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#285 Big Ben vs. Cousins—Who Ya Got?

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In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by Monkey Knife Fight, we preview Thursday Night Football and injury situations and look at air yards and expected play charts for Week 14. It's 12/9. Take it away, Peter Overzet…

Tonight the Vikings host the Steelers as 3.5 point home favorites in a game with a total (43.5) that screams “Thursday Night Football.”

It seemed like a long shot that Dalvin Cook would be able to play tonight after dislocating his shoulder 11 days ago, but Tom Pelissero said not so fast this morning on Twitter:

This certainly complicates things for fantasy. Our rankings guru Waz had Alexander Mattison as the RB4 yesterday. I asked him earlier how much that would shift for him if Cook suits up:

If Cook does play, my expectation is that he'll probably be the “2” in a timeshare with Mattison. I'd consider Cook a low RB3 play and Mattison a high-end RB2 play in that scenario. I think regardless, if you have Mattison, you have to start him.

We won’t know for sure until inactives around 7pm ET tonight whether or not he’s playing, so be sure to keep an eye on the reports. I’ll be doing a Q&A on the Fantasy Life app tonight at 6:15pm ET if you want to swing by and pepper me with questions.

Bill Belichick running the ball 1,000 times in hurricane? Easy.

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Following Fantasy Life advice? Also easy.

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Sam Hoppen—an analyst and web developer wizard for 4for4 Football and Ship Chasing—shares an “Air Yards Distribution” chart for four teams and a chart displaying the number of plays teams are running per game to help us make better lineup decisions. Take it away, Sam...

The chart below displays the distribution of how far downfield (or how far away from the line of scrimmage) a player is targeted. Where the player's bubble is higher indicates where more of his targets are concentrated. We would expect players with higher bubbles further to the right to be downfield, big-play threats while we would expect players with higher bubbles further left to be more consistent, higher-target players.

* Rashod Bateman’s usage is going in the wrong direction. He’s seen his number of routes and targets drop in each of the last three weeks, coming at the expense of increased usage for Sammy Watkins and Devin Duvernay. Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews still have solidified roles and they are the only two Ravens I would trust in my lineup given how little the Ravens throw.


* The Cincinnati Bengals have been throwing the ball much less in the three games since returning from their bye, but fortunately this passing attack is concentrated around their three main guys: Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Higgins has come on lately though, leading the team with a whopping 28% target share and 43% air yards share over the last three weeks. He’s turning into the stud many expected him to be.

* Chris Godwin had a monster game this past week with a season-high 17 targets. He and Mike Evans should have a great stretch of games the next couple of weeks with Antonio Brown sidelined for two more games. Breshad Perriman has also stepped up, even though he doesn’t make the chart. In Week 13, he ran a route on 90% of dropbacks and recorded three targets. Look for him to have a solid game in the weeks to come.


In this next chart, the team's bar shows the number of plays per game that team has averaged. Then the teams that play each other in the upcoming week are combined to show the total average between that week's matchup. With more plays come more opportunities for fantasy points, so use teams at the top of this chart as a tie-breaker when making your start/sit decision.

* The premier matchup this week comes between the Bills and Buccaneers. While this matchup ranks fifth in combined plays per game, both teams are top five in passing rate and this game has the highest total of the week at 53.5 points. Start as many people as possible in this game. 


* The NFC East matchup between the Cowboys and Football Team appears at the top of this chart and deservedly so. Dallas is top six in neutral-script pace and no-huddle rate, both driving up their play total. Meanwhile, Washington has had unexpected success under Taylor Heinicke and has one of the highest play totals of the season. This should be a fantasy-friendly environment, setting up several stud players to go off.

* The Ravens still have their play total inflated by the three OT games that they’ve played this year, so their matchup with the Browns is a bit of a red herring. Remember, these teams played just two weeks ago and combined for 134 total plays but only 26 total points to show for it. 


For more of Sam’s great work, follow him on Twitter, read his terrifically titled “Hoppen to Conclusions” pieces on 4for4, and watch him break down the most relevant fantasy data and charts on Stat Chasing


Enjoy the game tonight. We’ll see you tomorrow.



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