Week 7 Matchups

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WEEK 6 ROSTER BREAKDOWN

Point Total: 162.66

(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.

30.46 – Matt Ryan
5.9 – Chris Carson
31.9 – James Conner
25.2 – Tyler Boyd
27.3 – Julio Jones
15.5 – Chester Rogers
11.4 – C.J. Uzomah
10.0 – T.J. Yeldon
5.0 – Bears

Results :: This team was good for profit in most tourneys. The two variations I built of this team (detailed below) outscored this Main Team slightly, finishing 85th to 90th percentile in tourneys, leading to a solid all-around weekend.

What I Wrote Before Kickoff:

As I mentioned last week in the NFL Edge: my main focus in Week 6 was the $3k Milly Maker on DraftKings, where I built three teams. I landed on one “main team” (which I entered in a few other contests on Sunday morning), with the other two as slim variants of this one. I’m not sure this team quite has the legs to make it to first place, but it has a shot. I like the ceiling on this squad quite a bit, and there is enough floor to still give me a shot at profit if a few things don’t go according to plan.

I did not spend a ton of time on the quarterback position this week after writing the NFL Edge, as I feel comfortable that Jameis Winston and Matt Ryan carry the clearest shot at the top score at the position, and additional study/thought time could be poured into other positions. This is a “don’t overthink it” spot for me, in a clear shootout with two defenses that should have a difficult time stopping one another. I had no trouble fitting in Ryan with a team full of players I wanted to use, so I’m taking the safety and upside here.

While “game flow” and “lack of pass game work” are concerns for Carson, we are realistically stuck with plenty of question marks at any player in this price range — and Carson carries more ceiling than most of his contemporaries. This game sets up great for him, and I like the floor/ceiling I’m getting in this price range.

Conner rose up my list on Thursday when I read the NFL Edge and began thinking through the ways touchdowns were likeliest to be scored vs the Bengals this week. Because the Bengals allow long, sustained drives (closed out with poor red zone defense), this game sets up great for multiple Conner scores. His touches give him a nice floor. His scoring position usage gives him a nice ceiling. And the matchup sets up perfectly. This is one of my favorite “process” plays on the weekend, and I’ll be fine with it regardless of the final box score numbers.

I kept “not wanting to play Boyd,” but realistically, he was one of only six guys who made my “Tier 1” list after my first read-through of the NFL Edge on Thursday. It sometimes feels strange to “pay up” for a guy you could get for cheap before, but Boyd is still a little underpriced, and this matchup sets up great for him, as the way to attack Pittsburgh is over the middle of the field. Boyd adds nice floor and ceiling to this roster.

With Julio :: I’d rather bet on the explosion than bet against it. If he “misses,” he likely doesn’t sink my roster. If he hits, the 50% to 70% of the field that fades him could fall out of the running, as he can hit for a higher score than anyone else on the slate.

Chester Rogers appears to be the ultimate “volume matters” play, with his aDOT of only 6.3 — but when you dig into “how he got such a low aDOT,” that pure number becomes less concerning. Rogers is seeing a lot of passes at or behind the line of scrimmage (guaranteed points — with potential for big plays if the blocking is there on these wide receiver screens), and he is then seeing two to four targets 15 to 20 yards downfield. This is a great blend for floor and ceiling, and he is the de facto number one receiver on a fast-paced, pass-heavy team, taking on a banged-up secondary. I like what he provides for my roster this week.

Tight end was such a crap shoot this week, I actually ended up in the Resources & Glossary page on the site, reading the piece I wrote before the season on what to do when there is no clear value — to remind myself of the best way to play this spot. Ultimately: bet on the lowest-priced guy who has a shot at matching or passing the “bad chalk.” It appears Austin Hooper is going to be popular this week — and while he “could hit,” there is nothing that suggests he will hit, and there is nothing that makes him a better play on paper than Uzomah, Vance McDonald, David Njoku, and a few other cheap options. Uzomah was a wide receiver in high school, and the knock on him coming out of college was that he wouldn’t be able to develop into a blocking tight end at the NFL level. Doesn’t bother me! While watching recent film on the Steelers for totally different reasons, it kept standing out to me how attackable this team is with tight ends — and this is something other teams have noticed, and have been hammering each week. The Bengals’ staff will notice it as well, and — as noted in the Player Grid — I’m banking on Uzomah seeing a rise in schemed targets this week, hopefully giving him a healthy four to seven looks to work with.

I kept coming back to Yeldon as a guy who just “makes too much sense to pass up.” Pass-catching back vs a team that filters targets to running back — with an 80% snap rate behind him. Plenty to like in this spot.

DST :: Bears // vs Osweiler. I had the Bears locked in already, but Osweiler starting just simplifies things. I could try to “guess” in another spot and hope to beat the score I can get here; but guaranteed points are always valuable, and there was no other defense I felt great about throughout the week, so I’m fine sticking with the chalk in this spot.

On Team 2, I dropped from Matt Ryan to Jameis Winston, and I moved up from Chris Carson to Tyler Lockett.

On Team 3, I dropped from Matt Ryan to Jameis Winston, and I moved up from Chris Carson to Marshawn Lynch.

I love that game in London, but game flow could get one of these guys in trouble, so this was a great way to hedge. If the game stays close, I actually expect all three of Carson/Lockett/Marshawn to hit. But if Seattle falls behind, my Carson team takes a hit while my other two get a nice boost. And if Marshawn gets sunk, it’s likely because Lockett and Carson are doing well.

I wanted to use Lockett’s speed against this bad Raiders pass rush and slow Raiders defense. I wanted to use Lynch for his sneaky 100-yard, two-touchdown upside.

I’m wrapping up this writeup with six minutes to spare until kickoff.

The process has been strong this week. We’ll see if the results follow — but I’m feeling great about the builds regardless of how things work out. These teams would be locked into profit if we played out this slate a hundred times — with opportunities for a few huge weekends.


When I build the NFL Edge, I dive into the research each week with no preconceived notions, and with no predetermined opinions about the slate. This allows me to position the research to influence my thoughts, rather than putting myself in a position where my thoughts will influence the research.

As I move game by game, I discover not only which players I am likeliest to prefer that week, but also what the slate looks like as a whole. And it was instructive this week to realize — after I had researched the first four or five games on the 10-game main slate — that this is one of the most unique weeks I can remember. For the first time this season, there are no “gimme” games — no spots that stand out at first glance, and that yield a number of quality foundation plays to DFSers who have lesser research (or even no research at all). This week, there are almost no “easy plays,” which makes things far easier on us.

I love weeks like this — weeks in which most people will be guessing across the board, while we can dig into the research and uncover the top options available — and I seriously cannot recall a weekend in the past that set up quite so beautifully in this exact way. If we were fortunate enough to play out this exact slate a hundred times, we would all be nicely profitable with this type of setup. Now, the key is turning that “large sample size edge” into the largest possible edge we can carve out in the small sample size of a single week.

Let’s get to it!

*

Carlos Hyde Traded (Oct. 19)

Theo Riddick Out (Oct. 19)

Dalvin Cook Out // Terrelle Pryor Doubtful (Oct. 19)

Paul Richardson Doubtful (Oct. 19)

Melvin Gordon Looking Unlikely (Oct. 20)

Rob Gronkowski Doubtful (Oct. 20)


Kickoff Thursday, Oct 18th 8:20pm Eastern

Broncos (
21.75) at

Cards (
20.75)

Over/Under 42.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Broncos Run D
5th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O
2nd DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Broncos Pass D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O
18th DVOA/15th Yards per pass
Cardinals Run D
10th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O
20th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D
10th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Broncos Pass O
31st DVOA/26th Yards per pass

BRONCOS // CARDINALS OVERVIEW

I imagine the Showdown contests for this Thursday night will draw less attention than most weeks, as we are presented with one of the most boring matchups imaginable, with a pair of backward-moving teams playing what projects to be a meaningless, low-scoring affair. The Broncos enter this game at 2-4, and are quickly falling behind the high-powered Chiefs and Chargers in the AFC West. The Cardinals are a no-hope 1-5. Vegas has installed the visiting Broncos as early 2.5 point favorites, with an Over/Under in the game of only 41.5.

The Broncos have played fast this year, ranking eighth in pace of play, while the Cardinals rank 24th. Each team ranks top half of the league in pass play rate, though each unit should lean a bit more run-heavy than normal if this game remains close throughout.

