Week 4 Matchups


Kickoff Thursday, Sep 26th 8:20pm Eastern

Eagles (
21.25) at

Packers (
25.25)

Over/Under 46.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Eagles Run D
15th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O
10th DVOA/10th Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
29th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O
6th DVOA/14th Yards per pass
Packers Run D
25th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
25th DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Packers Pass D
25th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
29th DVOA/24th Yards per pass

>>>> More Showdown Cash Game thoughts added by Xandamere this week. If you’re still trying to turn this edge to your favor, some of the thoughts here will be really valuable. (Note: As this is part of the Mastering Showdowns course, it is available only to Annual subs. Apologies to the Weeklys out there!)

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

Week 4 kicks off (har, har) with the Eagles visiting the Packers. This game opened at 48 before being bet down to 46, with the Packers moving from 3 to 4 point favorites (thus, the Packers’ total has stayed still while the Eagles total dropped a full 2 points). The Eagles are banged up but I’m not quite sure it’s injury news that’s driving this, as Alshon Jeffery is expected to return while nobody really expected DeSean Jackson to play (and he has been officially ruled out). What could be driving at least some of it is the rumor that the Eagles offered a package including Zach Ertz to the Jaguars for Jalen Ramsay which, if true and if accepted, means Ertz could be held out of this game even if a trade isn’t 100% finalized. Nothing is certain yet, but it’s worth pointing out, so watch Twitter on Thursday for news. 

The Packers’ offense has started the season a little flat, with totals of 10, 21, and 27 points, albeit against relatively tough defenses. The Eagles’ pass funnel defense should present much less of a challenge, even if Aaron Rodgers has not looked quite as sharp as he has in years past. The Packers also give us a narrower, more predictable usage path, and that combined with the higher team total means that the safer plays are on the Green Bay side. Simplifying this even further is Philly’s run defense — it’s not only good from a talent perspective, but schematically, the Eagles line up in a way that’s tougher on the run and more vulnerable to the pass, leading them to face some of the lowest run volume of any NFL team. Complicating this is Matt LaFleur being firmly on team #EstablishTheRun, with the Packers passing 56% of the time so far in 2019 (albeit playing out in front in every game so far) versus a league-leading 67.5% of the time last season. Complicating matters yet even further is that after Aaron Jones dominated the run-game work in Week 2, LaFleur said he wanted a more even split in Week 3, and delivered on that with Jones only seeing 39% of the snaps and seeing 10 carries and one target versus 12 and two for Jamaal Williams. Some of that could have been the game flow as Green Bay had a two-score lead for most of the game and they may have wanted to preserve Jones, but the combination of matchup and workload split make Jones a tough play. At $9k, he’s priced for usage that he’s highly unlikely to see. Williams is actually somewhat interesting against an Eagles defense that is annually near the top of the league in catches allowed to running backs, as he is clearly in the lead in routes run compared to Jones.

The Green Bay passing game is much easier to dissect. First, let’s start with a note about Thursday night games: they tend to be low scoring because football is a hard, physical game and it’s tough to recover from a game on Sunday in just three days. Aaron Rodgers was only hit once on Sunday, however — something he noted in his postgame press conference, when he said he feels much better than he normally does after a game. That’s a relevant piece of news here. Having a quarterback who isn’t as banged up as guys normally are gives Green Bay an edge in the passing game, which is just how we want to attack the Eagles anyhow. The Packers are going to force-feed Davante Adams, making him probably the single safest play on the slate, while Marquez Valdes-Scantling has become a full-time player this year and has earned Rodgers’ trust as the other perimeter receiver. Geronimo Allison seemed primed for big things as Green Bay’s slot receiver (Rodgers has historically targeted the slot at an above-average rate), but he’s only been playing about half the snaps so far and has seen a total of seven targets all year. At tight end Jimmy Graham is back off the injury list and so he should see the majority of snaps. Aaron Rodgers said he wants to get Graham more involved, so there could be some squeaky wheel additional volume here, but Graham has been dreadful ever since joining the Packers so this seems like a low-percentage play (albeit at a cheap price). Mercedes Lewis is mostly a blocker, while Robert Tonyan is an interesting large-field GPP dart throw at minimum price — he has a lot of athleticism, saw three targets last week, and has played at least 30% of the snaps every week.

The Eagles give us more to pick apart here. The run game is a three-headed monster with the snaps being split fairly equally between Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, and Darren Sproles, which is really a shame as the ground is the best way to attack the Packers. Howard is a two-down plodder who is unlikely to see more than a dozen carries at most and will need a touchdown or a broken play to pay off. Sanders led the backfield in touches last week with 13 carries and four targets and has the most upside, but he fumbled twice (an issue for him in college as well) and lost goal-line work to Howard. Sproles is a passing down back but he’s losing pass down work to Sanders, with only seven targets on the year. Sanders is the safest play here, but safe is a very relative term. 

In the pass game, Alshon Jeffery is back as a perimeter receiver and the other perimeter receiver is…we don’t know. It will either be J.J. Arcega-Whiteside or Mack Hollins. JJAW is higher on the depth chart and is a promising rookie while Hollins barely made the team coming out of camp, but Hollins significantly outsnapped JJAW last week and outperformed him as well. RotoWorld seems to think it’s Hollins, and they’re the biggest fantasy site out there so that’s going to drive the ownership. If it’s Hollins, it’s awfully cheap at just $2,400, but if it’s JJAW you’re going to capture a lot of value and upside at much lower ownership. It has to be noted, though, that the Packers’ cornerback duo of Alexander and King is emerging as one of the top pairings in the NFL and outmatch Philly’s perimeter receivers; whoever it is will have a tough time. Nelson Agholor should remain relevant out of the slot with a better matchup and coming off of a couple of nice games, but he’s now priced up for it. Zach Ertz, despite a difficult matchup, is still a top play (if he isn’t traded). Finally, Dallas Goedert “played” last week but it seemed to be out of desperation for any warm bodies as he only played nine snaps. He should be back to normal this week (he got in a full practice on Tuesday), and we can expect the Eagles to go back to running more 12 personnel, which means Goedert should be looking at something around a 50% snap percentage — making him look awfully underpriced at just $1k for a guy who’s on the field as much as he is and who has a prominent red zone role. Price-considered, Goedert is my favorite Philly receiver barring any confirming news on the Hollins/JJAW situation. 

The way this game is mostly likely to play out is the Packers trying to #EstablishTheRun early on and failing before realizing, like most teams, that the way to beat the Eagles is to pass, pass, pass. They should be able to attack successfully on the perimeter, heavily utilizing Adams and MVS, who are the premier plays in this scenario, as the other Packers skill players are all part-time guys. Philly should try to attack on the ground to start as that’s the best matchup; though they won’t be able to stick with it if Green Bay rushes out to a lead. The Philly pass game should be focused in the middle, which means Agholor, Ertz, Goedert, and the running backs, with Agholor and Hollins/JJAW locked down by Alexander and King. 

Some other ways the game could play out:

  • If Philly gets out to a lead, they could try to lean heavily on Sanders (or even Howard). The path to 20 touches is awfully slim, but 16-18 could be in range if Philly is playing from in front, especially for Sanders. 
  • Through a combination of good fortune and LaFleur’s stubbornness, Green Bay may actually succeed in the run game (weirder things have happened). We would be likely to see more of Jones than Williams in this scenario, and since people tend to avoid using running backs against the Eagles (with good reason), he could end up being a somewhat sneaky captain choice.
  • Finally, let’s note that Green Bay’s defense has been legitimately good so far this year. They haven’t faced a huge test yet, but so far they’ve put up double-digit scores in every game, and that’s without a defensive touchdown. A banged up Eagles team on a short week could fall flat at Lambeau and the Pack could just dominate start to finish.

While my captain choices, as always, vary depending on the game scenario that I’m building for, there are two that really stand out to me as having the ideal matchup and being on the field for almost every snap: Adams and MVS. Jones is a bit sneaky, or you could try to play pick-an-Eagle (Hollins/JJAW/Goedert all carry upside and they let you basically play whatever other five guys you want). 

Some rules to consider:

  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers (I’d even consider 3 in the case of Rodgers as given how narrow the offense is, you’d basically need 3 guys to each catch 1 TD without breaking 100 yards for Rodgers to be the top scorer)
  • Pair captain receivers with their QB
  • At most 1 of Jones and Williams
  • At most 2 of the Eagles’ RBs
  • At most 1 Packers TE
  • At most 1 of Hollins and JJAW

One final note here: in this game, given how both of these are timeshare backfields and how the Eagles defense is such a pass funnel, I’m not confident in the traditional cash game formula that tries to prioritize the running backs over receivers. We also have a couple of receivers (well, one, especially) whose volume is so locked-in that he feels as high floor as most running backs. I don’t think the running backs are all necessarily bad plays, but I’m much more willing to consider receivers in cash in this matchup than I am on most slates.

Advanced Showdowns

Xandamere’s Advanced Showdown Course is now available through OWS :: Marketplace! This is his tournament course for Showdowns; and given the tangible edge in this contest type, it should pay itself off pretty quickly(!).


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 1:00pm Eastern

Titans (
21.5) at

Falcons (
24.5)

Over/Under 46.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Titans Run D
16th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
26th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
Titans Pass D
24th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
16ths DVOA/3rd Yards per pass
Falcons Run D
8th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O
11th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
30th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O
2nd DVOA/16th Yards per pass

:: The Week 4 “Pre-Grid”

:: PLAY FANTASYDRAFT HERE (note on this in the Angles Pod)

The glowing reports from the Falcons’ offseason (“Devonta Freeman looks quicker and more powerful than before!” // “the offensive line is really coming together!” // “the defense looks fast and instinctive!”) have all turned sour through the first three weeks of the season, with this team lacking discipline, missing assignments, over-pursuing, and generally getting outmaneuvered at just about every turn.

“Outmaneuvered” has been the biggest issue to date, with Dan Quinn’s “rah-rah brotherhood!” approach being put to the test against a sharp all-around coach in Mike Zimmer and two of the greatest out-maneuverers in the NFL in Doug Pederson and Frank Reich. The gauntlet doesn’t let up, either, as the Falcons welcome the Titans and Mike Vrabel, whose attention to detail is legendary, and who has managed to continually produce wins in spite of the Titans’ inferior on-field talent. The talent gap between these two teams is non-negligible; but the disparity in coaching has left the Falcons as only four point favorites at home.

In 2018, the Titans blitzed at the 11th highest rate in the NFL — but blitzes typically aren’t a major factor for Matt Ryan (last year: 71.4% completion rate and a 111.2 quarterback rating when not blitzed; 65.1% completion rate and a 101.3 rating when blitzed). The bigger issue for Ryan is pressure (a 116.6 rating last year when not pressured; an 86.8 rating when pressured) — and the Titans were one of the worst teams in the league at applying pressure last year, ranking 27th in pressure rate when not blitzing and 22nd when blitzing. If the Titans unleash a diet of ineffective blitzes this week, a veteran quarterback like Ryan will have decent shot at staying calm and identifying the biggest mismatch in one-on-one coverage. There should be a decent number of these one-on-one looks for Julio Jones this week (averaging 10 targets per game so far, with three targets inside the 10-yard-line).

The Titans are likeliest to be strong against tight ends in spite of their slow start this year (three touchdowns allowed to the position already — but only 109 yards), and are likeliest to be solid against running backs — but they are likely to have trouble with wide receivers against veteran quarterbacks who can read their disguises and deliver the ball to playmakers. Julio stands out for the upside in this matchup, while Calvin Ridley is an intriguing tourney piece. (Austin Hooper always has some shot at a spiked week, but after we were on him as a large-field tourney piece last week in the funnel matchup against the Colts, it feels point-chasey to jump on what will likely be an increase in ownership in a more difficult matchup.)

