Week 3 Matchups

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WEEK 2 ROSTER BREAKDOWN

Point Total: 156.44

(Jump to Games)

Reminder: I always write my initial diagnosis of my roster right before games kick off, in order to capture my honest thoughts on the build. Here are those thoughts.

Second reminder: this is my DraftKings roster, as that’s where the majority of my play goes; but the breakdown of thought process is beneficial for all sites and styles of play.

Patrick Mahomes :: 41.84
Melvin Gordon :: 30.60
James Conner :: 19.50
Antonio Brown :: 15.70
JuJu Smith-Schuster :: 34.10
Dante Pettis :: 4.50
Jack Doyle :: 4.00
George Kittle :: 4.20
Texans :: 2.00

Results :: This team was good for a clean sweep in double-ups, a strong H2H weekend, and cashing in all tourneys.

What I Wrote Before Kickoff:

If you hung out with me last week, this team won’t surprise you. In fact, I found this team while thinking through the slate with my eyes closed on the plane on Friday night, and I really didn’t move off it afterward outside of poking around at a few different ways to run it out there. I’m actually typing this on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning this week, and when I finish typing this I plan to enjoy a rare, relaxing Saturday evening.

Because the slate began to really make sense for me on Thursday and Friday, I had the luxury of looking at this roster from a number of different angles. I talk about floor and ceiling a lot, and what I’m really looking for when I say those numbers is the “20th percentile” and “80th percentile” outcomes for a player. I’m not concerned with those random, variance-driven bad games; and I’m not focusing on “the best thing that could happen for a player.” So in terms of “20th / 80th percentile thinking,” I have this team pegged at a realistic floor of 133 points and a realistic ceiling of 214. Given the way the slate shapes up this week, and the sacrifices others are going to make to fit some high-priced guys they think they “have to have,” I’m expecting 150 to 165 to be the range we’ll have to beat in order to make the cut in cash games (with the tourney number being somewhere around there as well — though with more variables obviously in play). I think this team would be able to beat the field a good 80% of the time — with enough upside to take down the $2120 tourney. You really can’t hope for better than that.

A realistic projection for the Steelers this week against the Chiefs is around 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing. That’s a fair median prediction, given the situation and matchup. It’s also fair to peg more than 80% of this production to go to Conner / A.B. / JuJu.

It’s also fair to peg the Steelers for four touchdowns, which would make three touchdowns a safe projection for these guys.

It’s probably a bit low, but you can peg them for around 19 catches.

And among the three of them, it’s safe to assume you can get two of the 100-yard bonuses awarded on DraftKings.

Here’s my favorite thing about the three-way pairing, though: I’m not sacrificing anything by doing this, as it’s unlikely that any of them, individually, fall shy of 15 points (that is to say: this isn’t a situation where if one guy goes off, the other probably won’t); and I protect my investments in a big way.

For example: one way to run this team differently is with Emmanuel Sanders over JuJu. But while Juju could score anywhere from 15 to 30, Manny can score anywhere from 12 to 30, as the Raiders are not going to push the Broncos to air it out. Furthermore, if Antonio Brown only scores 25 points because Juju gets 30, I still get all those Steelers points. But if Antonio Brown only scores 25 and I have Manny, I now need Manny to hit.

I run into the same situation if I pivot up from Melvin Gordon to Todd Gurley, and down from JuJu to Golladay. It would be nice to have Gurley, but Gordon is around 30/70 to outscore Gurley this week, and what I lose by going up to Gurley (i.e., “needing Golladay to hit”) is simply not worth it for the small guaranteed edge gained from Gordon to Gurley. Gurley’s the better play between the two. But I would have more winning weekends with this roster by making that sacrifice.

Pettis and Kittle combine in a manner similar to the Steelers players, with the narrow target distribution there. The San Francisco backs are not big pass-catching guys, and Marquise Goodwin is out, making both of these guys underpriced. Between what the 49ers can be expected to do vs the Lions and what the backs, Garcon, and Trent Taylor can soak up of that production, I have a 13-130-1 combined receiving line between Pettis and Kittle as a safe median projection. I don’t love all the unknowns that come with rostering Pettis; but when taken alongside Kittle, I expose myself to more guaranteed total points than I could find anywhere else on the lower ends of the price range.

Doyle is a guy I am leaning on to stay within six or seven points of Tevin Coleman and T.J. Yeldon. I would have to sacrifice JuJu or Gordon to move up to one of those running backs; and the loss with that sacrifice would be greater than the gains, as long as Doyle scores within striking distance of those RBs. I don’t need Doyle to win that three-way set; I just need him to keep pace. A 5-50-0 line is his reasonable floor, and an 8-90-1 line is completely realistic; so I feel good about my position there.

The Texans’ defense allowed so much to work in other spots on my roster this week, and with no “guaranteed points” available (like we had in Week 1 with the Ravens), I took the savings. I’m sure some higher-priced defenses will outscore Houston, but I won’t be able to predict which ones they will be, and these savings make a lot work. I expect at least seven points here, with upside for 12 or 13.

Finally: I needed $600 to get up to Ben Roethlisberger, which would have also required me to move off JuJu or Gordon; there was no one $600 cheaper than them who I liked nearly as much. It’s actually reasonable for Mahomes — with his rushing upside — to keep pace with Big Ben. All three of my Steelers players could smash without Ben going for better than 300 yards and two touchdowns, so while I wanted to get up to him, it wasn’t worth sacrificing elsewhere. Mahomes can go for 270 passing yards and two touchdowns, while also adding 30 or 40 yards with his legs. I had the money to get up to Deshaun Watson, but the correlation between Mahomes and what I expect the Steelers offense to do was just too good to pass up.

It’s funny: I’m typing all this on Saturday night, but it almost feels as if I am typing it after the slate has taken place, as I already know I had a good weekend. What I mean is: even if I don’t come out on top this weekend, I had a good weekend. That’s a great build that provides a high chance of cashing and a genuine shot at winning all the smaller-field and high-dollar and single-entry tourneys we should always be focused on with our main roster. No matter what happens on Sunday, I’m very happy with this week.

I’m also throwing a second team into high-dollar tourneys:

Matt Ryan
Melvin Gordon
James Conner
Antonio Brown
Julio Jones
Courtland Sutton
Jonnu Smith
George Kittle
Texans

If Sutton and Jonnu hit, that team has a shot at being the nuts. I’m a big fan of that build for tourneys, as it is unique and absolutely packed with upside at all levels.

I don’t imagine I’ll have much to write in my look back at this team. With things coming together quickly this week and plenty of time to poke at this roster and see if I could find anything better, I feel comfortable that I will not come out of Sunday with any major questions about this build, regardless of its performance. It’s rare to truly run into one of these weekends, so I’m going to give my brain a bit of extra rest tonight and enjoy this while it’s here. After that, it’s onto Week 3.


At first glance, this looks like the sort of week in which we will want to make sure we are not overthinking things. Let the field outsmart themselves this week while we focus our rosters on the absolute best plays.

As of this writeup, there are five teams on the Main Slate with a Vegas-implied total of 26.75 or higher:

Chiefs :: 31.5
Vikings :: 29.0
Falcons :: 28.0
Rams :: 27.5
Eagles :: 26.75

Behind those five teams, there are another four teams with projected totals of 24.25 or higher:

Saints :: 25.0
49ers :: 25.0
Ravens :: 24.25
Packers :: 24.25

Another 15 teams are currently projected by Vegas to score under 24.0, with 12 teams currently pegged below 22.0. (A line has not yet been set for the Titans // Jaguars matchup.)

Now, it should be noted: we should never lean on Vegas as the final word. I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it plenty more, but it really cannot be repeated enough. (As crazy as it may sound: up until 2017 — when I began incorporating Vegas totals into the NFL Edge — I didn’t even look at those numbers until Saturday, at the earliest. Sometimes, I never looked at those numbers at all. As we have noticed already: Vegas can be wrong, especially early in the week. And when we lean on our own research, we can find things that cannot be found by leaning too heavily on Vegas.) But these numbers do provide us with a snapshot-glance at the sort of weekend this is. There will be a few high-scoring games. There will be a lot more low-scoring games. Our chances of winning the weekend will be much greater if we focus the majority of our roster construction on those higher-scoring games.

As always, we’ll be walking through every game — and we’ll be letting go of preconceived notions and allowing the research to dictate what makes the most sense in each game this week. But go into your reading (and your subsequent roster construction) expecting this to be a week in which your focus turns toward the available high-scoring spots, and make sure you are extremely convinced in the spots where you decide to move away.

*

UPDATES MADE:

Dalvin Cook Out (Sept. 21)

Doyle / Mack Out (Sept. 21)

Jay Ajayi Out (Sept. 21)


Kickoff Thursday, Sep 20th 8:20pm Eastern

Jets (
19) at

Browns (
22)

Over/Under 41.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Jets Run D
14th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
7th DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
31st DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
23rd DVOA/29th Yards per pass
Browns Run D
20th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
29th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
19th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
30th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass

JETS // BROWNS OVERVIEW

Because this game is so unappealing for the 16-game slate, I am going to focus specifically on the Showdown slate in this week’s writeup. You can comfortably avoid all players from this game on the 16-game slate, with two “growing pains” offenses and a pair of underrated defenses. But if playing the Showdown slate, here’s how things break down.

THE MATCHUP

Each of these teams is fairly unaggressive, with a slow Situation Neutral pace. Todd Haley is still struggling to figure out how to get the most out of his new weapons for the Browns, and Jeremy Bates is trying to limit the amount he puts on the shoulders of Sam Darnold early in the season for the Jets, with lots of pre-snap movement and quick, easy decisions. Neither team is going anywhere this season, but each has the pieces to become a team on the rise. Mistakes will be made in this game, on both sides, and drives will stall out in places where they shouldn’t; but there are a few pieces here that catch the eye.

THE “SURE THINGS”

The surest thing in this game is Quincy Enunwa. Not only is Sam Darnold an accurate passer, and not only is his connection with Enunwa looking sharp early on, but the Browns give up so many free yards on defense, Enunwa matches up with them perfectly. The Browns got flamed last week by Michael Thomas’ big body when he ran out of the slot, and while Enunwa is not Michael Thomas, he enters a similar situation. It seems impossible that Enunwa can continue soaking up 33.9% of the Jets’ targets, but he is clearly the main cog in this offense, and he is being used in a way that aligns perfectly with how the Browns play defense.

Lost in the disappointment of Jarvis Landry’s game in Week 2 was the fact that he still saw seven targets on 30 pass attempts, and he has soaked up a 31.4% share of the Browns’ targets so far. This does not project to be a fast-paced or high-scoring game, so perhaps neither Landry nor Enunwa posts what would be considered a “great score” on the weekend. But these two have the highest chance of success on the small slate. Pricing reflects that, of course; and ownership will also reflect that. But the targets are locked in on both these guys.

THE RUSHING ATTACKS

It will not be surprising — in fact, it is perhaps even probable — that one of the four key running backs in this game will outscore both Enunwa and Landry. The issue is that it will be difficult to know exactly which running back that will be.

After finishing as a Top Five run defense last season, the Browns have already climbed into the top half of the league after getting embarrassed by James Conner in Week 1. The Jets also rank in the top half of the league at the moment, after finishing 15th in yards allowed per carry last season.

This game should stay fairly close throughout (each offense is explosive enough to jump out to a 10-point lead somewhere along the line; but I don’t see things getting out of hand on either side, as these teams are fairly well-matched). This means we cannot “expect” game flow to tilt in one particular running back’s favor, and as such we should aim to understand what each matchup is likeliest to dictate.

As the game moves along this week, I expect the Jets to lean more heavily on Bilal Powell than on Isaiah Crowell. While both guys can catch passes, and both can run between the tackles, Powell is far better-suited to the first, and Crow is slightly better-suited to the second. If the Browns’ run defense shows up to play, it will make sense for the Jets to adjust away from Crow and toward Powell. Touchdowns are harder to come by for Powell than for Crow, but overall upside (as well as likelihood of hitting) are higher on the Jets’ “space” back.

The Browns, meanwhile, have talked about needing to get Duke Johnson more involved…which muddles things a bit in a spot where Hyde sets up well. As a multi-dimensional back in a game that should not turn too heavily toward catch-up mode at any point, Hyde should be locked into around 20 touches — which is his average from the first two weeks. But there is a chance that Johnson mixes in a bit more often than he has through the first two weeks of the season.

The likeliest scenario on the Browns is that Johnson’s increase in touches will come on his regular snaps (or…even more likely: that the Browns will have a couple designed plays for Johnson early in the game, and will then forget about him afterward outside his normal role). And if that happens, Hyde will have the highest touch floor on the slate. The Browns are underutilizing him in the pass attack (three targets through two games), and with Tyrod Taylor looking to run at times and Todd Haley incapable of creativity with this offense, that may not change. But the touches are, at least, nice to lock onto a roster.

PASSING ATTACKS

Tyrod Taylor provides a range of about 15 to 25 points, as a low-upside passer with multiple dimensions to his game. Darnold profiles to see a bit of extra volume as this game moves along, against the Browns’ tough run defense, and the Jets will try to get the ball out quickly to offset the impact of Myles Garrett. The question marks on Darnold (young rookie in his third career game) make his floor difficult to peg; but given how poor the Browns are on defense after the catch, there is opportunity for guys like Enunwa, Powell, and Robby Anderson to create a really nice box score for Darnold in this spot.

The Browns spread their passes around last week, with seven targets going to David Njoku, seven going to Rashard Higgins, and four going to Antonio Calloway. The Jets were strong against tight ends last season, ranking ninth in DVOA and allowing the fifth-fewest receptions to the position. Njoku has seen 14 targets in all this season and his athleticism marks him as an upside play; though I’ll repeat what I said each of the first two weeks: he is a sloppy route runner, and as such, his floor is a lot lower against good tight end defenses. His ceiling is there, but don’t be surprised if he fails to take advantage of his opportunities for the third straight week. Higgins is the “floor” play that will need a broken play or a touchdown to pay off. Calloway has big-play upside — both downfield and with the ball in his hands — and has week-winning upside if the work is there; but as a raw rookie playing in this offense, his floor is also low.

The Jets are focused on Enunwa first and foremost, and it seems unlikely that they get going with their downfield passing attack this week against the Browns’ pass rush. Robby Anderson never loses his ceiling, as he can score from anywhere on the field; but his floor has to be pegged pretty low in this spot. Terrelle Pryor was heavily involved last week, but his efficiency remains a question, and he has made a few brutal mistakes on the field the last couple weeks. He has maybe a 5% chance of posting the top score on the slate. He also has maybe a 10% to 15% chance of losing some snaps this week to Jermaine Kearse. The tight end rotation on the Jets is best avoided. This offense flows primarily through the wide receivers and the backs.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I prefer Enunwa over Landry, as Enunwa sets up better against the Browns’ defense than Landry sets up against the Jets, and a target from Sam Darnold (in this Jeremy Bates offense) is worth more than a target from Tyrod Taylor (in this Todd Haley offense). But they are 1A and 1B on this slate, in terms of Pure Floor & Ceiling.

