The Jaguars and Raiders will match up this week for a “no bad matchups, only bad offense” game that carries an Over/Under of 45.5, with the Raiders installed as 6.5 point favorites.
We’ll start on the Jaguars side here, where this offense will be taking on a Raiders defense that ranks 31st in DVOA, 28th in yards allowed, 29th in points allowed, and 32nd in opponent drive success rate, and that has allowed seven wide receivers to top 100 yards (with seven touchdowns emerging from this group), while allowing 15 total touchdowns to running backs (the fourth most in the league). If everyone on the Jaguars is healthy this week, the setup is simple: all players are priced appropriately for both their expected range of production and their risk against their ceiling. (More on this in a moment.) But the more interesting setup shows up if D.J. Chark (whom Doug Marrone called ‘day to day or week to week’) ends up missing in this spot. On the season, Chark has eight or more targets in seven games, 75+ yards in six games, and eight touchdown receptions — which would leave behind quite a bit of potential production for the rest of this Jaguars offense.
The first player the absence of Chark would draw my attention toward would be Leonard Fournette — who has recent carry counts of 19 // 11 // 8 // 24 // 14 // 15, but who (more importantly) also has target counts in this stretch of 7 // 6 // 7 // 12 // 11 // 6. He won’t necessarily be “leaned on more heavily” if Chark misses this game, but his touches will be even more securely locked in place, and he will be a candidate for a small bump in the pass game as well.
The second player the absence of Chark would draw my attention toward would be Keelan Cole, who would step into a near full-time role if Chark is out. Cole doesn’t have anywhere close to the speed that makes Chark such a valuable downfield piece, but he does boast at least some of the body control that also contributes to Chark’s upside, and he has shown really attractive ceiling on numerous occasions when given opportunity in his young career — most notably going for yardage totals of 99 // 186 // 108 // 33 // 54 // 116 across a six game stretch between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. He has averaged 14.8 yards per reception in his career, and while he can’t be penciled in for more than five looks, he would certainly have paths to a bigger role than that.
Alongside Cole, Chris Conley (recent target counts of 7 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 5 // 3) and Dede Westbrook (9 // 1 // 6 // 9 // 8 // 7) wouldn’t see their roles change if Chark were to sit, but they would see their usage more fully locked in. Conley, as we’ve explored throughout the year, would be the bet-on-big-play option in this spot (against an Oakland team that boosts aDOT by over 12% and allows the most yards per pass attempt in the league), while Dede would be the bet-on-volume-for-floor // hope-for-touchdown-for-ceiling play.
Injuries are also the story on the Raiders side of the ball, as this team’s entire philosophy on offense is built around running the football, and that won’t change if Josh Jacobs misses another game. If Jacobs plays (which currently appears likely), he’s an expensive yardage-and-touchdown back in a tremendous matchup as a home favorite against a Jaguars team that ranks 31st in DVOA against the run and has looked disinterested for about a month at this point (for the second straight year). He would be a risk/reward option at the higher ends of the price range (with the “risk,” of course, being the role: if he fails to find the end zone, he won’t have locked-in pass game work to raise his output, requiring him to either score once or twice or hit a massive yardage total to prop up his price tag; but with the “reward” being the fact that yards are likely to show up, while touchdowns will be a solid bet). If Jacobs misses, on the other hand, it should once again be DeAndre Washington (39 out of 62 snaps last week; 14 carries and seven targets) holding down the lead role, with Jalen Richard mixing in for light usage of his own (seven carries, three targets last week). Rather stunningly, the Jags have allowed six running backs to top 100 yards this year, and not one of them required even 20 carries to get there.
The pass game roles for the Raiders running backs last week were partly due to the Raiders chasing points, but Derek Carr still threw only 34 times (higher than his typical, low level, but not some sort of call-off-the-dogs affair), and the bigger reason for the pile of targets to running backs seems to have been the fact that the Raiders really don’t have anyone else for Carr to throw to, with Tyrell Williams continuing to prove to be a poor fit for his risk-averse quarterback, and with no other legitimate NFL wide receivers on this roster. Darren Waller is your best bet away from the backfield, with recent target counts of 5 // 7 // 6 // 9 // 6, while Tyrell is just a hope-and-pray play.
JM’s Interpretation ::
With the Jaguars likely able to run a balanced offense here — due to both matchup and the chances that this game remains somewhat close — I’ll probably have only fringe interest in this group if Chark plays. With a healthy Chark, this offense will certainly carry upside, but the likeliest scenario will have “fine but not elite” scores pouring out of this spot. If Chark misses, however, this offense becomes objectively underpriced — and barring a Minshew meltdown, at least one of the wideouts should prove to be a very nice price-considered piece. I’ll likely lean a bit more heavily on Fournette if Chark is out, and I’ll likely mix in some Jacksonville pass catchers behind him.
On the Raiders’ side, Waller is always in the conversation at the ugly tight end position, but all eyes will be on the backfield for me. If Jacobs plays, I’ll likely just stay away myself (I don’t love paying up for yardage and touchdown backs, and if he hits, I’ll feel I can make up those points somewhere else), but if Jacobs misses, the downgrade in talent from Jacobs to Washington is more than made up for by A) the drop in price, and B) the Raiders’ apparent willingness to use Washington in the pass game. Finally, I should note that while my style of play typically pulls me away from yardage-and-touchdown backs, there are very clear paths to a ceiling game for Jacobs if he’s active this week, and if you want to load up on this play yourself, my own tendency to move away from this type of play shouldn’t sway you away from your preferred approach.