Week 5 Matchups

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WEEK 4 ROSTER BREAKDOWN

Point Total: 200.68

(Jump to Games)

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

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

28.78 – Andy Dalton
25.60 – Giovani Bernard
44.10 – Alvin Kamara
24.00 – Tyler Boyd
14.00 – Geronimo Allison
13.40 – Jarvis Landry
11.10 – Jimmy Graham
25.70 – Sterling Shepard
14.00 – Bears

Results :: This team was good for cashing in all tourneys of $333 or lower. Somehow, it fell shy in most double-ups. It also fell just shy in the $4,444 tourney, leading to a net loss, in spite of the solid results.

What I Wrote Before Kickoff:

I’m typing this week’s roster breakdown immediately after making some final changes to my roster — moving up from Mike Williams to Geronimo Allison, and moving up from Eric Ebron to Jimmy Graham. Typing that almost feels like I’m typing a death sentence…but with Randall Cobb out for the Packers — and with Buffalo most attackable over the middle — there are a lot of targets to go around. There is a chance that Marquez Valdes-Scantling soaks up most of Cobb’s looks, and I heavily played around with the idea of using MVS // Michael Thomas over Allison // Landry. I decided to lock in guaranteed points, however, in order to keep intact what I feel is a pretty bulletproof lineup. Much like the Steelers/Mahomes slate, I’m giving this roster an 80% shot at a profitable weekend, which is as high as you can reasonably go. I’ll feel good about this week regardless of how Sunday plays out.

All along this week, I was locked onto Gio, Kamara, and Shepard. No surprises there; there was a 0% chance my roster would be without this core.

I started the week wanting to pair Shepard and OBJ together and I was making sacrifices in other spots to get there; but as I continued to toy around with roster construction, I realized I needed to be flexible at this high-priced pass catcher spot. I liked Michael Thomas, OBJ, Mike Evans, Jarvis Landry, and Rob Gronkowski in this range, giving me plenty of flexibility to work things around in other spots and see where I landed up here.

Dalton was a natural fit on this roster, as the most underpriced, high-floor, high-upside option on the slate. I messed around with some Rivers and Brees teams, but it just made so much sense to use the savings on Dalton, as that extra money was more valuable in other spots.

I had Boyd slightly behind Mike Williams throughout the week, but it’s very close, and with Dalton on the roster, Boyd makes the cut.

Coming into Sunday morning, of course, Williams had a spot as well — but the absence of Randall Cobb led me to pivot up to Allison.

Heading into Sunday, it was Evans // Mike Williams // Ebron // Seahawks. This became Landry // Allison // Jimmy Graham // Bears.

As always, this roster is unsurprising for anyone who hung out on the site last week, with six Tier 1 guys, plus Allison, Graham, and the Bears. Allison essentially became Tier 1 for me with the Cobb news, as he replaced another Tier 1 guy in Williams. The only Tier 1 tight ends for me were Gronk and Ertz, but the Cobb absence gave Graham a slight bump for me over Ebron and Eifert, allowing me to essentially max out the amount of expected floor and ceiling I could fit on a single roster by taking a slight perceived downgrade from the Seahawks to the Bears.

In all, this has been my sharpest week of the season, and I feel tremendous about my process — with a sharp picture of the slate, and with no stones unturned. If I fall short of profit, it will likely be due to some of the late moves, but I’m okay with that. I took on a little more guesswork for a little more upside, which is always a fine trade to make.


There are a number of exciting, high-scoring games on the weekend that are going to draw a ton of DFS attention. On weeks like these, there are a couple key things we typically see:

1) The winning rosters on weekends such as these tend to have monster scores. To put that another way: when you build your rosters this week, make sure you keep upside in mind, as this is not the sort of week in which a moderate score is likely to take down any big payouts.

2) The chalky rosters on weekends such as these tend to land on a few huge outings, while also landing on a few duds. This gives us a path to the top of the leaderboards, as “all we have to do” is land on the chalky players who hit, while avoiding the chalky players who miss. Simple…right?

If you think in terms of “what the field is doing,” and try to outmaneuver them by picking and choosing which chalky players you should avoid, you are going to have a more difficult time pulling off the sort of roster you will need to pull off this week. As always: The best way to make sure you “land on the chalky players who hit” while “avoiding the chalky players who miss” is by thinking for yourself. If you are able to this week, hold off on even looking at ownership projections until deeper into the weekend, when you have already done all of your research, and have narrowed things down to the players you like the most (with a good idea of what your roster will look like). When you are able to do this, you will usually find — by the time you look at ownership projections — that you are landing on a few chalky players and a few non-chalky players without even trying.

One final note as we head into the weekend:

Remember: the goal in DFS is not to win every weekend! That should never be the goal…because it is impossible to do — and trying to do so will lead to a too-safe approach that prevents you from ever hitting for a truly big payout. Instead, the goal is to think for yourself, to take what you feel are some of the best plays on the weekend, and to understand that it only takes one weekend to make your entire year.

Every weekend has a chance to be that “one huge weekend.”

Put in the time this week — leaving nothing on the table, and putting yourself in the best possible position for a season-making slate: trusting the research, thinking for yourself, rostering great plays from top to bottom, and knowing that this is going to lead to profit over time.

With that, let’s get started!

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UPDATES MADE:

Packers // Lions Injury Updates (Oct. 6)

Leonard Fournette Set To Miss (Oct. 6)

Joe Mixon May Not Be A Workhorse (Oct. 6)

Dalvin Cook On The Wrong Side Of Questionable (Oct. 6)


Kickoff Thursday, Oct 4th 8:20pm Eastern

Colts (
19.75) at

Patriots (
30.25)

Over/Under 50.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Colts Run D
6th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O
27th DVOA/25th Yards per pass
Patriots Run D
18th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
22nd DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D
17th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
15th DVOA/10th Yards per pass

COLTS // PATRIOTS OVERVIEW

The Patriots enter this game with an ultra-aggressive team total of 30.75, on a short week, with a potentially hobbled Rob Gronkowski. But while this total leaps off the page at first glance, we would realistically have called anything shy of this a “low total,” making this a sharp line — and a fair expectation for this game.

There are a lot of things the Patriots will be able to do against the Colts’ upstart defense, and the big question on the other side of the ball will be whether or not the Colts are able to keep pace without their best offensive player in T.Y. Hilton. The Colts are dealing with a slew of injuries in other areas on their roster, making this a spot in which A) we can expect the Pats to exploit some of these weaknesses, and B) we can expect the Colts to turn to a pass-heavy game plan in order to keep pace.

COLTS PASS OFFENSE

A pass-heavy game plan will be nothing new for the Colts, as they currently rank second in the NFL in passing play percentage, at 71%. To put that number further into perspective: Miami led the NFL in passing play percentage in 2017, at 63.8%. With a poor offensive line and no run game to speak of, Indy is relying on short, quick passes in lieu of a run game — though last week, for the first time this season, Indy started getting their deep ball going as well.

The starting point for this offense is Andrew Luck, who still does not look right, in spite of some glossy stat lines. In Week 4, his short-area ball placement was concerning, with plenty of passes falling short of receivers or going behind receivers — which serves as a reminder that Luck has missed a ton of football, and is still settling back into his rhythm. We should be able to expect him to continue improving each week, but this week will be a difficult task with no T.Y. Hilton, who currently accounts for almost 30% of the Colts’ air yards this season.

In addition to Luck’s woes as a passer, he dealt with a number of soft drops from his receivers — with Eric Ebron and Zach Pascal especially standing out in this area. This will be a difficult spot for Indy from an efficiency standpoint.

With all of that out of the way, volume should be a big plus for this offense. We cannot expect them to run 91 plays every week, of course; but coming into last week, they did rank eighth in the NFL in plays per drive, and the pass-heavy nature of this attack should still lead to around 45 pass attempts this week — a lofty projection, but likely not far off from what the reality will prove to be. The Patriots quietly rank fifth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per pass attempt, and it’s not as if the Colts can really test them downfield without Hilton; but Luck is good enough to sustain drives and rack up PPR and half-PPR points for his pass catchers.

Without Hilton, the work on this passing attack should be spread fairly evenly among Eric Ebron (Week 4: 83.5% snap rate; 10 targets), Ryan Grant (79.1% snap rate; seven targets), Chester Rogers (80.2% snap rate; 11 targets), Nyheim Hines (68.1% snap rate; 11 targets), and Zach Pascal (49.5% snap rate; 10 targets).

