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!
Byes: Falcons, Saints, Jets, 49ers
Already Played: Buccaneers, Eagles
Dolphins at Jaguars, 9:30 AM eastern, Sunday
Dolphins Implied Team Total: 25
Tua Tagovailoa wasn't on the Dolphins' final injury report this week and will start in London. Tagovailoa should provide a boost to the Dolphins offense, and I'm personally happy about his return because I think I'll have a better handle on the Dolphins' tendencies with him under center. I've written repeatedly over the weeks about how the Dolphins haven't been running play action with Brissett. That remained the case against the Buccaneers. Brissett was QB25 in play action rate. He's QB34 on the season. Tagovailoa has a very small sample this season, playing just a little over one game, but he currently leads the league in play action rate.
Perhaps the Dolphins' play action rate has nothing to do with their quarterback, and everything to do with their ability to run the ball. If so, we should still see a significant shift toward play action this week. The Jaguars defense ranks 29th in EPA allowed per rush. Miami ran the ball well in Week 1, facing the Patriots' 19th ranked run defense. Since then they've faced the second, 10th, third and top ranked defenses in EPA allowed per rush. This matchup should allow them to get back to their Week 1 success on the ground.
With a strong rushing setup , it would be nice to know which running back the Dolphins plan to lean on. Miami's running back usage has been all over the place recently. In Week 4 Malcolm Brown saw 67% of snaps and Myles Gaskin was at 23%. Then last week, Gaskin jumped to 69% and Brown fell to just 9%. And, per Ben Gretch, Gaskin led the NFL in Week 5 with 12 high value touches (receptions + carries inside the 10). We have no way of knowing if the Dolphins will lean on Gaskin here once again, but there's clearly a lot of upside if they do. An elite HVT workload against a weak Jaguars defense could lead to a big week. For all we know, it could be Salvon Ahmed who gets fed this week, but I think Gaskin's upside is worth the risk in this matchup.
Miami should also be able to find success through the air, particularly if rushing success leads to more play action, which generally boosts passing efficiency. The Jaguars rank 31st in EPA allowed per dropback. They don't really stop anything. Miami also ranks ninth in situation neutral seconds per play, meaning, they play pretty fast. Jacksonville's offense is 12th in situation neutral pace, and so should help increase overall play volume. This game sets up Miami for an overall offensive rebound in a spot where we could see plenty of passing volume.
DeVante Parker has been ruled out for Week 6, which opens up a lot of opportunity. Parker leads Miami with a 22% target share and a 40% air yard share, operating as a true deep threat with a 16.4 aDOT. Last week, Preston Williams operated in that role, running a route on 73% of dropbacks with a 17.2 aDOT and a 41% air yard share. He can be thought of as a poor man's Parker this week.
Jaylen Waddle led the Dolphins in routes last week, but that was because they lacked a true full-time wide receiver. Waddle ran a route on 80% of dropbacks, which brought his season average down to 84%. The rookie has been targeted on 19% of his routes, which is pretty good. But he has an aDOT of just 4.0. Playing 73% of his snaps from the slot, he's in a Rondale Moore-esque role. His 6.6 YPT offers opportunity for positive regression if the Dolphins offense comes to life this week, but he'll likely need a high volume day to deliver fantasy value.
Mike Gesicki's "connection" with Brissett was a bit overblown. Gesicki was targeted on 18% of his routes in Week 1, and has been targeted on 21% of his routes since. He definitely saw a boost with Brissett under center, but it hasn't been massive, and it's probably not enough to counteract what should be an improved offense overall. He remains an unexciting, but viable tight end option.
Jaguars Implied Team Total: 22
Trevor Lawrence has shown major improvement over the last two weeks. From Weeks 1-3, Lawrence ranked 33rd in EPA per play (which measures overall efficiency) and 34th in CPOE (which measures accuracy). Over the last two weeks, Lawrence is fourth in EPA per play as well as fourth in CPOE. He's still has a ways to go in season-long rankings, sitting at 27th in EPA per play and 30th in CPOE, but Lawrence has shown some promise after a very rough start.
Lawrence's success doesn't appear to be completely related to matchups either. Playing the Titans in Week 5 was helpful; they ranked 27th in EPA allowed per dropback entering Week 5 and now rank 23rd. But Lawrence was also successful against a Bengals defense that ranks 14th in EPA allowed per dropback. He may be figuring things out a bit.
This week he faces a Dolphins defense that ranks 24th in EPA allowed per dropback, so Lawrence should be able to move the ball efficiently. However, the Dolphins defense also ranks 22nd in EPA allowed per rush, so the Jaguars should be able to choose their method of attack—which could limit passing volume.
The Jaguars are tied with the 49ers and Texans for 25th in pass rate over expected. Only the Bears, Bengals, Saints, Browns, and Titans have had more of a lean toward the run. They've also been very run-heavy in situations where it could help Lawrence to pass. The Jaguars rank 29th in situation neutral pass rate and 28th in pass rate over expected on 1st-and-10. Kudos to Lawrence for showing improvement while often throwing out of obvious passing situations.
The flip side of the Jaguars' affinity for early down rushing is that it's making James Robinson a lot more trustworthy.
Even with Carlos Hyde active, Robinson had a 68% snap share last week. He's at 70% for the season. PFF measures his workload at 14.5 points per game. Robinson, to his credit, has been playing very well. He ranks third in elusive rating and is playing behind an offensive line that ranks fourth in adjusted line yards. In a good matchup this week, he looks like a very solid RB2.
Even if the Jaguars do go run-heavy again, their receiving weapons are at least mildly interesting in a game environment that has play volume upside.
The rational way to play this receiving game is Marvin Jones, who has a 21% target share, a 30% air yard share and has run a route on 92% of dropbacks. Jones is 31 years old and has a 1.36 YPRR. He's not particularly exciting, but he'll be out there and can deliver big plays with his 13.1 aDOT. Dan Arnold also make for an interesting tight end play. Arnold ran a route on 79% of dropbacks in Week 5 and was targeted on an elite 27% of his routes. Arnold could be in for strong volume this week at a position where targets can be hard to come by.
Now that we're done being rational, let's discuss Laviska Shenault.
Following D.J. Chark's injury, the optimistic outlook on Shenault was that he would retain slot duties but also play more on the outside in 2WR sets. The reasonably pessimistic outlook was that he'd be in his same low aDOT slot role, and the Jaguars would figure out another way to dole out D.J. Chark's routes. Instead, Shenault's outlook took a big hit when the Jaguars' new role for Shenault was revealed: part-time Chark.
In his three full games, Chark ran routes at a rate of 78-88%, and he played 6-17% of his snaps in the slot. In Week 5, Shenault ran a route on just 61% of dropbacks, and saw 14% of his snaps from the slot. Shenault's route rate was 80% in Week 3 with 86% of his snaps in the slot. In Week 4 he had a route rate of 79% and played 70% of his snaps in the slot. This is a major role change for Shenault, and one that is coming with significantly less volume.
Shenault would hardly be the first player to see his role decrease, even with injuries ahead of him. But Sheault leads Jacksonville's wide receivers in YPRR. He's the type of player who would normally see his role increase. It's one thing to adjust Shenault's role toward Chark's. I can see Shenault how playing a pure outside receiver role could beneficial for the team even if it ultimately hurts Shenault. But to reduce Shenault's role so that Jamal Agnew can run a route on 68% of dropbacks and Tavon Austin can get to 50%? That's genuinely head scratching behavior.
As a resutlt, this sums up my thinking a little too accurately.
But of course... they are wrong.
Unfortunately, Shenault's snaps make him little more than a FLEX dart throw this week.
Vikings at Panthers, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Vikings Implied Team Total: 24
The Vikings rank 24th in pass rate over expected. And after passing more than expected against the Bengals in Week 1, they've been run heavy since.
This week they get a Panthers defense that has become a slight run funnel. The Panthers are very strong against the pass, ranking second in EPA allowed per dropback. But they rank 17th in EPA allowed per rush and teams have begun to attack them on the ground. Even after facing the pass heavy Eagles last week, they rank 23rd in PROE against this season.
There's little doubt that the Vikings will take the Panthers up on the offer to run the ball. And, with Dalvin Cook off the injury report, their rush attack will be at full strength. Both Cook and Alexander Mattison have played well this season. Cook ranks 10th in elusive rating and Mattison ranks 12th. Although Mattison is more than capable of handling committee duties, Cook seems likely to return to his pre-injury workload this week. PFF measured Cook's workload from Weeks 1-3 as 19.6 PPR points per game. He has good a good chance of slotting right back into an elite workload here.
