The NFL reached the final third of the 2021 season, and fantasy playoff spots are on the line. The early slate of games was full of big-name players accumulating plenty of fantasy points. Jonathan Taylor, David Montgomery, Chris Godwin, Justin Jefferson and Dallas Goedert each dominated the stat sheets, leading to some high-scoring fantasy matchups.
PFF's fantasy football recap focuses on player usage and stats, breaking down all the vital information you need to achieve fantasy success in 2021.
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- Snaps include plays called back due to penalties like offensive holding or defensive pass interference. The other three stats have these plays removed.
- Targets may differ from official NFL sources. The most likely discrepancy would be from a clear thrown away pass, where the NFL may give the target to the nearest receiver, while this data will not.
- Carries are only on designed plays. Quarterback scrambles won’t count for the total number of carries in the game.
- Tee Higgins: 9 receptions, 138 yards, 1 TD, (3 avoided tackles)
- Keenan Allen: 5 receptions, 34 yards, 2 TD, (2 for 2 on contested targets)
|Los Angeles Chargers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Stanley Morgan Jr.||5||0||0||0|
Chargers ever-changing backfield: Austin Ekeler has been the clear starting RB in Los Angeles all season, but the backup role has been up for grabs throughout the year. Justin Jackson didn’t play at all on offense last week, and this week he tied his season high in offensive snaps. This pushed Joshua Kelley back to third on the depth chart. The Chargers backfield would still be a big question mark if Ekeler misses a game, but Jackson would now be the top option in the group.
Monitor Joe Mixon’s health: The Bengals didn’t have their rookie running back Chris Evans, which made them thin at the position coming into the game. At one point, Mixon stayed on the field for an extended period before heading to the medical tent. He returned to the game and saw a normal amount of snaps. It wouldn’t be surprising if Cincinnati limited Mixon’s role a little bit after this scare, as he’s rushed 77 times over the last three games.
- Chris Godwin: 15 receptions, 143 yards, (5.7 aDOT)
- Rob Gronkowski: 4 receptions, 58 yards, 2 TD, (23.1% threat rate)
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Atlanta Falcons||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Kyle Pitts is back on the rise: The rookie tight end had an okay day in terms of his box score stats, tallying 48 yards on four catches. His playing time was the big reason to be excited about his future. Prior to Week 13, he was consistently playing around 80% of offensive snaps, or around 42-48 snaps each game. He far surpassed those marks today, as he finally started seeing playing time similar to the elite fantasy tight ends. Assuming the increased role persists, he will be even more reliable going forward.
Buccaneers new third wide receiver: The Buccaneers have been without Antonio Brown since Week 6, and he will be out at least two more games due to suspension. 2020 fifth-round pick Tyler Johnson had taken over as the third wide receiver but was held to one catch for single-digit yards each of the previous two games. Veteran Breshad Perriman handled the No. 3 wide receiver duties for today’s game. He caught only one pass for five yards. He is worth a waiver target in deeper leagues, as he could see significant targets if there is an injury.
Cordarelle Patterson’s changed role: Patterson enjoyed an excellent start to the season, but his playing time declined due to injury. He no longer showed up on the injury report with an ankle injury, but he stayed under 50% of the Falcons' offensive snaps for the third straight game. Atlanta still relies on him as its primary rusher, but he hasn’t been as involved in the passing game. He should remain in fantasy starting lineups, but it will be difficult for him to be a top-five back with this role.
- Jonathan Taylor: 32 carries, 143 yards, 2 TD, (6 avoided tackles)
- Michael Pittman Jr.: 6 receptions, 77 yards, (3 for 3 on contested targets)
|Indianapolis Colts||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Michael Pittman Jr.||54||24||7||2|
|Houston Texans||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
The Texans' chaotic backfield: The Texans started the season with five running backs, but they’ve lost four of them due to a trade, a release and two injuries. This moved Rex Burkhead to the top of the backfield, with Royce Freeman being the primary backup. No one in the offense was able to find any level of success in Week 13. Continue to roster Burkhead, as he should be the top back in Houston the rest of the year.
