4 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups to Exploit in Week 12
The beauty of daily fantasy football is that, unlike a season-long draft where someone is tied to their top players all year, any top players in the NFL can make their way into your lineup. While that can be a blessing, it can also be a curse.
Although you're able to roster Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, and Najee Harris all at once if you want, it is unlikely that all three running backs are optimal plays at their respective salaries for a particular week. There are many elements to decide which players are the best plays, and a large aspect of daily fantasy is the matchup a player has.
While usually encompassed in some respects inside the salary figure, a soft matchup can carry a good running back to a great week. On the other hand, a tough matchup can make superstars suboptimal to roster.
Which matchups are lurking in this weekend's games that we can take advantage of on FanDuel?
Texans Passing Attack vs. The Jets Secondary
The Jets' pass defense is so poor that there's more than enough reason to saddle up with -- arguably -- the worst passing offense in football.
The Texans are trying to just survive a 2021 season without Deshaun Watson, but their offense hasn't been as poor with Tyrod Taylor at the helm as one might think. In weeks where Taylor has started, Houston's 0.10 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back is tied for 13th in the NFL with Dallas and Pittsburgh. Not too shabby!
It certainly is workable against a Jets secondary that is without hesitation the worst in the NFL. In the last three weeks, the Jets have allowed 0.54 Passing NEP per drop back to opponents. For context, the next highest squad is the Raiders (0.32) that have been torched the last two weeks. The Jets are also giving up a league-worst 39.8 points per game in that span. It's translating to the box score, too.
The appeal of the Texans' passing game is also that it's easy to stack. The lone truly viable options are Taylor and Brandin Cooks (95.9% of routes run the past two weeks). No other player has run over 75% of the routes or seen double-digit targets in the past two games.
Both have affordable salaries that can make for a tiny stack that allows high-salaried running backs and tight ends elsewhere, and Houston's reputation is unlikely to leave them popular in any week.
Elijah Mitchell (or Jeff Wilson) vs. The Vikings Run Defense
The one-time committee in the San Francisco 49ers' backfield is now a daily fantasy hotbed.
In Week 10, Elijah Mitchell saw 27 of 42 (!) running back carries. Mitchell broke his finger during the game, and that forced him to miss Week 11. In that week, Jeff Wilson saw 19 of the 37 carries. While Deebo Samuel will mix in here from time to time, the 49ers are feeding their lead back.
If Mitchell plays, he'll likely resume his bellcow role; Wilson had just a 31.6% Rushing Success Rate against the lowly Jaguars. If he doesn't, Wilson at least seems to have a decent lead over Trey Sermon for the bulk of carries against the Vikings.
Either way, whichever back gets the nod ultimately is a cornerstone building block as San Francisco hosts Minnesota. The Vikes are allowing 0.11 Rushing NEP per carry to opposing ball carriers. That mark is second-worst in the NFL to only the run-funneled Los Angeles Chargers (0.14).
Because Minnesota is fine running the ball as well (58% situation-neutral pass rate; 16th in the NFL), the overall pace of this game is underwhelming. Nonetheless, either a healthy Mitchell (or Wilson) is more than an adequate target alongside Dalvin Cook in this matchup of surging squads.
Kyle Pitts vs. Jaguars Linebackers and Safeties
I can hear the audible groaning. I get it. I've played Kyle Pitts in every avenue you can imagine in 2021.
It's been frustrating. With Calvin Ridley, the target share for Pitts was unstable at times. Without Ridley, the Falcons' offense has been barely functional. The most difficult part of fantasy sports is putting aside biases to make the best moves for your lineup, and that should be including Pitts in the mix once again.
This matchup has to be the get-right spot for Pitts if one exists. We can all excuse poor performances against the stingy Saints, Cowboys, and Patriots defenses. Those are three of the best units in the league. Jacksonville doesn't hold that title.
At 0.28 Passing NEP per drop back, the Jaguars are the fourth-worst passing defense in the NFL per numberFire's keystone metric. They've been especially poor against tight ends, as Brandon Gdula's adjusted FanDuel points per target metric pegs the Jags (1.64) as the fourth-best matchup for a tight end. Pitts is hard to classify, but the Jaguars are a weak pass defense, and they certainly don't shut down tight ends, either.
This game has a healthy 46.5-point total, and Jacksonville has workable pieces against Atlanta's horrid defense, as well. In daily fantasy, it might be tough to conceive using Matt Ryan comfortably with how dreadful he's been recently, but in a friendlier matchup, Pitts' 10.8 average depth of target (10.8) leads all tight ends with at least 20 receptions.
He's relatively unmatched in yardage upside at his position, and a friendlier matchup could be what is needed to spark that back into fantasy points.
Dolphins D/ST vs. Panthers Offensive Line
The Carolina Panthers' offensive line has a claim to be the worst in football at the moment.
They've ceded a 32% pressure rate as a unit this season, which is worst in the NFL. They've also scored at a league-worst 27% rate in terms of goal-line rushes between the tackle box. They're not protecting whichever quarterback is in the game, and they're not generating a push up front in crucial situations.
The resurgent Dolphins defense can take advantage of that. Miami was underwhelming in Week 11 with just two sacks on a Jets offense that -- no doubt -- improved under Joe Flacco. At just $3,400 on FanDuel, they may have an even easier target this week.
Miami has a 31% pressure rate as a defense -- tied for ninth in the NFL. It's more than serviceable given the state of the Carolina offensive line that is decimated by injury. Even optimistic Panthers blogs are acknowledging the uncertainty with Matt Paradis and Cam Erving still out despite an okay performance in Week 11.
The Panthers still scored just 21 points last week amidst the ceremonial return of Cam Newton. It's difficult for any signal-caller to post a massive point total without above-average protection.
For that reason, Brian Flores' bunch is an interesting, low-salary target in daily fantasy this weekend.