XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT ::
This week’s island Showdowns are exciting games, and Sunday sees the Packers visit the Saints in a game with a total of 52.5. The line opened at 51.5 with the Saints as 6.5 point favorites, but while the line has gone up, the Saints are down to three-point favorites; there has been a tremendous amount of movement toward the Packers here. This makes sense to me given how abysmal the Saints looked on Monday against the Raiders and how good the Packers have looked. Injuries will play a key part here, as at the time I’m writing this (Friday morning), both Michael Thomas and Davante Adams seem likely to miss this game. I’m going to write this assuming they both miss and will update if we get a surprise. After a very softly-priced Thursday night game, the pricing on this game is much tighter (as we’re becoming used to in Showdown play), meaning even if both Thomas and Adams miss the game we’ll need to find some value plays.
On the Packers side, Aaron Jones won people a lot of money last week with a massive 48.6 fantasy point performance; he was rolling even before Adams got hurt. 18 Carries, eight targets, 168 rushing yards, 68 receiving yards, and three touchdowns resulted in the highest score of the week. He’s a strong play and with Davante out he will be a focal point of the offense, but the Saints have a very strong run defense, having held Josh Jacobs to 88 yards on 27 carries last Monday. Jones’ pass game work boosts him here, as does his red zone usage (Aaron Jones is leading the NFL in red zone targets after two weeks – not carries, targets), but the matchup on the ground is tough and if he’s the second or third highest owned player on the slate there is merit to considering being underweight. This backfield is also still a timeshare; Jones will lead in touches, but he’s only played 54% and 48% of the snaps in the first two games. Jamaal Williams is still playing 40% of the snaps and should see both carries and targets and he’s second on the team in touches inside the 10-yard line and only $2,000. Tyler Ervin and AJ Dillon will be on the field enough to make them non-crazy MME dart throws.
In the receiving game, after Davante left the game in Week 2, no new receiver stepped in; only three Packers wide receivers have seen any snaps through the first two weeks of the season. With a full week of practice, I would expect that to change, and my guess is that it’s Equanimeous St. Brown who sees a modest role, but I would temper expectations here. (UPDATE: I did not notice that St. Brown was actually put on IR earlier on 9/19 (thanks to hde0703 for pointing this out in Discord!), so he’s obviously not an MME dart here unless you’re cool taking a zero. As for the Packers’ next man up here, you’ll have to watch inactives. Malik Taylor is listed on the depth chart but did not see a snap last week according to the data I’m looking at, while Robert Foster was signed from Buffalo and could be an interesting punt play if he’s active; I don’t know why the Bills let him go, but that guy is legitimately good. We should get more clarity on this situation sometime on Sunday, but as of now Foster is not in the player pool, so news would have to come early enough for DK to add him.) When Davante left the game, the Packers simply ran more two-wide sets and that is likely what they will largely do here. That leaves Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling as the primary wideouts. I prefer MVS, whose aDot in the last two seasons has been one of the highest in the NFL, but both are viable plays here against a Saints secondary that has really struggled to begin the season. Both also appear to be priced as if Adams will play and represent strong sources of value. The Packers tight end situation is gaining clarity as Robert Tonyan has led the position in both snaps and targets through two weeks (that said, we are only talking about three total targets here), but at $2,200 he is a very reasonable play. Mercedes Lewis and Jace Sternberger have seen three total targets between them so far and are purely MME punt plays (and fairly weak ones at that). I’ll rank the Packers receivers as MVS, Lazard, Tonyan; when added to Jones, Williams, and Rodgers himself only really gives six Packers I am that interested in outside of some modest MME exposure to the backup guys.
On the New Orleans side, Alvin Kamara absolutely smashed on Monday against the Raiders, as we all expected him to do with Thomas missing the game; he led the team in touches, targets, touchdowns, receiving yardage, rushing yardage. We can expect him to be the focus of the offense in this one as well and I expect he will be the highest owned captain play, deservedly so. There isn’t much else to write about Kamara, he’s a fantastic play and he’ll be highly owned; but there are always game theory cases for fading highly owned guys, but I believe he’s the strongest on-paper play on the slate. Behind Kamara, Latavius Murray was game scripted out of the Raiders game with the Saints rapidly falling behind and only saw three carries after having 15 in Week 1. If you believe the Saints play with a lead in this one, Murray is a strong play at $2,800, but there is definitely a usage risk if the Packers get out in front. Murray is second in the team in opportunities inside the 10-yard line with four and belongs in “Saints win” builds, but I will be using rules to minimize or eliminate my exposure to him in builds that predict a Packers win.
