Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
With a game total of 46.5 we might actually have a nice scoring Monday night football game for once. The surprisingly 3-0 49ers are fresh off an early-season bye while the offseason darling Browns are just 2-2 and enter this one as 4 point road underdogs. The challenge here is picking the plays, as the home favorites have been a ridiculously spread-out offense so far.
The 49ers run game gets a solid matchup as home favorites against a Browns D that has not played well against the rush. The question here is, who benefits? Tevin Coleman seems likely to miss another game and he’s only had one limited practice since Week 1, but that doesn’t really clear things up for us. Matt Breida is the best talent the 49ers have in the backfield but they’ve maxed him out at 15 carries so far this year and he only has five total targets. He’s fully capable of breaking a huge play, but that’s what you need for him to succeed on limited volume. Raheem Mostert has seen similar volume to Breida, while Jeff Wilson has fewer touches but a whopping four touchdowns as he’s become the goal-line back. Wilson has a whopping 13 red zone touches (in just two games!!) compared to just one for Breida and five for Mostert. This backfield is a mess, and with none of the backs being used heavily in the passing game, none of these floors are even remotely safe. Breida has a solid history of pass game usage from last season, so if this game becomes more back and forth than the 49ers earlier contests, he’s the one who would likely benefit from an increase in passing volume.
San Francisco’s pass game doesn’t have a whole lot more clarity. Marquise Goodwin and Deebo Samuel are leading the wide receiver corps in snap percentages, though that’s still just 63.9% for Goodwin and 59.4% for Samuel. Ricky James, Kendrick Bourne, and Dante Pettis (who is probably the most talented receiver on the roster overall) are trailing behind in snaps and target volume. On the year, Samuel leads the wide receivers with 14 targets, Goodwin and James have eight, Bourne seven, and Pettis six. Samuel is the only one getting anything remotely like consistent volume (do keep in mind here that Jimmy Garoppolo has only thrown 84 passes through three games). Goodwin will get a couple of deep shots per game, while perhaps the bye week was used to help get Pettis going — he’s their best receiver and it would make a lot of sense to at some point try and force him to get more involved. The strongest play in the 49ers receiving corps, of course, is George Kittle. Kittle is crushing target market share with 21 looks (25% market share), but while he’s caught 17 of them he hasn’t found the end zone yet. Cleveland is vulnerable to tight ends and this is a likely blowup spot for Kittle.
The Cleveland run game is, of course, much easier to dissect: Nick Chubb gets all the work (and then gets vultured at the goal line, which has already happened twice on the young season). The 49ers run D has been strong so far, but part of that has been due to playing Tampa, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh without Big Ben. The Browns will give them a tougher test, and Chubb is going to get his 20 touches. He’s a locked-in volume play, but we’ll see what he’s priced up to after his monster performance last week — he might be too expensive for a reasonable expectation as a road underdog back in a potentially tough matchup.
In the pass game the Browns lean heavily on a fixed 3-WR set (since Week 1 the highest snap % for their WR4 is 26% in Week 2), but things might get a bit tricky this week. Of course, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry are going to play almost every snap. Landry had three duds in a row (despite still averaging over seven targets per game) before blowing up last week as the Ravens focused on taking away OBJ. The 49ers don’t really do the “take away one player” game, so expect Landry to go back to his usual role, which does carry some upside but disappoints more often than not. OBJ gets a lovely matchup against backup cornerback Emmanuel Mosely, an undrafted free agent who has no real chance to hang with Beckham. OBJ is in a blowup spot as long as the Browns’ woeful O-line can keep Baker Mayfield upright. Finally, what makes the Browns’ wide receivers a little trickier than usual is that Rashard Higgins should be healthy this week while Antonio Callaway is also coming back from suspension. It’s unclear how the workload will pan out here — it’s likely that Damion Ratley finds himself on the short end of the stick and goes back to the bench, but keep an eye out for beat reporter news on how work is likely to be distributed between Callaway and Higgins. At tight end the Browns sent Demetrius Harris back to being a blocker and used the newly-acquired Ricky Seals-Jones in the pass game. RSJ was immediately more effective than he ever was in Arizona, catching three balls for 82 yards and a touchdown. It’s reasonable to expect RSJ to have earned some more work here, though with their porous offensive line the Browns frequently need extra blocking assistance from their tight end, so RSJ may still be stuck somewhere in the 30-50% of snaps range. He makes for something of a sneaky play as many people are likely to see three targets last week and think his performance was just a total fluke, and while it was somewhat fluky, we should expect him to be the primary receiving tight end for Cleveland until David Njoku returns.