For safety, I would rank the running backs:

Hyde
Powell // Crowell (Powell ahead, but only slightly)
Johson

For upside, I would rank them:

Powell
Hyde
Crowell // Johnson (Johnson is the better player, but his usage is far more uncertain)

Ancillary wide receivers are difficult to fall in love with in this spot. Calloway is the sexiest name and will probably draw a lot of interest in spite of only seeing four targets last week. I still like him as the highest-ceiling guy out of this thin group. I’m guessing Njoku will get hyped up by people this week, and he has the athleticism to smash; but keep in mind what he did the last couple weeks with plenty of targets in similarly difficult matchups. His “boom” upside is there, but he’s still “boom/bust.” The Jets’ pass catchers behind Enunwa are purely guesses. Robby Anderson is too good to not get a few blowup games, but workload is currently insecure, and this will be a difficult game to go deep — against Myles Garrett, and with the Browns giving away free yards underneath. Pryor should be on the field plenty, but you’re just hoping things fall into place if you roster him. He has upside, but he has floor to go with it.

The defenses are also appealing. I lean Browns first, as the home favorite against a rookie. But the Jets have played aggressive football the first two games, and Tyrod Taylor has been holding onto the ball too long. There is upside on both sides of the ball.

With so little to love this week, it should also be noted that either kicker (Greg Joseph is the new man for the Browns) could easily clear 10 points. Quarterbacks and the two “sure things” are the only players with a significantly better chance of passing 10 points than these kickers; though I do expect at least one of the running backs to outscore these guys as well.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Bills (
12.25) at

Vikings (
28.75)

Over/Under 41.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bills Run D
24th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O
2nd DVOA/8th Yards per carry
Bills Pass D
28th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O
20th DVOA/21st Yards per pass
Vikings Run D
27th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O
32nd DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D
8th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O
4th DVOA/6th Yards per pass

BILLS // VIKINGS OVERVIEW

In the “Not Fair” category this week, we have the Vikings at home against the Bills. The early line in this game is absolutely legendary, with Vegas essentially giving the Bills no shot at even keeping this game close. In fact, Vegas didn’t even wait to make sure LeSean McCoy will be healthy this week before setting this line. Unless the Vikings’ players completely overlook this game, there is just no way they get run over by the Minor League Bills. With Mike Zimmer at the helm for Minnesota, I expect this Vikings team to come out firing with their normal intensity and dominance.

BILLS PASS OFFENSE

The one thing the Bills’ passing attack may be able to get going this week is a few deep shots away from Xavier Rhodes, where Trae Waynes has continued to improve throughout his career, but is still the weakest link in this secondary. That’s worth pointing out from the perspective of analyzing the game, but it’s not particularly actionable information in DFS, as we play on sites that award 0.5- or full-PPR scoring; so even if you could guess right on which Bills pass catcher will maybe catch a deep touchdown, you would still not be picking up enough total points for this play to be worthwhile.

Let’s be honest: nothing more needs to be said here. This is the Bills, at the Vikings.

BILLS RUN OFFENSE

The Bills’ offensive line is getting smoked. Through two games, they rank 30th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards. Minnesota is averaging 3.8 yards allowed per carry this year through two games, after finishing fifth in the NFL last season at 3.7 yards allowed per carry. With the Bills getting routinely blown out of the building, LeSean McCoy has managed to touch the ball only 21 times. Through two games. If he plays this week (which is appearing likely), he will be playing through “not broken” ribs. This is a bad spot on a bad offense for a good running back who will be playing hurt.

VIKINGS PASS OFFENSE

The Vikings and Bills are both playing at a top ten pace this year — with the Bills actually ranked second in the NFL, and first in Situation Neutral pace. This is good news as we hunt for upside from the Vikings, as the Bills are remaining aggressive when they fall behind — and are therefore giving the ball back to their opponents more quickly. I think we’ll see a lot of people avoid this Vikings passing attack in tourneys because of “blowout concerns,” but remember: that’s really not an issue until the fourth quarter. And if the Vikings have four touchdowns already at that point, it’s likely that three of them are coming through the air.

Buffalo has crumbled against the pass this season, ranking 24th in yards allowed per pass attempt while picking off zero passes and allowing six touchdowns — one year after allowing only 13 passing touchdowns all season.

Last week, the Chargers tormented linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, throwing at him 11 times for 10 completions, and even getting Keenan Allen matched up on him on four separate occasions (Allen went 4-47-0 against Edmunds on four targets, compared to 2-20-0 on four targets elsewhere). Expect the Vikings to create similar mismatches with Adam Thielen inside, against this Bills defense that aims to filter everything to the middle of the field. The Chargers targeted Bills stud corner Tre’Davious White zero times last week, and they targeted Vontae Davis and Lafayette Pitts on the other side only four times. Bills corner Phillip Gaines dislocated his elbow last week, and things are so bad in Buffalo that Vontae Davis retired from the NFL at halftime (true story). So…yeah. Expect the Vikings to get Thielen matched up on linebackers and to scheme Stefon Diggs away from White — onto either “second-backup” Pitts or an injured (and already ineffective) Gaines. There are big plays to be had.

The Bills were middling against the tight end last season, and were unable to slow down Virgil Green last week. Kyle Rudolph finally got involved in the offense last Sunday, seeing eight targets from Kirk Cousins, marking him as the clear third target behind Diggs and Thielen (13 targets apiece). Rudolph’s main value in DFS comes in the red zone, where the Vikings should find themselves often on Sunday.

VIKINGS RUN OFFENSE

So far this season, Dalvin Cook has played 107 out of a possible 144 snaps, but he hasn’t really popped just yet, averaging only 3.0 yards per carry and earning low grades from Pro Football Focus. Running between a middling offensive line, Cook’s biggest efficiency drain is the 2.9 yards per carry he is averaging on his 10 carries to the middle left (between the left guard and center), though if Cook can break through the line on one of these, this will send him into the area of Tremaine Edmunds — who also leads the Bills is missed tackles.

There is obvious upside to be found here for Cook. He is operating as the lead back in this offense (only 37 snaps for Latavius Murray), and he has 12 targets on 84 Kirk Cousins pass attempts (14.3% share). But the production has been disappointing thus far, and there could also be a case for the Vikings to protect Cook in the fourth quarter if they have a big lead.

Latavius Murray has zero carries inside the 10-yard-line this year (compared to two for Cook), though opportunities have been thin, with Cousins raining down touchdowns from outside the 10. We are still just guessing when it comes to goal line work on this team, but Latavius shapes up as a guy likely to see anywhere from eight to 14 touches this week.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

This game shapes up as more of a “30 to 35 pass attempt” game for the Vikings (as opposed to the glorious 48-attempt overtime affair last week), which should put Adam Thielen somewhere in the range of eight to 12 targets, with Stefon Diggs trailing a few paces behind him. Thielen has lined up in the slot on over 50% of his routes this year (compared to 24% for Diggs), giving him the higher floor — especially in this matchup vs a Bills team that funnels targets inside. Each guy carries big ceiling. I imagine neither will be in play in cash games for me, simply because it will make so much more sense to target spots with actual shootout potential; but each guy is playable in tourneys, with genuine week-winning upside.

Kirk Cousins can be categorized the same way as his two best pass-catchers: a little less secure in cash than some other guys, but still carrying excellent upside in a cake matchup in tourneys.

I’ll likely leave Kyle Rudolph alone myself, but he’ll always have a clear red zone role in this offense, and he provides nice floor on weeks when he actually sees targets. The running back position on the Vikings is also a bit thin for me, with each guy overpriced on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, and with touchdown equity a little too iffy for me to want to dip into this spot on FanDuel. It’s likely that Cook has a solid game here, but I would really want some week-winning upside from his DraftKings/FantasyDraft price tag, and I have a hard time seeing that; on FanDuel, I would want to bet on someone with a higher-scoring role.

Obviously, I’ll be leaving the Bills alone.

FRIDAY EVENING UPDATE // Full “Updates” List

Dalvin Cook is going to miss this week’s game, leaving Latavius Murray atop the depth chart for the Vikings in a smash spot at home against the Bills. Expect Murray to get at least 18 carries, with upside for more — with all of the goal line work going his way.

While that’s the good news for Murray, a few concerns should be noted:

1) Murray never topped three targets in a game last year for the Vikings, in spite of seeing 15 or more carries in 10 games. In fact, he saw three targets only once, and he was held to one or fewer targets in eight of the 10 games last year in which he had 15+ carries.

2) Murray is running behind a mediocre offensive line that may be missing starting center Pat Elflein (there are confusing reports on Elflein at the moment, with the Minneapolis Star Tribune noting that Elflein won’t start, but will “have a role” — whatever that means).

3) On FantasyDraft and DraftKings, Murray costs 11% or more of the salary cap — in the same range as guys like Tevin Coleman and Gio Bernard (and much more expensive than Corey Clement). With all that said, it is worth noting that Murray costs only 8.67% of the cap on FanDuel, where receptions matter less. He is a much stronger play on there.

Further fallout from Cook missing this game is that Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs (and to a lesser extent, Kyle Rudolph) will have opportunities for a small increase in targets. There are still blowout concerns in this game, but these guys should be involved early and often through the first three-plus quarters.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Bengals (
20.75) at

Panthers (
23.25)

Over/Under 44.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bengals Run D
23rd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
16th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
16th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
11th DVOA/9th Yards per pass
Panthers Run D
26th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
27th DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
13th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
26th DVOA/18th Yards per pass

BENGALS // PANTHERS OVERVIEW

While each of these teams features an at-times-explosive offense, each team also ranks bottom eight in pace of play. This has led to Carolina allowing the sixth-fewest opponent plays per game…while the Bengals’ slowed-down pace has led to them running the eighth-fewest plays per game themselves. The Bengals’ team mark should rise as the season moves forward, but ultimately this should be viewed as a slow-paced game — still leaving room for points on both sides, but limiting the volume we can bank on (and therefore introducing some question marks) for our rosters this week. Vegas has this game pegged with a modest Over/Under of 43.5 (as of this writing), and we should filter our perception of this game through that lens.

BENGALS RUN OFFENSE

Last season, in Weeks 13 through 17, Giovani Bernard took over this Bengals backfield, averaging 52.2 snaps per game, running 27 pass routes per game, averaging 14.2 carries per game, and hauling in 4.8 catches per game on 6.4 targets. He averaged 101.4 total yards across those five games, while scoring a pair of touchdowns on the ground. Joe Mixon only missed two of those games, but the larger sample size gives us a great feel for how Bill Lazor will look to use Gio this week, with Mixon on the sidelines.

We should expect Gio to be on the field about 75% of the time this week, and we can expect him to get anywhere from 12 to 20 carries, with his pass game role likely to spike if his carries hit that lower end. As noted last week, the Panthers are a difficult run matchup after ranking fifth in DVOA last year and 11th in yards allowed per carry, and they impressively allowed only seven rushing touchdowns to running backs last season (good for the eighth-best mark in the league). But last week the Falcons used stretch plays and spacing to take advantage of Tevin Coleman’s speed against this defense, and Gio is well-suited to a similar style of success. His touch expectation is exactly in the range that Tevin Coleman had last week, and his improved offensive line play (the Bengals are seventh in adjusted line yards at the moment) will give him a chance to hit for a similarly effective game.

BENGALS PASS OFFENSE

In those final five games last year in which Gio saw heavy usage, the Bengals threw the ball on 63.7% of their plays, up slightly from their season-long rate of 59.3%. Ultimately, the shift over to Gio will not impact the approach of this offense as much as some will imagine — and we need to remember that this shapes up as a low-volume game — but “Gio on the field” certainly creates more opportunities for a pass-leaning approach; and as the Bengals have had the deep ball working early in the season, this warrants some attention in tourneys, even in a low-scoring spot.

A.J. Green has started the season hot, with four touchdowns in two games; though he has disappointingly totaled only 161 yards and 17 total targets. His 24.3% target share is very strong, but it is not nearly high enough to support the sort of production we are seeing. Green projects for around 8.5 targets in this spot, and with his average depth of target coming in at 12.0 yards, he’ll need a big play or another touchdown-heavy game to really pay off. He does have 46.64% of the Bengals’ air yards (good for fifth in the league), in what is otherwise a dink-and-dunk attack. Andy Dalton’s average intended air yards of 6.2 is barely above Mitchell Trubisky and Alex Smith.

With Green receiving only 24% of the team’s targets, but nearly 47% of the team’s air yards, we need to note that many of the other pass catchers on this offense are seeing low-value targets. With that said: Tyler Boyd has quietly seen 14 targets across the last two weeks (20%), working on the outside in two-wide sets and kicking into the slot in three-wide sets. He’s a sneaky value play this week. His targets are coming farther downfield (9.7 aDOT) than most probably realize, and he has a healthy 31.3% share of the Bengals’ air yards. This chart from Week 2 gives a good idea of how the Bengals are using Boyd in this offense.

John Ross has seen only six targets, for two catches and 11 yards. He’s a threat with the ball in his hands, but he’s little more than that. Tyler Eifert has caught five passes for 67 yards and run a pass route on 64.2% of Dalton’s drop-backs. He’ll have a touchdown-spiked week at some point, but it will be difficult to see it coming.

PANTHERS PASS OFFENSE

The Bengals have done a good job so far this season forcing teams to throw short passes — but when teams have been able to push the ball downfield, the Bengals have had some issues, particularly struggling in the range of 10 to 15 yards downfield. This bodes well for Devin Funchess, who is often targeted 10 or more yards downfield. In his first game without Greg Olsen last week, Funchess saw nine targets, catching five for 77 yards. It is disappointing that he only saw 20% of the total throws from Cam Newton (and Cam will not unleash 45 passes every week), but we can pencil in Funchess for six to eight looks. It’s not exciting, but his price somehow remains below 10.4% of the salary cap on all three sites (with the low-water mark coming on FantasyDraft, at 9.4%).

Jarius Wright and Torrey Smith both soaked up seven targets of their own last week against the Falcons, but those will be volatile numbers to chase. Wright’s average target this year has come only 4.6 yards downfield, and explosive rookie D.J. Moore is expected to start seeing more snaps moving forward.

PANTHERS RUN OFFENSE

Christian McCaffrey has 18 carries through two games, but he has 24 targets and 20 receptions. No matter how this game goes, he is going to be involved, as the Panthers will hand him the ball if they somehow build a big lead, and they will attack with him through the air either way. It is probably worth noting that the Bengals have allowed the most opponent plays per game this season; and while that is somewhat fluky, given their slow pace of play, this was a problem for them last year as well. Volume should be on CMC’s side, and while it would seem like we saw a “ceiling” game from him last week, it’s worth mentioning that he did not even score a touchdown. Although he is not the primary weapon near the end zone for this team, some touchdowns will come. This is a fine spot for McCaffrey, with strong floor and strong ceiling.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Last week, I had Coleman’s range on DraftKings pegged at 11 to 25 points, and on FanDuel at 10 to 22 points. This week, in a very similar setup, I have Gio at 10 to 24 on DraftKings and nine to 20 on FanDuel. It will be interesting to see how the rest of this slate shakes out as we move through it, but Gio will at least come out of this writeup as a guy on the Tier 1/2 borderline for me. After I research and write the entire week (and then read the Edge back on Thursday…and then do some more study, and then talk through the slate with Levitan on Friday night, etc.), I’ll have a better idea of exactly where Gio lands for me this week, but he’s a sharp play regardless, as a starting running back in a decent spot at a suppressed price. He’ll cost only 10.67% of the salary cap on FanDuel, 11.8% on DraftKings, and an awesome 10.4% on PPR site FantasyDraft. (If you still haven’t played FantasyDraft yet, I have strategy broken down for you here. It’s similar to DraftKings, and it has more overlay and softer player pools, as the contests are too small to draw the sharks, and are just the right size for building bankroll.)