If the Vikings go run heavy, that will likely limit passing volume. And passing could be further limited by pace of play. The Vikings rank 25th in situation neutral pace and the Panthers rank 21st. Minnesota will likely be methodically running, and the Panthers may be nearly as deliberate on their possessions.
With limited passing volume, efficiency will be key. That makes Justin Jefferson far more interesting than the other Vikings receivers. Jefferson has an elite 2.33 YPRR. He's running a little hot with a 10.5 YPT, but with an aDOT of 11.6 and a target on 22% of his routes, his production this season is mostly sustainable. I'm willing to bet he can overcome a subpar game environment.
Adam Thielen has run a route on 97% of dropbacks this season, so he hasn't seen any reduction in role. He's been having trouble earning targets, however. Thielen has been targeted on only 17% of his routes, with an aDOT of 9.4. Given his fairly shallow usage, his target rate is a bit concerning. There's no reason to panic, but I'd break ties against him this week with the risk of a run heavy and slow environment.
Panthers Implied Team Total: 21.5
The Vikings are more likely to establish the run this week, but the Panthers actually have the stronger setup for a run heavy game plan.
The Vikings' defense ranks seventh in EPA allowed per dropback, but just 30th in EPA allowed per rush. Like Carolina, Minnesota's defense has become a slight run funnel, with opposing offenses operating with a -2% PROE against them. But if Carolina isn't pass heavy this week, it'll be for the first time this season.
The Panthers rank seventh in pass rate over expected, and only the Chiefs and Panthers have passed more than expected in all five of their games. Of course, the Panthers might be looking to mix something up, because Sam Darnold was rough in Week 5.
Darnold was QB31 in EPA per play, ranking ahead of only Zach Wilson. And the Eagles defense was a good setup, ranking 24th in EPA allowed per dropback entering Week 5. It's just one week, so there's no need to panic on Darnold, but he's down to 22nd in EPA per play this season, and given how badly he underperformed against the Eagles, the Panthers may be temped to finally go run heavy this week.
If they do, they'll be leaning Chuba Hubbard—with Christian McCaffrey ruled out for Sunday. Hubbard has played on 56% of snaps in McCaffrey's two-game absence and handled 86% of backfield attempts. He also saw his target share jump from 5% in Week 4 to 18% in Week 5. With 22.8 expected points in Week 5, Hubbard was in a McCaffrey style role, which he under-performed by 4.4 points. Hubbard can be considered a RB1 this week in a strong matchup.
Things would have to get very slow and run heavy before we'd have any concern about D.J. Moore. Moore has been targeted on 26% of his routes this season with an aDOT of 10.0. This is elite underlying usage, and he's delivering with an elite 2.35 YPRR. His 9.0 YPT is sustainable and he looks locked into a WR1 season as long as his quarterback play doesn't get shaky.
As Kyle Dvorchak mentioned on the Week 5 recap pod, Darnold failed to connect with Anderson on a deep shot in Week 5. Failing to hit that play ruined Anderson's day, because Anderson has morphed into a low volume deep threat this season. He's been targeted on 16% of his routes with an aDOT of 15.4. Anderson still has weekly upside. His 32% air yard share is only slightly worse than Moore's 36%. But he trails Moore in target share 28% to 16%. If he fails to hit a big play, it's likely to be another disappointing week.
Don't chase the Tommy Tremble touchdown from last week. He ran a route on 38% of dropbacks to Ian Thomas' 57%. Thomas' targets per route are up from last year, but he has a 0.98 YPRR this year, and remains a very thin tight end play.
Chargers at Ravens, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Chargers Implied Team Total: 26.75
Brandon Staley's campaign to win the hearts of analytics twitter is going swimmingly.
I've mentioned a few times that Staley is maximizing a small advantage at quarterback by going pass heavy and playing fast. That's starting to change. Not because the Chargers are moving away from the pass: they rank fifth in pass rate over expected, third in PROE on 1st-and-10 and fourth in situation neutral pass rate. And not because the Chargers are playing slow: they lead the league in situation neutral pace. What's changed is that the Chargers' advantage at quarterback is no longer small. Over the last two weeks, Justin Herbert ranks third in EPA per play, and he's up to sixth for the season.
This week, Herbert gets a Ravens defense that ranks 20th in EPA per dropback, and just allowed Carson Wentz to finish 10th in EPA per play. The Ravens defense is stronger against the run, ranking seventh in EPA allowed per rush, but that's not likely to help them much against the Chargers. The Chargers are instead likely to focus on exploiting the a Ravens defense that ranks 22nd in PFF's coverage grades.
With another pass heavy environment on tap, Mike Williams' health is his only concern. Williams didn't practice all week and appears genuinely questionable to play. If he's healthy, he's set up for another big day. Williams has an aDOT of 12.0 and has been targeted on 26% of his routes. He's seen elite underlying volume, and he's capitalized on it with 9.8 YPT. Somehow, Williams actually has slightly more upside than what he's shown thus far. He's run a route on 83% of dropbacks this season, well behind Keenan Allen's 92%. He's likely to remain in a similar role this week at less than full health, but Williams isn't actually maxed out in terms of underlying volume.
Not only is Allen running more routes than Williams, he's seeing nearly as much volume on a per route basis. Allen has a shallower 9.1 aDOT, but he's still operating at a depth that offers upside. And he's been targeted on a very strong 25% of his routes. Allen's biggest issue has been a weak 7.2 YPT. With Herbert playing great in recent weeks and in a good matchup, I'm happy to stick with Allen.
Last week mentioned that Ekeler was due for some regression. We didn't get it. Ekeler had a 20.3 expected points workload and delivered 34.9 PPR points. Ekeler is now running even hotter in efficiency than he was last week; he's RB2 in points per game but ranks RB7 in workload.
It's worth appreciating how good Ekeler's goal line role has been this year, however.
This type of usage is at least setting him up to remain hot. I'm still betting on Ekeler's efficiency to come back down to earth. But with a good 12% target share and strong goal line usage, he'll still be in for a good week even if he only performs in line with expectations.
Ravens Implied Team Total: 24.25
The Chargers defense is a true run funnel. Opposing offenses have averaged a -5% pass rate over expected against them. Only the Cardinals have inspired more run heavy opposing game plans. The 2020 Ravens would have jumped at the chance to run the ball down the Chargers' throats. The 2021 Ravens probably will, but the fact that it's even a question says a lot.
The 2020 Ravens finished 30th in situation neutral pass rate, ahead of only the Patriots and Titans. This year they're up to 15th. Only the Patriots have seen a bigger shift in their approach—and they changed quarterbacks from Cam Newton to Mac Jones. The Ravens aren't pass heavy, but they aren't run heavy either. Their 0% pass rate over expected is tied with the Falcons, Colts and Jets for 17th in the league. The Ravens will likely start with a run heavy approach this week, but if the Chargers are able to put up points, we could see the Baltimore passing offense open up once again.
The Ravens are more willing to pass the ball. One reason for that, is that they've been good at passing the ball (sometimes this isn't that hard). Lamar Jackson ranks 10th in CPOE this season after ranking 24th last season. With their quarterback showing signs of improving accuracy and their running back room decimated by injuries, it's not hard to understand why the Ravens are willing to throw.
Baltimore has also jumped from 30th in situation neutral pace to 18th. They aren't pass heavy, and they aren't fast. But compared to where they were last year, they've added significant volume through pace and play calling.
The additional volume has paid massive dividends for the Ravens' receivers. Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews have been efficient throughout their careers. Brown finished with a strong 1.83 YPRR as a rookie and was efficient again in 2020 with 1.85 YPRR. Andrews has been one of the most efficient tight ends in the league for years, with YPRRs of 1.96, 2.68 and 1.86. This season both players are getting a chance to run more routes. Brown's routes have jumped from 29 per game in 2020 to 33 this season. Andrews' routes have jumped from 26 per game last season to 34. With a significant increase in volume, it wouldn't be fair to expect the same efficiency from Brown and Andrews—which is why is so wild that their efficiency has dramatically increased. Brown's YPRR is up to 2.7 and Andrew is at 2.37. Both players are running hot in YPT, with Brown at 11.9 and Andrews at 11.1. But both players are also earning targets at a very high rate. Brown is seeing a target on 23% of his routes and Andrews is at 21%. Their per route efficiency is largely sustainable.
