East Coast Risks
Welcome to the final week of the NFL regular season! We have some marginal risks to monitor this week associated with a large frontal system extending all the way from the northeastern to southeastern coast. Precipitation will play a factor in some of the games, but the bigger concern is for wind, as we expect winds to escalate with the passage of the front. The areas we are monitoring for impacts this week include:
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills;
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles ;
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens; and
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns.
Weather and Player Impacts
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills
Weather Rating: Caution
DK O/U: 40.5 pts
Time: Sunday, 4:25 ET
As the New York Jets face off against the Buffalo Bills most of the precipitation is forecasted to move out of the Buffalo area by game time, but a lake effect snow shower is not out of the question. However, we do expect temperatures to drop in the upper 20’s to low 30’s with sustained winds 20-25 mph and gusts 30+ mph.
Josh Allen: We are worried about going with the high priced DFS option in Allen for a few reasons. First, will he play the entire game? Right now the Bills are almost 17 point favorites. If things get out of hand, we think Allen has a chance of not playing a part of the game. The other factor is weather related (obviously), once a 20+ mph threshold is set, we see more QBs struggle in the wind, significantly limiting upside. This can be seen in the below frequency distribution chart. Notice the green is mostly confined to the right, telling a story of how fantasy QBs struggle during very windy games.
Zach Wilson: There are many things working against Wilson in this matchup. With the weather argument made above, Wilson will end up on the left hand side of this distribution - most likely. Additionally, the Buffalo passing defense is on fire right now allowing just 144 YPG passing on average over their last 3 matchups. We don’t see a great narrative to play Wilson unless the Bills bench their defense.
Buffalo Wide Receivers: We saw last week what weather could do to Allen’s passing game. Stefon Diggs was the leader last week vs. the Falcons with only 5 catches for 52 yards receiving. With Allen potentially sitting a portion of this game and the fact that WRs become capped in weather that is blustery, we are avoiding paying up for the receiving options in Buffalo (even against an inferior Jets defense). If you want to take a shot on Diggs, we understand, but don’t be surprised if this turns out as a bust given his DFS price.
Buffalo Running Backs: We are including Allen in this analysis. Last week in cold, windy, and snowy conditions, the Bills rushed the ball 45 times with Singletary and Allen accounting for most of those attempts. Expect Singletary to be a beneficiary of high volume against the Jets, and Allen to rely on his ground attack with rushing TD upside. In games with high winds, we see high yardage potential as can be seen in the below frequency distribution chart. Notice that more of the distribution is evenly distributed with a higher probability of a100+ yard rusher possible.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
Weather Rating: Caution
DK O/U: 41 pts
Time: Sunday, 1:00 pm ET
This one is tough as we are expecting rain for portions of this game, but we are not anticipating this to be a full game event. Instead, we are forecasting periods of rain (heavy at times) with steady winds around 15 mph and gusts 20+ mph possible. With that being said, we do believe rain will be frequent enough to limit upside for some players.
We are not expecting a lot of points to be scored with Lamar Jackson out and Ben Roethlisberger struggling mightily of late. Historically, in these weather conditions, we rarely see a score go above 45 points (see graph below). We think taking the under in an already low DK 41 point O/U is not a bad idea.
Quarterbacks: Roethlisberger is probably playing his last game, but unfortunately he has struggled of late scoring only 2 TD in his last 3 games. Additionally, we have seen Big Ben struggle in rain games the last few years, and with a 17% reduction in fantasy points for QB in similar weather conditions, we are not betting on a big performance.
Huntley will be backing up for Lamar Jackson. We don’t have a lot of data on Huntley, but we do know QBs can struggle in these conditions. Don’t expect a lot from either player in this one.
Wide Receivers: Other than Diontae Johnson for the Steelers, we are not super excited for any wide receiver options. Even with the Baltimore Ravens struggling against the pass, other than Johnson, we are not sure who Big Ben will target.
For the Ravens, you can take a dart thrown on Marquise Brown or Rashod Bateman, but with the Steelers giving up only 170 YPG passing on average over their last three games, we are not overly confident in him either in the rain
Mark Andrews: Mark Andrews may be worth a look as a safety net for Huntley. Last week Andrews saw 6 receptions for 89 yards. Although yardage may be an issue, we expect the volume to be there.
Najee Harris: Expect a heavy workload for Harris. Harris received 28 carries against the Browns last week, and in the rain this week we expect the Steelers to lean on Harris once again. Although the Ravens are ranked #1 defensively in terms of rushing yards given up, the volume will be there.
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
Weather Rating: Caution (boarder-line)
DK O/U: 44.5 pts
Time: Saturday, 8:15 ET
A very cold air mass will settle into the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states over the weekend just in time for the Dallas Cowboys to take on the Philadelphia Eagles Saturday night. As a result, we expect temperature to drop into the low 20’s by kickoff and remain there for a majority of the game. Winds are forecasted to be marginal at around 10-15 mph.
Jalen Hurts: Jalen has only been in the league for a few years, but his performance in 5 cold weather games is not impressive; posting a 52 QBR with 121 yards passing on average and 2 TD along with 6INT. However, he has made up for it on the ground scoring 4 rushing TDs in these 5 contests. On the other side, the Dallas defense is prone to having opposing QBs turn the ball over, so don’t be surprised if Jalen makes some mistakes limiting scoring opportunities for the Eagles.
Dak Prescott: A similar argument can be made for Dak Prescott (see Hurts above) - Dak numbers are not impressive in cold weather games. With only 20 attempts on average and a 10 point drop in QBR in cold weather games, we expect Dak’s opportunities to be capped with more reliance on the running game. Philadelphia is also a tough defensive matchup, so we are limiting expectations for Dak regardless of weather.
Below is a distribution chart for QB performance in cold weather games. This distribution is almost bi-modal, indicating that QBs either struggle more consistently in the cold, or they are not significantly impacted. The bars to the right (higher numbers) are associated with hall-of-fame caliber QBs that are used to the cold (Aaron Rodgers, Payton Manning). As such, we are more inclined to put these two QBs (Prescott and Hurts) on the lower end of this distribution.
Wide Receivers: Although both these offenses have seen success of late, it seems they are not relying on their #1 wideouts to get the job done. Devonta Smith, CeeDee Lamb, and Amari Cooper are still startable, but be careful how much you rely on them as the cold weather may further limit their upside. Don’t be surprised if instead these teams rely on their rushing attack.
Running Back: With Miles Sanders out and Zeke not producing, we don’t know who will end up with the hot hand, but whoever it is, expect an uptick in carries and yards as we typically see increases in opportunities for RBs in these types of weather conditions.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
Weather Rating: Caution (board-line)
DK O/U: 38 pts
Time: Sunday, 1:00 pm ET
This is a border-line call, but we at least wanted to make you aware that winds are forecasted in the 15-20 mph range for this matchup. Gust could also approach the 25-30 mph mark, which could make things even more difficult for players in what looks to be a meaningless game with a majority of Cleveland's key players out due to Covid, injury, or otherwise. The only player we have some confidence in is Chubb, who was removed for the injury list. But with the Browns already eliminated, it is possible they limit his opportunities and instead give the ball to Felton. As a result, we don't see a lot of startable options in this one.