offense and Seals-Jones is fully entrenched in the lead tight end role.

Battling his shin fracture, Antonio Gibson has seen a 40% snap share over the last two weeks. On the bright side, he's handled 65% of backfield attempts, and was not listed on the injury report this. But a heavy early down workload was supposed to be a given with Gibson, not something we could desperately cling to as a last shred of hope. And whether because of his shin or because of his skillset, the hope for elite upside is gone. Gibson has run a route on 31% and 21% of dropbacks over the last two weeks, with McKissic at 59% and 74%. Gibson still has more TD upside, but McKissic has the safer weekly floor.

Broncos Implied Team Total: 23.75

After a strong start, Teddy Bridgewater has settled into a mediocre season, ranking 17th in EPA per play. But to be fair, mediocre is a lot better than we expected before the year.

Now facing a Washington defense that ranks 28th in EPA allowed per play and 31st in coverage grade, Bridgewater could get back to his early season form. Although, there is also some risk here. Washington ranks second in pass rush grade and Bridgewater invites pressure. He has the seventh longest time to throw per attempt this season, and he's been pressured at the 10th highest rate. I expect that Bridgewater will find success against a weak defense, but as someone who's terrified about having to watch Drew Lock play and then blurb coherent thoughts, I feel obligated to acknowledge Bridgewater's path to failure.

If Jerry Jeudy can return to action this week, he should help Bridgewater get the ball out quickly and, mercifully, keep him under center. Jeudy has only run 24 routes this season, but he looked poised to take the league by storm. Jeudy was targeted on 29% of those routes with an 11.7 aDOT, giving him an elite target profile. The Broncos aren't going to be super pass heavy this week. They rank 20th with a -1% pass rate over expected. But they posted a 6% pass rate over expected against the pass funnel Jaguars, and are coming off a 5% PROE against the Browns. With Jeudy back in the mix they should throw enough to support an explosive return to the lineup, provided Jeudy was truly in the midst of a second-year breakout before his injury.

Courtland Sutton could see less volume this week, but he has a little bit to spare. Sutton has a solid 24% target share and a 42% air yard share, the sixth highest in the NFL. Sutton's 16.9 aDOT gives him access to a big week without huge target volume. As a result, Jeudy's return could ultimately be a net positive for Sutton if Jeudy improves the efficiency of the offense, despite stealing a target or two.

Noah Fant could also benefit from Jeudy's return, although he's at much higher risk of falling out of relevance, unless the offense improves dramatically. On the one hand, Fant has a poor 6.6 YPT that an improved offense could help him increase. On the other hand, he he's been targeted on 21% of his routes with just a 6.7 aDOT. His usage isn't bad, but he can't afford to give up targets with his shallow aDOT. He's still a TE1 this week, but Jeudy adds more risk than upside.

Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon continue to be in an even split, although Gordon saw meaningfully more work in Week 7. Gordon had a 58% snap share to Williams' 42% and handled 67% of backfield attempts to Williams' 33%. Williams ranks eighth in success rate, second in breakaway percentage and second in elusive rating, so I can't for the life of me explain why Melvin Gordon out-carried him 2:1 last week. I can say that Williams will likely continue to be efficient this week. Washington ranks 22nd in EPA allowed per rush. We have no indication that Denver will commit to Williams on the ground here, but there's mounting evidence that they should seriously consider giving the rookie more run.

Buccaneers at Saints, 4:25 PM Eastern, Sunday

Buccaneers Implied Team Total: 27

Tom Brady... what is there left to say? The man is 44 years old and ranks third in EPA per play ahead of Patrick Mahomes. Then he goes on the Manningcast and cracks jokes about defensive players that genuinely make me laugh? No. It's simply too much. I'm now dreading the Tom Brady second act where I slowly begin to like him more than the prospect of him wearing additional rings.

This week Brady gets a difficult Saints defense, but one that teams have been attacking through the air, which should make Tommy all smiles. The Buccaneers have a 10% pass rate over expected, which is second in the NFL. And while the Saints rank fourth in EPA allowed per dropback, teams are averaging a 2% pass rate over expected against them. The Buccaneers are lock to follow suit. Along with the Chiefs, Rams and Panthers, they are one of four teams without a run heavy week this season. And since the Saints rank seventh in EPA allowed per rush, there's really no reason for the Buccaneers to get away from what they do best.

Brady will be without Antonio Brown again this week, but he gets Rob Gronkowski back from injury. Gronkowski has been targeted on 24% of his routes this season with an 11.8 aDOT. His target profile is elite on per route basis, and there's upside for him to return to a full slate of routes with Brown out. Gronkowski ran a route on 74% of dropbacks in Week 1. If he sees that kind of route volume this week, he could be in for a very nice day. He probably won't score two TDs again... but that's the kind of upside his target profile provides in a full time role. Coming off injury however, he may be worked in more gradually. He looks like an upside low-end TE1 play.

