Game Overview ::
- The Raiders will lean “balanced, toward the run” on offense, while focusing their attention on Jacobs and Waller
- The Patriots will likely land in between their extreme lack of passing volume in Week 1 and their extreme passing volume in Week 2
- Scoring should finish in a tight range around what Vegas projects, though there are a few ways for the total to swing upward or downward
- I won’t have a large number of pieces from this game, but I expect to have two or three guys from this game in my late-week player pool
How Las Vegas will try to win ::
There are a number of key 2019 rules that overlap in this game in interesting ways.
Here were three general rules on the Raiders in 2019 for +EV DFS play:
1 :: Don’t rely on Raiders wideouts on anything but a small percentage of MME play.
2 :: Only roster Josh Jacobs in spots where the Raiders will have a lead and/or Jacobs is likely to score multiple touchdowns on the ground.
3 :: Always consider Waller, and give him a boost in matchups where the Raiders may have to pass more often as the game moves along.
Here were three general rules for teams playing the Patriots in 2019 ::
1 :: Don’t play wide receivers; the Patriots were top of the league in everything against the pass last year, and they gave up only four touchdowns to wide receivers all season (Buffalo gave up the second fewest with six; the next closest team allowed nine; five teams allowed 20+).
2 :: Don’t roster running backs against them. The Patriots allowed one rushing touchdown to running backs all season. This was their fourth year in a row ranking top three in this category. The last time the Patriots allowed more than seven rushing touchdowns to running backs in a season was 2011 — giving us eight consecutive seasons in which they’ve allowed under 0.5 rushing touchdowns per game to RBs. The Patriots, philosophically, are going to force teams to score through the air when they get close to the goal line.
3 :: Only play tight ends against the Patriots who are good enough to beat Patrick Chung in coverage.
We’ll circle back in the Game Flow segment to the way these rules come together this week, but first: we know Jon Gruden is going to lean “balanced, toward the run” (the only teams last year that ran the ball at a higher rate than the Raiders were the teams from last year you first think of when you think of “run-heavy” :: Baltimore // San Francisco // Tennessee // Minnesota // Indianapolis // Seattle // Buffalo), and we know that this team will work outward from there — throwing to the middle of the field at a higher rate than most teams: working from Waller to Hunter Renfrow to the perimeter.
How New England will try to win ::
The Patriots went run-heavy against the Dolphins and pass-heavy agains the Seahawks, while this game should see them somewhat in the middle (to back that up: the Dolphins faced the fifth highest rush play rate last year; the Seahawks faced the eighth highest pass play rate; the Patriots tracked toward both of those setups, while the Raiders ranked right around the middle of the league a year ago; this is a completely new Patriots offense, so there is obviously some guesswork involved; but a balanced attack would make the most sense here). The Raiders ranked top five in adjusted line yards on defense last year, but they rank bottom five so far this season, and their linebackers are better suited to coverage than to run-stopping. This should allow the Patriots to find enough success on the ground to keep the chains moving this way, while the matchup against an attackable Las Vegas secondary should keep them attacking through the air. In Week 1, Cam Newton threw the ball only 19 times. In Week 2, he threw the ball 44 times. Somewhere in the middle is a reasonable expectation here, with something like 31 pass attempts and 10 rushes his likeliest starting point for quantity and distribution of touches. When taking to the air, N’Keal Harry and Julian Edelman (18 targets apiece) will be the primary targets, while minimum-priced speedster Damiere Byrd (who saw nine targets last week…one week after I used him on a couple rosters against the Dolphins and he saw zero targets) will have a chance to rack up looks as the number three weapon here if the Patriots take to the air often enough.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
Josh Jacobs has averaged 4.5 targets per game.
Henry Ruggs has averaged 4.0 targets.
Hunter Renfrow has averaged 2.5 targets.
Bryan Edwards has averaged 1.5 targets.
Nelson Agholor and Jason Witten have averaged 1.0 targets per game.
Zay Jones and Fabian Moreau have averaged 0.5 targets per game.
Darren Waller has averaged 12.0 targets per game.
Of course, the first thing this means is that Bill Belichick will be focusing primarily on forcing the Raiders to beat them with other weapons. This doesn’t mean Waller won’t be targeted; and with Patrick Chung opting out of this season, the matchup is softer than it would have been a year ago. But ultimately, this could hurt Waller on the whole, as the Patriots might have been content to allow Chung and Waller to battle it out; but now, their chances of getting creative in how they scheme to stop Waller go up.
This type of exploration would typically go in the Interpretation segment; but because the Raiders are so heavily dependent on Waller and Jacobs for their production, this could have a fairly large impact on the way this game plays out.
Meanwhile, the Raiders are down Richie Incognito on an offensive line behind which Jacobs is currently averaging only 3.5 yards per carry. The Raiders should be able to find a way to score points in this game; but 17 to 23 points is their likeliest range (checking Vegas: the Raiders are pegged at 20.75, which looks just about right).
Everything in the Patriots offense right now is built around Cam (63 pass attempts, 26 rush attempts), and the Raiders don’t have the pieces to slow him down for an entire game — putting New England’s expected scoring range at 23 to 31 (in all, this lines up exactly with the way Vegas has this game pegged — an Over/Under of 47.5, with the Patriots implied for just under 27 points and the Raiders implied for just under 21). New England won’t necessarily have the lead the entire game, but they are the team likelier to control this game and be playing with the lead.
