Najee Harris Is Better Than You Remember, but Still Not as Good as Jaylen Warren: The Wrong Read, Week 13 – Part 1
Image Credit: Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Najee Harris.

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.

Arizona Cardinals at Pittsburgh Steelers

  • The Steelers’ passing offense is among the worst in the league, but arguably no team has a worse passing defense than the Cardinals. Arizona is dead last in pressure rate, success rate allowed, and boom rate allowed.
  • Despite these numbers, the Steelers’ receivers do not have great matchups according to the alignment trends.

  • The Cardinals’ lone defensive strength in the passing game is that they play tight coverage against WRs, so this isn’t a contradiction.
  • Pittsburgh might have better luck moving the ball on the ground. The Cardinals are not as bad as they are against the pass, but they’re still pretty bad, ranking 29th in rushing EPA allowed per attempt.
  • The Steelers lead the league in evasion rate and are No. 6 in rushing FPOE. Najee Harris has played reasonably well this year. Yet even in a season in which he’s showing some of the tackle-breaking ability we saw in college — and some burst we’ve never seen — he’s being overshadowed by Jaylen Warren.

  • Warren is better in every single advanced rushing metric. Against Arizona’s exploitable rushing defense, both could put up startable fantasy scores, but Warren certainly deserves more work.
  • The Cardinals’ continued struggles in the passing game even with Kyler Murray under center nearly prove that Joshua Dobbs wasn’t the problem (his performance with Minnesota last week notwithstanding).
  • We noted last week that Arizona’s receivers were among the worst in points earned per play. They’ve already dropped from No. 5 in average WR separation last week to No. 8 this week.
  • That said, Pittsburgh offers some opportunities according to the Passing Matchup Rater.

  • While the app doesn’t know that Zach Ertz has been released, it does know (to some extent) that he hasn’t played in over a month. If Trey McBride were lining up more often where Ertz had been over the last several weeks, we’d expect that to be reflected in the numbers above. Therefore, it’s not necessarily a boon to McBride in this matchup that he’s the only TE in town — that’s been basically true since Week 8.
  • McBride is listed as questionable for this game in any case, as is Marquise Brown. Michael Wilson has already been ruled out. Greg Dortch has seen 17 targets over the last two games, has the best matchup in the game, and figures to be a central part of the offense with so many injuries.
  • Arizona could opt to rely on their running game, which has been strong this season. Pittsburgh ranks 29th in yards after contact allowed. Among running backs with at least 50 carries, James Conner ranks fifth in yards after contact per carry.
  • On the other hand, only two teams are better than the Steelers at limiting opponent boom rushing plays. They are above average in most other advanced rushing defense metrics.

Atlanta Falcons at New York Jets

  • The way to attack the Falcons is through the air. They are fourth in EPA allowed per rush attempt, but 20th in EPA allowed per pass attempt.
  • That’s bad news for the Jets, who are by far the worst passing team in the NFL, ranking last in all EPA-based metrics, and 31st in total passing game FPOE. It’s rare for a team who was playing as poorly as the Jets were with Zach Wilson to make a quarterback change and see no improvement, yet Tim Boyle proves things can always get worse.
  • What value Garrett Wilson had based purely on his opportunity has begun to evaporate in the last two games with Boyle taking over in Week 11 and starting in Week 12.

  • If there’s any silver lining, it’s that Boyle seems somewhat more likely than Zach Wilson to throw the ball to Breece Hall.

  • The Falcons are below average at limiting evaded tackles and yards after contact, but Hall might still need to do most of his damage in the passing game. Hall is listed as questionable but was a full participant in practice on Friday. Dalvin Cook is also questionable, so watch this backfield closely.
  • The Jets’ saving grace is that their defense is good enough to keep most games close. The Falcons are unlikely to test them through the air. New York’s defense is too good to encourage it, New York’s offense is too bad to require it, and Arthur Smith is too stubborn and boring to experiment with it.
  • That said, the Jets’ rushing defense is also good. Bijan Robinson may not have the running lanes he enjoyed last week. He did see six targets last week, and that may once again be a key to his success.

Denver Broncos at Houston Texans

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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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