The final week of the 2021 NFL regular season was filled with chaos. In the early slate of games, the Jacksonville Jaguars upset the Indianapolis Colts to leave a variety of scenarios on the table for the rest of the AFC's playoff contenders. In DFS, the number of rested starters meant that there were a few unpredictable performances from backups or depth options.
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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.
- Justin Jefferson: 5 receptions, 107 yards 1 TD, (4.12 YPRR)
- Darnell Mooney: 12 receptions, 126 yards (30.4% threat rate)
|Chicago Bears||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Allen Robinson II||53||32||4||0|
|Minnesota Vikings||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Vikings' running back split: Dalvin Cook has made the Pro Bowl in each of the past three seasons and typically plays at least 70% of offensive snaps whenever he’s healthy. He didn’t show up on the injury report this week, but Alexander Mattison saw nearly half of the pass-game work for Minnesota, including the two-minute drill. Both backs caught their only targets for three yards each.
Cook will be 27 next season, which is past the age of a running back’s prime. The Vikings might have a new coaching staff next season. There is a slight chance they make Cook even more of a workhorse back, but his percentage of playing time is more likely will go down next year rather than up.
Bears' three-man backfield: The Bears also have an interesting backfield heading into 2022, and potentially a new coaching staff that could view things differently than the current staff.
David Montgomery handled almost all of the run game work, while he, Khalil Herbert and Damien Williams all saw time on passing downs. Williams will be a free agent, but the two younger backs will both be under contract. Herbert has graded much higher as a rusher on the season, in part due to averaging more yards after contact per carry. The rookie never fumbled and produced just as many big plays on fewer carries. Montgomery’s status as a 20-carry per game back might be coming to an end.
- Marvin Jones Jr.: 7 receptions, 88 yards, 1 TD (3 explosive catches)
- Michael Pittman Jr.: 6 receptions, 64 yards, 1 TD (2 avoided tackles)
|Indianapolis Colts||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Michael Pittman Jr.||50||36||7||0|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Marvin Jones Jr.||60||36||8||0|
|Laviska Shenault Jr.||41||26||7||0|
The return of Parris Campbell: Campbell fractured his foot in Week 6 on a 51-yard touchdown catch, which landed him on injured reserve. He was activated this week to hopefully give the Colts some depth before the playoffs. Unfortunately the Colts won’t be making the playoffs. He only played a few snaps and didn’t have a catch on any of his three targets.
Marvin Jones Jr. is trending up: The Jaguars won this game without their top two running backs or their top two tight ends. Jacksonville will have a new coaching staff next season, so there could be a lot of changes to personnel before next season. Jones made the case to remain on the roster next year. This was his third game in the last five weeks with at least 70 receiving yards and his first touchdown since Week 6. He was the clear leader in snaps as well as receiving grade among the Jaguars receivers on the season. He will be 32, but could still be a touchdown machine if Jacksonville has a better offense in 2022.
- Danny Amendola: 7 receptions, 113 yards, 2 TD (33.3% threat rate)
- Nick Westbrook-Ikhine: 4 receptions, 78 yards, 1 TD (3.39 YPRR)
|Tennessee Titans||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Houston Texans||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
The Titans are healthy at wide receiver: The Titans wide receivers have had trouble staying healthy all season, but they seem to be getting in rhythm at the right possible moment. Julio Jones had played in just three games over the last two months and never over 50% of offensive snaps. He surpassed that this week and had over 50 receiving yards for the first time since Oct. 18. Similarly, A.J. Brown had his second 50-yard game over the last two months after missing several games in that time. Those two and Nick Westrbrook-Ikhine all scored touchdowns.
The Titans clinched the first-round bye. Expect both players to see plenty of playing time in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The Texans surprisingly good passing game: Brandin Cooks has been the only reliable offensive weapon for Houston all season, but he suffered a knee injury and didn’t return for the second half of the game. Nico Collins had over 60 receiving yards for just the second time this season. He’s a favorite to start for Houston next season unless they bring in multiple starter-level receivers.