Devonta Freeman failed to really bust out last week in spite of playing 90% of the snaps against a Colts defense that was missing Darius Leonard. Good players don’t stay bad, so you could bet on talent in this spot, but also realize that if Ito Smith misses this week after his early concussion last week, Brian Hill (who was inactive last week) will be active to bring Freeman’s snaps back down closer to their typical range.

Atlanta’s defense had been falling apart even before the injury to one of their most versatile players in Keanu Neal, and smart coaches have had no trouble outmaneuvering them (with Frank Reich in particular putting on a clinic last week with Jacoby Brissett under center) — but in order for this to be actionable information, the Titans would need Marcus Mariota to do quite a bit more than he typically does.

The Titans rank 20th in pass play rate and would like to be running the ball even more than that (they ranked 31st last year — ahead of only the Seahawks), and there is a chance that this smaller Atlanta defense could have trouble with the size of Derrick Henry. There is no reason to bump up Henry’s projections here, and he remains touchdown-dependent, but there is not a ton to love at running back on this slate, either, making Henry a bit more appealing in tighter builds than usual.

Away from the backfield, the injury to Neal will hurt the Falcons’ tight end coverage, and the Falcons should put up at least three touchdowns in this spot (forcing the Titans to pass the ball often enough for this to matter), making this another solid spot to lean on Delanie Walker for steady production. (As always, his shot at a monster game is lower than others.)

You could also take darts on A.J. Brown or Corey Davis for a low-likelihood bet on potential slate-winning upside; but as always, the Titans’ passing attack is best treated as a “hope and pray” play rather than being relied on for bankable production.

JM’s Interpretation ::

There are a lot of games on the Week 4 slate that are not overly appealing, which is enough to keep the Falcons and their reliable offense in the conversation. Ryan and Julio are the only guys who could really approach the “tighter build” conversation — but Ridley, Hooper, and Freeman (in that order) all have a clear enough path to a big game to be kept in the large-field tournament conversation.

The only Titans I’m likely to look toward are Henry and Delanie (with Delanie likely landing in Tier 2, and with Henry obviously carrying a low-ish floor to go with his high ceiling). You could also paint a picture in which Mariota has one of his random big games chasing points — but if betting on this scenario (i.e., if rostering Mariota and effectively saying, “I think he’ll have one of the highest scores on the slate”), realize that the likeliest path to that sort of game is for the Falcons to score points, so you will want to bet on a couple of Falcons pieces on a Mariota roster as well.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 1:00pm Eastern

WFT (
22.5) at

Giants (
25.5)

Over/Under 48.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Washington Run D
17th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O
30th DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Washington Pass D
6th DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O
29th DVOA/30th Yards per pass
Giants Run D
15th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Washington Run O
21st DVOA/25th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D
23rd DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Washington Pass O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per pass

:: The Week 4 “Pre-Grid”

:: PLAY FANTASYDRAFT HERE (note on this in the Angles Pod)

After being too free with injury information in the past, Jay Gruden has been making a concerted effort to be less forthcoming in order to gain an edge (because this is obviously the biggest of Washington’s problems). As of this writeup (late Wednesday night), Case Keenum was in a walking boot and missed Wednesday’s walk-through; Colt McCoy has been all but confirmed as the “number two” by Gruden — but McCoy would be unlikely to start on the off chance Keenum misses, as he would have only two practices under his belt after missing the last six weeks. This means that we’ll likely get Dwayne Haskins if Keenum misses — and given that Gruden still seemed to imply that Keenum will play, this opening paragraph setting the parameters within which we’re working will probably prove to have been unnecessary. More than likely, we have Keenum. If we don’t, we’ll have Haskins — and while this would be a downgrade against some teams (throughout the offseason, it appeared that Haskins had a ways to go before he would be ready to read and execute against more complex defenses), Haskins would likely prove to be an upgrade against the ineffective blitzes and poor coverage of the Giants, where his big arm and his carryover connection with college teammate Terry McLaurin would have potential to really pop in this spot.

Snapshot Of Each Team ::

The Giants are probably a better offense than most people think.

The Giants are as bad on defense as most people think.

The Redskins are more creative and explosive on offense than most people think — though they are still not very good.

The Redskins are fundamentally sound on defense — but as with the offense, they are not very good.

Because each team has some explosive potential and a below-average pass rush and attackable coverage units, this game that opened at 46.5 has been bet up to 49.5 — the second-highest total on the slate. (Note: in addition to carrying the second-highest total on the slate, this game features two teams with a fairly narrow distribution of offensive touches.)

Giants, Expanded ::

We have talked consistently this year about how the Giants’ offense flows through a narrow band of players (and for good reason, as Saquon // Engram paid off as one of our favorite player blocks in Week 1, and Shepard // Engram paid off as one of our favorite player blocks last week), but I actually want to start the Giants’ writeup with a player who is not in that narrow group: Darius Slayton.

The Giants ran a wide receiver rotation last week behind Shepard, with Slayton playing 27 of a possible 62 snaps (one more than Russell Shepard, and 11 fewer than Bennie Fowler), but he was schemed downfield looks when he was on the field, seeing five targets and hauling in three for 82 yards. Heading into Week 1 (against DeSean Jackson and the Eagles), we talked about the fact that Josh Norman had struggled with the speed of Terry McLaurin and Paul Richardson at times in training camp. Norman not only got burned by Jackson that week, but he also got beat for a deep touchdown by Devin Smith in Week 2 and for a deep touchdown by Taylor Gabriel in Week 3. Slayton comes with a low floor, but it seems likely that the Giants increase the rookie’s snap count another week removed from the hamstring injury that sidelined him the first two weeks — and it seems certain that they take another four to six downfield shots to him this week. If he connects on a couple, he could turn into a really nice tourney piece with his 4.39 speed.

Next up on this side of the ball is Wayne Gallman, who is sure to be mega chalk this week — making this a good place to touch on a few pertinent numbers:

In 11 of his 19 career games, Saquon Barkley has failed to top even 15 carries (and he has failed to top 100 yards on the ground in more than half his games). His big value in DFS comes from his pass-catching role and his ability to score from anywhere on the field — and Gallman does not boast the latter talent the way Saquon does. As for the pass-catching role: Barkley’s best receiving yardage total in his last 11 games is 41 yards (and he required seven receptions to get there), and in nine of his last 11 games, he has four or fewer receptions.

If we played out this slate a hundred times, a fair median projection for Gallman would be three to four catches for 20 to 30 yards — and again, there is no guarantee he piles up yards on the ground. Gallman will likely get four to eight weeks as the starter before Saquon returns, and during that stretch, he will have anywhere from one to three games in which a touchdown (or two) or a broken play (or two) makes him a really nice piece. But in tourneys, there is a case to be made for fading him at high ownership while possessing a clearer understanding of his likeliest range of outcomes than most of the field will have, and hoping he misses the mark this week and you can jump on board at lower ownership another week. (With that said: running back is fairly ugly this week, so I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you decided to just side with ownership here and grab differentiation elsewhere.)

While I’ll potentially be looking for ways to be underweight on Gallman myself this week, I do like him as part of a four-man player block (I haven’t run the numbers on FanDuel, but on DraftKings, the typical five-man player block scores anywhere from 70 to 90 points in a non-exciting, steady-production week; and with how narrow the Giants’ distribution is, you could play Jones // Shepard // Engram // Gallman and get the production you would get out of a five-man block). While I expect the Giants to be comfortable putting the ball into the hands of Daniel Jones and allowing him to win this game, adding Gallman to a “Jones + pass-catchers” stack provides insurance against a scenario in which Gallman soaks up the touchdowns.

In the passing game, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard are going to be focal points on this offense again after combining for 38 targets in their two games played together, with each being used on high-floor routes underneath and being given a couple shots at busting a big play or scoring a touchdown. There is nothing in the matchup that scares us, as each can win in man coverage in this spot, and there will be plenty of Washington zone that allows these two to settle into soft spots and pick up easy points. The ceiling on these two isn’t quite as high as it was in last week’s game environment, but the ceiling does still exist, and the floor is really nice.

Redskins, Expanded ::

The first half of this writeup might prove to be longer than any other full-game writeup we’ll hit this week — and we haven’t even gotten to one of my favorite offenses on the slate this week in Washington. The Redskins will be taking on a Giants defense that has no pass rush and no ability to shut down opposing passing attacks, and the severely underpriced Washington passing attack has the pieces to take advantage.

There are a couple clear ways this game could play out.

1) Jones could hit a few more bumps this week than he hit last week, which could allow Washington to take control of this game to an extent and lean more run-heavy — sapping some of the upside from the Washington passing attack.

2) This game goes back-and-forth, or the Giants play from in front. Contrary to the belief of the field, Washington is very comfortable attacking through the air, and they won’t mind being in a situation in which they have to “win” on offense (i.e., doing more than just “trying to not lose”) — attacking through the air throughout.

Even in the first scenario, there will be enough work for the Washington pass catchers to produce at their prices, while in the second scenario, Terry McLaurin and Paul Richardson will have enough upside to really matter.

Based on to-date production against Week 4 pricing, there is no skill position player on the slate more underpriced than McLaurin on both FanDuel and DraftKings — with his production to-date completely legitimate (target counts of 7 // 9 // 8; 10th in the NFL in average depth of target; third in the NFL in percentage share of team air yards; third in the NFL in red zone targets, and fourth in targets inside the 10), making him the sort of “process play” that leads to profit over time.

Richardson has been the intermediate compliment to McLaurin, and is also underpriced against his 2019 production. McLaurin is the “in isolation” play, but these two also work nicely as a player block, as they are averaging a combined 14.3 targets per game and have five touchdowns between them against three really good teams (and two really good defenses) in the Eagles, Cowboys, and Bears. This is their best matchup on the season. In terms of price-considered floor/ceiling, these guys really pop this week.

Also involved in this scheme will be Vernon Davis, Trey Quinn, and Chris Thompson. With Quinn and Vernon, you are hoping for a touchdown, as Quinn’s short-area role doesn’t yield much upside otherwise, and Vernon’s usage is too unpredictable to bank on. Thompson has a role no matter what, but he is best used opposite Giants pass game pieces in the hopes of capturing a sneaky, potentially under-owned shootout.

Further involved will be Adrian Peterson, who always feels ugly to lock in these days given his one-dimensional role on a team that will rarely be in position to control games; but especially if you end up leaning heavily on the Washington passing attack this week, it’s a solid play to hedge in MME play with some Peterson rosters that bet on the scoring going through him, and/or that bet on Washington controlling this game. Outside of MME: a big Peterson game is less likely (and lower-floor) than the pass game pieces; but the upside is certainly there in this spot that you could make a case for chasing, even on tighter builds.

JM’s Interpretation ::

On the Giants, I like the passing pieces a lot, with Jones, Engram, and Shep all at least ending up in Tier 2 with their high floors, and potentially cracking Tier 1. Gallman is a fine fade this week from a big-picture view (as laid out above: he’ll have some solid games, but they’re by no means guaranteed, creating a game theory case for avoiding him on weeks he’s chalk), but he’s also likely to get 18+ touches with at least three or four catches — and at his cheap price, I wouldn’t argue against siding with ownership rather than taking on the “one game sample size” risk (and this is especially true in cash). I also like Slayton as a tourney piece, and I’ve even tested out at least one tighter build with him to see what it would look like taking those savings on DraftKings (where he’s only 6.4% of the salary cap) — and while that type of risk is likely unnecessary on a tighter build, you can build in enough floor in other spots to justify it if you want to play around with some crazier approaches in small-field tourneys this week.

