We’re more than halfway through the 2021 NFL season, and life is good. Let’s attempt to predict the future.
Click here for more PFF tools:
Rankings & Projections | WR/CB Matchup Chart | NFL & NCAA Betting Dashboards | NFL Player Props tool | NFL & NCAA Power Rankings
What follows are my best guesses for every starting quarterback’s defining Week 12 storyline. This will be accomplished through a superlative format, identifying who is most likely to accomplish whatever.
Please don’t confuse this as an all-encompassing preview of the position; the goal is merely to get a solid preview of the game’s most important position and attempt to learn a thing or two along the way.
Most likely to refrain from taking too many chances: Chicago Bears QB Andy Dalton at Detroit Lions
Rookie QB Justin Fields should be considered questionable with bruised ribs.
Don’t confuse Dalton’s 201 yards and two scores on just 11 completions as a sign that he balled out in Week 10, as the first touchdown was on a screen to Darnell Mooney while the second was thanks to a massive coverage bust.
Ultimately, Dalton has posted a pedestrian 6.9-yard average target depth this season — the sixth-lowest mark among 44 qualified quarterbacks (Fields ranks first at 10.9). Nobody has thrown a higher percentage of their passes short of the sticks than Dalton (63%) through 11 weeks of action.
Of course, any critique of the Bears passing game also needs to fall on head coach Matt Nagy. The Bears rank dead last in their rate of routes run where PFF considered the receiver open or wide open. This Lions defense ranks among the league’s bottom-five units in yards per attempt, explosive pass play rate and QB rating allowed. The matchup isn’t anything for The Red Rocket Rifle to fear, but don’t expect his conservative style of play to go anywhere.
Most likely to struggle to play through the pain: Detroit Lions QB Jared Goff vs. Chicago Bears
Goff (oblique) should be considered questionable for Thanksgiving. Tim Boyle will again be under center if Goff remains sidelined. The results from last week were nothing short of brutal, as Boyle averaged 3.4 yards per attempt on a somehow even more pathetic 4.2-yard average target depth.
Don’t expect things to get much better for this offense even if Goff suits up. The league’s 30th-ranked scoring offense hasn’t reached 20 points in a game since Week 1. Overall, the Lions (9) join the Jaguars (7) as the NFL’s only offenses with more than six games with fewer than 20 points this season.
This has quite literally been the league’s least-efficient passing offense through 10 weeks of action.
EPA per pass and run play (PFF)
Further left: Bad pass offense
Further right: Good pass offense
Further up: Good run offense
Further down: Bad run offense pic.twitter.com/Z0EeLpxpyC
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 22, 2021
No Week 12 matchup has a lower game total than Bears-Lions (41.5).
Most likely to continue to struggle without his ace field-stretcher: Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr at Dallas Cowboys
Carr has turned in his three worst performances of the season in PFF passing grade in back-to-back weeks without Henry Ruggs in action. It’s rather easy to see that this passing game has become a shell of itself without the field-stretching ace's services:
- Carr in Weeks 1-8: 90.2 PFF passing grade (No. 4 among qualified QBs), 8.5 yards per attempt (No. 6), 9.2-yard average target depth (No. 7)
- Weeks 9-10: 51.7 PFF passing grade (No. 34), 7.2 yards per attempt (No. 16), 7.3-yard average target depth (No. 22)
This is just a small sample size, and DeSean Jackson should help matters down the stretch as long as he can remember the end zone's location. Still, things are so much easier for everyone involved in this Raiders offense when the opponent has to respect the deep ball. Reduced efficiency could become a more constant occurrence for this passing game during the second half of the season.
Carr better hope the offensive line brings its A-game this week against stud Cowboys rookie Micah Parsons, who is PFF’s top-graded pass rusher (92.6) on the year.
Most likely to have to win against Cover 3: Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott vs. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders have utilized Cover-3 schemes on a league-high 378 snaps this season — the Seahawks are the only other team at 300 or more. Prescott has had his struggles in recent matchups against the Broncos and Chiefs in large part due to the offensive line’s inability to fortify the front without all-world LT Tyron Smith (ankle), but his performance against Cover 3 should provide some level of optimism regarding a bounce-back performance:
- PFF passing grade: 79.7 (No. 8 among 40 qualified quarterbacks)
- Yards per attempt: 8.4 (No. 12)
- Adjusted completion rate: 80.6% (No. 18)
Life won’t be easy if CeeDee Lamb (concussion) is forced to join Amari Cooper (COVID, IR) on the sideline but just realize Prescott’s pre-snap mastery could overwhelm this defense anyway if the Raiders are unable to pressure and/or confuse the league’s third-ranked scoring offense.
