Week 8 Matchups

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WEEK 7 ROSTER BREAKDOWN

Point Total: 129.7

(Jump to Games)

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

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

20.9 – Baker Mayfield
22.3 – Tarik Cohen
30.6 – Todd Gurley
17.1 – Brandin Cooks
5.6 – Taylor Gabriel
6.6 – Willie Snead
15.2 – David Njoku
13.4 – Robert Woods
-2.0 – Bills

Results :: Some late-week changes to my original “Main Roster” led to a $25k swing on the weekend, with this roster coming out on the worse end. The changes made weren’t “bad,” from a process standpoint; but they did give me a slightly lower chance of winning, and I felt the effects in the box score. (Interestingly, Gabriel/Snead would still have been on that other team; but Kerryon/Thielen/Colts would have made for 95th percentile results, compared to 60th percentile in tourneys with Cooks/Woods/Bills.)

What I Wrote Before Kickoff:

Boy, does this team have some leg to it. I don’t know if quite has the leg to make it all the way; but seven of the spots on this team have clear potential for 25+ points (with four guys on this team having shown 30+ range already this year). Everything would have to go just right in order to hit something like that across the board, but it’s great to start Sunday with a team that has this sort of upside, and this sort of floor. I’ll feel good heading into the games.

Strangely, it was a long and circuitous journey to get to this team — a team that is frankly pretty predictable, given the things I talked about on the site throughout the week. If the salary cap were $53k, rather than $50k, the build I would have landed on — according to the research and the discussions throughout the week — would pretty clearly have been:

Baker Mayfield
Tarik Cohen
Kerryon Johnson
Taylor Gabriel
Adam Thielen
Robert Woods
David Njoku
Todd Gurley
Colts

To reach the team I landed on, I sacrificed Adam Thielen for Brandin Cooks, and I sacrificed Kerryon Johnson for Willie Snead (while taking the savings down to the Bills, who have a solid shot at matching the Colts). But somehow, I didn’t see this build until I drifted far away from it, running through a cycle of teams on Saturday night that sacrificed the three guys I had been holding onto all week: Mayfield, Thielen, and Njoku. (Note added Tuesday morning: I’m realizing the original “Final Team” I had (see video for the discussion of how/why I moved away) simply sacrificed Woods, down to Snead. It would have been better to sacrifice only one player off the “optimal build,” instead of sacrificing three. Reading that “optimal, $53k build” and recognizing that I wrote it five hours before games kicked off makes me wonder how I didn’t see that at the time. Tired mind at the end of a long week of work and roster-building, I guess.)

People sometimes ask why I build so many rosters each week if I plan to only use one or two or three. This week provides a perfect example.

We talk on the site about each week being a unique puzzle that has to be solved — the puzzle, essentially, being: “How do I squeeze as much safety and upside onto a single team as I can, within the confines of this salary cap?” And by building different solutions for each week’s puzzle, I begin to get a feel for the different ways in which the pieces fit together. (As always, it is something I recommend incorporating into your own process.)

I realized on Saturday that I had not yet built any teams without Mayfield, Thielen, and Njoku. And in holding onto those guys so tightly, I was limiting my opportunity to see other possible solutions.

I spent five or six hours away from those three guys, and multiple times I thought I had a team I would settle down with — a team that included none of those three. Finally, I arrived here:

Jared Goff
Tarik Cohen
Todd Gurley
Brandin Cooks
Taylor Gabriel
Willie Snead
O.J. Howard
Robert Woods
Jets

Again, you would think it would have been an easy shift from this team to the one I ended up on (it’s just pivoting back down to my original favorite quarterback, and back up to my original favorite tight end and cheap defense), but first I pushed this team in a different direction — trying to see what it would look like to get up to Ertz. I realized that Blake Bortles had a legitimate shot at matching whatever Goff scored, and that if things played out that way, the $1400 in savings could be valuable. And then, it was only a matter of dropping from Gurley to Zeke, and I could move from Snead up to Ertz. (This left me with Howard/Ertz — a pairing I liked. Howard’s floor is lower than Njoku’s, but his ceiling this week isn’t far off. I also messed around with using Damion Ratley or even Nick Chubb at that $3600 tag.) For a bit, I planned on just entering both of these teams in the $3k tourney and calling it a night, but I poked around to see if I could come up with any further improvements, and I found the following hybrid of those two teams:

