Thursday Night Football Primer & Start/Sit Advice: Bills vs. Patriots (Week 13)

Every week, I’ll be writing a comprehensive primer on every NFL matchup and all of the relevant players, matchups, pace and playcalling notes, and injuries. It covers everything you need to know when setting your lineups. But since that article is massive and requires a full pot of coffee, we’re also going to offer these more focused matchup overviews to help you prepare for Thursday Night Football.

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Thursday Night Football Primer & Start/Sit Advice: Bills vs. Patriots (Week 13)

Pace and playcalling notes

  • Buffalo is no surprise here, ranking seventh and fifth in neutral pace and passing rate.
  • However, New England offers an interesting wrinkle to consider surrounding this game. While they are still stuck in the mud (26th in neutral pace) since Week 9, their neutral passing rate has skyrocketed. Over their last three games, they are fourth in neutral passing rate (63.0%).


Josh Allen: Allen has owned the Patriots in their last two meetings, completing 70.8% of his passes with 8.6 yards per attempt and averaging 311 passing yards (four passing touchdowns). Allen has been a tad up and down recently, but he rebounded nicely last week in fantasy as the QB1 overall. Allen’s weekly rushing floor and upside can mask any shortcomings in the passing box score. Despite small hiccups, Allen is sixth in PFF passing grade, second in big-time throw rate, and seventh in yards per attempt (minimum 100 dropbacks). The Patriots’ pass-defense stats are impressive on paper, but when we look at the quality of their opponents, there’s some worry this could be smoke and mirrors. New England has faced a laundry list of struggling passing attacks and non-impressive buffoons this season. The only two quarterbacks remotely close to Allen’s stratosphere that New England has played are Tua Tagovailoa and Kirk Cousins. Tagovailoa tossed for 8.1 yards per attempt and 270 yards in his first start in a new offensive scheme. Cousins ​​shredded this secondary last week, completing 81% of his passes with 8.0 yards per attempt and three scores. Allen is the QB1 overall again this week.

Mac Jones: After struggling for the entire season, Jones is finally coming out of his funk. Over the last two weeks, he’s seventh in PFF passing grade, fourth in yards per attempt, first in adjusted completion rate, and 16th in big-time throw rate (minimum 25 dropbacks). He destroyed Minnesota last week as the QB7 in fantasy. This week he looks to keep the train rolling against a reeling Buffalo secondary. The Bills’ pass defense has not lived up to their lofty expectations since Week 7. Since then, they are 22nd in passing yards per game, 25th in EPA per drop back, and 22nd in explosive pass rate allowed. Jones is a strong QB2 that could again flirt with the top 12 if this game turns into a shootout.

Running Backs

Week 12

Devin Singletary: This remains Singletary’s backfield. Last week he played his usual 78% of snaps with 15 touches and 80 total yards. While Cook bested him in targets, it’s fake window dressing as Cook only ran nine routes versus Singletary’s 33. Singletary has been more efficient recently, with back-to-back games above 3.50 yards after contact per attempt. These two strong outings have helped pull him up to 38th in yards after contact per attempt, 26th in breakaway rate, and 41st in PFF elusive rating (minimum 25 rushing attempts). The Patriots have clamped down on running backs ranking seventh in rushing yards per game, first in EPA per rush, and fourth in explosive run rate allowed since Week 7. Singletary is an RB2.

James Cook: Cook’s day might jump off the page upon the first pass through the box score with his five targets, but as previously discussed, it’s fool’s gold. Cook played only 14 snaps with four touches and 18 total yards. Without any red zone work, he remains only a stash.

Nyheim Hines: Hines is droppable at this point. Since joining the Bills, he hasn’t played more than ten offensive snaps in any game. His primary contributions have come via special teams returning punts.

Damien Harris: Harris has been ruled out.

Rhamondre Stevenson: WORLD SZN rolls on! Since Week 5, Stevenson has averaged 20 touches and 110.1 total yards per game. Since Week 7, he has led all running backs in target share (25.2%) and receiving yards per game while ranking second in receptions only to Austin Ekeler. As good as Stevenson is as a pass catcher, there’s an argument that he’s even better in the rushing department, ranking 11th in yards after contact per attempt, 21st in breakaway rate, and 19th in PFF’s elusive rating (minimum 25 carries). Buffalo’s recent struggles to stop the run continue as they are 25th in rushing yards per game, 24th in explosive run rate, and 30th in rushing success rate since Week 7. Stevenson is a top-shelf RB1.

