Week 7 Matchups

On Monday this week, I put together a “bird’s eye snapshot” of what we should look for in each game. For any of you doing research before the NFL Edge comes out, this will give you a few items to lean on as you get underway.

49ers at Redskins

  • 49ers defense should overwhelm WAS
  • 49ers O should be able to focus on the run and passes to Kittle

Cardinals at Giants

  • Both offenses set up well
  • Cards passing+
  • Giants passing+
  • Narrow concentration of looks on each

Texans at Colts

  • Hopkins boom/bust in this matchup (compared to valuation); Indy will try to force short throws, but have been less successful this year
  • Colts likely to be forced to throw more than they want by Texans funnel
  • Watch injuries in HOU secondary

Raiders at Packers

  • Josh Jacobs up the middle? — that’s where Packers run D can be attacked
  • Rodgers likely “spread the ball around” game if Davante misses

Vikings at Lions

  • Disciplined defenses
  • Vikings rushing attack hits DET on edges where they’re more attackable
  • Should be lower-scoring, but enough explosive weapons in this game that outliers are viable

Jaguars at Bengals

  • Beat the Bengals by running
  • Beat the Jaguars by runs up the gut (and passing if Ramsey misses)
  • Boyd in slot could come away with a strong day even if Ramsey plays
  • Broad range of scoring outcomes here (from ultra low-scoring to relatively high-scoring)

Dolphins at Bills

  • Super adaptable Bills offense off the bye vs a Dolphins team that can be attacked any which way; do Bills want to “win” (run-heavy) or “make a statement” (lots of passing early?)
  • Dolphins in an extremely challenging spot

Rams at Falcons

  • Defenses struggling; Falcons should score, and Rams can keep pace; desperate teams likely getting progressively more aggressive as this game moves along
  • Both teams easier to pass on than run on

Chargers at Titans

  • Titans defense a difficult matchup (at home) for Chargers
  • Chargers defense soft for the Titans; has a shot for points if Tannehill starts and Chargers can take a lead
  • Also very possible for both teams to stay under 20 in an ugly affair

Ravens at Seahawks

  • Teams that want to run vs defenses that are solid on the ground and attackable through the air
  • Both passing attacks are very vertical; if a couple plays hit early, scoring could ramp up
  • Good game for the quarterbacks to “have to win on their own” as the game moves along

Saints at Bears

  • Defenses outweigh offenses here
  • Enough explosive weapons for an outlier to show up, but lower-scoring should be the expectation

Kickoff Thursday, Oct 17th 8:20pm Eastern

Chiefs (
26) at

Broncos (
23)

Over/Under 49.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Chiefs Run D
28th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O
20th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
2nd DVOA/4th Yards allowed per pass
Broncos Pass O
31st DVOA/26th Yards per pass
Broncos Run D
5th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
17th DVOA/9th Yards per carry
Broncos Pass D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
1st DVOA/12th Yards per pass

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

Week 7 kicks off with the rare Chiefs game with a total under 50. Kansas City visits the Broncos in what is projected to be a pretty close match, with the visiting Chiefs currently 3.0 point favorites in a 48.5 total game. Injury situations are adding some additional uncertainty to the game here, as is the Chiefs’ somewhat mortal-looking offense the last two weeks. Let’s dig in.

The Chiefs are one of the most interesting offenses in football to pick apart, so we’ll start there. Kansas City’s run game is devolving into a hard-to-predict committee situation — Damien Williams led the team in snaps and carries in Week 5, but then LeSean McCoy unexpectedly grabbed almost all of the rushing opportunities last week and played 50% of the snaps to Damien’s 38%. Damien is the supposed superior receiving back, but only saw one target. Darrel Williams is still mixing in for 15-20% of the snaps as well, so this situation is becoming awfully muddy. In addition, the Chiefs have been one of the pass-happiest teams in the NFL this year, passing at a 66% rate (5th highest in the league) after being 10th in the league with 61% passing plays last season. The Chiefs have scored five total rushing touchdowns on the season against 14 passing TDs. The Chiefs RBs are priced appropriately, but you’re basically betting on A) an outlier game, B) outlier touchdowns on a team that doesn’t score many rushing TDs, or C) passing game success. Personally I’ll always bet on usage, so I’ll lean McCoy here, but it would not at all surprise me to see the usage swing back in Damien’s favor this week. This is a shaky situation.

In the pass game, much has been made of the Chiefs struggling against the man coverage-heavy schemes that the Colts and Texans have utilized the past two weeks. Vic Fangio is a defensive mastermind and we can be certain that he has A) noticed this trend and B) is planning around it for Thursday. But, keep in mind that while the Chiefs have indeed not scored as many points as usual in their last two games, there are a few other factors in play:

  1. Mahomes has been banged up with an injured ankle, limiting his mobility. Hopefully for the Chiefs that ankle is feeling a little better by Thursday, but watch the practice reports.
  2. Tyreek Hill missed the Colts game entirely and only played half the snaps in the Texans game. Hill is the best weapon that the Chiefs have against a man-coverage defense, as he can get open against any single defender; the Chiefs have certainly missed his ability to break free. While I’m not sure if Hill becomes a 90%+ snap player on a short week, going from half the snaps to 75% seems reasonable, and that will make it much more difficult for the Broncos to just sit in man coverage. Note that the drives on which Hill played heavily resulted in two touchdowns and a whopping 10 targets.
  3. Finally, let’s note that in these last two weeks when Mahomes “struggled,” he still put up over 20 Draftkings points in each week. He’s the highest floor play in this Showdown, and only Hill and Kelce can realistically challenge his ceiling.

The Chiefs’ pass game has been tricky to utilize in DFS due to the injuries to their two top receivers as well as their tendency to spread the ball around (JM noted last week, I believe, that the Chiefs have only produced one great-for-a-tournament receiver score from Weeks 2-5, not including Pringle coming out of nowhere after Watkins was re-injured). Hill is a premium piece with a massive ceiling and an always-uncertain floor though he is awfully expensive at $11.2k given that we have a bit of uncertainty around his usage, while Kelce has a history of absolutely crushing a Broncos defense that has historically been vulnerable in the middle of the field. Vic Fangio is adding new schemes to the Denver defense, so it isn’t the same as it’s been in years past, but we’ve still seen Darren Waller exceed expectations here (7 for 70 on 8 targets) while in Kelce’s last five games against Denver he is averaging 110 yards and 0.8 touchdowns. I just finished writing a whole paragraph on the rest of the receiving corps and then Sammy Watkins was ruled out, so now I get to rewrite it (lucky me, and also lucky you!). DeMarcus Robinson is the preferred play with Watkins out, as he led all Chiefs receivers in snap count the last couple of weeks by a wide margin, while Hardman and Pringle split work roughly down the middle last week. Of those two, I would prefer Pringle based on his significantly cheaper price and that he largely ran the Watkins-type routes while Hardman ran more of Tyreek’s normal route tree. Pringle is still going to be a part-time player, but I would put money on him outsnapping Hardman here. 

On the Broncos’ side, their run game has been a pretty even split this year — 53.9% of snaps for Freeman and 49.4% for Lindsay. Lindsay, however, has 84 carries to Freeman’s 66, and while they both have 26 targets, Lindsay has 12 “green zone” touches (touches within the 10 yard line — thanks to OWS Collective contributor IanDouglas902 for one of my favorite weekly data points!) to just five for Freeman. Lindsay is the superior play here but he’s also priced like it at $8,800 versus just $6,000 for Freeman. It’s worth noting that Freeman has yet to score a touchdown this year and yet is still putting up 10.7 Draftkings points per game — quite reasonable at a $6k salary, and with ceiling if TD regression comes back his way. Denver runs the ball 44% of the time, good for the 10th best rate in the league, and they continue to run even if down multiple scores unless it’s very late in the game. Lindsay and Freeman can absolutely both pay off their salaries, and while I normally would shy away from using two running backs from the same team, given the matchup and the price, I’m fine using them both here. It’s worth questioning whether you want to use both if you have one heavily featured in the captain spot (as captain spot placement effectively says you expect that player to post the highest score, or one of the highest scores, on the slate), but even then I would prefer to limit my exposure to the other RB rather than crossing them out entirely.

Denver’s pass game also presents some intriguing options. Courtland Sutton has been growing into the guy a lot of people (myself included) were hoping he would be last year with five games of double-digit DK points and two games over 20. Sutton is actually leading the league in market share of air yards with 44.8%, and while the Chiefs are 8th overall in pass defense DVOA, their top cornerback, Kendall Fuller, has been ruled out for Thursday. At just $7,600 I view Sutton as somewhat egregiously mispriced for his role and a core building block of my tournament lineups on this slate. Emmanuel Sanders is expected to play but his share of targets (and more importantly, air yards) has diminished with the emergence of Sutton. He’s still a viable play with plenty of ceiling, but I would prioritize him below Sutton here. That said, everyone else will too — so make of that what you will from a game theory perspective. The rest of Denver’s passing attack are ancillary pieces (DaeSean Hamilton is seeing very modest volume and only near the line of scrimmage, Noah Fant has caught on as a bit of a trendy play this season but really hasn’t done much of anything and unlike most TEs has almost no red zone role with just one target within the 10; everyone else is a part-time player and only suitable to dart throws in MME). 

The most likely way for this game to play out is for Denver to try to keep the ball on the ground, following the keep-away offense that the Colts and Texans used to defeat the Chiefs the last two weeks. The Chiefs are expected to win, which means Vegas thinks their air game will eventually break through, but the Broncos are likely to keep it fairly close (and thus on the ground) for most of the game.

Some other ways this could play out:

  • Maybe there’s more to the Chiefs’ recent struggles than just Hill’s absence and some man coverage. Maybe Mahomes’ ankle is bothering him more than he’s letting on. Maybe going to the thin air of Denver on a short week is too much, and the Chiefs just get stifled by the Broncos’ not-elite-but-still-very-good defense. While I normally don’t build onslaught lineups against the Chiefs, I see it as viable here (especially given how the Chiefs spread the ball out so much; the Chiefs could put up a couple of touchdowns without anybody but Mahomes being in the optimal lineup).
  • The expectation here is that the Broncos will score on the ground and the Chiefs will score in the air, and that’s the way ownership will flow. But, touchdowns are incredibly unpredictable, and simply reversing how everyone thinks the touchdowns will flow is a way to be contrarian without being dumb.

As always, captain choices should be based around the game scripts for which you’re building, but my overall favorites are the three primary Broncos (Sutton, Freeman, and Lindsay) and then Kelce and Hill on the Chiefs. 

Some groups to consider:

  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers (consider at least 3 in Mahomes’ case given how expensive he is)
  • Pair captain receivers with their QB
  • For lineups with Freeman or Lindsay captain, consider excluding the other or reducing exposure
  • At most 2 of the Chiefs’ ancillary receivers

Advanced Showdowns

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 20th 1:00pm Eastern

Dolphins (
12.75) at

Bills (
29.75)

Over/Under 42.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Dolphins Run D
32nd DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
10th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O
4th DVOA/6th Yards per pass
Bills Run D
24th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Bills Pass D
28th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
11th DVOA/17th Yards per pass

:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.

We can make fairly quick work of the Dolphins this week, with an 11.75 Vegas-implied team total (a full 0.25 higher than when Vegas was expecting Josh Rosen to start instead of Ryan Fitzpatrick; hooray!). The Bills are one of the toughest defenses in the league against the pass — ranking fourth in DVOA, and having allowed the second fewest passing yards and the second fewest passing touchdowns in the league. Rostering good passing attacks against the Bills is “hoping for a miracle,” and this is even more the case for the Dolphins’ minor league unit.

The one place where the Bills are attackable is runs to the edge — which is where Kenyan Drake sees the majority of his success. As has been the case basically every week so far: “Drake has a real role in this offense and has an underrated floor given his pass-catching role (recent reception totals of 5 // 3 // 3 // 6), but touchdowns are also a big part of upside in DFS, and this continues to make it difficult for Drake to hit for ceiling.” Ultimately, rostering Dolphins players is just hoping to get lucky guessing right on a guy who might end up posting a high enough score to offset the risk. (If choosing to go here: Drake has enough of a role, and enough explosiveness, that he could become ceiling-useful if things break his way; DeVante Parker continues to rank at the very top of the league in aDOT, and Fitzpatrick will be happy to give him some shots to hit.)

