NFL Game Previews: Bengals-Jaguars Matchup

NFL Game Previews: Bengals-Jaguars Matchup

This article is part of our NFL Game Previews series.

MONDAY NIGHT

Cincinnati (+8.5) at Jacksonville, o/u 38 – Monday, 8:15 p.m. EST

If only the Bengals had taken the hint in the offseason and found themselves a real backup QB. I mean, imagine if Andy Dalton had heroically led Cincy to a win over Pittsburgh last week instead of wearing a headset in Carolina ... anyway, the Bengals have dropped three straight, two to divisional foes and one to a potential rival for a wild-card spot in the Texans, and things are looking bleak. To be fair, Browning was efficient in his first career start, but he took four sacks and Cincy's running game stalled out as Pittsburgh dared the new guy to beat them through the air. That's probably going to be what the 27-year-old quarterback sees on the regular until he proves he can. Tee Higgins is expected back this week, which is nice, and Ja'Marr Chase was able to break off a couple long gains, but without Joe Burrow it's tough to get too excited about this offense. Cincy also doesn't have any easy games left on their schedule, as all six of their remaining opponents are still in the playoff hunt. If the defense were playing better, maybe a Miracle of 1 Paycor Stadium Lane (hmm, doesn't have quite the same ring as "34th Street") would be possible, but the unit's coughed up more than 400 yards in three straight and four of five since the team's bye, and the takeaways that were keeping them

MONDAY NIGHT

Cincinnati (+8.5) at Jacksonville, o/u 38 – Monday, 8:15 p.m. EST

If only the Bengals had taken the hint in the offseason and found themselves a real backup QB. I mean, imagine if Andy Dalton had heroically led Cincy to a win over Pittsburgh last week instead of wearing a headset in Carolina ... anyway, the Bengals have dropped three straight, two to divisional foes and one to a potential rival for a wild-card spot in the Texans, and things are looking bleak. To be fair, Browning was efficient in his first career start, but he took four sacks and Cincy's running game stalled out as Pittsburgh dared the new guy to beat them through the air. That's probably going to be what the 27-year-old quarterback sees on the regular until he proves he can. Tee Higgins is expected back this week, which is nice, and Ja'Marr Chase was able to break off a couple long gains, but without Joe Burrow it's tough to get too excited about this offense. Cincy also doesn't have any easy games left on their schedule, as all six of their remaining opponents are still in the playoff hunt. If the defense were playing better, maybe a Miracle of 1 Paycor Stadium Lane (hmm, doesn't have quite the same ring as "34th Street") would be possible, but the unit's coughed up more than 400 yards in three straight and four of five since the team's bye, and the takeaways that were keeping them afloat may be drying up.

The Jaguars have rebounded from that rout at the hands of the 49ers to win two straight against AFC South opponents, solidifying their hold on the division lead. Trevor Lawrence flipped a switch last week against the Texans; he came into the game with just three completions on the season of 40 yards or more, but he launched four of them against Houston. With Travis Etienne banged up, Lawrence may need to sling it again, unless Jacksonville wants to gear D'Ernest Johnson up for a revenge game against Cleveland next week.

The Skinny

CIN injuries: no fantasy-relevant injuries
JAC injuries: RB Etienne (questionable, ribs)

CIN DFS targets: none
JAC DFS targets: Lawrence $6,600 DK / $7,900 FD (CIN 26th in net passing yards per game allowed, 32nd in YPA allowed), Etienne $7,000 DK / $8,700 FD and Johnson $4,300 DK / $5,500 FD (CIN 29th in rushing DVOA, 31st in YPC allowed)

CIN DFS fades: Joe Mixon $6,200 DK / $7,200 FD (JAC first in rushing DVOA, fourth in rushing yards per game allowed)
JAC DFS fades: none

Key stat: CIN is 25th in third-down conversions at 34.5 percent; JAC is t-3rd in third-down defense at 35.0 percent

Weather notes: overcast, temperature in the low 60s, less than 10 mph wind, zero percent chance of rain

The Scoop: Mixon manages 40 yards. Browning throws for under 200 yards and a touchdown to Chase. Etienne suits up and gains 60 yards, but Johnson vultures a score. Lawrence throws for 320 yards and two TDs, finding Evan Engram and Calvin Ridley. Jaguars 27-13

EARLY SUNDAY

L.A. Chargers at New England (+6), o/u 40 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

Brandon Staley, and really the entire Chargers' coaching staff, have to be feeling nervous right about now. Head coaches and coordinators are getting sacked all over the league, and here the Bolts are having lost three straight to fall to 4-7, barely hanging around the fringes of the AFC playoff picture. About the only thing that's gone right on offense is that Keenan Allen has Michael Thomas' single-season receptions record firmly in his sights if he can stay healthy; otherwise it's been a disappointing campaign for Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler and everybody else. That's still one more thing that's gone right on offense than defense, though. Actually, that's not fair. The Chargers' defense stepped up last week against the Ravens, only for the offense to flop. That's been the story of the season, though – if the offense erupts, the defense collapses, and if the defense stiffens, the offense folds. They still have too much talent for this matchup to really be a difficult one for them, but would anybody really be shocked if they played down to their competition and made this one a nail-biter?