Rashod Bateman's long awaited return may throw a wrench into things... but Sammy Watkins also has a borderline elite 2.09 YPRR, is seeing a route on 21% of his routes, and is now out for Week 6 with a hamstring injury. This offense has been able to support Brown and Andrews with some additional production for a third option. This week we're likely to see a similar setup, even with that third option changing.
When the Ravens do run, which they could realistically do quite a bit of here, it's likely to be Latavius Murray leading the way. Murray has played on 55% of snaps over the last two weeks, and has been the one constant in the Ravens' backfield. Unfortunately, another constant has been Murray playing poorly. He ranks RB44 in NFL Next Gen's success rate and he ranks RB62 in elusive rating, ahead of only Phillip Lindsay this season. Among running backs with 50+ carries only Murray, James Conner and Mark Ingram have yet to break off a 15+ yard run. Murray also offers nothing in the receiving game with a YPRR of 0.25, ahead of only Devin Singletary, Malcolm Brown, Trey Sermon, Khalil Herbert, Larry Rountree and Mark Ingram this season.
Ty'Son Williams ranks first in breakaway percentage, and 12th in success rate. He's middle of the road in elusive rating and YPRR, but he offers a nice mix of big play upside and rushing consistency. He's unlikely to get much run this week, but is the backfield's best chance of reviving the rushing attack.
Rams at Giants, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Rams Implied Team Total: 28.25
After a rough Week 4, Stafford bounced back against the Seahawks and now leads the league in EPA per play. This week he gets a Giants defense that ranks 27th in EPA allowed per dropback.
Interestingly, the Giants have been run funnel this season, facing an average pass rate over expected of -3%. This makes sense given that the Giants rank 23rd in EPA allowed per rush; they're vulnerable on the ground. But on the other hand it's odd that teams are attacking their weak rush defense instead of their even weaker pass defense.
This makes more sense once you remember who the Giants played: Denver, Washington, Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas. In pass rate over expected those teams rank 22nd, 21st ,17th, 30th and 16th. Dallas is the only Giants opponent who has passed more than expected this season, and they've done so exactly once, against the Buccaneers. Against the Giants last week, the Cowboys passed 5% below expected. The Rams do not operate like this. They rank fifth in pass rate over expected this season and just passed 4% over expected against the run funnel Seahawks. They also play fast, with the third fastest situation neutral pace. The Giants' pass defense is highly exploitable, and I expect the Rams to take full advantage.
Robert Woods joined the party in Week 5, and now has a 2.04 YPRR this season, with a target on 24% of his routes after a statement game with a target on 39% of his routes and a 4.17 YPRR. It's great to see that Woods has that kind of weekly upside, but Cooper Kupp remains the top option here by a decent margin. Kupp has been targeted on a truly elite 31% of his routes and has an off the charts 3.04 YPRR this season. Both Kupp and Woods are excellent options this week, but I'm still much more comfortable betting on Kupp.
Van Jefferson had a quiet Week 5, and one that came with mixed underlying usage. Operating as a true deep threat with a 19.3 aDOT, he was targeted on fairly strong 17% of his routes. His routes were down to just 61% however, with DeSean Jackson seeing 39%. Jackson's routes have bounced around a bit, topping out at 41%. Previously when Jackson was at this route rate, he was eating into Woods' opportunity. Last Week Woods ran a route on 95% of dropbacks and Kupp was at 92%. So Jackson's usage was eating into Jefferson's deep threat role in Week 5, which frankly makes a lot more sense. Jefferson hasn't been bad this season, he has a solid 1.74 YPRR. But with Jackson delivering a ridiculously good 4.22 YPRR this season, the Rams could be looking to get him on the field more this week. Jefferson, who's playing the same role less efficiently, is at some risk of seeing his role shrink further.
Tyler Higbee saved his Week 5 with a TD, but has been mostly disappointing this season. His 1.17 YPRR is frustratingly low, considering how potent the Rams passing attack has been. Worse, Higbee has been efficient when targeted. Meaning, in order for his per route efficiency to increase we need him to start earning more targets. It'd be much easier to bet on him if he had locked in target volume and was under-performing in YPT. Higbee has run a route on 78% of dropbacks this season, which is nice to see. He remains a low-end TE1 as a full-time player in a strong offense, but somehow he's become a poor man's Dawson Knox.
Darrell Henderson has a 79% snap share this season, but he hasn't been able to fully capitalize on his opportunity. He ranks 38th in YPRR and 49th in elusive rating. He also ranks RB20 in both success rate and breakaway percentage, so he does at least offer consistency and big play rushing ability. Henderson could find some big plays this week against the Giants defense and looks like a reliable RB1 here.
Giants Implied Team Total: 20.25
Daniel Jones has cleared the concussion protocol and will start this week.
The Rams defense ranks 12th in EPA allowed per dropback, and Jones', who ranks 16th in EPA per play, could struggle to play efficiently against them. But Jones will get plenty of chances to throw. The Rams look likely to pile up points on the Giants defense, as eight point favorites with a 28.25 implied team total. The Rams could also help speed up the game with an uptempo approach, which the Giants could be receptive to. The Rams rank third in situation neutral pace and the Giants rank ninth. Jones could struggle with consistency this week, but there should be plenty of volume for his receivers.
The big story among those receivers is Kadarius Toney. Toney was targeted on 50% of his routes last week. Among NFL players to run a route on 50%+ of dropbacks in a week, only Davante Adams (Week 3) has recorded a higher TPRR this season. Toney wasn't just catching the ball and falling down either, he paired his elite target rate with a 15.8 YPT. And he wasn't seeing pure gadget targets, with a healthy aDOT of 10.3. He wasn't even a pure slot receiver, playing only 36% of his snaps there. As a result of his big game, he now has a team leading 2.7 YPRR and a strong 24% TPRR. And because his breakout game came primarily from the outside, Sterling Shepard's return this week may not have a big impact. Toney has an 11.2 YPT this season, which is going to cool off. But his underlying volume is still impressive, and he looks like a potential star.
Shepard also has a 24% TPRR this season, and should be counted on to earn targets at a high rate this week. With a slightly deeper aDOT than Toney this season, he's actually seen more opportunity on a per route basis. This puts him in play as a pivot off of Toney in tournaments.
Darius Slayton is also likely to be back this week, and also looks interesting. Slayton has been targeted on 22% of his routes, which is a very strong rate with his 14.4, deep threat aDOT. He's an intriguing dart throw.
Evan Engram has only been targeted on 16% of his routes this season and looks like a TE2 play, even in a high volume matchup.
This isn't an ideal matchup. The Rams rank fourth in EPA allowed per rush, and the eight point underdog Giants aren't in a position to establish. Still, Booker will be inheriting a valuable role and should slot in as a RB2.
Texans at Colts, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Texans Implied Team Total: 16.75
Davis Mills had an impressive bounce back game against the Patriots and now ranks 25th in EPA per play, ahead of fellow rookies Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Zach Wilson. Mac Jones is the only rookie quarterback who has out-performed him, and he ranks just two spots ahead. If it feels like Mills came out of nowhere, it's because he did. After getting crushed by the Bills in Week 4, he was genuinely awesome in Week 5.
Now he faces a Colts defense that ranks 29th in EPA allowed per dropback and 30th in PFF's coverage grades.
The question here is whether the Texans will actually be willing to lean on Mills in a strong matchup. The Texans rank 27th in pass rate over expected, 29th in PROE on 1st-and-10, and 30th in situation neutral pass rate. In other words, they're extremely run heavy. But they're facing a Colts defense that's very good against the run, ranking third in EPA allowed per rush and fifth in PFF's run defense grades. When the run obsessed Titans played the Colts, they finished with a -10% pass rate over expected, which was the third most run heavy attack of Week 3. So it's possible to run on the Colts if you're determined to do so. But Baltimore just highlighted a different path, breaking out of their run heavy approach for an 8% PROE, the fifth most pass heavy attack of Week 5—and Baltimore's most pass heavy game plan of the season. The Texans are likely to choose the same fork in the road as the Titans did. But things could get interesting if they game plan for the matchup instead of their identity.
Brandin Cooks' volume has been truly elite this season. He has run a route on 96% of dropbacks, and with a deep aDOT of 13.3, has managed an elite 29% TPRR. With a 33% target share and a 49% air yard share, he trails only Davante Adams in weighted opportunity rating. His volume gives him upside in any game environment. If Mills plays well again and the Texans attack the Colts' weak secondary, he could be in for a spike week.
Given that the Texans have the lowest implied team total of the week, it's hard to get excited about anything else here. I will note that David Johnson has a 12% target share and could be interesting if the Texans plan to go pass heavy or play from behind.
