Bad day to be an assistant to the regional manager...
In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by Best Buy:
- 3 coordinators get the boot
- Game Preview: JAX vs. KC
- Geoff's Bets: CeeDee Lamb & the Cowboys
- Fantasy Fixers: Indianapolis Colts
- It's 1/20. Take it away, Peter Overzet...
You'd think the entire NFL conversation would center around the Divisional Round weekend right now, but yesterday's headlines were dominated by big moves involving coaches.
Here are a handful of the interesting nuggets that took place on the coaching carousel...
🔥 The Bucs fire their offensive coordinator
If you're looking to assign blame for the Bucs offensive struggles and 8-9 season, I'd personally point the finger at Tom Brady and the offensive line injuries. But the Bucs brass had other ideas:
𝗕𝗥𝗘𝗔𝗞𝗜𝗡𝗚: Buccaneers fire offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich after four seasons
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL)
Jan 19, 2023
It's a somewhat bizarre decision considering the Bucs offense finished top 3 in the league in offense for his first three years as OC. Leftwich will certainly land on his feet somewhere, but the same can't be said for a Bucs team who is about to enter a long, dark rebuild.
🔥 The Ravens offensive coordinator steps down
OC Greg Roman decided to step down from the Ravens yesterday. It's hard to know if this was a "You can't break up with me if I break up with you first" situation, but regardless the Ravens will be looking for a new OC in 2023.
Many had called for a change in Baltimore, although I'm not sure who could have coached an effective offense with Marquise Brown shipped off to Arizona, Rashod Bateman on IR, and both Lamar Jackson and J.K. Dobbins missing a significant amount of time.
2 things can be true:
1. Every QB Greg Roman has coached has seen their performance improve with him at OC
2. It was still time for a change in Baltimore
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike)
Jan 19, 2023
Baltimore is now the 10th team currently looking for an OC.
🔥 The Vikings fire their defensive coordinator
Not to be outdone by the Bucs and the Ravens, the Vikings sent their defensive coordinator Ed Donatell packing yesterday. This one makes a bit more sense, considering the Vikings couldn't stop anyone in 2022 and finished as the No. 31 defense in the league.
Pretty wild that three teams who made the playoffs all sent coordinators packing. It truly is a "what have you done for me lately" league.
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🏆 Matthew's way, way too early 2023 ranks. Look at all those first round WRs.
📜 History says this backup RB will score a TD on Saturday. It's science.
🤯 The WR who told his OC to "go f**k" himself. Wowowowow.
🌭 Andy Reid is excited to play in Germany...for all the wrong (right?!) reasons.
🌎 Here are the other 2023 International games. Finally sending some good teams over there.
🤝 The reunion we need to see. This would be cool.
🤗 CeeDee Lamb is a real one. Good teammate, right here.
We have a big Divisional clash on deck with the Jags & Chiefs, so Fantasy Life Contributor Chris Allen is here to dive into the finer points of this intriguing matchup...
Right or wrong, the way Saturday’s game ended influences my perception of Jacksonville’s chances this weekend. I’d be more realistic if it had the same feel as the Bengals’ contest. But the Jaguars did the unthinkable last week. So, asking them to do the same in a few days doesn’t seem as tall of a task. Regardless, we’ll need to contextualize their passing game to find any hope for them to pull off another huge win.
Let’s start with Trevor Lawrence’s accuracy.
After last week, sitting around Tyler Huntley and Tom Brady in CPOE isn’t where you want to be. But throwing four interceptions will get you there. However, I’ll provide some silver linings (i.e., make excuses).
Per PFF, Lawrence had one turnover-worthy throw in the game. His first pick came on a tipped pass, and the rest were on tight-window attempts, which ran counter to what he had done all season. The second-year passer had a 10.8% throw rate into tight coverage during the regular season, per Next Gen Stats. Los Angeles ratcheted it up to 27.7% on Saturday as they keyed in on Jacksonville’s timing routes. Lawrence could still manage the pocket (two sacks on 12 pressures), so the main concern is his ability to connect with his receivers.
The Jaguars traveled to Kansas City in Week 10, but Evan Engram wasn’t a featured part of the offense. He ran a route on 85.4% of Lawrence’s dropbacks but only earned four targets. Over the last four games, he’s third in looks with the second-most red-zone attempts thrown his way.
The Raiders’ TEs combined for 45 yards on seven throws from Jarrett Stidham, and Denver got three scores from their tight ends in their two games against the Chiefs in Weeks 14 and 17.
