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.
Let's get to the games!
Already Played: Panthers, Texans
Chargers at Chiefs, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Chargers Implied Team Total: 23.75
Justin Herbert is a having a very impressive second season, while not actually playing that efficiently. Herbert continued his Week 1 formula of being moderately efficient while passing much more than expected. With garbage time filtered out, Herbert ranks just QB20 in EPA/play, but the Chargers have a pass rate over expected of 9%—tied with the Chiefs for the second highest. The Chargers aren't just blindly chucking it, they're setting Herbert up for success. Los Angeles is fourth in the NFL in pass rate over expected on 1st-and-10. Josh Hermsmeyer has shown that throwing on early downs sets teams up for success, which makes sense—when the defense doesn't know what's coming, hit them with your most effective plays.
The Chargers are also pushing the pace—currently fifth in situation neutral seconds per play—pressing the advantage that Herbert provides. Herbert isn't playing like Mahomes, but he is playing well, which has been enough for his coaches to let him throw as much as Mahomes does. This matchup sets up as gloriously pass heavy.
I'm plenty guilty of over-reacting to Week 1, as we'll soon get to. But I'm happy to say I did not fall prey to the Great Ekeler Panic of Week 1. Ekeler ran just two more routes in Week 2 than in Week 1, but his targets jumped from zero to nine. Ekeler didn't see a true goal line carry in Week 2, but he did convert a 2-point conversion on a carry, which strongly indicates an intent to continue to involve him at the goal line. Ekeler is the only Chargers running back to see a carry inside the 10 yard line this season. If he combines his Week 1 goal line role with his Week 2 receiving volume and this matchup lives up to its total, Ekeler could be an absolute smash this week.
Mike Williams' role really does seem to have changed. Through two games he has an ADOT of 9.9, which is actually lower than Keenan Allen's 10.7. And Williams is seeing a target on 29% of his routes, besting Allen's 24%. I'm still betting on Allen as the Chargers' WR1 this week, but Williams has made a strong case for co-WR1 status. And frankly, his value in relation to Allen is irrelevant if the Chargers keep passing this frequently, playing up-tempo, and using Williams as a high-volume option. Both he and Allen are strong values in their current roles.
Chiefs Implied Team Total: 30.75
Patrick Mahomes is playing at the top of his game, and his coaches are intent on maximizing the advantage that provides. Since entering the league in 2017, Mahomes leads the league in EPA/play. It's no surprise that he leads the metric yet again in 2021.
The Chiefs, thankfully, fully understand the gift they've been given at quarterback. They're currently tied for second is pass rate over expected and lead the league in situation neutral pass rate.
One note of caution on this game, despite the high total and pass heavy offenses: the Cowboys' pass rate over expected dropped from 22% in Week 1 down to -11% in their Week 2 victory over the Chargers. Washington also opened the season with a -10% pass rate over expected against the Chargers, before jumping to 8% over expected in Week 2. I don't expect the Chiefs to follow suit, but it's certainly possible they at least shift toward the run and take advantage of the Chargers' 27th ranked defense in EPA allowed per rush attempt.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire would be a big beneficiary of this approach, which would go a long way in calming his panicky investors.
Edwards-Helaire is RB44 in PPR through two weeks, behind--I cannot believe this is true but it is--three different Houston Texans running backs. His price on DraftKings this week is "we dare you". GPP game theory aside, this is a dare worth accepting. Edwards-Helaire has seen his snap share increase from 59% in 2020 to 70% this season. If the Chiefs also take up the Chargers on their dare to run the ball, it could be a true breakout for CEH.
Last week I extended some benefit of the doubt to Mecole Hardman, who had finally worked into a major role in the Chiefs' offense. He maintained that role against the Ravens and paired it with a target on 32% of his routes and a 49% air yard share. Hardman has now checked 2-of-3 boxes needed for a fantasy breakout. He's on the field for nearly every play, he's getting high value targets, he just needs to improve on his 6.7 YPT. Given that his speed and his elite quarterback play are the only reasons we've continued to draft Hardman over the years, it's quite easy to imagine Hardman delivering high-end efficiency this week. If he does so on the high-end volume we saw against the Ravens, he could finally deliver on his long awaited fantasy breakout.
Tyreek Hill wasn't able to get anything going deep in Week 2, and had an aDOT of just 4.3. Hill is more volatile than the typical elite wide receiver, but his ceiling this week is off the charts if the Chiefs play to their strengths. Even after his poor Week 2, Hill is sixth in the league in WOPR.
Cardinals at Jaguars, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Cardinals Implied Team Total: 29.75
Kyler Murray is playing incredible football. For fantasy purposes, his most realistic path to failure is being too good for the Jaguars to handle.
Murray is currently QB6 in EPA/play and QB4 in CPOE, and the Jaguars defense is very unlikely to pose much of a challenge. Despite facing the Texans and Broncos, they rank 26th in EPA allowed per dropback. Murray will need to be completely out of sorts not to play efficiently in this matchup. The problem is that Murray may not be needed for a full four quarters unless the Jaguars offense can step up their play.
The Jaguars offense is very unlikely to truly push Murray, but they do at least play fast. Jacksonville is currently fourth in situation neutral seconds per play, while the Cardinals are only 14th. The Jaguars may be an incompetent embarrassment, but at least they're quick about it. If the Jaguars offense can help speed up the game, perhaps less than four quarters of Murray will still be more than enough against a Jaguars defense that couldn't stop Tyrod Taylor.
Rondale Moore is having a sensational start to his rookie season. But as Ben Gretch pointed out in Stealing Signals, he may be reaching a ceiling on his usage unless he starts to work ahead of Christian Kirk in the slot—something he hasn't done yet. Moore saw additional playing time in Week 2, but did so in 4WR sets. As a result, Kirk actually ran a route on higher percentage of dropbacks in Week 2 than he did in Week 1. The bull case for Moore is that AJ Green eventually cedes work to Kirk on the outside and Moore becomes the primary slot receiver. That won't be the the case this week though. And Moore, who has a 4.82 YPRR on a 3.9 aDOT is a major regression candidate, which is something to keep in mind in your start/sit decisions.
Jaguars Implied Team Total: 22.25
Trevor Lawrence ranks QB28 of 35 in EPA/play and QB34 of 35 in CPOE. He's been genuinely bad in his first two games. His coaching has arguably been worse.
The Jaguars are passing 2% more than expected overall, but 2% below expected on 1st-and-10. They've been very pass heavy on 3rd-and-3+ as well. This is a poor setup for a rookie quarterback. While not as bad as what the Jets are doing to Zach Wilson, the Jaguars coaches are still putting Lawrence in a position to do too much on third downs, while letting him do too little on 1st-and-10.
Luckily, the Cardinals' defense cooled off considerably from Week 1 when they finished fifth in EPA allowed per play and 11th in EPA allowed per dropback. Against the Titans they dropped to 25th in both EPA allowed per play and EPA allowed per dropback. If the Jaguars get the Week 2 version of the Cardinals, rather than another career game from Chandler Jones, they should at least have a chance to rack up fantasy points on volume.
The Jaguars are likely to remain very up-tempto this week, especially if the Cardinals accept their invitation to a barn burner. The Cardinals are just 14th in situation neutral seconds per play this season, but they were 2020's fastest paced team. If both teams play as fast as they're capable of, it'll be great for everyone.
James Robinson appears to be back in the driver's seat as Jacksonville's lead running back. He's now up to a 68% snap share on the season. And Jack Miller noted in Strength in Numbers that Carlos Hyde didn't have a carry until midway through the second quarter. Robinson still doesn't have a total lock on snaps like he did last season, and his offense is somehow less efficient than it was in 2020. So Robinson's situation is precarious. But this should be one of the better weeks to target him, in what shapes up to be a high volume and potentially high scoring game for the Jaguars.
Through two weeks, things aren't shaping up great for Laviska Shenault. He's run a route on 80% of dropbacks, which isn't bad. And he's been targeted on 23% of his routes, which is good. But his aDOT is just 4.7 and he has just 9% of Jacksonville's air yards. That's the same share as Rondale Moore. But it's far easier to be excited about Moore given the offense that he's in. It's also important to remember that we're excited about Moore because he's shown the talent to turn in big plays. Shenault has turned in a YPT of 2.9 and a banged-up shoulder.
