XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
For the East Coast crowd (or early risers out west), we get an extra Showdown this week as the Broncos and the Jaguars travel to London. This game has just a 39.5 total with Jacksonville favored by 2.5. While the Jaguars are listed as the “home” team, this is really a neutral field so this isn’t simply “evenly matched teams and the Jags get 2-3 points because they’re at home.”
Jacksonville’s running game looks suddenly very interesting as Travis Etienne seized firm control of the backfield last week, playing 80% of the snaps and seeing 19 running back opportunities, including five targets. James Robinson was promptly traded to the Jets to replace the injured Breece Hall, leaving JaMycal Hasty and Snoop Conner as Etienne’s backups. The question of course is whether Etienne will now be treated like a bell cow going forward, or if the backups will get material workloads. Last week, Hasty saw a whopping one opportunity, but coach Doug Peterson said Hasty will get more carries to avoid overworking Etienne, so we’ll see. Etienne is priced up like a bell cow back as the most expensive player on the slate, while Hasty is priced like a guy who may not even see the field at $2,200. The pricing dynamic here gives lots of room to take stands one way or another. The matchup here is reasonable against a Broncos defense that is 3rd in overall defensive DVOA and is elite against the pass but just 18th against the run. Given their prices, potential roles, and the matchup, I’m tempted to have a Jags running back in every build here. Either Etienne is fairly priced and in a good matchup as a bell cow back, or Hasty is significantly underpriced if he’s going to get a material workload.
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In the passing game, the Jags have become extremely concentrated this season. Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Marvin Jones Jr. are likely to see the vast bulk of the snaps at wide receiver, with one of Tim Jones or Jamal Agnew mixing in here and there. Kirk is awesome but remember that Denver has been erasing opposing WR1s all season via the coverage of Patrick Surtain. I don’t generally overweight cornerback matchups, but when a guy who is going to be extremely highly owned also has one of the toughest matchups in the NFL, that’s an opportunity to consider getting different from the field. Zay Jones is someone who I have a hard time believing is actually any good, but he’s been a reliable WR3 type for a while now so I need to get over my bias, and if Kirk is indeed shut down by Surtain that should open up volume elsewhere. MJJ is an interesting one: he looked totally washed early in the season, then had a 100-yard game against Houston, then got hurt, then had a solid game against the Giants but only played 56% of the snaps . . . what the hell? Either the Jags took it easy on MJJ in his first game back from injury, or, they’re intentionally starting to scale back his snaps a bit in favor of trying something else on offense. I think it’s likely the former since scaling back a guy who is coming off his best two games of the season feels a little strange, but just be aware that there’s some risk to MJJ’s playing time. At tight end, Evan Engram is the primary guy, and he’s averaging a reasonable 39.3 yards per game, he just doesn’t have any touchdowns yet. Engram falls into the “fine” bucket, where he can outscore the kickers he’s priced next to purely on volume but will likely need a touchdown to be a real difference-maker. The rotational wide receivers as well as backup TEs Chris Manhertz, Dan Arnold, and perhaps even Luke Farrell can be included in MME player pools.