Week 10 Matchups

Not a ton to add up here this week, but it’s always healthy to enter the week with an understanding of how the week sets up. Here is a look at the core theme of Week 10::

  • Lamar Jackson is playing the Bengals
  • Michael Thomas is playing the Falcons
  • The Bucs receivers are playing the Cardinals
  • Christian McCaffrey is playing the Packers

These five players, in four very good spots, each see a massive, locked-in share of the offensive workload for their team. (To put that another way: the offense flows heavily through each of these five players, and all five are in excellent matchups.)

As such, roster decisions should be built against the backdrop of the players/spots listed above. Are there ways to fit several of those players? Are there ways to fade several of those players? Is it worth it to take cheap values that can likely post a “solid, but unspectacular” score, or is it better to take on one or two fewer high-priced players in order to have a more balanced roster? Are there players in the middle price ranges that can potentially match the scores of the players listed above? Are there other high-priced players you can roster instead of the players listed above? (On this last question: note also that ownership never congregates as heavily as it should on lock-and-load options at the high ends of the price range, as the field is generally less capable of knowing which high-priced players are actually in the best spot(s), and therefore load up too heavily on the less-attractive options on the whole.)

Just because all five of the players in the bullet points above have valuable, locked-in volume in a good matchup does not mean you “have to” play as many of them as you can; and in fact, it does not even mean you “have to” play any of them at all. But it does mean you have to be aware of those spots, and you are going to open the most paths to profitability by recognizing that all roster decisions you make this week should be built against the backdrop of those five plays: realizing that those players will find their ways onto rosters, and it’s likely that several of them put up big scores, requiring you to either build rosters that access even more points than are available through those spots, or build through those spots in a better manner than the field.

There are only 10 games, and those spots are good; but they are not the only good spots on the slate, and nothing in the NFL is ever truly 100%. Know that those spots are there; and then figure out how you want to build as a result.

Kickoff Thursday, Nov 7th 8:20pm Eastern

Chargers (
25) at

Raiders (

Over/Under 48.5


Key Matchups
Chargers Run D
22nd DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O
24th DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
30th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O
28th DVOA/24th Yards per pass
Raiders Run D
17th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
28th DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D
8th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
16th DVOA/21st Yards per pass

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

Finally! We have a Thursday night game that has a relatively high total and close spread! The Chargers visit the Raiders as just 1.0 point road favorites with a game total of 48.5, which is a welcome change from some of the one-sided Thursday games we’ve had this year. Yeesh. 

The Chargers want to be a slow team that runs the ball, but they’re awful at running the ball behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines, so they usually end up throwing (roughly 64% passing play percentage, seventh in the NFL). And actually, I should correct that statement: the Chargers used to want to be a slow team that runs the ball. Now, under new offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, I’m not really sure what they want to do. Last week’s game was awfully one-sided, so it’s hard to draw many conclusions from it, but they fed their primary running backs 32 carries while Rivers dropped back to pass 28 times. The rushing matchup here is tough against a Raiders defense that ranks ninth in DVOA against the run, and it’s not made better by a workload split with the emergence of Austin Ekeler; Melvin Gordon and Ekeler both played just over 50% of the snaps last week, and while MG3 led in touches, they both saw four targets. Gordon is the lead back and can expect to see more touches most weeks, but Ekeler is going to be involved and should see at least as many if not more targets than Gordon. They’re both still relevant here as both are priced for reasonable split workloads, not bellcow work. Gordon is more attractive if building for game scripts in which the Chargers win while Ekeler is better suited to scenarios that have the Chargers playing from behind. I’m undecided if I’m willing to use them both on the same tournament roster. I’m leaning yes currently, but it’s worth thinking about. 

The Chargers’ pass game is highly condensed: the volume basically just goes to the running backs, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry. Williams recorded the first 100 yard receiving game of his career last week, albeit on just four targets (though Rivers only threw 28 times in the one-sided beatdown of Green Bay). The matchup here is pristine against an Oakland defense that can’t stop the pass, and the three core receivers should all be highly involved. As the deep threat and the cheapest, I really like Williams in this game. Keenan Allen is the most expensive option, though his price has come down from the first few weeks of the reason; as JM likes to discuss, Allen is a receiver who needs a lot of volume to really smash, so he’s not an alpha WR1 in the mold of guys like Julio Jones or Davante Adams. If you believe Rivers throws the ball 35+ times in a close contest, Allen is as strong option, but if you think the Chargers control this game and don’t need to pass a lot, Allen is unlikely to pay off his price on modest volume. Hunter Henry led the way in targets last week with 10 while all of the other four primary receivers saw four each. I’m not sure if this means they want to really feature him as the focal point of the passing offense or if it was just taking advantage of Green Bay’s weakness against tight ends; in the absence of more evidence I’m going to lean toward the latter and think that the workload tilts back a little more evenly this game. Oakland can’t stop tight ends, but they can’t stop wide receivers either, so Rivers should see little resistance to his passing game no matter where he chooses to attack. Finally, Andre Patton was on the field for 82% of the offensive snaps last week but did not see a target, and has not seen any targets since week 4. Guys who are on the field a ton can have value and a $200 Patton is a major decision point for tournaments; do you want to invest in a guy who’s running a lot of routes at the minimum price, or do you want to fade the guy who’s hanging around the field but not getting any attention whatsoever from his quarterback?

The Raiders’ run game begins with Josh Jacobs, who has settled into a strong role with over 20 carries in three of the last four weeks. As long as the game is relatively close, Jacobs is going to be heavily involved, and this defense can be relatively easily beaten on the ground. However, despite the Raiders frequently making noises to the contrary, Jacobs really gets no pass game work. He’s seen at most three targets in a game, and those are dump-offs, not screens designed to get him the ball in space. If he doesn’t hit the 100 yard bonus or score a touchdown, he’s going to disappoint at his expensive price, and while the matchup is tremendous, it’s hard to predict touchdowns. “Passing down back” Jalen Richard has only seen two more targets than Jacobs on the year and has not even been heavily involved in games in which the Raiders have trailed by multiple scores. The normal scenario would be to use Jacobs in builds that project the Raiders winning or the game staying close and Richard in builds that project the Chargers winning handily, but given the usage we’ve seen with Richard so far this year, additional work for him when playing from behind isn’t a safe assumption. Finally, DeAndre Washington leeches a few touches per game, and his odds of scoring a touchdown and being relevant on this slate aren’t much worse than Richard’s at $2,000 less salary.

The Raiders’ pass game has been all over the place, with multiple recent games resulting in six or seven guys seeing two or more targets. The safest bets for volume are Darren Waller and Tyrell Williams, both of whom have only seen fewer than seven targets on two occasions…though one of those occasions (for both of them) came last week as the Raiders utilized the younger Hunter Renfrow more. Williams has scored a touchdown in every game but one this season, while Waller leads the team in red zone targets and has three touchdowns of his own. Renfrow’s usage and success look legitimate to me, however; he’s now had two big games in a row and he’s getting more involved in this offense, including four red zone looks of his own. He’s still a part-time player, playing 55-65% of the snaps, but he’s being heavily utilized while on the field. Next up is our old friend from Buffalo Zay Jones, who somewhat inexplicably led the team last week by playing 92% of the snaps. I have no idea where this came from, but they’re using him like a more traditional slot/possession receiver, focused on short area targets; there isn’t a lot of upside here, though there is some potential for volume, I suppose, if you can bring yourself to click his name (in seriousness, at $2,600, he’s not priced like a guy playing all of the snaps and he has a very reasonable chance to outscore the kickers). Foster Moreau is second on the team in red zone targets and has three touchdowns; he’s not going to get yardage, but if you’re looking for a cheap punt with a reasonable chance to score, he’s a fair option. The rest of the Raiders receiving corps are all MME dart throws.

The way this game is likely to play out is a close affair. I’m not sure I have a great handle on the Chargers’ new offensive scheme, so I’m not going to try to pretend like I do just to sound good in an article; I will say that their new OC seems sharp, and the sharp thing to do would be to focus on the passing game because of the matchup. We’ll see if the Chargers are smart enough to do that. The Raiders want to lean on the run (28th in the NFL in passing play percentage), and as long as the game stays close they’ll be happy to just feed the ball to Jacobs. It’s worth noting here that Derek Carr has only exceeded 32 passing attempts twice this year, both when the Raiders got stomped by three or more scores, and even in those games he only threw 34 and 38 times. A true “shootout” is exceedingly unlikely here, but the Raiders can be projected to be at least a little bit more aggressive in the air in game scripts that build around a Chargers victory.

Note from JM :: The Chargers are wanting to simplify things as much as possible, allowing the offense to play fast with a little less thinking. This led to a better-looking offense than we have had from the Chargers most of the season last week. Gordon also looked much better last week than he had through his first few games, building off his nice touchdown run in Week 8 with several more solid plays. “What this means for play-calling” is tough to say, as Steichen may very well want to go a bit more pass-heavy due to the matchup; but it should be Gordon on the field on first and second down, and both he and Ekeler will see touches close to the goal line if the Chargers have multiple opportunities. To put all this another way: this should continue to be somewhat the same offense the Chargers have been running to date — but better. Simpler. Faster. With better production across the board. Which doesn’t add a whole lot to what Xandamere laid out above, but it does provide a couple extra nuggets for getting a handle on this team.

Some other ways the game could play out:

  • The standard game flow is going to expect the Raiders to score on the ground and the Chargers to score in the air. I’ve seen a lot of success in Showdowns just by flipping this on its head. Touchdowns are highly variant, so try building some lineups that predict the Chargers to score on the ground while the Raiders score in the air.
  • We’ve seen enough games in which the Chargers fall completely flat in good spots, especially on the road, to discount the idea of an Oakland curb stomp here. Everyone is excited by the Chargers’ performance against the Packers and the hype around their new offensive coordinator, but would it really surprise anyone to see them fail?

My favorite overall captains are Jacobs, Henry, and Mike Williams. I very rarely invest heavily in QB captains, but in this game I’m likely to not have any exposure whatsoever to them – Carr has only exceeded 20 points once this season, while the Chargers’ offense is concentrated enough that even though Rivers has surpassed 20 points in five games this year, he has not once been the top scoring Charger. 

Some groups to consider:

  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain receivers with their QB
  • Pair captain quarterbacks with at least 2 receivers (though as I said above, I’m just not going to use any captain quarterbacks in this one)
  • At most 2 Raiders running backs
  • At most 1 of the Raiders’ ancillary receivers (Jones, Davis, Moreau)

Advanced Showdowns

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(!).

Kickoff Sunday, Nov 10th 1:00pm Eastern

Ravens (
27.25) at

Bengals (

Over/Under 44.0


Key Matchups
Ravens Run D
7th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
22nd DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
1st DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
14th DVOA/26th Yards per pass
Bengals Run D
28th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
1st DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
21st DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
4th DVOA/4th Yards per pass

Week 9 brings us an “AFC North clash” between a 6-2 Ravens team fresh off whipping the Patriots and an 0-8 Bengals team fresh off nothing.

What the Ravens want to do ::

The Ravens have built their offense off of a physical, downhill run game that hammers opponents up the middle with big backs and allows Lamar Jackson to hammer opponents on the edges — with a spread-the-wealth passing attack building off the run game (in which Mark Andrews is the only reliable volume bet).

What the Bengals might be able to stop ::

The Bengals “probably” cannot really stop the pass (they are shaving 20% off the league-average aDOT — quietly forcing the shallowest aDOT in the league, in fact — and they’re average at catch prevention, which is impressive for a team that forces a short aDOT; but they are adding 38% to the league-average YAC/r rate, which is by far the largest bump in the league, and which speaks to the same issues that plague Cincinnati against the run), but it has remained difficult to say for certain how attackable this team might be through the air, as teams are simply not even bothering to attack in that manner. Keep in mind that the Seahawks last year were the first team in a half decade to rush on more than 51% of their plays. This year, the Bengals are facing an opponent run on a ridiculous 53.3% of their plays. The Ravens, meanwhile, are pushing to beat the Seahawks’ rush play rate from a year ago, with a 53.3% rate of their own.

