Why Rodgers, Packers Should Enjoy a Big Week
NFL Week 11 – The Packers have had a season of drama that started with Aaron Rodgers’ trade request and perceived fallout in a 38-3 loss to the Saints in Week 1 and then continued in recent weeks with Davante Adams’ and Rodgers’ COVID-related absences and the revelation that Rodgers may or may not have lied about his vaccination status. But all the while, the Packers have kept winning. Their 12th-place ranking in DVOA may not stand out , but the Packers are 8-2 and hold first place in the NFC thanks to the tiebreaker they earned with a last-second victory over the Cardinals.
The more things seem to change in Green Bay, the more they stay the same. And I have little doubt the Packers will continue to roll while their lead back Aaron Jones misses a week or two with a sprained MCL. But don’t overlook what that loss could change in fantasy even if the end results for the team are likely to stay the same. In fact, Jones’ absence motivates a pair of Packers’ jumps to the top of my positional rankings this week in a plus matchup in the dome in Minnesota.
The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven)—home and road and dome and outside—the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.
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|Best Week 11 Matchups – Quarterbacks|
Let’s start with the obvious. The Vikings are unlikely to maintain their sixth-place ranking in pass defense DVOA with star pass-rusher Danielle Hunter out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. The team has already regressed toward neutral in my matchup adjustments. They are projected to cut passing touchdown rate by just 9%. And they project to boost passing yards per attempt by 1%. But Rodgers lands a top-five ranking at his position for the first time this season for a different pair of reasons. First, he avoids his typical second-half wintery weather in places such as Green Bay and Chicago with his trip to the dome in Minnesota. Domes increase passing yards and touchdowns per attempt by 4% and 7% even for visiting quarterbacks. And those improvements stand out even more this time of the year when half of the field at the position has to play in some combination of sub-60-degree temperatures and—in places such as Chicago, Cleveland, and Buffalo—moderate winds and potentially rain. Second, Rodgers will likely be forced to air it out more than usual because Jones was his primary conservative option with 47 targets this season. AJ Dillon is a better receiver than one would expect of a 247-pound power back, but I’ll believe he can handle a Derrick Henry type of workload when I see it. And while a pass-heavier offensive attack may hurt the Packers compared to their Jones-enabled script, its extra passing yards and touchdowns are likely to offset any extra turnovers in fantasy. As such, Rodgers is up to seventh in my true talent rankings and doesn’t need a dramatic matchup boost to land in my top five quarterbacks this week.
Best DraftKings Values: Cam Newton ($800 underpriced at $5,100), Tua Tagovailoa ($700 underpriced at $5,500), Derek Carr ($300 underpriced at $5,900)
Best FanDuel Values: Aaron Rodgers ($500 underpriced at $7,700), Tua Tagovailoa ($500 underpriced at $7,000), Lamar Jackson ($400 underpriced at $8,400)
Cam Newton may be the most polarizing quarterback from an analytical perspective. So I guess it’s little surprise that his disparate DFS prices of $5,100 in DraftKings and $7,500 in FanDuel that make him one of the best values at the position in the former platform and one of the worst in the latter. I recognize that I’m putting a lot of faith in a small number of throws I have seen Newton make in the preseason and as a red zone package player in his return to the Panthers last week. But Newton’s throwing mechanics look better to me, and I think that makes sense on the heels of his 2020 shoulder surgery and some real recovery time for the first time in his career. It may not last for the next two months, but Newton is healthy now. And when he has been healthy in his career, Newton has always been a top-eight quarterback in fantasy points per game. FanDuel prices Newton in that range as the 10th-most expensive quarterback. But DraftKings has him 27th at the position, tied with the people’s punching bag Jared Goff. I’ll happily bet on a rushing touchdown or two at that discounted price.
|Worst Week 11 Matchups – Quarterbacks|
The Bills have an outlier of a fearsome pass defense at -24.9% in DVOA. They are the No. 1 cutter of passing yards and touchdowns at 21% and 57% per attempt and No. 1 increaser of interception rate at 112%. And since he is a mid-tier QB2 even in a neutral matchup, Carson Wentz is a no-brainer sit on the road in Buffalo this Sunday. I have him 25th among the 30 quarterback starters with a game this weekend.
