NOTE: MJOHNSON86’S WRITEUP FOR MONDAY’S TWO GAME SLATE AND XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN THOUGHTS ARE BOTH BELOW
Game Overview ::
- The biggest storyline around this game is the COVID outbreak the Browns are dealing with on a short week.
- As in past seasons, the Raiders are falling apart after a promising start to the season.
- The Browns have three very difficult games to end the season and they sit in the middle of a crowded AFC playoff race.
- Both teams have had significant offensive struggles recently.
How las vegas Will Try To Win ::
The Raiders were hot out of the gate this season, as in past seasons, scoring points at a high rate and winning games against some very good teams. Unfortunately for them, their season has been derailed by off-field distractions, personnel turnover, and their overall lack of talent catching up with them. After starting the season 5-2, the Raiders have gone 1-5 over their last six games while failing to score 20 points in all five of those losses. The Raiders just do not have much offensive talent left as their dynamic threats were the speed of Henry Ruggs and the athleticism and matchup issues that Darren Waller presented. Las Vegas has very severe personnel limitations at their skill positions at this point and doesn’t have the scheme, quarterback, or offensive line to overcome those deficiencies. The Raiders offensive line ranks 23rd in pass blocking and 31st in run blocking by PFF grades. Derek Carr can produce when the players around him are making plays and he has plenty of time, but he is not a talent elevator.
Within the context of this game, Las Vegas is 3rd in the league in situation-neutral pass rate and faces a Cleveland defense that is very good against the run. While that pass rate is high, it must be noted that the nature of those passes has become more and more conservative as the season has gone on and the Raiders personnel has become more limited. Desean Jackson made a couple big plays in his first couple games with the Raiders but has been ineffective since Darren Waller was injured, Bryan Edwards has not developed as hoped, and Zay Jones is, well, Zay Jones. This leaves Derek Carr returning to his check-down tendencies and funneling most of his targets to Hunter Renfrow, Foster Moreau, and his running backs. The Browns have a very good defensive front against the run and also have PFF’s #6 graded pass rush led by Myles Garrett. They also employ a zone-heavy scheme that works to prevent deep passing and is best attacked at the underneath levels of the field. Based on all of these factors, it is clearly likely that Las Vegas will continue to throw at a high rate and focus on short-area concepts, and this matchup will actually encourage that type of approach. The Raiders may run the ball slightly more than normal in a cold weather game, and with the Browns having so many COVID issues, particularly on offense, the Raiders will likely be comfortable staying conservative. The Browns are also likely to be without a few defensive players, and at least a couple of starters, making it more likely the Raiders will at least be able to move the ball, even if those drives don’t turn into a lot of points.
How cleveland Will Try To Win ::
The Browns are averaging 13.5 points per game over their last four games while failing to score 20 points in six of their last eight games. They are now playing on a short week and will be without their Head Coach, Kevin Stefanski, and starting quarterback, Baker Mayfield, among many other players involved in a COVID outbreak the team is dealing with. Kareem Hunt will also miss this game due to an ankle injury sustained in Week 14. Frankly, it is hard to feel confident about any specific player being available by the time Saturday rolls around with the rate of positive cases the league, and specifically, the Browns, are dealing with.
The identity of the Browns is their elite offensive line and running game. While they will be without Kareem Hunt, they still have Nick Chubb (who is fully healthy) and D’Ernest Johnson (who continues to look like a very talented back who would start on many teams in the league). Chubb and Johnson form a terrific one-two punch that the Browns will undoubtedly lean on in this spot. The other part of the offense that the Browns offense is built around is their heavy 12-personnel and tight end usage. The tendencies of the Browns personnel and approach seemingly fit perfectly in this matchup. During the Raiders current slide of five losses in six games, they have given up 19 offensive touchdowns, and an astonishing 14 of those 19 TDs were scored by running backs or tight ends. Case Keenum is one of the more serviceable backup QBs in the league and honestly isn’t much of a downgrade from Baker Mayfield, especially in a one week setting against a relatively weak defense. Unfortunately, the biggest issue for the Browns offense is that their usually top-tier offensive line is already without star offensive tackle Jack Conklin and now has two more elite offensive linemen (Jedrick Wills and Wyatt Teller) on the COVID list. The Browns scheme is so systematically built around the strength of their offensive line that those losses change the entire complex of the game. There are a lot of players and issues around who will be available, but the status of Wills and Teller are the ones we should be monitoring most closely in regards to how it would alter the outlook of the game as a whole.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
The game total on this game is a pitiful 38.5 points as of this writing (Wednesday morning). This number makes perfect sense given the recent offensive struggles of both teams and all of the uncertainty and personnel issues being experienced on both sides. There are also weather concerns as the forecast currently projects for around 15 mph winds and a 50% chance of rain during game time. While those numbers are not enough to always ruin a game, the game environment here is already so fragile that additional weather concerns become a bigger deal than normal.
