The key to bankroll building through Main Slate play is to examine each game on the slate in search of what is likeliest to happen, and to then isolate as much floor and ceiling as you can through “likeliest to happen” elements. By maintaining the discipline to ignore all the crazy little things that “might happen” on a slate, and instead focusing on the high-floor/high-ceiling plays that are likeliest to hit, you can essentially “find a delta and wait for it to flood” each week, rather than trying to chase down some wild scenario that might allow you to get lucky. Over time, this approach becomes far more profitable than any other approach.
The key to bankroll building through Showdown play, on the other hand, is to…well, is to firstly recognize that Showdown play is not necessarily in the “bankroll building” category at all, and is instead closer to the lottery category in which tourneys like the Millionaire Maker reside. Once you realize this, you can give yourself the freedom to bet on elements that are less likely to happen — to chase down some of the crazy little things that you would optimally have the discipline to ignore in Main Slate play.
Because of the stark differences in Optimal Approach between Main Slate play and Showdown play, we are closing out the season with a few different formats for Showdown explorations. Last week, it was a video delivery that talked through the various things that could happen in the Showdown games and the various ways in which you might be able to take advantage. This week, it’s more of a Showdown Road Map that explores the macro matchups, the micro matchups, and the additional elements that may impact this game. Use these notes to devise a multi-entry strategy that bets on various ways in which you could see this game playing out — with willingness to take a few shots on some crazy things that “could happen.” (And if you get a chance, also let me know on Twitter what you think of this format for Showdown explorations, as we search for a format that can even more fully optimize your Showdown play next year.)
MACRO MATCHUP :: COLTS
OFFENSIVE APPROACH :: The Colts are one of the most adaptable offenses in football, with an ability to shift from pass-heavy to run-heavy to everything in between — based on everything from game flow to defensive alignments to defensive philosophy. Frank Reich recently spoke on the value of Andrew Luck functioning as an extension of the coaching staff on the field, as Luck is able to read opposing defenses and adjust the plays at the line of scrimmage to fit the approach that will play out best for that particular play, drive, or game. The one consistent across the board for this offense is that they like to play fast. No team in the NFL plays at a faster pace than the Colts.
DEFENSIVE APPROACH :: The Titans are one of the most variable, opponent-specific defenses in the NFL, with Mike Vrabel and Dean Peas attempting to isolate and remove the elements an opposing offense is most likely to want to lean on. The Titans try to confuse quarterbacks at the line of scrimmage by masking coverages and sources of pressure. This is an approach that can lead to defensive breakdowns for unintelligent or undisciplined teams, but this well-coached, disciplined, assignment-strong Titans squad allows the second lowest YAC/R rate in the NFL, has the fewest penalties per game in the NFL, has allowed the 10th fewest pass plays of 20+ yards, and has allowed the second fewest rush plays of 20+ yards. The Titans allow the second lowest red zone touchdown rate. They rank second in points allowed per game. They rank seventh in drive success rate allowed.
MAIN OFFENSIVE PIECES :: The Colts’ offense flows primarily through Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, and Eric Ebron through the air, with Marlon Mack handling ground-and-pound duties and Nyheim Hines functioning as the primary pass-catching back. Most of the valuable volume on this team is generated by these pieces, though this team plays at a fast enough pace and runs enough plays per game (fourth most in the NFL) that ancillary pieces are able to get involved as well.
ANCILLARY OFFENSIVE PIECES :: Zach Pascal, Chester Rogers, and — to a lesser extent — Dontrelle Inman all have genuine roles in this offense, with Pascal and Rogers each posting games of six and seven targets across the last three weeks, and with Inman seeing five targets in Week 14. Rogers has an aDOT of only 6.1, but his xYAC/R of 6.1 still gives him room for solid per-reception production. Pascal has an aDOT of 9.6 and an xYAC/R of 4.0.
MACRO MATCHUP :: TITANS
OFFENSIVE APPROACH :: The Titans are fully aware of the fact that they have a broken offense, and their goal is to hide this offense behind a run-heavy approach (31st in pass play rate) and a slowed-down style (30th in pace of play). This does not preclude the Titans from pulling away from opponents (four of their last six wins have been by two or more touchdowns, as their adaptable defense can become especially effective when they are able to take a lead and make an opponent one-dimensional), but this approach does tend to prevent shootouts, and it can make life difficult on the Titans’ offense if they fall behind. This offense has topped 300 passing yards only once all year. They have finished below 200 passing yards an incredible eight times, including each of the last three games.