As those numbers show: the ball gets spread around fairly evenly in this offense, and that should remain the case with Hilton out of action.

Ebron is being used almost exclusively as a receiver, with 50 snaps in the slot last week (and another six out wide), compared to only 20 inline. He has 21.1% of the team’s air yards to date and should remain a reliable volume piece.

Grant is used as a possession receiver and will likely need a touchdown or two in order to go for ceiling, against a Patriots team that tackles well, but the targets should be there for respectable floor.

Rogers saw his route tree expand last week, seeing a pair of targets more than 20 yards downfield, after working almost exclusively within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage through the first three weeks (he did still have nine targets within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage last week, including a couple behind the line of scrimmage). This actually gives him some decent floor/ceiling, as the short-area targets should be locked in for PPR and half-PPR points, while the downfield looks will provide opportunities for spiked production.

Pascal came closest to taking over the Hilton role last week during the time Hilton missed, and the touchdown pass he caught was on a play designed to go to him — speaking to the faith this coaching staff has in his abilities. As a route-runner and player, he looked solid.

Hines is a true force as a mismatch weapon, with the way the Colts are using him out of the backfield and out wide as a multi-purpose back. He has exactly four or five carries every game, to go with target counts of nine, one, five, and 11. With Hilton out and the Colts likely to fall behind in this one by the second half, Hines should be in line for around eight looks once again.

With so many guys involved, volume is obviously a concern if things in this game turn poorly, and we will need the Colts to sustain drives in order for all these guys to perform; but with the Patriots likely to take a lead and the Colts missing Hilton, at least four of those guys could top nine FanDuel points and 12 DraftKings points, and at least a couple of them should spike for really nice scores.

Jordan Wilkins continues to operate as an ineffective two-down thumper, and his ability to read blocks still needs serious work (he set up Pascal’s touchdown this last week when he turned upfield too quickly and failed to bounce his run outside for what should have been an easy score). As we saw on Monday night with Royce Freeman: a guy like this can post a nice game with a score…but he’ll need a score.

(Note: Marlon Mack will not play in this game. Give the biggest boost to Hines, with locked-in work in the pass-catching role.)

The big wrinkle in this spot — which makes all of these guys scarier than they otherwise would be — is the return of Marlon Mack. Mack could soak up as many as 20 to 40 snaps of his own, with six to eight runs and maybe even six to eight targets. This could lower the target expectations on all the guys above. The Colts will want to get the ball into Mack’s hands; but the same can be said of Hines, at this point, so I don’t expect him to be as directly impacted by Mack’s return as their position designations would imply. Mack should take targets away from the rest of the team in a “group effort” manner. If Luck throws 45 times, a fair expectation for targets would look something like this:

Eight :: Ebron
Seven :: Rogers
Seven :: Pascal
Seven :: Hines
Six :: Grant
Five :: Mack

With the remaining five targets spread across random players from there (Marcus Johnson soaked up three targets last week, and will likely see another two or three here).

Those are median projections, and could swing either way, but that’s a safe expectation heading in.

PATRIOTS PASS OFFENSE

Sure enough, the Colts’ upstart zone defense was shown to be exploitable downfield last week against DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Deshaun Watson, and the dangerous aerial attack of the Texans — and a big key last week was Watson’s ability to move around and avoid pressure while his receivers found open space. While Tom Brady does not have Watson’s mobility, he is able to manipulate the pocket as well as any quarterback in football, and his offensive line entered last week ranked seventh in adjusted sack rate, compared to 28th for Houston. This should allow the Patriots’ receivers to find open space throughout the game.

The key to the Pats’ passing attack will be the short areas of the field, where Julian Edelman will return to immediately regain his underneath role that should lead to around eight to 11 targets week in and week out. Across his last 39 games (2014 through 2016), Edelman has only four 100-yard games; and while he had an outlier seven-touchdown season in 2015 (in only nine games played), he totaled only four touchdowns in 2014 and three touchdowns in 2016. Monster upside is rarely Edelman’s calling card, but he should be a reliable producer right out of the gate, and he is entering the year underpriced compared to expectations.

With Edelman back, Phillip Dorsett is the guy likeliest to take a playing time hit, in spite of posting 16 catches on 26 targets so far, to eight catches on 15 targets for Chris Hogan. Hogan has continued to operate ahead of Dorsett, playing 70 snaps to Dorsett’s 57. The Patriots like Hogan’s versatility — though it’s tough to predict a breakout game here. Hogan would be well off the radar on the full-weekend slate, but he’s going to have a few big, out-of-nowhere outings this season, and he does have the skill set to find open areas on the Colts’ back end.

Josh Gordon only played 18 snaps last week, and it seems unlikely the Patriots expand his role too much on a short week. Gordon will likely see his playing time spike in Week 6, with the Patriots receiving this mini-bye that will give them more time to work him in. Once Gordon becomes more involved, he is ultimately going to eat into the playing time of Dwayne Allen (45 snaps last week), with the Patriots running fewer two tight end sets.

Rob Gronkowski did not practice on Monday or Tuesday and is listed as questionable for this game — though there is little concern over his availability at the moment. If Gronk does miss, this will theoretically create a path to more playing time for Gordon, but the likeliest scenario will be a “group effort” to replace him, with Dorsett, Hogan, Edelman, and James White taking on the largest share of the pass game pie. If Gronk plays, there is no reason to be concerned about his ceiling — though defenses continue to focus on him with no major downfield threat to worry about, lowering his usage and production floors below where we typically expect to find them.

Indy is dealing with major injuries on defense, with starting safety Clayton Geathers, starting corner Nate Hairston, and stud rookie linebacker Darius Leonard all questionable. The Colts have other injuries behind these guys, which the Patriots will likely take advantage of by going up-tempo in order to tire out this skeleton unit.

PATRIOTS RUN OFFENSE

Indy presents a non-threatening run matchup — especially as this team is so comfortable playing with five defensive backs, and will likely be back-on-their-heels this week due to injuries.

In Week 5, the Pats gave 40 snaps (and 29 pass routes) to James White, while giving 33 snaps (and three pass routes) to Sony Michel. White will likely see a dip in pass game work with Edelman back, after seeing eight to 10 targets in three of four games so far; but given how little the Patriots trust Michel in the pass game at the moment, White will still be on the field enough to produce.

Michel looked a lot better last week, with the Patriots getting him outside the tackles a number of times and allowing his quickness to create problems for the Dolphins’ defense. Michel will be a yardage-and-touchdown- back for the time being, with very little pass game involvement; but there is opportunity this week for yardage to pile up again, and for touchdown chances to be there.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

From a pure “fantasy points scored” perspective, the Colts are best targeted on the Showdown slate, with the return of Marlon Mack throwing some of our certainty out of the window; but from a price-considered standpoint, Ebron, Pascal, and Rogers could all be used on the main slate, while Hines carries big price-considered upside to go with his Mack-introduced uncertainty. Andrew Luck should be able to pile up a good 30 or so completions, with somewhere around 300 yards and a couple touchdowns — creating plenty of room for floor across the main pieces on the Colts, with a couple of these guys likely spiking for a strong game.

On the Patriots, we know that someone will likely post a big game — but as always with this team, it’s a guessing game as to who that will be. Edelman comes in underpriced and should make an impact right away, though “monster games” are rarely in his range. He’s a strong piece, but it is likely that someone on this team outscores him. The best candidates, in order, are Gronk // Michel // White // Hogan // Dorsett // Gordon. It really won’t be “surprising” if any of those guys pop off for a big game, but I wouldn’t reach beyond the first four until large-field stuff. Cordarrelle Patterson will also remain involved, with iffy volume and big-play upside.

If you want to collect all of the points on one of these offenses, either quarterback is a solid play. The Patriots are the better defensive unit on the Showdown slate.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 7th 1:00pm Eastern

Falcons (
26.75) at

Steelers (
30.25)

Over/Under 57.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Falcons Run D
8th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
14th DVOA/9th Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
30th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
12th DVOA/24th Yards per pass
Steelers Run D
1st DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
26th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
8th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
16ths DVOA/2nd Yards per pass

FALCONS // STEELERS OVERVIEW

The Steelers have been a shootout machine this year, with only six teams allowing more points per game, and with only nine teams scoring more points per game. The Falcons are one of the six teams allowing more points per game, and they are one of the offenses scoring more points per game. The Steelers have been middle of the pack on a per-drive basis, but Atlanta ranks top five in yards, points, and efficiency per drive, while their defense ranks bottom five in all three categories. Pittsburgh’s defense has matched their offense, showing league-average results on a per-drive basis.