BRONCOS PASS OFFENSE

One of the most meaningful mistakes made by many DFS players (and even many DFS analysts) is that they take shortcuts in their thinking and simply label bad teams as “bad,” without digging into the various things that “bad teams” do well. And when we look at the “bad” Cardinals team, it continues to jump off the page each week how solid they are against the pass. In fact, the Cardinals are allowing the lowest average depth of target (aDOT) in the entire NFL — making it difficult for receivers to pop off for big plays. Through six weeks, only five teams have given up fewer pass plays of 20+ yards than Arizona, and most of these 20+ yard plays have come from short passes that were turned into yards after the catch. Arizona also ranks fifth in the NFL in sacks, and the Jaguars are the only team that has allowed fewer passing touchdowns than the Cardinals.

The bonus in attacking Arizona with an offensive unit is that the Cardinals are so awful on the other side of the ball (their offense ranks 32nd in drive success rate), they are pumping up the play volume in a big way for their opponents. The fast-paced Browns are the only team that has allowed more opponent plays per game this year than the Cardinals — and given that Denver ranks ninth on defense in drive success rate allowed, we should expect this to continue this week.

Even with all these plays faced each week, Arizona ranks middle of the pack in pass attempts faced. Part of this is simply that teams take a lead against Arizona and turn to the run; but a bigger part is that Arizona’s stingy pass defense filters teams toward the ground. This game does not shape up as a huge “volume boost” spot for Case Keenum and the Broncos receivers.

Unsurprisingly — given the tight zone coverage scheme the Cardinals lean on — the best way to attack them through the air (in fact, the only way to attack them through the air without running into areas of the field where they are above-average) is the short middle. Frustratingly, this head-scratching Broncos offensive scheme has completely ignored the short middle of the field throughout the early portions of the season — instead using Keenum’s mobility to target out-breaking routes, while rarely creating confusion for the defense by forcing them to account for receivers who are moving from one side of the field to the other. Even out of the slot, a good 90% of the routes Emmanuel Sanders is being targeted on this year are ignoring the valuable middle of the field, and Denver has shown no ability thus far to adjust for matchups in their play-calling and approach.

To rephrase all that: this matchup sets up poorly for the Broncos pass catchers. Obviously, it sets up best for Emmanuel Sanders, as the only guy who has shown a consistent connection with Case Keenum, and as the guy we would prefer to target against a team that capitalizes on forcing underneath passes. Demaryius Thomas would be second on the list this week, given the short-area throws the Broncos still use him on from time to time. Courtland Sutton is the piece least-likely to hit, with his downfield role in this offense. He still carries ceiling, but the matchup sets up worst for him.

BRONCOS RUN OFFENSE

While Arizona is facing only a middling number of pass plays per game, they have faced an incredible 28 more rush attempts than any other team in football. Before being pasted by Latavius Murray last week, Arizona had been solid against the run on a per-rush basis, but they are ultimately average at best (20th in yards allowed per carry, and they entered last week ranked 12th in DVOA against the run), and volume should favor the Broncos’ offense once again. Arizona is facing an average of 34.3 rush attempts per game, and the Broncos will be happy to lean on the run in this one as often as they can.

The Broncos continue to waste snaps on Devontae Booker, with classic bad-coach thinking of, “He’s on our team, so he should have a role.” While most coaches in the NFL would prefer to have the ball in the hands of Phillip Lindsay in space, Denver has decided that Booker is their “pass-catching back,” which has led to him continuing to play over 30% of the snaps across the last two weeks. Across that stretch, he has only two carries, but he has nine targets and seven receptions.

Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman continue to split early downs almost down the middle, with Lindsay playing 49 snaps the last two weeks and Freeman playing 55. Freeman is not trusted in the pass game (four catches on six targets all year), but he has 62 touches through six games, to 75 for Lindsay, keeping them in roughly the same ballpark. Lindsay has 14 catches on 19 targets, at 8.1 yards per catch — making his touches more valuable. (He’s also averaging 5.7 yards per carry, to 4.7 for Freeman.) You should be able to bank on around 26 to 30 combined carries from these two as a floor, which will push both into a near-starter’s workload.

CARDINALS PASS OFFENSE

As noted multiple times over the last few weeks: the Broncos have been bad against the pass this year, but they have been selectively bad — facing below-average volume, allowing a below-average catch rate, and tackling well after the catch…but getting smoked on the deep ball multiple times per game. Only five teams have allowed more pass plays of 20+ yards than the Broncos, and the best way to target fantasy points against them is to focus on perimeter wide receivers who see work downfield. Unsurprisingly, only three offenses in the league have racked up fewer pass plays of 20+ yards than the Cardinals.

When Josh Rosen looks downfield, he is targeting Chad Williams and Christian Kirk. Williams has seen a number of deep shots this year, and is beginning to be involved underneath as well, but he has connected for an embarrassing five catches for 58 yards on 21 targets this year. Kirk is a different story, and his developing connection with Josh Rosen is a lot of fun to watch. Since a two-target game in Week 1, Kirk has seen target counts of five, eight, five, four, and seven, and he has hauled in 24 of these passes for 307 yards and a touchdown. Almost all of his work has come within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, but the Cardinals have taken exactly one shot at least 25 yards downfield to him each of the last four games. This gives him a little extra upside.

This weak passing attack rounds out with Ricky Seals-Jones, who last week turned six targets into a 5-69-0 line…one week after turning six targets into zero catches for zero yards. He’s a risky play who has a bit of upside if things click. The Broncos have been below-average against tight ends this year, allowing the sixth most yards to the position.

CARDINALS RUN OFFENSE

Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy (in a “revenge game” of his own, after getting fired by the Broncos) is going to watch film on the Broncos this week and assume that the way to beat them is to line up and run the ball at them. And sure, that’s the way for other teams to beat Denver, as this team ranks dead last in yards allowed per carry; but Arizona will have a tougher time in this spot, with one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, and with a running back in David Johnson who is being misused as a between-the-tackles grinder. After three consecutive games of 18 to 22 carries, DJ has still not topped 71 rushing yards in a game this year, and he is averaging only 3.2 yards per carry. He is not a tackle-breaking machine, but is instead a guy who is unstoppable in space with the ball in his hands. The Cardinals appear to be incapable of figuring out how to use DJ in this way, as he has maxed out at five targets across his last five games, with no more than four receptions in any of these games. Expect north of 20 carries for DJ again, in a great on-paper matchup — giving him a shot at hitting. But go in with cautious floor expectations.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I wouldn’t touch anything in this game on the full-weekend slate myself. Maybe one or two guys trip into a strong game, but we’re looking at a low, game-wide floor, with a modest, game-wide ceiling, which is enough to take all these guys out of consideration for me.

If playing the showdown slate, the most upside should come from the Broncos’ side, where Phillip Lindsay (first), Emmanuel Sanders (second), and Royce Freeman (third) would all be on my list. I’d be comfortable swapping spots on Sanders and Freeman for the latter’s touchdown upside, but Lindsay would be my favorite play either way, given the multiple ways he is used and the locked-in touches he will have.

I would roster all these guys over David Johnson. While the Jets pasted the Broncos on the ground with a below-average offensive line as well, their offense is well-designed, with a lot of movement and misdirection that almost looks like a baby version of the Rams at times. The Cardinals’ “scheme” is much more vanilla, with very little that can throw a defense off-balance. This makes the matchup matter more. DJ still carries plenty of upside, and it only takes a couple goal line carries to create a multi-touchdown game, but his floor is lower than the key guys on the Broncos.

Behind these four, Kirk, Demaryius, the defenses, the quarterbacks, and the kickers will battle for the top remaining scores, with no one standing out in that group. Guys like Booker, Fitzgerald, Sutton, Jeff Heuerman, and even Chad Williams are Showdown Specials — guys you can mix and match if multi-entering, in the hopes you capture unpredictable lightning.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 21st 9:30am Eastern

Titans (
19.5) at

Chargers (
26)

Over/Under 45.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Titans Run D
16th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
31st DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Titans Pass D
24th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
7th DVOA/5th Yards per pass
Chargers Run D
21st DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O
11th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
11th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O
2nd DVOA/16th Yards per pass

TITANS // CHARGERS (LONDON) OVERVIEW

Two weeks ago, the Titans were complaining that they were not getting enough respect from the national media. (The quote from Taylor Lewan was something to the effect of, “There are 32 teams in the NFL, not 31.”) The Titans have since lost to the Bills and gotten pasted for a shutout by the Ravens. They sit at 3-3 in a bunched-up AFC South, and they will travel across the pond to take on a powerful, 4-2 Chargers team that has only lost to the Chiefs and the Rams.