Both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin looks like upside WR2 plays here. Both players were targeted on 32% of their routes in Week 7 and had nearly identical aDOTs of 11.8 and 11.9. Evans has the much deeper aDOT on the season, 14 to 9.6, and he looks like the higher upside play this week. With targets likely to condense with Brown out of the lineup, both players are strong options.

Tyler Johnson picked up Brown's full role in Week 7, running a route on 71% of dropbacks. His 7% TPRR was a far cry from Brown's 28% however. Johnson will likely see a few more targets this week, just by nature of being on the field a lot, but he looks like a thin option and shouldn't get too in the way of the more fantasy relevant players.

Leonard Fournette is sixth in expected point per game, and while this isn't an ideal spot for him, he is a high-end RB2 play on volume alone. Fournette's usage, if anything, has been skewed lower by garbage time in recent weeks. In the Buccaneers' near loss to the Patriots, Fournette ran a route 82% of dropbacks. With the Buccaneers as 4.5 point favorites, Fournette has a path to dominating work in a back and forth game.

Saints Implied Team Total: 22.5

Jameis Winston is the perfect under the radar play this week... but there's no one to stack him with in DFS.

Winton ranks sixth in EPA per play. He faces a Buccaneers defense that ranks 17th in EPA allowed per dropback, and first in EPA allowed per rush. The Buccaneers pass defense isn't bad, but it remains much worse that their run defense, and the Buccaneers remain the league's biggest pass funnel.

The Buccaneers aren't kind of a pass funnel. They drastically shift the game plan of their opponents toward the pass. Tampa Bay's opponents are averaging pass rate over expected of 13% against them. For comparison, the Chiefs lead the NFL with an 11% pass rate over expected. Meaning, the pass heaviest team on given week is likely the team facing the Bucs.

Of course, not all teams go as aggressively pass heavy against the Buccaneers as the Cowboys did in Week 1. Dallas' 22% pass rate over expected has only been topped by two other teams this year, the Patriots in Week 4 and the Dolphins in Week 5. Both of those teams... wait for it... were playing against the Buccaneers. In fact, the Buccaneers are the only team in the league who have seen a pass heavy attack from all seven of their opponents this season.

The Saints are a run heavy team. At -5%, they are tied with the 49ers for 29th in pass rate over expected. But when they faced Washington, the second biggest pass funnel in the NFL... they played the matchup. The Saints finished Week 5 with a 5% pass rate over expected. They're not going to set the season high in PROE this week, but I don't think it's lost on them that the path to victory here is through the air.

Of course the problem is: how do we as fantasy players benefit from a high volume passing day from the Saints? Against Washington I flag planted Deonte Harris, who scored a TD and then pulled his hammy in quick succession. This week, if I'm betting on any receiver it'll be Marquez Callaway. Callaway has run a route on 98% of dropbacks this year and has a solid 28% air yard share due to his 14.8 aDOT. If you're in the type of contest where you need to get really off the beaten path, Winston to Callaway sounds like a fun time.

But for the rest of us, the only play here is Alvin Kamara. The Saints trade for Mark Ingram could shift Kamara back into a more receiver-focused role. That could ultimately be bad for Kamara from a rest-of-season perspective, with the Saints being so run heavy. But it could be great for this week. Kamara ranks fourth in expected points per game this year, and that's despite being a receiving back on a team that barely passes. If the Saints fully embrace the passing game this week, Kamara could be a slate breaker.

Cowboys at Vikings, 8:20 PM Eastern, Sunday

Cowboys Implied Team Total: 24.25

Dak Prescott is questionable for Week 8. But Mike McCarthy sounds pessimistic about his status and the Cowboys are now three point underdogs on PointsBet. The betting market is proceeding like Prescott will be out, and fantasy managers should as well.

If Prescott misses, Cooper Rush will get the start, representing a major downgrade for CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and Dalton Schultz. Lamb and Schultz both have elite YPRRs this season of 2.37 and 2.27. But both are running hot in YPT. That per target efficiency will likely decline in a huge way with Rush under center. Lamb's 23% target share and 30% air yard share still put him in play, but he looks like a FLEX option rather than a high-end WR2. Amari Cooper has a 1.72 YPRR, which is is sustainable based on his underlying volume. His efficiency might not suffer as much, since he has hasn't been that efficient to begin with. Cooper still looks quite shaky with Rush at quarterback. The veteran is earning targets on just 19% of his routes, and would likely face a volume squeeze if the Cowboys go ultra run heavy.

