NFL Game Previews: Patriots-Cardinals Matchup

NFL Game Previews: Patriots-Cardinals Matchup

This article is part of our NFL Game Previews series.

New England at Arizona (+1.5), o/u 44.5 – Monday, 8:15 p.m. EST

I still don't really know what to make of this Patriots team. I'm not sure Bill Belichick does, either. They're kind of the same "good defense, shaky offense" team they've been the last few years, but the offense is leaning dangerously close to being just plain bad rather than shaky, and after holding the Colts and Jets to a field goal each, the defense just surrendered 57 points to the Bills and Vikings over a two-week stretch. Since returning to the starting lineup five games ago, Mac Jones has a 70.1 percent completion rate, but also just a 5:1 TD:INT and a 7.0 YPA. With Rhamondre Stevenson running in mud over that stretch (3.9 YPC), they can maybe scrape together enough points to win when the defense is firing on all cylinders. Aside from Matthew Judon though, nobody on that side of the ball is really standing out.

The Cardinals really needed that bye last week. They've lost four of their last five, and a team that came into the season with playoff aspirations is staring in the face of a top 10 pick instead. Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray will finally have the duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown in the lineup together, which might make a difference, but Murray's completed air yards per attempt is dead last in the league among qualifying QBs — whether it's the coach or the quarterback, this offense isn't working,

New England at Arizona (+1.5), o/u 44.5 – Monday, 8:15 p.m. EST

I still don't really know what to make of this Patriots team. I'm not sure Bill Belichick does, either. They're kind of the same "good defense, shaky offense" team they've been the last few years, but the offense is leaning dangerously close to being just plain bad rather than shaky, and after holding the Colts and Jets to a field goal each, the defense just surrendered 57 points to the Bills and Vikings over a two-week stretch. Since returning to the starting lineup five games ago, Mac Jones has a 70.1 percent completion rate, but also just a 5:1 TD:INT and a 7.0 YPA. With Rhamondre Stevenson running in mud over that stretch (3.9 YPC), they can maybe scrape together enough points to win when the defense is firing on all cylinders. Aside from Matthew Judon though, nobody on that side of the ball is really standing out.

The Cardinals really needed that bye last week. They've lost four of their last five, and a team that came into the season with playoff aspirations is staring in the face of a top 10 pick instead. Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray will finally have the duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown in the lineup together, which might make a difference, but Murray's completed air yards per attempt is dead last in the league among qualifying QBs — whether it's the coach or the quarterback, this offense isn't working, and having another downfield target Murray doesn't hit consistently won't make a difference. The defense had also coughed up more than 30 points in four of the team's last six games. Kingsbury's contract might keep him employed past 2022, but this doesn't seem like a team that's about to turn a corner.

The Skinny

NE injuries: RB Damien Harris (doubtful, thigh), WR Jakobi Meyers (out, head)
ARI injuries: WR Rondale Moore (out, groin), TE Zach Ertz (IR, knee)

NE DFS targets: Hunter Henry $5,600 DK / $7,500 FD (ARI 30th in DVOA vs. TE)
ARI DFS targets: none

NE DFS fades: DeVante Parker $5,800 DK / $7,500 FD (ARI second in DVOA vs. WR1)
ARI DFS fades: none

Key stat: NE is ninth in net yards per play at 0.41; ARI is 28th at -0.81

The Scoop: Stevenson picks up 80 scrimmage yards and a TD. Jones throws for 230 yards and a score to Henry. James Conner gains 60 yards. Murray throws for 240 yards and a touchdown to Hopkins but also tosses a pick-six to Myles Bryant. Patriots 21-13

N.Y. Jets (+9.5) at Buffalo, o/u 44 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

The Jets came within a Braxton Berrios bobble of stealing a win in Minnesota last week, but instead they are now two games back of the Bills in the AFC East and clinging to the final wild-card spot in the conference. Mike White's fired up 684 passing yards in his two starts, but his 0:2 TD:INT and 6.5 YPA against the Vikings look very ... hmm, what's the word? Flacco-esque. The offense still looks better with him under center than it did under Zach Wilson, but now it's the defense's turn to start showing cracks — last week's 27 points were the most the unit had given up since Week 3. You can hardly blame them. They've been holding this team together for two months, and the strain was bound to show. Do Quincy Williams and Quinnen Williams have a third brother the team can bring in? A Quentin, maybe, or a Quinlan? I mean the roster already has two Michael Carters. Three QWilliamses isn't too much to ask. Speaking of which, Zonovan Knight has racked up 221 scrimmage yards in White's two starts and seems like the new thunder to Carter's lightning in the backfield. The duo doesn't quite equal one Breece Hall, but it's still a pretty solid tandem.

The Bills wobbled a bit there for a minute, but they've still won three consecutive games and currently hold the top seed in the AFC thanks to their Week 6 win over Kansas City. One of their three losses on the season came against the Jets, but it's not like they need extra motivation. Josh Allen's passing numbers remain somewhat muted — he hasn't topped a 7.7 YPA in the last five games — but the team's still averaging 26 points a game over that stretch, so something's working. Devin Singletary's four rushing TDs in the last four weeks have certainly helped, after he failed to score on the ground at all in Buffalo's first eight games. The defense also got back to its early season form last week against the Patriots, and that's with Tre'Davious White still not seeing a full workload yet. Losing Von Miller hurts, but A.J. Epenesa notched a sack last week in his place and the unit is more built around harassing the QB into making mistakes (top 10 in pressure rate) than actually bringing them down, so the Bills should be able to survive. It'll likely be a snow game in Buffalo, but without much wind along with the white stuff, the defenses are the reason to consider the under, not the weather.