Unsurprisingly, Vegas has been generous to the Chargers, installing them as early 6.5 point favorites, with a middling Over/Under in this game of 45.5. Each team ranks toward the bottom of the league in both pace of play and plays per game. Each team also ranks in the bottom eight in pass play rate.

Tennessee’s strength is defense, where they rank eighth in drive success rate allowed and third in red zone touchdown defense. The Chargers’ strength is on offense, where they rank sixth in drive success rate and 10th in red zone touchdown rate.

TITANS PASS OFFENSE

I am guessing that most of us have not made a habit of targeting the Titans’ offense this year, and this will be a tough spot for them to bounce out of their funk, vs a Chargers defense that has looked solid against every team but the Chiefs and Rams. Their one big issue has been downfield passing, which the Titans have not yet managed to get going outside their game against Philadelphia.

Upside-hunters can point to the elevated pass rush and coverage prowess of the Bills and Ravens as the main culprits for the backtracking this offense has done over the last two weeks — with pass rush being an especially important part, vs a Titans line that ranks 31st in adjusted sack rate allowed. The Chargers rank 19th in adjusted sack rate on defense — right next to the Eagles (20th), who yielded the only good game Marcus Mariota has had this year. The Chargers have a better secondary than the Eagles, but their zone defense does continue to break down 15 to 20 yards downfield when pressure fails to get to the quarterback, so there is a chance Mariota mixes in enough downfield strikes to Corey Davis to make him a sneaky-viable play this week on slates that include this game. His upside is undeniable, and he continues to hog air yards in this offense (his 41.3% share of team air yards ranks fourth in the NFL), though his raw volume in this broken, dink-and-dunk unit has been all over the map, with two games already of only four targets, and with two games of 13 or more looks. Game flow dictates Davis’ workload less than simply “whether or not this offense can actually sustain drives on a given Sunday.”

Taywan Taylor has disappointed the last couple weeks, but Tennessee has run only 54 and 44 plays in games against Buffalo and Baltimore. The slowed-down nature of this game should prevent the Titans from truly spiking in play count, but they should be able to move the ball better this week than they did the last two, creating a few extra opportunities for the offense. Taylor played under 50% of the snaps in Week 5, but he played 75% last week, and he’s a threat to score every time he has the ball in his hands, making him an upside play in his price range, though with a low enough floor to be a total dud if things don’t go his way.

It is shocking that Taylor is not seeing more schemed touches, as this passing attack rounds out with an ineffective Tajae Sharpe and an invisible Jonnu Smith.

TITANS RUN OFFENSE

The Titans’ offensive line has also sunk their run game, ranking 29th in adjusted line yards six weeks into the season. This is otherwise a good matchup for the Titans, vs a Chargers defense that ranks a middling 15th in yards allowed per carry and 21st in adjusted line yards.

Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis continue to split time, with Henry seeing more work when the Titans have a lead, and with Lewis seeing more work when the Titans fall behind. Henry has yet to top 60 rushing yards in a game this year, and he has only four receptions through six games. Last week was the first time this year Lewis failed to see double-digit touches, and with the Titans likely to run more than 44 plays this week, he should bounce back to eight to 12 carries and three to five receptions. Incredibly, these two backs have combined for only five carries inside the 10-yard-line all year, with Henry seeing three looks and Lewis seeing two. If they ever get down to the goal line, Henry is likeliest to get the call — but until that point, both backs are in play for the Titans, giving Lewis the higher floor/ceiling combo of the two. Neither is “likely” to hit, of course; but one of them “could.” Incredibly, the Titans have only seven offensive touchdowns on the year.

CHARGERS PASS OFFENSE

Only two teams in the NFL are allowing fewer yards after the catch than the Titans (on a per-reception basis), but this defense is otherwise a middling to below-average unit through the air — ranking below-average in adjusted sack rate, below-average in aDOT, and average in catch rate allowed. With the solid tackling, Tennessee does rank fourth in yards allowed per pass attempt, but the big key has been limiting the big play. Only five teams have allowed fewer pass plays of 20+ yards.

For the first time in a while, this is a matchup that sets up better for Keenan Allen than for the Chargers’ downfield threats. With an aDOT on the season of only 8.1 and the Titans tackling well after the catch, Allen will either need high volume or a multi-touchdown game to post a week-winning score (neither of which is the likeliest scenario), but he’ll carry solid floor with locked-in usage.

Tyrell Williams has seemingly supplanted Mike Williams as the primary deep threat on this team at the moment, though each guy will continue to be involved. Tyrell has an aDOT of 15.5 and 22.5% of the Chargers’ air yards, while Mike has an aDOT of 16.5, with 27.1% of the team’s air yards. Tyrell has not topped five targets on the year, and Mike has not topped four targets in three consecutive weeks. The ceiling is high on these two, but the floor is low.

Tight ends are afterthoughts in the Chargers’ offense, behind the wide receivers and the running backs. With low YAC ability vs a team that tackles well, it will be difficult for Virgil Green or Antonio Gates to post a big game in a dumpoff-driven role.

CHARGERS RUN OFFENSE

The Chargers have been great on the ground this year, ranking seventh in adjusted line yards, fourth in yards per carry, and sixth in yards per game — and this week, they get to take on a Tennessee Titans team that has been happy to give up yards on the ground in order to protect against the pass. As noted over the last few weeks: this “poor run defense” of the Titans is driven more by scheme than by personnel (the Bears and Ravens are the only teams in the NFL that have allowed fewer touchdowns to running backs than the Titans), but against such a dangerous passing attack, the Titans are not going to suddenly turn their attention to the run — which opens an opportunity for another big game from the dynamic pairing of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Gordon has 19 or more touches in all but one game this year (the only game below that mark was a blowout win in which he was rested for much of the second half). Ekeler has gotten seven touches per game the last three weeks, and last week he showed his floor — averaging an incredible 6.8 yards per carry, but still yielding a low DFS score due to his limited role. He’s always a bet for monster price-considered upside, however, as he can score any time he has the ball in his hands.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Outside of large-field, hope-and-pray plays, I wouldn’t take anything on the Titans if this game were on the main slate (obviously, Corey Davis would be the most appealing option, followed by Lewis — with Taylor, Mariota, and Henry all behind him), and my interest on the Chargers would be limited to Gordon and (in tourneys) Ekeler. Keenan could also have a case made for him, but I like more guaranteed upside on my higher-priced guys.

As of this writing, there are no Showdown slates posted for this game, but assuming the sites get one up, I would rank scoring expectations in the following order :: Gordon // Rivers // Keenan // Mariota // Davis // Ekeler // Lewis // Tyrell // Mike // Taywan // Henry. Obviously, that’s a simplified approach that accounts for only baseline expectations without layering in Floor/Ceiling thinking, but the writeup above should help you figure out how to rearrange your own list based on the type of contest you are entering, and the type of upside/ownership balance you are needing to hit. The Chargers’ defense is likely to outscore the Titans’ D. Each kicker would obviously be in play as well.

SATURDAY EVENING UPDATE // Full “Updates” List

Melvin Gordon appears unlikely to play in the early-morning game on Sunday. If Gordon misses, Austin Ekeler becomes a clear Tier 1 play for me. He should step into most of Gordon’s role, and we know what sort of per-touch upside he boasts.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 21st 1:00pm Eastern

Bills (
18.25) at

Colts (
25.25)

Over/Under 43.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bills Run D
24th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
22nd DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Bills Pass D
28th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
15th DVOA/10th Yards per pass
Colts Run D
6th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O
4th DVOA/6th Yards per pass

BILLS // COLTS OVERVIEW

The rebuilding, 2-4 Bills will be traveling to Indianapolis this week without the only piece they (theoretically) have to build around on offense, as Josh Allen will miss several weeks with a UCL injury. It is honestly surprising that this team has been given a Vegas-implied team total of even 18.0, after scoring point totals on the year of 3 // 20 // 27 // 0 // 13 // 13. Incredibly, the Colts have a worse record than Buffalo, at only 1-5. Making this whole setup even more topsy-turvy is the fact that the 1-5 team is a 7.5 point favorite. That’s the right call, of course; but it’s still strange to see.

Colts games have been a blast for DFS this year, as they are playing at the fastest pace in the NFL, and no team is throwing the ball more frequently than Indy. While Buffalo is not a speed-up team, they do rank middle of the pack in pace, and they shouldn’t slow down this game too much for the Colts. Ultimately, we are unlikely to find anything to catch our eye in this game, as Buffalo has been a defense to avoid, and their offense is hands-off, but we’ll see if there is anything hiding beneath the surface of these plays.