On the Bills’ side of the ball: one of the goals of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is to run one of the most adaptable, opponent-specific offenses in the NFL, which creates an interesting situation for a Bills team that can literally attack in any way they want to in this spot.

So far this season, teams have been primarily attacking the Dolphins on the ground. No team has faced fewer pass attempts than the Dolphins this year, and — in spite of this team already having had their bye — only two teams have faced more RB rush attempts. Of course, “score” has had a lot more to do with this than matchup, as the Dolphins are not only bottom three in running back scoring, but have also been the worst team in the league at preventing fantasy production from quarterbacks.

We’ll take a look at the run game first, where Devin Singletary is expected to return this week to split work with Frank Gore. The Bills seem set on keeping Gore as their “1A” at the moment (and nothing in this matchup should force them to tilt a different way), but Gore has been capped at 16 to 21 touches per game, while the Dolphins have allowed an average of 35.8 running back touches per week. If reports have Singletary truly healthy and set for his normal workload this week, he’ll have a clear shot to push for 15+ touches himself.

Because teams are not passing much against Miami, this team has currently allowed the second fewest wide receiver catches — though they have allowed the fourth most WR touchdowns, and they’ve allowed a stunningly bad 29% increase on the league-average expected yards per target (the worst mark in the league). There is no bad matchup for any player on the Bills; only the potential for bad volume.

The order of focus for the Bills passing attack should go John Brown (7.8 targets per game; aDOT of 13.6), Cole Beasley (7.8 targets per game; aDOT of 7.0), and Duke Williams (four targets in his first game action two weeks ago, after which the Bills unloaded Zay Jones).

JM’s Interpretation ::

With the Dolphins facing only 28.4 pass attempts per game, three out of five teams have failed to top 264 passing yards against them — introducing risk that we see “good, but not slate-breaking” scores emerging from the Bills this week. Add in the erratic tendencies of Josh Allen, and there is a solid chance that no one in this passing attack posts a “have to have it” score. That said: The Bills won’t be Washington, and should pass enough for at least two of their pass catchers to produce solid numbers, with clear paths to one of the guys on this side of the ball picking up 100 yards and/or posting multiple scores to turn into one of the stronger plays on the slate.

The Bills’ backfield is attractive for overall production, with the Dolphins having allowed the aforementioned 35.8 running back touches per game while giving up 197.6 yards per game the position (run/pass combined) — with 1.8 touchdowns and 4.6 catches per game given up to backs. If Singletary is healthy this week, this should be a two-man backfield (T.J. Yeldon played only five total snaps the first two weeks of the year), and there is genuine potential for both Gore and Singletary to prove valuable this week, and a clear case can be made for “picking either of these guys” and feeling comfortable with the floor/ceiling you’re exposing yourself to. Singletary is the better bet for a big yardage game, though it won’t be a surprise if the Bills try to get Gore a touchdown or two against his old team.

As for Josh Allen himself: he’s definitely in the top seven quarterbacks on the slate — though “pocket discipline” has been a major emphasis for this team so far this year, and with wide receivers likely to be open most plays, his chances of a monster game on the ground are lowered, while aerial volume will likely be lowered as well, creating fewer paths to a slate-breaker than the optics of the matchup might suggest. With that said: Allen will have multiple opportunities for big plays, and there is an alternate “game environment” thought that has Daboll simply looking to lay down the hammer in this spot and unleash Allen in a blowout win. This is not what I expect from the Bills, but if mass-multi-entering, the ceiling is high enough in this scenario that it’s worth building some rosters around this idea. Multiple Bills will almost certainly have a strong game, so building for these “strong games” to become “elite games” doesn’t take too much imagination, and can be comfortably played around with in tourneys.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 20th 1:00pm Eastern

Jaguars (
24.25) at

Bengals (
19.75)

Over/Under 44.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Jaguars Run D
22nd DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
27th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
32nd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
26th DVOA/13th Yards per pass
Bengals Run D
23rd DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
17th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
16th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
21st DVOA/19th Yards per pass

:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.

The Jaguars and Bengals have combined for two wins and 10 losses this year, though three of the Jaguars losses came by one point to the Texans, seven points to the Panthers, and seven points to the Saints — while the Bengals (for all the public lashings they receive) have losses on the year of one point to the Seahawks, four points to the Bills, three points to the Cardinals, and six points to the Ravens. As is the case with almost any team in the NFL (the Dolphins being the notable exception), these teams (while not particularly strong) are closer to the middle of the pack than their records make them appear.

The way to attack the Bengals so far has been clear and straightforward for opposing offenses, as this team has faced the fifth most running back rush attempts and allowed the fourth most running back receptions, while facing the fourth fewest wide receiver targets and allowing the fifth fewest wide receiver receptions. The Jaguars rank only 18th in pass play rate on offense and are quite content to lean on the run, while Cincinnati has faced the second lowest opponent pass play rate in the league.

If we add in quarterback rushing (Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and Lamar Jackson all had season-best days vs the Bengals), no team has allowed more rushing yards than Cincinnati — and it is unsurprising that we see those quarterbacks on this list, as the Bengals (as noted last week with the Mark Ingram // Lamar Jackson setup) are actually solid against runs up the middle. The Jaguars are comfortable using Leonard Fournette to the edges, and with Fournette having played 131 out of 141 snaps across the last two weeks (with a consistent pass-catching role to boot), he sets up well in this spot. He’s priced fairly on FanDuel relative to other backs, but is curiously underpriced on both DraftKings and FantasyDraft.

William Jackson will be on the sidelines this week for an already talent-low Cincinnati secondary — though any hype around this fact (and around Jaguars pass catchers) should obviously be tempered by the elements we’ve been talking about all season with this defense, as this unit continues to do a good job tilting coverage toward number one weapons, and is one of the only teams in football that has not yet allowed a 100-yard receiver. The best games against the Bengals through the air belong to number two weapons Diontae Johnson and Deebo Samuel, who went for 6-77-1 and 5-86-1, respectively. D.J. Chark has played well enough this year to be considered a matchup-breaker, but this a tougher spot than it looks like on the surface.

Things get thin quickly behind Chark in this passing attack, with Chris Conley fading after his hot start and Dede Westbrook topping 70 yards only once. You’re hoping for a broken play and a score if going here.

The Bengals are a pass-heavy team (currently first in the NFL in pass play rate) that has quickly become more interested in establishing their offensive identity than they are in winning games. (Note: this is not a slight against them. The Bengals aren’t going to win many games anyway, so why not use each game as “practice” for the future if this is the offense they want to run?) The major takeaway here is that — against a Jags team that is neutral in opponent run/pass distribution — chances are high that the Bengals will remain pass-heavy in this spot.

We were correct in assuming last week that Tyler Boyd would see a lot of attention from Marlon Humphrey, and it seems likely that his dud in that spot will lead to him going overlooked here. While there will always be concerns about Boyd finding his way open with not only A.J. Green off the field, but only Auden Tate and Alex Erickson // Damion Willis around to attract attention away from him, this spot does set up well for him against a Jaguars defense that has been hit for 90+ yards by D.J. Moore, Adam Humphries, and Emmanuel Sanders — all of whom run similar routes and have similar responsibilities to Boyd. Late in the week last week, I solved the mystery of why Tyler Eifert was totally ignored by the Bengals two weeks ago in what Austin Hooper reaffirmed last week is the best tight end matchup in football; in that Bengals // Cardinals game, the Bengals actually deployed Boyd on tight end style routes — using Boyd (their best pass catcher) as their seam-beater, rather than wasting those touches on a less explosive option in Eifert. That’s an impressive approach from a Cincy coaching staff that continues to be underrated due to this team’s record, and it tells us that this team will continue to look for ways to feature Boyd.

One of the best matchups in football right now is “whichever wide receiver is facing the Ravens and is not matched up on Humphrey,” so I’m not reading too deeply into Auden Tate’s 12 targets. The Bengals have shown trust in him, however, and with six or more targets in four straight games, he should be in for steady work once again — as long as A.J. Green remains out.

If Green plays, everything in this passing attack becomes quite a bit more speculative, of course, with Green unlikely to play a full compliment of snaps, yet likely to play enough to limit some of Boyd’s workload.

The Jaguars have been a mess against the run this year, getting hammered in particular on runs between the tackles, though Joe Mixon remains a bit of a “hope for things to go right” option at the moment with the Bengals’ line ranked 31st in adjusted line yards and runs between the tackles for Cincy barely averaging three yards per carry. If it doesn’t happen for Mixon here, it may not happen for him this year; but that still doesn’t guarantee that it will happen here.

JM’s Interpretation ::

A.J. Green’s status will have a lot to do with things on the Bengals’ side of the ball (Boyd would likely become more of a “tourney play only” if Green does indeed make it back onto the field this week), but if Green misses, Boyd stands out to me at the front end of the week as a play with a solid, workload-driven floor and a nice ceiling in this spot — especially as Zac Taylor would prefer to feed 12 targets to Boyd over Auden Tate. But the standout play in this spot is Fournette, who will be on the field close to 100% of the snaps, and who matches up well with the Bengals. If you’re looking for a counterpoint on Fournette: although the Bengals rank 25th in opponent drive success rate (i.e., having a hard time getting opponents off the field), they impressively rank seventh in red zone defense, while the Jaguars rank 29th on offense. Fournette’s pass game usage and role in this offense keep his floor high enough regardless, and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to hit for ceiling; but those numbers do close off a few of the (many) paths available for a tourney-winning score from him in this spot.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 20th 1:00pm Eastern

Vikings (
23) at

Lions (
20.5)

Over/Under 43.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Vikings Run D
27th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
13th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D
8th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
Lions Run D
30th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O
2nd DVOA/6th Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
12th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O
20th DVOA/22nd Yards per pass

:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.

We’ll start this game on the Lions’ side of the ball, where we can make fairly quick work of an offense that has a narrow distribution of touches, but will be taking on a Vikings defense that has allowed the fifth fewest yards per game and the sixth fewest points per game while ranking sixth in overall DVOA on defense (fourth against the run, eighth against the pass).

Part of the Vikings’ strong numbers against the pass so far this year are somewhat “smoke and mirrors,” as this team has allowed a league-average aDOT while no longer ranking as one of the best in the league at catch prevention. In fact — specific to wide receivers — only three teams have allowed more receptions this year to the position…with 21 teams having allowed more yards. As has been the case for years with this Mike Zimmer defense, the Vikings are one of the best teams in the league at preventing yards after catch (so far this year, they have shaved a stunning 25%+ off the league-average YAC per reception rate — by far the best in football); but how much does that matter against Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, who are not on the field to rack up yards after the catch anyway? (Only three qualified players in the NFL have fewer yards after catch per reception than Marvin Jones right now, while Golladay unsurprisingly ranks in the bottom-third of the league as well.) Scoring expectations as a whole in this game are somewhat low, so this is not a “good” spot for either guy; but it’s a better spot than it appears on the surface, with Golladay obviously the player with a better shot at taking advantage.

For several weeks now we have mentioned the Vikings’ relative weakness against the tight end position, though it’s fair to wonder how much this will matter in the box score when the Lions have refused to use T.J. Hockenson on anything but short-area routes since his breakout Week 1 (a week in which he was consistently used downfield). This Lions offense has come to resemble what the Seahawks developed last year: running the ball a lot, sure — but not “running just to be boring.” Instead, the Lions run to set up the vertical passing attack — and in this, Jones and Golladay have become the vertical weapons, while Hock and Danny Amendola are used underneath. Barring changes in role, either guy would need a busted play or a score to be relevant.

When the Lions run the ball, they’ll lean on Kerryon Johnson, who has cracked 50 yards only once this year — against the brutal run defense of the Chiefs. Over half of Kerryon’s runs this year have come up the gut, where he’s averaging only 2.7 yards per carry (during his time away, Darrell Bevell apparently learned some things…but he also, unfortunately, didn’t forget some others). Runs up the gut have been a relative weakness of the Vikings, if you wanted to take a shot, though the matchup as a whole doesn’t tilt in his favor.