A.J. Green is an upside play for me, and Tyler Boyd is a surprisingly intriguing floor play. Green will almost always be far away from my cash game rosters, as he simply does not see enough guaranteed targets to justify his price tag; but the upside is all the way there in tourneys. Boyd will be in early salary-saver consideration for me as a guy seeing regular work and doing good things with it. I’ll otherwise leave the Bengals’ passing attack alone.

I am going to set aside Funchess as a strong value play at the moment. He has a solid floor for his price, and he’s enough of a red zone weapon to create ceiling. Otherwise, I’ll be leaving the Panthers’ pass catchers alone — though there is some deep tourney appeal on Ian Thomas, who should see his usage increase this week in a much friendlier tight end matchup, after seeing only three targets last week on a whopping 45 pass routes run.

Cam Newton is always in play in tourneys. That never changes. Honestly, given his price drop this week on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, he’s also in play in cash — though I’m hoping I’ll be able to fit in a less volatile play at the position.

I never like playing McCaffrey, and I am even more opposed to the idea of paying up for him, given his lower-than-elite scoring position usage; but he is absolutely a strong play yet again this week, in spite of the expected low-scoring nature of this game.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Broncos (
20.25) at

Ravens (
25.75)

Over/Under 46.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Broncos Run D
5th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
5th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Broncos Pass D
9th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
19th DVOA/31st Yards per pass
Ravens Run D
2nd DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O
20th DVOA/25th Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
7th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Broncos Pass O
31st DVOA/27th Yards per pass

BRONCOS // RAVENS OVERVIEW

So far this season, Denver ranks 24th in DVOA against the pass and ranks 30th in yards allowed per pass attempt (Note: In the Key Matchups chart at the top of each game, we are still using 2017 DVOA data for one more week, in order to give things time to settle in place for 2018. If you are unfamiliar with DVOA, I have a brief breakdown for you here.) One week after getting picked apart at home by the revived shell of Derek Carr, the Broncos will try to shut down the revived shell of Joe Flacco. This game creates a potential situation for low-owned fantasy goodness, as most of the field will see “Broncos” and look away. At 24.25, the Ravens’ suddenly-hot offense has one of the higher Vegas-implied totals on the slate, and the Broncos will be looking to keep up against the stout Ravens defense.

BRONCOS PASS OFFENSE

Even after giving up some glossy stats to Andy Dalton last week, the Ravens have allowed the lowest yards per pass attempt in the NFL to begin the season; and sure, they have played Nathan Peterman (for a half), Josh Allen (for a half), and Andy Dalton. But let’s not pretend that Case Keenum is Joe Montana. The Ravens rank seventh in DVOA against the pass through the first two weeks.

Emmanuel Sanders has been the main functional piece in this Broncos passing attack, with 14 catches and 231 yards on his 15 targets, while Demaryius Thomas has only 11 catches for 81 yards on his 21 targets. Demaryius is expected to draw plenty of Brandon Carr’s shadow this week. Carr has started the season hot, allowing only three catches for 42 yards on 10 targets in his direction. Sanders will see equal amounts of second-year man Marlon Humphrey, who is prone to inconsistency but is a future star, and slot corner Tavon Young — the weakest link in this secondary, who got flamed for a 6-80-2 line last week on only six targets.

Although my boy Courtland Sutton has yet to pop off for a huge game, he has gone completely unnoticed by everyone in the DFS community. Sutton has 11 targets so far, and he has run only two fewer pass routes than Demaryius Thomas. He has been the first read on a number of plays in each game. This is not a great spot for him, but I’ll continue to give myself at least a small amount of exposure to him every week, as I’ll be one of the only ones on him when he puts together his first career 20-point game at a basement-level price.

BRONCOS RUN OFFENSE

On a full slate, this is a really difficult spot to get excited about, as Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman continue to split time, with Devontae Booker mixing in. Lindsay once again was the star of this group in Week 2, making a couple runs that Freeman is just not capable of making, but head coach Vance Joseph again quoted this as a “hot hand” situation. The Ravens rank sixth in DVOA against the run so far this year after ranking ninth last year. Even if you “guess right” in this spot, you’re looking at a strong game, rather than a week-winning game. There are too many one-man backfields and bankable 65/35 splits in the NFL right now to go chasing something like this.

RAVENS PASS OFFENSE

I went back and watched the game film of the Raiders // Broncos game to see if I could get a feel for how it was possible for Derek Carr to go 29 of 32 against this defense. And really…it seems that this Broncos pass defense might just be an attackable unit. So far, they rank 30th in yards allowed per pass attempt and 24th in DVOA against the pass. And while Gruden had some clever concepts and route combinations in place to get guys open — including at least one thing I can’t remember ever seeing before — a lot of it was just simply…guys being open. Similar to our breakdown of the Bucs against the Eagles last week, this is a spot that stands out as surprisingly appealing.

John Brown has seen 24.6% of the Ravens’ targets so far, and his 35.8% share of team air yards ranks 15th in the league. He moves around the formation enough to avoid Chris Harris, and even when Brown is in the slot, it’s often part of a bunch formation, which will enable the Ravens to create traffic that can spring Brown open.

Michael Crabtree has seen 28.1% of the Ravens’ targets himself, though his average depth of target of 9.3 is less exciting than John Brown’s mark of 19.8 — fourth-best in the league. Crabtree is also a more coverable wide receiver at this stage in his career (though he should be able to get Roby’s hips turned on a couple of these deep outs up the right sideline). He’ll need a touchdown in order to really pay off this week. So far on the season, Brown has three targets inside the 10-yard-line, compared to zero for Crabtree.

Willie Snead has matched John Brown’s target share, though his actual opportunity (volume plus depth of target) is lower than Brown’s, as Snead is seeing most of his work closer to the line of scrimmage. His aDOT of 9.7 is slightly higher than Crabtree’s, and on a normal week, they are actually pretty interchangeable right now (similar route tree; similar target share; similar aDOT), but Snead should run into Chris Harris most often this week.

With these three commanding over 75% of the Ravens’ targets and a few key shootout spots anchoring this slate, it makes no sense to look further than Brown, Crabtree, and Snead on our rosters this week.

RAVENS RUN OFFENSE

With the Broncos allowing only 3.6 yards per rush attempt so far this season and ranking fourth in DVOA against the run, they are going to become a pass funnel if they continue to struggle through the air; and with how ineffective Alex Collins has been thus far (16 carries for 48 yards), I will not be surprised if the Ravens come into this game with a pass-heavy game plan from the start — especially as their fallback option behind Collins is pass-catching back Javorius Allen.

Typically on a guy like Collins, we would point to “guaranteed workload,” but even with Kenneth Dixon out, we cannot point to that. This is a tough matchup for a running back who has struggled out of the gate and has seen very uneven volume.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I really have no interest in the Broncos this week, outside of some cheap investments into Sutton on the off chance that this is the week in which he goes off (and really, at this point, I just don’t want to miss it when it happens…). I do think that Lindsay brings an element to this offense that Royce Freeman can’t, but in a tough matchup, with the coaches still calling this a split backfield, I would have a hard time putting any money on him. Emmanuel Sanders is the one guy on this team I feel comfortable could beat this matchup — but the chances of a week-winning game are slim, and there are far better spots on the slate.

I think that one of Brown, Crabtree, or Snead will have a really nice game in this spot. Through two games this year, the Broncos have gotten flamed repeatedly over the middle (especially the deep middle) and down the right sideline. These happen to be the two spots where Brown has done most of his damage. Given his role in this offense and how inexpensive he is, I’ll have legit interest in him this week.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Packers (
24) at

WFT (
21.5)

Over/Under 45.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Packers Run D
25th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Washington Run O
21st DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Packers Pass D
25th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Washington Pass O
32nd DVOA/28th Yards per pass
Washington Run D
17th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O
10th DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Washington Pass D
6th DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O
6th DVOA/14th Yards per pass

PACKERS // REDSKINS OVERVIEW

There are a number of things to dislike about the head coaches in this game, but one thing to the credit of both Mike McCarthy and Jay Gruden is that they are always looking to win. Rather than boxing their team into a certain system or a certain way they “do things,” these coaches can adjust based on personnel — not only adjusting in terms of scheme, but also adjusting in terms of philosophy and overall game approach.

This season, each team has slowed down the pace (20th for Washington; 22nd for Green Bay; each team also ranks bottom five in Situation Neutral pace), and the Packers have gone pass-heavy while Washington has leaned on the run and short passes. This game is not going to turn into a quick-strike, back-and-forth affair, but each offense should be able to maneuver up and down the field against the opposing defense, creating opportunities for us to hunt for catches, yards, and touchdowns.

PACKERS PASS OFFENSE

Washington is in the business of not allowing easy completions — playing tight coverage and posting above-average marks in catch rate allowed and yards after catch allowed. Aaron Rodgers will have to make a lot of tight-window throws in this spot, but this is something he is comfortable doing, and this matchup should not be much of a downgrade for him. The Packers protected Rodgers’ knee last week by running their offense out of the pistol and preventing him from having to drop back, and he looked comfortable firing the ball around the field. His movement and athleticism are taken out of play right now, but he still has the arm skills to post a strong outing.

Through two games this season, Geronimo Allison has run 80 pass routes — only 16 fewer than Davante Adams, and only 13 fewer than Randall Cobb. He has seen 14 targets in all (compared to 20 for Adams and 16 for Cobb), and he is continuing to go overlooked as a key piece of one of the best passing attacks in football. His aDOT of 11.0 is also a bit higher than Adams’ aDOT of 10.3. Allison costs only 9% of the salary cap on DraftKings, and he costs under that mark on FanDuel and FantasyDraft. He should see another six to eight targets in this one.

Adams is the 1A in this offense, and should see in the range of eight to 11 targets most games. This game should feature a below-average number of total plays, and the matchup for Adams is slightly below-average, so it is worth noting that he is not coming at a discount this week — especially on DraftKings, where he is priced as an elite wide receiver. Still, the work and talent are there for Adams to post a strong game, even if his price-considered floor is lowered a little bit.

Cobb has an aDOT of 4.9, ranking just ahead of Jarius Wright and behind guys like Nick Boyle and Kyle Rudolph. He’ll need a big YAC game (or a touchdown) against a stingy YAC defense in order to post a truly usable score, but his floor is high as a locked-in member of this passing attack.

Jimmy Graham is also an interesting piece in this group, after seeing eight targets last week against Minnesota. Graham has run 79 pass routes of his own, and Washington is attackable in this area, after giving up a 5-46-1 line on nine targets last week to Colts tight ends. Graham needs a touchdown in order to really pay off, but the Packers should be good for at least three scores in this game, and Graham should be involved near the end zone.

PACKERS RUN OFFENSE

Washington has started out the year hot against the pass (fourth in DVOA) and cold against the run (28th), quickly reestablishing their trends from last year (sixth // 29th). The Packers have been one of the pass-heaviest offenses to begin the year (seventh in pass play rate), and with Aaron Rodgers and the weapons he has to attack with, it seems unlikely that they will shift too heavily toward the ground — especially as they are having to run this rushing attack out of the pistol formation. But 22 to 26 rush attempts for this Packers offense is a reasonable expectation.

The bad news, from a DFS perspective, is that Aaron Jones has returned from suspension. Jamaal Williams has 31 carries and six targets through two games, while Ty Montgomery has seven carries and five targets. Williams is keeping the job for now, but Jones has proven to be the more explosive back, and he should mix in immediately. The matchup is strong, but usage will be spread out across three guys this week in what has been a pass-heavy offense.

REDSKINS PASS OFFENSE

As we move deeper into the season, this Packers pass defense should prove to be solidly above-average, and they should make life difficult on less-explosive passing attacks.

Enter Alex Smith and his Washington Redskins. So far this season, this offense has an average depth of target of 5.7 yards — less than half of the to-date aDOT of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Deshaun Watson.

Low-aDOT offenses can be effective with the right weapons in place (a couple years back, in fact, the Packers ranked near the bottom of the NFL in average depth of target, as did the Patriots), but Smith’s current company in this category are names like Derek Carr, Sam Bradford, Blaine Gabbert, and Mitchell Trubisky. Smith threw the ball 46 times last week against a poor Colts secondary, and he failed to top 300 yards.

Jamison Crowder has surprisingly seen only eight targets through two games, while the perimeter combo of Paul Richardson (12 targets) and Josh Doctson (10 targets) lead the way. Doctson and Richardson have each struggled to create separation this season, and either would need a broken play or an unpredictable two-touchdown game to create any sort of true DFS value.

The key piece on this passing attack (outside of the backfield…) has mercifully been Jordan Reed, who has 13 targets so far, which he has turned into 10 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Reed is only seeing his average target 5.5 yards downfield, so some yardage duds are in line for him this season; but against a Packers defense that let Kyle Rudolph shake free for some nice plays last week, Reed should be able to post a respectable game, with touchdown upside that could carry him into a truly useful range.

REDSKINS RUN OFFENSE

As noted last week: Green Bay has made a philosophical shift on defense this season under new D.C. Mike Pettine, deciding that they are fine giving up yards on the ground if it means they are making life difficult through the air. Through two games, they rank 24th in yards allowed per carry and 26th in DVOA against the run.

The one problem here for Washington is just how much they are telegraphing their intentions to the defense. Through two games now, the Redskins have run a pass play on 86.7% of Chris Thompson’s snaps, while leaning toward the run on 70.1% of Adrian Peterson’s snaps. Remember: the reason the Packers are “bad against the run” is because they are loading up the field with defensive backs on the regular. This week, expect them to have different personnel packages when Peterson is on the field, which will make it a little more difficult for this Washington offense (with an offensive line that ranks 29th in adjusted line yards) to be effective.

Green Bay will also be ready for the pass when Chris Thompson is on the field, but after he has seen an incredible 21 targets through two games, that shouldn’t concern us. Thompson has eight more targets than any other player on this team at the moment and should be considered the Redskins’ “number one receiver.” Washington will probably lead off this game trying to attack on the ground; but if the Packers are able to stop Peterson with a heavier personnel package, we should still get a good 35 to 38 pass attempts out of Smith in this spot. Thompson has a 27.6% target share on the season, and if that holds, another eight to 11 targets will be in play for him this week, in a likely back-and-forth affair.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I expect solid games from Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, but week-winning games will be difficult to come by in a slow-paced spot on the road against a good pass defense. Allison is intriguing as an upside play with a quietly bankable role in this offense. Graham costs more than I would like to pay at tight end, but the usage should be there, and a touchdown would enable him to be a solid piece of any roster.

I’ll be leaving the Packers running backs and the Washington passing attack alone — outside of possibly Jordan Reed. Same as Graham: he costs a bit more than I would like, and he will need a touchdown in order to really pay off in this offense, but the work should be there, and the talent is there for him to hit.