The more difficult calls are Jalen Hurts and Russell Wilson. Those typical top-eight passers fall to borderline QB1 status at 9th and 11th at the position against the Saints and Cardinals this week. Hurts insulates himself from even a top-four pass defense with his rushing ability and is likely too promising to bench. But Wilson made me question the health of his broken finger when his Seahawks were shut out in his first game off injured reserve. You may not have a better option, but I have Kirk Cousins and Joe Burrow higher, and they are both available in about 15% of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues.
Worst DraftKings Values: Ryan Tannehill ($900 overpriced at $6,700), Jalen Hurts ($400 overpriced at $6,800), Russell Wilson ($300 overpriced at $6,500)
Worst FanDuel Values: Ryan Tannehill ($600 overpriced at $7,800), Cam Newton ($100 overpriced at $7,500), Carson Wentz ($100 overpriced at $6,900)
It’s much easier to avoid Hurts and Wilson in daily formats where their $6,800 and $6,500 DraftKings prices are mostly unchanged from last week. Hurts is actually $300 more expensive despite a more difficult matchup. But Ryan Tannehill stands out as the most overpriced quarterback, and I think that has less to do with his plus Texans matchup and more to do with a top-11 fantasy point total that I don’t expect him to maintain in the second half. Tannehill is tied with Hurts and Sam Darnold (of all quarterbacks) with five rushing touchdowns, two more than the rest of the field at the position. And while he will likely continue to see an uptick in carry share near the end zone with Derrick Henry out injured, Tannehilll has little chance to continue his streak of five touchdowns on his five carries inside the 5-yard line. Tannehill has a 1.6-touchdown surplus over his 3.4 expected total. And if you take that touchdown fortune away, Tannehill would fall to about 15th at the position, well below his eighth- and sixth-place salaries in DFS this week.
|Best Week 11 Matchups – Running Backs|
Nick Chubb missed Week 10 on the COVID list and is no guarantee to play this weekend. But whichever of Chubb and D’Ernest Johnson starts, I want them in my fantasy lineups. The Lions are bottom-five in both run and pass defense DVOA. And as teams tend to run up the score on them, the Lions boost run plays by 17% per game in addition to their 1% and 30% boosts to yards and touchdowns per carry. Chubb is more of a back-end RB1 in a typical fantasy week because of his lack of involvement in the passing game. But Chubb is also the master of breakaway carries of 20-plus yards. He has 40 of them since 2018, eight more than Derrick Henry and nearly double the rest of the field at the position. This seems like a matchup where Chubb could have a couple of those. And so even with his recent absences, I’d consider him as a DFS building block if he can return to action this Sunday.
Best DraftKings Values: AJ Dillon ($1,700 underpriced at $6,200), James Conner ($1,100 underpriced at $6,100), Wayne Gallman ($800 underpriced at $4,000)
Best FanDuel Values: AJ Dillon ($1,200 underpriced at $7,000), Myles Gaskin ($900 underpriced at $6,200), James Conner ($500 underpriced at $7,200)
I may think it a stretch that he can match Aaron Jones’ typical target share while he takes the bulk of the team’s carries, but AJ Dillon seems like a certainty to do the latter. The Packers’ promising sixth-round rookie Kylin Hill tore his ACL several weeks ago, and so the team has just undrafted sophomore Patrick Taylor as a secondary option. Taylor took his first two NFL carries after Jones went down on Sunday, but Dillon outplayed him 49% to 4% of snaps and seems poised to maintain that workload skew for the next few weeks. And while Dillon has taken a backseat to Jones himself to the chagrin of Packers fans that hoped his second-round draft pick might address a more pressing team need, Dillon has been excellent when he has played. His 2.7 yards after contact per attempt is fourth-highest of backs with 50-plus carries since the start of 2020. And unlike the power-only Ronald Jones (2.8) ranked just ahead of him, Dillon has helped his team with 4.1 YAC+ per reception. He has the skill set to play a temporary bell-cow role and lands as the best DFS value at his position thanks to modest price increases to $6,200 and $7,000 in DraftKings and FanDuel.