Blake Bortles
Tarik Cohen
Kerryon Johnson
Brandin Cooks
Taylor Gabriel
Robert Woods
David Njoku
Todd Gurley
Jets

This brought back in a couple elements I liked in Kerryon and Njoku, and I actually entered it as my main team everywhere. But as I sorted through the rosters I had built during the week (checking to see if there were any I wanted to enter into the Milly Maker before turning in), I came across the roster above — the one I ended up using. It stood out to me when I scrolled over it as a roster I really liked; and then it hit me that it was a simple variation of the one I was using: Mayfield/Snead over Bortles/Kerryon. If I made any mistakes this week, it’s here, simply because I could see Bortles popping off for 30+ and passing Mayfield at his 24 or 25 points, and I already like Kerryon a bit more than Snead (I’m expecting 12 to 18 from Kerryon; 10 to 16 for Snead). But it just feels right to finish what I started, and to lean on Mayfield — who had been my guy throughout the week. This also leaves me betting on far fewer things. In order to have a big weekend, I only need:

>>> The Mayfield/Njoku connection to click
>>> The Rams’ offense to meet expectations (I get nearly all the points)
>>> The Bears to attack the Patriots with speed

That’s something we talked about on the #OWSChatPod a few weeks back: the value of putting yourself in a position where you need fewer things to go right (while doing so in such a way that you don’t cap your upside!). Mayfield and Njoku should combine for 40, and they can go for 50. The Rams trio should combine for at least 70, and they can go for 90. And while Cohen/Gabriel could be a sink hole if the Bears attack in a different manner, I feel confident in the way Nagy will look to exploit this matchup, which would leave these two with a range of 35 to 50. As long as we don’t hit any big outlier scenarios, a “bad day” for this team should be around 145, while a “good day” could touch 190 — before adding any points for defense. That’s not a true “20th percentile // 80th percentile” range, as there is extra variance added with the variable ways the Bears can choose to attack an opponent; but if we feel comfortable assuming that Cohen/Gabriel will be emphasized, that’s the “20th/80th” range we could expect. Not bad.

Ultimately, I had to sacrifice Thielen, but I figure the wind takes about four points off his projections — so as long as he gets around 24 to 26, the math plays out nicely on expectations for this roster, given what I would have to sacrifice to get to him (either dropping from Gurley to Zeke — which could pay off, but it’s not the bet I want to make in this spot — or getting creative by changing multiple other spots). And Kerryon down to Snead (as noted above) is not a huge sacrifice in expectations. I’m hoping Cooks is heavily involved with so many targets available in the absence of Kupp, and with McVay likely to use Josh Reynolds in the “keep Richard Sherman busy” role. Furthermore, I love the way this protects my investment in the Rams across the board, as I can take the guaranteed points and not have to guess which of these guys will have the best game. Realistically, all three could post 30 on the same week in this spot; and it is unlikely that any of them post a dud.

We’ll see how it plays out, but it was strong process again this week, and I expect to feel good regardless of the results.


This slate is going to be an absolute blast, with an incredible six out of 10 games on the Main Slate carrying an Over/Under of 49.0 or higher (seven out of 11 if you are playing the full-Sunday slate on FantasyDraft), and with eight out of 20 teams carrying a Vegas-implied team total of 25.0 or higher. This provides plenty to like on the surface, and there are some plays to like when we dig deeper, as well — including a few plays that stand out on some of the lower-total teams. This is the sort of week in which you will almost certainly need a big score in order to take down profit (something to keep in mind as you build your rosters), and it is also the sort of week in which you should be willing to build a couple extra teams if necessary, as you will likely land on multiple builds that you feel “squeeze as much floor and ceiling as possible onto a roster.”