Chris Thompson’s price is ridiculous on DraftKings and FantasyDraft (12.6% of the salary cap on DK; 12.8% on FDraft) for a guy playing only 54% of the team’s snaps and who needs game flow to work in his favor; but because of how ridiculous his price tag is, he’ll go overlooked, and he does carry strong floor and ceiling in this game in PPR scoring if the Packers are able to shut down the run early on and/or take an early lead. He’s far less valuable on FanDuel, with 0.5-PPR scoring.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Colts (
19.5) at

Eagles (
26)

Over/Under 45.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Colts Run D
6th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
25th DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
29th DVOA/26th Yards per pass
Eagles Run D
15th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
22nd DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
29th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
15th DVOA/10th Yards per pass

COLTS // EAGLES OVERVIEW

This game will bring us the return of superstar Carson Wentz, in a supposed “marquee quarterback matchup.” Wentz’ counterpart Andrew Luck currently ranks dead last in the NFL in average intended air yards, at 5.2. Last season, Carson Wentz ranked third in the NFL in average intended air yards with a mark of 9.9 — behind only Deshaun Watson and Jameis Winston.

This game also brings old friend Frank Reich back to the sidelines in Philly, as the head coach of the Colts after he helped design the Eagles’ offense last year. There are some fun storylines in this game, though with the Eagles installed as early 6.5 point favorites, there is a chance this game could get ugly if Wentz comes back sharp.

COLTS PASS OFFENSE

As always, we should expect passing attempts to spike against Philly after they faced the fewest rush attempts in the NFL last season and have faced the fifth-fewest to begin this year. Philly plays tight and aggressive, looking to force short passes and make it difficult to catch the ball, though they did allow an increase of 7% last season in YAC per reception, compared to the league average — an issue that has popped up a couple times already this year as well.

The way to rack up fantasy points against this Eagles defense through the air is with either A) deep passes, or B) yards after catch. The Colts’ short-strike passing attack lowers the floor on all these guys compared to what we would find with a more aggressive attack (and the floor is further lowered by the below-average catch rate allowed by this defense), so this is a spot where you will want to lean on guys who can potentially break off a long play after the catch.

If upside-hunting in this offense, T.Y. Hilton is obviously the man to look to; but here’s an incredible statistic to keep in mind:

Only four of Hilton’s 22 targets so far this year have come more than 10 yards downfield. Luck is 0-4 on those throws.

Behind Hilton, Jack Doyle was again an every-down player last week (59 out of 61 snaps), while Eric Ebron played only 16 snaps all game. Doyle ran 30 pass routes compared to 12 for Ebron. Don’t be fooled by the box score.

Either guy could have a decent game here, with Doyle the likelier to see the larger target share. A touchdown will likely be necessary for either guy to pay off, though Doyle still carries a decent floor for his price on all three sites.

COLTS RUN OFFENSE

One of the issues with the Colts’ short passing attack is that they are allowing teams to play them close to the line of scrimmage. Defenses know that the Colts want to get the ball out quickly in order to limit the strain on Luck’s arm and protect him behind a bad offensive line, and this allows a talented, aggressive defense like the Eagles to be in position for stopping the run as well. So far this season, no team in the NFL has allowed fewer yards per carry than Philly, after they ranked sixth in this category last season. Last week with Marlon Mack healthy, Indy’s running back snaps were split as follows:

25 — Nyheim Hines // 23 — Jordan Wilkins // 18 — Marlon Mack

We’re left absolutely guessing here, against one of the best run defenses in the league.

EAGLES PASS OFFENSE

Jordan Matthews is back on the Eagles, and while he is not even part of the player pools on DFS sites for this week, he will have an impact on our expectations for this game.

So far this season, Nelson Agholor has run a massive 81% of his routes out of the slot, where Carson Wentz loves to work, and where Agholor has had much higher production in his career. But with the Eagles bringing on Matthews — who plays almost exclusively out of the slot — we should see Agholor bump to the outside more often. This could change if Alshon Jefferey unexpectedly gets cleared to play this week (in which case, Matthews might remain stuck to the bench, while Agholor continues to dominate slot duties), but as of right now, it appears Alshon will be out of action for at least one more week. This will force the Eagles to get Matthews on the field, as they replace one of Kamar Aiken or Shelton Gibson on the outside. With Mike Wallace lost for the season, the Eagles will need to play the healthy bodies they have, and that will be a hit to Agholor’s stock. Matthews should now soak up six to nine targets out of the slot, while Agholor will remain involved, but will be running routes that bring more volatility to his production. His upside will remain similar to where it has been, but floor expectations will be lowered.

Unsurprisingly, Zach Ertz has maintained a monstrous role in this offense with so few weapons at receiver — seeing 23 targets through two games, and turning these looks into 16 catches for 142 yards. With Foles under center so far, Ertz has seen an aDOT of only 6.8, but he had a more respectable 7.8 mark last season, which is enough to give him floor and ceiling with Wentz under center, against a defense that does not have linebackers who can hang with him.

EAGLES RUN OFFENSE

The big story in the Eagles’ backfield right now is injuries — particularly the back injury to Jay Ajayi. This week, offensive coordinator Mike Groh has both “indicated that there is a good chance” Ajayi sits this week and stated that the promotion of practice squad running back Josh Adams was “precautionary.” Okay. Friday’s injury report should provide more clarity, but as of Wednesday, Ajayi has yet to practice this week, and we’ll move forward expecting him to miss.

If he does miss, Corey Clement will draw the start against a Colts defense that has been decent but unspectacular against the run to start the year, ranking 13th in DVOA and 19th in yards allowed per carry. Clement is built for work between the tackles — and perhaps even more importantly, he has run 31 pass routes on his 46 snaps this year, snagging five catches for 55 yards on six targets. A “really good case” scenario for us this week would be for Ajayi to miss (and for Darren Sproles to also miss), and for Clement to be the clear lead back, which would provide us with a cheap, talented running back in a good matchup. A “best case” scenario would be for Ajayi to be active, but to be quietly available “only in case of emergency.” This type of situation has played out a couple times in my DFS career, and it’s awesome for the lowered ownership we see on the guy who is cheap and set to receive all the carries. With so little going on in the Eagles’ passing attack at the moment, Clement would also profile as the number three or four option through the air.

If Ajayi does play, he’ll be difficult to trust as a guy coming off a back injury with missed practice time, in a backfield that has proven in the past it likes to be unpredictable. In that scenario, Ajayi would retain his talent-driven upside, but his floor would be low. Clement would also have an outside shot at taking most of the touches, and would be worth deep tourney consideration for that.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I do not expect to be on the Colts’ offense at all, though tight end is a dopey enough position that a cheap, high-usage guy like Doyle will always be in play. While Hilton could theoretically bust out a long gain, his chances of posting a week-winning score are too slim for me to want to use a roster spot on him this week, given the matchup and the way the Colts are playing offense.

I would have had a lot of interest in Matthews as a cheap volume guy if he had been signed early enough to sneak into the player pools, but with Matthews signed and unavailable, it’s difficult to get too excited about this spot. Agholor retains his upside, but his floor is lowered. Ertz carries plenty of upside, but I try to pay down at tight end when I can. If paying up, Ertz will be on my radar.

Wentz is an intriguing tourney play, as a guy with legitimate 30-point upside — though this is not the best spot for him to hit, with depleted weaponry, and “rust concerns” pull him far away from cash game consideration for me.

The biggest spot in this game for me is the Philly backfield. If Ajayi and Sproles miss, Clement will be mega-chalk; but he’ll also be a “free square,” in my opinion — the kind of guy you simply lock in and don’t even think about, moving forward from there. (Or…is he? Now that Ajayi is officially out, I’m beginning to rethink my position here. See the update below. Going to keep digging into this Friday and Saturday and see if I can find anything more, and I will update the updates on Saturday evening with my final take in this spot.)

FRIDAY EVENING UPDATE // Full “Updates” List

Jack Doyle and Marlon Mack are both out this week for the Colts, against a Philly team that faced fewer rush attempts last year than any team in football. As noted a few times already: part of the reason Philly faced so few rush attempts last season was because of game script, but the bigger part was simply that teams tend to check out of run plays against this stout Philly front. With Jordan Wilkins and the weak Indy line at a severe disadvantage against Philly’s ferocious front, expect the Colts to lean pass-heavy in this spot. This vaults Eric Ebron toward the top of the “Value” pile, while it also further secures volume for T.Y. Hilton. (At his price: concerns do still remain for Hilton due to his low aDOT in this offense — as noted above. But the floor is nice, and Hilton’s explosiveness gives him enough upside to matter.) This also brings Nyheim Hines into tourney consideration, as the Colts figure to find themselves leaning on their rookie space back as the game moves along.

FRIDAY EVENING UPDATE // Full “Updates” List

Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles are officially out. Cue the chalk on Clement.

It is interesting to note that Clement never touched the ball more than 13 times in a game last season, and he has yet to top 66 all-purpose yards in his career. Wendell Smallwood, meanwhile, had a 13-touch game and a 14-touch game last season, and he twice went for 79 or more yards.

This is a great spot for Clement, and — to a lesser extent — for Smallwood (who could surprise with a bigger role than expected). But it’s not a “guarantee.” To put that another way: I expect a strong game, but it honestly should not surprise us if…well, if the Eagles surprise us. That being the case, there is definitely a strategic case to be made for fading Clement in tourneys, where he will almost certainly be monstrously owned. It won’t be shocking if he goes something like 15 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown, with a couple receptions thrown in; but it also won’t be shocking if he goes something like 12 carries for 55 yards, no touchdowns, and only a couple receptions thrown in. We don’t want to overthink this spot…but we should still put some thought into it.

I’ll update this update on Saturday evening with my final take on this situation — though I encourage you to also dig around yourself and see what you can find, in case you feel like there is a way here for you to gain an edge on the field.

Saturday Evening Update:

This is what I posted on the Player Grid, in regards to this spot:

At this point, I do not expect to play Corey Clement. Maybe this will prove to be crazy. But the more I have thought about this one, the more it seems that we could see the Eagles split this workload somewhere-close-to-down-the-middle. Wentz does not check down in the pass game, and a split workload would leave each guy fairly touchdown-dependent. If Clement sees 12 to 14 carries and Smallwood sees eight to 10, the latter could be a great tourney pivot off the former, and the savings could make a big difference in other spots on your roster.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Saints (
26) at

Falcons (
27.5)

Over/Under 53.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Saints Run D
4th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
26th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Saints Pass D
15th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
16ths DVOA/2nd Yards per pass
Falcons Run D
8th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O
12th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
30th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Saints Pass O
14th DVOA/12th Yards per pass

SAINTS // FALCONS OVERVIEW

In 2016, these teams played to game totals of 77 and 70 points; but with each defense improving last season, these teams combined for 37 and 36 points. With this being a division game, and with an aggressive Over/Under that will draw plenty of DFS attention, those numbers from last season are worth highlighting — not as something that tells us that this game will be low-scoring, but simply as something that reminds us this matchup carries a much broader range of outcomes than the Vegas totals will imply.

SAINTS RUN OFFENSE

The Saints’ approach from the first meeting between these two teams can be thrown out of the window, as Alvin Kamara was able to play only six snaps, and the Saints attacked with Mark Ingram and Michael Thomas. When these teams met a few weeks later, however, a healthy Kamara saw 12 carries and nine targets. With Kamara leading this backfield for the early portions of this season (77.3% snap rate last week), against a Falcons defense that pushes everything toward the running back (14 catches for Christian McCaffrey last week in this matchup), it makes sense for us to expect the Saints to lean heavily on Kamara. He has continued to look like an iffy fit between the tackles, but a legitimate 10 to 14 targets is a realistic expectation here for the Saints’ space back; and while the Falcons have speed, and they tackle well, the floor created by this work is tremendous on PPR sites, and Kamara’s unmatched ability with the ball in his hands gives him plenty of upside as well.

SAINTS PASS OFFENSE

While the Saints leaned on the run (25 total carries between Ingram and Kamara) and passes to the running backs (12 targets between the two) in Kamara’s healthy game last year, Michael Thomas saw only five targets in that spot — good for one of only two games all season with under eight targets for Thomas in 2017. Given the way Thomas features in this offense, that is obviously best considered to be fluky. He had 14 targets in the earlier matchup between these teams last year, and in spite of the difficult draw on the outside against Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, he posted a 10-117-1 line. Thomas has lined up in the slot on 25% of his routes this season, where he will draw burnable Brian Poole as well. With Kamara operating as the lead back right now, this has profiled as a pass-heavy offense, as New Orleans ranks second in the NFL in pass play rate, after ranking 20th last season.

Behind Kamara and Thomas, this passing attack is somewhat thin (Thomas’ aDOT is a modest 7.2, but he has vacuumed up 35.1% of this team’s air yards so far), though they have been passing enough for Ted Ginn to see target counts of six and seven to begin the year. Atlanta is strong against the deep pass, but Ginn has the speed to pop off in any matchup.

Ben Watson has nine total targets through two games and draws a difficult matchup against De’Vondre Campbell. Big-play threat and eventual Ted Ginn replacement Tre’Quan Smith stepped into 22 snaps last week with 13 pass routes run, and he deserves a mention — but he has yet to top one target in a game, and is still nothing more than an extreme dart throw at the moment.

FALCONS PASS OFFENSE

In each of the two games between these teams last season, Julio Jones drew 11 targets while mostly being trailed by 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore. Julio turned the first game into a 5-98-0 line, and he turned the second game into a 7-149-0 line. The 149 yards are a good reminder of Julio’s upside, while the 12 catches on 22 targets are a good reminder of what Lattimore can do against even an elite downfield threat. Another nine to 12 targets should be in line for Julio in this spot, with plenty of yardage upside even in a difficult matchup. After the Falcons were (finally) successful in the red zone last week, using Julio as a decoy, it is fair to wonder if his touchdown ceiling will remain lower than we want it to be once again this year.

Rookie Calvin Ridley was on the field for 55.6% of the team’s snaps last week, and he ran a pass route on 63.6% of Matt Ryan’s drop-backs. Ridley saw five targets, after seeing only two the week before.

Ridley’s rise is bad news for Mohamed Sanu, who dropped to two targets last week and has eight total looks on the season. With an aDOT of 6.5 and a tiny 7.6% share of the Falcons’ air yards so far this season, Sanu will need a touchdown (or maybe even two) in order to post a strong DFS score.

Austin Hooper is the fourth or fifth option in this passing attack, taking on a Saints defense that was the best in the NFL last year against the tight end position.

This is obviously unsustainable, but it’s a crazy stat nonetheless: Julio Jones leads the NFL in percentage share of team air yards…at 71.7% (next highest in the NFL is Odell Beckham, at 54.9%, and A.J. Green led the NFL last year at under 50%). With 71.7% of the total air yards for this team going to one guy, there isn’t much upside left for others.

FALCONS RUN OFFENSE

Tevin Coleman played a respectable 63.5% of the Falcons’ snaps last week, essentially stepping directly into the Devonta Freeman role — and a good, general way to assess your perception of Coleman this week is to ask yourself if you would roster Freeman at this price, in this spot.

In the first matchups between these teams last season, the Falcons tried to pound the ball on the ground — giving Freeman 24 carries (and giving Coleman nine), while feeding zero targets to either guy. After this approach yielded only 3.7 yards per carry, Atlanta shifted over to a pass-heavy approach a few weeks later, giving only 17 total carries to these two running backs while dividing up seven targets between the two of them. A reasonable expectation for Coleman in this spot is something similar to last week: 16 carries and three or four targets. At 12.0% to 12.8% of the salary cap on all three sites, he’s priced a bit high for this level of work — but as he showed in a tough matchup last week, he is talented enough to break off a long run or two.