Upside is elevated for each side with the Steelers playing at the sixth-fastest pace in the league, and with the Falcons ranking 10th. Pittsburgh ranks third in passing play percentage, while Atlanta ranks 12th, and each team is comfortable attacking downfield, with Matt Ryan actually ranking sixth in the league in average intended air yards.

This spot will not sneak by anyone, but with pricing elevated across the board on these offenses, we’ll dig in and get a feel for where the production in this game is likeliest to flow.

FALCONS PASS OFFENSE

Matt Ryan has returned to the form that made him the NFL MVP a couple years ago, ranking near the top of the league in every important quarterback category. The key has been a unit that has attacked defenses downfield with Julio Jones, while using him to draw attention away from Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley underneath.

In spite of his strict “no touchdown” rule, Julio has been one of the top players in the NFL to date — leading the league in both receiving yards and percentage share of team air yards, while ranking an impressive eighth in the league in average depth of target. The big question for Julio this week will be how the Steelers elect to play this matchup. After their man-zone concepts with a single-high safety have gotten blown up through the early part of the season, Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin shook things up in the second half last week by going with more two-deep safety looks. The problem with the Steelers’ typical look is that they have been getting no pass rush, which is allowing receivers to get open deep — a perfect setup for Julio. If the Steelers continue with their two-deep look in order to force short passes, Julio’s upside will take a bit of a hit. Either way, the Steelers are going to continue struggling until they can figure out a way to get pressure on the quarterback (and if they start blitzing more this week — even using the unique blitzes Butler has in his back pocket — Matt Ryan has the ability to react accordingly and burn the blitz). Julio has been used at all levels of the field this year, with two to four deep shots per game and the rest of his targets coming at all levels within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage. He has target counts on the year of 19, nine, six, and 12, and he should be in line for heavy targets once again. Who knows — maybe he can even get a touchdown. (It would be nice if he were not tied with Sanu for third on the team in red zone targets…behind Ridley and Austin Hooper.)

Mohamed Sanu broke out last week for his first 100-yard game since 2014. Obviously, this cannot be considered the norm, and he should return to the underneath role that yielded yardage totals of 18, 19, and 36 yards the first three weeks of the year. Same as last week, you can at least make a case for targeting a cheap receiver in a likely shootout. Sanu is going to score around four or five touchdowns this year, so he brings upside to the table in that department as well.

This passing attack has especially transformed with the addition of Calvin Ridley, who is showing tremendous feel for the field and excellent chops as a route runner. Ridley continued to play limited snaps (54.3% of the team’s snaps last week), though he did run only six fewer pass routes than Sanu and seven fewer than Julio. He has recent target counts of only five, eight, and six, and is now priced up for his recent production; but he should be in the six-to-eight target range once again in this spot, and he has obvious upside on these looks. Mathematically, the likeliest outcome is a zero touchdown game after an unsustainable run of six touchdowns the last three weeks — but in the small sample size of a single week, there is no reason Ridley cannot hit again.

The emergence of Ridley has rendered Austin Hooper an afterthought. Hooper has topped 24 yards only once this year, and he saw two targets last week in a great tight end matchup. His red zone usage is going to lead to a few spiked games, but they will be impossible to predict.

FALCONS RUN OFFENSE

Pittsburgh has allowed middling production against the run, ranking 17th in DVOA and 19th in yards allowed per carry. Of greater concern than the matchup is the return of Devonta Freeman, who should shift this backfield back to its 65/35 split. Most games, this backfield should yield around 16 touches to Freeman and around 11 to Tevin Coleman — with only three or four receptions divided between the two. This split may tilt toward Coleman a bit more this week, given that this is Freeman’s first game back, but with each guy priced close to clear starters on all three sites, it will be difficult to get excited. If taking a tourney shot, each guy carries upside — with Freeman’s chances of hitting higher, but with question marks on his workload in his first game back.

STEELERS PASS OFFENSE

The Steelers have continued to abandon the run early and often — and while you could theorize that this is because they continue to fall behind early, there are two counterpoints worth considering: 1) they have been pass-dominant lately from the start of games, and 2) even if they would happily turn back to the run if given a chance, this is likely to be another spot in which pass-heavy makes the most sense. Through four games, Ben Roethlisberger has thrown the ball 41, 60, 38, and 47 times.

While Atlanta has played good pass defense on the back end — with Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant holding their own as best they can — this defense is suffering over the middle from the losses of starters Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, and Ricardo Allen, and they are failing to get any significant pass rush, ranking 27th so far in adjusted sack rate. With the Falcons now losing the pass rushing presence of Grady Jarrett, they are in even more trouble than before. Dan Quinn already plays a fairly straightforward scheme that relies on speed to keep the ball in front and swarm to the ball after the catch, and it is unlikely he gets too creative with his pass rush looks in this spot, as doing so would open up this defense to even more breakdowns on the back end. This defense relies on a hybrid Cover 3 and man coverage look most of the time — which not only sets up well for Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, but also makes it easy for Randy Fichtner to scheme an effective attack. A.B. and JuJu will join Julio Jones and probably Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs as the most appealing wide receiver plays on the slate.

A.B. has target counts on the year of 16, 17, nine, and 11 — and if the Steelers are content to load up on short-area targets, he should be able to eat in this spot. Only four teams have faced a lower aDOT than the Falcons on the year, but they have been perfectly average at stopping receivers after the catch, and only three teams have allowed a higher catch rate.

After seeing only eight targets in Week 1, JuJu has seen target counts of 19, 11, and 11 — matching or out-targeting A.B. in every one of those games. A.B. has an aDOT of 10.4 and has vacuumed up 37.4% of the Steelers’ air yards, while JuJu has an aDOT of 8.0 and has seen 26.4% of the team’s air yards. As noted last week: each of these guys sees his route tree change a bit from week to week, depending on how the Steelers want to attack a particular defense; the closest comp for “the way to attack Atlanta” right now is the Bucs — another team that forces a short aDOT and tackles fine after the catch, but that does everything else poorly. JuJu caught six passes within three yards of the line of scrimmage against Tampa a couple weeks ago and finished with a line of 9-116-0.

Behind A.B. and JuJu, James Washington has seen target counts of five, two, and four since taking over the “Martavis Bryant role” in Week 2. He has continued to play heavy snaps, and is obviously a candidate for a splash play — but his floor remains low outside of that.

Vance McDonald ran 32 of a possible 50 pass routes last week (compared to only 13 for Jesse James). The Steelers like to run their routes at levels — allowing Roethlisberger to read downfield first, and to check to a lower level in the same line of sight if nothing is open downfield. Oftentimes, McDonald is that underneath read, which could lead to a couple extra looks against a Falcons team that defends well downfield. McDonald has target counts the last two weeks of five and five, and another five to seven looks is not out of the question in what should be a pass-heavy attack.

STEELERS RUN OFFENSE

As we hypothesized in this space last week: the Steelers abandoned the run early and used James Conner as an afterthought in the passing attack — giving him only nine carries and three receptions. The receptions did come on seven targets, so there was upside for a lot more aerial production than he turned in; but since his 36-touch game in Week 1, he now has touch counts of 13, 20, and 12, and his price has not been adjusted down on any of the three major sites to account for his change in role. Conner does have a respectable two targets inside the 10 and three carries inside the five; but he’ll need a touchdown-heavy game or a spike in volume in order to justify his salary. View him as a low-floor, high-ceiling guy this week — against a defense that can be attacked on the ground…but in a game that will likely lead to the Steelers leaning on the pass once again, either by necessity or design.