Most likely to either ball out or play rather terrible: Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen at New Orleans Saints
Allen continues to do his best Jameis Winston impression by either completely crushing it or struggling mightily:
- Week 1: 72.6 PFF passing grade (No. 16 among quarterbacks with 10-plus dropbacks)
- Week 2: 45.4 (No. 30)
- Week 3: 85.5 (No. 3)
- Week 4: 62.5 (No. 24)
- Week 5: 92.8 (No. 1)
- Week 6: 81.3 (No. 7)
- Week 7: Bye
- Week 8: 72.3 (No. 10)
- Week 9: 50.8 (No. 24)
- Week 10: 86.4 (No. 2)
- Week 11: 40.5 (No. 29 pre-MNF)
Allen’s 21 touchdowns against just eight interceptions certainly look fine enough but just realize the fourth-year signal-caller leads the league with 10 dropped interceptions through 10 weeks. His 18 combined interceptions and dropped picks also lead the NFL.
It’s largely been anyone’s guess as to which version of the 2020 MVP runner-up will show up in 2021. The good news is that this passing game has a solid chance to get back on track in this week’s trip to New Orleans against the league’s second-worst pass rush in quick pressure rate.
Related content for you: NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Targets: All league sizes & scoring types via Andrew Erickson
Most likely to save his best for last: New Orleans Saints QB Trevor Siemian vs. Buffalo Bills
Siemian has transformed from arguably the worst quarterback in the league during the first 45 minutes of the game to one of the best during the final frame:
- PFF passing grade 1st-3rd quarters: 50.3 (dead last out of 46 QBs)
- PFF passing grade 4th quarter: 92.3 (1st)
However he does it, give the journeyman credit for playing far better ball than anyone expected. Siemian truly finds himself grouped with some of the game’s better quarterbacks in terms of big-time throw rate and turnover-worthy play rate. Will this keep up? Probably not, but credit to Siemian for consistently keeping the Saints in games during Jameis Winston’s (ACL, IR) absence.
The Bills haven’t given up 300 passing yards in a game all season. Heck, they’ve allowed fewer than 200 passing yards on six separate occasions. Siemian and company will have their hands full this week but be careful writing off this group till the fat lady sings.
Most likely to continue to function as the worst version of himself: Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger at Cincinnati Bengals
Only five quarterbacks have a PFF passing grade below 60.0 this season: Roethlisberger (59.9), Jared Goff (59.7), Zach Wilson (59.3), Tyrod Taylor (58.7) and Mike White (54.4). Roethlisberger ranks 28th in big-time throw rate and 31st in turnover-worthy play rate among 37 qualified quarterbacks, as he’s simultaneously struggled to make “elite” throws while continuing to commit plenty of turnover-worthy plays.
Big-time throw rate vs. turnover-worthy play rate (PFF)
Further up: Higher rate of "elite" throws
Further down: Not making many "elite" throws
Further left: Taking good care of the ball
Further right: Not taking good care of the ball pic.twitter.com/0h84MO2Eaf
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 22, 2021
This offense always has a chance with playmakers such as Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth to spread the ball around to but don’t expect the league’s 20th-ranked scoring offense to pull a true rabbit out of its hat anytime soon. This is especially true against a Bengals defense that held them to just 10 points back in Week 3.
Most likely to ball out if given time to throw: Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
It was abundantly clear that the Steelers weren’t the same defense without edge defender T.J. Watt (hip, knee), CB Joe Haden (foot) and S Minkah Fitzpatrick (covid, IR) against the Chargers. Still, their inability to consistently get to the quarterback has largely been a problem all year — only the Seahawks, Lions and Falcons have posted a worse pressure rate than the Steelers (38.2%) through 10 weeks.
Meanwhile, Burrow has been awfully good when given the benefit of a clean pocket this season:
- PFF passing grade: 90.5 (No. 7 among 39 qualified quarterbacks)
- QB rating: 109.4 (No. 11)
- Big-time throw rate: 5.0% (No. 12)
- Turnover-worthy play rate: 2.4% (tied for No. 27)
- Yards per attempt: 8.8 (No. 3)
- Adjusted completion rate: 80.6% (No. 12)
Expecting any secondary to hang with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd for long is generally wishful thinking — let alone a banged-up group that Burrow managed to throw three touchdowns against in just 18 attempts back in Week 3.
