Walkthrough Week 10: Najee Kneecaps the Lions

·75 min read



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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 as well as what they are, why they're useful, and where they came from.

Byes: Bears, Bengals, Texans, Giants

Already Played: Ravens, Dolphins

Bills at Jets, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Bills Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 30

Week 9 was packed with stunning upsets, none more shocking than the Bills' loss to the Jaguars. Josh Allen wasn't horrifically bad. He hit a few big throws and had a few nice scrambles. But given that he failed to score a touchdown on a team that Geno Smith lit up the week before, he was still pretty bad: Allen finished 23rd in EPA per play (which measures efficiency) and 17th in CPOE (which measures accuracy)*.

Joe Buscaglia has an excellent breakdown of the Bills' loss in The Athletic, where he notes that Jacksonville used a heavy dose of Cover-2 shell against the Bills. This defense can limit big plays, but it is susceptible to chunk runs and dump-off passes. The Bills aren't ideally suited to counter the coverage. They have a weak run game, and Cole Beasley is their only real short-area weapon with Dawson Knox out. So we'll likely see more of this coverage going forward. But Cover-2 is a simple scheme that's been in use for decades, and the path to beating it is well known. For example, the Saints used Cover-2 as part of their demolition of the Packers in Week 1. In Week 2, the Lions employed a similar game plan. But as Peyton and Eli Manning broke down on the best show on television, Aaron Rodgers took what the defense gave him and led the Packers to 35 points.

Allen ranks just 19th in EPA per play. He needs to limit bad plays and hit some bigger ones downfield when opportunities arise. But if the "book" on the Bills is to allow them chunk plays in exchange for taking away big gains, I think they can come up with an answer for that. The Bills may lack a traditional run game, but Allen is highly mobile. He's also been highly accurate this season, ranking ninth in CPOE. The Bills also have an elite No. 1 wide receiver in Stefon Diggs, who can operate more in the intermediate areas of the field as needed. I'm not worried.

Even if I was worried, Allen plays the Jets this week. The Jets rank 26th in EPA allowed per dropback and 28th in coverage grade. And the Jets are a pass funnel. Only Tampa Bay, Washington, and Cincinnati are causing a more significant shift to the pass. So I'm happy to bet on Allen to have a much stronger game against the Jets than he did against the Jaguars.

Stefon Diggs isn't having an elite fantasy season, but he's still seeing elite volume on a per route basis. Diggs has been targeted on 23% of his routes, which is a healthy rate for his 11.4 aDOT. Diggs is underperforming in on a per-target basis, however. His 8.4 YPT is below expectations for his target depth, below his 9.1 career YPT, and well below his 2020 9.6 YPT. He should see some positive regression soon. But Diggs has also seen his routes reduced by several blowout wins, which is a risk again this week. Hopefully, Mike White can keep the Jets on track enough to keep Diggs on the field for the entire game.

Cole Beasley saw a significant increase in opportunity in Week 8, tying Diggs in routes and running just one less route than Emmanuel Sanders. Beasley's routes were down in Week 9, but he was banged up in the second half of the game, which reduced his opportunity. He now looks on track to play his usual role this week and can be considered the Bills' co-WR2 role with Sanders.

Of course, Sanders and Beasley play polar opposite roles in the offense. Beasley has played 86% of his snaps in the slot and has a 5.9 aDOT. He is targeted at a high rate of 23% but has just a 14% air yard share. Sanders plays outside and has an ultra-deep aDOT of 18.7. He's targeted infrequently with a 15% TPRR but leads the team with a 34% air yard share. If the Jets try and copy the Jaguars' approach, it could be a Beasley week. But Sanders needs fewer plays to hit, which could come in handy against the lowly Jets.

Tommy Sweeney is a true TD or bust option. He has been targeted on just 10% of his routes with a shallow 5.2 aDOT. Dawson Knox was being used deeper downfield with a 9.2 aDOT and was targeted on 14% of his routes. Knox's usage wasn't ideal, but it made him usable. Sweeney is a much thinner option.

Zack Moss was knocked out of last week's game with a concussion, but even before Moss' departure in the third quarter, Singletary was leading the way. As a result, Singletary was able to lead in snaps 72% to 28%. Singletary's additional snaps are a good sign if Moss is unable to play this week. But given Moss' consistently larger role from Week 3 on, it's hard to trust either back if Moss is healthy this week.

*All EPA and CPOE stats I reference in this article exclude garbage time.

Jets Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 17.5

Mike White is the start this week, which is excellent news for all Jets' skill players.

White's sample size is too small to trust, but somehow he ranks first in EPA per play this season and third in CPOE. Clearly, he's going to regress. But it's obvious why the Jets are asking Zach Wilson to take all the time he needs in rehabbing his knee.

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The Bills defense is ready to knock White down the EPA rankings in a big way. Buffalo ranks first in EPA allowed per dropback and fourth in coverage grade. They have a mediocre pass rush, ranked 14 in PFF's grades, but that hasn't stopped them from being an elite pass defense.

Buffalo is also very strong on the ground, ranking fourth in EPA allowed per rush and 11th in run defense grade. The Bills offense isn't likely to allow the Jets to be run-heavy this week, but even if they did, it's not clear they would be successful with that approach.

For fantasy purposes, a lack of a rushing game is just fine, mainly because with Mike White under center... the Jets' No. 1 receiver is arguably a running back.

Over the first five weeks of the season, Michael Carter had a 43% snap share and an 8% target share. But since the Jet's Week 6 bye, Carter has a 67% snap share and an 18% target share. Carter's increased target share has been driven, in large part, by playing with Mike White. With White knocked out of most of Week 9, Carter's target share dropped to 4%, and Ty Johnson was at 6%. Against the Bengals in Week 8, Carter had a 29% target share, and Johnson was at 12%.

Tevin Coleman hasn't played since the bye, but the impact of his absence has been relatively small. Coleman has played only 16% of snaps and has a 2% target share this season. Coleman's return could mean slightly less goal line work for the rookie, but Coleman should have little to no impact on Carter's receiving role, which is how he has generated value. The rookie leads the Jets this season with a target on 25% of his routes. Carter has upside for another huge target volume game.

Further downfield, it looks like Elijah Moore is starting to emerge. He was targeted on 22% of his routes in Week 9 and 33% in Week 8. It's essential to keep in mind that Moore is not a full-time player, however. Moore had a route rate of 84% in Week 1 and 79% in Week 2. Then Keelan Cole returned to the lineup. Since that point, Moore has peaked at a 66% route rate. He was at just 35% against the Bengals, and even in his two-TD performance against the Colts, he ran a route on just 65% of dropbacks. Moore struggled mightily early in the season but has played far better recently. It's highly plausible that his role grows this week. But in a difficult matchup, Moore has an extremely low floor if he plays limited snaps.

Moore's outlook is further complicated by Corey Davis' likely return. Davis hasn't gotten a chance to play with White yet, and it's not clear that they will mesh very well. Davis was the one piece of the offense that was semi-clicking with Zach Wilson. Davis has been targeted on a strong 23% of his routes with a 13.8 aDOT. The critical question is if White will be looking that deep against the Bills' defense. White currently ranks last in percentage of 20+ yard throws. Davis' return will likely help the Jets stay on track, but he could have difficulty producing a usable fantasy week.

Buccaneers at Washington, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Buccaneers Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 30.5

Tom Brady ranks fourth in EPA per play this season and 14th in CPOE. He's probably running a bit hot in efficiency, given his middling accuracy. That's something to keep an eye on, but it's hard to believe that this is the week he'll regress, given that he faces a Washington defense ranked 28th in EPA allowed per dropback and 30th in coverage grade. Washington does rank second in PFF's pass rush grades, but they've been too weak in coverage for that to make a difference. Brady won't have all day to throw, but he should be productive on his dropbacks.

Those dropbacks could be frequent. The Buccaneers are tied with the Chiefs for first in pass rate over expected and rank third in situation neutral pass rate. And Washington is a major pas funnel. Washington's opponents are shifting 4% to the pass and averaging a 7% pass rate over expected against them. The Buccaneers are leading the league at 10%. Washington turns their opponents into Buccaneers-lite. They now face the real thing.

The Buccaneers defense is also the biggest pass funnel in the league, so Washington should be passing heavily on the other side, which will help keep the game fast. There's also the fact that both Tampa Bay and Washington operate quickly. Tampa Bay ranks sixth in situation-neutral seconds per play. And Washington is also relatively fast-paced, ranking 10th in situation-neutral seconds per play. Taylor Heinicke is a disaster, making it difficult for Washington to push Tampa Bay. Still, they look unlikely to intentionally slow things down with a deliberate, run-heavy approach.

