Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
Week 1 wraps up with one of the lower scoring games of the week in which the drama around Antonio Brown might end up being more interesting than the game itself. This one opened at 43.0 with the Raiders favored by about a field goal and has switched since the AB news, with the Broncos now short road favorites. The Raiders are a disaster of a team, with PFF giving them bottom-quartile rankings for their offensive line, defensive line, secondary, and pass rush. Their receiving corps is led by Tyrell Williams, who has traditionally been a deep threat receiver and is now playing for a QB who can’t throw deep. The rest of the receivers are castoffs like J.J. Nelson, unathletic fifth-round rookie Hunter Renfrow (who should primarily match up with stud corner Chris Harris Jr.), and fifth year tight end Darren Waller, whose career high in targets in a year is 17. A formidable receiving corps this is not. Josh Jacobs seems like a pretty exciting rookie, though, so I guess they have that going for them.
On the Broncos’ side, Case Keenum has been replaced with Joe Flacco, which means their passing game is likely to be about as ineffectual as last year (side note: I’m writing this Sunday afternoon after Keenum just threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns on the road against the Eagles, so I guess anything can happen). The rest of their skill position players, though, are a lot more talented. Emmanuel Sanders has made a remarkable recovery from a torn Achilles and seems like he’s ready to play a normal role. Courtland Sutton will run on the outside, leaving DaeSean Hamilton to cover the slot when Sanders doesn’t kick in there. Where things get interesting is in the Broncos’ run game, where reports out of camp are that Denver wants to use Royce Freeman more than they did last year and get back to more of an even split in work between Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. Freeman is just $4,400 in one of the best matchups he’s going to get all year.
The most likely way for this game to play out is for the Raiders to try and feature Josh Jacobs, keeping the ball primarily on the ground and utilizing short passes close to the line. The Broncos may or may not be able to break away (it’s entirely possible that the Broncos win but the game stays close throughout, and the Raiders don’t have to abandon the run). The Broncos are likely to also try to hide their aging, inaccurate quarterback by leaning on a run game that should be able to find success here. Sanders, assuming health, will be moved around the formation, getting a couple of deeper shots and a few coming out of the slot. Courtland Sutton will have a chance to break something off as well and brings decent ceiling, though both Sanders and Sutton are significantly overpriced for the volume they’re likely to see in this one (their QB looks wildly overpriced to me as well). Derek Carr is the most expensive player on the slate, which is hilarious. Josh Jacobs looks like a solid value and past that you’re guessing where the ball will go for the Raiders; all of Tyrell Williams, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, and Jalen Richard should see some targets, with Richard (by far) the cheapest.
Other ways this one could play out include:
- The Broncos are able to focus on Jacobs and clamp him down, never letting Oakland get anything started. The Broncos win in a rout, making 5-1 onslaughts of the road team viable.
- On the other hand, never, ever underestimate road teams showing up completely flat and getting stomped. It’s contrarian but I like 5-1 Raiders stacks as part of my exposure (overall, 5-1 onslaught lineups are generally underowned in Showdown and I like utilizing them; we’ll have more depth on this in the Advanced Showdown Course, which should be up in the new OWS Marketplace by the end of the week(!)).
- Both teams that we expect to focus on the ground and score via the run…instead manage to do all of their scoring in the air. Fading the running backs in favor of the QBs and receivers will be a highly contrarian play that could pay off with some touchdown variance.
- The game is just ugly with neither team is really able to get much started. My normal rule is “always include a QB in my Showdown tournament lineups,” but if we envision a really ugly game, it’s possible that neither QB puts up a usable score and we’re just left looking for whoever gets the most yardage or receptions (or field goals!).
My single favorite captain is Josh Jacobs. Even though the Raiders suck, he has the best combination of opportunity, talent, and price in this one. On the Broncos’ side, I like both of the running backs, slightly favoring Lindsay for overall upside (Freeman is cheaper, but in this weird Showdown we don’t have a lot to spend up on).
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker (unless planning the “ugly game” scenario…those double kickers are still very, very rarely optimal)
- At most 1 defense (same note as above)
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers (you have to be a braver person than I am to play Joe Flacco or Derek Carr in your captain spot)
- Given how weak these passing games are, I would consider a rule of at most 3 or even 2 receivers from each team as it’s just hard to envision either of these offenses supporting a lot of passing volume.
JM’s Note :: I could see Carr leaning on Waller a bit in this one — especially if he can’t get the downfield throws working with Tyrell (and if Tyrell, as expected, isn’t able to translate his downfield skill set to a more nuanced, underneath route tree). Waller — as most of you are surely aware, given the “sleeper” hype he started generating this offseason — was dominant in Raiders camp. But then…he was also practicing against the Raiders, which leaves it as an open question as to whether Waller is great or the Raiders are just that bad. Likely, it lands somewhere in the middle; but in a game this ugly, “somewhere in the middle” could very well be enough for him to be one of the four or five highest-scoring players on this “slate.” I probably won’t get to play these Monday night slates myself, as Week 2 is still one of the busier weeks of the year for me from a “business” standpoint (and unlike Week 1, I don’t have the benefit of the NFL Edge being posted several days early — which means I have to handle these final “business” items while also carrying my typical workload for the site). But if I do play, I also like the idea of Jacobs as the likeliest player to top the slate. That may be only about a 15% to 20% chance of doing so; but that’s better than anything else we have. I also wouldn’t mind some builds that bet on Sanders or even Sutton posting a big game against this secondary (as X pointed out, the Raiders will still have a poor pass rush after carrying one of the worst pass-rushing units in history a year ago; and Flacco — while not good no matter what — is much better when he has a clean pocket). By a number of metrics, Flacco is actually the worst deep passer in the NFL; and Sutton — as dominant of a physical specimen as he is — has very little nuance to his game, so none of this feels “safe.” But if you’re chasing first place, these are some thoughts to consider in your builds.