Washington at Buffalo :: the lowest Over/Under on the slate. (Lowest of the season?) Let’s dive in and see if there is anything to like.
What the Washington defense is good at ::
- Red zone touchdown prevention — 8th best
- Turnovers forced — 11 turnovers forced ranks 13th; WAS has the fifth most interceptions
- Forcing short throws — shallowest opponent aDOT in the NFL
What the Washington defense is bad at ::
- Preventing catches on short throws — largest catch rate boost in the league
- Preventing yards — seventh most yards allowed per game
- Getting the opponent off the field — near the bottom of the league in both opponent plays per drive and time of possession per drive
- Stopping the run — 4.19 yards allowed per carry, and the fourth most running back rushing yards allowed in the league
That’s an interesting list to examine in conjunction with the Bills offense, as we typically want to target the Bills for their downfield passing and aggressive quarterback play while avoiding their timeshare running back situation (in which the guy seeing the bulk of the work is the guy with the least upside). In addition to the Bills aiming to be the most adaptable and opponent-specific offense in the league (and therefore likely to lean run-heavy in this matchup that tilts toward the run — with the Bills offensive line ranked first in adjusted line yards and the Washington defense ranked 29th), we also have concerns when Josh Allen does pass about the way his talents mesh with this matchup. While Allen has shown improved accuracy this season, we would still prefer him in a matchup that doesn’t require him to be a precise short-area thrower against a defense that is good at hunting down interceptions. John Brown is one of only two wide receivers in the NFL (Michael Thomas is the other) to have gone for 50+ yards in every game this season and is involved enough to hit in spots that “don’t line up perfectly,” but this is a spot in which another “solid but unspectacular” game is the likeliest scenario, while Cole Beasley should produce another typically-solid game of his own while requiring a touchdown (or a majorly broken play) for any real upside.
On the ground, the Bills have given touch counts to Frank Gore in games shared with Devin Singletary of 11 // 21 // 12 // 9, while Singletary has seen touch counts of 9 // 6 // 7 // 7. Washington is dead last in time of possession and could realistically yield opportunities for four or five extra touches to be given to one of these two — though we made the same case against Miami (second-to-last in time of possession) a couple weeks ago, and the Bills proved that there are no foregone conclusions when it comes to this offense.
The Bills are a much more stable unit on defense, of course, where they are shaving over 13% off the league-average aDOT, 7% off the league-average catch rate, and 5% off YAC/r, while allowing the third fewest passing yards and the second fewest passing touchdowns in the league. No wide receiver has topped 100 yards against them. The Steelers are the only other team in the league that can say that (though…there are at least a couple others who can say, “If we hadn’t run into the Bucs, we would not yet have allowed a 100-yard receiver…). Oh — and the Steelers allowed Hunter Henry to go for 100, so the Bills stand alone in not having given up 100 yards to a pass catcher this year. In other words: it’s the Washington Redskins against this defense. Pass catchers — even McLaurin the Magnificent — are merely dart throws. This statement doubles if Dwayne Haskins is under center. We have seen stranger things in 100 years of NFL football than a raw player like Haskins lighting up a matchup like this…but we haven’t seen many stranger things. Maybe the helmet catch. I don’t know. In any case: play Washington pass catchers with your eyes closed and a prayer in place.
The backfield is a bit more interesting for Washington, as Adrian Peterson has 25 // 20 // 16 touches in three games with Bill Callahan as the head coach and should remain the focal point for as long as this game remains close. Vegas has the Bills installed as 9.5 point favorites, but that doesn’t mean the game is necessarily going to be out of hand, and we know Washington will continue running in a 10-point game deep into the fourth quarter. Volume will be there for Peterson unless the Bills jump out to a big, early lead.
JM’s Interpretation ::
This game doesn’t offer much that I want to go out of my way to target (there is a reason, after all, that it carries the lowest Over/Under on the slate), but there should be some solid scores that emerge from here, if you want to chase — with John Brown the likeliest bet for “a solid game,” and with the Buffalo backfield also in that conversation. But the bigger draw for me in this game is the “ugly value” available — plays that either A) provide pretty solid floor (Beasley) but very little opportunity for slate-breaking ceiling, or B) provide some sneaky ceiling (Peterson) but with very little floor (he’s averaging 3.9 yards per carry; his team likely won’t score many points; and he’s extremely one-dimensional in his production). These guys can open things up in other spots on your roster — though anything big from such plays should be considered a bonus.
We don’t usually isolate DST plays until later in the week, but both defenses stand out in this game. I don’t typically roster the Bills defense, as they are a talented squad, but with a mediocre pass rush and a bend-but-don’t-break mentality that rarely yields big DST scores. But if Haskins starts, everything we’ve seen from him so far points to a mistake-heavy game. As for Washington: they’re just simply so cheap across all sites (especially FanDuel and DraftKings), and they’re a slightly below-average defense with an ability to create turnovers, a mismatch in pass rush (17th in adjusted sack rate) vs opponent (27th), and a matchup against an overly-aggressive, mistake-prone quarterback. If Haskins starts, it elevates the chances of the Bills’ defense becoming a smash play and lowers the setup for WAS D (as there will likely be more opportunities for the Bills to work with a short field). But if Case Keenum makes it back on the field in time, there are really no defenses on this slate with clear smash potential, and the four to seven points you can almost certainly scoop up from Washington would make them valuable for the salary they would open up in other spots.
:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!