Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
New England’s defense has been absolutely ridiculous this year, but of course the (reasonable) criticism is “well they haven’t faced any good offenses yet.” They’ve taken on the Steelers with an injured Big Ben, the Dolphins, the Jets (twice), Bills, Redskins, Giants, and Browns — not exactly a murderer’s row of offensive aptitude. Now they get the Ravens, who have averaged over 30 points per game (though some of that is inflated by 59 against the Dolphins in Week 1) and have yet to score fewer than 23 points (well, 16 offensive points against the Seahawks last week with two defensive touchdowns). The challenge here is that the Ravens can be somewhat of a one-dimensional offense, relying on their running game (powered by not just RBs but also Lamar Jackson) to set up the passing game. The challenge here for the Ravens is that their best receiver is likely to play limited snaps if he plays at all, which really limits the passing weapons available to Lamar Jackson; no receiver besides Hollywood Brown and Mark Andrews is averaging even 10 Draftkings points per game. This will be a really interesting matchup between a raw but overall potent offense against what is looking like the best defense in the league. Will the Ravens be the first team to finally crack the New England defense?
On the Baltimore side, the backfield split leaves Mark Ingram priced at just below bellcow levels despite only seeing 50% of the snaps for the season and averaging just 15.8 touches per game. He’s barely seeing any pass game work and he has succeeded so far by scoring a whopping seven touchdowns in seven games. However, Ingram has only seen 21 total red zone touches this year, while backup Gus Edwards has seen 15 (while scoring zero touchdowns). The workload gap here leans in Ingram’s favor, but he’s hardly a locked-in goal line back, especially when you consider that Lamar Jackson has another 15 red zone carries of his own. Remember that the Patriots defense is known for not giving up rushing touchdowns (fewer this year than anyone but the Vikings, and this isn’t just a one-year anomaly as they allowed fewer last year than anyone but the Bears, and are going on their fourth consecutive season of finishing top three in this category). If Ingram isn’t getting in the end zone, he’s likely not smashing, which means he’s in an awfully difficult spot in this game.
The pass game doesn’t get any easier for Baltimore. Even if Marquise Brown returns he’s expected to play limited snaps, which means the Ravens will have Mark Andrews and then guys like Willie Snead, Seth Roberts, and Miles Boykin taking on the elite New England secondary. It’s hard to see a realistic path to success here, but surely SOME passes will be completed. I’ll bet on Andrews for the most locked-in role and Brown is worth some exposure if he’s active just due to talent. Beyond those two you’re getting awfully thin. I’ll be betting on Boykin first due to his deep role (I’d rather bet on one long pass than a bunch of short ones, as even an elite secondary can screw up once but having them fail over and over is a lot harder to envision), followed by Snead, then Seth Roberts, then Chris Moore, but let’s be clear that none of these guys have anything even approaching safe floors. Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle also get a target or two per game in this spread-out offense. With any of these guys you’re just chasing a fluke play for a touchdown, but past Boykin I’m not really sure there’s much difference between any of them.
The New England run game is tricky as always now that Rex Burkhead is back. Burkhead only played 19% of the snaps and saw four touches last week, but his workload is somewhat unpredictable. Sony Michel has been struggling this season behind a subpar offensive line, only averaging 3.3 yards per carry, though his massive red zone role (30 red zone touches so far!) keeps him in the conversation despite mediocre performance and a difficult matchup. Michel scored three touchdowns in Week 7 and only put up 22.4 Draftkings points, which is legitimately hard to do. Behind Michel we have James White, who was added to the injury report on Friday (boo) but traveled with the team (yay!) and seems more likely to play than not. Obviously if White misses, Burkhead is a smash play (he had 17 touches the last time White missed action), but I’m going to assume that White will be in. White has only seen fewer than seven targets twice this year and has scored double-digit Draftkings points every single game. That’s actually pretty incredible, especially when you consider he’s only found the end zone once. He’s seen 13 total red zone targets, so positive touchdown regression is coming his way, and his short-area safety valve role should lead to strong volume in a matchup against the Ravens’ above-average pass rush.
The Patriots’ pass game shakes out like it basically always does: there’s Julian Edelman (and James White), and then everyone else. Edelman has seen double-digit targets in five of eight games and is a good bet to get that kind of volume again here as the Pats do their normal short-area passing game to counter a strong pass rush. He already has four touchdowns on the year and, more importantly, two games of over 100 yards, which is something he’s never really been known for. Edelman has generally been more of a high-priced floor play, but he’s really showing some strong ceiling this year. That said, he’s likely to be shadowed this week by Marlon Humphrey, who will shadow receivers in the slot, and who is only allowing a completion percentage of around 50% so far despite spending almost his entire season shadowing opposing number 1 receivers (if Humphrey doesn’t shadow, it will be because he sticks full-time in the slot with this secondary finally healhty — in which case, he will see the most of Edelman as well). Edelman can win this matchup, of course, but while tough matchups don’t really impact ceiling, his floor is lower than normal here. Note that if the Patriots are focused on short area work, that does make it tougher for Humphrey to really contain Edelman, but it also could result in more volume going White’s way.
