Week 12 Walkthrough: A.J. Brown, Downtown

Week 12 Walkthrough: A.J. Brown, Downtown

Welcome to the Week 12 Walkthrough.

In this article, I'll outline critical fantasy football context for this 12th glorious week of football.

(The stats below are from PFF, NFLfastR, rbsdm.com, RotoViz, FantasyLabs, ESPN, NFL Next Gen, and Fantasy Life).

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Jaguars at Texans, 1 PM

Jaguars Implied Team Total: 24.5

Trevor Lawrence has had some concerningly poor performances this season, turning in 12th percentile showings in EPA per play against the Colts and Chiefs to open the season. He also cratered against the 49ers in Week 10. In all three of those performances, his efficiency was lower than you’d expect based on his success rate. In other word, to some extent, he ran bad. 

Entering Week 11, we’d seen the reverse effect occur just once—Lawrence’s impressive Week 7 performance against the Saints. Then against a weak Titans pass defense, Lawrence exploded for a 97th percentile showing in EPA per play.

Lawrence’s success rate has been solid all season, he ranks QB10. And after last week’s efficiency spike, he’s up to QB14 in EPA per game. He’s not having the breakout season we were hoping for, but he’s providing solid efficiency. 

Lawrence now gets a Texans defense that ranks just 22nd in EPA allowed per dropback but one that still looks dangerous.

The Texans are vulnerable in the secondary, but they have a very impressive pass rush that creates pressure without blitzing. And the Texans pass rush proficiency is definitely worrying for the Jaguars, who rank just 29th in pass block win rate.

When they faced off in Week 3, Lawrence avoided being sacked, but he faced quick pressure on 32% of his dropbacks, up from 19.5% in his other nine games.

This is likely to be an up-and-down game for Lawrence.

Even after Calvin Ridley’s 7/103/2 receiving line last week, Christian Kirk looks like the more reliable option. Kirk leads 21% to 20% in TPRR and 1.96 to 1.64 in YPRR. And Kirk has been the far more impressive route runner, and measured by ESPN's open score.

And crucially, Kirk has a significantly more shallow 10.3 aDOT. Lawrence will need to get the ball out quickly here, and Kirk is the better fit for a quick passing game plan. Kirk profiles as a solid WR2, with Ridley as a FLEX.

Zay Jones returned to the lineup against the Texans, logging 77% route participation. His profile isn’t especially interesting, but he’ll be out there.

Evan Engram looks like a more interesting third option in the passing game. Engram’s aDOT is silly low, but that should actually help him here. And Engram has impressed as a route runner and target earner this year. He’s a TE1.

The Texans’ impressive pass rush is paired with a run defense that is quietly shaping up a top-10 unit. 

Meanwhile, the Jaguars have been inefficient on the ground, ranking just 29th in rushing success rate, behind an offensive line that ranks just 28th in run block win rate. 

The Jaguars’ ineffective running game hasn’t been a problem for fantasy managers because work has been highly consolidated by Travis Etienne. But that could be changing. Etienne is coming off a season-low 41% carry share against the Titans.

https://www.fantasylife.com/nfl/utilization-report/game-log

Ben Gretch is buying this as a legitimate red flag, writing in Stealing Signals:

"It appears Etienne’s earlier work might have been a bit of a mirage, in that it might be the case that Bigsby just wasn’t reliable enough, but now that they like what they are seeing from D’Ernest Johnson, they are willing to spell Etienne more."

… can’t say I like the sound of that. 

Crucially, Etienne has not been an efficient rusher this season. His profile isn’t as bad as the Jaguars’ team-level numbers, but he’s been inconsistent and hasn’t been an efficient yardage creator. Etienne has been an efficient TD scorer, but that’s not going to save him if his workload falls off significantly.

Hopefully, Week 11 goes down as a usage blip, but his profile looks fragile enough to make him more of a high-end RB2 than an RB1 this week.