Most likely to provide some fantasy-friendly dual-threat goodness: Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton at Miami Dolphins
Newton turned in the third-highest scoring fantasy performance of Week 11 (pre-MNF) thanks in large part to a more than stellar 10-46-1 rushing performance. He’s now accounted for five total scores since rejoining the Panthers in Week 10, making some truly great plays along the way. Seriously, this was one of the best throws of Week 11.
What a fooking throw pic.twitter.com/mhYgZMg2sQ
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 22, 2021
Perhaps the Dolphins attempt to replicate the successful all-or-nothing strategy that helped them shut down Lamar Jackson by turning to Cover 0 to shut down the Panthers. Of course, leaving Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore in one-on-one coverage is risky business, and Newton is always just one broken tackle away from a chunk again himself.
Either way, Panthers games are fun to watch again, and we should all be giving thanks Newton for this reality.
Most likely to ball out on play-action: Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa vs. Carolina Panthers
Don’t look now, but the Dolphins have won three consecutive games while their second-year quarterback is coming off one of his better performances of the season. Yes, Tagovailoa has been a bit up and down this season, posting four games with a PFF passing grade under 55.0 and three games of 79.0 or higher. Also yes, the often-injured signal-caller has largely made the most out of a surrounding cast that features PFF’s 21st- and 28th-highest graded receiving and rushing groups. Only the Vikings have a worse team pass-blocking grade.
Play-action passes are the one good strategy that the Dolphins have employed to help their young quarterback out. Only the Cardinals, Football Team, Ravens and Bills have posted a higher play-action rate this season, and Tagovailoa has responded well when given these opportunities.
- PFF passing grade: 86.2 (No. 5)
- QB rating: 115.4 (No. 9)
- Big-time throw rate: 3.5% (No. 24)
- Turnover-worthy play rate: 1.1% (No. 7)
- Yards per attempt: 9.1 (tied for No. 14)
- Adjusted completion rate: 80.5% (No. 18)
Up next is a Panthers defense that ranks among the league’s top-10 units in both QB rating and yards per attempt against play-action. The public doesn’t seem to be buying the idea that this could be a sneaky shootout considering the game total has cratered to 42.5 points since opening at 51.5.
Most likely to post some QB1 fantasy production: Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts at New York Giants
Hurts has literally turned in a top-12 fantasy performance in every single one of his career starts in which he played the entire game.
- Week 14, 2020: fantasy QB11
- Week 15, 2020: QB1
- Week 16, 2020: QB12
- Week 17, 2020: QB20 (in three quarters)
- Week 1, 2021: QB5
- Week 2, 2021: QB10
- Week 3, 2021: QB10
- Week 4, 2021: QB4
- Week 5, 2021: QB11
- Week 6, 2021: QB7
- Week 7, 2021: QB6
- Week 8, 2021: QB24 (in three quarters)
- Week 9, 2021: QB12
- Week 10, 2021: QB7
- Week 11, 2021: QB2 (pre-MNF)
The main reason why Hurts has thrived to such a large extent is a high-end rushing production that serves as a borderline cheat code in fantasy land. Overall, only Jonathan Taylor, Derrick Henry, Joe Mixon, James Conner, Nick Chubb and Ezekiel Elliott have more fantasy points from strictly rushing production than Hurts this season.
Don’t be surprised if the good times continue to roll on the ground for Hurts and company against the league’s eighth-worst defense in rush yards allowed before contact per carry.
Most likely to make his best plays on the ground: New York Giants QB Daniel Jones vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Jones hasn’t always helped his cause over the years — seriously man, stop fumbling the ball. With that said, Jones can cause some problems for opposing defenses when left unaccounted for:
- Rush yards since 2019: 967 (No. 4 among all quarterbacks)
- Yards per carry: 6.1 (No. 5)
- Explosive runs: 30 (No. 8)
Hopefully, Jones displays better passing ability with a healthier supporting cast. This would certainly help matters against an Eagles defense that could be without stud CB Darius Slay (concussion). Somehow Slay has as many touchdowns as the Lions since Week 8.