Danny Amendola stole the show with his 100-yard game and two fourth-quarter touchdowns, almost leading to a Texans upset of the Titans. It was his first 100-yard game since 2019. He’s 36 years old, so it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he chooses to retire after the season. If so, this would be a strong ending for the former undrafted player.
- Latavius Murray: 16 carries, 150 yards, 1 TD (7 avoided tackles)
- Mark Andrews: 8 receptions, 85 yards (37.5% threat rate)
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Ray-Ray McCloud III||50||32||9||0|
|Benny Snell Jr.||29||11||0||12|
|Baltimore Ravens||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Monitor the Najee Harris injury: The Steelers rookie running back suffered an elbow injury on the first drive of the game. Benny Snell Jr. ended up taking over as the primary back while he and Kalen Ballage split third downs. The duo didn’t add much to the Steelers offense.
Harris returned to the game late in the third quarter and saw the vast majority of offensive snaps in the fourth quarter and overtime. He gained 28 yards on 11 carries. As usual, a lot of the Steelers rushing problems were due to the offensive line, as the three backs had a cumulative 1 yard before contact. The fact that he was able to return today is a good sign he will be able to play in the Wild Card round, but it will be worth monitoring how he practices before putting him in DFS lineups.
Ravens changing of backs: Devonta Freeman had earned the Ravens top running back spot in the middle of the season, which led to six straight games with double digit carries. His hold of the rushing role seemed to slip recently. This was the third time in four weeks he was limited to six carries or fewer. Latavius Murray had two games in December with 1 rushing yard each, making it seem like he was fully phased out of the offense. His only game above 50 rushing yards was in Week 4. He was the hot hand today and gained 150 yards and a touchdown. It’s unlikely that either of these backs remains on the Ravens in 2022 if J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards make full recoveries.
- D’Ernest Johnson: 25 carries, 123 yards, 1 TD (32% first down rate); 1 reception, 10 receiving yards
- Jarvis Landry: 6 receptions, 75 yards, 1 TD (3 avoided tackles)
|Cincinnati Bengals||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Stanley Morgan Jr.||33||15||2||1|
|Cleveland Browns||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Bengals' frustrated DFS players: The Bengals were clear that they would rest their starters so they would be refreshed for their wild-card game. They gave Ja’Marr Chase time to break the team's single-season receiving record and then stayed true to their plan. Cincinnati rested both its starters and some key backups.
Samaje Perine was expected to be the lead back for Cincinnati today, but the team instead went to its third- and fourth-string players. Similarly, backup tight end Drew Sample was used sparingly, with third-string Mitchell Wilcox seeing most of the receiving work. The player workload in Week 18 has no bearing on how the Bengals will use their players next week.
Nick Chubb’s curious usage: Chubb dominated the Browns' backfield in offensive snaps and then didn’t return to the game until a three-play stretch late in the third quarter. He had a solid game with 58 yards on nine carries. D’Ernest Johnson then ran 25 times. Chubb hasn’t seen 25 carries in a single game since 2019.
Chubb played well this season but didn’t produce at the same level as some of his previous seasons. Kareem Hunt has been used as the team’s receiving back when healthy, and Johnson graded better as a rusher this season, albeit on a smaller sample size. Johnson has earned a chance to be part of the rotation, which isn’t great news for any of the backs in Cleveland for fantasy football purposes.
- Allen Lazard: 5 receptions, 75 yards, 2 TD (4.41 YPRR)
- Amon-Ra St. Brown: 8 receptions, 109 yards, 1 TD (5 explosive catches); 1 carry, 12 rushing yards
|Green Bay Packers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Equanimeous St. Brown||51||25||5||0|
|Patrick Taylor Jr.||31||12||2||11|
|Detroit Lions||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Amon-Ra St. Brown||56||30||10||1|
Monitor the Marquez Valdes-Scantling injury: The Packers wide receiver re-injured his back in the second quarter and didn’t return to the game. It’s unclear if he would have been able to had the Packers needed him, but Green Bay had backups play for a lot of the game. Green Bay has a first-round bye, which gives Valdes-Scantling more time to recover.
