Week 6 Matchups

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WEEK 5 ROSTER BREAKDOWN

Point Total: 125.44

(Jump to Games)

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

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

18.14 – Kirk Cousins
12.90 – Austin Ekeler
22.00 – Melvin Gordon
21.60 – Stefon Diggs
27.60 – Adam Thielen
8.50 – Dede Westbrook
1.60 – Vance McDonald
6.10 – Marshawn Lynch
7.00 – Jets

Results :: This team had a disappointing performance in Week 5. I’m not taking too much out of that, as Week 5 was a really, really strange week.

What I Wrote Before Kickoff:

My roster had an interesting journey this week — circling a number of different ideas before settling where things settled.

Originally, I thought I would go Raiders-heavy. On Friday night, I even wrote the following — about my Carr // Marshawn roster:

“Unless the first four weeks of the season for this Raiders offense have been absolutely fluky, or unless the first four weeks of this Chargers defense have been a mistake, we are looking at a comfortable, no-nonsense projection for these two combined of 40 to 50 points. I don’t know where the points are coming through the air, so rather than trying to pick and choose among pass catchers on this team, I’m taking the sure floor and ceiling with these two. Any time you can lock in a clear look at 4x in salary, it just makes sense to take it.”

As the week progressed, however, I kept getting more and more drawn toward this Cousins // Diggs // Thielen pairing, as such a unique DFS situation. This is a trio that has already combined for games of 92 and 110 DraftKings points. From three players. And we’re only four weeks into the season. With 75% of the air yards on this team going to these two guys, and with the Vikings having no run game, against an Eagles defense that teams don’t even try to run on, there is so much opportunity for points. My projections for a “disappointing, 20th percentile” game for these three still comes out to about 70 points. This passing attack is just too good for me to not use against a pass-funnel defense. Projections for “total points” in this game are lower than in some other spots; but projections for fantasy points are actually higher on Cousins // Diggs // Thielen than for any other pairing. These three cost almost exactly the same as Matt Ryan // Julio Jones // Calvin Ridley, and while projections come out close on either side of that, the Vikings trio comes out on top.

Regarding the Vikings, I jotted this down in my phone late Friday night, for this breakdown:

“It finally came down to: if the Vikings “miss,” they’ll still have me in position to scrape profit as long as other things on my roster go according to plan; and if they hit, it’s slate-breaking. They already have a game this year of 92.2 combined points among them and another game of 110.5 (not a typo). That’s roughly 4.5x salary to 5.5x salary as a clearly visible ceiling, which is difficult to find at any price range, let alone the highest range, and let alone on three players at once. If they miss, I can live with it. If they hit, I want to be there.”

I wanted to stick with my Raiders exposure through Marshawn at running back, and this became easier once news emerged that Joe Mixon was not expected to take on a full workload. I paired Marshawn with the Chargers backs, to bet on that game going the way I expect. Here’s what I wrote about Chargers backs toward the back end of the week:

“The Chargers should have about 150 rushing yards. That’s a no-joke projection. That’s 15 points, and you can tack on 1.5 points for at least a 50% likelihood that they grab a three point bonus. Tack on a comfortable projection of two touchdowns between the two (up to 28.5 points by now), and then swing over to their work in the pass game. Six catches for 40 yards for Gordon is at the low end of his average so far, and we can comfortably expect three catches for 25 yards from Ekeler. Around 44 points here (almost the same projection I landed on for Carr/Lynch, in fact). That’s 3.4x their combined salary — and while they might have a tougher time climbing to 4x, this fills out a lot of certainty on two spots that are important to get right (high-priced difference-maker and the low-priced guy who allows you to fit him). Naturally, in betting on this game environment, I’m hoping all these guys pop off for an even bigger game than that.”

By Saturday, these six had become my core. All that was left was tight end, lower-priced wide receiver, and DST.

Vance McDonald was the clearest cheap tight end play for me this week. He’s difficult to project, as he’s not schemed the ball often, but he should comfortably pick up nine or 10 “floor points” in this spot, and he’s one of the few tight ends on the slate who can really go for 25.

As we reached the latter half of the week (as I mentioned in both the Player Grid and the #OWSChatPod), I started coming around on the Jaguars passing attack more and more. Using Marshawn instead of Mixon enabled me to take Dede Westbrook instead of Marquez Valdes-Scantling. I expect something like four catches for 50 yards on MVS, which is about Dede’s floor. I’m hoping Dede pops off for 20+ while MVS stays in that expected range; but if MVS scores a touchdown or breaks a long play, Dede can keep pace, and he’ll still have a shot to outscore him.

The Jets were the best of a bad bunch for me down low. I could also have gone MVS/Titans over Dede/Jets, but I am betting on MVS seeing seven or eight Cobb-replacement type targets. He has the speed to post some nice YAC, but as long as he’s not seeing his work downfield, I just like the upside on Dede so much more, as a potential alpha. Close to the goal line for Green Bay, MVS will be the third or fourth option.

Last week, I felt on Sunday morning that I had built one of my best rosters ever. I was almost right. I scored over 200, and had I used Melvin Gordon and Eric Ebron over Jarvis Landry and Jimmy Graham (the obvious move — and one I have come around to admit would have been the clear correct move as well), I would have landed a $35k to $40k weekend.

This weekend, I once again feel that I have built one of my best rosters ever. I landed on this roster early enough that I was able to punch at it from all angles and look for ways to improve it. The only spots really up in the air are tight end, final WR, and DST — but I made the highest-upside plays there, and I can live with the results.


Welcome to Week 6!

This is an interesting week — one that should lead to a lot of concentrated ownership, making it an interesting spot for tourney play. As of Tuesday afternoon, there are only seven teams on the entire Main Slate (FanDuel/DraftKings) with a Vegas-implied total of 24.0 or higher: The Vikings at 26.75 in their home game against the hapless Cardinals // the Seahawks at 25.5 in London against the Raiders // the Rams at 29.75 in Denver // and potential shootouts in the Steelers (25.25) at the Bengals (27.75) and the Buccaneers (27.0) at the Falcons (30.5). (FantasyDraft also includes the highest-total game on the weekend: Chiefs at Patriots.)

There are six games on the main slate in which each team has a Vegas-implied total under 24.0. In fact, there are five games in which neither team has crept above 23.0 at the front end of the week. (We also have a Bills vs Texans game that currently has no line, as Vegas is waiting to make sure Deshaun Watson will be healthy enough to play.)

Naturally, the games with higher Vegas-implied totals will be likelier to produce big fantasy games — but as always, we can uncover a few gems in the lower-total games, and these just may end up being the keys to the weekend. Some chalky plays are likely to hit in these shootouts, but it will be nailing the right salary-savers or pivots that will really help to make your weekend.

This week, I’ll be taking a slightly different approach than normal in my own play. DraftKings is running a pair of Milly Makers this week: their standard $20 buy-in contest, and a special $3k buy-in Milly Maker with 1,111 entries. I’ll be pouring three teams into that tourney this week and focusing aggressively on my play in that spot. It’s a fun weekend for tourney play. Let’s make it a fun weekend for results!

*

UPDATES MADE:

Dalvin Cook Expected To Play (Oct. 13)

Isaiah Crowell a GTD (Oct. 13)

Derrick Willies Out (Oct. 13)

Kupp & Cooks Cleared (Oct. 13)

Cobb/Allison GTDs (Oct. 13)


Kickoff Thursday, Oct 11th 8:20pm Eastern

Eagles (
23.25) at

Giants (
21.75)

Over/Under 45.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Eagles Run D
15th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O
30th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
29th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O
29th DVOA/30th Yards per pass
Giants Run D
15th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
25th DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D
23rd DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
29th DVOA/26th Yards per pass

EAGLES // GIANTS OVERVIEW

Given the state of the NFC East (Washington leads the division at only 2-2), both of these teams are still technically in the thick of the race — though the Giants are going to have a much tougher time making a move than the Eagles will have. Vegas has Philly installed as an early three-point favorite in spite of this game being played on the Giants’ home field, and even with injuries in their backfield (Jay Ajayi has been diagnosed with a torn ACL — which he may or may not have played on for part of Sunday’s game vs the Vikings), the Eagles’ offense should be able to control the flow of this game.