Quietly helping to fill the Le’Veon Bell role is wide receiver Ryan Switzer — who I am listing here because of the way the Steelers are using him, often lining him up in the backfield before motioning him into the slot, or lining him up in the slot to run the short-area routes that Bell ran in the past. Switzer played 20 snaps last week (up from seven the week before), and he hauled in seven catches for 32 yards on seven looks. He’s a thin play, of course; but with thin value this week, there is a chance Switzer could hit pay dirt and fill out a tourney roster nicely while making room for an extra high-priced guy up top.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

There are no real secrets in this game. Both quarterbacks jump to the top of the pile, while Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and JuJu Smith-Schuster join a small pool of “high-floor, week-winning-upside” plays.

Behind these primary pass catchers, Vance McDonald and Calvin Ridley offer a moderate floor and a high ceiling, while guys like James Washington, Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, and Ryan Switzer are part of the “could be worth it in tourneys” discussion.

I’m not high on either backfield, but James Conner obviously has the potential to spike suddenly if the heavy work returns in this spot. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are both iffy-volume plays, but either guy could post a couple long runs or a two-touchdown game.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 7th 1:00pm Eastern

Ravens (
23.75) at

Browns (
20.75)

Over/Under 44.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Ravens Run D
2nd DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
7th DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
7th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
23rd DVOA/29th Yards per pass
Browns Run D
20th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
5th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
19th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
19th DVOA/31st Yards per pass

RAVENS // BROWNS OVERVIEW

The biggest surprise on the Browns has been their defense, as they rank fourth in total DVOA, and 13th in takeaways. Only six teams have more sacks than the Browns.

Of course, the “surprise” has nothing to do with personnel, and has everything to do with the fact that Gregg Williams is the man scheming this defense. Personally, I’m ignoring those DVOA numbers, as Cleveland is a strong “splash defense” with Williams’ aggressive, “get after the quarterback and take away the ball” style of play — but in terms of actually preventing the offense from moving the ball and scoring points, they have been below average. This is good news for a Baltimore offense that has started the year hot, ranking 10th in yards per game and fifth in points per game.

On the other side, Baltimore’s elite pass defense will return their best player this week in Jimmy Smith. Through four weeks without Smith, Baltimore ranked second in yards allowed per game and third in points allowed per game. This will be a tough test for rookie Baker Mayfield and the upstart Cleveland offense.

RAVENS PASS OFFENSE

Baltimore has had a resurgence through the air this year — with Joe Flacco looking like the quarterback who helped Baltimore win a Super Bowl during the 2012 season, leading the Ravens so far to top-12 marks in DVOA, passing yards per game, and passing touchdowns. Flacco has aggressively worked the zero-to-15-yard portions of the field, while mixing in five to eight deep shots per game.

On defense, the Browns aim to keep everything in front of them — doing what they can to get after the quarterback, and attacking on short-area throws in an effort to force turnovers and create splash plays. While this leads to a low aDOT and a low catch rate (an impressive combination), it also leads to the Browns being one of the worst teams in the league after the catch, as their aggressiveness provides opportunities for pass catchers to work in open space at times with the ball in their hands.

The leading man on the Ravens is John Brown, who tops the NFL in average depth of target, at 21.9 (4.6 yards higher than second-place man DeSean Jackson), and who ranks fourth in the NFL — behind only Julio Jones, Corey Davis, and Odell Beckham — in percentage share of team air yards. Brown has some nuance to his route tree, but he is being used almost exclusively downfield, with Willie Snead and Michael Crabtree each perfectly capable of handling the short-area throws. This makes this a difficult spot for JB to hit, as the Browns aim to take away exactly what he wants to do. He has seen target counts on the year of four, 10, nine, and seven, so he’ll absolutely remain involved here. Efficiency will likely be an issue, but the big-play upside remains.

Crabtree and Snead continue to work as doppelgängers to one another, with Snead seeing six to eight targets each game and Crabtree seeing six to 10 — and with the two of them running nearly identical route trees, and working the same areas of the field. This offense is built around the idea of Brown going deep and these two providing bodies underneath, making each guy fairly interchangeable in this attack. Snead has the slightly better matchup, running more of his routes over the middle, and has an xYAC/R (expected YAC per reception) of 4.8 compared to 3.1 for Crabtree. Neither of these is an elite mark. Each guy has been little-used in the red zone this year.

Behind the wide receivers, Hayden Hurst is expected to join the already-crowded Baltimore tight end rotation this week.

RAVENS RUN OFFENSE

After finishing last year as one of the top run defenses in the NFL, Cleveland enters Week 5 with a number seven DVOA ranking against the run, and if we take away Marshawn Lynch’s 52-yarder last week, Cleveland is allowing only 3.6 yards per carry to running backs on the year.

This is bad news for a Baltimore backfield that has yet to get on track, with Alex Collins maxing out at 18 carries and 68 yards so far. He is averaging only 3.5 yards per carry to begin the season, and he has had issues in pass protection that are keeping him off the field on passing downs. While he has averaged two catches per game so far, he has topped six receiving yards only once. He has also had fumbling issues that could keep him off the field when the Ravens get closer to the goal line.

Collins is sharing time with Javorius Allen, who has looked underwhelming on the ground at only 2.4 yards per carry, but who has retained his role in the pass game with 19 targets through four games.

Either guy will need a defensive breakdown or a multi-touchdown game in order to be worth a roster spot.

BROWNS PASS OFFENSE

In the first start of his career, rookie Baker Mayfield played much better than his line suggests — as his 21 of 41 passing was sprinkled with at least six drops, and his pick six was a result of one of these drops. Raw rookie Antonio Callaway and football-lazy athletic freak David Njoku were the main culprits, but Jarvis Landry got in on the fun as well (much to my chagrin), creating a more disappointing debut than Mayfield should have had. The Browns find themselves in a tight spot now, as they have three NFL-caliber weapons in the pass game: Callaway, Njoku, and Landry; but because of the massive pile of mental mistakes Callaway has built up through the first few weeks of the season, the Browns are talking about scaling back his snaps — and because Njoku has not bothered to learn how to run sharp routes, Cleveland is failing to squeeze major production out of him as well.

The Browns do not get an easy test this week, against an elite Ravens defense. Without Jimmy Smith, the Ravens have allowed the lowest catch rate in the league (shaving almost 18% off the league average rate), while ranking third — behind only Carolina and Jacksonville — in YAC allowed per reception. There are no areas of the field where Baltimore is weak against the pass, creating a difficult situation across the board for Cleveland’s aerial attack. Baltimore is allowing only 275.8 total yards per game.

If you feel compelled to go here, Jarvis Landry has double-digit targets in three of four games so far and should land in that range again.

If Callaway sees his snaps scaled back, Rod Streater or Damion Ratley would stand to see more snaps, though the true beneficiary would be Rashard Higgins, who has already averaged five targets per game across the last three weeks. Honestly, the best bet in this group for upside remains Callaway, as scaled-back snaps would still likely lead to five to seven targets, and he has plenty of explosive upside on these looks.

Baltimore has been middling against the tight end this year, giving Njoku the best theoretical shot at production. He has huge, athletic-driven upside, but he’ll need some things to go right in order for that upside to pay off this week.

BROWNS RUN OFFENSE

Baltimore ranks ninth in yards allowed per carry and fourth in rushing yards allowed per game, as their passing attack is forcing teams to go more pass-heavy in return than they would like. Cleveland has run-blocked at an above-average rate, ranking 12th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards; though Baltimore’s defense ranks fifth in adjusted line yards themselves.

Carlos Hyde has played well enough to maintain his lead in this backfield, but Nick Chubb has earned more snaps with his explosive play as well. We should still expect 18 to 22 touches for Hyde (he has 22 or 23 carries in three of four games so far), though he’ll need to hit for a long run or a couple touchdowns on these carries, in a difficult matchup, as he has only seven targets on the year.

Expect Chubb to step in for anywhere from four to eight carries this week, while Duke Johnson will continue to soak up limited work in the pass game.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I am writing up all these lower-total games first this week, in an effort to find upside pieces in tourneys, or to find low-priced guys who can help us fill out the top end of our roster; but this is a spot that appears unlikely to be on the board for me outside of large-field stuff. Even then, it’s simply “upside-hunting” on guys like John Brown and David Njoku — guys who can post a truly start-worthy score, even in a difficult matchup. You could throw Jarvis Landry onto that pile, though even with his price lowered this week, he’ll have a hard time justifying what you’ll have to spend.

