Picking off lines appears more straightforward than it should be in reality. We must rely on a process and projections, using these to notice when the market fails to account for new or situational information. How would projections adjust with this new information, and how does the matchup alter the outlook this week? In most cases, the projection would change marginally or not at all, as markets have accounted for this information. Hone in on identifying unique ways to spot mismatches to create a significant and sustainable edge.
Detroit @ New York (Giants)
The Giants host the Lions in week 11, aiming for their eighth victory. The Giants come into this game as favorites, eyeing the win that would take them over their preseason win total. The Lions enter as 3-6 underdogs, but four of those six losses came by less than a touchdown. The Lions have continued to show spunk on offense but allow the league-worst 29.3 points per game. Winning games comes at a premium when any opposing offense transforms into a league-beater against this defense.
After orchestrating one of the most pass-heavy offenses last year, Brian Daboll has adjusted to the personnel on hand in New York. The Giants have a negative pass rate over expected on all but one situation on rbsdm.com. The one exception is a neutral pass rate over expected. This offense feeds Saquon Barkley as much as he can handle. To this point, Saquon already has 198 carries. Coming into the game as a favorite should enable the Giants to run the offense as desired. Last week as favorites, the Giants passed or were sacked on 20 plays and ran the ball 47 times! Even if the Giants find themselves behind, the offense will likely run through Saquon as the receiver corps relies on Darius Slayton and Wan’Dale Robinson. Saquon has six games with four or more targets.
Slayton has emerged as the most interesting receiving weapon for the Giants. Wan’Dale Robinson should command a higher target share, but his targets will be less valuable. On the season, Slayton has a 13.6 yard average depth of target, whereas Robinson has a 4.6 yard ADOT. Given the Giants' propensity for running, try to avoid pass catchers at all costs.
The Lions' offense remains the one redeeming quality of this team. The Lions have provided fantasy players with a myriad of fantasy viable players this season: including Amon-Ra St. Brown, T.J. Hockenson (pre-trade), Jamaal Williams, D’Andre Swift and ancillary pass catchers. With Swift dealing with injuries, the offense has again spotlighted Amon-Ra St. Brown. During the season, St. Brown’s 33.7% targets per route run ranks behind only Tyreek Hill when looking at players with 200 or more snaps. Questions continued in the offseason about whether St. Brown’s emergence as an Alpha at the end of last season was merely aberrational. He has silenced all doubters with an impressive sophomore campaign. His short bouts with injuries and lack of touchdowns since week two may cover up this dominance for others, but Amon-Ra is a top 7 to 10 receiver for the rest of the season.
D’Andre Swift appears to have lingering effects from his early season injury because he played ~31% of snaps last week while carrying no injury designation. Jamaal Williams has handled the bulk of the load, with Swift taking more time to return to full strength. Williams will not dominate snaps, but he will see the majority of carries and goalline opportunities.
The Giants' defense may not reflect that of a typical 7-2 team, but the Lions' defense rates significantly worse than the Giants' defense in all aspects. The Giants' defense has performed adequately this season, coming out as a slightly below-average passing defense and poor rushing defense. The Lions' inadequacies at stopping the run align perfectly with the Giants' game plan. If the Giants fall behind, the pass defense for the Lions has left more to be desired. The Lions have a bottom-five success rate allowed on run and pass plays.
Respect is due to the Colts for reviving their season against a putrid Raiders team. Jonathan Taylor showcased why he was the consensus 1.01 in the offseason. Taylor’s output could resemble expectations before last week more than after it. The Colts are 7-point underdogs to the Eagles and project to struggle to keep up with the Eagles’ offense. Keeping a commitment to the run could be out of the window early for the Colts.
The Bills versus Browns game has moved to Detroit because of the snowmageddon descending upon Buffalo. This move drastically improves the outlook for both passing games as they do not have to contend with adverse weather conditions. Stefon Diggs's impressive season looks to continue here. He has the third most yards and catches while sporting the ninth highest targets per route run and third most air yards. Arguably, Diggs ranks as the wide receiver one for the rest of the way.
In this week’s Detroit shootout, take Saquon Barkley over Jonathan Taylor (+3) and Amon-Ra St. Brown (+5) over Stefon Diggs. Diggs's outlook is strong, but so is Amon-Ra’s, and 5 points are too many to justify.
