Carr, Renfrow Should Fly High Against Washington
NFL Week 13 - After the Raiders lost their head coach and No. 1 receiver—and then scored just 16, 14, and 13 points in a three-game losing streak—they became a write-off in both the real-world playoff race and for many fantasy players. I think at least the latter group should reconsider. The Raiders would not be the first team to produce an unusual result on a short week. But I took Las Vegas' 36-point Thanksgiving outburst as a reminder of the importance of matchup considerations such as dome venues and opponents. And while the Raiders may face another challenge with star tight end Darren Waller dealing with back and knee injuries, they have a plus matchup this Sunday that could buoy Derek Carr even with lesser skill talent and could turn some unexpected players into fantasy values.
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 13 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
Carr's drop to 15th in my true talent rankings captures the weapons he has lost, such as Henry Ruggs and presumably Darren Waller. But he jumps back into my QB1 list at 12th at the position thanks to matchup considerations. Carr is at home in the dome, where he has averaged 1.7 more fantasy points per game than on the road. And with a stout defensive front but underwhelming secondary, his Washington opponent has settled as a poor pass defense and one of the most extreme defenses versus the pass and the run. They rank 30th in pass defense DVOA and seventh in run defense DVOA. Unsurprisingly, then, they cut run plays by 22% per game but increase passing yards and touchdowns by 6% and 44% per attempt. That latter number is the highest in football. Josh Jacobs may be the last Raiders star on offense, but I still expect Carr to sling some touchdowns even if they are to no-names such as Zay Jones and Bryan Edwards.
Best DraftKings Values: Derek Carr ($700 underpriced at $6,000), Taylor Heinicke ($600 underpriced at $5,600), Tom Brady ($400 underpriced at $7,200)
Best FanDuel Values: Tom Brady ($600 underpriced at $8,100), Taylor Heinicke ($400 underpriced at $7,100), Derek Carr ($300 underpriced at $7,500)
If you prefer to spend more salary on your quarterback or have a better stacking opportunity in DFS, Tom Brady is an excellent choice this week. I thought he was last week too when he faced a Washington-like Colts defense that is better against the run than the pass. But his lone touchdown belied what easily could have been a standout fantasy day. Leonard Fournette ran in three touchdowns, two of which came within 5 yards of the end zone. And while we tend to think of those red zone carries as running back touchdown predictors, they forecast passing scores similarly well. Brady in fact has 29 passing scores in the red zone this season, five more than any other passer. I think he has his eyes set on 50 touchdowns and one last MVP trophy, and so I expect him to be more assertive in the red zone this weekend. And it should be an excellent one for his chances for passing scores. He's on the road but in the dome in Atlanta, and domes boost even road quarterback yards and touchdowns by 4% and 7% per attempt. Meanwhile, the Falcons have a bottom-five pass defense and bottom-five overall defense by DVOA. And while the general ineffectiveness motivates their opponents to have 12% more run plays per game than usual, the Falcons still increase passing touchdowns by 21% per attempt, fourth-most in football. That makes Brady an excellent value at just $7,200 and $8,100 in DraftKings and FanDuel. And with the clarity that Antonio Brown will miss another couple of weeks, it's easier to stack Brady with a more concentrated skill group of Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, and Fournette.
|Worst Week 13 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
Brady's replacement in New England may fairly be earning comparisons for his rookie-season decision-making, accuracy, and winning ways. But Mac Jones is a classic example of a better real-world-than-fantasy quarterback. His 310-yard Week 12 outburst was just his second 300-yard performance all season. He threw for just 217, 139, 198, and 207 yards in his previous four games, all four of which were wins. The Patriots excel up front with 4.36 adjusted line yards and on defense with the second-best DVOA, and so they fairly ask less of their rookie quarterbacks than teams such as the Jaguars and Bears do of Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields with lesser supporting casts. Even with four teams on bye, that run-heavy approach lands Jones just 23rd in true talent at his position. Meanwhile, he falls further to 26th among quarterbacks this week facing a Bills defense that ranks first in DVOA against the pass, cuts passing yards and touchdowns by 20% and 50% per attempt, and increases interception rate by 89%. With 204 yards and five touchdowns, Jonathan Taylor may have changed my perception of the excellence of a Bills defense that had mostly faced bottom-10 DVOA offenses in the first half of the season. But if the Patriots can follow his blueprint, that seems likely to manifest as Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson production rather than Jones production. I would leave the standout rookie on my fantasy benches this week, even in typical two-quarterback formats.