BILLS PASS OFFENSE

As of this writeup, Sean McDermott has not yet announced if Nathan “Five Picks” Peterman or Derek Anderson will be under center this week, but it really doesn’t matter. (Note: Anderson will be starting.) Peterman has been an absolute disaster every time he takes the field (his pick-six in last week’s game looked like a no-pads defensive drill, and there is talk that McDermott is going to lose the locker room if he puts Peterman on the field again), while Anderson wasn’t even on the team a couple weeks ago.

The Bills prefer to lean run-heavy (they rank 28th in pass play rate, in spite of playing most of the season from behind), but they have notched a non-awful 33 pass attempts a couple times in games where they fell behind. Because Indy plays so fast, only four teams have allowed more opponent plays per game.

Kelvin Benjamin has yet to haul in more than three receptions in a game, and he has caught only 10 of 32 targets on the year — a testament to his inability to gain separation or fight for contested balls. Zay Jones is once again the “best bet,” though he has topped 38 yards only once this season. Andre Holmes has yet to top 29 yards. Charles Clay has topped 29 yards once.

BILLS RUN OFFENSE

Buffalo ranks 24th in adjusted line yards and 30th in yards per carry, making it difficult for them to win with the “defense and running game” approach they prefer. This is a daunting matchup against an Indy team that quietly ranks fourth in yards allowed per carry, and that has allowed only three rushing touchdowns through six games.

In better news for LeSean McCoy: he has touched the ball 26 and 19 times the last two weeks, as the Bills have finally realized he is the only viable weapon they have. He is also seeing work in the passing attack (target counts on the year of 3 // 4 // 6 // 3 // 5), and only three teams have allowed more receptions to running backs than the Colts. Shady played a healthy 47 out of 58 snaps last week (after 47 out of 66 the previous week), and the play volume added by the Colts should give him a couple more opportunities than normal. Touchdowns are tough to come by in this offense (they are tied with the Titans for the fewest offensive scores in the NFL, with seven in six games), so Shady could have a difficult time reaching ceiling, but his floor appears sturdy at the moment with his workload locked in.

COLTS PASS OFFENSE

Buffalo is probably still not getting enough respect for how strong their pass defense is. Through six games, only four teams are allowing a lower aDOT than the Bills, and only five teams are allowing fewer yards after the catch per reception. Only three teams have allowed fewer pass plays of 20+ yards, and only two teams have allowed fewer pass plays of 40+ yards (the Bills have allowed one such play; Baltimore and Indy have allowed zero).

As noted last week, the way to rack up receptions against Buffalo is to move horizontally across the field. Teams constantly flatten out their routes against Buffalo’s zone, looking for a place where a pass can fit in. While this is part of what leads to the low YAC per reception rate, this does lead to an average catch rate — making Colts receivers fine from a “floor” perspective, given the volume they should see. (These guys are more valuable in PPR scoring than they are in half-PPR scoring, especially as Buffalo has allowed only five receiving touchdowns to wide receivers on the season — fourth best in the league.)

The Colts are so ravaged by injuries on offense right now that it actually tilts the needle that they lost Marcus Johnson to I.R. With Jack Doyle seemingly out indefinitely, T.Y. Hilton still on the mend, and Ryan Grant leaving last week’s game early, the Colts have signed Dontrelle Inman off the streets. (Inman is not in the player pool on sites this week, and realistically he will not be ready for anything resembling an impact role.)

If Hilton plays this week, he could genuinely see as many as 15 targets (in his healthy games this year, he had target counts of 11 // 11 // 10, and the Colts boast fewer weapons now), and his price has been lowered across all three sites. As always, a difficult matchup impacts floor and “chances of hitting ceiling,” but it does not eliminate ceiling altogether. Hilton’s chances of hitting will be lower than normal in this matchup — but if he’s on the field for his full complement of snaps, his target share gives him respectable floor, and he still has the ability to post an upside game.

If Hilton misses:

The target parade continued last week for Chester Rogers, who has target counts in Hilton’s absence of 11 // 11 // 10. Rogers had an off day on Sunday, dealing with multiple soft drops (and bailing out those of us who trusted him with a late touchdown), but he played much better the previous two weeks — hauling in eight catches each week, and making some tight-window grabs. As noted in last week’s Player Grid: Rogers’ low aDOT is not much of a concern, as this low aDOT has come from a mix of targets behind the line of scrimmage and targets downfield. We don’t like low aDOT marks when the receiver is only seeing slants and quick outs; but targets behind the line of scrimmage are guaranteed points (typically with blockers out in front), while downfield targets keep upside intact. This is still a tough matchup for upside, so Rogers is no slam dunk if Hilton misses; but he should once again see close to double-digit targets — and with the Bills allowing an average catch rate, the floor should remain solid.

Alongside Rogers, it continues to be the Eric Ebron show, and Ebron will retain his heavy role even if Hilton returns. The Bills have been tough on tight ends this year, ranking eighth in DVOA and allowing the eighth-fewest receptions to the position, with a catch rate below 60% (a strong feat vs the tight end position). From a macro perspective, Ebron remains one of the top raw plays on the slate at the position, but the difficult matchup makes it a little more difficult to settle down with his elevated price tag.

Behind these two (either Hilton/Ebron or Rogers/Ebron), it will be a slew of low-upside guys and backups in a tough matchup. The Colts have been spreading the ball around, but you’ll need to get lucky with a touchdown if trying to guess among guys like Grant (assuming he plays), Erik Swoope, and Zach Pascal.

COLTS RUN OFFENSE

Last week in this space, we guessed that the Colts might phase out Jordan Wilkins altogether if Marlon Mack proved to be fully healthy — and that was exactly what they did, limiting Wilkins to zero snaps. Frustratingly, however, Indy layered in Robert Turbin, who played 13 snaps and touched the ball five times before getting injured. If Turbin is out, I expect we see the Colts roll with only Mack and Nyheim Hines this week — leaving Wilkins on the bench. If Turbin plays, all three guys will project to see time on the field (with Turbin seeing the fewest touches, but carrying the highest chance of goal line work — effectively making it difficult for any of these three to approach significant ceiling).

Hines ran 22 pass routes last week to only 10 for Mack, while Hines saw only three carries to 12 for Mack. This game sets up better for Mack, as the Colts are likely to be playing with a lead — but each guy will have a role. Mack looked good last week, but Buffalo does rank sixth in yards allowed per carry.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I obviously won’t be on the Bills’ passing attack or the Colts’ run offense, but LeSean McCoy and a couple Colts pass catchers will almost certainly make my initial list. This is only the second game I have written up on the Main Slate, so I don’t yet have a feel for how the whole slate shapes up. Hopefully better plays show up than these, but these at least deserve to be set aside and examined against plays from other games during the latter half of the week.

Obviously, a bet on the Colts’ defense is also a strong bet. Indy ranks 11th in adjusted sack rate and ninth in turnovers forced, and they can certainly get the job done against Peterman or Anderson on Sunday.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 21st 1:00pm Eastern

Panthers (
20) at

Eagles (
25)

Over/Under 45.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Panthers Run D
26th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
25th DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
13th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
29th DVOA/24th Yards per pass
Eagles Run D
15th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
16th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
29th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
11th DVOA/11th Yards per pass

PANTHERS // EAGLES OVERVIEW

This game gives us a fun matchup between two teams with legitimate playoff aspirations that each need this win, with the 3-2 Panthers traveling to take on the 3-3 Eagles. The Eagles have been installed as early five-point favorites, with plenty of faith being shown in the rhythm of Carson Wentz and his pass catchers.

Each team prefers to slow down the pace, with Philadelphia ranking 23rd in pace of play and Carolina ranking 28th. The Eagles have run the fourth-most plays per game in the NFL, but the Panthers have allowed the fourth-fewest, driven by their slow pace and their solid drive success rate on offense (10th in the league). Play volume for the Eagles projects to come in below their typical level, but this shouldn’t be a major concern, as the Eagles capitalize more on efficiency than on volume.

PANTHERS OFFENSE

For all the reputation the Eagles have as an awful pass defense, it is worth noting that everything that’s “bad” about them has to do with volume. The Eagles are actually an above-average pass defense on a per-attempt basis, having forced an aDOT 7% below the league average, alongside an average catch rate and average YAC per reception allowed. In all, Philly ranks 12th in fewest yards allowed per pass attempt, and their expected yards allowed per target is more than 5% below the league average.