I have to admit, I'm still somewhat optimistic on Shenault this week. On talent alone, Shenault will start producing better than a 2.9 YPT. Don't get me wrong, Shenault he can't deliver a true breakout game unless the Jaguars offense takes a major step forward. I don't expect them to do that. But if the expected play volume delivers, Viska will have plenty of opportunities to add to his highlight reel.
Marvin Jones is feeling disrespected. I was highly skeptical that he would emerge as the WR1 in this offense, even after his nine targets in Week 1. He followed that up with 10 targets in Week 2 and currently has 24% of Jacksonville's targets and 35% of their air yards. He's also run a route on 92% of Jaguars' dropbacks, with Chark at 84%. Call me stubborn, but I'm still skeptical. Jones has an aDOT of 15.1, operating as a true deep threat in a struggling offense, and has been highly inconsistent throughout his career. Chark, who has an aDOT of 16.5, is also going to be highly volatile this year. But I'm just as comfortable betting on him to take advantage of a pass heavy environment, and I expect Chark to be a far less popular play this week.
James O'Shaughnessy we hardly knew ye.
Bears at Browns, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Bears Implied Team Total: 19.25
With Andy Dalton dealing with a knee injury, Justin Fields will make his first start on Sunday. What he's shown thus far hasn't been awe inspiring, but I'm still excited to see him in action. Excluding garbage time, Fields has just 20 plays this season, and he's actually been worse in EPA/play than Dalton. He's also been worse in CPOE. Accuracy is Dalton's best attribute, however. Fields has a respectable QB17 mark in CPOE. Still, Fields seems fairly likely to struggle in his first start.
The reason to be excited about Fields is that even if he struggles as a passer this week, he can add a lot with his legs. It also seems reasonable to expect more rushing from Fields than we saw in his spot duty appearance in Week 2, given that the Bears are crafting their game plan with Fields in mind. If so, Fields' preseason rushing indicates a strong fantasy ceiling.
Through two games Darnell Mooney has run more routes than Allen Robinson, and seen more opportunity. Mooney has a 25% target share to Robinson's 23% and a 39% air yard share to Robinson's 29%. I tend to view Robinson's lack of involvement, and his 0.84 YPRR as a symptom of poor health for the Bears offense. If Fields can bring a higher level of play than Dalton, then Robinson should be one of the biggest beneficiaries. In addition to seeing higher target volume, Robinson's 4.2 YPT could increase substantially with better quarterback play this week. But if Fields has a strong debut, Mooney also has upside for a big game. Mooney's aDOT is only 9.4, after operating at 11.8 last season. Fields could unlock him as a true deep threat. If he maintains his current share of the offense with a quarterback willing to throw deep, Mooney could be in for a very nice Week 3.
David Montgomery fooled me last week, but at least I was in good company. It turns out he was banged-up in Week 1, and his usage in Week 2 was much more similar to his 2020 role after Tarik Cohen went down. He's played 69% of Bears' snaps this season and has run a route on 51% of dropbacks. With Fields under center this week, his receiving role could once again be diminished. But if the Bears employ zone read concepts for Fields, it's possible that Montgomery delivers very strong rushing efficiency. He's a bit of a gamble this week, but Williams doesn't look like a major threat.
Browns Implied Team Total: 26.25
We did the math this off-season. We trimmed the bad weather games from the sample. We recognized their late season trend toward the pass. We knew the Browns were going to be pass heavy this season. But... that hasn't been the case at all. The Browns are 26th in pass rate over expected, and that falls to 30th on 1st-and-10. The Browns have fully embraced the run.
There's some context to this however. In Week 1, the Browns were on the road in Kansas City, trying to limit Patrick Mahomes. In Week 2 they faced a Texans defense that was fourth in EPA allowed per dropback against the Jaguars but 29th in EPA allowed per rush. In other words, the Browns could just be playing the matchups with their play selection. If that's the case then there's passing upside for the Browns in this matchup with the Bears, who have been slightly better against the run than the pass this year. That said, in situation neutral seconds per play, the Browns are 29th and the Bears are 25th, so there's downside here for a slow, run heavy affair.
Nick Chubb has played 55% of snaps this year, which is actually up from his 49% last season. And he's been running extremely hot on efficiency. That's usually the case with Chubb, but it's worth noting that PFF values his workload so far at 12.1 PPR points per game. He's done extremely well to score 20 points per game. It's great news for Chubb if the Browns are truly a run heavy squad, but he'll need to stay very hot on efficiency here unless this game is faster paced than expected.
The Browns won't commit to Odell Beckham playing this week, but all indications are that he will play. With Jarvis Landry on IR with a knee injury, Beckham's return will be highly welcome. Landry was playing 53% of his snaps in the slot, while Beckham played 85% of his snaps out wide in 2020. So the Browns will have some available slot snaps. Some of those may go to Donovan Peoples-Jones in a "big slot" role. DPJ has played 29% of his snaps from slot so far, compared to 17% for Anthony Schwartz. But it's likely that Schwartz and Beckham rotate into the slot at times as well. If the Browns choose to go run heavy this week, then they may choose to solve the issue of extra slot snaps by increasing their usage of 2TE sets.
The Browns' tight ends are already heavily involved. Austin Hooper has run a route on 56% of dropbacks, with David Njoku at 51% and Harrison Bryant at 34%. With Landry out, they could lean even more heavily on a mutli-TE approach however, which would make both Hooper and Njoku interesting this week.
Football Team at Bills, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Football Team Implied Team Total: 19
I didn't write about the Football Team in last week's Friday Walkthrough, as they'd already played. But on last Wednesday's A Good Football Show, I compared Heinicke's play to Mitch Trubisky. Prior to Thursday, both players were eerily similar in the depth of their throws (aDOT), accuracy (CPOE), and overall effectiveness (EPA/play). Obviously Trubisky isn't the highest upside comp to throw around, but a Trubisky level of play didn't seem likely to tank the entire Washington offense either. On Thursday, Heinicke played even better than I was hoping, showing impressive accuracy. Heinicke finished between Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert in CPOE in Week 2, and ranks QB10 in CPOE on the season. Heinicke is far from a superstar. He ranks QB22 in EPA/play, just ahead of Andy Dalton. But he does appear to be capable of generating value for this offense.
The question this week will be if the Bills offense can push the Washington offense into shootout mode, or if the Bills defense will ruin the fun. The Bills rank behind only the Panthers in EPA allowed per play, showing well against both the pass (third) and the run (fifth). They've played the Steelers and a Jacoby Brissett led Dolphins team, however. So it's possible they're far less imposing than the numbers suggest.
If the Bills' defense is solid but not spectacular, and the Bills offense finds its rhythm again, Terry McLaurin could be in for a big day. McLaurin has run a route on 100% of Washington's dropbacks, seeing a target on 24% of his routes. With an aDOT of 8.7, the third year wide receiver has completed his transformation from deadly deep threat to a true WR1, seeing targets at all depths.
McLaurin has a 29% target share and a 32% air yard share, which gives him the same WOPR as Stefon Diggs. If the Bills get ahead in this game, as the betting market expects, Washington may play quickly as well as pass heavy. As the eighth-fastest team in pace, Washington isn't afraid to play up-tempo. Washington isn't projected for a ton of points this week, but McLaurin could still be in for a big game in a fast paced environment.
Things are far more precarious for Antonio Gibson. As nearly more than a touchdown underdog, Washington has potential to spend quite a bit of time in its 2-minute offense. Based on what we've seen so far this season, that's not great news. Per Dwain McFarland's Utilization Report, Gibson saw 0% of Washington's 2-minute snaps in Week 2, after just 4% in Week 1. This is not what a three-down role looks like. Gibson still isn't a classic two-down running back—he's seen a target on 20% of his routes and has an 11% target share this season. But he'll be in much better shape if Washington can keep this game closer than the betting market expects them to.
Bills Implied Team Total: 26.5
Josh Allen hasn't been firing on all cylinders this season. After finishing QB5 in EPA/play and QB4 in CPOE in 2020, Allen is QB25 in EPA/play and QB28 in CPOE through two games. The Bills coaches have tried to help Allen as much as possible by playing fast and passing the ball heavily.