Teams have been trying to get to the edges against the Lions run defense this year to avoid Snacks Harrison and instead take advantage of a relative weakness of this unit — an approach the Vikings will be happy to indulge in with their outside zone run scheme. This matchup sets up well for Dalvin Cook, who has topped 23 touches only once this year, but has also been held below 20 touches only once. The Lions are a disciplined defense with “attention to detail” as a strength of this coaching staff, so they are less likely than others to get hit for a monster run or to get caught off guard by the Vikings screen game, but there is still a talent gap that Cook can exploit for consistent gains in this spot.

The Lions have been easier to run on (17th in DVOA) than to pass on (10th) this year, and they have been particularly tough on wide receivers since Week 1, holding Keenan Allen to “only” 98 yards on 15 targets and otherwise allowing no wide receiver to top 65 yards. The Lions do play a man-heavy coverage scheme that will be put to the test against two of the best route runners in football in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, so there is a chance that volume proves to be a bigger concern than matchup in this spot — but while Diggs and Thielen both have the ability to crack any matchup, this isn’t nearly the spot they enjoyed last week.

JM’s Interpretation ::

I certainly didn’t come into my research for this game expecting to have interest in Golladay, but the matchup is more interesting than it appears on the surface. (Last week, a similar-style player in Alshon Jeffery hit the Vikings for 10-76-1; and while not all of his catches came on routes that Golladay runs, all of his bigger production did.) He’s a name to keep in mind in tourneys, as his “catch downfield targets and get tackled right away” skill set can still play just fine in this spot, with game environment and scoring chances a bigger concern than the matchup itself.

I certainly did come into my research for this game expecting to have interest in Dalvin Cook, and unsurprisingly, that didn’t change. Because DFS sites generally bunch up pricing at the high end so tightly, it’s easy to get someone like Cook (20 to 23 touches per game) confused with someone like CMC (27 to 37 touches per game!), so it’s fair to note that Cook isn’t the “can’t miss, lock-and-load” play you get when you’re able to pay up for CMC. But in taking pricing out of the equation, Cook is one of the stronger plays on the slate from a floor/ceiling perspective, as he’s locked into around 20 touches as one of the engines of this offense, and he sets up well in this spot.

Finally, MME players should keep in mind that vertical passing attacks can score quickly — so there are some paths to this turning into a different type of game than the Over/Under implies. It’s certainly not the likeliest way for this game to play out, but if Golladay and Jones were to hit on a couple long touchdowns early, the Vikings do have the pieces for this game to become more aerially interesting.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 20th 1:00pm Eastern

Raiders (
21) at

Packers (
26.5)

Over/Under 47.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Raiders Run D
31st DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O
10th DVOA/10th Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D
26th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O
6th DVOA/14th Yards per pass
Packers Run D
25th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O
24th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Packers Pass D
25th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O
5th DVOA/7th Yards per pass

:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.

A few weeks ago, we took some time to dig into the surprising improvements for the Raiders’ run defense — spearheaded by P.J. Hall and new additions Tahir Whitehead and Lamarcus Joyner (among others). Since that time, the Raiders have continued to play strong against the run — currently ranking sixth in DVOA while producing solid all-around numbers against running backs on the year. This creates an interesting setup for the walking-wounded Packers, as this team has a head coach in Matt LaFleur who would prefer to be a run-first unit, and — much to the chagrin of Aaron Rodgers — he will surely try to emphasize the rushing attack this week with so many pieces of the Packers pass game missing in action. If the Raiders are able to slow down the run enough for Packers drives to stall out early in the game, however, we should see Rodgers start checking into pass plays regardless of what is called on the sidelines, as the Packers aim to take advantage of the Raiders’ 26th DVOA pass defense — lack of weapons be damned.

We’ll begin our exploration of individual pieces on the Packers in the backfield, where Aaron Jones has averaged only 2.0 more snaps per game than Jamaal Williams through their first four games played together this year — with a particularly troubling trend here in that Jones out-snapped Williams by 23 through the first two games, but Williams has out-snapped Jones by 15 in his two full games since then (with Jones’ “fumble, dropped touchdown” game the other night only accounting for three of those 15 snaps; in other words, I’m not convinced Jones’ mistakes handed Williams a “bigger than normal” role so much as the Packers are likely set on keeping Williams heavily involved regardless).

As such, we are essentially looking at a 50/50 backfield on a run-leaning team, though in a matchup that sets up better for the pass than for the run. In the games in which they have shared the field, Jones has touch counts of 14 // 27 // 11 // 15, while Williams has touch counts of 7 // 12 // 14 // 18. If choosing to go here: the best way to attack the Raiders is to the edges of the defense, where Jones sees a larger percentage of the work. Ultimately, rostering either of these guys is more “hunting for touchdowns” than it is “banking on consistent production throughout the game.”

In his tug-of-war with LaFleur this year, Rodgers has pass attempt totals of 30 // 34 // 29 // 53 // 34 // 39 — with only two games north of 240 passing yards, and with only one game north of 290 (a monster 422-yard effort vs the pass funnel of the Eagles, with Davante Adams on the field).

The Packers didn’t actually practice on Wednesday (doing a walk-through instead), but Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Geronimo Allison were all estimated to have been non-participants. Adams is still dealing with turf toe (I recently read turf toe described as your big toe “feeling like it’s being bent back toward your shin”; sheesh), and Allison seems unlikely to be cleared from his concussion in time, so while we don’t yet know about MVS, we should have at least two reserves on the field vs the Raiders.

On the year, the Raiders have had trouble with Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, Demarcus Robinson, Travis Kelce, and Allen Robinson (while otherwise facing the Colts without Hilton and a Vikings team that threw the ball only 21 times against them) — though it’s fair to be cautious on the reserves we’ll likely see on the field. If MVS plays, it will be MVS // Jake Kumerow // Darrius Shepherd or Allen Lazard (Shepherd filled in for Geronimo Allison at first last week, but after his mistake-filled game, was replaced with Lazard, who looked good against the Lions’ typically-sticky coverage, going 4-65-1 on five targets in only 17 snaps). MVS is the nominal “number one,” though he barely has more targets in his last two games than Lazard had in 17 snaps, and he’s likely to be the focal point of Paul Guenther’s defense, giving him plenty of space to “bust” alongside whatever “boom” upside he has. Kumerow is a “Rodgers favorite” (the Packers’ QB has talked up Kumerow time and again) but he has turned five targets into only three catches for 17 yards across the last two weeks. As for Lazard, this post-game quote from Rodgers stands out: “I may have put in a good word there in the fourth quarter to get him some opportunities.” What’s that Bible verse? Packers 2:17? “He whom Rodgers trusts sees targets.” (Speaking of “trust” :: Jimmy Graham will also be out there if healthy. Jimmy has gone 5-58-0 combined across the last two games with Adams on the shelf, and with no open-field skills remaining in his game, he’s typically going to land as a touchdown-or-bust option this year.)

The Packers tightened up on run defense against the Lions last week and gave up some downfield throws in tight coverage (and in a couple instances of Kevin King getting burned: not-so-tight coverage), but this team still ranks 26th in DVOA against the run and fifth against the pass. This suits the Raiders well, too, as Oakland appears set to be without Tyrell Williams again this week, while this team has been the sixth run-heaviest squad in football so far this year.

Behind only Buffalo’s offensive line (2nd) vs Miami (31st), this game presents the second biggest “adjusted line yards mismatch” on the slate, with the Raiders ranked third and the Packers ranked 30th; though one of the mistakes the Lions made last week was working too hard to run outside the tackles against the Packers (where Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith wait to do damage) instead of hitting the Packers up the gut where (as we’ve been talking about all season) they are weakest — with a current mark of 5.6 yards allowed per carry on runs right up the middle. This puts a bit of a dent in the floor for Josh Jacobs, as the Raiders have built their run game around trying to get the ball outside — while Jacobs’ floor is further lowered by his minimal role in the pass game (1.2 catches per game; 15.4 yards per game). The matchup tilts in Jacobs’ favor, giving him room for big runs or touchdowns, but chances of a relative dud remain.

It’s a bit ridiculous what the Raiders have had to try to get by with at the wide receiver position lately — with this team churning the roster and trying to find something that might work. In Week 5, Marcell Ateman, Keelan Doss, Trevor Davis, and Hunter Renfrow rotated at wide receiver. Renfrow has not topped 30 yards this season; Doss has only been targeted three times the last two weeks; and Ateman has not been targeted at all. This is a difficult matchup, but especially with Jon Gruden having had the bye to further install his newest toy Trevor Davis (4.42 40 time), there are some angles from which Davis looks like an attractive piece. Davis was used on a pair of runs (74 yards and a touchdown) in his first game with the Raiders and went 4-42-0 on four targets in his second game. The floor is low here, but there is tournament juice to this play in a revenge game vs the team that cut him loose (and would probably love to have him back right now).

Darren Waller has a difficult matchup as well vs a Packers defense that has allowed the fifth fewest yards to tight ends in spite of allowing the 14th most receptions. Waller has a locked-in target share — with his five target game against the Bears as much of an outlier as his 14 target game vs Minnesota (seven to nine looks should continue to be his typical range), and is a “hope for some missed tackles and a big play, or hope for a touchdown” option.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Realistically, there are a few different ways in which this game could turn into a fairly low-scoring affair (each team prefers to lean on the run, and is playing with extremely thin wide receiver corps) — which is likely enough to leave me off any higher-priced plays outside of game stacks built around this turning into a shootout (which is less likely, but still possible). But on a week in which salary savings at wide receiver may prove valuable for the higher-priced running backs these savings can afford (with all of Fournette // DJ // Cook // Saquon in a solid spot this week), this game offers a couple guys who stand out to me for the WR savings paired with upside. Lazard has a good matchup and could be a central cog in this Packers offense, and even if that proves to not be the case, he’s stone minimum on all three sites, so even a couple catches (while not ideal) could be enough to get you by if the pieces you paid up for pay off. This makes Lazard somewhat low-risk, high-reward, as he doesn’t kill you even if he misses, and his ceiling is certainly more than theoretical. Trevor Davis is also interesting for the reasons noted above: big-play ability and potential for a legitimate role. Given the matchup, this one is less appealing than Lazard — but the ceiling is high enough that, paired with what you can do with the savings — it’s a play to keep in mind in tourneys.

You could re-read the writeup above and find clear reasons to play some other pieces in this game, but I’ll likely limit my exposure beyond Lazard and possibly Davis, as there are just better spots on the slate than this.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 20th 1:00pm Eastern

Rams (
28.75) at

Falcons (
25.75)

Over/Under 54.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Rams Run D
21st DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
26th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
Rams Pass D
11th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
16ths DVOA/3rd Yards per pass
Falcons Run D
8th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
Rams Run O
1st DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
30th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Rams Pass O
10th DVOA/18th Yards per pass

:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.

There aren’t many people who would have bet on this Week 7 matchup arriving with these teams combining for a 4-8 record, and with a seven-game losing streak between them; but here we are — with two desperate teams set to square off in a game with the highest Over/Under on the slate.

The big problem for Atlanta, of course, has been their defense, as this team ranks 31st in DVOA against the pass, 26th in fewest yards allowed per game, 31st in fewest points allowed per game, 32nd in opponent drive success rate, and 31st in opponent red zone touchdown rate. Atlanta also ranks seventh in DVOA against the run and eighth in adjusted line yards on defense — making it easier for teams to keep pace with the Falcons through the air than to bleed the clock on the ground.

The Falcons are not a shy-away matchup for any position, but they have been especially brutalized by wide receivers this year — having given up the sixth most catches, the fourth most yards, and the second most touchdowns to the position. As noted regularly in this space: Atlanta forces one of the shallower opponent aDOTs in the league, but they are adding almost 10% to the league-average catch rate and are continuing to struggle after the catch, leading to a 15% boost on on the league-average expected yards per target — the fifth largest boost in the league.

