The Over/Under in this game (47.5) and the opening spread in this spot (Jaguars by 3.5 — which had moved to Jaguars by 1.0 by the time I sketched out my thoughts on this game, and now sits at Buccaneers by 1.0; I mean: really, Vegas?) was a classic case of Vegas being trapped by needing to favor the home team in a close matchup, but being unable — in good conscience — to give the Jags a mega total to account for the likelihood of Tampa scoring points. As explored in this week’s Angles email, the Bucs’ nine most recent games have combined for 63 // 95 // 55 // 63 // 50 // 74 // 57 // 51 // 57 points, while the Jags have allowed 26 // 33 // 42 in their last three contests and have produced game totals of 44+ in six of their last eight games. When Jacksonville was still favored, my sketched-out thoughts noted that if we played out this slate a hundred times, we would expect Tampa to win more often than not, and for the total to go over 47.5 more often than not. Obviously, this is starting to be accounted for in the Vegas line as well, with the Bucs now favored. Tampa has scored 30+ in five of their last nine games, with point totals of 24 // 26 // 23 // 17 (vs Saints) in their others.
We’ll start on the Tampa side, where Tampa’s low play volume last week (62, compared to their season-long average of 68.1 — the second highest mark in the league) and run-leaning approach with a lead generated only 28 pass attempts for Jameis Winston, well shy of the 43+ he had gone for in five consecutive games. In any case, Jameis still topped 300 yards — marking the sixth consecutive game in which he had accomplished that feat (and the eighth time in his last nine). The matchup against the Jaguars is not what it once was, as this team ranks a middling 13th in DVOA against the pass and ranks in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points allowed per game to quarterbacks. The Jags have been slightly better than the league average at both catch rate allowed and aDOT, though the same tackling issues that have led to them getting blasted at times on the ground have led to this team allowing the second highest YAC/r rate in the league. The Jags have allowed only nine touchdowns to wideouts so far (the ninth best mark in the league), but they rank middle of the pack in receptions and yards allowed to the position, and their list of elite passing attacks faced is fairly thin :: Kansas City // Houston // New Orleans // Houston. The Jags have allowed the following notable stat lines through the air ::
4-135-1 A.J. Brown
6-91-0 D.J. Moore
8-89-0 Mike Thomas
Tampa’s passing attack has been a bit less concentrated in recent weeks, with targets during this stretch looking like this:
>> Mike Evans :: 6 // 8 // 8
>> Chris Godwin :: 12 // 6 // 8
>> Scotty Miller :: 3 // 6 // 1
>> Breshad Perriman :: 4 // 3 // 1
>> Running backs :: 12 // 10 // 5
>> Tight ends :: 7 // 15 // 3
After a long stretch in which they combined for over 50% of the available targets on the Bucs, Godwin and Evans have combined for only 37.8% across the last three weeks — though this has seemed to be due more to matchup and game flow than to philosophical shift, and while Jameis threw the ball only 28 times last week, 16 went to these two. Jacksonville has faced the fourth fewest tight end targets and the sixth fewest running back targets, so it’s a good spot for Godwin/Evans to maintain target dominance in this offense.
Of course, the bigger concern for the Bucs is the fact that the Jaguars rank dead last in DVOA against the run, with a check-for-typo 5.6 yards allowed per carry to running backs and the third most rushing yards allowed to the position. Only two teams have allowed more rushing touchdowns to enemy backs, and while the Bucs are fundamentally a pass-leaning team, they have shown a willingness to attack an opponent where they are weakest. If this game stays close, Jameis will still have a clear shot at 40+ pass attempts — but if the Bucs jump out to an early lead, this could be another lower-volume game for the Bucs’ passing attack.
On the ground, Peyton Barber has soaked up recent carry counts of 10 // 4 // 11 // 0 // 11, while Ronald Jones has led this unit with 11 // 18 // 11 // 4 // 12. With receiving work added, Jones has seen touch counts of 12 // 20 // 19 // 6 // 15 — with the six-touch game coming against the Saints. Barber, Dare Ogunbowale, and even T.J. Logan are all taking snaps in this offense, but Jones played 50% of this team’s snaps last week and has a pretty clear shot at 16+ touches in this spot.