Worst DraftKings Values: Josh Allen ($700 overpriced at $7,900), Joe Burrow ($600 overpriced at $6,300), Russell Wilson ($500 overpriced at $6,400)
Worst FanDuel Values: Josh Allen ($400 overpriced at $8,800), Joe Burrow ($300 overpriced at $7,400), Mac Jones ($200 overpriced at $6,800)
Josh Allen is too good to ever sit in traditional fantasy formats. And his position-leading $700 and $400 overpricing in the DFS formats with his difficult matchup with the Patriots defense is less of a concern with it being on Monday night. If you are playing a Sunday-only slate, I would fade Joe Burrow. More so than even Mac Jones, Burrow has impressed me with intangibles such as pressure-avoidance in the pocket this season. I think his future is bright, both in real football and in fantasy. I just don't think this is the week to build around him in DFS. The Chargers defense is bottom-10 in overall DVOA, but their poor play centers on a last-place run defense that is dramatically worse than their pass defense (11th). It follows then that the Chargers cut pass plays by 4% and increase run plays by 17% per game. I suspected a run-heavy game plan just for the matchup. But the Bengals may put more eggs in the Joe Mixon basket because of a weather forecast in Cincinnati with a 57% chance of rain and 15-mph sustained winds with gusts over 20 mph. Heavy rain and wind increase run plays by 10% and 4% per game, respectively.
|Best Week 13 Matchups - Running Backs|
When Dalvin Cook missed Weeks 3 and 5 with an ankle injury, Alexander Mattison proved his handcuff mettle with 32 touches each week. I'm skeptical Mattison will continue that extreme volume as a temporary starter. I'm projecting some work for speedy rookie Kene Nwangwu, who has two of the just six kick return touchdowns this season himself. But from a rankings perspective, that projected workload split may not matter with the Vikings' matchup. The Lions are likely better than you expect with the 21st run defense DVOA. And they increase rushing yards and touchdowns per carry by modest rates of 1% and 9%, respectively. But the Lions' poor passing offense and defense together help their opponents build leads and increase their run plays by 16% as they run in second halves to kill clock. Mattison had one of his two 32-touch outbursts against the Lions. And while I normally would warn you to avoid the small-sample conclusions of single games, that one matches the broader trends of Lions opponents this season. Start Mattison as a top-five back with confidence.
Best DraftKings Values: Jamaal Williams ($2,100 underpriced at $5,400), James Conner ($1,500 underpriced at $5,900), Antonio Gibson ($1,500 underpriced at $5,700)
Best FanDuel Values: Antonio Gibson ($1,600 underpriced at $6,200), Jamaal Williams ($1,300 underpriced at $6,500), James Conner ($700 underpriced at $7,300)
The DFS platforms anticipated the Mattison start and priced him fifth and seventh at the position, respectively. If you want to chase value in players likely to play more than their salaries suggest, I recommend either Jamaal Williams or James Conner instead. D'Andre Swift is set to miss at least one week with a sprained shoulder, and Williams took 11 of the Lions' 12 carries after Swift exited in the second quarter on Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, Conner has jumped from five total targets in Weeks 1 to 8 combined to 15 targets in his last three games with normal receiving back Chase Edmonds sidelined with a high ankle sprain. Edmonds is already ruled out for Week 13, and so I see Conner as a top-eight fantasy option at his position.
Antonio Gibson may seem like a strange value leader in FanDuel. His workload won't increase with a teammate injury. And while the Raiders are a technically plus matchup, they increase rushing yards and touchdowns by modest rates of 4% and 10% per carry. But I'm bullish on Gibson's workload because I think he has turned a corner in his recovery from a shin injury. Because while Gibson has seen his average fall from an already meager 4.0 yards per carry before a Week 9 bye to 3.8 since, his avoided tackle rate has nearly tripled from 6.3% to 15.3%. Gibson set season highs with 24 and 29 carries in two of his last three weeks, and I expect him to dominate his backfield in touches this week even assuming J.D. McKissic recovers from a concussion in time to play on Sunday.
|Worst Week 13 Matchups - Running Backs|
The Chiefs may still have a bottom-five run defense DVOA for the full season, but that rate has fallen from 9.6% (32nd) the first weeks to -16.5% (eighth) since (with negative numbers indicating better defensive play). And in that time, they have improved their opponent adjustment projections from increasing rushing touchdown rate by 124% to decreasing it by 25%. I don't view the Chiefs as a plus run matchup anymore. As such, I'm not eager to start Melvin Gordon this week as he deals with a hip injury. With a projected loss of half a PPR point, Gordon falls outside my top 20 at his position.