Of course, none of this is quite the slam-dunk it appears to be on the surface (this is DFS, after all, where very little is ever what it seems to be at first glance), and there are a few very real ways in which this game could fall short of expectations — as the expected presence of Jalen Ramsey will put the Rams in position to play 10-on-10 football with the Falcons’ best player likely neutralized (an approach in which Wade Phillips has the upper hand), while there is always risk of road woes showing up for Jared Goff. (Regarding Goff: it should be noted that his road struggles are often overblown, as he has a 36:18 TD:INT ratio on the road in his career vs 36:15 at home, with his completion rate dropping by only three percentage points, his yards per attempt dropping by a half-yard, and his quarterback rating falling from 95.2 to 89.3. Still: you’d prefer him at home.) Probably the biggest reason “Rams at Falcons” could ultimately disappoint is the simple fact that the Rams have not been dominant on offense this year, ranking 17th in DVOA (19th through the air), while currently sitting at 11th in points per game and 12th in yards per game.

The piece that should be most immune to game environment (i.e., having a chance to pay off even if this game disappoints as a whole) is Cooper Kupp, who has target counts on the year of 10 // 9 // 12 // 15 // 17 // 6. If we remove the train wreck game against the 49ers’ defense and the blowout win over the Saints, Kupp has double-digit looks in every remaining contest — and with the Falcons likely to put at least some pressure on the Rams here, Kupp’s targets should be locked in once again. Kupp has stepped right back into his heavy red zone role this year as well, with seven looks inside the 20 and four looks inside the 10.

Interestingly, Robert Woods has only two red zone targets this year, with no looks inside the 10 — while his targets have been all over the map, with totals of 13 // 2 // 8 // 15 // 9 // 4. Woods should be used on communication-beaters in this spot (crossing routes that test the defense’s ability to pass him off from one zone to the next), and this sort of usage should open the door for production if Goff is able to hit his marks.

The Rams have also left Brandin Cooks out of their red zone plans quite a bit more this year (two red zone looks — both coming inside the 10), and he enters this game with target counts on the year of 6 // 4 // 12 // 9 // 3 // 3. Cooks has the tools to beat this defense deep — though the Falcons do so much to invite short-area throws, it won’t be surprising if we see Goff lean more heavily on those.

Part of the recent drain on consistency for Woods // Cooks has come as a result of the Rams getting the tight ends more involved, with Tyler Higbee seeing 13 targets across the last three weeks and Gerald Everett seeing 24. This team is still 11 personnel heavy (which has Higbee and Everett splitting snaps), so these guys matter more for the way they drain wide receiver production than for the ways they can contribute to a DFS roster — but the usage is at least noteworthy if you want to try to guess right on one of these guys finding the end zone this week.

With Todd Gurley missing in action last week, Malcolm Brown played only 67.3% of the Rams’ snaps, handing over the rest of the looks to Darrell Henderson. As of Wednesday, Gurley was a limited participant in practice while Brown missed with an ankle issue. If Gurley returns, he should slide back into at least 70% of the snaps (he was playing above that mark before the quad/thigh issue, but the Rams likely ease him in rather than handing him a 90% share), while if Gurley misses it will either be Brown/Henderson splitting reps again, or — should Brown miss — it will be Henderson in the lead. The matchup is “fine, but not great” against the Falcons run defense, but there is yardage and touchdown upside to chase here — and if we happen to get a week of Henderson as the lead back, there is a lot of upside at the price at which you can get him.

On defense, the Rams have continued to play well against the run — ranking fifth in DVOA and allowing only 3.77 yards per carry to running backs — while Atlanta has all but abandoned the run this year, with the second highest pass play rate in the league. Devonta Freeman has recent touch counts of 19 // 20 // 16 // 22 and has been involved in the pass game (target counts in that stretch of 4 // 9 // 5 // 3), so the matchup actually matters more than the fact that Freeman is not truly a full-time player, as he’s seeing enough consistent looks to become relevant in tourneys regardless of snap count.

Through the air for the Falcons, the complexion of this matchup hinges heavily on the availability of Jalen Ramsey. It seems likely that Ramsey plays in this spot, so we’ll approach things as such (and will pivot a different direction in later-week content if anything changes).

If Ramsey plays, the writeup for Julio Jones is simple: “This is one of the toughest matchups Julio can have, which lowers his floor; Julio is also good enough to win in any matchup, which keeps his ceiling intact.” He’s high-risk, high-reward this week; but more importantly, this would remain one of the pass-heaviest offenses even in the “likeliest scenario” of Julio getting slowed by Ramsey, and those targets would flow in a different direction. Wade Phillips can out-scheme most opponents in 10-on-10 football (especially with the opponent missing its top weapon); but the Falcons are so deep in talented pass catchers that this shouldn’t hamstring Matt Ryan too much.

Recent target counts among remaining Falcons pass catchers ::

>> Calvin Ridley :: 6 // 9 // 6
>> Austin Hooper :: 11 // 9 // 8
>> Mohamed Sanu :: 12 // 5 // 4

The Rams have been attackable with tight ends this year — allowing the seventh most yards to the position after allowing the third most last year — and Hooper has not dropped below six targets all year, making him the strongest bet of the bunch for workload to be boosted/solidified if Julio is slowed by Ramsey.

Sanu has essentially the same role as Hooper in this offense, but the targets spill over to him less often, and the sort of DFS score he and Hooper have in their range is more attractive at the thin tight end position than it is at wide receiver. Sanu is on the list if building around this game, but he falls deeper down.

Ridley has the highest upside of the bunch with an aDOT of 14.3 (literally double that of Hooper and Sanu), and he’s a touchdown waiting to happen. The floor is never attractive on Ridley, given the unpredictability of his week to week role, but there is space for him to find his way to ceiling.

JM’s Interpretation ::

The Rams are always one of my least favorite teams to write up, as they do pretty much the same thing each week, and usage tends to evolve more from in-game adjustments than from any preconceived ideas the Rams have of “who we will lean on this week” (i.e., the Rams are able to see how a defense is playing them, and what mistakes the defense is opening themselves up to as a result, and are able to then adjust to that). As such, Rams writeups become a lot like this: “Offense is good || will likely score points || we’re guessing on how those points pile up || here’s what each guy offers.” This week was no different, with a potential shootout on tap, but with usage on this team spread out more than it used to be, and with at least a few elements in this game that could turn it into a lower-scoring contest than Vegas is projecting.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding usage on the Rams, I rarely try to guess there myself — with Kupp being the only guy I typically aim to target in the passing attack. That may not change this week; but if I do expand beyond interest in Kupp, Woods is the guy I’m likeliest to lean on (which comes with the obvious caveat that McVay could see something in this spot that has him hammering the Falcons with Cooks as the game moves along). In the backfield :: If Gurley plays, there is still enough touchdown upside attached for him to be kept in mind in tourneys (especially larger-field play). And if Gurley and Brown miss, Henderson would become an attractive piece to target.

I began to really like Devonta Freeman during the latter half of last week, but I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger because I “know too much” (i.e., I allowed his snap count and his ceiling on touches to steer me off him, even though I liked his upside in that spot). I haven’t found myself moving toward him in quite the same way this week (not yet, at least), as the Rams are strong against the run and Freeman does remain unlikely to top 20 touches; but as noted above, he is going to see enough looks to potentially matter, and his pass game involvement keeps him in the mix.

Rather unexpectedly, I like Hooper in this spot, as he is the player likeliest to have first dibs on the overflow from Ramsey covering Julio. Hooper has continued to be given opportunities to produce this year (and has continued to answer the call). Behind Hooper, Sanu is a floor play who can touch ceiling with a score, while Ridley is a big-play threat against a defense that shaves more than 10% off the league-average aDOT, but is otherwise fairly mediocre across the board — creating viable paths for him to hit.

I always have a better feel for quarterback during the back half of the week (after reading through the NFL Edge myself), but Ryan is obviously in play here in this string of six consecutive 300-yard games. The presence of Ramsey on Julio would trim away some of the paths to a ceiling game, but Ryan would still have enough weapons to matter.

Goff also has enough weapons to matter — and if this game does turn into a shootout, he could end up being very much in the mix.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 20th 1:00pm Eastern

Texans (
22.5) at

Colts (
24)

Over/Under 46.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Texans Run D
23rd DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
22nd DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
8th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
15th DVOA/10th Yards per pass
Colts Run D
6th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
23rd DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
8th DVOA/4th Yards per pass

:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.

The Colts and Texans have begun to separate themselves from the Jaguars and Titans in the AFC South, and the winner of this game will gain the inside track for the division title. Each team is coming off a win against the already-crowned Chiefs, with the Colts carrying an added advantage this week in that they boast one of the best coaching staffs in the NFL and have had an extra week to prepare for this game (while Bill O’Brien would have entered this matchup as the overmatched coach regardless). With this in mind, we’ll start our journey through this game on the Colts’ side of the ball, as this is the side likeliest to dictate the course of this game.

The approach for the Colts has been no secret with Jacoby Brissett under center, as the goal of this team is to play slow (30th in situation neutral pace of play), keep the ball on the ground (only the Seahawks, Ravens, Vikings, and 49ers have run the ball at a higher rate), and primarily stick to the short areas of the field (only six teams have a lower average intended air yards than the Colts).

On the year, the Texans’ run defense (which is not elite, but is decidedly above-average) has held both Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette under 3.5 yards per carry (while getting hit by both Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray when they played the Saints), while Marlon Mack (recent touch counts of 18 // 11 // 32) is used primarily on runs up the middle (where he is most effective, and where the Texans are strongest) and runs to the outside (where the Texans are weakest, but where Mack is weakest as well). Game flow is likely to have a bigger impact on Mack’s usage than the matchup will, though it is fair to expect the Colts to lean a bit more pass-heavy here, leaving Mack with a few red flags in regards to floor. (His big-play ability and red zone role, of course, keep ceiling intact if you want to chase in deeper tourney play.)

When the Colts take to the air, they will be attacking a Texans defense that has allowed the third most receptions and the seventh most yards to the wide receiver position, while allowing more touchdowns to the position than all but four teams (the Eagles, Falcons, Redskins, and Dolphins). There is obvious risk in leaning on a passing attack on a team that wants to slow down the game and run the ball (Brissett has topped 265 yards only once this year, and he has finished below 200 yards in three of five games), but if the Colts take to the air enough, they should be able to find success.

The focal point of this passing attack (and it’s not even close) has been T.Y. Hilton, with the Colts’ star receiver seeing 29 targets in his four games played, compared to 28 targets in those four games for all other wide receivers combined (that’s Devin Funchess // Deon Cain // Chester Rogers // Parris Campbell // Zach Pascal — failing to combine for more targets than Hilton has on his own). Even Jack Doyle (3.0 targets per game with Hilton on the field) and Eric Ebron (3.75 targets per game with Hilton) have fallen into “hope a touchdown lands in their lap” territory given how much this already-limited passing attack is centered around Hilton.

Hilton, of course, is not seeing expansive downfield work (his aDOT of 7.8 shares company with guys like Tyler Boyd and Michael Thomas, while barely separating from names like Cole Beasley, Dede Westbrook, and Mohamed Sanu), but his role gives him floor, while he not only retains his explosive after-catch ability but also ranks fourth in the NFL in targets inside the 10.

When the Colts defense is at its best, they disrupt rushing attacks in the backfield with their quick defensive line and keep blockers off Darius Leonard so he can move around the field and make plays, while executing a communication-strong Tampa 2 scheme on defense that filters passes away from wide receivers and toward running backs and tight ends. This defense has not been consistently “at its best,” however, allowing notable stat lines this year of ::

8-123-1 Keenan Allen
8-128-1 Julio Jones
6-66-2 Austin Hooper
6-103-1 Byron Pringle

The teams the Colts have held down through the air are the Titans and Raiders.

Uncharacteristically for the Colts, a lot of this production so far has come on downfield passes — and while the absence of Malik Hooker can be held up as part of the reason for Pringle’s day, Hooker was on the field for the games from Allen and Julio. Most of the production from Allen and Julio came on crossing routes, flag routes, and wheel routes that tested the communication of this defense; and while these are routes that both Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins can succeed on, it is Fuller who has been used heavily on these types of looks in recent weeks — with eight targets of 20+ yards across the last two weeks compared to only one for Hopkins. Things can change quickly in the NFL; but if usage holds, this is an intriguing spot for the way the Texans want to use Fuller. For his part: Hopkins went 10-169-1 the first time these teams met last year, before going 4-36-1 (on 10 targets) the second time around.