Each of these teams has played slowly to begin the year. Philly ranked 22nd in pace of play heading into last weekend, while the Giants ranked 31st. The slow pace for the Giants has led to them ranking 28th in plays per game. The Eagles’ defense entered last week ranked fifth in drive success rate allowed, while the Giants ranked 22nd on offense. The Eagles allow a below-average number of plays, and volume should take a slight hit on the Giants’ side of the ball. Neither team has been particularly aggressive on offense, with Carson Wentz posting an aDOT of 8.0, and with Eli Manning posting an aDOT of 7.2. The one offensive bonus in this game is that each unit ranks in the top 10 in the NFL in passing play percentage.

The Eagles should be able to sustain more drives than the Giants, but New York should be able to hit for enough big plays to keep this game competitive throughout. Expectations lean toward the Eagles in a macro sense, but each side should be able to produce a couple players who get in on the DFS fun.

EAGLES PASS OFFENSE

While the Eagles’ pass protection has been a weak spot to begin the year, the Giants have had perhaps the worst pass rush in the NFL early on, which has led to coverage breakdowns on the back end — with New York allowing an average depth of target nearly 11% deeper than the league average. With time for the secondary to get spread out, the Giants are also tackling poorly after the catch.

The Giants have been most attackable over the middle, where they entered last week ranked 32nd in Football Outsiders’ metrics for passes to the middle third of the field — with a number 27 ranking over the deep middle, and a number 32 ranking over the short middle. The Eagles’ main piece over the middle has been Zach Ertz, who has dominated looks to begin the year, with target counts of 10, 13, 10, 14, and 11. Ertz also ranks 13th in the NFL in red zone opportunities, and his eight targets in the red zone are behind only Eric Ebron and Jared Cook among tight ends. The Giants have played tough tight end defense early on, but Ertz should be viewed more as a seam/slot receiver than as a tight end, given his role in this offense.

The Eagles’ other main piece over the middle has been Nelson Agholor, who has seen bounce-around target counts on the season of 10, 12, five, 12, and four. His aDOT of 8.5 gives him healthy YAC-added upside if the looks are there again this week. Philly projects for around 35 to 38 pass attempts in this spot — which is the range Wentz was in for Agholor’s lower-target games; though the middle-filtering nature of the Giants’ defense should lead to Agholor picking up a couple extra looks, and six to nine targets is a comfortable projection. He has reverted back to some of his old mistakes lately, but he still has tremendous talent if he gets back on track.

The Eagles will still target Alshon Jeffery in this spot, but he’ll be primarily matched up with Janoris Jenkins, who held DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas to season-low target counts (10 for Hopkins; four for Thomas). Even when Jenkins is not in coverage, the Giants are doing a good job on the outside, where Alshon will primarily operate. After seeing eight and nine targets the last two weeks, it’s unlikely Alshon pops off for double-digit looks this week, and efficiency will be a challenge in this matchup. Naturally, Alshon still carries tourney upside for his big-play skill set and his chops in the red zone — but he’s more boom/bust this week than high-floor/high-ceiling.

No other receiver on Philly played more than 22 snaps last week (Jordan Matthews — one target). The first four options in this passing attack are Ertz, Alshon, Agholor, and whichever running back is on the field. Shelton Gibson played nine snaps and saw one target in Week 5. Dallas Goedert played 34 snaps and saw two looks.

EAGLES RUN OFFENSE

The Giants rank 25th in yards allowed per carry on the year, and the Eagles’ line has blocked well early on — entering last week ranked 10th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards. While the Eagles rank 10th in pass play rate, they have been involving the running backs in the passing attack, and they may lean a bit more run-heavy in this spot if they grab an early lead.

Earlier in the year, when Jay Ajayi missed time, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood split snaps and reps at a roughly 60/40 clip, and each guy should remain involved this week with Ajayi out and Clement expected back. In Week 3, these two combined for 26 carries and nine targets — and a similar total workload can be penciled in this week. Smallwood has a little more upside in the passing attack, as the Eagles have had success lately getting him lined up on linebackers and sending him downfield to try to pick up chunk plays, but Clement should see a few more touches. Each guy should have a red zone role, and “best play” will likely come down to “who scores a touchdown.” The Giants’ great strength on defense has been red zone touchdown rate (third in the NFL), but they have allowed seven touchdowns to running backs (four rushing, three receiving), compared to zero receiving touchdowns allowed to tight ends and only three allowed to wide receivers (third best in the NFL). If Philly scores three touchdowns, there is a good chance two of these come from running backs, creating a strong “Cheat Code” situation — with Smallwood and Clement having a clear shot to combine for 20 to 30 on FanDuel, or for 24 to 35 on DraftKings.

GIANTS PASS OFFENSE

Unsurprisingly, only one team has faced fewer rush attempts per game than the Eagles, and only eight teams have faced more pass attempts, as teams simply do not try to run on the Eagles. Philly has a solid four-man pass rush, and the Giants have had one of the worst pass protection units to begin the year, which should put Eli Manning in a similar situation to what Kirk Cousins had last week — when he was constantly under siege, and had to move around in the pocket or get rid of the ball quickly. The difference, of course, is that Cousins is comfortable uncorking downfield throws when throwing off-balance under pressure, while Eli Manning is no longer capable of doing this with any sort of authority. The Vikings’ offense (which retains many of Pat Shurmur’s concepts) also relied heavily on wide receiver screens last week — an approach that the Giants should carry over in an effort to get the ball into the hands of Odell Beckham. Philly tackles well after the catch, but something in the range of what Stefon Diggs did last week (10-91-0, on 11 targets) is a fair expectation for Beckham. He has a high floor and a high ceiling in this spot.

With Evan Engram returning, Sterling Shepard should see a dent in percentage of team targets — but with the Giants likely to throw the ball plenty this week, he should still manage to see around seven looks (a mark he has hit or topped in four of five games this year). He’ll have a solid floor in this spot. He’ll need a big play or a touchdown to reach ceiling. (Note: Engram is now going to miss this game. His five to seven targets should trickle over to OBJ, Shepard, and Barkley.)

This offense (25th in yards per game) is incapable of producing big stat lines on three or four players at a time, and Engram should take a backseat to Beckham, Barkley, and Shepard this week, but five to seven targets is a fair expectation. The Eagles play tough tight end defense, having allowed the fourth-fewest receptions to the position this year.

The Giants have wasted seven targets on Russell Shepard the last two weeks. These should bleed backward with Engram on the field again, but perhaps he sees another two or three desperation looks.

GIANTS RUN OFFENSE

Philly has been one of the toughest teams to run on once again this year, and the Giants have a bottom-three run blocking unit. This poor blocking has not stopped Saquon Barkley from piling up big fantasy numbers to begin the year, but he has needed touchdowns in four of five games to get there, and this is his toughest test yet. He has topped 48 rushing yards in only one of his last four games, and he’ll need a big day through the air (or a big day in the scoring department) to truly pay off his salary. Barkley has disappointingly seen six or fewer targets in three of five games this year (with eight and 16 targets in his other two). This sets up as something like a seven to nine target game, so he’ll have opportunities for big plays, but he’ll need to break through an Eagles defense that ranks sixth in red zone touchdown rate in order to keep his early-season streak of strong box scores intact.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Carson Wentz may struggle for scoring upside vs a Giants defense that has limited touchdowns so far to wide receivers and tight ends — but on the Showdown slate, he still warrants attention given his talent and the skills of those around him. Eli Manning will likely rack up yardage through volume, though he’ll have a tough time breaking through for a truly impact score, as he’ll be under siege all night.

Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement are both interesting on this slate — and both can be considered on the Showdown slate and on the full-weekend slate. It’s a guessing game between the two if playing them separately; but they can be played together like a single high-priced running back, and they should produce roughly at that level. On the other side, Barkley is a bet-on-talent play. He’ll need to bust out one of his classic long plays in order to really make a price-considered impact in a tough spot. He’s a risk/reward play in tourneys.

The Eagles’ passing attack should go Ertz // Agholor // Jeffrey // RBs. Ertz is the safest, highest-upside play, while Agholor carries decent floor with talent-driven ceiling, and Jeffrey has floor concerns but talent-driven upside. On the Giants’ side, I would feel most comfortable backing Odell Beckham, with Shepard and then Engram following behind him in the pass game.