The Skinny

NYJ injuries: RB Hall (IR, knee)
BUF injuries: no fantasy-relevant injuries of note

NYJ DFS targets: none
BUF DFS targets: none

NYJ DFS fades: Carter $5,300 DK / $6,300 FD and Knight $5,100 DK / $6,300 FD (BUF third in rushing DVOA, fifth in rushing yards per game allowed), Tyler Conklin $3,100 DK / $4,900 FD (BUF second in DVOA vs. TE)
BUF DFS fades: Allen $8,300 DK / $8,700 FD (NYJ fifth in passing DVOA, third in YPA allowed, t-3rd in passing TDs allowed), Gabe Davis $5,300 DK / $6,200 FD (NYJ fourth in DVOA vs. WR2)

Key stat: BUF first in third-down conversions at 51.7 percent; NYJ 21st in third-down defense at 40.7 percent

Head-to-head record, last five-plus years: 7-4 BUF, average score 24-17 BUF, average margin of victory 12 points. BUF has won four straight meetings before a 20-17 NYJ victory in Week 9

Weather notes: temperature in the low 30s, 45-50 percent chance of snow

The Scoop: Carter leads the NYJ backfield with 60 scrimmage yards, while Knight adds 50. White throws for 240 yards and a TD to Garrett Wilson. Singletary gains 80 yards. Allen throws for 250 yards and runs in BUF's only score, but it's enough. Bills 16-10

Cleveland (+6) at Cincinnati, o/u 47 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

It was too much to expect Deshaun Watson to be amazing in his return after a 700-odd day layoff, but I think most Browns fans would have settled for competent. Instead he looked like a bargain bin version of Jacoby Brissett, and if the defense and special teams hadn't combined for three touchdowns, Watson's big Cleveland debut might well have resulted in a loss to (gack) Houston. They aren't done yet, technically sitting two games back of the final wild-card spot with only the Patriots and Chargers to leapfrog, but they lost to both those teams earlier in the year (and the Jets, the current third wild card, as well) so it's effectively a three-game deficit since they lose every tiebreaker. Nick Chubb and Myles Garrett are doing what they can, but the team should probably consider it a moral victory if they don't end up handing over a top-10 pick to the Texans in next year's draft.

The Browns did beat the Bengals in their first meeting, though, and that was the last game Cincy has lost this season. After four consecutive wins they sit tied with the Ravens atop the AFC North, though Baltimore currently holds the tiebreaker. Joe Burrow's only been sacked five times during that win streak, and giving him a bit of a clean pocket remains the key to the team's success (he's been brought down an average of five times in the Bengals' four losses.) Samaje Perine put together an impressive three-game run while Joe Mixon was sidelined, racking up 330 scrimmage yards and four total TDs, and with Mixon now out of the concussion protocol there's been talk of a backfield tandem. That's still just a complement to the passing game, though, and the team's averaging 31.5 points a game over its win streak — and that's with Ja'Marr Chase missing the first three.

The Skinny

CLE injuries: WR Amari Cooper (questionable, hip)
CIN injuries: TE Hayden Hurst (out, calf)

CLE DFS targets: Donovan Peoples-Jones $4,900 DK / $6,100 FD (CIN 31st in DVOA vs. WR2)
CIN DFS targets: Mixon $6,900 DK / $8,500 FD and Perine $6,300 DK / $7,800 FD (CLE 31st in rushing DVOA, t-29th in rushing TDs allowed), Tee Higgins $7,000 DK / $7,800 FD (CLE 28th in DVOA vs. WR2)

CLE DFS fades: none
CIN DFS fades: none

Key stat: CIN fourth in red-zone conversions at 66.7 percent; CLE t-16th in red-zone defense at 55.6 percent

Head-to-head record, last five-plus years: 8-3 CLE, average score 27-24 CLE, average margin of victory 12 points. CLE has won five straight meetings by an average score of 33-22, including a 32-13 victory in Week 8

Weather notes: no weather concerns

The Scoop: Chubb rumbles for 90 yards and a score. Watson throws for 210 yards and a TD to Peoples-Jones. Mixon leads the CIN backfield with 120 combined yards and two touchdowns, while Perine adds a receiving score. Burrow throws for 300 yards and two more TDs, finding Chase and Higgins (who tops 100 yards). Bengals 35-14

Houston (+16) at Dallas, o/u 46 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

The Kyle Allen experiment lasted all of two games and a 2:4 TD:INT, and now the Texans will turn back to Davis Mills and his 11:11 TD:INT through 10 games. I'm not sure bringing the kid back to face the Dallas pass rush is necessarily the best way to build his confidence, but hey, who am I to question the coaching staff of a 1-10-1 team? Whoever's under center won't have his top-2 wideouts available anyway. Dameon Pierce bounced back last week after a couple awful games, but with defenses not respecting the Houston passing game, it's only going to get tougher for the rookie RB.

