XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
Another week, another London game. The NFL sure is trying to get (real) football over to Europe. They might be more successful if they made some more exciting matchups, but then again, I suppose Europeans are used to watching a sport that goes for hours with nobody scoring. Anyhow, this game has a 42 point total with Baltimore favored by four.
We’ll start with the Titans. After having an absolute stranglehold on the Titans rushing work for years, Derrick Henry is . . . fading a bit? He’s played just under 60% of the snaps so far this season with a high of 71% in Week 2. Backup Tyjae Spears has played about 50% of the snaps (just 19 fewer than Henry through five games). Henry can still pile up the kind of workloads we’re used to seeing from him in close games, as he has games with opportunity counts of 29 and 23, but also games of 18, 11, and 16. Spears’ emergence hasn’t taken away Henry’s ceiling but it’s added more volatility to his role as he has seen four-plus targets in five of five games and is averaging about five carries per game as well. We’ve also seen Henry struggle with efficiency so far this year, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry against Spears’ 5.8 (albeit in a much smaller sample). Then again, it isn’t November yet, and for whatever reason Henry has always been something of a slow starter. I think the takeaway is that Spears has a real role in this offense and that Henry’s role can still be big, depending on the game, but he’s no longer the near-lock for 20+ opportunities that we’ve been used to from past seasons. The matchup here is not great against a Ravens team that has only allowed over 100 rushing yards to one opponent so far with an average of 91 opposing rushing yards per game, but they also haven’t faced many highly effective rushing attacks yet (Houston, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh are not what you would call high-caliber run games). As I see it, Henry’s role is more volatile than normal but he’s also $10,000, which is about as cheap as we ever see him in Showdown. He’s a fine, high-ceiling tournament option but with a shakier than normal floor. Spears has a real role here, but at $7,400, he’s overpriced for an RB2 workload, and it’s hard to see him getting the kind of volume he needs to smash unless something happens to Henry. So absent that, he’s almost certainly going to need a touchdown in order to pay off.
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The Titans passing game is a tough one to figure out because it hasn’t generated many good fantasy scores at all, and the Ravens defense is legit, allowing just 175 passing yards per game so far. DeAndre Hopkins is the primary receiver and he has a healthy 42 targets in five games despite this being a relatively low passing volume offense. It’s also worth noting that after years of thinking of Hopkins as a short-area receiver who needs massive volume in order to find upside, the Titans seem to be using him differently than we’ve seen in the past. Hopkins has 558 air yards so far, good for seventh in the NFL, with an aDOT of 13.3 yards (24th) and nine deep targets (sixth). The Titans aren’t just using him around the line of scrimmage, which unlocks more upside. The downside for Hopkins is the tough matchup, and well, being a Titan. At $9,400, he’s somewhat overpriced for his most likely outcome, but his new role does unlock a ceiling that we’ve rarely seen from him in the last couple of seasons. Behind Hopkins are Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (who I’m just going to call NWI for short), Chris Moore, and then Kyle Philips should rotate in a bit. NWI looks like a glaring value here – he actually leads all Titans pass catchers in snaps played on the season and while his raw point ceiling is not enormous, he’s only $2,600 and he’s put up scores that would likely be optimal at that salary in three of five games so far this year. He’s not a target hog, but he’s a reasonably capable NFL receiver and he’s second on the team in red zone targets with four (Hopkins is first with six). He’ll be popular, but he’s still a very strong option who is just mispriced for his role. At minimum salary, Moore also looks mispriced for someone who should play at least 50% of the snaps – he’s their primary deep threat guy and he only has four catches on the year but they have gone for 8, 33, 44, and 49 yards. At $200, he belongs in tournament player pools but just know his floor is zero (but his ceiling is probably something like 12-15 points if he gets one long catch and it happens to be a touchdown).
At tight end, we have one of last year’s punt TE darlings in Chig Okonkwo, backed up by Trevon Wesco and Josh Whyle. Okonkwo has so far failed to build off of his promising 2022 campaign and while he did see a very robust nine targets last week (in a very good matchup), he only turned that into a 5/33/0 line. He’s talented and will almost certainly have some good games this year, but there’s nothing to indicate that this matchup is likely to be his breakout. I’ll have him in my player pool but will probably just try to match the field in exposure and move on. Wesco is a blocker who has run just six pass routes on the year so far, and Whyle is a TE2 type who should have at least some receiving role and can be used as a touchdown-or-bust tourney play.