There are no very clear tributaries here; but whenever you have players who can score from anywhere on the field (with Henry Ruggs very much falling into this category), scoring can take off more quickly in a game; and any time you have two teams that are comfortable going run-heavy, scoring can disappoint. This gives us a slightly broader range of outcomes than can be fully captured by an Over/Under; but most of the scenarios for this game would still have it falling in a tight range around 47.0.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
Josh Jacobs has touched the ball 29.5 times per game in the early going — which is enough to make him a “consider in literally any matchup” play. The long history of New England limiting scoring on the ground lowers my excitement here, though I could also see the Patriots slowing down Waller, and the Raiders having to lean on Jacobs through the air as a result. For my own play (assuming there is enough to like at running back in other games (this is the fifth game I have researched so far, which leaves eight remaining)), I’ll likely leave Jacobs alone. (The only way I would see myself going here would be if I had a heavy dose of Waller; in which case, I would see Jacobs as the guy likeliest to succeed if Waller disappoints.) But I will never argue against rostering a talented back who is seeing 29.5 touches per game in the early going, if you like Jacobs this week yourself.
Waller is a fine play (as in: of course he’s solid; but he’s also going to be priced about where his role should have him, and the Patriots are highly likely to design a large chunk of their defensive game plan around trying to slow him down), and I have no argument against rostering him. Given the downside risk and the likely elevated ownership, I may just stay away; but in a vacuum, I almost always like Waller as a play.
On the Patriots’ side, Cam is the main guy to look toward, as this entire offense, at present, is built off of what Cam allows them to do. Cam is in play in single-entry/three-entry-max tourneys, and in large-field play, and can be played naked or with one of his receivers. Edelman // Harry // Byrd are the pecking order for production, while Harry // Edelman // Byrd might be the DFS rankings with price factored in. (Harry and Edelman each have 18 targets and 13 receptions. Edelman has the big advantage in yards, but Harry is actually the player likelier to see downfield looks. Byrd is stone minimum on both sites and is a risk/reward play. We’ve seen him get zero targets, and we’ve seen him get nine targets. This week, he’s likeliest to land in the middle as Cam lands in the middle for pass attempts, but his range could swing wildly from there.) I was thinking of setting a rule of “only roster a Patriots receiver if you’re also rostering Cam,” though Harry and Byrd are cheap enough (and Harry, in particular, is involved enough) that I could see using one of these guys as a bottom-up piece.
I would only use the Patriots running backs if betting heavily on Cam across a bunch of rosters and wanting to add in some hedges elsewhere. Cam is the Patriots run game at the moment.
- LV has allowed Teddy & Brees to pass for 270 yds, TD and 312 yds, TD, INT
- LV has allowed 129 yds and 112 yds on the ground
- Cam has yardage totals of 155 & 397 through the air and 75 & 47 on the ground, with 1 pass TD & 4 rush TDs
- Cam’s only career game vs a Paul Guenther defense (2014 CIN): 284 pass yds, 2 TD, INT, 107 rush yds, TD
- Cam’s 15 rush att in Week 1 were the most he’s had since that exact game vs CIN in 2014 (career high 17 att)
- Cam’s 44 pass att in Week 2 would’ve ranked as his 2nd highest total in every season dating back to 2014; 9th highest total in 127 career games
- Julian Edelman has the second highest market share of team air yards in the NFL
- Edelman’s 179 yds vs SEA were more than he had in any game with Brady
- N’Keal Harry has as many targets as Edelman through two weeks (18), and has produced 111 yds on 13 rec with a goal-line fumble that was nearly a TD instead
- After receiving 0 targets in Week 1, Damiere Byrd produced 6 rec (9) 72 yds in Week 2
- NE RB touches through two weeks: Burkhead (19), Michel (18), White (8), Taylor (6)
- Burkhead had 6 att and 6 tg in Week 2 without James White
- Derek Carr is 0-2 vs Belichick, losing 9-16 and 8-33
- NE has held MIA RBs to 14 att 62 yds and SEA RBs to 25 att 115 yds
- The five RBs to top 100 yds rushing vs NE in 2019 were Gore, Chubb, Ingram, Mixon, & Henry, ranked 38th, 2nd, 13th, 12th, & 1st in rushing yds/g
- Josh Jacobs ranked 3rd in rushing yds/g in 2019 and ranks 6th so far in 2020
- Jacobs has faced the 9th highest percentage of 8-man boxes through two weeks (30.8%)
- Of those top 9, Jacobs & Gus Edwards are the only two to have a positive Rush Yds Over Expected (NextGen)
- Jacobs has forced the 3rd most missed tackles per touch among 20-touch RBs (38 qualifiers) in 2020
- Darren Waller has 24 targets in 2020: No other LV player has even 10
- Per NextGen, Waller finished with at least 1 rec against nine different Saints defenders and had at least 1 rec from four different alignments (Tight, Slot, Wide, Backfield)
- NE allowed 11 rec (14) for 159 yds, 2 TD to SEA’s stud WRs (Lockett/Metcalf)
- In three of Gilmore’s most recent five games, he’s been beaten deep by John Brown and Metcalf, and given up major production to Devante Parker
- Ruggs beat CAR deep in Week 1 before getting hurt, and an overthrow + a PI potentially cost him another one or two vs NOR
- Ruggs’s 8 targets on the year trail only Waller (24) and Jacobs (9)