The Cowboys have gotten scary again. They've scored at least 40 in three of their last five games, including last week's 54-19 annihilation of the Colts that featured an incredible five fourth-quarter TDs. Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott have combined for 589 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns the last three games, and now they face one of the worst run defenses in the league. Trust me when I say I have very little confidence in either the under, or in the Cowboys failing to cover. Dak Prescott keeps tossing early picks just to be sporting, but it's just a tease given how the defense has been playing. Dallas opponents have totaled 42 points the last three games, a figure the team has topped twice in a single game in 2022.

The Skinny

HOU injuries: WR Brandin Cooks (out, calf), WR Nico Collins (out, foot)
DAL injuries: WR James Washington (IR-R, foot)

HOU DFS targets: none
DAL DFS targets: Pollard $6,700 DK / $7,500 FD and Elliott $6,100 DK / $8,000 FD (HOU 28th in rushing DVOA, 32nd in rushing yards per game allowed), Cowboys DST $3,800 DK / $5,200 FD (first in sacks, t-2nd in takeaways, HOU t-29th in giveaways)

HOU DFS fades: Mills $5,000 DK / $6,300 FD (DAL first in passing DVOA, second in passing yards per game allowed)
DAL DFS fades: none

Key stat: HOU 32nd in third-down defense at 26.5 percent; DAL fifth in third-down defense at 33.8 percent

The Scoop: Pierce manages 70 yards and a TD. Mills throws for less than 200 yards while getting picked off twice and sacked four times, but he does hit (spins TE wheel) Jordan Akins for a score. Pollard leads the DAL backfield with 130 combined yards and a touchdown, while Zeke gains 80 yards and two TDs. Prescott doesn't have a lot to do again, throwing for 210 yards and a touchdown to CeeDee Lamb. Cowboys 28-17

Minnesota (+2.5) at Detroit, o/u 52.5 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

I had to triple-check this line to make sure I wasn't hallucinating, but somehow the 10-2 Vikings are underdogs to the 5-7 Lions. Your 2022 Rodney Dangerfield All-Stars, folks. Of course, I don't have them winning or even covering, and they are 29th in net yards per play, but they're still going to win the NFC North, so who's going to be laughing then? (Probably whoever heads to Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs, but that's a discussion for down the road.) Dalvin Cook's closing in on his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard rushing campaign while Justin Jefferson averages more than 100 receiving yards a game, so the problem isn't the offense. Instead a banged-up secondary has been leaking like a sieve, and that's with Patrick Peterson having his best season in a long time. The defense can't afford to blitz but can't generate consistent pressure without it, leaving coordinator Ed Donatell with few good options. They're somehow 3-1 in their last four games despite allowing 29.5 points a game, and that seems just a wee bit unsustainable.

The Lions have won four of their last five to keep their wild-card hopes alive, but with the Jets looming next week those hopes are hanging by a thread. Early season Jared Goff has shown up again to the tune of 580 passing yards and a 4:0 TD:INT the last two games, or maybe it's just that he's been at home the last two weeks — Goff has a 17:3 TD:INT at Ford Field this season — while Jamaal Williams has six rushing TDs in the last four games and a league-leading 14 on the year. Even the defense has started to show up a bit, holding three of Detroit's last five opponents to less than 20 points. The, uhh, wild card in their wild-card chances might be Jameson Williams. Taken with the 12th overall pick in this year's draft, he made his NFL debut week after recovering from knee surgery and saw all of eight snaps and one target. If his role grows quickly, the rookie could line up alongside Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark to form one of the sneakiest elite WR groups in the league.

The Skinny

MIN injuries: no fantasy-relevant injuries of note
DET injuries: WR Kalif Raymond (questionable, illness), WR Quintez Cephus (IR-R, foot) 

MIN DFS targets: Cook $7,300 DK / $8,700 FD (DET 31st in YPC allowed, 31st in rushing TDs allowed)
DET DFS targets: Goff $5,600 DK / $7,100 FD (MIN 32nd in passing yards per game allowed, 32nd in YPA allowed)

MIN DFS fades: none
DET DFS fades: none

Key stat: DET first in red-zone conversions at 73.9 percent; MIN 20th in red-zone defense at 56.8 percent

Head-to-head record, last five-plus years: 9-2 MIN, average score 27-20 MIN, average margin of victory nine points. The last four meetings have been decided by four points or less

The Scoop: Cook dashes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Kirk Cousins throws for 270 yards and two scores, hitting Jefferson (who tops 100 yards) and T.J. Hockenson. D'Andre Swift pops for 100 scrimmage yards and a TD, while Williams (Jamaal, not Jameson) adds 70 yards and a score. Goff throws for 320 yards and two touchdowns, finding St. Brown (who also tops 100 yards) and Chark. Lions 34-28

Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants (+7), o/u 44.5 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

The Eagles have picked themselves up after stumbling against the Commanders and nearly doing it again versus the Colts, trouncing the Packers and Titans by a combined 75-43 the last two weeks. Jalen Hurts continues to build his MVP case — he could set a career high for passing yards this week (he needs only 205) and already has a career-high 20 passing TDs with five games left on the schedule, and his next rushing TD will be his 10th. Only two QBs in history have put together seasons with 25 or more passing TDs and 10 or more rushing TDs — Kyler Murray in 2020, who had 26 and 11, and Cam Newton in his MVP 2015 campaign with 35 and 10. Hurts should settle in comfortably between them on that exclusive list. Offense hasn't been the team's weakness, though. The defense is at or near the top of the league in multiple key categories but has been prone to odd letdowns — it's allowed 32 or more points three times, and held everyone else to 21 or less. None of the teams ahead of the Eagles in the points per game allowed rankings have more than one game giving up 30 or more.

