XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
We got two Monday night games this week, which means two Showdowns! The first of these has the Saints visiting the Panthers for a 39.5 total game with New Orleans favored by three. So, a pretty miserable offensive environment in this one, or at least that’s what Vegas expects . . . and it’s kind of hard to argue.
The New Orleans backfield starts with Jamaal Williams, but unlike in Week 1, it may not end there as rookie Kendre Miller is trending toward being active. If Miller misses, Williams should handle a bell cow role as he did in Week 1 (75% of the snaps and 20 RB opportunities compared to 17% and 11% for backups Adam Prentice and Tony Jones). This is simple: if no Miller, Williams has a big role (but little explosive ability and a modest receiving role), while Jones and Prentice are MME dart throws. Williams should find this matchup easier than last week’s against the Titans and their stifling run defense, but he’s still a plodding, grinder-type back who might see 1-3 targets and will almost certainly need a touchdown to pay off. At $8k, though, he isn’t priced for a bell cow role and would represent a solid on-paper option. If Miller is active, we have a confusing and volatile situation to try and make sense of. My guess is Williams still starts but his role is more like 60-65% with Miller scooping up the rest, which means at $3k (and likely pretty low ownership, especially if we don’t get news until inactives are released), Miller is an interesting tournament option. Taysom Hill will also steal a few carries but at $4,800 his workload isn’t likely to justify his price unless he scores a touchdown (which, as we know, he has an annoying tendency to do quite often). View him as a TD-or-bust tourney option.
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In the passing game, Michael Thomas somewhat surprisingly led all pass catchers in snaps with 80% but only landed on a 5/61/0 line on eight targets despite facing an incredible pass funnel matchup. At $8,400, he’s overpriced in a tougher matchup and can be viewed as a “pay up to be contrarian” play. The real alpha on the Saints is now Chris Olave, who caught 8 of 10 targets last week for 112 yards. Olave’s the premier skill position play in this game, and as is often the case in Showdowns with one premium play, I don’t have much to say about him – he’s the best play on the slate, you can choose to embrace that or take the high-risk option and avoid him at likely enormous ownership. Pick your poison. Rashid Shaheed found the end zone last week and saw a healthy six targets while operating as the primary deep threat (he even got a couple of carries!). Shaheed is sort of like Christian Watson last year – volatile, high upside, good touchdown equity. He’s not going to see a ton of volume so he’ll need to hit on something like 4-6 targets, but with his role and his speed, he’s capable of doing so. Keith Kirkwood should rotate in a bit and can be a thin punt option. At tight end, we’ll see a plethora of guys with Juwan Johnson, Foster Moreau, and Jimmy Graham all seeing snaps last week (plus Hill sometimes lines up at TE). All of them are capable pass catchers, no pure blocking tight ends here. Johnson is clearly the best option as we know he’ll be involved in the passing game, and he had a solid red zone role last year but the return of MT might sap some of that given his short-area role – something the Saints lacked in 2022. Moreau and Graham are punt options, and of the three pass-catcher punts the Saints will roll out, I would rank them Moreau, then Kirkwood, then Graham. Worth noting here is the Panthers defense looks reasonably solid on paper though we didn’t get a chance to see it last week because the Falcons just run, run, run . . . but I expect this will be an above average unit against opposing passing attacks, creating a strength-on-strength matchup (the Panthers are better against the pass than the run, but the Saints run game looks pretty poor until Kamara returns, unless Miller is active and is able to inject some explosiveness).