RAIDERS // CARDINALS OVERVIEW
On a slate with a lot of games to like, we also have a late game between the 2-7 Cardinals and the sinking ship, 1-8 Raiders. The Raiders have gotten here by ranking 30th in points per game and 21st in yards per game — with the fourth lowest red zone touchdown rate in football. The Cardinals have gotten here by ranking 31st in points per game and 32nd in yards per game. As a team, Arizona is incredibly averaging only 236.2 yards per game.
The Raiders will have a difficult time breaking out of this funk, as they not only appear to be checked out for the season (keep in mind that this is an offense that ranked top five in yards per game through the first few weeks of the year), but they also have to take on an average to above-average Cardinals defense that ranks 15th in yards allowed per carry, 21st in yards allowed per pass attempt, sixth in sacks, 17th in opponent red zone touchdown rate, and 18th in points allowed per game — in spite of allowing the largest opponent time of possession in the league.
Volume should be on the Raiders’ side here, as this is one thing they have done well on the year — allowing the fourth fewest opponent plays per game, while Arizona has allowed the fourth most opponent plays per game. Ultimately, that probably just means more time for tanking mediocrity for the visiting team, but it will open a few extra opportunities for crazy things to happen, and for someone on the Raiders to post a non-awful box score this week.
Vegas has encouraged us to ignore this game for the most part, with an Over/Under of only 40.5. The Cardinals have been installed as five point favorites — a testament to just how bad the Raiders are right now.
RAIDERS PASS OFFENSE
The Colts are the only team that has forced a lower average depth of target than the Cardinals this year (this team has shaved almost 20% off the league-average aDOT), but this shouldn’t bother Derek Carr too much, as his average intended air yards of 5.8 ranks dead last in the league. It is worth pointing out that a low average intended air yards does not guarantee low upside, as Drew Brees has the second lowest mark in the league, Kirk Cousins has the fifth lowest, and Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger all rank bottom 12. The Cardinals have been below-average in yards allowed per pass attempt, allowing a 4% increase on the league-average catch rate and an 8.8% increase on the league-average YAC/R rate — but with no real after-catch explosiveness on this team and no ability to score in the red zone, Oakland is struggling to get much done. Through nine games, Carr has only 10 touchdowns — and seven of those came in two isolated games, giving him three total touchdown passes across his other seven contests.
Martavis Bryant is out with a knee injury, and Jordy Nelson (recent target counts of 4 // 3 // 4 // 3 // 1) missed practice on Wednesday with a bone bruise and may not play this week. Seventh-round rookie Marcell Ateman has been called up from the practice squad and would see time on the field if Jordy misses.
Brandon LaFell has carried a larger-than-expected role over the Raiders’ last three games, with target counts of 4 // 3 // 6, and with yardage totals of 39 // 20 // 47. Those numbers tell you what you need to know about his upside in this offense, but he could spike to six or seven targets if Jordy misses, giving him a bit of full-PPR floor at his price on DraftKings and FantasyDraft. A touchdown could turn him into a surprisingly useful piece.
This “attack” (such as it is) wraps up with Seth Roberts, who has yet to top 42 receiving yards in a game this year. Roberts has recent target counts of 4 // 2 // 3, with an aDOT of only 7.1 — though he could also rise to six or seven looks if Jordy misses.
Arizona has been tough on tight ends, allowing the sixth fewest receptions to the position. Jared Cook has fallen back to Earth after his hot start, with recent lines of 4-20-0 // 2-10-0 // 4-74-1 // 2-20-0 // 4-52-0. Cook did see nine targets last week with Amari gone. He has the clearest shot at upside on this side of the ball — though this upside comes with the low floor that is attached to this offense.
RAIDERS RUN OFFENSE
As noted throughout the year: Arizona is not actually bad against the run on a per-carry basis (they are actually a bit better than average), but they have allowed the third most rushing yards in the league to running backs and the third most touchdowns to the position by virtue of A) this team continually playing from behind, and B) this team being less intimidating on the ground than they are through the air. The Raiders are the only team in football that has faced a lower pass play rate than the Cardinals. No team has faced more running back rush attempts this year.
While this is the rare spot in which an Arizona opponent is not expected to be playing with a lead, this game should remain close enough for Doug Martin to see 15 or more carries. Martin has averaged 13 carries per game across his last three contests (all three of which were blowout losses), with 60.67 yards per game on the ground in that stretch, and with an average of two receptions for 22.67 yards. It won’t be surprising of Martin pushes for 100 scrimmage yards here, and he’ll have an outside shot at a touchdown in this spot.