The Giants' tie with the Commanders last week leaves them 1-3-1 over their last five, and while they're still holding onto a wild-card spot, a closing schedule that includes Minnesota and Washington again in addition to their second clash with Philly makes their playoff prospects dicey. The offense hasn't scored more than 20 points in any of those recent non-wins, and Saquon Barkley is starting to buckle under the weight of carrying 10 other guys. He has just 168 scrimmage yards the last three games, though he has found the end zone twice, and now he's dealing with neck trouble. Darius Slayton's resurgence has been welcome, but the Daniel Jones-led passing game doesn't generate enough production to make another receiver a viable fantasy option. Jones isn't making mistakes, but he's also topped a 6.7 YPA just four times all year. If the defense can keep a game close and the bounces fall their way they have a shot, but the team that kept stealing wins in the fourth quarter earlier in the year feels like it's long gone.

The Skinny

PHI injuries: TE Dallas Goedert (IR, shoulder)
NYG injuries: RB Barkley (questionable, neck), WR Sterling Shepard (IR, knee), WR Wan'Dale Robinson (IR, knee)

PHI DFS targets: Jack Stoll $2,800 DK / $4,700 FD (NYG 32nd in DVOA vs. TE), Eagles DST $3,700 DK / $4,700 FD (second in sacks, first in takeaways)
NYG DFS targets: none

PHI DFS fades: none
NYG DFS fades: Jones $5,400 DK / $6,900 FD (PHI second in passing DVOA, first in passing yards per game allowed, second in YPA allowed), Slayton $5,100 DK / $6,300 FD (PHI first in DVOA vs. WR1), Isaiah Hodgins $3,500 DK / $5,500 FD (PHI third in DVOA vs. WR2)

Key stat: PHI first in net yards per play at 1.13; NYG 26th at -0.60

Head-to-head record, last five years: 8-2 PHI, average score 26-19 PHI, average margin of victory 10 points. PHI has lost two straight meetings at MetLife Stadium

Weather notes: 10-25 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: Miles Sanders churns out 80 yards and a TD. Hurts throws for 260 yards and two touchdowns, hitting Stoll and A.J. Brown, while running in a score of his own. Barkley grinds out 60 yards and a touchdown. Jones throws for 230 yards. Eagles 31-16

Baltimore (+2.5) at Pittsburgh, o/u 37 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

Stop me if you've heard this one before, Ravens fans — a season that looked like it might have playoff possibilities gets derailed by a late Lamar Jackson injury. Last year, the team was 8-5 before an ankle injury put Tyler Huntley under center for the final four games, in which they went 0-4. This year they're 8-4, and now Jackson's dealing with knee trouble. The rest of the roster is healthier than the 2021 squad was, and Jackson's injury may not sideline him for as long, but it's still an unsettling parallel. (By the way, last year's team actually lost six straight to close things out. The first loss in that skid? Week 13 in Pittsburgh. Gulp.) J.K. Dobbins is back off IR, but he'll likely take a back seat to Gus Edwards for at least a week or two while he gets back up to speed, and his production during his brief four-game window of health earlier in the year wasn't all that encouraging anyway. The real issue with the offense is that the QB has no one but Mark Andrews to throw to, and taking Jackson's ability to create on his own out of the equation and things look grim. Huntley can run some, but he isn't Lamar.

The Steelers are still on the fringes of the wild-card picture, so they've got more to play for than just spite against a bitter division rival. (Is there such a thing as a non-bitter division rival? I guess maybe in the AFC South ... it's hard to imagine anyone really hating the Jags or Texans instead of just pitying them.) Kenny Pickett's still a work in progress, but he hasn't committed a turnover in four games, and it's probably not a coincidence Pittsburgh's gone 3-1 during that stretch. This is a team that has to scratch and claw for every win, and while Najee Harris has rebounded lately, the offense still can't afford to give away possessions and points. Now if only Pickett could find a way to throw a TD pass to Diontae Johnson. Baby steps, I suppose.

The Skinny

BAL injuries: QB Jackson (doubtful, knee), WR Rashod Bateman (IR, foot)
PIT injuries: no fantasy-relevant injuries of note

BAL DFS targets: none
PIT DFS targets: none

BAL DFS fades: none
PIT DFS fades: Harris $5,800 DK / $6,700 FD and Jaylen Warren $4,500 DK / $5,000 FD (BAL second in rushing yards per game allowed, third in YPC allowed)

Key stat: BAL 23rd in red-zone conversions at 51.1 percent; PIT t-16th in red-zone defense at 55.6 percent

Head-to-head record, last five years: 7-3 PIT, average score 22-21 PIT, average margin of victory seven points. PIT has swept the last two season series, with all four wins by five points or less

