The Colts, Browns, Bucs and Eagles are the only teams with a positive rushing EPA this season.
The first two teams stand out as operations that have truly turned their run games into weapons. Both Indianapolis and Cleveland sport hulking offensive lines they’ve invested serious resources into. Even more notable, Jonathan Taylor and Nick Chubb are unique backs when it comes to breaking off huge runs that flip the field for their teams.
Taylor and Chubb rank second and third in PFF’s breakaway run percentage among backs with 100-plus carries. Javonte Williams is first ... which makes you wonder if the Broncos will have a similar situation on their hands next season.
The Los Angeles Rams with peak-Todd Gurley were once that team. Gurley was an explosive player in the rushing and receiving game during his prime years and the Rams, while a creative and dangerous passing attack at their core, could turn into a physical squad at a moment’s notice.
The current Rams rank second in neutral pass rate since Week 7. Understandably, Sean McVay is completed captivated with all the vertical shots and dropback concepts now available in his bag of tricks with Matthew Stafford in the fold.
Yet, as the Rams come off their bye week staring back at a two-game losing streak, it might be past time for a flipped script.
Is it time for Rams to run again?
The Rams aren’t likely to be able to become a Colts' or Browns' type of running game with their offensive line or Darrell Henderson/Sony Michel as the lead ball-carrier. But they could at least re-focus on the ground game and bring back some of the old Gurley play designs.
Much of the attention lately has been on how the Rams integrate Odell Beckham Jr. successfully on offense. At this point, he is a key figure after the loss of Robert Woods. They need that move to work. Another part of getting out of the mud offensively could be pushing toward a better ground game.
Darrell Henderson has faded a bit in fantasy. His rush attempts have declined on a weekly basis since hitting a season-high 21 against New York in Week 6. McVay and co. need to attempt to get him going again. I remain convinced Sony Michel is one of, if not the most, valuable bench stashes in the game. He should be 100 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues —yet he’s not.
There won’t be easy or blanket answers for the Rams. Re-energizing the ground game can be a step in the right direction.
The Patriots lead the NFL in dropback EPA allowed on defense
The Patriots' defense has gone past the point of “sneaky good” — now, they’re just straight-up good. The entire team has an argument for being one of the most rock-solid operations in the AFC mix right now.
New England gets a Tennessee team that’s playing completely identity-free football right now. Given what we’ve seen of these two outfits of late, it’s hard to envision a scenario where New England doesn’t take a talent-poor Tennessee team to the woodshed in Week 12.
Dallas Goedert and DeVonta Smith account for 61.1% of the Eagles targets since Week 8
The Eagles are the most run-heavy team in the NFL over the last month-plus. The good news is, that when they do throw the ball, we know exactly where it’s going.
Philadelphia has turned into an incredibly concentrated aerial attack. Only Dallas Goedert and DeVonta Smith are seeing anything close to significant volume.
This makes sense; they’re the only good players they have.
It’s just not happening for Jalen Reagor (who has more games with negative receiving yards than games over 50 yards this season) or anyone else in the target pecking order. When Jalen Hurts is going through progressions, he’s more likely to just scramble than check down to a running back. That said, you can continue to be optimistic about Goedert and Smith despite the high degree of rushing.
Diontae Johnson ranks 5th with 11.3 targets per game since Week 8
It just doesn’t matter what takes place in the Steelers passing game — nothing stops Diontae Johnson from getting elite usage.
It was awesome to see the Sunday Night Football broadcast crew go into some of the details Johnson put in to iron out some of the kinks in his game over the last year. He’s just one of the most underrated wide receivers in the game.
The drops and yards per target haters continue to take a massive L on this player.
DJ Moore ranks 4th among pass-catchers with a 43.9% share of his team’s air yards since Week 8
DJ Moore scored for the first time since Week 4 last week. That’s the good news.
The bad: Moore came under 70 receiving yards for the fourth-straight game.
Watching the game showed that Moore and Cam Newton still have strong chemistry. We should expect this. Remember, these guys have a history — Newton isn’t some random backup off the street.
Christian McCaffrey will remain the focal point of the layup passing game in Carolina. However, Matt Rhule said the team played intentionally conservative through the air last week to ease Cam Newton into the offense.
If and when they open things up, Moore will be the main beneficiary.
The San Francisco 49ers rank 3rd in weighted offensive DVOA
Weighted DVOA — as you may have guessed — puts more emphasis on a team’s recent performances. The 49ers are absolutely trending in the right direction.
It helps to have all your guys out there!
The 49ers have been excellent on offense of late mostly on low-volume in positive game script. Given some of the personnel issues on defense, it’s worth wondering how the script will look when they play a team that isn’t an also-ran or a divisional rival.
Enter the Minnesota Vikings in Week 12. The Vikings are getting peak performances out of Justin Jefferson, who has an argument for a top-three ranking among real-life NFL receivers. Minnesota is so tough to deal with when they’re hot.
The 49ers have the third-highest implied team total on the week. Perhaps we see some more fantasy juice than we’re used to spreading down this concentrated passing game.
The Kansas City Chiefs rank 17th in weighted defensive DVOA
You could certainly guess that they’re climbing in the right direction of these rankings.
Once one of the biggest pushovers in the entire NFL ... no longer. Sure, Kansas City is never going to be a brick wall of a defense, but they’re far from the joke they were in September. The Chiefs can cause plenty of chaos up front with Chris Jones back playing inside and Melvin Ingram added to the edge mix. That’s enough to make them a unit that can muck up an opposing offense’s day with a few big plays.
The Bengals rank 31st in neutral situation pace of play
As we go back and forth with the Bengals' pass rate splits, it’s a good time to remember that they just straight-up play too slow to really get much fantasy goodness. The only strong plays in any fantasy format right now are Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Mixon. The fringe guys like Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are trending toward roster-clogger status in redraft.