Wide Receivers

Stefon Diggs: Diggs has commanded a 29.8% target share (sixth-best) and 36.4% air yard share (15th) while ranking eighth in weighted opportunity among wideouts (minimum 25 targets). He’s also seventh in yards per route run. Diggs is a weekly top-five wide receiver option. He’ll run about 65% of his routes against Jonathan Jones (51.3% catch rate, 59.6 passer rating) and Jalen Mills (60.0% catch rate, 79.2 passer rating). The Patriots have held him in check in their last two meetings, as he averaged 8.5 targets, five receptions, and 72.5 receiving yards (one score). While that’s something to note, I won’t put it past Diggs to destroy that trend this week.

Gabriel Davis: Davis has a 16.8% target share and a 30.4% air yard share as the WR27 in fantasy. Davis has seen a small uptick in the red zone usage lately (three targets over his last five games), but it’s still not enough to consider that as a focal point of his weekly usage. Davis’ primary role is the Robin to Diggs’ Batman in the deep passing game. Davis is second on the team in deep targets. Davis is a volatile WR2/3 that will run about 90% of his routes against Jones and Mills. New England is second in DVOA against deep passing, so I’m not forecasting a big Davis game in Week 13.

Isaiah McKenzie: After his playing time took a hit in Week 11, McKenzie rebounded last week with 73% of the snaps while drawing a 23.8% target share from Josh Allen with six receptions, 96 receiving yards, and a touchdown. McKenzie’s usage has been variable all season, with his 12.5% ​​target share, 11% air yard share, and 59% route run rate. Mckenzie has enjoyed four red zone targets over his last three games played. He’ll run about 77% of his routes as a WR4/5 against Miles Bryant (68.4% catch rate, 95.7 passer rating).

Jakobi Meyers: Meyers got banged up last week, so we’ll see if he can suit up during a short week. If so, he should crush it this week. Meyers has a 23.2% target share and 32.2% air yard share. He continues to have the quietest baller season in recent memory, ranking 20th in PFF receiving grade and 16th in yards per route run as the WR24. Meyers is second on the team in deep targets. He’ll run about 70% of his routes against Taron Johnson (73.8% catch rate, 114.6 passer rating), who has been struggling mightily recently. Meyers is a WR2.

DeVante Parker: Parker’s usage and health have been a rollercoaster this season. Last week he saw an 87.8% route run rate with an 11.4% target share. Parker’s 17.8 aDOT and deep role (leads the team in deep targets) are interesting this week. Buffalo is fifth in deep ball completion rate and 13th in deep passing yards allowed. Meyers, Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne could impact Parker’s snap share this week, but his role as the downfield threat is still intact, even if his route run rate is limited to ~60%. Parker will run about 90% of his routes against Kaiir Elam (75.8% catch rate, 83.8 passer rating) and Dane Jackson (63.2% catch rate, 88.4 passer rating). Tre’Davious White played only seven coverage snaps last week. While his snap count could rise, it’s difficult to see him being pressed into an every-down role this quickly.

Tight Ends

Dawson Knox: Knox put up a dud in Week 12 with only two receptions for 17 yards. He snagged at least four balls in his two previous games and posted at least 57 receiving yards in each. Over his last six games, Knox has a 12.5% ​​target share, a 26.7% end zone target share, and a 73.6% route run rate. Knox is a TE2 against a Patriots defense that’s 11th in DVOA against tight ends allowing the fourth-lowest catch rate and 12th-lowest receiving yards per game.

Hunter Henry: Last week Henry saw his route run rate climb back to 75.6% as he saw five targets securing three for 63 receiving yards and a score. This could simply be a flash in the pan, as Henry has an 8.9% target share and 57.2% route run rate over his last four games. Henry is a mid TE2 against a Buffalo defense that has shut down tight ends. The Bills are second in DVOA, holding tight ends to the 11th-lowest receiving yards per game and eighth-fewest fantasy points per game.

If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistantwhich allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.

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*All data utilized in this article courtesy of FantasyPros, PFF, SharpFootball Stats, Football Outsiders, FTN, Rotoviz, and unless otherwise specified.*

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