Rams Run D21st DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O8th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Rams Pass D11th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O3rd DVOA/4th Yards per pass
Seahawks Run D9th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Rams Run O1st DVOA/10th Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Rams Pass O10th DVOA/15th Yards per pass
Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
The first game of Week 5 looks exciting, as it boasts the second-highest total of the week, and the total has gone up a full point since it came out, from 48 to 49 with the Seahawks set up as 1.5 point home favorites. This game gets complex to pick apart when we start digging in to the Seahawks’ usage as well as their overall behavior on offense, while the Rams have a narrow usage distribution and fairly predictable offense but have experienced massive road struggles.
I’ll start with the Rams, since they’re both more predictable and because they’re going to control how this game plays out. What I mean by that is, the Seahawks run a pretty boring, slow-paced, run-heavy offense as often as they can, and they only really open things up and become more aggressive if their opponent forces them to by putting up points. The Rams’ run game has been more of a split than we’re used to seeing, with Todd Gurley hanging around the 75% snap percentage range in the past two weeks. Gurley has yet to exceed more than 16 carries or 20 total touches this year and his pass game involvement has swung wildly, with target counts of 1, 4, 1, and 11(!). It’s a bit hard to know what you’re going to get with Gurley — as long as the game stays close he should see 14-16 carries and 1-4 targets, and a multi-touchdown game is certainly within his range of outcomes. After scoring two touchdowns in Week 1, Malcolm Brown has mostly vanished, with 14 carries in the last three weeks and three total targets. Finally, just a matchup note: the Rams’ offensive line is less dominant than in years past, and while Seattle’s run D has only graded out as average so far they have the personnel to be highly effective and will almost certainly rank more highly by the end of the season than they do today.
In the pass game, as always, we only have to think about three Rams receivers (last week, in a game in which Goff threw a whopping 68 times, Josh Reynolds only saw two targets). Seattle’s defense filters targets to the middle of the field, so Cooper Kupp has the best matchup as well as the best usage and success this season — he’s my top play of the trio. Kupp also has 46 targets versus 38 for Robert Woods and 31 for Brandin Cooks. Woods is the intermediate guy who shoulds see 7-10 targets and be moved around the field, while Cooks will get his deeper shots. Cooks is, as (almost) always, the lowest floor option but with a nice ceiling and likely the lowest ownership of the three based on performance to date. At tight end the Rams maintain an almost even split between Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee, with neither of them seeing enough volume to make a big yardage game likely. Both have healthy red zone roles, though Everett has the slight edge here (five RZ receptions this year compared to three for Higbee), and both will need a TD in order to pay off. It’s worth noting here that the big three WRs only have five total RZ receptions on the year — the same as Everett.
Seattle’s workloads are messier. Chris Carson played 55% and 76% of the snaps in two games without Rashaad Penny, handling 16 and 26 touches. That’s…quite a range, especially seeing as how about 50-55% of the snaps was what he was playing with Penny earlier in the season. Carson has also fumbled in three of four games, and that likely lost him some snaps in Week 3. Penny is scheduled to return this week, and that creates some significant floor risk for Carson — he’s more like a 14-16 carry, 2-4 target back than a 20+ touch guy, and there’s some risk that an early fumble could significantly decrease his workload. The Rams’ defense has also been above average against the run (though hardly elite, and that isn’t going to stop Seattle from being run-heavy; only the Rams putting up a lot of points can do that). Carson is a strong play but possibly a smidge overpriced with Penny returning, while Penny and even C.J. Prosise are viable MME plays who could luck into touchdowns or step into bigger-than-expected roles if Carson fumbles early and is benched.
The Seahawks’ pass game needs some digging into as it operated pretty smoothly in Weeks 1-3, with Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and Jaron Brown getting almost all of the snaps, though Brown was just out there running routes by himself as he only saw six targets in three weeks. David Moore came back in Week 3, however, and in Week 4 things went wacky: Metcalf and Brown each saw their snaps drop by about 20%, while Moore’s surged. Targets were 4, 3, and 2, respectively. So, behind Lockett, the wide receiver situation is awfully murky. Metcalf is averaging over 22 yards per catch but he’s only caught 10 out of 23 balls, so it makes sense that the Seahawks may want to scale him back a little bit. At the end of the day, all of these guys are going to require either this game to turn into a shootout or a long bomb in order to pay off, but they should each have at least one chance at a long TD in this game. At just $600, with his snaps trending up and coming off of a strong 2018, David Moore is my favorite overall play from this group, followed by Metcalf, and then Brown. Finally…Will Dissly. I missed on Dissly in Week 4 as I wasn’t interested in chasing a chalky tight end with poor measurables who was only playing a little over half the snaps, but after Nick Vannett was traded, Dissly’s snaps spiked to 79%. He also saw eight targets, the most he’s seen all year, and that came in a game in which Russell Wilson only threw 28 passes. Dissly is clearly becoming an important part of the Seahawks offense, but that said, without a ton of YAC ability he’s extremely unlikely to surpass 100 yards and he’ll need a touchdown in order to pay off. At $7,200, that’s a lot to spend for a guy who needs to get into the end zone in order to succeed.
The way that this game is likely to play out is for the home favorite Seahawks to try to run, run, run. The Rams are built to run as well, but are less likely to be successful; for them, the run helps to establish their pass game via play action. As long as this game stays within one or two scores, Seattle is unlikely to be highly aggressive and will happily just run all day (though it’s worth noting that, while Seattle tends to acquire yardage on the ground, they also tend to score through the air, with eight passing TDs vs. four rushing…and one of the rushing TDs being Russ himself). In this scenario you’re looking at the Seattle run game plus Russ, the Rams’ receivers, Goff, and the kickers as your core plays. Naked Russ is highly reasonable as he both has rushing ability and a tendency to hit random receivers for a touchdown but no other catches in the game, which is not enough to push that receiver into the optimal lineup in most cases.
Some other ways the game could play out:
- If the Rams can really get their play action game going strong they could move the ball effectively through the air, which also further opens up the ground game. A real shootout is a possibility here, and if the Rams unexpectedly get up by a couple of scores, we could see a 35-40 pass attempt game for Russ instead of a 25 to 30 attempt game. Keep in mind here that based on how the Rams play, every touchdown coming on the ground is an entirely viable possibility here; don’t discount Gurley in builds that are predicated on a shootout.
- Goff has been legitimately horrible on the road in his career, as well as pretty awful in his past dozen or so total games. Last week it took him 68(!!) pass attempts to notch two passing touchdowns. The Rams’ D should keep them in this game, but it is entirely possible that Goff is just unable to keep any consistent offense going.
My favorite captains in this game are Russ and Kupp. This is odd for me as I’m normally not a QB captain guy, but the way the Seahawks spread the ball around mean it’s more likely than normal for Russ to have a big game without one of his receivers outscoring him (his rushing ability doesn’t hurt here, either). Russ, in fact, has outscored both Lockett and Metcalf every single week so far (Dissly beat Russ in Week 4). I will also want to be overweight on Gurley at captain, which I think won’t take much total allocation — it’s not the most likely outcome, but there are certainly viable paths to Gurley putting up the highest score in this game.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers (perhaps 1 for Russ if you think he runs one in)
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- At most 1 of Lockett and Carson (I might not do this in 100% of builds, but I will in some, as their paths to big games are very different; could also consider no Lockett in Carson captain builds and vice versa)
- At most 2 of Metcalf, Moore, and Brown
- At most 2 of Carson, Penny, and Prosise
Cash game thoughts: well, the standard formula works price-wise in this one! It doesn’t work with Russ at captain, though, and you’ll have to evaluate your level of comfort playing Gurley vs. someone like Kupp or Lockett.
— 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(!).
(Note from JM :: Xandamere is currently in second place through two slates in the King of the Showdown tournament, so shoutout to him there! I also had my first big tournament night in my third ever Showdown slate on MNF using Xandamere’s tourney approach. Let’s get it!!!!)
Jaguars Run D22nd DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O16th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D32nd DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O11th DVOA/9th Yards per pass
Panthers Run D26th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O17th DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D13th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O21st DVOA/13th Yards per pass
Jaguars at Panthers is a clash of tempos, as the Jaguars rank 29th in pace of play this year, while the Panthers have unveiled a new, up-tempo offense that has continued to play with tempo even with Kyle Allen under center — currently ranking second in the league in pace of play.
The up-tempo offense was a bit of a surprise from what is typically one of the slowest-paced teams in the league, but even more surprising has been the Panthers’ ability to completely stonewall opponents through the air.
With the Panthers ranking fourth in DVOA and first in yards allowed per pass attempt after facing the Rams, Bucs, Cardinals, and Texans (and with Gardner Minshew maxing out at 33 pass attempts and averaging 7.5 yards per pass attempt on the year), this entire Jaguars passing attack — in a game with an Over/Under of 41.0 and a Vegas-implied total for the Jaguars of 18.75 — is tough to bank on for anything but “hoping for a big play or a multi-touchdown game.” (If you choose to make this bet, of course, it should go without saying that D.J. Chark is your likeliest path to this outlier; though if betting on an outlier in the first place, it’s not crazy to bet on outliers to that outlier — perhaps coming up with a scenario in which Chris Conley or Dede Westbrook hits in this spot instead).
Of course, your better bet is on the ground, where Carolina has gotten gashed to the tune of 4.79 yards per carry by running backs (which is also a surprise — and with Kawann Short now on injured reserve after missing the last couple weeks, the paths to this team turning things around are slimmer, as the Panthers’ rotation up front is going to continue to tire out throughout games). Here’s a look at the success rate percentage on runs vs the Panthers this year (courtesy of Sharp Football Stats).
In looking at this chart, it is further worth noting that Leonard Fournette has seen twice as many runs to the left as to the right (with the Jags designing plays to their relative strengths), which further enhances the outlook for him in this spot. Last week — with a big workload and the Jaguars running 82 plays — Fournette played 83% of the snaps, and in Week 3 he played 100%. The Jaguars are running their offense through Fournette, having given him 17, 19, 21, and 31 touches. He comes with cap hits of only 11.5% on FanDuel, 12.1% on FantasyDraft, and 12.8% on DraftKings; and while his chances of a floor game are higher than most other backs with his locked-in snap share, that floor is still not destructive at his price, and the ceiling is elite.
Speaking of backs with big workloads: since Kyle Allen stepped under center, Christian McCaffrey has seen touch counts of 27 and 37, and this week he has a matchup against a Jaguars run defense that ranks 23rd in DVOA and 14th in yards allowed per carry. Jacksonville has arrived at these marks by stopping most runs for little to no gain, but having too many breakdowns that are leading to chunk gains being picked up. This introduces a bit more boom/bust to the matchup than we would have with a defense that just consistently gets pushed around — but add in the workload, and you can feel roughly as safe as you always feel when you lock in CMC.