|Worst Week 11 Matchups – Running Backs|
On a streak of seven games with 100 or more yards from scrimmage and at least one touchdown, Jonathan Taylor is on the cusp of the No. 1 fantasy ranking. But his recent run of success owes at least something to a schedule that has included the Texans, Titans, and Jets in the bottom 10 in run defense DVOA, plus the Jaguars ranked 28th in overall defense. The Bills will be a different test. They may be better against the pass than the run, but their combined excellence hurts backs the most by cutting run plays by 16% per game and rushing touchdowns by 28% per attempt. You can’t bench Taylor in any sort of traditional format. But his projected loss of 1.7 PPR points is more than double any other back this week. It may be a rare week to avoid him in daily formats, in particular FanDuel where his $8,800 salary ranks third ahead of other top-tier fantasy backs such as Najee Harris and Ezekiel Elliott with dramatically better matchups.
Worst DraftKings Values: Jeremy McNichols ($500 overpriced at $5,300), Khalil Herbert ($500 overpriced at $4,800), Jordan Howard ($400 overpriced at $4,800)
Worst FanDuel Values: Jordan Howard ($500 overpriced at $5,900), Jonathan Taylor ($400 overpriced at $8,800), Austin Ekeler ($300 overpriced at $8,200)
I can understand an opinion that Taylor sees too much work and is too productive to sweat his matchups. But I can’t do the same for Jordan Howard. His promotion to the Eagles roster has coincided with the rebirth of their season with a balanced offensive attack. And Howard has been the best producer in their backfield with 41 carries, 211 yards, and three touchdowns the last three weeks. I just don’t think he has been the reason for the renaissance as much as the team’s schedule. The Lions, Chargers, and Broncos rank 29th, 32nd, and 23rd in run defense DVOA and have helped Howard turn a 32.5% carry share (ranked just inside the top 40 at his position) into RB2 rushing totals. Even if Miles Sanders can’t make it back this week, that seems likely to change if Howard faces regression from his 0.8-touchdown surplus or simply struggles to find opportunities against a Saints team that cuts run plays by 19% per game and rushing yards and touchdowns by 33% and 30% per attempt. And Howard seems likely to be especially sensitive to his defensive matchups—he is yet to catch a pass this season.
|Best Week 11 Matchups – Wide Receivers|
As the 16th- and eighth-best pass defenses by DVOA, the Steelers and Packers may not be the friendly defensive opponents that normally litter the top wide receiver matchup lists. But Keenan Allen and Adam Thielen both project for more than 60% slot target rates, and those defenses are a bit more lenient to slot receivers than they are to No. 1 wideouts on the outside. The Steelers cut No. 1 receiver touchdowns by 10% per target but increase them for slot receivers by 9%. And the Packers cut the former touchdowns by 53% per target but cut the latter ones by just 1%. All told, Allen and Thielen lose just 0.1 and 0.4 projected PPR points for their respective opponent matchups, and they more than offset those totals with home games in their domes in Los Angeles and Minnesota. Slot receivers enjoy 8% and 14% boosts in yards and touchdowns per target at home in domes. And Allen in particular has a matching track record averaging 12.1 targets and 20.0 PPR points per game at home versus 8.7 and 14.0 on the road since the Chargers moved to SoFi Stadium in 2020.
