Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
We get a fairly exciting London game this week between the Texans and the Jaguars. The game projects to be close at a 46.5 Over/Under with the Texans as 1.0 point favorites, which unlike many Showdowns we’ve seen lately means we should get a pretty exciting match instead of a one-sided beatdown.
Both of these teams lean run heavy (22nd and 24th in pass play percentage), but Houston’s run-game matchup is good against a vulnerable Jacksonville D while the Texans’ run D is stout. This is, of course, offset by the run offense for the Texans being a mishmash of Carlos Hyde and a criminally underutilized Duke Johnson, while the Jaguars have a legit bellcow in Leonard Fournette who is seeing CMC-level snap and touch counts.
The Jaguars offense begins with Fournette. He plays almost every snap and sees almost every running back touch. He’s one of the highest scoring backs in the league so far and that’s with only scoring one touchdown on the entire season. When touchdown regression comes his way, he’s going to put up some monstrous games. He’s heavily involved in the passing game, averaging 5.6 targets per game. He has big play ability, with runs of 40+ yards in four of eight games. But….when he doesn’t get those big individual runs, he can struggle (Week 8 he had 17 carries for 76 yards with a long run of 66 yards; Week 5 he had 23 carries for 108 yards with a long run of 48 yards; Week 3 he had 15 carries for 66 yards with a long run of 69 yards….yeah, that one isn’t a typo; his other 14 carries resulted in negative three yards). Fournette doesn’t have that consistent, every play success that backs like CMC and Dalvin Cook have shown; he’s awfully reliant on hitting a big play or two, and in this matchup against a Texans run D that is 5th in DVOA against the run and much more vulnerable against the pass (and just lost its best pass rusher), I see more risk than reward. That said, monstrous volume roles always come with solid floors and big ceilings, and I won’t really argue with anyone who wants to side with volume over matchup.
The Jaguars’ pass game is where things get really interesting to me. First, J.J. Watt is out. Watt has six of Houston’s 17 sacks and a whopping 16 of its 24 QB hits. Suffice it to say that the Houston pass rush is significantly diminished without him, and Gardner Minshew should have plenty of time to throw here. It seems likely that Dede Westbrook will return to action for this game, which means we get our normal Jags trio of Westbrook, D.J. Chark, and Chris Conley, with Keelan Cole fighting for scraps. Baby Chark (doo doo) has led the Minshew-era Jags in targets and is somewhat quietly on pace for a massive breakout season. He’s doing it on modest volume of 7.6 targets per game, which lowers his floor, but Chark has one of the highest ceilings in this game and a tremendous matchup. Opposite him on the perimeter, Chris Conley has had some big boom games, but he’s doing it on very modest target volume and massive yards per catch — he has ceiling, but an atrocious floor. Dede Westbrook is the guy I’ve wanted to smash all season long, and should be smashing given how good of a route runner he is, but he just doesn’t seem to see the volume (or sees it too close to the line of scrimmage to do much with it). I like Dede, and I do want to note that in the three games prior to an early exit in Week 8 he saw 28 targets and saw his yards per catch climb well over 10 after hovering around six for the first three games of the year. Dede should go less owned than Chark here, and while I love Chark, I think Dede brings almost as much ceiling at what will likely be significantly less ownership. Should Westbrook miss the game unexpectedly, Keelan Cole would be the primary beneficiary, even though his increased snap count in Week 8 only led to a total of two targets. The Jags don’t really use their tight ends in the pass game, so you’re on your own if you want to chase plays like Seth DeValve or Josh Oliver; they’re MME dart throws who need touchdowns to be worthwhile.
On the Texans’ side, we have a team that wants to run against a defense that can be run on. The problem is that Carlos Hyde is being used as a one-dimensional back with just 10 targets on the year (and, curiously, five of them coming in a single game). Hyde is averaging a pedestrian 4.2 yards per carry, but Houston is willing to give him the ball 20+ times in games in which they’re winning, which gives him ceiling on top of a shaky floor. Poor Duke Johnson must have thought he was moving to a team that would finally utilize him when the Browns traded him to the Texans, but he’s only seen 8 touches per game, and just over three targets per game for the supposed “passing down back” despite being a far superior runner and pass catcher to Hyde. Poor Duke.