On Washington’s side, Keenum is actually underpriced as well for his likeliest range of outcomes (and if Keenum misses, Haskins will be in play) — but the big pieces are McLaurin solo and McLaurin // Richardson in a pairing, with Thompson // Peterson both viable for me in larger-field contests as well.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 1:00pm Eastern

Chargers (
29) at

Dolphins (
14.5)

Over/Under 43.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Chargers Run D
21st DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
11th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
11th DVOA/17th Yards per pass
Dolphins Run D
32nd DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
31st DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
10th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
7th DVOA/5th Yards per pass

:: The Week 4 “Pre-Grid”

:: PLAY FANTASYDRAFT HERE (note on this in the Angles Pod)

As of this writeup, the Chiefs (30.75) and Chargers (30.0) are the only teams with a Vegas-implied team total of 30+ (and are two of only three teams with a total north of 26.5) — and while it isn’t apples to apples between the Chargers and Chiefs (the Chiefs will almost certainly pick up more yards even if they finish with the same number of points as the Chargers), the Chargers are basically a two-man show right now, with 63.16% of the touches on their team over the last two weeks flowing through Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler — coming out to 30 touches per game between the two.

At the front end of the week, I assumed it would be a donkey play to roster Ekeler and Allen with their prices so high and their unbelievable production unsustainable over time — with all of this wrapped up in a potential blowout that could lead to curbed touches. And sure, there is definite risk that the Chargers dismantle the Dolphins so thoroughly that they don’t need these two by the end of the third quarter (similar to Amari and Zeke last week). But with the Chargers banged up enough on defense for the Dolphins to have a decent shot at keeping this game respectable (the Chargers are “only” 16 point favorites), and with so much of the offense centered around these two pieces, they actually each have a shot at being underpriced yet again.

Things To Like ::

Ekeler in particular remains a comfortable bet this week, as he has such a big pass game role (at least six receptions in every game so far, with yardage totals through the air of 96 // 67 // 45), and his role near the end zone is as high as any player in football (only two players have more touches than Ekeler inside the 10 so far this year). Much like Zeke last week: it would be difficult for Ekeler to “fail,” and there is enough upside in this matchup (especially with this being Ekeler’s last game in the lead role, and with Anthony Lynn perhaps wanting to send him out with a bang) for him to potentially post one of the better scores on the slate once again.

Keenan is a bit more difficult to project, as he has thrived so far on tight games and massive volume — and it wouldn’t be crazy in this spot to see him drop to nine or 10 targets and post something like a 7-80-0 line. That’s the sort of score you would take from just about any wide receiver as a floor (and Allen’s floor is as high as any wideout on the slate), but at his price, you would need him to hit for more ceiling than that. I like Allen in tourneys this week for his monster role and upside, though I’m still uncertain where I’ll land with him on tighter builds — only because it will be easier for him to be expendable down the stretch of this game than it will be for Ekeler.

Mike Williams is also really intriguing in tourneys (particularly larger-field tourneys), as the Chargers have been trying to get him going — feeding him seven targets last week with a few opportunities in which he just missed connecting on a big play. (Williams currently has the fifth deepest average depth of target in the NFL.) Williams should see a bit more of Xavien Howard than Allen will see, but with the Dolphins having so little in the way of pass rush, Williams will have opportunities to get open downfield. The floor is low, but the ceiling is noteworthy in large-field play.

The Dolphins?

This is the first week we have really had any reason to talk about the Dolphins offense; and while they’re obviously not worth considering in tighter builds, they are worth considering in large-field play in what is unexpectedly their softest matchup to date against the banged-up Chargers secondary.

We should start with the tight end position (should “get the tight end position out of the way”?), as last week with the Chargers taking on the Texans, we mentioned that the injuries at strong safety for the Chargers would have potential to mess up both their tight end coverage and their communication on the back end. We proceeded to say that ‘the Texans don’t have a tight end to take advantage of this matchup’ — and the Texans went on to paste the Chargers with not one, but two tight ends. The big plays to Fells // Akins were more centered around communication than around “tight end coverage” (i.e., they were busted plays that could easily have gone to another position), but this does bring up Mike Gesicki — who has been truly awful so far in his career, but who has at least as good a shot of hitting in this spot as the Texans tight ends had. (I’ll likely bet on his poor play preventing him from hitting slate-winning upside; but you can make a clear case to go a different direction.)

We can unplug our nose on this side of the ball and also look to Preston Williams, who is the most attractive option as the clear favorite of Josh Rosen. Casey Hayward is questionable at the moment (and there’s a chance the Chargers hold him out for this matchup if he’s at any risk of aggravating his back injury), and even if he plays there’s a chance he locks up with DeVante Parker. But especially if he misses, there’s a decently clear path to a strong game here as the Dolphins fall behind and are forced to the air. Parker is also in the conversation as a deep-tourney play. As always (on both these guys), touchdowns are important; but there is enough ceiling here at a low price and likely low ownership for a conversation to exist.

Outside of these pieces, there is really nothing else on the Dolphins that is more than “guessing and hoping” in your hunt for slate-winning upside.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Ekeler shapes up as a clear Tier 1 this week — on an ugly week for running backs — and while it’s unlikely we get another double-100 outing on the ground against the Dolphins, we should note the same thing we noted last week with the Cowboys, when we said there was potential for it to make sense to play Zeke and Pollard together: there are scenarios in which it could make sense to play Ekeler and Justin Jackson together.

Keenan Allen and Philip Rivers are on the Tier 1 borderline for me (with a Chargers-stomp the big risk that could lead to these two posting disappointing price-considered scores) — and in large-field play, I like Preston Williams as a potential piece that could keep this game close enough for Keenan // Rivers to get the most out of their day. Mike Williams can be used about the same way as Preston Williams (“I know the downfield looks will be there; I’ll hope they connect”), and even DeVante Parker can be considered in deeper tourneys with that thinking (especially if Hayward misses).

Finally: Keenan // Ekeler can be played as a pair, with so much of the action flowing through them. There’s a good chance the Chargers score four or five touchdowns…and if they do, there’s a solid chance that three or four of these touchdowns come through these two guys.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 1:00pm Eastern

Raiders (
20.25) at

Colts (
26.25)

Over/Under 46.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Raiders Run D
31st DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
22nd DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D
26th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
15th DVOA/10th Yards per pass
Colts Run D
6th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O
24th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O
5th DVOA/7th Yards per pass

:: The Week 4 “Pre-Grid”

:: PLAY FANTASYDRAFT HERE (note on this in the Angles Pod)

Frank Reich gets yet another matchup this week in which he should be able to tactically dominate the coach on the other side of the game (as expected last week: he put on a clinic against an in-over-his-head Dan Quinn — allowing the Colts to pull out a win that on-paper should not have favored them at all.) But before we get to the Colts’ offense, we first have an interesting matchup for the Colts defense — as this is a defense that looks to filter everything to the short areas of the field, and the Raiders are a team that will gladly oblige in this regard, as they have largely refused to get aggressive this year (regardless of score) outside of a few, isolated plays.

It is no secret to us by now that the Colts filter opposing passing attacks through to the running backs and tight ends — and the start of this season has been no exception; through three weeks, only the Cardinals have allowed more passing touchdowns to RBs/TEs combined than the Colts have allowed (hilariously, all of the Cardinals’ have come to tight ends only), while only four teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns to wide receivers on the young season. This week, Indy will look to get Tyrell Williams moving laterally in order to make it difficult for him to bust any big plays — an approach that is less suited to his skill set, and that therefore makes him a fairly speculative play.

While this matchup shaves aways some floor and ceiling from Tyrell, however, it gives a slight boost to Darren Waller. While scoring expectations are not particularly high in this spot (and it’s not a given that the Colts are able to make Oakland as one-dimensional as the Vikings were able to — making it unlikely that we see a repeat of last week’s absurd 14 targets), Waller is still a focal point of this offense, with 29 targets through three weeks, and with an average of 89 receiving yards per game. In a matchup that should filter targets his direction, Waller is a solid floor play — and the ceiling remains intact.

While players like Hunter Renfrow (15 targets on the season, but only 71 yards) and J.J. Nelson (five targets last week — going for 36 yards and a touchdown) will see some involvement in this offense, the main flow of work on this team goes Josh Jacobs // Waller // Tyrell.

Jacobs was down to 10 and 12 touches the last two weeks, but those came in blowouts against the Chiefs and Vikings. The Colts could certainly get there — but with their conservative approach, they shouldn’t pull away too quickly in this game (barring major Oakland mistakes). The Colts are solid against the run, and Jacobs remains largely touchdown-dependent on a bad team (only three targets and one reception so far — regardless of whatever “get Jacobs the ball through the air” lip service that Gruden has provided), but Jacobs has a solid shot at 18 to 20 touches in this spot; and especially if Darius Leonard misses, he could be in line for his first 100-yard game on the year (5.1 yards per carry on the young season), with a touchdown enough to make him a useful piece from there.

If T.Y. Hilton Plays ::

In this new offense, T.Y. Hilton has become a short-area receiver — with an average of under 10 yards per reception on the year, and with a maximum of 87 yards in a game (in spite of a pair of eight-reception games). Touchdowns have been floating Hilton’s value thus far — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for him to break a long play. Right now, it is best to think of Hilton as a “Cooper Kupp or Julian Edelman, with elite speed after the catch,” in an offensive system that emphasizes getting the ball into his hands, and that schemes plays for him in the red zone. This gives Hilton an interesting, unconventional mix of floor and ceiling — making him feel more speculative than he really is, as his role within Reich’s designs is secure enough, and his price is reasonable enough, for him to be considered a floor/ceiling piece this week. There are better plays on the slate than Hilton, but he’s not a bad play to chase in tourneys of any size.

If T.Y. Hilton Misses ::

If Hilton misses, Reich will have plenty of fun designing plays to unexpected players — using misdirection and building off Oakland’s tendencies in order to get the most through the air. There is little reason to be overly concerned about the Paul Guenther defense in this spot, as Reich can so easily outmaneuver the Raiders, and a shorter-area attack is just more difficult to keep off the board; but the best way to secure points from Indy in the absence of Hilton (and perhaps even level with Hilton regardless) is Marlon Mack.

Before Dalvin Cook marked the Raiders as his territory last week, we noted that this run defense has looked better than in the past. But the Colts have a beastly offensive line, and they should control this game enough for Mack to have one of his 20-carry efforts. Encouragingly, Mack has picked up a couple of dump-offs each of the last two games — and while we cannot bank on more than a couple FanDuel points or three DraftKings points through the air, these bonus points are a nice boost to a player who has a solid shot at 100 yards, and who has high touchdown equity in this offense. Mack (like Henry for Tennessee) is more speculative than I typically like to chase at running back as a fairly one-dimensional producer; but the position is ugly enough on the Main Slate that he carries enough weight to enter the conversation this week.

JM’s Interpretation ::

There is nothing in this game that shapes up as a “must have,” but Waller looks acceptable in all formats, while Mack and (if he plays) Hilton can make a lower-end case for high-end placement. (More than likely, Mack will end up in Tier 3 this week, while Hilton — with his paths to a monster game not all that clear, but with a role that has provided solid floor — will likely find his way into Tier 2.) Everything else in this game is completely “guessing and hoping for the best,” but if Hilton misses you could take a shot on Parris Campbell. The Colts will spread things around to the tight ends and to multiple wide receivers (and you could theoretically try to guess and hope to capture a big game on any of them), but Campbell is the closest comp for Hilton in what he can do for this offense, and he has the speed to potentially become a difference-maker if given an opportunity this week.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 1:00pm Eastern

Panthers (
21.5) at

Texans (
26.5)

Over/Under 48.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Panthers Run D
26th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
23rd DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
13th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
8th DVOA/4th Yards per pass
Texans Run D
23rd DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
16th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
8th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
11th DVOA/11th Yards per pass

:: The Week 4 “Pre-Grid”

:: PLAY FANTASYDRAFT HERE (note on this in the Angles Pod)

The top running backs seem to have been rotating matchups lately: with Austin Ekeler now headed to Miami to take on the defense that Zeke gashed last week, and with Christian McCaffrey taking on the same defense Ekeler faced last week.