The Panthers are also going to pass the ball enough for some players to matter in this spot (especially if Jalen Ramsey misses again), though the only way to really hit slate-breaking upside (in this offense that prefers to lean on its best player) will be through big plays or touchdowns, as none of these pass catchers are likely to see monster volume.
Four weeks into the season, Curtis Samuel ranks 12th in the NFL in aDOT (15.3), and he and Allen missed on multiple shots last week. Samuel also has 14 targets since Allen took over (to seven targets for D.J. Moore), and one of these weeks his seven targets will produce a 5-100-1 or even 5-130-2 line instead of the 3-30 to 5-50 range we have seen with Allen so far. With the Panthers at home and the Jaguars’ defense struggling to come together on the back end, this is a fine spot to chuck up a solid prayer on Samuels in tourneys.
Moore will need another big YAC play or a couple red zone targets to hit, while Greg Olsen is viable up the seam against a Jaguars defense that is typically “more attackable” with tight ends than they are with wide receivers — though it’s always worth keeping in mind that the vertical usage a tight end sees in Norv Turner’s offense increases upside but also lowers floor, introducing some risk for Olsen with Allen under center.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Even with the low total in this game, I’ll take a few well-placed shots on Samuel in large-field play this week, as it’s always +EV in contests of that sort to expose yourself to wide receivers who can make their day on a single play; but outside of that, my entire focus in this game will be on the backfields. Both Fournette and CMC are in the mix for “core build” territory at the front end of the week — with each of their snap counts completely secure, and with the matchup setting up well for Fournette and the usage setting up beautifully for CMC. Otherwise, I’ll be leaving this game alone, as the rest of the pieces are just guessing and hoping for the best this week.
Patriots Run D18th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Washington Run O21st DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D17th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Washington Pass O32nd DVOA/28th Yards per pass
Washington Run D17th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O3rd DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Washington Pass D6th DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O27th DVOA/25th Yards per pass
If you are reading the NFL Edge in chronological order instead of bouncing around to whatever games interest you the most, you will notice that we are starting a bit slow this week given the order in which games are arranged — with three pretty brutal games (Jags // Panthers || Patriots // Redskins || Bills // Titans) before we ramp up with Ravens // Steelers and then really hit things hard with a run of Cards // Bengals || Falcons // Texans || Bucs // Saints). This game has a handful of fringe-valuable options, but as with most games in this mostly-easy schedule the Patriots have had to begin the year, Washington would need a miracle this week to be a respectable offense to target in DFS. Through four weeks, the Patriots rank second in DVOA against the run, fifth in yards allowed per carry, first in DVOA against the pass, and second in yards allowed per pass attempt, while the Redskins rank 30th in rush offense DVOA, 31st in yards per carry, 22nd in pass offense DVOA, and 23rd in yards per pass attempt. And while you could say the Patriots haven’t played a great offense yet, Washington has proven in softer matchups than this that they are not a great offense either (and they appear likely to be downgrading at quarterback this week with either checkdown king Colt McCoy or a very raw Dwayne Haskins). Most ownership on Washington will come from lazy roster construction that tries to figure out “where to save some salary to fit in the expensive guys I like,” so if for some reason you want to bet on uncovering a miracle slate-breaker from this offense, be sure to go a step further than the field and build around some sort of unlikely game flow scenario that leads to a specific Washington player hitting for an outlier game.
The clearest path for an outlier such as that is for the “visiting team that is 4-0” to come out flat in a game like this; but since we are talking about the Patriots (who, it is rarely talked about, collect more football players than any other team, and whose coaches don’t typically allow let-downs to occur), the likeliest path for this game is the path envisioned by Vegas: a full-on Patriots smash.
On the Patriots’ side of the ball: the offensive line has been really failing to open up holes, with this team ranking 28th in yards per carry — and this issue has gotten worse the last couple weeks without James Develin on the field. (Fun, random fact: my dad seems to go out of his way to only purchase Patriots jerseys that not many people will have — and he has progressed through the years from “not Brady” to completely on the fringe, with a progression (if memory serves) of Welker // Mayo // Hightower // Develin (proudly purchased this year, with many texts communicating the tracking details of the shipment, hoping the jersey would arrive in time for the first game of the season).) The Patriots continue to play with two backs (they have had two backs on the field 40% of their plays), with plenty of Multiple usage from James White and Rex Burkhead (giving these guys opportunities for satellite motion, with potential to run routes from the slot or from the backfield, while also maintaining the threat of the run). It’s always difficult to get a handle on New England backfield usage, but it seems likely that last week’s White spike (and Rex disappearance) had more to do with game plan than with Rex’s foot issue, though since it’s the Patriots: who really knows. If Rex is healthy, he seems likely to see a bigger role this week vs a team that can be hit both on the ground and through the air; but White and Sony Michel aren’t going away, which ultimately keeps this as a three-man backfield that leaves you hoping to guess right on touchdowns.
The Washington defense ranks 31st in drive success rate allowed (only the Dolphins are worse; note: drive success rate effectively measures what percentage of drive series end in a first down or a touchdown, making it a great way to get a feel for how consistently a team can move the ball, or how consistently a team can move the ball against a particular opponent) — making this a great spot for the Patriots to chew up yards. Washington also ranks 23rd in drive success rate on offense, while the Patriots rank first on defense. The Patriots should spend plenty of time with the ball — and through the air, this should mean focusing mostly on short passes with a few well-timed deep balls mixed in.
So far this season, Phillip Dorsett leads Josh Gordon in aDOT (12.2 to 9.8) and percentage share of team air yards (25.13% to 23.58%), and in games without Antonio Brown, Gordon has 22 targets while Dorsett has 20. Neither guy has a secure enough target share on a spread-the-wealth offense in an expected blowout to be cash game viable, but both definitely have upside in tourneys (Washington has been burned enough deep that the Patriots will surely design a handful of shots this week). Gordon is on the field more (he’s the guy in two-wide sets), but Dorsett makes for an interesting pivot — especially as he’s cheaper and will draw lower ownership in what has been a slightly more valuable role.
As for Julian Edelman :: he quietly has about the same aDOT (8.2) and percentage share of team air yards (23.45%) as Gordon — though this says more about the way the greater fantasy community has miscommunicated Gordon’s role than it does about Edelman’s upside. You already know what you get with Edelman: above-average target assuredness with an outside shot at a touchdown. His ceiling games tend to come in closely-contested shootouts, but you’re generally hoping to guess right on a touchdown for Edelman in tourneys anyway, keeping him in the “non-awful play” mix in this spot.
JM’s Interpretation ::
I’ll be leaving Washington alone, as avoiding players on bad offenses against this Patriots defense is a +EV play.
New England, as is almost always the case, “should score a lot of points, and may spread the ball around so much that no slate-winning scores come of it.” If building a few rosters around this game, I’ll likely focus on Dorsett for the lower ownership, the lower price, and the similar usage to Gordon and Edelman, while a couple “Gordon FOMO” darts are worth part of an MME build as well, as he does still have legitimate slate-breaking upside. I don’t expect this game to be a core focus for me, but there are enough points flowing through New England that a few tourney shots should be taken with this team as part of any MME approach. Tom Brady, the wideouts, and even a guess-on-RB play are all in the mix.
Bills Run D24th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O11th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Bills Pass D28th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O2nd DVOA/11th Yards per pass
Titans Run D16th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O32nd DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Titans Pass D24th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O4th DVOA/6th Yards per pass
If you’re looking for excitement, Bills at Titans carries the lowest total on the main slate.
State of this matchup ::
Somewhat quietly, the Bills currently have the third best record in the AFC, behind only the Chiefs and Patriots. And while this record is largely a product of a soft schedule to open the year, the Bills still get to play three more games this year against the Jets and the Dolphins — and they have the pieces on defense and in the coaching room to be a legitimate playoff contender if they win those winnable games and simply need to go 4-5 across the rest of their schedule.
On the other side of this game, the Titans are currently in a four-way tie in a wide-open AFC South, with Bill O’Brien trying to sink the Texans, Frank Reich and Mike Vrabel doing what they can to outperform roster-based expectations, and the Jags full of question marks all the way around. The Titans are a legitimate playoff contender as well given the division they are in and their ability to scheme wins against less sophisticated opponent — making this a fun game from a “football” perspective, even it’s likely to be a DFS dud.
Buffalo Offense v Tennessee Defense ::
We know that the Tennessee defense likes to blitz the quarterback and disguise both their pass rush and their coverage — so if you’re the Bills, you may actually be hoping that Josh Allen fails to clear concussion protocol in time for this game. (As of Wednesday, Allen is progressing but not yet a sure thing.) If Allen plays, there will be opportunities for big plays to John Brown (or possibly even Robert Foster, who continues to see one or two looks per game), but there will also be opportunities for the Titans to capitalize on Allen mistakes. If it’s Barkley under center, this game becomes far less chaotic; there will still be potential for mistakes — but these will be more from arm limitations than from head-scratching decisions.
The Titans have also been (unsurprisingly) stout against the run so far — though teams have been able to move the ball against the Titans by running up the gut. If Devin Singletary is back on the field this week, it isn’t impossible for him to hit a big play (he has looked really good when healthy this year), but the spot itself sets up better for Frank Gore, who should continue to be something of a focal point this week in this opponent-specific Buffalo offense.
If Allen misses, we should also expect a dose of movement and misdirection (with a few wide receiver rushes) to try to get the Titans out of position; though given Barkley’s lack of mobility against this stout Titans defense, it’s hard to see many paths to a score big enough to prove worthy of a roster spot from this group.
Tennessee Offense v Buffalo Defense ::
The Titans’ side of this game is very clear:
Buffalo continues to be one of the toughest matchups for opposing passing attacks, while being “more attackable” on the ground, while the Titans prefer to keep the ball on the ground on offense anyway, and should be happy to lean in that direction in this spot. The Tennessee passing attack, as always, is simply hoping you guess right on an outlier — and that outlier would be even more extreme with the Bills coming to town.
The run game also shakes out pretty quickly for us, as Derrick Henry is almost always in play in tourneys for his ability to bust multiple long runs and/or score multiple touchdowns, but with his limited pass game role (and this game carrying the lowest Over/Under on the slate), he’s a player to avoid in cash games.
As for the matchup for Henry: Buffalo has euthanized runs up the middle so far this year, but runs to the edge have given them trouble. Nearly 50% of Henry’s runs have gone to the edge so far (47.4%), so there is no reason for the matchup to scare you so much as you should be cautious with Henry’s actual role.