DEFENSIVE APPROACH :: When Josh McDaniels was handshake-hired as head coach of the Colts, he selected Matt Eberflus as his defensive coordinator — and Eberflus put his name on the dotted line before McDaniels changed his mind, creating a strange situation in which eventual head coach Frank Reich had to meet and get to know his new defensive coordinator with no say in the process. While McDaniels’ non-classy move would certainly not have been the Colts’ preferred staff-building approach, he could not have picked a better man to run this defense, as Eberflus has instituted a Tampa 2 defense that does little to confuse opposing quarterbacks and instead focuses on assignment-strong play that relies on scheme to remove opposing wide receivers and relies on strong linebacker play to erase running backs. With rookie superstar Darius Leonard having the same monster impact in Indy that rookie superstar Leighton Vander Esch is having in this same basic defense in Dallas at the linebacker position, the Colts have been able to rank sixth in yards allowed per carry while facing the fewest wide receiver targets and allowing the third fewest wide receiver yards in the NFL. The weakness-by-design of this defense is running back coverage (only six teams have allowed more receiving yards to the position; only one team has allowed more receptions), while this defense — less by design, and more by disappointment — has also struggled in tight end coverage (no team has allowed more yards to the position; no team has allowed more catches).
MAIN OFFENSIVE PIECES :: Derrick Henry has legitimately been the only primary piece for the Titans lately, with recent carry/yardage/touchdown counts of 17-238-4 // 33-170-2 // 21-84-1. If the Colts’ strong run defense slows down Henry enough for the Titans to be forced to the air, or if the Colts jump out to a big lead that the Titans have to chase, Marcus Mariota, Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, and pass-catching back Dion Lewis will be the pieces through which this offense flows.
ANCILLARY OFFENSIVE PIECES :: The Titans’ offense ranks 26th in both yards per game and points per game and has been unable to support more than one “Main Piece” per game, making ancillary pieces especially thin most weeks. With the Colts struggling against tight ends all season, third-string-tight-end-turned-injury-forced-starter Anthony Firkser (recent target counts of 3 // 0 // 3) has a thin shot at producing. With this team going run-heavy, block-first tight ends MyCole Pruitt (target counts of 1 // 2 // 3) and Luke Stocker (1 // 2 // 1) could also see a look or two.
MICRO MATCHUPS :: COLTS
Andrew Luck :: Only two teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns than the Titans, and only four teams have allowed fewer yards per pass attempt. The Titans have allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points per game to the quarterback position.
Marlon Mack :: Tennessee ranks a middling 12th in yards allowed per carry. Only one team in football has allowed fewer rushing touchdowns to running backs than the Titans. No team has has allowed fewer total touchdowns to the position.
Nyheim Hines :: The Titans have allowed the fewest receiving yards in the NFL to running backs. Through 15 games, they are the only team in the NFL that has not allowed a receiving touchdown to the running back position.
T.Y. Hilton :: The Titans’ weakest link has come against wide receivers, with the 12th most yards allowed to the position. Most of the touchdowns allowed by the Titans have gone to wideouts as well, with only six teams allowing more scores to the position. These notes are worth keeping in mind for variable roster construction approaches involving the Colts’ ancillary pass catchers as well.
Eric Ebron :: Only seven teams have allowed fewer receptions to tight ends than the Titans. Only three teams have allowed fewer yards. The Titans are the only team in football that has not yet given up a tight end touchdown. Ebron has been an important enough piece on this offense that he could still beat this matchup — but this is one of the two or three toughest tight end matchups in football.
MICRO MATCHUPS :: TITANS
Marcus Mariota :: The Colts rank middle of the pack in yards allowed per pass attempt, though only four teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns. The Colts have allowed the seventh fewest rushing yards to the quarterback position.
Derrick Henry :: The Colts have allowed the sixth fewest yards per carry in the league, and only five teams have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns to enemy backs. Indy has absolutely erased rushes to the right side of the offensive formation, stunningly allowing under 3.0 yards per carry on the season. They have been far more attackable (essentially league-average) on runs to the left side of the formation, which is where Henry has had the most success this year — though in-over-his-head offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur is unlikely to recognize this advantage; on the year, he has continued to run Henry to the right just as often as he has run him to the left, which will likely continue this week.
Dion Lewis :: As noted above: the Colts have been one of the softest matchups in the NFL for pass-catching backs. Lewis has taken a backseat to Henry since his backfield mate caught fire, but he does still have touch counts of 15 // 10 // 6 across the last three weeks, with target counts of 5 // 3 // 4.
Corey Davis // Taywan Taylor :: The Colts have largely erased wide receiver production this year, allowing the fewest receptions and the third fewest yards in the league. Davis and Taylor continue to see up-and-down usage in this run-heavy attack.
The Titans have allowed only 16.9 points per game at home, while the Colts have averaged 23.0 points per game on the road (compared to 29.9 at home).
The Titans have scored 23.0 points per game at home (compared to 16.5 on the road), while the Colts have allowed 23.4 points per game on the road.