There's never a good week to lose Dak Prescott, but if you had to pick... a matchup with the Vikings wouldn't be the worst choice. Minnesota ranks 29th in EPA allowed per rush. They're much better against the pass, ranking sixth in EPA allowed per dropback. The Cowboys won't want Rush passing into a difficult matchup. Instead they'll fully embrace their identity as a run-first team.

After opening the season with a 22% pass rate over expected, the Cowboys went run heavy in four of their next five matchups. The have a 1% PROE this season, but that drops to -4% since Week 2. Dallas also ranks 13th in situation neutral pass rate this season, but just 26th since Week 2. At this point it's fair to say that they have a run heavy identity.

Dallas' love of the run has been frustrating with Prescott under center. The Cowboys rank fourth in EPA per dropback, but instead prefer to lean on a rushing attack that yields slightly negative EPA per play (as almost all rushing attacks do). But we can't fault them for embracing the run if Dak misses this game. It's also possible that they're able to pull off a win by leaning on their rushing attack.

The Cowboys rank first in adjusted line yards this season. Although, Ezekiel Elliott has not taken full advantage of the great blocking. He has been consistent, ranking eighth in NFL Next Gen's success rate. But he hasn't hit many big plays, ranking 22nd in breakaway percentage. And Elliott has struggled badly as a receiver, ranking 40th in YPRR. He's been even worse at making defenders miss, ranking 45th in elusive rating out of 50 qualifying running backs.

Pollard has been better than Elliott in all four categories. Pollard ranks fourth in NFL Next Gen's success rate, 15th in breakaway percentage, ninth in elusive rating and third in YPRR. Of the many reasons not to pay big money for a running back, one has to be the risk of hitting on a cheaper, more talented option, and then not playing him due to the sunk cost fallacy. With Pollard likely playing second fiddle to Elliott this week, I'm skeptical that the offense will succeed in the admittedly difficult task of winning a modern NFL game with an extremely limited passing attack.

Elliott ranks eighth in expected fantasy points this season. With Prescott out he looks like a high-end RB2. Pollard looks like a RB2 fill-in option.

Vikings Implied Team Total: 27.25

The Vikings may seem like a model for the Cowboys to follow this week, but they really aren't. Even though the Vikings are tilted toward the run, they'll likely be far more pass heavy than the Cowboys are willing to get. Minnesota is tied with Jacksonville for 25th in pass rate over expected, but 15th in situation neutral pass rate.

And the Vikings overall offensive design isn't ideal. Oddly, the Vikings don't use the run to set up play action. Cousins ranks 28th in play action rate, running it on just 22% of his dropbacks. The Vikings also rank rank 25th in PROE over expected on 1st-and-10. So they're setting up the run game for success at the expense of their quarterback, and not using run fakes to set up their quarterback for success. Zimmer's gonna Zimmer.

To Kirk Cousins credit, he's still played decently. Cousins ranks 16th in EPA per play and 13th in CPOE. Neither of those rankings are great... but given the construction of the passing game, it could be a lot worse.

The passing game may not be designed optimally, but that hasn't slowed down Justin Jefferson. The second-year star has a 27% target share and a 43% air yard share. He also has an elite 2.22 YPRR, which is sustainable based on his underlying volume. Adam Thielen also has a sustainable YPRR as well, but is at a mediocre 1.58, well below Jefferson's elite territory.

The Cowboys rank fifth in EPA allowed per dropback. With the Vikings likely facing a low volume passing attack, it's unlikely we see a ton of Cousins dropbacks. Jefferson is a strong start as an elite talent with an elite role, but Thielen looks more like a low-end WR3.

The Cowboys are weaker against the run, ranking 16th in EPA allowed per rush. I'm willing to bet that Mike Zimmer has noticed this. Dalvin Cook ranks ninth in expected points per game. With Prescott out, he has a strong setup for a high-end RB1 week.

Giants at Chiefs, 8:15 PM Eastern, Monday

Giants Implied Team Total: 21.5

Daniel Jones has looked a bit shaky over the last few weeks.

screen_shot_2021-10-29_at_10.02.32_am.png
screen_shot_2021-10-29_at_10.02.32_am.png

After a hot start, Jones has slipped to 20th in EPA per play. In fairness to Mr. Dimes, he's dealt with wave after wave of injuries to his playmakers, with all of Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney, Darius Slayton and Evan Engram missing games.

Even with an incomplete supporting case, Jones should be able to deliver efficiently against the Chiefs. Kansas City ranks 31st in EPA allowed per dropback, 32nd in pass rush grade and 20th in coverage grade.

The Chiefs also rank 30th in EPA allowed per rush and 32nd in run defense grade. Jones is facing a defense that doesn't have answers for anything. So he should be able to deliver production through the air and on the ground. Jones ranks third in QB rushing yards this season, and hopefully this matchup has the Giants scheming up some designed run for him.