The declining role of Mo Alie-Cox: The Colts didn’t need to throw the ball much today, and when they did, it was rarely to a tight end. Alie-Cox ran a route on only four of 22 pass plays, as he’s largely just a run-blocking tight end now. He showed promise earlier in the year with a four-game stretch with four touchdowns, but he's caught just three passes in the past six games. This makes it more likely that Jack Doyle could have some fantasy value in a more competitive game. Alie-Cox can be released in deep leagues and shouldn’t be relied on in other contests.
Tyrod Taylor benched: Taylor had been an option in superflex leagues because of his rushing ability, but he was benched in favor of Davis Mills during the game. Their stats were nearly identical, outside of Taylor’s interception. Even if Taylor is named the starter next week, it will be harder to trust him because he could always get benched again.
- Jaylen Waddle: 9 receptions, 90 yards, (29.7% threat rate)
- Evan Engram: 4 receptions, 61 yards, (3 explosive plays)
|New York Giants||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Miami Dolphins||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
DeVante Parker‘s return: Parker had an okay first month of the season but has played in just one game since Week 4. He was activated off injured reserve Saturday and returned to the Dolphins' starting lineup. He didn’t see as much playing time as usual but still played the second-most snaps among the Miami wide receivers. He put together a solid game of five catches for 62 yards. He will likely see even more playing time in Week 15 after Miami’s bye week, leaving less time for the backups.
Monitor the Kenny Golladay injury: The Giants' wide receivers have been constantly hurt this season. Two of their top three missed this game, while Golladay injured his ribs early in the second quarter. He returned in the third quarter but was limited in the fourth. The former Lion still led the wide receiver room in receiving yards (37) and catches (3). He was already a borderline fantasy starter, and this injury could make it even harder to start him.
The Dolphins' backfield temporarily returns to normal: The Dolphins had used both Duke Johnson Jr. and Phillip Lindsay as a backup running back in recent weeks, but Miami was back to a more familiar backfield today. The Dolphins won comfortably in Week 13, but it wasn’t because of their running backs. Both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed were held under 3.0 yards per carry. It wouldn’t be surprising if Lindsay or Johnson is more involved with the backfield after Miami’s Week 14 bye.
- David Montgomery: 21 carries, 90 yards, 1 TD, (33.3% first down rate), 8 receptions, 51 receiving yards
- James Conner: 20 carries, 75 yards, (3 avoided tackles), 2 receptions, 36 receiving yards, 1 TD
|Arizona Cardinals||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Chicago Bears||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Return of DeAndre Hopkins: The Cardinals' All-Pro receiver returned to the lineup after spending the month as a game-time decision. He returned to his usual role of leading the wide receiver room in offensive snaps and routes run. Arizona wasted no time getting him the ball, as he scored a touchdown within the first five minutes. He only ended up with two catches, but that had more to do with the game script. Two early interceptions by Chicago led to two touchdowns right off the bat. Hopkins should be back in fantasy starting lineups going forward.
Bears backup receivers stepped up: The Bears' depth at wide receiver has been thin all season, and it’s recently gotten thinner. Allen Robinson II and Marquise Goodwin both missed this game with an injury, which elevated Damiere Byrd from fourth to second on the depth chart and Jakeem Grant from fifth to third. Grant took advantage of his opportunity, catching five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. Grant’s strong play in this game could lead to even more of a rotation at the third receiver spot even when everyone is healthy.
Skewed running back snaps: The snap distributions were skewed for both teams compared to usual, as James Conner had a season-high in terms of offensive snap percentage while David Montgomery played a lower percentage than usual. This was largely game-script related. Arizona started five drives in Chicago’s territory due to turnovers or a strong kick return. This gave the Cardinals a lot of short drives where they didn't need to give their starters a rest. On the flip side, Chicago had four double-digit play drives and Montgomery touched the ball 29 times, which is why he needed more breaks. We can expect both backfields to be more like normal going forward.