Imagine being Mac Jones right now. You put up with the terrible coordinators, the terrible supporting cast, the repeated benchings and keep plugging away, keep trying to do what Coach tells you to do, and just as you head into a game against a defense you might be able to light up... boom, that's when you lose your job. To be fair, Jones has already had a couple chances in the last month against vulnerable defenses and blown it, so maybe it is Bailey Zappe's turn to see what he can make of this dumpster fire. Both guys could merely be competing for the chance to back up next year's first-round pick, and really, that may not be a battle Jones even wants to win. His career prospects could be better if he gets out of New England as soon as possible. The Patriots' defense at least seems to be doing something close to its usual mid-season turnaround – shutting down the Giants last week doesn't count for anything, but doing the same to the Colts the game prior holds a little more cache – and it's kind of mind-blowing to think this team could be in the wild-card conversation if it was averaging even 16 points a game since the beginning of October instead of the putrid 12.0 a game it's spat out.

The Skinny

LAC injuries: WR Allen (questionable, quadriceps), WR Joshua Palmer (IR, knee), EDGE Joey Bosa (IR, foot)
NE injuries: RB Ezekiel Elliott (questionable, thigh), WR Demario Douglas (questionable, concussion), LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (questionable, hamstring)

LAC DFS targets: Jalen Guyton $3,300 DK / $5,300 FD (NE 32nd in DVOA vs. WR3)
NE DFS targets: Rhamondre Stevenson $6,000 DK / $7,300 FD (LAC 30th in passing DVOA vs. RB)

LAC DFS fades: Allen $9,000 DK / $9,000 FD (NE second in DVOA vs. WR1)
NE DFS fades: none

Key stat: NE is 27th in third-down conversions at 33.6 percent; LAC are t-6th in third-down defense at 35.2 percent

Weather notes: overcast, temperature in the high 40s, 10-15 mph wind, 30-40 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: Ekeler collects 70 scrimmage yards. Herbert throws for 250 yards and two scores, finding Guyton and Gerald Everett. Stevenson gallops for 80 combined yards and a TD. Zappe throws for under 200 yards and a pick-six to Alohi Gilman. Chargers 21-10

Detroit at New Orleans (+4), o/u 46 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

Last week's loss to the Packers probably didn't do much more than offer some false hope to the rest of the NFC North, but the Lions are looking a lot shakier than they did six weeks ago. Jared Goff and the offense have been plenty productive, averaging 30 points and over 450 yards in the four games since they got shut down in Baltimore. It's the Detroit defense that's been sagging, at least on the surface, allowing 31 points and over 375 yards in three games since the team's bye. The unit is missing a few players but hasn't been wracked by injuries, and a deeper look shows that the culprit is actually... oh, it is the offense. Seven giveaways in the last two games has created a lot of short fields for the opposition. That seems like something that's both a bit fluky, and easy to clean up – Goff has only two fumbles (and zero lost) heading into last week, when he put three balls on the carpet and Green Bay came away with all three. Otherwise, everybody's locked in. David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs each have three rushing TDs in the last three games, and Amon-Ra St. Brown continues to cruise toward a career year.

By contrast, last week's divisional loss for the Saints may end up hurting them a lot. New Orleans out-gained Atlanta as Derek Carr threw for over 300 yards for the fifth time in 11 games, but his only TD pass came on a pick-six by Jessie Bates. The result? Five field goals for Blake Grupe, and a nine-point loss. Both the Saints and Falcons sit atop the NFC South at 5-6, with Atlanta holding the tiebreaker edge for now, and the Bucs are just one game back at 4-7. (Here's how bad things are – the Panthers are 1-10, and aren't yet mathematically eliminated from winning the division.) Part of the problem last week, and likely this week as well, is a lack of healthy targets for Carr. Lynn Bowden and Keith Kirkwood saw season-high snap counts on offense against Atlanta, and New Orleans will be without at least two of its top three wideouts again this week, and maybe all three. There's only so much Carr can do if his top options are Alvin Kamara, Taysom Hill and Juwan Johnson. With injuries hitting the defense hared too, particularly the secondary, the only thing that might keep the Saints afloat is a schedule that has back-to-back games against Carolina and the Giants after this.

The Skinny

DET injuries: LB Alex Anzalone (doubtful, hand)
NO injuries: WR Chris Olave (questionable, concussion), WR Michael Thomas (IR, knee), WR Rashid Shaheed (out, thigh), EDGE Cameron Jordan (questionable, ankle)

DET DFS targets: none
NO DFS targets: none

DET DFS fades: Jameson Williams $3,600 DK / $5,200 FD (NO first in DVOA vs. deep throws)
NO DFS fades: none

Key stat: NO is 21st in third-down conversions at 37.0 percent; DET is t-10th in third-down defense at 36.2 percent

The Scoop: Montgomery leads the DET backfield with 90 yards and a score, while Gibbs adds 50 yards. Goff throws for 340 yards and three touchdowns, two to St. Brown (whop tops 100 yards) and one to Josh Reynolds. Kamara picks up 80 scrimmage yards and a TD. Carr throws for 240 yards and touchdowns to Hill and A.T. Perry. Lions 31-21

Atlanta at N.Y. Jets (+2.5), o/u 34 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

I feel like the Falcons are in exactly the same spot they were in last year when they turned to Desmond Ridder to be their QB – not playing well and below .500, but still in the mix for a division title nobody else seems to want and therefore a "playoff-caliber" team. Ridder threw more INTs than TDs last week for the third time this season in eight starts, but this was the first one that Atlanta won, so I guess that's progress? The running game remains the foundation of the offense, and the Falcons have scored between 23 and 28 points in four straight... but again, last week was their first victory in that stretch. They're got two games left against teams out of contention – yes, Aaron, I'm including this one – and four games against comparably mediocre clubs including one more against each of the Bucs and Saints, so pretty much everything's on the table for their stretch run. I'm kind of hoping for a nice and tidy third straight 7-10 record though, since that feels like Arthur Smith's level.

