:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.
If you are reading the NFL Edge in chronological order instead of bouncing around to whatever games interest you the most, you will notice that we are starting a bit slow this week given the order in which games are arranged — with three pretty brutal games (Jags // Panthers || Patriots // Redskins || Bills // Titans) before we ramp up with Ravens // Steelers and then really hit things hard with a run of Cards // Bengals || Falcons // Texans || Bucs // Saints). This game has a handful of fringe-valuable options, but as with most games in this mostly-easy schedule the Patriots have had to begin the year, Washington would need a miracle this week to be a respectable offense to target in DFS. Through four weeks, the Patriots rank second in DVOA against the run, fifth in yards allowed per carry, first in DVOA against the pass, and second in yards allowed per pass attempt, while the Redskins rank 30th in rush offense DVOA, 31st in yards per carry, 22nd in pass offense DVOA, and 23rd in yards per pass attempt. And while you could say the Patriots haven’t played a great offense yet, Washington has proven in softer matchups than this that they are not a great offense either (and they appear likely to be downgrading at quarterback this week with either checkdown king Colt McCoy or a very raw Dwayne Haskins). Most ownership on Washington will come from lazy roster construction that tries to figure out “where to save some salary to fit in the expensive guys I like,” so if for some reason you want to bet on uncovering a miracle slate-breaker from this offense, be sure to go a step further than the field and build around some sort of unlikely game flow scenario that leads to a specific Washington player hitting for an outlier game.
The clearest path for an outlier such as that is for the “visiting team that is 4-0” to come out flat in a game like this; but since we are talking about the Patriots (who, it is rarely talked about, collect more football players than any other team, and whose coaches don’t typically allow let-downs to occur), the likeliest path for this game is the path envisioned by Vegas: a full-on Patriots smash.
On the Patriots’ side of the ball: the offensive line has been really failing to open up holes, with this team ranking 28th in yards per carry — and this issue has gotten worse the last couple weeks without James Develin on the field. (Fun, random fact: my dad seems to go out of his way to only purchase Patriots jerseys that not many people will have — and he has progressed through the years from “not Brady” to completely on the fringe, with a progression (if memory serves) of Welker // Mayo // Hightower // Develin (proudly purchased this year, with many texts communicating the tracking details of the shipment, hoping the jersey would arrive in time for the first game of the season).) The Patriots continue to play with two backs (they have had two backs on the field 40% of their plays), with plenty of Multiple usage from James White and Rex Burkhead (giving these guys opportunities for satellite motion, with potential to run routes from the slot or from the backfield, while also maintaining the threat of the run). It’s always difficult to get a handle on New England backfield usage, but it seems likely that last week’s White spike (and Rex disappearance) had more to do with game plan than with Rex’s foot issue, though since it’s the Patriots: who really knows. If Rex is healthy, he seems likely to see a bigger role this week vs a team that can be hit both on the ground and through the air; but White and Sony Michel aren’t going away, which ultimately keeps this as a three-man backfield that leaves you hoping to guess right on touchdowns.
The Washington defense ranks 31st in drive success rate allowed (only the Dolphins are worse; note: drive success rate effectively measures what percentage of drive series end in a first down or a touchdown, making it a great way to get a feel for how consistently a team can move the ball, or how consistently a team can move the ball against a particular opponent) — making this a great spot for the Patriots to chew up yards. Washington also ranks 23rd in drive success rate on offense, while the Patriots rank first on defense. The Patriots should spend plenty of time with the ball — and through the air, this should mean focusing mostly on short passes with a few well-timed deep balls mixed in.
So far this season, Phillip Dorsett leads Josh Gordon in aDOT (12.2 to 9.8) and percentage share of team air yards (25.13% to 23.58%), and in games without Antonio Brown, Gordon has 22 targets while Dorsett has 20. Neither guy has a secure enough target share on a spread-the-wealth offense in an expected blowout to be cash game viable, but both definitely have upside in tourneys (Washington has been burned enough deep that the Patriots will surely design a handful of shots this week). Gordon is on the field more (he’s the guy in two-wide sets), but Dorsett makes for an interesting pivot — especially as he’s cheaper and will draw lower ownership in what has been a slightly more valuable role.
As for Julian Edelman :: he quietly has about the same aDOT (8.2) and percentage share of team air yards (23.45%) as Gordon — though this says more about the way the greater fantasy community has miscommunicated Gordon’s role than it does about Edelman’s upside. You already know what you get with Edelman: above-average target assuredness with an outside shot at a touchdown. His ceiling games tend to come in closely-contested shootouts, but you’re generally hoping to guess right on a touchdown for Edelman in tourneys anyway, keeping him in the “non-awful play” mix in this spot.
JM’s Interpretation ::
I’ll be leaving Washington alone, as avoiding players on bad offenses against this Patriots defense is a +EV play.
New England, as is almost always the case, “should score a lot of points, and may spread the ball around so much that no slate-winning scores come of it.” If building a few rosters around this game, I’ll likely focus on Dorsett for the lower ownership, the lower price, and the similar usage to Gordon and Edelman, while a couple “Gordon FOMO” darts are worth part of an MME build as well, as he does still have legitimate slate-breaking upside. I don’t expect this game to be a core focus for me, but there are enough points flowing through New England that a few tourney shots should be taken with this team as part of any MME approach. Tom Brady, the wideouts, and even a guess-on-RB play are all in the mix.
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