Each offense has done a good job protecting the football this season, but each defense is in play this week as a strong unit. Expect at least one or two turnovers from Baker Mayfield, with a few sacks taken, giving Baltimore a path to a decent “floor” game at DST. Neither team profiles as particularly likely to smash, but each is an acceptable way to fill out a roster.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 7th 1:00pm Eastern

Broncos (
21.75) at

Jets (
20.75)

Over/Under 42.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Broncos Run D
5th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
29th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Broncos Pass D
9th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
30th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass
Jets Run D
14th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O
20th DVOA/25th Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
31st DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Broncos Pass O
31st DVOA/27th Yards per pass

BRONCOS // JETS OVERVIEW

Through four weeks, the Jets enter this game with a better defense than their counterpart, having posted a top five DVOA ranking, while ranking 13th in points allowed and 13th in yards allowed. Denver has disappointed early in the year, ranking 17th in defensive DVOA and 22nd in fewest yards allowed per pass attempt. The pieces are theoretically in place for Denver to remain an elite defense (so far this year, they have generally had coverage breakdowns when their pass rush has been solid, while failing to get pressure when their coverage has been good), and they will look to get on track this week against rookie Sam Darnold.

The Jets have looked to slow down the game this year — ranking 32nd in situation neutral pace of play and 20th in passing play percentage — while the Broncos have been more aggressive, ranking top 10 in pace of play regardless of whether they are trailing or playing with a lead.

With so many high-scoring games available this weekend, this will obviously not be a prime spot to look for DFS goodness, but value appears to be pretty thin at the moment, so we’ll see if we can uncover anything special in this spot.

BRONCOS PASS OFFENSE

The Broncos’ pass offense has been a disaster since Week 1, with Case Keenum throwing three interceptions and zero touchdowns across the last three weeks. No receiver has topped 100 yards since Emmanuel Sanders did so in Week 1, and Sanders’ 96-yard effort in Week 2 has been the only other receiving game north of 63 yards on this team. Todd Bowles’ defense has unsurprisingly focused on forcing passes to the short middle of the field, with borderline-elite aDOT marks, and with much stronger numbers on passes outside the numbers than on passes over the middle. Last week, the Jaguars capitalized on this by feeding Dede Westbrook the ball on short crossers underneath, and the Broncos should aim to do the same with Emmanuel Sanders this week.

On DraftKings and FantasyDraft, Sanders’ price reflects his role, as he is priced at 14.2% and 13.3% of the salary cap, respectively. On FanDuel, however, Sanders stands out at only 11.17% of the cap. He has seen target counts on the year of 11, four, eight, and seven, and Denver is playing on the road against a team that likes to slow down the game, so this is by no means a lock-and-load spot. But Sanders deserves consideration as the best piece on this passing attack, lining up nicely against the Jets as the best way to move the ball against them.

Washed-up Demaryius Thomas and future superstar Courtland Sutton will continue to see looks on the outside — offering low floor, but big-play upside. After seeing 21 targets the first two weeks of the season, Demaryius has dropped to 12 targets the last two weeks; Sutton has held steady, with target counts of five, six, three, and six to begin the year. Each guy is now seeing the old Demaryius Thomas wide receiver screens at the line of scrimmage, so it is worth noting that the Jets rank dead last in the NFL in YAC allowed per reception. The Jets are not bad at tackling on a per-play basis; but all the short passes against them are leading to a couple breakdowns per game.

With Jake Butt suffering a torn ACL last week, Jeff Heuerman played 53 of a possible 60 snaps and saw seven targets — which he turned into a 4-57-0 line. The Jets have been above-average against the tight end since the beginning of last year, but Heuerman is similar to someone like Geoff Swaim last week: low upside, but with a guaranteed role — and with potential to pay off nicely at a low salary on the off chance you capture a touchdown.

BRONCOS RUN OFFENSE

The Jets rank seventh in yards allowed per carry (one spot ahead of Denver’s defense), and they have impressively allowed a long run on the season of only 23 yards (sixth best in the NFL). Obviously, that does not mean it’s impossible for this defense to break down and allow a huge run, but it does point to “volume” as being an important element against this run defense.

Through four weeks, “volume” has been tough to come by in the Broncos’ backfield — and with both Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman running well, there is no reason for this to change any time soon. If we take away his ejection, Lindsay has touch counts of 18, 15, and 14; Freeman has touch counts of 15, eight, and eight in those weeks. Lindsay has eight targets on the year to only two for Freeman. They have split work inside the 10-yard-line pretty evenly, with four carries for Lindsay and three for Freeman.

Devontae Booker continues to mix in on passing downs, with 11 carries and 11 targets on the season.

JETS PASS OFFENSE

Sam Darnold has struggled since his first game, throwing four interceptions to only two touchdowns — while failing to complete more than 50% of his passes in back-to-back games, and failing to push the ball downfield. The last point is more on play-caller Jeremy Bates than it is on Darnold, but the end result is the same: this offense has been obsessed with the short area of the field to begin the year, with almost no willingness to take shots. Part of this, of course, is a “go with what’s working” approach. Over the last two weeks, Darnold has completed one of seven passes that have traveled more than 20 yards downfield, with zero touchdowns and an interception.

This is too bad for the Jets, as the deep middle of the field has been a trouble spot for the Broncos. Early in the year, they have graded out as the worst team in football over the deep middle, and only three teams (the Bucs, Chiefs, and Chargers) have allowed more pass plays of 20+ yards. This oil-and-water matchup will make it tough for the Jets to capitalize.

The good news is that Robby Anderson has not died. In fact, he ranks eighth in the NFL in average depth of target, and over the last three weeks he has quietly seen target counts of five, four, and six. If anyone on this team is going to hit for a big play this week, it is likeliest to be Anderson.

Anderson’s volume has taken a hit with Quincy Enunwa soaking up eight to 11 targets every game in what essentially functions as the “tight end” role in this offense. Enunwa, of course, runs almost 70% of his snaps from the slot, where he will contend with All World corner Chris Harris. Enunwa has four inches on Harris, but size has rarely been an issue for Harris, who wins with technique. This is a tough draw for Enunwa.

Terrelle Pryor played two snaps last week with a groin injury and is currently questionable for this week. His absence opened additional snaps for Jermaine Kearse, who saw five targets and will surely post a couple of random big games this season.

The Jets’ tight end rotation has led to only two games this year in which an individual player topped two targets, with Jordan Leggett seeing four targets last week, and with Chris Herndon seeing four targets in Week 2.

JETS RUN OFFENSE

Denver has taken steps back against the run this year as well, after being a top three unit last season, ranking 19th in DVOA early in the year — though they do rank a respectable eighth in yards allowed per carry. I’m overlooking that DVOA mark, as it was sitting at fifth before the Chiefs had their way on Monday night. Kansas City will make a lot of good units look bad this year, and this is still a difficult matchup.

Isaiah Crowell has touch counts on the year of 10, 14, 18, and five, while Bilal Powell has touched the ball 13 times, 10 times, 14 times, and 12 times. This is a clear, even timeshare, with Crow playing 104 snaps on the season to 128 for Powell. Powell will catch more passes, while Crowell will have more scoring opportunities. It’s a tough backfield to get excited about from a floor/ceiling perspective.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

The most appealing DFS options in this game are the defenses. Neither team has been elite at rushing the passer, but each ranks in the top half of the league in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate, and the Jets rank third in the NFL in takeaways and third worst in the NFL in giveaways. Each team’s offensive line has held up fairly well, but each defense should have an opportunity for two to four sacks and one to three takeaways.

As for actual players: Sanders stands out as a fringe option on FanDuel, while Robby Anderson has some interesting upside to his game in tourneys — especially given how tight salary is on DraftKings this week, and how cheap Anderson is. Still, there is nothing in this game — on either side — that will warrant strong attention from me, given my style of “narrowing things down to the best plays on the slate.” There are a number of things that “could happen” in this game to yield production from any of a handful of players; but from a “likeliest to happen” standpoint, this is a game I’ll avoid on both offenses.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 7th 1:00pm Eastern

Packers (
24.5) at

Lions (
25.5)

Over/Under 50.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Packers Run D
25th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
13th DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Packers Pass D
25th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
19th DVOA/22nd Yards per pass
Lions Run D
30th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O
10th DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
12th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O
6th DVOA/14th Yards per pass

PACKERS // LIONS OVERVIEW

The Lions have struggled to begin the year, allowing the third most yards per carry and the ninth most yards per pass attempt, and only eight teams have allowed more points per game. Only five teams have allowed more points per drive than Detroit.

