XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
Week 10 wraps up with the Broncos visiting the Bills for a 47.5 total game with the Bills favored by a touchdown. The macro notes here are that after a really tough start, the Broncos have held the Chiefs to 19 and 9 points (along with the Packers to 17, but that isn’t especially hard), while the Bills D has been absolutely rocked by injuries and has looked much shakier of late, including allowing 25 points to the Jags in Week 5, 29 points to the Patriots in Week 7 and 24 to the Bengals in Week 9. If those trends continue (which is of course not a certainty), this game may not be as one-sided as Vegas thinks at first glance.
We’ll start with the Bills and their run game. We know that James Cook is good. We also know that the Bills are babying him a little bit as he’s averaging just 12 carries per game to go along with three targets. We also know, if you’ve been reading these Showdown writeups all year, that his goal line role is modest: eight carries inside the 10 for Cook against 12 for RB2 Latavius Murray (plus another seven for Josh Allen). Cook has some explosive upside on a per-touch basis, but his volume and lack of goal line usage make him a really tough sell at $10,000. Consider him a pay-up to be contrarian kind of play. Murray, on the other hand, is somewhat interesting at just $1,800, as he’s now priced cheaply enough for a modest amount of work plus a touchdown can easily put him in the optimal lineup. He’d need the touchdown as he’s only been hanging around six or so touches per game since Damien Harris got hurt, but the goal line role is robust enough that he has a shot at getting there without needing an injury in front of him.
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Okay, Bills passing game, this feels like the 10th time I’ve written them up this year. As always, Stef Diggs is the alpha, averaging just shy of 11 targets per game. Diggs has hit the 100-yard bonus in 5/9 games and has scored a whopping seven touchdowns on the year. He’s a badass. If you’re nervous about Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain, don’t be – not only has Surtain not been quite as elite this year, but the Bills also move Diggs all around the formation and can scheme him away from Surtain’s coverage if they wish to do so. Behind him, we have Gabe Davis as the other full-time wide receiver (who is likely to see a fair bit of Surtain, I’d imagine). Davis is very boom/bust on (usually) limited volume – even after an uncharacteristic 12 target game in Week 8, he’s still only averaging about 5.5 targets per game. We know he has immense upside on a per-target basis, but the volume is shaky, and after Diggs, this offense spreads the ball around quite a bit. He’s a volatile play but with a ceiling that is just fine for $7,400, just recognize that he’s going to miss a lot more than he’s going to hit. In the absence of tight end Dawson Knox the Bills are running more 11-personnel sets, and as predicted, Khalil Shakir has really seized the WR3 role, playing 65% and 71% of the snaps in the last two games and catching 10 of 10 targets in that time for 149 yards. His price is inching up, but at $4,400, he’s still at a spot where he can put up a tournament-worthy score purely via volume with a touchdown being icing on the cake. He’s a strong option whose price has not yet caught up with his role. Really, Shakir’s role is very similar to Gabe Davis: they’re seeing about the same amount of volume and are right about the same yards per catch, but it is worth noting here that Davis’ aDOT was way down in his 12-target game against Tampa. I’m not sure if that was a long-term change with Shakir filling in more of the deep threat role, or if it was something opponent specific to take advantage of something they saw in the matchup (Davis obviously smashed that week, so whatever they saw worked). This adds some additional volatility to the expected role for Davis. I don’t want to overreact to such a small sample but it is at least possible that the Bills are going to keep having him running more intermediate routes instead of almost entirely deeper stuff, and leaving the deeper routes to Shakir. We’ll see. Trent Sherfield and Deonte Harty round out the wide receiver corps and can be ignored except as thin MME punt options.
At tight end, Dalton Kincaid’s role has zoomed off since the Knox injury, playing 84% and 90% of the snaps in the last two games and turning 18 targets into a combined 15/146/1 line. My first reaction to seeing Kincaid at $8,400 was that he’s just way too expensive, he isn’t that tier of tight end yet, but man, the volume is legit. Maybe he is in that tier of tight end? I have a hard time buying a guy whose price went $2,600 → $5,000 → $6,800 —> $8,400 in four weeks, but if he keeps seeing 7+ targets a game in this new role, the price is reasonable.