Worst DraftKings Values: Ezekiel Elliott ($900 overpriced at $7,900), Latavius Murray ($800 overpriced at $5,100), Mike Davis ($200 overpriced at $4,700)
Worst FanDuel Values: Ezekiel Elliott ($800 overpriced at $8,400), Elijah Mitchell ($500 overpriced at $7,600), Latavius Murray ($500 overpriced at $5,900)
Speaking of injuries, Ezekiel Elliott is dealing with one with his knees and plays tonight in New Orleans. Owner/general manager Jerry Jones told reporters he expects Elliott to see a heavy workload, but I have projected a more even split between Elliott and Tony Pollard than I normally do. But even if Elliott were fully healthy, I wouldn't love him at top-six DFS salaries against the Saints. Their defense suffered a tough showing against a resurgent Eagles run game in Week 11, but over the full season, the Saints still rank first in run defense DVOA and cut rushing yards and touchdowns by 23% and 46% per attempt, both top-two in football. It would be one thing if Elliott was Jonathan Taylor and the focal point of his offense. But the Cowboys have the firepower to win in a variety of ways and seem likely to target the Saints defensive weaknesses with Dak Prescott and his returning star receivers CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper.
|Best Week 13 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
Washington has a bad enough secondary to spur a 30th-ranked pass defense despite their plus talent on the defensive line. And so it likely isn't a surprise to see that Washington boosts touchdown rates for No. 1, No. 2, and slot receivers. As mentioned for Derek Carr, random-seeming receivers such as Zay Jones and Bryan Edwards could have big days. But I am by far the most bullish on Hunter Renfrow. Washington has been particularly friendly to slot receivers, increasing their yards and touchdowns by 12% and 57% per target, both top-six in football. And Renfrow was already 14th among receivers with 7.8 targets per game since Week 9. With Darren Waller likely out as well, Renfrow could see a ridiculous number of targets this week. That has him eighth in my true-talent rankings, and the matchup vaults him to third at the position. Start him in all of your traditional and daily lineups.
Best DraftKings Values: Hunter Renfrow ($1,600 underpriced at $5,800), Laviska Shenault ($700 underpriced at $4,400), Darnell Mooney ($700 underpriced at $5,600)
Best FanDuel Values: Hunter Renfrow ($1,200 underpriced at $6,400), Laviska Shenault ($700 underpriced at $5,400), Darnell Mooney ($300 underpriced at $6,700)
Laviska Shenault and Darnell Mooney may not have every star aligning for their fantasy productivity this week. But they will likely both enjoy some extra targets because of teammate injuries. Shenault teased us with that potential when DJ Chark went out for the season, but he ended up shifting to the outside to directly replace Chark and suffered in fantasy because of it. But after slot receiver Jamal Agnew went down, as well, Shenault returned to his more natural slot position in Week 12 and saw nine targets. I'm more optimistic for Shenault now than I was a week ago, but his DraftKings salary is the same this week as it was last week and his FanDuel salary decreased by $200. Meanwhile, Mooney has 24 targets the last two weeks with Allen Robinson out injured. That's the second-most at his position behind just Diontae Johnson at 27. And even though Robinson seems likely to miss more time since he's yet to return to practice, Mooney maintains just the 26th- and 23rd-most expensive DFS salaries among wide receivers. Take advantage while you can even in a difficult Cardinals matchup.
|Worst Week 13 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
Kendrick Bourne and Tee Higgins enjoyed season-best fantasy performances on Sunday, the former with two touchdowns against the Titans and the latter with 114 yards and one touchdown against the Steelers. But while those great games inform my top-30 true-talent rankings for both players, Bourne and Higgins fall to 37th and 32nd at the position with difficult matchups this week and may belong on your fantasy benches. The Bills may not maintain their No. 1 pass defense DVOA standard with star cornerback Tre'Davious White out for the season with an ACL tear. But their defense was always more than one player. They have been the No. 1 cutter of touchdown rate for No. 1, No. 2, and slot receivers. And that general excellence is likely the best kind to limit Bourne with his inside/outside versatility and in a Patriots offense that is often unpredictable with the featured players in its game plans.