Detroit further increases shootout potential by ranking ninth in the NFL in yards per drive — and while they rank 17th in points per game, this is largely the result of a red zone offense that ranks dead last in touchdown percentage, one year after ranking 10th. The Lions have the same offensive pieces as last year (with the addition of Kerryon Johnson), and these red zone woes should evaporate soon enough.

The Packers have also struggled in the red zone to begin this season, with only four teams scoring touchdowns at a lower rate. The Packers get bad news in this spot, as Detroit quietly ranks third in red zone touchdown rate on defense — carrying over the same bend-but-don’t break philosophy that Matt Patricia had with the Patriots.

PACKERS PASS OFFENSE

Aaron Rodgers has not quite been himself to begin the year — failing to top 300 passing yards in a game through four weeks of the season, and tossing “only” seven touchdowns. While he did take off for 31 rushing yards last week on five carries, his lack of mobility is obviously changing the way he has to play — and this week, he could be without two of his top three targets in Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison. Cobb said he was nowhere close to playing last week and seems unlikely to be close this week, either. Allison is hoping to clear concussion protocol, but much of that is obviously out of his hands.

Interestingly, no team has faced fewer pass attempts than the Lions so far this year…and only three teams have notched more sacks this season. Detroit ranks second in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate, as their pass rush has been a big bonus to begin the year. Teams are leaning on the run against Detroit in order to protect their quarterback and take advantage of the Lions’ greatest weakness, which has led to only two teams in football facing more rush attempts than the Lions, and to no teams allowing more rushing yards. (It’s not even close.) Green Bay ranks sixth in passing play percentage to begin the year, and Rodgers generally prefers to stick to the pass and control the game himself when he can; but it’s reasonable to expect him to finish below 40 pass attempts for the first time since Week 1.

The best piece on the Lions’ back end has unsurprisingly been Darius Slay, who has allowed only seven catches for 64 yards on 14 targets through four games — with only 12 total yards allowed after the catch. Slay will see plenty of Davante Adams, but with the Lions primarily leaving him on his side of the field this year, Adams should avoid him on 70% of his routes. After last week’s 14 target game for Adams, Rodgers said that Adams should have been given 20 looks. Rodgers is a strong “trust” guy (he loves throwing to the guys he feels most comfortable throwing to), so look for Adams to harvest a large number of targets this week if Allison and Cobb both sit.

If Allison gets cleared to play in time, he shapes up as the second option in this attack after seeing target counts of eight, six, four, and 11 to begin the year. Those 11 targets came in only three quarters last week before the concussion hit. Even with chances of a run-leaning game script elevated in this spot, Allison will see plenty of work if he is out there.

If Allison remains on the sidelines, Jimmy Graham will likely be leaned on after seeing six to eight targets in three consecutive games. Green Bay will have even more incentive to lean toward the run if Allison misses, but there should be enough volume for Graham to stick to his typical range — giving him enough floor and ceiling to be considered in this spot.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling took over the slot snaps last week, but he disappointingly saw only three targets in a matchup that set up perfectly for him to see a large amount of work. This week, he’ll take on Jamal Agnew, who has allowed 10 catches for 141 yards on only 13 targets, with 62 yards allowed after the catch. MVS will be one of the fastest men on the field this Sunday, giving him clear upside; but volume will be a concern — even as the clear number three in this attack — as Rodgers practically ignored him in a prime Week 4 spot. MVS has legitimate slate-winning upside if he gets involved this week, but that involvement is not a given.

The target distribution on the Packers will likely flow through Adams, Graham, MVS, and the running backs if Allison misses. Last week, the Packers leaned on two tight end sets with Lance Kendricks (two targets; one catch for five yards) and gave J’Mon Moore 11 snaps (zero targets). Equanimeous St. Brown could also take over as a starter this week — but targets should be thin in this spot regardless.

PACKERS RUN OFFENSE

This is a prime spot on the slate from a team-performance perspective, though the Packers frustratingly continue to split the backfield reps among Aaron Jones (29 snaps last week), Jamaal Williams (28 snaps), and Ty Montgomery (20 snaps). We have used “pass blocking” as the reason for Jones taking a backseat to Williams, though it should be noted that Williams pass blocked on only four plays last week (while Jones pass blocked on three). This opens optimism that Jones will continue to see his role expand after hammering opponents for 6.3 yards per carry across his first 17 totes on the year (compared to Williams’ 3.4 yards per carry across 47 totes).

There are whispers that Mike McCarthy is aware that Jones is his best back (how could he not be?), but that he wants to keep him fresh for the stretch run of the season. It has rarely been in the Packers’ arsenal to give a back 20 carries to begin with, so our best bet here is to hope the Packers go run-heavy, and that Jones sees 14 to 16 carries. The likeliest scenario is another 10 to 13 carry game. He has one target in each game to begin the year.

Montgomery will continue to be involved in the pass game, while taking on a few carries of his own. Williams will need a touchdown or two (or a broken play) in order to pay off.

LIONS PASS OFFENSE

As always: the thing we love about Detroit is that their distribution of targets is extremely reliable, with Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and Kenny Golladay accounting for over 88% of this team’s air yards through the first four weeks of the season. Very few teams have a reliable target distribution this narrow — giving all of these guys at least moderate floor and ceiling every single week. Detroit ranks 10th in passing yards per game one year after ranking sixth. Only three teams are throwing the ball more frequently than the Lions.

The Packers have been below-average against the pass to begin the year, and they have especially struggled downfield, ranking 23rd against downfield passing according to Football Outsiders. The Packers’ only real test so far through the air has been the Vikings (otherwise, they faced the Bears, Redskins, and Bills). In that game, Adam Thielen went 12-131-1 on 13 targets, while Stefon Diggs went 9-128-2 on 13 targets.

All three of these wide receivers on the Lions are capable of running the routes that Diggs and Thielen tortured this team with (lots of short, quick throws, mixed in with some simple second-level routes, some crossing routes, and some double-moves that were able to spring them deep downfield), so there is really nothing that helps us pinpoint usage for this matchup. What we do know is that Jones offers the most pure upside, with the deepest aDOT on the team (tied with Mike Williams for fifth in the NFL) and with the largest share of the Lions’ air yards. Golladay has the best floor/ceiling combo, with a smaller share of the team’s air yards, and with a less aggressive downfield role, but with more overall targets (32 through four games, to 29 for Jones). Tate has the highest pure floor, with 44 targets on the year; and while his short-area work theoretically gives him less upside, his elite YAC ability bumps off some of the concerns, and his ability to go downfield when necessary bumps off the rest of the concerns.

Behind these three, the Lions’ passing attack is scraps. Jones // Golladay // Tate dominate looks in this offense.

LIONS RUN OFFENSE

The Lions continue to employ an upside-killing three-man backfield, with Matt Patricia saying this week that Kerryon Johnson is getting enough work. So far this season, Johnson has seen touch counts of eight, 13, 18, and 10, while LeGarrette Blount has seen touch counts of four, nine, 18, and seven. Theo Riddick retains his role on passing downs, with touch counts of nine, nine, three, and five.

Green Bay has invited teams to attack on the ground, and they rank 22nd in yards allowed per carry, so the matchup is non-threatening; but in order for Kerryon to pay off, he will need a couple of big runs or a spike in workload. The Lions have yet to secure a carry inside the five-yard-line this year, but they have given two carries apiece to Blount and Kerryon inside the 10. Blount has zero yards on these two carries, while Kerryon has 13 yards and a touchdown.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

There is a chance that either (or both) of these teams could lean on the run in this spot, as this is the best way to attack each defense; but given the nature of Aaron Rodgers on the Packers and the facts at hand with Jim Bob Cooter calling plays for the Lions, the likeliest scenario is that each team will continue their pass-heavy ways (each team enters this game in the top six in the NFL in passing play percentage).

Each quarterback is in play in tourneys (behind the guys in the more obvious pass-leaning shootouts, but with similar upside), while we should expect a big workload for Davante Adams and (to a lesser extent) Jimmy Graham on the Packers, with Marquez Valdes-Scantling standing out as a high-upside tourney flier. MVS is the kind of play that could enable you to go fairly chalky elsewhere on your roster — and on the outside chance he hits, you’ll be seeing dollar signs all day Sunday.

