SAINTS // PANTHERS OVERVIEW
Same as the game on Sunday night: this matchup looked a lot more appealing a few weeks back, but with the Panthers losing five straight games to drop from 6-2 to 6-7, this matchup suddenly has the surface appearance of a dud. Lending some hope to this game is the fact that the Panthers are still very much alive in the NFC playoff hunt at this point, while the Saints’ explosive offense is always far less predictable on the road. Lending DFS hope in this game is the matchup between two offenses with explosive weapons in what should turn into a fun affair. This game opened with an aggressive Over/Under of 54.0 before being bet down to 51.5, with the Saints currently favored by six.
SAINTS RUN OFFENSE
With FOMO ownership on Alvin Kamara continuing to make him a popular play, he has still not seen his price adjusted down for his recent usage. Since Ingram returned to the field, here are the updated snap totals for this duo:
Kamara — 31 // 39 // 38 // 41 // 34 // 44 // 37 // 36 // 41
Ingram — 36 // 35 // 23 // 34 // 31 // 30 // 27 // 21 // 29
Kamara has 117 carries and 43 targets in this stretch. Ingram has 110 carries and 21 targets.
Kamara is best viewed as “an explosive player who sees 10 to 14 carries and four or five catches each week” — giving him a low price-considered floor to go with his talent-driven upside. Kamara’s involvement is guaranteed each week, so he certainly has opportunities to hit for big plays. He’s a hope-for-multiple-touchdowns option at his price this week.
Ingram is best viewed as “a solid runner who sees 10 to 14 carries and a couple catches each week” — giving him a low floor to go with his touchdown-dependent ceiling.
Neither guy has a good matchup against a Panthers defense that ranks eighth in DVOA against the run, with only five teams allowing fewer rushing yards to running backs on the season. The Panthers have also stamped out receiving production from running backs, with the third fewest yards allowed through the air.
SAINTS PASS OFFENSE
The Panthers have been far more attackable through the air this year, allowing an increase on the league-average aDOT of 7.4%, and allowing an increase on the league-average catch rate of 4.1%. The Panthers have done a good job taking away running backs in the pass game, facing the fourth fewest targets to the position, while only 10 teams have faced more targets to wide receivers. The Panthers have allowed the 10th most receptions and the seventh most yards to the wide receiver position.
Of course, this Saints passing attack flows almost entirely through Michael Thomas, who has also held onto a higher price tag than his production has warranted. Across the nine games that Thomas has played with Ingram, he has literally posted only two DFS scores that have justified his price. In exactly half of his last 10 games, Thomas has posted a score that would wreck your roster at his price. It seems that seven days is always long enough for people to forget what Thomas has done to them, so expect his ownership to remain high on the Showdown. From a raw projection standpoint, Thomas is, of course, one of the better plays on the slate — with a primary role in an offense that should be able to scrape together four or five touchdowns, in a matchup he can win. From a price-considered standpoint, you’ll need Thomas to pop off for more yardage upside than he has shown lately (only one game in his last 10 over 100 yards), or you’ll need him to piece together one of his multi-touchdown games. If you want to go here, it should be noted that Thomas’ chances of a price-considered dud are lower in this spot against a defense that generally filters targets toward wide receivers.
This passing attack has been a mess to target behind Thomas // Kamara // Ingram, with Keith Kirkwood piling up a 4-56-2 line across the last three weeks, Tre’Quan Smith train-wrecking to a 0-0-0 line across the last two weeks, Austin Carr going 1-12-1 across the last three weeks, and Tommylee Lewis going 2-48-1 across the last three weeks.
The tight end rotation on this team has not been any more predictable, with Dan Arnold, Ben Watson, and Josh Hill all seeing time on the field and all running pass routes, with none of these three being featured as predictable or primary weapons.
PANTHERS RUN OFFENSE
The engine of this Panthers offense has been Christian McCaffrey, who has recent touch counts of 19 // 28 // 19 // 22, with incredible recent reception totals of 6 // 11 // 9 // 6. As explored the last few weeks: CMC’s red zone role saw a sudden jump in Week 9 — and in his seven games since Week 8 (after scoring one touchdown through the Panthers’ first seven games), CMC has piled up an unbelievable 12 touchdowns.
While the workload works in favor of McCaffrey, the matchup works against him, as the Saints rank third in DVOA against the run and have allowed the third fewest yards per carry in the league. No team has allowed fewer rushing yards to running backs than the unbelievable 53.0 per game that New Orleans has allowed. When the Saints squared off against a similar-usage back in Todd Gurley, they allowed him to go for only 68 yards on the ground, while holding him to an incredibly low 11 yards receiving on six catches. None of this makes it impossible for CMC to hit in this spot — but all of this lowers the floor, and lowers the chances of a big game from the Panthers’ star back.