Equanimeous St. Brown took over as the third wide receiver, and he would take that role in a worst-case scenario. Randall Cobb was designated to return from injured reserve in late December, and there is a chance he will be available for the divisional round. Cobb would leapfrog St. Brown on the depth chart. If everyone is healthy, there would be a rotation between everyone except Davante Adams. Green Bay would also likely use more four wide receiver sets, limiting the routes run by the Packers tight ends.
D’Andre Swift on the decline: Swift didn’t rank as high as some anticipated in the Top-250 fantasy football rankings, and this game is a good example why. Swift remains the clear receiving back in Detroit, but the team has used a committee on early downs. The second-year back at one point in the season had 33 carries in a game and was at least seeing double-digit carries each week. He ran the ball just four times last week and another seven times this week. The Lions also have the cap space or draft capital to upgrade at running back on early downs if they choose to do so. Swift will still have value next season as a receiving back, but the odds of him being a top-10 back are decreasing.
- Antonio Gibson: 21 carries, 146 yards, 1 TD (5 explosive runs); 1 reception, 5 yards
- Terry McLaurin: 4 receptions, 93 yards (4.89 YPRR)
|Washington Football Team||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|New York Giants||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Kyle Rudolph on the rise: The former Viking saw a lot of playing time early in the season while Evan Engram was out but since that point was largely just a blocker in two-tight end sets. Rudolph played in over 55% of offensive snaps for the first time since October. He saw a season-high six targets, while Engram only had one catch for 4 yards.
This is noteworthy because Rudolph is under contract for 2022 while Engram is not. It was widely believed Engram won't be returning to New York, but this adds even more evidence.
Antonio Gibson’s usage: Washington’s running back situation will be a hot topic this offseason with J.D. McKissic an unrestricted free agent. The receiving back hasn’t played since Week 12 due to a concussion, so we’ve seen what the backfield might look like without him.
Gibson has functioned as the every-down back in some games, at times playing over 80% of offensive snaps. He was limited in practice all week with a hip injury, which likely led to his low playing time today. He played less often than usual on early downs but did see a few snaps on third and long, which typically wouldn’t happen with a healthy McKissic. Gibson has top-10 RB potential if he can take more of the third-down snaps.
- Rob Gronkowski: 7 receptions, 137 yards (5 avoided tackles)
- Mike Evans: 6 receptions, 89 yards, 2 TD (2.62 YPRR)
|Carolina Panthers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Monitor the Cyril Grayson injury: Grayson suffered a hamstring injury on the Buccaneers' second drive and was ruled out for the game. The Buccaneers wide receiver group has been a hot topic in recent weeks, which gave Grayson the opportunity to play a big role in the offense. He was the clear every-down starter with Mike Evans to start the game, with Tyler Johnson playing in three-receiver sets.
Johnson seldom left the field when Grayson went down, and Breshad Perriman became the third receiver. If Grayson misses time, it will be Evans, Johnson and Perriman.
Bell served as the primary third-down back as well as the back in two-minute drills. Vaughn played over half of the snaps on first and second downs outside of the two-minute drill. If the Buccaneers are relying on these two next week, Vaughn would be the most valuable of the two. If either Fournette, Jones or both come back, then Bell is the most likely back to continue seeing snaps on third downs while the returning back plays on first and second down.
The Panthers targets: Carolina’s strategy has remained unchanged, as several targets were sent the way of their top two wide receivers and their receiving back. All three had at least seven catches on at least nine targets.
It was noteworthy that rookie tight end Tommy Tremble was the fourth-most targeted player in this game. The first-year pass-catcher had a career-high five targets but was only able to convert this into two catches for 7 yards. The Panthers will have the opportunity to upgrade at the position in free agency, but they could also decide to rely on their third-round draft pick in 2022.
- Russell Gage: 9 receptions, 126 yards, 1 TD (39.4% threat rate)
- Alvin Kamara: 30 carries, 146 yards (5 explosive runs); 2 receptions, 16 receiving yards
|New Orleans Saints||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Tony Jones Jr.||14||5||1||7|
|Atlanta Falcons||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
The Saints need help at receiver: The Saints' receiving corps has been a problem all season. They seemed to be in relatively good shape coming into the game, with Deonte Harris recently coming back from suspension and everyone practicing at some level. Tre’Quan Smith and Ty Montgomery were both limited in practice this week but their availability was never really in doubt.
