Slate Overview ::
With Wild Card Weekend broken up into a PAIR of three-game slates, we’ll be tackling each slate individually(!). Same as we did with the Thanksgiving slate and the Saturday slates, we’ll lead off with a Slate Overview, and we’ll wrap the last game of the slate with a DFS+ Interpretation segment that covers all three games. Let’s get it!
By Hilow >>
In stark contrast to the Saturday slate, Sunday sees four teams with Vegas implied team totals over 25 points, with only the Bears (19.25) and Browns (21.25) checking in below that mark. Speaking of the Browns, the COVID outbreak (and headache) continues in Cleveland, with head coach/offensive play-caller Kevin Stefanski now set to miss this game due to a positive test (will be unable to be in contact with the team on game day), leaving Mike Priefer to handle acting head coach duties and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt to handle offensive play-calling duties. *This is fine.emoji* Interestingly enough, the Browns, a team whose identity is to run the football, playing the top-ranked defense in DVOA against the run, without their head coach and play-caller, also without their top overall wide receiver (OBJ), on the road in Pittsburgh are still expected to score over three touchdowns. Player pricing is also much more aggressive on the Sunday slate, leaving us with a key question: to Henry, or not to Henry? The three underdogs (Titans, Bears, Browns) are all in difficult situations offensively, but should all come in with low expected ownership (outside of Henry, of course). From an analytical standpoint, the Saints’, Browns’ and Titans’ Vegas implied team totals feel high, something to keep in mind as we navigate this slate (UPDATE: Vegas tends to agree, with the Saints’ implied total dropping a point overnight and the Browns’ implied team total dropping two and half points (!!!) overnight; the Titans’ implied team total has remained higher than I would have it.)
Wild Card Special!
Willing To Lose
Game Overview ::
- Baltimore and Tennessee combine to average 126.5 offensive plays per game on the backs of the two highest rush rates in the league (these two teams are also two of the top three teams in rush play rate when playing from behind at 52% and 44% for Baltimore and Tennessee, respectively)
- Baltimore also runs their offense at the third slowest situation-neutral pace of play, while Tennessee operates at the third fastest situation-neutral pace of play
- Ravens are first in yards per carry on offense while Titans are second
How Baltimore Will Try To Win ::
The Ravens are a bit dinged up on the defensive side of the ball, with all of cornerback Marlon Humphrey, defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback Jimmy Smith and nose tackle Brandon Williams on the injury report for various ailments. It appears likely Humphrey, Williams and Campbell will be ready to go, while Jimmy Smith appears legitimately questionable after missing the last three games with a shoulder injury. The Ravens pair a top three overall defense (second in points allowed per game) with the highest rush rate in the league and third slowest pace of play, looking to grind out victories by keeping the ball away from opponents. We shouldn’t expect anything to change here against an opponent yielding the third worst drive success rate on defense.
Mark Ingram II returned in Week 17 to leach 23% of the offensive snaps from standout rookie JK Dobbins and above average change of pace back Gus Edwards, returning this backfield to a maddening three way split. Dobbins has operated as the lead of that committee since the Ravens’ Week 7 bye, scoring seven touchdowns over the final six games of the season. Averaging only 13.5 running back opportunities per game over the last six games, he’ll need to continue scoring to provide fantasy utility. The good news is he carries the third highest touchdown equity amongst running backs on the Sunday slate (behind only Derrick Henry and Alvin Kamara), per current betting lines. The matchup on the ground yields an above average 4.455 net-adjusted line yards metric, with yards per carry against the Titans inflated by poor second level and open field yards allowed, areas that Dobbins has dominated as a rookie (second highest rate of carries for 20+ yards of running backs with more than 100 carries, behind only Nick Chubb).
The Ravens average the fewest pass attempts per game at only 25.4, five fewer per game than their opponent (Titans rank 30th at 30.3). When Lamar Jackson does throw, it is typically of the deep variety (seventh deepest average intended air yards at 8.6), with Marquise Brown (13.3 aDOT), Myles Boykin (11.2 aDOT), and Mark Andrews (10.0 aDOT) all carrying elevated average depths of target (only Willie Snead, the primary slot wide receiver, carries a below average aDOT). The Titans have ceded the sixth most average air yards at completion (distance the ball traveled through the air at time of reception), increasing the chances of the Ravens connecting on a few deep shots here.
