XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
Sunday Night Football has the Bills visiting the Bengals for a nice 50.5 total game with Cincinnati favored by 2.5. After the Bengals started off the season looking absolutely abysmal on offense due to Joe Burrow’s injured calf, they finally seem to have gotten it together the past three weeks as they’ve scored 34, 17, and 31 points with Burrow passing for eight touchdowns against just two interceptions. The most encouraging stat is that Burrow ran six times last week against the 49ers for 43 yards, which is more rushing yards than he’s had in their other six games combined. That more than anything else is a signal that he’s over his calf injury and should be back to normal. On the other side of things, we have a Bills offense that has been far less consistent than we’re used to seeing: they’ve scored 37 or more points three times, and then 25 or fewer points in every other game (including against such defensive juggernauts as the Jaguars and Bucs). Should be a fun game to try and figure out.
On the Bengals side, Joe Mixon is one of the few bell cow backs left in the NFL, playing 70% or more of the offensive snaps in all but one game this year (and that was a blowout in which Cincinnati only scored three points). Because the Bengals are such a pass-heavy team, that hasn’t translated into enormous running back volume, but Mixon is averaging a very healthy 16 carries and roughly 3.5 targets per game. Not bad . . . and he’s $8k. He’s priced this cheap because he hasn’t really had any explosion games – no games over 100 rushing yards and just two touchdowns on the season so far. But with a role this robust, good games are coming. Against a Bills defense that has so far been extremely good against opposing passing attacks but more vulnerable on the ground, Mixon is a very strong play for his price assuming the Bengals don’t fall too far behind. Behind Mixon, Trayveon Williams has a small RB2 role and then Chris Evans is the passing down back except he’s only played over 10% of the snaps once this season. Evans is a very shaky dart throw, while Trayveon is too expensive for his workload as he’s averaging just two opportunities per game and would need an injury to Mixon to really have a chance at relevance.
Ownership updates automatically
The passing game for the Bengals is also nicely condensed with Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins playing the bulk of the wide receiver snaps and hogging the vast majority of the production. Chase is an absolute stud about whom I can’t really write very much. $10,800 is a little on the cheap side based on where we’ve seen him historically, but all the studs are priced a bit down in this game compared to most Showdowns so we can’t really view him as being discounted. Chase vs. Diggs is obviously a major decision point in this one as they’re two of the league’s premier wide receivers, they have very similar production to this point in the season, and they’re priced just $200 apart. They’re both awesome plays, obviously, but I have a (slight) preference for Chase here – he’s averaging just over 12 targets per game while Diggs is at 11.25, and while their fantasy production has been very similar on a per-game basis, Chase’s numbers include several games in which Burrow looked injured, immobile, and rather hopeless. With a healthy Burrow, I think that gives Chase a small edge. Behind Chase, we have Tee Higgins, who has just fallen completely off the map this season. Higgins had a big Week 2 but otherwise has no more than eight targets, five catches, or 69 yards in any other game this season. He’s still plenty talented and as this offense gets back in gear now that Burrow is over his calf injury, it makes sense to think about him as a buy-low at just $6,600 (also applicable to season long fans out there!). Tyler Boyd runs mostly low-upside routes out of the slot, but he’s priced down to just $5,400 so he doesn’t need to get you to 100 yards in order to be relevant in tournaments. He falls under the “fine” category to me, but I think he has some inverse correlation with Higgins as Boyd’s best two games on the season have come in two of Higgins’ lowest snap count games. I’m fine playing them together but want to limit their pairings as I think if you believe Higgins is either just suddenly bad or maybe hiding some kind of injury or whatever it is that’s causing him to struggle, that boosts Boyd’s role in the offense. Trenton Irwin and Andrei Iosivas round out the wide receiver corps, with Irvin a non-crazy value option while Iosivas is a very thin punt play.
At tight end, the Bengals went out and signed Irv Smith this season, who is a talented pass-catching tight end, but they have somewhat inexplicably refused to use him in the passing game (much to the dismay of my Best Ball teams). Smith only has 15 targets on the season (though he’s only played five games) and he’s only being used right around the line of scrimmage, averaging under six yards per catch so far. Yikes. At $1,600, he’s cheap enough to include in player pools, but he’s either going to need his role to change or find his way into the end zone in order to be relevant (and he only has two red zone targets on the year). Drew Sample and Mitchell Wilcox back up Smith, but are of course even thinner plays. This passing offense really revolves around Chase, and then Higgins and Boyd to a lesser extent, and everyone else is miles behind.