Colts Implied Team Total: 26.75
Carson Wentz ranks 28th in EPA per play. The only Week 6 starters who have been worse than Wentz this season are Justin Fields and Jared Goff. No one had very high expectations for Wentz this season. But to explain how bad it's been: it's quite possible that he drags down quarterback play in a matchup with Davis Mills.
The Texans defense is about even against the run and the pass, ranking 19th in EPA allowed per dropback and 20th in EPA allowed per rush, which should allow the Colts to choose their method of attack. They'll likely choose both.
With a quarterback playing as poorly as Wentz, it wouldn't be unusual to see the Colts go ultra run heavy. But as I covered last week, the Colts are maximizing Wentz by setting him up for success on early downs. They currently rank 10th in pass rate over expected on 1st-and-10, and I expect them to continue that approach this week.
T.Y. Hilton may return for this game, which could help the Cots' passing game—but I doubt it has a huge impact on Michael Pittman this week. Pittman has run a route on 96% of dropbacks, with a 25 % target share and 36% air yard share. He has a solid 21% TPRR with a No. 1 receiver aDOT of 10.6. Pittman's role isn't so locked in that Hilton can't eat into it, but his opportunity looks pretty safe in Hilton's first game back, which might not even be this week.
When the Colts do get things going on the ground, it will likely be through Jonathan Taylor. Taylor still has only a 50% snap share this season, but he's handled 63% of the backfield attempts with a healthy 10% target share. It's not hard to understand why the Colts are looking to get him the ball when he's on the field. Taylor ranks 22nd in elusive rating, 12th in breakaway percentage, ninth in success rate, and third in yards per route run. As 10 point favorites, the Colts shouldn't lack for rushing attempts here, but a frisky Mills could also push the Colts offense enough to increase play volume. Taylor has one of his best setups of the season.
Chiefs at Washington, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Chiefs Implied Team Total: 30.75
Coming off a disappointing loss to the Bills, Patrick Mahomes ranks second in EPA per play and sixth in CPOE. Mahomes is having an incredible season, and was held in check by a very difficult matchup.The Bills defense ranks first in EPA allowed per dropback and first in EPA per play.
Mahomes' Week 6 matchup is worlds easier. Washington ranks 28th in EPA allowed per dropback and 29th in EPA allowed per play, and they rank 30th in PFF's coverage grades. Washington has PFF's second graded pass rush, but it hasn't mattered. Not only are teams having success throwing the ball, they're game planning to do so. Washington is third in the league PROE against. The Buccaneers and Cowboys are the only defenses that are bigger passing funnels. And the Chiefs don't need any encouragement to pass. They rank second behind Tampa Bay in pass rate over expected and third behind the Bills and Buccaneers in situation neutral pass rate.
As seven point favorites, it's possible that the Washington offense doesn't push the Chiefs offense to fully maximize passing goodness. But Washington will at least play fast. They rank seventh in situation neutral seconds per play, and could help speed up the game, with Chiefs ranking just 15th in situation neutral pace.
Tyreek Hill is dealing with a quad injury. If he can go, the matchup is so juicy that I'd only sit him if we know have extremely solid reporting that he'll be in a limited role. Hill has an elite 2.66 YPRR, which is mostly sustainable based on his underlying volume.
If Hill misses the game, it's highly likely to hurt the offense to extent. Although given the matchup, it's difficult to say how much. Hill hasn't missed a game since 2019, and Mahomes was just fine in his absence.
Obviously the Chiefs offense is better with Hill. But they may be able to score a lot of points through the air with or without him against the poor Washington secondary.
If Hill is unable to go, it's possible Mecole Hardman sees substantially more work. Both Hardman and Hill are seeing over 50% of their snaps in the slot. And with speed as his calling card, it seems likely that Hardman's 7.2 aDOT equals or surpasses Hill's 12.1.
It's also entirely possible that if Hill is out we see Hardman earn a few more targets but operate in his normal role, with Demarcus Robinson in for 65-75% of routes and Josh Gordon and Byron Pringle in for 40-60%. This would give Hardman the upside for a strong day with a few big plays, but would likely limit his target volume to the point where he would need strong efficiency to pay off.
Whether or not Hill is active, Travis Kelce is set up for a big week. Kelce has seen a target on 21% of his routes, and has a strong 1.92 YPRR. The fact that this qualifies as a disappointment shows just how dominant he's been over the years. With a banged up Hill and/or with Hardman doing a Hill impression that draws fewer targets, Kelce could find plenty of space to operate underneath—whether Hill is out or simply not 100%. And if Hill is 100% healthy, he could help facilitate a Mahomes blow up game. Kelce is always an elite play, but he looks especially so this week.
Here's the thing with Darrel Williams though... he's not very good. His best attribute is his receiving ability, and he ranks RB45 in YPRR with a very poor 0.66 mark. He ranks 61st in elusive rating ahead of only Latavius Murray and Phillip Lindsay, and has yet to break a 15+ yard run this year. Jerick McKinnon was RB13 in elusive rating in 2020 and RB25 in YPRR. McKinnon is unlikely to have a major role this week, given the snap differential last week, but it's possible he steals enough work to prevent Williams from being fantasy relevant.
Washington Implied Team Total: 23.75
I was worried about Taylor Heinicke last week, facing a difficult matchup against the Saints, and he struggled as expected. Heinicke finished 29th in EPA per play and 30th in CPOE. This week he should be able to rebound.
The Chiefs rank 30th in EPA allowed per dropback, 30th in PFF's pass rush grades, and 24th in PFF's coverage grades. The Chiefs will be dictating to Washington and not the other way around, but it's nice to know that when forced to pass, Washington should have success through the air.
It is possible that Washington tries to fight the inevitable though. Washington has been slightly run heavy this season, ranking 21st in pass rate over expected. More concerningly, against the Bills in Week 3, Washington has a pass rate over expected of -8%. It's possible they run the ball and attempt to keep it out of Mahomes' hands.
If that is their plan, it's honestly not a bad one. The Chiefs rank dead last in EPA allowed per rush and also rank last in PFF's run defense grades. Antonio Gibson will be playing through a stress fracture in his shin, but this is still an intriguing setup for him. Gibson continues not to play on obvious passing downs, so if Washington plays the entire game in negative game script, he could be in for a disastrous day. However, Gibson has upside here for a heavy workload against a very weak run defense. Gibson only has a 59% snap share this season, but he's handled 76% of running back carries.
Eventually though, Washington is going to have to pass. When they do, they'll be running the offense through Terry McLaurin, assuming his hamstring doesn't keep him out of the game. McLaurin has a 31% target share and 44% air yard share. Only Davante Adams and Brandin Cooks have accounted for a larger share of their team's passing offense. McLaurin has also been efficient, with a strong 2.14 YPRR. But McLaurin only has an 8.2 YPT with a fairly deep 12.4 aDOT. He has upside to be even more efficient than he's been. In a strong matchup where Washington could be throwing plenty, McLaurin looks like a strong bet, assuming health.
Ricky-Seals Jones might not have 100% of Logan Thomas' role, but he's very close. In his three healthy weeks, Thomas had a route rate between 92-97%. Last week, Seals-Jones ran a route on 88% of dropbacks, second on the team to only Terry McLaurin, who was at 90%. I expect Seals-Jones to have a route rate between 80-95% this week, which alone puts him in the TE1 conversation. The fact that he's earned a target on 16% of his routes compared to just 14% for Thomas makes him very interesting in this matchup.
Packers at Bears, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Packers Implied Team Total: 25
Aaron Rodgers ranks fourth in EPA per play and third in CPOE and continues to make Week 1 look like one of the weirder opening day anomalies in recent memory. This week he faces a "difficult" Bears defense that is likely a paper tiger.
The Bears rank sixth in EPA allowed per dropback and 11th in PFF's pass rush grades, but just 28th in PFF's coverage grades. They also rank fifth in EPA allowed per rush, but 20th in PFF's run defense grades. I'm with PFF on this one, the Bears' defense is likely overrated by EPA. The Bears faced the Rams in Week 1, who beat them 34-14. Since then they've faced a Bengals offense in protect-Burrow mode, the Browns, who barely need to score to beat a shellshocked Fields, Jared Goff, and a Raiders squad that was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The Bears are a bad matchup for Rodgers in at least one way though: they're slow. The Bears rank 28th in situation neutral pace. Combined with the Packers' 24th ranked situation neutral pace, the Bears could help limit plays for Rodgers. I trust him to be efficient here, but there may not be as much volume as we'd like.