I like all the pieces in the Lions’ passing attack, though it is frustrating that so little separates one from the other. More than likely, we will see one spiked game from this group, one respectable game, and one disappointing game. These may not be good enough odds for cash games, but I like them for tourneys. Jones is especially underpriced on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, while Golladay is especially underpriced on FanDuel.

I like Aaron Jones and Kerryon Johnson as “bet on talent” plays in a good matchup — and with value a bit thin this week, either guy makes sense on DraftKings or FantasyDraft as a “bank on eight points, hope for 20” sort of play. Kerryon has shown more usage in the pass game, while Jones has the better matchup. Each guy is set aside for tourneys only for me.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE // Full “Updates” List

No “official words” here yet, but it appears likely that Davante Adams and Marvin Jones both play. Randall Cobb is out. It appears likely that Geronimo Allison misses.

If Adams plays and Allison misses, Marquez Valdes-Scantling becomes interesting as a salary saver. I’ll have his targets pegged at around four to seven, as I expect Rodgers to over-target Adams (while also leaning on both Jimmy Graham and the run game a little bit more). MVS has potential to beat that target projection if Rodgers unexpectedly goes out of his way to involve his rookie wide receiver more prominently. In this case, Adams also joins guys like Julio Jones, “Vikings receivers,” and “Steelers receivers” among the top wide receiver plays available. I’ll still probably leave him sixth on that list, given the tight matchup with Darius Slay, but it’s a close sixth. He’ll be in play as a strong tourney option.

If Adams misses, MVS should spike in targets. There will still be some guesswork involved here, but it just won’t make sense for him to see fewer than seven or eight targets if he is the only guy out there with actual playing time under his belt.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 7th 1:00pm Eastern

Jaguars (
22.5) at

Chiefs (
25.5)

Over/Under 48.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Jaguars Run D
22nd DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
17th DVOA/6th Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
32nd DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
1st DVOA/7th Yards per pass
Chiefs Run D
28th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
17th DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
2nd DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
21st DVOA/13th Yards per pass

JAGUARS // CHIEFS OVERVIEW

This is a “hedge line” by Vegas, as there is a massive range of outcomes in this game between the best offense in the NFL and the best defense in the NFL. No team has allowed fewer points per game than the Jaguars, and no team has scored more points per game than the Chiefs.

The Jags will likely try to shorten this game and limit the time Patrick Mahomes spends on the field, and Mahomes could struggle to get going, which could lead to this being one of the lower-scoring games on the weekend. Conversely, this game is in Kansas City, and the Jags have been susceptible to blowup games in the last couple years, which opens opportunities for this to turn into one of the higher-scoring affairs on the weekend.

At first glance, this looks like it will be a game to avoid in cash, while standing out as a sneaky game to target in tourneys. Let’s dig in and see what we can find.

CHIEFS PASS OFFENSE

We usually begin with the road offense, but since the flow of this game is almost certain to be dictated by the Chiefs, we will start with the home team here.

No team has allowed fewer passing yards per game than the Jags, and only two teams have allowed fewer average yards per pass attempt. Only three teams have allowed a lower catch rate than the Jags, and no team has allowed fewer yards after the catch on a per-reception basis. This pass defense is in a league of its own.

Last year, there was a two-part recipe for beating the Jags:

1. Run the ball against them

2. Gain short fields by forcing Blake Bortles turnover and mistakes

The only teams that succeeded through the air to any notable extent were the Patriots and the Steelers. The Patriots picked up small gains over the middle with Danny Amendola in the AFC Championship game last year, and otherwise spread the ball around, with targets being fed to eight different players to attack the Jags from as many angles as possible. The Steelers attacked relentlessly with Antonio Brown, and they landed a blowup game from Vance McDonald with the Jags focused on AB, Smith-Schuster, and Bell.

The Chiefs will look to spread out the Jaguars and attack on both the short and deep levels. With the Jags’ superior discipline and communication, we are unlikely to see much impact from the Chiefs’ misdirection.

The first order of business for the Jags will be keeping eyes on Tyreek Hill at all times. Against most teams, this would open an opportunity for attacking underneath with other weapons, but the Jags have the bodies to play tight coverage on Travis Kelce as well. In last year’s AFC Championship game, Jacksonville held Rob Gronkowski to one catch for 21 yards (on three targets) before he was concussed halfway through the game on a vicious hit from Barry Church.

If Sammy Watkins misses this week, Chris Conley will likely step into the third spot on the target ladder, though there is a chance that Kareem Hunt will become more involved. Hill will also see his role grow (and his route tree become more nuanced) if Watkins misses. If you are desperate to play Hill in this spot, it’s worth noting that Brandin Cooks hit for 6-100-0 on eight targets in the AFC Championship. Hill has a strong shot to climb above his typical eight targets if Watkins is out.

CHIEFS RUN OFFENSE

Last year — as noted above — the way to beat the Jags was on the ground. This year? If we take away that 68-yarder from Saquon Barkley against the Jags in Week 1, they are allowing only 2.8 yards per carry to running backs, which makes this an extremely difficult spot for Kareem Hunt and the KC rushing attack. Last week, Hunt played only 45 of a possible 78 snaps, introducing further concerns with his pass role dropping (target counts of one, one, one, and four on the year). We saw last week against Denver what Hunt can do with the ball in his hands (6.4 yards per carry, and 18.0 yards per catch on three receptions), against what had previously been a stout run defense — so I’m never willing to fully count him out. But until his role changes, he’ll remain a guy who is relying on big plays and touchdowns. The Jags have allowed only one rushing play of 20+ yards this season.

JAGUARS PASS OFFENSE

The Chiefs’ pass defense has been below-average in all areas, and across all levels of the field. They have not been as atrocious as most want them to be — but they have been bad; and as with last year, their biggest issue has been the big play, with the Chiefs tied with the Chargers and Bucs for the most pass plays allowed of 20+ yards.

The difficulty in attacking this matchup on our DFS rosters in Week 5 is twofold:

1) The Jaguars would prefer to go run-heavy when they can (and the Chiefs can certainly be had on the ground).

2) The Jags have been rotating featured receivers, with Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, and Donte Moncrief taking turns at the top of the ladder.

Because the Jags will be with T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant in the backfield for another week, there are reasons to assume we see more responsibility given to Blake Bortles than this team would otherwise want to give him — and as such, it’s fair to assume we get at least one strong game from this wide receiver corps. Last week, Cole ran 38 pass routes, Westbrook ran 37, and Moncrief ran 36. Cole has seen games of eight and nine targets, and games of three and four, while Westbrook’s target counts have been six, five, four, and 13. Moncrief has gone five, nine, three, and five. He’s the least likely to produce each week — but as we saw last week, this does not make him incapable of producing.

Behind these three, Austin Seferian-Jenkins went for two catches on four targets last week (after going for three catches on five targets each of the first three weeks). He kept up his yardage consistency, landing in the 18 to 25 yard range once again. He’ll need a touchdown in order to pay off — and even then, his line will be a bit thin.

JAGUARS RUN OFFENSE

Last week with Leonard Fournette starting, T.J. Yeldon saw his most carries on the year, with 18 — taking over once Fournette went down, but turning these touches into only 52 yards. He has yet to top 58 rushing yards in a game this year, but his lines have been boosted by his pass game work, with target counts of seven, five, seven, and three to begin the year, and with over 45 yards receiving in back-to-back games. Fournette is set to miss this week, and Yeldon should be in line for another 12 to 18 touches — with the landing spot in that range determined primarily by game flow. If this game stays close, Yeldon will yield more work to Corey Grant; if the Jags take a lead, Yeldon will be leaned on more heavily.

Grant has yet to top 10 touches in a game, and will need a big play in order to pay off. He is, of course, a big play specialist, but he appears to be a thin play on such limited guaranteed volume.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

The best way to play this game is by simply betting on different game environments. I will be avoiding this game in cash games, as there are simply too many high-scoring affairs on the slate for me to feel the need to attack such an iffy spot. But in tourneys — more specifically: in tourneys if you are building more than one roster this weekend — you could play out this matchup any number of ways. You could hammer Mahomes to Kelce or Mahomes to Hill, in the hopes that one of these pairings goes off against the Jags’ stout defense. You could also roster Hunt, in the hopes the Chiefs scheme him the ball in order to keep the Jags off balance — which could lead to a couple big plays.

