Kyren Williams Returns to an Exploitable Matchup: The Wrong Read, Week 12 – Part 2
Image Credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Kyren Williams.

The Wrong Read has had many lives — first as a reflection on insights from the RotoViz podcasts; then as a freeform space for exploring a variety of metrics and strategies. It will likely continue in that latter function, but at least for now — in season — it’s an in-depth matchup lookahead article.

Each week I’ll gather advanced stats from our tools — mainly the Advanced Team Stat Explorer — to paint a picture of the upcoming week and offer some thoughts on how the games might unfold. My interest is in how the games will impact fantasy teams, and as such I’m looking mainly at the metrics that I think can help us predict how different teams and players will (or won’t) score fantasy points.

Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos

  • The Broncos’ passing offense struggles in reality, but has produced positive fantasy efficiency. Unfortunately, the Browns’ passing defense is, by most measures, the best in the league. They are No. 1 in all EPA-based metrics, and generate pressure at the third-highest rate.
  • The Browns’ pass rush could be the lynchpin of this matchup, as Denver ranks No. 29 in pressure rate allowed, and Russell Wilson holds the ball longer than any other quarterback.
  • The Browns’ passing offense is also bad, especially for fantasy managers. No team ranks lower in total passing game FPOE.
  • It wouldn’t seem to help that they will be starting Dorian Thompson-Robinson. On the other hand, Thompson-Robinson has been the most accurate of the quarterbacks who’ve taken the reins for Cleveland. He has a higher on-target throw percentage than either Deshaun Watson or P.J. Walker. But it’s also worth noting his average throw depth is only 5.5 yards.

  • In any event, the Broncos don’t put up much resistance in the passing game. They are dead last in passing success rate allowed. They are a bottom-five team in FPOE allowed, EPA allowed, and boom rate allowed.
  • That said, we probably won’t see Denver’s pass defense tested much in this game. No team averages more rushing attempts per game than the Browns, and only two average more rushing EP. That’s unlikely to change against the Broncos, who are either 31st or 32nd in most advanced rush defense metrics.
  • Rather than asking Thompson-Robinson to make plays through the air, the Browns will probably rely on Jerome Ford to keep the ball moving. This limits not only the upside for the Broncos’ passing game, but also the opportunities for Denver’s RBs.
  • Cleveland’s rushing defense isn’t as strong as their passing defense — based purely on the matchup data, this is a game in which Javonte Williams and his stablemates could find some space for long runs. And while they still could, the inability of the Broncos to stop Cleveland’s strong running game puts a on cap the total number of carries available to Denver backs.

Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals

  • The last two weeks I’ve noted that we need to largely ignore the Cardinals’ passing game numbers, as they don’t account for Kyler Murray. However, Murray hasn’t yet provided the boost for this offense that we expected.
  • In part, that’s because the problems with Arizona’s passing offense aren’t limited to just the QB play. Trey McBride has emerged as a potential superstar at tight end, but the rest of the receiving corps has underperformed most of our expectations.
  • The fact that they rank No. 5 in average WR separation has more to do with offensive scheme than with player talent. The Cardinals’ receivers are No. 28 in points earned per play — a metric that assigns responsibility for the EPA a team earns on a play.
  • Joshua Dobbs’ relative success in Minnesota (but without Justin Jefferson) also suggests that the receiver play in Arizona is at least partly to blame.
  • However, the Rams’ passing defense offers an opportunity for the Cardinals to put up points — they rank in the bottom third of the league in many advanced defensive metrics.
  • Furthermore, they are much stronger against the run. While the Cardinals have solid advanced rushing metrics across the board, they might have better luck attacking L.A. through the air. The Rams are No. 10 in rushing success rate allowed but only No. 21 in passing success rate allowed.
  • The Rams have more flexibility with how they choose to attack the Cardinals, who are forgiving in both phases. One element to watch: Kyren Williams is set to make his return. Williams may not see a full workload in his first game back, but he was the clear leader of this RB room before his injury, and no back has done enough to suggest that won’t be the case again in the coming weeks. The Cardinals are beatable on the ground, and Williams could take advantage of this matchup.
  • Despite a scare last week, Cooper Kupp was a full participant in Friday’s practice and is active for Week 12. Puka Nacua was also removed from the injury report. This could be one of the few games in which we get to see a Rams team near full strength. Given Arizona’s defensive weaknesses, this is an enticing prospect.

Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles

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Blair Andrews

Managing Editor, Author of The Wrong Read, Occasional Fantasy Football League Winner. All opinions are someone else's.

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