While there may not be that much volume overall, Davante Adams is not going to struggle to get his.
Adams has a 39% target share this season, which is truly hard to comprehend. Terry McLaurin is fourth in the league with a 31% target share. He's as close to Robert Wood's 23% target share as he is to Adams. Adams also has a 47% air yard share, which is behind only Ja'Marr Chase and Brandin Cooks. He leads the NFL in YPRR with an outrageous 3.49 YPRR, despite a 9.5 YPT that's not really that crazy. He's not running super hot in a way that's bound to regress. He'll probably regress a bit, because this level of volume would be crazy to sustain. But Adams' production looks largely sustainable. If he starts scoring TDs at a high rate again he could break fantasy.
Since Week 2, Dillon has seen a 33% snap share. Last week, he had a 33% snap share as well. His role could increase from here, but we haven't actually seen a shift in snaps yet. Maybe that shift comes, per LaFleur's comments. Even then, Dillon can get on the field more and still not see a huge uptick in work. Last week he ran a route on 24% of dropbacks, while being targeted on 40% of his routes. Dillon could easily see his routes increase this week and still not manage four targets.
As I covered last week, Aaron Jones has been quietly in a bit of a slump, outside of TDs. He was held out of the end zone last week and had a YPRR of just 0.21. It makes sense that the Packers want to see if Dillon can handle a bit more work. I would just caution that a bit more work for Dillon still won't be that much work.
Bears Implied Team Total: 19
The Bears finally had some designed runs for Fields last week, after his only two "designed rushes" against the Lions came on kneel downs. But per Ben Gretch, one was on a basic draw and the other was an out-dated sweep design. It's mind blowing that the Bears don't have creative plays in place to utilize Fields as a rusher. And a limited Fields has been predictably bad. He ranks 30th in EPA per play this season and 29th in CPOE.
I'm pretty down on this situation, particularly when it comes to Fields' fantasy value. But there are some signs of hope. First, the Bears are play actioning at a high rate. Fields ranks sixth in play action rate this year, ahead of Trey Lance, and just behind Lamar Jackson. The Bears have also been run heavy with Fields at quarterback, without being run heavy on 1st-and-10. In Fields' first three starts, Chicago had a pass rate over expected of 0% on 1st-and-10, despite being extremely run heavy overall. Their -8% would be second to only the Titans on the season.
I don't want to give the Bears too much credit here. The fact that they're running nearly as much as the Titans' while not including their rushing quarterback in that attack is a huge red flag for their offensive design. But they are actually are supporting Fields as a passer in some important ways.
Fields faces a Packers defense that ranks 17th in EPA allowed per dropback, so he should be able to avoid a Browns style meltdown, and unlike the last two weeks, there will be an offense pushing the Bears to score points.
If Fields gets going, I think Allen Robinson is still the most likely wide receiver to benefit, provided he's not limited by his ankle injury. Robinson trails Darnell Mooney in target share 25% to 26% and in air yard share 29% to 36%. He also has a very poor 6.5 YPT to Mooney's 8.7. Mooney is a fine dart throw this week if Robinson goes, and very interesting if Robinson sits. But if Robinson is healthy, I'm willing to bet on him as a WR3 in a matchup where the Bears passing offense could come to life... at least a little bit.
On the ground the Bears will be starting Khalil Herbert, following Damien Williams' positive Covid result. FB Ryan Nall looks like the likely backup. Herbert ranks 61st among RBs in YPRR, and wasn't considered a pass catching prospect. He could see some dump off targets, but he probably won't do a ton with them. As a rusher, he'll get all the work he can handle for as long as the game is close.
Bengals at Lions, 1PM eastern, Sunday
Bengals Implied Team Total: 25
The Bengals passing offense may be coming to life. In Weeks 1-3 the Bengals had a -10% pass rate over expected, which is more run heavy than the Titans have been this season. Over the last two weeks, they're at 1%, which is where Dallas is at this year, and just behind the Steelers, Packers and Seahawks. Hopefully the trend toward the pass sticks, and hopefully there's a third gear on the way as well. But for now, at least the Bengals don't appear likely to go ultra run heavy this week.
Joe Burrow has played well this season and ranks 12th in EPA per play and fifth in CPOE. This week he gets the best matchup in football.
The Lions rank dead last in EPA allowed per dropback and dead last in PFF's coverage grades. The only minor problem they present is a solid pass rush that ranks 12th in PFF's grades. If the Lions are able to get to Burrow enough it could convince the Bengals's coaches to move to a more run heavy attack. But as long as the Bengals keep Burrow upright, this could be an important game in showing that he's ready to take another step forward in his recovery from injury.
If this passing game opens up, it could mean ridiculous things for Ja'Marr Chase. Chase already leads the league in air yard share with 51%. That share is built on his 17.8 aDOT. He's operating not just as a deep threat but as a true field stretcher. And he's not getting prayer yards here either... Chase has a 3.0 YPRR; he's been highly efficient on his routes. With an effervescent 13.4 YPT, there's no way that Chase is able to stay as efficient as he's been. But he can cool off considerably and still produce an elite YPRR going forward. And... he might also be in an offense that is considerably more pass heavy, potentially as soon as this week.
Tee Higgins was back last week and was inefficient, with a 4.6 YPT. But he saw a target on 20% of his routes to just 14% for Tyler Boyd. With Chase's breakout in full swing, he looks like the WR2 here rather than the 1B, but it does look like he has a lead on Boyd. Both Higgins and Boyd have been targeted on 24% of their routes this season. But Higgins operates with an 8.9 aDOT compared to just 5.7 for Boyd, and Boyd has had the benefit of playing without Higgins. Both players are in play this week, but Higgins comes with the higher floor and ceiling.
With Samaje Perine on the Covid-list, Joe Mixon could be back in a workhorse role. Mixon played just 28% of snaps in Week 5, but was clearly being eased back in. The Lions rank a competent 18th in EPA allowed per rush, but the Bengals could have a comfortable lead in this game as 3.5 point favorites. Mixon is listed as questionable and it requires a leap of faith that he'll be back in his full-time role. But given the game environment, I think it's a leap worth taking.
Lions Implied Team Total: 21.5
To start the year, Jared Goff looked like he might have a little left. But he's settling into the terrible season we were expecting. Goff ranks 31st in EPA per play, ahead of only Trey Lance and Zach Wilson. He ranks behind Jacoby Brissett and Justin Fields, which is wild.
This week he faces a Bengals defense that ranks 15th in EPA allowed per dropback. It's not a difficult matchup, but it's still difficult to muster much excitement for the Lions passing offense.
The one piece of this passing offense we were supposed to be able to count on... has turned to dust. Over the last three weeks, T.J. Hockenson has turned in YPRRs of 0.40, 1.00 and 0.69. It has not been nice. For the season, Hockenson has been targeted on 18% of his routes, with a 7.6 aDOT. That's not horrifically bad for a tight end though, and he's still running a lot of routes with a route on 86% of dropbacks.
I'm sticking with him. Hockenson was targeted on 21% of his routes last season. Even if defenses are scheming to take him away, there's still such a dearth of target competition this year, that I think he's a good bet to finish closer to the 21% TPRR he had last season than to where he is now. I'm not as happy to start Hockenson as I was three weeks ago, but I still think he's worth rolling back out this week.
I'm actually excited to play D'Andre Swift. He ranks RB9 in YPRR and has an 18% target share. Jamaal Williams actually ranks 10th in YPRR and has played well this season, but has just a 7% target share and has run a route on only 26% of dropbacks to Swift's 62%. If the Bengals unleash their passing game on the Lions, Swift stands to benefit as the clear passing down back, and a star receiving back.
Editor’s Note: Drafting is only half the battle! Get an edge on your competition with our NFL Season Tools - available in our EDGE+ Roto tier for $3.99/mo. (annually) or $9.99/mo. (monthly) - that are packed with rankings, projections, a trade evaluator, start/sit tools and much more. And don't forget to use promo code SAVE10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more!
Cardinals at Browns, 4:05 PM eastern, Sunday
Cardinals Implied Team Total: 23
This week Kyler Murray faces a Browns defense than ranks 25th in EPA per dropback. The Browns defense isn't bad, they rank 6th in PFF's coverage grades and seventh in pass rush grade. But they're also not good enough to stop Kyler Murray. Murray ranks sixth in EPA per play and leads the lead in CPOE. He shouldn't have any trouble playing efficiently here. The larger concern is how the Browns approach this game on offense, as I'll get to shortly. The Cardinals passing game will be productive, it's just a matter of how many pass catchers it will be able to support.