As expected, Ekeler had a hard time on the ground last week against the Texans, gaining only 36 yards on nine carries. Houston is getting its run defense feet back under it after the loss of Jadeveon Clowney — currently ranking 19th in adjusted line yards after ranking first last season (with part of this “19th” ranking from this year due to a really rough first game of the year against the Saints). At best, this should be considered a middling matchup — about in line with what McCaffrey had last week against a Cardinals team that doesn’t have the talent of this Houston unit, but that was selling out to stop the run. In that spot, McCaffrey had a tough time breaking free, picking up only 77 yards on 23 carries outside of his long touchdown run.

Of course, the beauty of CMC in DFS is the same as the beauty of Ekeler last week, when he hauled in seven catches for 45 yards in this spot to float his floor. On the young season, McCaffrey has averaged five catches for 44 yards. With this being a tougher spot on the ground, and with Carolina carrying lower scoring expectations than they carried last week (more on this in a moment), McCaffrey sees his floor drop a bit lower than normal; but as with every week, the ceiling remains intact.

Kyle Allen looked genuinely good last week, though he did have the benefit of playing against an extremely zone-heavy, pass-rush-deficient unit in Arizona. Although Houston can get pressure with a four-man pass rush, they are likely to throw some extra pressure Allen’s way this week. And while Houston does not have the cornerbacks to successfully match up with D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel all game, they have a chance to really disrupt the Carolina offense if they can make Allen uncomfortable in the pocket. Expect a decent mix of blitzes and disguised coverages in this spot, making Allen (and this passing attack, and this offense as a whole) more boom/bust than last week.

Target Leaders, Week 3 ::

>> Greg Olsen :: 7

>> Curtis Samuel :: 7

>> Christian McCaffrey :: 4

>> D.J. Moore :: 2

Olsen has a great matchup again this week against a Texans defense that gave up the second most yards, third most catches, and third most touchdowns to the position last year. Olsen should see plenty of Jahleel Addae, which is a mismatch in his favor. Carolina looked to scheme targets to Olsen last week to give Allen a comfortable target; and while Houston will be looking to stop that, their best bet is through the pass rush, as Olsen should still be open a decent amount this game.

Curtis Samuel was very clearly the next man on the target list last week for Allen, seeing schemed looks and having Allen look to him frequently if his first read was covered. We should keep in mind that Moore saw eight targets from Allen in Week 17 last year, and his long touchdown last week came on a (beautiful) play designed to get the ball in his hands moving upfield with space. (Moore also saw a carry at the very beginning of the game last week.) All of these guys will be involved; none are nearly as secure as last week; all carry some upside, while Olsen has the highest floor in the group.

Carolina has played fairly well on defense this year, giving the Rams a tough time, and making life difficult on Jameis Winston and Kyler Murray. The biggest edge for Carolina on defense will be their willingness to blitz and their ability to get after the quarterback; but whenever Watson has time to throw (and it is all but guaranteed that he will create opportunities in which he has time to throw), the matchup favors the Texans wide receivers.

As we have continued to see through the first three weeks of the season, Carolina’s biggest weakness is in the slot — where Cooper Kupp posted a solid, Kuppian Week 1 line and Robert Woods did most of his Week 1 damage before Chris Godwin hit them in Week 2 and Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk each had opportunities for much bigger days in Week 3. This lines up nicely for Kenny Stills, who has seen target counts of 3 // 3 // 6 this year while leading the Texans’ three main receivers in slot rate.

Carolina’s zone-heavy defense focuses on taking away deep passing, but talent deficiencies sometimes lead to breakdowns in this unit. (Last year, Carolina allowed the sixth most pass plays of 40+ yards.) Will Fuller so far has target count of 3 // 7 // 7 — and while he has not yet hit for any monster games, he is still seeing downfield work (currently ranking sixth in the league in average depth of target), and it is only a matter of time before a couple of these hit, keeping him in the “always in tournaments” conversation.

And of course, we have DeAndre Hopkins — who has single-digit targets in back-to-back games, and will be taking on a winnable matchup vs James Bradberry. Since October 2016, Hopkins has only gone three straight games with single-digit targets once. And while three of his five lower target games came with Fuller on the field last year, Fuller’s presence has not significantly impacted Hopkins’ targets over a larger sample size. Hopkins’ slower start has been more coverage related, as he has faced Jalen Ramsey and Casey Hayward. This is an intriguing bounce-back spot for him — especially if Carolina can keep this game close.

JM’s Interpretation ::

With the Texans carrying a split backfield at the moment, they are “play at your own risk” in that area; but the passing attack is quite a bit more attractive, with Hopkins in a winnable matchup (and always worth thinking about paying up for in tourneys), and with Fuller and Stills each carrying slate-breaking upside. On this team that remains comfortable running the ball with a lead, Watson is always preferable in potential shootouts; but his rushing upside and his weapons keep him squarely in the tournament conversation as well.

McCaffrey’s matchup takes away some of his paths to upside, but given that he is Christian McCaffrey, he holds onto enough paths to remain squarely in the middle of an ugly running back conversation this week.

Olsen is also a solid play on this side of the ball, while Moore and Samuel remain in the thick of the large-field tourney conversation against a beatable secondary on a team with a narrow distribution of touches. Allen will find things more difficult this week in Houston than he did in Arizona, but this does not make it impossible for him to get the ball to his pass catchers often enough for one of them to matter again.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 1:00pm Eastern

Chiefs (
30.75) at

Lions (
23.75)

Over/Under 54.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Chiefs Run D
28th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
13th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
2nd DVOA/4th Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
Lions Run D
30th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
17th DVOA/9th Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
12th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
1st DVOA/12th Yards per pass

:: The Week 4 “Pre-Grid”

:: PLAY FANTASYDRAFT HERE (note on this in the Angles Pod)

It is easy to break down the Chiefs offense and point to all the reasons why they can be expected to put up points; but as alluded to already this season, the thing that can often get lost in the discussion of the Chiefs’ offense is price. Which makes it interesting to note that based on average per-game production to this point in the season, each of Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, Demarcus Robinson, and Mecole Hardman is overpriced this week (with Watkins still riding the wave from his spectacular Week 1 to be the least overpriced of the bunch — especially with his higher price tag making a higher point-per-dollar game more valuable). And when this is the case, we would typically say that “the best approach is to let others chase at the high price, knowing you are building more floor and ceiling on your roster by allocating salary in other ways, and knowing that this will guide you to more money over time.” But the Chiefs are an interesting situation in that the slate-breaking scores these players can post when they do hit make them still very much worth considering.

The Lions defense is likely to stick to a mix of man and zone coverage with some sort of plan in place designed to slow down the Chiefs with strong communication and assignment-based play. But regardless of what plan the Lions come up with, there is just no getting around the fact that they do not have the pieces in the secondary to keep up with the quartet of Watkins // Hardman // Robinson // Kelce. With that said: there is no solid piece of statistical or film-based research that points to any one individual piece of the Chiefs over any other.

How to handle Chiefs pass catchers ::

Since Week 2, when Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes had an opportunity to integrate Hardman and Robinson more fully into the offensive game plan, targets among Chiefs pass catchers have looked like this:

Watkins :: 13 // 8

Kelce :: 9 // 8

Hardman :: 6 // 5

Robinson :: 6 // 4

Touchdown production over the last two weeks ::

Robinson :: 3

Hardman :: 2

Kelce :: 1

Watkins :: 0

With Kelce and Watkins out-targeting Robinson // Hardman 38 to 21, but getting outproduced in touchdowns 5 to 1, the best way to handle the uncertainty in this spot would be to trust the unpredictability of touchdowns and the certainty of recency bias driving ownership — essentially saying, “I don’t know which Chiefs player will pop off for a big game this week, but I do know that Robinson // Hardman have a much lower floor than they have shown, and that ownership on them should remain steady because of their solid production; while Kelce and Watkins have landed on floor games and could see a dip in ownership as a result.”

To put all that another way: if we played out this slate a hundred times — taking into account ownership, price, and projections — Kelce // Watkins would make you more money than the other two; though with the upside all these pieces carry, you could make a case for any of them being +EV on this week’s slate.

How to handle the Chiefs backfield ::

This is a tough matchup for the Chiefs running backs, but that hardly matters given the offense they play in and the upside that is also available for the backs in this offense through the air.

With Damien Williams missing last week’s game, the Chiefs gave 11 touches to LeSean McCoy and 14 touches to Darrel Williams, with playing Williams 37 snaps and McCoy 26. With Damien likely to miss again this week and McCoy likely to play (but unlikely to rise above his Week 3 snap share), we’ll likely see a similar setup once again. McCoy had three catches and Darrel had five — and while the floor is low on both of these guys, they both have enough upside at their prices to join the ranks in the ugly Week 4 running back conversation.

How to handle the Lions ::

While the Chiefs are by no means an elite defense, they have been playing assignment-sound football through three weeks, and have been forcing opponents to march the field rather than allowing big plays that can turn their games into back-and-forth affairs. The goal in bringing in not only Steve Spagnuolo but also Tyrann Matthieu and Frank Clark was not necessarily for the Chiefs to become “good” on defense, but was for them to instead at least become “not bad.” They have accomplished that goal — and with that, this actually becomes the second toughest matchup the Lions have had, after games already against Arizona and the secondary of Philly.

If we look at this slate through the lens of ownership, there is a strong case to be made for Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones going over-owned this week, as the perception of this offense remains separate from price-based expectations on these players (generally speaking, the field seems to not realize, for example, that Golladay has gone for 100 yards only once every 7.25 games in his career, with a touchdown only once every 2.9 games; in fact, Golladay has only topped 80 yards once very 4.1 games in his career — with fantasy community hype tilting perception on Golladay’s to-date production in a different direction than his to-date reality). But if we remove ownership from the equation, we can note that chasing points against the Chiefs always provides clear paths for upside.

If you want to chase the upside in this spot: Golladay is still the alpha — but as we reminded last week: Jones still maintains upside for a big day.

T.J. Hockenson’s Week 1 blowup — while it came against the Cardinals — is a reminder of the sort of elite upside and downfield ability Hockenson has, though he also remains more “guessing and hoping” than lock-and-load.

The big news on the Lions comes in the backfield, where Kerryon Johnson encouragingly played 77% of the Lions snaps last week after the team got rid of C.J. Anderson. Kerryon was on the field for 24 of a possible 34 pass plays (running 18 routes and blocking six times), and while he saw only one target (giving him a disappointing six on the year), he carried the ball 20 times after he and Anderson had previously combined for carry totals of 27 and 17. On the year the Chiefs have faced only 18.3 running back rush attempts per game (something about them scoring a lot of points…), but Kerryon should be on the field enough (and should touch the ball enough one way or another) to be kept in the conversation this week.