I believe the Browns are the team most likely to control the tempo and game flow as they are at home and their running game is by far the greatest offensive strength of either team. Despite their offensive line issues, they have a great scheme and talent in the backfield. While the Raiders set up well offensively from a philosophy standpoint, the nature of their attack and the fact that they are a warm-weather, dome team playing outdoors in the cold makes it unlikely they are efficient and/or explosive in this spot. While their dink and dunk passing may work against Cleveland’s zones to move the chains and sustain drives, they are unlikely to pull away or force Cleveland to take a more aggressive approach. This game is likely to be a low-scoring battle, with an outside chance of Cleveland’s running game dominating and pounding the Raiders in what could turn into a more lopsided affair. If Cleveland is able to take control in that manner, they would also be able to control the pace of the game and keep the clock running (Cleveland is 6th in run rate and 29th in pace of play). This would force the Raiders to be more aggressive and things could potentially get ugly if the Browns pass rush is able to pin their ears back and get after Derek Carr while he has to force passes into tight downfield windows of the Cleveland zones.
That’s a basic overview of this game’s outlook, with weather and COVID situations likely to alter some things before kickoff. Player availability for the Browns will play a huge factor in how this game plays out on Saturday.
TOP PLAYS OF THE WEEKEND
SORTABLE GREEN ZONE TOUCHES
TEAM & PLAYER DK POINTS
Monday Slate DFS Breakdown
- Weather – Both games will be played outdoors with temperatures in the 30’s. Winds will be fairly calm in Chicago, while Cleveland will have winds around 15 mph.
- Raiders – Very little COVID issues. Jalen Richard is back active and off the COVID list after missing last week. Darren Waller is still out and they are also without their starting middle linebacker and left cornerback due to injury.
- Browns – Still a lot of COVID issues but they have had some players return with the extra two days.
- QB’s: Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum could both still test out today and be cleared to play. Either of them being able to play would have a positive impact on the outlook for Cleveland’s offense.
- Skill players: Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper’s statuses will all have a big impact on usage for receivers in this game.
- Offensive Line: Their biggest return is all-pro guard Wyatt Teller. Cleveland’s interior offensive line is intact but they are missing several tackles, so watch for news about Jedrick Wills and/or James Hudson being activated today.
- Defense: Currently missing two starting defensive linemen and three safeties. Their status will have an impact on the Raiders passing game outlook.
- Vikings – Alexander Mattison is on the COVID list and Adam Thielen is questionable with an ankle injury after not practicing all week. Starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland was cut for disciplinary reasons.
- Bears – Biggest issue is Marquise Goodwin and Allen Robinson being out at wide receiver.
- On such a small slate we want to be especially careful to consider all possibilities and not rule anything out because of how fluky NFL games can be. That being said, Derek Carr and whatever QB starts for Cleveland are going to be a tough sell. Both offenses are looking like they will be severely undermanned, especially in their receiving corps. Likewise, both teams are far more likely to lean on their running games and operate in a manner that mutes play volume and scoring opportunities.
- On the other hand, Minnesota has the highest implied team total on the slate and Chicago’s passing game has looked good as of late. Justin Fields and Kirk Cousins are a clear cut above the others. Cousins has a safer floor, but Fields has a better ceiling especially for his price.
- Derek Carr does have some downfield threats and the Browns have had a few games where they gave up big plays this year. If going to that game at QB, he is the route I would take, but it feels kind of thin.