Ito Smith will step into the “Tevin Coleman role” once again, soaking up around 35% of the running back snaps and touches. This yielded nine carries and one target last week, which is almost a perfect snapshot of a typical Coleman workload. He has some thin touchdown upside, but he’ll need to break off a long run in order to post usable yardage totals.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Thomas and Kamara are in strong consideration every week right now, as the two primary receiving weapons on one of the pass-heaviest offenses in the NFL, with Drew Brees under center. When taking price into consideration, however, I’ll likely have a difficult time getting too hyped up about either guy. Each has a monstrous floor, but I really want 25 FanDuel points or 30+ DraftKings/FantasyDraft points if paying this much for a player, and it’s likely that only one guy will reach that lofty level. Because these guys dominate red zone looks (four targets for Thomas inside the 10 this year; one target and six carries inside the 10 for Kamara), I’m guessing at least one of them posts a two-touchdown game; but I’m also guessing that whichever guy doesn’t post a two-touchdown game will end up around 16 to 18 FanDuel points and 20 to 23 DraftKings points. As such, I think you’ll have to “guess right” here in order to get the sort of game you need at this price. I would lean Kamara between the two, but it’s close.

Drew Brees is an interesting way to gain exposure to all the passing points on this pass-heavy team, and can be used without a stacking partner, given how expensive his two primary weapons are. Given the way this matchup played out both times last year, however (four total touchdowns for the Saints across two games), Brees won’t be in consideration for me in cash. Division games sometimes just introduce too many uncomfortable variables, with how well these teams know one another.

On the Falcons’ side, Julio is the only guy I have interest in through the air, though his floor remains low for the price. His upside is among the highest in the NFL, of course, but he’ll likely need a touchdown in order to post a must-have score.

Coleman is higher-priced than I want to go for a guy unlikely to top 20 touches, as his chances of posting a week-winning game are slim. But his chances of failing are also low, putting him in the same general range where I had him last week: 10 to 22 points on FanDuel, and 11 to 25 on DraftKings.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Giants (
19) at

Texans (
25)

Over/Under 44.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Giants Run D
15th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
23rd DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Giants Pass D
23rd DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
8th DVOA/3rd Yards per pass
Texans Run D
23rd DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O
30th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
8th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O
29th DVOA/30th Yards per pass

GIANTS // TEXANS OVERVIEW

This game has quiet eruption potential, with a bad Giants pass defense taking on an explosive Texans offense, and with an aggressive Texans defense taking on the speedy Giants offense. There is a reason this game is sitting at an Over/Under of only 42.0 as I write this (and in fact, the Giants’ Vegas-implied total has already been bet down from 19.5 to 18.0), as each team has plenty of question marks and holes. But there are also a few things to like in this spot, and we’ll make sure to focus on those as well.

GIANTS PASS OFFENSE

The Giants opened the season against the best pass defense in the NFL in the Jaguars, and then they took on a Dallas defense that is designed to eliminate exactly what the Giants like to do — playing tight zone close to the line of scrimmage to make teams fight for short yards. This week, the Giants will be facing a weak Houston secondary that ranks 23rd in early-season DVOA against the pass. There was a bit of optimism on this passing attack in some dim corners of the world coming into the season; let’s not put that light out altogether until we’ve given them a couple good matchups.

The Giants have leaned on the pass early in the season, throwing the ball at the third-highest rate in the league; with a bad offensive line taking on a Houston defense that has started the season ranked fifth in yards allowed per carry and third in DVOA against the run, it makes sense for the Giants to stick with that approach — especially as we can expect Houston to put up points on the other side.

So far this season, Odell Beckham has seen 24 of Eli Manning’s 81 pass attempts, good for an awesome 29.6% rate. He’ll have plenty of opportunities in this one to make a dent in this defense, as the Texans will play a lot of tight man coverage that Beckham can beat underneath.

Behind Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram have each seen 14.8% of the Giants’ targets (exactly half of what Beckham has seen) — an average of six looks per game, concerning volume from a forward-looking perspective with Eli Manning averaging 40.5 pass attempts per game so far.

After the targets that Saquon Barkley accounts for, there are only scraps remaining for the other pieces. Beyond “hoping for an unpredictable big play or a touchdown,” this passing attack ends at Beckham.

GIANTS RUN OFFENSE

Saquon Barkley has 22 targets of his own, and while this total is skewed by the 16 looks he saw last week against a Cowboys defense that took away all the short passes the Giants like to throw, he is still locked into a major slice of this offense. Through two games, Barkley is averaging 22.5 touches per game, and he should land in that range once again. This game sets up as a ball-out-quick, pass-heavy spot for the Giants, with their poor offensive line taking on the ruthless Houston front, so expect a lot of those touches to come through receptions for Barkley once again. Something like 14 or 15 carries and seven to nine targets is a reasonable expectation here.

TEXANS PASS OFFENSE

In all honesty, Deshaun Watson has not looked sharp just yet. He’s been making mental and physical mistakes, and while this matchup is non-threatening, I will be holding those worries in the back of my mind if my fingers hover over his name while building rosters.

The Giants rank third-best in the NFL right now in yards allowed per pass attempt, though they rank 14th in DVOA. So far, they have faced Blake Bortles and the Cowboys’ no-name pass attack, so we’ll see what they can do against Watson.

The Texans run a fairly straightforward offense, with simple reads and a simple plan most of the time: fire the ball to DeAndre Hopkins or Will Fuller and let them make the catch. The Giants’ corners are beatable (Janoris Jenkins got absolutely embarrassed last week by Tavon Austin on a simple go route), so the matchup doesn’t concern me. This is a neutral spot for Hopkins — which is more than enough for his talent to win out. He has seen exactly 11 targets through each of the first two games of the season.

Will Fuller also has more than enough talent to win in this spot, and his role in this offense looks very secure after he saw nine targets in Week 2 on only 32 Deshaun Watson passes (28.1%). It’s dangerous to overreact to one game, and last year Fuller’s share of the targets was not nearly as hefty; but if Fuller and Hopkins are indeed set to see a combined 62.5% target share this season, they will be capable of producing big games together. This is a risk/reward spot, but the risk appears low after Fuller’s Week 2 usage, and the reward has week-winning upside. Here’s a look at Fuller’s route tree from Week 2, which is quite a bit more nuanced than anything we saw from him last season.

The Giants rank dead last in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate this year. Watson should have plenty of time to find both Hopkins and Fuller deep.

TEXANS RUN OFFENSE

Lamar Miller has a healthy lead in this backfield so far this season, with an average of 17 carries per game to six per game for Alfred Blue. On paper, this matchup also looks good against a Giants run defense that ranks 29th in yards allowed per carry and 30th in DVOA against the run.

The Giants’ run defense really got bothered last week by some of the misdirection on the Cowboys’ zone blocking scheme, with their aggressiveness allowing too many clear cut-back lanes for Zeke and allowing Dak Prescott to find some open running lanes as well. With the Texans running a man blocking scheme, some of the problems the Giants had last week will be eliminated, and the Texans’ offensive line (ranked 32nd in the NFL by PFF coming into the season) will have to win their battles against the Giants directly. This is a good spot for Miller, but it’s by no means a slam dunk. Miller has only four targets on the year with Watson always looking downfield, and his touchdown opportunities are thin with Watson and Alfred Blue having taken the team’s only two carries inside the five-yard-line so far this year.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I want to like more in this game than I do, as I see this as a great spot for points; but while I expect this game to top its Over/Under of 42.0, it might be aggressive to expect an actual shootout. I’d say the chances of a true shootout in this spot are under 10%, as each offense just does too many things wrong right now. Still, “under 10%” is a good enough number for game stacks in large-field tourneys, if this spot projects to be low-owned.

I do like Beckham as a target monster with big upside in his first easier matchup of the year. I’m fine with Saquon Barkley, but at his price, I worry about efficiency against a team that allowed the second-fewest running back receptions in the NFL last year.

On the Texans’ side, Watson will be in consideration for me, but I imagine I’ll roster a quarterback from a more guaranteed shootout — at least on my main roster. I really like the idea of playing Hopkins and Fuller together, as that 62.5% share of targets from last week is eye-popping. It takes a bit of faith to assume Fuller will continue to see such a large share of targets himself, but at the very least in tourneys, it could be worth betting on this week.

I like other elements of this game, but not enough to really want them on a main roster. There are simply better options on the slate for me than guys like Shepard, Engram, and Miller.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Raiders (
21.5) at

Dolphins (
24.5)

Over/Under 46.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Raiders Run D
31st DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D
26th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
11th DVOA/16th Yards per pass
Dolphins Run D
32nd DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O
24th DVOA/14th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
10th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O
5th DVOA/5th Yards per pass

RAIDERS // DOLPHINS OVERVIEW

This is going to be one of the least appealing games on the slate from a DFS perspective, as there are simply a lot of things these teams can do to slow down one another. I won’t be particularly surprised if this game finds a way to sneak above its game total of 43.5, but I will be surprised if these points are backed up by major yardage.

RAIDERS PASS OFFENSE

Last week, the Raiders finally got Amari Cooper going against the Broncos, while Jordy Nelson plodded around looking like a tight end at this point in his career. Cooper was targeted 10 times, and he was the apparent first read on several other occasions. He was especially unfriendly to Bradley Roby, attacking him on back-to-back plays during a memorable sequence. The Broncos were playing off Cooper, however — allowing him plenty of room underneath. The Dolphins are not in the business of doing this, as they play closer to the line of scrimmage and focus on those shorter portions of the field. This honestly sets up a lot more poorly for Amari than what he had last week, and I’m pegging a repeat as somewhat unlikely. To be clear: Amari has the talent to beat the Dolphins deep a couple times; but he’ll have to beat them deep, as another high-efficiency, 10-catch game is going to be difficult to find in this spot.

Behind Amari, this wide receiver group is pretty thin, with Jordy Nelson serving as the nominal number two, but dad-running his way to a 5-53-0 line through two weeks, on only eight targets. Seth Roberts grabs a few targets underneath, and Martavis Bryant will grab a few targets deep.

Jared Cook has been the number two guy in this offense in reality, catching a monstrous 13 out of 16 targets so far for 229 yards. He also drew a target inside the 10-yard-line last week, giving him at least a shot at some touchdown action. The Dolphins should be above-average against the tight end this year (though, as noted in Week 1, they did struggle mightily against the position last year, so there is room for this to grow into a weakness once again). So far on the season, Miami ranks first in the NFL in DVOA against the pass, and they are disciplined enough to not get fooled by most of the misdirection that Gruden creates.

RAIDERS RUN OFFENSE

Oakland ranks fifth in the NFL so far in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards; and yet, Marshawn Lynch has only been able to average 3.7 yards per carry. He can still make some breathtaking plays, but he is giving up too many yards behind the line, and he gets another tough matchup this week against a Dolphins team that ranks fifth in DVOA against the run. With such a small role in the pass game, Lynch really needs a touchdown to pay off for us in 0.5-PPR and full-PPR scoring. The Raiders’ Vegas-implied total gives them credit for about two touchdowns and a pair of field goals, which looks about right. Lynch is a nice low-owned salary saver if he hits for that touchdown, but his floor is low if he misses.

DOLPHINS PASS OFFENSE

No team in the entire NFL has run the ball more often than the Dolphins this season, which is right in line with what they did in 2016 when Ryan Tannehill was last healthy — finishing that season fifth in the NFL in rushing rate. The final piece of this puzzle is to slow down the clock (26th in pace of play this year; 32nd in 2016), and to shorten the game as much as possible. And while you can knock it from a DFS perspective, the Dolphins are 2-0, and they went 10-6 and made the playoffs in 2016.

This is honestly a good offense, all things considered. It’s creative and effective, and while there are a lot of things Tannehill can’t do that would make this offense a lot more fun, he is effective at doing the things he can do. As effective as this offense is, however, it is one of the league’s least explosive units. It would be difficult to trust this spot on a slate like this.

If you feel compelled to go here for some reason, here are the target counts on the season for Dolphins wide receivers through two full games:

11 – Jakeem Grant
10 – Danny Amendola
9 – Albert Wilson
8 – Kenny Stills

DOLPHINS RUN OFFENSE

The matchup here is absolutely fantastic, against an Oakland defense that currently ranks dead last in both yards allowed per carry and DVOA against the run. Add it all together, and we have the run-heaviest offense in the NFL taking on the league’s worst run defense to date.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Kenyan Drake is averaging only 16 touches per game, to 9.5 touches per game for Frank Gore.

The Dolphins should be able to fire off a good 25 running back rush attempts in this one, so perhaps we see something like 15 carries and four targets for Drake and 10 carries and one target for Gore. Their offensive line is a middling unit by Adjusted Line Yards, but they have more than enough talent to take care of the Raiders in this spot.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

These have been two of the worst pass rushing units in the NFL so far this season, so perhaps this game could turn into a much higher-scoring affair than anyone is expecting; but the fundamental philosophy of Miami’s offense is to slow down the game and keep the clock running, while their philosophy on defense is to play tight zone and make it difficult for the opponent to pick up easy yards underneath. With all those pieces coming together in this spot, I have a difficult time seeing this turning into a blowup spot.

I have no serious interest in any player from either side — though I do give Drake a decent shot at 18+ points here, while Gore could post a usable game with a touchdown. I may put Drake on my early-week list, simply because the matchup dictates he should be there, but I’ll be hoping to actually end up rostering someone a bit more safe.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

49ers (
24) at

Chiefs (
29.5)

Over/Under 53.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
49ers Run D
7th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
17th DVOA/6th Yards per carry
49ers Pass D
22rd DVOA/5th Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
1st DVOA/7th Yards per pass
Chiefs Run D
28th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per carry
49ers Run O
9th DVOA/11th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
2nd DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per pass
49ers Pass O
17th DVOA/20th Yards per pass

49ERS // CHIEFS OVERVIEW

Okay, sure. The Chargers were missing Joey Bosa in Week 1. And the Steelers were missing Joe Haden. But that was still the Chargers and Steelers, who each finished top 10 last year in DVOA against the pass. Now the Chiefs come home (for Mahomes’ first home start, after three games on the road to begin his career), and they are playing the 49ers (28th in DVOA against the pass last season).

The beauty of this Chiefs offense is that their defense is so bad, it forces them to remain aggressive when they have the ball; and the biggest question to ask ourselves right now in assessing this Chiefs offense is, “Can the opposing offense put up points?” If the answer is “Yes,” we should have plenty of interest in the Chiefs’ side of the ball.

49ERS PASS OFFENSE

After ranking 23rd in DVOA against the pass last season, this Chiefs defense has ranked 29th through the early portions of this year, while giving up a league-leading (and frankly unbelievable) 860 yards through the air two weeks into the season.

Of course, with the Chiefs running a man-heavy coverage scheme, it is worth noting that they have played three elite wide receivers through two weeks (Keenan Allen, Antonio Brown, and JuJu Smith-Schuster), who have done most of the damage against them. Speedster Tyrell Williams also burned the Chiefs in Week 1 for a dropped touchdown (and scored again later).

It is also worth noting that for all the love the public has for Jimmy G., most of that was the result of him going 5-0 last season on what had previously been an 0-11 team. In seven starts for the 49ers, Jimmy has topped 300 yards only twice, and he has thrown for two touchdowns on only three occasions. He has yet to throw more than two touchdown passes in this offense, and he is still working with below-average weapons.

