Watching the ESPN HQ War Room root for Mike White as he soared past the over was my personal highlight from Week 13. Christian Kirk and Keenan Allen hitting definitely added to the good vibes. But it was a bummer to see Jamaal Williams fall short and Kenneth Walker III exit early with an ankle injury. Drake London didn't score a TD, but he did post a season-high 95 yards, so at least the fantasy process was spot on.
Ultimately, three of my six picks hit, making for a solid weekend. Let's push for perfection this go-around. Utilizing ESPN's metrics database and some assistance from stats ace Kyle Soppe, I'm here to help you secure the bag in fantasy and at the books.
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-10, 43)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
Pick: Josh Allen OVER 0.5 INTs (-137)
Allen sits atop the QB rankings as fantasy's QB3 overall. As his investors are well aware, however, the Bills' signal-caller has gone over 20 fantasy points in only two of his past six outings. That's not something, but still more than nothing, particularly given the current positional landscape. He'll remain a top-three FF play this weekend, but facing a resurgent Jets squad, Allen looks to be in for a bigger battle than previously anticipated.
The Jets' defense has been stellar, allowing QBs a 62.5 completion percentage and giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to the position. In fact, New York prevented Allen from scoring via the air while forcing two interceptions the last time the team hosted the Bills back in Week 9. Allen has struggled with accuracy -- tossing five picks -- since injuring his elbow in that effort.
The games in which Allen has played clean have all come opposite defenses with a worse than average TD pass rate against. That's not the Jets, though. New York has managed the second-best (lowest) opponent TD rate, allowing just 11 aerial scores on the season. Furthemore, Allen's INT rate is directly proportional to his percentage of deep passes thrown (ahem, Gabe Davis). In fact, over 5% of Allen's deep passes are picked off. That's illuminating when noting that teams tend to throw deep versus the Jets, a squad that is fourth-highest in aDOT against.
Even as 10-point underdogs, the Mike While-led Jets are fixing for a fight. The team's defense -- which has forced an impressive 12 INTs -- will be looking for every advantage. Whether it's a result of elbow pain or something else, Allen has presented with a clear vulnerability. It might not translate to a down redraft effort but can be leaned into by sports bettors and DFS enthusiasts.
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-2, 51.5)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Ford Field, Detroit
Pick: Jared Goff OVER 272.5 passing yards (-125)
Lamar Jackson, Jimmy Garoppolo and Trevor Lawrence are banged up. Meanwhile, Justin Fields and Aaron Rodgers are on a bye. Oh, and Tom Brady is facing the Niners. So, yeah, in the last week of the fantasy regular season -- when millions of virtual squads are vying for a postseason run -- the QB landscape is bringing big Duffer Brother vibes. Eleven isn't here to save the day, but No. 16 very well could.
Goff has managed a YPA of 7.81 over his past six home games. Therefore, just 35 pass attempts could get him over the above line. Given a projected point total of 51.5, that seems more probable than possible, especially when considering that Goff has cleared 37 pass attempts in every game that has presented with an over/under of at least 50 points in 2022.
The Vikings have struggled to defend the pass, allowing the most yards to opposing QBs at an average of 299.6 per contest. With Goff's best playmakers back to health, his efficiency has increased. In fact, the former Rams' passer rating when not pressured has improved to eighth overall. Minnesota has made an effort to bring more pressure, but the team has still struggled to generate chaos, recording the sixth-lowest successful pressure rate in the NFL.
That gives Goff an advantage in what projects to be a close game with lots of ping-pong potential. He's a high-end stream with low-end QB1 appeal. I'd expect him to flirt with 300 passing yards in a divisional showdown.
Pick: D'Andre Swift OVER 63.5 total yards- (-127)
After weeks of being shrouded in bubble wrap, Swift was unleashed in Week 13. He recorded an 18-touch performance for the first time since Week 1 last Sunday. Swift posted 111 scrimmage yards and over 21 fantasy points in that outing, indicating his return to health and readiness to perform down the stretch.
Swift has recorded double-digit touches in 24 of 35 (68.5%) career games. Additionally, he has managed at least 4.0 YPC in 19 of those 24 efforts (79%). Given that the Lions' backfield has averaged just over 32 touches over the team's past five outings, Swift should flirt with at least 16-18 touches (50-56%) on Sunday. Sixteen touches at 4.0 YPC puts Swift at 64 scrimmage yards. That's his floor.