Chris Godwin is highly questionable for Sunday, Antonio Brown didn't shed his walking boot until Wednesday, and Rob Gronkowski could be out for several weeks. As a result, Mike Evans has access to a very high ceiling. However, Tom Brady is still likely to spread the ball around. Evans has never had higher than a 29% target share in the Brady era. From 2014-2019 Evans hit a 30%+ target share in 30 separate weeks. Evans is a very strong bet for a big week if Godwin misses, but he's not a lock.

If Godwin plays, he's set up for a very nice week. Over his last two games, Godwin has a 3.22 YPRR and has been targeted on 28% of his routes. He has been the clear beneficiary of Brown's absence. If his foot cooperates, he looks like a PRR WR1.

If Godwin is out, we could see a more prominent role for Tyler Johnson. Johnson has been filling in for Antonio Brown, who vacated mostly outside routes, while Godwin is primarily a slot wide receiver. As a junior at Minnesota, Johnson played 78% of his snaps in the slot and had an elite 3.35 YPRR. As a senior, he increased his slot snaps to 86%, and his YPRR jumped to 3.64. The slot is Johnson's natural position; he could be in for a big day if Godwin misses.

Scotty Miller looks likely to backfill the Antonio Brown role. Miller had a 16.1 aDOT last season. He's run just 48 routes this season and is coming off a stint on injured reserve with turf toe, so he can't be counted on for a huge role, however. Breshad Perriman may help fill in, given his 18.8 aDOT in 2019 with the Buccaneers. He'll probably play around 30% of snaps or fewer.

Cameron Brate is likely to have around a 65% route rate with Gronkowski out. But Brate has been targeted on just 11% of his routes and will contend with O.J. Howard running around 40% of routes. Howard has been targeted on 19% of his routes. He would be an interesting fill-in option if his role were more significant.

Leonard Fournette had an elite 82% snap share against the Patriots in Week 4. Then from Week 5-7, he fell between 53-63% of snaps. But Fournette's reduced usage was easily explained by the Buccaneers' big leads in three easy wins over the Dolphins, Eagles and Bears. Facing the Saints in Week 9, there was hope that Fournette would see a true workhorse snap share once again. He did not.

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The Buccaneers unexpectedly lost to the Saints in Week 8, which helps explain why Gio Bernard had a 21% snap share. But Ronald Jones also mixed in for 15% of snaps, and Jones might be the most ill-suited running back for negative game script in the league. Fournette may return to a workhorse snap share this week, but I think it's more likely that the 10 point favorite Buccaneers mix in a heavy dose of Jones once they have the game in hand. Fournette still looks like a low-end RB1 play, given his TD upside.

Washington Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 20.5

Taylor Heinicke ranks 26th in EPA per play and 24th in CPOE. He's not an affront to quarterbacking, like Zach Wilson, but he has not been good.

Washington is going to have to rely on him this week anyway. The Buccaneers rank 25th in EPA allowed per dropback and first in EPA allowed per rush. They have been a massive pass funnel all season. Opponents are averaging a 10% PROE against them are shifting 11% to the pass.

Washington has been balanced this year, ranking 14th with a 0% pass rate over expected, but that includes an extremely run-heavy performance against the run-funnel Chargers. They've been pass-heavy against the Giants, Saints and Chiefs; and have yet to play a true pass-funnel this season. It will be hard to blame Washington if they attempt to hide Heinicke instead of taking full advantage of the matchup, but there's upside for quite a bit of passing volume this week.

Terry McLaurin is the best way to bet on a high-volume passing day, and no other wide receiver is even in the conversation. McLaurin has a 28% target share and a 44% air yard share that ranks third in the NFL behind only Davante Adams, Brandin Cooks and A.J. Brown. McLaurin has a 7.7 YPT, which is far below expectations for his 13.2 aDOT. Nevertheless, he has spike-week upside if Heinicke can take advantage of the matchup.

Logan Thomas could be back this week from injured reserve. He has just a 1.14 YPRR this season, but Ricky Seals-Jones is at just 0.99... so it's likely he regains his starting role without too much drama. Thomas wasn't efficient last year and has been even worse with Heinicke at quarterback. His value has come from an every-route role as a tight end, which is rare. However, that can't be taken as a given in his first week back from a hamstring injury.

Hopefully, it was an exceptionally healing week off for Antonio Gibson because he looked to be rapidly losing snap share heading into Washington's Week 9 bye.

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In Week 8, Jaret Patterson worked in for 23% of snaps and handled 50% of backfield attempts. This left Gibson with a 33% snap share, a 36% share of backfield attempts and an 8% target share—an absolute disaster for his fantasy value. Gibson has again been limited in practice this week. With his snaps in question and the matchup favoring dump-off passes, he looks like a low-end RB2 option.

J.D. McKissic is handling the vast majority of receiving work, which can be expected to continue, making him a solid RB2 option.

Falcons at Cowboys, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Falcons Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 22.25

Matt Ryan had two shaky games against the Dolphins and Panthers in Weeks 5-6. But with a strong performance against the Saints last week, he looks to have recaptured the trend.

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Ryan led the league in EPA per play in Week 9. He now ranks seventh in EPA per play this season and 12th in CPOE. His effective week was particularly encouraging because it came without Calvin Ridley, who will again be out of the lineup this week.

Ryan's performance against the Saints was also encouraging because the Saints have a good defense. But as I outlined last week, New Orleans has trouble generating getting to the quarterback, which allowed Ryan to face pressure on just 34% of his attempts, the 17th highest rate. This week Ryan faces another strong pass defense and one better suited to limit him. Dallas and New Orleans are comparable overall. The Cowboys rank fourth in EPA allowed per dropback, while the Saints ranked fifth entering Week 9. But Dallas is much better at getting to the quarterback, ranking 10th in pass-rush grade, while the Saints ranked 30th entering Week 9. In addition, Dallas is weaker than New Orleans in the secondary but not terrible, ranking 15th in coverage grade.

Ryan has been impressive at points this season, but his worst weeks have come when pressured heavily—this is a risky matchup for him.

Russell Gage bounced back from a zero target performance in Week 8 with a 2.13 YPRR in Week 9 but is at just 1.18 for the season. He looks like a risky FLEX option, even with targets available.

Kyle Pitts has a 2.07 YPRR, which is reasonably sustainable based on his underlying target volume. He has been targeted on 21% of his routes with an 11.9 aDOT. Pitts is functionally a wide receiver and is living up to the nearly impossible task of operating as a WR1 as a rookie tight end.

Cordarrelle Patterson's emergence this year has been remarkable. I spent some time last week detailing Patterson's truly hybrid role. He continued to deliver in Week 9, handling 50% of backfield attempts with a 20% target share. This left Mike Davis with a solid 56% snap share. Davis can still be played in a pinch, but Patterson has a stable floor as a committee running back, plus spike week potential if he has a productive day in his part-time wide receiver role.

Cowboys Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 32.25

Dak Prescott returned in Week 9 and had the game we were expecting from Cooper Rush in Week 8.

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Prescott ranked 25th in EPA per play and dead last in CPOE. Sam Darnold had a full-blown meltdown against a Bill Belichick defense... and Prescott was still less accurate. There's no need to panic. Week 9 was Prescott's worst week by a wide margin in both EPA per play and CPOE. For the season, he ranks 13th in EPA per play and fifth in CPOE. Prescott now faces an Atlanta defense that ranks 18th in EPA allowed per dropback, 32nd in pass rush grade, and 24th in coverage grade. He should be plenty efficient this week.

Prescott's volume is a more pressing concern than his efficiency. The Falcons are weak against the run, ranking 23rd in EPA allowed per rush and 20th in run defense grade. And teams have strongly preferred to attack on the ground, shifting 3% to the run against them. Dallas is already very into running the ball; they don't need a run funnel to get them going. The Cowboys rank 11th in the NFL with a 2% pass rate over expected. But that includes their extremely pass-heavy debut against the Buccaneers. They have a -2% PROE since. Given Prescott's poor showing in his return from injury, and the matchup, it shouldn't be a surprise if the Cowboys run the ball aggressively this week.

Ezekiel Elliott's snaps were limited against the Broncos due to a knee contusion, but he's expected to be fine against the Falcons and their vulnerable defense. With the Cowboys as 10 point favorites and a 32.25 implied team total, it's hard to imagine a better spot for Elliott.