- Dalvin Cook is clearly the elite running back play on the slate as he has the clearest role on the best projected offense. Alexander Mattison’s absence pretty much locks Cook into close to 25 touches, and if Adam Thielen also misses, that would raise Cook’s touchdown expectations as well.
- Nick Chubb could have an absolutely monster game if their offensive line is close to full strength.
- David Montgomery is locked into 18+ touches and is the cheapest of the starting running backs on the slate.
- Josh Jacobs should see volume but is the hardest of the starters to trust as his role is the most fragile and his team environment is the worst.
- D’Ernest Johnson and Jalen Richard are the only “backup” type running backs that should be considered on this slate. They’d be too thin for a main slate, but on a two game slate they could be very relevant pieces if injuries or game script work in their favor.
WIDE RECEIVERS + TIGHT ENDS::
- Justin Jefferson, Hunter Renfrow, and Darnell Mooney are clearly the top receivers on this slate. All three have very good floors and ceilings.
- KJ Osborn, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Jakeem Grant are all low floor, high upside options. If using one of these players, your roster should likely be built primarily around that specific game as scenarios where they have big games likely means their team’s offense was having a lot of success.
- If Austin Hooper is not activated, David Njoku is easily my favorite tight end on the slate. Njoku is extremely talented and Cleveland funnels targets to the tight end position.
- Tyler Conklin is the highest priced tight end on the slate and his outlook is improved if Thielen misses.
- Foster Moreau and Cole Kmet are reasonable options due to the position as a whole. I would only use Moreau if using Carr and would only consider Kmet if Cousins or Fields was the QB on the roster.
WAYS TO GET UNIQUE::
- Heavy Game Stack – Most builds will have five players from one of these games and four from the other. Some will go a little heavier with a six to three ratio. If you fully lean into one game with a seven to two or eight to one ratio of players in your lineup, that will help you get unique. We don’t have to look far to see how this becomes viable, as last night’s Saints-Bucs game was a fantasy wasteland. It doesn’t feel as comfortable, especially when the games project fairly similarly, but if one game ends up 16-10 and the other is 31-27, it becomes pretty clear how a heavy game stack would become optimal. If going this direction, I would prefer to go very heavy on the MIN/CHI game.
- 2-TE Builds – All four of the projected starting tight ends on the slate are priced at $4,200 or lower and have had games of 15+ points this season. They all also have improved outlooks based on injuries to primary short-area options on their teams – Njoku (Hooper), Conklin (Thielen), Kmet (Robinson), and Moreau (Waller). On a two or four game slate, the combination of salary relief and usable score is very valuable.This would be a unique construction with multiple low priced players scoring touchdowns and would certainly be a potential “path to first”.
Multiple LVR players without Carr – Usually when playing multiple pass catchers from the same team, you almost always use the QB with them. However, given the context of the slate, I think you could play two or even three pass catchers from the Raiders without using Carr. It isn’t hard to imagine a scenario where Renfrow has a similar game to last week (13 receptions for 117 yards and one TD, on 14 targets). However, what if the TD goes to someone else? Zay Jones, Foster Moreau, and Bryan Edwards are all averaging over four targets per game since Darren Waller went out and are all $3,700 or less on DK. If Renfrow has a 20-25 point game without scoring a TD, his raw score will likely be necessary to win a tournament while increasing the chances that one or two of those other players gets in the end zone. At those prices, scoring a TD could make any of them a top points-per-dollar play on the slate. Both of those things could happen with Carr throwing for only 250 yards and one or two TDs, and having a couple of turnovers. As the highest-priced QB on the slate, there’s a good chance that fading a stat line like that would be +EV, while two or even three of his pass catchers keep you on track for a winning score.
XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
As MJohnson86 already wrote a thorough game writeup, I’ll just be adding some bullet-point thoughts for the Showdown slate here:
- Well well, lucky me, I get to write up Cleveland, and the entire freaking team is on the COVID list. Unless we have specific information to indicate that someone might come off the COVID list before the game, I’m assuming everyone currently listed is out, but it would not surprise me if one or more guys made it back for the game so pay attention to the news today.