Most likely to not get by without a little help from his friends: Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill at New England Patriots
The difference in the Titans offense's efficiency with and without Derrick Henry (foot, IR) has been rather staggering. Having Julio Jones (hamstring, IR) and A.J. Brown (chest, hand) in and out of the lineup hasn’t helped matters but just realize the current edition of this offense is night and day compared to the group we saw during the first two months of the season. The following table denotes the Titans’ EPA/play and rank with and without Henry on pass and run plays as well as overall:
Don’t expect this week’s date against the Patriots’ league-best scoring defense to help matters. Somehow, New England hasn’t allowed more than seven points in a game since October.
Related content for you: NFL Week 12 fantasy football rankings, waiver targets & drop candidates via Sosa Kremenjas
Most likely to put forward an efficient performance that might seem boring at times: New England Patriots QB Mac Jones vs. Tennessee Titans
Hear me out. Jones has been fantastic this season (PFF’s fourth-highest graded passer) while functioning as easily the best rookie quarterback of this season. The Patriots haven’t needed to keep their foot on the gas in recent weeks, leading to Jones throwing just 18, 23 and 26 passes.
It’s not Jones’ fault his offense hasn’t needed to lean on him as heavily as some others. Still, let’s not crown him as the next GOAT just yet. Jones always was the most pro-ready quarterback of the 2021 class, and the Patriots’ league-best scoring defense has allowed him to be, at times, overly conservative without much of a worry.
Just look at the company Jones keeps regarding the league’s only nine quarterbacks to throw short of the sticks on at least 55% of their passes:
- Ben Roethlisberger (60.4% of passes short of the sticks)
- Jared Goff (60.1%)
- Mike White (57.6%)
- Tua Tagovailoa (55.7%)
- Carson Wentz (55.6%)
- Derek Carr (55.6%)
- Teddy Bridgewater (55.5%)
- Jones (55.3%)
- Daniel Jones (55.3%)
Only Jimmy Garoppolo, Tyrod Taylor and Goff have a lower adjusted completion rate than Jones (34.2%) when throwing at least 20 yards downfield. Credit to the Patriots for playing to their young signal-caller’s strengths, but at some point, they’ll likely be forced to open things up in order to keep pace on the scoreboard when their defense isn’t quite so dominant. Don’t expect big gains to appear out of nowhere in Week 11 against a Titans defense that ranks sixth in lowest explosive pass play rate allowed this season.
Most likely to struggle without his stud teammates: Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan at Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s tough to expect much from Ryan at the moment with Calvin Ridley (personal, IR) and Cordarrelle Patterson (ankle) sidelined. First-round TE Kyle Pitts certainly looks poised to have himself a highly productive career, but he’s ultimately finished with fewer than 75 yards in all but two games this season. His only score came when the Jets decided to defend him with a defensive lineman.
The Falcons rank 27th in team pass-blocking grade and 30th in rushing. They rank 28th in overall pressure rate allowed (37.6%). Falcons receivers have gotten open or wide open on just 42% of their routes this season — the sixth-lowest mark in the league. Ryan simply hasn’t had all that much of a chance to succeed in recent weeks against the Cowboys and Patriots, leading to a pathetic three total points scored over the past two games.
Unfortunately, the going might not get much easier this week against the Jaguars’ second-ranked defense in pressure rate. Don’t be surprised if Ryan continues to largely wilt without his top pass-catchers behind an offensive line that has struggled to block just about anybody in recent weeks.
Most likely to have to deal with the league’s worst group of pass-catchers: Jacksonville Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence vs. Atlanta Falcons
Lawrence hasn’t been completely lights out this season, but there have also been more than a few instances where his teammates have left him hanging. This was abundantly clear in Week 11 against the 49ers. On the season the Jaguars trail only the Chargers and 49ers in overall drop rate while Lawrence ranks fifth in total passing yards lost on account of drops.
Lawrence’s 12 combined interceptions and dropped interceptions are good for the ninth-highest mark in the league, as he’s been part of the problem as well. The larger issue is that there isn’t much reason to believe PFF’s league-worst group of pass-catchers in team-receiving grade will be improving any time soon, as Travis Etienne (foot, IR), D.J. Chark (ankle, IR) and Jamal Agnew (hip, IR) remain sidelined. This lack of depth is hardly surprising given the Jaguars’ status as one of the league’s nine teams with fewer than $12 million devoted to their wide receiver room for 2021.
Maybe Lawrence can put up better counting stats than usual against the league’s ninth-worst defense in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks, although that task could once again prove tough to accomplish without some of his passing-game options stepping up.