Let me be crystal clear here. I refuse to entertain the possibility that Aaron Rodgers will lead this team to the postseason. The Jets are 4-7, and including tiebreakers they have seven teams between them and the final wild-card spot in the AFC. (If you do the math... yes, they're second-last in the conference, ahead of only the Patriots.) They'd have to leapfrog the Cinderella Texans (who they play next week), the surging Broncos and the dangerous Bills to do it. It ain't happening. In fact, they could easily be sitting on double-digit losses by the time Rodgers is ready to return. The Jets' offense hasn't scored more than 13 points in a game since their Week 7 bye, and the defense is just flat out exhausted, giving up 27 or more points in three of the last four contests after having that happen only once in its first seven. Tim Boyle posted a 4.7 YPA last week and threw more picks than TDs, but Robert Saleh is giving him another start under center, perhaps in an attempt to dissuade Rodgers from doing anything dumb and jeopardizing his 2024 availability. And yet, all that said... winning a game in sloppy conditions against an indoor team, and prolonging the agony of this season one more week for their fans, would kind of be the most Jets thing to happen here, right?

The Skinny

ATL injuries: LB Nate Landman (questionable, thigh)
NYJ injuries: QB Rodgers (IR-R, Achilles), RB Breece Hall (questionable, hamstring), RB Dalvin Cook (questionable, shoulder)

ATL DFS targets: Bijan Robinson $6,700 DK / $8,100 FD (NYJ 31st in rushing yards per game allowed, 22nd in passing DVOA vs. RB)
NYJ DFS targets: none

ATL DFS fades: none
NYJ DFS fades: none

Key stat: NYJ are 32nd in third-down conversions at 24.1 percent; ATL is t-6th in third-down defense at 35.2 percent

Weather notes: overcast, temperature in the low 50s, less than 10 mph wind, 90-99 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: Robinson churns out 90 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. Ridder throws for under 200 yards and gets picked off twice, one of which C.J. Mosley returns to the house, but he also finds Drake London for a score – although Younghoe Koo misses the PAT. Hall plays and leads the NYJ backfield with 50 yards. Boyle throws for under 200 yards and hits Garrett Wilson for a TD. Falcons 16-14

Arizona (+5.5) at Pittsburgh, o/u 41 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

As things currently stand, the Cardinals will be picking second in the 2024 draft, which makes Kyler Murray's solid play since his return that much more interesting. He's run for a TD in three straight games and produced five total touchdowns against only two turnovers, and Arizona even managed to win one of those games. With a bye coming up next week, and a closing schedule that features two Super Bowl contenders plus a team likely to be fighting for a wild-card spot, there's little chance the Cards fall any lower than third in the draft. That could be a huge drop in a draft class that seems to feature two top-shelf QB prospects though. Even if they end up with that No. 2 pick, that doesn't mean Murray's automatically gone. Trading down (with a Pats team under new management, perhaps) and pocketing some extra draft picks while still grabbing Marvin Harrison Jr. for Kyler to throw to could very well be the best-case scenario. In the here and now though, the team's till averaging only 18.3 points a game with Murray at the helm, so he hasn't made a huge difference. (Which is a pretty good argument for moving on from him, but look at the supporting cast he's got. Other than a potential revenge game from James Conner, there isn't much there for Pittsburgh to worry about.) The defense, meanwhile, has slipped down to 31st in the league in points per game allowed, and the secondary has three guys on IR, two more marked as out and a couple more banged up even beyond that, to say nothing of the holes in the front seven. It could be a long final six weeks for Arizona.

Yep, Matt Canada was the problem. The Steelers' offense erupted for 421 yards last week, even if it somehow turned into a very Pittsburgh-like 16 points, and that preseason optimism in the unit might finally be realized down the stretch. Kenny Pickett's still got a lot to prove, although the issues with his coordinator might have bought him some extra time to prove it. He's thrown only two TD passes over the last eight games, which is appalling, and it's not like he adds a lot of value with his legs. Sure, he hasn't thrown a pick in seven straight either, but being an ultra-cautious caretaker isn't good enough in the modern NFL, no matter how effective your running game and defense are. The Steelers really only beat the Bengals last week because they weren't facing Joe Burrow, and against opponents with competent offenses, Pickett will have to start giving them something more. Fortunately, they might not have to worry about it much in December. The Steelers get the Pats next week and Cincy again in Week 16. It's not like the roster lacks talent – Pat Freiermuth's big performance last week was no fluke, Diontae Johnson and George Pickens are a solid duo on the outside, and Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren might be a top-five backfield duo. Pickett's got a lot of bad habits to unlearn, though.