I’m pretty proud of my call of Tre’Quan Smith as the WR1 instead of Emmanuel Sanders against the Raiders. Smith both out-snapped and out targeted Sanders against Las Vegas and is also significantly more expensive in this one. We did see Sanders play very close to a full-time role at 78% of the snaps, up from 49% in Week 1, which tells me he has now been more integrated into the offense and is ready to go. Smith ran more routes out of the slot than Sanders, which is the best matchup against the Packers, though the pricing has flip-flopped and Smith is also now significantly more expensive. Return specialist Deonte Harris was also thrust into action, playing 52% of the snaps and seeing five targets, and he is very much in play at $1,600. There’s a lot of volatility in playing a Saints receiver beyond the very top guys, but Harris looks to me like one of the best sub-kicker value plays on the slate. Marquez Calladay and Bennie Fowler are your Saints dart throws this week, both will play a modest percentage of the snaps and we know how the Saints like to spread things around and get tricky, especially in the red zone. Jared Cook failed last week while not connecting on a couple of deep targets that could have resulted in a very different box score. His price may well cause people to overlook him here, but he is one of the few Saints receivers who have a strong connection with Drew Brees. He is leading all tight ends in market share of targets, along with a positive matchup in a game in which the Saints’ perimeter receivers are likely to struggle. Backup tight ends Josh Hill and Adam Trautman join the fairly large “MME dart” pool that we have in this game. My ranking of the Saints’ receivers, price considered is Cook, Smith, Sanders, Harris with Cook out in front by a fairly significant margin, and the other three clustered pretty tightly. Oh, and Taysom Hill, one of the banes of my Showdown existence, is around as well and will play 20% or so of the snaps with a disproportionate influence in the red zone. Ugh.
It’s also worth thinking about the overall passing attack here with Drew Brees looking, frankly, not very good in his first two games. Brees has only completed 64% of his passes so far, which includes struggling against the Raiders not-very-good pass defense; the Packers pass D is much better. I’m not one to generally bet against a Hall of Fame quarterback, but one thing we can clearly tell is that Brees has been struggling with making accurate deep throws. His short-area accuracy still seems to be there, which favors Kamara, but the lack of deep passing accuracy limits the Saints ability to stretch the opposing defense and create more space. Aaron Rodgers is the clearly superior on-paper QB play in this one and the Packers passing attack is also more condensed.
Based on the Vegas line, the most likely way this game plays out is a close, high-scoring affair, with both teams able to drive and score effectively. The key pieces to me are Kamara, Jones, Rodgers, Cook, and MVS, with Brees and the rest of the plays discussed to mix in at lower exposures. I say “based on the Vegas line” because there are other ways we can see this play out…
OTHER WAYS THIS GAME COULD PLAY OUT:
- I’m not a line bettor, but if I was, I would bet on the Packers to win this game outright (and I imagine the early Packers moneyline when the Saints opened at -6.5 was pretty nice). They’ve been playing better as a team, they are more equipped to deal with the lack of their top receiver, they have the better QB, and their defense has been stronger. Drew Brees has looked….I don’t want to say bad, because he’s still an NFL-caliber QB and I’m sure he still has some big games left in his future, but he hasn’t looked like Drew Brees. Maybe that turns around, but I’m on the Packers here. That would mean more work for Jones and Williams, and it would make all of the non-Kamara Saints less attractive as we saw New Orleans just focus entirely on Kamara when they were way behind against the Raiders. This scenario also takes Murray almost entirely out of consideration.
- Maybe the game goes under by a significant margin. Whenever two high-powered offenses meet in a Showdown slate, we know that the majority of our opponents’ lineups will be built around the idea of a shootout, giving us some major leverage if we want to “bet the under” in our lineup construction. This isn’t the likeliest way that the game goes, but it’s more likely than the field will realize. If this game disappoints and lands in the 40-45 point range, it’s likely that only one QB is in the optimal lineup, and possibly neither of them make it given the pricing on this slate. In games that go way under, QBs are the ones that suffer the most, and we want to look for guys who can “get there” purely through receptions and yardage; that means Kamara, Jones, Cook, Smith, Sanders, MVS, and Lazard, with the kickers also being more attractive. Defenses in shootouts and bad matchups are also always under-owned, but this is the highest variance position in DFS, so I always want to be overweight on defenses when they are “bad” plays on paper (just look at what the Dolphins D did this Thursday).
