Welcome to FedEx Air and Ground fantasy analysis. Each week, we'll highlight some favorable quarterback plays and a few running backs that could prove valuable for fantasy owners based on matchups, projected game flow, and most essentially, talent. With Week 13 in the books and another sample of fantasy points against data to work with, here are a few matchups to exploit in Week 14. These players might just win your week.
Jared Goff vs. Falcons
We've reached the point in the fantasy season where, to be completely transparent, it's kind of boring to write about the same players. You don't need to read an article on why you should start Russell Wilson or Jameis Winston. That doesn't really help anyone. So in an effort to be more creative, this is my attempt to find a silver lining in what's been a rough start for Rams' rookie quarterback Jared Goff.
Obviously, you're not starting Goff in fantasy if you're in a 10-team league and guys like Kirk Cousins or Matthew Stafford are available on the waiver wire. But in deeper leagues, two-quarterback formats, or DFS situations where you're looking for value plays, a case can be made to consider Goff as a fantasy option against the Falcons.
Call me an insane person if you'd like, but I have this weird gut feeling that the Rams are going to pull out a win over the Falcons in Week 14. In order to make this ludicrous hunch a reality, Los Angeles will need Goff to mitigate his mistakes and score, let's say, at least three touchdowns. That's not out of the question; Goff threw three touchdown passes in Week 12 against the Saints, when he finished as fantasy's QB22 with 16.56 points. That total was reduced by four fantasy points because of an interception, and a lost fumble as the pocket collapsed around him. He would have been the QB12 that week without those two turnovers. Alas, the turnovers did happen.
Goff's receivers have dropped more than just a few catchable balls which speaks to the lack of talent around him more so than his lack of ability to get them the ball accurately. Not surprisingly, the numbers spell trouble for the rookie quarterback in his first three starts as a pro. Goff has a four-to-three touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 53.7 completion percentage.
Yes, Goff has thrown three interceptions in his last two games. But if you break them down, the first one hit Lance Kendricks in the hands and it was straight-up stripped by Saints' defender Kenny Vaccaro. Goff's second career interception was again intended for Kendricks (shocking). Goff hit him on a wide-open crossing pattern, Kendricks' popped the ball up into the air with his stone hands and it was picked on the deflection by one of the best in the game, Malcolm Butler. On Goff's third interception, he was under duress in the pocket and his arm was hit as he threw causing the ball to flail through the air off target and came down between three New England defenders. Point is, Goff's turnovers have not entirely been his fault. Still, he has shown some promising signs of what may be to come with more experience. And if there's ever a matchup for Goff to excel in, it's this one.
Another interesting development as the rookie gets more reps is his increasing average air yards each game. Per Next Gen Stats, Goff has ranked in among the top 20 quarterbacks in Week 12 and Week 13 in a metric that measures the amount of yards the ball has traveled on a pass from the point of release to the point of reception. In Week 12, Goff ranked 20th in this metric with an average air distance of 19.12 yards. He jumped up to ninth among qualified quarterbacks in Week 13 with a 20.46 average air distance. Of course, this 66-yard completion to Kenny Britt boosted that average. Still, it shows that Goff isn't afraid to let the ball fly, and he's displayed some touch and accuracy when given enough time in the pocket.
This week is probably the most favorable matchup Goff will have all season. The Rams are at home against one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL. Atlanta has allowed the second-most completions (331), second-most passing yards (3,529) and second-most touchdown passes (26) to opposing quarterbacks. They're also allowing 27.6 points per game to opponents (29th in NFL) and 280.8 pass yards per game (last in NFL).
With some of fantasy's top quarterbacks facing difficult matchups this week (Tom Brady vs. Baltimore, Aaron Rodgers vs. Seattle, Marcus Mariota vs. Denver) it's not out of the question to forecast Goff as a QB12 or better by the time the dust settles on Week 14.
Carson Palmer at Dolphins
Part of the appeal with Carson Palmer in fantasy is his volume: He's averaging 44.5 pass attempts per game over the last four weeks, and has thrown 45-plus attempts in five of his last six games. Of course, along with more opportunities to rack up passing yards, the increased volume can lead to many more opportunities for interceptions. Palmer owns an 18-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season. He's averaging 269.3 pass yards per game and ranks ninth overall in passing yards with 3,231 yards on the season. He has also lost three fumbles. All of that equates to him sitting as the QB21 in fantasy for the season.
Over the last month or so, Palmer has improved as a fantasy option. His overall fantasy points the last four weeks rank him as the QB12 with an average of 17.28 fantasy points per contest. Over the last two games, he's the QB3 (20.73 fppg).
Palmer hasn't been throwing the ball deep as much this year, as he struggled with longer throws early on. The inconsistent play of Michael Floyd and John Brown forced Palmer to feed David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald on shorter passes, allowing his playmakers to gain yards after the catch which obviously limits the quarterback's totals. But this week against Miami, Palmer has a chance to air it out.
Miami has allowed 457-plus total yards in each of last two games against San Francisco and Baltimore. That includes a combined 687 pass yards between Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco. Miami will have a tough time moving the ball against Arizona's second-ranked overall defense (297.3 yards per game allowed) and the Cardinals should dominate time of possession as they have all season. If Palmer throws the ball another 40-ish times, he should be a top-10 fantasy option this week against the Dolphins.
Ryan Mathews vs. Redskins
Ryan Mathews has missed the last two games with a knee injury, but he's on track to play on Sunday against Washington. The Eagles have sorely missed his presence, as their run game has struggled without the veteran back. In fact, Philly posted season-lows in rushing yards in each of the last two games with a total of 81 rush yards against the Packers and 53 rush yards against the Bengals.
The Eagles backfield has been tough to predict this year, but in the five games in which Mathews' has logged double-digit carries he's averaged 14.98 fantasy points per game. He is also the go-to red-zone option with 30 attempts inside the 20-yard line. Sproles is second on the team with 15. All eight of Mathews touchdowns have come from red-zone touches. And the Eagles should have chances in scoring position against a Washington defense that has allowed 24.6 points per game (20th in NFL). The Redskins also rank last in the league in third-down percentage which means more chain-moving for opposing offenses and more opportunities for fantasy points.
If Mathews gets double-digit touches, he should be able to produce RB2 type fantasy totals in his first game back, so if you own him, fire him up in the fantasy playoffs.
Lamar Miller vs. Colts
No, Lamar Miller has not produced as you expected he would back in August when you likely drafted him in the second round. But when given opportunities in favorable matchups, he has put up solid fantasy point totals. In fact, his best game all season came in Week 6 when the Texans played the Colts in Houston. Miller rushed 24 times in that game for a season-high 149 yards and tacked on 29 receiving yards. He also scored twice in the game which put him at 29.8 fantasy points for the week.
Coming off a game where he had just 22 yards on 14 carries, Miller should bounce back in a big way against Indianapolis this week. The Colts defense ranks in the bottom of the league in points allowed per game (25.9) and total yards per game (382.9). With Miller averaging over 18 carries per game this season, he's still being used as a workhorse-type back and should continue to see volume. Miller also leads Houston with 26 rushes in the red zone. Fantasy owners will have to hope Brock Osweiler can do his part to move the Houston offense into scoring position a few times, as that could lead to a big day for Miller when fantasy owners need him most.
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