Behind Godwin // Evans // running backs, this offense is short-area work to Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard and occasional screens and downfield shots to Miller/Perriman. With the tight ends, you’re betting on a touchdown. With the speedsters, you’re betting on a big play hitting (though there is at least potential for this big play to come from a downfield shot or a big YAC play on a screen).
While volume has been a bit spread out lately on the Bucs, the Jaguars have been concentrated around Leonard Fournette // D.J. Chark // Chris Conley // Dede Westbrook. Tampa’s defense ranks bottom 12 in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed, and concentrated offenses against them tend to produce really nice games. Here is the (remarkably long) list of notable stat lines allowed by this Bucs team that has an aggressive offense and an elite run defense to constantly stir up shootouts:
6-110-0 Greg Olsen
11-182-2 Mike Thomas
8-114-1 Mike Thomas
6-85-1 Ridley (14 targets)
Fournette has target totals of 6+ in all but two games this year and has gone 7 // 12 in his two full games with Foles, so while the matchup is brutal (the Bucs rank first in DVOA against the run, are allowing only 3.29 yards per carry to enemy backs, and are allowing the fourth fewest receiving yards to the position), there is at least a chance that the usage could lead to him making some noise. The bigger edge, however (of course), belongs to the Jags’ passing attack.
D.J. Chark started the season so cheap (and was such a non-factor last year as a raw rookie) that he doesn’t draw nearly the ownership his production on the year would typically lead to — and as the field generally missed out on his higher-scoring cheap games, they have treated him as a player they “missed out on when he was underpriced” rather than turning him into a DFS Darling. Add in his attachment to “Jags offense,” and he rarely draws the ownership attention his production would typically warrant (21st in catches // 12th in yards // second in touchdowns // seventh in percentage share of team air yards).
Behind Chark, Conley has the seventh deepest aDOT in the NFL and has recent target counts of 7 // 7 // 7 // 8 // 9. With this downfield role, he has connected on only 52.4% of his looks, and he has only one red zone target on the year, but he has produced a pair of elite price-considered scores — creating some tourney juice behind this play in this spot.
Dede has seen shifting aDOT marks and target shares depending on how things shake out in the rest of this offense on a given week, but overall he has eight or more targets in five of his last eight (and six or more targets in seven of his last eight) — and while he has only cracked 70 yards twice this year (and has only topped 82 yards once), the Bucs are facing the most pass attempts in the NFL (and it’s not particularly close) at 41.7, and with the Jags primarily focusing on these three pass catchers, Dede is a high-probability bet for eight or more looks in this one. Most paths for this game give him a solid floor, with volume, broken plays, a downfield shot on a scramble drill, or a touchdown all opening viable paths to ceiling.
JM’s Interpretation ::
I like this game quite a bit at the front end of the week. The Bucs should be able to lean a bit more on the run than they typically do, but as long as this game remains competitive they should attack through the air enough for this aggressive unit to matter (and if this game is no longer competitive, it’s likely that the Bucs passing attack already hit). With YAC being the primary driver behind big stat lines against the Jags and this defense ranking 10th in adjusted sack rate and boasting one of the better pressure rates on the slate, Godwin sets up as the player likelier to hit — though with Evans coming off three straight lower-target games, it shouldn’t surprise us if they try to get him going. This is almost a Tier 1 “either/or” (i.e., it’s likely that one or the other hits for a really strong game here, with a slate-breaker in the mix), though as always, it’s rare that each guy hits in the same spot, which will make these two strong Tier 3 plays individually. Jameis is also in the mix (even with Mahomes taking on Oakland and Lamar available on this slate), and I don’t mind getting exposure to this offense in other ways as well — with RoJo the guy who stands out the most for his likely 16+ touches and potential for touchdowns on an offense that should score points.
On the Jags’ side, I’ll likely avoid Fournette, as the likeliest concentration of valuable touches on this team will come through the air. Chark // Conley // Dede are all attractive at their prices, with Chark the sharpest play from a slate-breaker standpoint, but with a clear case to be made for some hedge bets with the other two if multi-entering, as a “Chark miss” will likely mean a Dede or Conley hit. It’s also possible for two of these guys to hit together, and it’s “close to probable” that one of these guys hits and one of them produces a solid price-considered score. Chark will likely end up high Tier 3 while Conley will be deeper down the Tier 3 list. Dede has fewer paths to a slate-breaker, but he’ll also be hard-pressed to completely dud — likely moving him into the Tier 2 mix.
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