The Texans’ pass game, of course, begins with DeAndre Hopkins. Nuk isn’t seeing the downfield usage that we’ve seen from him in past years, with an aDOT of just 7.6, but he’s still averaging 10 targets per game and still has multi-touchdown upside. He’s a safe play who is overpriced for his median outcome but has a strong floor and ceiling. Kenny Stills played just about every snap last week with Will Fuller out, and while that only resulted in five targets, it could easily be more this week and his big play ability means he can hit on just one catch. He’s also fairly pricey at $7,400 when you have Chark and Westbrook in that range, but he’s a ceiling option. Keke Coutee didn’t even play last week, strangely enough, despite being a clearly better player than DeAndre Carter, so who even knows what’s going through the coaches’ heads on that one. If you think Coutee takes his role back, he’s awfully cheap at $3,600. If you think Carter keeps the slot receiver role, he’s even cheaper at $800, but despite playing 57% of the snaps he only walked away with three targets (and this is a game in which Deshaun Watson threw 39 times). The Texans have actually been getting their tight ends more involved lately, running more 12 personnel sets, which resulted in Darren Fells playing 90% of the snaps and Jordan Akins playing 52%. The two tight ends saw six and five targets, respectively, though Fells has seven red zone catches to just one for Akins. Fells is the stronger overall play, though he is also about three times more expensive. I will go so far as to say that Akins is my favorite play who is priced below the kickers.
The way this game is most likely to play out is for both teams to start slowly, leaning on the run game as they both prefer to do. Houston is more likely to be successful here, which should eventually force the Jags to open up their pass game a bit more. The Texans are favorites but this game is basically a tossup, so either team could win, and you could approach your roster-building from multiple ways.
Some other ways the game could play out:
- One team could get out to an early lead and thus be able to rely more on their run game while the other team takes to the air in an attempt to catch up. This could play out both ways, so take your pick, but based on the pieces, the pricing, and the likeliest scenarios, I prefer betting on the Texans to take the lead and the Jags to play catch-up.
- I always like betting on onslaught outcomes in Showdowns. It’s hard to imagine it happening in this game, really, but weird things happen in the NFL and onslaughts go underowned (I feel like I haven’t had to write this up very often given how frequently we’ve seen one-sided Showdowns, but the time to find low-ownership onslaught options is on games like this).
- While both teams lean run heavy, we never know where the scoring comes from, and it’s entirely possible to think that the scoring is all via the air.
My favorite captain in this one is D.J. Chark. I love his combination of price and upside. Westbrook, Hopkins, and Hyde are some others who look attractive to me, but frankly this is a pretty open slate with a lot of viable captain options. You’ll want to choose your captain exposures based on the game scenarios for which you’re building.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- Pair captain QBs with at least 1 receiver (Watson) or 2 receivers (Minshew)
- At most 1 of Coutee and Carter, and, at most 2 of these two and the Texans’ tight ends
- If you’re feeling bold, at least 1 of Chark, Conley, and Westbrook. Other than a dud game against the Saints, Minshew has thrown for at least 1 touchdown in every game, and 2 or more touchdowns in 5 of 7. With the target tree so concentrated, it’s highly likely that at least one of these guys will smash, and in fact at least 1 of them has been right around or above 20 points in 6 of 8 games so far.
— Xandamere’s Advanced Showdown Course is now available through OWS :: Marketplace! This is his tournament course for Showdowns; and given the tangible edge in this contest type, it should pay itself off pretty quickly(!).
JM’s Notes for Thursday-to-Monday Players ::
- Both of these are run-leaning offenses. The matchup sets up well for the Texans to attack on the ground (Jacksonville ranks 7th in DVOA against the pass // 25th against the run) and for the Jags to lean toward the air (Houston DVOA :: 5th vs run // 23rd vs pass)
- Because we prefer the Jags for their rushing attack and the Texans for their passing attack, this isn’t a priority game on the big, 14-game slate
- If chasing on the Texans’ side, this is a good spot for DeAndre Hopkins to push for double-digit targets again, with most of these targets coming on shorter-area throws. His double-digit touchdown upside would be the main reason to chase him for ceiling in tourneys; other pass game pieces on this side are more shots-in-the-dark on the big slate
- D.J. Chark has not been consistent enough in this Minshew-led offense to be considered a floor play, but he’s dripping with upside in this spot against the struggling and banged-up Texans secondary. The absence of J.J. Watt in this game will also make things easier on the Jags’ passing attack as a whole. While Chark is not a staple piece, he is a strong Tier 3 option for his upside in tourneys. Chris Conley also maintains a deep-shot role that makes him Tier-3-playable.
- Fournette draws a tough matchup, but is a potential “play the role” option if you want to roll the dice; on a slate as large as this, everything else gets thin beyond the plays mentioned above, unless building for a shootout. In that scenario: Chark or Conley (or even Fournette, who has breakaway ability) score a couple early touchdowns to push the pace in this game, and the Texans respond by going pass-heavy with Stills or Hopkins beating a tough matchup (and one of the quarterbacks in this game being carried up toward the top of the slate along the way). This isn’t a crazy scenario, but it’s best saved for large-field play, as there are much likelier scenarios than this.