While the Bengals cannot stop the run, however, we should also keep in mind what we noted the last time these teams played: the Bengals are built well up front, and are strong against runs up the gut (see below, courtesy of Sharp Football Stats). The last time these teams faced off, Mark Ingram posted 52 yards on the ground while Lamar Jackson centuried that number with an absurd 152. As we noted heading into this matchup last time: “This doesn’t mean that Ingram can’t post a big game with a couple long runs and/or a touchdown.” But as we also noted last time: “Lamar sets up better in this spot.”

Can the Bengals do anything on offense?

The Ravens are an aggressive, physical defense that likes to blitz and harass quarterbacks. This week, they will be taking on the atrocious offensive line of the Bengals, and will be facing fourth-round rookie Ryan Finley (after beating Russell Wilson and Tom Brady in their last two games). As explored throughout the season, the Ravens are strong against the run, while the Bengals rank dead last in rushing yards per game. We should expect the Ravens to work to put this game in the hands of Finley and force him to win. (Of course, one added layer here is: “When the Bengals have the ball.” The Ravens — with their dominant, run-heavy approach — rank first in time of possession, at an unbelievable 35:15. The Bengals — with their disappointing, pass-heavy offense and their awful run defense — rank 29th in time of possession, at 27:34. If we actually run the calculation there, the Ravens increase league-average TOP by 17.5%, while the Bengals increase opponent TOP by 8.1%. If we played out this slate a hundred times, we would expect the Ravens to possess the ball roughly 38 minutes in this spot, on average. When these teams last played, the numbers came out close to that, with the Ravens handling the ball for 39:42 and the Bengals possessing the ball for only 20:18.)

If he does indeed return, the matchup in this spot actually favors A.J. Green, with Marlon Humphrey now manning the slot with Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters on the outside. That’s not to say that Green has a good matchup (or is particularly likely to hit in his rookie quarterback’s first game), but targets have a chance to tilt in his favor.

Boyd will match up primarily with Humphrey — requiring either big volume or a couple broken plays to be worth a roster spot. Behind Boyd, it will be only scraps remaining if Green returns — while if Green misses, Alex Erickson (recent target counts of 6 // 14 // 7) will continue to operate as the most “unexpectedly attractive” option on this team. The matchup wouldn’t be any easier for Erickson than it would be for Green, but his low price and apparently locked-in usage would keep him in the mix.

JM’s Interpretation ::

You can make a case for Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown in Tier 3 (the Ravens will lean run-heavy, but both of these players can hit from anywhere on the field, and the Bengals have enough issues preventing big plays that they could turn into valuable tourney pieces), but the key piece on this side of the ball is Lamar, who is a “do it all on his own” machine, in an excellent matchup. Lamar had 19 carries and 33 pass attempts the last time these teams played — and while that was in a close contest (not at all guaranteed to be the case again), the usage is locked-in enough to establish both floor and ceiling.

I don’t expect to have other pieces from this game on my tighter builds, though I do think Green is interesting in large-field play if he’s out there, as I’d be shocked if many people have him in his first game back in what has been a bad offense. Finley is unlikely to be a major downgrade from Andy Dalton, and we should keep in mind that Boyd and John Ross were producing earlier in the year in what is a well-schemed offense when it has players who can do things on the field. It’s not crazy to think that Green has some big games in him down the stretch — though play volume, matchup, and game environment are enough to keep him off my tighter builds.

I also think you have to at least take note of last year’s AFC rushing champ Joe Mixon at his plunging price; though unlike last week (when I “embraced the uncertainty” on Melvin Gordon on my main build), there isn’t anything in this spot that actually points to a potential breakout; and it’s tough for any running back in this matchup to post a slate-winner (even a price-considered slate-winner, at Mixon’s salary), making this more “guess and hope on a good player at low ownership and a good price” than it is “locking in a strong shot at production.”

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!

Kickoff Sunday, Nov 10th 1:00pm Eastern

Bills (
19.5) at

Browns (

Over/Under 42.0


Key Matchups
Bills Run D
18th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
21st DVOA/25th Yards per carry
Bills Pass D
9th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
26th DVOA/13th Yards per pass
Browns Run D
5th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O
5th DVOA/9th Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
2nd DVOA/6th Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O
3rd DVOA/7th Yards per pass

The “General NFL” question I received more than any other this last offseason was some variation of, “What do you think about the Browns?” All this talent. All this hype. And each time I chatted with someone about this team, I said basically the same thing: “Coaching matters so much in football, and we know so little about Freddie Kitchens. Who knows how this will turn out.” In the summer, everything he was saying looked good — but once the season started, it became pretty clear pretty quickly that he was in over his head. And while it seems like some people are still waiting for a magical switch to be flipped, I think the bigger question is, “Can this actually be fixed?”

Think about this. Each week, Jon Gruden has big playbook installs — putting in a whole new set of concepts and plays that will now be incorporated into the offense. Gruden has been around quality NFL programs for so long, and has built his playbook over such a long period of time (literally decades), that he can comfortably run his entire team (including being heavily involved in personnel decisions) while also running his entire offense and adding big pieces to the playbook each week without losing fundamentals and execution on the pieces that are already in place.

Or think about this. Nick Underhill put together a great article this week for The Athletic (albeit without an exploration of why some of the analytics cited in the article are just plain wrong) that broke down how Belichick is one of the highest-graded coaches according analytics-based decision-making within a game, but how he doesn’t look at the specific analytics for any given situation. Instead — as he has put it — “It’s an individual analysis based on the things that are pertinent to that game and that situation.” In other words: ‘I assess the situation from all angles on the spot and I make the decision that makes the most sense.’

Freddie Kitchens was a running backs coach until the middle of last season. How expansive and well-developed is his playbook? How capable is he of managing everything that goes into running a team while also building a new playbook and installing it and running the offense and calling plays and being prepared for the matchups, and being ready to make tough decisions in-game on the spot, and trying to fix things midseason? I think about last season for me — first year running the site — finding blind spots I’d had heading in (in terms of how my week would need to be set up and managed in order for everything to run smoothly and subscribers to be given the best possible product and me to not get overwhelmed), and how difficult it was to solve those problems on the fly while still taking care of everything else that needed to be taken care of. And no matter how much work I put into OWS, a coach’s life is going to be about twice as busy. Imagine being as in-over-his-head as Kitchens, and trying to get your feet under you in the midst of 17 straight 120-hour work weeks. Who’s going to help him? Steve Wilks?

Point being: we shouldn’t be surprised that the Browns’ struggles have continued. And we should be a bit surprised that this disciplined, well-coached, experienced Bills team is an underdog in this spot. Sean McDermott has coached in two Super Bowls and has brought the Bills to the playoffs with less talent than he has now. Home field matters, but it’s hard to see the Browns winning this game more often than not if we played out this game one hundred times — especially as the Browns fans are boo-heavy right now and aren’t exactly making the home team feel welcome.

As you know by now, the Bills are (by far) one of the toughest matchups for opposing passing attacks — shaving 12% off the league-average aDOT and a league-best 17.5% off the league-average catch rate, while allowing the third fewest passing yards and the second fewest passing touchdowns in the league. In spite of ranking middle of the pack in receptions allowed to wideouts, only four teams have allowed fewer yards.The Bills are the only team in the NFL that has not allowed a pass catcher of any kind to top 100 yards.

The best bet for moving the field against the Bills, of course, is on the ground, where the Bills rank 30th in DVOA and are allowing 4.56 yards per carry to enemy backs. As we have noted across recent weeks: the Bills rank third in drive success rate and are allowing the third fewest points per game, so this is not the same sort of spot as, say, the Dolphins or the Bengals. With how good the Bills are against the pass, it is difficult for running backs to take full advantage, as they need at least some help in keeping drives alive long enough to score points. But on a per-touch basis, the matchup is very attractive.

Over the Browns’ last four games, Nick Chubb has touch counts of 24 // 21 // 25 // 17. Rather quietly, he has already faced three of the top four DVOA run defenses (and four of the top eight — which does not even include matchups against San Francisco and Baltimore). This is the softest spot Chubb has had this year, so while there are “offense as a whole” concerns for the Browns against the Bills, Chubb has a shot at a big game if the Browns are able to get in scoring position a handful of times.

Also returning this week is Kareem Hunt, who should basically take on “Hilliard’s role, plus a bit more.” Hilliard is around a six-touch-per-game player when usage works out the way the Browns want, and it’s fair to expect Hunt to end up around eight to 12 touches over the next few weeks. On DraftKings and FantasyDraft — where savings are at a premium — Hunt is actually an interesting deep salary saver. The role he’ll step into would be expected to produce around 1.1 to 1.15 points per touch on DK/FDraft over time — so while the small sample size of one game could lead to a two- or three-point score, there are also instances in which the small sample size of one game could lead to a 15- or 20-point score (similar to what we’ve seen Devin Singletary and Miles Sanders do multiple times this year).

Speaking of Singletary: the Bills — as we know by now — want to be one of the most adaptable teams in football. Last week, this led to Buffalo attacking Washington to the outside in order to avoid them up the middle where they’re strongest — which meant 23 touches for the electric rookie (14 more than he had seen in any previous game). There’s actually a lot to unpack here, as Singletary’s snap share on the season (starting with the most recent) has looked like this :: 66% // 68% // 38% // 33% // 68% — with the lower games affected by injury (injury sustained in one; returning from injury in the other). In other words: his nine-touch game in Week 1 and his seven-touch game in Week 8 came on similar snap shares to his 23-touch game last week. The Bills also controlled their game last week and were able to lean heavily on the run as a result, while they enter this game as road underdogs. An optimal approach for the Bills in this spot calls on them to lean on the run to a degree (Cleveland ranks 18th in DVOA against the pass and 21st against the run, while Buffalo prefers to lean toward the ground game), but realize that Singletary didn’t see a role change last week so much as he saw a usage change — on one of the more gameplan-specific offenses in the league.

The matchup through the air for the Bills is average, with two clear ways for pass catchers to pile up production:

1) Busted plays

2) Consistent, underneath work over the middle of the field

The Browns have given up mistake-filled lines of 3-100-0 (A.J. Brown), 3-115-1 (Noah Fant), and 4-81-0 (Robby Anderson), and have also allowed 11-101-2 to Cooper Kupp and 8-78-2 to Julian Edelman. John Brown has topped eight targets only once since Week 1 and has only two scores on the season, but he has also been one of the most consistent receivers in football, joining Michael Thomas (still) as the only players with 50+ receiving yards in every game. This offense has been completely unable to get the downfield game going, but they have used JB as more of an intermediate piece, and he has thrived in this role, catching 70% of his targets on the year. Cole Beasley has seen less bankable game-to-game volume, but he can generally be expected to see six or more looks, and unless Singletary becomes the focal point again, Beasley should be able to again push for that range.

JM’s Interpretation ::

As we have talked about a couple times this year: the Bills’ offense is more conservative and “mature” than the one we were raking in money off of down the stretch last year, asking Josh Allen to operate as more of a playmaking game manager than as a central piece of the offense. As such, the best bet for the Bills posting a big game through the air would be for the opposing team to jump out to a big lead. Beasley and Brown are in the “solid score” mix, but in order for them to post a slate-winner, they likely need one of the Browns’ players to do the same. As such, tourney rosters with a Bills pass catcher should be brought back with an Upside piece from the Browns. (Given the way the matchups shake out, the likeliest Upside piece on the Browns is Chubb. A Chubb + Browns DST pairing could also be a way to capture the goodness of a quick Browns lead that forces the Bills to open into attack mode, as the Browns could scoop up a fumble-six or bring Allen back the other way on a pick-six after an early Chubb score. Just a few thoughts on how a “big, early deficit” for the Bills might come about and cause them to turn to the air.)