How Tennessee Will Try To Win ::
The biggest pieces of injury news to follow out of Tennessee ahead of their Wild Card matchup with the Ravens are the statuses of guard Rodger Saffold, who has been a top five run-blocking guard over the last three years, and tackle Dennis Kelly, who has served as the team’s top pass-protector and second-best run-blocker on the season. Coincidentally, Saffold actually missed the Titans’ Week 11 game against these same Ravens. He has yet to practice after aggravating an ankle injury in Week 17 but has stated publicly that he’s “definitely playing.” Kelly has regularly sat out the first two practices of the week this season as the Titans allow him extra time to tend to an ailing knee that has plagued him over the second half of the year. The absence of either would be a sizable hit to Derrick Henry but would be arguably a bigger hit to the expected pass protection against a blitz-heavy Ravens defense. With only four games all season of more than 31 pass attempts, it is very clear how the Titans will approach this game, particularly opposite a defense in the Ravens that boasts arguably three of the top ten cornerbacks over the last three years (Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, and Marcus Peters, in no particular order).
The matchup on the ground yields a low-for-the-Titans 4.565 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Ravens defense that has allowed only 22.6 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields and the fewest rushing scores in the league (tied with Kansas City). Many will see Henry’s yardage total from the Week 11 meeting between these two teams (133 yards) and figure this matchup to be a neutral one, but realize Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams, widely regarded as the best run-stopper in the league, missed that game due to injury. Things are further complicated for The King due to the injuries to Saffold and Kelly, who are both likely to be playing through ailments if they are even active. With a season high of only three targets (happened only once, all the way back in Week 1), the yardage and touchdowns are going to be harder to come by for the league’s ultimate yardage and touchdown back. Behind Henry, expect Jeremey McNichols to perform primary mop up duties.
Through the air, the Titans face a defense forcing (forcing as opposed to allowing) the fourth highest pass play rate against at 62.44%, not because they are easier to attack through the air but because they have so handily controlled games this season. Baltimore ranks top four in yards allowed per pass attempt (5.9) and yards allowed per completion (9.3), and ranks ninth in completion rate allowed at 63.76%. The saving grace for the fantasy prospectus of the Titans’ pass game is how insanely concentrated it is, with AJ Brown and Corey Davis accounting for a combined 54% of Ryan Tannehill’s pass yards this season (2,059 of 3,819). As we alluded to earlier, the cornerback trio of Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith is rivaled by that of only the Rams, as these three have played absolutely lights out defensively this season. The total quarterback rating allowed by the Ravens is 71.6, third best in the league, and they blitz at an unreal 44.1% clip, which could spell further troubles with the two hobbled offensive linemen for the Titans. Yeah, this is not a simple task for these Titans. Baltimore’s shallow 7.9 average depth of target faced and heavy blitz rate lead to a scenario of increased ball-out-quick responsibilities for the Titans to be successful, which both AJ Brown and Corey Davis have proved more than capable of this season. It will be up the coaching staff to recognize this early in order to keep Tennessee in the game, before desperation creates long down and distance and a scoreboard deficit that will be tough to overcome.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
It is quite clear on paper that the Ravens are the superior team here, and they should have no issues moving the ball consistently against a defense ranked 30th in the league in drive success rate allowed. Assuming nose tackle Brandon Williams plays without restriction, their defense also matches up well with how the Titans are likeliest to attack (throw that completely out the window should Williams miss, as he is the key cog to their dominance against the run this year), both at the beginning of the game (heavily on the ground) and as the game progresses (through the air with emphasis on deep passing). One of the Ravens’ biggest keys to success here will be their ability to bring down Titans’ running back Derrick Henry, who leads the league in broken tackles amongst running backs with 34 (Ravens have missed the second most tackles this season).
It will be up to the Titans to adapt to the opponent and start working the short-intermediate areas of the field at a higher rate if they want to stay in this game, particularly with the injuries to their offensive line against an opponent that blitzes at the highest rate in the NFL. Expect a lower-than-average total number of offensive plays run from scrimmage with the slow pace, high rush rates, and lockdown defense of the Ravens likely controlling the game. The Titans are largely incapable of slowing down how the Ravens are likeliest to attack here, with the third worst drive success rate allowed on defense and large open field yards and second level yards allowed on defense.
XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
- Lamar Jackson is the strongest play in this game (duh).
- Henry is overpriced – much like Taylor on Saturday, I’m kind of interested in Henry in a “captain or not at all” way.
- The Titans’ skill player corps provides far more predictable volume than the Ravens’ side. Assuming the game goes as expected, with Baltimore winning, AJ Brown and Corey Davis should see significant enough volume to be relevant through PPR. Jonnu Smith and the rest of the Tennessee receivers are thinner but viable plays.
- On the Baltimore receiving side, Brown and Andrews are priced too close to the other, better Brown and Davis to be objectively good plays – they’re going to see significantly less volume – but the matchup brings plenty of ceiling to them both.
- The Baltimore backfield is likely to continue to be a headache. Some teams narrow their volume in the playoffs, but it isn’t like Dobbins has significantly outplayed Gus Edwards this year – they’ve both been highly effective. On a point-per-dollar basis Edwards is actually the stronger play at less than half the price of Dobbins.
- The “smart” way to play this Showdown is to use Lamar captain and multiple Tennessee pieces, with predictable volume, and then try to guess right on the 1 or 2 Ravens skill position players who will get lucky and put up a relevant score.
- However…if Tennessee gets out to a significant enough lead early, Baltimore can be made to look a bit ugly if they have to get too one-dimensional. The odds of this outcome are low, but we saw a couple of games this year where the Ravens offense really struggled. That relied on a good defense as well as a high-powered offense that put them in a hole early – the Titans are definitely a high-powered offense, and if a couple of early turnovers go their way, this scenario could potentially play out (and would likely be underowned by the field).
- The “best” value play in this one is clearly Anthony Firkser. Expect him to be very highly owned. You can get sneakier by playing one of the other Titans’ tight ends instead.
- I hate Ravens showdowns.
- BAL has lost both games to Vrabel & Tanny’s Titans with Lamar: 12-28 & 24-30
- This TEN defense barely resembles the Dean Pees defense that shut down Lamar in the playoffs last year, as TEN has been hemorrhaging production this year (half of TEN’s opponents have scored 30+ pts)
- QBs with 2+ TDs vs TEN: Minshew (339:3:2) // Cousins (251:3:2) // Allen (263:2:2) // Watson (335:4) // Ben (268:2:3) // Burrow (249:2) // Foles (335:2) // Rivers (295:2:1) // Mayfield (334:4) // Rodgers (231:4:1) // Watson (365:3:1)
- Six QBs have scored 24+ DK pts vs TEN and only 4 teams have allowed more QB DK pts/g
- Lamar DK pts since returning from Covid list: 26.7 // 37.9 // 30.2 // 22.3 // 25.2
- Lamar has scored 10 pass TDs & 4 rush TDs in the last five games
- Lamar rushing since LT Stanley went down: 13:58:1 // 11:55 // 13:51 // 13:94:1 // 9:124:2 // 10:35:1 // 11:97
- His only game under 10 rush att in that span is the game he left with cramps
- TEN has allowed the 4th highest success rate to WRs
- 12 of 15 WRs to clear 80+ rec yds vs TEN did so on 6+ rec
- Marquise Brown has 6+ targets in 12/16 games
- Brown reach 80 yds just four times all year
- TEN has allowed the 4th highest success rate & yds/att to TEs