Weather notes: 10-15 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: Edwards leads the BAL backfield with 60 yards and a score. Huntley throws for less than 200 yards and runs for 40, but tosses a pick-six to Minkah Fitzpatrick. Harris manages 50 yards. Pickett throws for less than 200 yards as well but does hit George Pickens for what proves to be the winning touchdown. Steelers 17-16

Jacksonville (+4) at Tennessee, o/u 41 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

Ah, those wacky Jaguars. I'm never entirely sure whether they're Lucy or they're the football, but either way they keep begging Charlie Brown to believe that this time, they're legit, only to get blown out 40-14 by a team like the Lions. Trevor Lawrence at least had the excuse of getting hurt for last week's debacle, but it looks like he'll try to play through his toe issue. He's working on a streak of six consecutive games with more than 30 pass attempts as Doug Pederson has done a pretty good job of rebuilding his confidence post-Urban Meyer and easing him into the role of franchise QB, and Lawrence's numbers over that stretch (8:2 TD:INT, 65.7 percent completion rate, 6.7 YPA) are at least decent. Travis Etienne has cooled down through and has some injury concerns of his own, and the defense hasn't kept anyone below 27 points since Week 9 or below 20 since Week 5, so if those two are operating at less than 100 percent health, they're odds of pulling out a victory aren't worth a nickel.

The Titans all but have the AFC South crown locked up, and they're only 7-5, which tells you all you need to know about the rest of the division. They've lost two straight, and the offense has scored more than 19 points once in their last seven games, but last week was also the first time the defense has coughed up more than 20 since Week 3. In fact, the only QB that have really hung a crooked number on Tennessee are Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts, which isn't a bad track record when you've also faced Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow. Derrick Henry's been ominously quiet for about a month now, averaging 52 rushing yards in his last four contests, so he's probably due to erupt. He doesn't have the resume against the Jags that he does against the Texans, but he's still run for at least 130 yards with multiple TDs four times in his last six meetings with Jacksonville, including the 238-yard, four-touchdown game in Week 14 of 2018 that marked the unofficial coronation of King Henry.

The Skinny

JAC injuries: QB Lawrence (questionable, toe), WR Zay Jones (questionable, chest), WR Calvin Ridley (out, suspension)
TEN injuries: WR Treylon Burks (out, concussion)

JAC DFS targets: Lawrence $5,700 DK / $7,200 FD (TEN 31st in passing yards per game allowed, 29th in passing TDs allowed), ZJones $4,700 DK / $6,300 FD (TEN 29th in DVOA vs. WR2)
TEN DFS targets: Ryan Tannehill $5,200 DK / $6,700 FD (JAC 31st in passing DVOA, 29th in passing yards per game allowed), Austin Hooper $2,900 DK / $4,900 FD and Chigoziem Okonkwo $2,700 DK / $4,800 FD (JAC 31st in DVOA vs. TE)

JAC DFS fades: Etienne $6,400 DK / $7,400 FD (TEN first in rushing DVOA, third in rushing yards per game allowed, second in YPC allowed, t-1st in rushing TDs allowed), Jaguars DST $2,700 DK / $3,400 FD (t-29th in sacks, TEN t-2nd in giveaways)
TEN DFS fades: none

Key stat: TEN t-6th in red-zone conversions at 62.5 percent; JAC 25th in red-zone defense at 61.0 percent

Head-to-head record, last five years: 9-1 TEN, average score 26-14 TEN, average margin of victory 15 points. TEN has won five straight meetings by an average score of 33-16, and TEN has won eight straight meetings at Nissan Stadium

Weather notes: 5-10 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: Eteinne ekes out 60 yards. Lawrence throws for 280 yards and three TDs, hitting Christian Kirk twice and Marvin Jones once. Henry thunders for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Tannehill throws for 240 yards and a score to Okonkwo. Titans 27-24

Kansas City at Denver (+9.5), o/u 43.5 – Sunday, 4:05 p.m. EST

It's been six years since anyone but Kansas City won the AFC West, and it'll most likely be seven once the 2022 campaign is done. Despite coming up short last week against the Bengals, Andy Reid's crew is still three games up on the Chargers, a team they've already swept this season. It would take a pretty epic collapse to keep history from repeating. Patrick Mahomes has had a couple quiet games in a row, which by his standards means only two total TD passes and barely 270 passing yards a game, and it's possible his patchwork quilt of a receiving corps might be coming loose at the seams a bit. In fact, K.C. hasn't had a real offensive explosion since the team's Week 8 bye, averaging a thoroughly mortal 25.4 PPG over the last five games. The defense took advantage of some creampuff opponents during that stretch so they remain neck and neck with the Bills for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but Mahomes is overdue to go off on someone. With the Texans, Seahawks and Raiders on their remaining schedule, it's bound to happen sooner or later.

