Game Overview ::
By Hilow >>
- Two teams that should appear largely familiar to us based on last season
- Both teams set up beautifully through the air, play at pace, and have questions on the back half of their defenses; game script will dictate just how far these teams are able to go through the air
- Both teams should be able to attack in their preferred manner
- Liable to see 130-135 total offensive plays run from scrimmage in this one (standard is around 120ish)
How Arizona Will Try To Win ::
The Cardinals retained their coaching staff from last season but added: wide receiver AJ Green through free agency, wide receiver Rondale Moore through the draft, and running back James Conner through free agency. Kliff Kingsbury prefers to play at pace (first-ranked situation-neutral pace of play in 2020) with high rush rates to wear a team down, attacking the short-intermediate areas of the field through the air to set up deep passing. Vance Joseph’s man-heavy defense relied on pressure generated through the blitz and sticky coverage in the secondary. Joseph blitzed at the fourth-highest rate and I expect this team to continue their heavy blitz rates with the addition of JJ Watt. They allowed 4.7 yards per rush attempt and only 9.9 yards per pass completion; they had an above-average 64.04% completion rate against, but lost three defensive backs this offseason (Patrick Peterson, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Jonathan Joseph). Expect this team to try to win games similar to how they did last season, with the exception being, this defense is not what it used to be since they replaced the aforementioned defensive backs with Malcolm Butler (who then retired), rookies Marco Wilson and Tay Gowan, and Robert Alford, who spent the better part of the last two years on IR.
The Cardinals finished 2020 with a top 10 pass-blocking and bottom 10 run-blocking offensive line, but stayed committed to the run in an attempt to wear defenses down over the course of the game; they somewhat quietly held the seventh-highest situation-neutral rush rate in 2020. The team brought in James Conner to form a running back tandem with holdover Chase Edmonds, and I expect this backfield to be close to an even committee with Conner, and quarterback Kyler Murray, handling goal line work. One of the most maddening things watching this team play in 2020 was the straight-line running scheme which failed to fully capitalize on the strengths of both Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds, who are best on the edge and with the ball in their hands out of the backfield. This run scheme suits the talents of James Conner more than it does Chase Edmonds, but I expect Kingsbury to continue to try and fit a square peg in a round hole. Tennesee ranked seventh-worst in the league in yards allowed per rush attempt in 2020, a trend I expect to continue moving forward.
Through the air, expect the same horizontally-spread offense from the Cardinals this season, who ran above average 11-personnel and the most four-wide sets in the league in 2020. The primary goal of the pass game last season was to put strain on a defense horizontally to set up the vertical shots. Kyler Murray attempted 58 passes of greater than 20 yards last season, resulting in a ridiculously low 28.4% expected completion rate. Even so, those attempts resulted in 23 completions for 874 yards and eight touchdowns. With the addition of burner Rondale Moore, we could see this team take a large step forward in downfield passing efficiency. The matchup through the air is a good one as Tennessee lost five total starters on the defensive side of the ball; they appear set to start an inexperienced secondary that utilizes heavy man coverage. DeAndre Hopkins should continue his mediocre aDOT role (career low 8.9 aDOT in 2020), with AJ Green operating in a similar role on the opposite side of the field, while Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore will be on hand to run heavy deep routes out of the slot and bunch formations.
How Tennessee Will Try To Win ::
The Titans lost both coordinators this offseason and decided to promote from within by hiring Todd Downing as the offensive coordinator (previously TE coach) and Shane Bowen as the defensive coordinator. This means we should largely expect this team to look familiar as well, giving us a good idea of how they should try and win games. The norm should be heavy rush rates with their bruiser Derrick Henry behind a top-ranked run-blocking offensive line (Taylor Lewan is healthy heading into 2021 after struggling with injuries last year) combined with an efficient and concentrated pass game through AJ Brown and newcomer Julio Jones; expect heavy 12-personnel looks with both Geoff Swaim and Anthony Firkser on the field, and a pace-up approach designed to wear on opposing defenses.