Chicago @ Atlanta
Few stories have the same reach and proliferation as Justin Fields’s mid-season transformation to potentially the best rushing quarterback in the NFL. Since the Bears decided to alter their offensive scheme, Fields has amassed rushing totals of 88, 82, 60, 178 and 147. Impressively, the Bears won only one game during this stretch, including losses with 29, 30 and 32 points. Across the field, the Falcons find themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt. The NFC South has been so abysmal they find themselves only one game back of the Buccaneers.
Chicago’s coaching staff deserves considerable credit for their flexibility mid-season. The passing game improved because of these alterations as well. The pass volume has not increased, but because defenses have increased their focus on Justin Fields’s rushing ability, the passing attack has been more efficient. In the first four games of the year, Fields had zero touchdown passes in four games. In the Bears’ last four games, Fields threw for one, two, three and two touchdowns. Cole Kmet has been the primary beneficiary of these touchdowns. After not getting one for a season and a half, Kmet has received five touchdowns over the last three weeks. On one of Kmet’s touchdowns, Fields’s rushing gravity drew safeties down to the rushing game leaving Kmet without a defender within 15 yards of him. Maintaining this pace is unrealistic, especially as the passing volume has not increased. Kmet should be viewed as a borderline tight end one.
The Bears opened the season with David Montgomery as the starting running back, but Khalil Herbert has been a thorn in his side ever since. Herbert has been more efficient and a “Zero RB” darling. Entering week 11, Herbert finds himself on the injured reserve opening up the backfield for Montgomery. Travis Ebner should take some work, but similar to the end of last season, this situation has broken in Montgomery’s favor. Look for Montgomery to become the workhorse in Chicago and a near running back one.
The Falcons have done nothing if not stay true to themselves this season. They run the ball at a staggering rate. In no situation on rbsdm.com do the Falcons pass more than expected. In almost any situation, this would make the Falcons’ running backs must starts, but they continue to implement a steady platoon approach. They will all receive meaningful touches, but picking out who scores, if any, is the true test. Cordarrelle Patterson has functioned as the lead back when healthy this season. After returning from IR in week nine and leading the team in touches, Patterson saw only five carries in week ten. Fantasy players can use Patterson and Allgeier but come to the table with low expectations.
If the floor is low for running backs, then the receiving options on the Falcons have no floor. The passing volume is so abysmal that Mariota has thrown for over 200 yards once since week three. Knowing that the passing game has condensed around Drake London and Kyle Pitts should provide Falcons backers some solace. Pitts and London rank 10th and 14th in TPRR, respectively. Despite the high target rates, Pitts has two weeks over 30 receiving yards, and London has not eclipsed 40 receiving yards in a game since week three. While the variance has not favored Pitts or London of late, follow the targets and talent.
Chicago and Atlanta should not offer too much resistance on the defensive end. Both teams are near the bottom of the league against the pass and run. The low passing volume could mask the poor passing defenses on both sides of the field. The defensive differential mainly comes out as a wash in this matchup, but Atlanta allows slightly higher success rates in both the pass and rush game. The lackluster defense will allow the offenses to prosper. When looking to start players on both sides, consider how the rushing deployment could lower the total number of plays.
Somewhat reluctantly, David Montgomery over Cordarrelle Patterson (+1) presents a great opportunity. Additionally, Kyle Pitts over Cole Kmet (+1) deserves a play.
Week ten showed how fickle predicting playing status on a Friday can be. With Ezekiel Elliott looking assured to play on Sunday, it came out on Friday that he very well could miss the game. Accordingly, Elliott versus Pollard pushed. While Adams did command target share and erupt, Aaron Jones had one of his classic blow-up games Unfortunately Jones plus the points prevailed over Adams.
Josh Allen’s injury status also looked potentially dubious on Friday morning, but he stuck it out and largely seemed unphased. Jefferson and Diggs both put up impressive numbers, but Jefferson’s nearly 200 yards and a touchdown were too big of obstacles for Diggs. Taking the points in this matchup should have been a no-brainer. Hockenson was far from explosive last week but found himself targeted enough to easily outdo Kittle, who only saw two targets. A solid 2-1 week in which all our plays performed above market expectations.
The momentum continues with a solid but not insane week ten. As we move into week 11, we must continue to find spots where the market fails to fully account for new data. Agree or disagree with my picks, join me in the TopProp streets this week, where you can put your money where your mouth is.
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TPRR is courtesy of the 33rd Team and Sports Info Solutions and success rate data is from rbsdm.com.