Texans Implied Team Total: 23

C.J. Stroud is already profiling as one of the best young QBs in the game, ranking QB8 in EPA per game and QB13 in success rate. He’s been sensational.

But over the last three weeks, Stroud has played the Buccaneers, Bengals, and Cardinals—who rank 23rd, 28th, and 31st in dropback success rate. Stroud is having an incredible rookie season… but he’s also coming off a very easy three-game stretch.

And Stroud still hasn't convinced his coaches to put the offense fully on his shoulders. The Texans weren't particularly aggressive over the last three weeks. They posted a 5% PROE against the Buccaneers but were balanced against the Bengals and Cardinals.

With a rookie QB under center, the Texans have been understandably conservative. But that approach can lead to frustrating outcomes, like we saw in their 15-13 loss to the Panthers. But the signal is pretty clear here from the Texans coaching staff—they are going to work to get their run game going unless things completely get away from them.

Fortunately, the Jaguars are a pass funnel. Teams are averaging a 69% pass rate against them and shifting 4% to the pass. I don’t expect the Texans to embrace the opportunity for a pass-heavy game plan, but it should help keep them from playing overly conservatively.

The Jaguars have an impressive pass defense, but Stroud was deadly against them in Week 3. Outside of his elite showing against the Buccaneers, it’s his most efficient showing of the season.

Stroud’s efficiency against the Jaguars makes sense. He’s been excellent from a clean pocket, and the Jaguars don’t have a great pass rush, ranking just 17th in pass rush win rate. Stroud is usually well protected behind a Texans offensive line that ranks eighth in pass block win rate.

Still, the Jaguars secondary needs to be taken seriously. They rank fourth in PFF’s coverage grades and aren’t letting up big plays at a high rate. Most importantly, they protect the middle of the field extremely well, ranking first in splash zone coverage. That could limit one of the Texans' biggest strengths.

With Noah Brown looking likely to be out again this week, the Texans will have Nico Collins, Tank Dell, and Robert Woods as their 3WR set. Woods will primarily operate from the slot.

Both Collins and Dell have been great this season, but Dell looks like a far better fit for this matchup.

The Jaguars cover well, particularly over the middle. That’s not great news for Nico Collins, whose route running has been fine but not special. His impact comes primarily from being able to draw splash zone targets at an extremely high rate. But that ability will likely be limited here.

Meanwhile, Dell is profiling as an elite route runner. Only Keenan Allen, Brandon Aiyuk, Garrett Wilson, A.J. Brown, and CeeDee Lamb rate higher in open score. I’m not betting against Dell to get open, regardless of the secondary. 

And Dell does damage deep downfield, which fits well with the idea that Stroud should be well-protected in this game. Dell remains a WR1 despite the difficult matchup. Collins is a WR2.

Dalton Schultz is also getting open well for a tight end, delivering a slightly higher open score than Nico Collins. This is a less interesting matchup for him than we’ve gotten used to over the last three weeks, but Schultz remains a TE1.

Jaguars'

Although I haven’t been complimentary of the Jaguars run defense this season, the fact is that they lead the NFL in rushing success rate. This is not a good rushing matchup for the Texans. But they are likely to burn plays on the ground game anyway.

When Dameon Pierce was out, Devin Singletary’s ridiculous snap and carry shares made him an RB1. But with Pierce returning, we can’t count on that type of workload.

https://www.fantasylife.com/nfl/utilization-report/game-log

Devin Singletary has been a great fantasy RB over the last two weeks. But as a real-life RB… he’s not adding a ton. His 40% success rate is solid, and he’s solid in RYOE. But he’s not a difference maker. A reduced workload will be a major hit to his fantasy profile.

Then again, Singletary has been far more effective than Pierce this year. And given Singletary’s huge workloads over the last two weeks, it’s obvious his coaches trust him. He remains in play as a TD-or-bust RB2. Pierce will have a hard time getting this backfield back.

Buccaneers at Colts, 1 PM

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