RAIDERS // BENGALS OVERVIEW
This slate is defined by good offensive units facing tough matchups, and by bad offensive units (or bad offenses as a whole) soaking up the easier matchups. In no spot on the slate does this strange setup stand out more than in the game between the Raiders and the Bengals, as Oakland ranks 29th in points per game, while the Bengals have put up point totals of 20 // 10 // 21 across the last three weeks with Jeff Driskel playing all or part of this team’s snaps. On the year, Cincinnati ranks 28th in total defensive DVOA while the Raiders rank 31st, and these teams hold the bottom two rungs in points allowed per game. This game is not guaranteed to be pretty…but one way or another, some points should be scored — making it one of the more interesting spots to consider this weekend. This game carries a non-embarrassing Over/Under of 46.0, with the Bengals installed as three point favorites at home.
RAIDERS PASS OFFENSE
Only four teams have allowed more passing touchdowns than Cincinnati, and only five teams have allowed more yards per pass attempt — setting up Derek Carr and company with one of the better matchups in the league. The Bengals have bumped up the league-average aDOT by 6.2%, and they have bumped up the league-average catch rate by 2.5%.
While the matchup is non-threatening, it does remain difficult to reliably bet on production from this passing attack — especially outside of lead tight end Jared Cook. Across the last two weeks, Carr has been asked to throw only four passes more than 20 yards downfield, with this team more focused on precision-oriented designs and route concepts that allow them to slowly move the field. This has left yardage upside extremely thin across the board in this spread-the-wealth attack, with Jordy Nelson going for recent yardage totals of 14 // 16 // 0 // 0 // 97 // 48, and with Seth Roberts going for recent yardage totals of 42 // 8 // 39 // 38 // 54 // 25 // 76. Since ascending to the wide receiver rotation on this team in Week 11, Marcell Ateman has gone 50 // 16 // 16 // 45. With this game likely to remain close, and with the Raiders A) able to run the ball in this matchup as well, and B) happy to spread their short-area looks to multiple pass catchers without a single clear alpha, all three of these guys are best viewed as floor plays, with ceiling dependent on volume or touchdowns. Given the low price tags across the board here, there is hope for one or two of these guys to matter, but all of them remain thin plays best suited to tourneys. With that said: Carr has looked far more comfortable in this offense lately, going for 285+ yards in back-to-back games, and throwing eight touchdowns and zero picks across his last four contests. While it’s a guessing game as to which of these guys will produce, it is likely that at least one of these three receivers posts a useful game in this spot.
The clearest play on this side of the ball right now is Cook, who finally returned to near-every-down status last week (playing 57 out of 67 snaps), and who has recent target counts of 9 // 6 // 5 // 8 // 10. More importantly: Cook has accounted for three of the Raiders’ four targets across the last two weeks that have traveled 20+ yards downfield, giving him the clearest shot at upside in the bunch. The Bengals have allowed the sixth most pass plays of 20+ yards this year, and they have been below-average against tight ends — allowing the 13th most yards and the ninth most catches, while ranking 16th in DVOA against the position. Cook carries a non-awful floor for the price, and his ceiling is among the highest at the position on the main slate this weekend.
RAIDERS RUN OFFENSE
The Raiders have been an average team on the ground this year, ranking 14th in adjusted line yards and 18th in yards per carry — though they have been tough to target in DFS, as they continue to divide the workload between Doug Martin (33 snaps last week) and Jalen Richard (33 snaps last week). The split workload will remain a concern in this spot — lessening our ability to target Certainty on either of these players — but the matchup certainly provides some paths to upside, as the Bengals rank 24th in yards allowed per carry and have allowed more touchdowns to running backs than any other team in football.
Martin has yet to top 72 rushing yards in a game this year, and his best game through the air was three catches for 31 yards (Martin’s pass game usage is dump-off oriented, rather than being schemed targets designed to get him into space with blockers out in front), so while he has recent touch counts of 14 // 20 // 16, he remains a touchdown-dependent play. At his price, his floor is not back-breaking, while his streak of three straight games with a touchdown provides a non-awful shot at useful production.
Richard has been less predictable — failing to top three catches in any of his last four games, while going for recent touch counts of 14 // 3 // 9 // 9. His floor this year has been close to zero, but he does have more ceiling than he has shown so far, with zero touchdowns on the year. Richard has seven red zone carries and four red zone targets, giving him an outside shot at pairing yardage and touchdowns in a pristine spot such as this.
