Welcome back on the carousel, Jaguars fans!
After failing to lead a touchdown drive across 30 possessions in the preseason (leading to much, understandable hand-wringing amongst Jaguars media and fans), Gardner Minshew stepped in Sunday and looked genuinely #good. While it’s true that the Chiefs are not “the most talented defense in the world,” they are coached by Steve Spagnuolo, who does a good job disguising coverages and giving quarterbacks a decent amount to think about. Minshew consistently read these disguises and made the right throws — and there were a few times when he showed excellent anticipation, throwing before receivers came out of breaks and hitting them in the numbers. We really don’t have any idea if Minshew can keep this up, or if that was a one-game stretch of Minshew Magic; but even if he keeps up that modest level of quality NFL play, we should keep in mind that (even with talented-but-underperforming Aaron Colvin now replaced with burn victim Phillip Gaines in the Texans secondary) Minshew produced an average intended air yards of only 5.5, which means it would take some busted plays or some massive efficiency on his small number of downfield throws for any pass catcher on the Jaguars to become a slate-winning piece. Given the uncertainty and how shallow the tributaries are that lead to “slate-winning upside” from Jacksonville pieces, it’s perfectly acceptable to ignore this team altogether, and to wait for more favorable matchups. If chasing, however, Dede Westbrook will obviously improve on his Week 1 aDOT of 1.1 (ha!), while Chris Conley should once again get some short-area looks and be given an opportunity to make something happen with the ball in his hands. D.J. Chark did his damage last week on only four targets, and he’ll likely need similar efficiency to matter.
Unfortunately for the Jags — who would surely prefer to control a road game like this on the ground — Leonard Fournette has the toughest matchup of the bunch. Last year, the Texans allowed the second fewest rushing yards to running backs, ranked first in DVOA, and allowed only 3.13 yards per carry to backs (which is just unbelievable). Without Clowney (whose main value was as an elite run-stopper), this unit is not quite as formidable, but until we see more, their game against the Saints should be considered an outlier, rather than the new normal for this squad. We don’t know if the Jags will plan to shift more run-heavy without Foles under center; but in this spot, the likeliest scenario is that a tough time on the ground and some points from the Texans will eventually push the Jags to the air regardless. The only justification for playing Fournette in tourneys is the fact that he’ll see all the snaps and should touch the ball a decent amount. It will be difficult for him to come by a monster-yardage or multi-touchdown game, so you’d be betting on a number of things breaking your way.
On the other side of this matchup, Deshaun Watson should be under pressure all day behind his still-shoddy offensive line vs the pass rush of the Jags — and while “under pressure” isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Watson, as it can allow him to move around and make magic happen, it is a fairly safe bet that Bill O’Brien will try to protect Watson in this one if the Texans can take a commanding lead. Watson, Will Fuller, and DeAndre Hopkins are all explosive enough to post a big score in a difficult matchup on limited reps; but your best path to slate-winning upside from this bunch would be to hope that either Chark or Conley has a few big plays on the other side to keep this game close, as this would force the Texans to remain aggressive deeper into the game.
From a “matchups” standpoint, the Texans’ last four games against the Jags have produced point totals (starting with the most recent) of 20 // 20 // 7 // 7. Watson played three of those games and maxed out at 234 passing yards (though he did add 66 rushing yards and a touchdown in that same game, giving him around 22 fantasy points — an unspectacular ceiling thus far in this matchup, but a reminder that Watson can find ways to get things done), while Hopkins has produced lines against Jalen Ramsey’s Jags (starting with the most recent) of 3-50-1 (eight targets), 12-147-0 (16 targets), 7-55-1 (16 targets), and 4-80-1 (13 targets). If the targets are there, Nuk could push for a top score (as is the case in literally any matchup), but the most +EV approach would be to lean on the “if Ramsey slows down Hopkins and he remains under double-digit targets, who else might benefit?” thought process. In this scenario, Will Fuller and (to a far lesser extent) Kenny Stills (or Keke Coutee, if he returns) could pop off for a strong game. I’ll probably have around 3% or 4% Fuller in MME myself, as that’s about the percentage chance of him popping off here for a slate-winning score.
You’re on your own in the Texans’ backfield, of course. In a tough matchup with a split workload, you’d be simply hoping for a fluky play to go your way. Not an impossible bet; but at the running back position, where “near-guaranteed points with upside” is typically easy to come by, it’s not my style of play to lean toward options like this.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Between the strong defenses, the sixth-round rookie quarterback, and the 43.5 Over/Under, there are no pieces in this game that are drawing my eyes in cash games — and I may not have any pieces from this game that I choose to target in small-field tourneys, either (a number of players in this game have potential to post a nice score; but the floor on all those pieces is a bit low for the price, and the chances of this game environment as a whole popping off is incredibly slim, which means you essentially have to guess right on the player you choose). In large-field tourneys, however, I’ll have some slim exposure to Watson // Nuk // Fuller || and I’m likely to bring that back with at least one or two lineups that include Conley // Chark // Dede…or even Fournette “for the workload.” Very little of my bankroll will be invested in this game this week — and the small exposure I do gain will likely be centered around betting on the Jaguars keeping this game close, rather than centered around “trying to isolate one guy who might have a big game in this spot.”