JAGUARS // COWBOYS OVERVIEW
The Jaguars got smoked last week at Kansas City, and they are coming off a pair of tough losses in their last three games, positioning them at 3-2, with a share of the lead in the AFC South. Dallas has continued to be limited by their inability to throw the ball (this should be fun…), and they sit at 2-3 in a wide-open NFC East.
As I write up this game on Tuesday night, Dallas has the second-lowest Vegas-implied total on the slate, ahead of only the Cardinals. This game has the lowest Over/Under on the main slate, and only five teams have a lower Vegas-implied total than the Jags.
Each of these teams ranks middle of the pack in pace of play, with the Cowboys leaning heavily on the run (only seven teams have run the ball more frequently), and with the Jaguars turning into a pass-heavy team with Leonard Fournette on the sidelines for most of the start of the season. This should be a good spot for the Jags to get back to a run-heavier approach after finishing dead last in the NFL last year in passing play percentage.
Jacksonville has allowed the fewest yards per game in the NFL, while Dallas has allowed the eighth-fewest yards per game. Each of these teams ranks in the bottom half of the league in drive success rate on offense, while the Jags rank first in the NFL in drive success rate on defense. This is likely to turn into a field position battle with a few big sequences down the stretch deciding this game.
JAGUARS PASS OFFENSE
This game sets up for the Jaguars’ passing attack similar to the way it set up against the Jets in Week 3 — as both the Cowboys and Jets have a strong pass rush, both teams force an aDOT more than 10% below the league average, both teams allow an above-average catch rate, and the way to beat each defense is with short crossers and yards after the catch. This sets up best for Dede Westbrook, who saw 13 targets against the Jets (and went 9-130-0) before dropping back down to five targets last week against the Chiefs’ defense that is best attacked vertically. In spite of seeing five fewer targets than Keelan Cole and 10 fewer targets than Donte Moncrief last week, Dede ran only two and eight fewer pass routes than those two, respectively. Against the Jets, Cole saw only three targets, while Moncrief saw five. Dede’s route tree on the season looks like a close cousin to the routes that Houston sent DeAndre Hopkins and Keke Coutee on last week in this matchup. Golden Tate also operated in similar areas of the field in his big game against the Cowboys to what Dede should operate in this week.
The most versatile receiver on Jacksonville has been Cole, who the Jags have been using primarily downfield, but who they occasionally shorten up. Dede is the guy to bet on in this game, but Cole has interesting upside as well, as he can add short crossers to his route tree (as he did vs NYJ), and he can also take Dallas up the right sideline, where they have been most frequently burned. Moncrief (and his 48.6% catch rate on the year) is likelier to see one of his lower target games, as Jacksonville has primarily been using him downfield. He has target counts on the year as low as three and as high as 15.
With Austin Seferian-Jenkins going down last week, Niles Paul played 35 snaps and ran 33 pass routes, surprisingly seeing more targets in his limited time (nine) than ASJ had seen in any game on the season (five was ASJ’s max). This seems fluky, given the catch-up mode Jacksonville found itself in last week. It won’t be surprising to see Paul split time with James O’Shaughnessy this week (36 snaps // 29 pass routes last week), and to fall below ASJ’s previous range of four to five targets. Obviously, this is just a guess, and perhaps Paul suddenly has a big role; but it seems unlikely this offense will be overhauled to adjust for getting a backup tight end involved.
JAGUARS RUN OFFENSE
With Corey Grant going down early in last week’s game, those who rostered T.J. Yeldon got a huge treat, as he played 77 of a possible 83 snaps, piling up 10 carries and eight catches on 10 targets. Through the first four games — in a primarily part-time role — Yeldon saw target counts of seven, five, seven, and three, and through those first four games, Jacksonville running backs as a whole averaged a massive 9.5 targets per game. This week, Yeldon takes on a Cowboys defense that has allowed the fourth-most running back receptions in the NFL.
Dallas is much more stingy on the ground, ranking fifth in fewest yards allowed per carry — but given how difficult it is to pass on Dallas, they have faced the fourth most rush attempts in the league this year. Efficiency may not be high for Yeldon — but no matter how you slice it, volume should be there. While newly-signed Jamaal Charles will mix in for a few breather touches, Yeldon will be the clear workhorse in this spot, and he should see the field for around 80% to 85% of the team’s snaps.
COWBOYS PASS OFFENSE
Dallas ranks: 28th in yards per pass attempt // 24th in completion rate // 28th in pass attempts per game // 26th in passing touchdowns // 30th in passing yards per game
Jacksonville ranks: 2nd in yards allowed per pass attempt // 5th in completion rate // 5th in opponent pass attempts per game // 1st in passing touchdowns allowed // 1st in passing yards allowed per game
Allen Hurns has yet to top 30 yards receiving.
Michael Gallup has yet to top 45 yards receiving (he did it once, and has finished with 17 or fewer yards in every other game).
Deonte Thompson has yet to top 33 receiving yards.
Cole Beasley has topped 53 yards once — back in Week 1, with a 7-73-0 line against the Panthers.
COWBOYS RUN OFFENSE
Coming into last week, the Cowboys ranked fifth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards on offense, while the Jaguars ranked third on defense — creating a strength-on-strength matchup. If we take away the explosive 68-yard touchdown Saquon Barkley had against the Jags in Week 1, they have allowed 2.99 yards per carry to enemy running backs, which would rank best in the league.
Over the last two weeks, Ezekiel Elliott has 29 and 27 touches — and last week in a similarly tough run game matchup against Houston (3.4 yards allowed per carry — good for fourth in the league), the Cowboys adjusted by giving Zeke seven targets. This usage raises his floor in a tough spot, and he has the ability to post the sort of long “outlier” play that Saquon posted in this matchup in Week 1 — but he will need a play like that (and possibly another touchdown besides) in order to justify his price tag, as he still rests at 13.5% of the salary cap on FanDuel, 14.0% on DraftKings, and 13.3% on FantasyDraft.
I will not be interested in either quarterback in a matchup of what has been two of the tougher pass defenses in the league, but I do have some interest in Dede Westbrook and even Keelan Cole. Westbrook may crack one of my three teams this week in the $3k Milly Maker, given his upside and his affordable price tag; if the Jags use Dede the same way they used him against the Jets a couple weeks back (and the same way other teams have attacked the Cowboys), he’ll have sneaky upside. I also like Yeldon quite a bit in this spot, as he should see seven to nine targets as long as his playing time sticks where we should expect it to stick. The matchup on the ground is tough, but 50 or 60 rushing yards and six to eight catches would provide a nice floor, while the yardage on these catches and the potential for touchdowns provides ceiling. I don’t plan to chase Zeke in this spot, as too many things could go wrong, and his path to 30+ points is narrow. I also won’t be using the Cowboys’ passing attack. I do like the Jaguars’ defense, as Dak Prescott has taken 16 sacks (tied for the eighth-most in the NFL), and the Jags’ D is always in play.