Unfortunately, Elliott still has a clear path to failure here, leaving his health aside. Elliott is firmly just a chunk runner at this point. To be fair, he is a good chunk runner, ranking 11th in success rate this season. But Zeke doesn't offer much else as a rusher, ranking 26th in breakaway percentage and 41st elusive rating. He's also not playing well in the receiving game, with a 0.74 YPRR that ranks RB40, six spots behind Ronald Jones. This matchup gives him an exciting ceiling, but in a Darrell Henderson sort of way, where he can realistically finish well short of his projection.

Michael Gallup is expected to play on Sunday, further dividing a passing game with far less volume than expected. CeeDee Lamb continues to be the strongest bet. His ankle injury did not seem to be a significant concern in Week 9, and he leads the team with a 2.26 YPRR. Amari Cooper has a solid 1.89 YPRR and has been targeted on a strong 21% of his routes for his 13.2 aDOT. It's hard to know precisely how Gallup is going to fit in here. He adds risk to both Cooper and Lamb and yet isn't a strong starting option himself. In Week 1, Gallup was targeted on 19% of his routes with a shallow 6.9 aDOT. He looks a bet on a TD in his first game back.

Dalton Schultz is also a risker bet with Gallup in the lineup. Schultz has been targeted on 20% of his routes with a 6.6 aDOT, which is solid. But he's run hot with a 9.0 YPT. Schultz is now battling a threat to his target volume in addition to negative regression.

Saints at Titans, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Saints Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 20.5

Trevor Siemian had a rough debut as the Saints' starter. He ranked 24th in EPA per play and 25th in CPOE. Truthfully, Siemian doesn't have a large enough sample to fairly compare him to the rest of the NFL this season, but let's be unfair for a moment.

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For the season, Siemian ranks 35th in both EPA per play and CPOE. Zach Wilson is the only quarterback who has been worse. It's too early to say for sure that Siemian is going to be a disaster... but my money is on Taysom Hill taking over soon.

"Soon" could mean this week. The Titans rank 11th in EPA per dropback and second in PFF's coverage grades. They do at least rank 30th in pass rush grade, so Siemian should have time to throw. But given his accuracy so far, he'll need more than just time to play well against this secondary.

Taysom Hill ranked 27th in EPA per play in 2020, but he ranked first in CPOE. He's likely to at least be more accurate than Siemian on top of offering dual-threat ability. Hill looks like a much better bet to get something going against the Titans.

Regardless of who is at quarterback, all Saints wide receivers and tight ends can be left out of lineups. Marquez Callaway, Tre'Quan Smith and Adam Trautman are currently playing starters snaps, but Callaway "leads" the group with a poor 1.40 YPRR.

Alvin Kamara leads all Saints with a 1.71 YPRR, yet even Kamara's value is starting to slip. From Weeks 1-7, Kamara had a genuinely elite 83% snap share, but since Mark Ingram returned in Week 9, that has fallen to 68%. More importantly, Kamara's target share has fallen from 23% to 14%, with Ingram coming in at a 32% snap share. With more Taysom Hill snaps looming, Kamara is a riskier bet than we're used to, and his path to upside isn't as clear.

If Kamara misses this week with a knee injury that has kept him out of practice, Ingram becomes a solid RB2 play. Ingram had a shockingly high 13% target share in Week 9, and he has a realistic shot and an every-down role in Kamara's absence. I won't be able to stomach a chalky Ingram in DFS, but he certainly has upside.

Titans Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 23.5

With Derrick Henry out with a foot injury... the Titans went pass-heavy against the Rams for the first time all season. This year, the Rams have been a pass funnel, but the Titans' 4% pass rate over expected against them was still a bullish sign for Ryan Tannehill's volume this week. More volume for Tannehill is an exciting prospect because he has been highly efficient this year. Tannehill ranks fifth in EPA per play and 13th in CPOE. And that can continue with Henry out of the lineup.

Critically, Tannehill ranked fourth in play action rate in Week 9. Granted, it's a small sample so far. The Titans could get away from play action with Henry out of the lineup, but if the Titans continue to lean heavily on play action while also increasing their passing volume, it will be a massive boost for Tannehill and his receivers.

This week's matchup also sets up Tannehill for solid volume. Saints opponents are averaging a 2% PROE and shifting 1% to the pass against them. They're not a full-scale pass funnel, but if the Titans are committed to playing to their post-Henry strengths, the Saints shouldn't get in their way.

The Saints are a good defense overall, however. New Orleans ranks eighth in EPA allowed per dropback and 11th in coverage grade. They're even better on the ground, ranking third in EPA allowed per rush and second in run defense grade. The Saints' issue on defense is that they can't get to the quarterback, ranking 29th in pass rush grade. Tannehill will probably make a few mistakes this week, but he should also have plenty of time to throw.

The Titans used to be a fast-paced team, and that's no longer the case. Tennessee ranks 24th in situation-neutral pace, which will keep passing volume below what this matchup offers as a ceiling. But with Julio Jones tweaking his hamstring again in practice this week, A.J. Brown doesn't need peak passing volume to deliver a peak fantasy performance.

Brown has a 28% target share and a 45% air yard share this season. He ranks third in air yard share and third in WOPR behind only Davante Adams and Brandin Cooks. Brown has been absolutely elite with a 2.48 YPRR... which stunningly he has achieved by underperforming his underlying target volume. Brown looks like one of the strongest wide receiver plays of the week.

We have to make educated guesses with the Titans backfield. There's not all that much we can take from the week 9 snap share, which broke down as 45% for Jeremy McNichols, 33% for Adrian Peterson and 21% for D'Onta Foreman. I agree with Ben Gretch that Foreman looked like the better early-down runner than Peterson. Still, I would also expect Peterson to get a shot to carry the early-down workload this week. He handled 45% of backfield attempts, which is pretty wild when you consider that the 36-year-old signed with the Titans that Monday. It's guesswork, but I expect Peterson to see more like 40% of snaps and 50% of backfield attempts this week. I'll sanction him as a desperation RB2 option.

Jaguars at Colts, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Jaguars Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 18.5

Even in a shocking victory over the Bills, Trevor Lawrence didn't have a good game, finishing 18th in EPA per play and 23rd in CPOE. Lawrence has put together a worryingly poor rookie season. He ranks 30th in EPA per play ahead of only Sam Darnold, Davis Mills, Jared Goff and Zach Wilson. And he ranks 33rd in CPOE, ahead of only Wilson.

I don't want to be overly harsh. Lawrence was having a rough season and then faced the best defense in the league. Obviously, he wasn't going to have a breakout performance against Buffalo, and the fact that he escaped the matchup without melting down is arguable a positive.

Lawrence now gets a Colts defense that will give him a chance for an actual breakout game—he's also at risk of getting exposed.

The Jaguars are a run-first team, ranking 25th in pass rate over expected and 27th in situation neutral pass rate. However, they are facing a formidable run defense. The Colts rank fourth in run defense grade and second in EPA allowed per rush behind only the Buccaneers. The Colts are more exploitable against the pass, ranking 20th in EPA allowed per dropback and 25th in coverage grade. The Colts' beatable pass defense provides an opportunity for Lawrence. But the Colts' strong run defense may force the Jaguars to lean on their rookie quarterback. If he plays like he has so far, that's not going to go very well.

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On the other hand, Lawrence finished 11th in EPA per play in Weeks 4-6, against the Bengals, Titans and Dolphins, who all rank higher in EPA allowed per dropback than the Colts. So he may come through for the Jaguars here.

Lawrence isn't the only factor here, however. The Jaguars' coaching staff can set him up for success... or they can set him up to fail. Given their offensive design so far, the latter seems more likely. Despite the difficult matchup, the Jaguars may attempt to run the ball heavily; and then force Lawrence to throw in obvious and negative expected value situations. They've been doing that a fair amount this season, ranking 21st in PROE on 1st-and-10.

If the Jaguars actually build their game plan around Lawrence, he has a shot. But the more likely scenario is that they slam James Robinson into the line in neutral script and then force Lawrence to drop back when everyone in the stadium knows what's coming. In which case, this week will likely be another uninspiring chapter in Lawrence's disappointing debut season.

Dan Arnold is functionally the Jaguars' WR1. Since joining Jacksonville, Arnold has a 1.86 YPRR, which leads the team, and he's run routes on 74% and 77% of dropbacks over the last two weeks. With poor per route efficiency from Jamal Agnew (1.49 YPRR), Laviska Shenault (1.41) and Marvin Jones (1.33), only Arnold should be in lineups this week.