JM’s Interpretation ::

While all of Mahomes’ pass game weapons are overpriced based on per-game averages, Mahomes himself is one of the most underpriced players on the slate by that measure, as he has averaged 4.3 points per game against his DraftKings salary and 3.14 points per game against his FanDuel salary. Only Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson (and on DraftKings, our boy Terry McLaurin) have outpaced their Week 4 price at a higher rate — and unlike Russ // Lamar (and very much like our boy McLaurin), Mahomes has produced at this level through consistency, rather than through one or two ultra-spiked week. Mahomes will have games this year in which he scores “only” 22 or 23 points; but by the end of the year, his Week 4 price tag will almost certainly look too low in retrospect — making him one of the sharper ways to allocate salary on this slate.

You can play Mahomes naked, given how much this team spreads the ball around and how unpredictable the bigger games from his pass catchers are (last week, Mahomes was one of the top quarterback plays on the slate without bringing any one of his pass catchers with him), but in tourneys, I also like the idea of pairing him with Watkins and/or Kelce and hoping to catch touchdown variance swinging back the other way. There is nothing in this matchup that should scare us on either player.

The Chiefs backfield is playable in large-field contests, but the backfield that stands out more in this spot is the Lions’, where Kerryon is in the thick of the “ugly week at running back” conversation with his dropping price (10.8% of the cap on both DraftKings and FanDuel) and his 75% role in this offense.

There are also cases to be made for the Lions’ passing attack — though ownership is likely to outpace the likeliest range of production, making this a +EV fade if we were able to play out this slate a hundred times. Isolated from ownership expectations, there are plenty of cases to be made for Golladay and/or Jones (or even Hock) to post a big game, however — if you want to play that angle and hope you can capture one of their bigger weeks.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 1:00pm Eastern

Browns (
20) at

Ravens (
27)

Over/Under 47.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Browns Run D
20th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
5th DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
19th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
19th DVOA/31st Yards per pass
Ravens Run D
2nd DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
7th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
7th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
23rd DVOA/27th Yards per pass

:: The Week 4 “Pre-Grid”

:: PLAY FANTASYDRAFT HERE (note on this in the Angles Pod)

During the first half of last football season, one of the things I had to figure out was how to run the site and produce a great NFL Edge and still have time to think through the slate and my own rosters the way I’m used to doing. It took a little while to get it all figured out and really get my feet under me; and it wasn’t until this year that I truly felt I had a strong plan and process for everything, as there were just some things I couldn’t have been prepared for the first time around. (If you were on the site last year, you hopefully feel like the product has gotten even better, at all levels; and hopefully you will continue to feel that way every year.)

I mention that because the same thing seems to be happening to Freddie Kitchens, whose offense last year was exciting, aggressive, and layered, and whose offense now looks neutered. Kitchens seems to have no handle on how to prepare a full team (or himself) for situational football, and with his team already halfway to the Titans’ total number of flags thrown on them in 2018, we continue to see a team that appears to lack attention to detail in preparation, making too many mental errors throughout a game. A couple of egregious instances from last week of Kitchens appearing “in-over-his-head” were the Browns running a draw play on fourth and nine and passing the ball four times from inside the five-yard-line without giving Nick Chubb a single look. (On all four of those plays, Odell Beckham was also used as a decoy).

These are fixable issues, of course; but in the thick of the grind of the NFL season, it will be difficult for the Browns to overturn all these issues at once — issues that have been compounded by how poorly the Browns offensive line is playing.

All of this is bad timing, with a matchup this week against an aggressive, attacking, blitz-heavy Ravens defense that will look to make life miserable on Baker Mayfield.

What we should expect ::

We should expect the Browns to move Beckham all over the field to avoid whatever toughest cornerback matchups happen to be there (Marlon Humphrey missed practice on Wednesday and Jimmy Smith is expected to be out once again, so we’ll see who the Ravens have out there this week), and we should expect Beckham to be emphasized in the game plan once again, likely seeing double-digit targets (he has nine or more in every game so far). Kitchens has been using Beckham primarily on routes that don’t have momentum moving upfield — so one of the big ways he could get more out of the Browns’ prized acquisition is by adjusting the looks being given to him. We’ll see if Kitchens recognizes this shortcoming this week.

We are also likely to see heavy involvement once again for Jarvis Landry, who is being used downfield more than he was during the second half of last year. The Downfield Landry Experiment has failed many times before, but that doesn’t mean he can’t hit on one play in one game — giving him some upside in this spot with the targets locked in.

With David Njoku out and Rashard Higgins missing last week, the Browns continued to tighten up their target distribution — still spreading the ball around, but emphasizing Beckham and Landry as clear alphas (over 48% of the team’s total targets between them this year). This makes the “number three” a speculative flier at best, with Damion Ratley (five targets last week; three catches for 26 yards) filling in if Higgins misses, and with Higgins replacing Ratley as the “guessing // hoping // praying” option. With Beckham and Landry seeing emphasized work and the rest of the looks being spread around, floor is thin behind the bigger names.

The matchup is also tough for Chubb against what is consistently one of the toughest run defenses in the league — a unit that already ranks fifth in adjusted line yards this year. Last year, the Ravens allowed the fifth fewest rushing touchdowns to running backs and the third fewest rushing yards. Only two teams allowed fewer receiving yards as well. Chubb is a close-your-eyes and bet-on-volume play — though he does have touch counts of 20, 22, and 27, with reception totals of three, four, and four: enough volume to make that “bet-on-volume” approach defensible on this ugly running back slate.

This is a difficult matchup on the other side for the Cleveland defense, as they will be matching strength-on-strength with their defensive line against the Ravens’ offensive line — and while they should be able to get some pressure on Lamar Jackson, Jackson should be able to escape pressure enough to take advantage of a weakened Browns secondary.

Marquise Brown remained the offensive focal point of the Ravens through the air last week, leading all skill position players in snaps and running 44 of a possible 53 pass routes — seeing nine targets, and giving him an average of nine targets per game on the year. With Brown ranking 10th in the league in aDOT and 11th in percentage share of team air yards while piling up nine looks per game, he is a solid process play this week regardless of health in the Browns’ secondary; but especially if Denzel Ward misses, Brown has more paths to reaching ceiling this week.

The second featured weapon on this offense is Mark Andrews, who has averaged eight targets per game. Cleveland should be weak once again this year in tight end coverage, making Andrews an intriguing play — with his stock rising a bit if Ward plays and gives Brown a more challenging matchup.

Behind Brown and Andrews, pass game pieces on Baltimore are just hoping you capture a couple touchdowns or broken plays.

This swings us over to the backfield, where Mark Ingram has taken the lead in this group with ascending touch counts of 14 // 15 // 20. His production to date has been heavily touchdown dependent — inflating his price tag above what his floor really supports — but with the Ravens carrying one of the higher Vegas-implied totals on the slate again at 26.0 (and with no one in football having more touches inside the 10-yard-line than Ingram), his ceiling remains intact.

JM’s Interpretation ::

I’m a bit on the fence right now with the Ravens offense, as A) the Browns defense has continued to find a way to produce in spite of injuries, and B) the Ravens hype has gotten a bit out of hand given that they scored only 23 at home against the Cardinals and required deep catch-up mode to score 28 against the Chiefs. But the biggest cause for pause here is C) the fact that the Ravens lead the NFL in plays per game after dominating the Dolphins, playing the pace-up Cardinals, and allowing the Chiefs to score so efficiently that Baltimore spent much of that game with the ball. These extra plays have been baked into the pricing on Ravens offensive pieces (as those extra opportunities have aided production) — and there is no reason to expect the Ravens to remain quite so play-heavy as the season continues. It should be noted that the Ravens led the league in plays per game last year (at just over 70 — only four plays per game below their current pace), so none of these concerns are massive; but they do blend together to slow me down just a bit on all these pieces. More than likely, Lamar will end up Tier 1, though the other three main pieces on this offense will be on the 1 // 3 borderline for me this week, and we’ll see where they fall officially as we move deeper into the week.

In just about all circumstances, I’m unlikely to take offensive players at Baltimore on a core build; but the tightening of higher-end volume on the Browns offense and the likely emphasis on Beckham this week make him an interesting play to think about in tournaments. Chubb has an outside shot to also be in the tourney realm for me due to “volume in spite of matchup.”

Outside of these two, I don’t expect to show much interest in the Browns offense, as there are just much better spots on the slate than this.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 1:00pm Eastern

Patriots (
24.25) at

Bills (
17.25)

Over/Under 41.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Patriots Run D
18th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D
17th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O
4th DVOA/6th Yards per pass
Bills Run D
24th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O
3rd DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Bills Pass D
28th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O
27th DVOA/28th Yards per pass

:: The Week 4 “Pre-Grid”

:: PLAY FANTASYDRAFT HERE (note on this in the Angles Pod)

After the Bills (barely eked out a home win against the Bengals and) moved to 3-0 on the year last week, Tre’Davious White made it clear that he feels no one in the national media gives the Bills’ defense the credit or attention they deserve. This was immediately reminiscent of Taylor Lewan last year — when the Titans were 3-1 (with strong wins against the Texans, Jags, and Eagles) — lodging the same complaint regarding the Titans team as a whole. Tennessee went on to lose to the Bills that week before dropping their next two games and entering the bye with a 3-4 record.

With that said: White isn’t wrong. Last year, the Bills not only allowed the fewest passing yards in the league, but they did so by allowing 8% fewer than the next-closest team. The Bills had almost as many interceptions (16) as passing touchdowns allowed (21), and only the Ravens allowed fewer yards per game. The Bills’ overall numbers don’t stand out quite as much from last year because they were middle of the pack in points allowed, but much of this can be credited to Josh Allen consistently providing short fields for opponents. The Bills’ defense is absolutely elite.

The Vegas total for this game of 42.5 — while low — appears a bit high in this spot, as three of the last four games between these teams have produced 36 // 31 // 26 points. The Patriots should look to control this game by running the ball and passing between the numbers — hoping to pick up incremental gains, finish drives with points, and capitalize on the certainty that they will play a cleaner overall game than the Bills will on offense.

Across the last two seasons, the Patriots have had only one game against the Bills in which an individual running back did not go for 92 or more rushing yards (and in the game with 92 yards, from Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead chipped in 78 rushing yards of his own). In the one game in which the Pats failed to reach 92 rushing yards from an individual back, James White was operating as the lead back due to injuries, and he picked up 10 catches for 79 yards.

While all of this is great information to have, however, it does not remove the inherent difficulty of predicting the Patriots’ backfield. This is one of the most opponent-specific teams in the NFL, of course, so everything that “has been done” is not necessarily what “will be done.” With that said: Sony Michel played only 17 snaps last week, and new fullback Jakob Johnson played only two snaps (against a Jets defense that is easier to attack through the air…) — while Burkhead operated as the de facto lead back, seeing 17 touches with White inactive for the birth of his child.

This week, White will be active, and we should expect something like this:

Michel leads in carries // Burkhead leads in touches // White soaks up some catches of his own

But honestly, there are a number of ways things could break from there, and it’s not necessarily a poor call to try to guess right on this backfield on some tourney teams, as one of these three should post a solid score.

With Rob Gronkowski retired, Julian Edelman will be the main focus in the pass game against the Bills — and he is the only Patriots wide receiver to top 50 yards against this team across the last two seasons (going 6-70-1 and 9-104-0 last year). Edelman needs a touchdown or a broken play to post a really nice day; but you can lock him into solid involvement this week, giving him a high floor with some paths to ceiling.

On the perimeter, of course, you’re just hoping for something to break your way with Josh Gordon or Phillip Dorsett. Each player has a legitimate role in this offense, so the bet wouldn’t be empty; but the matchup is one of the more difficult they will face this year.