It might not happen against the Broncos, though. Denver's defense remains a pillar of strength, holding every opponent but one this season (Las Vegas in Week 4) to 23 points or less. The team is second in PPG allowed, behind only the Niners, and the Eagles are the only other secondary with a credible claim to being the best in the league. The Broncos have even had some success against Mahomes, holding him to 200 yards or less in two of their last four meetings. Am I vamping, trying to avoid having to talk about Russell Wilson and the offense right now? Yup. It's... it's bad. Real bad. Last week's 10-9 loss to a Ravens team that lost Lamar Jackson at the end of the first quarter feels like it should be rock bottom, but this offense hit rock bottom a lot time ago and just keeps ricocheting from one rock to the next. It's been a decade since a team averaged fewer than 14 points a game – ironically, it was a 2012 Kansas City squad that went 2-14 under a soon-to-be-fired Romeo Crennel that wasted a peak Jamaal Charles season by having Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel splitting QB duties, paving the way for Reid to take over the following year – but here the Broncos are at 13.8 PPG with five to play. Who will be the Reid to Nathaniel Hackett's Crennel? Guess we'll find out in the new year.

The Skinny

KC injuries: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (IR, ankle), WR Kadarius Toney (questionable, hamstring), WR Mecole Hardman (IR, abdomen)
DEN injuries: RB Javonte Williams (IR, knee), RB Chase Edmonds (IR, ankle), WR Courtland Sutton (out, hamstring), WR KJ Hamler (IR, hamstring)

KC DFS targets: none
DEN DFS targets: none

KC DFS fades: Mahomes $8,000 DK / $8,800 FD (DEN fourth in passing DVOA, third in passing yards per game allowed, first in YPA allowed, first in passing TDs allowed), Jerick McKinnon $4,600 DK / $5,400 FD (DEN second in passing DVOA vs. RB)
DEN DFS fades: none

Key stat: DEN 30th in third-down conversions at 27.4 percent; KC 20th in third-down defense at 40.5 percent

Head-to-head record, last five years: 10-0 KC, average score 28-16 KC, average margin of victory 12 points. Mahomes has never lost to DEN, while DEN hasn't beaten KC since Peyton Manning retired

Weather notes: no weather concerns

The Scoop: Isiah Pacheco rings up 80 yards and a touchdown, while Noah Gray also runs in a score. Mahomes throws for 260 yards and two TDs, finding Travis Kelce and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Latavius Murray bangs out 70 yards and a TD. Wilson throws for 240 yards and a touchdown to Jerry Jeudy. Kansas City 31-20

Carolina (+3.5) at Seattle, o/u 44 – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EST

At the moment, the Panthers are looking at the sixth overall pick in the 2023 draft – behind playoff teams the Seahawks and Eagles, who collect first-rounders from the Broncos and Saints, to the utter horror of the rest of the NFC – so their quarterback carousel only has a few more trips around to go before the music finally stops. After Thursday, Carolina fans might be asking themselves where that Baker Mayfield was earlier in the year, but they should direct those inquiries to Lincoln, Nebraska. Right now the job belongs to Sam Darnold, and to be fair he didn't look terrible against an elite Denver secondary before Carolina's bye, posting an 8.6 YPA against a team allowing a league-leading 5.9. D'Onta Foreman has finally achieved his destiny of being Derrick Henry Jr., topping 110 rushing yards in four of the last six games, and Chuba Hubbard hasn't looked bad when Foreman's been nicked up. The defense has also held three straight opponents to 15 points or under. Actually, looking at their closing schedule, maybe that QB carousel won't end at next year's draft. This team might just play well enough to cost them a top 10 pick, and/or convince themselves Darnold might be the guy after all.

The Seahawks pulled out a win against the Rams last week, but their defensive issues might just end up costing them a playoff spot. The NFC West is still very winnable with Jimmy Garoppolo now out of the picture for the 49ers, but there are only six teams in the NFL giving up more than 25 points a game this year, and Seattle is very much part of that ignoble club. Geno Smith's been amazing – his streak of games with multiple TD passes stands at six and counting, and his least accurate game this season featured a 64.0 percent completion rate – but with the backfield falling apart, but offense is off-kilter. New Orleans castoff Tony Jones might be the only truly healthy running back on the roster right now. Geno should be able to out-score the likes of Darnold, or even Brock Purdy, but what about Patrick Mahomes in Week 16, or a potential playoff opponent?

The Skinny

CAR injuries: no fantasy-relevant injuries of note
SEA injuries: RB Kenneth Walker (questionable, ankle), RB DeeJay Dallas (questionable, ankle), RB Rashaad Penny (IR, ankle), WR DK Metcalf (questionable, hip)

CAR DFS targets: Foreman $5,400 DK / $6,900 FD and Hubbard $4,800 DK / $5,500 FD (SEA 31st in rushing yards per game allowed, t-29th in rushing TDs allowed), Terrace Marshall $3,600 DK / $5,500 FD (SEA 32nd in DVOA vs. WR2)
SEA DFS targets: none

CAR DFS fades: Laviska Shenault $3,300 DK / $5,200 FD (SEA first in DVOA vs. WR3)
SEA DFS fades: none

Key stat: SEA ninth in third-down conversions at 43.0 percent; CAR 18th in third-down defense at 40.1 percent

Weather notes: 10-20 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: Foreman rips off 90 yards and a touchdown. Darnold throws for 220 yards and a TD to Tommy Tremble but also coughs up a fumble that Uchenna Nwosu returns to the house. Travis Homer leads the SEA backfield with 60 yards, while Jones vultures a score. Geno throws for 290 yards and TDs to Metcalf and Tyler Lockett (who tops 100 yards). Seahawks 31-14

Tampa Bay (+3.5) at San Francisco, o/u 37 – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EST