James Robinson returned to practice on Thursday and should be good to go for Sunday. Robinson had a 73% snap share and handled 60% of backfield touches through Week 6. It's possible he sees less than his full workload in his first game back and is up against a difficult run defense. He looks like a low-end RB2.

Colts Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 29

The Colts seem like they'd be a run-heavy team, but they've actually been balanced, ranking 14th with a 0% pass rate over expected and 15th in situation neutral pass rate. And the Colts have been willing to go to the air against pass funnels, finishing with a 4-5% PROE against the Rams, Ravens, and Titans. The Colts don't always pass, but when they do, they prefer a pass funnel. Carson Wentz is hardly the world's most interesting man, but he does get to crack open another refreshing pass funnel this week. Jaguars' opponents are averaging a 3% PROE against them and shifting 3% to the pass—only Tampa Bay, Washington, and Miami are bigger pass funnels. So we have a good chance for increased passing from the Colts.

Carson Wentz has flirted with disaster this season, but he's also had some exciting weeks. If it sounds like I'm describing a below-average quarterback, it's because I am. Wentz ranks 22nd in EPA per play and 28th in CPOE. But bizarrely, Wentz may be better situated to score on the Jaguars than Josh Allen was.

The Jaguars limited Allen by forcing the Bills to rely on the run game and check-down passes. The Colts love the run game—and while Wentz isn't a check-down artist, he's more willing to throw short than Josh Allen. The Jaguars are probably aware that the Colts are not the Bills and likely have a new game plan. But the Jaguars have been a very weak defense this season, ranking 29th in EPA allowed per dropback. They finally found something that worked last week, but they likely won't see the same success against the Colts.

Jonathan Taylor is a huge reason why a game plan asking the opposing offense to run the ball heavily will not work. Taylor is having a spectacular season. He ranks first in NFL Next Gen's success rate, third in breakaway percentage, 10th in elusive rating and fourth in yards per route run. Taylor should enable a much stronger passing day than the Bills managed in Week 9 and is set up for a nice day himself.

Taylor probably won't be as productive as he's been in recent weeks, however. Taylor ranks RB11 in PFF's expected point per game this season, yet he's second in PPR points per game. Taylor's workload is up to RB5 in expected points over the last three weeks, but he's also third in fantasy points over expected in that span. To some extent, we should be comfortable with Taylor playing efficiently. He was an extremely productive college player who was highly drafted and is highly athletic. Taylor then delivered a great rookie season and runs behind a good offensive line. But Taylor has just a 10% target share this season and isn't getting a Derrick Henry-level rushing workload. This means he's reliant on efficiency to hit his ceiling and has a much lower weekly floor than the typical elite fantasy running back... which, to be clear, he is.

Michael Pittman should soak up the vast majority of wide receiver volume. Pittman has run a route on 97% of dropback this season, making his 2.01 YPRR even more impressive. Pittman is running slightly hot with a 9.8 YPT, but his production looks mostly sustainable. The key question is if T.Y. Hilton returns this week from his concussion. Hilton has a 2.04 YPRR this season. His presence would reduce Pittman's upside, but the second-year wide receiver looks like a WR2 option regardless of Hilton's status.

Lions at Steelers, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Lions Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 16.75

This is looking like Jared Goff's final year as a starter.

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Woof.

But Goff is also due for some positive regression. He hasn't been remarkably accurate this season, ranking 20th in CPOE, but he's been far more accurate than his 33rd ranked EPA per play would suggest.

Coming off his bye week, Goff has at least a small hope of challenging a middling Steelers defense that ranks 12th in EPA allowed per dropback. The Steelers are Washington-esque in that they have an excellent pass rush (fifth in PFF's grades) but very weak coverage (29th in PFF's grades). If the Lions can keep Goff clean, they have a chance for some positive regression. However, the Lions rank 25th in PFF's pass blocking grades, so keeping Goff clean may be a pipe dream. Goff has also been bad under pressure this season, ranking 23rd in yards per attempt when pressured. So it's easy to see how this game gets away from the Lions quickly.

T.J. Hockenson is functionally the Lions' WR1. The tight end has been targeted on 21% of his routes, which is second on the team to D'Andre Swift (24%). With an aDOT of 7.3, Hockenson needs high target volume to generate upside. His 22% target share is definitely good for a tight end, but it's not elite and leaves Hockenson with a solid floor but a TD-dependent ceiling.

When Jamaal Williams was ruled out of Week 8, it was supposed to be Swift-week. But Swift turned in his second-worst week of the season with just 9.1 PRR points. In retrospect, maybe we shouldn't have gotten so excited about additional early-down snaps for Swift because he hasn't actually been good as a rusher, ranking dead last in NFL Next Gen's success rate.

Swift has been extremely valuable this season despite his inefficient rushing because he has an elite 19% target share. But this isn't just a matter of workload; it's also about skillset. Swift is a star in the receiving game. His 1.84 YPRR leads the Lions and ranks sixth among running backs. As nine-point underdogs, the Lions are very likely to be passing a lot at some point this week. So provided the Lions avoid another total blowout, Swift is set up to bounce back on a healthy dose of check-down passes and screens.

Steelers Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 25.75

Ben Roethlisberger is coming off one of his best weeks of the season. Against a Bears defense that has struggled recently, he finished ninth in EPA per play and sixth in CPOE. Roethlisberger has still been ineffective this year, ranking 23rd in EPA per play and 30th in CPOE—but this week, he gets the defensive equivalent of an adrenaline shot.

The Lions rank 32nd in EPA allowed per dropback, 23rd in pass rush grade, and 32nd in coverage grade. They are what Washington's defense would look like without a pass rush. The Steelers have been balanced this year, and teams have been balanced against the Lions. So while we shouldn't expect a significant increase in passing volume, we can expect Roethlisberger to be effective on his dropbacks.

Chase Claypool will be out this week with a toe injury, which could keep targets highly condensed. James Washington has been targeted on just 12% of his routes this season, so Diontae Johnson is set up to absolutely dominate wide receiver targets.

Johnson has a target on 29% of his routes, a truly elite mark for his 9.6 aDOT. With a 30% target share and a 39% air yard share, he ranks fourth in WOPR this season and will likely see his role grow even further this week. A functional defense might take Johnson away and force the Steelers to play left-handed, but the Lions are not a functional defense.

Pat Freiermuth also stands to benefit from a condensed target tree this week. The rookie ran a route on 76% of dropbacks in Week 9 and has a 20% target rate this season. So his profile now looks remarkably similar to T.J. Hockenson's. Hockenson sees a bit more volume, but Freiermuth gets the massive advantage of playing against the Lions instead of for them.

The Lions are better against the run than the pass, but they're far from a shutdown run defense, ranking 17th in EPA allowed per rush and 23rd in run defense grade. But for Najee Harris, the Lions' weakness against the pass is likely more important than their ability to stop the run. Harris has run a route on 74% of dropbacks this season, which leads all running backs. Alvin Kamara and Darrell Henderson aren't even close at 67%. Harris' 18% target share isn't league-leading, he trails Alvin Kamara (20%) and D'Andre Swift (19%), but it's still a genuinely elite mark for a running back.

Harris also has an elite share of backfield opportunity. He leads all running backs with an 85% snap share, with Kamara a distant second at 79%. Harris is also second to Derrick Henry (95%) with an 89% share of backfield attempts. And Harris leads all running backs with 22.8 expected points per game.

Harris has underperformed his workload by three points per game, which isn't a shock. He is a rookie who plays on a team with subpar quarterback play and runs behind the 30th ranked offensive line in adjusted line yards. But this week, Harris is in a position not just to meet his league-leading workload but to crush it. He may decide to take home a kneecap as a souvenir.

Browns at Patriots, 1 PM Eastern, Sunday

Browns Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 21.25

Baker Mayfield is coming off an incredible week where he finished first in EPA per play and fourth in CPOE.

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I'm not saying that Mayfield hacked EPA per play, but if you were going to hack EPA per play, it would be hard to come up with a better plan than running 11 plays* and having this 60-yarder be one of them:

The Browns had their dream game script against the Bengals. They kicked things off with a 99-yard pick-six and never trailed. Cleveland finished with a 50% pass rate, the 26th lowest rate of the week, yet still had a 4% pass rate over expected. That's what beating a team 41-16 can unlock.