JM’s Interpretation ::
The offensive pieces in this game should be kept far away from cash game rosters, and there is a clear case to be made for all of these pieces being kept off tighter tourney builds as well. As always in a game like this (well…as always in any game — but especially in a game like this, where the “misses” can miss hard due to the stout defenses), the only plays worth thinking about in tourneys are those with slate-breaking potential. The player in this game likeliest to reach that level of production is Henry, with the next likeliest being Josh Allen if he plays, and/or John Brown (who could honestly hit with Barkley as well; Barkley was more willing to push the ball downfield in his spot starts last year than most probably remember) — though given how much there is to like at quarterback and how unlikely it is that this game turns into a shootout, even Allen becomes unattractive for the risk you would have to absorb when there are 30-point ceilings to target in better spots; and there are other overlooked wideouts with a better shot at a monster game than John Brown. Perhaps the other “best path to a big game” is Dawson Knox — simply because you don’t need a whole lot at his price on DraftKings and FantasyDraft. Knox played 53 of a possible 78 snaps last week and has seen four and three targets the last two weeks. Tyler Kroft is looking unlikely to give it a go, and there are probably worse ways to take pivot-shots than this.
Ravens Run D2nd DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O14th DVOA/9th Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D7th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O12th DVOA/24th Yards per pass
Steelers Run D1st DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O5th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D8th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O19th DVOA/31st Yards per pass
The clear-headed thought entering this game goes something like this: The Ravens used Marlon Humphrey to erase Odell Beckham last week, and the Browns countered by hammering passes to Jarvis Landry. It seems likely the Ravens try to take out JuJu Smith-Schuster in the pass game, which should leave the Steelers leaning on Diontae Johnson through the air. One key difference, of course, is that the Browns are an aggressive offense that wants to pass, while the Steelers are looking for creative ways to move the ball while shortening the game. This limits some of the appeal, but it still warrants a deeper look at how Johnson is being used.
Last week, Diontae had only two targets that came more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and only one target that came more than 10 yards downfield — though that one target was a downfield shot that the Steelers spent all game trying to set up (and the week before, Diontae saw a pair of downfield shots). And really, that’s a great snapshot of what we’re looking at here: locked-in targets (somewhere in the five to eight range) designed to get the ball in his hands; but he needs a long play or a touchdown, because otherwise it’s just a lot of really short stuff. The targets alone don’t raise floor high enough given the way he is being used — but he does kick off this game for us as an interesting tournament piece.
This swings us over to JuJu, who honestly still needs his price to drop a bit before we can consider him to be appropriately priced in his new role in this new offense. Outside of his 76-yard “do the work on his own” touchdown in Week 3, JuJu has five catches for 20 yards (on 10 targets) across two full games with Mason Rudolph — so while that “do the work on his own” potential remains, it’s a thin bet this week against Humphrey, especially at his price.
The Steelers will also be looking to involve Vance McDonald in the short passing game to some extent (assuming he makes it back onto the field this week), and James Washington will continue to be given a couple chances as well — though in this Rudolph-led popgun attack, you’re just hoping to guess right on a YAC play from Vance or a big play from Washington.
Beware Fantasy Points Allowed ::
When looking at the Steelers backfield, we should realize that the Ravens’ “fantasy points allowed” numbers are skewed by matchups against the Chiefs running backs and Nick Chubb — while filtering out those matchups leaves us with only the Dolphins and Cardinals. Frankly, the numbers just don’t yet give us a clear enough snapshot of this run defense; but personnel-wise, this should still be a tough unit to contend with; and coaching-wise, we can fully expect the Ravens to look to force Mason Rudolph to beat them. This team won’t be caught off-guard by any crazy multi-back formations (and frankly, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Randy Fitchner called very few of those plays this week), so a lot of the paths to upside are at least made murkier this week than last.
Nevertheless, the involvement James Conner has in all facets of the game and his potential to be the main touchdown-scorer for this team keep him in the tourney conversation. If Conner misses, Jaylen Samuels would vault to the top of the conversation on this slate from a role-driven standpoint (especially on PPR sites FantasyDraft and DraftKings), given his cheap price and his pass-catching skill set as a college H-back // tight end.
Beware The Ravens Passing Floor ::
Last week, Cleveland was able to get Marquise Brown working sideways (instead of moving up the field), which sapped a huge chunk of his upside. (Not one of Brown’s targets last week came more than 20 yards downfield, and none of his catches came more than 10 yards downfield. Every single one of his Week 5 targets also came with him facing the line of scrimmage or moving sideways across the field.) From a zone-coverage-ability standpoint, the Steelers are well-equipped to force Baltimore into a similar setup this week.
There are also plenty of weapons Pittsburgh can throw at Mark Andrews — whose hot start (as noted last week) was at least somewhat a byproduct of playing Arizona and Miami; though he is a favorite target for Lamar Jackson (target counts of 8 // 9 // 7 // 8), and his downfield usage continues to provide him with enough juice to be in the mix in tourneys.
The Steelers won’t be able to generate pressure the way they were able to last week against the poor offensive line of the Bengals, but this is still a deceptively difficult spot for Baltimore through the air — and it won’t be a surprise if this offense leans on the run this week.
Ravens Run ::
Pittsburgh has been stout up the middle this season, but they have been attackable everywhere else — and Mark Ingram is having his usage adjusted from game to game by Greg Roman to account for the matchup. (This is part of the reason the Ravens overpaid for Ingram in free agency, as he just offers so much more depth and versatility than a guy like Gus Edwards can offer.) With this game unlikely to get away from the Ravens against the safety-valve offense of the Steelers, Ingram should be in line for a clear 16+ touches with goal line work this week.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Lamar can always do enough on his own to be in the mix in all contest types, even at his elevated price. He has just been remarkably consistent so far in his career, and the Ravens are a good/adaptable enough offense to lean heavier on the run with Lamar in this spot if that’s what it takes to win. Part of the beauty of Lamar is that he can be rostered without his pass catchers if you want to shrug off some uncertainty and risk, as Lamar can get you a big score without carrying his pass catchers with him; and if one of his pass catchers has a big game, you still have access to some of those points through Lamar. While the quarterback in this offense is viable in all contest types, the core pass game pieces are tourney-only this week with fewer paths to upside against a Steelers defense that sets up well against them, and with more of these Upside Paths closed off by the way Pittsburgh wants to take the air out of their games. This offense wraps with Ingram, who is solid for his upside, but who is behind a number of other backs this week from a floor/ceiling sense.
Conner is behind a number of other backs as well (though he does have a few paths to a big game if he plays, given his rock-solid workload), and Samuels vaults up at his price if Conner is out.
Diontae is really interesting for what should be another six targets and could turn into eight or nine; but he’s still lacking that rock-solid floor you would love to secure for cash. I like him in tourneys this week.
I’ll likely avoid JuJu. It’s not impossible for him to hit, of course; but it’s unlikely enough that he’s a fade for me until his price drops some more.
Cardinals Run D10th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O27th DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D10th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O26th DVOA/18th Yards per pass
Bengals Run D23rd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O2nd DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D16th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O18th DVOA/19th Yards per pass
The Arizona Cardinals are on pace for a solid 44 sacks this year…and they have zero interceptions. This tells you most of what you need to know about this defense — which this week will be traveling to take on a Bengals team that has so far played at Seattle, at home vs a very tough 49ers defense, in an impossible spot at Buffalo, and at a “common opponent” Steelers defense that still boasts one of the best pass rushes in football.
While the Cardinals will be able to get pressure on Andy Dalton, they won’t be able to get pressure the way Pittsburgh could — and there will be plenty of opportunities for Dalton to find holes in the Cardinals’ zone coverage.
With John Ross out of action, this matchup points most heavily toward Tyler Boyd and Tyler Eifert. Although you are obviously still left banking on a touchdown for major upside, Boyd meshes nicely with this matchup against a zone-heavy defense that has sprung downfield leaks all season — boosting aDOT by 21.5% compared to the league average. (There are two types of major-aDOT boosters: teams like the Patriots and Lions that play tight man coverage and invite downfield throws but allow a low catch rate; and teams like the Giants and Cardinals, who allow downfield throws because of bad coverage, with the Cardinals incredibly allowing a catch-rate boost of 4.2% against the league average in spite of all the downfield throws.)
We also know about the Cardinals struggles against tight ends — a function of scheme and talent that teams are going out of their way to attack each week. The main label we have pasted on the Bengals coaching staff so far this year is “adaptable,” and it makes sense to expect this group to design a handful of plays to tight ends this week. The Bengals don’t mind involving C.J. Uzomah and even Drew Sample on a few looks, but after Eifert has seen exactly five targets in three of his four games so far, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him break north of that mark this week.
There is also likely to be plenty of talk this week about Auden Tate — and given that this game pairs two teams that rank second (Cincinnati) and third (Arizona) in passing play percentage (and given that this is largely by design for both teams), this attention is warranted. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but Tate has 10 and six targets and is nearly minimum-priced on all three sites, in a great matchup. He also has a red zone body at 6’5″. He’ll be chalky this week, especially with so little value available on the slate; but he’ll be chalky for a reason.
If we take away Christian McCaffrey’s 76-yarder against the Cardinals, this team is allowing only 3.59 yards per carry to running backs as they focus on stopping the run. The only way to hit this run defense has been up the middle (an incredible 72.2% of runs against Arizona have come up the middle, as each team is seeing the same thing on film and attacking it — not producing at an elite level, but at least producing serviceably), but the Bengals’ zone run offense isn’t designed to run up the gut, and they have been poor this year when trying. With the Bengals offensive line struggling as a whole, this is not a great spot for Joe Mixon, who should be left for tournaments as a “bet on pass game involvement or a touchdown” piece.
Obnoxiously, 63.8% of runs for David Johnson have come up the gut (which we could have told Kliff Kingsbury, if he had bothered to ask, is the wrong way to use DJ), and this is where Cincy has been stout this year (while getting absolutely destroyed by running backs everywhere else). While we could dig into hypotheticals about the Cardinals increasing DJ’s edge usage in this matchup, the truth is that the main reason to roster DJ is for his aerial production anyway, as he has only one game with more than 11 carries, and his offensive line is not good. His receptions are locked in, however, and the Bengals have allowed the second most running back receptions (against the fourth fewest tight end receptions and the third fewest wide receiver receptions; I’m not reading much into the TE/WR numbers, as Cincy has faced the fewest pass attempts in the league after games vs four run-heavy opponents; but the fact that Cincy has faced the second fewest pass attempts in the league and allowed the second most running back receptions really pops off the page).