The Bucs crawled back to .500 with an ugly one-point win over the Saints last week, but that's been their game plan for a while now. Tampa's last five games have been decided by a single score, and they haven't scored more than 22 points in any of them. Tom Brady has arguably been playing his best football of the season during that stretch, racking up an 8:2 TD:INT and 65.4 percent completion rate, but he's done that by getting rid of the ball even more quickly than usual, leading to a 6.1 YPA. When he does chuck it deep, he hasn't been able to connect consistently with Mike Evans. Chris Godwin's been successful by sticking close to get those short strikes – his 6.0 aDOT is absurd for a guy that had a 9.6 mark just two years ago. He's basically turned into Hunter Renfrow. The defense is getting healthy and looking stout, and the Bucs are still the overwhelming favorites to win the NFC South because somebody has to win it, but if this is Brady's swan song, it seems likely to end not with a bang but a whimper.

At least the Bucs have a QB they can count on, as Jimmy Garoppolo's foot injury puts the Niners' season in jeopardy. They were looking like a genuine Super Bowl contender – now they have Mr. Irrelevant running the offense. Brock Purdy was the final pick in the 2022 draft, 262nd overall, but he looked OK against Miami last week after taking over for Garoppolo. Perhaps Purdy can look to the other sideline for inspiration. No, I'm not talking about Brady, who went with a heady 199th pick in 2000, I'm talking about Ryan Succop, who was the Mr. Irrelevant in the 2009 draft. San Francisco's defense is still good enough to get them to the postseason, and maybe even keep them on top in the NFC West, and there is plenty of offensive talent around Purdy to keep the pressure off him. Teams with bus driver QBs and elite defenses have won it all before, but the path to the Super Bowl just got a lot harder for Kyle Shanahan's crew. Christian McCaffrey had his best receiving day as a Niner last week though, and Purdy could do a lot worse than just dumping it off to him every chance he gets.

The Skinny

TB injuries: RB Leonard Fournette (questionable, foot)
SF injuries: QB Garoppolo (out, foot), QB Trey Lance (IR, ankle), RB Elijah Mitchell (IR, knee)

TB DFS targets: Julio Jones $4,000 DK / $5,400 FD (SF 31st in DVOA vs. WR3)
SF DFS targets: none

TB DFS fades: Fournette $5,600 DK / $6,800 FD and Rachaad White $5,500 DK / $6,800 FD (SF second in rushing DVOA, first in rushing yards per game allowed, first in YPC allowed, first in passing DVOA vs. RB)
SF DFS fades: 49ers DST $3,200 DK / $4,600 FD (TB second in sacks allowed, t-2nd in giveaways)

Key stat: SF (mostly with Jimmy G) is fifth in third-down conversions at 45.2 percent; TB is ninth in third-down defense at 37.3 percent

Weather notes: 35-45 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: White leads the TB backfield with 60 yards. Brady throws for 240 yards and two scores, hitting Evans and Jones. McCaffrey collects 90 scrimmage yards and a TD. Purdy throws for under 200 yards and gets picked off twice. Buccaneers 14-13

Miami at L.A. Chargers (+3), o/u 52 – Sunday, 8:20 p.m. EST

The Dolphins may come to regret flopping last week against a Jimmy G-less Niners team. They're now one game back of the Bills in the AFC East, and they have to run the gauntlet of the entire division over the final month of the season, facing Buffalo in Week 15 and then the Pats and Jets in Weeks 17 and 18. It's easier to hold your fate in your own hands when you have a lead. Tua Tagovailoa threw his first INTs since Week 4 in that loss, but he also topped 280 passing yards and had a YPA of 8.3 or better for the fifth straight game, so if that's what counts as a bad performance, I think he'll be OK. It's the defense that's the Fish's Achilles heel. This is a unit that's coughed up more than 30 points to Brock Purdy, Justin Fields and Zach Wilson this year, and that's a trio that has nothing in common except that they probably shouldn't be able to put up 30 points against anyone. The Bradley Chubb addition is starting to pay dividends – he has 2.5 sacks over the last three games – but he alone may not be enough/ If Byron Jones ever makes it back and has time to get back up to speed, though... hmmm.

If there is one iron-clad rule in the NFL, it's this: Chargers gonna Charger. Last week's loss to the Raiders dropped them back to .500, and they're 2-3 since their bye, with all five games decided by a single score. Justin Herbert's got a 67.8 percent completion rate and 8:3 TD:INT over that stretch, so he's doing what he can, but injuries have limited the rest of the roster all season. Mike Williams will be back in the lineup for this one, which helps, but he can't play offensive tackle, rush the passer or patrol the secondary. (Can he patrol the secondary? Maybe the Bolts should check.) Any offense with Herbert, Williams, Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler is capable of winning any given game, but that's sort of the problem – "any given game" should be "every given game", but it never seems to be.