The Patriots are about the worst possible defense for Josh Allen to face, as he will thrive against defenses that can get out of position and/or get over-aggressive, while the veteran, disciplined defense of the Patriots is going to play assignment-sound football throughout. In the middle of his hot streak last year, Allen managed to go only 20 of 41 for 217 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions against the Patriots (adding only 30 yards on the ground). That game was in New England, and Allen has improved, and his cast of weapons is better; but there are no easy matchups against this defense right now. And there are no easy matchups for number one receivers, either — as New England has the pieces in shutdown corner Stephon Gilmore and what is probably the best all-around secondary in the league to slow down just about any top weapon.

With how opponent-specific Brian Daboll has been so far this season — scheming the Bills’ offense each week around the weaknesses of the opponent — it’s difficult to figure what Buffalo might come out with, as the Patriots do not have a major weakness to exploit. It does seem likely, however, that Buffalo will look to keep the ball on the ground early on to both avoid the matchup against the New England secondary and keep Tom Brady off the field — likely mixing in some wide receiver runs with a heavy dose of Frank Gore and hoping to shorten up this game. The problem with trying to use this as actionable information in DFS (besides the simple fact that Gore lacks big-play upside) is the fact that the Patriots are one of the most analytically-savvy teams in the NFL — and from an analytics standpoint, the easiest way to score close to the end zone is on the ground. As such, it should come as no surprise that the Patriots tighten up their entire defense against the run when they get close to the goal line — with this team ranking top three each of the last three seasons in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs. (Three teams allowed more rushing touchdowns to running backs last year alone than the Patriots have allowed the last three years combined. The Broncos’ five rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs through three games this year is one-third of the way to the Patriots’ total number of rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs across the last three years.)

JM’s Interpretation ::

One of the things I like about this week’s slate is that the on-the-surface sexy offenses are, for the most part, not the offenses that set up best this week — which could dilute ownership to an extent as the field pulls toward “safer,” more common names. As such, I expect to mostly leave this game alone (with its safer, more common names — and its low Vegas total, and its excellent defenses).

If going to this game, I would likely leave the Bills alone altogether and let others chase the thin paths to upside that are paired with a fairly low floor — though I do think there is a chance Daboll tries to find ways to get Dawson Knox more involved this week if Tyler Kroft misses once again. Knox would be a large-field-only play for me, but he has enough on-his-own upside to be considered in that format. (You could also take a shot on John Brown, because: upside. But again, the matchup does not play in his favor.)

On the Patriots’ side, it’s viable to try to guess at running back, as you will likely find a good score from one of these players. Edelman is also in a really solid spot — and while he’s priced up for the offense, he also has a locked-in floor that is difficult to find in other spots, especially with this matchup likely to filter extra targets his way over the middle of the field. This is the sort of spot where Edelman could come out of the first one or two drives with three catches for 45 yards already — and if he adds an early touchdown, there wouldn’t be much he would have to do the rest of the way to keep you happy at his price.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 4:05pm Eastern

Bucs (
19.75) at

Rams (
28.75)

Over/Under 48.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Buccaneers Run D
3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per carry
Rams Run O
1st DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D
1st DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Rams Pass O
10th DVOA/18th Yards per pass
Rams Run D
21st DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O
6th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Rams Pass D
11th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O
9th DVOA/8th Yards per pass

:: The Week 4 “Pre-Grid”

:: PLAY FANTASYDRAFT HERE (note on this in the Angles Pod)

Only three teams have thrown more interceptions than the Buccaneers in the early going, and only eight teams have taken more sacks. This week, Tampa will travel across the country to take on a Rams defense that has been excellent early on — ranking fourth in overall DVOA, while ranking fifth against the pass and ninth against the run.

Against the pass ::

The Buccaneers’ passing attack should be looked at through the lens of price this week, as Mike Evans is the fifth highest-priced wide receiver on both DraftKings and FanDuel, and Chris Godwin ranks ninth on FanDuel and 15th on DraftKings — with a much tougher matchup on hand this week than they had last week against the coverage-deficient Giants.

Disappointingly, Evans and Godwin are combining for only 15.7 targets per game so far this year — and while the “score from anywhere on the field” skill set of these two wideouts means that they can produce big scores on lower volume, the paths to a big game get slimmed when these two are not pushing for the double-digit-average we were expecting each of them to carry coming into the season.

This week, the paths to upside are further slimmed by the fact that the Rams have a secondary that does a good job keeping the ball in front of them in an effort to prevent the big play.

We should expect the Bucs to counter the matchup this week by moving their wideouts around in the hopes of mixing up communication and freeing one of these two for a big play. Evans is the better bet for an “all on his own” play, as he ranks sixth in the NFL in average depth of target at 17.1 — and Bruce Arians will surely try to find a couple opportunities to take advantage of the aggressiveness of Marcus Peters with run action and/or a double-move designed to spring Evans deep.

Godwin is likely to be the forgotten man in the DFS community, but he is not the forgotten man in this offense. Although he is being given fewer opportunities for big plays than Evans (requiring a touchdown, a broken play, or a spike in volume to hit in a tough matchup at his price), and although he has target counts on the year of 6 // 9 // 4, there will be at least a couple games in which he sees double-digit looks this year. Based on matchup and to-date usage, Godwin is overpriced this week; but with the Bucs likely forced to chase points as this game moves along, the tributaries that could lead to a big game from Godwin are not entirely dry.

The Bucs’ passing attack (supposedly) wraps up with O.J. Howard, who has been disappointingly under-involved so far this year. Between Cory Littleton, Taylor Rapp, and John Johnson, the Rams have the pieces on defense to slow down tight ends; but they mix and match coverages enough that they sometimes have breakdowns against the position (leading to this team allowing the the third most yards to the position last season, in spite of ranking 10th in receptions allowed).

Against the run ::

The Rams have also tightened up against the run this year after making this a point of emphasis in the offseason — though this is still a team that is going to fundamentally be willing to give up yards on the ground between the 20s if this means more attention dedicated to the pass rush. While it is good to have this information, the information we don’t have is “who the lead back is on the Bucs.” Peyton Barber took over the lead duties in Week 2 after being outperformed by Ronald Jones in Week 1 — then in Week 3, Jones played 23 snaps and Barber played 26. This entire backfield is simply guessing-and-hoping at the moment.

On the Rams ::

Rams writeups could almost be template-driven from week to week, as the only major variable for this team is the matchup. The Rams are going to lean heavily on three-wide sets — with roles broken down as follows ::

>> Cooper Kupp :: SHORT // intermediate

>> Robert Woods :: INTERMEDIATE // deep

>> Brandin Cooks :: intermediate // DEEP

The Buccaneers have improved significantly on defense this year, with a legitimately good run defense anchored by Ndamukong Suh in the three-technique (returning to face his former team), and with a pass defense that has gotten more disciplined and difficult to read as well. With that said: the Bucs have little enough in the way of pass rush — and are still talent-deficient enough on the back end — that the Rams should have no trouble picking them apart.

Kupp is, of course, the safest play of the bunch with target counts on the year of 10 // 9 // 12, and with the most guaranteed red zone role on this offense. As always: he needs touchdowns or a broken play to realize his upside, given his short-area role — but the floor is secure enough (and the red zone usage is real enough) to keep him in the conversation almost every week.

It is often a fool’s errand to try to project Cooks and Woods, but targets so far have gone Cooks :: 6 // 4 // 12, Woods :: 13 // 2 // 8.  (Woods also has five carries for 43 yards.)

From a price-considered standpoint, it is extremely rare that one of these wide receivers posts a game you have to have in order to win — but there is also enough floor on these players, in this offense, for them to be considered in all contest types. (Cooks and Woods are likeliest to reach week-winning upside in a shootout; so if playing one of them in tournaments, it’s best to bring back a piece from the Bucs’ side as well. Kupp can be played independent of game flow expectations.)

In the run game, Todd Gurley quietly played his most snaps of the season last week at 73.4%, and he seems to be comfortably settling in as a 70% to 75% player. So far, this has led to touch counts of only 15 // 19 // 14, but there are going to be games this year in which this touch total rises to 20+ — and we should keep in mind the fact that players like Dalvin Cook and Austin Ekeler have hovered just above the 20-touch mark (and have produced at elite levels). The suddenly difficult matchup plus the limited workload combine to give Gurley a low floor at his price, but the upside is still there for 100 yards and a multi-touchdown game, keeping him in the tournament conversation in spite of his slow start to the year.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Unlike last week, the late games give us less to be excited about than the early games — with this spot representing one of only two games that will attract much attention at all (and with plenty of reasons for us to be cautious at the high prices at which we’ll have to take our plays from this game). Nothing in this spot shapes up as a core-level play for me, as the Bucs have a really tough matchup traveling across the country to take on the ascending defense of Wade Phillips’ Rams, while the Rams’ offense is unpredictable enough in where spiked scores will come from that they are best to leave alone in cash games (and I’ll likely do the same in tighter builds). With that said: the matchup is great for the Rams through the air, and we should see one or two strong scores emerge from this side of the ball. It isn’t crazy in tournaments to bet on the Rams’ offense in this matchup and hope you guess right on where the spiked week will come from; and if you feel like betting on talent winning out over matchup, it also isn’t crazy to bring that back on the other side with a pass game piece from the Bucs.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 4:05pm Eastern

Hawks (
26.75) at

Cards (
21.25)

Over/Under 48.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Seahawks Run D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O
2nd DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O
18th DVOA/15th Yards per pass
Cardinals Run D
10th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
8th DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D
10th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards per pass

:: The Week 4 “Pre-Grid”

:: PLAY FANTASYDRAFT HERE (note on this in the Angles Pod)

With teams looking to control the game on the ground against the pace-up Cardinals, Arizona is currently facing the eighth-highest opponent rush play rate in the NFL. But if we take away the 76-yard touchdown run Christian McCaffrey had against this defense last week, they have allowed an awesome-low 3.35 yards per carry to running backs on the year. As noted last week: all indications on film point to the Cardinals being aware that opponents want to control the game on the ground, and to them selling out to stop the run and force teams into a faster-paced, pass-heavy matchup instead.

As always, we should look for Seattle to try to establish the run early in this game — but with this team ranking 30th in adjusted line yards in the early going, and with Arizona focusing so heavily on stopping the run, it’s a sneaky-difficult spot for Chris Carson and this ground attack.

While the run game has struggled for Seattle in the early going, Russell Wilson has been masterful — averaging 300.3 passing yards per game while posting a 119.6 quarterback rating, a 71.4% completion rate, and seven touchdowns against no interceptions. Russ against the Cardinals’ vanilla zone defense is one of the biggest mismatches on the slate…with the only potential “bigger mismatch” being Brian Schottenheimer vs the good sense to unleash his best weapon. Russ threw the ball 35 and 50 times when chasing points the last two weeks, but Russ topped 31 attempts in only one of his final 14 games last year (and he had 26 or fewer pass attempts in nine of those 14 games). With Arizona allowing 70.3 opponent plays per game (aided slightly by overtime in Week 1, but also dropped by the likely-to-be-an-outlier 59 plays the Panthers ran in this matchup last week), and with the Cardinals focusing so heavily on stopping the run, Russ is likely to reach at least 30 attempts — and while we would prefer to see more than that for true, slate-breaking ceiling, we’ll gladly take whatever volume we can get in this spot.

Through three weeks, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf have combined for over 70% of Seattle’s air yards (with Metcalf seeing more work downfield — an average depth of target of 18.1, compared to 11.8 for Lockett — but with Lockett seeing more targets, leading to a “percentage share of team air yards” split of only 36.07% to Metcalf and 34.59% to Lockett). Lockett is the high-floor, high-ceiling play, as his shorter routes and higher targets raise his floor, while he can still score from anywhere on the field and will be given scoring looks. Metcalf carries a lower floor, but we have not yet seen a ceiling game from him, and he should post a couple of slate-breakers this year.

