Stealing Signals Thanksgiving recap: What we learned from Devin Singletary, David Blough and more
Ben Gretch reviews all three Thanksgiving games to find actionable advice as we head toward the Fantasy Football playoffs.
Welcome to Stealing Signals, your look at snaps, touches, game flow, efficiency and everything in between. Stealing Signals is a game-by-game breakdown of everything you saw in your Fantasy box score, identifying what is signal and what is noise to help you make decisions for future weeks.
Bears 24 - Lions 20
Snap Notes: Javon Wims: 89% (most since Week 5), Anthony Miller: 86% (matched season high), David Montgomery: 62% (fifth game over 60% in last six), Tarik Cohen: 55% (fourth straight game over 50%), Jesper Horsted: 11% (+6 vs. Week 12), Bo Scarbrough: 47% (-3 vs. Weeks 11 and 12), Ty Johnson: 33% (-3 vs. Week 12), J.D. McKissic: 22% (+7 vs. Week 12)
Key Stat: Bo Scarbrough — 1 high-value touch (Ty Johnson — 4, J.D. McKissic — 4)
- After under throwing his first pass by about 10 yards, David Blough immediately settled in and started slinging it, hitting a wide open Kenny Golladay for a 75-yard touchdown on his second throw, then hitting Marvin Jones for 19 and Golladay for 29 on the second drive before an 8-yard strike to Jones for another score. Blough went on to throw for 280 yards and two scores, parlaying that early downfield passing into a nice overall day. The lesson here is about vertical passing games. Before his injury, Matthew Stafford averaged the second most air yards per game this season. We can't be sure a team will scheme the same way with a backup, but we saw Jeff Driskel air it out plenty, and Blough's solid Fantasy day reiterated there's going to be more upside for a first-time starter in an aggressive offense.
- Unfortunately, with the Lions ahead, Blough wound up with a pretty conservative target distribution overall, hitting T.J. Hockenson for six of 11 targets at a 6.2 aDOT and Danny Amendola for three of eight at an aDOT of just 8.2. He also threw to the pass-catching backs, Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic, a combined six times, and each had a negative aDOT on three looks. Blough threw for just 82 yards combined on those 25 attempts to underneath targets, though a few of them wound up moving the chains in key spots.
- As a result, Golladay and Jones wound up with fewer targets overall as the downfield weapons. Golladay had caught all four of his targets for 158 yards and the score until a desperation heave his direction on a 4th and 22 on the game's penultimate play was intercepted for Blough's lone turnover. Jones hauled in just one more pass after his touchdown, finishing 6-3-40-1.
- With the Lions out in front, early-down bruiser Bo Scarbrough rushed 21 times, racking up 83 yards. His long on the day was 15 yards, but he had a 21-yarder that would have put him over the century mark called back by a block in the back on Golladay in the fourth quarter. Though the Lions ran eight plays in the green zone, Scarbrough got just one touch in close, an early rush attempt from the 10. Detroit preferred spread looks with their passing downs backs in that area, frequently taking Scarbrough off the field. Johnson and McKissic, who finished with just three and two rushes overall, each had a green zone rush, including McKissic failing to convert a third and 1 from the 5 in the fourth quarter. Johnson also caught a pass in the green zone as the Lions threw several times in close. That usage was disappointing for Scarbrough's Fantasy potential, as his complete lack of a receiving role means those green zone touches are his only path to high-value touches.
- With Taylor Gabriel out, Mitchell Trubisky relied on Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller, who combined for a whopping 25 targets on his 38 attempts. Miller came up with three big catches for 78 yards on the Bears' go-ahead touchdown drive late, finishing the day with a huge 13-9-140 line. Robinson was predictably the top target early, catching three passes including a score on the team's first drive, and finished 12-8-86-1. Javon Wims got extended run in Gabriel's place, as he did back in Weeks 4 and 5, and was also involved with a 6-5-56 line.
- The Bears continued their recent trend of utilizing two-back sets, getting both David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen on the field at the same time. That's been a positive for Montgomery's routes run, and he caught the late go-ahead touchdown on such a play. Montgomery caught both of the targets he saw and added 75 rushing yards on 16 carries, while Cohen caught all four passes he saw and rushed three times but totaled just 35 yards.
- With the Bears thin at tight end, rookie UDFA Jesper Horsted caught an 18-yard touchdown on his lone target. But Horsted played just seven snaps overall and isn't a Fantasy option going forward.
Signal: Bo Scarbrough — taken off the field frequently in the green zone; Anthony Miller — big role with Gabriel out
Noise: Lions target distribution — Blough took some early shots downfield, mostly threw underneath
Bills 26 - Cowboys 15
Key Stat: Devin Singletary — season-high 78% snap share
- The Bills came into Jerry World in what was probably the biggest test for their defense this season, given it was a short-week road game, and they won pretty handily. I wondered whether we'd see Frank Gore phased out a little bit more after he passed Barry Sanders on the all-time rushing list last week, and whether it was related to that or not, we did see Devin Singletary set a season high in snap share at 78%. His usage continues to rise, and while Josh Allen's scrambling can still be a limiting factor for Singletary's targets and his green zone touches, it's hard to argue with a 78% snap share. Singletary scored for the first time since Week 9 on a trick pass play thrown by John Brown, but he also later got a target on a third down from the 8-yard line. He now has at least 16 touches in three straight and four of his last five, and his four targets and three receptions were the fifth time he's hit both of those benchmarks.