The Skinny

ARI injuries: WR Marquise Brown (questionable, heel), WR Michael Wilson (out, shoulder), TE Trey McBride (questionable, groin), S Jalen Thompson (questionable, ribs)
PIT injuries: no fantasy-relevant injuries

ARI DFS targets: none
PIT DFS targets: Pickett $5,100 DK / $6,700 FD (ARI 31st in passing DVOA, 29th in passing TDs allowed), Harris $5,200 DK / $7,200 FD and Warren $5,400 DK / $6,500 FD (ARI 30th in rushing yards per game allowed, 30th in rushing TDs allowed), Johnson $5,000 DK / $6,800 FD (ARI 31st in DVOA vs. WR1)

ARI DFS fades: McBride $4,900 DK / $6,700 FD (PIT third in DVOA vs. TE)
PIT DFS fades: none

Key stat: ARI is 12th in red-zone conversions at 57.1 percent (16-for-28); PIT is fifth in red-zone defense at 40.6 percent (13-for-32)

Weather notes: overcast, temperature in the mid-50s, 10-15 mph wind, 80-90 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: Conner manages 50 yards. Murray throws for under 200 yards but runs for 40 while tossing a TD to Rondale Moore. Harris leads the PIT backfield with 70 yards and a score, while Warren adds 50 yards. Pickett throws for under 200 yards but hits Johnson for a touchdown. Steelers 20-13

Indianapolis at Tennessee (+1), o/u 42.5 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

The Colts have won three straight games to sneak into a wild-card spot in the AFC, and a fairly favorable closing schedule might just allow them to keep it. (An AFC South crown's probably off the table though, since they're two games back of the Jags and have lost twice to them.) Thumb surgery for Jonathan Taylor isn't great news, but Zack Moss handled the starting role just fine earlier in the season while Taylor was unavailable. The defense has played well during the winning streak, but they were facing Bryce Young, MacBailey Jones-Zappe and Baker Mayfield, so it's not like they were tested in those contests. The last time they faced anything close to a solid QB, they coughed up 511 yards and 38 points to Derek Carr and the Saints... but they don't face another until hosting C.J. Stroud in Week 18. Gardner Minshew hasn't been good either, posting a 6:7 TD:INT, 60.7 percent completion rate and 6.6 YPA in his last six starts, but that's been enough to get by against lesser competition.

Will Levis definitely fits in that 'not much of a test' category. NFL defenses have figured the rookie out pretty quickly, and the Titans have once again retreated into being an offense that goes as far as Derrick Henry can carry them. To be fair, that can still be pretty far on occasion, but the big man hasn't had a run of 20 or more yards in five straight games since Tennessee's bye while managing a pedestrian 4.0 YPC. Henry has scored three rushing TDs during that stretch, including two last week, but his slow decline is continuing in the second half. If he isn't steamrolling, the Titans really don't have much else going for them. In four games since his eruption in Levis' debut, DeAndre Hopkins has just a 14-195-1 line on 30 targets, and no one else has stepped up. This is a team ill equipped to climb out of holes, and a secondary prone to digging them. It's a bad combination.

The Skinny

IND injuries: RB Taylor (out, thumb), DT DeForest Buckner (questionable, shoulder)
TEN injuries: WR Treylon Burks (questionable, concussion)

IND DFS targets: Minshew $5,300 DK / $6,800 FD (TEN 30th in passing DVOA, 27th in YPA allowed), Michael Pittman $7,100 DK / $7,900 FD (TEN 32nd in DVOA vs. WR1), Josh Downs $5,100 DK / $6,100 FD (TEN 31st in DVOA vs. WR2)
TEN DFS targets: none

IND DFS fades: none
TEN DFS fades: none

Head-to-head record, last five-plus years: 6-5 TEN, average score 24-23 IND, average margin of victory 12 points. TEN has won five straight meetings prior to a 23-16 victory for IND in Week 5. The last five meetings have all had single-digit margins
Key stat: TEN is 28th in third-down conversions at 31.8 percent; IND is 15th in third-down defense at 38.4 percent

Weather notes: clear, temperature in the high 50s, 10-15 mph wind, 1-10 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: Moss racks up 90 combined yards and two TDs, one rushing and one receiving. Minshew throws for 320 yards and two more touchdowns, one each to Pittman (who tops 100 yards) and Alec Pierce. Henry bangs out 60 yards and a score. Levis throws for under 200 yards and gets picked off twice but does hit Nick Westbrook-Ikhine for a TD. Colts 28-17

Miami at Washington (+9.5), o/u 50 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

I can't recall ever seeing a wide receiver with a five-figure salary on FanDuel. A stud running back like McCaffrey once in a blue moon, sure, but a wideout? Yowza. Anyway, only one team has ever scored 60 or more points in a game twice in a season – Norm Van Brocklin's 1950 Rams beat the Colts 70-27 and then the Lions 65-24 in back-to-back games, if you want to stump your friends – but if Tua Tagovailoa's 2023 Dolphins are going to match that feat, this is their best chance to do it. Miami cooled down for a bit there in late October and early November, but they hung 34 on the Jets last week and look like they'll finally get a healthy De'Von Achane back for this one, so it could be full speed ahead for the league's top track team, weather permitting. Tyreek's still got his eyes locked on Calvin Johnson's record, too – with 1,324 receiving yards through 11 games, he's on track to post the NFL's first 2,000-yard campaign, assuming someone like A.J. Brown or CeeDee Lamb doesn't get there first. The defense has also held four straight opponents under 300 yards of offense, although that's only impressive for one of them (Kansas City), and it isn't even at full strength with Jaelen Phillips out for the year. Gaining as much home-field advantage as possible in the playoffs and avoiding chilly northern games in January has to be Miami's focus the rest of the way, so they need to make hay now before they face a brutal holiday stretch (the Cowboys on Christmas Eve, the Ravens on New Year's Eve and then the Bills in Week 18).