Elsewhere on the Bills: Singletary is an interesting guy, as he has posted a really strong score in all three games in which the snap count cooperated; and while the touches look ugly in two of those games, he picked up 5-28-0 and 4-30-1 through the air in those two — an indication that his pass-catching role gives him a somewhat solid floor even if the larger workload or one of his big plays don’t materialize. Realistically, the likeliest scenario has Singletary touching the ball only nine to 12 times and needing big efficiency to produce a score commensurate with his salary. But he is intriguing, and the upside (both in terms of touches, and in terms of big plays) is there.

Chubb is also intriguing, and while I don’t like that he has a pair of one-target games this year, and is on a bad offense against a good defense, and is now dealing with Hunt, I do like his ability to break off multiple chunk gains here. If he can turn one of those chunk gains into one of his signature big plays, he could pitch in with a really nice day.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!

Kickoff Sunday, Nov 10th 1:00pm Eastern

Falcons (
18.75) at

Saints (

Over/Under 51.5


Key Matchups
Falcons Run D
8th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O
13th DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
29th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Saints Pass O
20th DVOA/22nd Yards per pass
Saints Run D
25th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
20th DVOA/14th Yards per carry
Saints Pass D
11th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
22nd DVOA/8th Yards per pass

The Saints boast an elite defense this year, with this squad ranked sixth in defensive DVOA (12th against the pass, sixth against the run) while having allowed the fifth fewest yards and the 10th fewest points per game. The Saints rank sixth in drive success rate allowed and 10th in sacks, and they have recently held the Cowboys to 10 points, the Buccaneers to 24 (which is decently impressive), the Jaguars to six, and the Cardinals to nine. They allowed the Bears to score 25, but Cordarrelle Patterson produced a special teams touchdown there. The Falcons enter this game (in the Superdome) with a Vegas-implied total of only 19.0 — though given what the Falcons offense can do when things come together, this should not be taken as a projection so much as a median mark in a range of potential outcomes. The Saints have found ways to completely slow down some teams. But we should also keep in mind that the Texans, Rams, and Seahawks all scored 27 to 28 in this matchup at the beginning of the season.

The Saints’ pass defense relies on Marshon Lattimore to put an opponent’s top perimeter weapon in check — something he has done an excellent job with since a slow start to the season. Lattimore’s best outing came when he goose-egged Mike Evans (a potential trouble spot we were able to spot due to Evans’ matchup problems with Lattimore in the past, swinging us over to Godwin instead). This week, our exploration of Julio Jones in his games against the Saints with Lattimore gives us a different story, with Julio producing the following stat lines across four contests ::


The lack of touchdowns, of course, is illustrative of what we hate about relying on Julio in this sometimes-maddening Falcons offense, but the beauty of this matchup for Julio is that the Saints’ man-leaning approach leads to more downfield work — enabling more opportunities for big yardage games as long as the targets are there. (Julio saw 11+ targets in three of those four games — though that was in a Sarkisian offense that, for all its faults, at least emphasized Julio. The same cannot be said for Dirk Koetter’s offense this year, which has created recent target counts for Julio of 7 // 7 // 9 // 9 // 12.)

Behind Julio, this passing attack consists of Austin Hooper, Calvin Ridley, and Russell Gage.

Hooper has seen recent target counts with Matt Ryan of 11 // 9 // 8 // 5, and there is nothing in the matchup to suggest his usage should materialize in a different range than that. The biggest issue for volume will be the Saints’ ability to shut down opponent drives quickly; but as long as play volume is there for the Falcons offense as a whole, this pass-heavy unit should be able to feed Hooper seven or more looks once again.

Ridley remains what he always is: an intermediate/deep target whose typical expectation is around six targets, and who can occasionally spike or drop from there. Ridley has topped 93 yards only twice in 24 games and has seen double-digit targets only twice as well, but he has 14 touchdowns in 24 games, reminding of the sort of upside he possesses when things break his way.

Gage is an interesting piece, as he played 43 of a possible 76 snaps in the Falcons’ last game and saw nine targets. These targets came in the sort areas of the field, and came from Matt Schaub, and came in a game with 52 pass attempts, so expectations should obviously be tempered; but four to six targets is viable here at the lower ends of the price range.

This offense wraps up with Devonta Freeman, who should be able to soak up a large chunk of the Falcons snaps again this week (78.9% in Week 8) with Ito Smith now looking likely to miss with a neck issue. The matchup is brutal (the Saints are allowing the fewest rushing yards and the fifth fewest receiving yards to running backs), but the role needs to at least be mentioned.

“Role” is the issue in the Saints’ backfield, as this team is good enough to break through the below-average matchup against the Falcons (10th in DVOA against the run; 3.91 yards allowed per carry; incredibly, the fewest receiving yards allowed to running backs this year), but with Latavius Murray priced up for “just in case Alvin Kamara misses” and Kamara priced for his ceiling rather than his average range of production, it’s tough to see this backfield as a staple piece. If heading here for the upside, Kamara has recent touch counts on the year (starting with the most recent) of 18 // 22 // 20 // 25 // 14 // 20. This level of touches at his price would require some really nice efficiency; and while he is very capable of producing highly efficient games (even in below-average matchups), there should be some concern that Latavius’ strong showing will lead to the Saints keeping Kamara on the lower ends of his touch range in his first game back, while allowing Latavius to handle any garbage time work as well.

“Role” is not a concern for Michael Thomas, on the other hand, as he has target counts on the year (beginning with the most recent) of 11 // 11 // 12 // 13 // 9 // 7 // 13 // 13. Thomas’ aDOT is basically the same as Golden Tate’s, which has always been our knock on him in the NFL Edge: at his shallow aDOT, he needs so many targets to produce (and last year he had only three games in his last 13 with more than eight targets, with only two games in that stretch of 100+ yards — making it truly astonishing that the field kept paying up for him for months). This year, however, the Saints have been forceful in their usage of Thomas all year, and he has responded with as many 100-yard games through eight weeks as he had all season last year. While the Falcons have been decent against the run, they rank 31st in DVOA against the pass and have allowed the ninth most yards and the fourth most touchdowns to the wide receiver position. We obviously prefer players with downfield roles, but Thomas’ locked-in usage and touchdown upside keep his floor and ceiling high in this spot.

The rest of the Saints offense is scraps, with Ted Ginn the only other wide receiver to top even three targets this year (not a typo), and with neither Ginn nor Jared Cook topping seven targets all year. (This offense might sometimes give touchdowns to Taysom Hill and other role players, but the Saints are going to move the ball through Thomas and the backfield first, through Ginn and Cook second, and through little else besides.)

JM’s Interpretation ::

It’s not as if it’s a surprise to say that the Saints’ offense should produce (they have the highest Vegas-implied total on the slate), so while these players are priced up for their roles (and while there are some workload concerns on Kamara at his price), we should fully expect some strong scores to emerge in this spot, with Thomas slotting into Tier 1 in this high-value role/matchup, and with Kamara carrying Tier 3 appeal for his slate-breaking upside. Behind these two, Ginn and Cook can be considered in large-field play (while Drew Brees — in spite of the short-area nature of this passing attack — could obviously “touchdown” his way to a big game, and could “volume” his way to yardage).

On the Falcons’ side, Nothing pops off the page with the Saints defense on tap; but this is an offense that can always be considered, with Matt Ryan // Julio // Hooper all squarely in the Tier 3 conversation, Ridley in the large-field conversation, and Gage in the mix for salary savers who can produce a respectable score. There are also scenarios in which the Falcons could hit for big plays and turn this into an actual shootout. I don’t mind the idea of building some game stacks around that idea.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!

Kickoff Sunday, Nov 10th 1:00pm Eastern

Lions (
15.75) at

Bears (

Over/Under 38.0


Key Matchups
Lions Run D
3rd DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O
10th DVOA/6th Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
16th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O
23rd DVOA/23rd Yards per pass
Bears Run D
4th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
4th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Bears Pass D
17th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
9th DVOA/9th Yards per pass

With the addition of Darrell Bevell to the Detroit coaching staff and his offense built around “running the ball to set up deep passing,” and with the injury to Kerryon Johnson and the apparent distaste the Lions have for all their other backs, this team has become something we never thought we would have said about a Patricia/Bevell pairing: a pass-heavy unit. In fact, the Lions’ 65.97% pass play rate across their last three games would rank third in the NFL if it had been in place for the entire season. The Lions are no longer “running to set up the deep passing.” They’re just “deep passing.”

Unfortunately for the Lions, they’ll be taking on a Bears team that is boosting the league-average catch rate by 7%, but that is doing so by shaving 14% off the league-average aDOT. Only four teams have allowed fewer pass plays of 20+ yards than the Bears — making volume (optimally intermediate volume) the best way to pile up pass catcher points against them. Note the reception totals required to produce the notable stat lines below:

7-108-0 Diggs
9-131-0 Michael Thomas
9-103-1 Ertz

11-98-1 Manny
8-83-1 Paul Richardson
6-70-1 McLaurin

With Kenny Golladay seeing recent target counts of 9 // 2 // 8 // 7 (and relying on big plays for his production), his hot streak will be put to the test in this spot.

Optimally, the Lions want to use both Golladay and Marvin Jones primarily on downfield routes, but Jones has the more variable usage in this offense and is the likelier bet between the two for double-digit looks (recent target counts of 5 // 13 // 5 // 10), especially if the Lions turn some of their usage to the shorter areas of the field.

Of course, there is no law requiring you to roster a Lions receiver against a Bears defense that has allowed only three touchdowns to wideouts (third fewest in the league, behind only the Patriots and Bills), but Danny Amendola has recent target counts of 1 // 11 // 8 // 5; as noted late last week, he should see several more of those higher-target games down the stretch (though obviously the matchup hampers the chances of this actually mattering this week).

Perhaps the most interesting piece here is T.J. Hockenson, as the Giants stud rookie has been getting more involved lately, with recent target counts of 6 // 5 // 1 // 7. Hock is still seeing almost all of his targets within five yards of the line of scrimmage, and the Bears rank top five in football in preventing yards after the catch, so some things will have to break right for upside to emerge; but the Bears have been getting hit by tight ends this year, with the fifth most catches and the fourth most yards allowed to the position.

Ultimately, we’ll likely see the Lions lean pass-heavy once again while generally sticking to their downfield-focused approach and simply experiencing lower efficiency than they have most recent weeks — which would put the Lions in their Vegas-implied range of 19.5 points, and would make this offense as a whole unattractive from an “upside at the price” perspective. But if the Lions are able to adjust enough, they might be able to get one player going with concentrated looks on shorter-area routes.

While the Lions have been leaning more heavily toward the pass, the Bears have been trying to figure out ways to not rely on (number two overall pick) Mitchell Trubisky, with this team giving 31 and 17 touches to David Montgomery the last two weeks and asking Trubisky to throw only 35 and 21 times in comparison. We hypothesized that the Bears would still lean run-heavy against the Eagles (who are banged-up in the front seven and healthier than before on the back end, but are still a solid run defense as a whole), and after that proved to be the case, there’s no reason to expect anything different against a Lions defense that ranks 18th in DVOA against the run while having allowed the 10th most rushing yards (4.5 yards per carry), the third most receiving yards, and the second most touchdowns to the running back position. Between carries and targets, 264 plays have been directed toward running backs against the Lions — an average of 33.0 per game. Only the Redskins and Dolphins have faced more plays directed toward running backs per game, making Montgomery (73.4% of snaps the last two weeks, with a touch on a monstrous 38.7% of the Bears snaps) intriguing this week, especially at his still-depressed price.