Worst DraftKings Values: Stefon Diggs ($1,700 overpriced at $8,000), DK Metcalf ($1,500 overpriced at $6,700), Tee Higgins ($900 overpriced at $5,800)
Worst FanDuel Values: Stefon Diggs ($1,300 overpriced at $8,300), DK Metcalf ($1,000 overpriced at $7,300), Michael Gallup ($700 overpriced at $6,500)
Higgins may not have the same to fear as Bourne in terms of one-on-one cornerback matchups. But I suspect that is why his DFS salaries remain high and make him one of the most overpriced players at the position this week. The Chargers have a decent pass defense ranked 11th in DVOA. But as mentioned for Joe Burrow, the Chargers are the league's worst run defense. I think that split explains the disparity between the Chargers increasing No. 2 receiver catch rate by 2% but decreasing their touchdown rate by 23%, top-10 in football. I wouldn't bet on another Higgins touchdown this Sunday, and so I would fade him in daily formats, too.
|Best Week 13 Matchups - Tight Ends|
If the Broncos really do struggle to run against a dramatically improving Chiefs run defense, then Noah Fant seems like the perfect receiver to benefit. His target total has dipped to 14 in three games with Jerry Jeudy back on the field, but his 16.9% target share has remained top-14 at the position in that time. The Broncos didn't need Fant when the ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns on the Chargers last week. But they likely will this Sunday, and the Chiefs increase tight end yards and touchdowns by 23% and 42% per target, both top-six in football. With the matchup gains, Fant creeps into my top 10 at the position this week.
Best DraftKings Values: Foster Moreau ($1,000 underpriced at $2,700), Brevin Jordan ($900 underpriced at $2,500), James O'Shaughnessy ($900 underpriced at $2,600)
Best FanDuel Values: James O'Shaughnessy ($500 underpriced at $4,500), Gerald Everett ($500 underpriced at $4,900), Foster Moreau ($300 underpriced at $5,000)
While Hunter Renfrow stands out with his top-three ranking at his position, Foster Moreau should enjoy similar benefits for Darren Waller's likely absence. And even though Moreau barely plays as a typical backup, I think he's talented. He has nearly matched Waller with 11.0 versus 11.3 yards per catchable target the last three seasons, albeit on a dramatically fewer total of 54 versus 347 targets. Moreau had six catches, 60 yards, and a touchdown in Week 7 with Waller sidelined, and I think that's possible for him again this week. Washington is not as plus a matchup for tight ends as it is for slot receivers, but I still have Moreau 19th at the position. That makes him particularly valuable in DraftKings where his $2,700 salary ranks him 35th at the position this week.
|Worst Week 13 Matchups - Tight Ends|
Travis Kelce is obviously too good to bench no matter a Broncos defense that cuts tight end touchdown rate by 70% per target. With Waller out, Kelce easily maintains his top ranking at his position. But I'm starting to wonder if Mike Gesicki and Dalton Schultz deserve their similar treatment. Their target shares have dropped precipitously from 18.8% and 17.7% in the first seven weeks—both in the top 10 at the position—to 16.1% and 14.7% rates since that are outside the top 15. Facing Giants and Saints defenses that are top-10 cutters of both receiving yards and touchdowns per target to tight ends, Gesicki and Schultz fall to 16th and 15th at the position this week. I rank Pat Freiermuth (assuming he returns from his concussion) and Gerald Everett higher, and they are available in a lot of fantasy leagues.
Worst DraftKings Values: Dalton Schultz ($1,800 overpriced at $5,700), Mike Gesicki ($1,300 overpriced at $5,100), Zach Ertz ($1,200 overpriced at $5,400)
Worst FanDuel Values: Mike Gesicki ($700 overpriced at $6,000), Dalton Schultz ($600 overpriced at $6,000), T.J. Hockenson ($300 overpriced at $6,100)
Since his trade to the Cardinals, Zach Ertz has nearly matched his former teammate Dallas Goedert with 29 versus 31 targets and 269 versus 275 yards. And he has bested him with three versus zero touchdowns and done all of that in five versus six games. But while I think the former teammates are close in typical value than many would expect, Ertz faces a difficult test in the Bears this week. They cut tight end catch rate and yards per target by 6% and 19%, respectively. And while Kyler Murray's anticipated return should reopen the Cardinals' passing game, No. 1 wideout DeAndre Hopkins finally returned to practice on Wednesday and could play as well. His playing would likely put a dent in Ertz's to-date heavy target shares. And with that and the matchup, Ertz strikes me as overpriced at his $5,400 DraftKings salary.