The Browns surely hope they can win through the run game again this week, but they won't be at full strength with Nick Chubb expected to miss the game with Covid. Chubb has been remarkable this season, ranking second in NFL Next Gen's success rate, fourth in breakaway percentage, and first in elusive rating. The Patriots will still have to contend with D'Ernest Johnson, however. Johnson lacks Chubb's breakaway speed, but he ranks fifth in elusive rating and should be able to keep the Browns ground game alive as a significant threat.

Johnson could have a heavy workload this week. Cleveland ranks 31st in pass rate over expected and 28th in situation neutral pass rate. The Browns are run-heavy virtually every week—and this week, they face a clear run funnel. Patriots' opponents are averaging a -2% PROE and shifting 4% to the run against them. The Patriots aren't terrible against the run, ranking 10th in EPA allowed per rush and 21st in run defense grade. But that's not going to be good enough to force the Browns out of their preferred game plan unless Belichick is willing to load the box. The Browns have the third-ranked offensive line in adjusted line yards and should jump at the opportunity to run heavily. Johnson has an excellent setup this week.

When the Browns do pass, they have a similar setup to last week. The Patriots rank 10th in EPA allowed per dropback, while the Bengals currently rank ninth. However, the Patriots are better in coverage than the Bengals (10th vs. 16th in PFF's coverage grades), so Mayfield may have a more difficult time hitting big plays. Nevertheless, Mayfield has played solidly this season, ranking 18th in EPA per play and 10th in CPOE.

Jarvis Landry managed just 11 yards last week but still leads Browns' wide receivers with a 1.93 YPRR. Landry doesn't have a very high ceiling as a volume-dependent option on a low volume passing offense, but he has been targeted on a borderline elite 27% of his routes and sets up as a high-end WR3.

Donovan Peoples-Jones ran a route on only 65% of dropbacks, while Antony Schwartz was at 70%. The 60 yard TD was awesome, but he's not going to stay fantasy relevant unless his routes increase further.

*excluding garbage time.

Patriots Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 23.75

Mac Jones is coming off a quietly impressive week. Sure, he only finished 21st in EPA per play, but he was facing a Panthers defense ranked third in EPA per dropback entering Week 9. And Jones finished 12th in CPOE, continuing to show solid accuracy. For the season, Jones ranks 21st in EPA per play and 11th in CPOE.

He now faces an opportunistic Browns defense that ranks fourth in pass rush grade, third in coverage grade, and is coming off a week where they finished fourth in EPA allowed per dropback. The Browns aren't always going to be able to generate a 99 yards pick-6, however. They rank 23rd in EPA allowed per dropback for the season and have allowed highly efficient passing from the Chiefs, Texans, Chargers, and Cardinals. Still, the Patriots are a slightly run-heavy team, and teams have had a slight preference for the run against the Browns. So it seems likely that the Patriots will attempt to limit Jones' attempts to an extent.

Jakobi Meyers is the only Patriots pass catcher worth considering against the Browns. But despite running route on 100% of dropbacks last week, he's a borderline dart throw. Meyers has a poor 1.39 YPRR, but he has a very poor 6.3 YPT that sets him up for some positive regression. His 24% target share and 27% air yard share put him in FLEX consideration.

The Browns aren't a bad run defense; they rank 13th in EPA allowed per rush and eighth in run defense grade. The Patriots will need their running back room at full health... but they're unlikely to have it.

Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson have both been out of practice after each suffered a concussion on Sunday. Harris has been solid, ranking 18th in success rate, 13th in breakaway percentage and 20th in elusive rating. He offers the Patriots a reliable presence on early downs and is in play as an RB2 if active.

We have a much smaller sample on Stevenson, but he's been spectacular. He leads all running backs in yards per route run and is 15th in elusive rating. He looks like the big-play element that the Patriots' offense has been lacking... and will continue to lack if he doesn't pass the concussion protocol this week.

If Harris and Stevenson miss, J.J. Taylor will likely split early-down duties with Brandon Bolden, and Bolden will likely lead the way as a receiver. Bolden shapes up as a solid RB2 option, while Taylor looks like a thinner, TD-dependent dart throw.

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Vikings at Chargers, 4:05 PM Eastern, Sunday

Vikings Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 25.25

Kirk Cousins ranks 17th in EPA per play and 16th in CPOE. He's just fine. But Mike Zimmer could care less about Kirk Cousins right now. Because this week, he gets the Chargers run defense that he's been dreaming about since September.

Teams are shifting 8% to the run against the Chargers from their season-long rates, the largest shift in the league. And Chargers' opponents are averaging a -6% pass rate over expected, which is tied with the Titans for the most run-heavy "team" in the league. Zimmer can barely contain himself. The Vikings rank 27th with a -3% PROE and just posted a -9% PROE against the Ravens pass funnel. The only way the Vikings abandon the run this week is if the Chargers' offense can push them completely out of their preferred game plan.

Assuming the Vikings can stay somewhat on course, Dalvin Cook should have a very productive week. Cook leads all running backs in breakaway percentage, with 44% of his yards on 15+ yard runs. He also ranks ninth in success rate and 19th in elusive rating. In this matchup, Cook should be the true centerpiece of the Vikings' attack. And because of Cook's breakaway ability, he can help speed up the somewhat slow-paced Vikings (18th in situation neutral pace). The Chargers should also help in this regard, with the fourth-fastest situation neutral pace.

When the Vikings do pass, they'll be going up against a middling defense. The Chargers rank 16th in EPA allowed per dropback, 16th in pass rush grade, and 12th in coverage grade.

Justin Jefferson looked like he was in for a huge day against the Ravens but cooled off after his 50-yard, 1st-quarter TD. Jefferson will need to hit big plays to have a chance at a spike week unless the Chargers can push the Vikings into a passing script. Jefferson has a 2.10 YPRR and is always a threat for a big play with an elite 42% air yard share.

Adam Thielen is a much thinner bet, with a 1.51 YPRR than is in line with his underlying volume. With a 9.1 aDOT, a target on 18% of his routes, and a consistent red zone role, Thielen would be a borderline elite tight end... but unfortunately, he's a wide receiver. As a result, he's a TD-dependent option.

The Vikings' actual tight end, Tyler Conklin, has been a solid fill-in option with a 1.56 YPRR, but he's not a full-time player. Conklin ran a route on 61% of dropbacks in Week 9 and is at 68% for the season. If you want to play this game as a shootout, he's an interesting play but otherwise can be left out of lineups.

Chargers Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 28.25

Justin Herbert had an impressive bounce-back performance against the Eagles, ranking sixth in EPA per play and third in CPOE. He's now up to eighth in EPA per play this season and 17th in CPOE.

Interestingly, the Chargers finished with a 6% pass rate over expected against an Eagles defense that has become a bit of a run funnel. The Chargers are a pass-first team, with a 5% pass rate over expected for the season, so this wasn't a total shock. But given Herbert's recent struggles, it was great to see improved efficiency in tandem with a pass-heavy game plan.

The Chargers now get a Minnesota defense that is far better against the pass than the run. The Vikings rank fifth in EPA allowed per dropback, eighth in pass rush grade, and sixth in coverage grade. They rank 17th in run defense grade, and a lowly 31st in EPA allowed per rush.

Interestingly, the Vikings are not a huge run funnel. The Bengals went ultra-run heavy against them in Week 1, with a -14% PROE. But that likely had more to do with protecting Joe Burrow than with the defensive matchup. And the Browns had a -8% PROE against the Vikings, but the Browns are happy to run on anyone. The Seahawks and the Cowboys were actually tilted to the pass against them.

One advantage of passing on the Vikings is that there's a greater chance of speeding the game up and pushing them out of their preferred offensive script. The Chargers may not technically be playing the defensive matchup if they let Herbert sling it this week, but by playing to their strengths, they may increase their chances of winning by forcing the Vikings off-script on offense.

If the Chargers play aggressively, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both stand to benefit in a big way. In Week 9, Williams ran a route on 90% of dropbacks, his highest rate of the season. If Williams can be counted on to run 90%+ routes, he can be considered the 1A in this offense. Williams has a 2.10 YPRR that is perfectly in line with his underlying target volume. Allen can be considered the 1A in the offense if Williams reverts to a route rate around 85%, which is where he has been most of the season. Allen has a strong 1.86 YPRR and has run a route on 93% of dropbacks this season. Both wide receivers look like strong WR2 options this week.

Jared Cook saw his route rate decline to 54% in Week 9 and is now at 67% for the season. Donald Parham only ran a route on 32% of dropbacks, but Stephen Anderson was also in the mix with a route rate of 29%. Cook looks like a very thin bet with his routes now in question.