The challenge for Philly is that teams do not like to run on them — and so, they face an above-average number of pass attempts. Philly has faced the fewest rush attempts per game in the NFL, but only five teams have faced more pass attempts this year.

Wide receivers who gain an additional boost against the Eagles (a boost that goes above purely “volume”) tend to be either A) sharp route-runners who can take advantage of the poor technique Ronald Darby sometimes slips into or B) guys who can burn Jalen Mills on double moves. Devin Funchess is the clear alpha in this passing attack, and as a guy who lacks quick-twitch skills, he is rarely used on double-moves, and he is not the most polished route runner. To sum all that up: expect this to play like an average matchup for Funchess, but his volume should be locked in place, even with Greg Olsen on the field, as teams always get pushed pass-heavy vs the Eagles’ front. Funchess’ regular seven to nine targets is a strong bet. He has five inches and almost 50 pounds on Darby, and four inches and 40 pounds on Mills.

Last week, Olsen played 59 out of 60 snaps, and he looked surprisingly healthy and ready to contribute — hauling in four catches on seven targets, for 48 yards. He provides far more upside than most tight ends and is underpriced for his upside on all three sites, though the matchup gives him a scary-low floor. The Saints are the only team that has allowed fewer receptions to the position.

Behind Funchess, Olsen, and Christian McCaffrey, targets will be split among Torrey Smith (42 snaps last week), Jarius Wright (37 snaps last week), and D.J. Moore (27 snaps last week). Moore has seen four and five targets the last two weeks with his role continuing to grow, and he has genuine upside in this matchup as a guy whose game should give Mills and Darby fits (his floor is low, of course — but he is priced for his floor, rather than for his ceiling). Smith has seen strange usage this year, with two games of two or fewer targets, and with five to seven targets in his other three games. His aDOT is barely higher than Funchess’, as the Panthers have been targeting him more as an intermediate receiver than as a downfield guy. Projections are difficult to nail down on a guy like Smith, but speed guys always carry upside, and five to seven targets seem like a fair projection once again.

PANTHERS RUN OFFENSE

The Panthers’ run offense begins with Cam Newton, whose worst rushing game this year was 8-29-0. He has three rushing touchdowns on the year, and he may be needed near the end zone against a Philly team that has allowed only eight passing touchdowns, and that ranks first in red zone scoring. Overall scoring expectations are not high for this team, and if Cam runs one or two in, he’ll likely be doing so at the cost of passing touchdowns, so take that information for whatever you feel it is worth.

Alongside Cam will be Christian McCaffrey, in a difficult matchup against this stout Eagles front. Rushing volume projects to suffer for CMC in this spot, though the Eagles have allowed the fourth-most running back receptions in the league. Outside of his 28-carry, two-target outlier against the Bengals, CMC has target counts on the year of 9 // 15 // 6 // 8, and as passing volume rises for the Panthers, target volume should be locked in for the Panthers’ back. Yardage on the ground will be difficult to come by, and McCaffrey has only one total touchdown on the year, with zero targets inside the 10 and only one carry inside the five; but the receiving work should keep his floor fairly solid. On a week like this, he is much better on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, where his PPR skill set plays better.

EAGLES PASS OFFENSE

The Panthers essentially define the league average in expected yards per target and yards allowed per pass attempt — allowing one of the higher aDOT marks in the league, with a league average catch rate allowed and with the lowest YAC per reception mark in the NFL. Essentially: You attack the Panthers downfield, and your guys get tackled as soon as they catch the ball.

To take thingsne a step further: you attack the Panthers downfield with routes that move receivers diagonally or horizontally across the field, rather than vertically — an approach that plays poorly to the responsibilities of Alshon Jeffery, who is typically asked to run his routes either downfield or toward the sideline. Alshon has seen target counts since returning to the field of 9 // 8 // 12. It’s not as if these looks will dry up, and it’s not as if this is an impossible matchup, so peg this as a “slightly below-average spot” for him, with his big workload and his surprisingly low price (under 13% of the cap on all three sites) keeping him in play. He already has seven red zone targets through three games.

Nelson Agholor sets up better in this matchup, but he has topped five targets in only one of his last four games, and his routes are typically run too close to the line of scrimmage for five targets to provide much room for upside. There is a chance his targets spike this week if the Eagles decide to attack on crossing routes, but keep in mind that Carolina allows a below-average number of plays, so you would essentially be banking on the Eagles proactively scheming the ball to Agholor if you choose to roster him.

The most reliable piece in this attack has been Zach Ertz, with only one game all season under double-digit targets — when he saw nine looks last week. Carolina has been middling against tight ends this year, and a hundred matchups of “Ertz vs Panthers” would neither raise nor lower our average expectations for him. Ertz has 11 targets in the red zone, good for seventh in the league.

Behind these three, guys like Dallas Goedert, DeAndre Carter, Jordan Matthews, Kamar Aiken, Shelton Gibson, and Josh Perkins are all seeing time on the field, though none of these guys have been proactively schemed the ball since Alshon returned.

EAGLES RUN OFFENSE

Last week, the Eagles gave 44 snaps to Wendell Smallwood and 26 snaps to Corey Clement, though it’s dangerous to try to read too much into usage patterns in the Philly backfield, as this is a team that likes to attack each opponent in a unique way. It looks like Darren Sproles will return this week to soak up some action as well.

The Panthers are below-average against the run, ranking 23rd in yards allowed per carry and 17th in DVOA — though because they do such a strong job limiting opponent plays, they are facing only 22.2 rush attempts per game.

The biggest advantage the Eagles have this week is their matchup against a Panthers red zone defense that ranks 31st in touchdown rate allowed, trailing only Tampa Bay. Since returning to the field in Week 2, Wentz already has nine pass attempts inside the 10-yard-line (leading to three touchdowns), and he has an additional 21 pass attempts (and four touchdowns) inside the 20. Smallwood and Clement each have only two carries apiece inside the 10 and one target apiece inside the 10 on the year, as this offense prefers to lean on its superstar quarterback and pass catchers when close to the goal line.

If choosing one of these guys as a salary saver who “could provide a starting-caliber score,” it will likely come down to touchdowns. Each guy has two touchdowns on the year.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Nothing pops off the page in this game, but as I’m looking through the games available on the main slate on FanDuel and DraftKings, it strikes me that this is a week in which our next-level research is going to become extremely valuable compared to what the field is working with, as there are no real “gimme” spots. This is the sort of week in which guys like Devin Funchess and Alshon Jeffery get added to your early-week player grid, to at least be compared to the other plays that come available on the slate. I have no idea at this point if either of these guys will remain on my list deep into the week, but in glancing over the 10 games we have to work with, it seems likely that these two — who are each priced too low for their role — will prove to be worthwhile guys to consider.

This is not a week on which I’ll be interested in chasing McCaffrey or Cam, but their upside obviously remains, even in a matchup that makes it tougher for them to hit.

The Eagles’ running backs are interesting in tourneys for the starter-score they can provide at a low price. It is purely a guess as to which guy will see more work and/or be given an opportunity to score, but if one of them pops in a touchdown and you guessed right, you’ll be in strong shape at one of your salary-saver spots.

Agholor is a consideration, but is not a guy I’m hoping to play, as there is just too much usage guesswork for me, and the ceiling has not proved to be high enough for this guesswork to be worth it against a team that tackles so well after the catch.

Wentz has obvious upside, and is a piece to consider even in a lower-volume game (he’s so efficient, he can often post a top score on around 35 pass attempts — something he did over and over again last year). Ertz projects as one of the safer plays on the slate, with strong ceiling to go with his floor.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 21st 1:00pm Eastern

Browns (
24.5) at

Bucs (
28)

Over/Under 52.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Browns Run D
20th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O
6th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
19th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O
9th DVOA/8th Yards per pass
Buccaneers Run D
3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
7th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D
1st DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
23rd DVOA/27th Yards per pass

BROWNS // BUCCANEERS OVERVIEW

Quite contrary to what anyone would have expected a couple months ago, this game will likely draw more attention than any other on the slate, with an exciting, fast-paced Browns offense (third in pace of play, third in average intended air yards) taking on an aggressive Tampa team that ranks first in the league in average intended air yards. These downfield-attacking units should pair up to create plenty of opportunities for big plays — with the sweetener being the league-worst Tampa defense boosting scoring expectations across the board.