Christian Kirk’s slot role (12-105-2 in their last meeting) will be the constant driving force for Jacksonville. However, targets for Engram (and a deep shot to Zay Jones) will give the team the explosive plays it needs to keep up with Patrick Mahomes.
The Jaguars’ run defense is third in rushing EPA allowed over their last four games. So while Isiah Pacheco owns 59.0% of the carries since Week 14 and Clyde Edwards-Helaire may be back, Mahomes and the passing attack should continue to lead the way. Targeting Jacksonville’s interior should be their first weakness to exploit.
I look at Gerald Everett’s stat line from last week (8-109-1) and instantly think about what Travis Kelce will do. Justin Jefferson (81) is the only player to generate more first-downs than Kelce (79), but Jefferson has 28 more targets.
The 33-year-old TE is second on the team in YAC and third in YPRR over the Chiefs’ last six games. But he’s not their only weapon.
Since his Week 15 return, Kadarius Toney has run 48.1% of his routes from the slot. Despite the lack of volume (nine targets in four weeks), he has the second-highest target rate when deployed from the interior.
And he still manages to create a highlight or two with the ball in his hands. In their last meeting, Jacksonville ceded 171 yards to Toney, Kelce, and JuJu Smith-Schuster alone. With Toney looking like he’s back to full strength, the Chiefs may unleash him on the Jaguars this weekend.
The Playoffs are upon us, and the Divisional Round is the BEST weekend of the NFL Calendar, don't @ me. In that spirit, Geoff is here to give you his three best bets of the week. All odds from our friends at BetMGM.
CeeDee Lamb posted a 28.1% team target share this season (4th highest in the league) and should benefit from a shift in matchup this week against a 49ers defense that allowed just eight rushing TDs in the regular season, but also ceded 16 TDs to opposing WRs (the 7th-most in the league).
San Francisco’s scheme often ends up leaving their corners on an island – in the hope that their pass rush gets home fast enough to stop the big play – and as we saw last week, when DK Metcalf dropped a 10-136-2 line, that strategy can backfire in a hurry when matched-up against an elite WR (RIP Charvarious Ward).
DK METCALF COOKED CHARVARIOUS WARD 🔥
— AJ King (@allday_ajking)
Jan 14, 2023
Lamb’s beaten some very good secondaries to find the endzone four times in his last four games and looks like a solid bet to do so again in the Divisonal Round. With nine TDs in 19-games this year – and the Dallas defense playing better – he’s also not bad for a dart throw at +900 in the first TD market.
As mentioned above, the Cowboys not only have an elite WR core, but they also have a defense that will undoubtedly give rookie Brock Purdy his toughest test of the season. Dallas’ defense ranked out first in pressure rate and was also first in total turnovers on the season.
The 49ers are no joke but underdogs in the playoffs are now 40-25 ATS since 2017 and Dallas themselves sport a nifty 19-7 ATS record in their last 26 games vs. an NFC opponent. With the spread at four and past the key number of 3.0, fading the public favorite in the 49ers and taking the Cowboys to cover in this spot looks like the play for the weekend finale.
Boyd’s role in the Bengals offense is firmly established as a low volume, low aDOT kind of receiver.
While he produced some nice numbers when other players were injured, he was overtaken in team target share by TE Hayden Hurst over the last two weeks and the TE’s return to health is another reason to potentially fade Boyd in this matchup.
Even as a near every down player, Boyd’s still only managed to go over his 3.5 reception prop in nine of the 19 games he’s played. His 2.01 projection on Fantasy Life also gives us a solid two reception edge to work with and makes his under one of the strongest plays to target in the prop department.
The NFL offseason will be in full swing before we know it, with coaching changes, free agency and the NFL draft reshaping the 2023 fantasy football landscape. With that in mind, the Fantasy Life squad is breaking down every NFL team to determine what went wrong in 2022 and identify paths to improvement. Dwain is here to tackle the Colts...
😢 Team Summary
It was a tough scene in Indianapolis this season, with Frank Reich fired in November and star RB Jonathan Taylor battling injuries throughout the season before shutting down for the final three games.
The Colts were outscored by an average of 8.1 points per game – which summarizes their 2022 campaign better than any other number. Over the previous two seasons, they finished inside the top eight, outsourcing opponents by 5.1.
They were a run-balanced offense, opting to pass only 56% and 55% in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The goal was to insulate their questionable QB situation by keeping defenses off balance. However, that recipe imploded in 2022. With the team trailing by four-plus points, the third-most (52%), the team was forced to pass the ball 62% of plays.