I find it hilarious that giving up 31 points to Tommy DeVito and the Giants wasn't the final straw for Jack Del Rio as the Commanders' DC, but having the Cowboys hang 45 on them – something Dallas has been doing to pretty much everybody – was. Ron Rivera is almost assuredly the next to go, even if it doesn't happen until the offseason, and I'd like to think Eric Bieniemy will finally get his shot as a head coach in 2024. It's hard to argue with the job he's done developing Sam Howell this season. The 2022 fifth-round pick has looked legit, throwing for 300-plus yards in five of the last eight games on massive volume while trying to compensate for that atrocious defense, and he's tossed multiple picks only once during that stretch. Howell hasn't looked like Patrick Mahomes or anything, but he's also dealt with more pressure than Mahomes ever has and been better than a Day 3 QB has a right to be. With the team potentially headed for a top-five pick in a year that seems deep in O-line options, Washington's got a lot clearer blueprint for their draft that some of the teams that will be picking around them do.

The Skinny

MIA injuries: S Jevon Holland (questionable, knee)
WAS injuries: no fantasy-relevant injuries

MIA DFS targets: Tagovailoa $7,900 DK / $8,400 FD (WAS 32nd in passing DVOA, 32nd in passing TDs allowed), Hill $9,600 DK / $10,000 FD (WAS 30th in DVOA vs. WR1), Dolphins DST $3,900 DK / $5,000 FD (third in sacks, WAS 30th in giveaways, 31st in sacks allowed)
WAS DFS targets: none

MIA DFS fades: none
WAS DFS fades: none

Key stat: MIA is first in red-zone conversions at 73.0 percent (27-for-37); WAS is 20th in red-zone defense at 55.6 percent

Weather notes: overcast, temperature in the high 50s, less than 10 mph wind, 50-60 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: Raheem Mostert leads the MIA backfield with 110 yards and two scores, while Achane adds 70 combined yards and a receiving touchdown. Tagovailoa throws for 360 yards and three more TDs, two to Hill (who tops 100 yards) and one to Cedrick Wilson. Brian Robinson gains 50 yards. Howell throws for 260 yards and scores to Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas, but it's nowhere near enough. Dolphins 45-20

Denver (+3.5) at Houston, o/u 47 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

I keep trying to adjust the inputs on my little score-generating algorithm to eliminate or at least minimize the Broncos' early-season performance, since they're clearly a different team right now, but it never seems to be enough. Denver's won five straight games as the defense turned things around at the same time as the offense cleaned up its turnover issues, and while I do keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, you can't ignore that the team's beaten both Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen in recent weeks. Russell Wilson hasn't thrown a pick during the win streak (although he has lost two fumbles), and while his 8:0 TD:INT and 6.7 YPA aren't great, his 71.6 percent completion rate is hella impressive. He's done it by mainly sticking to the targets he trusts, which is Courtland Sutton and his running backs, but it's working, even if it leaves Jerry Jeudy looking for an offseason exit. The defense has been playing at an elite level for even longer, allowing an average just 16.5 points and about 336 yards of offense over the last six contests while creating 17 takeaways, giving Wilson a big margin for error that he hasn't even always needed. It's the kind of formula that can not just make the playoffs, but pull an upset or two if they can keep it going for another month or more.

Last week's loss for the Texans was a tough one, and not just because Matt Ammendola missed a potential game-tying 58-yard field goal in the final minute. (Ka'imi Fairbairn, their usual kicker, is a career 25-for-36 from 50-plus yards, 69.4 percent.) Houston's now 1-2 within the division and two games back of the Jags in the AFC South, so a wild-card berth is increasingly looking like the team's most realistic path to the postseason. C.J. Stroud continues to amaze, throwing for over 300 yards in four straight games while producing 12 total TDs over that stretch with a 68.8 percent completion rate and 9.5 YPA, and Devin Singletary has provided the offense with a little balance out of the backfield. DeMeco Ryans' defense is starting to backslide though, and that could well end up being the difference between playing past Week 18 or settling for being everyone's "breakout" pick in 2024. The Texans have allowed an average of 26 points and 369 yards of offense over the last four games, with Trevor Lawrence and Joe Burrow (in his last healthy game) doing the most damage, and Kyler Murray giving them some trouble too. The good news? They don't have to face anybody that good the rest of the way. If Stroud keeps slinging it, I still like their chances of making a division winner very, very nervous in the wild-card round.