Best DraftKings Values: Tyler Johnson ($1,300 underpriced at $3,400), Davante Adams ($600 underpriced at $8,400), Keenan Allen ($600 underpriced at $6,900)
Best FanDuel Values: Tyler Johnson ($800 underpriced at $5,100), Hunter Renfrow ($600 underpriced at $6,100), Keenan Allen ($500 underpriced at $7,100)
With Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski out in recent weeks, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans have capably carried the Bucs’ passing production. But while it hasn’t led to much fantasy scoring, Tyler Johnson has quietly increased his snap share from 16% in Week 6 to 60%-plus the last three games, while his target share has jumped from 6.4% to 11.4%. Those recent rates may not make him a star, but they make Johnson a borderline WR3/WR4 who is a touchdown in an explosive passing offense away from some major returns on an investment of DFS salaries outside the top 75 at the position. If you are looking for a cheap option to complete a lineup of more expensive stars, roll with Johnson now before the Bucs return to full strength.
|Worst Week 11 Matchups – Wide Receivers|
Ron Rivera’s return to Carolina offers plenty of narratives this weekend. But from a fantasy perspective, don’t overlook the matchup angle for top Washington and Panthers receivers Terry McLaurin and DJ Moore. Despite a consistent top pass defense that is up to second in DVOA, the Panthers did not have the cornerback bodies to match up with their opponents’ No. 1 receivers. But then they traded for former defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore, and he has spurred the team’s improvements from increases in yards and touchdowns for No. 1 receivers by 3% and 14% per target in Week 8 to decreases by 8% and 20% per target this week. I think this matchup may be scarier than even McLaurin’s projected 0.4 loss of PPR points would suggest, especially with the Panthers’ tendency to cut their opponent’s pass plays by 5% per game, second-most in football. Still saddled with former Panthers player and likely long-term backup Taylor Heinicke at quarterback, McLaurin falls outside of my top 20 receivers this week despite a 27.3% target share that has him in the top 10 at the position this season.
Worst DraftKings Values: Terry McLaurin ($1,600 overpriced at $7,000), DJ Moore ($1,600 overpriced at $5,900), Michael Pittman ($800 overpriced at $6,100)
Worst FanDuel Values: DJ Moore ($1,100 overpriced at $6,700), Terry McLaurin ($600 overpriced at $7,000), Michael Pittman ($600 overpriced at $6,900)
Moore doesn’t have the same defensive concerns that McLaurin does. Even before Chase Young tore his ACL last Sunday, Washington was a major disappointment with the 29th-ranked pass defense and as increasers of passing touchdowns by 19%, 67%, and 55% per target to No. 1, No. 2, and slot receivers. Even with unseasonably colder temperatures in Carolina, Moore has a plus matchup. But he pops as one of the worst values at his position in DFS this week because of what Cam Newton will likely mean for the Panthers offense. Sam Darnold was hardly the most efficient passer, but he did throw the ball 34.0 times per game and targeted the undersized Moore seven times in the end zone, tied for 10th-most at the position this season. Newton takes a dramatically different approach to offensive football that netted him just 24.5 pass attempts per game with the Patriots in 2020 and 30.8 in his last full season with the Panthers in 2017. And relying mostly on his own rushing near the goal line, Newton targeted Moore just four times in the end zone in 16 games together in 2018 and 2019—it’s no coincidence that the receiver scored just six combined touchdowns in his first two seasons. Moore is no worse a player today than he was two weeks ago, but he could suffer a similar fall from fantasy grace that Allen Robinson has this year in a different offense with a new quarterback in Justin Fields. And unless I’m proven wrong, I will need a steeper discount than the $500 and $400 ones Moore is seeing compared to Darnold’s last start in Week 9 in order to return him to my daily lineups.