The rest of the running will likely be handled by Devontae Booker. Barkley didn't practice this week and is very unlikely to play on Monday. Over the last two weeks, Booker has a 77% snaps share and has handled 68% of backfield attempts. He's also run a route on 57% of dropbacks. Booker doesn't have the talent to deliver truly high end upside in a below average offense. But with multiple paths to fantasy value, he looks like a high floor option.

At wide receiver, we're likely to see a 3WR set of Kadarius Toney and Darius Slayton on the outside with Sterling Shepard in the slot. Toney has been electric when on the field, with a truly elite 2.94 YPRR. He's running extremely hot with a 11.3 YPT. But even after he regresses, Toney will be a highly efficient producer if he maintains his 26% TPRR.

Darius Slayton, quietly, has been even better at earning targets than Toney. And Slayton has a much deeper 13.7 adOT, while Toney is at a fairly shallow 7.4. Slayton has had limited routes this season due to injury, but he should be a full-time player this week, and could see last week's 78% route rate climb to ~85%. I rarely play showdown so I'm not actually going to tout Slayton in the captain slot... but...

Sterling Shepard is Daniel Jones' best chance for big day. The two have shown a very strong connection this season, with Shepard earning a target on 25% of his routes and leading the team with a 24% target share. When Kenny Golladay gets back, things will be more complicated. But for now, all three of the Giants receivers look like interesting options this week in a potential shootout.

Chiefs Implied Team Total: 31

Patrick Mahomes has clearly been struggling as of late, delivering his two lowest EPA performances of the year in Week 5 and 6. Yet, Mahomes has delivered efficiently in every week this season and ranks fourth in EPA per play. You know you're good when this has us worried about you:

mahomes_week_7.png
mahomes_week_7.png

Mahomes' recent play has been concerning, of course. The Titans lost to the Jets... they shouldn't be able to limit Patrick Mahomes to three points a few weeks later. But Mahomes is set up to calm our nerves this week in an easy matchup with the Giants. New York ranks 21st in EPA allowed per dropback, 22nd in coverage grade and 24th in pass rush grade.

The Giants aren't great against the run either, ranking 20th in EPA allowed per rush and 16th in run defense grade. But the Chiefs are the pass happiest team in the NFL, leading the league with an 11% pass rate over expected. Both options are on the table here, but we can count on the Chiefs to choose the pass.

For Mahomes to get back to full form, he'll need Tyreek Hill at full health. Hill has been playing through a quad injury, which he picked up in Week 5. Since then, there has been a notable shift in his deployment. From Weeks 1-4 Hill had an aDOT of 14.1; from Week 5-7 he has an aDOT of 6.4. Hill has been able to play through injury, but he hasn't been able to be Tyreek Hill. He'll be in the lineup again this week, and while there's a small leap of faith required, Hill always comes with week-winning upside.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, when Hill isn't right there's no one who can take his place. Byron Pringle has done the best Hill impression so far, with a 1.98 YPRR and a 14.1 ADOT. But Pringle has only run a route on 37% of dropbacks. Demarcus Robinson continues to run empty routes with a 73% route rate but a 0.54 YPRR. Mecole Hardman continues to be mediocre with a 1.22 YPRR. He's also playing a different role than Hill, with a 7.5 aDOT. This indicates that the Chiefs offense is unlikely to get back to peak form until Hill does.

Travis Kelce hasn't been dominant this season, but he's still having a solid year. Kelce has a 1.90 YPRR, earning a target on 23% of his routes with an 8.0 aDOT. We don't know when the Chiefs' offense is going to start clicking again, but there's a real chance that it's this week. If so, Kelce still has elite upside.

Of course, as 9.5 point favorites, we could see the Chiefs dispatch the Giants easily here and then salt away the game. In that case, the Chiefs could disappoint by being too good... and leave us with a Darrel Williams week. In two games without Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Williams has a 68% snap share and has handled 90% of backfield attempts. He looks like a strong RB2 play, with multi-TD upside.

Sources

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

  • Implied Team Totals are calculated using the lines at PointsBet.

  • Expected Points Added per Play (EPA/Play).

    • Efficiency metric based 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

    • QB accuracy metric

      • Data from rbsdm.com

        • All CPOE referenced in this article has garbage time filtered out.

          • I do this by setting win probability filter to between 10-90%.

  • 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

  • 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 injury and blowouts much better than target share does.

      • Data from PFF

  • 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 metric's that adjust opportunity based on the context of each play.

      • I am referencing PFF's metric unless otherwise stated.

  • A number of other PFF status including Time to Throw, Play Action Rate, Pressure Rate, Screen Passes and Defensive Grades.