- Justin Jefferson: 11 receptions, 182 yards, 1 TD, (6 explosive plays)
- Amon-Ra St. Brown: 10 receptions, 86 yards, 1 TD, (27.3% threat rate)
|Minnesota Vikings||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Detroit Lions||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Amon-Ra St. Brown||69||44||12||1|
Monitor the Adam Thielen injury: The Vikings veteran receiver suffered an ankle injury early in the first quarter and was later ruled out of the game. Second-year receiver K.J. Osborn took over as the starter after playing as the Vikings third receiver all season. Dede Westbrook went from rarely playing to seeing snaps in three-receiver sets.
Osborn would be worth a waiver wire pickup. The Vikings play again on Thursday Night Football, making it more likely that Thielen misses time. He could be a flex play in deeper leagues.
The Vikings without Dalvin Cook: Cook missed this game with a dislocated shoulder, and the backfield went largely as expected. Alexander Mattison took over and gained 90 yards on 22 carries and scored a touchdown. Special team ace Kene Nwangwu was the backup and saw four touches. Mattison remains a must-start as long as Cook is out, while Nwangwu didn’t see enough snaps to warrant a waiver pickup.
The Lions without D’Andre Swift: The Lions were also missing their top running back with a shoulder injury. Jamaal Williams led the backfield in snaps, as expected, but Godwin Igwebuike was the team’s top receiving back. The former Packer put up a respectable 71 yards on 17 carries. If Swift misses another game and the game script is different, Igwebuike could end up being the higher-scoring fantasy back. He is worth a waiver wire pickup in deeper leagues just in case.
- Dallas Goedert: 6 receptions, 105 yards, 2 TD, (3 avoided tackles)
- Elijah Moore: 6 receptions, 77 yards, 1 TD, (34.3% threat rate)
|Philadelphia Eagles||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|New York Jets||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Monitor the Miles Sanders injury: The Eagles didn’t have Jordan Howard today due to injury, and Boston Scott was restricted to two offensive snaps after not practicing all week with an illness. This left Philadelphia with Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell. Philadelphia relied so much on their backs that both found success. Sanders had a career-high 24 carries for 120 yards, while Kenneth Gainwell had 11 touches and a touchdown.
Sanders suffered an ankle injury late in the game, which only increased Gainwell’s usage. All four Eagles backs should be on rosters. All four have a chance to be at least flex options depending on who is and isn’t healthy next week.
Monitor the Ryan Griffin injury: The Jets lead receiving tight end suffered an ankle injury and didn’t return. Kenny Yeboah took over as the receiving tight end, but New York also leaned more heavily on four-wide receiver sets, using them on over 20% of plays. This meant Braxton Berrios was on the field more than usual, but only caught an 11 yard pass.
Monitor the Corey Davis injury: Davis was questionable coming into the game with a groin injury after missing most of practice this week. He didn’t look great for most of the game and ended up only playing three plays in the second half. This meant more playing time for Denzel Mims. All of the injuries to the receivers largely meant a higher target share for rookie sensation Elijah Moore. Moore’s target share won’t get much higher than this even if there are more injuries.
- Sony Michel: 24 carries, 121 yards, (80 yards after contact), 1 TD, 3 receptions, 8 receiving yards
- Cooper Kupp: 8 receptions, 129 yards, 1 TD, (3 explosive plays)
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Marvin Jones Jr.||49||31||2||0|
|Laviska Shenault Jr.||31||23||5||3|
|Los Angeles Rams||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||36||22||5||0|
Odell Beckham’s decreased role: Beckham had a small role in his first game with the Rams in Week 10 and then he played in all but one offensive snap in Week 12. His role was so large that week because Bennett Skowronek missed the game with an injury. The rookie was back this week, so Beckham only played 56% of the team's pass routes. The former Cleveland Brown scored a touchdown but only caught two passes. It will be a little harder to trust Beckham knowing he’s a clear third on the depth chart.