Through the air, the Bears can be summed up as: Allen Robinson and (almost) no one else. While A-Rob saw only five targets last week, the Bears ran only 44 plays (for a point of reference: the Lions are allowing the most opponent player per game in the league this year, at 69.5), and Trubisky threw only 21 times. Robinson had seen target counts of 7 // 7 // 9 // 16 // 7 coming in, and he should be in the seven to nine target range again here. The matchup is slightly below-average against a solid Detroit secondary (Robinson should mostly square off with Darius Slay in the Lions’ man-heavy scheme), but Trubisky remains the biggest obstacle.

The (almost) above (in the “(almost) no one else”) ties into one other player who’s actually interesting in tourneys, and that’s Taylor Gabriel, who has seen a respectable 16.1% target share the last two weeks and will be taking on a Lions team that has allowed the third most pass plays of 20+ yards. Gabriel had a 53-yarder last week and a 22-yarder the week before (and had a near-miss in that game on what would have been a long touchdown). This team is looking for anything that can get them going, and Gabriel will continue to get his shots.

JM’s Interpretation ::

David Montgomery is the only piece from this game that stands out to me as a potential staple, but there are plenty of additional ways to approach this game. With the Lions willing to attack downfield, there is a chance Golladay or Jones produces. With the Lions potentially focusing shorter-area, Jones or Amendola could emerge with a solid score. And with the matchup favoring Hockenson, he could be the one to produce. It’s fairly likely that one of the four pieces from the Lions has a really nice game, as this passing attack is too heavily concentrated and too good to not get someone there; but a slate-breaker is by no means guaranteed in this matchup, and a couple duds could come out of that group as well, making them difficult to bet on outside of game stacks.

I do like the idea of a game stack here (with this game obviously behind spots like Arizona // Tampa, but with this game boasting the pieces necessary for a shootout to develop). The defensive strength and offensive ineptitude of the Bears keeps a shootout from being the likeliest scenario, but it’s certainly not an outlandish bet. If building for that scenario, I like Gabriel and A-Rob as well. If one of the pieces on the Lions breaks off a monster game, one of these two is likely to produce a really nice score as well.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!

Kickoff Sunday, Nov 10th 1:00pm Eastern

Giants (
23) at

Jets (

Over/Under 43.0


Key Matchups
Giants Run D
29th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
32nd DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D
19th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
31st DVOA/31st Yards per pass
Jets Run D
14th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O
31st DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
3rd DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O
30th DVOA/30th Yards per pass

Neither coach in this game is trying to win football games. I don’t mean that either team is actively trying to lose, or that either organization was intending to tank (sadly, neither was, and both came into this year thinking they had a shot for a strong season, however delusional these thoughts may have been), but instead, I mean that each team is tending to wait out opponents until deeper into games, hoping their opponent makes a mistake down the stretch that might allow them to trip into a win. Neither team is getting particularly aggressive, and this was especially evident (and especially damning) last week for the Jets when Robby Anderson somehow saw only four targets against the Dolphins (his second fewest targets on the year, behind only the “Luke Falk vs Eagles” fiasco). Meanwhile, Sam Darnold poured eight targets to backup tight end and Texans castoff (and former UConn Husky; and player I once took a zero on in a great spot) Ryan Griffin, with another nine looks given to fellow short-area target Jamison Crowder. With the Giants relying on Golden Tate as their primary receiver and the Jets showing a willingness last week against the soft Dolphins secondary to lean on short-area throws, it’s likely that this game plays out about the way Vegas expects: decently close; decently low-scoring; with enough points scored for one or two players to potentially matter, but with price-considered slate-breakers difficult to come by.

When the Giants have the ball ::

When the Giants have the ball — with Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram both set to miss — the action should be overwhelmingly centered around Golden Tate and Saquon Barkley.

Saquon’s matchup is quietly awful, as the Jets rank behind only the Buccaneers in run defense DVOA and have allowed the fifth fewest rushing yards to running backs in spite of their 1-7 record. Running backs are averaging only 3.22 yards per carry in this matchup. Saquon is the absolute definition of a matchup-breaker, and there is a chance that his pass game involvement rises enough this week to render the run-game matchup a non-issue; but his production here is likely to come from big plays, rather than from consistent chunk gains.

Tate has target counts of 6 // 9 // 11 // 10 // 6 and should be able to push for double-digits in this spot. In spite of the lack of talent in the Jets’ secondary, they’ve been slightly above-average on a per-pass basis (shaving 10% off the league-average aDOT, and hitting the league average in catch rate and YAC/r), but the expected volume boosts expectations enough for Tate to be considered — albeit with touchdowns or completely broken plays required for true upside to be reached.

The Giants offense wraps up with Darius Slayton (more on him in a moment) and underwhelming athlete Rhett Ellison (how’s this for a scouting report — from the NFL’s combine page: “Ellison is not very fast, nor is he a quick-twitch athlete. This is evident when he is running deep routes and trying to work upfield. He labors to move at times and can struggle in hard moves on his routes.”). Ellison saw seven targets against the Patriots when Engram last missed and should be able to push toward that range again here, though he’ll also face coverage from Jamal Adams. He’ll need a touchdown for upside but should be able to provide a few steady points through short-area catches.

Slayton has five or fewer targets in all but one game and is unlikely to catch a ton of extra downfield looks just because Engram is missing in the short areas of the field, so consider him what he has been each week he has been active: an intriguing tourney piece for his downfield role, but with a low floor on what is typically around five targets on a below-average offense.

When the Jets have the ball ::

On the defense, the Giants have allowed the fifth most yards per game and the fourth most points per game while getting attacked heavily on the ground (only four teams have faced a higher opponent rush play rate). Only two teams have allowed more pass plays of 20+ yards than the Giants. Only two teams have allowed more run plays of 20+ yards than the Giants.

Unfortunately, that also sounds a lot like we are describing the Dolphins (the Giants numbers in the secondary — aDOT, YAC/r, catch rate allowed — are all closely related to the Dolphins as well), and not only did the Jets stall out against Miami last week, but as noted at the top, they also refused to attack downfield.

There are two ways to look at this:

1) The Jets felt more comfortable allowing Darnold to pick up easy gains on underneath passes to Griffin and Crowder than they did asking him to push the ball downfield, even with the matchup downfield attackable. In this case (especially vs a Giants team that likes to be aggressive up front), Darnold could again lean heavily on Crowder and “tight end” (it currently appears that Chris Herndon will finally be truly active this week — after being “active only because the Jets had so many other injured players” last week — so we’ll keep an eye on late-week reports that hint at what his playing time might look like in his first game of the season).

2) With the game being played on the road last week, maybe the Jets preferred to rein in the downfield passing(?). And maybe at home, Darnold will be asked to attack downfield the way he did against Dallas, when Robby went 5-125-1(?). There were a few times this last Sunday when Robby was covered on what appeared to be a play designed to go to him, but he did not see the heavy game plan emphasis it was reasonable to expect him to see last week. In a perfect world, coaches like Gase — who make illogical in-game usage decisions fairly regularly — would be best avoided on our rosters; but with the sort of upside Robby carries when he hits, he still needs to be kept in mind.

The Jets will also lean on Demaryius Thomas as an intermediate option — though they extended Crowder’s routes a bit deeper down the field this last week than they have in weeks past, taking away some of these “intermediate” looks from DT.

Le’Veon Bell (whose best game this year on DraftKings was 23.2 points, and who is still priced as a player who needs, at minimum, 25 points to feel truly worth the spot on your roster) saw 25 touches last week after all the hubbub surrounding his 11 touches the week before. He has seen touch counts of 23 // 15 // 16 in his other games with Darnold, and has averaged under 3.0 catches per game with Darnold outside his eight-catch “squeaky wheel” game last week, so his workload is also not lock-and-load enough to justify the price; but from a pure “opportunity potential” standpoint and “upside due to that potential volume” standpoint, he remains in the conversation. A case can always be made for a multi-dimensional back who almost never leaves the field.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Both of these offenses have been inept enough that betting heavily on this game is unappealing — but it is also true that each defense in this game has been bad enough that there are opportunities for points to pile up. I like the idea of building game stacks around this spot with a small percentage of play if multi-entering, as players like Robby // Saquon // Slayton can score from anywhere on the field (which is a big part of shootouts developing). As for pulling out individual plays, however, things get a bit more rickety, as this game not only has strong potential to land in the “43.0” range at which Vegas has it pegged, but there are also a number of different ways in which this production could emerge. In other words: there’s already uncertainty in that this is likeliest to turn into a lower-scoring game; and there is further uncertainty on where any good scores might emerge.

If isolating individual pieces, Tate stands out the most to me on the Giants once price is considered, as a line like 6-80-0 is roughly his median projection, and it wouldn’t take a lot more for him to score a touchdown or break out for 100+ yards. He also comes with a solid floor for his almost-certain usage. Saquon is always in the Upside conversation, though the matchup at his price makes him more “roster for ceiling” than “roster for floor and ceiling.” Ellison, meanwhile, is a “play for the savings and hope something good happens for price-considered upside” option.

On the Jets, Crowder is the player with the clearest shot at a strong game, as it seems that Darnold wants to rely on him first and foremost any time he is in a soft matchup. Demaryius is a less attractive (though still realistically viable) alternative to Crowder, while Robby is a “hope upside strikes” option in tourneys. I’ll also have some interest in the affordable Jets tight end situation if we get clarity on playing time, while Bell is likely a player I’ll continue to leave alone myself, though his role gives him a solid floor, and there are some paths to ceiling.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!

Kickoff Sunday, Nov 10th 1:00pm Eastern

Chiefs (
27.25) at

Titans (

Over/Under 48.5


Key Matchups
Chiefs Run D
27th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O
18th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
5th DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O
24th DVOA/16th Yards per pass
Titans Run D
10th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
11th DVOA/11th Yards per carry
Titans Pass D
24th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
6th DVOA/19th Yards per pass

The Titans’ organizational philosophy revolves around the fact that this team is not particularly talented. Because of this, they try to slow down the game on offense (10th slowest pace in the league), keep the ball on the ground (10th highest rush play rate), and throw exotic looks at opponents on defense in the hopes of limiting big plays (the Titans rank top half of the league in fewest plays of 20+ yards allowed, and they shave over 10% off the league-average YAC/r rate) while forcing opponents to march the whole field in order to score (fifth in drive success rate — conveying how difficult it is to build sustained drives in this spot). However, issues emerge for this Titans team when they face talented competition, as we saw a week ago when Christian McCaffrey lit them on fire (aided, it should be noted, by an injury to Jurrell Casey) and two weeks ago when Mike Evans did the same (aided, it should be noted, by an injury to Adoree Jackson). The Titans also have posted the seventh worst opponent red zone touchdown rate in the league (though the Chiefs — flukily, after ranking second in the league in this category a year ago — currently sport the sixth lowest red zone touchdown rate on offense).

This week, Patrick Mahomes will be returning to the field, creating a really difficult spot for the Titans. On the year, the Titans have managed to allow point totals of 13 // 19 // 20 // 10 // 14 // 16 // 20 // 23 // 30, while only allowing D.J. Moore and “Bucs receiver” (in this case, Mike Evans: 11-198-2) to top 100 yards against them among wideouts, and allowing only Austin Ekeler (7-118-1 through the air), Austin Hooper (9-130-0), and Christian McCaffrey (146-2 on the ground) to top 100 yards against them elsewhere. This is illustrative of the fact that it is difficult for teams to pop off for a truly monster game against the Titans, and it is difficult for multiple slate-winning scores to emerge from the same offense against this team (which becomes even more true when we take into account the type of score you need from Chiefs players at their prices in order for them to be considered slate-winning). With that said, the fact that this is Patrick Mahomes with Tyreek Hill against what is ultimately an average defense from a talent perspective means that we will likely see at least one really strong score emerge from the spot.