The pricing in this one is tricky for cash games, as there’s no way to fit all of the QBs and RB1s without punting at captain, which I generally prefer to avoid (you can’t even do it with a kicker captain, sadly). Kamara is the play I feel safest with, followed by Rodgers, then Brees, then Jones (factoring price into these rankings). The best value plays that I’d feel good with in cash are the kickers, Williams, Harris, and Tonyan.
In tournaments, my favorite overall captain is, to no one’s surprise, Alvin Kamara. His usage is going to be massive here, and while Jones is also a strong play with Adams out, we can feel more confident in Kamara’s volume. I also want captain exposure to MVS, Jones, Cook, Trequan, and maybe a bit of Sanders for the value.
SOME GROUPS TO CONSIDER:
- At most 1 kicker and at most 1 defense, as always
- Pair captain receivers with their QBs (or consider boosting the QB if using a captain receiver if you don’t want 100% exposure to this pairing – discussed in further detail in the 2020 update to my Advanced Showdowns course)
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
- If captain Aaron Jones, negatively boost Jamaal Williams and the opposing DST and kicker
- If captain Alvin Kamara, negatively boost the opposing DST and kicker
- Both teams have a lot of ancillary MME dudes; at most 1 of all of these guys (Dillon, Ervin, Montgomery, Callaway, Fowler, St. Brown, Sternberger, Lewis, Trautman, Hill)
- At most 2 of Kamara, Brees, and Taysom Hill unless building a full Saints onslaught (If Taysom hits, he’s vulturing TD equity from Brees and/or Kamara)
Want More Xandamere?
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- Is it 2011 again or did Aaron Rodgers just go Vegan?
- The Packers had a wild offseason: tequila benders, trashing draft picks, and the public saying how they overachieved in 2019.
- Well, 2020 is a wild year and Rodgers is averaging 300 yards a game with no picks, and has an elite O-line to protect him (only one sack this year; third in adjusted sack rate).
- Meanwhile, Drew Brees seems… off…bringing back the Peyton Manning noodle arm of 2015 and completing 64.7 percent through the first two games.
- He is also missing Michael Thomas. (Thomas is really good.)
- Brees with Thomas = 109.2 passer rating.
- Brees without Thomas = 69 passer rating (nice!).
- However, the best way to attack this Green Bay defense is on the ground and with short passes, which plays to the Saints strengths. They have a premier running back that will make the defense pay catching passes out of the backfield.
- Green Bay has not really been tested on the ground this year since they jumped out to an early lead against the Vikings and came back so quickly on the Lions that the Lions never had a chance to run the ball.
- Green Bay does have PFF’s current #1 ranked CB in Jaire Alexander, and with Thomas missing, should funnel a ton of the pass work to Kamara (which is good for the Saints).
- GB has an elite O-line and NO ranks near the bottom in pass rush efficiency. Expect Aaron Rodgers to have time here. This would be a fantastic bounce back game for Cameron Jordan (PFF 60.5 pass rush grade this year).
- Each team’s offensive strength is their opponent’s defensive weakness.
- Four game totals in Brees vs. Rodgers matchups: 80, 76, 56, 67 (Thanks Lex!)
- The Over is a strong play here.
- Sean Payton has been tremendous coming off of losses, but with no home fans, the Packers and +3 is also a strong play.
“What’s a Cory?”
Well, I’m a lot of things…
I’ve played professional rugby in four countries. I volunteered for two years in Central America. I’m an investor and an entrepreneur. I work hard and play harder…And I’ve been building the same bankroll gambling since I was 14. The underground poker circuit was my first true love, but I’ve bet on anything and everything; and I’ve learned to only bet on things that keep my bankroll growing.
For the rest of the year at OWS, I’ll be telling you what I like in a few games on the slate in this Betting Slant insert. I’ll also be running Betting Sharp alongside JM, where we’ll have a four-part training course, plus five training videos. We’ll be building the training videos around questions and observations from the Betting Sharp Discord channels, where JM and I will drop favorite bets when we see them, and will swing through on occasion to hang out and answer questions.
Note: You can find the first Betting Sharp lesson for free here!
- In four Brees vs Rodgers matchups, the totals have gone: 80, 76, 56, 67
- In the first 3 weeks since 2017, Allen’s NOR defense has allowed point totals of: (29, 36, 13), (48, 18, 37), (28, 27, 27), (23, 34….)