Not much more to say than that. With plenty to get to, let’s get to it!

*


Kickoff Thursday, Oct 25th 8:20pm Eastern

Dolphins (
18.75) at

Texans (
26.25)

Over/Under 45.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Dolphins Run D
32nd DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
23rd DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
10th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
8th DVOA/4th Yards per pass
Texans Run D
23rd DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
8th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
11th DVOA/17th Yards per pass

DOLPHINS // TEXANS OVERVIEW

Following the game on Thursday night, one of these two teams will be sitting pretty at 5-3 — with the Dolphins jumping out to a surprise 4-3 record to start the year, and with the Texans reeling off four consecutive wins after their 0-3 start. Brock Osweiler and the Dolphins’ banged-up offense are not getting much respect from Vegas, as 7.5 point underdogs — traveling to Houston on a short week.

This game pairs two contrasting styles of play, as Houston ranks fourth in pace of play to Miami’s 30th. Each team runs the ball at an above-average rate (Miami is 20th in pass play rate; Houston is 23rd), and each team allows a (slightly) above-average number of opponent plays per game. Miami runs the second fewest plays per game, while Houston runs the sixth most plays per game. Miami has been poor at sustaining drives (27th in DSR) and has lived off the big play. Houston ranks sixth in drive success rate allowed, creating a tough spot for the Dolphins’ offense.

The one big edge Miami has is in the red zone. Their defense ranks seventh in red zone touchdown rate allowed, while the Texans rank 31st in red zone touchdown rate on offense.

DOLPHINS PASS OFFENSE

This is the big question mark, with Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills both out of action this week — leaving behind only underneath man Danny Amendola, gadget player Jakeem Grant, and disgruntled DeVante Parker — with Brock Osweiler at quarterback.

Given what we know about Adam Gase and his willingness to win ugly, we should expect a few things here:

1. We should expect the Dolphins to come into this game with four or five “outside the norm” plays (I don’t want to use the term “trick plays,” as that’s not exactly what I expect; but more “unusual looks and designs” that the Texans will not have seen before, in the hopes of throwing them off balance).

2. We should expect Miami to use extra motion and misdirection in this game, in the hopes of springing something free.

3. We should expect a run-leaning approach — even against a defense that ranks second in yards allowed per carry, compared to 12th in passing yards allowed per game.

Hopefully, we will also see Kenyan Drake involved more heavily in the pass game, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

In two games with Osweiler under center, Amendola has seen target counts of 11 and seven — good for a respectable 24% of the total passes thrown. While crazy things can happen in the NFL (see Kearse, Jermaine), we should expect him to soak up the bulk of the targets on the Dolphins this week — giving him a very safe floor. Amendola is averaging a lowly 9.5 yards per reception, so he’ll need a touchdown to make a big box score dent, but he’s as good a bet as anyone on this offense to push the ball into the end zone, and he has the most reliable workload on the team.

Albert Wilson (5’9″, 4.43 40 time) has seen most of his targets within five yards of the line of scrimmage — primarily with jet sweep action, slants, and wide receiver screens — and this is likely how the Dolphins will use Grant (5’6″, 4.34 40 time — though if you ask Texas Tech, they think he ran in the 4.1s (okay…)). Before getting injured last week, Wilson had seen target counts on the year of 5 // 5 // 2 // 6 // 6 // 9. Some guesswork is obviously required here, but the likeliest outcome is five to six targets for Grant — giving him a non-awful floor and big upside with the ball in his hands. It is worth noting that Houston ranks top eight in YAC allowed per reception.

Parker is a true wildcard in this spot. He wants out of Miami, and the Dolphins seem to want him out, so maybe both sides put on a showcase — with Parker bringing his “A” game, and with Miami trying to get him the ball. Absent that narrative, expectations would be more modest, though Miami has allowed Osweiler to attack downfield. Last week, nine of Brock’s passes traveled 15 or more yards, while four traveled 25+. Houston’s pass rush can make deep passing difficult, but their secondary is non-threatening, and it would make sense for Parker to see at least four to six targets this week, even on the low end of projections.