The likeliest bets for a “really strong score” are obviously Hill and Travis Kelce. Kelce has the biggest matchup boost against a Titans team that also allowed 6-97-0 to Hunter Henry and has been an attackable matchup with quality tight ends all year (as explored last week before they played Greg Olsen: Henry and Hooper are really the only high-end tight ends the Titans have faced). Kelce has target counts on the year of 8 // 9 // 8 // 8 // 10 // 6 // 8 // 8 // 9, and while he has only two touchdowns this year, he leads the NFL(!) in targets inside the 10 — where he has one catch on nine targets, for -3 yards. Not only is he a candidate for touchdown regression, but he also draws the best matchup for the Chiefs, making this a viable breakout spot.

The matchup is less attractive for Hill against a Titans team that, again, aims to limit big plays; however, Hill is about as matchup-proof a player as there is in the NFL, especially as a chunk of his “upside” production comes from scramble drills and/or plays in which Mahomes simply throws the ball downfield and allows his star receiver to adjust better than the defense. Hill comes with a moderate floor for his price, but the ceiling remains in place.

Behind these two, Sammy Watkins has seen recent target counts of 8 // 6 // 8 // 10, and while he hasn’t topped 64 yards since Week 1, he is locked in as the number three pass game weapon on one of the most explosive offenses in football, which always leaves open “upside” paths. Watkins is aided by the recent drop in usage for Mecole Hardman (20 snaps across his last two games, after playing nearly 60 snaps in his previous two games with Hill on the field).

The Chiefs backfield also contains occasional upside (as we saw last week with Damien Williams going for 128 total yards on only 14 touches), and we had a more concentrated distribution of snaps last week with Williams playing 43 of a possible 59 snaps (Darrel Williams played 10; LeSean McCoy played six). While it shouldn’t surprise us if Andy Reid shakes things up again this week (Williams played barely 40% of the Chiefs snaps in Week 8, and his Week 9 usage may very well have been opponent-specific), he is one of the more interesting ancillary pieces to consider from this game in tourneys.

The matchup for the Titans tilts heavily toward the ground, as the Chiefs rank fourth in DVOA against the pass and 28th against the run (in spite of a major fantasy/news outlet referring this week to this as a “juicy” matchup for Corey Davis…), while allowing only one wide receiver to top 100 yards against them and allowing six separate running backs to do so (five on the ground; one through the air). Unfortunately, Henry is the very definition of a “yardage and touchdown” back, with 11 catches on 16 targets through nine games, and he is priced up for the matchup on DraftKings/FantasyDraft (while on FanDuel — as we talk about often — you are essentially looking to build an “all star team,” and would need Henry to post one of the top three or four running back scores on the slate). But while the floor becomes thin with his role, the upside is certainly there, keeping him in the conversation. As long as the Titans can keep this game “close enough,” Henry should see 15 to 20 carries, with some slim paths to more usage than that.

While the matchup for the Titans pass catchers is not good, there is a slim case to be made for rostering them at their lower prices and hoping they pile up enough points to matter as the Chiefs jump out to a lead. Recent target counts among Titans pass catchers are as follows ::

>> Jonnu Smith :: 3 // 7 // 5
>> Corey Davis :: 7 // 6 // 5
>> A.J. Brown :: 8 // 3 // 7
>> Adam Humphries :: 4 // 6 // 4
>> Tajae Sharpe :: 3 // 3 // 4

JM’s Interpretation ::

This is an interesting game, with the Chiefs on the road in Mahomes’ first game back against an opponent that has allowed only one team to top 23 points (with that “one team” getting that production largely on the ground — where the Chiefs are less likely to focus their offense); and yet, this is the Chiefs, with Mahomes. Their Vegas-implied team total of 27.0 looks about right if we played out this slate a hundred times — and while it will be difficult for the Chiefs in this game environment to put up six offensive touchdowns (i.e., true “have to have it” production from an offense as a whole), three to four touchdowns is a fair expectation, and it wouldn’t be a major outlier if they found a way to score five times. Mahomes is very much in the conversation, while Kelce and Hill are strong options as well (Kelce in all contest types; Hill primarily in tourneys).

Henry is the next most viable piece (with the floor concerns laid out above, but with the ceiling that comes with this matchup), while the Titans pass catchers are at least in the conversation as salary savers who “should post a non-awful score, and could slip into a big score even in a tougher matchup.” The Chiefs’ ancillary pieces are also (as always) viable in tourneys attached to this Mahomes-led offense — though the main focus in this game should fall to the biggest names, as these are the players with the best shot at breaking this slate open.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!

Kickoff Sunday, Nov 10th 1:00pm Eastern

Cards (
23) at

Bucs (

Over/Under 51.5


Key Matchups
Cardinals Run D
31st DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O
29th DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D
31st DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O
15th DVOA/6th Yards per pass
Buccaneers Run D
11th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O
8th DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D
15th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O
25th DVOA/29th Yards per pass

This is a circle-the-calendar type of game, between two teams with bad pass defenses that have combined for nine games already in which the final score totaled 53 or more points.

As we have explored throughout the season: the Cardinals (with only four teams in football producing a lower average intended air yards) don’t have all the elements of true shootout-producers. But they remain the fastest-paced team in the NFL (situation neutral), and while they rank only 19th in points per game and 20th in yards per game themselves, they are allowing the fifth most opponent plays per game and have given up the fifth most points per game. The Giants, Bengals, and (rather randomly) Ravens are the only teams that have not gone for 27+ against them. The Cardinals have also faced a slew of run-heavy teams (Ravens // Seahawks // 49ers included) and have notably allowed 33 to the Falcons, 31 to the Saints, and 38 to the Panthers. The Buccaneers offense ranks fourth in points per game and is in a great spot at home against an Arizona team that has allowed a 21% increase on the league-average catch rate.

One of the more interesting elements in this Tampa passing attack has been their tendency to focus most of the action in one game on a single receiver. Here is a game-by-game list of who led the Bucs in targets each game (starting with the most recent), with that player’s targets followed by the other’s ::

Evans :: 16 || 9
Evans :: 12 || 8
Evans :: 17 || 12
Godwin :: 9 || 3
Godwin :: 14 || 7
Evans :: 15 || 5
Godwin :: 9 || 8
Godwin :: 6 || 5

As the season has progressed, Evans has obviously seen his usage jump; but also, we have seen this team pile up six consecutive games of lopsided usage.

Last week, I ended up pulling a Costanza and using Evans quite a bit more than Godwin even though I liked Godwin more (while pairing the two in places and using at least one on every roster — which, as we explored the last couple weeks, should be considered a strong strategy every week right now), but last week it was also quite a bit less clear where the Bucs would lean. This week — at least on paper — Godwin has the better matchup, as Patrick Peterson should be expected to shadow Evans. Peterson has looked really rusty so far this year — getting beat in man coverage and making assignment-based mistakes in this new-to-him defense, so there is very clear potential for Evans to light up this spot regardless; but we should also keep in mind that these are not “numbers on a page” that play the games, but are instead actual human beings. Peterson isn’t the first human being to struggle in his first bit of action after a long layoff (both Zeke and Melvin Gordon have talked about the extra time it took them to settle back into the speed of the game), and given his work ethic and attention to detail, it’s likely he comes around at some point in this season. If single-entering and choosing only one of these guys, Godwin looks like the player likeliest to soak up double-digit looks; though if multi-entering, it’s obviously strong form to pair these two on some rosters and use Evans solo on some others. Again: as laid out last week, rostering “the higher-scoring Bucs receiver” each week would have basically given you a second Christian McCaffrey every week except Week 1 vs the 49ers, making it difficult to create a case for not isolating Buccaneers across the board.

My biggest mistake last week was playing Cameron Brate on my main roster (he played only 11 snaps — almost certainly due to the rib injury that had held him out of practice earlier in the week), as I had Doyle on pretty much every other roster and cost myself five figures in additional profit with that one move. Ouch. This week, Brate should be healthy, but O.J. Howard is returning as well. Brate was seeing two to three targets when Howard was active, while Howard was seeing three to five looks. Given the matchup against Arizona, it seems likely that Howard manages at least four looks, while he has an outside shot at five or six (which would, incredibly, be a season-high). Howard comes with a low floor, but he has genuine upside if he sees five or more targets.

It is noteworthy that Ronald Jones played 42 snaps last week while Peyton Barber played only nine — and while this wasn’t the first time RoJo saw a snap spike compared to Barber (and wasn’t even the first time Bruce Arians had said that Jones had earned a bigger role (after Barber out-snapped RoJo just the week before, coming off the bye no less)), it does seem somewhat likely that this usage sticks around for another week, potentially opening a path to Jones’ third 20-touch game this year. The Cardinals have been attackable no matter how teams choose to go after them, so 20 touches could easily lead to a solid game.

By now, we all know about the Bucs’ top-ranked run defense, which has led to this team facing the fourth highest opponent pass play rate in the league — though this matchup blends strangely for the Cardinals, as the Bucs are shaving over 11% off the league-average catch rate and 15% off the league-average YAC/r rate, while allowing an aDOT boost of over 31% (the largest aDOT boost in the league). To put that another way: the way to attack the Bucs is with downfield passing, as short-area throws against a lower-catch-rate team that tackles well and prevents YAC isn’t a great recipe for upside. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have been one of the most “horizontal” teams in the league. Starting with Week 3 (when the Cardinals began to find their shell), here is the biggest individual yardage game from a Cardinals receiver each week:

59 :: Christian Kirk (10 catches)
47 :: Larry Fitzgerald (five catches)
58 :: Larry Fitzgerald (six catches)
69 :: Larry Fitzgerald (six catches)
29 :: Pharoh Cooper (four catches)
79 :: Christian Kirk (eight catches)
88 :: Andy Isabella (one catch)

Kirk’s usage has separated from the pack when he has been healthy, with target counts of 12 // 8 // 12 // 5 // 11 // 5 in his healthy games this year, and is the best bet for the double-digit targets likely required to produce a big game from a pass catcher in this offense.

Behind Kirk, Fitzgerald will remain a “bet on broken play or touchdown” option as he continues he continues to slow down throughout the year. No other wide receiver on the Cardinals played more than 25 snaps last week, making the rest of this squad a speculative bet.

The Cardinals backfield is also speculative in a brutal matchup, with David Johnson set to return and Kenyan Drake having surely earned something of a role. If DJ returns to the role he had before and Drake merely scoops up the Chase Edmonds touches, DJ will have an outside shot at producing an elite score in the pass game (he’s been the leading receiver for this team twice already, and was one yard shy another time). This offense spreads the ball around plenty, so even with the matchup cooperating, nothing is guaranteed.

JM’s Interpretation ::

It surely goes without saying that I like Jameis Winston, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans this week. Given the tournaments that are standing out to me the most this week and the way the slate sets up, I plan to roll with nine rosters for Week 10 (likely without trying to cut down to one “main roster” — which, by the way, is something we’ll be talking about in the Chat Pod this week(!), as we got a couple questions centered around that topic), and I’ll have some form of Bucs exposure on every one of them. Some with Jameis. Some with both wide receivers. Some with one or the other. And perhaps at least one roster with a cheap shot taken on Howard, as he can’t kill you at his price (on DK and FDraft) even with another disappointing showing, and he’s one of the few players priced near the minimum who could pop off for a big game if things break his way. (He’s a low-floor bet, but he’s intriguing for the upside.) I also don’t hate the idea of rolling with Ronald Jones; the Bucs backs have also showed all year that they can produce a solid price-considered game without significantly detracting from the passing attack.

The horizontal, spread-it-around Cardinals are less standout-attractive, but this sets up well for Kirk to push for double-digit looks, which would likely be more than enough for him to produce at his salary. Behind Kirk, David Johnson and Kyler Murray are the next most attractive options, with “hoping to guess right on a Fitz touchdown or a busted play” your best bet from there.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!