Houston has been leaning heavily on 12 personnel with Kenny Stills sidelined — with Jordan Akins playing 73% of the snaps last week and Darren Fells playing 89%. With Stills on track to return this week, we’re likeliest to see the recent spike in tight end targets dry up a bit, though there is an outside chance that one of Fells // Akins sees usage continue in this tight end friendly matchup. (Fells is playing more snaps, but he and Akins have run almost the exact same number of pass routes as one another over the last four weeks, making this a bit of a tossup on top of the guessing you have to do on usage in the first place.) Stills, meanwhile, should step back into three to five downfield targets, with an outlier shot at added looks from there.

The matchup on the ground has looked good against the Colts, though this defense is a completely different unit with Leonard on the field (he’s set to return this week after missing Weeks 3 // 4 // 5 with a concussion). Carlos Hyde should continue to get touches and will be a bet-on-touchdown play in this spot, while Duke Johnson will continue to spellbind when he has the ball, and will have the ball too little.

JM’s Interpretation ::

This is not a game I want to “load up on,” but the pieces that do stand out stand out a decent amount.

Hilton is a solid play for his role at a price on DraftKings and FantasyDraft that reflects the offense he’s in — and while his price is higher on FanDuel than his short-area role really justifies, FanDuel scoring is so touchdown-heavy that he remains in the conversation there as well. Without a broken play, he’s not going to reach 100 yards — so this is a “bet on broken play or touchdown” setup; but the floor is non-awful, and his skill set and role create enough “broken play and touchdown opportunities” for him to be kept firmly in mind.

On the other side of this game, Fuller and Hopkins both set up well; and while there is at least some risk that this defense as a whole improves with Leonard back on the field, there is “at least some risk” in pretty much any spot, on any slate. With so many attractive high-priced running backs (and more value available at wideout than at running back this week), I’m likelier to land on the more affordable Fuller than on Hopkins (especially as Fuller’s drop-filled followup to his Week 5 blowup may cause ownership to trickle down further), but both players will remain on my “tighter build tourney list” at the front end of the week. And with these guys in play, Deshaun Watson obviously ends up in play as well, with his ever-present “dud risk” remaining in place on the road vs a better-coached team that has had an extra week to prepare, but with more reasons to feel good about his ceiling than to be concerned about his floor.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 20th 1:00pm Eastern

49ers (
24.5) at

WFT (
14.5)

Over/Under 39.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
49ers Run D
7th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per carry
Washington Run O
21st DVOA/25th Yards per carry
49ers Pass D
22rd DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per pass
Washington Pass O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per pass
Washington Run D
17th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
49ers Run O
9th DVOA/8th Yards per carry
Washington Pass D
6th DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
49ers Pass O
17th DVOA/21st Yards per pass

:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.

Oh, boy — look at this one.

49ers at Redskins? Sheesh.

The 5-0(!) 49ers are traveling west to east for an early start (there’s one good thing for the home team) against the below-average-across-the-board Washington Redskins — a team that just notched a one-point win against the Dolphins. And while it’s probably still possible to make a case that “the 49ers haven’t played anyone yet” (given how the Rams have looked lately), it’s not as if Washington is well-equipped to finally put them to the test.

You probably have better things to do with your time than read several paragraphs of me trying to pretend that there might be some way the Washington players are anything but a prayer this week. Only the Patriots have allowed fewer yards than the 49ers. Only the Patriots have allowed fewer points than the 49ers. Only four teams have fewer yards per game than the Redskins. Only two teams have fewer points.

If you’re in the prayer-throwing mood, Wendell Smallwood will fill the Chris Thompson role if the latter misses with his toe injury (though it’s Thompson’s ability with the ball in his hands that makes him valuable, rather than his role), and Adrian Peterson should again be fed a heavy dose of touches (in a much tougher matchup than he had last week). And of course, Terry McLaurin is a football god who has been held down only by Stephon Gilmore to date; though there hasn’t been much in football this year more difficult than “throwing deep on the 49ers,” as they have now allowed only two completions (on 20 attempts) on passes traveling 20+ yards downfield — with two interceptions added for good measure.

The other side of this matchup is fairly straightforward as well, as we have a 49ers team that prefers to lean on the run (first in the NFL in rush play rate — ahead of the Vikings, Ravens, and Seahawks) while splitting touches among multiple backs (Matt Breida has recent touch counts of 16 // 14 // 17, while Tevin Coleman has seen touch counts since returning of 16 // 20, and Raheem Mostert has even remained involved with seven and four touches of his own), and spreading the ball thin among wide receivers (no wideout has seen more than seven targets on this team, and there have been only four instances of a wideout topping four looks) and funneling the passing attack primarily through George Kittle (eight or more targets in all but one game).

While the wideouts have been getting more involved lately (Dante Pettis has seen 5 // 3 // 6 targets in his last three games; Deebo Samuel has seen 7 // 4 // 3 // 5 in his last four), they become the most speculative in a game the 49ers should control — with “volume” no guarantee on any of these guys, and with “guessing who sees the volume” the next step if guessing that volume does show up.

The backfield is actually hurt more by the limited pass game roles afforded them (2.0 targets per game for Coleman; 2.4 for Breida) than they are by the split workload, as this team wants to run the ball, and — in a game they should control, vs a team that is below-average at all levels of the defense — each of Breida and Coleman should be able to clear 15 touches. Breida is the better all-around player (and the better bet for an explosive gain), but the 49ers remain extremely hesitant to use him close to the goal line, with only one touch inside the 10 this year (to seven for Coleman and eight for Jeff Wilson when Coleman was out). Coleman is the better bet for a score.

While there is risk that the 49ers just blow the doors off the Redskins and don’t pass enough for Kittle to matter, Kittle’s slow game against the Bengals earlier this year (three targets) was more about the way the Bengals defense tilts toward a top aerial weapon than about the blowout, as Kittle saw 10 targets in Week 1 with Jimmy Garoppolo throwing only 27 times (compared to 25 vs Cincy), and he saw eight targets on 29 Jimmy attempts vs the Browns. The 49ers should “play” long enough in this one even if they take a big lead for Kittle to see his typical range of looks in a matchup that sets up well.

JM’s Interpretation ::

This is a bit of an interesting spot, in that the likely lack of competitiveness in this game will make it difficult for anyone on the spread-it-out 49ers to post a truly big score — and yet, it also seems likely that the 49ers backfield will go overlooked, while Kittle may go a bit under-owned given blowout concerns. The one-dimensional nature of the 49ers’ backfield production and the fact that a spiked-target week from Kittle is highly unlikely will probably be enough for none of these pieces to be central to my builds this week; but I do like the idea in tourneys (especially larger-field contests) of committing a bit of action to the 49ers backfield to chase either a couple big plays from Breida or a multi-touchdown game from Coleman, and I also would feel comfortable in Kittle’s target floor, which gives him plenty of space for a big day even without a target spike.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 20th 1:00pm Eastern

Cards (
23) at

Giants (
26.5)

Over/Under 49.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Cardinals Run D
10th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O
30th DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D
10th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O
29th DVOA/30th Yards per pass
Giants Run D
15th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O
2nd DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Giants Pass D
23rd DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O
18th DVOA/15th Yards per pass

:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.

On Tuesday evening, I was sorting through game totals to see which ones looked just blatantly too high or blatantly too low — and one that stood out to me right away was Cardinals at Giants, at 49.0; and it shouldn’t be surprising that this total has climbed up to 50.5 as of this writeup. (Perhaps most interesting is that this total opened at 50.0 before being bet down to 48.5 early in the week and then rising again.)

There are a number of moving parts in this matchup (likely the cause of the uncertainty regarding where the line should be), as Patrick Peterson will return this week for the Cardinals, and the status of Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram are all up in the air. As of Wednesday night, it looks like Shepard will miss while Saquon and Engram will play. We’ll approach this writeup with those thoughts in mind, and will adjust accordingly in the Angles Pod and Player Grid if news changes later in the week.

One of the elements that made the Giants so valuable early in the year was the narrow distribution of touches on this team, with only Shep, Engram, and Saquon heavily involved in the offense (and with any two of these pieces becoming extremely valuable if one of the three was facing a tough matchup). From a macro sense, this has disappeared a bit with Golden Tate returning from suspension and Darius Slayton emerging as a legitimate piece on the perimeter — though this week, the expected absence of Shepard and the return of Patrick Peterson somewhat tightens things up again. In his first couple games with the Giants, Tate has played 90% of his snaps in the slot, and last season Peterson traveled into the slot on only 16 plays all year (1.4% of his defensive snaps). Before Wilks arrived in the desert, Peterson was pushing closer to 10% of his snaps in the slot, and it won’t be a surprise if he ends up around that mark this year — though that was largely due to shadowing top perimeter receivers and following these guys at times when they played from the slot. Tate should largely avoid Peterson in this spot, while there is a solid chance the Cardinals choose to use Peterson in shadow coverage on Slayton — by far the Giants’ biggest threat on the perimeter.

While you can obviously bet on outliers, this tightens up “likeliest scenarios” to usage flowing primarily through Tate, Engram, and Saquon in this game.

Six players have topped 100 yards receiving against the Cardinals this year. One of those players was the untouchable Julio Jones. Three of the remaining players were tight ends, and the other two (Boyd // Amendola) were slot receivers.

Tyler Eifert is the only tight end who has not topped 75 yards and/or scored a touchdown in a matchup against the Cardinals this year (and as noted in the Angles email this week: we finally figured out why, with Tyler Boyd having been used on “tight end” routes in that game), and it’s not sneaky or surprising to state that Engram sets up well in this spot. He has target counts on the season of 14 // 8 // 8 // 7 // 11, and with the Cardinals ranked top 10 in opponent plays allowed per game (and sure to put up enough points in this spot to keep the Giants aggressive), we should enter this game expecting Engram to push toward double-digit looks once again.

It’s reasonable to expect Daniel Jones to throw the ball around 35 times in this spot (with upside for more), and with Peterson likely on Slayton (and the Giants loath to throw the ball to Cody Latimer), it’s also fair to expect a large chunk of the remaining targets after Engram to flow to Tate and Saquon.

If not for his 64-yard touchdown last week, Tate’s production would have looked quite a bit different (five catches for 38 yards), and that touchdown was the only true “upside” route he was targeted on (his other five catches all came within eight yards of the line of scrimmage), so you still need some things to break your way in order to capture upside from Tate — but the targets should be there, and a broken play or a score would get the job done.

Because NFL coaches are old-school (and want to spend 50 hours watching film but won’t complement that with one hour looking at analytics), teams have been attacking the Cardinals up the gut relentlessly this year, as this is where the alignment of the Cardinals defense invites teams to test them. But if we take away the game from Christian McCaffrey, the Cardinals are allowing only 3.7 yards per carry on these runs. With that said: matchup is always less of a concern for Saquon than usage (as much as the Cardinals are selling out to stop the run, they’ve still been mediocre in this regard). Consider this an “average” matchup for Saquon — in a good game environment, with one of the highest ceilings on the slate if Pat Shurmur is smart enough this week to let his star back touch the ball more than 20 times.

Both of these teams have ranked near the bottom of the league in opponent drive success rate (22nd for the Giants; 28th for the Cardinals), though both defense has also been above-average at preventing touchdowns in the red zone (the Giants rank 13th; the Cardinals rank 14th), while the Cardinals in particular (31st) have struggled to convert red zone trips into end zone visits. This is the major “risk factor” in this game, as each defense ranks bottom five in yards allowed per game, the Cardinals rank top 10 in yards gained per game, and the Giants have the ability to move the ball in softer matchups (something the field may forget after this team struggled without Saquon Barkley against the Vikings and Patriots). This is a good spot for yards to pile up, and with a narrow distribution of touches on each team, this provides solid floor to go with whatever touchdown-driven ceiling shows up.