I've noted for a few weeks that Austin Ekeler was running very hot in efficiency, and he finally fell flat in Week 9. Ekeler saw an expected points workload of 17.0 but left 5.8 points on the field. Ben Gretch notes that Ekeler had three carries inside the 10, which is why PFF expected him to score a rushing TD. He did not.

Even while coming up short in efficiency, Ekeler finished above expectations as a receiver. He's likely better off if the Chargers stay aggressive through the air, even if it costs him some early-down work. Ekeler is RB9 in expected points this year and is a solid RB1 play this week.

Panthers at Cardinals, 4:05 PM Eastern, Sunday

Panthers Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 16.75

This week, the big news in Carolina is that the Panthers have signed Cam Newton. But let's save the Newton discussion for next week, with P.J. Walker confirmed as the starter against the Cardinals.

I wrote up Walker last week in case Darnold was ruled out with a concussion, and everything I said then still applies:

"Backup QB P.J. Walker only has 35 plays outside of garbage time over the last two seasons, so it's possible he's good; we don't actually know. But he ranks QB63 in EPA per play on his limited sample, so, likely, he is not. The Panthers can be expected to limit him as much as humanly possible."

Luckily for the Panthers, the Cardinals can be run on. Arizona ranks 31st in PFF's run defense grades, and opponents are shifting 1% to the pass against them.

McCaffrey only had a 49% snap share in his Week 9 return but still managed a 17% target share, which is wild. McCaffrey has been targeted on 31% of his routes this season... he's going to be heavily involved this week. Even with the Walker at quarterback, McCaffrey is an elite PPR running back play.

D.J. Moore is the only Panthers receiver worth trusting. He's already running cold with an 8.0 YPT that is about a yard lower than we'd expect based on his 11.4 aDOT. Don't get me wrong... things can get much worse. But at the same time, Moore's 25% target rate with a No. 1 wide receiver route tree is what has made him a high-quality fantasy starter this season. I want to trust that to a degree. Moore looks like a WR3 this week, but he'll still be in my lineups.

Cardinals Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 27.25

Kyler Murray is shaping up as another game-time decision. But this week, I think he actually plays.

Murray ranks sixth in EPA per play and second in CPOE. Even at less than full health, he gives the Cardinals a much stronger chance than Colt McCoy. Murray will have his work cut out for him, though. The Panthers rank third in EPA allowed per dropback, 12th in pass rush grade and seventh in coverage grade.

The Panthers are more susceptible on the ground, where they rank 16th in EPA allowed per rush and 18th in run defense grade. With this type of discrepancy, it shouldn't be a surprise that the Panthers are a run funnel.

Carolina's opponents are averaging a -4% pass rate over expected and are shifting 3% to the run. The Cardinals typically have a slight tilt to the pass, but it seems likely that they'll take advantage of the rushing matchup with Murray at less than full health.

With Chase Edmonds out, James Conner will be carrying the load. Conner went berserk in Week 9 with 19.1 points over expected. Um... regression much? But Conner also finished second on the week with 21.2 expected points. And that was with Eno Benjamin and Chase Edmonds still combining for 4.9 expected points. Conner already had a lock on goal line duties. As his 19% target share in Week 9 showed, he now has a high-end receiving role to go with it. We have a word for running backs like this: league-winner.

Even with Murray's status unknown, the Cardinals are 10.5 point favorites. With positive game script, and a somewhat immobile Murray more likely to check down, Conner is set up for a solid RB1 week.

Injuries also complicate the wide receiver picture. DeAndre Hopkins looks like a game-time decision, and Rondale Moore has yet to clear the concussion protocol. A.J. Green has been activated from the Covid list, so we can count on him to be back on the outside.

Green is running hot in YPT, so his 1.77 YPRR overstates things a bit, but he's still been surprisingly effective this season. He's a bit like Detroit-era Marvin Jones, where if everyone else is out, he could have a big week.

Everyone is not out, though. Christian Kirk will play significant snaps one way or another. If Hopkins is out, Kirk will likely reprise his role from last week, where he ran a route on 97% of dropbacks, playing in the slot on just 31% of snaps. Kirk not only led the team in target share and air yard share in Week 9, but Kirk also let all wide receivers and tight ends in yards per route run. If Moore misses, we will likely see Kirk far more in the slot, but he still has upside for an every route role if Hopkins is out, assuming Kingbury playing him ahead of Antoine Wesley in 2TE sets.

Kirk is quietly in the midst of a fourth-year breakout, with 2.27 YPRR and a .48 WOPR that barely trails Hopkins. He's a sneaky high upside play if Murray plays, but Hopkins doesn't.

Hopkins will be a risky play even if he goes, as hamstring injuries are notoriously tricky. Hopkins also isn't having his typically elite season, with a 1.90 YPRR that actually overstates his underlying target volume. At the same time, he leads the team in target share and air yard share and needs to be in lineups if he plays.

Zach Ertz becomes more interesting if Hopkins and Moore both miss. In that case, the Cardinals will probably be in more 2TE sets, as occurred in Week 9. Ertz saw a route rate of 87% against the 49ers. However, he went just 3-for-27 because he had an aDOT of just 0.8. I know that Ertz is dusty... but that's taking it a bit far.

Ertz has been targeted on 19% of his routes with the Cardinals. That's not an ideal rate for his 4.8 aDOT, but there are far worse plays if Ertz is going to have a route rate of 80%+ once again this week.

Eagles at Broncos, 4:25 PM Eastern, Sunday

Eagles Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 21.5

Jalen Hurts had a strong Week 9, despite turning in his second-worst fantasy performance of the season. Hurts spent seven weeks being a bad real-life quarterback who was good for fantasy. He's now spent the last two weeks being a good real-life quarterback who is bad for fantasy. We obviously hate it, but I'm not expecting much to change this week. The real change for the Eagles hasn't been a massive shift in Hurts' play but a massive shift in offensive approach. The Eagles are now a run-first team, which is genuinely mindboggling given how they started the season.

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This week the Eagles get a mediocre Broncos defense ranked 17th in EPA allowed per dropback and 22nd in EPA allowed per rush. Last week, the Broncos unexpectedly forced the Cowboys into a pass-heavy script by stifling Dak Prescott and playing from ahead. But if the Eagles play at a sufficiently high level, they should be able to run on the Broncos this week.

Somehow (what is life?), Jordan Howard has emerged as the Eagles lead running back. Howard had 59% of backfield attempts against the Chargers. That was likely due to a Chargers matchup that had the Eagles looking for a downhill rushing element. But the Broncos matchup sets up very similarly. So I think we'll likely see Howard lead the way again. He's a TD-dependent RB2, but the TD is a realistic bet.

When the Eagles pass, we know where the targets are going: DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert.

Smith has been targeted on 20% of his routes, a very strong rate for his 14.9 aDOT. He could also see some positive regression on his per target efficiency, which makes his 1.75 YPRR all the more intriguing.

Goedert has run a route on at least 83% of dropbacks for three straight weeks, consolidating what had been a split tight end role when Zach Ertz was in Philadelphia. Goedert has a deep 9.3 aDOT for a tight end and has been targeted on 18% of his routes. His target rate is a few points too low to consider him an elite tight end, but he's a solid TE1 option.

Quez Watkins led the Eagles in routes in Week 9. He is running very hot in YPT and will see some negative regression, but with a 13.8 aDOT he's in play as a dart throw FLEX option.

Broncos Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 24

A few weeks ago, I was waking up in cold sweats, worried I'd soon have to watch Drew Lock play football. But Teddy Bridgewater has since vanquished He Who Shall Not Be Watched with a redeeming stretch of play.

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With Lock now off gathering his strength in the forests of Albania, Bridgewater is safe atop the depth chart. He should be able to continue playing efficiently against the Eagles.

The Eagles have a solid pass rush, ranking seventh in PFF's pass rush grades. But they aren't great in coverage, grading 22nd. And overall, they can be passed on efficiently, ranking 24th in EPA allowed per dropback. Just as importantly, given the Broncos' approach, Philadelphia can be run on as well—the Eagles rank 24th in EPA allowed per rush and 25th in run defense grade.

The Broncos aren't extremely run-heavy, but they are a run-first team that ranks 20th in pass rate over expected and 23rd in situation neutral pass rate. They'll happily take advantage of the Eagles weak run defense, with a game plan that will likely look to set up Bridgewater for an efficient day on limited volume.