PANTHERS PASS OFFENSE
New Orleans has improved against the pass this year, but not as much as last week’s Chris Godwin game makes it seem, as this team still allowed 86 yards last week on only four catches (six targets) to Mike Evans, one week after allowing an 8-76-0 line (on eight targets) to Amari Cooper, and two weeks after allowing an 11-147-0 line (on 14 targets) to Julio Jones.
While no wide receiver has quite the talent or skill set of Julio, his usage in the Falcons’ offense most closely mirrors the way the Panthers have been using D.J. Moore over the last four weeks, with plays designed to get him moving across the field in space, in the hopes that he can use his after-catch ability to extend short and intermediate receptions into big gains. Moore has seen at least eight targets in each of his last four games, and while his aDOT of 8.4 is barely half of the 14.3 yard aDOT that Julio boasts, Moore’s xYAC/R is a full 1.1 yards higher than Julio’s, tightening up the gap a bit. If another eight to nine looks come his way in this spot, something like a 6-70-0 line is a safe median projection, with room for a big YAC day or a touchdown to give him useful upside on this slate.
Curtis Samuel has also been heavily involved lately, with target counts of 7 // 2 // 11 // 8 across his last four games. Because Samuel never saw the ownership spike that greeted Moore a few weeks ago, his price (and the public perception of him) has remained somewhat low, but he has become an integral piece of this attack at the moment — playing more snaps and running more pass routes last week than even Moore. Samuel’s aDOT of 12.3 gives him more upside on a per-catch basis than Moore, while his 65.9% catch rate on the year is not far off Moore’s mark of 73.4%.
Devin Funchess has become a part-time player lately, playing only 29 snaps last week, and seeing only six targets across the last two weeks combined. Torrey Smith has disappeared from this offense, while Jarius Wright runs low-upside routes designed to move the chances. He would need a broken play in order to matter.
This young, developing-on-the-fly passing attack wraps up with Ian Thomas, who has seen far more work this time around (16 targets across his last two games) than he did early in the year when filling in for Greg Olsen (16 total targets through the first four games of the year). Thomas continues to provide precious little upside on his looks — at only 8.4 yards per catch — and he enters a matchup this week against a Saints defense that has allowed the third fewest receptions and the fewest yards to the position. He would need a broken play or a touchdown to become worthwhile this week.
Across the last couple months, one of the biggest edges available in DFS has been to let 20% to 25% of the field spend a big chunk of salary on the Saints, and to move ahead of this chunk of the field on the large number of weeks in which the primary pieces on this team have disappointed for the price. But with this game off the Main Slate and providing us with the Saints as one of only two teams to choose from, you’ll have no option but to consider some of the pieces on this run-heavy, spread-the-wealth attack. Kamara // Ingram // Thomas have been absolutely guaranteed their touches and involvement in this offense, with the big issue being price-considered floor on Kamara and Thomas and raw floor on Ingram. All three are obviously among the top raw-projected options on the Showdown, but you’ll have to ignore the price-considered floor concerns if taking shots here. Behind these three, it’s a hodgepodge of limited-usage guys with only thin paths to raw upside. The player likeliest to provide actual value is Dan Arnold — but you could obviously make a case for betting on an outlier blowup (like the one we saw from Tre’Quan Smith a few weeks back). Tre’Quan is the best bet for another game like that, as he is the only player beyond Thomas and Kamara who is regularly playing even half of this team’s offensive snaps.
Of course, another way to get your exposure to this offense is through Drew Brees. While this has remained a run-heavy offense, Brees’ touchdown upside gives him an opportunity for top-of-the-slate production, while his price-considered floor has been far higher than what Kamara, Thomas, or Ingram has offered.
Cam Newton is also in play (shoulder injury and all), as the Panthers will have a tough time running here and will likely lean heavily on passes from Cam to his YAC-strong options (CMC // Moore // Samuel). This will give him an opportunity to pile up low-effort yardage, on short and intermediate throws that are turned into solid after-catch gains. The Saints are a strong-tackling secondary, but the opportunity for yardage and touchdown upside will be there.
McCaffrey is a bet-on-usage option in this difficult matchup. As with the high-priced players on the other side of this game: his floor is low this week for his price, and his chances of reaching his ceiling are far lower than normal as well; but there will certainly be opportunities for him to pick up yards and touchdowns, keeping him in the conversation on the Showdown.
Moore and Samuel are both interesting on the Showdown, as they should remain heavily involved this week against a Saints team that filters targets to wide receivers. Only five teams in the NFL have faced more wide receiver targets this season than the Saints, and no team has allowed more wide receiver yards. From a point-per-dollar standpoint, these two carry the highest projection on the slate.
As always, you can try to get creative betting on potential outlier game flows or multi-touchdown games on the Showdown, but this should give you a good starting point on how “likeliest scenarios” will shape the likeliest outcomes on this slate.