The Giants’ defense is not particularly interesting to me, but the Eagles should be able to pick up several sacks and at least one turnover against Eli Manning.

As is typically the case: both kickers can be considered on the showdown slate as well — with extra opportunities likely to flow their way this week, given the strong red zone defense each team boasts.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 14th 1:00pm Eastern

Cards (
16.75) at

Vikings (
26.75)

Over/Under 43.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Cardinals Run D
10th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O
2nd DVOA/8th Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D
10th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O
20th DVOA/21st Yards per pass
Vikings Run D
27th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O
2nd DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D
8th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O
18th DVOA/19th Yards per pass

CARDINALS // VIKINGS OVERVIEW

The Cardinals finally got their first win of the season last week — the last team in the NFL to do so — while the Vikings got their season back on track with a tough road win against the Eagles to move to 2-2-1, tied with the Packers for second in a tough NFC North. Vegas has the Vikings installed as early 10-point favorites in this one; and while Minnesota had a letdown in a similar spot a few weeks back vs the Bills, we should expect them to come out focused this week.

The Vikings have been aggressive on offense this year, ranking sixth in pace of play and second in passing play percentage. The Cardinals, of course, have been on the opposite end of the spectrum, ranking 24th in pace and 16th in passing play percentage.

While Arizona ranks middle of the pack on defense both on the ground and through the air, they have trailed so often this season that they have faced 28 more rush attempts than any other team in the league to begin the season. It will be interesting to see how Minnesota adjusts with a lead this week, as they have had a difficult time running the ball early on, ranking 29th in yards per carry and 28th in adjusted line yards. Look for the Vikings to slow down the pace a bit if they grab a lead, and to lean more run-heavy than normal — but not quite to the extent that other teams have gone run-heavy vs this Arizona defense.

CARDINALS PASS OFFENSE

The Vikings continued to look less-than-elite on defense last week, allowing Carson Wentz to complete almost 70% of his passes for 311 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes were the only players on this defense with pass breakups last week, while slot corner Mackensie Alexander and rookie Mike Hughes combined to allow 10 receptions on 10 targets in their direction. The Vikings play fast and aggressive on defense, and Wentz was able to hit tight-window throws and was able to find his receivers on crossers throughout the game to keep the ball moving.

The good news ends there for Josh Rosen and the Cardinals. Right now, this Arizona team is in “building mode” — not necessarily worried about trying to win every game (as evidenced by their snail’s pace on offense when constantly trailing), but instead worried about getting as many quality future-building reps as possible. Over the last two weeks, Rosen has thrown 27 and 25 pass attempts — completing only 25 of these 52 passes, for 350 yards and a pair of touchdowns. If Arizona unleashes Rosen for 45+ pass attempts this week, he should be able to press for 300 yards and will have a shot at multiple touchdowns, but that seems unlikely to suddenly become Arizona’s approach.

Notable target counts on the Cardinals over the last two weeks:

10 :: Larry Fitzgerald
10 :: Ricky Seals-Jones
9 :: Chad Williams
9 :: Christian Kirk
7 :: David Johnson

RSJ has caught only two of his 10 targets, while Williams has hauled in three of his nine looks. Fitz has caught five of 10 and should work over the middle of the field; his value comes from high-target games, so a bet on Fitz would be a bet on the Cardinals opening up this offense more than they have the last couple weeks.

The best connection has been Rosen to Kirk, which the Cardinals seem to be proactively trying to develop. Kirk has hauled in seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown across the last two weeks, while also taking a pair of carries. While his future is supposedly in the slot, he has looked good on the outside early on, and Arizona may be able to develop him into an all-purpose weapon throughout the remainder of this year, while Fitz mans the slot. Kirk has played 57% of his snaps on the outside so far.

CARDINALS RUN OFFENSE

Mike McCoy heard that he was supposed to get David Johnson more involved…so he has given him 40 carries across the last two weeks, behind an offensive line that ranks 29th in adjusted line yards, leading to 126 rushing yards across those two games. DJ has never been a dominant between-the-tackles runner (when he first came up, he was viewed as a pass-catching back only until deep into the 2015 season when injuries led to him taking on the lead job and exploding in all facets of the game), and he’ll be facing an above-average Minnesota run defense. He will need a multi-touchdown game or a spike in receiving work to be a high-floor force in this game — though DJ does have “to the house” upside with the ball in his hands, which keeps his ceiling theoretically intact.

VIKINGS PASS OFFENSE

Because everyone wants to simplify their research process, most DFS players (and most DFS writers) often label bad teams as “bad,” and will therefore fail to notice that the Cardinals have faced the lowest average depth of target in the entire NFL this year, with Steve Wilks’ zone scheme pushing teams to take short completions instead of trying to attack deep. Given the way the Cardinals play pass defense and the way game flow is likely to shake out in this game, this is a slight “downgrade” spot for my favorite wide receiver duo in the NFL.

Through five games, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are combining for almost 77% of the Vikings’ air yards (an almost unheard of number for two guys to be splitting), while they have combined for nine games of double-digit targets (in 10 total opportunities). Right now, Thielen ranks second in the NFL in targets per game, and Diggs ranks seventh. On this pace, each guy will finish the year with an average of double-digit targets per game. In 2017, only four players in the NFL averaged double-digit targets. Don’t be fooled into thinking that these guys cannot produce together; each guys is a Top 10 receiver in the NFL, and each guy is being targeted like a Top 10 receiver. This is not the best week for them to hit — against a team that forces short throws, in a game in which passing volume will likely take a step back for Minnesota — but they are always in play.

Laquon Treadwell was schemed a couple looks last week, and he continues to log heavy playing time and run into a couple additional targets when other guys are covered. He’s not a force in this offense, but he should see four to six looks again. Over the last three weeks, Kyle Rudolph has seen target counts of six, six, and five, and he has caught 15 of these 17 looks. Typically, his receptions are coming when he is the checkdown option beneath a deeper route for Thielen or Diggs, so don’t expect big “schemed” usage, but he should be in line for five or six high-efficiency targets again in this spot. Red zone targets on this team go Thielen :: 7 // Diggs :: 4 // Rudolph :: 3 // Treadwell :: 2.

VIKINGS RUN OFFENSE

Mike Boone and Roc Thomas continue to take a few looks away from Latavius Murray in this backfield, but the veteran Murray still had 13 touches last week to six for Boone and Thomas. We cannot expect the Vikings to go as run-heavy against the Cardinals as other teams have (Arizona has faced a monstrous 34.8 rush attempts per game — but their schedule so far has been: Redskins :: 24th in pass play rate // Rams :: 27th in pass play rate // Bears :: 26th in pass play rate // Seahawks :: 31st in pass play rate // 49ers :: 18th in pass play rate; again, the Vikings rank second in the NFL in pass play rate), but they should take a lead and lean on the run more than normal, which could lead to 16 to 20 touches for Latavius. The best way to score on the Cardinals is to run the ball close to the goal line (seven rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs // one rushing touchdown allowed to quarterbacks — compared to five passing touchdowns allowed, with two of these passing touchdowns also coming to running backs). This opens some sneaky “bet on workload” upside for Murray this week.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Nothing in this game pops off the page as a primary play — including even the Vikings’ defense, which will have a difficult time generating splash plays if the Cardinals continue to play conservative ball even when trailing. From a talent and guaranteed usage perspective, Diggs and Thielen are always in the conversation for me in tourneys, while the same can be said for the big-play upside of David Johnson.

I like Christian Kirk as a player, but after considering him and not pulling the trigger last week, this is not a spot where it would make sense to suddenly jump on board in a tougher matchup.

Latavius Murray is an interesting “bet on usage” play who could pay off with a multi-touchdown game. The floor is lower than I would love, but he should have a solid shot at hitting in this game. He joins Thielen, Diggs, D.J., and Kirk as “guys to consider, who I probably won’t end up actually playing.”

SATURDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE // Full “Updates” List

Dalvin Cook will play this week for the Vikings. Realistically, this takes all Vikings running backs off the board, as “volume” is the reason to use running backs vs Arizona. Cook’s volume will be held back a bit, and his return puts a dent in the workload for Latavius Murray. As always, it only takes one big play to post a solid box score, so you could make a large-field tourney case for Cook — but he’s a low floor play.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 14th 1:00pm Eastern

Panthers (
22.75) at

WFT (
21.75)

Over/Under 44.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Panthers Run D
26th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Washington Run O
21st DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
13th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Washington Pass O
32nd DVOA/28th Yards per pass
Washington Run D
17th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
16th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Washington Pass D
6th DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
11th DVOA/9th Yards per pass

PANTHERS // REDSKINS OVERVIEW

The “first place” (2-2) Redskins will host the 3-1 Panthers this week, in a matchup of two teams that play a conservative style of football, with Washington ranking 22nd in pace of play and Carolina ranking 28th. Only eight teams have run the ball more frequently than Washington, while only two teams have run more frequently than Carolina. Alex Smith has an average intended air yards of only 7.2, while Cam Newton sits at only 7.6. Both of these teams rank top six in “fewest opponent plays per game.”

While each offense can do some good things, Vegas has installed an Over/Under of 44.5 in what is essentially an “anti-shootout” environment. Each team will be looking to march methodically up and down the field, while playing keepaway from their opponent.

PANTHERS PASS OFFENSE

The only team in the NFL that has allowed a lower aDOT than Washington is the Cardinals — with Washington shaving almost 24% off the league-average aDOT so far, with an aDOT allowed on the year of only 6.2. While Washington has done a tremendous job forcing short passes, however, they do tend to have breakdowns downfield when pass protection holds up long enough for a quarterback. The deep ball has not been nearly as big a part of this Carolina offense as it was in the past — but with the return of Curtis Samuel and the integration of D.J. Moore into this offense, there is upside for Cam Newton to take a couple downfield shots.

Washington has faced only 34.5 pass attempts per game, while Cam Newton has thrown the ball only 32.5 times per game, so look for this to be a low-volume attack for the Panthers, with a good 20% of the targets on this team shaved off the top for Christian McCaffrey. This leaves around 23 to 26 targets left to go around, among Devin Funchess, Jarius Wright, Torrey Smith, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and a likely-to-return Greg Olsen. While Moore and Samuel each saw four targets last week, they came out of the bye playing only 29 (Moore) and 12 (Samuel) snaps, compared to 46 for Smith and 30 for Wright. Speedster Damiere Byrd also out-snapped Samuel, with 13 plays on the field.

The best way to squeeze fantasy points out of a matchup against Washington is to move away from short/intermediate route runners, and to instead target the guys who might get a few shots deep. This theoretically puts Samuel (and even Smith) in play, but this is obviously a boom/bust proposition. This offense has a lot of mouths to feed, without a lot of pass plays to go around.

Inside the 10-yard-line, McCaffrey has six carries and one target, while Cam has four carries and only five total pass attempts.

PANTHERS RUN OFFENSE

One of the biggest mismatches on the slate is the Panthers’ run blocking (second in adjusted line yards) against the Redskins’ run defense (30th in adjusted line yards). Washington ranks a more respectable 14th in yards allowed per carry, but they were fortunate to take on poor run-blocking units in Arizona and Indy to begin the year, and they fell so far behind the Saints last week that they were able to focus on the run down the stretch. The last time Carolina saw a big mismatch in the run game, they gave Christian McCaffrey 28 carries against the Bengals (27th in adjusted line yards). In his other three games, he has target counts of nine, 15, and six. In all, CMC has touch counts on the year of 16 // 22 // 30 // 22, and he should remain the key piece of this offense once again.

In addition to the rushing usage/efficiency CMC should have, it will not be surprising if we see Cam Newton add another 10 or 12 rushes of his own. He enters this week averaging nine carries and 41.3 rushing yards per game, with three rushing touchdowns on the year (to go with seven passing touchdowns). The likeliest scenario in this spot is three total touchdowns for Carolina, so a lot of things would have to go right for a true blowup; but both Cam and CMC should see solid work in this game, with strong floor/ceiling combos.

REDSKINS PASS OFFENSE

While Carolina has not played great pass defense this year — allowing above-average marks in aDOT, catch rate, and expected yards per target, while notching only nine sacks through four games and ranking 24th in adjusted sack rate — they have faced the third fewest opponent plays per game, and they have faced only 35 pass attempts per game as a result. Most of their issues this year have come from opponents finding downfield openings along the sidelines…which is obviously not something Alex Smith is best suited to take advantage of. Smith impressively threw six passes last week that traveled at least 20 yards downfield — as Washington fell behind big and had to dial up an uncharacteristic 39 pass attempts — but Smith had thrown only five total passes this year of 20 or more yards heading into that game. Washington will mix in a couple deep shots, but this is not something they want to lean on unless they absolutely have to.

The Redskins’ plan early in the year has been to try to establish Adrian Peterson on the ground in an effort to control the game and take the lead — and in the two games in which they have been successful with this approach, Smith has thrown the ball 30 and 20 times. In the other two games, Smith has thrown the ball 46 and 39 times, so a lot of this passing attack will depend on the early success of Peterson and the Washington defense. As long as this game stays close, Peterson will be the guy they lean on over Smith.

Early this year, Carolina’s defense ranks third in adjusted line yards on defense — but they have allowed 4.9 yards per carry to running backs, and 4.6 yards per carry overall (24th in the NFL). They are one of the best teams in the NFL at stopping runs up the middle, but they struggle when teams stretch them out a bit and run between the guard and the tackle, which is where Adrian Peterson has had his most success this year. I’m expecting this game to remain close enough for Peterson to see around 16 to 22 carries, and he should have an opportunity to pile up yards. If he punches in a touchdown, he’ll provide a nice box score.

If that prediction proves accurate, “volume” will be low across the board for Washington pass catchers, with a banged-up Chris Thompson seeing fewer targets (he has nine total targets in Peterson’s higher-rush games, compared to 22 total targets in Washington’s other two games), and with the chances of Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, and Josh Doctson popping off for a high-usage game looking slim as well. Crowder has one game of more than four targets (eight looks last week). Doctson has target counts on the year of three, seven, and three. Richardson has yet to top six looks.

An additional wrinkle is thrown into all of this with Doctson missing last week’s game, and with Crowder/Richardson listed as “non-participants” in Wednesday’s practice (Washington merely held a walk-through, but Gruden said that neither of these guys would have practiced had it been a standard practice day).

If one of these guys misses this week (and especially if Chris Thompson misses this week), Jordan Reed will see a bump in usage, following up target counts on the year of five, eight, seven, and two. Carolina ranks 27th in DVOA against the tight end, and while they have not allowed big numbers on the year, they have faced three teams (Dallas, Atlanta, and the Giants-sans-Engram) that don’t use the tight end heavily. Regardless of injuries and game flow, Reed should be in line for another five or six targets. If this game unexpectedly turns into a track meet and/or one of Washington’s other pass catchers is injured, Reed will see a small bump in usage expectations.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Given the low play volume in this game, it’s not a spot that will draw much attention from me — especially as each offense takes a “march methodically” approach. There should be some nice fantasy games that emerge from this game — but it will be difficult to find a week-winning score in this spot, and a game like this will produce some duds as well.

The safest, highest-upside play is McCaffrey, and he appears to be the one piece I’ll be heavily considering, given his usage and the way this matchup sets up. I’ll also have added interest in Jordan Reed if a couple of these banged-up Washington pass catchers end up inactive.

You could take a shot on Cam Newton in this spot, and I don’t hate Adrian Peterson (his floor is lower than I would love, but the usage should be there, and the upside is solid), while large-field fliers could also be taken on guys like Greg Olsen and Paul Richardson, in the hopes that something clicks just right. These are not pieces I will be drawn to myself, but they are at least worth a mention.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 14th 1:00pm Eastern

Bears (
24) at

Dolphins (
17)

Over/Under 41.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bears Run D
11th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Bears Pass D
2nd DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
11th DVOA/16th Yards per pass
Dolphins Run D
32nd DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O
28th DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
10th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O
24th DVOA/23rd Yards per pass

BEARS // DOLPHINS OVERVIEW

The 3-1 Bears will come off their bye to take on a 3-2 Dolphins team that soaked up early wins with a soft schedule before getting smoked by the Patriots in Week 4 and blowing a 17 point lead against the Bengals in Week 5. While recency bias has everyone looking at Miami like a pushover, we should realize that they would have been talked up this week as one of the surprise teams of the season if they had held on against Cincy and moved to 4-1 on the year. With that said: Chicago is clearly the superior team, on both offense and defense. The Bears will move from temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s at home in Chicago to a road environment that currently calls for a low of 80 and a high of 85 on Sunday — an underrated home field advantage for Miami. But this is the bulk of what the Dolphins have going for them.