This passing attack wraps up with Mike Gesicki, who has two to five targets in each of his last five games. Gesicki is a talented, athletic, but raw rookie at a difficult position, and has not yet put it all together on the field — setting a “career high” last week with 44 yards, and failing to score on four red zone targets (with minus one yard on his two targets so far inside the 10). Houston has been a middling matchup so far this year for tight ends.

DOLPHINS RUN OFFENSE

In addition to running the second-fewest plays in the NFL, Miami has continued to split carries between Frank Gore and Drake, with Gore seeing touch counts over the last four weeks of 13 // 12 // 16 // 11, and with Drake responding with touch counts of 4 // 13 // 17 // 10. Only four of Gore’s touches in that stretch have been receptions, while Drake has hauled in 16 catches. Drake has three touches inside the 10-yard-line, to six such touches for Gore. Houston has been elite on the ground, allowing the second fewest yards per carry and only one rushing touchdown on the year, though they have been middle of the pack against pass-catching backs. It seems likely that Miami leans a bit more on Drake as this game moves along, giving him a shot at something like eight carries and four to six receptions.

TEXANS PASS OFFENSE

A Miami pass-rushing unit that has struggled early in the season (they entered last week ranked 29th in adjusted sack rate) will have a chance to get on track a bit against a Houston team that has taken the third most sacks in the league, but they could otherwise find themselves in trouble this week against DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, as they have been middling in both aDOT and catch rate allowed, and no team in the NFL has allowed more YAC per reception.

The best film for Houston to watch will be the Oakland and Cincy games against the Dolphins, where each team was able to spring their featured receiver free for some big gains (Jordy Nelson for Oakland; A.J. Green for Cincy) by running intermediate crossing routes moving from the left side of the field to the right. The extra traffic created with these routes was able to loosen coverage enough for each receiver to have a big game, and we should see a similar approach this week with DeAndre Hopkins. In spite of coverage from Xavien Howard, Green was able to post 6-112-0 in this matchup on 10 targets. Hopkins should see double-digit targets this week after dropping below that mark the last two weeks against Tre’Davious White and Jalen Ramsey.

Miami has not gotten hit for many downfield passes this year, but they have given up their fair share of big plays on short passes and yards after the catch. This is how the Lions attempted to use Golden Tate last week, and it is how the Patriots used Phillip Dorsett against Miami. Expect Hopkins to get some of these looks as well, but Fuller should be schemed a few wide receiver screens, and should also be used on short routes on the perimeter (same as he was used last week). He’ll have a shot at some big gains with the ball in his hands.

With Keke Coutee out again following an aggravation of his hamstring injury, targets should be concentrated on Hopkins and Fuller. Vyncint Smith (four targets on the year) will fill in, while RB/KR Tyler Ervin (two catches on the year) is expected to see some plays as well. Behind the wide receivers, the tight ends remain uninvolved, with Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas combining for one target last week in the absence of Ryan Griffin, one week after Griffin goose-egged on five looks.

TEXANS RUN OFFENSE

Lamar Miller is not Kerryon Johnson, but this is still an above-average matchup for the Texans’ lead back. The Dolphins rank 22nd in yards allowed per carry, and only seven teams have allowed more touchdowns on the ground. The Dolphins have also allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game and the sixth-most running back receptions. Most of these receptions have come from teams attacking Miami’s slow linebackers with speed, but Miller does have recent target counts of 6 // 0 // 3 // 3, which adds a small boost to expectations. He has recent carry counts of 10 // 14 // 15 // 22, and we should expect 16 to 20 touches for him in this spot.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

Nothing in this game pops out on the full-weekend slate, though Hopkins is a matchup-proof receiver who should post a solid score no matter what, and who has the upside to post the highest score on the slate even in a slower-paced game against a top corner. Fuller also carries nice upside, with solid floor. Games against Miami always carry pace and play volume concerns, so layer in some added risk if considering them on the full-weekend slate. The upside, of course, is there.