- GB has put up 43 & 42 pts vs MIN & DET to start 2019
- Rodgers is cooking, averaging 302 yds, 3 TDs and having faced essentially no pass rush behind his elite offensive line
- NOR is currently ranked among the worst teams at creating pressure so far in 2020; Marcus Davenport has still yet to play, and his season-ending injury in 2019 tanked the Saints pressure ranking from 7th to 25th
- Rodgers has the 5th highest average intended air yards, and NOR’s defense has already racked up a league-high 11 first downs by penalty, with several huge PIs on deep balls
- DK pts vs NOR: Brady (22.5) & Carr (22.6)
- As no individual RB has cleared 100 yds rushing vs NOR since Samaje Perine in 2017, the better way to attack this RB defense (for PPR fantasy at least) has been through the air: 19th most RB receiving yds on the 6th most RB receptions allowed in 2019
- Aaron Jones led GB in receiving in Week 2 (targets, rec, yds), and 4 of his 8 targets came when he was lined up wide or in slot
- Jones was targeted 6+ times in half of his games last season
- The last RBs to break 100 yds vs NOR before Perine? 🡪 Jordan Howard, Aaron Jones
- NOR has also been a little worse vs run than in 2019 as they’ve shifted to playing more defensive backs
- Davante Adams’s 3 targets before leaving early (52% snaps) were his lowest since he also had 3 in the NFC Championship game of January, 2017 (only played 40% snaps)
- Since returning from injury mid-2019, Adams leads the NFL in targets
- In Adams only career matchup vs Lattimore, he finished with 2 rec (5) for 12 yds, but Brett Hundley was his QB
- Valdez-Scantling averaged 7 targets/g in the first 4 weeks of 2019 before falling out of favor with Rodgers
- After getting talked up by Rodgers in 2020 training camp, MVS has received 6 & 7 targets and caught 3 deep balls already
- Lazard is averaging 3.5 rec (4.5) for 54 yds, 0.5 TD
- Brees has played 8 home SNF games as a Saint, all between 2010-15, averaging 358.8 yards, 3.25 TDs, 0.25 INTs, and 30.1 DK pts
- Brees is 2-2 vs Rodgers (both QBs winning at home, all between 2008-14), with NOR averaging 37.25 offensive points and GB averaging 28.75 offensive points
- In the 4 matchups, Brees is averaging 374.8 yards, 3.25 TDs, 0 INT, & 30.99 DK pts, and Rodgers is averaging 324.3 yards, 3 total TDs, 1.5 INT, & 27.47 DK pts
- In 2 matchups vs Mike Pettine last decade (1 DC, 1 HC), Brees is 1-1 with games of 36.2 DK pts & 16.8 DK pts, and a total TD:INT ratio of 7:1
- The Brees of 2020’s first two weeks looks like a shell of the Brees in all those aforementioned games, as he currently has the 3rd lowest CPOE (NextGen), a metric he’s typically dominated
- Brees’s WRs: Thomas may miss again, Sanders is still learning the offense (lack of offseason making it more difficult as NOR uses the most personnel packages in NFL), Smith has just 6 games over 40 yds in 28 career games, Harris is still mostly just a returner
- Smith led the WRs without Thomas in Week 2, finishing with 5 rec (7) 86 yds
- GB ranks 13th in pass efficiency defense in 2020, and Jaire Alexander currently ranks as PFF’s #1 CB
- In the two previous matchups, the Saints attacked Pettine’s defense through Jimmy Graham, who scored 4 TDs in the 2 matchups
- The 2019 Packers TE defense allowed games of (DK pts): 13.5, 34.6, 16.3, 15.4, 17.8, 27.9, 13.0, and ranked bottom 3 defending TEs in every pre-snap alignment (slot, inline, split-wide)
- Since both Brees & Cook returned from injury in 2019 Week 10 (11 games), Cook has averaged 3.6 rec (5.0 tg) for 62.2 yards, 0.73 TDs, while leading the team in endzone targets
- GB RB defense: MIN RBs (18 att 100 yds, 2 TD; 5 rec 28 yds), DET RBs (20 att 85 yds, TD; 5 rec 60 yds)
- Five different Saints have run the ball this season: Kamara (25), Murray (18), Taysom (5), Harris (2), TyMont (1)
- Kamara’s last 3 healthy games with a healthy Brees (DK pts): 23.9, 23.7, 38.4
- Kamara has 38 rush att & 25 total targets in those 3 games
- Kamara leads the team with 8 Green Zone touches
- GB has already allowed 3 TDs of 3 yds or less