Maxx Williams was lost for the season last week, ruining a mini-breakout for the tight end. Williams ends his season with an impressive 1.95 YPRR—although I'll note for dynasty purposes that he had some major regression headed his way, given his 11.4 YPT. His role will eventually be taken over by Zach Ertz, who has now reached his final form.
Rondale Moore saw a spike in routes last week, running his most routes since Week 2 and tying his Week 2 route share. As noted by Jack Miller in Strength in Numbers, this came at the expense of Christian Kirk, not A.J. Green. Kirk ran a route on only 53% of dropbacks. His previous low water mark was 61%. Interestingly, Kirk also played 94% of his snaps in the slot. He looks to now be in the WR4 slot role. Moore was excellent with his additional opportunity, earning a target on 30% of his routes and delivering an elite YPRR of 2.95. Kirk wasn't that far behind Moore in routes though, and is coming off a strong 2.17 YPRR as well. Kirk has a 2.16 YPRR this season and could ruin the Moore breakout party pretty easily.
A.J. Green is coming off a very poor week where he saw a target on just 7% of his routes and delivered 6.5 YPT. He hasn't been terrible this year, but this is now his second week of a YPRR below 1.0 and it's hard not to believe Kirk would be doing more with Green's routes. Green has an 11.2 aDOT, so he has big play upside to an extent. But his underlying opportunity this year has been pretty similar to Maxx Williams'.
DeAndre Hopkins still isn't having the season we expected, but he scored last week while earning a target on 26% of his routes. After his infamously predictable usage last season, Hopkins has also shown signs of more creative usage.
Hopkins has seen his slot snaps increase from 10% to 15% this season, and he's being targeted significantly deeper downfield, with an aDOT of 13.3, compared to 9.0 last year. While this hasn't yet yielded the fantasy results we want, this change in Hopkins' role is actually something we've been clamoring for, and has likely contributed to Arizona's improved offense. Hopkins now leads the Cardinals' full time receivers in aDOT, and offers strong weekly upside. It's just much harder for him to rack up reception volume with some of his previous underneath targets now going to Moore.
Given that the Cardinals are three points underdogs, this looks like a good setup for Chase Edmonds. Edmonds remains at risk of James Conner stealing touchdowns. But in a truly competitive environment, Edmonds could have a big day. Edmonds has a 17% target share, and his 63% snap share this season undersells how big his role could be if this game delivers as a back and forth affair.
Browns Implied Team Total: 26
The Browns delivered a back and forth shootout last week, despite doing their damage on the ground. This week they face a Cardinals defense that opponents have repeatedly attacked with the run game. Teams facing the Cardinals are averaging a -6% pass rate over expected, making them the biggest run funnel in the league. So the Browns are mortal locks to implement the league-endorsed strategy against the Cardinals, which just so happens to be what they want to do anyway.
The Browns rank 31st in pass rate over expected, and the Browns and the 32nd ranked Titans are the only teams in the NFL that have been run heavy every single week this season. The Browns also rank 27th in situation neutral pass rate and are tied with the Titans for 32 in PROE on 1st-and-10. There's absolutely no mystery to their preferred approach.
Last week however, the Browns faced a Chargers defense that ranked 21st in EPA allowed per rush entering Week 5. Now they get a Cardinals defense that ranks 6th. The Cardinals have faced some run-heavy teams as well, opening with the Titans, Vikings and Jaguars. The Browns will be by far their most difficult test on the ground, but the Browns may not be able to run all over the Cardinals like they did the Chargers. They'll definitely try though.
The Browns also play slow, ranking 30th in situation neutral pace. This leaves little margin for error. If the Browns attack the Cardinals on the ground and aren't efficient doing so, then the game could quickly lose play volume. A slow Browns attack can bleed the clock in a major way, like we saw in their mega-under against the Vikings.
Luckily, even with Nick Chubb ruled out of this game, the Browns are set up to be very efficient on the ground. The Browns' offensive line ranks second in adjusted line yards. They are an elite run blocking unit. Not having Nick Chubb hurts. He leads the leads the league in elusive rating. But having Kareem Hunt helps. He ranks second in elusive rating. It's pretty incredible how strong of a rushing game they've put together. Hunt could be in for a monster week if the Browns' game plan comes together.
If the Browns have trouble establishing, or are forced to pass by the Cardinals offense, Odell Beckham is still the wide receiver to trust. He has just a 1.28 YPRR this season. But he's been targeted on 20% of his routes, which is highly impressive given his 17.2 aDOT. As noted by Sam Hoppen on Stat Chasing, the quality of Beckham's targets has not been very strong. Baker Mayfield is playing through a shoulder injury and has struggled to connect with his top wide receiver. But Mayfield hasn't actually been that bad overall, ranking 18th in EPA per play and ninth in CPOE. If the Cardinals force the Browns out of their preferred script, Beckham has high ceiling, and his true deep threat usage provides upside even if the Browns pull off their run heavy game plan.
At tight end, we saw a significant shift toward David Njoku in the receiving game last week. Njoku ran a route on 60% of dropbacks, compared to just 43% for Austin Hooper. We can't take too much from this, however. Hooper still out-snapped Njoku 72% to 64%, and Njoku's snaps were only up 2% from his snap share entering Week 5. It's possible that the Browns have made a decision to utilize Njoku more as a receiver. That would make sense, he has a 3.06 YPRR to Hooper's 1.13, and has a strong 21% TPPR for his 12.1 aDOT. Njoku can challenge downfield and draws targets at a higher rate than Hooper does on his underneath routes. It's a no brainer to get Njoku more receiving opportunities, in this humble writer's opinion. But Njoku's opportunity is very fragile. Both he and Hooper have run a route on only 50% of dropbacks this season and even in last week's breakout game, Njoku was still well below the route rate we'd prefer to see. He remains a high upside dart throw.
Cowboys at Patriots, 4:25 PM eastern, Sunday
Cowboys Implied Team Total: 27
Dak Prescott ranks 14th in EPA per play and seventh in CPOE. He hasn't been as efficient as we dreamed he might be, but he's been good. The problem is that the Cowboys defense has been good too. This has allowed the Cowboys to go run heavy in every week this season outside of their Week 1 passing explosion against Tampa Bay. We know that Dak Prescott checked out of run plays in Week 1... but we probably should have thought to ask how many run plays he checked out of. Despite passing 22% over expected in Week 1, Dallas has passed just 1% over expected this season.
They now face a Patriots defense that has been a run funnel, despite having played the pass heavy Dolphins and Buccaneers. And the path of least resistance is on the ground. The Patriots rank 13th EPA allowed per dropback, but 20th in EPA allowed per rush. If the Cowboys can establish a lead, they will establish the run.
Tony Pollard has been spectacular this season. He ranks 16th in elusive rating, 13th in breakaway percentage, fourth in YPRR and leads the league in NFL Next Gen's success rate. Ezekiel Elliott is providing value as well. He's been less elusive, ranking 44th, less explosive, ranking 26th in breakaway percentage, and far less dynamic, ranking 44th in YPRR. But Zeke has been consistent, ranking fifth in success rate. Dallas' offensive line leads the league in adjusted line yards. With elite run blocking and a two backs delivering elite consistency, I can understand why the Cowboys have shifted toward a Browns style offense. I don't like it, but I understand it. Still, it's jarring to see just how much they've embraced the run. Since Week 2, they have a -10% pass rate over expected on 1st-and-10 and are -6% overall. Those rates would both rank 29th for the season.
With Dallas optimizing for the run, it shouldn't be a surprise that they've been able to support two backs. Elliott leads in snap share 72% to 33% but his lead in backfield carry share is just 61% to 37%. And he trails Pollard in target share 6% to 8%. TD opportunity has buoyed Elliott however, and he ranks 10th in PFF's expected points per game, with 16.0. Pollard ranks 41st with 9.4. Both backs have been efficient on their workloads, and this looks like a good spot for both players.
When Dallas does pass, things should be fairly condensed. CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper have been nearly dead even in their opportunity, and their combined target share is at 55% with a 62% combined air yard share. Lamb has a 2.15 YPRR and Cooper is at 1.92. Everything is in place for both to have big weeks... if the Cowboys pass enough. I'm skeptical that they do though, which means we're probably back to guessing which Cowboys wide receiver has the big week. I'll guess Lamb like I always do.