- Notable TE games vs TEN: Fant (5:81:1) // JAC (7:76:1) // Rudolph (2:11:1) // Fells (6:85:1) // Ebron (6:50) // Graham (6:55:1) // Andrews (5:96:1) // Burton (3:42:1) // Brown (5:48:1)
- Mark Andrews since BAL lost Nick Boyle: 5:96:1 // 5:78 // 5:66:1 // 6:76 // 4:27
- TEN ranks a middle-of-the-pack 15th in rush eff def
- Nine backfields have rushed for 90+ yds vs TEN: 102 // 109 // 208 // 95 // 94 // 110 // 113 // 90 // 218
- Dobbins (15, 11, 13, 14, 11, 13) had led Edwards (3, 7, 7, 9, 15, 12) in carries in 5 of his last 6 starts
- BAL RB rushing in those games::
- Dobbins: 70:1 // 71:1 // 53:1 // 64:1 // 77:1 // 160:2
- Edwards: 6:0 // 101:0 // 49:2 // 42:0 // 85:0 // 60:0
- BAL’s other top scorers in Lamar’s 20+ pt games::
- Andrews (22.8) // Brown (18.1) // Snead (16.4) // Dobbins (14.2)
- Andrews (20.7) // Brown (12.6) // Ingram (10.1)
- Boyle (12.3) // Brown (9.7) // Edwards (8.6)
- Snead (23.4) // Andrews (13.1) // Edwards (8.3)
- Brown (14.9) // Dobbins (13.2) // Edwards (13.1) // Boykin (10.8)
- Edwards (18.3) // Dobbins (13.3) // Brown (13) // Andrews (12.8)
- Andrews (17.6) // Brown (15.8) // Dobbins (15.1)
- Edwards (14.2) // Dobbins (13.7) // Andrews (13.6) // Brown (12.5)
- Dobbins (31.0) // Brown (21.1) // Boykin (11.3)
- Lamar has brought a 20+ pt scorer with him in 4 of the 9 games
- The only QBs to throw for 300 yds vs BAL are Mahomes & Haskins way back in weeks 3 & 4, and Mayfield in the recent shootout
- Tannehill has between just 21-31 pass att in 12/16 games, and since Week 9 his pass att read: 21, 27, 31, 22, 45, 24, 27, 24, 27
- In the four games he went over 31, he threw for yds of 249, 321, 366, 389 as TEN’s opponent scored 14, 30, 36, 41 pts
- Tanny vs BAL in Week 11: 22/31 for 259 yds, 2 TD, INT; 4 att 35yds
- BAL has allowed the 14th lowest success rate & 2nd lowest yds/att to WRs
- TEN leading WR yds: 101 // 48 // 118 // 82 // 64 // 153 // 128 // 101 // 67 // 113 // 98 // 182 // 112 // 110 // 43 // 151
- That’s ten 100 yd games on the season
- In Brown’s 13 games since return from injury, he’s scored in 10 of them, and dropped an open bomb TD in another
- Davis has six sub-40yd games, five 100-yd games, three 60-70yd games
- Only WRs to score 20+ DK pts vs BAL in the 26 games since the Peters trade: Sanu (24.1) // Crowder (27) // Shepard (22.7) // Hill (21.2) // McLaurin (24.8) // Gallup (21.6)
- TEN receivers in two BAL matchups since last year::
- Brown: 1:9 // 4:62:1
- Davis: 1:3:1 // 5:113
- Jonnu: 2:12:1 // 4:20:1
- Henry’s rush att by week: 31 // 25 // 26 // 19 // 22 // 20 // 19 // 21 // 19 // 27 // 15 // 26 // 24 // 23 // 34 (6 games of 25+ rush att)
- Henry has 100+ rush yds in 10/16 games
- Henry in December/January since 2018: 12.5 // 50.8 // 33.2 // 16.2 // 27.6 // 26.9 // 8.6 // 42.1 // 30.4 // 29.3 // 14.1 // 6.9 // 39.2 // 28.2 // 9.8 // 39
- 10/16 games finished with 26+ DK pts, 6 with 30+
- BAL ranks 8th in rush eff def on the season
- Henry vs top-10 rush eff def this year: 20:75:1 (PIT) // 21:68 (CHI) // 28:133:1 (BAL)
- BAL was missing Brandon Williams & Calais Campbell up front in the first TEN matchup
- Top TEN score: 20.1 (CD) // 24.4 (JS) // 30 (DH) // 21.2 (AB), 21 (JS) // 43.4 (DH), 28.3 (AF) // 30.3 (AB) // 29.8 (CD) // 23.1 (AB) // 14.9 (DH) // 23.2 (DH) // 41.5 (DH) // 38.6 (CD) // 39.2 (DH), 27.2 (AB) // 28.2 (DH), 24 (CD) // 12 (JS) // 39 (DH), 34.1 (AB)
- A TEN player has scored 20+ DK pts in 14/16 games