The way this game is most likely to play out is a fairly back and forth affair. The 49ers have so far managed the lowest pass play percentage of any team in 2019 (lower than the Vikings and Ravens, which is challenging!), but they’ve also had three blowout wins in which their offense hasn’t had to do much. Expect San Francisco to have to take to the air more in this one, and with the Browns missing core pieces of their secondary, the matchup is fantastic for Kittle and Samuel (or whoever they decide to trot out there at WR). The Browns would likely prefer to lean on the run given how shoddy their O-line is and how ferocious San Francisco’s pass rush has been so far, but they’ll need to shift as the game goes on — and OBJ is, by far, the likeliest beneficiary of the Cleveland passing attack.
Some other ways this game could play out:
- The 49ers defense has clamped down on three opponents so far, and while the Browns will be their toughest challenge yet, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a home team romp and stomp.
- A low scoring, ugly affair also wouldn’t surprise me. The 49ers defense is good…but so is the Browns D. Jimmy G has a career 17:12 TD:INT ratio with San Francisco and is at 5:4 already this year. Not especially promising. I’m not a double-defense kind of Showdown player, but a low scoring game in which neither quarterback makes it into the optimal lineup is certainly plausible here.
For me the captain choices are easy: Kittle, OBJ, and Chubb, with my exposures to each depending on the game flows that I’m building for. I’ll likely also have a splash of Breida, but that’s about it.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain receivers with their QB (unless building for the low-scoring scenario noted above)
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
- At most 2 49ers running backs (I’m strongly considering adding Jimmy G to this group as well)
- At most 1 of Callaway and Higgins (if you do decide to keep some exposure to Ratley, I’d add him to this group as well)
- At most 2 of the 49ers plethora of wide receivers
Cash game thoughts: It’s really hard to evaluate cash game possibilities without pricing. In a vacuum I think Kittle is a premium play here despite not following the general formula, while I definitely want Chubb and the 2 QBs. I’ll come back to this with further thoughts once pricing is released.
Update after pricing released: Kittle at $9k is not a massive bargain but I still like him. Overall pricing looks pretty reasonable and accurate. Samuel seems like a strong play at $6,600 as he’s been leading the 49ers wide receivers. Rashard Higgins is $2,400 and is probably going to be in some kind of timeshare with Antonio Callaway; if it’s 50/50, Higgins looks like a nice value play. Pettis is awfully cheap if you believe the 49ers ever plan to actually use their most talented wide receiver.
In cash, you can make the formula work with Chubb captain, but keep in mind Breida is the lead back in a very even three-way timeshare. Still, it gives you a nice floor. Kittle is priced up but still a premium piece here, even in cash, while I personally feel pretty safe with Samuel as a cash option.
Two notes from JM:
- How have the Browns kept good passing attacks (Rams // Ravens) from attacking them deep over the last couple weeks with their top two cornerbacks missing in action? By playing back and forcing opponents to work the short areas of the field. As we saw on Sunday with Will Fuller against an Atlanta defense that “plays back and forces opponents to work the short areas of the field,” lack of talent can cause this approach to break down, but it’s worth being aware of the fact that this is what the Browns have been doing. This can be played from either angle (1. “the Browns keep playing well in this way, and we should focus on wide receivers who work the shorter areas of the field,” or 2. “I don’t think they can keep this up, and Goodwin can probably beat them deep”). If multi-entering Showdowns, it’s worth building some rosters that attack from either angle.
- There was a lot of chatter this offseason (in fact, this chatter has continued) that the 49ers want Pettis to develop into a more aggressive receiver, with the coaching staff feeling that he has too much finesse to his game and is not fully harnessing his talent. His limited snap count early in the season was a relative surprise, and as his role has expanded he has played well. He also caught a physical touchdown in Week 3 that caught the attention of the coaching staff. This is not to say the 49ers will come out with a heavy reliance on Pettis; but it does point to positives for Pettis, and introduces some thoughts to consider if assessing the likelihood of his role expanding this week.
— Xandamere’s Advanced Showdown Course is now available through OWS :: Marketplace! This is his tournament course for Showdowns; and given the tangible edge in this contest type, it should pay itself off pretty quickly(!).
(Note from JM :: Xandamere is currently in second place through THREE slates in the King of the Showdown tournament, so shoutout to him there! I also had my first big tournament night in my third ever Showdown slate on MNF using Xandamere’s approach. Let’s get it!!!!)
JM’s Original Notes for those playing Thursday-to-Monday Slates ::
- On the 15-game slate, I would be leaving this game alone myself and waiting to target it in Showdowns. Each offense has upside, but there are a lot of offenses with upside that aren’t facing really good defenses. The 49ers defense has been close to elite this year, and the Browns have given good offenses fits the last two weeks while missing their top two corners.
- If chasing in this spot, there are three key players with legitimate slate-breaking upside :: Odell Beckham // George Kittle // Nick Chubb.
- I would avoid Beckham myself, simply because there are other wideouts with the same ceiling and a lot less risk.
- Kittle is in the always-in-tourneys category because of his unique YAC ability, so I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to take a shot.
- Chubb has entered “always in tourneys” territory as well, though the expected run defense woes for the 49ers have not manifested this season, and this has been a really difficult matchup for running backs so far.