CARDINALS PASS OFFENSE
The offensive coordinator change for the Cardinals has not had a major impact on box score production for Josh Rosen and this passing attack, as Rosen has thrown for 252 and 208 yards across his last two games, with a completion rate of 57.0% (with three touchdowns and three interceptions) — not too different from his 207.3 yards per game across his six starts, and his 55.8% completion rate on the year. In good news for Rosen: this is the easiest matchup he has had yet, against an Oakland squad that ranks 32nd in DVOA against the pass and 32nd in yards allowed per pass attempt. The Raiders are allowing the third deepest aDOT in football and the most yards after catch per reception.
YAC upside has been surprisingly thin for Larry Fitzgerald this year, with a YAC/R mark of only 2.5, and with an xYAC/R of only 3.3. For whatever reason, Arizona has been using Fitz on a lot more curls and sideline routes than on the “slant into space” routes he has dominated on throughout his career. With that said: Arizona has shown no ability to pull away from opponents this year, and new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich has focused on tempo since taking over — allowing Rosen to rack up 39 and 40 pass attempts in his last two games. Fitz has recent target counts of 8 // 8 // 12 // 10, giving him a nice floor in this spot — to go with the upside that automatically comes from a matchup against one of the worst defenses in football.
Christian Kirk has been featured behind Fitz recently — seeing target counts of 7 // 6 // 7 // 6. While the Cardinals feed Kirk a few short looks each game, they have also been using him on passes 15+ yards downfield around three times per game — opening up some interesting “upside” opportunities against this poor Raiders secondary.
This passing attack wraps up with Ricky Seals-Jones, who continues to split time on the field with Jermaine Gresham, but who is running a route on nearly every passing play (last week, he ran 40 of a possible 47 routes, while Gresham ran only three pass routes all game). RSJ has at least four targets in all but one game this season — and while he has only one touchdown reception and has fallen shy of 20 yards in five of nine games, he does have three games of 50+ yards, creating thin optimism for upside. The Raiders have been average against tight ends — with Rosen and RSJ likelier to be the cause of a disappointing output here than the Raiders’ pass defense.
CARDINALS RUN OFFENSE
Oakland has been one of the best run matchups in the league for opposing backs — allowing an increase on the league-average YPC of 11.6% (trailing only the Falcons, Chiefs, Rams, Bengals, and Seahawks in this category), while facing the second highest rush rate in the league. On the season, only four teams have faced more rush attempts than the Raiders, and only three teams have allowed more rushing yards. Oakland’s defense has been quietly strong in the red zone — allowing the ninth lowest opponent touchdown rate — but Arizona has also been quietly strong in this area on offense, ranking eighth in the league in red zone touchdown rate while feeding David Johnson 20 carries inside the 20 (this ranks 12th in the NFL, but is only three carries behind the top five) and 12 carries inside the 10 (10th in the NFL). Arizona has only 16 touchdowns all season (third fewest in the league), but half of these touchdowns have come from DJ. The Raiders have allowed 11 touchdowns to running backs — the 10th most in the league. While the Raiders have allowed the fewest receptions to running backs, this is more a function of them facing so few pass attempts than of them being strong in this regard, as they have been one of the more attackable matchups on a per-play basis — as one of only three teams in football allowing more than 10 yards per reception to running backs, with three receiving touchdowns allowed on only 33 catches.
DJ’s spike in pass game usage last week was largely “non-schemed,” and only one of his receptions came at wide receiver, so a safe projection here is another four or five targets — the range in which he has been almost the entire year. But he does have 20+ touches in five of his last six games (with 17 touches in the other contest in that stretch) — and the matchup sets up nicely. Be aware of the low offensive projection for this team as a whole; but also be aware of the individual upside DJ carries if things break just right.
The Raiders’ offense carries the lowest Vegas-implied total on the slate (by quite a bit), making them an easy unit to stay away from this week. If deciding to take a shot here: it’s not crazy to think that LaFell could prove to be a useful salary saver if Jordy misses, and it’s not crazy to take a shot on Cook. It’s also not crazy to think that Doug Martin could post a useful score — though as none of these guys are likely to post a difference-making score, I’ll almost certainly leave all of them alone myself. If going here in large-field tourneys, Cook is the likeliest bet for upside.
On the Arizona side, I probably won’t be prioritizing any play on one of the worst offenses in football — but Fitz stands out for his floor, Kirk stands out for his price-considered upside, and DJ is unlikely to fail, while another big game is certainly a possibility. All three guys will be in consideration for me — and while it appears that there is more to like in other spots, it won’t be surprising to find one or two of these guys sticking to my list deep into the week.
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