The Titans run a heavy zone blocking run scheme designed to rip holes for power running back Derrick Henry. The only question mark along their offensive line is at right tackle, where Dillon Radunz (second-round rookie) and Ty Sambrailo will be competing for snaps. The big picture here is we know with a high level of certainty what this team will look like on the ground, and they match up well with the shortcomings of the Cardinals’ run-stopping abilities.
The pass game should remain extremely concentrated in 2021 with the departure of Corey Davis and a direct replacement with Julio Jones. Both AJB and Julio are adept route tacticians, capable of winning against both man and zone coverages to multiple areas of the field. The matchup is also a good one, with Arizona experiencing significant defensive personnel turnover in the secondary this offseason. There’s nothing that tells me the Titans want to increase the 30.1 pass attempts per game they averaged in 2020, but they should remain just as efficient with the personnel on hand.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
It is likeliest we see this game jump out to a quick start with each team so clearly holding the upper hand on the offensive side of the ball. A further likeliest scenario involves the Titans controlling game script, more so via how they wish to attack and less concerned with the actual score on the scoreboard; as in, Titans keep a lead or keep the game within six points, where they can pound the run game with Derrick Henry to open up their efficient pass game. Both teams should largely be afforded the opportunity to attack in their optimal way, which involves high rush rates and efficient passing. The opportunity is there for either team to enjoy a quick strike or two early in the game, but as long as the game remains within a score (as I expect), this one should remain rather predictable.
The biggest percentage chance of a tributary game script developing here is if either team is able to jump out to an early lead and hold it deep into the game. This scenario would force the Titans into increased pass attempts and elevates the floor of their wide receivers, should they be down; the Cardinals playing from behind would likely increase pass rates to a level where multiple pass-catchers gain relevance.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
The clear pieces holding the most utility in the likeliest game flow are Derrick Henry, Kyler Murray, and DeAndre Hopkins. Kyler and Nuk are the pieces with the highest floor, while Henry almost always requires a trip to the end zone in order to pay off his lofty price. “Time of year” narratives have largely just been noise, but the clear statistical splits when comparing early season to late season remain an enigma for King Henry. In reality, the likeliest impact on Henry’s floor and ceiling revolve around the Titans’ ability to control the tempo of the game. In all reality, Kyler Murray is still the Cardinals’ top option at the goal line which serves to elevate his weekly floor and ceiling.
All of AJ Brown, Julio Jones, Ryan Tannehill, and Cardinals rookie WR Rondale Moore carry elevated ceilings, but the floor on each is scary low. All of these options are likely to make late week condensed player pools, but we must be extremely precise in how we choose to deploy each; as in, targeting specific game scripts from this game in an attempt to lower the number of things that have to go right for us to leap the field. The range of outcomes on all these players is simply too large to play without targeting specific game scripts. Correlation is of the utmost importance from this game!
Things get interesting when considering the tributary scenario, which makes game stacks and secondary options more viable, and brings in the possibility for both passing attacks to pop at the same time. We’re likely to see this game end up as one of the top two or three games when looking at total points, but the fantasy points can come in a few different ways.
Each defense and all tight ends should be left off our late week condensed player pools.
When merely eyeballing this game, it pops as one of the most obviously attractive games on the slate. As Hilow laid out above, however: we pretty much know what to expect from these teams.
Why do we pretty much know what to expect from these teams?
Because not a whole lot has changed.
Why am I saying all this?
Because when we “pretty much know what to expect from a team,” and when “not a lot has changed” heading into Week 1, we end up with one of the rare Week 1 situations in which pretty much every player from this game appears to be appropriately priced. In fact…pretty much every player from this game appears to be priced for their ceiling (which is much closer to “late-season” pricing than to “Week 1” pricing), creating a situation in which we could actually see a large chunk of the field effectively block themselves from a first place finish by not only joining what will likely be relatively heavy ownership on this game, but by taking on that heavy-ish ownership at appropriate price tags that keep their rosters on pace for 200 points (DK) if ceiling is hit…on a week in which 240+ points could very easily be required in order to win a tourney.