- It looks like Nick Mullens is going to be the Cleveland quarterback. Mullens is no world-beater, but he’s had competent performances before, and $9,600 is a very reasonable price for a quarterback in Showdown (especially with how much other COVID-driven value we have). He’s a reasonable play here.
- We saw before when Kareem Hunt was out that the Browns won’t turn Nick Chubb into a full-on bell cow. He might see a smidge more work, but he’s probably still topping out around 20-ish touches with a couple of targets. At his price, you need a lot to go right: multiple touchdowns or really long runs, both of which Chubb is capable of. He’s a fine play, but at $10.8k, his floor is a bit on the scary side. Working in his favor is that we should expect the Browns to tilt a bit run-heavier here with their third-string QB. D’Ernest Johnson at $6,200 is a bit pricey for an RB2.
- Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper are on the COVID list. Cleveland should roll out Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins as their primary perimeter wideouts and I think it’s probably Ja’Marcus Bradley as the WR3. DPJ is priced fairly, but Higgins and Bradley are very underpriced for their likely roles in this one.
- David Njoku might be the only Cleveland tight end left standing if Harrison Bryant also misses. Last week, Austin Hooper played 100% of the snaps with no Njoku or Bryant, and Njoku could be in line for a similar role. Even if Bryant plays, Njoku is probably in an 80%+ snap role. He’s a bit priced up from where we normally see him, but $5,600 for a talented, athletic tight end that is paired with a quarterback who has a history of heavily targeting his tight ends is a great play to me.
- Las Vegas is in better shape. All the normal game writeup content applies here. The team is healthy except for Darren Waller, so we get another Foster Moreau spot (Moreau is “fine,” but overpriced for his most likely range of outcomes).
- Note that Josh Jacobs has been seeing a TON of passing game work lately with 31 targets in his last five games. This started even before Kenyan Drake got hurt. All of that delicious pass game work significantly raises his floor and ceiling.
Some groups to consider
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain pass catchers with their QBs (or consider boosting the QB if using a captain receiver if you don’t want 100% exposure to this pairing – discussed in further detail in the 2020 update to my Advanced Showdowns course)
- If using an RB captain, apply a negative correlation to the opposing defense and kicker (you can see how to do so in my FantasyLabs tutorial video)
- Pair captain quarterbacks with at least 2 pass catchers
- At most 2 of DPJ, Higgins, and Bradley
- At most 1 of Chubb and Johnson (unless building 5-1 Cleveland onslaughts)
- At most 1 of Jones, Edwards, and Jackson
By Dwprix >>
- CLE favored by 1.5 after opening 6.5
- Total opened at 44 but has dropped to 39
- 10 of 13 LV games have went over 40 pts
- 7 of 13 CLE games have went over 40 pts
- Both teams are 5-8 ATS
- CLE is 5-2 at home // LV is 3-3 on the road
- LV avgs 21.8 pts/g // CLE allows 22.2 pts/g
- CLE avgs 21.4 pts/g // LV allows 27.7 pts/g
- HC Kevin Stefanski is on the COVID list & needs two negative tests before Sat to be present
- CLE has 14 players on the Covid list (as of Wed) including QB Baker Mayfield, WR Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper & starting OG Wyatt Teller who will all need two negative tests before Sat to play
- Keenum’s played one full game this season vs DEN: (21:22:199:1 TD, 12.7 DK pts)
- CLE won 17-14
- He’s the cheapest of the four QBs starting Sat ($4.8k)
- Keenum has 6 career games w/ 20+ DK pts & 3 others above 30