If Marquise Goodwin fails to get cleared for this game, I would have concerns about the ability of Pierre Garcon and disappearing act Dante Pettis to truly rake this defense over the coals, and I would give the 49ers a greater-than-50% shot of falling shy of their Vegas-implied total.

If Goodwin gets cleared to play (currently, he is trending in that direction), I’ll give this game a much clearer shot at remaining close.

In five games played with Jimmy under center last year, Goodwin was the clear number one weapon, averaging 5.8 catches for 76.8 yards on 8.6 targets, while adding one touchdown in that stretch. Goodwin’s touchdown ceiling will always be difficult to fall in love with, but he’ll carry big-play upside this week and is priced like a number two or three option. Goodwin went 3-37-0 against the Jags last year with Jimmy under center and 2-28-1 against the Rams. He posted at least six catches and at least 99 yards in each of his other three games.

Garcon has seen nine total targets through two weeks, with Goodwin missing almost all of that time, while Pettis has seen seven looks in all. Outside of Goodwin, this offense seems set to spread the ball around to its wide receivers, putting these guys in the “touchdown-hunting” category.

George Kittle saw only four targets last week, after seeing nine the week before, but he did run 26 of a possible 36 pass routes, and the Chiefs have been unable to slow down tight ends this year. Kittle should go overlooked after he burned so many people last week — but much like Keelan Cole in Week 2, there is really no reason other than recency bias to dislike this guy if you liked him last week.

49ERS RUN OFFENSE

Matt Breida played only 25 snaps last week to 31 for Alfred Morris, and he even ran fewer pass routes than Alf (12, compared to 15). But he currently leads the NFL in rushing yards (for real), and he has looked awesome with the ball in his hands. As I said before Week 1: I loaded up on Breida in Best Ball this year even before McKinnon was injured, as there were some 49ers beat writers who expected him to eventually take over the lead job. There is no indication that this is set to happen yet, but this could be the week in which things begin shifting in that direction, as Breida is the better back in space, and the 49ers will likely be playing catch-up. Frustratingly, this is hardly actionable information, as Breida is priced like a borderline-starter on all three sites (alongside guys like Alex Collins, Giovani Bernard, and on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, even Kareem Hunt). He should have a solid game here against a Chiefs run defense that enters the week ranked 32nd in DVOA, but it’s tough to bet on him seeing more than 60% to 65% of the work, and even that requires some guesswork — making him a difficult guy to bet on at his price.

Alfred Morris should soak up 10 to 12 carries and two or three catches of his own. He’ll need a couple touchdowns in order to really be worth a roster spot this week.

CHIEFS PASS OFFENSE

This offense is so much fun to watch. Unlike the Deshaun Watson situation last year — when Watson was simply letting it rip deep and letting his skilled receivers come down with the ball — guys on the Chiefs are just plain open, and Mahomes is making perfect reads and incredible throws. Everything that Andy Reid is doing right now is working, and the weapons this offense has to work with will allow these things to continue working most weeks this season. Defenses have to respect weapons at all levels, and all areas of the field, with Tyreek Hill stretching them deep, Travis Kelce as dangerous as they come over the middle of the field, and Kareem Hunt still possessing blazing talent underneath. Add in Sammy Watkins on the outside, and there is just too much for a defense to try to defend. Someone is going to be open most plays, and Mahomes/Reid usually have a pretty good idea of exactly where that “someone” will be.

I’m expecting the Chiefs to win by about 10 points in this spot, with around 31 to 34 points scored; though with a healthy Goodwin on the other side, the chances of the 49ers pushing the Chiefs a little bit harder would be improved.

Mahomes’ most valuable weapon so far this season has been Tyreek Hill, who has incredibly turned 14 targets into 259 yards and three touchdowns. (Adam Levitan also added this stat today on Twitter: “Pat Mahomes has thrown at Tyreek Hill 28 times this preseason plus regular season. It’s resulted in 26 catches, 441 yards & 4 TDs.”) Expect yet another six to eight targets for Hill, with theoretically scary floor at his price on so few looks, but with as much upside as any wide receiver in the game.

Travis Kelce finally got going last week, with seven catches on 10 targets, for 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was targeted six times the week before in a matchup against the Chargers, and he will again push to be the target leader in this spot, in a neutral tight end matchup. (Naturally, matchup matters less for Kelce than usage.)

Sammy Watkins also got going last week, with a 6-100-0 line on seven targets, to go with a 31-yard rush. This offense is so comfortable spreading the ball around, it will be difficult for any of these guys to top 10 targets on the regular, and all of them will sprinkle in some duds; but Watkins carries big tourney upside, especially as his downfield routes will play well in this spot.

CHIEFS RUN OFFENSE

With all the aggressive downfield throwing on the Chiefs, Kareem Hunt has fallen out of favor with the DFS community right now, having seen only 34 carries and two targets all year. This is a spot in which the carries may spike a bit, given that the Chiefs will likely be playing with a lead, but the big dent for Hunt right now is the lack of pass game work, which puts him into that class of guys like Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch — guys with only one dimension to their box score production. There is a chance that Andy Reid will scheme several pass plays to Hunt simply to “get him involved” — the way he did last week with Watkins — but the likeliest scenario here is another 16 to 20 carries, with three or fewer targets mixed in. Hunt has the talent to post a strong game on that type of work, but it is not the likeliest scenario.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

If Marquise Goodwin plays in this spot, I will have interest in him as a guy with seven to nine targets as his likeliest range, and with a 4-50-0 line easily deemed a “disappointment.” He could go for as much as eight catches for 120 yards if everything goes right.

If Marquise Goodwin misses, this side of the ball will become less exciting, as no one really stands out on this spread-it-around offense. Kittle and Breida both have nice ceiling, though with iffy, usage-driven floors. Kittle will be a borderline play for me, while Breida will likely end up in the “large-field tourneys only” bin. Pettis theoretically has big upside as well, but it’s very difficult to trust his usage right now.

I love Mahomes this week, and I feel he is still underpriced across the industry, given the matchup and the overall game environment. We cannot count on another six-touchdown game, but 250 passing yards and two touchdowns is a safe “floor” expectation here, and 325+ passing yards with four touchdowns would not be unexpected. He’s a great, high-floor, high-upside option this week.

I don’t think I can pay the Tyreek Hill price tag myself, for the same reasons I have never liked paying up for Kamara when his price soars too high: efficiency is awesome, but these lower-usage guys still have some disappointing games stored in them, and it sucks to land on those games when paying up for a guy. To be clear: Hill carries some of the highest upside on the slate, and he can hit in this matchup as easily as he can in any other. This has nothing to do with Hill or the matchup for me; it’s just not my style to pay top-dollar for seven or eight expected targets.

Kelce joins Ertz as the top tight end options if looking to pay up at the position (the ceiling is the same on each; Kelce has a greater chance of falling out of the game plan than Ertz does, making Ertz a little safer). Watkins and Hunt both have upside, but each has a low floor to go with it.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 1:00pm Eastern

Titans (
14.75) at

Jaguars (
24.75)

Over/Under 39.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Titans Run D
16th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
17th DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Titans Pass D
24th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
21st DVOA/13th Yards per pass
Jaguars Run D
22nd DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O
11th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
32nd DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O
2nd DVOA/11th Yards per pass

TITANS // JAGUARS OVERVIEW

There was a moment when I considered waiting to write up this game until a line was posted in Vegas; then I realized that this is the Titans’ broken offense taking on the Jaguars. It really doesn’t matter who is under center this week for the Titans (for what it’s worth, it currently looks like we’ll have another week of Gabbert); this is going to be a tough spot for them regardless.

TITANS PASS OFFENSE

In last week’s contest against the Texans, Blaine Gabbert posted an average intended air yards of 5.4 — lower than Alex Smith’s mark on the season — as Tennessee tried to get the ball out quickly and give Gabbert easy, short throws against the Texans’ fierce pass rush. This was effective for Tennessee, allowing them to do enough to get a win, while mitigating the impact of the Texans’ front, and I expect them to take a similar approach this week, regardless of who is under center. But they will have a much tougher time against the Jags’ sophisticated defense, as this unit is capable of scheming away the areas of the field where Gabbert wants to throw, and their impeccable communication will enable them to avoid getting tripped up by whatever clever scheming Matt LaFleur comes up with.

If for some reason you are set on rostering someone from this pass attack, I’ll point out that Corey Davis ranks fourth in the NFL in percentage share of team air yards, having seen 46.78% of the Titans’ air yards to date. If this team ever solves their quarterback play, he’ll be in position to break out in a monster way.

TITANS RUN OFFENSE

With Blaine Gabbert or an arm-injured Marcus Mariota under center this week, and with short routes being the only thing the Titans are looking to get going, it will be easy for Jacksonville to play close to the line of scrimmage and clamp down on the run. The Jaguars’ smaller, quicker linebacking unit is theoretically the sort of group that Derrick Henry would match up better against, but he looks slower and more sluggish right now than he looked the last couple years, and he has seen the field for only 38.1% of the Titans’ snaps so far this season. With little pass game involvement and an uncertain touch floor, he would take quite a leap of faith.

Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry started seeing the field together last week, but it is Lewis who has led the job so far, with a 70.3% snap rate. Lewis has averaged 15 carries and 4.5 targets per game, and it shouldn’t surprise us if he falls right into that range again. Telvin Smith was tasked with covering Lewis last season when the Patriots and Jags met in the AFC Championship Game, and he should be on him plenty in this one. He has the speed to stay with Lewis, and to take him down in the open field, which lowers Lewis’ chances of hitting for a big play.

JAGUARS PASS OFFENSE

Last week, the Titans played a lot of first down nickel with the Texans in two tight end sets — clearly gearing up to stop the pass, even when the offense was tipping their hand toward the run. While some might assume this is a sign that the Titans are fine giving up yards on the ground, I see it as an adaptable defense that was more worried about Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins than about giving up small gains to Lamar Miller. Given the Belichick roots across the Titans’ defensive coaching staff, it would make sense for them to change things up a bit this week and aim to take away Fournette — forcing Blake Bortles to beat them. The Titans are very comfortable playing man coverage, so don’t be surprised if these guys are left on an island with Jags receivers for much of the afternoon. To date, the Jaguars’ offensive line ranks first in adjusted sack rate, making this a sneaky good spot for this passing attack to post solid numbers.

Keelan Cole whack-a-mole’d the DFS community last weekend with a 7-116-0 line against the Patriots on eight targets, including one truly remarkable one-handed catch. It should be noted, however, that he has seen only 15.4% of the Jags’ targets this year, and Bortles may not need to throw more than 32 to 35 times in this one, as the Jags should lean run-heavy with a lead even if the Titans are loading up to stop the run.

Dede Westbrook has been extremely effective on his targets as well, posting a 9-134-1 line on only 11 looks through two games to start the year. Sadly, the largest chunk of the passes on this team are being wasted on Donte Moncrief, who not only leads the team with 14 targets, but also ranks 14th in the NFL in percentage share of team air yards. He has turned his 14 looks into five catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. Hopefully the Jaguars begin cutting into his role this week.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins rounds out this group as low-yardage tight end with decent touchdown upside. ASJ has seen exactly five targets in each of the first two games, and his lines of 3-25-0 and 3-23-1 paint a perfect picture of what he provides in this offense.

JAGUARS RUN OFFENSE

Musical chairs continues in the Jags’ backfield this week, as it looks like Leonard Fournette will return, while T.J. Yeldon may be out with an injured ankle.

The Titans have the personnel to be dominant against the run after finishing fourth in the NFL last year in yards allowed per carry, and we need to have at least some concern that Corey Grant will continue to soak up six or seven touches (the Jags keep talking about wanting to get him involved, and he continues to shine when they do it). With that said: Fournette is one of the highest-talent backs in the NFL, and I can’t imagine many people will want to play him coming off an injury. There is no guarantee that he sees his usual 22+ touches in this spot — and the spot itself isn’t great; but he does have the talent to go off in any matchup if the workload is there.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

This is not a game that is going to draw heavy interest from me, outside of the Jaguars’ defense — as I just don’t expect the Titans to be able to scheme around what this unit can do.

I do think that there is some interesting upside worth chasing among the Jags’ wide receivers, and Nathaniel Hackett is a sharp enough offensive coordinator to start taking away targets from Moncrief and redistributing them to Cole and Westbrook. If Bortles throws around 35 passes, we would currently be looking at a target expectation for those guys of around five to six. They would need to climb up to the six to eight range for me to really want to roster them, but they’ll have a chance to hit if the usage ends up there.

You could also chase Fournette in tourneys, though I’ll probably be looking for a higher floor to go with the upside I’m always hunting.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 4:05pm Eastern

Chargers (
21) at

Rams (
28)

Over/Under 49.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Chargers Run D
21st DVOA/9th Yards allowed per carry
Rams Run O
1st DVOA/10th Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
11th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Rams Pass O
10th DVOA/15th Yards per pass
Rams Run D
21st DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
31st DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Rams Pass D
11th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
7th DVOA/8th Yards per pass

CHARGERS // RAMS OVERVIEW

After giving up only 17.0 points per game last season (third-best in the NFL), the Chargers are getting no respect from the oddsmakers without Joey Bosa, as the Rams are pegged with a Vegas-implied total of 27.5. Before adding Brandin Cooks this offseason, the Rams led the NFL last year with 29.9 points per game. This seems like a spot where they may fall shy of their lofty total, as the Rams are not capable of doing some of the things to the Chargers that Tyreek Hill and Patrick Mahomes could do; but this should still be a decent spot for the Rams’ offense, and the Chargers should have to fire up some aggressive play-calling throughout the game in order to keep pace.

CHARGERS PASS OFFENSE

Somehow, the Rams rank 30th in adjusted sack rate to begin the year, and they have notched only two sacks through two games on the season. Philip Rivers is playing behind a line that ranks 10th in adjusted sack rate.

The Rams have otherwise been unsurprisingly strong against the pass, ranking fifth in yards allowed per pass attempt and third in DVOA. They have had a soft start to the year with the Raiders and Cardinals, but they have the pieces across the board to make life difficult on this Chargers attack.

If the Chargers are going to move the ball through the air, their best bet will be with Keenan Allen in the slot. Allen has run over 50% of his routes out of the slot so far this year, where he will match up this week with Nickell Robey-Coleman, who is an above-average corner, but is the weakest link in this secondary. Allen, at 6’2″, towers over the 5’8″ Robey-Coleman, and he has 31 pounds on him to boot.

On the outside, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib will swallow up Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams, who have each averaged four targets per game so far this year. Talib has allowed one catch for 12 yards on the season, on five targets; Peters has allowed four catches for only 25 yards on eight targets, with one interception.

We have seen the Rams be susceptible to tight ends, but Virgil Green has seen only five targets through two games.

While things won’t always be easy, most of the work in this passing attack should be filtered toward Allen.

CHARGERS RUN OFFENSE

The Chargers’ “number two receiver” will likely be Melvin Gordon once again this week, as he looks to pile onto the incredible 20 targets and 15 receptions he has already. Gordon posted six catches for 38 yards on seven targets last week in spite of sitting out huge chunks of the second half of the Chargers’ blowout win. The Rams continue to be below-average against the run (17th in yards allowed per rush attempt to begin the year, in spite of taking on a pair of below-average rushing attacks; 17th in early-season DVOA against the run, after ranking 21st last year), and they were nondescript against pass-catching running backs last season — allowing a below-average number of receptions to the position, but an average number of yards.