Put differently :: you don’t need me to tell you that there are “upside cases” to be made for Kyler, Hopkins, Tannehill, AJB, Julio, and Henry (with larger-field cases to be made for Rondale, and “build around this game multiple ways” cases to be made even for AJ Green, Christian Kirk, and the Cardinals’ running backs). But if you’re going to pay the “appropriate price tags” on the main pieces from this game, it’s vitally important that A) you do so through a complete roster build that bets on a game flow scenario that allows you to get several things right at once (i.e., maybe you’re “only” getting 4x your salary from a three-player block from this game paying off (“only” because that’s a great payoff late in the season, but an iffy one in Week 1 if you’re targeting first place), but at least you’re getting three roster spots right at once, with a large chunk of your salary), and B) you make sure that the “affordable pieces” you’re rostering to allow for a stack from this game are not simply “guys who can go 4x their low salary,” but are instead guys who could prove to be massively mispriced against their production and later-in-the-year price tag.
Finally — to summarize that more simply :: This is a great game in a vacuum. And there will be some solid scores from this game. But because these players are appropriately priced on a week in which so much else is mispriced, it’s important that you A) look for ways to bet on a game scenario that allows you to get several things right at once (the exception being the “on his own” upside of Kyler Murray, who can be played in pretty much any kind of way), and B) make sure your “affordable” plays are guys who you can make a case for being severely mispriced, instead of just “good values for the cost.”
By LexMiraglia10 >>
- This is a matchup of the 4th highest scoring team (TEN, 30.7) & 13th highest scoring team (ARI, 25.6) from 2020
- Both teams were top 4 in rush TDs in 2020 and only GB scored more total TDs than TEN
- Tanny-TEN game totals vs NFC opponents: 50 // 50 // 66 // 61 // 41 // 71 // 54
- 2020: ARI had 6 games of 50+ combined pts (4 of 60+) and TEN had 13 games of 50+ combined pts (5 of 70+)
- The only game with a higher total on the slate is KC-CLE (1 pt higher), however the spread is 3 pts closer (KC 6 pt fav, TEN 3 pt fav)
- Opp plays faced (rank): TEN faced 67.1/g (3rd most) // ARI faced 65.9/g (8th most)
- Kyler Murray DK pts in games with final totals of 50+ pts: 24.12 // 28.92 // 41.1 // 41.92 // 30.9 // 18.42 // 38.14
- TEN allowed the 5th most QB DK pts in 2020
- Only 3 teams allowed more pass yds & 1 team allowed more pass TDs
- Lamar was the only QB with notable rushing success vs TEN in 2020: 13:51 & 16:136:1
- Before Kyler Murray hurt his shoulder vs SEA, he was a on historic scoring pace, in large part due to 67 rush yds/g, 10 TDs in his first 9 (just 30.7 rush yds/g, 1 TD in last 7)
- TEN allowed the highest 3rd down conv rate & 3rd highest RZ TD rate in 2020
- TEN allowed the 7th most RB DK pts in 2020
- Edmonds was under 10 att in every game except two (25, 11), and Drake missed the one he received 25
- Drake vacates 264 touches to be absorbed by Edmonds & James Conner
- Edmonds could be the starter this year, but his new backfield mate, James Conner, has averaged 13.9 att for 59.9 yds over the last 3 seasons
- Edmonds caught 3+ passes in 11/16 games in 2020
- 2020 ARI rush att inside the 10: Drake (35), Kyler (14), Edmonds (3)
- 2020 ARI rush att inside the 5: Drake (21), Kyler (7), Edmonds (1)
