The Titans have been one of the more unexciting, nondescript teams in the league this year, ranking bottom half of the league in pass offense, run offense, and pass defense, while picking up the sixth fewest yards per game, scoring the seventh fewest points per game, allowing the ninth fewest yards per game, and allowing the fourth fewest points per game. This coaching staff knows they cannot win a track meet, so they play at the fourth slowest pace in the league and run the ball at the 10th highest rate (a rate that would be higher if they controlled more of their games than they do).
On defense, the Titans are pretty solidly “average to slightly above-average” in all areas on a per-play basis — but they are solid enough on third downs (allowing the sixth lowest conversion rate in the league, and holding opponents to the fifth lowest drive success rate as a result) that it has been difficult this year for big DFS scores to pile up against them. Only three players have topped 100 yards receiving against them — with one of those games belonging to Austin Hooper, another belonging to Austin Ekeler, and the third belonging to “this team ran into the Bucs” with Mike Evans. D.J. Chark (4-76-1), Mohamed Sanu (9-96-1), and Hunter Henry (6-97-0) have supplied the only other notable lines against the Titans — and given that the Panthers rank 23rd in DVOA through the air and 25th in yards per pass attempt and D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel have each failed to top even 91 receiving yards in a game this year, the Panthers’ passing attack is fairly thin in this spot. Working in Moore’s favor is “role certainty,” as he has target counts in his last four games with Kyle Allen of 5 // 8 // 10 // 9, with his shorter-area role allowing him to haul in 65.6% of his targets in this stretch. If he breaks off a long YAC play or scores a touchdown, he could prove worthwhile at his price. Working in Samuel’s favor is the eighth deepest average depth of target in the NFL and the sixth largest percentage share of team air yards. Samuel and Allen have connected on only 46.7% of their passes across their last four games, leaving Floor a thin proposition; but Samuel is seeing enough consistent downfield work that he will eventually strike for another big game or two this year.
The best matchup belongs to Greg Olsen, who has seen target counts of 7 // 7 with Kyle Allen in his two tight end friendly matchups (Arizona and Tampa), while seeing target counts of 4 // 2 // 2 in his less-attractive matchups. Tennessee is not in the same bottom-class as the Bucs and Cardinals (who have been the two worst tight end defenses this year), but they have been easier to attack with tight ends than with wide receivers, making Olsen a viable (low floor with ceiling) salary saver on DraftKings and FantasyDraft.
Tennessee’s greatest strength on defense is against the run (second in DVOA; 12th in yards allowed per carry), but this will be put to the test against All World running back Christian McCaffrey, who has recent touch counts of 27 // 37 // 25 // 26 // 18, and who has been one of the most consistently dominant players in football regardless of matchup. Tennessee is disciplined enough to not get sucked in by all the movement and misdirection the Panthers play with, but there will still be opportunities for big plays and touchdowns from the Panthers’ back. With scoring expectations low in this game against a defense that doesn’t allow opponents to put up many points, CMC is less likely to go for 35+ DraftKings/FantasyDraft points than he is in other spots (which is about the score you need for him to really be worth a spot on your roster) — and even on FanDuel (where all superstars are just priced too low compared to the rest of available players), he takes a backseat to Cook on paper this week. But it will also be surprising if CMC “fails,” and the upside is always there — making him a worthwhile “fit him alongside Cook” play if you find you can easily make it work, or making him a tourney pivot if you want to go that direction.
On the Titans’ side, we have an offense that typically gets crossed off our list pretty quickly unless the matchup introduces some sort of major spark (and even then, there is risk involved: see their matchup against the Bucs last week), with this offense generally unable to notch many points, and leaning on a one-dimensional back as their engine to get there.
The matchup sets up best for Derrick Henry this week, as the Panthers rank third in DVOA against the pass and 32nd against the run. Carolina has been repeatedly run over by enemy attacks (allowing 4.91 yards per carry to running backs), though here’s a look at what Henry has provided so far this year (courtesy of Sharp Football Stats) ::
The Tennessee line ranks 24th in adjusted line yards, and Henry has cracked 100 yards only once (hitting exactly 100 yards, on 27 carries), with an average of one reception per game to make him an extremely one-dimensional player. The Panthers have allowed the second most rush plays of 20+ yards and the most rush plays of 40+ yards, which is the best bet for Henry to hit for some upside.
The Titans passing attack, meanwhile (20th in DVOA; 28th in yards per pass attempt; only three games this year north of 29 pass attempts, and only one game north of 34), will be taking on a Panthers defense that has allowed only “Buccaneers” and D.J. Chark to top even 82 yards through the air against them. Corey Davis and A.J. Brown are cheap enough that their talent could allow them to produce at above-salary expectations (and they’ll be virtually un-owned after failing in a great spot against the Bucs), but the likeliest scenario obviously has those players falling shy of what you would need from them, making them pure hope-and-pray plays. The best price-considered bet here is Jonnu Smith — who doesn’t have nearly the matchup he had last week against the Bucs, but who should be in line for four to six targets again, with outlier scenarios in which he sees more work than that. He also sets up as the best way for the Titans to move the ball through the air.
JM’s Interpretation ::
With scoring expectations low across the board in this game, nothing stands out as a particularly strong price-considered option beyond hopping on board the CMC volume train and seeing where the talent can take you. Outside of CMC, the tight ends are viable and Derrick Henry has a high ceiling (in spite of a fairly mediocre floor in his one-dimensional role), while everything else is more geared toward “hoping to guess right on something and land a big score as a result.”
:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!