Kickoff Sunday, Nov 10th 4:05pm Eastern

Dolphins (
16.5) at

Colts (

Over/Under 44.0


Key Matchups
Dolphins Run D
21st DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
9th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
18th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
17th DVOA/15th Yards per pass
Colts Run D
24th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
3rd DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
14th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
2nd DVOA/2nd Yards per pass

Trades and early-season blowouts have masked to the public just how much this Dolphins team has been developing, and how hard they have been playing. We’ve alluded to this a few times, but now that the Dolphins have picked up their first win (poor Dolphins fans, by the way; this is a bit like when Brad Stevens came to the Celtics and that team ended up being “too bad to truly matter,” but “too good to get the high draft picks they were targeting”), it is worth noting that the Dolphins have also had the lead at halftime in each of their last three games. To put that another way: this team is untalented and is likely to continue losing most games down the stretch; but unlike a lot of the bad teams that boast actual NFL talent, the Dolphins are fairly disciplined in their assignments, and they play hard from start to finish.

With that said, this spot sets up nicely for the Colts — a team whose record says 5-3 (which would already be impressive, given the way they entered the season), but whose record would actually say 7-1 if not for a pair of uncharacteristic “game-losing” misses by Adam Vinatieri. With the Colts coming off a brutal loss and the Dolphins coming off a win, Frank Reich should have his squad focused and prepared — allowing the talent gap between these teams to trump whatever effort edge the Dolphins have gained in some of their recent matchups.

We won’t be certain until later in the week who will be under center for the Colts (Indy expects Jacoby Brissett to be ready — though after how well Brian Hoyer played last week, they may be willing to give Brissett an extra week of rest against the Dolphins before a brutal and pivotal stretch of two games in five days against the Jaguars and the Texans), but regardless of who draws the start at quarterback, the path forward for this team should be fairly clear. The Colts have the fifth highest rush play rate in the NFL, and against a Dolphins team that has faced the second highest opponent rush play rate while giving up the most yards to running backs on the ground, it makes sense for them to focus ground-heavy. While Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins soak up a few touches of their own each game, Marlon Mack has a clear shot at a big enough workload to matter. Since Frank Reich took over as head coach of this team, Mack has played 22 games (playoffs included). In those games, the Colts have six wins of two or more touchdowns. Mack has scored in all six of those games (10 touchdowns total), with 119+ rushing yards in five of those six games and 26+ touches in four of them. He has an additional two games this year with 25+ touches (he has seen 25+ touches in 27.3% of his games with Reich). He has scored only three touchdowns this season and has seen only three carries inside the five (after seeing 12 last year, playing only three-quarters of the season), though the Colts’ schedule to date has tilted toward the air, with Mack having faced five of the top 11 DVOA run defenses already. The Dolphins rank 31st. There are paths to a big game here.

It has been remarkably easy to score touchdowns through the air against the Dolphins as well (no team has allowed more touchdowns to wideouts, and Miami has allowed the third most passing touchdown in all, in spite of having faced the third-fewest pass attempts in the league), so while this will be a lower-volume Colts attack that likes to spread the ball around, there is “bet on touchdown” potential here. As we always say regarding the Dolphins: there are no bad matchups; only potential for bad volume. Here are the Colts’ target counts in games T.Y. Hilton has missed ::

>> Jack Doyle :: 8 // 4
>> Eric Ebron :: 5 // 2
>> Zach Pascal :: 7 // 6
>> Chester Rogers :: 6 // 5
>> Deon Cain :: 5 // 2

Notably, Parris Campbell broke his hand after seeing target counts of 8 // 5 with Hilton out of action, which condenses the targets more fully among the names listed above. A monster game is unlikely from any of these players in this short-area, spread-the-wealth attack (in a game that should lean toward the ground), but at the prices where you can find these players, there is still some touchdown-driven upside.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, are now down Preston Williams and Mark Walton (suspension). This pathetic rushing attack (dead last in yards per carry, and ahead of only the Bengals in rushing yards per game) will fall to Kalen Ballage in a below-average spot with Darius Leonard on the field for the Colts — but most of the action, of course, should be forced through the air for Miami. It seems likely that Pierre Desir will make it back this week for the Colts after missing (but having a shot to play) last week, which tightens up this matchup (Indy ranks 11th in DVOA against the pass and has been without Desir off and on), but it has been possible this year for individual wide receivers to pick up some production in this spot, with the following notable stat lines allowed:

8-123-1 Keenan
8-128-1 Julio
6-103-1 Pringle
9-106-1 Hopkins
4-105-0 Stills

The Colts aim to force short-area throws, but they have been susceptible to downfield zone-beaters at times, and we know that Ryan Fitzpatrick will chuck the ball downfield to DeVante Parker (Fitz ranks third in average intended air yards; Parker ranks 14th in aDOT). It isn’t crazy to think Parker sees a clear eight to 10 targets here after seeing 10 // 8 // 6 his last three weeks with Williams on the field. Even with all the downfield targets, he hasn’t topped 75 yards in a game, but another 60 to 70 yards and a touchdown are in play, with outlier upside for more.

Of course, the player who really stands out here is Mike Gesicki, who has recent target counts of 7 // 4 // 3 // 6 and now catches a matchup vs a Colts team that filters targets to tight ends (10th most tight end targets faced, compared to the fewest wide receiver targets faced; last year, this team again faced the fewest wide receiver targets and faced the third most tight end targets). Gesicki is seeing his average target 9.3 yards downfield (which aligns him with tight ends like Ertz // Olsen // Ebron, as opposed to the short-area Vance // Fells // Rudolph range) and he should be able to pick up another six or seven targets fairly easily in this spot.

Behind these guys, it will be Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, and Allen Hurns, with some “hope to guess right on the rising role” upside at their prices. It seems likely that Hurns gets the biggest bump from this group as a player who can function as a downfield complement to Parker.

JM’s Interpretation ::

There are a lot of affordable pieces with real roles in this game — so while the Colts spread the ball around and the Dolphins have a bad offense in a not-great matchup, it’s nevertheless viable to play around with some roster construction approaches that incorporate these pieces (especially given how much upside there is on some of the higher-priced players this week). None of these players pop off the page, but all of Parker // Hurns // Gesicki // Doyle // Ebron // Pascal // Rogers have some level of “worth thinking about at their price” to their game this week. At least two very strong, price-considered scores should emerge from that group; so while you’re massively unlikely to find a player with slate-breaking upside here, you can potentially grab a solid score while opening up salary for added upside in other spots.

The piece that really stands out in this game, of course, is Mack. Mack’s price is beyond obnoxious this week (pretty much across the board) for a player who has played 58% of his team’s snaps the last two weeks and has practically no role in the pass game; but unless the usage simply dries up, he has a clear shot at a strong game, with plenty of ways for him to reach a big game if the Colts handle this spot the way they should. If the Colts pick up a two-touchdown win (as we saw above), a game with 120+ yards and two touchdowns is well within reach. His role and price will combine to keep him out of Tier 1 this week, but he’s a really strong “upside” option in Tier 3.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!

Kickoff Sunday, Nov 10th 4:25pm Eastern

Panthers (
21.75) at

Packers (

Over/Under 48.5


Key Matchups
Panthers Run D
32nd DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O
17th DVOA/10th Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
20th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O
5th DVOA/10th Yards per pass
Packers Run D
26th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
25th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Packers Pass D
27th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
32nd DVOA/32nd Yards per pass

Although the Packers began the year scorching hot on defense, they have cooled off significantly over the last month and a half, now ranking 20th in DVOA (13th against the pass; 26th against the run), while having allowed the 12th most yards per game. Ultimately, this defense has been “average to below-average,” and they have not been immune to the big game through the air, having allowed the following notable stat lines to pass catchers:

7-102-0 Allen Robinson
11-126-1 Amari
7-113-1 Gallup
5-121-0 Golladay
7-126-2 Waller
3-111-0 Mike Williams

You might have spotted a pattern in that “notable stat line” list: yardage piling up for a number of those players without huge reception totals required to get there. This captures the biggest issue the Packers have had on defense this year: the big play. While they have been better than the league average at opponent aDOT and opponent catch rate prevention, they are adding 9% to the league-average YAC/r rate, and have given up the sixth most pass plays of 20+ yards and the most pass plays of 40+ yards. This quietly sets up well for both of the Panthers’ key wide receivers, with D.J. Moore possessing one of the stronger YAC skill sets in the league (even if he hasn’t been able to show it off a ton this year), and with Curtis Samuel still a major candidate for positive regression, as he ranks fifth in the league in average depth of target and eighth in percentage share of team air yards, and has nevertheless failed to top even 70 yards in all but one game this year.

Of course, part of the reason Moore and Samuel remain affordable (with Moore’s 101 yards last week marking the first 100-yard effort from this pair) is because Christian McCaffrey is basically the entire Panthers offense. Starting with his most recent game, CMC has touch counts of 27 // 18 // 26 // 25 // 37 // 27 across the last month and a half, with 93 or more rushing yards in every game this season that came against a team other than the Bucs, and with a stunning 13 touchdowns on the year. As we have touched on throughout the season: there are good running backs who are featured…and then there are good running backs who have their offense built around them. CMC is one of the only backs who falls into that second category, making him a lock-and-load option every week. The Packers have allowed the third most rushing yards and the most rushing touchdowns to running backs this year.

On the other side of the ball, we have a Panthers defense that was focused “inside out” for years (with the strength centered around the line, and the Panthers looking to take away the run first and foremost while their pass defense lagged behind), but after some personnel and (more importantly) structural changes to the way this team approaches defense, they have flipped those around in 2019, becoming perhaps the most “outside-in” team in the league. Through the first nine weeks of the year, the Panthers rank third in DVOA against the pass and 32nd against the run. Now, it’s worth noting that the statistical reality hasn’t quite matched up with those metrics (for example: the Panthers have allowed the 12th most yards to wide receivers), but they have done a good job forcing opponents to spread the ball around, with only “Bucs receivers” and D.J. Chark topping 100 yards against them.

As we explored at the start of the season, the Packers under Matt LaFleur want Davante Adams to be more of an “eight to 11 target” player than a “12 to 15 target” guy, and that has played out so far this season, with Adams seeing target counts of 8 // 9 // 4 // 15 // 11 (with the 15-look outlier coming against an Eagles team that consistently left him wide open on underneath routes). That’s not to say that those big volume games won’t pop up from time to time, but the expectation should continue to be for such games to be more the exception than the rule. With a below-average matchup, then, you’re betting on Adams to make some big plays or score touchdowns — which is always viable in this Aaron Rodgers offense; but the bankable, monster volume of the past is one element that has been removed. (It is, of course, fluky that Adams has no touchdowns this year after scoring a ridiculous 12 red zone touchdowns last year. Part of this is the offense changing its play-calling down there under LaFleur; but another part of this is pure variance.)

The best matchup for the Packers belongs to Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, with the Panthers allowing a monstrous 4.91 yards per carry to enemy backs. Unfortunately, Jones has 105 snaps the last three weeks and Williams has 77, while (as noted last week) they remain priced up for the elevated pass game role that came when Adams was out (and which has shifted with Adams back). Not to say that these guys cannot have a high-target game, but these games are far less bankable with Adams on the field. Jones has averaged 3.0 targets per game with Adams vs 6.75 per game without. Williams has averaged 3.0 targets per game with Adams vs 4.3 per game without.

JM’s Interpretation ::

This is definitely a game to look toward on a slate this small, with points sure to be scored and fairly narrow distributions of touches on both sides.

On the Panthers side, I like Moore and Samuel as Tier 3 options and obviously like McCaffrey quite a bit as a clear Tier 1. Behind these guys, Greg Olsen is also “in the conversation” at the tight end position (he has a less secure target floor than a player like Gesicki and less upside than a player like O.J. Howard, but it wouldn’t be a major outlier at this ugly position if he posted one of the stronger price-considered scores on the slate).