The Skinny

DEN injuries: TE Greg Dulcich (IR, hamstring), S Kareem Jackson (out, suspension)
HOU injuries: WR Tank Dell (questionable, calf), WR Noah Brown (questionable, knee), TE Dalton Schultz (out, hamstring), K Fairbairn (IR, quadriceps)

DEN DFS targets: none
HOU DFS targets: Singletary $5,900 DK / $7,000 FD (DEN 31st in rushing DVOA, 32nd in rushing yards per game allowed, 32nd in YPC allowed), Brevin Jordan $2,500 DK / $4,300 FD (DEN 31st in DVOA vs. TE)

DEN DFS fades: none
HOU DFS fades: none

Key stat: HOU is sixth in third-down conversions at 44.0 percent; DEN is t-10th in third-down defense at 36.2 percent

The Scoop: Javonte Williams bangs out 80 yards. Wilson throws for 280 yards and two scores, finding Sutton and Marvin Mims. Singletary puts together 60 yards. Stroud throws for 330 yards and three touchdowns, hitting Jordan, Nico Collins (who tops 100 yards) and Dell. Texans 27-17

LATE SUNDAY

Carolina (+5.5) at Tampa Bay, o/u 37 – Sunday, 4:05 p.m. EST

Are the Panthers trying to ruin Bryce Young? He hasn't even finished his first NFL season yet, and he's already on his second head coach and second play-caller. He's not just going to be eternally compared to C.J. Stroud; he's also going to be linked to Caleb Williams and Drake Maye, since Carolina gave up what's looking like it's going to be the first overall pick in 2024 to land Young. He could turn out to be pretty good, but if he's only the third or even fourth-best QB in that group, he's always going to feel like a consolation prize – and right now, he's far from pretty good. Young's thrown for under 200 yards in four straight games and completed under 60 percent of his passes in three straight, so if anything he's getting worse, not better. It's possible things open up a bit since the coaching switch, as OC Thomas Brown won't have Frank Reich looking over his shoulder and second-guessing him any more, but it's not like Young has a lot to work with on the roster aside from Adam Thielen. Ejiro Evero's secondary has at least been as advertised, and the Panthers' defense has held five straight QBs under 200 passing yards – a list that includes Stroud and Dak Prescott. It can't stop the run, and the offense can't come back from any kind of real deficit, but at least Carolina's forcing other teams to work for it.

The Bucs have dropped six of seven since their Week 5 bye, a dreadful stretch that still has them only one game back in the NFC South. The offense has scored more than 20 points once in that stretch while the defense has allowed 24 or more in four of the last five, so it's been a team effort. Baker Mayfield has actually been OK, tossing multiple TDs in four of the last five while leaning heavily on Mike Evans, but he's also committed five turnovers in the last three contests to undo a lot of his good work. There's still a clear path to a division title for Tampa Bay, but there are just too many key injuries on the defensive side right now to have much confidence the team will be able to find it.

The Skinny

CAR injuries: TE Hayden Hurst (out, concussion), TE Tommy Tremble (doubtful, hip), S Vonn Bell (out, shoulder)
TB injuries: WR Chris Godwin (questionable, neck), LB Devin White (out, foot), LB Lavonte David (out, groin)

CAR DFS targets: none
TB DFS targets: Rashaad White $6,300 DK / $7,500 FD (CAR 32nd in rushing DVOA, 32nd in rushing TDs allowed)

CAR DFS fades: Panthers DST $2,500 DK / $3,200 FD (32nd in takeaways, t-30th in sacks)
TB DFS fades: none

Head-to-head record, last five years: 7-3 TB, average score 28-22 TB, average margin of victory 15 points. Six straight meetings had been decided by double-digit points prior to a 30-24 win by TB in Week 17 of last season. TB has won three straight home meetings
Key stat: CAR is 19th in red-zone conversions at 52.0 percent (13-for-25); TB is second in red-zone defense at 37.8 percent (14-for-37)

Weather notes: overcast, temperature in the mid-70s, less than 10 mph wind, 20-40 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: Chuba Hubbard grinds out 40 yards. Young throws for under 200 yards and a TD to Thielen. White piles up 90 scrimmage yards and a score. Mayfield throws for 210 yards and a touchdown to Evans. Buccaneers 23-13

Cleveland (+3.5) at L.A. Rams, o/u 39.5 – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EST

The Browns' loss in Denver last week seems kind of inevitable in retrospect. The defense is worn out, and the offense barely qualified as decent when Deshaun Watson was under center. With rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the starting role, it had managed only 25 points in two games. DTR will give way to Joe Flacco this week, and there's absolutely no way to know whether the 38-year-old has anything left in the tank. His numbers with the Jets in sporadic duty over the last few years haven't been good, though, and include a 57.5 percent completion rate and 6.1 YPA. I have a hard time imagining catching the ball from Flacco is going to be bad news for the likes of Amari Cooper and David Njoku, but only because the passing game had already bottomed out. Cleveland's still sitting in a wild-card spot and is two games back of Baltimore in the AFC North with six to play, so who knows? Maybe Flacco will actually do what Aaron Rodgers is trying hard to convince people he can pull off in New York. Then again, maybe he'll only last a handful of plays too while working behind an offensive line missing both starting tackles.

At 5-6, the Rams are just out of a wild-card spot in the NFC and have won two straight games coming out of their bye, and it wouldn't be a huge shock if they became a tough out down the stretch. The offense is healthy again, as Kyren Williams re-established himself as the clear top back with 204 scrimmage yards and two receiving TDs last week against the Cards. It's the fourth time in seven games this season the second-year back has scored multiple touchdowns, and the Rams are 3-1 when he makes multiple trips to the end zone. Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua get the headlines, but Williams increasingly looks like the most important skill position player in the offense. Aaron Donald and the defense has also held three straight opponents to 20 points or less, and having something to play for might be waking the big man up.