This week’s game flow could lead to Gordon only seeing 12 to 15 carries once again, but his pass game role is secure, and another eight-plus targets looks likely in a game the Chargers project to be trailing. Gordon’s touchdown opportunities won’t be as plentiful as they were last week in Buffalo, but the floor here is great.

RAMS PASS OFFENSE

While the Chargers run plenty of zone coverage — similar to the Cardinals defense that Jared Goff picked apart last week to the tune of a 75% completion rate and 354 yards — this unit is far more talented, and will make life a lot more difficult on Goff this week. Last season, only the Jaguars and the Vikings allowed a lower expected yards per target mark than the Chargers, and while Bosa is a beast, his absence does not suddenly make this an attackable unit, contrary to what Week 1 indicated (Mahomes is going to make plenty of good defenses look bad over the next couple years). Only three teams last year allowed fewer pass plays of 40+ yards than the Chargers. Only one team allowed fewer pass plays of 20+ yards.

While Brandin Cooks has posted the sexy stats so far in this passing attack, it is actually Robert Woods who quietly leads this team in percentage share of team air yards. In fact, his 45.3% mark ranks sixth in the NFL, just behind A.J. Green, and just ahead of Adam Thielen and DeAndre Hopkins. Woods is seeing his average target 15.5 yards downfield, with exactly nine targets in each of the Rams’ first two games. This is monster usage for a guy who is priced like a number three receiver (11.17% of the salary cap on FanDuel, and all the way down at 10.2% on DraftKings and 10.5% on FantasyDraft), even if the matchup is tough.

Cooks has seen one fewer target than Woods, and has accounted for 34.0% of the team’s air yards — which has Cooks and Woods combining for over 79% of the air yards on this offense. This is a good spot to drop in a reminder that difficult matchups impact floor more than ceiling; technically, Woods and Cooks retain big ceiling in this spot with the aggressive usage they are seeing.

Cooper Kupp rounds out this passing attack, with all the underneath work, and with four targets inside the 10-yard-line (tied with Michael Thomas, Marvin Jones, and David Johnson for the most in the league). It is worth mentioning that Woods and Cooks each have two such targets of their own.

RAMS RUN OFFENSE

Through a pair of blowout wins, Todd Gurley has seen only six total catches, but he has touched the ball 45 times in all and has already scored four touchdowns. This week, he’ll be taking on a Chargers team that ranked 25th in DVOA against the run last season and has started this year cold as well, ranking 16th in DVOA and 16th in yards allowed per rush attempt. The Chargers’ entire defense is predicated upon the idea of giving up no easy yards through the air, and while they allowed plenty of running back receptions last season, they were stellar after the catch, allowing the ninth-fewest receiving yards to the position. Still, this is Todd Gurley and the Rams’ creative screen game, so he should be able to pop off for his standard set of big plays on the ground and through the air this week.

Gurley has played on 80% of the Rams’ snaps so far, even with a pair of blowout wins. He has touched the ball 17 times in the red zone — with 15 carries…which leads every other player in the NFL by seven or more. When the Rams score, Gurley is most often the reason why, and this — more than anything — keeps him afloat each week as the best pure option in fantasy. If you expect the Rams to reach their Vegas-implied total of just-on-the-edge-of-four-touchdowns, you should expect Gurley to grab some portion of those scores.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

The Vegas-implied total for the Rams in this spot is a bit surprising to me, but I still like them for three touchdowns, and it obviously won’t surprise me if they go for more. I’m not in the habit of chasing plays against really good defenses, but it’s tough to not have some interest in Robert Woods, given how underpriced he is for the usage he is seeing. He and Brandin Cooks should each see seven to 10 targets in this spot, and I’ll toy around with them in tourneys this week, with Woods in borderline consideration even in cash, simply due to how cheap he is and how much upside he carries. Each guy, of course, has a difficult matchup.

Part of the beauty of this Rams attack is the way they can push the defense back on its heels with Cooks and Woods, and can use this to open up space underneath for Kupp and Gurley. Kupp, as always, needs a touchdown in order to really pay off, but he’ll provide workload-driven floor. Gurley is the surest bet in fantasy, and a matchup vs the Chargers should filter more touches into his hands (the Chargers allowed the second-most rushing yards in the league last season). At this point, he’s appropriately priced, so it will be difficult for him to kill your roster if you fade him (i.e, even if he scores 26 FanDuel or 30 DraftKings points, you can likely pick up those points in other spots for the same amount of salary), but he’s a strong play every week right now if the salary makes sense for your roster.

On the other side, I like Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon in a matchup that should filter touches into their hands all day. The Rams do have a shot at holding the Chargers to only a couple touchdowns here, which would make it tough for either of these guys to hit for their ceiling, so neither is anywhere close to locked-in for me; but they will both be in consideration for my rosters as we start moving toward the weekend.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 4:25pm Eastern

Bears (
22.25) at

Cards (
16.75)

Over/Under 39.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bears Run D
11th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O
2nd DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Bears Pass D
2nd DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O
18th DVOA/19th Yards per pass
Cardinals Run D
10th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O
28th DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D
10th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O
24th DVOA/23rd Yards per pass

BEARS // CARDINALS OVERVIEW

This game currently carries a microscopic Over/Under of 38.0, which gives us an early idea of how we should view this game. The Cardinals’ offense is in pieces right now (some of the deep shots that Sam Bradford is passing up — or, more likely, is not even seeing — are astonishing), and this broken unit will be taking on a red hot Bears defense. On the other side, Mitchell Trubisky has been extremely up-and-down through the first two games of the season in this new Matt Nagy offense.

BEARS PASS OFFENSE

While the Cardinals’ defense is attackable on paper, they play a disciplined zone, and some of the reads and tight-window passes that Jared Goff had to make last week in this matchup are not things that Trubisky is currently equipped to do. I won’t be surprised if he sails a couple interceptions in this spot. The Cardinals also rank eighth in adjusted sack rate, making them a sneaky, cheap defense against a player in Trubisky who has routinely held onto the ball too long.

Only five quarterbacks have a lower average intended air yards than Trubisky, and similar to the game between Andrew Luck and Alex Smith last week, this game has a chance to turn into a dink-and-dunk fest. (Luck, Smith, and Bradford are three of the five quarterbacks with a lower average intended air yards mark than Trubisky.) Trubisky’s lack of aggressiveness and his lack of accuracy on downfield throws are holding back this entire offense.

On a more encouraging note, Allen Robinson ranks behind only Julio Jones and Odell Beckham in percentage share of team air yards, with 53.1% of the Bears’ air yards flowing his direction so far. Robinson has turned his 21 targets into 14 catches for 144 yards — and while the yardage is disappointing on so many targets, it has room to grow, and he has posted a pair of usable games without yet scoring a touchdown. With his 14-target game on Monday night coming after pricing was set for Week 3, Robinson has a high-water cap hit of only 11.2% on FantasyDraft, while sitting under 11% on FanDuel and DraftKings. His chances of posting a monster game are slim in this offense — but his chances of posting a dud are slim as well. The Cardinals’ zone defense and aggressive run defense tendencies make them particularly susceptible to play-action, and Robinson should be able to get between the linebackers and the safeties at least a few times in this one.

Elsewhere in this passing attack, Taylor Gabriel somehow has an aDOT of only 4.8 (and by “somehow,” I guess I mean: Matt Nagy knows he can’t trust Trubisky to throw deep to Gabriel, so they’re trying to use his speed in other ways), while Trey Burton has seen only 15% of the team’s air yards after teasing us with his upside throughout training camp. The matchup is not a concern here, and Burton has the upside for a strong game, but he’ll be difficult to trust from a floor/usage perspective.

BEARS RUN OFFENSE

Arizona has been above-average against the run to begin the year, ranking 14th in DVOA and eighth in yards allowed per carry, with an attacking, downhill run defense style that Steve Wilks has brought over from the Panthers. Last season, Arizona ranked third in yards allowed per carry with similar personnel.

Jordan Howard has continued to do a good job catching passes out of the backfield, with eight catches now on nine targets, for 58 yards. His work on the ground has been a lot more disappointing, however, with 117 yards on 29 carries, good for only 4.0 yards per tote. While the Cardinals got worked over last week by Todd Gurley in the red zone, he managed to pile up only 42 yards against them on 19 carries. This is a difficult matchup for Howard, and the main purpose he will serve in this game will be to help this offense set up play action. Any big gains he piles up should be viewed as a bonus, and he’ll likely need a touchdown in order to return any major DFS value.

CARDINALS PASS OFFENSE

On the Bears’ side, Mitchell Trubisky has thrown for only 371 yards through two games. On the Cardinals’ side, Sam Bradford has amassed only 243 passing yards through two games. He will be taking on a ferocious Bears defense that ranks second in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate and has four takeaways through the first two games of the year. Because Bradford throws so many short passes, he has managed to take only three sacks all year, but the Bears will surely clamp down on those short passes and make them even more difficult to complete. This is likely going to be a long day for the Cardinals’ offense — and it won’t be surprising if Bradford is benched for Josh Rosen before the end of this contest.

Larry Fitzgerald remains the lead man in this passing attack, for whatever that is worth. He sustained a hamstring injury in last week’s game and played only about half the team’s snaps, but he saw five targets last week and 10 targets in Week 1. He is the only name with predictable upside in this offense, and he should step right back into eight to 11 targets if healthy this week. If he is not healthy: keep in mind that this passing attack has not even cracked 250 yards yet, two games into the season.

CARDINALS RUN OFFENSE

Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has said this week that he needs to get David Johnson more involved out of the slot, but it’s difficult to imagine this team being capable of overhauling an entire playbook from one week to the next. Expect D.J. to get a spike of usage in the passing attack this week, but also realize that this staff had the entire offseason to figure out how to maximize D.J.’s unique talents, and it has taken them until now to realize that this is something they should have had in mind.

Instead of using D.J. in space, the Cardinals have been banging him between the tackles, to the tune of 22 carries for 89 yards, good for 3.9 yards per carry. He has only 11 targets on the season, and last week he had only two targets all game. Chicago currently ranks sixth in the NFL in yards allowed per carry and eighth in DVOA against the run. We could theoretically give D.J. a bump for the expected rise in targets this week (and he did see nine targets in Week 1), but this is still a difficult matchup, on a team with the second-lowest Vegas-implied total on the slate. As tempted as I am to bet on D.J.’s talent, this offense is so bad right now, it will be tough for him to actually hit for the sort of upside we should optimally be hunting.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

The defenses both stand out in this game — though for all the data points that cause the Cardinals to make sense, it just feels likely that they will find a way to fail.

As for the offenses: Allen Robinson is really the only man on these two teams with any serious shot at upside — and given his obvious floor, he’s a strong piece to consider. I’m viewing him similar to the way I viewed Tevin Coleman last week: I expect a solid game, and I’ll be happy to land on him if that’s the way roster construction works out; but I don’t expect a week-winning game, and I won’t be moving around pieces on my roster to “make sure I have him.”

On what will likely be one of the lowest-scoring games on the slate, I won’t look further than that myself. If you like this Cardinals offense more than I do, you could make a slim case for Fitzgerald or D.J. in tourneys, but each guy will have to battle to post a true “upside” game.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 4:25pm Eastern

Cowboys (
19.5) at

Hawks (
20.5)

Over/Under 40.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Cowboys Run D
29th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
8th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D
21st DVOA/18th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
3rd DVOA/4th Yards per pass
Seahawks Run D
9th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O
18th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O
22nd DVOA/1st Yards per pass

COWBOYS // SEAHAWKS OVERVIEW

Through the first two games of the season, the Seahawks rank 27th in the NFL in total yards on offense, while the Cowboys rank 30th. While touchdowns and catches are obviously things we want to pile up in DFS, we need to pile up yardage as well. With this game also pegged with an Over/Under of 41.5 (third-lowest mark on the Main Slate), we should be able to make fairly quick work of this spot.

COWBOYS PASS OFFENSE

The poor play of the Cowboys starts with the passing attack (or…”attack”), which is featuring Cole Beasley as its number one weapon. Through two games, Dak Prescott has only 35 completions, for 330 total yards and only one touchdown. Dallas ranks 26th in Situation Neutral pace of play and 31st in plays per game, while passing the ball at the third-lowest rate in the NFL. Add it all up, and you end up with Dak averaging only 27 pass attempts per game.

In case you care, here are the target counts so far for the Cowboys’ primary receivers:

11 — Cole Beasley
5 — Allen Hurns
3 — Michael Gallup
3 — Terrance Williams

Three different tight ends have seen at least one target for this offense as well.

COWBOYS RUN OFFENSE

The Cowboys’ “Ugly Ball” approach — shortening the game as much as possible and leaning on Ezekiel Elliott to be their workhorse — is fine for maximizing this poor offense’s chances of winning games, but it’s a bit rough on Zeke’s production, as defenses are able to stack the box without any worry whatsoever. Zeke has still managed to beast his way to a solid 4.6 yards per carry, though he has yet to top 80 yards in a game. He has also turned eight catches into only 26 yards.

The work will be there this week against what has proven to be an average Seattle run defense (15th in DVOA, 18th in yards allowed per carry), and Zeke has the talent to pop off for a big play or two on his own; but don’t expect the Cowboys’ offense as a whole to march up and down the field setting up Zeke for the sort of bunny scores that guys like Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley get gifted to them. Zeke will have to do all the work on his own in order to post an elite fantasy score.

SEAHAWKS RUN OFFENSE

Seattle ranks 29th in pace of play to begin the season and 28th in plays per game, while Cleveland is the only team that has punted the ball more times than the Seahawks to begin the season.

There are two major issues for the Seahawks on offense. Okay, three. (Okay, more than that…but we’ll cap things at three.) Firstly, they cannot run the ball. Secondly, they cannot block pass rushers. Thirdly, they have no weapons to throw the ball to.

Even with Russell Wilson at quarterback, the Seahawks rank 27th in yards per carry to begin the season, behind an offensive line that ranks 28th in adjusted line yards. Chris Carson is averaging 8.0 touches per game to start the season, while Rashaad Penny is averaging 10.5 touches per game. This rushing attack is a mess at the moment, and with uncertain usage and ineffective line play, each of these guys is nothing more than a hope-and-pray option.

SEAHAWKS PASS OFFENSE

The Cowboys’ pass rush ranks third in the NFL in adjusted sack rate to begin the year, and they should be adding Randy Gregory to the mix this week for the first time — against a Seattle line that has allowed the most sacks in the NFL.

When Russell Wilson gets time to throw this week, he’ll be working with Will Dissly (5.0 targets per game), Brandon Marshall (6.0 targets per game), and Tyler Lockett (5.5 targets per game). The Cowboys run a tight zone scheme that aims to force short passes — and in the same way that this matchup set up poorly for Cam Newton and his downfield tendencies in Week 1 (he ended up going only 17 of 26 for 181 yards), this matchup sets up poorly for Russ as well.

