XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
Sunday Night Football has the Vikings visiting the Broncos for a 42.5 total game with Denver favored by 2.5 points. Side note: what a fun week to write up Showdowns after some of the miserable games we’ve endured lately. This one is super interesting because we have the Vikings implied for just 20 points though they’ve scored 31 and 27 in two games with Josh Dobbs at quarterback. Meanwhile, as noted in last week’s Showdown writeup, the Broncos defense has played better of late (and better than their season-long numbers would have you think). After struggling in the early season, culminating in a disastrous 70 points allowed to the Dolphins (and an almost-as-bad 31 to the Jets), they’ve held the Chiefs to 19 and 9, then upset Buffalo on the road and held them to 22. The Broncos D still rates poorly by DVOA, largely based on the early half of their season, while the Vikings D has been above average against both the run and the pass. Overall, we have a lot of uncertainty around the offensive identity of the Vikings with their new quarterback, and the Broncos defense has been alternately terrible and really, really good at different points of the season, so there are a lot of ways this one could go.
Injury update, Mattison expected to play
Mattison is coming back from the concussion protocol in a single week, making him a very rare case this season. I was confident that Chandler would get the significant majority of the work if he was the lead back because his backup was largely unproven. Mattison, however, was usually playing around 55-60% of the snaps lately. It seems like the Vikings have lost some faith in him. I still think he’s likely to out-touch Chandler but it’s probably more like 60/40 instead of 70/30 (or higher) if it was Chandler/Nwangwu. Still, Mattison is only $7400 but the situation is now shakier, and if it’s a split backfield, neither Mattison nor Chandler will project as very strong plays (and thus likely won’t be super heavily owned). You can take a risk here on Mattison (or even on Chandler if you want to bet that the Vikings are discouraged with Mattison and hand the reins over), but it’s not as clear-cut of a situation as it was with Mattison out.
Injury notes (original write-up)
We also have a lot of injury stuff to deal with so let me quickly sum up how I’m writing this. I’m assuming Justin Jefferson is still out. T.J. Hockenson will play – no injury designation and he played through the pain last week so he’s clearly going to be in. Jerry Jeudy picked up a hip injury mid-week, and he’s the one I’m most uncertain about. I’m going to write this as if he’s in, but if he happens to be out, it’s obviously a boost to the rest of the Broncos, and especially Marvin Mims. Alexander Mattison sustained a concussion last week, and aside from Brock Purdy, most players this year have returned the next week following a concussion as the NFL is taking a more cautious approach.
On the Broncos side, as noted in last Monday’s Showdown write-up, we’re seeing Javonte Williams’ role become elite as he gets further into the season and away from last year’s injury. Williams has handled 19, 30, and 25 running back opportunities in his last three games, including 11 targets. Assuming the game stays close, we can reasonably project 18-20 touches with upside for more, and as a home favorite running back with a solid passing game role, he’s a strong play even as his price continues to creep up – $8,800 is more than fair for his role. He’s not quite a bell cow in that he’s still ceding some snaps to both Jaleel McClaughlin as a change-of-pace back on the ground and Sameje Perine as a passing down back, but that’s more a function of how Denver prefers to play with a ground-heavy attack (bottom-10 passing play percentage at 55.7%). There’s volume to go around here on the ground. McLaughlin is handling about 4-6 carries and a couple of targets per game, giving him enough volume-based floor that if he finds his way into the end zone, he could pay off without needing a volume spike (i.e. he can hit without Javonte getting hurt), while Perine is playing more snaps but is only averaging about three targets a game – he’s being used more as a blocker, and he’s more game-script sensitive than the others. Perine is more valuable in “Vikings win” lineups that could potentially cause an increase in targets. Otherwise, you’re hoping for a lucky receiving touchdown, which is something of a longshot with his one target inside the 10 yard line all season.
Ownership updates automatically
In the passing game, the Broncos remain maddeningly spread out and low volume, with their “alpha” wide receiver Courtland Sutton averaging just 6.5 targets per game. Sutton has been getting by on touchdowns, finding the end zone in seven of nine games – a wildly unsustainable rate, but he does have the best red zone usage on the team with 13 targets while nobody else has more than six. It’s really hard to love a guy who is so touchdown dependent, but at least Draftkings did a good job with his price, as $8,200 is reasonable for a WR1 on a lower-volume offense. He’s fine. Jerry Jeudy, on the other hand, is much shakier as noted in the Showdown writeup for the game against the Bills last week – his receiving numbers per game are very similar to Sutton’s, except without the touchdowns, and that isn’t just variance because Jeudy has only three red zone targets on the year. Of course, in any given game things could swing his way, but when he’s priced right next to Sutton, just as it was against the Bills last week, Sutton is the stronger on-paper play. Ok, next up . . . Marvin Mims truthers unite! After waiting and waiting for the Mims’ role to expand, coming out of their bye the Broncos played him on 69% of the offensive snaps (nice). That resulted in just a single target, but with him being on the field so much more, surely better things are coming for the talented rookie. It’s a bit of a bummer that Draftkings priced him all the way up to $5,600 – quite a huge price increase from $1,600 two weeks ago even though he has just one catch in that time – but also smart by them to avoid him being hugely chalky. I expect that, given his production to date, people will shy away from the price tag, but we know he has the ability to pay it off even on limited volume as we’ve already seen him do it twice this year. Is it Mims SZN? I don’t know – he’s on the field more, which is a great sign, but we still have to consider him a highly volatile, likely low-volume kind of play. The upside, though, is enticing. WR4 Lil’jordan Humphrey saw his role decrease as Mims’ role increased, and he will likely only play a handful of snaps, relegating him to the pile of punt plays.
At tight end, the Broncos will trot out Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, and OWS Discord Hero Lucas Krull. Trautman and Manhertz are almost entirely blockers with very modest target volume, and both can be viewed as punt plays (Trautman does have some “pray for a touchdown” upside as he is actually second on the team in red zone targets with six). Krull . . . is intriguing. He came out of nowhere to play 27% of the snaps last week, and he was running some nice downfield routes on many of them. He only saw one target, on which Russ missed him (badly). I’m not sure many people outside of OWS even know who this guy is, and to be clear, he is a very thin play, but at $200 and likely very modest ownership, he’s a non-crazy punt option for tournament play.