Fantasy News  


T.Y. Hilton can beat the Vikings defense in Week 15


Exploiting matchups is key in fantasy and can help us unearth sleepers, value plays and also alert us to when we should fade or lower expectations for more establish studs. There are a number of statistics and data-based tools to helps us decipher which matchups to exploit and which to avoid, and one of which is the NFL's Next Gen Stats package -- not just the fancy speed numbers you see on television.

Here we'll look where cornerbacks and wide receivers line up, which defenses are particularly susceptible to which player packages and so much more in order to find value with our fantasy players. As the season goes along we'll have even more data to use and a better understanding of the Next Gen Stats. Here are the top matchups that could bring value in Week 15.

Jets receivers vs. Miami Dolphins secondary

With Bryce Petty under center there's been a clear shift as to who the top target is for the New York Jets. Brandon Marshall owned a 39 percent share of Ryan Fitzpatrick's intended air yards this season. Even with the quarterback's struggles, you could count on Marshall having reliable volume week-in-and-week-out, even if that didn't turn into production.

Under Petty's reign as the starter, Marshall's usage has completely shifted. His share of the intended air yards craters to just 14.9 percent and he also receives far less deep game usage. Marshall's air yards per target was a healthy 12.8 under Fitzpatrick but crashes to 8.7 with Petty.

It appears the backup to backup connection is much more alive in New York. Robby Anderson has 56.9 percent of Bryce Petty's intended air yards this season. In fact, Anderson's whopping 58.5 percent share of the Jets intended air yards from Weeks 11 to 14 leads all wide receivers over that span:

Top-five percentage share of team's intended air yards Weeks 11-14
Robby Anderson: 58.5 percent
T.Y. Hilton: 45.4 percent
Terrelle Pryor: 44.2 percent
Julian Edelman: 42.7 percent
Kenny Britt: 42.3

The Dolphins defense can be beaten in the secondary. Byron Maxwell has been painfully inconsistent, though he did have a solid day against Brandon Marshall when the two met earlier this season. He held the receiver to just 46 receiving yards and shadowed him on 21 of 26 pass plays. If Anderson runs routes against the rest of the ragtag corners he could get loose for a big play or two.

Dak Prescott vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It's hard to argue that Dak Prescott is coming off his worst game of the season against the Giants on Sunday night. His 45.4 passer rating in Week 14 was the lowest it has been all season.

One of the issues that Prescott faced in Week 14 but also in the game prior was the offensive line allowed a bit more pressure on him than normal. Prescott was sacked six times in those two games and was only sacked 15 times altogether in Weeks 1 through 12. Next Gen Stats' pressure metric reveals that wasn't a fluke, either. Pass rushers averaged 2.9 yards of distance from Prescott at time to throw or sack in the first 12 weeks of the season, but that number went down to a closer 2.7 yards in Weeks 13 and 14.

Prescott's mobility has been one of his biggest assets this year and he's made plenty of plays outside of the pocket. He's thrown 19.5 percent of his passes there, the second-most of any quarterback in the NFL. Through the first 12 weeks of the season, he had a 114.6 passer rating on throws outside of the pocket. However, the last two weeks he's completed just four of 11 passes thrown outside the pocket. He'll need to improve on the move on Sunday night, as the Buccaneers are suddenly looking like an improved defense.

Much of the Bucs sudden improvement in a number of defensive categories is due to the improved play of their front seven, particularly at pressuring the passer. From Weeks 1 through 9 they ranked 32nd in Next Gen Stats pressure metric with their pass rushers 3.2 yards away from the quarterback at the time to throw or sack. The last five weeks they've jumped all the way to eighth-best in the NFL with a 2.8 average.

Prescott's momentum from early in the season is starting to stall a bit, and the negative cries against him came to something of a crescendo in Week 14. He'll need to overcome an improved Buccaneers pass rush unit to stave off any questions. The Next Gen Stats point to some reasons he may struggle to do so.

Patriots offense vs. Denver Broncos

With Rob Gronkowski out with a back injury, there have been two direct beneficiaries in terms of increased opportunity in the Patriots offense. Both Julian Edelman and rookie Malcolm Mitchell have seen dramatic increases in their opportunities. Gronkowski led the team with a 29.2 percent share of Tom Brady's intended air yards in Weeks 5 through 10. Edelman and Mitchell owned a 26.2 percent share and Malcolm Mitchell a measly 6.5 percent. From Weeks 11 to 14 when Gronkowski's injury issues began, Edelman's intended air yards took a 17.6 percent jump to a whopping 42.7 percent share and Mitchell is second to him with an 18.2 percent share.

It will be hard for this team to continue to use those two as the primary engines of the offense this week in Denver. The Broncos pass defense is suffocating and allow the fewest yards per game to opposing wide receivers. Much of that has to do with their pass rush, as four Broncos players (Von Miller, Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett and DeMarcus Ware) rank in the top-five of shortest distance to quarterbacks on pass rush attempts.

One area where Denver can be exploited is by tight ends and running backs lined up in the slot or out wide. Denver allows the second most yards to tight ends and running backs (752) in that alignment and the most yards per catch (13.4).

In theory, that should be an area where the Patriots can pick on the Broncos. It's hard to reasonably chase production from either of the running backs. Dion Lewis has taken 17 percent of his plays out wide and three percent from the slot since his Week 11 return. That's more than James White, who has 14 percent out wide on the year and four percent in the slot. Unless you're completely desperate, trusting either is hard. Yet, we have a sliver of an indicator that either could pop up for a big game.

Martellus Bennet might be the real key here for New England. He had little involvement in the offense despite Gronk's absence, as he was dealing with his own injury. However, he made a major blip on the radar this past week. Bennett averaged 13.1 air yards per target against the Ravens in Week 14, which led the team.

T.Y. Hilton vs. Minnesota Vikings

Donte Moncrief continued a frustrating season that had breakout written all over it coming in by aggravating a hamstring injury in Week 14. He has yet to practice this week and will likely miss the Colts upcoming game with the Vikings.

Even with that likely opening in the offense, there will naturally be some panic about Hilton going against the Vikings. Xavier Rhodes has shadowed and taken out a number of big-name receivers this season.

Earlier in the year Rhodes held Odell Beckham to just three catches for 23 yards in shadow coverage. Last Sunday he gave up just one catch for 17 yards to Allen Robinson on over 20 pass plays. He's emerging as a legitimate shutdown cornerback, who can also make big plays on the ball.

With that being said, T.Y. Hilton has two factors working in his favor in what looks like a tough matchup. The first is his volume. As shown in the chart earlier, Hilton has one of the highest-share of his team's air yards of any receiver in the NFL over the last few weeks (45.4 percent).

As you would expect, his opportunities this season have been greater when Donte Moncrief is out compared to when he plays. Hilton has a 38.1 percent share of the Colts air yards without Donte Moncrief in the lineup and 35.1 percent with him in.

The other advantage that Hilton should have is his role as a slot receiver. Hilton lines up in the slot for 51 percent of his plays this season, while garnering 49 percent of his 127 targets from the interior. Rhodes rarely travels into the slot, so Hilton should be able to get free for a few plays there. Hilton has been one of the biggest hits in fantasy this season. Despite the tough matchup, there's no reason to downgrade his odds of hitting his ceiling this week.

Matt Harmon is an associate fantasy writer/editor for, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB or like on Facebook.