Chicago has been installed as three point favorites on the road, and in a game between a pair of good defenses that are backed up by offenses that rank bottom three in pace of play, this is unlikely to turn into a shootout. The Rams are the only team that has allowed fewer plays per game than the Bears, while the Cardinals are the only team that has run fewer plays per game than Miami. Each team ranks bottom 10 in pass play rate.

BEARS PASS OFFENSE

Miami ranks seventh in yards allowed per carry and ninth in run defense DVOA, and while they are in the bottom half of the league in yards allowed per pass attempt, they also rank fifth in pass defense DVOA. With no “clear way” to tilt an attack against the Dolphins — and with Miami not in line to jump out to a big lead — we should expect the Bears to stick to their standard approach, which has led to the seventh lowest pass rate in the league, and has led to pass attempt numbers for Mitchell Trubisky this year of 35, 34, 35, and 26. While he tossed six touchdown passes against the lowly Bucs in Week 4, he had only two touchdown passes in the previous three weeks combined. His game against Tampa was the first time he had topped 220 yards in a game this year — and while the bye will give this team even more time to get things clicking on offense, we need to realize that “defense and running” is the way this team wants to win games.

Miami has been above-average against the deep ball and the short passes, while holding opponents to a below-average aDOT and a below-average catch rate. The best way to beat this team is with yards after the catch, as they have allowed an increase of more than 25% above the league average in YAC per reception. Even with this, Miami ranks middle of the pack in pass plays allowed of 20+ yards — so this poor tackling is not affecting them enough to create monster stat lines, especially as the Dolphins slow down the game so much and do a good job limiting downfield passing.

Receivers who have had success against Miami this year (Jordy Nelson and A.J. Green in particular) have gotten there by lining up on the left side of the field and running digs and crossers toward the right sideline.

Chicago is extremely versatile in the way they use their pass catchers, with Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson seeing their route tree change from week to week, so it is difficult to say beyond guesswork who will benefit most in this spot, but both guys should be involved (each guy has a pair of seven target games, with one game below that mark and one game above), while Gabriel is the better bet for YAC, given his speed and his short-area burst. This does not shape up as a likely spot for either guy to see a big spike in targets — especially as Anthony Miller is on track to return this week, and should soak up four or five looks of his own.

Behind these guys, Trey Burton has target counts of six, four, five, and four — essentially playing the role of the third receiver, as he has run only five fewer pass routes than Gabriel this year and only 20 fewer pass routes than Robinson. He’ll need a touchdown in this spot in order to pay dividends.

BEARS RUN OFFENSE

While Miami has slowed down the pace, they have failed to sustain drives on offense — ranking 28th in drive success rate. This has led to the Dolphins facing the second most rush attempts in the entire NFL to begin the season, in spite of allowing only 3.7 yards per carry. Because Miami has been so bad at sustaining drives, they have allowed the eighth most opponent plays per game in the NFL — and this week should be no different, against a Bears defense that ranks second in the league in drive success rate. This should allow the Bears to approach the 29.2 rush attempts per game that Miami has faced on the year — an approach this run-leaning team will be happy to take.

Two weeks ago, Jordan Howard took a backseat to Tarik Cohen, as the Bears wanted to spread out the Tampa defense and use Cohen’s speed in mismatches against their linebackers. This was an opponent-specific approach, though with how well it worked, we will need to be concerned moving forward that Chicago will go back to the well on this one from time to time. Miami’s linebackers have also been coverage liabilities, and only five teams have allowed more receptions to enemy backs.

I expect the Bears to come into this game with a plan to play great defense and wear Miami out with long, consistent drives — an approach that will lean Howard-heavy, but that will also create room for Cohen to mix in. Combining carries and receptions, Miami has allowed a massive 36.4 touches per game to opposing backfields, so there is space for both guys to get involved. Howard has touch counts on the year of 20, 17, 26, and 11, while Cohen has touched the ball eight, five, eight, and 20 times. With Chicago likely to run a few more plays than normal this week and to lean even more heavily on the run, something like 20 to 22 touches for Howard and 10 to 15 touches for Cohen is fairly likely. The Dolphins have allowed four rushing touchdowns to running backs, and of the six passing touchdowns they have allowed (the second lowest mark in the league), three have gone to RBs as well.

DOLPHINS PASS OFFENSE

Ryan Tannehill topped 28 pass attempts last week for the first time this season against a Cincinnati defense that is as bad at drive success rate as Miami is on offense — uncorking 35 pass attempts…for 185 yards. Tannehill has been held under 200 yards in three of five games this season, and he has yet to top 300 passing yards. Chicago is allowing only 231 passing yards per game, as their pass rush refuses to give quarterbacks time to look downfield. The Dolphins are a clear candidate to run the fewest plays on the weekend, so it is unlikely — once again — that we see any individual receiver on the Dolphins top six targets. It will take a big play for any of these guys to be relevant this week. Only two teams have allowed fewer passing plays of 20+ yards than the Bears this year.

If locked onto this spot for some reason, Kenny Stills is your best bet for upside, with target counts on the year of five, three, five, six, and five. He has three total touchdowns on the year, and he has a hundred yard game under his belt (to go with a pair of 17 yard games). A bet on Stills is a bet on this offense playing better than the numbers suggest they will.

DOLPHINS RUN OFFENSE

No team in football has faced fewer rush attempts than Chicago, at only 19.0 rushes against them per game. As scary as the Chicago pass rush is, their secondary is more attackable than their run defense, as only two teams in the league have allowed fewer yards per carry so far than Chicago. The Bears have allowed a league-low 64.0 rushing yards per game, and they have yet to allow a rushing touchdown.

On the Miami side, Frank Gore (nine to 13 touches in four of five games) and Kenyan Drake (touch counts all over the map, starting from Week 1: 17, 15, seven, four, and 13) continue to split work. The Dolphins will divide their limited running back touches between these two.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I don’t have huge interest in this game, but the Bears’ backfield is more intriguing than I expected it to be, given how much time Chicago should spend with the ball, and how run-heavy they are likely to end up skewing. Howard is priced appropriately for his role on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, but he is priced at only 10.3% of the salary cap on FanDuel, right next to Austin Ekeler, who basically has the same role on his team that Cohen has on this one. Conversely, Cohen is priced a bit low on DraftKings and FantasyDraft if he sees his touches rise to double digits this week — making him an intriguing “upside” piece in tourneys. The guesswork in this spot should keep ownership low, giving Cohen a chance to be a difference-maker if he pops off for 20 points. He’s behind guys like Chris Carson and Mike Davis in raw projections, but there are paths to him having the highest score in this price range.

Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson could each have a good game, but nothing points to this being “the likeliest scenario,” so you are essentially “guessing and hoping you’re right” if you play them. This isn’t a bad move, as one of these two should post something solid, but it’s obviously thinner than the plays I typically try to hammer.

I’ll have no players on the Dolphins’ offense, while I’ll consider the Bears’ D. Tannehill has taken only 11 sacks through five games, while Miami A) will look to get the ball out quickly on pass plays, and B) will likely run the fewest plays on the weekend, which limits opportunities for the Bears to hit — making them more “boom/bust” than normal, as opposed to simply “boom.” Miami will have a hard time driving the field to score, but they may have some short fields from Trubisky mistakes.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 14th 1:00pm Eastern

Colts (
22.75) at

Jets (
25.25)

Over/Under 48.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Colts Run D
6th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
29th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
30th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass
Jets Run D
14th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
22nd DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
31st DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
15th DVOA/10th Yards per pass

COLTS // JETS OVERVIEW

This game will pair a couple of bottom feeders, with the Jets sitting at 2-3 and the Colts at 1-4. Vegas has sided with the home team, installing the Jets as early 2.5 point favorites, while the Over/Under in this game has been set at a modest 45.0 points. This game quietly pairs two massively contrasting styles, as the Colts have been ultra aggressive to start the year (first in situation neutral pace of play; first in pass play rate), while the Jets have done everything they can to slow down the game and protect their rookie quarterback (32nd in situation neutral pace of play; 28th in pass play rate). Each team ranks top eight in “most opponent plays allowed per game,” and the Colts also rank third in plays per game. In all, Colts games have averaged a massive 141.2 offensive plays per game, while Jets games have averaged a much more modest 128.4 plays per game. The Jets should see a few extra plays added to their total this week, given how fast the Colts play; but Indy should also see a few extra plays, given how tough it is for the Jets to sustain drives. There should be plenty of punts in this game, as each offense has had a tough time sustaining drives (Indy ranks 21st in drive success rate, while the Jets rank 29th), but there will also be plenty of opportunities for touches to pile up on either side of the ball.