Crucially, the Bills have been smart about their pass heavy approach. They rank ninth in pass rate over expected, but they rank first in pass rate over expected on 1st-and-10. With the defense forced to play the run and the pass, passing on 1st-and-10 has been a highly successful approach. And the Bills have a huge lead on 1st-and-10 passing. The second ranked Steelers are closer to the seventh ranked Colts than they are to the Bills.
The Bills are also pushing the pace this year in a big way, leading the league in situation neutral seconds per play, after finishing 11th last season. The Bills are still "Our Bills." We just need Allen to get back in rhythm. In particular, he needs to find his deep ball again. Allen has been willing to throw deep, currently tied for 10th in attempts of 20+ yards. But Allen is QB33 in adjusted completion percentage on deep throws this year, currently ahead of only Aaron Rodgers and Jacob Eason.
Luckily, Washington's defense has played far below its preseason expectations, currently 22nd in EPA allowed per play and 18th in EPA allowed per dropback. The Football Team's pass rush has partially lived up to expectations, with PFF grading them as the seventh best unit. But their secondary has been extremely poor, earning PFF's 30th coverage grade. Allen has faced pressure on the seventh highest percentage of his dropbacks, and has delivered just 4.8 adjusted yards per attempt. In 2020 he was highly pressured as well, seeing the eighth highest pressure rate, but producing 6.0 AYA on those throws. The Bills offensive line is tied for 30th in PFF's pass blocking grades, so the big question will be if the Bills can protect Allen long enough for him to pick apart Washington's poor secondary, or if Allen will turn in another mediocre day under heavy pressure.
If Allen returns to form, it'll mean big things for Stefon Diggs, who has a very strong 28% target share and 33% air yard share. After Diggs, Sanders is second on the team in routes, and the clear outside deep threat. He's played just 30% of his snaps in the slot and has an aDOT of 19.7. Sanders should be in for some big days once Allen starts hitting deep again. Cole Beasley remains a traditional slot receiver, playing 92% of his snaps there with an aDOT of 5.1. Because it's the Bills, he's run a route on 89% of dropbacks, far higher than a usual slot receiver. He's more of a volume play than a big play threat, but the volume could be there this week. Gabriel Davis is only running a route on 50% of dropbacks. But despite playing 66% of his snaps from the slot, Davis has an aDOT of 17. He's playing a deep threat slot role in the mold of Christian Kirk. Davis has a much thinner path to value this week, but his role sets him up to deliver on only a few targets.
Devin Singletary looks far more trustworthy than Zack Moss. Ben Gretch provided the key context to Moss' two TD day: both came with the game already decided and Moss saw just 12% of snaps. Singletary appears to have a big leg up in competitive environments. That said, this game may not be that competitive. Moss could once again get some mop-up duty run here if the Bills take care of business as a home favorite.
Colts at Titans, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Colts Implied Team Total: 21.25
Here's what we know for sure about the Colts' quarterback situation this week: .
Carson Wentz is dealing with a high ankle sprain in his right ankle and a low ankle sprain in his left ankle. He could be ruled out as soon as today, but there's a small chance he plays. If Wentz doesn't play, that leaves either Jacob Eason or Brett Hundley as the Colts starting quarterback. Both look like uninspiring options. Eason has repeatedly hinted that he's a back-breaking turnover machine. Hundley last started a game back in 2017 and has a career AYA of 4.4—only Zach Wilson, Trevor Lawrence and Jacoby Brissett have been worse than that mark this season.
If Wentz can't play, the Colts could be in for an atrocious day on offense. Their only real option will be to double down on what they were already doing with Wentz: slowing the game down and leaning on their backfield. The Colts are already playing at an absurdly slow 36.3 seconds between situation neutral plays, the slowest pace in the NFL.
Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines have combined for 48% of the Colts team opportunities. This puts them just behind the Patriots in terms of the combined opportunity share of their top two running backs. They've been protecting Wentz like a rookie. With Wentz now out of the lineup and Marlon Mack involved last week with 19% of the snaps, it's quite likely that running backs account for over 50% of team opportunities this week.
This is obviously terrible news for the Colts' pass catchers. Michael Pittman is coming off a great week, but given the state of the offense, and the chance that Parris Campbell returns this week, he is very hard to trust here.
Titans Implied Team Total: 26.75
Last week I told you how the Titans had abandoned the formula of play action passing and pace that made them such an efficient offense over the last season and a half. Then Derrick Henry conducted his own research, which conclusively determined that he is a grown-ass-man.
The interesting thing is that the red flags I identified last week... are still there. The Titans remain slow paced, ranking 26th in situation neutral seconds per play. They used play action more in Week 2, but Tannehill was still just QB15 on the week. And after a co-QB1 finish with Lamar Jackson in 2020, Tannehill is currently QB27 in play action rate.
This has not been good for the efficiency of the Titans' passing game. During the Arthur Smith era, Tannehill was second to only Mahomes in EPA/play. This season he's QB22.
But while this offense is clearly very different from the Titans offense we're used to, there are also some reasons to be excited about it (I really wish this clicked for me last week). In 2020, the Titans were dead last in situation neutral pass rate. They passed less in neutral situations than the Cam Newton led Patriots. In other words, the Titans were extremely run heavy. This year they're ranked 27th. They still strongly prefer the run, but don't appear to be as steadfast about establishing Derrick Henry on the ground.
Perhaps one reason that the Titan are willing to throw a bit more overall, is that they're now willing to throw to Henry. Henry has only run a route on 40% of dropbacks, but he's seen a target on 25% of his routes. The Big Dog has a YPRR of 2.06, which... is really something. Henry has also seen three screen passes this year, which matches Jonathan Taylor and Dalvin Cook. They key question is if this usage will continue. But as to the question of if it should continue, that is an obvious and resounding, yes. If the Titans are going to run their offense slowly and through a running back, while earnestly alerting defenses when they plan to pass, the least they can do is to involve their running back in the screen game. Credit to Todd Downing for adding a positive element in his overall shakeup of the Titans' approach.
The Titans' new philosophy isn't great news for A.J. Brown, but his slow start is also due to a very poor 5.8 YPT. Brown still has a 23% target share and a 41% air yard share. He has an aDOT of 16.7 and has run bad on per target efficiency, as happens with deep threats. He's still a weekly threat for a big game, and his outlook will improve if the Titans continue last week's increased use of play action. Julio Jones is also a threat for a big week due to his deep threat role. He has an aDOT of 13, and has seen 20% of targets with 28% of air yards. It's hard to see both him and Brown hitting together this week, but either player could have a big game despite what could be a very low volume affair.
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!
Saints at Patriots, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Saints Implied Team Total: 20
Using EPA/play, the Saints offense was more efficient than the Chiefs offense in Week 1. The Saints were less efficient than the Jaguars in Week 2. They now face the top ranked defense in EPA allowed per play. We may get some highly efficient weeks from the Saints again, but this is unlikely to be one of them.
Even if the Saints surprise in efficiency, they are very likely to be low volume. New Orleans has attempted the fewest passes in the NFL and run the fewest overall plays. This isn't an accident. The Saints have been run heavy and slow—ranking 30th in pass rate over expected and 31st in situation neutral seconds per play. New England has allowed the lowest EPA per dropback, but ranks 16th in EPA allowed per rush. Given their tendencies and the matchup, it would be genuinely shocking if the Saints don't take a low volume approach built on their backfield.
I say backfield rather than running game, because Kamara is both the lead rusher and lead receiver in New Orleans. Kamara has run a route on 73% of dropbacks and has see a target on 26% percent of his routes for a 26% target share. Kamara has just a 3.3 YPT and should be in for some much better days, given his play play ability. Kamara has also turned into a true workhorse, seeing his snap share rise from last year's 65% to 77% this year. The Saints will attempt to run their offense through Kamara again this week. That hasn't been efficient thus far however, and Bill Belichick will be able to see the Saints' only play from a mile away.
When the Saints do throw downfield... and I know you don't want to hear this... Marquez Callaway is still the team's top wideout. Callaway has run a route on 88% of dropbacks and has a 16% target share. That type of target share is usually what you'd see from a team's third option, but here it's good for WR1 status. Juwan Johnson saw his routes per dropback increase 20% in Week 2 while Adam Trautman was down 36%. If you're playing a Saints tight end for some reason, it should be Johnson.