Most likely to still push the ball downfield while getting the ball out quickly: Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady at Indianapolis Colts
There’s a fairly linear relationship between quarterbacks holding the ball longer and proceeding to throw further downfield. Some guys still manage to be check-down Charlies despite taking too long to throw (looking at you Jared Goff), but generally, the ball goes further downfield the longer the quarterback takes to throw.
And then there’s Brady, who has managed to get the ball out quicker than just about anybody while not compromising Bruce Arians’ “no risk it, no biscuit” mentality.
QB average time to release vs. average target depth ranks in 2021 (PFF)
Further up: Throws the ball downfield more
Further down: Doesn't throw downfield much
Further left: Gets rid of the ball quickly
Further right: Holds the ball for a long time
Tom Brady is different. pic.twitter.com/9nO8ydlL85
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 15, 2021
The Colts have been a below-average defense this season in both overall pressure rate (18th) as well as getting after the passer in fewer than 2.5 seconds (22nd). Don’t expect those figures to improve following their date with the Brady bunch.
Most likely to give the ball to the league’s best running back over and over again: Indianapolis Colts QB Carson Wentz vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Wentz only had to throw the ball 20 times in Week 10 because Jonathan Taylor, you know, is a God. Credit to Wentz for still managing to make a great play or two, but this offense is simply the Taylor show these days.
Taylor’s ascension to the top of the world in 2021 has been nothing short of remarkable. The stud second-year back has scored a touchdown and surpassed 100 total yards in an absurd eight consecutive games while regularly working as one of the league’s most-efficient backs along the way.
- PFF rushing grade: 90.8 (No. 1 among 78 backs with at least 100 carries)
- Missed tackles forced per carry: 0.23 (tied for No. 9)
- Yards per carry: 5.8 (No. 2)
- Yards after contact per carry: 3.8 (No. 5)
- First down/touchdown rate: 34.7% (No. 2)
The Buccaneers better hope they have elite run-stuffing DT Vita Vea (knee) back for Week 11; otherwise, even the league’s current leader in fewest rush yards before contact allowed per attempt could become Taylor’s next victim.
Most likely to be the best Jets quarterback in the league: New York Jets QB Joe Flacco at Houston Texans
Each of Flacco, Zach Wilson and Mike White have started at least one game this season, and Flacco has been the least awful of the group:
- Flacco: 62.5 PFF passing grade, 8.1 yards per attempt, 73% adjusted completion rate
- Wilson: 59.3 PFF passing grade, 6.5 yards per attempt, 70.4% adjusted completion rate
- White: 54.4 PFF passing grade, 7.2 yards per attempt, 76.4% adjusted completion rate
Don’t get it twisted, all three have been objectively bad and rank outside of PFF’s top-32 highest-graded quarterbacks this season. Still, Flacco’s rather solid average of 8.1 yards per attempt (No. 7 among 50 qualified quarterbacks) gives this passing game a chance to more consistently move the ball while his 2.2% turnover-worthy play rate is also a relief from White (6.6%) and Wilson (4.9%) alike.
The floor here is low, although this week’s matchup against the Texans’ 29th-ranked scoring defense could perhaps lead to a more fruitful day than usual for all parties involved.
Most likely to have a better chance at success than usual: Houston Texans QB Tyrod Taylor vs. New York Jets
Taylor is always capable of making some big things happen on the ground, but this week he should be able to produce through the air as well. Credit to Bryce Hall for grading out as PFF’s 20th-best corner in coverage this season, but Michael Carter (No. 70), Javelin Guidry (No. 103) and Brandin Echols (No. 114) leave this cornerback room painfully thin on reliable depth.
Taylor has turned in QB11, QB26 and QB8 fantasy finishes in his only three starts this season. Don’t be surprised if he continues to turn back the clock and supply some fantasy QB1 goodness against the league’s 12th-worst defense in fantasy points per game allowed to the position.
Most likely to thrive when asked to throw deep: Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert at Denver Broncos
Herbert has been nothing short of unstoppable when throwing the ball at least 20 yards downfield this season:
- PFF passing grade: 96.5 (No. 3 among 44 qualified quarterbacks)
- QB rating: 135.4 (No. 1)
- Yards per attempt: 17 (No. 6)
- Adjusted completion rate: 56.7% (No. 5)
The problem is that Herbert has attempted just two passes at least 20 yards downfield over the past three weeks of action. Note that he averaged four-such throws per game in Weeks 1-6. Overall, Herbert joins Matt Ryan, Daniel Jones and Jimmy Garoppolo as the league’s only four quarterbacks to throw a pass at least 20 yards downfield on fewer than eight percent of their attempts.