BENGALS PASS OFFENSE
Although the Raiders lack the necessary talent in the secondary to be a shutdown force, they continue to improve their communication on the back end in this Paul Guenther zone scheme — making it difficult for quarterbacks to find big, open windows in which to throw. Last week against the Steelers, this defense was surprisingly able to slow down Antonio Brown in the same way Guenther’s Bengals units did for years — and while JuJu Smith-Schuster benefitted with a monster game, the connections between he and Roethlisberger in that game are not necessarily throws/catches that a Jeff Driskel-led Bengals team will be able to replicate. From a full-season perspective, this matchup looks nice, as Oakland ranks dead last in yards allowed per pass attempt, though they have actually been fairly average this year outside of the YAC allowed department (and have in fact shaved 2.1% off the league-average catch rate). With Tyler Boyd standing out as the only weapon for the Raiders to really have to worry about, it won’t be surprising if Guenther and co. are able to come up with a plan to make life difficult on the Driskel-to-Boyd connection. Introducing further uncertainty in this spot is the fact that teams have not even bothered to attack Oakland through the air this year — with the Raiders facing the fewest pass attempts in the NFL, at an average of 29.5 attempts per game. Only one team has allowed more touchdowns to wide receivers than the Raiders have allowed…but with volume against them so low, they have managed to allow the fewest wide receiver catches in the league.
Across the last three weeks, Boyd has seen target counts of 8 // 8 // 6, and he continues to be the main intermediate/downfield weapon under Driskel, with 11 of his 14 targets across the last two weeks coming at least 10 yards downfield (and with two of his looks coming more than 20 yards downfield). Big production is not guaranteed in this passing attack — against a talent-deficient, but decently-schemed pass defense that will be looking to take him away — but there is still some upside to chase.
Behind Boyd, this passing attack has been in shambles since Dalton went down, with John Ross going 2-13-0 and 2-11-1, and with Cody Core going 1-30-1 and 3-30-0. The best bet behind Boyd is C.J. Uzomah, who continues to provide decent price-considered floor with very little ceiling. Uzomah has not topped 41 yards since Week 6, with almost all of his looks coming as an underneath outlet, rather than as a schemed target downfield. He’s unlikely to fail in this spot, but he will need a broken play or a touchdown to really matter.
BENGALS RUN OFFENSE
Only six teams have allowed more yards per carry this year than the Raiders, while no team has faced a lower opponent pass play rate — leading to this squad facing the third most rush attempts and allowing the second most yards on the ground to running backs in the league. On average, the Raiders allow a running back rushing line of 24.85 carries for 122.9 yards — creating a strong spot for Joe Mixon, who led this backfield last week with 47 snaps and 31 touches in a close loss to the Chargers, ahead of the 25 snaps and five touches that Giovani Bernard saw. The Bengals went out of their way last week to keep the ball on the ground — running on over 50% of their plays — and while that was obviously a game plan specific approach against the Chargers’ powerful offense, it would make sense for Cincy to stick to this approach once more in a game that they can win. Mixon’s price on FanDuel has gotten a bit out of hand, but he remains a solid upside option there. On DraftKings, he is appropriately priced for the small amount of risk his up-and-down role has created, and for the big upside this play provides. With a soft matchup and a positive game flow projection, Mixon’s chances of landing on the higher end of his production range look good in this spot.
The Raiders’ passing attack is attractive on paper as a unit, but it remains difficult to target individual pieces on this attack. The best bet here is to go Carr-to-Cook (or Cook solo) in an effort to capture the most guaranteed points and the most upside from this unit. If you want to go off the board a bit, Jordy // Roberts // Ateman (in that order) all have a shot at modest upside production, and all of them are cheap enough that they won’t kill your roster if they land on their floor instead. They’re not part of the Certainty discussion, but they are part of the tourney conversation.
Doug Martin has been more floor than ceiling, while Richard is a long-shot play for upside in this offense — though in a game that should produce some points, and with these two the top options in one of the most generous running back matchups in the NFL, both guys should be considered this week. Neither looks like a cornerstone piece for me, but Martin joins the conversation in all formats, while Richard is part of the large-field-tourney discussion.
On the Bengals’ side, Mixon stands out to me as a floor/ceiling play, while Boyd stands out as a floor play with a slim shot at ceiling. Mixon does have an outside shot at disappointing here, but he’s one of the safer plays on the slate, and his upside is enticing. He’s a better play on DraftKings and FantasyDraft than he is on FanDuel, but he’s in play across the board.
Behind these guys, it’s tough to get too excited about anything in this Driskel-led offense. Hopefully this game stays close and the Bengals are able to ride Mixon throughout, but there are some outlier game flows you could bet on if you want to go off the board.
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