Patriots Implied Team Total: 22.5
As I touched on with the Jaguars, and as I'll get to with the Jets, there are key red flags to look for when evaluating a team's deployment of their rookie quarterback. I don't see any of them in New England.
The Patriots are slightly pass heavy on the season, passing 1% over expected. But they're passing 7% over expected on 1st-and-10. The Jaguars are at -2% and the Jets are at -9%. The Patriots also rank 11th in situation neutral pass rate, with the Jaguars at 20th and the Jets at 27th. Mac Jones is still being "protected" because he's being set up for a small number of high probability throws, rather than high-volume passing in a low probability setting. Jones ranks 18th in dropbacks this season, while Wilson is 12th and Lawrence is tied for seventh, despite the fact that Jones is passing significantly more in neutral situations. New England hasn't been perfect. They could arguably do a better job of employing play action. Jones ranks QB16 in play action rate. But even there he's still well ahead of Wilson and Lawrence. With elite coaching, Jones can be expected to keep the Patriots offense on track this week.
Jones' top receiver remains Jakobi Meyers. With a 23% target share and a 31% air yard share, Meyers could have a very nice week if he simply improves on his 5.5 YPT. Meyers is playing 77% of his snaps from the slot and has an aDOT of 7.5, so he's unlikely to turn in a hugely efficient day. But he has upside to be a very strong FLEX play if he can pair solid efficiency with the his large share of receiving volume.
James White is functionally New England's second receiver. He has a 20% target share and 13 targets overall. Damien Harris remains mostly uninvolved in the receiving game and has played just 49% of snaps, but he's dominated team rushing attempts, ranking RB6.
Falcons at Giants, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Falcons Implied Team Total: 22.5
Matt Ryan wasn't great in Week 2, but he was better than he was in Week 1, jumping from QB28 in EPA/play to QB21. Atlanta also shifted to the pass in a major way in Week 2, jumping from 29th in pass rate over expected in Week 1 to third in Week 2. They now face a Giants offense that is ranked 24th in EPA allowed per play. If Week 1 was an anomaly, the Falcons can prove it here.
On the other hand, the Giants have been even worse against the run than the pass. If Arthur Smith genuinely wants to run his Derrick Henry game plan through Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson, then he can also take another crack at that approach this week.
Calvin Ridley could really benefit from a deep element to this passing game. That could either be from Ridley himself jumping from his current aDOT of 11.4 closer to last season's 15.2, or from another wide receiver running deep routes. Because currently, Ridley is both not a deep threat... and running the deepest routes on the Falcons. It's not a good combination, and can help explain why Ridley has just a 1.37 YPRR this season. With Russell Gage very likely out for this week, my dream scenario would be for Ridley to take on some additional work in the slot and for Olamide Zaccheaus to spend some time running deep. We're more likely to get Zaccheaus in the slot however, given that's how the Falcons played it last week.
Kyle Pitts is being used like a wide receiver, playing inline on just 28% of his snaps. The problem so far is that he's been drawing targets like a tight end. Pitts has seen a target on 17% of his routes, which is solid for a tight end but would be very poor for a wide receiver with his aDOT. Pitts has been strong when targeted, with a YPT of 8.7. And he's being targeted at a solid aDOT of 7.0. The rookie's ability to earn targets should increase as the season goes on, but I'd feel better about him in Week 3 if he had seen more targets to start the year.
Giants Implied Team Total: 25
Daniel Jones is having a nice start to the season. He ranks QB14 in EPA/play after ranking QB34 last season. In most ways he's still the same old Daniel Jones. His accuracy is up from last season, but he's still not particularly strong in that regard. And he still rarely throws deep. After attempting a 20+ yard throw on 9.6% of his passes in 2020, finishing between Philip Rivers and Alex Smith in deep throw rate, he's actually attempting less deep throws this season. His deep throw percentage is down to just 7.2%.
One area of Jones' game does seem to be different this season however: his usage as a rusher. After rushing for 30 yards per game last season, Jones' per game rushing output has doubled this season. Obviously quarterback rushing output is going to bounce around a bit, so I don't want to make too much of this... but... last season Jones averaged 4.6 rushing attempts. This season, he's averaged 4.5 rushing attempts on designed rushes alone. He's averaged another three scrambles per game. This usage could be small sample size noise, but given Jones' struggles last season and the fact that he is genuinely fast, it would make a lot of sense for the Giants to continue using him more as a rusher. If he keeps this element of his game, it will make him far more fantasy relevant this week, and may help sustain his improved play overall. The Giants' zone read concepts should become even more effective as Saquon Barkley gets back to full speed, which seems like it could be right around the corner.
In Barkley's only full game with the Giants in 2020, he recorded an 87% snap share. It took him two games into 2021 to get back to over 80% of snaps, recording 84% of snaps against Washington on a short week. With 10 days' rest, Barkley looks likely to play 80%+ snaps once again. This is huge usage, with only Najee Harris and Joe Mixon averaging 80%+ snaps this year.
Barkley also saw his routes jump from 37% of dropbacks to 71% in Week 2. The key question will be if Barkley is worked into the game plan more as a receiver, or if he continues being a check down outlet. Barkley has seen just one screen pass this year, and he's been targeted on only 14% of his routes for a 9% target share. We don't know exactly when his receiving role will grow, but I expect that it will soon, and I'd like to be ahead of the curve here.
Last week I mentioned how Jarvis Landry was benefiting from having two deep threat wide receivers on the outside, allowing him to eat up targets in the intermediate areas of the field. Sterling Shepard has the exact same setup. Shepard's setup is arguably even better since Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton are better wide receivers than Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz, and can help keep the offense moving. But at the same time, neither player is going to emerge with a huge target share. This setup has allowed Shepard to see 28% of the Giants' targets and deliver an elite 2.65 YPRR. Shepard's 10.9 YPT is slightly above what we'd expect, but most of his fantasy value has come from very strong opportunity. My only concern this week is if Evan Engram's likely return adds another shallow-intermediate option who eats into Shepard's workload. As far as Golladay and Slayton go, both have 15+ aDOTs and can have nice weeks on a few plays if things go right, but both are low floor options this week.
Bengals at Steelers, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Bengals Implied Team Total: 20
Last week I called Burrow a sleeping giant. He hit the snooze button in Week 2, finishing QB29 in EPA/play in a loss to the Bears. There were some positive signs, however. The Bengals were still run heavy, passing 4% less than expected, but they improved dramatically from Week 1. They debuted with a -14% pass rate over expected, which is the second lowest single game showing this year behind only Baltimore in Week 2. Even better they improved most dramatically on 1st-and-10, moving from -11% in Week 1 to a 1% pass rate over expected in Week 2. As Mike Leone reminds us, we shouldn't necessarily expect this "trend" to continue this week.
Although... play calling tendencies aren't batting averages, it's essentially just decision making. The Bengals could theoretically call passes on 100% of their plays (oh man, could you imagine?). So I am more inclined to buy into this shift toward the pass. But to Mike's point, the Bengals could eventually become the pass heavy team we expected them to be in the preseason, and still be more run heavy this week than last week. Even if we are in the midst of a positive trend toward the pass, in other words, it won't be a straight line. Given Burrow's struggles last week, I think it's possible that the Bengals dial down passing plays and lean on their workhorse.
I'm not using the term workhorse lightly. Joe Mixon has seen 81% of the Bengals' snaps, second to only Najee Harris. And he's accounted for 50% of the Bengals' team opportunities, the highest share in the entire league. The problem is - and this tells you a lot about modern fantasy football - the Bengals are running too much. With Mixon running a route on 61% of dropbacks and seeing an 11% target share, it would be hugely beneficial to him if the Bengals passing game expanded.
There's at least a chance that happens this week. Despite Burrow's struggles last week he's played fairly well overall, and is currently QB19 in EPA/play, between Dak Prescott and Justin Herbert. The Bengals may like what they've seen from Burrow enough to continue moving toward a pass heavy game plan. Although that seems far less likely if Tee Higgins misses the game.