|Best Week 11 Matchups – Tight Ends|
The Chargers have a well-earned reputation as a poor run defense. They rank 32nd in that category in DVOA and are one of just two teams that allow a positive DVOA rate on runs, a difficult achievement given the typical difference in expected efficiencies of runs and passes. But even as the team cut opponent pass plays by 5% and increased run plays by 20%, I was starting to see them as a plus matchup for tight ends. And then they allowed another two tight end touchdowns to Tyler Conklin on Sunday. At this point, the Chargers have allowed eight tight end touchdowns on the season, second-most in football. And since they have already had their bye, the team pops as the No. 1 increaser of tight end touchdown rate at 77% per target. Pat Freiermuth had his worst game of the season in Week 10 with just five catches on nine targets and a fumble in overtime that cost his Steelers a chance at a game-winning field goal. But he has had a 19.3% target share since JuJu Smith-Schuster was lost for the year in Week 6 that ranks 10th-highest at the position, and he may have Ben Roethlisberger back this week if the quarterback can clear COVID protocols. I’m in on the bounce back and rank Freiermuth seventh at the position this week.
Best DraftKings Values: Dawson Knox ($500 underpriced at $4,000), Adam Trautman ($500 underpriced at $3,300), O.J. Howard ($400 underpriced at $2,800)
Best FanDuel Values: Pat Freiermuth ($600 underpriced at $5,200), Adam Trautman ($500 underpriced at $4,800), Zach Ertz ($400 underpriced at $5,000)
Dawson Knox had just one catch and 17 yards in his return from a broken hand in Week 10. But the Steelers hardly needed his contributions as a receiver as they drubbed the Jets 45-17 with mostly their running game. For me, the positive sign for Knox was an 84% snap share that mirrored his typical rates from before the injury. I think it’s fair to assume he is fully recovered. And while he’ll never be the most consistent tight end in fantasy with production that skews more toward touchdowns than consistent targets, Knox led the position with five touchdowns and was second with 2.7 expected touchdowns the first six weeks. I project him for 0.60 scores this week that, apart from Travis Kelce’s total of 0.61, make him a positive outlier. At $4,000 in DraftKings especially, he makes a lot of sense as part of a Bills passing stack since their opposing Colts defense ranks dramatically better in defense of the run than the pass. Just make sure the rain stays away.
|Worst Week 11 Matchups – Tight Ends|
Knox stands out as a DFS value in part because so many of the top-tier options at the position suffer poor matchups this week. The Saints, Patriots, and Bears are all top-four cutters of tight end yards per target, and their matchups cost Dallas Goedert, Kyle Pitts, and Mark Andrews 0.9, 0.4, and 0.4 projected PPR points. Pitts and Andrews see too much work to bypass them in season-long leads. Their losses don’t even knock them from their top-five perches at the position. But Goedert was already a concern after he suffered a concussion last week. And with his matchup-driven fall from eighth to 11th at the position this week, I’d consider other plans. Knox and Freiermuth have the better matchups I mentioned, and they remain available in about one-half and one-quarter of ESPN leagues, respectively.
Worst DraftKings Values: Mark Andrews ($1,100 overpriced at $6,000), Kyle Pitts ($800 overpriced at $5,900), Dallas Goedert ($200 overpriced at $4,400)
Worst FanDuel Values: Mark Andrews ($900 overpriced at $7,000), Mike Gesicki ($500 overpriced at $6,300), Dalton Schultz ($300 overpriced at $6,000)
Where Andrews, Pitts, and Goedert have matchups to blame for their DFS overpricing, Gesicki does not. His Jets opponent increases tight end yards and touchdowns by 20% and 14% per target, respectively. The issue is that Gesicki remains priced as a top-six tight end at $6,300 in FanDuel, but he has trended down of late. In Weeks 3 to 6, Gesicki ranked fourth at the position with 8.8 targets and 15.8 PPR points per game. But in the four weeks since, he has declined to 6.8 targets and 10.2 PPR points per game. Gesicki has been one of the more efficient tight ends in football with 11.5 yards per catchable target. But stuck in a bottom-10 offense by DVOA, Gesicki has seen just a 65.7% rate of catchable targets, the lowest among tight ends with 30 or more targets this season.