The Skinny

MIA injuries: no fantasy-relevant injuries of note
LAC injuries: no fantasy-relevant injuries of note

MIA DFS targets: Raheem Mostert $5,400 DK / $6,200 FD and Jeff Wilson $5,500 DK / $6,500 FD (LAC 30th in rushing DVOA, 29th in rushing yards per game allowed, 32nd in YPC allowed), Trent Sherfield $3,400 DK / $5,500 FD (LAC 30th in DVOA vs. WR3)
LAC DFS targets: Gerald Everett $4,300 DK / $5,800 FD (MIA 29th in DVOA vs. TE)

MIA DFS fades: Jaylen Waddle $7,200 DK / $7,700 FD (LAC second in DVOA vs. WR2)
LAC DFS fades: none

Key stat: MIA is fifth in net yards per play at 0.88; LAC are 30th at -0.86

The Scoop: Mostert leads the MIA backfield with 80 yards, while Wilson adds 60 yards and a score. Tua throws for 310 yards and three TDs, finding Tyreek Hill (who tops 100 yards) twice and Alec Ingold once. Ekeler responds with 110 combined yards and two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving. Herbert throws for 290 yards and a second TD to Allen. Dolphins 34-27

Las Vegas at L.A. Rams (+6), o/u 44.5 – Thursday, 8:20 p.m. EST

Say what you want about Derek Carr, but he's part of a vanishing breed — a quarterback who actually starts every game for his team. By next week, there could be a dozen or fewer such stalwarts left in the NFL. (The number's currently 15, but Lamar Jackson and Trevor Lawrence are banged up and Marcus Mariota is on thin ice in Atlanta.) Of course, most of the rest of those 12 have their teams headed for playoff spots, so let's not go too far with the Carr praise. The Raiders' incredibly narrow fantasy tree has been a bonanza for anyone rostering Davante Adams or Josh Jacobs (who continues to play through nagging injuries), not so much for anyone else, and the defense has been a bonanza for anyone facing them — Justin Herbert and Geno Smith each fired up more than 320 passing yards against the silver and black the last two weeks. That hasn't stopped Vegas from reeling off three consecutive wins though, all by a single score, and keeping the team's faint wild-card hopes alive in the process. For a team that looked dead in the water not too long ago, a winning record suddenly looks kind of plausible given their remaining schedule. The 49ers in Week 17 have a QB quandary, and Kansas City might not have anything much to play for in Week 18.

Speaking of QB quandaries ... Matthew Stafford's done for the year, and neither John Wolford nor Bryce Perkins has looked like a viable option in his place. You know a team's desperate for help when they put in a waiver claim on Baker Mayfield and are even floating the possibility of him playing in this game without benefit of a real practice week in his new offense, which is, uhh, wow. Sean McVay, super genius. You have to wonder why the Rams are bothering to keep Perkins on the roster if they aren't willing to use him in this spot. Whoever's under center won't have much talent around him anyway, so it probably doesn't matter much. There's no long-shot playoff hopes. The defending champs have dropped six consecutive games, have Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson and multiple offensive linemen on the shelf along with Stafford, and even the defense now has an Aaron Donald-shaped hole in it and has coughed up at least 26 points in five of those six losses.

The Skinny

LV injuries: RB Jacobs (questionable, quadriceps), WR Hunter Renfrow (IR, oblique), TE Darren Waller (IR, hamstring)
LAR injuries: QB Stafford (IR, neck), WR Kupp (IR, ankle), WR Robinson (IR, foot)

LV DFS targets: Adams $12,800 DK / $16,000 FD (LAR 31st in DVOA vs. WR1), Mack Hollins $7,400 DK / $9,500 FD (LAR 30th in DVOA vs. WR2)
LAR DFS targets: Wolford $8,800 DK / $13,000 FD (LV 30th in passing DVOA, 30th in passing yards per game allowed, 29th in YPA allowed, t-26th in passing TDs allowed), Tutu Atwell $4,400 DK / $6,500 FD (LV 32nd in DVOA vs. WR3)

LV DFS fades: Jacobs $12,400 DK / $16,500 FD (LAR fourth in rushing yards per game, fourth in YPC allowed), Keelan Cole $200 DK / $6,000 FD (LAR second in DVOA vs. WR3)
LAR DFS fades: none

Key stat: LV 13th in net yards per play at 0.13; LAR are 27th at -0.79 

The Scoop: Jacobs plays and picks up 70 yards and a touchdown. Carr throws for 270 yards and two scores, finding Adams (who tops 100 yards) and Hollins. Cam Akers leads the LAR backfield with 70 yards, while Kyren Williams adds 50 combined yards and a receiving TD. Wolford starts and throws for 220 yards. Raiders 24-16

Past Performance:
Last week's record: 11-3-1, 7-8 ATS, 9-6 o/u
2022 regular-season record: 105-88-2, 84-105-6 ATS, 98-96-1 o/u
2021 regular-season record: 174-97-1, 146-125-1 ATS, 125-143-4 o/u
Lifetime record: 1393-857-9, 1089-1097-73 ATS, 833-883-31 o/u (o/u not tracked in 2015)

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NFL Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NFL fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erik Siegrist
Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.
Best Philadelphia Eagles Team Props For Super Bowl LVII
Best Philadelphia Eagles Team Props For Super Bowl LVII
Staff Picks: Super Bowl
Staff Picks: Super Bowl
Dynasty Watch: Rashid Shaheed Dossier
Dynasty Watch: Rashid Shaheed Dossier
Target Breakdown: 2022 Tight End Recap and 2023 Early Fantasy Rankings
Target Breakdown: 2022 Tight End Recap and 2023 Early Fantasy Rankings