The Skinny

CLE injuries: QB Thompson-Robinson (out, concussion)
LAR injuries: no fantasy-relevant injuries

CLE DFS targets: none
LAR DFS targets: none

CLE DFS fades: none
LAR DFS fades: Matthew Stafford $5,900 DK / $6,900 FD (CLE second in passing DVOA, first in net passing yards per game allowed, t-1st in passing TDs allowed), Williams $7,200 DK / $8,500 FD (CLE third in rushing DVOA, third in passing DVOA vs. RB), Kupp $7,800 DK / $7,100 FD (CLE first in DVOA vs. WR1), Tyler Higbee $3,700 DK / $5,400 FD (CLE first in DVOA vs. TE)

Key stat: LAR are 14th in third-down conversions at 41.5 percent; CLE is first in third-down defense at 27.1 percent

The Scoop: Jerome Ford gallops for 80 yards and a touchdown, while Kareem Hunt adds 50 yards. Flacco throws for under 200 yards and a TD to Njoku, but also tosses a pick-six to Ahkello Witherspoon. Williams manages 70 combined yards. Stafford throws for under 200 yards and a score to Kupp. Dustin Hopkins wins it in OT in his old stomping grounds. Browns 23-20

San Francisco at Philadelphia (+2.5), o/u 46.5
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EST

While there's still enough time left in the season for something wacky to happen, for all intents and purposes, this game probably decides home-field advantage and the top seed on the NFC side of the playoff bracket. If the Eagles win, they're two or three games ahead of their main competition with a win in hand over both San Francisco and Dallas. If the Niners win though, the race opens up wide. Kyle Shanahan's crew has won three straight coming out of their bye, by an average score of about 31-10, and all three teams they beat so handily could wind up making the playoffs themselves. Brock Purdy has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in five straight, Christian McCaffrey has started another TD streak, and Nick Bosa and Chase Young have combined for 6.5 sacks in three contests since their reunion. Just like it was to begin the year, everything's clicking for the Niners. They just have to avoid another untimely swoon.

If you're a glass half-full Eagles fan, you look at the fact that they've been out-gained in four straight games, but won them all, as a good sign. They know how to overcome adversity, and win in a variety of ways, and Philly remains the only one-loss team in the NFL despite not playing their best recently. Once they plug those leaks, they should be able to cruise to a Super Bowl. If you're a glass half-empty fan... well, that other cleat's gotta drop eventually. Jalen Hurts should be productive regardless – he's delivered multiple TDs, either through the air or on the ground, in 10 straight games, and Cam Newton's record for a QB of 14 rushing touchdowns in a season is firmly in his sights. DeVonta Smith's been his favorite target of late, taking A.J. Brown off his 2,000-yard pace, but given what he did earlier in the year, 950 yards in the next six games doesn't seem impossible for Swole Batman. The defense, and especially the secondary, under first-year DC Sean Desai seems to be headed backwards though, averaging nearly 430 yards allowed over that four-game "lucky" streak. Dallas, Kansas City and especially Buffalo all found ways to lose against Philly, but I can't say I have a lot of confidence that San Francisco will do the same – although the weather could add some chaos to the mix, and if any team is riding a wave of chaos right now, it's the Eagles.

The Skinny

SF injuries: no fantasy-relevant injuries
PHI injuries: TE Dallas Goedert (doubtful, forearm), LB Zach Cunningham (out, hamstring)

SF DFS targets: Purdy $6,100 DK / $7,800 FD (PHI 29th in net passing yards per game, t-30th in passing TDs allowed), George Kittle $6,200 DK / $7,400 FD (PHI 32nd in DVOA vs. TE) 
PHI DFS targets: none

SF DFS fades: McCaffrey $9,000 DK / $9,800 FD (PHI third in rushing yards per game allowed, t-3rd in rushing TDs allowed)
PHI DFS fades: D'Andre Swift $6,600 DK / $6,700 FD (SF second in rushing yards per game allowed, t-3rd in rushing TDs allowed), Smith $7,300 DK / $7,700 FD (SF first in DVOA vs. WR2)

Key stat: SF is sixth in red-zone conversions at 61.4 percent (27-for-44); PHI is 29th in red-zone defense at 64.9 percent (24-for-37)

Weather notes: cloudy, temperature in the low 50s, less than 10 mph wind, 25-35 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: McCaffrey picks up 90 scrimmage yards and a score. Purdy throws for 320 yards and three touchdowns, one each to Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk (who tops 100 yards) and Deebo Samuel. Swift gains 70 yards. Hurts throws for 250 yards and two TDs, hitting Brown and Julio Jones, while also running for 50 yards and a score. 49ers 34-24

SUNDAY NIGHT

Kansas City at Green Bay (+6.5), o/u 42 – Sunday, 8:20 p.m. EST

It's always amusing to me when the schedule and football gods get together to produce prop bets like, "Who will have the better game, Christian Watson or Justin Watson?" Kansas City has been alternating wins and losses since late October, and while the team remains the prohibitive favorites to claim another AFC West crown, it's not the lock it should be at this point in the season. If last week's victory over the Raiders is any indication though, K.C. may be gearing up for a big kick to the finish line. The win was rookie Rashee Rice's coming-out party, as the 2023 second-round pick hauled in over 100 yards for the first time while setting new career highs in catches and targets. He's looked the part of Patrick Mahomes' top option at wideout for a while now, and the QB is finally starting to treat him like one. Even giving defenses one more player to worry about aside from Travis Kelce will open things up significantly, and make more room downfield for the likes of Watson and Skyy Moore. Kansas City's scored 30 or more points in a game only three times so far this year, but that number could be doubled by Week 18.