Whew. That was a lot of writeup about one receiver. Let’s move on. Phillip Dorsett should have a solid matchup as “the wide receiver not facing Humphrey” has been a matchup we’ve attacked all season in DFS, and even with Jimmy Smith returning (he had a down season last year) and Marcus Peters in the fold (he’s more of a playmaker than a talent specialist), success should continue to be easier to find away from Humphrey. Dorsett is priced very reasonably here in a strong matchup compared to what else is available in this game through the air, and he has great TD equity. Jakobi Meyers lost his lion’s share of the WR3 role last week to newly-acquired Mohamed Sanu, and we can expect Sanu’s involvement to climb this week; he’s not a great option (I very much prefer Dorsett at about the same price), but he’s likely to be low owned. Finally, Ben Watson has been playing a lot of snaps, and while that hasn’t resulted in a lot of production yet, he’s awfully cheap and he did see five targets in Week 7. Down at that price range he’s competing with the kickers, Burkhead, and some of the Ravens random receivers, and I like his odds of beating that group out and being a viable play.
The way this game is likeliest to play out is a fairly close affair. The Patriots’ offense has been heartily mediocre this season, but they’ve been boosted by their defense not just scoring a whopping six TDs in eight games, but also generating 25 turnovers and giving the offense a lot of short fields to work with. This will be their toughest test, but Lamar Jackson is still a young quarterback who can be mistake-prone. The run-heavy nature of the Baltimore offense limits opportunities for turnovers, and if the Ravens can successfully keep the game close and the ball on the ground, they may be able to limit mistakes and refuse the Patriots short fields. This is the fulcrum on which the game pivots, in my mind: can the Ravens succeed via their run game and avoid mistakes? If so, they could pull off a win here, as their defense should be able to stop New England from marching down the field too easily. But, if the Ravens make mistakes, or if the Pats get out in front early and force the Ravens to throw more, that could let the Pats D take over the game.
Some other ways the game could play out:
- The Pats defense really is covering how mediocre the offense has looked this season. If the Pats D gets cracked here, it’s entirely possible that we could see the Ravens run away with this game.
- Alternately, though the Ravens are projected for almost three touchdowns (which seems like a shootout when compared to what New England has given up thus far), we’ve seen this defense absolutely take over games in…well, just about every game they’ve been in this season. New England’s D has not scored fewer than 10 Draftkings points yet and they’ve averaged (averaged!) over 3 takeaways per game.
- This is all a long way of saying that a lot of different things could happen in this game and it wouldn’t surprise me, so thinking through correlations will be even more critical than normal.
My favorite overall captain is James White as I see him getting a lot of work with Humphrey on Edelman, and he’s due for positive TD regression. The only Raven I really want to captain is Lamar, while I will also have captain exposure to Dorsett, Edelman, and Michel in different scenario builds.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- Pair captain Brady with at least 2 receivers (I think you can run Lamar completely naked here in the captain spot)
- At most 1 of Meyers and Sanu
- At most 2 of the non-Andrews Ravens receivers
- At most 1 of Pats D and the Ravens running backs (this is an aggressive group choice and could backfire, but I’m willing to bet that a game script that has the Pats D smashing is one in which the Ravens bail out on the run game and need to pass a lot)
— Xandamere’s Advanced Showdown Course is now available through OWS :: Marketplace! This is his tournament course for Showdowns; and given the tangible edge in this contest type, it should pay itself off pretty quickly(!).
JM’s Notes for Thursday-to-Monday Players ::
- On a 14-game slate, this is a good game to leave alone on tighter builds, as we have the solid Ravens defense taking on the average Patriots offense at home, and we have the elite Patriots defense taking on the electric but limited-dimensional offense of the Ravens.
- What I mean by “electric but limited-dimensional” :: the Ravens do some things really, really well; but there are a lot of things they simply cannot do with the young, raw personnel they have. So while they are excellent at the things they do well, a team like the Patriots will have a pretty good idea of exactly what to prepare for.
- The piece likeliest to break through in this matchup, of course, is Lamar Jackson. The Patriots can cover the Ravens in isolated man coverage for the most part in this spot (which will free up extra resources for focusing on the run and trying to force Jackson to beat their elite corners instead), so the matchup should not be considered as soft as the Patriots’ recent issues against the run would indicate. But Jackson is still electric enough to be in play as a “do it all on his own” piece.
- The rest of this game is off the board for me on a slate this large, with my interest in this game being otherwise saved for the Sunday night Showdown.