Dalton Schultz has officially taken over the starting tight end job. His route rates the last two weeks have been 76% and 75%, with Blake Jarwin at 36% and 22%. Schultz has an elite 25% TPRR and an elite 2.33 YPRR. He should be considered a locked in starter this week.
Patriots Implied Team Total: 23.5
The Patriots nearly lost to the Texans in Week 5, but Mac Jones quietly had a very strong game. Jones ranked eighth in EPA per play and third in CPOE. He now ranks 23rd in EPA per play and fourth in CPOE. Jones will face a much more difficult test this week, however.
The Cowboys rank fifth in EPA allowed per dropback and fourth in PFF's coverage grades. If the Cowboys run the ball and allow the Patriots to hang around, Jones might be fine. But if the Cowboys force Jones to play from behind in this game, it will be a major test for the rookie.
Last week the Patriots limited Jones by leaning heavily on the run, tying Chicago for the lowest pass rate over expected of Week 5. This week that approach isn't available to them. Dallas has been a major pass funnel. Opposing teams are averaged a 9% PROE. Only the Buccaneers are a bigger pass funnel defense. The Cowboys rank ninth in EPA allowed per rush, and teams also know that they need to score points to beat Dallas.
I don't expect the Patriots to force a run heavy game script here. They rank 11th in pass rate over expected and ninth in PROE on 1st-and-10, intelligently setting up Jones for success when the defense has to play the run and the pass. Jones may struggle with inefficiency in a difficult matchup, but the Patriots aren't going to compound the problem with a bad game plan.
With more volume likely on tap, Jakobi Meyers looks interesting. Meyers has a strong 23% TPRR with a 25% target share and 29% air yard share. He's run a route on 96% of dropbacks this season. There's only one thing missing.
At running back the key question is Damien Harris' health. Harris is listed as questionable and if he can't go, Rhamondre Stevenson looks like a RB2 / FLEX play despite the difficult matchup. Harris looks like a RB2 if he goes. Harris continues to break tackles and deliver big play upside. He ranks fifth in elusive rating and eighth in breakaway percentage. His role is secure if he's healthy.
Raiders at Broncos, 4:25PM eastern, Sunday
Raiders Implied Team Total: 20
John Gruden has resigned for being awful, creating an opportunity for Rich Bisaccia to step into his first head coaching position. Bisaccia has been a special teams coordinator and assistant coach, so there's very little we can glean about his offensive philosophy. It strikes me however, that the Raiders passing game is a bit precarious. The Raiders have passed 4% over expected this season and their situation neutral pass rate is up to 61%, after being at just 52% last year. Their 8% increase is fourth to only the Patriots, Ravens and Chargers. Last year's Raiders looked liked this year's Colts in terms of pass rate. This year they were tied with the Eagles in situation neutral pass rate entering Week 5.
I was skeptical of this newfound love of the pass with Gruden at the helm. Following his departure, the pass heavy shift seems even likely to continue. If we do see a shift toward the run, Derek Carr is unlikely to be efficient enough compensate for the lost volume. Carr hasn't been bad. He ranks ahead of Josh Allen in EPA per play. But he also ranks slightly ahead of Baker Mayfield and Kirk Cousins, which gives you an idea of what he'd look like in a more run-centric offense.
We don't actually know how Bisaccia will operate, however. Maybe he's really into passing? And the Broncos defense doesn't really create a reason to change anything up dramatically. Denver ranks 11th in EPA allowed per dropback and 13th in EPA allowed per rush.
Assuming something close to the status quo, I remain hopeful for Henry Ruggs and Darren Waller. Waller in particular looks well positioned this week. He's earned a target on 23% of his routes and has a deep 10.3 aDOT for a tight end. His 6.8 YPT has been very disappointing, but he's still still seeing elite volume for a tight end.
Ruggs' success this season has been built a little too heavily on per target efficiency, with a 12.9 YPT. But his 17% TPRR is still pretty strong, given his super deep 17.8 aDOT. If the Raiders stay committed to the pass he could be in for a bounce back week.
But since uncertainty in the theme for the Raiders this week, Barber has been practicing in full. Barber has been shockingly effective this season, ranking eighth in success rate, ninth in elusive rating and 11th in breakaway percentage, while Jabocbs ranks 39th, 37th, and 32nd. Jacobs is still the lead back, obviously, but it wouldn't be shocking to see Barber eat into his role.
Broncos Implied Team Total: 24
The Raiders rank ninth in EPA allowed per dropback, first in PFF's pass rush grades and second in coverage grade. It's not an ideal bounce back spot for Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater was 27th in EPA per play against the Steelers and 21st in CPOE. He's still an impressive ninth in EPA per play and eighth in CPOE this season, but it's easy to imagine him struggling in a difficult matchup.
Even if Bridgewater can play efficiently this week, which is a tall order, his volume is likely to be limited. Denver is slightly run heavy this season, ranking 22nd in pass rate over expected. The Raiders defense is a run funnel, ranking 27th in PROE against. And Denver plays very slowly, ranking 29th in situation neutral seconds per play. Overall, it's likely to be a low volume passing day.
Courtland Sutton is the engine of the Denver passing offense, and still looks like a good play despite the tough matchup and low volume environment. Sutton has a strong 9.9 YPT, but given his 17.1 aDOT he's not really running that hot. His ability to draw a target on 22% of his routes with an ultra deep aDOT is highly impressive, and has helped him earn an elite 42% air yard share. His underlying volume is why I'm wiling to stick with him despite a difficult setup.
Noah Fant isn't in Sutton's tier, but he's been fairly impressive as a target earner. He's seen a target on 20% of his routes, but he has a very poor 5.9 YPT. Normally I'd be interested in betting on positive regression with Fant's profile. But given the matchup, I'd rather wait a week to two to make that bet. Cleveland and Washington are on tap next.
Javonte Williams will likely be in a 50/50 split again this week, but he's eventually going to take over this backfield. The rookie ranks second in breakaway percentage and fourth in elusive rating. Gordon ranks 22nd and 26th. Even in the areas where you'd expect Gordon to be better—consistency and receiving—he's not. Williams ranks sixth in success rate, while Gordon ranks 10th. And Williams ranks 24th in YPRR to Gordon's 30th. Williams looks like a solid RB2 this week. And for any season long leagues that allow trades... Denver comes out of its Week 11 bye against the Chargers, Chiefs, Lions, Bengals, Raiders and Chargers. Williams is shaping up as a potential league winner.
Seahawks at Steelers, 8:20 PM eastern, Sunday
Seahawks Implied Team Total: 18.75
With Russell Wilson recovering from finger surgery, Geno Smith will be under center this week. Smith was shockingly good in Week 5, finishing 14th in EPA per play. He showed a strong command of the offense, checking in and out of plays, and I don't think Seattle's offense will crater without Wilson.
We are likely to see a hit to the value of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, however. As frustrating as Seattle has been at times this season, they've only been run heavy in one week: last week. They rank 15th in pass rate over expected, 17th in situation neutral pass rate and 16th in situation neutral pace. They weren't maximizing Wilson, but there's still serious downside on the table if they turn into run-heavy shell.
If Smith plays decently, there's no reason for them to abandon the pass this week. The Steelers rank 16th in EPA allowed per dropback and 17th in EPA allowed per rush, so Seattle's balanced approach may work well here.
Both DK Metcalf (2.59 YPRR) and Tyler Lockett (2.45 YPRR) are having elite seasons. Metcalf's looks slightly more sustainable, with a 26% TPRR to Lockett's 21%. I expect both players to decline in per target efficiency. Metcalf (10.1 YPT) and Lockett (11.5 YPT) were both due for some regression anyway, but there's little chance they sustain their high end YPT with the quarterback change. Hopefully their routes run won't decline substantially as well, although there's downside for that to occur. I'm still trusting both in lineups this week, it's just that their floor / ceiling combo is meaningfully lower.
With Chris Carson likely to miss this game, Alex Collins will get another start. Collins had a 71% snap share in Week 5, with DeeJay Dallas mixing in for 22% of snaps and Travis Homer for 12%. Dallas did match him with a 7% target share, so Collins carries a bit of risk with the Seahawks as five point underdogs. But Collins ran a route on 58% of dropbacks, so he's unlikely to be a total disaster if you need to plug him in as a RB2.
Steelers Implied Team Total: 23.75
One of the hardest things about writing this column is coming up with creative, new ways of calling Ben Roethlisberger bad. So I was actually relieved to see him play well in Week 5, turning in a fifth place ranking in EPA per play. Don't get me wrong, Roethlisberger is still having a contemptible season. He ranks 26th in EPA per play and 31st in CPOE. And even in his Week 5 bright spot, he was still highly inaccurate, finishing 27th in CPOE. You know how if your phone dies, you can put it in your pocket for a while, and it'll sometimes come back on again for a few minutes? That was Roethlisberger's Week 5.
