Fantasy football managers got hit with a slew of injuries last weekend. There’s a snowstorm headed toward Buffalo this weekend. Plus, the Thanksgiving slate is just a week away. The action and reactions have been nonstop. So, I doubt they planned it this way, but props to the schedule-makers; theoretically, we can take a beat tonight as we already have a good idea of who to target in our lineups for tonight’s matchup.
The Titans and Packers are bottom 10 in pass rate over expected. Neither features elite pass-catching talent. Of course, I’ve got a couple of deep season-long or single-slate DFS options for you to roster tonight. But first, let’s dig into the contest itself.
The Pack looks to get back on track against the Titans of the AFC South
There’s probably a video of me somewhere on social media during the preseason crowning the Colts or Jaguars as the division winners. My bad.
Tennessee’s offseason moves and injuries heading into the season gave me little faith in their hopes for 2022. If anything, I praised the Titans’ front office for not overspending in free agency based on last year’s playoff run. And yet, here we are.
I’m surprised the Titans didn’t integrate any RPOs, or more power/zone reads into the playbook for Malik Willis. He still needs time to develop, but a schematic play-calling shift would speed up his progress. However, with Ryan Tannehill back, the Titans went from 32nd in dropback EPA during Willis’ tenure to 11th in Week 10.
Their offense is getting them by, but their defense deserves most of the credit. The Titans are 15th in yards per drive allowed. It’s an average number at first glance. But their peripheral stats show how well-coached they are. They’re one of six teams in the top ten for both dropback and rushing success rates in pure passing situations. Tennessee is third in quarterback knockdowns. You might move the ball on them, but they’ll frustrate you while doing it.
The Packers needed a reliable deep threat. But not in the way you might think. Before Week 10, Rodgers was already top five in passing yards on explosive plays and ranked 12th in EPA per attempt on those throws. Statistically, he’s fine here. It’s more about what the big plays do for the rest of the offense.
From two drops on the first drive to three TDs.
Christian Watson didn't let a tough start get him down in Week 10. @ChristianW2017#TENvsGB -- Thursday 8:15pm ET on Prime Video
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— NFL (@NFL) November 16, 2022
From Weeks 6 to 9, Rodgers was 25th out of 27 quarterbacks in EPA per attempt on short and intermediate throws. The offense averaged 33.3 yards per drive with a 36.7 percent third-down conversion rate. He was still hitting those downfield throws, but 14 points a game wasn’t cutting it. Things changed in Week 10.
Green Bay’s play-action rate shot up to 47.8% against Dallas. As a result, Rodgers was the tenth-most efficient passer on short and mid-area throws. Their yards per drive and ability to convert series were also up. The Packers had the right game plan for Dallas.
However, their overall approach caught my eye, which may negatively impact the pass catchers in tonight’s matchup.
Points of Interest in TNF
Aaron Rodgers: Game Manager?
Rodgers exited Week 10 with a season-high 19.4 fantasy points. Folks brave enough to start him must be happy with the results. But Sunday marked the seventh time he’s failed to cross 250 yards in a single game. And, even worse, he hit a season-low in passing attempts.
Green Bay’s pass rate over expectation (PROE) has oscillated throughout the season as they figure out how to operate without Davante Adams. However, they had the league’s lowest PROE on Sunday. For context, Carolina had the same passing rate last Thursday but held and maintained a lead for its entirety. Either way, I’ll be watching to see if the shift continues.
Maybe last week’s game plan was specific to Dallas. The Cowboys were top 10 in EPA per rush allowed but must have identified some matchup worth exploiting. Tennessee is third in the same metric and allowed one 100-yard rusher on the season. I’d expect the Packers to test the Titans’ weaker secondary, but their offensive success from Sunday may keep them on their current approach.
Workload concerns for Derrick Henry
OK. You got me. This section header is misleading. But if you only paid attention to only boxscores, you’d be worried about Henry succumbing to an injury. I’m not panicking, though.
Henry popped up on the injury report after his season-high workload in Week 8. He spoke to the media, assured us he was ready to play and proceeded to plow through the Chiefs’ defensive front for 115 yards and two scores. Since the press conference, he’s fifth in yards after contact and tenth in EPA per rush. The drop in volume looks like Tennessee is trying to manage his work.
But look at the other rushers on the team.
Dontrell Hilliard has six touches to Henry’s 38. Rookie Hassan Haskins, active because he plays special teams, got a carry and a target against Kansas City. Regardless, neither has encroached on King Henry’s share of the carries. If there’s no competition, there’s no need to be worried.
But I’m interested to see if there’s any continued switch away from Henry to see who benefits. Four pass-catchers had five or more targets from Tannehill on Sunday. If the Titans are evolving into a more-balanced offense, we should add their receivers sooner rather than later.
But don’t bench these guys
I want to keep it tight tonight and not go too far off the board. We’ve only got a few trusty targets in each passing offense. You’re throwing darts if you want to roster Hilliard and Haskins. So, I’ll focus on two guys who may be on your bench but are worth starting in tonight’s game.
Christian Watson will get all the publicity heading into tonight. It makes sense. He has the draft capital, Green Bay needs the momentum to salvage their season and they have limited options. But let’s not forget Allen Lazard.
From Targets per Route Run to Air Yard share, Lazard ran the Lambeau show until Week 10. Additionally, Lazard has been Rodgers’ primary slot target, with a 43.5% slot rate on Sunday. We’ve seen functional offenses succeed against the Titans’ inside defenders over the past few weeks.
Patricks Mahomes dispersed 205 passing yards across three different interior pass-catchers (i.e., Kelce, Smith-Schuster, Hardman) in their overtime battle in Week 9. Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell combined for 11 targets in Week 7. We even saw the Commanders’ duo tag them for 123 yards back in Week 5.
If Tennessee’s run defense keeps the Packers’ ground game in check, look for intermediate targets from Rodgers to keep the offense moving. With Watson as the team’s new deep threat, Lazard may benefit from the defensive attention paid to the rookie.
I’m sure you’ll see the name and assume I’m vouching for the Westbrook-Ikhine because he scored a touchdown on Sunday. I mean, it helps his case. But we can’t project touchdown receptions. Past opportunity is a good indicator of future success, though.
The third-year receiver has been top three in almost every opportunity metric for the Titans. But, critical to tonight’s matchup, he’s run a team-high 42.4% of his routes from the slot. CeeDee Lamb cooked Green Bay for 127 yards on ten targets this past week. Amon-Ra St. Brown had a 9-55-0 stat line the week prior. Tannehill would be wise to target the Packers’ interior, and Westbrook-Ikhine is the primary target in this area. In single-slate DFS contests, I’d work him into my lineups despite the likely high roster rate.