On the front end of the week, this game boasts the highest Over/Under on the slate, with the Bucs carrying the highest Vegas-implied team total. There are going to be some ugly bumps along the road in this game, but it is going to be plenty of fun to dig into and to watch.

BROWNS PASS OFFENSE

It is no secret that the Bucs have had the most attackable pass defense in the NFL this year, backed up by the highest catch rate allowed in the league. While Baker Mayfield has struggled with his completion percentage early on (fueled partly by periodic misfires, and fueled in larger part by his receivers dropping too many passes), he has quietly faced four consecutive defenses that allow a below-average catch rate. The Bucs are by far his easiest test on the season.

The best way to beat this soft Tampa zone is to use crossing routes and drag routes to move through the zone into openings — an approach that has been hammered repeatedly this year by opponents, from the Saints (Michael Thomas) to the Eagles (Nelson Agholor) to the Steelers (Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster) to the Bears (Taylor Gabriel) to the Falcons (Julio Jones). While this is perfectly suited to the skill set of Jarvis Landry, Todd Haley has frustratingly been working Landry away from these types of high-percentage routes, which has put a significant dent in his floor. In fact, the pass catcher the Browns have been using in the role that should belong to Landry is David Njoku, who has been called on lately to hammer slants, crossing routes, and short drag routes. Njoku has only one game all season under seven targets, and he has seen double-digit looks each of the last two games.

Landry’s new route tree does not prevent him from hitting in this matchup (any good receiver can hit in this matchup), but his chances of a monster game are lowered by the way he is being used — especially as he has not yet found an apparent level of comfort, catching only 31 of 65 targets on the year. While that’s the bad news, the good news is that Landry has at least seven targets in every game this season, with four games of double-digit looks already. His best game on the year (8-103-0, on 14 targets) came against a Jets team that is best attacked in a similar manner — and in that game, the Browns called on Landry to run a couple more of his longtime routes than they have in other games. There is some hope that Haley and company manage to not sabotage this game, and that they work Landry into the areas of the field where he can be most successful.

If Rashard Higgins fails to get cleared this week (which seems likely), Damion Ratley will fill in for another week after going 6-82-0 on eight targets last week. Ratley played a no-joke 65 out of 74 snaps, while running a pass route on 49 of a possible 54 opportunities. Cleveland runs the second-most plays per game in the NFL, and Tampa is better attacked through the air than on the ground, so there is a strong chance Ratley sees at least six or seven targets once again, with upside for more.

On the other side of the field is Antonio Callaway, who caught two of 10 targets last week, for nine yards, bringing his total on the year to 15 catches for 186 yards and a touchdown…on 40 targets. Callaway has four drops on the year and continues to look raw as a route-runner, with visibly low football IQ (i.e., an inability to understand when and where to break off his routes, and how to maximize his opportunities for receptions). He has yet to top four receptions in a game — but the targets continue to flow his way, and he has the athletic talent to hit for big upside if something clicks in place this week.

No team in the NFL has allowed more yards per pass attempt than the Bucs, and no team has allowed more touchdowns or picked off fewer passes. The Buccaneers have notched the fourth-fewest sacks in the league this year, and they have given up the most passing yards per game and allowed the highest passer rating in the NFL.

BROWNS RUN OFFENSE

Further boosting the volume outlook for all four pass catchers listed above is the fact that the Bucs rank fifth in yards allowed per carry, and they have faced only 22.4 rush attempts per game. When the Browns pass, the passes go to Njoku and the wide receivers, as Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb have combined for only six receptions all year.

Chubb has yet to touch the ball more than three times in a game, in spite of Hue Jackson’s insistence that he deserves more work. Carlos Hyde is difficult to trust as a guy who fails when he doesn’t score touchdowns — though the Bucs have allowed five rushing touchdowns on the year to running backs, and Hyde has 10 carries inside the five-yard-line, second in the NFL to only Todd Gurley. Hyde’s a low-floor play, but we shouldn’t dismiss his touchdown-driven ceiling.

Behind these two, Duke Johnson is another guy who “deserves more work,” but even with Mayfield throwing the ball an extraordinary 130 times over the last three weeks, Johnson has piled up only 12 total targets. He’s a scary-floor play, with big upside if the Browns happen to get him involved.

BUCCANEERS PASS OFFENSE

Cleveland has played strong defense in the secondary this year, allowing the second-lowest catch rate in the NFL through six weeks, while forcing opponents to throw to the short areas of the field. Outside of Tyrell Williams last week, the wide receivers who have posted strong games against the Browns have all done so by hauling in short-area throws (often drags and crossers) and picking up yards after the catch. Only four teams have allowed more YAC per reception than the Browns.

For a second consecutive week, things set up poorly for Mike Evans to hit for upside, as he annually ranks near the bottom of the league in YAC per reception — with this year being no different. The likeliest scenario here is that Evans’ targets rise back up to his normal range of nine to 11, after a down Week 5 (five total targets). He’ll need a touchdown or a broken play to pay off his lofty price tag.

Behind Evans, the Bucs are a frustrating mess of timeshares, with Chris Godwin and DeSean Jackson splitting time at wide receiver, and with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate splitting snaps at tight end. Jackson carries the most upside of the bunch, with the third-deepest aDOT in the league. Tyrell Williams showed last week that Cleveland can be taken deep, but Jackson obviously remains boom/bust in this spot. Same as last week: Chris Godwin actually runs the routes that set up best in this matchup. He remains a part-time player, but he has shown solid floor on the year, and he incredibly ranks second in the entire NFL in targets inside the 10-yard-line, with eight. This is four more such looks than Evans, Jackson, Howard, Brate, and Adam Humphries have combined.

Humphries will continue to soak up four to seven short-area looks, and he humorously sets up well in this matchup as a guy who could add some yards after the catch on the slants and short crossers that can beat this defense. He and Jameis Winston have noted chemistry, often putting in extra reps together after practice ends.

O.J. Howard is also deployed on short crossing routes, and his YAC upside is undeniable. The floor here is low as a timeshare tight end with only one game all year above four targets, but the Browns allowed an above-expectation game to Jesse James and got pasted by Jared Cook. (Their other games were against the tight-end-poor Jets and Chargers, and the timeshare of the Ravens.) There is ceiling to be found.

Brate has almost no role outside of the red zone, but his touchdown prowess does manage to keep him in the conversation each week at a thin position.

BUCCANEERS RUN OFFENSE

The Bucs have a decent run game matchup against a Browns team that ranks 25th in yards allowed per carry and 16th in adjusted line yards — though the Bucs’ offensive line ranks 31st in adjusted line yards, and only three teams have notched fewer yards per carry. The Bucs have seemingly decided that Ronald Jones is going to be their pass-catching back, leaving Peyton Barber as a workload-secure two-down grinder. Barber hauled in four receptions last week, but that was a special circumstance, against a Falcons team that gets hit by running backs out of the backfield week in and week out. Barber had two receptions across his other four games. If he punches in a touchdown or two in this spot, he’ll provide strong point-per-dollar value, but he’ll need the touchdowns in order to be relevant on this slate. If you feel like chasing, Cleveland has allowed seven rushing touchdowns — the fifth-most in the league.

Jones saw three targets last week and one carry, on 12 snaps. Jacquizz Rodgers (10 snaps) almost matched him. Rostering one of these guys would be hoping for a miracle.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

My eyes are popping over Njoku right now — and while I don’t imagine he’ll be overlooked, he’s a guy I’ll almost certainly be comfortable locking in even if ownership is high. The Browns play so fast, and passing volume is so likely in this spot, we know the targets will be there; and he is running the routes that are best suited to beating this defense. Baker Mayfield will almost certainly find his way onto my narrowed-down list at the end of the week, while I’ll have Landry, Ratley, and Callaway on my early-week list as well. Their usage and the inefficiency of this offense will introduce some concerns for me to weigh, but any targeted pass catcher against the Bucs is in play.

On the Bucs’ side: I ultimately ended up having no interest in these guys last week against the Falcons (outside of Jameis), as this offense has so many mouths to feed — creating a situation in which Jameis can notch a big game without any of his pass catchers joining him. If I felt that way against the Falcons, I should feel that way even more strongly in this far more difficult matchup. Godwin and Howard will likely make my early list, but I’ll be surprised if I end up playing either guy. DeSean Jackson is also appealing in large-field tourneys for his boom potential, but I would have a tough time pulling the trigger in this matchup in smaller-field contests.