The Packers have won three of their last four to stay in the hunt for a wild-card spot, but they'd probably need the Lions to completely collapse for an NFC North title to be plausible. Jordan Love is hitting his stride, throwing multiple TDs in three straight games and completing better than two-thirds of his passes with a YPA over 8.0 in three of the last four. This will be the best secondary he's faced this season, and Green Bay's offense has struggled when Aaron Jones hasn't been on the field – even last week's 29 points including a defensive TD for the Packers. They have a great closing schedule that includes games against the Giants, Panthers and Bears, so a loss here won't be lethal to their postseason odds, just inconvenient. The bigger threat to their chances is the injuries that keep piling up on both sides of the ball.

The Skinny

KC injuries: RB Jerick McKinnon (out, groin)
GB injuries: RB Jones (out, knee), WR Jayden Reed (questionable, chest), WR Dontayvion Wicks (questionable, knee), TE Luke Musgrave (IR, abdomen), LB De'Vondre Campbell (questionable, neck), S Rudy Ford (questionable, biceps)

KC DFS targets: JWatson $3,500 DK / $5,300 FD (GB 30th in DVOA vs. deep throws)
GB DFS targets: none

KC DFS fades: none
GB DFS fades: Love $5,800 DK / $7,300 FD (KC third in passing DVOA, fourth in net passing yards per game allowed, third in YPA allowed), CWatson $4,600 DK / $6,000 FD (KC fourth in DVOA vs. WR1)

Key stat: KC is fourth in third-down conversions at 45.7 percent; GB is t-21st in third-down defense at 39.9 percent

Weather notes: overcast, temperature in the low 30s, less than 10 mph wind, 1-10 percent chance of snow

The Scoop: Isiah Pacheco churns out 60 yards and a TD. Mahomes throws for 240 yards and two touchdowns, hitting Kelce and Rice. AJ Dillon bangs out 60 yards. Love throws for 200 yards and a score to Romeo Doubs. Kansas City 24-16

THURSDAY NIGHT

Seattle (+9) at Dallas, o/u 46 – Thursday, 8:15 p.m. EST

The Seahawks got thumped last week by the Niners, all but dashing their hopes at an NFC West title, but at 6-5 they're still firmly in the wild-card picture. Unfortunately, the offense is going south at the wrong time. Seattle's lost three of four and scored a total of 32 points in the losses, with their only good offensive performance in November coming against the Commanders, which hardly counts. A tough schedule has combined with nagging injuries to drag the unit down – while only Kenneth Walker has actually missed any games, Geno Smith, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have all spent time on the injury report and suited up at something less than 100 percent. That trio appear healthy heading into this one, at least, given that their next two games after this one are the rematch with the Niners and then a home tilt against the Eagles, the Seahawks have their work cut out for them if they want to keep their heads above water.

There's home-field advantage, and then there's home-field ADVANTAGE. The Cowboys are 5-0 at home this season, but they aren't just taking care of business, they are annihilating whoever dares set foot in JerryWorld. The average score in those five games was 41-12, and while the Rams are the closest thing to a playoff-caliber team that they've hosted, Sean McVay's crew did just beat the Seahawks a couple weeks ago. Dak Prescott has been on a rampage since Dallas' bye, posting a 17:2 TD:INT, 70.6 percent completion rate and 8.9 YPA over the last five games, and Mike McCarthy is finally making an effort to get Tony Pollard going too, as the RB has scored in back-to-back games with 183 scrimmage yards. The defense, of course, remains capable of wrecking the game at a moment's notice. DaRon Bland set an NFL record last week with his fifth pick-six of the year, while Micah Parsons has 6.5 sacks in those five games since the bye. Even given all that success, and with a rematch against Philly coming up next week, it seems unlikely the Cowboys will look past this one. They still have yet to prove they can do to a competent opponent what they've been doing to the likes of the Giants and Panthers, and a victory here would be just their second of the season against a team with a winning record (the Jets were 1-0 heading into that Week 2 beatdown.)

The Skinny

SEA injuries: RB Walker (questionable, oblique)
DAL injuries: EDGE Parsons (questionable, illness)

SEA DFS targets: none
DAL DFS targets: Brandin Cooks $4,900 DK / $6,000 FD (SEA 29th in DVOA vs. WR2)

SEA DFS fades: Jaxon Smith-Njigba $4,000 DK / $5,300 FD (DAL first in DVOA vs. WR3)
DAL DFS fades: none

Key stat: SEA is t-29th in third-down conversions at 31.3 percent; DAL is second in third-down defense at 34.3 percent

The Scoop: Zach Charbonnet leads the SEA backfield with 60 yards. Smith throws for 230 yards and two touchdowns, finding Metcalf and Noah Fant. Pollard dashes for 110 scrimmage yards and a TD. Prescott throws for 310 yards and three scores, one each to CeeDee Lamb, Cooks and Jake Ferguson. Cowboys 34-20

Last week's record: 9-7, 10-6 ATS, 9-7 o/u
2023 record: 104-76, 88-87-5 ATS, 96-81-3 o/u

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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.
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