The Broncos are well-positioned to run on the Eagles with one elite option and one solid option. The problem is that the Broncos are starting the solid option and keeping limited snaps in place for Javonte Williams, who has already emerged as an elite rusher. Williams ranks seventh in success rate, second in breakaway percentage and second in elusive rating. It's getting to the point where if the Broncos are serious about winning games as a run-first team, they need to start featuring Williams. Because, when I called Melvin Gordon solid... I was being nice.

Gordon ranks 15th in success rate, which really is solid. But he ranks just 26th in elusive rating and 36th in breakaway percentage. Even as a receiver, Gordon has not been good. He ranks RB31 with a 0.94 YPRR. Williams isn't much better at 1.04, but there is no area where Gordon is actually out-performing Williams.

Gordon continues to play ahead of Williams, however. He had a 53% snap share to 47% for Williams in Week 9 and leads Williams 55% to 45% for the season. It's always dangerous to bet on a backfield flipping before we see it. But I'm becoming very tempted to do so. With a ton of viable running back options on the main slate this week, I'll hold off in small-medium field tournaments. But I took a break from writing this to jump in a cheap large field tournament where I'm going to play Williams. My enthusiasm cannot be contained.

Jerry Jeudy hasn't run a full complement of routes since his return from injury, with route rates of 77% and 78% so far. If this is the week that he jumps into a full-time role, Jeudy has spike week upside, despite what could be a low volume passing environment. Jeudy has been targeted on 26% of his routes with an 8.6 aDOT. He's running hot with a 9.5 YPT, but he's still seeing elite target volume on a per route basis.

Courtland Sutton has struggled since Jeudy's return, but he's still been targeted on a strong 20% of his routes with a true deep threat aDOT of 16.6. Sutton has run a route on 90% of dropbacks and is locked into a full-time role. It's been a frustrating stretch, but Sutton has the advantage of being able to deliver a productive fantasy day on just a few plays. He remains a solid WR3.

Noah Fant will be back after missing Week 9 on the Covid list. If he's back in his normal role, he'll be a low-end TE1. Fant has a poor 6.3 YPT and is due for some positive regression.

Seahawks at Packers, 4:25 PM Eastern, Sunday

Seahawks Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 22.75

Russell Wilson will make his return against the Packers.

The NFL returns one of its best quarterbacks, and fantasy managers return to tilting Seattle's play selection.

Wilson ranks 10th in EPA per play this season and first in CPOE. Wilson's accuracy is not small sample size noise. He ranks first in CPOE from 2018-2020. Wilson also ranks 10th in EPA per play from 2018-2020. So 2021 has been very much in line with the typical Russell Wilson experience. Although, it might be more accurate to say that 2021 has been in line with the typical Pete Carroll experience.

Despite having the most accurate quarterback in the league, the Seahawks ranked 17th in situation-neutral pass rate from Weeks 1-5. To be fair, they were moderately pass-heavy with a 2% PROE, in line with where Dallas currently is. But the Seahawks have also played relatively slow, ranking 19th in situation-neutral pace. It's fair to say that the Seahawks have not maximized their advantage at quarterback.

Get ready to tilt. The Packers are far weaker against the run than the pass. Green Bay ranks 15th in EPA allowed per dropback but just 28th in EPA allowed per rush. Wilson is back under center, but we could still see a limited passing attack this week.

Chris Carson has been designated to return from injured reserve but is unlikely to play in Week 10. This will likely mean another start for Alex Collins, who has played 55% of snaps since Week 5 and is RB29 in expected points per game. Coming out of their bye week, Seattle may increase Rashaad Penny's role, or they could stick with Collins. Collins looks like a low-end RB2 option, who is volatile in the wrong way.

The Seattle target tree is at least highly condensed and highly efficient. Even without Russell Wilson for over three games, DK Metcalf has an elite 2.59 YPRR, and Tyler Lockett has an elite 2.37 YPRR. Both wide receivers are running hot in YPT at 10.5, but Lockett has an impressive target rate of 23% for his 12.8 aDOT, and Metcalf's target profile is even better, with a 25% target rate and an 11.8 aDOT. Wilson's return makes both wide receivers high-end WR2 plays, despite the risk of low passing volume.

Wilson also puts Gerald Everett back in play as a TD or bust dart throw. But Everett has just a 1.05 YPRR, so he should be avoided if possible.

Packers Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 26.25

The Packers promoted an experimental quarterback option in Kanas City. It did not pass peer review.

Love ranked 20th in EPA per play and 22nd in CPOE in Week 9. A handful of quarterbacks were technically worse than Love, but those quarterbacks were not playing against a bottom-of-the-barrel Chiefs defense. I must assume Aaron Rodgers will be back this week because the alternative is too difficult to contemplate.

Rodgers ranks third in EPA per play and third in CPOE. He's now facing a defense that ranks 13th in EPA allowed per dropback, 20th in pass rush grade and 26th in coverage grade. The Packers are a balanced team and are facing a Seahawks defense that opponents have been balanced against. There's upside for increased passing volume if the Seahawks offense can push the Packers, but we're most likely looking at a very typical setup for the Packers.

Regardless of game environment, Davante Adams is back in play as an elite option with Rodgers. Adams has been targeted on 32% of his routes with an 11.5 aDOT. This extremely elite target profile gives him an absurd 2.93 YPRR that is sustainable. Adams has a 36% target share and a 46% air yard share, and leads the NFL in WOPR.

The Packers rank 28th in situation neutral pace and don't tend to go aggressively pass-happy, so Adams' true spike weeks are hard to predict. But his target profile sets him up for a huge week, every week.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling returned in Week 9 and ran a route on 56% of dropbacks. There's a chance he's back to being a full-time player this week, but his additional uncertainty makes takes him out of play for all but the most desperate fantasy managers.

As Ben Gretch notes in Stealing Signals, A.J. Dillon has started to see his role increase since Week 4. Aaron Jones has 54% of backfield touches to 44% for Dillon. Jones still has a significant lead as a receiver, though. Jones leads 16% to 6% in target share since Week 4, and 15% to 6% for the season. Jones ranks RB7 in expected points per game and is always a threat for a spike week in efficiency—assuming Rodgers is under center.

Dillion is RB58 in expected points and is really still a bye week fill-in option with a ton of contingent value.

Chiefs at Raiders, 8:20 PM Eastern, Sunday

Chiefs Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 27.25

The Chiefs got a win against the Packers, but Patrick Mahomes still doesn't seem right. He ranked 22nd in EPA per play and 21st in CPOE. For the season, he now ranks ninth in EPA per play and eighth in CPOE.

The Cover-2 shell is having its moment in the sun this week, and the defensive scheme is undoubtedly playing a role here, but Mahomes is also causing problems for himself. Defenses are blitzing Mahomes at the lowest rate of any quarterback this season and pressuring him at the 21st highest rate. But... Mahomes leads all quarterbacks in pressures allowed, a PFF stat measuring when a quarterback is responsible for the defense getting to them. Jalen Hurts ranks fourth in the stat, which makes sense because Hurts has the longest dropbacks in the league this season. Hurts holds the ball for a very long time, and it leads to pressure—simple. Mahomes ranks 17th in time to throw per dropback, however. He's not endlessly holding the ball. But... he's likely holding the ball too long for the way defenses are playing him.

Mahomes now faces a Raiders defense that ranks first in PFF's pass rush grades and sixth in EPA allowed per dropback. To some extent, Mahomes' struggles this season have been overblown. We're only talking about it so much because we expect him to be otherworldly, and he's only been a top 10 passer. But this doesn't look like an ideal setup for Mahomes to return to MVP form.

Part of the reason that we shouldn't expect an MVP Mahomes performance here is that we may not see a ton of passing attempts. The Raiders are a massive run funnel. Raiders' opponents are averaging a -4% pass rate over expected against them and shifting 5% to the run. Only the Chargers are a bigger run funnel than the Raiders.

The Chiefs have struggled to run the ball all season, but it's been terrible since Clyde Edwards-Helaire was injured.

Darrel Williams finished RB1 in expected points in Week 9. But Williams underperformed his 22.3 point workload by 11.6 points. Since Week 6, Williams has been RB13 in expected points per game but has left 2.0 points on the field per week. Williams ranks 44th in success rate, RB49 in breakaway percentage and RB49 in elusive rating. He ranks RB32 in YPRR, and receiving is his strong suit. Facing a run funnel, Williams is an RB2 on volume alone, but unless he runs hot at the goal line he's going to leave points on the field.

Even if the Cheifs take the run funnel bait and limit passing volume, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are elite options. Hill has an elite 2.24 YPRR, and he's actually due for some positive regression. His 7.8 YPT is over a yard worse than expected for his 11.3 aDOT. Given that we're talking about Tyreek Hill here, the positive regression could come in the form of a tidal wave.