FRIDAY NIGHT UPDATE // Full “Updates” List

The Jaguars and Browns made noise on Friday with a strange trade: Carlos Hyde to the Jags. Hyde will not be ready to play this week for the Jags, so he will start one game for them before Leonard Fournette is (finally) expected to return — after which he will become an insurance policy. As for the Browns, they are “finally able to get Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson onto the field,” as if their hands were tied from doing so before.

From a DFS perspective, I’m going to lay out some facts on the Chubb situation (both positive and negative), to give you some data points to work with in deciding whether you feel he’s a “Play” or a “Fade.” I have not yet decided where I will land (I am leaning one way, but there is time for further research to swing me back the other; naturally, I’ll let you know in the Player Grid on Saturday evening what I expect to do myself, in case this helps you in your decision-making). But as always: the best process on your end will be to gather facts and to make what you feel is the best decision for your rosters. By Saturday evening (around 7 PM Eastern), I’ll share what I feel is the best decision for mine.

The Browns have a middling offensive line (15th in adjusted line yards), while the Bucs rank second in adjusted line yards on defense. Only four teams have allowed fewer yards per carry than the Bucs. Only four teams have allowed fewer rushing yards per game (84.2). Carlos Hyde has yet to top 100 yards in a game this year. Nick Chubb — it should be noted — has more explosion than Carlos Hyde.

The Bucs’ run defense should be weakened this week with the absence of Gerald McCoy. By no means does this make the Bucs a below-average unit, but it does soften the matchup a bit.

Hyde’s role has yet to yield more than three targets in a game. Since Baker Mayfield took over as the starter in Week 4, Hyde has target counts of one, three, and zero.

Hyde is leaving behind one of the biggest red zone roles in football, with 10 carries inside the five-yard-line already (tied with James Conner for second in the league, behind only Todd Gurley), leading to five touchdowns on the year. While the Bucs have been stout against the run, they have allowed five rushing touchdowns (only eight teams have allowed more), as opponents regularly find themselves close to the goal line against this team.

In this same role last year, Isaiah Crowell topped 100 yards only once. He topped 60 rushing yards only five times all year. He did see far more targets than this role has yielded in 2018, but this has become a much more vertical offense with Todd Haley calling the plays and with Baker Mayfield under center.

This vertical offense opens more space for the running back to work — and to bust out a long play. Tampa has allowed four rushes of 20+ yards — middle of the pack in the league.

Ultimately — barring an unforeseeable spike in targets — Chubb’s fantasy score will come down to yards and touchdowns. You can hope he turns his one or two catches into a couple big gains (or that he is unexpectedly schemed the ball in the air), but “whether or not to roster Chubb” this week should really come down to “whether or not you think he will punch in one or two touchdowns.” If he scores, he likely becomes one of the most valuable plays, given how inexpensive he is. If he fails to score, he likely disappoints.

On a typical week, he would be a lock-and-load anyway, as even 70 yards on the ground plus one catch for 10 yards would be a more than acceptable “floor score” at his price. But with an unusually high number of quality options at the lower ends of the price range this week, it shouldn’t be difficult to beat that “floor score” with a different player.

Does Chubb score a touchdown or not? That’s what this play will almost certainly come down to.

As for Duke Johnson: I won’t play him, simply because there are a number of affordable guys I like this week, and there is so much guesswork on this play (why does Hyde’s absence open up more work for Johnson? — logically, it shouldn’t, but logic does not apply to this coaching staff). As most of you know, I’m a huge Duke Johnson truther, so if you think he sees a spike in work, I definitely like the play. I just don’t plan on trying to make that guess myself.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 21st 1:00pm Eastern

Lions (
25) at

Dolphins (
22)

Over/Under 47.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Lions Run D
30th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
12th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
11th DVOA/17th Yards per pass
Dolphins Run D
32nd DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
13th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
10th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per pass

LIONS // DOLPHINS OVERVIEW

The up-and-down, 2-3 Lions enter this spot as the second team in two weeks to come off a bye and travel to Miami, where they will take on a quietly solid 4-2 Dolphins team. People want to nitpick the Dolphins’ success and say they haven’t beaten anyone, but as we have been talking about all season: this is a coaching staff that is capable of finding ways to win ugly. One of the things that made Adam Gase stand out so much as an offensive coordinator was his ability to create successful offenses at various stops, with completely different types of players. The Dolphins’ offense is low on talent, but Gase and company will figure out a way to keep this game competitive against a surprisingly-favored Lions squad. This game is likely to remain tightly contested right down to the end.

While this game will likely be fun from an “NFL fandom” perspective, it will probably stand out less for DFS, as Miami ranks dead last in pace of play, while the Lions rank 31st in situation neutral pace. The Lions rank 21st in yards per game on offense, and the Dolphins rank 27th.

LIONS PASS OFFENSE

One of my favorite things about this article is the fact that we dig into every game and try to set aside preconceived notions as we enter into the research. This allows us to uncover interesting elements that go overlooked by those who are eyeballing things on a more surface level.

This week, it stands out to me that the Dolphins have been surprisingly mediocre against the pass on the season, in spite of their talent and their strong DVOA mark (11th in pass defense DVOA). The big issue has been a pass rush that ranks 29th in adjusted sack rate, so realize that we could start seeing improvement from this unit with Cameron Wake set to return this week — but the Lions have had a top 10 offensive line to begin the year, and Wake is coming off a knee scope that may limit his snaps. This still sets up as a surprisingly attackable matchup.

Miami has allowed average aDOT and catch rate numbers, but they have allowed more YAC per reception than any other team in the league. Among players with 25 or more receptions on the season, only George Kittle, Dede Westbrook, and Cooper Kupp have racked up more YAC per reception than Golden Tate. Tate has target counts across his last three games of only eight, eight, and seven, and Miami has faced a below-average number of wide receiver targets, so the guaranteed floor here isn’t quite what we typically expect from Tate — but against a team allowing a massive, YAC-driven 9.4 yards per pass attempt to wide receivers, he should have a couple opportunities to break off bigger plays.

The Dolphins have also been susceptible to vertical routes and deep crossers — the routes that Kenny Golladay is frequently being used on. They have been hit hard on a number of go routes this year, from player types ranging from Jordy Nelson to Taylor Gabriel. Golladay has only one game this year under seven targets, and he sees enough intermediate routes to carry floor to go with his ceiling.

The most boom/bust piece on the Lions is Marvin Jones — though realize that he does genuinely carry a ceiling that is just as high as what Tate and Golladay boast. He has the largest share of the team’s air yards, backed up by the sixth-deepest average depth of target in the league, with at least six targets in all but one game this year, and with the seventh-most targets in the NFL inside the 10-yard-line, in spite of an early bye. Jones and Matthew Stafford have connected on under 50% of their opportunities, so “floor” concerns remain. But he carries sneaky-big upside for his price.

LIONS RUN OFFENSE

The Dolphins have been hit hard this year by speedy, pass-catching running backs, though in the past, it has not been in the nature of Jim Bob Cooter to proactively scheme usage to a particular running back based on matchup. Unlike Matt Nagy last week (who we hypothesized might give another elevated workload to Tarik Cohen in this matchup), we have to assume that game flow, rather than matchup, will dictate running back deployment here — hurting the chances of a sneaky Theo Riddick explosion. When Riddick is on the field, his matchup will be good; but he should continue to “be on the field” only on third downs and obvious passing situations. (Note: Riddick missed practice on Wednesday with a knee issue. If he fails to get cleared this week, we could see an expanded role for Kerryon Johnson.)

I am going to guess that Kerryon Johnson will become somewhat chalky this week on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, where he is so inexpensive, and where tight pricing necessitates guesswork-driven moves. The thinking would be fair in this spot: Kerryon has significantly outplayed LeGarrette Blount, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and hauling in 13 catches on 15 targets — compared to a pathetic and embarrassing 2.5 yards per carry and three receptions (on three targets) for Blount. Touches given to Blount are completely wasted, and it is incredible that an NFL coaching staff would go so far out of their way to take away touches from one of their best weapons. “Surely,” the thinking will go, “the Lions will have used the bye to commit more fully to Kerryon.”

Obviously, we have no idea whether or not this will prove to be the case, so it is merely guesswork at the moment. So far, Kerryon has yet to play more than 50% of the Lions’ offensive snaps in a game — and given what we know about Matt Patricia, I honestly expect the workload distribution to remain in the same range moving forward. Here are the touch counts for these two backs, starting with Week 1:

Kerryon :: 8 // 13 // 18 // 10 // 14

Blount :: 4 // 9 // 18 // 7 // 12

Blount has six carries inside the 10-yard-line, to only two for Kerryon. Blount also has both of the carries inside the five. (#SMH)

Miami has been solid against the run, ranking 10th in yards allowed per carry and 10th in DVOA — while also ranking 10th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards. They are stout up the middle, where Blount is given most of his carries, and they can be had for chunk gains to the outside, where Detroit uses Kerryon more frequently.