The Vikings have been stiffer on the ground than through the air. But Minnesota has struggled versus elusive RBs who thrive in space, allowing the ninth-most rushing yards on attempts outside of the tackles (versus the fourth-fewest rushing yards between the tackles). Jamaal Williams is still very much the team's inside grinder (90% between the tackles rate). Meanwhile nearly 35% of Swift's attempts have been outside the tackles.
Additionally, Swift remains the Lions' preferred back on passing downs, averaging over three catches per contest. That sets up nicely against a Vikings squad that has allowed the sixth-most receptions and third-most receiving yards to opposing RBs. Ultimately, Swift's versatility makes him hard to take off of the field, especially in a game with so much scoring potential. He deserves top-15 consideration heading into the weekend.
Kansas City Chiefs (-9, 44) at Denver Broncos
Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, Empower Field at Mile High, Denver
Pick: Isiah Pacheco OVER 63.5 rushing yards (-117)
Full disclosure: if you're a Jerick McKinnon fan then this isn't the prop for you.
Admittedly, the data supporting Pacheco's role as the RB1 is limited. However, McKinnon has never -- over a seven-year career -- managed a 160-carry season. In fact, the 30-year-old has been more productive through the air than on the ground, recording more receiving yards than rushing yards since landing in Kansas City. That leads me to believe Pacheco will be the favorite to lead the team's rushing effort at Mile High.
Denver's defense has been stellar. However, the Broncos' passing defense grades out slightly higher than the team's run-stopping unit (a four-point differential per LBM). It's a difference that opposing offenses have noted, as 39.4% of yards versus Denver come via the ground (ninth-most). The likelihood of rushing attempts for K.C. additionally increases when noting the spread. Game script is never a lock, but as 9-point favorites, the Chiefs figure to lean on the run in this one.
As talent rich as the Broncos' defense might be, the team also appears to be exhausted. A 3-9 record after a summer of hype will do that. Interestingly, Denver's defensive efficiency has waned over the past seven games. The Broncos have allowed the fourth-most yards to RBs before contact (2.95 YPC) from Weeks 7-13, besting only the Panthers, Chargers and Texans. Given Pacheco's ultra-extra running style, an 80-yard effort and top-20 fantasy showing is well within reason.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-5.5, 46.5)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati
Pick: Tyler Boyd UNDER 40.5 receiving yards (-119)
After drawing the same number of targets as Tee Higgins versus K.C., Boyd turned a few heads last week. While the Bengals' slotman finished second in receiving yards, he's unlikely to smash in Week 14. Higgins enters Sunday sans an injury designation and Ja'Marr Chase draws a favorable matchup. With the team's top-two producers back, Boyd could be left out in the cold, even with Hayden Hurst sidelined.
Greg Newsome II is a bad man. His coverage of slot receivers has been impeccable this year. The Browns have allowed the second-fewest yards per slot pass (6.1), largely due to Newsome's dominance. A Boyd breakout doesn't appear likely when Newsome has given up just 2.2 catches and 19.1 yards (DB8) per contest. That might change were Boyd to exit the slot -- where he aligns for over 77% of his snaps (WR2) -- but with the return of Chase and Higgins the odds aren't good.
That's because Boyd has been held to under 70 yards in seven of eight games when both Chase and Higgins have been active over the course of 2022. Furthermore, the chance of big play is eliminated when noting that Boyd hasn't managed a 20-yard reception in four of his past five outings.
With six teams on bye, injuries mounting and sleepers increasingly hard to come by, Boyd's situation is tempting. But he's not the Hail Mary flex that's going to push virtual squads into the playoffs. Rather, he's a high-floor play that won't lose managers the final game of the regular season.
Vikings at Lions
Pick: Adam Thielen OVER 4.5 receptions (+112)
I promised listeners on "Fantasy Focus" that I was going to mess with a Thielen prop. Here it is. The over/under in this game has moved a bit, but it's still high at 51.5 points. That's a lot of potential opportunities for a receiver who has averaged five catches when the pregame total is at least 50 points.
Miami Dolphins (-3, 53.5) at Los Angeles Chargers
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California
Pick: Jeff Wilson Jr. OVER 42.5 rushing yards (-139)
Mike McDaniel did his best Kyle Shanahan last week with the RB switch-a-roo. I'm not buying it. Wilson is the dude. I'm not even sure he needs to be to hit the over on this prop. The Chargers have allowed a league-high 5.6 yards per RB carry this season. Meanwhile, Wilson has recorded 5.2 YPC since the beginning of the year.
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