Higgins is showing major signs of a breakout. He has a 2.07 YPRR, and that's on a mediocre YPT of 7.9. In other words, Higgins is generating his strong YPRR by earning targets at a high rate, not by running hot on per target efficiency. This is exactly what we want to see. Higgins has earned a target on 26% of his routes and leads the team in target share at 27%, with a healthy 32% air yard share. Higgins is seeing huge opportunity and has upside to play even more efficiently
If Higgins misses Week 3, Ja'Marr Chase should see some additional targets and will likely see his aDOT decrease from 17.9 and get closer to Higgins' 10. Chase has been incredible thus far with a 2.54 YPRR and 42% of the Bengals' air yards. Nevertheless, I'd prefer Higgins to be out there to help draw defensive attention. Chase is a boom/bust option if Higgins sits.
If Higgins misses and Chase remains in his deep threat role, Tyler Boyd could benefit. He has an aDOT of 6.3, and could soak up intermediate targets without Higgins on the field. But again, given the need for Cincinnati to increase overall passing volume, Higgins playing would be better for everyone on the Bengals this week.
Steelers Implied Team Total: 22
The Steelers are doing a lot of things that we should like. They have a pass rate 8% higher than expected. They're especially pass heavy on 1st-and-10, tied with the Giants for second in the NFL at 13%. And they're playing fairly quickly, with the 12th fastest pace. Their offensive line has also played surprisingly well in the passing game, with PFF grading them 12th in pass blocking.
But it's hard to like any of these things given Ben Roethlisberger's level of play. Roethlisberger's deep ball is virtually nonexistent. He's thrown 20+ yards on just 11% of his attempts (Jared Goff is at 12%). And he has the third lowest adjusted completion percentage on those throws (finishing one spot behind Jared Goff). Roethlisberger has also struggled with accuracy in general, currently QB27 in CPOE. He's been poor in overall efficiency as well, ranking QB24 in EPA/play.
It's likely the Steelers aren't going pass heavy to accentuate Roethlisberger, but because they don't have another choice. PFF grades the Steelers 30th in run blocking and they also rank 30th in adjusted line yards. Najee Harris is seeing an absurd 97% snap rate, but he's only had 32% of the Steeler's opportunities. That's a lower share than Elijah Mitchell and Mark Ingram through two games, and just 1% higher than Mike Davis. He also has just an 11% target share. That's not bad, but it's less than Ty'Son Williams and Cordarrelle Patterson. Look, I fully admit I did not pick these names at random. I intentionally cherry picked these names to make you feel gross. But I shouldn't be able to do that. The whole point of Harris this year was that he was supposed to get all the snaps. He is. Now what?
The now what is receptions. Roethlisberger is a poor bet to have any kind of resurgence. And while the offensive line may get better over time, it's unlikely to do so this week. So Harris' path to delivering high end fantasy value this week is to rack up short receptions. He's running a route on 84% of dropbacks. So he's out there... he just needs to get targeted on more than 12% of his routes. And with Diontae Johnson likely to miss this week, there are suddenly a ton of short targets available. Johnson has an aDOT of 8.8 this year and was seeing a target on 31% of his routes, an absurdly high rate. Johnson has 32% of the Steeler's targets and 35% of their air yards, both of which lead the team. If he misses Sunday, there should be more targets available for everyone.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is in some ways the most natural fit to pick up the slack. He has an aDOT of 4.6, so is operating even more shallowly than Johnson. Smith-Schuster could also see more work on the outside with Johnson out, directly replacing some of Johnson's routes. But Smith-Schuster won't run any more routes overall, because he's already run a route on 100% of Pittsburgh's dropbacks. Chase Claypool on the other hand, has a strong chance to see an increased role as a result of simply being on the field more. He's run a route on 78% of dropbacks this year. That could be over 90% this week. Claypool won't be doing Johnson things. With an aDOT of 17.8, the big-bodied deep threat is an entirely different type of player. But with Claypool's skillset, even an additional target or two could go a long way in him having a big day.
Overall, unlike the Higgins injury on the other side of this game, which may lower overall passing volume for the Bengals, I think the Steeler's receivers stand to benefit if Johnson misses. Harris, in particular, has huge upside if Roethlisberger turns into a check down machine without his safety blanket on the field.
Ravens at Lions, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Ravens Implied Team Total: 29.25
Lamar Jackson has not recaptured his 2019 form, when he finished sixth in EPA/play and won the MVP. In fact, he hasn't even reached 2020 levels when he was 12th in EPA/play. He ranks just 18th in EPA/play this year.
Jackson hasn't been in perfect form, but luckily, the Ravens offense has taken some steps in a more fantasy friendly direction. After finishing 30th in pace in 2020, they are up to 18th this season. And after finishing 31st in situation neutral pass rate in 2019-2020, the Ravens are up to 26th this year. These aren't identity shifting type changes, but they are helping to make up for less than perfect play from Jackson. If he returns to his MVP form this week, the Ravens slightly increased passing volume and pace could help him deliver a huge week.
Jackson should be aided by facing a Lions defense that is ranked 24th in EPA allowed per rush and last in the league in EPA allowed per dropback. The matchup could also help Jackson rekindle his connection with tight end Mark Andrews. Andrews has been heavily targeted on a per route basis over the last two season. Andrews was targeted on 31% of his routes in 2019 and 25% in 2020. He's at just 15% this year. That's the bad news. The good news is that Andrews ran just 22.2 routes per game in 2019. That jumped to 29.6 per game in 2020. He's up to 33.5 this year. To be bearish on Mark Andrews this week, I have to believe that somehow, I don't know... because of Sammy Watkins?... but somehow, Mark Andrews and Lamar Jackson no longer have a strong connection. Two weeks into the season, with a very strong track record between Jackson and Andrews, I'm simply not willing to buy that. Andrews plays the highly volatile tight end position, so this is going to burn me, but I'm very excited about him this week.
Sammy Watkins and Marquise Brown are also exciting in this matchup. Both have been excellent this season, and if the Lions offense refuses to go away as it usually does, there could be enough passing volume here to support multiple big games from Ravens receivers.
On the ground, Ty'Son Williams appears to have defended his lead role after missing a big block in Week 1 that had us worried about his role going forward. He played 51% of the snaps to Latavius Murray's 37% and had 13 attempts to Murray's nine. They'll be in a split role this week, but Williams is in RB2/FLEX consideration.
Lions Implied Team Total: 20.25
Fantasy drafters spent the offseason heavily discounting the Lions offense. It was clearly going to be inefficient, and Dan Campbell looked destined to try and establish the run. Fantasy drafters were right about the Lions offense. The Lions rank 25th in EPA/play (excluding garbage time) and are dead last in situation neutral pass rate.
But of course, drafters still appear to have made a big mistake in heavily discounting T.J. Hockenson and D'Andre Swift. The reason for this is simple. The Lions have antiquated ideas about what to do in neutral game script... but they're rarely in neutral game script. The Lions have played from behind for over 60% their first two games, which is the 26th worst rate in the league. And the good news is that when the Lions are down, they don't give up. Detroit ranks 12th in pass rate over expected this season and fourth in seconds per play when down 7+. Sure, in Campbell's ideal world he would be leading by over a TD, running the ball and grinding the clock. But the Lions have yet to be up by 7+ this season. And Campbell does seem to be rooted in reality. Given the state of the Lions defense, the only way the Lions can win is to pass more than they'd prefer to. Credit to the Lions for embracing the necessary.
As nine points underdogs, the Lions will undoubtedly be trailing for much of Week 3. That should be great news for T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson is listed as a tight end but there's no doubt that he is the Lions top receiver. He's run a route on 87% of dropbacks and has a 22% target share and 26% air yard share, both of which lead the team. He's also played 66% of his snaps in the slot, which trails only Mike Gesicki and Logan Thomas among full time tight ends. Hockenson's efficiency has been solid, with 1.83 YPRR. With this kind of volume that'll be more than efficient enough for a special season.
Quintez Cephus saw his routes jump from 38% of dropbacks in Week 1 all the way to 90% in Week 2, as he was the main beneficiary of Tyrell Williams' absence. Cephus has scored two TDs, but he's actually been pretty inefficient overall with a YPRR of 1.27. With an aDOT of 13.5, that might not matter, however. He can deliver value on a just a few targets, and he's been earning targets on a strong 22% of his routes.
D'Andre Swift is the real secondary receiving option here though. Swift has an 18% target share and has seen a target on 25% of his routes. Combined with 66% of the Lions' snaps, his receiving role is creating huge fantasy value. PFF's expected points put his workload at 18 points per game. If he keeps up that level of workload this week, he has huge upside as big play threat on the ground and through the air.