You could bring back these plays on the other side with touchdown-and-usage bets on Yeldon, or with a shot on Cole, Westbrook, or Moncrief (I would rank those guys in that order — though it’s close between Cole and Westbrook; obviously, usage rotates enough on these guys that any of them could go off). You could even leave Mahomes on the sidelines and roster Bortles in this spot instead.

With any of this, you would essentially be betting on the Over for this game — which is not a crazy bet, given how explosive Kansas City is. And if the Chiefs do jump out to an early lead, the Jags have the ability to put up some big games in return.

As always, the time to bet on a talented player (or a talented offense) in a tough spot is when you feel that player (or offense) has the opportunity to post a week-winning score. The Chiefs already have a Vegas-implied total of 26.0 against this stout Jags defense, so it would not be crazy for them to climb to four or even five touchdowns, and to produce some of the better stat lines on the slate.

Of course, this is not a bet I’ll be making with any large percentage of my bankroll, as this is still the Jags — and this fact lowers floor on all these guys. But I will attack this game with a few stacks, as the Chiefs are explosive enough to find a way to produce.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE // Full “Updates” List

Leonard Fournette is not going to play in this game, which we’ve basically known since the start of the week — but I’m beginning to really come around on this side of the ball in this game. While we don’t know exactly how well the Chiefs’ offense will do, or who will put up points and yards on the Chiefs (or how they will do it), we do know that the Jags should have to lean more pass-heavy in this spot, in a good matchup. I’ll have more on this in the Player Grid, but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of playing Blake Bortles and/or his receivers. Yeldon and Grant are also in play, as the touches in this game have to go somewhere — in a great matchup against the Kansas City defense. Yeldon has a respectable floor and a moderate ceiling; Grant has a low floor, but he has potential for a spiked week if the workload shows up.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 7th 1:00pm Eastern

Dolphins (
20.75) at

Bengals (
26.75)

Over/Under 47.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Dolphins Run D
32nd DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
27th DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
10th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
26th DVOA/18th Yards per pass
Bengals Run D
23rd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
16th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
11th DVOA/16th Yards per pass

DOLPHINS // BENGALS OVERVIEW

The Bengals’ defense has been a disappointment to begin the year, ranking 23rd in total DVOA, while ranking 29th in yards allowed per game and 23rd in points allowed per game. This is unlikely to yield big “individual” fantasy production from the low-volume, spread-it-around Dolphins, but Miami’s underrated offense should be able to score points in this game — forcing the Bengals’ offense to respond in turn.

The Bengals’ offense, of course, has been elite to begin the year — ranking only 16th in yards per game, but ranking fourth in points per game. The Bengals’ yardage totals have been a victim of efficiency and limited plays, as Cincy ranks sixth in yards per drive, fourth in points per drive, and third in Drive Success Rate — behind only the Rams and Chiefs. Miami has been strong in the red zone — ranking ninth in touchdown rate on defense — but they have otherwise had a difficult time slowing down opponents, allowing the eighth-most yards per drive.

The interesting wrinkle in this game is that each of these teams does a poor job piling up plays — with Miami ranking 31st in plays per game, and with Cincy ranking 24th. On Miami’s side, this is partly the result of them slowing down the game (32nd in pace of play), and is partly the result of them having a hard time getting opponents off the field (only four teams are allowing more opponent plays per game than Miami). On Cincinnati’s side: they are playing at an above-average pace on offense, but only the Bucs and Chiefs are allowing more yards per drive than the Bengals, which is allowing opponents to bleed time off the clock and limit the plays the Bengals run.

With two teams that allow above-average plays to opponents while running below-average plays themselves, we should see a spike in total plays on at least one side — with the likeliest scenario in this spot being each team rising five to eight plays above their season average.

DOLPHINS PASS OFFENSE

Ryan Tannehill has topped 23 pass attempts only once this year (28 attempts against Tennessee), and he has topped 230 passing yards only once as well (289 yards vs Oakland). Miami does rank fourth in yards per pass attempt, as Tannehill has been pushing the ball downfield more than we would typically expect — ranking 10th in average intended air yards.

The Bengals’ pass defense has been below-average in every metric except YAC allowed per reception — where they have been elite this year, ranking behind only the Jags, Panthers, and Ravens.

We are still waiting for a Dolphins pass catcher to exceed six targets in a game — a mark that Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, and Kenny Stills have each hit once. Amendola has returned very little upside on his underneath role, while Albert Wilson is primarily being schemed the ball in the short areas of the field, in the hopes he can do something big with the ball in his hands.

The main downfield weapon for Miami is Stills, who quietly ranks third in the NFL — behind only John Brown and DeSean Jackson — in average depth of target, at 17.0 yards downfield. Stills is getting there with one to three high-efficiency targets each week in the short area of the field, and with the rest of his targets coming on shots downfield. He’s a low-floor, high-upside piece in this matchup — with potential for a spike to seven or eight targets if the Dolphins manage to run a few more plays than normal.

Behind these three, the tight ends have been absolute afterthoughts on this team, with A.J. Derby and Mike Gesicki combining for 10 targets through four games. With Derby out of action last week, Gesicki turned two targets into one catch for nine yards.

The Dolphins will also mix in Jakeem Grant if DeVante Parker misses again. If Parker plays, he’s likelier to eat into Wilson’s targets than Stills’.

DOLPHINS RUN OFFENSE

The matchup for the Dolphins’ rushing attack is non-threatening, with the Bengals ranking 21st in fewest rushing yards allowed per game and 19th in fewest yards allowed per carry — but the obstacle for us, from a DFS perspective, is the split nature of this backfield.

Through four games, Kenyan Drake has seen touch counts of 17, 15, seven, and four, while Frank Gore has touched the ball nine, 10, six, and 13 times. It’s getting old to say it, but Drake has some of the highest per-touch upside in the league. Obviously, he will need to actually see some touches before he can be considered usable. With Miami ranking 29th in passing play percentage and likely able to keep drives alive vs Cincy this week, we could see Drake in the 15-touch range again, giving him tourney upside — though obviously, his floor remains about as low as can be at this point.

BENGALS PASS OFFENSE

Miami has the pieces to be really strong against the pass, but with only six sacks on the season, they are giving quarterbacks time to get comfortable in the pocket and to allow receivers to peel open. The Bengals have had one of the best pass-blocking units in the league to begin the year (fourth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate), which should create opportunities this week for splash plays from a Bengals attack that has been one of the most consistent units in the league.

The closest comp to Miami’s pass defense right now is the Browns — as Miami (similar to Cleveland) allows a below-average aDOT and a below-average catch rate, while allowing big YAC per reception. Only the Browns have allowed more yards after the catch on a per-reception basis than Miami has allowed. The way to attack this unit is with short passes (particularly short passes over the middle) that open opportunities for yards after the catch.

With that being the case, this once again profiles as a Tyler Boyd game, with his 68% slot rate giving him a perfect opportunity to take advantage in this spot. Boyd has an aDOT of 9.1 (compared to 12.9 for A.J. Green), and last week he saw 15 targets, with 11 of these coming within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, and with only one of these targets coming more than 15 yards downfield. A.J. Green, meanwhile, saw eight targets — with all of these looks coming outside the hash marks, and with five of these eight looks coming more than 15 yards downfield. Green will see his seven to 10 looks once again, and — as we saw against Baltimore — he has the talent-driven upside to smash in any matchup; but price-considered floor is thinned out in this spot, given what Miami aims to do on defense.

These two are the clear keys to this passing attack, with Alex Erickson eating up space on 36 snaps last week (compared to 62 for Boyd and 69 for Green) — good for third on the team among receivers, but good for only two targets (his first two on the year). Erickson will see his snaps recede if John Ross is able to play this week. Ross played just under half of the Bengals’ snaps in Week 3 (before ducking in and out of last week’s game with a groin injury and playing only 18 snaps). He’ll have a few plays designed to go to him if he is on the field, with three to five targets his likeliest range. He’ll have a tough time hitting downfield against this defense — though he obviously has the speed to make something special happen, as a thin tourney play.

Targets are further concentrated on this offense with the loss of Tyler Eifert. Last week,