Monitor the Darrell Henderson injury: Henderson was questionable all week with a thigh injury. He was active but didn’t end up playing any offensive snaps. Sony Michel had the best rushing performance by a Rams back all season. Michel is a must-start if Henderson's injury lingers. The most likely scenario is this becomes a time-share where they rotate by drive. This would hurt both backs' fantasy value.
Monitor James Robinson‘s injury: The Jaguars running back was questionable coming into the game with a heel and knee injury. He started the game, fumbled on the first drive and was held out for 22 minutes. He and Carlos Hyde split time the rest of the way, as both backs finished with 24 yards on the ground. Robinson will be hard to start until he gets healthier. With the Jaguars out of playoff contention, Jacksonville could consider shutting down Robinson for the rest of the season. Hyde is worth a waiver-wire target just in case Jacksonville goes that route.
- Josh Jacobs: 13 carries, 52 yards, 1 TD, (0% stuffed rate), 9 receptions, 38 receiving yards
- Antonio Gibson: 23 carries, 88 yards, (4 avoided tackles), 5 receptions, 23 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
|Washington Football Team||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Las Vegas Raiders||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
The Washington Football Team without J.D. McKissic: McKissic missed this game with a concussion. Wendall Smallwood was elevated from the practice squad to take McKissic’s spot. He and Antonio Gibson split snaps on third-and-long while Gibson received all of the third-and-short work. Ideally, McKissic is able to play again next week, but this could be big news for 2022. McKissic is a free agent, and this game showed that Gibson could be a backfield's third-down back by himself. He could be a high first-round fantasy pick next year if McKissic leaves in free agency and isn’t replaced.
Monitor Logan Thomas‘ injury: Thomas suffered a knee injury late in the game and was quickly ruled out. Injuries have derailed his entire season, as this was just his second game in two months. Ricky Seals-Jones had been Washington's tight end for most of the season, but he was inactive with a hip injury. If the Thomas injury is serious, then Seals-Jones would be the waiver-wire target. Rookie John Bates took over in this game and would be the every-down tight end if both veterans are out.
None of the Washington tight ends have been all that effective this season, but they’ve had fantasy value due to volume. Whoever the starter is would be a borderline fantasy starter in leagues with several teams.
Josh Jacobs in an extended role: Jacobs typically doesn’t score a lot of fantasy points in losses, but this was an exception. Jalen Richard was added to the COVID-19 list earlier today, and Kenyan Drake was carted off the field early in the game with a lower leg injury. This forced Jacobs into a receiving role. The Drake injury is likely serious, and Richard could miss another week, which could mean a lot of touches for Jacobs in the imminent future.
- Diontae Johnson: 8 receptions, 105 yards, 2 TD, (35.5% threat rate)
- Devonta Freeman: 14 carries, 52 yards, 1 TD, 5 receptions, 45 receiving yards, (2 avoided tackles on receptions)
|Baltimore Ravens||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Ray-Ray McCloud III||39||21||3||0|
|Benny Snell Jr.||2||0||0||2|
Monitor Chase Claypool’s health: Claypool typically plays over 90% of the Steelers' offensive snaps when healthy, but there were multiple stretches of the game where he was held out. He spent the week on the injury report with a toe injury. It’s unclear if his limited playing time was due to the toe or something else. He was still the Steelers' second-leading receiver with two catches for 52 yards. This will be worth monitoring, as it will be much more difficult to start Claypool if he maintains this limited role.
Consider starting Devonta Freeman: Freeman has been the Ravens' top back for over a month now, but this was the first time he surpassed 60% of the team's offensive snaps. It’s been a long time since a Baltimore running back dominated carries as much as Freeman did today, and he remained the team’s backfield leader in routes run. The only problem is the Ravens have the most difficult schedule for running backs remaining.
