XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
Welcome to Week 8! We’re almost halfway through the season already, and like every season, it feels like it’s going by incredibly quickly. We start this week with the Bucs visiting the Bills for a 42.5 total game with Buffalo favored by 8.5. The Bills defense has been great all year, allowing just 16.9 points per game and holding every opponent except the Patriots (of all teams) to 25 or fewer points, but their offense has been quite inconsistent with three games of 37+ points, 25 points against the Pats, and then three games of 20 or fewer points (one of which was against the Jets elite defense and can be forgiven, but the other two were against the Jags and the Giants). The Bills are clearly a good overall offense, but the inconsistency certainly opens up different paths for this game. Let’s see if we can figure it out.
The Bills run game starts with James Cook, who is going to face a very tough matchup on the ground. Cook isn’t the kind of back who is likely to see 20+ carries (his high on the season is 17 and he generally caps out in the mid-teens). Cook is an able pass catcher but has only averaged three targets per game so far and he’s also splitting the red zone workload with Latavius Murray and Josh Allen (who has not been running nearly as much this season but does still have 11 red zone rush attempts, while Cook and Murray each have 12). If we just look at inside the 10 yard line, it skews even more away from Cook with seven attempts against ten for Latavius. On the one hand, Cook is a big home favorite who can catch passes, a spot we generally like for running backs. On the other hand, his workload is modest, his receiving role is modest, he doesn’t have a strong goal line role, and the matchup is poor. There’s nothing that really makes Cook stand out here as a play, especially up at $8,600, beyond just hoping for variance to go your way. I’m likely to be underweight on him. Murray at $4,800 is the epitome of the “RB2 in Showdown” play: he won’t get a ton of touches, but he’s cheap, he’s likely to get a target or two and the goal line work skews his way, so if he finds his way into the end zone he could pay off. At his price he likely needs more than just an end zone visit – he probably needs something like 12 or so points to be worthwhile, and he only has one performance this season without a touchdown where if you said, “but if he just added a touchdown he’d have gotten there.”
Ownership updates automatically
In the passing game, the Bills have gone to a game plan of “Stef Diggs, Stef Diggs, Stef Diggs, then everyone else.” Diggs is second in the NFL in targets per game with a whopping 78 and he has at least 100 receiving yards, a touchdown, or both in six of seven games. That, my friends, is an elite role. Allen looks his way in all situations. Against a Tampa defense that is more vulnerable to the pass, he’s an elite option on this slate. The WR2 is of course Gabe Davis, who is their deep threat and will have to find his way there on more limited volume. Davis is averaging just five targets per game this season and has only gone over that mark twice. He’ll need a touchdown and/or some long catches to pay off, but he’s put up scores you’d be happy with twice already this season. He’s a high variance but high upside play. WR3 will be a rotation of Deonte Harty, Trent Sherfield, and Khalil Shakir, with Harty the strongest play of all of those (admittedly modest) options. Shakir is probably the most interesting in tournaments. Harty is the “best” option to me but they’re all really close, and Shakir’s price of $3,200 likely means that people will ignore him when Harty and Sherfield are so cheap (Harty has also been a popular play in every Bills Showdown this year, so I expect he’ll attract the highest ownership). Paying up modestly for Shakir is likely to get you an ownership discount. I also would not play these guys together.
At tight end, Dawson Knox is out after surgery leaving Dalton Kincaid, and we’re not so sure who else. TE3 Quintin Morris was inactive last week after an ankle injury and has not practiced yet this week so there’s a strong chance he misses (even if he plays, he’s just a punt option with one target on the season). Watch to see who the Bills call up from the practice squad, and whoever it is then becomes a punt option (likely at very little ownership if we don’t know who it is until close to game time). Kincaid, though, is in a really nice spot: he’s a talented young rookie who has already been performing reasonably well this season and now Knox is out, which should push him into a nearly every-down role. Coming off of the best game of his young career, catching eight of eight targets for 75 yards last week, he looks like a major bargain at $5,000. I’m very in on him and he’s my second-favorite Bills pass catcher after Diggs.