There are key playoff implications on the line for this Week 17 showdown with a tight spread (the Bills are 1.5-point road favorites) and a high total (49.5 points).
How does that impact the slate, and what stands out for tonight’s matchup?
High-Level Simulation Results
I simulated this game 10,000 times — using numberFire’s projections — to see some high-level takeaways. Here’s what I found.
We’ll start with the most obvious MVP candidate of the night: Josh Allen. Allen has a $17,000 salary for a reason. The simulations think he’s 57.7% likely to lead the slate in fantasy points, and that makes this sort of an Allen-versus-the-field question for MVP. The Bengals rank 13th in adjusted pass defense (via numberFire’s metrics), and in six games against teams that are between 12th and 19th in adjusted pass defense, Allen has averaged 25.0 FanDuel points on the back of 276.8 passing yards and 2.2 passing touchdowns per game as well as 8.3 rushes and 47.7 rushing yards per contest.
In nine post-bye games, we have seen Stefon Diggs earn a 27.6% target share. That works out to 8.8 targets and 74.3 yards per game with a catch rate over expectation of +5.1%, per NextGenStats. He gets downfield work (3.9 targets per game traveling at least 10 air yards), and the Bengals rank 30th in average depth of target allowed and 28th in yards per target allowed deep throws.
That downfield weakness naturally puts a spotlight on Gabe Davis. Davis has a strong 19.6% target share in those post-bye contests for the Bills, and of his 6.2 targets per game, 4.3 of them are downfield passes. That’s a good workload against a team that has struggled to limit downfield passing.
After Diggs and Davis, we see a drop off in target share to Dawson Knox (15.0%), Isaiah McKenzie (12.9%), James Cook (8.4%), and Devin Singletary (8.0%) since the bye. Both Knox and McKenzie stack well with Allen, especially in lineups without Diggs or Davis. We very likely will need the salary savings if we’re playing the angle of an Allen eruption.
Since Nyheim Hines‘ first game with the Bills, we have seen a slight backfield shift a few different times. In Hines’ first four games with the team, Singletary played on 74.0% of the team’s offensive snaps with Cook at 20.8% and Hines at 8.6%.
But we’ve seen Cook get more run lately, and since Week 13, Singletary’s snap rate is down to 53.3% with Cook at 40.0% and Hines at 14.1%. Though Singletary still has the edge, Cook is pretty viable albeit potentially over-salaried. That could leave him overlooked, as Singletary makes the most sense from a baseline expectation.
Burrow is up against a top-10 pass defense (Buffalo is ninth by numberFire’s metrics). He’s had six games against teams ranked between 6th and 15th, and in them, he’s averaged 242.7 yards and 2.3 touchdowns with better-than-expected efficiency and also 4.8 carries for 19.5 yards on the ground. That all totals 22.5 FanDuel points per game. He’s a very viable pivot away from Allen as MVP, and he has obvious stacking candidates.
In six games with Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Hayden Hurst all active and playing at least 20.0% of the snaps, Chase has a team-high 26.6% target share with Higgins (19.3%), Boyd (14.6%), Hurst (13.7%), and Mixon (13.7%) following. Chase rates out as a stellar MVP differentiation play.
Trenton Irwin drew 4 targets last week for 45 yards and 2 touchdowns but ran only 25 routes (46.3%). He can get some high-leverage work but should see his role scaled back with Hurst back in the lineup.
Since returning in Week 14, Joe Mixon’s snap rates have been 59.0%, 61.3%, and 59.0%. Prior to his injury in Week 11, he had a snap rate of 72.9%. The role, then, is down, and it may not be going back up anytime soon after Samaje Perine played well in his absence. Perine had averaged just 2.8 carries and 2.4 targets per game before Week 11. Since Mixon’s return, he’s averaging 5.0 carries and 3.3 targets. Mixon’s path to an MVP performance is, generally, when we assume that the quarterbacks don’t go off and the game plays to the under with dispersed target shares to the pass-catchers.
With the higher offensive expectations, kickers and defenses are not true priorities, but a kicker in a high-scoring game can be viable, especially when we need to make sure our high-salaried MVP plays do, in fact, hit big.
This content was originally published here.