- Conner had 14 rush att inside the 10, with 9 of those inside the 5 in 2020
- Only the Falcons allowed more WR DK pts in 2020, as TEN was one of five teams to allow 3000+ yds to WRs
- Hopkins received double-digit targets in 9/16 games in 2020, only falling below 7 targets once
- Of Hopkins 8 games of 20+ DK pts, 7 came in Wins, and in 5 ARI scored 30+ pts
- Hopkins scored 28+ DK pts five times in 2020
- After never falling below 67 yds per game in 8 seasons, Green returned from a 1.5 year absence to average just 32.7 yds/g for CIN, including a 2:19 game vs TEN
- Green averaged 8 more yds/g in Burrow’s 10 games than the 6 games without
- Rondale Moore led the 2021 WR draft class with 8.9 rec/g, however with just a 2.4 yds aDOT in his final two Purdue seasons
- Moore was used extensively in the slot during the preseason
- TEN lost OC & play-caller Arthur Smith to ATL, but did add Julio Jones to replace Corey Davis
- During new OC Todd Downing’s only time as an OC (2017 OAK), his offense utilized play action at the 3rd lowest rate in the NFL that year (14%)
- Ryan Tannehill’s YPA with & without play action in 2020: 9.7 vs 7.0
- Tanny has averaged 234.3 pass yds & 1.96 TDs per game as TEN’s QB
- 5 of Tanny’s 6 games of 26+ DK pts came at Home, 8 of his 9 highest scores came in Wins, and the game scores of his 7 games of 20+ DK pts read: 46-25, 42-36, 35-41, 42-16, 41-38, 33-30, 30-24
- Tanny & Henry’s DK pts in Tanny’s 6 big scores: 37 (RT), 28.2 (DH) // 33.6, 43.4 // 31.6, 6.9 // 30, 19.3 // 28.4, 39 // 26.8, 8.4
- Those are combined scores of 65.2 // 77 // 38.5 // 49.3 // 67.4 // 35.2
- They are 15.3k in combined salary in Week 1 (4x is 61.2)
- The only RBs to break 80 rush yds vs ARI in 2020 were Mike Davis (84) & Jeff Wilson (183)
- Henry had just one less game of over 200 rush yds (3) than under 80 rush yds (4) in 2020
- Henry’s only game vs Vance Joseph defense came as a rookie vs 2016 MIA when he rushed for 54 yds on 7 att while starter Demarco Murray rushed for 121 yds on 27 att
- Joseph has only had one rush def in his 5 seasons as HC or DC that finished as a top 20 rush def in yds allowed
- Henry has scored 26+ DK pts in half (9/18) of his games with Tannehill as a Favorite: 32.5 // 27.6 // 26.9 // 42.1 // 30 // 43.4 // 39.2 // 28.2 // 39
- He also scored under 10 DK pts in 5 of the other 9 games
- Henry averaged 143.5 rush yds, 9.3 rec yds, 1.36 TDs in wins last season
- TEN had a 100+ yd WR in 10/16 games last year
- ARI allowed the 7th most rec, but only the 18th most rec yds in 2020
- ARI’s CB situation is murkier following the departure of Patrick Peterson & retiring of Malcom Butler
- 33 RZ touches have been vacated from TEN pass-catchers Jonnu, Davis, & Humphries
- ARI allowed the 3rd lowest RZ TD rate in 2020
- AJ Brown has more career rec TDs of 30+ yds (9) than inside the Green Zone (7)
- ARI allowed the 7th most YAC on passes last year by facing one of the lower aDOTs in the league
- Per NextGenStats, AJ Brown finished with the second most avg YAC above expectation amongst all receivers (Julio finished 15th)
- Julio’s only matchup with a Vance Joseph defense was an 8 rec 108 yds game vs ARI in 2019
- At least one TEN player scored 20+ DK pts in 14/16 games in 2020
- Top TEN score: 20.1 (CD) // 24.4 (JS) // 30 (DH) // 21.2 (AB), 21 (JS) // 43.4 (DH), 28.3 (AF) // 30.3 (AB) // 29.8 (CD) // 23.1 (AB) // 14.9 (DH) // 23.2 (DH) // 41.5 (DH) // 38.6 (CD) // 39.2 (DH), 27.2 (AB) // 28.2 (DH), 24 (CD) // 12 (JS) // 40 (DH), 34.1 (AB)
- 20+ DK pts tally: DH (8) // AB (7) // CD (4) // JS (2) // AF (1)