On the Packers’ side, the prices on the backfield will likely keep me away, as these guys can produce, but they are priced for expanded roles that are no longer in place. I do like Adams — even in a tough matchup — as a reliable piece with touchdown regression in his favor. He’s a lesser on-paper play than Evans // Godwin // Thomas, and he may be below guys like Tyreek Hill and Julio Jones as well; but it wouldn’t take a major outlier for him to score a pair of touchdowns and be one of the higher-scoring plays at the position. (Behind Adams, it’s been an all-out rotation for the Packers, with all of MVS, Geronimo Allison, and Allen Lazard playing 25 to 33 snaps last week, and with Jake Kumerow pitching in 13 snaps of his own. Lazard seems to be the player Rodgers likes the most right now, if choosing to dig deeper in this spot.)

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!

Kickoff Sunday, Nov 10th 4:25pm Eastern

Rams (
23.75) at

Steelers (

Over/Under 43.5


Key Matchups
Rams Run D
20th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
12th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Rams Pass D
22nd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
Steelers Run D
13th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Rams Run O
7th DVOA/8th Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
7th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Rams Pass O
10th DVOA/3rd Yards per pass

The pecking order for the Rams passing attack has been rearranged over the last several weeks, with this team now leaning Cooper Kupp, Gerald Everett, Robert Woods, in that order, with Todd Gurley pulling less involvement in the pass game this year than he did a year ago (5.79 targets per game last year; 3.43 targets per game this year). Expectations coming out of the bye week should be that the Rams have their offensive line working together better than they have to date (we should keep in mind that while talent is important on the offensive line, a line’s ability to communicate and work together is an even bigger piece of the puzzle — especially on an offense like the Rams, which requires the line to work so fully in sync; more than likely, the offensive line is the reason we have seen a less effective screen game from this team, and have seen the screens called less often), so there is a chance that Gurley begins to produce at a higher level in the second half of the season than he has to date — though obviously, we will go into this game simply “guessing and hoping” that will be the case, rather than actually knowing a thing.

The matchup, of course, is not terrifying, but it is unattractive (Pittsburgh has allowed the 13th fewest points per game and the 11th fewest yards per game, while ranking fifth in defensive DVOA: sixth against the pass; 16th against the run), with the Steelers ranking fifth in sacks and second in turnovers forced.They have allowed the 11th fewest receiving yards to wideouts and the 14th fewest rushing yards to running backs, and have been consistently improving throughout the season, making this a “bet on talent” spot for the Rams offense in a matchup that slightly lowers expectations.

Of course, the weakest link of the Steelers defense is their tight end coverage, where they have faced only a couple elite weapons (Kittle // Henry), but have allowed 6-57-0 and 8-100-0 (respectively) in those spots. (The Steelers also allowed the Ravens tight ends to hit them for a combined 9-77-0 — though most teams that have played the Ravens could say that.) Everett’s snap count in this offense continues to be game plan specific (in Week 8, even with Brandin Cooks missing almost the entire game, Everett played only 29 snaps to 33 for Tyler Higbee; but in Week 7 he played 55 of a possible 75 snaps), but he has been fairly reliably involved (recent target counts of 3 // 10 // 5 // 11 // 8), and it’s likely that the Rams look to continue involving him this week with Cooks sidelined.

Kupp has produced 100+ yards in all but three games this year, and his matchup against the 49ers is the only spot in which he truly disappointed (with that matchup obviously leading to lots of disappointing stat lines this year). It is noteworthy that the Steelers are one of only two teams in football that has not yet allowed a wide receiver to go for more than 100 yards against them (the closest was Phillip Dorsett going a somewhat fluky 4-95-2), so consider this a below-average spot against a defense that is generally able to force opponents to spread the ball around in search of ways to move the field; but if anyone can beat this matchup, it’s Kupp, who ranks third in yards, fourth in targets, and even top 10 in touchdowns among wide receivers. The top four players in yards per game are Michael Thomas, both our boys from the Bucs, and Kupp, so while he does not have the matchup the other three have, he certainly remains afloat in the conversation.

Woods has become an afterthought, with recent target counts of 2 // 7 // 4 // 9 — though as his targets have dropped, his usage in the run game has increased, with seven carries in his last three games compared to five in the other five games this year. Ultimately, Woods is a bet on this offense coming out of the bye with more juice than they have shown to date, or on this offense getting him more heavily involved against a team that has not yet allowed a 100-yard receiver. The Steelers limit YAC/r at the second best rate in the league, so big, broken plays are a rarity, but anything can happen, and Woods offers affordable exposure to the Rams.

The Rams seem set on limiting Gurley’s usage, as he has played only 57.8% of their snaps across their last two games (which is somewhat maddening, given that Gurley played 92.9% of the Rams snaps in Week 5 before his quad injury — usage that went entirely unnoticed by the field, and would have been a nice edge if it had continued to hold) — but he does have recent touch counts of 10 // 19 // 18 if you want to bet on him landing at the higher end of that range and producing at a higher level than he has to date. (The best bet, if playing Gurley — of course — is to hope for touchdowns to follow.)

The Steelers offense has been focused on non-aggressive play — playing at the eighth-slowest pace, ranking middle of the pack in pass play rate, and throwing the ball, on average, a middling 7.9 yards down the field. No pass catcher on this team has hit double-digit targets in a game this year, and since Week 2, there have been only two instances of a pass catcher topping seven looks (JuJu Smith-Schuster has a game with nine; Diontae Johnson has a game with eight). The Rams are likely to put Jalen Ramsey on JuJu in an effort to force Mason Rudolph to beat them in 10-on-10 football across the other areas of the field. This is an edge to the Rams defense — especially with Clay Matthews returning this week to provide extra pass rushing juice — and only the 49ers, Patriots, and Bills have allowed fewer pass plays of 20+ yards than L.A. Outside of “Bucs receivers” (in this instance, Godwin: 12-172-2), no wide receiver has topped 100 yards against the Rams.

Of course, the best bet for production on the Steelers is their backfield, with this “role” yielding recent touch counts for James Conner of 27 // 23, and with Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds combining for 33 touches last week. There is a whole lot up in the air with this backfield right now, as Edmunds and Conner both missed practice Wednesday. Conner is tentatively expected to suit up this week and will reclaim the lead role if he plays. If he misses, it will be Samuels again in the pass game role (13 targets last week for the former collegiate H-back), and there is a case to be made that his split workload last week in the run game was due to him playing in his first game back from injury. Of course, there is also a chance that we see Samuels work in the pass game while Edmunds works in the run game, leaving both a bit iffy in this matchup this week if Conner misses and Edmunds plays.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Although the Rams are not in a “great spot” on the road against Pittsburgh, Everett and Kupp set up well enough on this fairly consolidated offense that has had an extra week to prepare. Each can be considered in all contest types at their respective prices.

The rest of the Rams leave you “hoping for a breakout game” and building around that scenario in tournaments (i.e., rather than just guessing on a Rams player here and there, focus on making sure that any Rams rosters of yours are built around the idea of the Rams having a strong game in this spot — asking yourself what that would mean for production across the board, and what that might mean for the Steelers in return).

On the Steelers side — with Rudolph under center and an improving Rams defense coming to town (impressively, the Rams rank fourth in overall defensive DVOA: 15th against the pass and fourth against the run) — this is not an ultra- attractive spot (which is backed up by their Vegas-implied total of only 20.25). But this backfield role is always worth keeping in mind if we have clarity heading into the weekend, and there are pieces on this team (Diontae // Vance // Washington // even JuJu in a tough matchup vs Ramsey) who can score from anywhere on the field if you want to chase.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!

Kickoff Sunday, Nov 10th 8:20pm Eastern

Vikings (
22.5) at

Cowboys (

Over/Under 48.0


Key Matchups
Vikings Run D
12th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O
15th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D
10th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O
11th DVOA/14th Yards per pass
Cowboys Run D
9th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O
27th DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D
6th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O
21st DVOA/17th Yards per pass

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

Shoutout to Xandamere for fighting through the plague to get this Showdown writeup our way. Let’s go!!!

The first half of the season kept giving us terrible showdown matchups, but lately we’ve been seeing some good ones. Here we have the Vikings traveling to Dallas in what would be a pickem on a neutral field; Dallas is a field goal favorite at home in a 48.5 total game. If you glance just above at the DVOA matchups, you’ll see this is a battle of strength on strength — both teams boast solid defenses, but overall, the offensive DVOA for both the run and the pass for each team ranks better than the opposing defensive DVOA. This means that there isn’t one amazing matchup to exploit, which will lead to ownership being spread around.

The Minnesota run offense is in an interesting spot here. Dalvin Cook has been one of the two highest scoring running backs in the NFL on an offense that wants to run first and is missing one of its two top receivers. On the other hand, Cook is also a road underdog facing a relatively tough run defense whose pass game work has been somewhat up and down this season (5+ targets in 5 games, 3 or fewer targets in the other 4). My overall opinion here is that I like Zeke better than Cook, especially at a $1k discount, but Cook is still one of the highest-ceiling plays on the slate. I am still debating how I rank Cook compared to Cousins and Dak, but I think it’s something like Dak > Zeke > Cook > Cousins, without accounting for price. Behind Cook, Alexander Mattison only really gets involved when the Vikings are stomping their opponents — Mattison had 15 touches in a Week 8 romp of the Redskins (and if he’d gotten in the end zone at the end of the game there I would have won a lot of money…), but just 3 touches in a closer affair with the Chiefs last week. I would only use Mattison in builds in which I’m projecting the Vikings to have a multiple-score lead.

The Vikings’ pass offense without Thielen is interesting. Last week, Stef Diggs only saw 5 targets (in a game in which Cousins dropped back 38 times), catching 1. 5 other Vikings saw 4 or more targets, including backup running back C.J. Ham, TE2 Irv Smith, and Laquon “who?” Treadwell. I’m going to bet on snap counts over targets, though — Treadwell only played 28% of the snaps, so I’ll let someone else chase that. The 2 wideouts who should be on the field for most of the snaps are Diggs and Olabisi Johnson, while the Vikings are likely to run a lot of 12 personnel as they did last week, which puts Rudolph and Smith on the field at the same time. Those 4 are basically the Vikings’ receiving corps for this game (plus Cook, of course). If the Cowboys are not able to successfully scheme out Diggs, he should be the focal point of the passing game, and should see as many targets as he can handle. Bisi, Rudolph, and Smith are all very viable value plays in the 4-5k range — they all seem about 1k too cheap there, to me. 

The Dallas offense is even more narrowly focused and I feel like I could just copy/paste what I wrote up the last time they were in a showdown. In the run game, Zeke will get his 22-25 touches, and while the Vikings are a solid enough run defense, the Cowboys’ O-line has enough of an edge on them so that it doesn’t worry me one bit. It’s worth noting that in last week’s matchup against the Giants, Tony Pollard got 3 targets (Zeke somehow didn’t get a single one). Personally I do not believe that this is the start of a trend of using Pollard over Zeke in the passing game, but you could bet that way, I suppose. All in all I view Zeke as a locked-in 3-down bellcow who is a home favorite, which is just the kind of play I want to make in DFS.

The Raiders’ pass game centers around Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, and as I wrote about the last time the Cowboys were in a showdown, there really isn’t that much of an opportunity gap between them. Their target volume is similar (Cooper does have a modest lead in air yards), but overall the differences between them this year has been that Cooper’s scoring the touchdowns, while Gallup has dropped more passes than one would expect. The opportunity, though, is so close between them that I view them as more akin to, say, Diggs and Thielen last year than to a traditional WR1/WR2 designation. Behind them, Randall Cobb unexpectedly spiked up to 8 targets last week…and still only scored 8.5 Draftkings points. If he doesn’t get in the end zone he’s probably not relevant. The Dallas tight end split became even more apparent as Jason Witten caught 8 of 9 targets….for just 58 yards. Meanwhile Blake Jarwin caught 1 of 1 targets, for 42 yards and a touchdown. Witten is a plodder who the Cowboys can use to make consistent short gains, and he does have a great red zone role (he’s leading the team in red zone targets). Jarwin gets far less volume but is much more athletic, capable of big plays but also capable of putting up a 0. 