DJ’s elevated target projection is further locked in by the expected absence of Christian Kirk, as this team has focused the majority of its action on Kirk // Larry Fitzgerald // DJ, and last week when Damiere Byrd missed, they showed little inclination to stretch the targets too far beyond these three. Trent Sherfield and KeeSean Johnson will see looks (and Andy Isabella will be on the field as well), but the schemed usage will be dominated by Fitz and DJ.
Fitz is a bit tougher to settle down with, as his price has risen from its early-season value levels and the Bengals have shown an ability so far this year (explored pretty much every week in this space) to adaptably make life difficult on at least one pass game weapon. It is worth noting that in Weeks 1 and 2 (vs the man-heavy Lions and man-heavy Ravens), the Cardinals attacked relentlessly downfield. In Weeks 3 and 4 vs zone-dominant teams in the Panthers and Seahawks that focus on keeping the ball in front of them, everything from the Cardinals was depressingly short. The Bengals have been attacked relentlessly downfield by wide receivers, with Tyler Lockett // DK Metcalf // Marquise Goodwin // Deebo Samuel // John Brown // Diontae Johnson combining for nine receptions of 20+ yards (with most of these coming on passes that traveled 20+ yards through the air). With this taken into account, Fitz still boasts upside in spite of the extra attention he’ll receive from the Bengals.
JM’s Interpretation ::
Both of the quarterbacks are solid in this game, with yards sure to pile up even if each team ends up stalling near the goal line. Kyler Murray in particular has slate-winning upside each week, and this is as good a spot as any for him to hit.
Boyd is a solid option, with the Cardinals ill-equipped to slow him down over the middle of the field. He’ll need some things to break his way for upside, but a dud is unlikely.
Tate and Eifert are solid at their prices on DK and FDraft, while Tate is appealing on FanDuel as well. Expect Tate to be ultra popular (with Eifert potentially joining him), and realize that pass catchers are, by nature, more volatile than running backs (where value plays like this are always safer). This creates cases for strategic tourney fades, but both guys (Tate in particular, but Eifert on DK/FDraft for the price) deserve whatever attention they receive this week.
Fitz is appealing as a decent floor bet with sneaky-strong ceiling. He’s not rock-solid, but he’s in the mix.
And DJ really stands out in this game, as he’s the piece through which this up-tempo Arizona offense should flow, with his targets locked in as everything filters in his direction. He’s squarely in the mix with the other attractive, high-priced backs this week.
Falcons Run D8th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O23rd DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D30th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O8th DVOA/3rd Yards per pass
Texans Run D23rd DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O26th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Texans Pass D8th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O16ths DVOA/2nd Yards per pass
The Core Pieces // Pairings ::
This game in Houston with a healthy Over/Under of 48.5 features a pair of Upside quarterbacks and perhaps the two best wide receivers in the NFL — so it is only fitting that we begin our exploration of this game by looking at the passing attacks.
We will begin on the Texans side, where DeAndre Hopkins (as noted in this week’s Angles email) has failed to top even eight targets in three consecutive games. (It has been over four years since Hopkins has gone more than three consecutive games with single-digit targets.) As usual, the Falcons have faced one of the lowest aDOTs in the NFL as they lean heavily on zone coverage and try to force wide receivers to catch the football facing the line of scrimmage (rather than allowing them to catch the ball on the move and/or catch the ball while moving upfield). Generally speaking, this “lowers upside” for wide receivers — though the Falcons have allowed the second most wide receiver touchdowns so far this season after allowing the second most last year as well, and this matchup sets up for Hopkins to be leaned on more heavily than he has been the last three weeks vs Jalen Ramsey, Casey Hayward, and a Panthers defense that has been dominant against wideouts so far. A monster yardage effort from Hopkins will require a broken play, but he’s a solid bet for double-digit looks, and his multi-touchdown upside keeps him very much in the tourney conversation.
We’ll circle back around to Deshaun Watson in a bit, but on the other side of this matchup, the Texans have allowed both Drew Brees and Philip Rivers to top 300 yards this year (with the other matchups for this defense coming against Gardner Minshew and Kyle Allen), with each quarterback having opportunity to take multiple shots downfield. (For that matter: Minshew and Allen took shots downfield in this matchup as well.) Matt Ryan enters this game having somewhat quietly gone for 300+ yards in all four games this season, with three touchdowns in two of those games. Atlanta leads the NFL in pass play rate, while the Texans have faced the ninth highest opponent pass play rate.
Two weeks ago against the zone defense of the Colts, the Falcons leaned on Julio Jones and Austin Hooper, whereas last week the Titans took away both Julio and the deep ball and forced Ryan to work his connection with underneath outlets Hooper and Mohamed Sanu.
There is always risk for a random low-target game from Julio, but he’s in a good spot to see double-digit looks against a defense that has currently allowed the third most receptions and the seventh most yards to the wide receiver position.
The potential for Atlanta to work downfield in this one also quietly tilts things in favor of Calvin Ridley, whose 14.7 aDOT has played poorly in each of the last two weeks. Ridley — as always — is a low-floor play, but with targets likely to be filtered away from Hooper in this one (more on this in a moment), it’s not a bad bet to take a flier on Ridley in tourneys again this week.
Part of the beauty of this matchup is that we frequently cite both of these coaches as guys who can get outsmarted and outmaneuvered by the coach on the opposite sideline. This has led to what should be an explosive Texans offense scoring 13 points vs the Jags and 10 points vs the Panthers (with both games being played at home, no less), and it has led to the Falcons stumbling to a somewhat ugly 1-3 record. But with these two coaches matching up, the play on the field can be dictated by talent — which makes it somewhat likely that an aggressive Falcons team finds a way to score points, and it makes it somewhat likely that Watson will have to work his magic in this game as well. Watson (like Julio) always comes with a somewhat randomly-produced lower floor than he should have — but the likeliest bet in this spot is for Watson to land somewhere between his median range and his ceiling vs an attackable Falcons defense at home.
Next Level Down ::
Kenny Stills is trending toward being out this week (if he plays, he’s simply a bet-on-big-play option, similar to Fuller), and Keke Coutee will be taking his place if that’s the case — at a salary cap hit of 6.7% on FantasyDraft, 6.8% on DraftKings, and 7.5% on FanDuel. Stills and Coutee are not a direct one-for-one swap, as Stills is sitting on an aDOT of 13.4 (after ranking fourth in the NFL last year at 16.4), while Coutee was rarely used on targets more than 10 yards downfield last year. But frankly, this further strengthens Coutee’s case against an Atlanta defense that tries to take away downfield throws — especially as this underneath element on the Texans offense can help open up a lot of what they would ultimately like to do with Hopkins and (to a lesser extent) Will Fuller. The Texans have had at least three wide receivers on the field for 78% of their plays, creating plenty of opportunity for Coutee to see looks this week. Outside of his first healthy game last year (a glorious affair in which O’Brien used Coutee in a number of creative ways, to the tune of 15 targets and an 11-109-0 line) and an 11-110-1 smash against the Colts’ Tampa 2 defense in the playoffs, a typical Coutee stat line has proven to be something in the range of 3-30-0 and 6-50-1, so it would take an outlier for him to post a monster score; but at his price — on a week with a lot to like at the top end and very little to like from a “savings” perspective — he stands out for the role and potential upside (especially as he has shown in two of his seven healthy games that those “outlier” games can be genuine slate-breakers).
Next Level Down ::
Fuller doesn’t set up as well in this matchup for the looks he thrives on — but you can just about guarantee that Bill O’Brien will feed some of these looks his way anyway; which means it’s not thin to chase. (Frankly, it’s never thin to chase Fuller. He’s always in play in large-field tourneys.)
Tashaun Gipson has started taking over tight end coverage on the Texans from Jahleel Addae, and he has done a solid job so far — notably making life difficult on Greg Olsen last week. Given that Hooper has seen six or more targets in every game this year (with one game of nine targets and another of 11), we should expect tight end coverage to be an emphasis this week. Hooper can still hit, but targets are likelier to flow to the wideouts on the Falcons this week.
Sanu ran into one of his random blowup games last week, but with targets less likely to be filtered his way in this one, it would be thin to chase.
Last week, with Ito Smith healthy, he played 30 snaps while Devonta Freeman played 49 — leaving each guy as nothing more than a “hope for a big play or a score” option against a still-solid Houston run defense.
The Houston run game features a pair of one-dimensional players, with Carlos Hyde soaking up the carries but picking up only eight yards on his five dump-off catches, and with Duke Johnson wondering why the Texans traded for him in the first place when he hasn’t caught more than two passes since Week 1.
JM’s Interpretation ::
This was the last game I researched, as it’s an obviously-attractive spot, but — with two coaches who are typically overmatched, and with a pair of up-and-down teams — it felt like the knottiest game to unravel.
The levels-driven breakdown for this game provides a good feel for how things are likeliest to shake out, with Julio standing out for me over Hopkins (though with both very attractive), and with both quarterbacks definitely in the mix. I also like Ridley and Coutee in tourneys (with Coutee potentially usable in cash games as an upside salary saver who won’t kill you if he disappoints); and while there are other ways production could shift in this game, those players will be my main focus — with a few shots on Fuller in large-field play for the slate-breaking upside he carries in any matchup, and with everything else left alone.
Each of these offenses has also posted duds this year (three in all between these two teams, through only eight games total), but with how aggressive these teams are and with the talent being given an opportunity to play out this week, I like the chances of this game producing multiple solid scores.
Buccaneers Run D3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O12th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D1st DVOA/6th Yards allowed per pass
Saints Pass O14th DVOA/12th Yards per pass
Saints Run D4th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O6th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
Saints Pass D15th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O9th DVOA/17th Yards per pass
Bucs at Saints is a really interesting matchup, between the roller-coaster passing attack of the Buccaneers and the find-a-way-to-win Saints. Make no mistake about it: the Saints are the better all-around team; but given what the Bucs have been doing on defense (more on this in a moment), there is cause for overall optimism around this Bucs team as a whole — especially if this team can convince Good Jameis to show up more often than he has so far in his career.
On defense this year, the Bucs’ early-season success against the run has continued to prove to be anything but a fluke, with this team ranking first in DVOA against the run and first in yards allowed per carry in spite of having faced the 49ers, Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Todd Gurley.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers have not been bad against the pass (by basically any measure, they have been right around the league average) — but with how stout this team has been against the run, they are filtering opponents heavily to the air, with only one team allowing a higher opponent pass play rate than the Bucs this year.