Jets at Broncos, 4:05 PM eastern, Sunday
Jets Implied Team Total: 15.5
It's been an ugly start for the Jets. You've already seen Zach Wilson's name on the EPA chart above... in the exact place on the chart you never want to see a quarterback's name. But take a look at the Jets offense as a whole:
The Jets have been comically bad through two weeks. The good news is that they've faced two tough defenses in the Panthers and Patriots, who currently rank first and third in EPA allowed per play. The Panthers defense in particular looks very strong. It ranked second in EPA allowed per play in Week 2. Following Thursday night football, the Panthers remain the top ranked defense in EPA/play.
Things should pick up for the Jets once their matchups improve. Unfortunately, that doesn't look like it will be the case this week. The Broncos rank seventh in EPA allowed per play and seventh in EPA allowed per dropback. They've had a light schedule so far, facing the Giants and Jaguars, but it's still not the opponents the Jets coaches would handpick.
Although, I'm not sure we should trust the Jets to handpick anything right now. They're decision making this season has been highly suspect. When Josh Hermsmeyer looked into passing on early downs vs. third down he found that although some quarterbacks were effective throwing on third downs, these were highly skilled outliers, and most offenses were better off passing on early downs to avoid obvious passing situations.
If you’re going to rush on back-to-back plays to open a series, you should do so sparingly because it will leave your team in an obvious passing situation more often than not. Your passing attack — and QB especially — will need to be well above average to consistently convert in those high-leverage spots where all deception is gone and defenders can be confident that they know what’s coming.
The Jets have completely tossed out this playbook. They have a pass rate 9% less than expected on 1st-and-10, while passing 5% over expected on 3rd-and-3+. In other words, in ambiguous 1st-and-10 situations, when the defense has to play both the run and the pass, Wilson is handing off. When the defense suspects a pass, Wilson indeed drops back. This helps explain why Wilson has faced pressure on more dropbacks than any other quarterback in the NFL. Some of this is on Wilson as well, he ranks behind only Jalen Hurts and Teddy Bridgewater in average time to throw. Based on their play calling tendencies the Jets appear to have fully bought in on their own training camp hype, setting up Wilson for tough third downs that only a true future superstar would be successful on. They've discovered instead that they have a rookie quarterback who holds the ball too long and doesn't play well under pressure.
Corey Davis was the only bright spot of Week 1. In Week 2 his routes per dropback dropped by 19%, which... go figure. Elijah Moore has now run the most routes through two games, but he has a YPRR of 0.66, which is real bad. I'm staying away from the Jets' wide receivers this week (really went out on a limb there).
It's also tough to have much interest in the Jets' backfield this week, but I did want to note that Tevin Coleman had just 10% of the snaps last week and it appears that he's, rightfully, being phased out of the backfield.
Broncos Implied Team Total: 26
After finishing QB26 in play action rate in 2020, Teddy Bridgewater is second to only Jimmy Garoppolo this season. The results have been spectacular. Bridgewater is QB3 in EPA per play. Bridgewater's success is coming primarily through accuracy, he ranks second in CPOE. That's fairly unsurprising, given that he finished eighth in CPOE in 2020 and that accuracy has long been Bridgewater's best attribute.
Bridgewater has also been successful in another area that's genuinely shocking. He's been willing to throw the deep ball. Bridgewater has attempted a 20+ yard throw on 19% of his pass attempts. Among quarterbacks who have logged a start this year, that's second to only Russell Wilson. Bridgewater hasn't been outstanding on these throws, ranking QB24 in adjusted completion percentage on 20+ yard throws. But he hasn't been terrible either, and the threat of the deep ball has rounded out his game in a way we've never truly seen before.
We're just two weeks into the season, and I imagine that defensive coordinators have been just as surprised by Bridgewater's new found love of the deep shot as we've been. Perhaps the Jets will be more intent on taking away deep throws than the Giants and Jaguars were. But this wouldn't be the first time that a check down artist was unlocked by heavy play action. In Miami, Tannehill checked down so often that Jarvis Landry became an anti-PPR talking point. In Tennessee he facilitated A.J. Brown's breakout by targeting him at all depths. Bridgewater is going to cool off on his deep throws. But he might genuinely have found a new element to his game, at least while playing in a system that heavily utilizes play action.
If so, Courtland Sutton could be in for another big week. Sutton has a YPRR of 2.7 through two games and has been targeted on 23% of his routes. He's only run a route on 81% of dropbacks this year, so he could easily see more playing time this week, considering how strong he was in Week 2. Keep in mind that with an aDOT of 20.2 he has a low floor, particularly if whatever spell Bridgewater is under wears off.
Noah Fant is showing signs of a breakout season. He's run a route on 70% of dropbacks this season and has been targeted on 24% of his routes. He hasn't fully delivered on his opportunity so far with a yards per target of just 7.3. But Fant is a highly athletic playmaker; per target efficiency is not a concern. He's currently delivering on hopes that as a third year player, he would be able to consistently draw targets in a way he didn't in years 1-2. Heading into Week 3, Fant hasn't completely proven that he's an elite tight end, but he's the type of player where I want to be ahead of the curve.
Melvin Gordon still has an edge in this backfield but if the Broncos are salting this game away as expected, Javonte Williams may get more run. Despite trailing Gordon in snaps 45% to 55%, Williams leads Gordon in rushing attempts 27 to 24. Pure speculation on my part, but if you aren't going to see what your rookie rusher can do against the Jets, when are you?
Dolphins at Raiders, 4:05 PM eastern, Sunday
Dolphins Implied Team Total: 20.25
Tua Tagovailoa fractured his ribs in Week 2, so the Dolphins are rolling with Jacoby Brissett under center. This did not go well last week. Although in fairness to Brissett, although he ranks QB31 in EPA/play this season, Tagovailoa ranks QB33, ahead of only Zach Wilson. This offense has not been what we were hoping it would be.
There are at least a couple reasons for optimism, however. First, the Dolphins have been fast paced with the sixth fastest situation neutral seconds per play. If Brissett can improve to the point where he's not providing negative expected value on his average play, the Dolphins appear willing to press even a very small advantage. Second, we're very likely to see Will Fuller's Dolphins debut this week. Fuller has consistently improved the efficiency of his quarterbacks, and will likely provide at least a small boost to the passing offense. While Fuller himself is a risky play this week, given the state of the offense, I'm willing to risk him as a FLEX play if I don't have a clearly superior option.
If Fuller helps improve the efficiency of the offense and the Dolphins keep up the pace, it's possible that there could be some value here for Jaylen Waddle and DeVante Parker. Waddle in particular looks interesting, considering that the Raiders have PFF's highest graded pass rush. Waddle has seen 71% of his snaps in the slot and has an aDOT of just 4.7. Fuller could potentially make it easier for Waddle to operate underneath, and the pass rush could have Brissett looking to get the ball out quickly.
It's too bad that things look so uninspiring in Miami this week because Myles Gaskin might otherwise be pretty interesting. Gaskin saw 59% of snaps in Week 2 and a 12% target share. He's at 57% of snaps for the season with a 14% target share overall. Gaskin doesn't have a ton of upside in this role, but if Miami surprises this week, he could be usable.
Raiders Implied Team Total: 23.75
Like Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr has surprised this season by showing an interest in throwing deep. Among quarterbacks who have started a game this year, Carr ranks 12th in deep ball percentage. And Carr has been quite good on these throws. He ranks ninth in adjusted completion percentage on deep throws. He continues to be hampered by John Gruden's hatred of play action, currently last in the league in play action rate. We're not likely to see any change in that philosophy this week, which puts more pressure on Carr to keep up his high level of play.
Carr could come back down to earth a little bit this week against a Miami defense that ranks 10th in EPA allowed per dropback and has PFF's highest graded pass coverage. The Dolphins held Josh Allen to a QB22 finish in EPA/play last week, and this should be Carr's most difficult test so far this season.
This setup makes Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards hard to trust but Darren Waller is still a truly elite option. Waller has run a route on 91% of dropbacks and has been targeted on 27% of his routes, at an aDOT of 10. There are clear-cut No. 1 wide receivers who are jealous of those numbers.