- Allen rushed for another touchdown, his eighth on the season, which ties his 2018 total for the fifth most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback since 2000. The sample's plenty big enough now to recognize he should be expected to generate plenty of rushing scores, but it's also likely he'll be due for some regression. He has two more rushing scores than Lamar Jackson this season on fewer than half the rushing yards.
- With the Bills in front, Allen threw just 24 times, but he was efficient, leaning heavily on Cole Beasley underneath. Beasley caught six of seven passes at a 9.3 aDOT in his return to Dallas, generating 49 yards after the catch to put up his first 100-yard game of the season and score for the fifth time in his last seven games. John Brown saw just four targets at his typically high aDOT (19.0, 76 total air yards), but his three catches went for just 26 yards. He did have the passing touchdown. No one else in the Buffalo passing game has shown any reliability.
- Dak Prescott got off to a hot start, then turned the ball over twice in the second quarter as the Bills built their lead. Add in a couple missed field goals on subsequent drives, and the Cowboys could not generate points despite moving the ball fairly well en route to 426 total yards. Yes, some of that was late-game passing production in a multiple-score game, but we continue to see plenty of upside from this downfield passing attack, and it bounced back nicely from the weather-impacted game in Foxboro last week.
- There isn't much new in the Cowboys' usage splits. Their main 11 personnel grouping plays big snaps, and we've seen spike games from the secondary options like Randall Cobb and Jason Witten that make that production far from surprising. Deeper options like Tavon Austin (five targets) or Ventell Bryant (receiving touchdown) don't play enough snaps to be Fantasy options. Ezekiel Elliott rushed just 12 times in part due to script, but was targeted 10 times in the passing game, catching seven. Amari Cooper got back on track with 11 targets, catching eight for 85. Michael Gallup saw six targets, a bit underwhelming given Dak threw 49 times, but nothing too out of the ordinary.
Signal: Devin Singletary — role just keeps expanding; Cole Beasley — consistent enough usage to be in flex consideration as the second main passing option
Noise: Cole Beasley — 49 yards after the catch; Ventell Bryant — touchdown (played one snap)
Saints 26 - Falcons 18
Snap Notes: Alvin Kamara: 82% (most since Week 3), Christian Blake: 89% (+45 vs. Week 12 season high), Russell Gage: 68% (-5 vs. Week 12), Devonta Freeman: 67% (return from injury), Jaeden Graham: 59% (-7 vs. Week 12)
Key Stat: Taysom Hill — four offensive touches, 45 yards, two touchdowns
- The Saints coasted to the win, running just 49 offensive plays as their defense generated nine sacks and mostly played well against Atlanta. In part because the Falcons managed to recover two onside kicks, Atlanta ran 87 plays — 36 more than New Orleans.
- That helps explain Michael Thomas' 8-6-48 line, plus Alvin Kamara only totaling 15 touches. Taysom Hill's performance was also to blame for the lack of production, as he caught an early touchdown and later added a 30-yard rushing score for the Saints' only two touchdowns on the day. The long run was good for the Saints but bad for Fantasy managers in that it took production off the table for the other guys while simultaneously helping New Orleans build a big lead.
- Kamara's snap share was actually his second-highest this season, and Latavius Murray played only sparingly, totaling just four carries and two rushing yards. The concern over Kamara continues, but he got the only running back green zone touch and clearly played ahead of Murray; his lack of touchdowns is the result of several odd team outcomes in recent weeks, and his overall usage remains very strong. I fully expect touchdown regression in the very near term.
- Jared Cook continued to look like the clear third option in the offense, catching three of six targets for 85 yards, but he did have an egregious drop in the end zone on what should have been an easy touchdown.
- With Julio Jones out, Christian Blake played a full snap share in his spot while Russell Gage manned the slot in the Mohamed Sanu role. Blake wound up with far more snaps, but it's role-specific, and if and when Jones is back we'll see Gage's snaps stay pretty stagnant while Blake will mostly return to the bench.
- Matt Ryan threw 50 times, 17 of which came on the final three drives generated by the two converted onside kicks. Calvin Ridley finished with a 10-8-91 line, while each of Gage and Blake saw nine targets, with Gage catching a late touchdown. Tight end Jaeden Graham caught all four balls thrown his way, including an earlier score.
- The backs also combined for 11 targets, but Devonta Freeman saw just five of those, as Brian Hill saw three, Kenjon Barner two and fullback Keith Smith one. Freeman played a healthy snap share in his return from injury, but that passing-game rotation limits what has already been a pretty limited profile for the lead Falcons back in an offense that entered Week 13 leading the NFL in pass attempts and doesn't generate much running back production overall.
Signal: Devonta Freeman — returned to a solid snap share, gave up more receiving work than we'd like to see
Noise: Alvin Kamara — lack of touchdowns; Taysom Hill — only two Saints touchdowns (four total touches); Saints — 49 offensive plays (and the associated limited touch counts for Kamara, Thomas)
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