Roethlisberger's surge of power was a mixed bag for Diontae Johnson. He saw just two targets, good for an 8% TPRR. But he had a 19.0 aDOT and turned in a 2.88 YPRR anyway. Chase Claypool benefitted from Johnson's reduced volume, seeing a target on an elite 29% of his routes while also operating with a deep threat aDOT of 13.3. JuJu Smith-Schuster's season-ending shoulder surgery should condense targets to Johnson and Claypool.
Johnson is still the favorite to lead the team in targets, but Claypool arguably has the higher ceiling. Claypool has only run a route on 83% of dropbacks. If that increases following Smith-Schuster's absence, then Claypool 25% TPRR puts him within striking distance of Johnson for targets. Last week notwithstanding, Claypool also has a deeper 12.6 aDOT to Johnson's 9.9. Claypool already leads in air yard share 39% to 36%, so more routes could unlock him as a true WR1. Keep in mind however, that Claypool only ran a route on 81% of dropbacks in Week 5, with Smith-Schuster as just 35%. An increase in routes is possible, but not guaranteed.
We don't need to hope for Najee Harris' role to increase. It's already the largest in the league. Harris' 87% snap share is the highest in the league and only Derrick Henry has a higher share of backfield carries. Harris also has an elite 21% target share. The rookie is set up very well this week as a five point home favorite, facing a run funnel Seahawks defense. Seattle's opponents have averaged a -3% pass rate over expected against them, which ties them with the Raiders and Giants as the fifth biggest run funnel this season. Seattle is actually vulnerable through the air as well, but the Steelers found success leaning on Harris last week. In their win over the Broncos they went run heavy for the first time all season. And they didn't just dabble. The Steelers had a 4% pass rate over expected in Weeks 1-4. Then they hit the Broncos with a Titans-esque -12%. Harris has upside for another true workhorse outing.
Bills at Titans, 8:15 PM eastern, Monday
Bills Implied Team Total: 29.75
Normally I would wait to talk about the Bills defense when discussing their opponent. But the Bills defense is not normal.
The Bills rank first in EPA allowed per dropback, second in EPA allowed per rush and first in EPA allowed per play. The Bills defense is playing so well that it's actually hurting the offense's fantasy output. The Bills have dropped from 2020's 61% pass rate down to 54%. Last year they ranked second in pass rate; this year they're down to 18th. Under most circumstances, if I saw a shift like this I'd start firing off jokes about the offensive coordinator. But I mean, if the Bills defense is going to limit the Chiefs, what is Brian RunDaboll supposed to do?
Buffalo leads the NFL with a 64% situation neutral pass rate, which is actually up from 2020's 63%. And the Bills rank ninth in pass rate over expected. They haven't abandoned a pass heavy approach. They just haven't been pushed by opposing offenses nearly as much as we'd like to see.
That's not going to change this week. Ryan Tannehill ranks 15th in EPA per play, which isn't bad—but the Cardinals are the only difficult matchup he's faced, and he was awful against them. His last two matchups were against the Jets and Jaguars. And while Derrick Henry is having an incredible season, a lot of his success comes down to his ability to handle a superhuman workload. The Titans only rank 17th in EPA per rush.
It shouldn't be a surprise then that the Bills are 5.5 road favorites. (I'm actually surprised they're not more heavily favored). And if they outplay the Titans as expected, positive game script could once again limit play volume.
Regardless of how much the Titans offense is able to push him, Josh Allen will be able to have his way against the Titans defense. The Titans rank 23rd in EPA allowed per dropback and 26th in EPA allowed per rush. Allen ranks just 19th in EPA per play this year, but after a slow start, Allen leads the league in EPA per play over the last three weeks. The Titans are not well suited to slow him down.
The Bills' play calling will also not slow Allen down. Buffalo ranks second in situation neutral pace, and credit to them for squeezing in the most plays they can, despite recording multiple shutouts.
Stefon Diggs has a very strong 2.1 YPRR, but just one TD this season and went just 2-for-69 last week. The explosion game is inevitable. Diggs is seeing a target on 25% of his routes, which combined with his 13.5 aDOT is elite. He has a 27% target share and a 35% air yard share. And while he's not been bad on a per target basis, his 8.2 YPT could easily spike. I have my concerns about play volume here, but Diggs' profile offers a huge ceiling in this strong matchup.
Emmanuel Sanders is significantly riskier. He's played well this season, with a 1.8 YPRR. But Sanders has an 11.3 YPT, which will regress, even with Allen's strong play. With an aDOT of 17.4 and a 16% TPRR he's basically playing a Robby Anderson role but with Allen as his quarterback instead of Sam Darnold. He brings usable fantasy value, but there's always the risk of a dud.
Cole Beasley ran a route on just 53% of dropbacks last week to 90% for Dawson Knox, who was functionally the WR3 against the Chiefs. Ben Gretch speculated that this shift in usage might have been part of the Bills' downfield gameplan against the Chiefs. That's better than any reason I can come up with, so let's go with that.
Knox has run a route on 70% of dropbacks thi season and has a target on 16% of his routes. He's going be volatile with that profile, but his routes are increasing, and I'm willing to ride the wave with him.
I've spent a lot of time writing about how the Bills can avoid running the ball a bunch in an easy win. But Zack Moss' fantasy managers should know that he has very strong upside if this game gets out of hand. Moss played on 74% of snaps last week and handles 65% of the backfield attempts. He's an upside RB2, facing a defense that ranks 28th in EPA allowed per rush.
Titans Implied Team Total: 24.25
Sometimes when a team like the Bills has a potent offense and a strong defense, they become a run funnel. We're seeing this with the Cardinals, for example. The Cardinals aren't bad against the rush, but they're still the leagues' biggest run funnel because passing against them is a chore and rushing offers the promise of less Kyler Murray possessions. But the Bills haven't been letting teams do this. They lead the league with an unreal 108 point differential. The second place Cardinals are as closer to the Broncos than they are to the Bills. Even in the Bills' head scratching Week 1 loss to the Steelers, Pittsburgh went aggressively pass heavy against them. The Steelers' 13% pass rate over expected in Week 1 was the third highest of the week and the highest the Steelers have been at all season.
All in all this shapes up as an uncomfortable matchup for the Titans, who rank dead last in pass rate over expected. And, as I also mentioned in the Bills' section, the Titans aren't even that efficient while running the ball. They rank eighth in PFF's rushing grades, so they're certainly not bad at rushing. But they rush all the time, in situations when they shouldn't. As a result they rank just 17th in EPA per rush. They're not going to be able to keep the ball away from Josh Allen with middling rushing efficiency.
Henry's season has been unreal. He already has more carries than Chris Carson did in 12 games last season. But he ranks 17th in breakaway percentage, 22nd in success rate and 35th in elusive rating. Ironically he ranks 10th in YPRR, but has seen his receiving work decline. I feel comfortable saying that no other running back in the league could do what Henry is doing. And what he's doing makes him an elite fantasy asset, obviously. But Henry's middling efficiency combined with extremely run heavy play calling, is not an optimal way to design an offense.
Ryan Tannehill cratered in Week 1 against a difficult Cardinals defense, but he did at least play very well last week against a weak Jaguars defense, ranking second in EPA per play last week. To win this game, the Titans will almost certainly need to rely on him, at least to an extent. Maybe this uncomfortable matchup will finally unlock the Titans' passing game.
Julio Jones should be back this week, and should be a huge boost to the passing game with a 2.24 YPRR. It doesn't feel like it, but Julio has remained elite on per route basis this year. Part of that is due to an 11.3 YPT, which will regress, but he's also seen a target on 20% of his routes, and has played well when on the field.
Nothing can get this passing offense going like A.J. Brown. Brown admitted this week that the Titans coaches are limiting his routes, and likely will until about Week 10, to make sure he doesn't re-injure his hamstring.
Although, Brown ran a route on 92% of dropbacks in Week 5, so this doesn't seem to be having a huge effect. The larger issue for Brown is that he has a 5.7 YPT. But with an aDOT of 14.7 that could flip in the blink of an eye. With a target on 21% of his routes, Brown actually has a very impressive profile this season. We just need him to start doing more with his targets. Given that we're talking about A.J. Brown, and given that the Titans are going to have to pass this week, that bet seems like easy money.
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.