In two games without Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald has seen target counts of 8 // 8 while going 6-58-0 and 6-69-0. In that same stretch, Pharoh Cooper and KeeSean Johnson have combined for 18 targets but have totaled only 10 catches for 85 yards, while Damiere Byrd returned last week to snag both of his targets for 60 yards — though this production is undercut somewhat by his disappointing 8.0 yards per catch on 12 receptions across his other three healthy games. If Kirk misses again (as currently projects to be the case), Fitz is the guy from this group likeliest to take advantage of the matchup, with his chances boosted by having the “downfield” role in this short-area offense (four targets across the last two weeks that have come 15+ yards downfield). Ultimately, Fitz is more of a “volume play for floor, and hope for a broken play or a touchdown for ceiling” than he is a lock-and-load option, but the matchup sets up in his favor this week. (If Kirk plays — and is deemed healthy — he should soak up most of the looks that have been given to Cooper and Johnson, with a target projection of seven to 10, and with a floor/ceiling projection similar to Fitz.)

Last week, David Johnson played 52 out of 69 snaps (75.4%), and given how well Chase Edmonds has played when spelling DJ, it’s reasonable to expect this to continue in order for the Cardinals to keep their star back as healthy and productive as possible. While DJ is priced on DK and FantasyDraft like a guy seeing 90%+ of the work, his pass-catching role (recent reception totals of 6 // 8 // 3 // 6) continue to make him a solid piece to rely on for locked-in points. As explored the last few weeks: the Cardinals continue to (frustratingly) deploy DJ almost exclusively on shotgun runs up the middle (where he’s not as well-suited to explode, and where the Giants are a bit above-average), so DJ is more valuable for his pass game role than for his rushing opportunities. Nevertheless, his price is low enough on FanDuel (and his touchdown share is high enough — with five total touchdowns, and the 10th most carries inside the five yard line on the year) that he’s in play on all sites.

JM’s Interpretation ::

These teams are young enough (and uncertain enough in the red zone) that there are paths to this game failing to produce the scoreboard fireworks we would optimally like to target — but with a narrow distribution of touches on both sides of the ball and yardage likely to pile up, the floor is fairly high across the board here, and there are certainly enough paths to touchdowns for “ceiling” to be part of the equation.

On the Giants’ side, I like Tate for the floor and the “viable paths to upside” (though he’s more valuable in full-PPR, and his price on DraftKings and — to a lesser extent — FantasyDraft is a bit high for his actual range of outcomes in this spot, with a 10- to 12-point game very much in the mix, and with most “upside” games from him landing more in the 22- to 25-point range than in the 30+ we would love any player we roster to have), while Engram and Saquon are obviously two of the stronger raw-projection plays on the slate. There are better quarterbacks than Daniel Jones this week, but he’s also in the mix in large-field play, as there are a few non-murky paths to him putting up the highest quarterback score on the slate.

One of the quarterbacks with a higher raw projection than Jones is, of course, Kyler Murray, who has passed for 300+ or rushed for 69+ in five of six games this year. Because Murray is such a “do it all” engine for this offense, he can be considered naked this week as well, in a spot where he’s likely to find a way to put up points one way or another.

Like Tate, Fitz is a bit overpriced for his role and “likeliest range” on the sites where his PPR skill set fits best — though his role is providing him with a high enough floor that he really just needs a touchdown in order to pay off as a nice piece, creating some justification for dipping into this play this week. A multi-touchdown game in this offense is obviously not likely, but it’s not outside the range of viable possibilities for Fitz in this matchup, either. The Giants have allowed the seventh most catches, the most yards, and the fifth most touchdowns to wideouts this year.

The Giants have also allowed the sixth most rushing yards and the third most receiving yards to running backs — and while Arizona isn’t exactly giving DJ his best shot at rushing yards, there’s enough to like here for DJ to be very much in the “floor/ceiling” mix. If DJ misses with his newest injury (ankle), Edmonds would obviously shoot to the top of the slate.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 20th 4:05pm Eastern

Chargers (
20) at

Titans (
22.5)

Over/Under 42.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
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 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

:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.

A great starting point for this matchup (which carries the second lowest Over/Under on the slate, and is one of only two games in which both teams are projected by Vegas to score under three touchdowns) is to look at the “notable stat lines” each defense has allowed this year.

The stat lines that stand out to me the most against the Chargers ::

174-1 (25) Mack

8-117-1 Golladay

8-87-2 T.Y.
4-89-0 Stills
4-70-1 Parker
4-92-1 Sutton

The stat lines that stand out to me the most against the Titans ::

9-130-0 Hooper

4-76-1 Chark
9-91-0 Sanu

We’ll start, then, with the Titans’ offense, as they are going against a Chargers defense that has fallen a long way since last year — with this squad currently ranked 27th in overall DVOA (22nd vs the run // 27th vs the pass), with their recent stretch of games (Dolphins // Broncos // Devlin Hodges) allowing the Chargers to still rank near the top of the league in fewest yards allowed per game, but with most efficiency metrics painting a different picture.

And yet, there is a reason why this game carries the second-lowest total on the slate, and half of that reason is the fact that it will be the Titans offense trying to take advantage of this below-average defense.

The Titans will be (mercifully) turning the reins over to Ryan Tannehill this week — though we should obviously note that this is not being done so they can “open things up,” but is instead being done because Tannehill (who hates throwing downfield) is likely to be a better game manager than Marcus Mariota had been. While we could see a one-game “excitement spike” (in which the Titans call a slightly more aggressive game with their upgrade under center), we should ultimately expect the Titans to remain, over time, in the same usage range they have been in to date. That to-date usage range has yielded target counts as follows ::

>> Corey Davis :: 3 // 5 // 4 // 6 // 4 // 5
>> A.J. Brown :: 4 // 5 // 5 // 3 // 2 // 4
>> Adam Humphries :: 1 // 2 // 9 // 3 // 6 // 6
>> Tajae Sharpe :: 2 // 2 // 3 // 0 // 1 // 1
>> Delanie Walker :: 6 // 6 // 9 // 2 // 2 // 6

With volume so low, you’re banking on a big play or a touchdown from any of these guys — and with scoring projected to be so low, your best bet if choosing to go here is to target a player who can both score and produce big plays (as this at least gives you two “less likely” paths for hitting, rather than just giving you one). With Tannehill primarily focused on the short areas of the field, Brown’s superior YAC ability makes him the preferred dart throw over Davis (though things are thin enough in this passing attack either way that Davis could still be justified if you’re finding a way to justify Brown). There’s also a chance Tannehill falls in love with Humphries in this offense — though given that it’s still just a “chance,” and that it’s a play more for floor than for ceiling, it remains thin to go there.

While Derrick Henry has unsurprisingly averaged only one catch per game, he has carry counts on the year of 19 // 15 // 17 // 27 // 20 // 15, and he should be in line for another 15 to 20 carries in this spot. Henry’s yardage totals — as a one-dimensional back whose presence on the field tips the offense’s hand — have disappointed this year, but if you’re in the mood to make longer-shot bets this week on some rosters, Henry at least comes with “boom” potential, and the workload is secure. A two-touchdown game is not outside the reasonable realm of possibilities, and a big play is always in the cards when Henry has the ball.

If you were to list out the “notable stat lines allowed” by every team in the league (as we did with the Chargers and Titans above), the Titans’ list would be shorter than just about any other team (for the sake of comparison: teams like the Chiefs, Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Cardinals, Falcons, and Jaguars have all allowed eight or more notable stat lines already — with some of those teams in double-digits), so that’s another reminder that there is a reason this game carries one of the lowest totals on the slate; the Titans are not an easy team to move the ball on (eighth fewest yards allowed per game) or score on (fifth fewest points allowed per game). The Titans also rank fourth in drive success rate allowed.

Two weeks ago, the Chargers tried their best to hammer the Broncos on the ground (unfortunately for them, the Broncos had taken steps to fix their run defense issues, forcing the Chargers to adjust and involve the backs in the pass game instead), with Melvin Gordon touching the ball 16 times and Austin Ekeler touching it 18. Last week, however, this usage plunged, with Gordon getting 11 touches and Ekeler getting eight. Gordon played 37 snaps while Ekeler played 28, which is about the distribution of snaps we should expect moving forward. Especially in this tough matchup, each guy needs his price to drop further before being considered a strong play by the numbers — so betting on either of these guys is betting on talent and touchdown upside.

The Titans are solid against pass catchers as well, though most of their ability to hold down opponents comes from yardage prevention rather than catch prevention — with this team shaving almost 10% off the league-average aDOT and over 10% off the league-average YAC/r rate, while allowing a league-average catch rate. To put that another way: if Mike Williams and Hunter Henry were still missing in action and Keenan Allen were set to see 12+ targets, he would still be in a below-average spot, but he would have an underrated shot at still hitting. As things stand, however, Allen will need his volume to spike dramatically or will need a couple busted plays to justify his price.

Only six teams have given up fewer pass plays of 20+ yards this year than the Titans (among those teams: the Bears, Bills, Patriots, and 49ers), which makes this a poor spot for Williams. His 13 targets two weeks ago were a credit to Chris Harris’ coverage on Keenan Allen (as unwilling as Allen is to admit that — saying after the game that he was open plenty, and doubling down on what he said last year after the Chargers lost to the Broncos: “they suck”), but it was encouraging to see Williams grab another 10 looks last week as the Steelers tried to take Allen away. Williams comes with a low floor, but with his average target coming 15.6 yards downfield, he does carry upside to go with that low floor if the targets show up again this week.

In spite of the game allowed to Hooper earlier this year, the Titans have also been solid against tight ends, allowing only a 60.4% completion rate to the position (tight end completion rates generally land around 67% to 75% — or in the case of the Cardinals, 82%) — though you have probably noticed that pricing was set for this slate before Henry went 8-100-2 last week in a nice spot vs the Steelers. Henry is fundamentally underpriced on all three sites for his talent and role, though the matchup is still below average, and he will have to overcome that in order to post another strong day.

JM’s Interpretation ::

As with a few other games on this slate, you could read through the writeup above and find reasons to take on a couple players in this spot — though I’ll likely be focusing on spots with higher expectations for point production myself.

If going here, the player I like the most is Hunter Henry; though there are strategical elements in play here when it comes to roster construction, as Henry is “a good play — but not as good as the field will likely perceive him to be, given his price and what he just did on national television.” In other words: there are strong cases to be made in tournaments that the +EV play is to skip over Henry and hope he lands on one of his lower-end games at high ownership.

The “other Henry” (Derrick) would be next on my list, followed by Mike Williams, and then perhaps a dart fired in large-field play at A.J. Brown. All of these guys “can” reach a nice score in this spot — but given the number of things that need to go right for those nice scores to emerge, I’ll likely find myself comfortable looking toward other spots myself.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 20th 4:25pm Eastern

Saints (
16.75) at

Bears (
20.75)

Over/Under 37.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Saints Run D
4th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O
28th DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Saints Pass D
15th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O
24th DVOA/25th Yards per pass
Bears Run D
11th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O
12th DVOA/14th Yards per carry
Bears Pass D
2nd DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Saints Pass O
14th DVOA/9th Yards per pass

:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.

With this game pitting a pair of lower-level quarterbacks on run-based offenses against strong defenses, it obviously shouldn’t stand out to us as one of the more attractice spots on the slate (there is a reason why this game has an Over/Under below 40.0 and is one of only two games on the slate in which both teams are projected by Vegas to fall shy of three touchdowns). Because of this, rostering players from this game is hoping for one of two things: a big individual performance in a low-scoring game, or an outlier game flow that has this game shooting out.

A Big Individual Performance ::

While the “likeliest scenario” has no players from this game producing a big individual performance (especially once salary is taken into the equation), the players who have the best shot at posting such a game are as follows —

>> Allen Robinson :: Robinson should be shadowed by Marshon Lattimore, who has played well the last few weeks (slowing Amari, shutting out Mike Evans, and keeping Chark to a lower-end output), but he’ll also be the focal point of this offense, and Matt Nagy may be able to do enough to help Robinson beat the man coverage of the Saints. If this were a Showdown slate — with price factored in — Robinson would be the strongest Captain play (though this would be an ugly Showdown slate indeed).

