Jaguars at Panthers is a clash of tempos, as the Jaguars rank 29th in pace of play this year, while the Panthers have unveiled a new, up-tempo offense that has continued to play with tempo even with Kyle Allen under center — currently ranking second in the league in pace of play.
The up-tempo offense was a bit of a surprise from what is typically one of the slowest-paced teams in the league, but even more surprising has been the Panthers’ ability to completely stonewall opponents through the air.
With the Panthers ranking fourth in DVOA and first in yards allowed per pass attempt after facing the Rams, Bucs, Cardinals, and Texans (and with Gardner Minshew maxing out at 33 pass attempts and averaging 7.5 yards per pass attempt on the year), this entire Jaguars passing attack — in a game with an Over/Under of 41.0 and a Vegas-implied total for the Jaguars of 18.75 — is tough to bank on for anything but “hoping for a big play or a multi-touchdown game.” (If you choose to make this bet, of course, it should go without saying that D.J. Chark is your likeliest path to this outlier; though if betting on an outlier in the first place, it’s not crazy to bet on outliers to that outlier — perhaps coming up with a scenario in which Chris Conley or Dede Westbrook hits in this spot instead).
Of course, your better bet is on the ground, where Carolina has gotten gashed to the tune of 4.79 yards per carry by running backs (which is also a surprise — and with Kawann Short now on injured reserve after missing the last couple weeks, the paths to this team turning things around are slimmer, as the Panthers’ rotation up front is going to continue to tire out throughout games). Here’s a look at the success rate percentage on runs vs the Panthers this year (courtesy of Sharp Football Stats).
In looking at this chart, it is further worth noting that Leonard Fournette has seen twice as many runs to the left as to the right (with the Jags designing plays to their relative strengths), which further enhances the outlook for him in this spot. Last week — with a big workload and the Jaguars running 82 plays — Fournette played 83% of the snaps, and in Week 3 he played 100%. The Jaguars are running their offense through Fournette, having given him 17, 19, 21, and 31 touches. He comes with cap hits of only 11.5% on FanDuel, 12.1% on FantasyDraft, and 12.8% on DraftKings; and while his chances of a floor game are higher than most other backs with his locked-in snap share, that floor is still not destructive at his price, and the ceiling is elite.
Speaking of backs with big workloads: since Kyle Allen stepped under center, Christian McCaffrey has seen touch counts of 27 and 37, and this week he has a matchup against a Jaguars run defense that ranks 23rd in DVOA and 14th in yards allowed per carry. Jacksonville has arrived at these marks by stopping most runs for little to no gain, but having too many breakdowns that are leading to chunk gains being picked up. This introduces a bit more boom/bust to the matchup than we would have with a defense that just consistently gets pushed around — but add in the workload, and you can feel roughly as safe as you always feel when you lock in CMC.
The Panthers are also going to pass the ball enough for some players to matter in this spot (especially if Jalen Ramsey misses again), though the only way to really hit slate-breaking upside (in this offense that prefers to lean on its best player) will be through big plays or touchdowns, as none of these pass catchers are likely to see monster volume.
Four weeks into the season, Curtis Samuel ranks 12th in the NFL in aDOT (15.3), and he and Allen missed on multiple shots last week. Samuel also has 14 targets since Allen took over (to seven targets for D.J. Moore), and one of these weeks his seven targets will produce a 5-100-1 or even 5-130-2 line instead of the 3-30 to 5-50 range we have seen with Allen so far. With the Panthers at home and the Jaguars’ defense struggling to come together on the back end, this is a fine spot to chuck up a solid prayer on Samuels in tourneys.
Moore will need another big YAC play or a couple red zone targets to hit, while Greg Olsen is viable up the seam against a Jaguars defense that is typically “more attackable” with tight ends than they are with wide receivers — though it’s always worth keeping in mind that the vertical usage a tight end sees in Norv Turner’s offense increases upside but also lowers floor, introducing some risk for Olsen with Allen under center.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Even with the low total in this game, I’ll take a few well-placed shots on Samuel in large-field play this week, as it’s always +EV in contests of that sort to expose yourself to wide receivers who can make their day on a single play; but outside of that, my entire focus in this game will be on the backfields. Both Fournette and CMC are in the mix for “core build” territory at the front end of the week — with each of their snap counts completely secure, and with the matchup setting up well for Fournette and the usage setting up beautifully for CMC. Otherwise, I’ll be leaving this game alone, as the rest of the pieces are just guessing and hoping for the best this week.