DOLPHINS PASS OFFENSE

Here are the target counts on the year for Miami’s three primary pass catchers:

Kenny Stills :: 5 // 3 // 5 // 6 // 5 // 2

Albert Wilson :: 4 // 5 // 2 // 6 // 6 // 9

Danny Amendola :: 6 // 4 // 3 // 3 // 4 // 11

Amendola has an aDOT of only 6.3, and Albert Wilson has an aDOT of only 6.4. Wilson has posted a couple big games with a league-leading YAC per reception of 14.8, but his expected YAC per reception of 6.5 tells a different story. To give an idea of how we should look at a play like Wilson: he has averaged 5.3 targets per game, though we can bump him up to six targets per game for these calculations, since he has been seeing more work lately. If we went overboard for these projections and gave him a 100% catch rate, his six catches at an aDOT of 6.4 would lead to 38.4 receiving yards before any yards after the catch. Add on his xYAC/R of 6.5 per catch, and his matchup-neutral output on an unlikely six catches would yield a line of six catches for 77 yards as a realistic ceiling, with four catches for around 52 yards a realistic floor on six targets. This gives you a baseline idea of what Wilson can do in a game, while his speed gives him opportunities to break the slate open at his price. That’s not a poor “reasonable floor/ceiling range.” Detroit has been below-average this year in expected yards per pass attempt, though they are so bad against the run, teams have been largely ignoring the pass.

Amendola has no “big play” to his role in this offense, and he’ll need a touchdown or two in order to stand out on this slate.

Stills drew only two targets from Brock Osweiler, who will be starting again this week. With targets spiking on Wilson/Amendola last week, realize the Dolphins ran an uncharacteristic 79 plays — after play counts of 64 // 49 // 44 // 60 // 62 across the previous five weeks. Detroit ranks top half of the league in fewest opponent plays per game allowed, so the play volume should trickle back down in this spot.

DOLPHINS RUN OFFENSE

Miami ranks 21st in pass play rate, as they would prefer to win games by bleeding the clock (32nd in pace of play), running the ball, and shortening games as much as possible. This will be a great week for them to stick with this run-heavy approach, as Detroit has been detonated by running backs this year — allowing the third-most yards per carry in the league, and allowing the fourth-most rushing yards to running backs, in spite of their early bye.

Miami has apparently decided that 35-year-old Frank Gore and his shocking 4.9 yards per carry will be their “between the tackles” guy, with Kenyan Drake operating in a change-of-pace and pass-catching role. While we can knock it from a DFS perspective, it is working for the Dolphins, and there is no reason for them to change. Across the last three weeks, Gore has carry counts of 11 // 12 // 15, while Drake has carry counts of 3 // 6 // 13. Gore has only three catches across those games, compared to 12 for Drake.

Inside the 10-yard-line, Gore has five carries to three for Drake, and they have combined for only one red zone rushing score. Much like Patricia’s Patriots units, Detroit tightens up against the run near the goal line, as they have allowed only three touchdowns to the running back position. Detroit ranks eighth in red zone touchdown rate allowed overall, while the Dolphins rank 26th in red zone touchdown rate on offense.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Nothing in this game pops off the page, as this should be a “move the ball, stall out in the red zone, and kick field goals” affair — limiting upside on all players. But there are a few pieces that will make my list, and perhaps one of these guys will sneak onto my main team.

On the Lions’ side, I like all of Tate, Golladay, and Jones — though in a sense, that makes it difficult to truly gravitate toward one. All three guys have things that set up well in their matchup, and given pace concerns in this game and strong red zone scoring defense on either side (Miami ranks sixth in red zone touchdown defense, and they have impressively allowed only five touchdowns to wide receivers), it is likely that only one of these three posts a really strong game, while the other two fall a bit below expectations. In a “guess which one will hit” spot, this will make it difficult to pull the trigger.

Kerryon Johnson is worth considering for his upside and for the way his skills match up nicely with Miami, though I don’t expect him to rise above his typical 12 to 16 touches, and goal line work should remain with Blount.

Gore is worth considering on the other side for this tremendous matchup — but with no pass game role and a slim shot at touchdowns, upside looks thin.

Albert Wilson should also be locked into five to seven targets again, giving him a decent floor and a decent shot at hitting for another long YAC play. Regression is coming, but he’s still a strong player with the ball in his hands.

FRIDAY NIGHT UPDATE // Full “Updates” List

Theo Riddick will miss this game. He has played 134 snaps this year (the same number as Kerryon Johnson). If we assume rational coaching, Kerryon Johnson will soak up most of Riddick’s role — being called on for work on third downs and obvious passing situations. This would provide a big boost for his outlook. There is some concern, however, that Ameer Abdullah will be foolishly called upon to take on part of Riddick’s role. The uncertainty is uncomfortable, but Kerryon does have a valuable role already, mitigating some of the risk. If he remains in the same role, he likely doesn’t kill your roster. If he takes over Riddick’s role, he could be a difference-maker. For me, he’s worth considering in tourneys.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 21st 1:00pm Eastern

Texans (
19.75) at

Jaguars (
23.25)

Over/Under 43.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Texans Run D
23rd DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
17th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
8th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
21st DVOA/19th Yards per pass
Jaguars Run D
22nd DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
23rd DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
32nd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
8th DVOA/4th Yards per pass

TEXANS // JAGUARS OVERVIEW

These division opponents have been moving in opposite directions the last few weeks, with the Texans carrying a three-game winning streak into this game and the Jaguars trying to stop a two game skid. In a tight division, this game will be a meaningful and high-effort affair. Vegas has given the nod to the home team, as the Jaguars have opened as five-point favorites, with a low Over/Under in this game of 41.5.

This Over/Under may prove to be a bit low, as these are two of the fastest-paced teams in the NFL — with the Texans ranking fourth in pace of play and the Jags ranking fifth. Houston ranks sixth in plays per game, and the Jags rank 13th. Houston also allows an above-average number of opponent plays per game, while the Jags rank middle of the pack.

Each team is slightly below-average at sustaining drives, while each team is above-average at preventing successful drives, creating a game environment that can lead to extra punts, and to the ball changing hands more often — an advantageous setup for rostering DST units, as such game environments open opportunities for extra mistakes, turnovers, and splash plays on special teams.

TEXANS PASS OFFENSE

One of the big struggles for the Jaguars on defense this year has been their pass rush, as they rank 17th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate, one year after ranking second. This is making it easier for receivers to shake free just enough for quarterbacks to make tight window throws, leading to the Jags ranking near the middle of the league in aDOT allowed, while allowing a slightly higher catch rate (60%) than they allowed last year (57%). The Jags are still the best team in football at preventing yards after the catch, and only five teams have allowed fewer fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. The Jaguars rank first in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, while Houston’s offensive line ranks 30th in adjusted line yards — giving Jacksonville a chance to get their pass rush back on track. Only Cleveland has taken more sacks on the season.

In two games against the Jags last year, DeAndre Hopkins went 7-55-1 on a whopping 16 targets and 4-80-1 on another massive load of 13 targets. Deshaun Watson only played part of the first game, and none of the second — but this remains one of the toughest draws in football.

The Texans tend to hammer passes to Hopkins in difficult matchups — essentially betting that their best player has the best shot at beating a good defense. As such, volume may continue to be an issue for Will Fuller (recent target counts of five, three, and three). Long-term, I’m not concerned about Fuller, as he has had three consecutive matchups that set up poorly for his skill set and role; but this is yet another matchup that falls into that category, making him nothing more than a dart throw.

Keke Coutee continues to be schemed the ball behind the line of scrimmage (two of his five targets last week came behind the LOS), with his route tree expanding the last couple weeks to get him some downfield looks as well. His speed plays well with the ball in his hands, but it’s still a difficult draw.

Behind these guys, Ryan Griffin saw five targets last week, in a matchup we highlighted as one that would likely filter looks his way, with Griffin’s inefficiency being the only question mark. He turned those five targets into zero receptions — the second time he has done that in a positive matchup this year.

TEXANS RUN OFFENSE

The Jaguars have dominated the NFL in run defense…except while playing Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott. It goes without saying that Lamar Miller and