One of the things we have talked about on the site this year is the way that good teams tend to improve throughout the season, so that where they might have been only 2% or 3% better than their competition around Week 3 or 4, they might be 10% or 20% better than their competition around Week 13 or 14. And actually, I’ve always felt that this idea relates somewhat closely to NFL DFS as well. I’ve seen it said that the best time to make money in NFL DFS is early in the season, before everyone has a feel for the teams; but I’ve always felt (and the results have borne this out) that the edge actually grows throughout the season as we continue to focus on getting incrementally better, and understanding the NFL incrementally better, than our competition. As we have talked about before in this regard: teams tend to evolve, change, improve, regress, etc. throughout the course of the season, and when our competition allows their perception of teams to ossify, we can continue getting incrementally better than them as a result.
All of which brings us to the New York Jets. Typically by this point in the season, our feel for a team should be strong, and we should be digging deeper and deeper into the nuances of what that team is doing in order to expand our edge (rather than finding ourselves in a position where we are just trying to “get to know a team”). But this Jets team has defied conventional DFS analysis — with maddening and unpredictable ups and downs that often have little to do with factors we can account for heading into the week.
Here’s what we do know about the Jets: their offense is primarily centered around five weapons ::
Le’Veon Bell will play most of the snaps in the backfield, and he will be involved in the run game and the pass game each week — with recent touch counts of 25 // 22 // 20 // 17 // 14, and with reception totals in that stretch of 8 // 4 // 2 // 5 // 4. He has also been one of the least explosive players in the NFL this year, averaging only 3.2 yards per carry and (even more damning) 4.17 yards per touch. Twelve games into the season, Bell has zero rushes (and only two receptions) of 20+ yards. Touchdowns have been his best source of “upside.” He has four touchdowns on the year.
Jamison Crowder is the featured weapon in the pass game, with recent target counts of 9 // 6 // 8 // 4 // 9. Crowder primarily works the short and intermediate areas of the field, requiring him to see somewhat heavy volume (or a busted play) in order to produce upside. He has fallen shy of 30 receiving yards in four of his last seven games, but he has also topped 75 yards in each of his other three.
Demaryius Thomas works the intermediate areas of the field (with some short-area looks mixed in); and while he is seeing consistent usage (recent target counts of 3 // 9 // 5 // 3 // 5), his lack of explosiveness at this point in his career is making it difficult for him to produce big games. He requires multiple touchdowns (or something really breaking his way) for upside to materialize.
Two weeks ago, the Jets decided to “stop forcing the ball to Robby Anderson,” and since then he has gone 4-86-1 and 7-101-0. Last week marked the first time in six games that Robby had topped six targets, and his downfield role (aDOT of 16.0 — the sixth deepest mark in the league) takes away any semblance of floor. This downfield role also gives him a clear shot at upside, however, making him a classic boom/bust play. Robby has finished under 25 receiving yards in half his games this year, but he has also gone for 80+ four times, and has scored in two of those four games.
Finally, Ryan Griffin is an outlet between the 20s and is often schemed looks close to the end zone — with only three games this season north of 30 yards, but with five touchdowns on the year (on a team-leading four targets inside the 10).
This is also a team that put up big games against Dallas, the Giants, Washington, and Oakland, while crumbling against the Dolphins and Bengals. Again: this squad defies conventional analysis. What we can go into this game knowing, however, is that the matchup is good on all levels, with the Dolphins ranking bottom six in DVOA against the run, DVOA against the pass, yards allowed per carry, yards allowed per pass attempt, opponent drive success rate, opponent third down conversion rate, yards allowed per game, and points allowed per game. This team — as explored throughout the season — is disciplined and assignment-strong, but they are also severely lacking in talent. They have allowed 27+ points in five of their last seven games. If the Jets show up to play, another 34 point game (which would be their fourth in their last five) will be very much within reach — though of course, the same could have been said for their games against the Bengals and Dolphins. Miami doesn’t have the pass rushing pieces with which the Bengals were able to wreak havoc, and this is a home game for the Jets, tilting the “likeliest scenario” toward a solid showing for this squad — though of course, this all comes with the inexplicable risk the up-and-down Jets have introduced.
On the Dolphins side of the ball, the offense can be broken down into three usage tiers:
In the first tier is DeVante Parker, who has recent target counts of 10 // 10 // 11 // 10, and who has topped 50 yards in all but two games this season (while topping 90 yards in three straight). Parker has only one target inside the 10, but he has a useful nine targets inside the 20 and has posted six touchdowns on the year.
In the second tier is Mike Gesicki, Albert Wilson, and Allen Hurns. Gesicki has recent target counts of 6 // 6 // 7 // 7, and while his role is primarily short-area, he has seen this usage extended enough times to provide paths to upside. Jamal Adams appears likely to miss this week, which would make this matchup significantly softer for Gesicki. Wilson has 6 // 7 // 5 targets the last three weeks and has added three carries. With the shallowest aDOT in the entire NFL, he needs to really bust through in the YAC department to provide upside, but he has the speed to conceivably get there. Hurns is working the intermediate areas (with some short-area looks and some downfield looks), mixing in for recent target counts of 4 // 6 // 7 // 4. He has yet to top 53 yards this year, but he is given enough work to have paths to passing that mark.
In the third tier is the backfield, where the Dolphins are now without Kalen Ballage after already losing Mark Walton and trading Kenyan Drake. Patrick Laird played 42 snaps last week to only 16 for Myles Gaskin and should be in line to lead the charge. As we know: the Dolphins are worse than pathetic at running the ball, and the Jets boast the second best run defense in football; but as explored a couple weeks ago, Laird does have some juice as a pass catcher, having now hauled in 12 of 14 targets across his last five games for 109 yards. Laird will need to trip into a couple touchdowns (or see a major spike in pass catching work) to become a standout piece, but he does have clear paths to “floor” production.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Outside of Le’Veon, the Jets are just really affordable for a home matchup against the Dolphins. With 13 teams on this slate (and the sort of score this means you’ll likely need for first place in a tourney), Demaryius is not really on my list; but Robby // Crowder // Darnold (and even Griffin) all will warrant at least some consideration this week. These are the types of plays I like to set aside at this point in the week before comparing them to what else is available once the NFL Edge is finished. Given the inconsistency of this offense, these pieces may not approach the center of my builds; but I’m sure I’ll have at least some level of exposure this week across what I expect to once again be 19 rosters — taking a shot at first place in the Wildcat. (Side note: shoutout once again to CubsFan, who nailed down seven squads in the top 36 of the Wildcat last week — with the two of us hanging out together in 36th place with two very different rosters that somehow managed to produce the exact same score.)
After their game last week, the Dolphins are priced up — making it tough to get too excited about Parker or even Ryan Fitzpatrick on the road. In a vacuum, these guys are solid volume-driven pieces, though it’s tougher to justify them in the price ranges in which you have to move. With that said: given how much the Dolphins are passing (second highest pass play rate in the league), some level of production is almost guaranteed. This certainly leaves room open to chase Parker (who is also more attractive on FanDuel than on DK) — but also highlights the fact that the rest of this attack is a bit underpriced for the pass-heavy nature of this offense. There are no guarantees on this offense, but with Adams likely out for the Jets and making the matchup softer for Gesicki, and with Wilson and Hurns sure to see some looks (alongside Laird’s contributions in the pass game), it’s worth poking around and seeing if anything from this group can make sense from a salary-saver standpoint compared to what else we find on this slate.