Sean Payton is the coach likeliest to control this game — and the starting point for him will be finding ways to move the ball through the air against the Bucs with Teddy Bridgewater under center. So far, this has led to three things from Bridgewater:
1) The shortest average intended air yards in the league
2) Michael Thomas seeing a ridiculous 33.3% of this team’s targets
3) Jared Cook and Alvin Kamara seeing an additional 35.6% of targets (16 looks for Kamara; 15 for Cook)
This is a good spot, then, to also point out that the Bucs have allowed the fifth fewest receptions to running backs this season, on an insanely low 57.1% completion rate to running backs — the lowest in the league. (The majority of teams are currently allowing a completion rate of at least 75% on RB targets.) Payton could line up Kamara in the slot a bit to get the ball into his hands more easily (creating at least one slim path for a score from him that you’d regret missing out on), but the best way for the Saints to move the ball will be with Thomas and Cook.
With the matchup filtering action to the air for the Saints and the matchup further filtering targets in Thomas’ direction, another game of double-digit looks is a high-probability bet after seeing 13 // 7 // 9 so far with Bridgewater under center. With Thomas catching over 82% of his passes from Bridgewater and his price dropping, he’s actually an interesting tourney play. There are clear paths to something like a 9-100-1 line here, and if he scores two touchdowns he could be a sneaky slate-winner.
As for Cook: he has been awful so far in this offense and has shown no chemistry with Bridgewater, but the Bucs are a sneaky strong tight end matchup, with the second most targets allowed and the second most yards allowed in the league. It should be noted for tourneys that on DK and FDraft, Cook is priced right by Tyler Eifert (who is sure to be a sexy cheap play vs the Cardinals this week), and he has about the same target projection and a matchup that is almost as good.
On the Bucs’ side, the run game continues to be somewhat unattractive from a “floor” perspective, even with Ronald Jones starting to show some real juice on the NFL field, as Jones and Peyton Barber have combined for eight total receptions. With this, you absolutely need touchdowns in order for either play to be worthwhile (with Jones clearly preferred, though with this backfield still slightly in the “unpredictable” territory after the flip-flop Arians pulled in Week 2). A matchup against the Saints is shaking out as somewhere between “difficult” and “average” on the ground, creating a low floor on this backfield to go with whatever touchdown-driven upside is there.
In four games against the Dennis Allen DC // Marshon Lattimore shadow matchup, Evans has posted the following stat lines ::
>> 1-13-0 (six targets)
>> 5-55-0 (13 targets)
>> 7-147-1 (seven targets)
>> 4-86-0 (six targets)
(For whatever it is worth, that third game came with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center.)
Lattimore has struggled on the season, allowing 24 catches for 380 yards and two touchdowns on 34 targets (only three wide receivers in the entire NFL have more than 380 receiving yards). Though one thing that I feel tends to go overlooked in this matchup is that Evans has one of the more limited and player-specific route trees in the NFL. So for example: Lattimore was beat primarily short by Amari Cooper and Tyler Lockett this year, and he was hammered over the middle in his matchup against DeAndre Hopkins. Lockett and Nuk still hit him downfield a couple times, but that wasn’t where most of their big action came. But Evans is typically used pretty exclusively on out-breaking routes and downfield shots. It’s not crazy to play this as a tougher matchup for Evans than it is for other wideouts (in the same way that A.J. Green has called Joe Haden the toughest matchup in the NFL — a matchup Green has regularly lost — while plenty of other wideouts are able to find ways to succeed against him), and to “fear but not chase” that third game in his stat line.
In three games as a featured- to somewhat-featured piece on the Bucs’ offense against the Saints, Godwin has posted the following stat lines ::
>> 3-41-1 (with Fitz and Evans taking over)
>> 1-13-0 (on 10 targets!)
Per Sports Info Solutions, New Orleans has allowed the second most PPR points this year to wide receivers lined up in the slot (hat tip to TJ Hernandez), while Godwin has a 51.3% slot rate on the year (and the only reason it isn’t higher is because the Bucs run so much 12 personnel). If you decide to approach this game saying that Evans has unique trouble with Lattimore again, then there are two ways you could approach Godwin:
Firstly, you could expect a Godwin smash as the Bucs begin filtering targets in his direction once again.
Secondly, you could expect Jameis Winston to struggle vs the Saints after struggling in general in starts vs Dennis Allen and the Saints pass rush, and could bet on “Jameis struggles” leaving Godwin overpriced and over-owned this week.
Finally :: that mention of 12 personnel brings up the Bucs tight ends, where Cameron Brate is always a touchdown threat, but where the piece likeliest to post the sort of score you’ll actually notice is O.J. Howard. I was apparently “part of the problem” this offseason in assuming that Arians would find a way to maximize one of the most talented tight ends in the game, but it’s still early enough in the year that you could make a tourney bet on things turning around for Howard, and on this being the week.
JM’s Interpretation ::
I’m unlikely to feel comfortable betting on Michael Thomas in cash games with Teddy Bridgewater under center (we shouldn’t underestimate the potential for Jameis to struggle, which would allow the Saints to slow down the game and turn this into another lower-scoring affair), but I don’t mind the idea of betting on Sean Payton in a funnel matchup figuring out ways to get Thomas going toward a big individual game. He doesn’t have the same projection as the wide receivers on the other side of this game or as Nuk // Julio, but he is an interesting tourney pivot. I also like Cook as a viable tourney pivot off Eifert. Either could dud; either could pop for a big game; the likelihood of each is about the same with sneaky-similar matchups, and Cook should be far lower-owned.
Kamara is “pivot only,” as there are no ultra-clear paths to him outscoring at least three of the other four high-priced backs. (In order for him to be worth the risk, he has to outscore at least three of those four, but preferably all four.) And since ownership on a guy like Kamara doesn’t really drop dramatically regardless of matchup, he’s not a pivot I expect to make myself. His on-his-own talent can justify the play, but given the risks and what else is available, I don’t mind missing out on the lower-than-ownership-percentage likelihood that he hits for a slate-breaker.
With Evans, I’ll likely go underweight — knowing the risk (a ‘have to have it’ game), but recognizing that the risk of rostering him is much higher than the field will assume (especially as his misses can miss wide). It can be considered a +EV approach to fade him with so much high-priced goodness available in other spots this week, and to hope he hits a land-mine.
As for Godwin: there’s really nice upside; but there’s Bad Jameis risk. He’s definitely not a cash game play, but he’s highly attractive in tourneys. (Of course, a “Godwin bet” on a tourney roster likely bets on Jameis having a good game; which would also lead to more work for Michael Thomas. All three of these plays could work well together, as could Godwin // Thomas.)
Vikings Run D27th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O30th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D8th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O29th DVOA/30th Yards per pass
Giants Run D15th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O2nd DVOA/8th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D23rd DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O20th DVOA/21st Yards per pass
I have two major regrets from last week, with the first being the fact (as I mentioned in the video at the top of the NFL Edge) that I overthought the tight end position and leaned on Evan Engram over “Will Dissly vs the Cardinals,” and with the second also centered on the Giants, as I felt that ownership would outweigh the +EV viability of playing Wayne Gallman. Everything noted last week about A) Saquon’s usage to date and B) Gallman’s production expectations over a large sample size in this role was accurate, and if Gallman’s ownership had been as high as I was expecting it to be, “playing him in cash games and going underweight on him in tourneys” would have been the correct call regardless of results. But it seems that the entire industry ended up thinking along that track, and this left Gallman at about half the tourney ownership I expected him to have.
Unfortunately, last week was the week to get in on Gallman, as the matchup this week against the Vikings is not ideal. On the season, the Vikings have allowed only 3.77 yards per carry to running backs, while also allowing the fourth fewest running back receiving yards in the league. Working in Gallman’s favor is a workhorse role that should yield 18 to 22 touches this week; but the matchup closes off a number of the paths he could have had to slate-breaking upside in this spot. (A best case scenario here has Gallman disappointing and his price/ownership staying low in future weeks; though the Giants really don’t run into a quality running back matchup until December 1 when they face the Packers, at which point Saquon will be back.)
The Vikings defense is also (unsurprisingly) in the bottom half of the league in targets allowed to wide receivers, but only four teams have faced more targets to tight ends. As noted in this week’s Angles email :: Darren Waller and Austin Hooper combined to go 22-211-0 against the Vikings on 23 targets, while even Adam Shaheen and Trey Burton went 4-29-0 on six targets last week. With Golden Tate back for the Giants this week, their ultra-concentrated target distribution from the first few weeks will begin to loosen up a bit (and as noted previously: Engram’s targets and upside are already baked into his price, while scoring expectations in this game are not high as a whole for the Giants), but there are clear paths for a double-digit target game for Engram in this spot, making him an interesting name to keep in mind.
It will also be interesting to see how the Giants adjust their offense to account for what is essentially a pair of high-end slot receivers with limited downfield skill sets, and one clear and obvious way to play this game as a DFS player is to use this tough matchup as a “wait and see” spot on this offense (collecting information that you can begin using once they get past the Patriots in Week 6). The Vikings have notably allowed a 76.6% completion rate to wide receivers so far this year, but this hides the fact that the Vikings have also shaved 13% off the league-average aDOT and have allowed the lowest YAC-per-reception rate in the league. Even with the high catch rate allowed, Minnesota has the seventh lowest expected yards per target on defense, creating a tough spot for a quarterback in Daniel Jones who is only one for six on passes that have traveled at least 20 yards downfield (and who was 0 for 3 with two interceptions last week on passes traveling 15 yards downfield).
On the Vikings’ side, we know very clearly what to expect at this point (and Kirk Cousins has done nothing through four weeks to make the Vikings think they should do anything different), with this team leaning on the run as long as A) the game stays close, and B) the rush lanes are there — turning to the pass only as a complement.
We’ll look at the pass first ::
Even “as a complement,” there is clear and obvious upside potential against this Giants pass defense that ranks 31st in yards allowed per pass attempt with the third-deepest aDOT allowed in the league. But target counts for the two core/only-relevant pieces on this passing attack have looked like this:
With these numbers in hand (and with Vikings WR FOMO still leading to higher ownership on this team than we should be seeing, and pricing on these guys remaining way too high to justify the production we have seen on them since the middle of last season (with these two wideouts combining for — ready for this? — three total games of 80+ receiving yards in their last 23 games combined)), it’s difficult to call either a +EV play. Anyone who has been chasing Vikings WRs outside of clear funnel spots since the middle of last season has been consistently losing money, so this spot is simply “hoping you guess right on a broken play or a multi-touchdown game” even with the matchup working in the Vikings’ favor.