Travis Kelce was targeted deeper downfield in Week 9 and has his aDOT up to 8.1. With a 1.72 YPRR, he doesn't look quite as elite as previous seasons, but he's still running a route on 86% of dropbacks. Kelce can get back to his previous ceiling if his depth of target continues to trend up.

Mecole Hardman was back up to a 71% route rate in Week 9, but he's still hard to trust. He has a very poor 1.26 YPRR this season and is a fill-in dart throw option.

Raiders Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 24.75

Derek Carr ranks 14th in EPA per play and 15th in CPOE. He's having a solid season. But his first game without Henry Ruggs didn't go great. Carr finished 19th in EPA per play and 20th in CPOE.

Carr faced a beatable Giants defense last week, but he now gets a Chiefs defense that is truly among the worst in the league. Despite being the only team in the league lucky enough to face Jordan Love this season, the Chiefs rank 31st in EPA allowed per dropback.

Despite their terrible pass defense, the Chiefs are also so bad against the run that they're not a pass funnel. The Chiefs rank 29th in EPA allowed per dropback, so teams can choose their preferred path against them.

Unlike recent seasons, the Raiders clearly prefer the pass. They have a 4% pass rate over expected this season and a 4% pass rate over expected since Greg Olsen took over calling plays in Week 6.

DeSean Jackson will make his debut in Week 10 but is unlikely to get a full complement of routes. His speed should help open up intermediate targets for Darren Waller, however. Waller has been targeted on 23% of his routes, which is a very strong rate for his 10.3 aDOT. But he has a poor 7.5 YPT. Waller's per target efficiency is poor enough that we can count on some positive regression. Jackson's presence should help speed that along, as he's likely to be able to draw coverage right away, with targets potentially further down the line.

Josh Jacobs looked like he could be seeing an increase receiving role under Rich Bisaccia, but he's actually seen his target share decline from 10% to 8%. And Jacobs expected points per game have dropped from RB15 to RB26. Jacobs has always needed TDs for upside, and goal line carries can come in bunches. So Jacobs reduced workload could just be noise. It's still not ideal, given the Raiders' newfound interest in passing the ball and the risk that Patrick Mahomes finds his footing again and forces the Raiders into a comeback script.

Rams at 49ers, 8:15 PM Eastern, Monday

Rams Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 26.5

Matthew Stafford made critical errors last week against the Titans, which was somewhat predictable. Last week I noted that Stafford ranked first in EPA per play but just 20th in CPOE. In other words, he was playing exceptionally efficiently while not being all that accurate. To be clear, I did not predict that a meltdown was imminent because I believed (and still do to an extent) that Sean McVay is maximizing Stafford beyond what we would expect based simply on his accuracy. But Week 9 was a reminder that regression can be a powerful force even for quarterbacks playing at an MVP level—Stafford was last in NFL in EPA per play in Week 9.

Stafford's season has been so impressive that he still leads the NFL in EPA per play even after last week's disaster. He's down to 25th in CPOE, however, so there may be more negative regression on the way for his efficiency. Luckily, he now gets a 49ers defense that Colt McCoy just lit up for a third-ranked showing in EPA per play and a fifth-ranked finish in CPOE. And the 49ers have been exploitable through the air all season, ranking 30th in EPA allowed per dropback.

The 49ers are better against the run, ranking seventh in EPA allowed per rush, so the path of least resistance is through the air. Again, this plays to the Rams' strengths and to their preferred approach. The Rams rank fifth in pass rate over expected and fourth in situation-neutral pass rate. This matchup could lead them to a very pass-heavy game plan, given their strong lean to the pass. And because the Rams also rank first in situation-neutral pace, they have upside for rich play volume this week.

Rich play volume and high-end efficiency were no doubt part of the sales pitch that landed the Rams Odell Beckham. Beckham is likely to eventually run well ahead of Van Jefferson, but this week's role could be small to non-existent.

Cooper Kupp's role has a bit more risk with Beckham in the mix, but if you know a Kupp fantasy manager who now has anything less than complete faith that he remains an elite fantasy asset, send an offer.

Kupp has been targeted on 31% of his routes with an 8.7 aDOT. He is second only to Deebo Samuel in YPRR among full-time players. Kupp is running hot in YPT, so he'll likely see some regression. But Kupp's connection with Stafford is extraordinary, and I'm willing to bet on it to continue in the face of the Rams adding a 29-year-old wide receiver, who last hasn't flashed elite efficiency since 2018.

Beckham likely has enough left in the tank to push Robert Woods. Woods has a solid 1.74 YPRR, which is far better than Beckham's 1.34 but Woods has also been in a far better situation. Not to tilt Booger and the Beckham stans, but I'd expect Woods to stay ahead of Beckham in the target pecking order for weeks. Beckham will likely challenge Woods over time, but Woods has been in McVay's system since 2017 and has spent a full offseason, plus a half-season with Stafford. Beckham has some serious catching up to do.

Van Jefferson can be dropped. He was already a thin starting option, with a 1.53 YPRR. Beckham must have gotten some assurances about the size of his role before signing, and given Jefferson's 13.6 aDOT, he's sitting in OBJ's chair.

Tyler Higbee was already sporting a very poor 1.13 YPRR, and better target competition won't help. He's a TD or bust option this week, and that's unlikely to change for the better the rest of the way.

This season, Darrell Henderson has a 75% snap share, putting him behind only Najee Harris (85%) and Alvin Kamara (78%). He also has a 67% route rate, which is tied with Kamara and behind only Harris. However, Henderson has only been targeted on 14% of his routes, which is why he has an extremely poor 0.71 YPRR. Henderson ranks RB7 in expected points per game and is always a threat for a big week as a TD scorer in a high-powered offense. But his lack of passing game ability is making him far more inconsistent than seems reasonable.

49ers Implied Team Total (from PointsBet): 22.5

Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't bad in Week 9. He finished 10th in EPA per play and 11th in CPOE. Garoppolo's day was particularly impressive because the Cardinals are a run funnel that the 49ers must have been planning to attack on the ground. No one expected the Colt McCoy-led Cardinals to push the 49ers completely off-script, but that's exactly what happened. As a result, the usually run heavy 49ers had a Bills-esque 7% pass rate over expected in Week 9.

This week the 49ers get a Rams defense that has been a bit of a pass funnel. Opponents are averaging a 2% PROE against them and shifting 2% to the pass. However, teams are likely doing this by necessity as they try and keep up with the prolific Rams offense. The Rams are actually better against the pass than the run, ranking seventh in EPA allowed per dropback and 11th in EPA allowed per rush. The 49ers rank 27th in pass rate over expected and 25th in situation neutral pass rate. They will run for as long as the game script allows. But the Rams are likely to push them to the air eventually.

Deebo Samuel played through a calf injury in Week 9, but his practice participation indicates that he should be healthier for Week 10. Samuel is first among full-time players in YPRR and remains well ahead of Brandon Aiyuk if fully healthy.

Aiyuk's usage has improved dramatically over the last few weeks but he's still been targeted on just 13% of his routes; Samuel is at 28%. Aiyuk is due for some positive regression with a poor 7.7 YPT, while Samuel is facing some negative regression with an 11.8 YPT. But even after that happens, Samuel will be well ahead of Aiyuk unless we see a major shift in target rate. Despite Aiyuk's bounce-back over the last two weeks, he has a 21% TPRR, with Samuel at 26%.

George Kittle also appears to be ahead of Aiyuk in the target pecking order. He has been targeted on 24% of his routes has an elite 2.16 YPRR. Kittle remains an elite TE and could be in for a big week if the Rams push the 49ers as much as expected.

Elijah Mitchell's rise has been remarkable. With Jeff Wilson available in Week 9, Mitchell still played 66% of snaps. It's easy to see why Kyle Shanahan is leaning on the rookie. Mitchell ranks sixth in success rate, eighth in breakaway percentage and sixth in elusive rating. The only issue here is that Mitchell is not involved as a receiver. He ranks RB39 with a 0.77 YPRR. As a result, Mitchell ranks just RB35 in expected points per game, despite being the 49ers' clear lead back. With the 49ers likely passing heavily at some point in this game, Mitchell has a low floor if he can't get into the end zone.

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 on how much a play improved a team's likelihood of scoring.

    • I use this metric primarily for QB efficiency, but also for defensive efficiency.

  • Completion Percentage Over Expected

    • 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 injuries 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 metrics that adjust opportunity based on the context of each play.

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

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