On the Showdown (as always), the best approach will be to attack with multiple lineups — mixing and matching various “likeliest to happen” elements with one or two “less likely to happen” elements.

Floor rankings in this game for me go: Hopkins // Deshaun Watson // Osweiler // Fuller // Amendola // Miller // Drake // Grant // Gore // Parker. (Each of these teams ranks top 12 in fewest fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks.)

Ceiling rankings for me go: Watson/Hopkins // Fuller // Osweiler // Grant // Parker // Amendola // Drake // Miller // Gore.

Everyone on that ceiling list has 12-point (FanDuel) to 15-point (DraftKings) upside. Grant and Parker are less likely to hit their ceiling than the guys listed behind them, but if either guy does hit, he has the upside to pass what Amendola/Drake/Miller/Gore can do.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 28th 9:30am Eastern

Eagles (
24) at

Jaguars (
20)

Over/Under 44.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Eagles Run D
15th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
17th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
29th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
21st DVOA/19th Yards per pass
Jaguars Run D
22nd DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
25th DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
32nd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
29th DVOA/24th Yards per pass

EAGLES // JAGUARS OVERVIEW

It is not in the NFL’s pattern of behavior to send marquee games across the pond, but the boys on Park Avenue did their best in this spot, sending last year’s Super Bowl champion to play the team that should have matched up against them on the biggest stage (the Jags were a too-conservative second half game plan away from reaching that game themselves). But the beauty of parity (some love it, some hate it — you can count me in the first group) is that this game has suddenly taken on new meaning. Each of these teams now sits at 3-4 — and while each does play in a wide-open division, the loser of this game is going to need to put together a hot run over the second half of the season to have any chance at repeating their 2017 success. So far, the Eagles look like the team that is far better equipped to make the turnaround, but this early-morning game will shape much of the rest of the season.

The Eagles have opened as three point favorites in a game with an Over/Under of only 41.5, and while I have read snippets that refer to the Jaguars’ defense as “crumbling,” we should keep in mind that the Jags’ defense carries the following ranks on the year:

2nd — yards allowed per game
5th — yards allowed per drive
5th — drive success rate allowed

The issue for the Jags has not been their defense, but has instead been an offense that has given the ball away 17 times (only the 49ers have turned the ball over more), leading to opponents picking up easy points against this unit. Blake Bortles will be starting again for the Jags, but he does have a history as a streaky player, and while it obviously won’t be surprising if he posts a massive dud in this spot, it also won’t be surprising if he comes out hot — leading to a more difficult game on offense for the Eagles than recent teams have had against the Jags.

EAGLES PASS OFFENSE

In terms of pure matchup, it doesn’t get much more difficult than the Jags, who are tied with the Browns for the second-lowest catch rate allowed on the year (behind only the Ravens), and who are just inches behind Carolina for lowest YAC allowed per reception. Jacksonville has been significantly above-average defending all areas of the field except the deep sidelines. Jacksonville is still solid defending this part of the field, but DeAndre Hopkins, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill were all able to hit for moderate chunk gains up the sidelines, and this is where Alshon Jeffery operates. Since returning to the field, Alshon has seen target counts of 9 // 8 // 12 // 10. Inefficiency will be the name of the game here, but he tends to get his targets regardless, and he can avoid a dud if he is able to haul in four or five of these downfield looks.