>> Michael Thomas :: on an 11-game slate, there isn’t much justification for taking a higher-priced wide receiver against the Bears; but as we know, the relative weakness of this defense is the pass, and Michael Thomas is unguardable enough (with his role in this offense secure enough) that while a big game is unlikely, it wouldn’t be a total shock.

Behind these two, Latavius Murray would land on the list (assuming Alvin Kamara misses), though it’s obviously rare that a running back posts a raw score against the Bears worth rostering. And then it becomes a long list of players who are thin options to consider even in softer matchups with higher scoring expectations. Tarik Cohen has legitimate upside in any spot (as does Taylor Gabriel, to a lesser extent); the Saints are solid against pass-catching backs, but Cohen would be the next most likely player to hit for a “have to have it” game, followed by David Montgomery and whatever role-driven production he can find in this tough spot.

This Game Shooting Out ::

There are precious few “shootout” elements in place for this game, as both coaches would prefer to lean on their defense here, the Saints won’t work too hard to establish a vertical attack vs the Bears defense, and the Bears offense is fairly incapable of attacking vertically at the moment. But the likeliest way for this game to shoot out is for the Bears to jump out to an early lead. If that were to happen (something like a long play from Cohen plus a Bears defensive touchdown; or a touchdown to Robinson, followed by the Bears forcing a turnover and another touchdown going to Robinson — i.e., if you’re going to build a roster from this game hoping for a shootout, begin your roster betting on a scenario like that), the Saints have the minds on the sidelines to potentially find a way to catch back up within a few drives, which could reset the tone for this game by the middle of the second quarter and have both teams thinking more aggressively. This is certainly not “the likeliest scenario,” but if you were feeling drawn to this game for whatever reason, that would be the best way to build around an expectation of a shootout somehow emerging.

JM’s Interpretation ::

On an 11 game slate, no one from this game will be on my tighter builds, and I don’t expect to find any players from this game making their way onto my rosters as a whole. There are some ways that a solid score or two could emerge from this game, but slate-winners are unlikely to be found, and this game has potential to be a minefield of price-considered duds in search of that upside.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 20th 4:25pm Eastern

Ravens (
22.75) at

Hawks (
25.75)

Over/Under 48.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Ravens Run D
2nd DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
8th DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
7th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards per pass
Seahawks Run D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
5th DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
19th DVOA/31st Yards per pass

:: Seriously. Grow bankroll! Hammer the edge on FantasyDraft.

Ravens at Seahawks is going to be one of the most fun games to watch in the NFL this season — and it’s one of the most enjoyable games to dig into and break down as well, as we have a fairly straightforward setup with upside available.

We’ll start with the Seahawks — a team whose games this year have produced totals of 41 // 54 // 60 // 47 // 59 // 60. The Seahawks get a lot of jokes thrown at them for how often they run the ball, but they run to set up deep passing — relying on the unique ability Russell Wilson has to drop tight-coverage dimes on deep passes, and trying to get safeties to bite on play fakes to create one-on-one looks. The Seahawks rank eighth in passing yards per game in spite of having thrown the ball only 31.5 times per contest.

This week, they are taking on a Ravens defense that is allowing a 7% increase on the league-average expected yards per target, and has been hit hard by wide receivers — allowing the ninth most catches and the fifth most yards to the position.

The next layer here, of course, is that Marlon Humphrey will be shadowing Tyler Lockett — and while some players ‘lower-case shadow,’ Humphrey truly Shadows: trailing his guy all over the field, including all slot snaps. Here’s a side-by-side comparison between Humphrey and Stephon Gilmore this year (per PFF) ::

Humphrey :: 48.3% completion rate allowed // 52.8 QB rating allowed // 3.2 catches for 32.2 yards allowed per game

Gilmore :: 47.6% completion rate allowed // 48.3 QB rating allowed // 3.3 catches for 44.3 yards allowed per game

Tyler Lockett can still hit in a tough matchup (he can make incredibly difficult catches on deep, tight-window throws from Russ), but chances are high that Lockett remains on the lower end of his target range — and with Will Dissly out of action and Luke Willson unlikely to emerge with a big role, we should be able to see five to seven targets for each of Jaron Brown and DK Metcalf in this spot (with David Moore potentially pushing for five looks himself). Each of these guys maintains a fairly low floor, but the upside as the pass game pieces catching the softer parts of the Ravens defense is worth keeping an eye on. (Regarding the addition of Marcus Peters :: there are things Peters does well; but the things he does poorly match up nicely with the things the Seahawks do well — trying to get opponents to be over-aggressive so they can hit them with a big play.)

Volume will continue to be an issue for Russ (he has topped 35 pass attempts only once this year, and he has finished shy of 30 in half his games), but if we expect this game to stay close — and if we expect the Ravens (who currently lead the NFL in yards per game) to put up enough points to keep Seattle somewhat aggressive — Russ carries plenty of upside in this spot that could have each offense getting increasingly aggressive as the game unfolds.

Joining Russ in the backfield will be Chris Carson, who has recent touch totals of 26 // 28 // 28. It will be interesting to see how the Seahawks play things in this spot, as the Ravens are facing the fourth highest opponent pass play rate this year with teams choosing not to attack them on the ground (outside of their breakdowns against Nick Chubb and a couple big plays to the Chiefs, the run defense has been a bright spot for this beleaguered defense), and to instead take advantage of the issues they’ve had through the air. It’s highly probable that the Seahawks still lean run-heavy — but this tilt in matchup elevates the chances that Russ pushes for 30+ attempts (which is really all he needs to make a push for one of the bigger scores on the slate).

We just noted that only three teams have faced a higher opponent pass play rate than the Ravens. The Seahawks are one of those three teams, as opponents are avoiding them on the ground and attacking through the air. This creates a particularly interesting setup for Baltimore. While the Seahawks are actually better at passing than they are at running, the Ravens are a much better team on the ground (first in DVOA) than they are through the air (18th), and the continued absence of Marquise Brown has left this team with tight ends, possession receivers, and one raw downfield threat in Miles Boykin.

Especially if Brown misses, it seems likely that the Ravens test the Seahawks on the ground anyway, as Seattle has been more “solid” than “scary” against the run. If the Ravens find success on the ground, they should be able to move the field and convert yards into points and stir up conditions that will be ripe for another 50+ point Seahawks game. If, on the other hand, the Ravens (who have been fortunate enough to face five bad run defenses through six games) struggle to get things going on the ground, we could see one of two things happen:

1) The Ravens take to the air and find success leaning on Mark Andrews (Seattle has struggled with tight ends this year, allowing the sixth most catches, the fourth most yards, and the fifth most touchdowns) and otherwise spreading the ball around behind the seven to nine looks he is likely to see. If the Ravens are able to put up points, Russ can be unleashed enough to push for ceiling, and this game environment as a whole will remain attractive.

2) The Ravens stall out on their first several drives — first because the run is unsuccessful, and then because they’re not able to get things going through the air — and the Seahawks take a two score lead and take the air out of this spot and try to slow things down as much as they can.

JM’s Interpretation ::

No matter how this game plays out, so much of the Ravens offense centers around Lamar Jackson that he remains a solid play for floor and ceiling — and if you’re willing to trust that a Russell Wilson offense will always find a way to score points in a softer matchup, you could also be willing to trust that Lamar is able to find a way to keep pace one way or another. With this thought (and with the fact that the Ravens are easier to pass on than to run on, and that the Seahawks are attackable through the air if the Ravens are unable to get the run game going), I like both quarterbacks in this spot quite a bit for tourneys. And given that the Ravens spread the ball across a broad range of pieces, and given that there are no guarantees among individual pieces in the Seahawks passing attack, I like both quarterbacks naked as well.

If moving elsewhere on the Seahawks ::

Carson is attractive for his role, and for the potential this game has to see points scored. The Ravens have been tough enough on the ground outside a couple isolated lapses that Carson isn’t lock-and-load, but he’s a solid tourney piece with obvious upside.

Any of Metcalf // Brown // Moore (in that order) could post a really nice game here if Lockett is slowed down by Humphrey, while Lockett can still hit in difficult matchups. It’s likely that none of these guys approach “tighter build” territory for me (and I’d be surprised if I found myself rostering Lockett, as that’s just not my style of play), but they all have paths to upside.

If moving elsewhere on the Ravens ::

Andrews is a really strong option at tight end, and is in the tighter build discussion for me at the front end of the week. I do think both teams find a way to put up points here; and if that happens, Andrews should be involved.

We have an interesting setup with Mark Ingram, in that he already comes with a lower floor than his price supports, as he’s tremendously touchdown-dependent; and this week we have the added uncertainty of a Seahawks defense that hasn’t been too scary on the ground, but that most teams are nevertheless choosing to not test. Because of Ingram’s monster role in the red zone, however (no one has more carries inside the five-yard-line, and only Christian McCaffrey has more carries inside the 10), he remains in the tourney “upside” conversation.

Behind these guys, it’s just “hoping Boykin breaks a long play” or “hoping one of these short-area targets falls into the end zone.” If looking to avoid that level of guessing, getting exposure to the Ravens’ passing attack through Lamar is a solid way to go.

:: Bonus feature: find current NFL Defensive Identities here!


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 20th 8:20pm Eastern

Eagles (
23.5) at

Cowboys (
26.5)

Over/Under 50.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Eagles Run D
15th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O
18th DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
29th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O
22nd DVOA/1st Yards per pass
Cowboys Run D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
25th DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D
21st DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
29th DVOA/24th Yards per pass

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

The Eagles go to Dallas on Sunday night for a fun showdown with a nice 49.5 point total. The Cowboys are home favorites, though it’s slight, and while Dallas’ defense is above-average overall the Eagles’ offense is quite competent and should be able to put up points. It feels like we’ve had a lot of Showdowns that have been low scoring or one-sided, and this one should be a decent back and forth game.

Dallas is the easier team to break down so we’ll start there. The run game begins and ends with Ezekiel Elliott (backup Tony Pollard has not seen more than 9% of the snaps since Week 3). This is a strength on strength matchup as the Cowboys’ run offense and their 4th-best offensive line by adjusted line yards takes on Philly’s 4th best in DVOA run defense that has, incredibly, given up under 3.0 yards per carry this year. It’s worth noting here that the Eagles are giving up six catches per game to running backs, 8th most in the NFL. Some of Zeke’s appeal is going to center on the availability of Amari Cooper, as Elliott saw 6 targets last week after Amari got hurt, and another absence would narrow Dallas’ target tree and could well lead to more work for their star running back. If Cooper is in, I view Zeke as a decent-floor, solid-ceiling play but one who is overpriced for his median expectation. If Cooper is out, I think Zeke becomes much stronger and something closer to a core play. 

In the pass game, I’m going to assume that both Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb are in — they’re both listed questionable, but the most recent reports (as of Friday afternoon) indicate that they should both play. Assuming they do, they get a swiss cheese matchup against a pass funnel Eagles defense that has given up six different 100 yard receiver games so far this year. Both Cooper and Michael Gallup are premium plays, though Gallup’s price in Showdown is only $600 less than Cooper and despite having a great start to the season I would have a hard time playing him over Amari. Both are very strong tournament plays with enormous ceilings in this matchup. Randall Cobb is massively overpriced at $7,400 for a slot receiver who has only hit double-digit Draftkings points once this season, but I imagine he’ll be low owned, so if you’re hunting for something contrarian, Cobb should be. Tavon Austin and Cedric Wilson are the backups for Cooper and Cobb, respectively, and would become very attractively priced plays if either of the two starters does end up missing the game. I’m not really the kind of player who uses Jason Witten, as he’s overpriced for his role and absolutely needs a touchdown to pay off. Blake Jarwin is down to playing only about a third of the snaps and is seeing two to four short-area, low-upside targets per game. 

The Eagles’ run game has started to become interesting with Darren Sproles being ruled out the last couple of games. Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard had a somewhat-surprisingly nearly even split of snaps in Week 5 against the Jets in a blowout (when I would have expected Howard to lead the way with a huge Eagles lead), while Howard outsnapped Sanders almost 2 to 1 last week as the Vikings crushed Philadelphia. The snaps in these two weeks are basically the inverse of what I would have expected, but past that, while Sanders only has 12 carries in the last two weeks, he has eight targets and seems to have taken over for Sproles in the pass game. Howard has 26 carries and zero targets in the last two weeks (which is telling as that usage came right after his Week 4 explosion against Green Bay); he’s a low-floor play who needs to get into the end zone to pay off, and his price isn’t especially favorable.