The Saints lost Lil’Jordan Humphrey in the first quarter after he limped off the field and never returned. Montgomery then fell to the ground after trying to make a catch and didn’t play in the last 9 minutes of the game. New Orleans was able to overcome all of these injuries in this game, but it hurt them enough throughout the season to keep them from making the playoffs.
The Saints should get Michael Thomas back this offseason, but they might trade him. They won’t have the cap space to find much help in free agency, which means they will be left looking at the draft to upgrade.
The decline of Cordarrelle Patterson continues: Patterson had the worst game of his season this week, totaling just 11 rushing yards on four carries and one catch for one yard. This game tied his season-low in both carries and yards, and it was his fourth straight game under 30 rushing yards. He seemed like someone the Falcons would need to re-sign in free agency, but now it doesn’t seem to be as much of a necessity.
- Duke Johnson Jr.: 25 carries, 117 yards, 1 TD (3 explosive runs); 1 reception, 5 receiving yards
- Brandon Bolden: 7 carries, 46 yards, 1 TD (6.4 yards after contact per carry); 2 receptions, 20 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
|New England Patriots||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Miami Dolphins||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Duke Johnson Jr.||43||15||1||25|
Monitor the Rhamondre Stevenson injury: Stevenson suffered a head injury on his first play but was able to return in the third quarter. He played for eight plays but didn’t play in the last 18 minutes of the game. As a result, Damien Harris and Brandon Bolden saw an increase in playing time, with Bolden finding the end zone twice in the game and Harris following suit in the fourth quarter. It will be worth watching the injury report on Stevenson over the next week. Harris would be a much more valuable DFS target if Stevenson misses the game.
The rise of Duke Johnson Jr. and the fall of Myles Gaskin: The Dolphins shifted even closer toward Johnson being the main running back and Gaskin not being part of the offense. Johnson handled double-digit carries for the third time in four weeks. This was his second game of the season with 100 rushing yards.
Gaskin’s playing time has declined in every game over the last month and a half. This was his first game of the season with single-digit snaps, as well as his first with only one carry. Gaskin will probably be better off fighting for a roster spot with a new team next year, while Johnson has at least earned a chance to stay in the league another year.
- Devin Singletary: 19 carries, 88 yards (49 yards after contact), 1 TD; 2 receptions, 24 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
- Stefon Diggs: 9 receptions, 81 yards, 1 TD (6 first downs)
|New York Jets||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Buffalo Bills||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Devin Singletary continues to trend up: Singletary has been the clear top back in Buffalo for weeks now, but the Bills got all three of their running backs into the mix tonight. Singletary was the only one who mattered, as he carried the offense and even scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Zack Moss tallied five carries but only gained eight yards. It’s safe to say Singletary can hold off Moss and Matt Breida for at least a few more weeks to help anyone who trusts him in DFS.
Jets backfield split: The Jets started the season with a three-man backfield, but they stuck with two players for most of the season. However, Michael Carter‘s recent concussion — which kept him out of practice earlier in the week — left the Jets rotating their backs a little more than usual today. Ty Johnson saw most of the third-down work despite Carter playing better as a receiver during the season.
The Jets rookie should be the lead back in 2022 and has a chance to be an every-down back if he can hold off Johnson on third downs when healthy.
- Tyler Higbee: 6 receptions, 55 yards, 2 TD, (3 for 3 on contested targets)
- Jauan Jennings: 6 receptions, 94 yards, 2 TD, (2 avoided tackles)
|San Francisco 49ers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Jeff Wilson Jr.||6||0||0||0|
|Los Angeles Rams||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||51||34||4||0|
The return of Cam Akers: Akers returned to the Rams after spending the entire season on injured reserve due to a torn Achilles. He gained only nine yards on six touches, but Sony Mitchel wasn’t faring any better against the 49ers' defense. He played nine snaps in the first half compared to four in the second half and none in overtime. It was clear before the game Los Angeles would ease him in, and the team will likely provide him a larger role next week. The Rams prefer to have one clear starter at running back, so Akers could see anywhere from 100% of offensive snaps next week, to only seeing 20%-30%.