Drop Rashod Bateman: The Ravens rookie didn’t catch his only target in this game. He was playing over 60% of playing time once he joined the Ravens lineup in Week 6, but his playing time decreased once Sammy Watkins returned from injury in Week 10. This was the second straight week he played in less than half of Baltimore's offensive snaps. There is a chance he has a big game at some point over the last five weeks of the season, but it’s unlikely he has multiple strong performances.
- George Kittle: 9 receptions, 181 yards, 2 TD, (6.24 YPRR)
- Tyler Lockett: 7 receptions, 68 yards, 1 TD, (20% threat rate)
|San Francisco 49ers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Jeff Wilson Jr.||2||1||0||0|
|Seattle Seahawks||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
The Seahawks with Adrian Peterson: Seattle had three running backs on the injury report this week, which led to Alex Collins landing on the inactive list. The run game hasn’t been as effective as the team would like, which led the Seahawks to add the future Hall of Famer. He and Rashaad Penny split early-down work. Peterson scored the touchdown but averaged less than two yards per carry. Peterson probably isn’t worth a waiver-wire add, as Collins could rejoin this rotation once healthy. There is also a chance Travis Homer gets more involved after his 73-yard touchdown run. This is a clear case of if four backs are playing, then that team doesn’t have one good back.
The 49ers' Deebo Samuel replacement: Samuel was ruled out early in the week, and he might be out for another game. Trent Sherfield replaced him in terms of playing time, as he played in all but one offensive snap. He saw the third-most targets for San Francisco, which only led to two catches for 16 yards. George Kittle replaced Samuel in terms of production, generating over half of the 49ers' receiving yards. He only saw a five-yard carry, taking over as the trick play runner. Ideally, San Francisco can keep Kittle heavily involved once Samuel is back.
Dynasty watch on D’Wayne Eskridge: The Seahawks rookie played in Week 1 but missed the rest of the first half of the season due to injury. He returned to the Seahawks' lineup in Week 10. His playing time has been on the rise each week, and he could pass Freddie Swain for third on the depth chart as soon as next week. He had the best game of his career with three catches for 35 yards and one touchdown. Ideally, by next season, he has a clear hold of the third receiver spot.
- Javonte Williams: 23 carries, 102 yards, (3.6 yards after contact per carry); 6 receptions, 76 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 14 carries, 54 yards, (0% stuffed rate); 3 receptions, 28 receiving yards
|Denver Broncos||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Javonte Williams‘ big opportunity: Melvin Gordon III and Williams have split the backfield work 50/50 all season, but yesterday Gordon was ruled out with shoulder and hip injuries, giving Williams a chance to work as an every-down back. He played in all situations, only rarely giving snaps to Mike Boone, and he led the team in rushing yards, targets and receptions. He will probably continue to split time once Gordon is healthy, but the veteran running back is a free agent after the season. This could be how the backfield looks in 2022.
The Chiefs' split backfield: Kansas City’s backfield became a clear two-man committee after Jerrick McKinnon landed on injured reserve. The Chiefs are comfortable using both backs in any situation, but Clyde Edwards-Helaire was used more in rushing situations, with Darrel Williams playing more in the passing game. They were the stars of the offense tonight as the top two players on the team in rushing yards, and top two in receiving yards. Both players are borderline flex players the rest of the season.
Demarcus Robinson is back on the rise: Kansas City’s season started with Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Robinson at the top of the wide receiver depth chart. But as the season has progressed, Byron Pringle worked his way up to second while Mecole Hardman fell to the bottom. Josh Gordon had been slowly taking Robinson’s role, but that trend reversed tonight. Robinson had played less than 50% of offensive snaps for the last four weeks, but he was above 50% tonight. He caught two passes for 21 yards.
This could mean Gordon’s time with Kansas City is coming to an end. Robinson probably doesn’t need to be added off waivers, but Gordon can be dropped for anyone who was holding out hope.