A matchup against Arizona cannot come and go without tight ends being discussed, as Arizona has been dunked on by Hock // Andrews // Olsen through the first three weeks — allowing 68 more yards and two more touchdowns to the position than any other team. Will Dissly played only 45 of 82 snaps for the Seahawks last week and was in on 28 of 61 pass routes — but Nick Vannett (who played 26 snaps and ran 29 pass routes) has been traded to the Steelers, and no other tight ends have seen snaps for the Seahawks this year. It is painfully obvious on film that tight end coverage is a major weakness for this Cardinals team, and opponents will continue scheming for this until the Cardinals prove they can stop it. Dissly should be mega-chalk this week, but the Seahawks have given 4 // 6 // 9 targets to tight ends (20% // 17.1% // 18% of targets per game), and a 30-attempt game from Russ should net anywhere from five to eight targets for Dissly in this great matchup. He costs 9% of the salary cap on FanDuel (compared to 11.3% for Engram and 12.7% for Kelce), but on DraftKings he costs only 7.4%, and on FantasyDraft he’s sitting at 6.8%.

On the Cardinals side: Kyler Murray failed to top 300 passing yards for the first time in his young career last week; and if you watched Arizona’s Week 3 game, you saw a team that was completely unable to attack downfield against the Panthers’ new “bolt” package on defense. But even in that game — with eight sacks taken behind a bad offensive line (and with Kyler still learning that NFL defenders are fast, and he can’t just run backward to escape pressure) — Kyler still posted 59 rushing yards and put up yet another solid DFS score.

Seattle’s defense is built to stop the run and get after the quarterback with limited blitzes — playing zone and keeping the ball in front of them, and forcing opponents to march the entire field. The Cardinals really aren’t trying to run the ball right now anyway, and are happy to “use the pass as the run,” which makes this a nice matchup for their approach. We should see a few stalled drives from this offense from sacks; but we should also see another cascade of short, quick passes to Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk — which Seattle will be happy to allow as they look to A) stall drives with their pass rush, and B) prevent big plays.

Through three games, Fitz has 31 targets and Kirk has 32 — putting each of these two in the top seven in the NFL, and making them by far the highest-targeted duo in the league. Per-game target counts between these two have gone 25 // 19 // 19, and even with only two touchdowns between them so far, they have produced as one of the highest average point-per-dollar pairs in the league (with Fitz also producing as one of the highest average point-per-dollar individuals, as he has scored both touchdowns so far). These two are solid once again as a pair, and they can be targeted individually as well. Fitz has been the preferred red zone target so far, while Kirk has more schemed looks downfield.

A David Johnson bet this week is a bet on yards through the air and/or touchdowns, as the Cardinals are only giving the run game a passing glance, and the matchup sets up poorly for success on the ground. Johnson has yet to produce an elite game, but he does have a game of seven targets and another game of nine targets, making him a decent bet to hit big one of these weeks.

Damiere Byrd played 72 out of 75 snaps last week as the Cardinals number three receiver and has target counts of 7 // 7 // 4. He has a short-area role, but again: he can score from anywhere — and at only 6.6% of the salary cap on DraftKings, he’s an interesting “floor” piece with paths to upside once again.

JM’s Interpretation ::

This game is loaded with potential options, as Russ // Lockett // Dissly // Kyler // Fitz // Kirk can all have Tier 1 cases made for them, while Byrd can have a Tier 2 case made on DraftKings and Metcalf (plus, deeper down, Carson and DJ) can be considered in Tier 3. As always when the Cardinals take the field, there are going to be lots of total plays, and there will be lots of passing. If the Cardinals can bounce back this week to pick up a few more chunk gains (something this matchup sets up well for), they could do enough to keep the Seahawks aggressive — and if we land on that scenario (a “Russ unleashed” scenario), this game could easily turn into one of the higher-scoring contests on the slate. With home games for the Cardinals producing 54 and 58 total points so far, this game is worth paying attention to in all contest types.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 4:25pm Eastern

Vikings (
18.5) at

Bears (
19.5)

Over/Under 38.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Vikings Run D
27th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O
28th DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D
8th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O
24th DVOA/25th Yards per pass
Bears Run D
11th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O
2nd DVOA/6th Yards per carry
Bears Pass D
2nd DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O
20th DVOA/22nd Yards per pass

:: The Week 4 “Pre-Grid”

:: PLAY FANTASYDRAFT HERE (note on this in the Angles Pod)

The last four meetings between these two teams — starting with the most recent — have produced combined point totals of 34 // 45 // 33 // 37. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway:

This game should be a defensive slug-fest — and given that the Bears spread the ball around so heavily and the Vikings are unlikely to post a big game against the Bears, you could probably get away with just ignoring this game completely. One important angle to consider before you move on, however:

The Vikings have had an easy time running the ball so far this season — but the Bears are as difficult of a run matchup as a team can run into. Last year was last year, of course; but it is still very much worth noting that Kirk Cousins had 46 and 33 pass attempts in his two games against the Bears last season, while Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray combined for 13 carries in each game. Adam Thielen saw 12 and four targets in those two games. Stefon Diggs saw 18 and 10.

While the Vikings obviously don’t have many total air yards on the year, their distribution has remained more concentrated than any team in the league — with Thielen racking up 48.26% of the Vikings’ air yards so far (which leads the NFL), and with Diggs ranking eighth in the league with 41.51% of Minnesota’s air yards. If Cousins has to throw the ball 35 times in this spot (which is likely, as long as the Vikings keep their drives going long enough to run a comfortable number of plays), Thielen and Diggs should easily combine for 15 to 18 of those looks with upside for more (these two have 44.4% of the targets on this team so far) — while soaking up all the pass game upside on this team. There is a chance for the Bears pass rush to completely disrupt Cousins, and scoring expectations in this game as a whole are low; but it is very viable in tournaments to chase the upside on these pieces.

The only other piece worth talking about on this side of the ball (in this incredibly concentrated attack) is Cook. With his price tag rising and the matchup so difficult, you’re really just “hoping for the best” if you take him this week; but he’ll be on the field plenty and has a floor of at least 17 or 18 touches even if game flow (due to score, or due to potential futility on the ground) works against him. He is a candidate to go over-owned for his likeliest range of outcomes as people try to figure out where to spend their salary this week; but his ability to score from anywhere on the field still keeps him in the conversation.

Once price is factored in, the Bears offense has produced only one “have to have it” score this year (and in fact, they have produced only two truly startable scores this year, with salary factored in) — and the fact that this “have to have it” game came from Taylor Gabriel says more about this spread-the-wealth offense than it does about Gabriel’s ability to bankably repeat that performance.

This offense leans on Allen Robinson as the main piece (12th in the NFL in percentage share of team air yards), while spreading the ball around behind him enough that you know a few big scores will emerge throughout the year…but you also know that you won’t be able to know where they’ll come from. Against one of the toughest defenses in the NFL — in what should be a low-scoring spot — the best approach here is to either A) avoid completely, or B) play a scenario that calls for this game turning into a higher-scoring affair than anticipated, and trying to capture a big wide receiver score from Minnesota or one or two “hope you guess right” scores from the Bears. Xavier Rhodes should be on Robinson — but while he’s a solid player, he hasn’t been a shutdown force for a couple years (so far this year: 12 receptions allowed on 14 targets, with a 105.4 passer rating on passes thrown in his direction — per PFF). You could bet on Robinson; or you could bet on A-Rob being slowed and the Bears having to go somewhere else. All of this is thin, of course — against a Minnesota defense that is among the best in football vs the wide receiver position.

JM’s Interpretation ::

As noted at the top of this game: you could leave this game alone altogether, and a good 80% of the time you wouldn’t even notice.

Among the remaining “20% of the time,” half would prove to be big, but unpredictable scores; and the remaining times would likely yield a big price-considered day from Thielen and/or Diggs. The latter two pieces are the only I’m likely to have interest in myself — and at this point in the week, those are looking like large-field-only plays for me this week.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 4:25pm Eastern

Jaguars (
17.25) at

Broncos (
19.75)

Over/Under 37.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Jaguars Run D
22nd DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O
20th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
32nd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Broncos Pass O
31st DVOA/26th Yards per pass
Broncos Run D
5th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
17th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Broncos Pass D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
21st DVOA/19th Yards per pass

:: The Week 4 “Pre-Grid”

:: PLAY FANTASYDRAFT HERE (note on this in the Angles Pod)

Only the Vikings // Bears has a lower game total than this game in Denver between the Jaguars and the Broncos — but while that NFC North game is about the defenses (i.e., the offenses in that game are still explosive enough that big outlier games could happen), the low total in this game is as much about the offenses as it is about the defenses. On a slate this size, it is +EV in general to just ignore a game like this — and you could get away with doing that and call your research complete. But just because games like this are +EV to just ignore, that doesn’t mean all the plays in this game are guaranteed to be -EV. This is a game to avoid in tighter builds (it’s just really tough for slate-breaking upside to occur), but because this game is so obviously easy to avoid, ownership should drop, and that means that if a play does go big, ownership will be low. This creates an interesting setup: where the only reason to target anything from this game would be to try to find sneaky, slate-breaking upside; and so, we’ll focus our exploration here on plays that could provide sneaky, slate-breaking upside.

Among full-time starters in the NFL this year, only Jacoby Brissett has a shorter average intended air yards than Joe Flacco — which means that your best bet for finding “slate-breaking upside” on this side of the ball is a player who can do it all on his own.

As of this writeup, we don’t know if Jalen Ramsey will play this week (it seems he will be on the team — but, you know: baby being born; back pain; flu-like symptoms; just all sorts of reasons why Ramsey can’t be out there with the team he doesn’t want to play for), but we do know that the Broncos move Sanders around enough that — if taking on a player in a bad matchup in the hopes of catching slate-breaking upside — he’ll be given some opportunities to hit. Sanders has target counts on the year of 7 // 13 // 4, and if he runs into one of his 10-target games here, he’ll have an outside shot at a solid game, with an outlier shot at a big game.

The other main piece in the Broncos passing attack has been Courtland Sutton, who has target counts on the year of 8 // 7 // 8, with more of a downfield role than Sanders (Sutton has an aDOT of 11.7, to 9.3 for Sanders). Sutton doesn’t match up all that well with the technique-savvy play of the Jags’ perimeter corners, but the work is there, the big-play upside is there, and ownership should be low.

If Royce Freeman misses this week or is hobbled, Phillip Lindsay would become interesting again even in a tough matchup — though even then, he may not become as interesting as he was last week while sharing time with Freeman, as Jacksonville just doesn’t allow much production of any kind. They are “weakest” against running backs, and Lindsay only needs one play to make his day. If Freeman plays, it seems likely that last week’s big game from Lindsay will still lead to higher ownership than he had at a lower price last week — in which case, it’s unlikely he would prove to be +EV in this spot. But on this ugly running back slate, it at least wouldn’t be crazy to pull the trigger and hope you run into one of his bigger games.

On the Jaguars’ side, there are two main players who have a shot at popping off.

The first is Leonard Fournette, because he is going to get almost every running back touch against a Broncos team that has allowed the most running back rushing touchdowns in the league this year. Jacksonville’s run game has looked one-dimensional and unexciting so far, and the Broncos have the personnel to be good against the run. But in spite of “having the personnel,” Denver has been mediocre to begin this year, and they were attackable last season as well. On this ugly running back weekend — and with four or more receptions in every game so far (target counts of 6 // 6 // 8) — Fournette is a more attractive play than we would really like, given how ugly this game is, and how easily things could go wrong. While Fournette is not underpriced for his production to date, he is underpriced for his role (touch counts of 17 // 19 // 21), making him a name to keep in mind.