Because, Dalvin Cook ::
And part of the reason we are not seeing the Vikings shift from this approach is the awesome play of Dalvin Cook. Cook currently ranks first in PFF’s rush grades, first in PFF’s Breakaway %, and seventh in PFF’s Elusive Rating, while the Vikings new-look offensive line has further helped by ranking fourth in adjusted line yards. With touch counts of 23 // 23 // 20 // 20, Cook isn’t quite in the workload range of CMC and Zeke, but his breakaway ability and his matchup against what should be an overmatched Giants defense (16th in run defense DVOA in spite of facing Adrian Peterson, the Tampa backs, and the Bills the last three weeks) keeps him very much in the “top play on the slate” conversation this week.
JM’s Interpretation ::
With the exception of Engram, I expect to leave the Giants’ side of the ball alone; and with the exception of Cook, I expect to leave the Vikings’ side of the ball alone.
Engram is an interesting option as he has paths to a solid price-considered score; and the more expensive a player is, the more valuable “a solid price-considered score” becomes. Though given that this is still a matchup against a Vikings team that can limit yardage and points, Engram is more appropriately-priced than underpriced; and the potential for this offense to run into trouble as a whole makes him more of a tourney play than a cash game staple.
As for Cook: I’m going to spend a chunk of the second half of the week trying to sort through the high-priced running backs, as Zeke // CMC // Cook // David Johnson all have really strong cases (while there are a couple less expensive backs who are attractive as well). But regardless of how you feel he compares to those other three, he’s very much in the mix, with one of the highest floor/ceiling combos on the slate.
Bears Run D11th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O24th DVOA/14th Yards per carry
Bears Pass D2nd DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O5th DVOA/5th Yards per pass
Raiders Run D31st DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O28th DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D26th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O24th DVOA/23rd Yards per pass
Last year, the Raiders traveled to London for a game on October 14 against the Seahawks, and I spent a bit of that week trying to convince people that the Raiders offense was better than everyone thought it was. To that point in the season, the Raiders had been moving the ball as well as just about any team in the league, and their only issues had been converting yards into points.
This year, the Raiders are again traveling to London (this time for an October 6 game vs the Bears), and they have again been better in some areas than most probably realize. Five weeks seemed like a long enough sample size last year to put trust in what Oakland was doing, and they completely fell apart after that point. We’ll see what this year holds…
Thankfully, it’s easy to remove the Raiders from the “strong offensive pieces” discussion this week (“thankfully,” in that it’s always nice when we don’t have to think about potentially rostering Raiders). They will be taking on a Bears defense that has seen basically no drop-off from last year, ranking second in yards allowed per carry and sixth in yards allowed per pass attempt, while ranking top eight in fewest yards allowed per drive, fewest points allowed per drive, turnovers forced per drive, and drive success rate allowed. Chicago ranks sixth in adjusted line yards and third in adjusted sack rate, and while Oakland’s short-area passing attack is well-schemed, this is still a team leaning on a tight end and a downfield receiver to make this short-area attack work. Josh Jacobs is the “clearest” piece on this side of the ball with any paths to slate-winning upside; and those paths are (of course) extraordinarily murky, with the floor as a (so far) one-dimensional back in this difficult matchup rather low. Rostering Raiders this week is “hoping for a miracle” (or hoping that the Bears, a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations missing their starting quarterback and relying on their defense to keep the season alive, somehow fails to show up on defense for this game).
Things don’t get a whole lot more attractive on the other side of the ball, where Mitchell Trubisky is out of action and Chase Daniel will take over the “point guard” (i.e., Checkdown Master) role in this offense.
The Bears would love to win this game by leaning on the run, but the matchup is deceptively difficult in this spot against an Oakland defense that has been absolutely lights-out vs the run if you take away their game against the elite rush offense of the Vikings, with this unit allowing only 3.5 yards per carry to all other running backs. If we filter further and take away edge rushes from these remaining running backs, Oakland is allowing only 2.8 yards per carry; and with Chicago featuring very few edge rushes so far this season, it’s tough to get too excited about the prospects of David Montgomery in this spot even after Mike Davis was a healthy scratch last week. Montgomery is a “hope for something to break his way” or “hope for Chicago to hammer the edge with him” play this week.
In the secondary, the Raiders (as always) try to get receivers moving horizontally in order to limit upside opportunities, though they have had consistent breakdowns this year that have led to them allowing the most pass plays of 20+ yards (with Sutton // Sanders // Hardman // Robinson // Thielen // Pascal all getting in on the fun). With the Bears likely to control this game and unlikely to unleash many downfield throws, however, we also need to be concerned about the fact that Oakland is going to show looks that will lead to fewer wide receiver targets in general. With Daniel under center for Chicago, it probably goes without saying that Allen Robinson is (by far) the most attractive target on this side of the ball, though “most attractive” is relative. This is a good spot for Robinson to lead the Bears in scoring, and with a touchdown he would be a nice piece on this slate, but you’re also drawing a number of lower-score paths if you take on the handful of upside paths he carries. With an Over/Under of 40.5 and Daniel under center, of course, everyone else in this unpredictable, spread-the-wealth passing attack is completely guessing and hoping.
JM’s Interpretation ::
If Trubisky were playing this week, it would be an interesting week to consider Tarik Cohen in tighter builds, as a matchup against a Raiders team that is tough against the run but tries to limit downfield passing would set up really nicely for Cohen to see heavier schemed usage than he has been seeing lately. For that matter: the fact that Daniel is under center this week increases the likelihood of some schemed Cohen targets as well, but the chances of these coming on wheel routes that spike upside (and the chances of any wheel routes being completed) are lowered, leaving expectations here about where they have been. Cohen is worth a mention as the likeliest “slate breaker” from this game, but his paths to that sort of game remain fairly thin.
Robinson also has an outside shot at a slate-breaker, as he’s the featured piece of this offense and should see seven to nine targets in a good matchup; but it will likely take a broken play or multiple touchdowns for you to notice you didn’t have him.
I expect to leave this game alone in tighter builds and to have minimal exposure in large-field play (with exposure centered around Cohen // Robinson), and even for MME players this game will require outlier scenarios to hit for you to even notice you missed anything if you fade this game altogether.
Added Thoughts ::
Pretty much right after I finished this writeup, I went back and re-watched the Week 4 Bears // Vikings film in preparation for writing up the Vikings // Giants game, and it struck me that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is Raiders DC Paul Guenther’s mentor. The schemes these teams run are similar, with the Vikings (obviously) boasting far better personnel and presenting a much tougher matchup. In that matchup against the Vikings last week, the Bears really leaned on Robinson and featured Cohen pretty heavily in the first half (including a dropped wheel route that Daniel threw perfectly). None of this pushes these guys toward Core Build territory; but re-watching that game and thinking about how the Bears will try to attack the Raiders solidifies these guys a bit more for me as large-field pieces. I don’t expect either to be a staple on my rosters, but each is certainly interesting for carrying low ownership and genuine slate-breaking upside.
The Bears also targeted Javon Wims five times on only 30 Daniel pass attempts, and if Taylor Gabriel misses (which currently seems likely), Wims is a non-poor value play on DraftKings and FantasyDraft. Again: you’re unlikely to notice if you fade all these guys; but there are some paths to production on this side of the ball.
Jets Run D14th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O25th DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Jets Pass D31st DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O29th DVOA/26th Yards per pass
Eagles Run D15th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O29th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D29th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O30th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass
With the Jets playing for “morale” at this point (i.e., this 0-3 team is not going to suddenly turn things around at this point in the season and become some sort of surprise playoff contender; and Adam Gase is not at risk of losing his job a few weeks in), it seems unlikely that they push Sam Darnold onto the field sooner than they should. Between the loss of weight, the loss of strength, and the enlarged spleen (which is a danger to Darnold’s health with hard hits), it would be somewhat foolish for the Jets to rush him back, even if that means another week of Luke Falk under center. If Darnold plays, Jamison Crowder and Robby Anderson are both sneaky bets in this pristine draw with the Eagles’ beat up secondary (Crowder more of a floor play, with touchdown upside; Anderson a low-floor, big-play bet), but given that Vegas has the Jets sitting at an implied total of 15.25, we’ll approach this game assuming Falk is under center come Sunday.
Falk’s average pass has traveled 6.1 yards downfield so far this year (only Teddy Bridgewater, Mason Rudolph…and Sam Darnold have lower marks), and the name of the game for the Jets will be short passes against this Philly defense that annually ranks bottom three in running back rush attempts faced.
On a full slate of games with a bad quarterback under center, this leaves both Anderson and Crowder as thin plays with only “guess and hope” paths to upside; but before we move onto the Philly side of this game, it is worth pointing out that the Eagles (while already, unsurprisingly, having faced the sixth fewest running back rush attempts in the league) have allowed the sixth most running back receptions, one year after they allowed the second most. This slate is full of strong running back plays, and Le’Veon Bell isn’t coming at much of a discount, and the Jets are unlikely to score many points; but he has an outside shot at posting one of the stronger running back scores on the slate and at least warrants a mention.
The matchup for the Philly offense tilts toward the pass against a Jets team that ranks sixth in yards allowed per carry (with Quinnen Williams also set to return this week), but that ranks 21st in yards allowed per pass attempts with a patchwork secondary.
John Brown went 7-123-1 in this matchup in Week 1 with Buffalo primarily using him on crossing routes at all levels of the field, while Odell Beckham went 6-161-1 with a mix of out-breaking routes and go routes. (Josh Gordon also went 6-83-0 in Week 3, representing his highest catch and yardage total of the year.) With Jamaal Adams locked into coverage on Zach Ertz, the matchup sets up for a few extra looks to go to wideouts and/or Dallas Goedert, with the two drawbacks in this spot as follows:
1) The Jets are unlikely to keep this game close enough for the Eagles to stay aggressive throughout (limiting some of the paths to a big game from individual players on this side of the ball)
2) A lot of the production allowed by the Jets to the above-mentioned wide receivers has come after the catch (where Alshon Jeffery, as the Eagles’ best bet for production, is not typically a major threat)
The likeliest scenario in this spot has Philly controlling this game and the Jets stalling out on offense fairly often (the Jets rank 32nd in drive success rate on offense), with the Eagles leaning on the pass often enough through the first three quarters (in a matchup that tilts opponents toward the pass) for Carson Wentz to pick up at least 30 pass attempts. Tight end targets tend to drop against the Jets due to Jamaal Adams (last year, the Jets not only faced the fewest tight end targets, but in fact allowed 13.1% fewer targets than the 31st-ranked team), and Adams should be locked onto Zach Ertz this week (which doesn’t mean that Wentz won’t still look toward his best friend; but it does mean that a spiked-target week is far less likely in this spot, and it means Ertz is set up with a lower floor than normal). With DeSean Jackson seeming likely to miss at least one more week, this pushes some extra looks to the running backs, Nelson Agholor, Goedert, and Alshon.