- Other cheap QBs vs LV: Taylor Heinicke ($5.6k, 15.8 pts) // Daniel Jones ($5.6k, 9.1 pts) // Teddy Bridgewater ($5.7k, 25.3 pts) // Justin Fields ($5.2k, 8.84 pts) // Jacoby Brissett ($4.9k, 20.3 pts) // Big Ben ($5.9k 14.8 pts)
- LV allows the 11th most DK pts/g to QBs (19.8)
- Jarvis Landry is likely out
- Routes run last week (of 38): Donovan Peoples-Jones (37) // Landry (34) // Rashard Higgins (16) // Demetric Felton (6) // JoJo Natson (1)
- Tgts last week (of 31): Landry (10) // Peoples-Jones (7)
- CLE has had 2 WRs reach 100+ yds: Landry WK 1 // Peoples-Jones WK 6 on 4 receptions
- Peoples-Jones has 70+ yds in last 4 of 6
- LV allows the 6th least DK pts/g to WRs (31.9)
- David Njoku should return from the COVID list this week
- Austin Hooper has been added to the Covid list & will likely be out
- Njoku ($2.8k) is the cheapest he’s been all season
- In 12 games, he has just 3 w/ 5 or more tgts
- He has only 3 games above 10 DK pts
- In one of those, he went for 30.9 pts (7:149:1 TD, 7 tgts) & Hooper played
- LV allows the 2nd most DK pts/g to TEs (17.0)
- Njoku to pay off: 3x-8.4 pts // 4x-11.2 // 5x-14.0
- Kareem Hunt left injured in last weeks game & is doubtful
- Chubb w/o Hunt this season: WK 8 (16:61, 1:8, 7.9 pts) // WK 9 (14:137:2 TDs, 2:26, 33.3 pts) // WK 11 (22:130, 2:14:1 TD, 25.4 pts)
- In ten games, Chubb has four w/ 20+ atts but only one in his last five
- 6 rush TDs // 1 rec TD
- $7.8k is $200 below his season high
- He’s the 2nd most expensive RB this week (Taylor, $9.2k)
- CLE avgs 143.5 rush yds/g (4th) but only 108.0 (19th) over their last three
- LV allows 125.3 (26th) & 102.7 (15th) over their last three
- Carr is the highest priced of the four Sat QBs ($6.4k)
- Carr w/ Gruden (WKs 1-6): (28.0, 27.2, 25.2, 15.4, 8.2, 24.5)
- w/o Gruden (WKs 7-14): (12.5, 12.4, 24.0, 10.6, 19.2, 13.3, 23.0)
- Carr has zero 3 TD games
- Just 3 TDs over past 4 games
- 300+ pass yds 1 time in the past 6 games // 5 times in first 7
- LV ranks 2nd in pass yds/g (287.8) // 3rd over the last 3 (282.0)
- CLE allows the 3rd least pass yds/g (215.0) // 4th over their last 3 (167.7)
- CLE allows the 9th least DK pts/g to QBs (18.9)
- Hunter Renfrow is the highest priced WR Sat ($7.3k)
- He’s $1400 more than the next closest, Michael Pittman ($5.9k)
- Renfrow last 3: (13:117:1 TD, 14 tgts, 32.7 pts) // (9:102, 10 tgts, 22.2 pts) // (8:134, 9 tgts, 24.6 pts)
- Only two other WRs have three games in a row w/ 100+ rec yds this season (Cooper Kupp & he has a chance to do it again this week & Tee Higgins who could make it four just like Renfrow)
- Before the last 3 games, Renfrow’s season high was 77 yds
- Darren Waller missed the last 2 & only played 21 snaps 3 games ago
- Waller is Q this week & was a non-participant Wed
- CLE allows the 7th least pass yds (215.0) & is T-4th least yds/rec (9.5)
- Other LV WRs prices: DeSean Jackson ($3.7k) // Zay Jones ($3.6k) // Bryan Edwards ($3.5k)
- Tgts last 3: Jackson (2, 1, 4) // Jones (7, 5, 7) // Edwards (3, 5, 1)
- CLE allows the 9th least DK pts/g to WRs (33.7)
- Darren Waller was out last week & is Q this week
- Foster Moreau is Q but was a limited participant Wednesday
- Moreau played every snap last week (63) running a route on 44 of 51 pass plays
- His price ($3.7k) dropped $300 from last week
- CLE allows the 12th most DK pts/g to TEs (14.0)
- Josh Jacobs is the 3rd highest priced RB ($6.3k) behind Taylor ($9.2) & Chubb ($7.8k)
- Jacobs in a blowout loss to KC last week: (9:24:1 fumble, 5:46, 6 tgts, 11.0 DK pts)
- LV RBs have only rushed 25 times the last 2 weeks
- Jacobs has 22 of 25 atts
- 1 game of 20+ atts: (WK 12 vs DAL, 19.2 pts)
- CLE allows the 9th least DK pts to RBs (22.1)