BRONCOS // JETS OVERVIEW
Through four weeks, the Jets enter this game with a better defense than their counterpart, having posted a top five DVOA ranking, while ranking 13th in points allowed and 13th in yards allowed. Denver has disappointed early in the year, ranking 17th in defensive DVOA and 22nd in fewest yards allowed per pass attempt. The pieces are theoretically in place for Denver to remain an elite defense (so far this year, they have generally had coverage breakdowns when their pass rush has been solid, while failing to get pressure when their coverage has been good), and they will look to get on track this week against rookie Sam Darnold.
The Jets have looked to slow down the game this year — ranking 32nd in situation neutral pace of play and 20th in passing play percentage — while the Broncos have been more aggressive, ranking top 10 in pace of play regardless of whether they are trailing or playing with a lead.
With so many high-scoring games available this weekend, this will obviously not be a prime spot to look for DFS goodness, but value appears to be pretty thin at the moment, so we’ll see if we can uncover anything special in this spot.
BRONCOS PASS OFFENSE
The Broncos’ pass offense has been a disaster since Week 1, with Case Keenum throwing three interceptions and zero touchdowns across the last three weeks. No receiver has topped 100 yards since Emmanuel Sanders did so in Week 1, and Sanders’ 96-yard effort in Week 2 has been the only other receiving game north of 63 yards on this team. Todd Bowles’ defense has unsurprisingly focused on forcing passes to the short middle of the field, with borderline-elite aDOT marks, and with much stronger numbers on passes outside the numbers than on passes over the middle. Last week, the Jaguars capitalized on this by feeding Dede Westbrook the ball on short crossers underneath, and the Broncos should aim to do the same with Emmanuel Sanders this week.
On DraftKings and FantasyDraft, Sanders’ price reflects his role, as he is priced at 14.2% and 13.3% of the salary cap, respectively. On FanDuel, however, Sanders stands out at only 11.17% of the cap. He has seen target counts on the year of 11, four, eight, and seven, and Denver is playing on the road against a team that likes to slow down the game, so this is by no means a lock-and-load spot. But Sanders deserves consideration as the best piece on this passing attack, lining up nicely against the Jets as the best way to move the ball against them.
Washed-up Demaryius Thomas and future superstar Courtland Sutton will continue to see looks on the outside — offering low floor, but big-play upside. After seeing 21 targets the first two weeks of the season, Demaryius has dropped to 12 targets the last two weeks; Sutton has held steady, with target counts of five, six, three, and six to begin the year. Each guy is now seeing the old Demaryius Thomas wide receiver screens at the line of scrimmage, so it is worth noting that the Jets rank dead last in the NFL in YAC allowed per reception. The Jets are not bad at tackling on a per-play basis; but all the short passes against them are leading to a couple breakdowns per game.
With Jake Butt suffering a torn ACL last week, Jeff Heuerman played 53 of a possible 60 snaps and saw seven targets — which he turned into a 4-57-0 line. The Jets have been above-average against the tight end since the beginning of last year, but Heuerman is similar to someone like Geoff Swaim last week: low upside, but with a guaranteed role — and with potential to pay off nicely at a low salary on the off chance you capture a touchdown.
BRONCOS RUN OFFENSE
The Jets rank seventh in yards allowed per carry (one spot ahead of Denver’s defense), and they have impressively allowed a long run on the season of only 23 yards (sixth best in the NFL). Obviously, that does not mean it’s impossible for this defense to break down and allow a huge run, but it does point to “volume” as being an important element against this run defense.
Through four weeks, “volume” has been tough to come by in the Broncos’ backfield — and with both Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman running well, there is no reason for this to change any time soon. If we take away his ejection, Lindsay has touch counts of 18, 15, and 14; Freeman has touch counts of 15, eight, and eight in those weeks. Lindsay has eight targets on the year to only two for Freeman. They have split work inside the 10-yard-line pretty evenly, with four carries for Lindsay and three for Freeman.
Devontae Booker continues to mix in on passing downs, with 11 carries and 11 targets on the season.
JETS PASS OFFENSE
Sam Darnold has struggled since his first game, throwing four interceptions to only two touchdowns — while failing to complete more than 50% of his passes in back-to-back games, and failing to push the ball downfield. The last point is more on play-caller Jeremy Bates than it is on Darnold, but the end result is the same: this offense has been obsessed with the short area of the field to begin the year, with almost no willingness to take shots. Part of this, of course, is a “go with what’s working” approach. Over the last two weeks, Darnold has completed one of seven passes that have traveled more than 20 yards downfield, with zero touchdowns and an interception.
This is too bad for the Jets, as the deep middle of the field has been a trouble spot for the Broncos. Early in the year, they have graded out as the worst team in football over the deep middle, and only three teams (the Bucs, Chiefs, and Chargers) have allowed more pass plays of 20+ yards. This oil-and-water matchup will make it tough for the Jets to capitalize.
The good news is that Robby Anderson has not died. In fact, he ranks eighth in the NFL in average depth of target, and over the last three weeks he has quietly seen target counts of five, four, and six. If anyone on this team is going to hit for a big play this week, it is likeliest to be Anderson.
Anderson’s volume has taken a hit with Quincy Enunwa soaking up eight to 11 targets every game in what essentially functions as the “tight end” role in this offense. Enunwa, of course, runs almost 70% of his snaps from the slot, where he will contend with All World corner Chris Harris. Enunwa has four inches on Harris, but size has rarely been an issue for Harris, who wins with technique. This is a tough draw for Enunwa.
Terrelle Pryor played two snaps last week with a groin injury and is currently questionable for this week. His absence opened additional snaps for Jermaine Kearse, who saw five targets and will surely post a couple of random big games this season.
The Jets’ tight end rotation has led to only two games this year in which an individual player topped two targets, with Jordan Leggett seeing four targets last week, and with Chris Herndon seeing four targets in Week 2.
JETS RUN OFFENSE
Denver has taken steps back against the run this year as well, after being a top three unit last season, ranking 19th in DVOA early in the year — though they do rank a respectable eighth in yards allowed per carry. I’m overlooking that DVOA mark, as it was sitting at fifth before the Chiefs had their way on Monday night. Kansas City will make a lot of good units look bad this year, and this is still a difficult matchup.
Isaiah Crowell has touch counts on the year of 10, 14, 18, and five, while Bilal Powell has touched the ball 13 times, 10 times, 14 times, and 12 times. This is a clear, even timeshare, with Crow playing 104 snaps on the season to 128 for Powell. Powell will catch more passes, while Crowell will have more scoring opportunities. It’s a tough backfield to get excited about from a floor/ceiling perspective.
The most appealing DFS options in this game are the defenses. Neither team has been elite at rushing the passer, but each ranks in the top half of the league in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate, and the Jets rank third in the NFL in takeaways and third worst in the NFL in giveaways. Each team’s offensive line has held up fairly well, but each defense should have an opportunity for two to four sacks and one to three takeaways.
As for actual players: Sanders stands out as a fringe option on FanDuel, while Robby Anderson has some interesting upside to his game in tourneys — especially given how tight salary is on DraftKings this week, and how cheap Anderson is. Still, there is nothing in this game — on either side — that will warrant strong attention from me, given my style of “narrowing things down to the best plays on the slate.” There are a number of things that “could happen” in this game to yield production from any of a handful of players; but from a “likeliest to happen” standpoint, this is a game I’ll avoid on both offenses.