Agholor is not someone the Eagles want to lean on unless they have to, and Goedert is typically featured more as a red zone piece than as a core means of moving the ball, which sets up Alshon as the player likeliest to take advantage of this matchup through the air. In this adaptable, spread-the-wealth offense, this still does not guarantee more than seven or eight targets; but Alshon sets up well on those targets, and he has upside for a few more looks from there.
In the backfield, 44.8% of running back rush attempts against the Jets so far this year have come over tackle or to the edge (an extremely high number), as teams are avoiding this defense up the gut. This would seemingly set up better for Miles Sanders than for Jordan Howard, especially as a ludicrous 77.8% of Sanders runs this year have come over tackle or to the edge; though 47.5% of Howard’s runs so far have come over tackle or to the edge as well. Sanders has touch counts of 12 // 13 // 15 // 11, and he might be able to push for the upper end of that range, but there isn’t any major reason to believe the Eagles will take Howard out of the mix this week, leaving both as more “bet on a big play or touchdown” plays than as Week 5 staples.
JM’s Interpretation ::
It won’t shock me if Robby Anderson hits for a long play in this spot regardless of who is under center for the Jets, and it also won’t be a surprise if Le’Veon Bell posts a solid PPR day, though given the matchup and what else is available on the slate, neither of these plays will be a focus for me.
The real goodness is on the Eagles’ side, where Wentz, Alshon, and (to a lesser extent — due to game flow and the adaptability of this offense) the backfield all set up well (and where a big game from Agholor or even a multi-score game from Goedert are in the viable range of possibilities). I’m likelier to target tighter games on core builds, and there are too many quality running backs this week for the Eagles’ still-split backfield to be staples. But given how adaptable the Eagles’ coaching staff is, I will have some Miles Sanders exposure in large-field play, as he has difference-making upside at his price if he tops 15 touches. I’ll also have tourney interest (in tourneys of all sizes) in Wentz and Alshon, for the quality matchup and the narrowed target distribution this week with Jackson missing and Ertz dealing with Adams. (Finally: if Jackson plays, he becomes an extremely intriguing option on this slate, with obvious boom/bust to his game, but with this setting up as a solid spot for a “boom.”)
Broncos Run D5th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O31st DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Broncos Pass D9th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O7th DVOA/8th Yards per pass
Chargers Run D21st DVOA/9th Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O20th DVOA/25th Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D11th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Broncos Pass O31st DVOA/27th Yards per pass
Broncos at Chargers is one of only two late games on the main slate — and with the Broncos’ offense featured in this game, and Chris Harris set to shadow Keenan Allen, and the uncertainty on the Chargers’ backfield, there is a chance this game goes somewhat overlooked.
We’ll start with Keenan Allen, who has seen monster target shares in three of four games, and whose drop in targets last week was more a result of coverage than of “blowout” (Allen has seen four and nine more targets than he saw last week in games in which Rivers threw the ball only four and six more times). Allen is one of the most unguardable one-on-one receivers in the league, and Chris Harris has started the season slowly, without his typically stellar PFF grade — though all of this comes with a couple caveats:
1) Harris has still allowed just eight catches for 96 yards through four games.
2) Teams just aren’t passing in general against the Broncos, with this defense currently facing an opponent pass play rate of only 50.42% (to put that in perspective, only the Seahawks had a lower pass play rate on offense last year; so the 2019 Broncos defense has turned their average opponent this year into the 2018 Seahawks).
These elements combine to make Allen more “hope for a big play or a couple touchdowns in a challenging matchup” than “bet on volume” at his price, and there are more attractive wide receivers at the high end of the price range this week. This should also leave Allen under-owned for his upside, however, and an Allen roster that brings back pass game pieces from the Broncos (more on this in a moment) is not a bad play in tourneys.
The number two role in the Chargers’ passing attack is a question mark right now, with Dontrelle Inman placed on I.R. and Mike Williams still up in the air for this week. If Williams plays (and is healthy), he’ll have a shot at anywhere from five to eight targets (with outlier upside for more) against the softer matchups in the Broncos secondary — making him interesting in tourneys. If Williams misses, maybe we see some two-back sets that get Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon on the field together, while Geremy Davis would carry some viability based on his low price and the available volume in this offense.
The Denver defense had been fairly average against the run before getting whacked last week by Leonard Fournette in Denver. Vic Fangio is too good to allow a repeat of that sort of effort, but this is still an above-average spot for the Chargers run game. With that said: it’s fair to question how actionable this information is, as the L.A. backfield is not coming at a major discount on any sites against the high-end options, and it seems unlikely that we see Gordon slide into his typical 70% to 75% share right away. If this is anything but a 70/30 split, both backs are overpriced at the moment — leaving this backfield as a large-field-only play unless more clarity emerges. (Note: if reports come out that Gordon will play 70% of the snaps, or will play “his normal role,” he would become a bit underpriced based on matchup, role, and touchdown upside — becoming especially attractive on FanDuel, where he comes at the biggest discount.)
The Broncos offense should especially go overlooked, but there is a narrow enough target distribution on this offense for it to be viably worth considering. Through the first four games, targets among Broncos wide receivers have looked like this:
>> Emmanuel Sanders :: 34
>> Courtland Sutton :: 31
>> DaeSean Hamilton :: 15
To follow up further, here are some notable stat lines against the Chargers this year:
>> Hilton 8-87-2
>> Golladay 8-117-1
>> Hopkins 6-67-0
>> Parker 4-70-1
Last year, Sutton struggled as a rookie to convert targets into production while carrying one of the deeper aDOTs in the league at 14.4. This year, Rich Scarangello has changed up Sutton’s usage, giving him a variable route tree that has him attacking differently from one game to the next while carrying an aDOT of 10.8. Along the way, Sutton has quietly turned in target counts of 8 // 7 // 7 // 9. He failed to shake free in challenging matchups vs Chicago and Green Bay (posting solid but unspectacular lines of 4-40-0 and 5-87-0 in those spots), but against Oakland in Week 1 he went 7-120-0, and against “Jacksonville sans Ramsey” he went 6-62-2. With Casey Hayward likely to shadow Sanders and the Chargers reeling from injury behind their stud corner, Sutton sets up nicely this week.
Outside of their game against the Packers, the worst combined game from Sanders // Sutton has been 15-138-1 against the Bears — with these two performing at a remarkably consistent level, both as individuals and as a pair. Because they are in this Flacco-led offense, we have not yet seen both guys hit for a spiked week at the same time, and Sutton is about 60/40 (maybe even a trickle more than that) to outscore Sanders in this spot. But given Sanders ability to shake free in just about any matchup (and given how affordable these two are (a high-water mark of 20% of the salary cap on DraftKings, and below that on both FanDuel and FantasyDraft), you could make a clear case in smaller-field play for taking them together and just making sure you get the points.
The biggest thing that could dent the upside of this pairing is a successful ground game. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman are in a complete timeshare, so with this matchup not really raising or lowering expectations, the biggest impact from this ground game (for DFS purposes) should be on the pass. The Broncos should be able to keep this game close enough and should be productive enough on the ground to not need to fully put the ball in the hands of Joe Flacco (still keeping volume intact for Sutton // Sanders, but not providing many paths to target spikes).
JM’s Interpretation ::
The “number two receiver” on the Chargers is playable this week (Williams for upside in tourneys; Geremy in contests of all sizes on DK/FDraft at his price for what should be four to six targets — though he’s a bit less attractive than Tate and even Coutee from a “likeliest paths to upside” perspective), while shots could be taken on Allen or even one of the backs for upside (though the paths to these guys hitting price-considered ceiling are somewhat narrow). But my main focus in this game will be the Denver pass catchers, with a high likelihood that one of these two goes for 4x salary on DK, 2x salary on FDraft, and 2.5x on FD, and with a chance that both of them do. I can’t imagine that either of these two will be particularly popular, making one (or both) interesting in tourneys of all sizes.
Packers Run D25th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O18th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Packers Pass D25th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O22nd DVOA/1st Yards per pass
Cowboys Run D29th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O10th DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D21st DVOA/18th Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O6th DVOA/14th Yards per pass
There is a good chance that part of the reason we only have two late games on Sunday is because the NFL was so hyped to feature Packers // Cowboys, assuming everyone is excited to watch these legacy franchises go head to head. But as fun as “Packers // Cowboys” is, this game looks different from a DFS perspective than the names might imply, with the Packers currently ranked seventh in defensive DVOA and taking on a Cowboys team missing six-time All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, and with the Cowboys boasting a solid defense as well and taking on a Packers team that seems likely to be without Davante Adams.
The matchup for wide receivers is generally unattractive against the Cowboys, with this team having allowed the sixth fewest wide receiver yards to open 2019, after allowing the eighth fewest wide receiver yards last year. Additionally, the Packers’ offense has been an absolute mess under Matt LaFleur — with the LaFleur offense built around runs (so many runs!) and play-action, and with Aaron Rodgers hating play-action as it takes his eyes off the defense. The Packers have consistently performed well through their scripted plays, but have failed to adjust throughout games — and if Adams misses, they’ll be in tough shape with a couple of wide receivers in Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling who are really only NFL starters because Rodgers makes them appear good enough to be NFL starters.
While we could break down the matchup any number of ways and show you why it’s tough for wide receivers, the most actionable information here is that the Packers are unlikely to allow Rodgers to throw as much as they should, and when he does throw he’ll be forced by the Cowboys defense into primarily shorter throws. Your best bet for upside is Aaron Rodgers scramble plays — in which case, either Allison or MVS could hit; though both remain somewhat “guess and hope” from an upside perspective. (If Adams plays, he’s a tough guy to pull the trigger on at his price beyond “It’s Adams, and he always has multi-touchdown upside.” He would also make all other bets on this offense even thinner.)
This is also a matchup that filters targets toward tight ends, which should allow Jimmy Graham to pick up anywhere from four to seven looks this week (on a somewhat weaker tight end slate, now that the underpriced guys from earlier in the season have seen their prices rise) — though “trust” is a big factor for Rodgers, and Graham continues to show little reason for Rodgers to trust him. You’re really just hoping for a touchdown here (though perhaps that isn’t such a crazy bet to make if Adams is out).
Ultimately, so much of what the Packers do in the pass game is based around the fact that Rodgers and Adams are both really good, so it obviously won’t be surprising if the Packers have to scrape and claw for their production this week.