COLTS PASS OFFENSE

The Colts have played only one game with a lead this year — and in that game, against Washington, Andrew Luck threw the ball only 31 times, while Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines, and Marlon Mack (in his only healthy game on the year) combined for 24 carries. Indy is in line to run more like 65 to 70 plays this week, so even if they grab an early lead off a quick, successful drive and a Sam Darnold mistake, we should see around 35 to 38 pass attempts — and the likeliest scenario is that this game remains close, and that the Colts uncork over 40 passes yet again. In Luck’s other four games, he has pass attempt numbers of 53, 40, 62, and 59.

With T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle set to miss yet again, this volume will be spread across a thin band of players. Last week against the Patriots, “routes run” data and target counts among primary weapons on the Colts looked like this:

53 / 9 :: Ryan Grant // 51 / 11 :: Chester Rogers // 46 / 15 :: Eric Ebron // 45 / 7 :: Zach Pascal // 25 / 2 :: Marcus Johnson

The Jets have shaved almost 13% off the league average aDOT on the year, but they have allowed an average catch rate and have been below average after the catch. In all, this has led to them being only about 5% better than the league average in expected yards allowed per target — so while this has been a solid pass defense, they are by no means a “shy away” matchup for players who should see volume.

So far this year, the way to beat the Jets’ defense has been with short crossing routes (particularly short crossing routes moving from right to left) — an approach that Kenny Golladay, Golden Tate, Jarvis Landry, and Dede Westbrook have all taken advantage of (laughably, the Broncos decided last week they were too classy to use Emmanuel Sanders in this way, in spite of the fact that this is exactly what he is built to do; he still went 9-72-0 on short-area targets). This is essentially the exact way the Colts have been using Rogers since T.Y. Hilton went down. After an 8-85-0 line two weeks ago and an 8-66-0 line last week, he shapes up as a safe, high-upside bet.

The second strongest bet on Indy is Ebron, who has averaged 12 targets per game across the last three weeks, and who is being used essentially like the number one wide receiver with Hilton out of action. He runs plenty of short crossers as well, and his speed (4.60 40 time) matches up favorably with Rogers’ speed (4.56 40 time), giving him an equal opportunity at hitting. The Colts have proactively schemed the ball to Ebron in the red zone, as his 12 targets inside the 20 rank third in the NFL this year among all players. Rogers has only three targets inside the 20, and none inside the 10.

Ryan Grant offers little after the catch, but he’ll be a reliable “floor” piece if the Colts continue to lean pass-heavy. Pascal caught only one of his seven targets last week and had a couple brutal miscues, but he should soak up five to nine looks yet again with sneaky upside if he plays more like the Week 4 version of himself (6-56-1 on 10 targets). He’ll also run a few routes down the right sideline, where the Jets have had some issues, making him an intriguing large-field tourney piece.

COLTS RUN OFFENSE

The one time this year when Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins were all active together (Week 2), Mack played 18 snaps and saw 11 touches, Wilkins played 23 snaps and had 12 touches, and Hines played 25 snaps and saw five touches. It’s tough to get a clear read on usage from that game, as that’s also the only time the Colts played with a lead and were able to lean on the run. Given how ineffective Wilkins has been this year, I think we will see Mack take over most of the early-down work while Hines will continue to operate as the primary piece in the pass game. The Colts may ease Mack back in this week in a timeshare with Wilkins, in order to protect his health.

Either of Mack or Hines could hit for a long play (and any of these three could be given a scoring opportunity), but the best bet for points to pile up is Hines, who has target counts on the year of nine, one, five, 11, and nine. Hines has been solid in the pass game, and another six to eight targets is not outside his range of possibilities this week.

JETS PASS OFFENSE

Injuries continue to pile up for the Colts’ defense, as starting safety Clayton Geathers will miss this week with a neck injury, while stud rookie linebacker Darius Leonard (who leads the NFL in tackles in spite of missing all of last week) missed practice on Wednesday. Leonard has said he expects to play, which would be a big boost for the Colts — especially for their run defense.

The Colts’ upstart defense ranks fifth in adjusted sack rate through five games, while the Jets’ offensive line ranks 20th in this category. Even with the injury issues on the Colts, they have been very strong vs the pass early in the year — allowing the third-lowest aDOT in the NFL, while impressively pairing this low aDOT with the seventh lowest YAC allowed per reception (typically, low aDOT teams allow more yards after the catch). Opponents make up for this with a high catch rate, which is the key to piling up fantasy points against the Colts.

Every team that has had success so far against the Colts’ defense has done so by attacking their zone with crossing routes. Downfield passes have repeatedly failed vs Indy, while players have been able to pick up receptions while moving horizontally or diagonally from one side of the field to the other.

While Robby Anderson or Terrelle Pryor (or even Jermaine Kearse) could theoretically hit in this spot (it only takes one play, after all), the only receiver on the Jets who profiles well in this matchup is Quincy Enunwa, who has target counts on the year of 10, 11, eight, eight, and five, in spite of Sam Darnold topping 34 pass attempts only once. It is worth noting that the only wide receiver to top 100 yards against the Colts this year has been DeAndre Hopkins.

JETS RUN OFFENSE

While wide receivers have had a tough time shaking open for big gains downfield against the Colts, James White (10-77-1) and Chris Thompson (13-92-0) each had big games catching passes out of the backfield against them. Indy typically plays with only six men in the box, which filters action toward running backs — both on the ground and through the air.

With the Jets going run-heavy this year, Isaiah Crowell has touch counts of 10, 14, 18, five, and 16, while Bilal Powell has touch counts of 13, 10, 14, 12, and 20. This has been a clear and legitimate split to begin the year, with Crowell playing 129 snaps and Powell playing 162. Crowell has four carries inside the 10, while Powell has three. Powell has doubled Crow in targets (16 to eight).

If betting on one guy, Powell is the slightly preferred option, as he should see a couple more touches than his backfield mate and he matches up well in the pass game, though it won’t be surprising to see either of these guys post a solid game. (Conversely, it won’t be surprising to see either of these guys fall shy of 10 points).

From a “Cheat Code” perspective (playing both RBs together and treating them like one high-priced back), these guys have combined touch counts on the year of 23, 24, 32, 17, and 36 — which is lower guaranteed usage than Seahawks backs have, in a tougher matchup. With that said: the place to use the Cheat Code is on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, where tighter pricing sometimes leads to creative roster construction solutions — and on those sites, these two have combined point totals (starting from Week 1) of 32.7 // 24.9 // 26.4 // 10.5 // 42.0.

The dud came in a blowout loss against the Jags, while the games in Week 1 (32.7) and Week 5 (42.0) came in blowout wins. The likeliest scenario here is something in the range of those second and third games, which is on the bottom end of what would make this a justifiable play. But in tourneys, we do always say that the time to play the Cheat Code is when “the two guys cost the same as a single high-priced back, and they can go for 24 to 40 points.” Technically, they fit that definition this week.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

This is not a massively exciting game from a “points on the scoreboard” perspective, but if the slow-paced Jets continue to stall out in their drives, this game does become interesting from a “total plays” perspective — making it an interesting game to target on FantasyDraft and DraftKings, in particular, where PPR points can pile up.

Chester Rogers and Eric Ebron are primary guys to consider on this slate for volume-driven floor and respectable ceiling, while Pascal also stands out to me as an interesting tourney play, with legitimate “dud” floor, but also with legitimate 20-point upside. He’ll be on the field plenty and should soak up another five to nine targets.