It doesn’t really matter how far Herbert throws the ball downfield if his playmakers are as efficient as they were in Week 11 against the Steelers but just realize the best version of this offense occurs when defenses are forced to respect the deep ball a bit more. This won’t be easy to accomplish against the Broncos’ top-eight defense in both yards per attempt and QB rating allowed on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield.
Most likely to not do his offensive line many favors: Denver Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Yes, the Broncos have allowed the league’s third-highest pressure rate (38.5%). Also yes, they are the 14th-worst unit in pressure rate in instances when the quarterback gets rid of the ball in 2.5 or fewer seconds. Bridgewater has been knocked down on a league-high 15.7% of his dropbacks, but the reality that he has the eighth-slowest average time to pressure demonstrates the reality that PFF’s 14th-ranked offensive line in team pass-blocking grade hasn’t been the major problem.
The Chargers rank 13th in quick pressure rate this season. Joey Bosa and company will need to instill their will at the line of scrimmage in order to prevent Bridgewater from having the sort of time he needs to get the ball to his group of talented receivers.
Most likely to look like a world-beater from a clean pocket: Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins at San Francisco 49ers
Cousins has been nothing short of exceptional when given the benefit of a clean pocket this season:
- PFF passing grade: 92.7 (tied for No. 1 among 34 qualified quarterbacks)
- Big-time throw rate: 5.1% (No. 10)
- Turnover-worthy play rate: 2.3% (No. 21)
- Yards per attempt: 8.5 (No. 9)
- Adjusted completion rate: 83.7% (No. 2)
The problem is that Cousins has emerged as one of the league’s least-efficient quarterbacks when pressured. He’s truly been one of the league’s more pressure-sensitive quarterbacks in terms of the difference in yards per attempt when under duress versus when kept clean.
QB ranks in yards per attempt under pressure vs. when kept clean (PFF)
Further up: Good rank in YPA under pressure
Further right: Good rank in YPA when kept clean
Further down: Bad rank in YPA under pressure
Further left: Bad rank in YPA when kept clean pic.twitter.com/xQL93XmDqJ
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 22, 2021
Nick Bosa and the 49ers rank outside the league’s top-20 defenses in both overall and quick pressure rate, which could be a problem against two receivers as good as Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
Most likely to stay hot: San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Minnesota Vikings
Garoppolo has played his best ball of the year in recent weeks:
- Week 1: 73.2 PFF passing grade
- Week 2: 57.0
- Week 3: 52.7
- Week 4: 56.0
- Week 7: 52.2
- Week 8: 77.6
- Week 9: 79.3
- Week 10: 79.4
- Week 11: 69.0
Garoppolo is PFF’s eighth-highest graded quarterback since the 49ers’ Week 7 bye so credit to the veteran for turning the ship around after a rather brutal start to the season.
Of course, none of this means fantasy faithful won’t continue to bemoan the fact that the 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 3 overall pick remains on the bench. The 49ers’ second-half schedule remains borderline erotic if Trey Lance ever gets a chance the rest of the way:
- Week 12: Vikings (No. 30 in fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks)
- Week 13: Seahawks (No. 18)
- Week 14: Bengals (No. 9)
- Week 15: Falcons (No. 24)
- Week 16: Titans (No. 29)
- Week 17: Texans (No. 22)
The Vikings don’t have a single cornerback graded higher than 65th in PFF coverage grade this season. Good luck trying to deal with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk as long as Garoppolo keeps humming.
Most likely to keep on struggling with the deep ball: Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford at Green Bay Packers
Early on in the season, it looked like Stafford and company couldn’t miss when they threw downfield. It’s safe to say those days are in the past:
- Weeks 1-8: 18 for 33 on deep balls, 13 big-time throws, 1 turnover-worthy play
- Weeks 9-10: 0 for 7 on deep balls, 1 big-time throw, 4 turnover-worthy plays
This receiver room no longer has Robert Woods (knee, IR), DeSean Jackson (Raiders) or TuTu Atwell (shoulder, IR). Odell Beckham certainly showed the ability to get open deep earlier in the season. Hopefully, the bye week and OBJ's extended presence give this offense its fastball back.