With Jamaal Williams unlikely to play this week and the Packers seeming to not like Dexter Williams all that much (not that they seem to like Aaron Jones all that much, either…), it’s likely that Jones sees at least 75% of the snaps this week — and if Adams is out, he may be leaned on even more heavily than he would be otherwise. The Cowboys run defense was hit by Saquon Barkley in Week 1, but has otherwise been stellar, allowing only 3.28 yards per carry to all other backs after allowing the sixth fewest running back rushing yards in the league last year.
The place where Jones is likeliest to provide a spark is in the pass game, where he’ll pick up some of the slack from Adams, and where Dallas also filters targets — though with yardage tougher to come by on the ground, Jones (like the wide receivers, and Graham) is more “bet on touchdown” than “bet on locked-in production” in this offense that is not as good as it should be with Rodgers under center.
On the other side of this game — with Tyron Smith out and the Packers playing absolutely lights out against the pass — action should filter toward the ground, though a quick note before we get there:
If Kevin King can’t give it a go this week (he left Week 4 early and didn’t practice Wednesday) and if Michael Gallup returns this week, there is a chance Jaire Alexander shadows Amari Cooper and Gallup becomes an attractive tourney piece. We’ll keep an eye on this deeper into the week. (Barring that setup, the Cowboys would just be “hoping for a big play or touchdown” in a matchup that has had teams attacking in the air only 56.2% of the time.)
As for Ezekiel Elliott :: Darius Smith and Preston Smith have been doing a good job for the Packers defense keeping teams from running the ball outside; but so far this year, it has been far too easy for rushing attacks to control Kenny Clark in the middle with only one blocker, which is making it easy to run up the gut with blockers to the second level. Travis Frederick should be able to handle Clark for the Cowboys this week — and this approach would also mitigate the absence of Smith, as the Cowboys wouldn’t need him quite as much when focusing on runs up the middle. Teams have been avoiding the Packers secondary and pass rush by running up the middle, and the Cowboys are set up well to do this, with Zeke averaging 6.5 yards per carry this year on runs up the gut.
JM’s Interpretation ::
The Packers passing attack can be bet on “because Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback,” though outside of that there isn’t much reason for optimism. The upside is there, but the paths to slate-winning scores are thin, and there are plenty of paths to floor games as well.
Jones is not as strong as some of the other running back options in what has been a bad run offense vs a solid run D — but the pass game involvement and elevated snap share keep him in the mix.
Amari // Dak Prescott are in a tough spot as well with Tyron Smith out vs the Packers pass rush — though you could “hope to guess right,” or if King misses and Gallup plays, you could take a shot on targets being filtered to the Cowboys’ number 2.
And of course, the jewel of this game is Zeke, who has 25 // 21 // 24 touches in his last three, and who played a full complement of snaps last week (56 of 58) for the first time this season. The Packers have also allowed the fourth most running back receptions this year with their pass defense squeezing targets away from wide receivers. Zeke is in the thick of the high-priced running back mix this week.
Colts Run D6th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O17th DVOA/6th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O1st DVOA/7th Yards per pass
Chiefs Run D28th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O22nd DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D2nd DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O15th DVOA/10th Yards per pass
Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
We get the highest total game of the week on Sunday night, but it’s still not projected to be a shootout, with the Chiefs installed as massive 11 point favorites at home. The Chiefs have shown little inclination to slow things down when they’re up big, though, and they don’t exactly have a grinding bellcow running back to soak away the clock, so I don’t see game script being a concern unless the Colts just completely fall flat.
Let’s start with the Chiefs and the run game, since that’s one of the easier pieces to pick apart. Damien Williams practiced in full this week and is expected back, which means he and LeSean McCoy should split work, with Darrel Williams going back to the bench. Neither is priced as a bellcow, but neither is likely to flirt with 20 touches, either, so you’re basically paying for touchdown upside here. Williams is, by far, the better passing down back, so I’ll lean his way as the Colts are always vulnerable to RBs in the passing game.
Kansas City’s pass game is dominated by Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce, with Tyreek Hill missing another game. Kelce has the (much) better matchup against a Colts D that filters targets to the tight end but is priced up for it; of all the receivers in this game, however, he has the strongest combination of ceiling and floor. Watkins, after practicing in full on Wednesday and Thursday, was downgraded to a limited practice on Friday with a hamstring injury. Mid-week downgrades are always worrisome and it seems like there’s a possibility he could miss this game (note: Adam Schefter has since reported that the Chiefs expect Watkins to play). If he plays, he’s been discounted due to a couple of slow games despite playing almost every snap and seeing great market share of targets. Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman round out the KC passing attack, with Robinson playing significantly more snaps and averaging a few more targets while Hardman has the higher aDOT. They’re both in play (and obviously are even more so if Watkins misses), with Robinson the better floor play though you’re paying $1,000 more for the safety.
The Colts will, as always, try to lean on the run game, with Marlon Mack expected to play through his questionable tag. As long as the game stays reasonably close, Mack should get touches against a vulnerable Kansas City run defense. Mack also keeps running a decent number of pass routes but that hasn’t materialized into targets, so consider him a massive game script risk with the Colts huge road underdogs. Nyheim Hines would step in for passing work, but he’s priced up to $6,600 since Mack was thought to be likely to miss the game; if Mack plays, Hines is overpriced even if you believe he sees solid target volume with the Colts chasing, but if Mack unexpectedly misses then Hines (and Jordan Wilkins) become more appealing value plays.
The Colts’ pass game is bolstered by the expected return of T.Y. Hilton, who steps into what should be a high-volume spot in a solid matchup. Hilton is, by far, the Colts’ best weapon in this matchup and should get all the volume he can handle assuming his leg holds up. If active he’s a core play. If Hilton misses, Zach Pascal becomes a superb value play as Pascal stepped into Hilton’s role last week, catching four of seven targets for 72 yards. Chester Rogers is a high floor, medium ceiling value play with or without Hilton as he’ll keep his slot role either way. It’s worth noting here that both Rogers and Pascal are priced right around the kickers but have a solid chance at outscoring them (especially if Hilton is out), which diminishes the value of the kickers in this Showdown. Dion Cain is a Hail Mary play if Hilton misses — he’ll see a few targets, but whether or not he can catch them is anyone’s guess. Finally, Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron are splitting time at tight end, with Doyle dominating snaps and routes but targets almost equal between them and Ebron still commanding a strong red zone role. Both will need a touchdown to really smash.
The way this game is most likely to play out is the Colts try to keep the ball on the ground for as long as they can (they don’t want to put the game in the hands of Jacoby Brissett). The Chiefs are almost certain to force them away from this strategy at some point, however (likely by the end of the first half). At that point it’s just a matter of if the Colts can keep up enough to keep the Chiefs fully aggressive — though as I noted above, the Chiefs rarely fully take their foot off the gas; they just occasionally lighten up a little bit.
Some other ways the game could play out:
- The Colts actually manage to keep pace, at least for longer than expected. Running backs with locked-in goal line work are always valuable in Showdown because they can stumble their way to multi-score games. If the Colts can keep it close, Mack could hit 20 or more carries against a vulnerable run D.
- The Chiefs defense has a reputation for being awful, but at least last year, they played superbly at home, allowing over eight fewer points per game versus on the road. They’re also an aggressive defense and even if they give up points they can pressure the QB and generate turnovers. It would not surprise me at all to see the Colts completely fall flat in Arrowhead.
The premium captain choice in this game, to me, is Kelce, with Mahomes a bit behind him. I’ll also take some shots on Hilton and the Chiefs other skill players as in this high-octane offense it wouldn’t surprise me if any one of them had a big day.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 defense
- At most 1 kicker
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
- At most 1 of Rogers, Pascal, and Cain (if Hilton is active)
- At most 1 of Mack and Hines
- At least 1 of Kelce, Watkins, Robinson, and Damien Williams
Cash game thoughts: it’s hard for me to get away from using Mahomes in the captain spot as he is, by miles, the likely high scorer in the game. Brissett is awfully cheap given the expected pass volume that the Colts will need here, while the cheap running backs mean that you can use the preferred cash game formula as long as you’re willing to stomach a bit of split backfield risk. If you want to stay away from the split backfields, Kelce is the premium skill position player, followed by T.Y. Hilton. Alternately, if Hilton is out, Pascal and Rogers become core value plays.
— 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(!).
(Note from JM :: Xandamere is currently in second place through THREE slates in the King of the Showdown tournament, so shoutout to him there! I also had my first big tournament night in my third ever Showdown slate on MNF using Xandamere’s approach. Let’s get it!!!!)
JM’s Original Notes for those playing Thursday-to-Monday Slates ::
- No need to overcomplicate things. The Colts have had a tough start to the season on defense, but you could even forget about that and just talk about the fact that this is a fairly vanilla zone defense that is good enough from a communication and technique standpoint to throw a wrench into average attacks, but that has no real chance to hang with an offense like the Chiefs as long as this team shows up to play.
- This matchup sets up best for Travis Kelce (well…and for the running backs; but with a split backfield, it’s tough to get excited on a 15-game slate beyond just “hoping to guess right”), and he joins a strong group of strong high-dollar options on the full slate this week.
- Sammy Watkins is the wide receiver likeliest to pick up production in this spot, and he’s in the Tier 3 conversation; though given that this is the Chiefs, the deep threats (whether that’s Hardman/Robinson or a potentially-set-to-return Tyreek Hill) are all very much in play as well. The matchup doesn’t tilt toward Hill, but who could blame you for taking a shot in tourneys.
- The Colts will try to lean on the ground game, though given game flow expectations and the way the Colts split roles, it’s tough to get excited on the full slate (especially with so much to like elsewhere).
- Zach Pascal took over as the featured weapon with Hilton out and would make for a fine salary saver if Hilton misses again.
- If Hilton plays, he’s in the tourney conversation in a game in which Indy should be chasing points.
Browns Run D20th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
49ers Run O9th DVOA/11th Yards per carry
Browns Pass D19th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
49ers Pass O17th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
49ers Run D7th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O7th DVOA/1st Yards per carry
49ers Pass D22rd DVOA/5th Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O23rd DVOA/29th Yards per pass
Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
With a game total of 46.5 we might actually have a nice scoring Monday night football game for once. The surprisingly 3-0 49ers are fresh off an early-season bye while the offseason darling Browns are just 2-2 and enter this one as 4 point road underdogs. The challenge here is picking the plays, as the home favorites have been a ridiculously spread-out offense so far.
The 49ers run game gets a solid matchup as home favorites against a Browns D that has not played well against the rush. The question here is, who benefits? Tevin Coleman seems likely to miss another game and he’s only had one limited practice since Week 1, but that doesn’t really clear things up for us.