Elijah Mitchell’s limited playing time: Mitchell played on only half of the 49ers' offensive snaps, but this was entirely game script-related. He played 85% of offensive snaps on first or second downs outside of the two-minute drills. He rarely plays on third downs or in two-minute drills, and the 49ers happened to have a lot of plays in those situations. He gained 85 yards on 21 carries.
This can be a sigh of relief for those who like to rely on Mitchell in DFS, but it’s worth mentioning he has a tough matchup against the Cowboys next week. They’ve allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs this year and the fewest among teams playing next week.
- Rashaad Penny: 23 carries, 190 yards, 1 TD, (7.1 yards after contact per carry)
- Tyler Lockett: 5 receptions, 98 yards, 2 TD, (15.4 aDOT)
|Seattle Seahawks||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Arizona Cardinals||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
The Cardinals limp into the playoffs: The Cardinals' offense has been hurting in recent weeks. DeAndre Hopkins is on injured reserve, while Chase Edmonds and Rondale Moore have missed the past few games with injuries. James Conner was limited all week with a heel injury, but that didn’t stop the Cardinals from relying heavily on him. He was the clear leader in carries and paced the team in targets for most of the game. It wasn’t enough to get Arizona the victory.
Conner left the game early and was unable to play in the last 11 minutes of the game. Eno Benjamin took over as the team’s running back and would start next week if both Conner and Edmonds can’t play. Arizona will need to get a bit healthier in one week to compete in the playoffs.
A new top free agent running back?: Rashaad Penny continued to establish himself as a potential top back in 2022. This was his fourth game of 130 or more rushing yards in the past five weeks. He also scored six rushing touchdowns in that span. He is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and his potential salary keeps getting higher. The only problem with his fantasy value is he’s rarely involved in the passing game. The Seahawks have Chris Carson under contract for one more season and will have a decision to make before free agency starts.
- Austin Ekeler: 16 carries, 64 yards, 1 TD (3.0 yards after contact per carry); 5 receptions, 35 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
- Hunter Renfrow: 4 receptions, 13 yards, 2 TD (7.5 aDOT); 1 carry, -4 rushing yards
|Los Angeles Chargers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Las Vegas Raiders||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
The return of Darren Waller: The Raiders' star tight end returned after a five-week absence. He got more and more involved as the game went on, and he was basically shouldering a regular workload by the end of the game. Waller led the Raiders in targets but only brought in two passes for 22 yards. The former Pro Bowler will likely be a big part of the Raiders game plan next week.
The health of Josh Jacobs: The talented running back was limited all week with a rib injury and was questionable coming into the game. He not only played but played more than usual.
Peyton Barber was consistently handling 5-13 snaps per game, recording at least five carries in each of the last three games. However, Barber didn’t see a single snap on offense today, with Jacobs playing in all of the rushing situations. He wasn’t entirely effective running, but the chances are the Raiders will continue to rely on their best players in the playoffs.
Chargers two key free agents: Two of L.A.'s starting skill players are headed for free agency in two months, and they had two very different games. Tight end Jared Cook caught four passes for 80 yards, the most for him in a Chargers uniform. He was on the field late in the game but wasn’t involved while Los Angeles tried to catch up. He will be 35 before next season, so there is at least a chance he retires this offseason. If not, there are plenty of free-agent tight ends if Los Angeles wants a change.
Wide receiver Mike Williams was held to single-digit yards over the first 50 minutes of the game. He only got involved in the middle of the fourth quarter while Los Angeles tried to catch up. The deep threat was heavily targeted in the last 10 minutes of regulation as well as overtime.
Williams started the season on fire, going over 80 receiving yards in four of his first five games, but he hit that mark only three more times over the rest of the season, including tonight. Few available wide receiver options will represent an upgrade to Williams, but the team has the cap space to try. After how much he helped the team almost make the playoffs, they will likely try to bring him back.