The other player with a noteworthy shot at popping off for a big game is D.J. Chark — who is likely to see plenty of Chris Harris…but who is also the Jacksonville wide receiver likeliest to post a big enough game for anyone to notice they didn’t have him. With Gardner Minshew focusing on the short areas of the field and a matchup against a sure-to-improve Broncos defense on hand, I likely won’t have any pieces from this Jaguars passing attack; but Chark would be the odds-on favorite to post the sort of score you would have to have from this team.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Outside of possibly closing my eyes and leaning on Fournette’s volume in tighter builds, everything in this game is in the “deeper tourney only” conversation for me — and even with that, this game won’t be a heavy focus for me. But Manny Sanders and — to a lesser extent — Sutton and Lindsay could be in the conversation this week for large-field play, with Chark a long-shot dart with deep-outside shot at a big game as well.


Kickoff Sunday, Sep 29th 8:20pm Eastern

Cowboys (
25) at

Saints (
22.5)

Over/Under 47.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Cowboys Run D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O
12th DVOA/14th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D
21st DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Saints Pass O
14th DVOA/9th Yards per pass
Saints Run D
4th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O
18th DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Saints Pass D
15th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O
22nd DVOA/1st Yards per pass

>>>> More Showdown Cash Game thoughts added by Xandamere this week. If you’re still trying to turn this edge to your favor, some of the thoughts here will be really valuable. (Note: As this is part of the Mastering Showdowns course, it is available only to Annual subs. Apologies to the Weeklys out there!)

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

At first glance I thought the Over/Under for this game seemed low at just 47 with the Cowboys roughly field goal favorites, but the more I think about it the more it makes sense. Even though this game is at the Superdome, both teams boast strong defenses and the Saints, especially, can really slow the game down.

The Saints will certainly try to slow things down and lean on their run game (they are highly unlikely to get aggressive with Teddy Bridgewater unless the Cowboys jump out to a big early lead and force them to do so). Last week, without Drew Brees and in a run-heavy game in which they led for the duration, Alvin Kamara outsnapped Latavius Murray 51 to 12 and outtouched him 26 to 2. I think it’s fair to assess here that the Saints believe that, without Brees, leaning on Kamara gives them the best chance to win (and they’re right). The matchup isn’t ideal, but Kamara should see 20+ touches again here with plenty of work in the short passing game. Murray may see a few more touches here but, even priced down, he’s a touchdown-or-bust option unless you want to bet that last week’s usage was a total fluke.

The Saints’ passing game under Bridgewater is ugly. Teddy himself did fine, leading two scoring drives and not turning the ball over while completing over 70% of his passes, but he also only averaged 6.6 yards per attempt. Michael Thomas saw seven targets, leading the receiving corps, but MT is always a low-aDOT guy to begin with, and it’s reaching cripplingly-low levels with Bridgewater under center. He’s come down in price a bit from his normal levels, but his ceiling is lower as well. He would need broken plays, multiple touchdowns, or massive volume in order to smash. The rest of the Saints’ pass game seems like it’s operating on a wing and a prayer with Bridgewater. Ted Ginn was the only other receiver to see more than two targets last week, with five, but a deep threat with a QB who doesn’t throw deep is an awfully risky play (especially against a Cowboys defense set up well to limit deep passing). Behind those two you’re looking at scraps; Jared Cook was on the field for 76% of the snaps and has a good matchup, so there’s some upside here with a scary-low floor. Austin Carr seems to have the WR3 role locked up but only played about half the snaps last week as the Saints went with more heavy personnel sets to support their run game. Carr is stone minimum but has a floor of zero (and, keep in mind that even for a minimum price guy, you still generally need at least 10 or so points to make a player tourney-viable).

The Cowboys bring us more attractive plays to think about. Ezekiel Elliott only saw 67% of the snaps last week to go along with 22 touches, but that was in a blowout win with Tony Pollard getting some volume late in the game. As long as the game is competitive, Zeke is going to be out there, albeit in a very difficult matchup. Volume and a three-down role keeps his ceiling intact but his floor is lower than usual here.

The Saints are much more vulnerable in the air than on the ground, as Deshaun Watson, Jared Goff, and Russell Wilson have eviscerated them so far this year. Amari Cooper is an elite play on this slate and I might even consider him safer than Zeke in this matchup, as Marshon Lattimore has been getting blown up so far and Amari put up two touchdowns against tougher shadow coverage last week. Randall Cobb is overpriced for his role at $7k but, I suppose, fairly safe. If you’re looking at other Cowboys receivers, Devin Smith looks like a great value at $5,200. He saw more targets and air yards than Cobb last week, and he carries more upside as a perimeter receiver. If Lattimore does manage to stifle Amari, look for Devin Smith to become the beneficiary. Finally, the Cowboys’ tight end situation is mostly a fantasy bust — neither Jason Witten nor Blake Jarwin has seen more than four targets in a game this year, and they’ll both disappoint you without a touchdown. For some reason, Witten is over 5x more expensive than Jarwin, so I’ll lean in the latter direction if looking for a value play.

Overall, I want to note that this slate is short on value. The guys priced cheaper than $5k are backup RBs, Jared Cook, Ted Ginn, Blake Jarwin, and a smattering of other backup players. This means that the defenses and kickers are more in play than they are in most slates, as the odds of these various value plays outscoring them are lower than usual.

The likeliest way for this game to play out is the Saints trying to control the clock with a ground and short-pass focused game. The Cowboys should eventually break it open somewhat with their new pass-heavy play action-focused offense. Where the game goes from here will hinge on if the Cowboys can build a big enough lead to force the Saints to really open up the playbook and put the game in Bridgewater’s hands — it’s a scary thought, but that’s the path to more upside for any Saints player not named Kamara. If the game stays close, it’s hard to see any Saints beyond Kamara and Will Lutz being valuable, but if the Cowboys go up by a couple of scores we could see enough volume for MT to bust out and perhaps even some deeper shots to Ginn.

Other ways the game could play out:

  • The Cowboys could be more successful on the ground than we expect. The Saints have a strong run defense on paper but have surrendered almost 5 YPC so far on the season, so perhaps the Cowboys can find success here.
  • I don’t really expect the Cowboys to get trucked here, but every year teams go on the road and inexplicably fail in good spots. Saints onslaughts should be very, very low owned here and are worth exploring some exposure to if you’re multi-entering.
  • Kamara is, hands down, going to be the highest owned player on the Saints, while I expect the Cowboys ownership will focus on the pass game. Builds that suppose an inversion of this scoring with the Saints scoring in the air and the Cowboys on the ground should be pretty uncommon.

My favorite captains are Cooper and Kamara, in that order, but they’re also two of the most expensive plays on the slate. I think Devin Smith is also an intriguing captain choice — he already has a 74 yard touchdown on the year and has plenty of ceiling, while allowing you to afford more of the studs.

Some groups to consider:

  • At most 1 defense
  • At most 1 kicker (I’m even torn on this one — generally it’s a rule I follow, but the value on this slate is thin, so I might consider waiving this rule on at least some of my lineups)
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
  • Pair captain receivers with their QB
  • At most 1 Cowboys TE
  • Pair Michael Thomas with at least 1 of Zeke, Amari, or Smith (MT is unlikely to have a big game unless the Cowboys score, so we want exposure to Cowboys who are likely to put up points in MT lineups)

JM’s Original Notes on this game for those building Thursday-to-Monday rosters ::

  • This game carries a low-for-these-teams mid-week Over/Under of 47.0, with neither team carrying a Vegas-implied team total north of 25.0; Vegas is giving credit to the defenses; but moreover, Vegas is giving credit to Sean Payton and his ability to somewhat control this game when the Saints have the ball
  • The Saints are very comfortable playing Marshon Lattimore in man coverage against an opponent’s top weapon (oftentimes: too comfortable for their own good); and while Lattimore occasionally flashes with a shut-down performance, this would be a good spot for Amari far more often than not if we played out this slate a hundred times
  • The run matchup is difficult for both Zeke and Kamara, though Kamara should be funneled targets, both by the Cowboys defense and by Payton’s play calling
  • On a 15-game slate, everything in the Saints passing attack (with Bridgewater, in a tough matchup) is completely speculative
  • Given how ugly running back is on this slate, Kamara stands out on the Thursday-to-Monday; he would likely find his way into Tier 1 if this game were on the Main Slate
  • Amari is a solid Tier 1 option if paying up at wide receiver, with only a few paths to a disappointing game, and with numerous paths to a big score
  • Zeke would be more in line with CMC this week: workload keeps him in the monster-ceiling conversation, but there are fewer paths to a big game this week than normal
  • Dak is a solid QB bet again; below guys like Mahomes // Lamar (and possibly Russ // Kyler), but with plenty of paths to the top score on the slate

Advanced Showdowns

Xandamere’s Advanced Showdown Course is now available through OWS :: Marketplace! This is his tournament course for Showdowns; and given the tangible edge in this contest type, it should pay itself off pretty quickly(!).


Kickoff Monday, Sep 30th 8:15pm Eastern

Bengals (
21) at

Steelers (
24)

Over/Under 45.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bengals Run D
23rd DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
14th DVOA/11th Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
16th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
12th DVOA/23rd Yards per pass
Steelers Run D
1st DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
27th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
8th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
26th DVOA/13th Yards per pass

>>>> More Showdown Cash Game thoughts added by Xandamere this week. If you’re still trying to turn this edge to your favor, some of the thoughts here will be really valuable. (Note: As this is part of the Mastering Showdowns course, it is available only to Annual subs. Apologies to the Weeklys out there!)

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

This game opened at 43.5 and has been bet up to 45 with the Steelers dropping from 4.5 to 3.5 point favorites (i.e., the money’s coming in on the Bengals). And it’s easy to see why, as the Bengals have actually been a somewhat competent on offense this season — at least in the passing game — with Andy Dalton averaging 22.2 DK points per game and attempting no fewer than 36 passes. 

The Steelers look awfully different under Mason Rudolph compared to Big Ben. Last week they attempted to lean on the run, but the 49ers got out to a lead and it just went south from there. The 49ers stacked the box and dared Pittsburgh to win with Rudolph, and he wasn’t able to make it happen, managing an abysmal 52% completion rate despite focusing heavily on short passes with an anemic 6.4 yards per attempt (to be fair, he did hook up with both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson on long TDs late in the game). The Bengals D is not the 49ers D, and the Steelers should be on team #Establishtherun in this game, and it seems likely that Cincinnati will try to mimic what San Francisco did so successfully. If Rudolph can make them pay for it, that will open up the run game; but otherwise, James Conner could be in for a tough evening. All that said: Conner has a lock on this backfield and he’s a home favorite with solid pass game work. Most of the time, that would make him one of the strongest plays on the slate, but the Bengals can throw enough of a wrench in things to at least cast some doubts.

In the pass game, we have a case of a stoppable force (Rudolph) meeting a movable object (the Bengals secondary). JuJu, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson played almost every snap last week and should do so again here, with a fairly even distribution of targets. In the long run we can expect JuJu to own the largest share of targets, of course, but James Washington has the college and preseason connection with Rudolph while Johnson connected for a touchdown last week. JuJu is the safest, while both Johnson and Washington offer reasonable ceiling and scary floor. The tight end situation is a bit of a mess as we don’t know if Vance McDonald will be able to play, and behind him is someone named Zach Gentry and a just-acquired Nick Vannett. If McDonald is out, this is a pretty easy situation to stay away from unless you’re chasing a fluke play. 

The Bengals’ run game is, frustratingly, not just the Joe Mixon show as