Quincy Enunwa is interesting on the other side, though his price has crept up high enough on DraftKings that I will probably look somewhere else myself, while his touchdown and yardage ceiling are a little less sexy on FanDuel, where his PPR skills don’t play quite as nicely. Enunwa is priced a little lower on FantasyDraft than on DraftKings (10.3% of the salary cap, compared to 11.2%), so he becomes a bit more interesting on there.

Both backfields are messy timeshares, but you could try to “guess right” on the three-way split for Indy, or you could take the respectable points available on either of the Jets backs, while giving outside consideration to a Cheat Code pairing.

With such a low-scoring game environment the likeliest scenario, my eyes aren’t popping over either QB, but Luck could post a nice game.

I’ll probably look elsewhere for DST, though the Colts should pick up a few sacks and pick off one or two passes on the road.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE // Full “Updates” List

Isaiah Crowell is expected to play on Sunday, but he is a game-time decision. If he misses, Bilal Powell will become a 20-touch back, and he will immediately vault to the top of the running back pile, as a high-floor, high-ceiling play. Again: expect Crow to play; but keep an eye on this one Sunday morning when Inactives are released about an hour and a half before kickoff.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 14th 1:00pm Eastern

Hawks (
25.5) at

Raiders (
22.5)

Over/Under 48.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Seahawks Run D
9th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O
24th DVOA/14th Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O
5th DVOA/5th Yards per pass
Raiders Run D
31st DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
8th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D
26th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
3rd DVOA/4th Yards per pass

SEAHAWKS // RAIDERS (LONDON) OVERVIEW

The 1-4 Raiders and the 2-3 Seahawks travel to London this week to face one another at Wembley Stadium. Neither of these teams looks particularly good this year, with red zone scoring (25th in red zone touchdown rate) and “scared quarterback play” being the main issue for an Oakland team that has otherwise moved the ball well (sixth in the NFL in yards per game), and with lack of creativity on offense and a poor run defense (29th in rushing yards allowed per game) the main culprits on Seattle. Because the Seahawks play in the same division as the Cardinals and 49ers, they may be able to pile up enough wins this year to make a run at the playoffs — making this an important game for them as they look to lock in every win possible.

Vegas has the Seahawks installed as early three-point favorites, with a moderate scoring expectation for this game. The likeliest path for these teams to rack up their projected points is on the ground, as Seattle ranks 31st in the NFL in passing play percentage, while the Raiders (13th in passing play percentage) should lean a bit more run-heavy against this Seattle team. Each team plays at a moderate pace and has had trouble sustaining drives (Oakland entered last week ranked 21st in drive success rate, while the Seahawks ranked 28th), and each defense has done a decent job slowing down opponent drives (Seattle is 10th in drive success rate on defense; Oakland ranks 13th). Oakland has been susceptible to big plays, however — allowing the third-most pass plays of 20+ yards and the seventh-most rush plays of 20+ yards — while each team has been poor against the run (ranking 26th — Seattle — and 27th in yards allowed per carry). Barring a boneheaded Brian Schottenheimer game plan, Seattle should lean run-heavy once again, while Oakland should respond by keeping the ball on the ground as well.

SEAHAWKS PASS OFFENSE

Seattle’s offensive line has been one of the worst pass blocking units in the league this year, but they will match up this week with an Oakland defense that is near the bottom of the league in pass rush efficiency, and that ranks sixth worst in the league in average depth of target allowed. Oakland has also continued their mistake-prone ways, with the most YAC allowed per reception in the league.

Over the last three weeks, Seattle has gone with an interesting style of play — giving 96 total carries to Mike Davis, Chris Carson, and Rashaad Penny (Penny has 12 of those carries — with none last week, when Davis and Carson were both healthy), while asking Russell Wilson to pass the ball only 73 times in that stretch. Russ also has only six total carries across the last three weeks.

We’ll get to the rushing attack in a moment, but first: with Seattle going 2-1 over the last three weeks (and nearly topping the Rams in Week 5) with this approach, it seems likely to continue unless Oakland unexpectedly hops out to a big lead. Since Oakland’s best means of moving the ball will also be on the ground, this seems unlikely to happen — and as such, we can pencil in the Seahawks for a sub-50% pass rate in this spot, which should lead to another 25 to 29 pass attempts for Russ. Even with the deep ball issues on Oakland, Seattle will be difficult to bet on for massive upside through the air. Russ has not topped 200 passing yards in three consecutive weeks.

Most pass plays right now, Seattle is sending two (or sometimes three) guys downfield, while dropping the tight end and the running back into the short areas of the field. With teams having to respect the rushing ability of Russ (and having to respect Tyler Lockett and now Doug Baldwin deep), the running backs (10 catches over the last three weeks) and tight ends (10 catches over the last three weeks) are picking up big chunks of the total available receptions on this offense. With Russ completing only 48 pass attempts the last three weeks, 41.7% of these completions have gone to backs and tight ends.

Although volume is a concern for Seattle wide receivers (as a group, they have an average of only 9.3 wide receiver catches per game over the last three weeks), deep balls should remain part of the game plan against an Oakland team that can be flamed downfield. Tyler Lockett has a respectable aDOT of 13.5, and he is seeing some short looks mixed in with his deep balls. He has target counts across these three weeks of six, six, and five, and he should be in that range again — giving him moderate floor and moderate ceiling.

Doug Baldwin saw only one target last week (a dump-off that went for one yard), but he played 53 of a possible 60 snaps and ran 24 of a possible 26 pass routes. He saw seven targets the week before, and he should return to the “five to eight” target range again in this one. Oakland plays much better defense on the outside than they do over the middle, where Baldwin primarily operates. With the lack of Oakland pass rush, he and Lockett will each have a couple opportunities for big plays deep.

Nick Vannett continues to produce limited upside on limited opportunities. He ran only 14 pass routes last week, but saw four targets. He’s a risky bet with what is primarily a dump-off role. He’ll need a touchdown in order to pay off.

SEAHAWKS RUN OFFENSE

While you could bet on unexpected game flow (or unexpected game plan) in large-field tourneys and ignore the Seattle rushing attack while loading up on Russell Wilson and his pass catchers, the likeliest scenario here is another run-heavy game for the Seahawks after Chris Carson had 32 carries in Week 3, Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny combined for 30 rush attempts in Week 4, and Carson/Davis combined for 31 rush attempts in Week 5. Last week, Carson played 35 snaps to 25 for Davis. Oakland has been most susceptible right up the gut, where the Seahawks have been most effective. Because the secondary has to respect the deep ball and the linebackers have to respect the possibility of Russ keeping the ball on action to the outside, there should be even more space against this run defense than other teams have had. Expect another 30+ combined touches for Carson and Davis, with each guy mixing in fairly interchangeably. Carson should out-touch Davis, but it will likely be close. Only five teams have allowed more yards per carry than the Raiders, and only four teams have allowed more rushing yards per game. Only one team has allowed more touchdowns to running backs.

RAIDERS PASS OFFENSE

Seattle has been strong against the pass early in the year, allowing below-average marks in both aDOT and catch rate — and given the issues Seattle has had on the ground (26th in yards allowed per carry, 29th in rushing yards allowed per game), teams are generally turning to the run against them. Only seven teams have faced more rush attempts per game than Seattle, while only five teams have faced fewer pass attempts per game. (Oakland happens to be one of those teams that has faced fewer pass attempts. Again: this game should skew run-heavy.)

There has been no “clear way” to attack Seattle through the air this year, with only six teams allowing fewer receptions to the tight end position, and with the Seahawks ranking comfortably in the top half of the NFL in yards allowed per game to wide receivers. The best way to beat this team is to hope for time in the pocket, and for a coverage breakdown deep. In a game with tight coverage across the board, we should have concerns about the efficiency we will see from Derek Carr, who plays the quarterback position like a pure cash game player: shying away from risk at all costs. Look for Carr to settle for dump-offs instead of testing deep as often as he should.

With all that said: Amari Cooper posted a strong game against a similarly tough Cleveland pass defense (low aDOT, low catch rate allowed) — putting up 8-128-1 on 12 targets. Part of that was dictated by game flow in a matchup that turned into a pass-heavy shootout, which we should not expect here; but again: if you want to bet on unexpected game flow, he would become an interesting piece. Jordy Nelson has target counts on the year of four, four, eight, eight, and four, and has continued to produce a high catch rate and solid YAC on these looks. Martavis Bryant should see three to five targets downfield, giving him boom/bust potential. In spite of his tough matchup, Jared Cook should remain involved, and is another piece to consider if betting on unexpected game flow.