The Eagles’ pass game is, as always, very spread out. The most consistent volume goes to Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz, with 29 and 24 targets, respectively, over the past three weeks. Both have strong matchups, though I would give the edge to Ertz here, both due to ownership since Alshon had a big game last week and due to Jeffery’s inability to rack up any yardage (Alshon has only three regular season games of 100+ yards in the past three and a half seasons). Past those two, Nelson Agholor has retreated back into barely-there relevance after some injury-driven blowups earlier in the year. He’s out there almost every snap, but just isn’t seeing targets with much upside. Mack Hollins has stepped into the DeSean Jackson role and has averaged just over half the snaps over the past three weeks…but with just five targets in that span. He’s on the field a lot, and at just $400 you could do worse as a tournament flier. Finally, Dallas Goedert has benefited massively from the Eagles’ heavy use of 12 personnel lately — Goedert has been on the field for around 70% of the snaps in the last three weeks and has seen consistent volume (including a whopping eight targets last week!), but is priced at just $1,400. Goedert is, in my mind, egregiously mispriced here and is a building block value play. 

The way this game is most likely to play out is in the air. Dallas will certainly try to get Zeke going, but is unlikely to be successful — the quicker they realize that, the better chance they’ll have of winning. I’d expect Dallas to try to keep things more active on the ground as long as the game is tied or they have a lead, and to turn to the air otherwise. So, if you’re using Zeke in the captain spot, I would assume that’s a game flow in which Dallas has a lead for the entire game. If the Eagles score fairly quickly, we could have a good old-fashioned aerial shootout on our hands.

Some other ways the game could play out:

  • Dallas does have a very, very good offensive line, so it’s not completely implausible that they could force their way to a successful ground attack. It would be unusual, but possible, to see Zeke being the highest scoring player in the game and since DFS players have been trained for years to avoid using running backs against the Eagles, you could likely get him at low ownership in the captain spot.
  • There’s a thing about high-scoring games in showdown: everyone expects them to be high-scoring and builds for that outcome. But, not every projected shootout materializes. Dallas has a good defense, while the Cowboys receiving corps is pretty banged up. A lower-scoring game in which the QBs don’t do a ton is a reasonable outcome here.

My overall favorite captains for this game are Cooper (assuming we see positive news about his health) and Ertz, though I think most of the main receivers are viable options. I will probably shy away from having much captain exposure to either of the running games personally.

Some groups to consider:

  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defenser
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers (consider 1 in the case of Dak as he could more plausibly rush for a touchdown)
  • Pair captain receivers with their QB
  • At most 1 of Sanders and Howard (they succeed in opposite game scripts)
  • At most 1 of Witten and Jarwin
  • At least 1 of Cooper and Gallup (this is a bold group but if you believe the Cowboys score through the air, it’s a near-certainty that leads to one of these two having a strong game)

Advanced Showdowns

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

JM’s Original Notes for Thursday-to-Monday Players ::

  • The Eagles will be fun for tourney play in Showdowns this week because they have so many different weapons they can lean on; but in the scope of the full slate, I wouldn’t be going here unless building around this game as part of an MME approach. Too much guessing, and too many ways for things to go wrong across the board on the road vs a should-still-be-solid Cowboys defense.
  • On the Cowboys’ side, you have Zeke in one of the toughest running back matchups in football, with plenty to like elsewhere at the high end of the running back price range on the full slate; he would be a large-field-only piece.
  • With Amari Cooper expected to miss, it will be Michael Gallup against the Eagles secondary. There were a couple times last year in which the Eagles were able to isolate and slow down a wide receiver on a team that just had one weapon to worry about, so Gallup becomes tourney-only for the slim concern that Philly is able to replicate what the Jets did last week; but the upside is obviously tremendous here for tourneys if you want to chase. Dak Prescott can be considered in tourneys as well.

Kickoff Monday, Oct 21st 8:15pm Eastern

Patriots (
26.5) at

Jets (
16.5)

Over/Under 43.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Patriots Run D
18th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
29th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D
17th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
30th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass
Jets Run D
14th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O
3rd DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
31st DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O
27th DVOA/28th Yards per pass

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

The Patriots visit the Jets on Monday night and are, as usual, expected to score a ton of points (26.5) while not giving up very many (17). The Pats D has been one of the stories of the season with absolutely dominant performances; they have yet to give up more than 10 points in a game (the two game logs in which opponents scored 14 points included defensive touchdowns), and have only allowed 27 offensive points in six games. That is absolutely bonkers, and while I don’t expect they’ll finish the season out with under 5 offensive points allowed per game, this unit is legit and it’s hard to bet against them succeeding every time they take the field. 

It’s hard to think about who to play on the Jets. Given the matchup, every Jets play is by definition somewhat thin. Le’Veon Bell has what I would consider the safest workload as a running back who has played over 80% of his team’s snaps so far. He has not exactly been wildly successful in the run game, averaging just 3 yards per carry, but his 33 targets in five games significantly boosts his floor. He’s the Jet who is least likely to post a complete dud, which puts him in play in cash games, and despite the matchup his usage and role certainly give him ceiling. Going elsewhere in the Jets’ run game with either Powell or Montgomery is hoping for the kind of broken play that the Patriots just haven’t allowed this season as neither of them are really seeing any meaningful volume.

In the pass game, the Jets happily avoid using rotations, so the same four guys are on the field for at least 80% of the snaps. Robby Anderson has the ceiling, though no floor to speak of in this matchup. Except Stephon Gilmore to shadow Anderson here; you’re really just rooting for a busted-play-long-touchdown, though as Golden Tate showed us last week, that isn’t an impossibility. Jamison Crowder is the Sam Darnold safety blanket, with 17(!!) and nine targets in two games with Darnold this season, so while his short area routes mean his ceiling is low, he also falls in the “unlikely to fail” category with Bell and is a cash game consideration. Demaryius Thomas is, in my mind, the weakest play of the Jets wideouts as he lacks the upside of Anderson or the safety of Crowder, and the Jets as a whole will be so low owned that it’s not as if we need to be out there hunting for contrarian plays. Finally, Ryan Griffin will play almost every snap at tight end and could supplement Crowder’s safety valve role against a tough Patriots pass rush. 

The Patriots offense always seems to be banged up this season and every time they get someone back, they lose someone else. This week it looks like Rex Burkhead is trending toward making a return from a multi-week absence (he’s listed as questionable, but after limited practices and a long week, beat writers seem to think he’ll be in). If he misses, the run game becomes limited to just Sony Michel and James White, but Burkhead being active throws a wrench in things. The last time that Burkhead was active was Week 4, but he was nursing the injury even then and barely played. He was truly active in Week 3 and led the committee with 74% of the offensive snaps and 17 touches compared to nine for Sony Michel (James White missed this game for the birth of a child). Brandon Bolden has also been mixing in occasionally to steal a few touches and, annoyingly, touchdowns. If Burkhead is active we have a four-way committee, and it’s hard to trust anyone, but I would believe that Burkhead is likely to be very cheap and is thus a viable cash play, while James White is always in play. Sony Michel becomes harder to utilize with a very modest pass game role and no locked-in goal line work, while Bolden is, as always, a hope-for-a-touchdown dart throw. If Burkhead misses, that boosts both White and Michel significantly.

In the pass game it looks like Josh Gordon is likely to miss the game while Phillip Dorsett returns, making the Pats’ three primary wideouts Julian Edelman, Dorsett, and Jakobi Meyers. Tight end is an absolute mess, with Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse both expected to miss, leaving recently-re-signed veteran Ben Watson to soak up the majority of the snaps. Edelman is, obviously, the safest play in this receiving corps. He’s a high floor, moderate ceiling play; you’re generally having to pay way up for him in Showdown — but since we’re likely to not be using a bunch of pricey Jets, he should be fairly easy to fit in most lineups if you want to prioritize him. In the Week 3 version of this game against the Jets, Edelman had seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown early in the game before leaving with an injury, so there’s plenty of usage and opportunity. Myers versus Dorsett will, to me, depend largely on price. If they’re close in price, I’ll want to prioritize Dorsett and his better-known role and rapport with Tom Brady, but if there’s a meaningful difference in price, it’s worth noting that Myers caught four of four targets for 54 yards last week after Dorsett exited. Watson is hard to get excited about as the Patriots haven’t really utilized their tight ends in the passing game this year, so while he’s a competent pass catcher, he’s also a complete dart throw as we have no idea what his usage will be like. (He’ll also likely draw coverage from Jamaal Adams.)

The way this game is likely to play out is the Patriots should obliterate the Jets. Sam Darnold is back, which helps New York, but the Pats defense has clamped down on everyone they’ve faced so far. The Jets love to blitz and New England’s O-line is battered with injuries, so as per usual, expect mostly a ball-out-quick passing attack from the Patriots that focuses largely on Edelman, White, and (if healthy) Burkhead. 

Some other ways the game could play out:

  • The Pats D has been absolutely elite, but holding opponents to under five offensive points per game isn’t just elite — it’s a massive historic outlier. The Jets have a pretty decent chance of scoring two offensive touchdowns here. The last two Patriots showdowns have seen cumulative ownership of the other team around 150-160% — that is, the average lineup only contains 1.5 to 1.6 of the opposing team. Lineups with three Jets are going to be highly contrarian, and while three Jets being in the optimal lineup isn’t the most likely outcome, it’s more likely than ownership will imply.

My favorite captains in this one are Edelman and White (especially if Burkhead misses). I’m normally not a captain QB guy, but Brady is perfectly viable as well given how the Patriots spread the ball around and that in most lineups we’re going to want to run four or five Patriots, which allows you to use plenty of New England receivers paired with Brady.

Some groups to consider:

  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain receivers with their QB
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers (even consider 3 with Brady, as he’ll almost certainly be the most expensive player on the slate)
  • At most 1 Jet (kidding, kidding)

Sunday night pricing edit: Pricing has come out and it is rough. Julian Edelman, who is primarily a possession receiver, is $11,200, while the Patriots D is the most expensive defense I’ve ever seen at $7,200. Apparently Draftkings doesn’t want us to just be able to stack 5 Patriots so easily anymore. On the Patriots’ side, White and Michel are reasonable bargains, while Brady and Edelman are overpriced for their most likely outcomes but are also extremely safe. The Pats D has been lighting the NFL on fire but at its current price it needs at least 14-15 points in order to really be worthwhile. Even Benjamin Watson and Brandon Bolden are priced up; there is little value on the Pats side.

On the Jets’ side, the safest plays are LeVeon Bell and Jamison Crowder, though they’re both expensive and it’ll be hard to fit them if you’re trying to play 5 Pats. You can always play the Jets’ kicker, of course, though if the New York offense fails there aren’t likely to be a lot of field goals. Ryan Griffin will at least be on the field the whole game and is just $1,400, while Ty Montgomery should get a couple of touches at $1,800.

Pricing is kind of ugly in this one.

Advanced Showdowns

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

JM’s Original Notes for Thursday-to-Monday Players ::

  • The Jets would all be nothing more than “throw up a prayer” options if this game were on the Main Slate, as the Patriots have just been too good for any of these guys to stand out on a slate that size.
  • The Patriots are the charter members of Club ‘Score Lots Of Points But Don’t Produce Big DFS Days.’ I rarely find myself targeting Patriots players on tighter builds, as there is just more guessing involved than needs to take place on a full-sized slate. With that said: in larger-field play (or even in tighter builds if you feel like going there), the Patriots should be able to move the ball through the air; and with the Jets presenting such a difficult matchup on the ground, and the Patriots so thin on weapons if Josh Gordon misses, we’ll likely see a lot of James White in the backfield, with a lot of targets flowing his way, making him interesting in tourneys. Rex Burkhead also potentially benefits from this setup, while Julian Edelman will bring floor with touchdown-driven ceiling, and Jakobi Meyers and Phillip Dorsett are non-poor ways to go in tourneys for savings on involved pieces in a high-upside offense.