As with most games that involve the Titans and Broncos, “Titans at Broncos” carries one of the lowest Over/Unders of the week. (In fact, this particular game carries the lowest Over/Under of the week, at only 39.0.) And unlike, for example, Washington at Miami – which has a low total in a game with bad defenses, opening opportunities for big plays to happen and for pieces from that game to become more viable than the Over/Under suggests – Broncos vs Titans combines a pair of solid defenses (Tennessee ranks 14th in DVOA and Denver ranks 16th, while only five teams have allowed fewer points per game than the Titans, and the Broncos rank top 10 in this category as well). Additionally, the identity of each offense is overwhelmingly conservative, with the Broncos ranking 21st in situation neutral pace of play and with the Titans ranking 22nd, while the Titans have the sixth lowest pass play rate in the league and the Broncos are doing what they can to reach that point as well – having thrown the ball only 52.8% of the time across their last three games (which would just nudge out Tennessee for sixth lowest in the league if it held all season). The best time to target the Broncos passing attack is when they can be expected to fall behind (and as we saw last week against the Chargers on the road, even this can fall apart if the Broncos unexpectedly jump out to a lead themselves), and the time to load up on the Tennessee passing attack is…well, frankly, never, as you are always just guessing and hoping with this inefficient, low-volume squad – but this team is likelier to post a slate winning score in a game in which they fall behind and are forced to play catch up. With a pair of defense-solid, slower paced, run heavy teams, you might be able to target a solid score in the passing game, but your chances of hitting a week winning score become slimmer.
On the ground, the Broncos run into an above-average Tennessee run defense that ranks fifth in adjusted line yards and 13th in run defense DVOA; and while this team has allowed over 4.5 yards per carry to running backs, this has been more a result of explosive plays than any major “consistency” issues for the Tennessee run defense, with Sharp Football Stats having the Titans ranked top five in rushing success rate on defense (i.e., the percentage of plays on which they allow a successful run). Obviously, touchdowns are the great NFL DFS equalizer, and it’s not impossible for Royce Freeman to outscore Phillip Lindsay with a multi-touchdown game (especially as Freeman has out-snapped Lindsay in back-to-back weeks (on the season, Lindsay has 69 carries and 17 catches; Freeman has 55 carries and 16 catches)) — but given the way this matchup sets up, we should expect the Broncos backs to run into plenty of short gains, with a couple of bigger plays mixed in. The Titans are tied with five other teams for the “most” rush plays of 40+ yards allowed (two), though those are the only rushes of even 20+ yards the Titans have allowed (with only six teams allowing fewer). This should be viewed as a “bet on talent and hope for the best” spot rather than a spot you can bankably isolate for a big individual game.
Flipping over to the other side of the matchup, we have a spot that the field is likely to view as high-quality for Derrick Henry after what Leonard Fournette did to the Broncos a couple weeks ago, though as noted in this week’s Angles email: Vic Fangio made several changes on the Broncos defense this last week to the starters, the alignments, and the positions being played by key players, in order to shore up what had been one of the more attackable run defense units to date. These changes yielded big results last week, with the Broncos holding Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to only 38 yards on 15 carries; and while this came against a Chargers line that ranks 16th in adjusted line yards this year, Tennessee is behind them at 21st. With a smart defense and smart coaches on the sidelines, the Broncos will be looking to take away Henry and force Marcus Mariota to beat them — leaving Henry as a guy who will need big plays or a touchdown in order to come through for DFS rosters this week.
JM’s Interpretation ::
In tournaments this week — especially given how thin this slate is as a whole — I’m not completely ready to strike the Broncos pass-catching duo of Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton off my list, as these two have dominated snaps and targets for this team, with 43.5% of passes from Joe Flacco going to these two players, and with 56.3% of passing yards flowing to these two players as well. While the Broncos are unlikely to be “forced into a pass-heavy game plan,” they should run into enough issues on the ground in this spot that they throw the ball quite a bit more than the 20 pass attempts they were able to get away with last week with a big, early lead against a Chargers team that was unable to stop them on the ground. Tennessee does take away downfield passing and force teams to work underneath (limiting the potential for explosive plays), but at their prices (10% or less of the salary cap on all three sites), Sutton and Sanders have combined for six “smash” games from a point-per-dollar sense, with three coming from Sanders, three coming from Sutton, and only one game (vs the Packers) in which neither guy produced. I don’t love these guys this week, and this is more a product of the slate than of the matchup itself, but both are viable in tourneys.
Outside of those two, I’ll likely be looking to avoid this game myself. The running backs could produce, but the Broncos backs are not in a great spot and Henry has fewer paths to a monster game than most will likely realize; while the Titans passing attack has a tough matchup against a Broncos defense that is top 10 in passing success rate and top six in preventing explosive pass plays this year.