RAIDERS RUN OFFENSE

There has been a clear pattern in the Raiders’ backfield to date:

Marshawn Lynch sees the bulk of the carries. The Raiders waste a few touches per game on Doug Martin. And when Oakland falls behind, they speed up the pace and turn to Jalen Richard for his pass-catching chops.

Although he saw only 11 touches last week when the Raiders fell behind by two touchdowns before halftime, Lynch saw touch counts across his previous three games of 23, 22, and 20. He has exactly two or three catches in every game this year (he tends to get one designed screen play and two or three dump-offs), and he has 18 to 20 carries in each of those three spiked-usage games. Seattle has allowed four rushing touchdowns to running backs — sixth worst in the league — while only three running backs in the NFL have more red zone carries than Lynch.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

If multi-entering large-field tourneys, you could make a case for targeting one of these passing attacks — betting on a scenario in which one team jumps out in front of the other, and pass attempts spike as a result. Because each team has upside when going pass-heavy, this is the sort of bet that could pay off nicely if things go differently than expected — but of course, the likeliest scenario is a fairly close game that yields a run-heavy approach on both sides of the ball, with touchdowns on both teams likeliest to come from the running backs. I could see myself taking a shot on Baldwin or Lockett this week on one of the three teams I will be playing in the $3k Milly Maker — simply because there is plenty of upside for the price — but I can’t pretend that the floor is solid.

I have a lot of interest in Seattle’s running backs, with an expectation of around 32 to 35 total touches between Carson and Davis — with Carson likely to see 18 to 20 touches, and with Davis in line for around 12 to 15 looks. They are unlikely to combine for more than three or four receptions, so yards and touchdowns will need to pile up — but against this Raiders team, there should be a clear opportunity for around 130 combined rushing yards and one or two touchdowns. If betting on one guy, I’ll lean Carson. There is also a case on DraftKings and FantasyDraft — with tighter pricing, and with no “underpriced” high-priced running backs — to play both guys together in classic Cheat Code style. Obviously, your roster will be sunk if Seattle somehow fails on the ground or if they decide to move away from their run-heavy approach; but since Seattle switched to a run-heavy approach, “Seahawks running backs” have posted combined DK/FDraft scores of 23.9 (Week 3), 36.3 (Week 4), and 32.2 (Week 5), and this is the best matchup this group has had in this stretch. Some people will tell you that you limit your roster’s overall upside by playing both guys together — but it’s difficult to average 12 to 18 points per game from a pair of low-priced guys, and these two should provide fairly locked-in points while allowing you to spend up for 30-point-per-player upside in other spots. Pairing these two probably won’t get the job done in massive-field stuff, but it should work beautifully in cash games, single-entry tourneys, three-entry-max tourneys, and any field of around 10k entries or fewer.

I also have interest in going back to the well on Marshawn Lynch after his dud last week. There are several other running backs to consider if I soak up two spots with Seattle RBs, but Marshawn will at least make the list.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 14th 1:00pm Eastern

Bills (
15.25) at

Texans (
25.25)

Over/Under 40.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bills Run D
24th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
23rd DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Bills Pass D
28th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
8th DVOA/3rd Yards per pass
Texans Run D
23rd DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O
32nd DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
8th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O
4th DVOA/6th Yards per pass

BILLS // TEXANS OVERVIEW

The Bills have pulled off a pair of upset wins to land a surprising 2-3 record — with their latest win coming just in time for the 2-3 Texans to be reminded that they cannot take this opponent for granted. The Texans have won back-to-back games after starting the year 0-3, with those losses coming by seven points, three points, and five points. (Both Texans wins have come by three points as well.)

After waiting to make sure Deshaun Watson (chest) was on track to play this week, Vegas installed Houston as 10 point favorites. Given the inconsistency Houston has shown and the pass defense the Bills boast, this game may play closer than that line suggests (even if the Texans pull away at the end), but this game clearly tilts in favor of the home team.

Houston has kept their foot on the gas on offense, ranking fourth in the league in pace of play, while the Bills surprisingly rank 18th in this category, as Brian Daboll (who has bounced around the NFL, but who came up with the Patriots and also coached with Andy Reid and Nick Saban) has tried to build up an aggressive mindset on this offense.

Each team leans toward the run, with the Texans ranking 17th in pass play rate and the Bills ranking 29th. Each team also ranks in the bottom half of the league in drive success rate (17th for Houston; 31st for Buffalo), while each defense ranks in the top half in drive success rate. Houston ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per game on offense, but they are taking on a Buffalo team that has allowed the sixth fewest yards per game. The Bills, of course, rank 31st in yards per game, while the Texans rank 14th in yards allowed per game.

BILLS PASS OFFENSE

Josh Allen has been held to 22 or fewer pass attempts in each Buffalo win, but he does have a respectable 33 attempts in each of his losses. This has led to an average of 17 completions per game in those spots, which is close to the “ceiling” expectation for this offense. Obviously, we are not targeting the Bills for volume (well…so far, we have not been targeting the Bills at all…), so the question becomes: is there any way to isolate a potential “splash play” on the Bills, given Allen’s ability to throw deep? Obviously, this would be a thin tourney approach no matter what, but here’s what this matchup gives us to work with:

Typically, when I write a setup like that, I then go research things, and I come back with the facts I found. What I found, however, is that in five games for the Texans (Patriots // Titans // Giants // Colts // Cowboys), T.Y. Hilton is really the only receiver who has been able to beat them deep. Houston ranks middle of the pack in pass plays allowed of 20+ yards and only three teams have allowed more pass plays of 40+ yards, but much of this has been YAC related. Of course, Houston has been fortunate to face a slew of teams that don’t emphasize downfield throws, so take that for what it’s worth; but this is the Bills we are talking about here. Not that you were desperate to roster a Bills pass catcher, but it looks like this is simply a “hope and pray” spot if taking a shot.

The guy to “hope and pray” on would be Zay Jones, who has target counts on the year of six, three, one, seven, and four, and who is the best bet for a deep connection.

BILLS RUN OFFENSE

Houston has been one of the toughest teams in the league to run on, allowing only 3.4 yards per carry (fourth best in the league) — bad news for a Buffalo offense that wants to lean on the run as much as they can. The Bills rank sixth in the league in rush attempts, but they rank 28th in yards per carry, as teams do not respect the ability of Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones to create separation, which is allowing them to think “run first” in this matchup. Buffalo has a long run of only 27 yards, and it seems likely that they will be trading LeSean McCoy before the deadline, which gives them incentive to limit his opportunities for injury in the meantime.

If taking a shot on this spot, McCoy is obviously the guy to chase, after Buffalo emphasized him last week with 24 carries and three targets. Perhaps he could break out for a couple long runs and a touchdown if his number gets called in the same manner this week.

TEXANS PASS OFFENSE

After a rough Week 1, Buffalo has returned to their 2017 form against the pass — impressively ranking top five this year in aDOT allowed and top eight in YAC allowed per reception. The Bills have been above-average at every area of the field except the deep middle, while they have held the following alpha receivers to the corresponding stat lines:

John Brown :: 3-44-1 (on a season-low four targets)

Keenan Allen :: 6-67-0 (on his second lowest target count of the year)

Stefon Diggs :: 4-17-0 (on his second lowest target count of the year)

Corey Davis :: 4-49-0 (on his second lowest target count of the year)

Adam Thielen also required a season-high 19 targets to go 14-105-0 (his second lowest yardage total on the year), while Davante Adams required a season-high 14 targets to go 8-81-0 (his third lowest yardage total on the year, and his only game without a touchdown).

Any way you slice it, this is a tough matchup for DeAndre Hopkins, who should see a ton of Tre’Davious White, who has faced only 18 targets on the year, and has allowed a total line of 10-118-0.  We know that Hopkins gets his targets regardless, but efficiency will be tougher to come by in this spot, which will require him to break off some big plays or a multi-touchdown game in order to justify his price tag. Expect the Texans to move Hopkins into the slot plenty and to flatten out his routes (both short and deep) in order to give him the best possible shot at hitting in this spot.

One week after being aggressively used with jet sweep action that allowed him to run what essentially functioned as “running back” pass routes,