Buccaneers at Rams, 4:25 PM eastern, Sunday
Buccaneers Implied Team Total: 28.25
The Buccaneers are in the midst of a genuinely historic offensive run.
And this with Tom Brady at 44 years old. Brady's ability to defy age has gone on so long that I think it's broken our brains. To help remind you of how insane his level of play is, here are the three other quarterbacks to throw for 10,000+ career yards who, like Brady, were born in 1977: Daunte Culpepper, Marc Bulger and Tim Couch. I honestly might stop eating nightshades.
The craziest part of Brady's success is that he's not just along for the ride. He's fully driving a successful offense in a way that can't really be said for any other NFL quarterback this season. Even other top offenses that lean heavily on the pass like the Chiefs, Cardinals, Rams and Cowboys have been run heavy in certain situations. Tampa Bay has passed above expectation, regardless of the situation:
With Antonio Brown likely out for Week 3, the passing game should condense a bit to Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski. Godwin leads the group with a 23% target share, Evans with a 27% air yard share and Gronkowski with four TDs. I'm somewhat suspect of the idea that things will condense in a big way, however. The Buccaneers have very strong wide receiver depth. Deep threat Scotty Miller can fill in for Brown's 21.2 aDOT role. And Tyler Johnson can also mix in underneath and in the intermediate areas. No matter how the Buccaneers want to play it, they'll have a capable third wide receiver on the field this week. I would factor in a target bump for Godwin and Evans if Brown misses, but it might not be as big a bump as generally perceived.
Leonard Fournette is in consideration here after running a route on 51% of dropbacks through two weeks to Gio Bernard's 22%. Fournette isn't doing a ton with the opportunity with a 1.2 YPRR, but he has a decent chance of getting in the end zone in this potential shootout.
Rams Implied Team Total: 27.25
Stafford wasn't quite as stellar in Week 2 as he was in Week 1, but it's still been a very strong start. Stafford currently ranks QB4 in EPA/play.
Sean McVay was so excited about Stafford this offseason that he literally had to apologize for gushing about him to the point that it was insulting to Jared Goff. That excitement is coming through in the Rams' pace of play. After finishing 12th in situation neutral seconds per play in 2020, the Rams have the third fastest pace this season, behind only the Bills and Buccaneers.
By the end of the Goff era, the Rams' passing offense had completely abandoned the deep ball. With Stafford's more well-rounded skill set, it's easy to understand why McVay is interested in pushing the pace. Stafford has been as hoped as a deep passer. He has an adjusted completion percentage second to only Kyler Murray on 20+ yard passes. Goff meanwhile, ranks fourth lowest in the league. But Stafford hasn't actually attempted a lot of these throws. With a deep ball on just 10.7% of his attempts, he ranks behind Goff and Ben Roethlisberger. But unlike last season, the Rams' aren't limiting deep throws to protect their quarterback, they're simply not forcing them. When he has thrown deep, Stafford has been deadly.
Cooper Kupp can attest to Stafford's excellent deep ball, as the Rams leader in air yard shre with 38%. Kupp also has 38% of targets and an absurd 4.59 YPRR. That type of per route efficiency isn't sustainable, obviously. But the crazy thing is that Kupp's 13.6 YPT isn't even that high. For example, Quez Watkins has a 28 YPT and Tyler Lockett has a 17.8 YPT. Those guys have been highly-efficient, primarily from making big plays when targeted. Kupp is making a lot of big plays too, but he's also being targeted at an insanely high rate. Kupp is one of just five full time players to see a target on 30% or more of routes. The others are Deebo Samuel, CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Diontae Johnson. Kupp won't be able to keep up this target rate, but what he's doing is more sustainable than it first appears.
Robert Woods quietly saw his routes jump in Week 2 to 97% of dropbacks, up from 67% in Week 1. He continues to do Robert Woods things and has a 1.86 YPRR this season. I prefer Kupp, like everyone else on the plant this week, but both players look like strong bets.
Tyler Higbee also looks like a strong bounce back candidate. He has run a route on 85% of dropbacks this season. With tight end the way it is, that alone makes him interesting. He'll need to improve on his 14% TPRR or score a TD, but Higbee has shown a knack for drawing targets in the past, and there could be quite a few TDs scored in this game.
If Darrell Henderson plays, he's a bit risky, but he's still worth a long look. Despite missing the end of the Colts game, Henderson has played 79% of the Rams' snaps. He was in a true workhorse role before getting hurt. If he misses this week, Sony Michel is the guy.
I would caution that Michel won't have Henderson's exact role. Henderson was playing every down and had an 11% target share. Michel ceded third downs to Jake Funk following Henderson's exit and is unlikely to play every snap. He'll handle the vast majority of rushing work, but his receiving role will likely be limited.
Seahawks at Vikings, 4:25 PM eastern, Sunday
Seahawks Implied Team Total: 28
It was all going so well. Shane Waldron's offense was moderately up-tempo, slightly pass heavy, and highly efficient. It looked like the perfect combination to generate huge value from Russell Wilson without Pete Carroll cracking down on an offense that was openly fun.
And, if not for an insanely poor application of an unnecessary and ridiculous rule, the Seahawks would be 2-0, and we'd be giddy with excitement for Wilson to face Minnesota's 29th graded pass rush and 23rd ranked defense in EPA per dropback. But instead Seattle is coming off a loss, and Seahawks Twitter has devolved into time of possession talk, blaming Seattle's defensive meltdown on their defense being on the field too long.
As a reminder, the Seahawks only scored six points in the second half, which came on a 68 yard TD pass to Freddie Swain. If Pete Carroll believes that scoring too quickly is just as bad as not scoring enough (which, come on, you know he does), then we could see a slower, more run heavy attack in Week 3. The nerds see the writing on the wall, and we are not happy about it.
It's nice to see that the betting market isn't buying the time of possession worries. This matchup has the second highest total of the week.
Even knowing that the Seahawks could break our hearts, it's hard not to be excited about Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Lockett is running extremely hot with a 4.48 YPRR and a 17.4 YPT. He's operating as a true deep threat with a 17.8 aDOT. According to PFF's expected points, he's produced nearly as many fantasy points per game on efficiency (13.95) as he has on on his opportunity (14.95). DK Metcalf has roughly the same expected points, 14.85, but has produced slightly below expected. While Lockett probably isn't going to average 25+ points this year, both he and Metcalf have major upside if the Seahawks press their advantage against a poor pass defense.
If the Seahawks do shift to the run this week, Chris Carson could be in for a big game. Carson has handled 88% of the running back carries this season, and played 70% of snaps. He has only a 6% target share, so he's not really benefitting from pass heavy game scripts. He needs the Seahawks to establish.
Vikings Implied Team Total: 27
The Seahawks may be a bit too pass heavy for Pete Carroll's liking, but there's no way he's as tilted as Mike Zimmer. The Vikings have been dragged into back-to-back pass heavy scripts by the Bengals and Cardinals and rank ninth in the league in pass attempts. Zimmer has hated every minute of it. The Vikings rank 24th in pass rate over expected and 30th in pace of play.
The Seahawks defense ranks 13th in EPA allowed per rush, which is actually fairly impressive considering they've played the Colts and Titans. But they've been weaker against the run than the pass, and if the Seahawks attempt to slow the game down and control the ball, Zimmer will be delighted by the extra rushing attempts that will afford him.
Dalvin Cook (ankle) is one of the biggest unknowns for this weekend, but it sounds like if he's available on Sunday, Zimmer plans to give him his full workload. That workload has been huge. Despite being in and out of the game in Week 2, Cook has played 74% of the Vikings' snaps and has a 14% target share. He has 43% of the Vikings total team opportunities, which trailed only Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry through Week 2. Given a matchup that slightly favors the run and a coach who favors the run... more than slightly, Cook is set up for a huge Week 3 if his health cooperates.
If Cook isn't fully healthy, or if the Seahawks are simply scoring too much, this could be a nice setup for the new look Vikings' 3WR set. K.J. Osborn has made some waves this season with a 2.35 YPRR, despite being such a deep sleeper than only mega-sharps even knew who he was. For this week though, it's important to realize that Osborn is running very hot. He's only been targeted on 17% of his routes. He's played 71% of his snaps in the slot and has an aDOT of 7.7. This is not an archetype of player that should have a 13.9 YPT, but that's exactly where Osborn is at through two games. Osborn can continue to impress long-term, but that doesn't mean he can't disappoint here. His role is simply not that large and his deployment comes with low upside.