The way this game is likely to play out is, for lack of a better word, grindy. These two teams rank in the bottom 6 in the NFL in passing play percentage, and as long as the game stays reasonably close, they’re both quite content to lean on the run game. 

Some other ways it could play out:

  • If one team gets out in front, the other will need to open up the playbook a bit and take to the air. This is going to be a common way to attack this showdown: one of the RBs in the captain spot and then bringing it back with the other team’s passing attack. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad play, though.
  • While both of these teams want to run, as we’ve seen many times, touchdowns are unpredictable. Zeke and Cook are going to be massively owned and you won’t find many rosters that don’t have at least 1 of them. Betting on the touchdowns going to the receivers is a way to be contrarian here.

My favorite overall captain here is Zeke as the home favorite bellcow RB. Behind him, I’ll have a fair bit of Gallup exposure in the captain slot, as his discount lets you make some differentiated rosters. Finally, the cheaper Vikings receivers open up a lot if you happen to stumble into a big game from one of them, but it’s tough to tell which one is likeliest to smash.

Some groups to consider:

  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers (could consider 1 in the case of Dak)
  • Pair captain receivers with their QB
  • At most 1 of Mattison and Zeke (Mattison only gets a lot of run when the Vikings are up by a lot, which would largely take Zeke out of the game)
  • At most 2 of Bisi, Rudolph, and Smith

Advanced Showdowns

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 ::

  • The Cowboys’ Vegas-implied total in this game of 25.5 sits comfortably among the higher-scoring teams on the Main Slate, and is a reminder that the Vikings defense has not been as daunting as in the past. Dallas players are always priced for their reliable roles (Amari and Zeke are true focal points of this offense, and Gallup is always going to be involved), so none of these guys approach “lock-and-load” territory against a still-solid defense with pricing accounting for role; but all can be considered in tourney play. Dak // Amari // Zeke are a “certainty” step below guys like Lamar || Mike Thomas // Evans // Godwin || Christian McCaffrey; but all have paths to outscoring these names and emerging as one of the more valuable pieces on the slate, making them worth keeping in mind as you build for tourneys.
  • The Vikings will be without Adam Thielen again, so it will be a lot of 12 personnel with Irv Smith and Kyle Rudolph, a lot of Cook, and a lot of Diggs. Last week, Laquon Treadwell saw a number of looks, but the snaps didn’t back up the usage, and he’s still behind Cook // Diggs // Olabisi // tight ends in the pecking order on this offense.
  • Cook does not have the matchup that CMC has (Dallas has struggled off and on against the run this year, but they have the pieces to be solid when things come together), and his role (as noted last week) is not as valuable as CMC’s. But he’s an interesting pivot as a guy whose ownership may dip a bit after he disappointed in a premium spot a week ago.
  • Diggs, of course, does not have the locked-in usage of the “bullet point” names from this week (Thomas // Evans // Godwin), with his big showings this year generally coming on seven or eight targets. But we also know what he can do when things break his way. Dallas focuses on limiting downfield passing, so the spot isn’t great; but Diggs can always be considered for the upside, especially with Thielen set to miss.
  • Nothing in this game pops off as must-play, but there are tourney considerations across the board, and there are ways to build around this game turning into a higher-scoring affair than the other games on this weekend’s slate.

Kickoff Monday, Nov 11th 8:15pm Eastern

Hawks (
20.25) at

49ers (

Over/Under 47.0


Key Matchups
Seahawks Run D
23rd DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
49ers Run O
2nd DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
25th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
49ers Pass O
1st DVOA/1st Yards per pass
49ers Run D
15th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
49ers Pass D
4th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
8th DVOA/12th Yards per pass

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

We’ve gotten a great series of island game showdowns this week and it wraps up with the surprisingly 8-0 49ers hosting the 7-2 Seahawks in a divisional matchup with significant implications. The 49ers are 6 point home favorites in a 47.5 total game, which means the Seahawks are implied for just 20.75 points — a total they’ve only failed to hit once this year; and while I’m not in the business of betting lines, it feels pretty low for this offense. Seattle can take it slow when they’re ahead, but if they fall behind, they can be as explosive as just about anyone. 

The Seattle run game is the bread and butter of their offense as they’re running almost as much as last year and more than all but four other teams in the NFL. Chris Carson, despite another two fumbles last week, played 85% of the snaps and saw 18 touches against just four for Rashaad Penny. The days of this being a split backfield appear to be over, at least for now. The 49ers defense is elite against the pass but has been attackable on the ground, especially with Kwon Alexander now out for the rest of the season. This is why I feel like the Seattle game total is low: Seattle’s offense focuses on the run, and that’s where the 49ers can be attacked. Despite being a road underdog, Carson is still an elite play (especially at just $8,600!), as we know the Seahawks will keep running, running, running if the game is anywhere even remotely close. 

The pass game is where San Francisco’s defense is absolute elite, so Russell Wilson is going to have his work cut out for him. Only two passing offenses have thrown for more than 200 yards against the 49ers. San Francisco brings a ton of pressure with the highest sack rate in the NFL, but Russ has always been successful under pressure (he’s gotten used to having shabby offensive lines during his career), so I’m willing to bet on him here. The question is who to pair him with. Tyler Lockett, obviously, is the best choice, but he’s also priced up to $10,400, which is intimidating considering the matchup. He’s clearly the best option in the Seattle passing attack. Behind Lockett it gets ugly fast…DK Metcalf is the other full-time player, but perimeter WRs have been absolutely eliminated by the 49ers secondary. David Moore has been passing Jaron Brown and Malik Turner lately, but they’ve all been involved, and now of course Josh Gordon has been signed. Gordon almost certainly isn’t ready to take on a full workload, but he’ll eat into Moore’s snaps. Jacob Hollister scored two touchdowns last week but that was due to Luke Willson leaving for part of the game. Ed Dickson is also looking likely to return, which throws the tight end situation into a multi-way split. Lockett is the only reliable choice here, with Metcalf and Hollister (especially if Dickson isn’t active) the best of the dart throws. Josh Gordon is an interesting GPP option at just $5,400 as he has the on-field talent to beat anybody and he isn’t priced for a full-time role. 

The 49ers have taken establishing the run to new heights this season, with a passing play percentage of just 44% — the lowest in the NFL by over 2.5%. Don’t be fooled by last week’s flop as the highest owned player in the SF @ ARI showdown; Tevin Coleman should still be the lead back in this backfield, as he played 55% of the snaps compared to 39% for Matt Breida and just 3% each for Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson. Coleman isn’t a bellcow, but he’s the lead dog here, and he’s also getting almost all of the red zone work. Given how heavily the 49ers lean on the run game, you can play Coleman and Breida together as it is entirely reasonable for them both to get 15+ touches. Mostert and Wilson appear to have been mostly phased out with Coleman and Breida both healthy, and are just longshot dart throws.

The San Francisco pass game is interesting to pick apart here. With George Kittle almost certainly out, they’ll be missing their leading receiver. Emmanuel Sanders has been the only full-time receiver on the squad, but he’s priced at $10,200 as a true WR1, which I’m not sure I’m willing to buy despite his big game last week. He’s a solid if overpriced play here. Behind Sanders, Deebo Samuel is the most reliable receiver in this offense, playing about two thirds of the snaps. His target volume can disappear in a non-competitive game (as it can for any 49ers receiver), but if you expect this one to be a battle, Deebo should see at least 5 or 6 looks. The rest of the wideouts (Pettis, Bourne, and James) are rotational pieces who have little value as anything other than dart throws. The 49ers receiving corps doesn’t exactly end there, though…fullback Kyle Juszczyk is returning, and coachspeak suggests he could be used similarly to Kittle, which would of course be a massive value at just $600. We also have Ross Dwelley, who stepped in for Kittle last game and caught 4 of 4 targets, and at just $2,000 represents another interesting bargain. I don’t know how to interpret coachspeak and if there’s anything to Juszczyk playing as a tight end, but I do know that the fullback has been critical to the success of the run game, so having him back helps Coleman and Breida, and before getting hurt he was still seeing a couple of targets per game of his own so he’s unlikely to put up a total dud. 

The most likely way for this game to play out is a close-fought, ground-based affair. The 49ers are happy to run all day, while the Seahawks run in order to set up their deep vertical passing game. The main interesting pieces are the running backs, quarterbacks, and Tyler Lockett, with the rest of the receivers all carrying varying levels of attractiveness in tournaments. 

Some other ways the game could play out:

  • If you believe the 49ers are really “favored by 6” then you might want to invest more in the Seattle passing game. The Seahawks pass game is elite, but we just rarely see enough volume unless they fall way behind. If they do so in this one, we could see Russ at 35+ attempts, which even against the 49ers secondary could be enough volume to be a total smash.
  • As I find myself frequently noting, we can predict usage but we can’t really predict touchdowns, and while these teams all love to run the ball, it’s entirely possible that every score in this game comes through the air. The rotational nature of both receiving corps makes it hard to predict how that shakes out, but you could certainly take some stands here.
  • While the Seahawks are a highly capable offense, the 49ers are also a fantastic defense, and it’s not uncommon for us to see road teams just totally fall flat at unexpected times. Onslaught lineups are contrarian and should give some nice leverage.

Overall my favorite captains are the 3 main running backs, but I also want to have exposure to Sanders as the only full-time receiver in Kittle’s absence and perhaps a bit of Juszczyk just in case he gets more pass game usage than normal. 

Some groups to consider:

  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain receivers with their QB (I might consider skipping this for Sanders, because in a real shootout, Russ’ rushing ability could have him outscoring Jimmy G even if Sanders is the single highest scoring player)
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
  • At most 2 of Jimmy G, Coleman, and Breida except in 49ers onslaught lineups
  • At most 1 of each team’s minor rotational pieces (and you may even consider a group to have at most 1 of these guys in total across both teams, as the chances of any of them truly smashing are fairly slim)

Advanced Showdowns

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 ::

  • There are two ways to look at this game :: what is likeliest to happen, and what could happen
  • What is likeliest to happen :: The 49ers’ defense is absolutely elite, having allowed only four notable stat lines all year: two to Bengals pass catchers in a blowout, and two to ultra-versatile backs in Christian McCaffrey and Kenyan Drake. Since we should always build in an effort to capture the highest scores on the slate, Seahawks players become unattractive from a “likeliest scenario” standpoint. And while the 49ers have a good matchup when they have the ball (the Seattle defense has been between mediocre and poor all season, in nearly all areas), this is also an offense that likes to spread action around, using multiple backs and spreading targets to multiple pass catchers. Emmanuel Sanders and George Kittle are “the best bets” for heavy usage and production, but in this “likeliest scenario” even those guys do not push for top scores on the slate.
  • What could happen :: Because the Seahawks are a vertical, attack-minded offense when they pass the ball, and because the Seahawks are almost always able to play their games close, there are paths available to this game turning into more of a “shootout” than the field will expect. Is it likely that Seattle gets their vertical passing game moving to such an extent that players from this team become slate-winners? No. But is it possible? Absolutely. And if that happens, the concentrated pass game usage on Sanders and Kittle will make these two potential slate-winners as well.
  • To put that another way: no players from this game are lock-and-load options; but Sanders and Kittle can be considered in all formats for their role/matchup (they’re likeliest to post a “solid score,” but you could hope for some things to break their way and for a slate-winner to emerge), and game stacks can be considered if you want to build around a scenario in which the Seahawks are able to hit a few big plays through the air. In this scenario, Russell Wilson, one or even two of his pass catchers, and one or two pass catchers on the 49ers could all become viable on a tourney roster. Again: not the likeliest scenario; but if multi-entering the Thursday-to-Monday, it’s a scenario to at least consider.