Whether focusing on traditional stats like yards and points or more advanced ones like expected points added per play (EPA) or PFF Grades, they all tell us the same story about the Colts’ offense: They were terrible.
Out of passers with at least 300 dropbacks, Matt Ryan bested only Marcus Mariota, Carson Wentz, Justin Fields, Baker Mayfield and Taylor Heinicke in PFF pass grade (63.0). Ryan looked cooked, but his 6.6 YPA (25th) and 1.3% big-time throw rate (30th).
Ryan’s performance deflated fantasy hopes for Michael Pittman Jr., who posted a solid 25% target share but couldn’t get much going at 9.3 yards per reception on a 7.7 ADOT.
Fortunately, the Colts can cut Ryan before March 17th and reduce his 2023 cap number from $35M to $18M, and they have the No. 4 pick NFL Draft thanks to their Week 18 loss to the Texans.
Indianapolis has been on the Rent-A-QB plan since the unexpected retirement of Andrew Luck in 2019, but they finally have the chance to change that. This Colts offense could be a much more viable fantasy environment in 2023 with the right offseason decisions.
🚧 Fantasy Fixer Recommendations
🎯 Be Ready to Trade Up for a QB
The Colts taking a QB early in the draft is a no-brainer. The question is whether they can get a top option at No. 4, or will they have to trade up to get their guy?
Speculation about the Bears trading out of the first pick is getting pretty frothy in NFL mock drafts, and it makes sense, given how every team from pick No. 4 to pick No. 9 could be in the market:
- Colts: Matt Ryan, gross.
- Seahawks: Do they believe in Geno Smith?
- Lions: Is Jared Goff for real?
- Raiders: Derek Carr is likely gone.
- Falcons: Desmond Ridder didn’t go early for a reason.
- Panthers: Finding the future QB is priority No. 1.
The Cardinals could also consider trading out their pick at No. 3, assuming Kyler Murray’s contract extension means he is still their guy (and we think he should be). So, there is a scenario where if the Colts stand pat, they could miss out on the top-three options, with QB also making a ton of sense for Houston at No. 2.
The Colts have plenty of holes, so the preference would be holding at pick No. 4 and landing one of their favorite two QBs. However, they will need to ensure their competitive intel is tight to make the best decisions for their franchise.
Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard said that he is willing to do “whatever it takes” to trade up to select a top QB in the NFL Draft.
Bryce Young is currently the favorite to be the first QB taken off the board in April 👀
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh)
Jan 10, 2023
Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis are the consensus top-three options in mocks. If the Colts feel similarly about all three, they can likely hold tight and have one make it to them. However, if they see this is a one- or two-QB class, they should make a move.
With the addition of a high-end QB through the draft, the Colts won’t suddenly transform into a high-flying aerial attack. However, an upgrade to average QB play would stabilize an environment capable of supporting up to two mid-range receiving options with Jonathan Taylor still heavily involved.
🚫 Hire a QB-Friendly HC/OC
My definition of QB-friendly is pretty simple.
- They are relentless about providing the QB with as much information as possible before the snap with concepts like motion and shifts.
- They design plays that create defensive confusion or a pause in reaction time, such as play action, RPOs and trick play looks.
Yeah, the Indianapolis QB room was terrible last season, but the offensive staff didn’t do them any favors, per PFF data.
Any one or two of these things don’t guarantee the success of an offense – talent is still the No. 1 factor. However, many of the best offenses incorporate these elements into their offense.
The Lions coordinator, Ben Johnson, is a great example of this. In 2021 the team ranked 25th in points per game (19.1) and 22nd in yards per game (323), which improved to sixth (26.6) and fourth (380), respectively. Detroit made subtle changes to their offense.
In the upgraded offense, Jared Goff rebounded from a career-low 6.4 YPA to 7.4.
Unfortunately, for other NFL teams, the big-brained OC re-committed to the Lions, giving him a substantial raise.
The #Lions welcomed back OC Ben Johnson officially today, and sources say he'll return on an enhanced contract that features a large raise. Johnson was one of the hottest HC candidates and likely would have ended up with a job. Now, back in Detroit, excited for another season.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet)
Jan 19, 2023
However, the template remains – the Colts must find an HC/OC combination that strives to provide their young QB with every advantage possible.
Niners by a million Sunday
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports)
Jan 19, 2023