Adam Thielen has shown the most upside this season with three touchdowns through two games. But he is also running very hot there and has only been targeted on 19% of his routes despite a shallow aDOT of 5.9.
Justin Jefferson is the upside play here. He's been targeted on 21% of his routes with a deep aDOT of 12.7. This has allowed him to rack up 50% of the Vikings' air yards this season. Jefferson has a YPT of just 7.6. The star wideout can be far more efficient than that on a weekly basis, and if the game script we need comes through, he could be in for a huge week.
Packers at 49ers, 8:20 PM eastern, Sunday
Packers Implied Team Total: 23.5
We expected the Packers to bounce back against the Lions, and they did not disappoint. Their defense jumped from 29th in EPA allowed per play to 14th, and their offense jumped from 30th in EPA/play in Week 1 to first. Despite an awful Week 1, Aaron Rodgers now ranks QB9 in EPA/play.
Week 3 should help determine who the Packers really are. The 49ers' defense ranks fourth in EPA allowed per play, fifth in EPA allowed per dropback and sixth in EPA allowed per rush. They've been a well-rounded unit that won't let the Packers have their way the way the Lions did. And if the Packers are inefficient this week, they're unlikely to make up for it with volume. The Packers had the slowest pace of play in the league in 2020 and although they've jumped up the rankings to 27th this season, they're actually taking longer between situation neutral plays than they did last year.
Aaron Jones had an incredible Week 2, scoring four TDs and producing 115 yards from scrimmage. Even better, Jones had a big lead on AJ Dillon in snaps, 69% to 29%. On top of his 14% target share for the season, this type of snap share for Jones is extremely bullish. Week 3 is unlikely to provide the same fertile ground for points that the Lions did. But Jones can deliver a strong outing for as long as he's in a clear lead role with strong receiving usage.
Green Bay got completely shut down in Week 1 and Davante Adams still has an ultra-elite 3.05 YPRR through two weeks. Yep, sounds about right. Adams is unbelievable.
49ers Implied Team Total: 26.5
Jimmy Garoppolo has been a major disappointment to fantasy managers, because he continues to play competently. Garoppolo is being protected in a low volume offense, but it's working. The 49ers are 2-0 and Garoppolo ranks seventh in EPA/play. The 49ers are 24th in pace of play however, and rank 29th in pass attempts.
This had created an offensive environment where the 49ers are having trouble supporting passing weapons. The lone exception has been Deebo Samuel. Samuel leads all full-time wide receivers in targets per route run, with a ridiculous 38%. He's paired that with a ridiculous 14.1 YPT as well. The end result is a 5.42 YPRR through two weeks. Deebo can play. The problem is that the 49ers have been so low volume that Samuel playing out of his mind is the only way he's broken through to fantasy relevance.
George Kittle has played very well this season, yet people are panicking. Kittle has a 2.11 YPRR and has been targeted on 20% of his routes. Both of those are very strong numbers for a tight end. Sure, they're well below where George Kittle usually is, but they're still quite good. The issue is that the 49ers aren't passing enough. That, and Kittle's 2.2 aDOT isn't helping. This week, with Aiyuk still working back into a full role, it's possible that Kittle breaks out of his slump. But given the low volume environment, I think it's more likely we get another quiet but efficient week from the star tight end.
Eagles at Cowboys, 8:15 PM eastern, Monday
Eagles Implied Team Total: 24.25
The Eagles continued to emphasize screen passes in Week 2, with Hurts adding four more screen passes on top of his seven from Week 1. Only Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers and Kyler Murray have thrown a screen pass on a higher percentage of their dropbacks. Hurts also began mixing in more deep attempts in Week 2. With a 20+ yard pass on 26% of his attempts, no starting quarterback attempted a higher percentage of deep throws in Week 2. Hurts wasn't good on those throws, finishing 28th in adjusted completion percentage. But he did connect with Quez Watkins for a 91 yard completion. He also had a 36 yard would-be TD, but Jalen Reagor stepped out of bounds prior to catching the well thrown pass. After just two deep throws in Week 1, it's nice to see Hurts combining the screen game with deep passing.
Hurts has also shown strong rushing value in the new Eagles offense. He's tied with Carson Wentz for first in scramble attempts, and leads the NFL in scramble yards. But he's also tied with Daniel Jones for QB4 in designed runs, and is QB2 in designed rushing yards, behind only Lamar Jackson.
Hurts has faced two run heavy offenses so far this season. On Monday he'll be opposite a Cowboys offense that is fifth in pass rate over expected. And while the Cowboys offense is decent against the pass, ranking 14th in EPA allowed per dropback, Hurts' skillset offers huge upside if the Cowboys offense forces a shootout.
DeVonta Smith has a strong role in the Eagles' offense, but it's not ideal. He's running a route on 91% of dropbacks, which is great to see. And he's being targeted on 22% of his routes, which is also great. But he has an aDOT of 16.1. This is very deep, and likely contributing to his poor YPT of 6.2. Like Ja'Marr Chase, who has also found himself in this type of role, Smith's deep usage will make him more boom/bust than we'd prefer.
Smith should still be more reliable than Jalen Reagor, who is only running a route on 73% of dropbacks. Reagor is at least being targeted on 22% of his routes and has a aDOT of 8.9 that should be conducive to consistent production. Reagor's YPT is currently just 4.9, but he was about a half-inch of sideline from drastically improving that in Week 2. The more concerning issue is that he's not quite a full time player in the offense.
Cowboys Implied Team Total: 27.75
Dak Prescott is coming off a very disappointing Week 2, where he finished behind Ben Roethlisberger in EPA/play. This was very likely due to his matchup with the well designed Chargers defense that is hyper-focused on stopping the pass. Los Angeles ranks eighth in EPA allowed per dropback and 31st in EPA allowed per rush. The Eagles offense is not designed this way. Philadelphia ranks 23rd in EPA allowed per dropback and 15th in EPA allowed per rush... and that's after playing the Falcons and 49ers. The Eagles pass defense hasn't been tested by an efficient, high-volume passing offense yet. It may not handle that test very well.
Prescott looks to be in a clear bounceback spot this week, especially with Amari Cooper looking likely to play Sunday. The combination of Cooper and Lamb is deadly, with Lamb now finally a full-time player. Lamb is being targeted on 32% of his routes and has a 2.47 YPRR. He hasn't even been efficient on his targets with just a 7.7 YPT. He can cool off a bit with his target volume and still keep his fantasy pace if he picks up his YPT. He's unreal. Cooper is being targeted on 25% of his routes and also hasn't been efficient on his targets with just a 7.5 YPT. If the Eagles pass defense is indeed a paper tiger, Lamb and Cooper could both be in for massive days if they deliver a few big plays and don't commit any drops.
In the backfield, things are somewhat ambiguous. Ezekiel Elliott has played 78% of the snaps to just 28% for Tony Pollard. That's such a clear lead that normally I'd hype Elliott's workload and move on. But Pollard somehow trails Elliott by only 9 rushing attempts and leads him by three targets. Elliott is playing way more than Pollard, but has seen an opportunity on just 27% of his snaps. Pollard meanwhile, has seen an opportunity on 56% of his snaps.
Something has to give. At some point defenses are going to realize that whenever this Pollard guy is on the field there's a 50/50 shot they go to him. If the Cowboys want to keep up this level of usage, they really ought to increase Pollard's snap share. If they don't, his touch percentage almost has to decrease. If defenses begin keying on him it's make going to him less efficient. It would also make play actions and fakes more effective--which would be great for the Cowboys but doesn't help Pollard. And of course, there's simple regression. No player can sustain an opportunity on 56% of their snaps. I think Pollard is in play for RB2 needy teams, but unless he cuts into Elliott's snap share this week, I expect Elliott to put some distance between them in fantasy scoring.
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.
All EPA/play referenced in this article has garbage time filtered out.
I do this by setting win probability filter to between 10-90%.
Completion Percentage Over Expected
QB accuracy metric
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
Run blocking stat that has been correlated with elite fantasy running back seasons.
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 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.