With all that said: the Seahawks have to move the ball somehow; and even if they fall shy of 300 yards again, those yards have to come from somewhere. Russ has only 22 rushing yards through two games, but perhaps he takes off a few more times in this one. And while Russ has thrown three interceptions already, trying to force the ball to receivers who can’t get open, he is always willing to take those risks, and this has led to five touchdown passes as well. As with Cam: Russel’s legs and aggressiveness keep him in the tourney conversation each week.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I could see a tourney shot on Zeke or Russ in this game, but I don’t imagine I’ll be the one to take that shot myself. Each guy retains his ceiling, but the chances of hitting that ceiling are not appealing in this slow-paced, low-volume spot. Everything else on these offenses is miles away from consideration for me with so many better spots on the slate.

I do like the Cowboys’ defense in this spot. Seattle tends to play much better at home, so perhaps it’s a bit of a thin play; but we get a top-three pass rush against a bottom-three offensive line, with a quarterback who is often forced to either throw into coverage or take a sack. With 12 sacks taken and three interceptions thrown so far this season, Russ has not been anyone’s idea of a quarterback we need to be afraid of attacking.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 23rd 8:20pm Eastern

Patriots (
30.75) at

Lions (
24.25)

Over/Under 55.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Patriots Run D
18th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
13th DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D
17th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
19th DVOA/22nd Yards per pass
Lions Run D
30th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
12th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O
27th DVOA/25th Yards per pass

PATRIOTS // LIONS OVERVIEW

From a DFS perspective, it’s a shame that this game is not on the main slate on FanDuel and DraftKings — though from a viewership perspective, it will be fun to see all these storylines come together, with the Patriots traveling to take on old friend Matt Patricia and integrating generational talent Josh Gordon into their passing attack. This also serves as a reminder that FantasyDraft includes the Sunday night game on their main slate and does not allow late swap. With pricing so similar between DraftKings and FantasyDraft, a lot of people simply copy over their DraftKings roster and lock it in place on FantasyDraft, which will put these people at a disadvantage with such an explosive game taking place at night. Again: we have a brief FantasyDraft breakdown for you here.

PATRIOTS PASS OFFENSE

Without Julian Edelman or a true outside threat at wide receiver, the Patriots have leaned on the run to begin the year, ranking 19th in passing play percentage — though this would appear to be a spot in which the Patriots will look to open things up a bit, against a Detroit pass defense that ranks 27th in early season DVOA and 28th in yards allowed per pass attempt. As an odd outlier stat; the Lions have not yet allowed more than 206 passing yards in a game, as Sam Darnold and Jimmy Garoppolo were able to beat this team easily with only 24 and 26 pass attempts, respectively. If Darius Slay fails to get cleared from his concussion in time to face the Patriots this week, the Lions will be starting Nevin Lawson at one starting cornerback spot and Teez Tabor at the other. Lawson has allowed 10 touchdowns in his career without ever intercepting a pass (good for a QB rating allowed in his career of 101.2), while Tabor started in place of Lawson last week, was benched partway through the game, and then had to return after Slay’s concussion.

Last week for the Patriots, Phillip Dorsett (35 pass routes), Chris Hogan (35 pass routes), and Rob Gronkowski (33 pass routes) operated as the clear leaders in this passing attack, with James White chipping in 24 pass routes of his own, and Cordarrelle Patterson the only other player on the team in double-digits.

The big question this week — and this being the Patriots, it is highly unlikely we will have an answer until the game gets underway — is how much time new acquisition Josh Gordon will see on the field. While some will point to the immediate turnaround in fortunes for Randy Moss as proof that Gordon will make a quick impact, Moss had months to learn the offense and was known for having an especially high football I.Q. It will not be surprising if Gordon has a package of plays and sees the field for 10 to 15 snaps this week. Then again…I guess it also would not be surprising if the Patriots came out firing with Gordon on the field for most passing plays. The former is the likelier, while the latter is in the realm of possibilities.

Gronk should bounce back after his four-target game in Jacksonville, vs a Lions defense that ranks 27th in DVOA against the tight end to begin the year, and that managed to allow the 12th-most receiving yards to tight ends last season in spite of allowing the fifth-fewest receptions.

Hogan has 10 targets through two games, while Dorsett has 14. Each guy is being used in a manner similar to the other, and each should still be on the field plenty. Hogan is the guy with a touchdown so far, but Dorsett and Hogan each have one target inside the 10-yard-line, while Dorsett has twice as many total red zone targets (four) as Hogan (two). As crazy as it sounds, Dorsett has operated as the Patriots’ number one wideout through the first two games of the season.

PATRIOTS RUN OFFENSE

Disconcertingly for Rex Burkhead truthers, he was only on the field for 14 snaps in Week 2, and he ran only six pass routes and saw six carries. Sony Michel played only 13 snaps and picked up 10 carries — but it’s really difficult to get a feel right now for what the Patriots will do in an entirely different type of matchup this week. If you are looking at this game in the context of the larger slates, you are dealing with some thin plays in this spot; but on the one-game Showdown slate, there is enough theoretical upside in this group to go chasing.

If chasing here, the first thing you would need to decide is if you think the Pats will go pass-heavy against a defense that ranks 27th in DVOA against the pass, or if they will instead go run-heavy against a defense that ranks 29th against the run.

If they go pass-heavy, James White is your guy.

If they go run-heavy, you will still need to guess whether Sony Michel or Rex Burkhead will receive the majority of the work.

My guess (and it’s really only that) is that the Patriots have been going so “James White heavy” more because of the absence of Edelman than because of the matchups they have faced — in which case, we could expect White to still be on the field the majority of the Patriots’ plays this week.

My other guess is that if the Patriots do go with more of a Burkhead/Michel approach, Michel will see more total touches, but Burkhead will snag one or two more passes.

It’s not pretty, but it’s some stuff to consider if you’re stuck chasing thin plays on the one-game “slate.”

LIONS PASS OFFENSE

I love this graph from airyards.com, which essentially shows the effectiveness of targets at various levels of the field against the Patriots since the start of last season. The Patriots’ line is green, and the league-average line from 2009 to 2016 is in orange.

The Patriots have essentially allowed league-average effectiveness at all levels of the field.

Taking things a layer deeper: the Patriots play man coverage at one of the highest rates in the league, and wide receivers with sticky hands — guys who can make tough, contested catches — obviously tend to fare much better in man coverage than guys who are less skilled in contested catch situations. All three of the Lions’ wideouts are standouts in this area, which could make this a tough night for the Patriots’ defenders as they aim to stop the Lions’ downfield passing attack.

Through three weeks, Kenny Golladay has run 111 pass routes, Marvin Jones has run 109, and Golden Tate has run 99. Golladay has 21.2% of the Lions’ total targets and accounts for 31.8% of the team’s air yards; Marvin Jones has 17.2% of the Lions’ total targets and accounts for 35.1% of the team’s air yards; Golden Tate has 28.3% of the Lions’ total targets and accounts for 21.2% of the team’s air yards. With such monster usage locked in for these three, there is not much room behind them for anyone else besides Theo Riddick (more on him in a moment). No team in the NFL has thrown the ball more frequently than the Lions this year, and there is no reason to expect that to change in a likely shootout against the Patriots. So far this season, all three of these receivers have produced together — and while Jones has made the smallest box score impact so far, his lead in percentage share of team air yards reminds us that he’ll have a few huge games of his own this year.

LIONS RUN OFFENSE

Last season, the Lions finished second in the NFL in pass play percentage, at 62.96%. So far this year, they are blowing that number out of the water with a 76.43% rate. Obviously, this rate is unsustainable, but in what projects to be another tough game for the Detroit defense, we should expect at least one more week of high-volume passing from Detroit.

Through two games, this has led to LeGarrette Blount seeing 12 total carries while Kerryon Johnson has 13 carries. Johnson should start seeing more work sooner rather than later, as he is running circles around Blount and has added eight catches as well. Neither back has any red zone carries, while Stafford has thrown the ball seven times inside the 20.

The man who has seen the most work out of the Lions’ backfield, of course, is Riddick, who has 17 more snaps than Johnson and 39 more snaps than Blount. The Lions may try to shorten this game early with a ground-and-pound approach, but if the Patriots are able to do on offense what the Jets and 49ers did vs the Lions the last two weeks, Riddick will step right back into his typical pass game role. Through two games, he has already seen 19 targets, basically soaking up anything left behind by Jones, Golladay, and Tate.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

On the larger slates, Tom Brady is one of the safer quarterback plays, while Matthew Stafford is securely on the “upside” list. The only other place I would feel good about going on the Patriots for larger slates is Rob Gronkowski, but I wouldn’t hate the idea of taking guesses on running backs and wide receivers on the Showdown slate.

Elsewhere on the Lions, I would not mind having pieces of any of these receivers — including on the larger slates. Tate has the highest floor and carries strong upside with his YAC ability; Golladay has a slightly higher floor than Jones, as he’s getting a few more targets, and is seeing these targets a bit closer to the line of scrimmage; but Jones is being used primarily as a deep threat, and is being peppered with reliable targets, so it is only a matter of time before he hits for a monster game himself.

Theo Riddick will need a touchdown in order to really pay off, but his usage should be bankable in what should become another pass-heavy spot. I also like the idea — in really large-field stuff on the Showdown slate — of taking a chance on Kerryon, as he has looked good so far and could certainly post a strong game in this matchup if the workload takes a jump this week.


Kickoff Monday, Sep 24th 8:15pm Eastern

Steelers (
26.5) at

Bucs (
28)

Over/Under 54.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Steelers Run D
1st DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O
6th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
8th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O
9th DVOA/17th Yards per pass
Buccaneers Run D
3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
14th DVOA/9th Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D
1st DVOA/6th Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
12th DVOA/24th Yards per pass

STEELERS // BUCCANEERS OVERVIEW

As noted previously on the site, I try to take Mondays off in order to rest my mind and put myself in the best possible position for the next crazy week. I also tend to not watch Monday Night Football live, as I can learn more in an hour of watching game film than in three hours of watching the television feed interspersed with cheerleaders and Jason Witten and commercials. But I just might make an exception this week.

Currently, we are looking at an Over/Under of 53.5 in this spot, behind only the 49ers/Chiefs game on the weekend. Two weeks into the season, these teams rank first (Bucs) and second (Steelers) in total yards, while ranking second (Bucs) and ninth (Steelers) in total points. Only Kansas City has allowed more yards than Tampa, and only seven teams have allowed more yards than the Steelers. Each team ranks in the bottom six in points allowed per game.

This game is going to be a blast.

STEELERS PASS OFFENSE

So far this year, Tampa Bay is allowing a 77.4% completion rate — an absolutely unheard of number — while allowing the eighth-most yards per pass attempt. The matchup is favorable across the board for the Steelers, at all levels of the field.

Last week, Jesse James flukily caught five passes for 138 yards and a touchdown, on only five targets, while playing only 45 of a possible 71 snaps. He did this with counterpart Vance McDonald returning to the field for 37 snaps and more pass routes (34) than James (31). This is a weird place for me to start, on a team with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, but this is sort of the point: after the uncertain timeshare at tight end, this passing attack is all about A.B. and JuJu.

Through two games, Antonio Brown has 33 targets. Unsurprisingly, this leads the NFL. But what may surprise people is that JuJu has 27 targets of his own — good for fifth in the NFL. Let go of any concerns about these guys “canceling each other out” right now. It’s not possible for each to maintain a top-five target rate, but the fact that they have even been able to carry that achievement through two games shows us just how involved each guy is in this offense.

Juju is seeing his average target 6.5 yards downfield in the hopes of creating room to work after the catch, while A.B. is seeing his average target 11.1 yards downfield. The one thing that Tampa is extremely good at doing on defense is stopping yards after the catch (the Bucs ranked top five in the NFL last year in YAC per reception), so while the reception floor is high for JuJu this week, he may have a tougher time breaking off one of his monster plays. Each guy is a strong play at his price, even on the full-weekend slate; but A.B. is the preferred target in this one, even with price considered.

James Washington rounds out this passing attack, after playing 66 snaps and running 61 pass routes last week. These snaps led to one catch (a touchdown) for 14 yards, on five targets — a perfect imitation of a Justin Hunter stat line. Washington should have a big game or two this season, and this is as good a spot as any — but the floor is obviously close to zero.

STEELERS RUN OFFENSE

James Conner has played on a monstrous 89.8% of the Steelers’ snaps to begin the season, running 86 pass routes and carrying the ball 39 times. Last week was a worst-case setup for Conner, with the Steelers not only falling behind early, but falling into such a deep hole that they couldn’t even afford to take short gains on passes underneath. Conner still saw five targets one week after seeing six, and he should step into anywhere from 18 to 30 touches, depending on the flow of the game. Tampa has been solid against the run so far this year (seventh in yards allowed per carry), but they rank 23rd in DVOA, and Conner’s role essentially makes him matchup-proof. He’s a strong play on the full-weekend slate, and is obviously one of the top options in the Showdown.

BUCCANEERS PASS OFFENSE

The Bucs have been one of the most aggressive offenses in the NFL this year, with only Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Deshaun Watson notching a deeper average depth of target to begin the year, and with their average pass traveling more than two yards beyond the first down marker. DeSean Jackson leads the NFL in receiving yards and has the deepest aDOT in the NFL by a full 2.1 yards. Jackson has seen target counts of only five and four, but has hauled in every one of these targets, going for 275 yards and three touchdown. These rate stats are obviously unsustainable, but they have been fun to watch so far.

Mike Evans is seeing a very healthy 32.9% of the Bucs’ air yards himself, with target counts of seven and 12.

Chris Godwin is also getting his share of the fun, with 22.1% of the Bucs’ air yards on target counts of four and six.

The incredible thing about this run for the Bucs is the efficiency — though that obviously introduces some scary floor. Ryan Fitzpatrick has completed an impossible 78.7% of his passes (a stat made all the more impossible by how often the Bucs are throwing deep).

On the other side of that fear, however, is the fact that the Steelers are likely to put up points in this spot — so even if Fitzpatrick does not secure efficiency this time around, his volume will have to rise to compensate, as the Bucs are sure to be leaning pass-heavy after ranking only 29th in passing play percentage to start the year. Those three wideouts have combined for 62.3% of the total targets on the Bucs so far, and it’s fair to project 35 to 38 pass attempts. If Fitzpatrick hits the higher end of that range, we would likely see around 12 to 14 targets for Evans, with around six apiece for DeSean and Godwin.

Behind these guys, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate have combined for eight total targets. Brate has only played 38 snaps to begin the year, and Howard will need a big play in order to pay off.

BUCCANEERS RUN OFFENSE

Although the Bucs have remained committed to the run while playing with a lead through the first two games, their offensive line ranks 31st in adjusted line yards, ahead of only the Giants. This has led to Peyton Barber averaging an embarrassing 2.6 yards per carry — and with the explosive Steelers on the other side, it is difficult to envision a scenario in which Barber would be able to take over this game. The Bucs’ downfield weapons are just too good, and their mindset is just too vertically-oriented. In spite of running 28 pass routes through two games, Barber has seen only two targets on the year.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

In this game, I like all of the obvious candidates and none of the non-obvious ones, as these are two of the most usage-secure offenses in the NFL.

Each quarterback has at least a 15-point floor, with ceiling north of 30.

Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, and JuJu Smith-Schuster (in that order) are high-floor, high-ceiling guys who should see monster usage.

James Conner remains one of the top running back plays on the weekend.

DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, and — to a lesser extent — James Washington all belong in the iffy-floor, high-ceiling discussion.

Behind these clear tiers, there is really nothing that pops off the page in this game, especially compared to the upside that these plays all carry.