Nobody saw it coming in August, but the NFL game of the year is this weekend between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. Apparently, nobody at the NFL offices noticed as two week ago either as they kept it on the noon slate. We have detailed these teams throughout the season and touched on the Ravens now elite defense in last week’s article.
This game will feature the #2 (San Francisco) and #4 (Baltimore Ravens) defenses by DVOA. Both teams are built around running the football in schematically dynamic ways and setting up play action off it. This leads me to the edge I’m using in this game. The Baltimore Ravens have the 3rd highest difference between yards allowed per play against play action (8.9) and all other plays (6.0). They are bottom 10 in the NFL against play action defensively. The 49ers are 6th in play action play percentage (29%), and 5th in play action yards per play (9.3) offensively per sports info solutions. This is despite their top play action receiving option missing multiple contests. Conversely, the 49ers are #1 in the NFL in play action yards per play allowed (5.6). This line opened correctly with the Ravens as a field goal favorite but quickly balloon to the Ravens being six-point favorites. The line has been pushed up too much. The line swelled based on the Ravens destruction of the Rams on national television, but everyone forgot the 49ers did the same thing to a better team the night before, without Joe Staley. In fact, the 49ers have been quite injured for an elite team and have the possibility of getting both Dee Ford and Joe Staley back for this contest. The 49ers also have the unique ability with their secondary talent to be extremely multiple by using Jimmy Ward as either a safety, or corner, and the ability take more risks with run blitz/extra players in the box. In my view, this is as bad of a matchup that exists for a scorching hot Ravens team. In terms of fantasy football, I would avoid Ravens pass game options in this one if possible. Obviously, don’t sit Lamar.
Seahawks Pass Protection (Source: Sports Info Solutions)
The Seattle Seahawks are an average team sneaking by despite serious flaws based on the incredible Russell Wilson. The Seahawks are horrid up front. They are bottom ten in adjusted line yards, and 31st in offensive pressure rate allowed. In fact, both of the team’s losses have come to teams in the top 10 in pressure rate defensively. The Vikings are currently #7 in the NFL in pressure rate, with Mike Zimmer coming off a bye week to prepare for a team that had to travel back across country. I like the Vikings to win this game and limit the scoring output of the Seahawks. Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett are likely still a locks in your season long fantasy leagues, but D.K. Metcalf and a split carry Chris Carson are fringier than people believe.
Need A Stream? Nick Foles is Here (Source: Next Gen Stats and Football Outsiders)
The Jaguars have gone 0-2 since Nick Foles has returned from injury. He is incorrectly taking the brunt of the blame. Their defense has been atrocious in the second half of the season and is currently #23 in DVOA. The Jaguars are 6th worst in opponent yards per play and the worst in the NFL over the last 3 games without playing against a single top 10 offense. Doug Marrone is well on his way to getting fired. Nick Foles has been quite effective with a completion percentage 3.1% over expected. He has had poor touchdown per attempt numbers this season and this should get corrected against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. This game has sneaky shootout potential unless the Jaguars run Leonard Fournette 30 times into a top 3 run defense. Either way Nick Foles is a quality streamer in week 13.
Tennessee Titans Perfectly Constructed to Win AFC South (Source: Football Outsiders)
Another blurb I didn’t think I would be writing this year. I’m not sure how they have done it in Tennessee. The team isn’t very good, but somehow is built to beat all the teams in their division. They control the line of scrimmage on both sides (#13 in offensive adjusted line yards, #6 in defensive adjusted line yards). They don’t get much pressure, but the only team in the division who doesn’t primarily look to run the football has a bottom 5 offensive line (Houston). They effectively protect the quarterback themselves (#12 in pressure rate), and have a quarterback playing the best football of his life in Ryan Tannehill, who leads the NFL in completion percentage over expected. The team is built to compete with their two non-divisional opponents in the Saints at home and Oakland on the road as well. For this week, I like their ability to limit the beat-up Colts, and for Derrick Henry to continue to roll. There isn’t a lot of fantasy goodness in Nashville, but it is a team that I came around far too late on in 2019.