Most likely to have the game’s best corner tracking his No. 1 receiver: Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Los Angeles Rams
Jalen Ramsey has only shadowed three receivers over the past two seasons. They posted the following production:
- D.K. Metcalf (2-28-0, 6-59-0, 5-96-2, 5-98-2)
- Mike Evans (5-49-1)
- Davante Adams (9-66-1)
Not all of the above production occurred directly in Ramsey’s coverage, but it’s clear the Rams view Adams’ importance to this passing game in a high enough regard to shift the focus of the game’s best cornerback solely in his direction.
Rodgers (toe) is playing through the pain and figures to be functioning at less than 100% come Sunday. Hopefully, he still manages to get his No. 1 receiver plenty of chances to win this high-profile battle. Get your popcorn ready.
Most likely to not enable his team’s wide receivers to any sort of success: Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield at Baltimore Ravens
Mayfield continues to play through all sorts of injuries, but nobody has a lower catchable pass rate when their wide receivers are considered open or wide-open than the Browns. Only six offenses have failed to feed their wide receivers a catchable pass rate of at least 70% overall: Panthers (69%), Browns (69%), Football Team (68%), Jaguars (68%), Bears (66%) and Saints (66%).
Poor Jarvis Landry hasn’t reached 75 yards or found the end zone as a receiver in a game all season. Sheesh.
Overall, the Browns have scored 17 or fewer points in six of their last eight games. Mayfield threw for 343 yards and a pair of touchdowns against this secondary the last time they met in Week 14 last season but just realize this passing game is borderline broken at the moment.
Most likely to see all sorts of Cover 0: Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson vs. Cleveland Browns
Jackson (illness) didn’t suit up in Week 11, meaning the last time the NFL saw him play was his pressure-induced Week 10 dud. Nobody has faced more Cover 0 than Jackson this season, which is mainly due to the Dolphins utilizing this look on a whopping 19 of Jackson's dropbacks on that fateful Thursday night. To this point, the 2019 league MVP hasn’t managed to make defenses pay, as Jackson has posted middling marks in PFF passing grade (56.5, No. 20 among 30 qualified quarterbacks), yards per attempt (4.9, No. 19) and QB rating (61.1, No. 28) against Cover 0 this season.
The NFL is a copycat league so don’t be surprised if the Browns (29th in total snaps played in Cover 0) dabble a bit more often with this strategy in an effort to make life difficult for Jackson. It remains incredible that the Dolphins held this prolific Ravens offense to just 10 points. Jackson will need to prove he can decimate this coverage scheme before the offense gets back to looking like the group that scored 30-plus points in three of their previous four games prior to Week 10.
Most likely to look like a far worse version of his usual self: Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson at Washington Football Team
Wilson's production before and after his injury tells quite the story:
- Before injury: 88.8 PFF passing grade, 11 big-time throws, 0 turnover-worthy plays, 9.6 yards per attempt
- After injury: 43.8 PFF passing grade, 1 big-time throw, 3 turnover-worthy plays, 5.8 yards per attempt
The Seahawks have scored 13 total points since their Week 9 bye and have won one game (against the Jaguars) since Week 4. To say this team is in panic mode would be a massive understatement.
Maybe this week’s matchup against the Football Team will provide the sort of get-right spot Wilson and company badly need.
- Yards per attempt allowed: 7.69 (No. 24)
- Explosive pass play rate allowed: 16.5% (No. 26)
- QB rating allowed: 112.1 (No. 30)
Most likely to fall back to Earth because he can’t play much better: Washington Football Team QB Taylor Heinicke vs. Seattle Seahawks
All Heinicke has done over the past two weeks is complete 78% of his passes while averaging 8.6 yards per attempt with four touchdowns against zero interceptions across two wins against the Buccaneers and Panthers. Only Mac Jones has a higher PFF passing grade over the past two weeks. Madness.
Heinicke ranks 25th in big-time throw rate and 29th in turnover-worthy play rate among 37 qualified quarterbacks, as he’s generally still struggled to provide a constant dose of “elite” throws while continuing to make too many mistakes for anyone’s liking. Still, America loves a comeback story, and Heinicke’s recent play has been nothing short of masterful.
There's a floor here, but Heinicke has posted five top-12 performances in fantasy land through 11 weeks of action. He’s firmly on the streamer map ahead of next Monday night.