There has been a narrative this year that the Jags can be attacked over the middle because Tyler Patmon is the weak link in this secondary. (Patmon also left last Sunday’s game with a neck injury, so this narrative should intensify if Patmon misses on Sunday.) But this has not actually played out in reality, with teams constantly avoiding the middle of the field against Jacksonville and their speedy linebackers — and even when Cole Beasley popped off out of the slot, all of his receptions actually came outside the hash marks, on double-moves or extended plays. The Eagles don’t really have a double-move specialist like Beasley (the Cowboys absolutely hammered Jacksonville on those routes), and slot man Nelson Agholor is more of a one-cut-and-go receiver. Agholor has recent yardage totals of 24 // 22 // 45 // 91 // 20, and nothing in this matchup suggests an outlier game is likely.

The Saints, Raiders, and Bears are tied for the fewest receptions allowed to tight ends this year, at 20. The Jags (who — unlike those three — have not yet had a bye) have allowed 23 receptions to the position. We should be long past the point where we worry about matchup for Zach Ertz, who has double-digit targets in six of seven games (and has nine targets in his other game), but this matchup will make it much tougher for him to perform with his usual high level of efficiency. He should still get his nine or more on-the-money looks from Carson Wentz.

Dallas Goedert has seen matchup-specific usage, and it has been impossible thus far to pinpoint the matchups in which Doug Pederson will look to feature him. But with recent target counts of 7 // 2 // 2 // 1 // 5, he’s a name to keep in mind on the Showdown slate as a player who carries an absolute dud floor to go with excellent point-per-dollar upside on weeks when he is featured.

EAGLES RUN OFFENSE

Wendell Smallwood has quietly out-snapped Corey Clement 79 to 51 over the last two weeks, with 30 touches to Smallwood and 24 to Clement. As has been noted all season: the Eagles approach each game with an offensive game plan unique to the opponent they are facing, so this playing time distribution could shift without warning. Because each guy is roughly the same size (and the same style of player) as the other, it has been impossible to get a read on how Pederson views them from one matchup to the next. The safest bet is to assume a roughly 60/40 split one way or the other, with the fat end trending toward Smallwood lately. Darren Sproles appears on track to finally return this week (though perhaps the trip to London will give Pederson pause — leading to one more week of Sproles on the sidelines).

The Jags rank 12th in yards allowed per carry — and as always, we could take off Saquon’s long run against them and make their number look much better (4.2 yards per carry down to 3.8 — which would be tied with the Ravens for fifth in the league) — but Jacksonville has faced the fourth-most rush attempts in the NFL, as teams try to avoid passing against them. This has led to only five teams allowing more yards on the ground, creating a quietly intriguing spot for one of these two backs to post a solid game.

JAGUARS PASS OFFENSE

At this point, Bortles’ bipolar (tripolar?) act has taken him beyond the powers of foresight and quality pregame breakdowns. We can look at the usage for his receivers and the way the matchup sets up, but results will also be dependent on which version of Bortles shows up. There are basically three versions we could get: Aggressive and awesome Bortles // Aggressive and awful Bortles // Scared-and-hiding-in-his-shell, game-manager Bortles. The Jags would like Bortles to simply fill that third role, as that’s all they need in order to pick up enough wins to take down the AFC South — but Bortles often clicks over to his aggressive side, and while it’s always an adventure to watch, the results are entirely unpredictable.

What has been impressively predictable for us lately is “which Jaguars receiver sets up best for a particular matchup,” as we have nailed usage three consecutive weeks in what is thought to be an impossible wide receiver corps to figure out.

As noted last week, the Eagles are actually a bit above-average on a per-pass basis, but because teams do not like running against them, Philly has faced the sixth most pass attempts in the league. Teams primarily attack Philly in three distinct ways: wide receiver screens // sideline targets on the left side of the field (against Ronald Darby) // double-moves on the right side of the field (against Jalen Mills). As with last week (10 targets for Donte Moncrief, seven targets for Keelan Cole), this matchup sets up best for Moncrief and Cole. Dede Westbrook (four targets last week) is a candidate to see some wide receiver screens, but he’s the least likely receiver to pile up volume. All three of these guys will be dependent on the play of Blake Bortles.

Behind these guys, David Grinnage saw two targets last week in the limited Jacksonville tight end role, playing only 31 snaps as the Jags pulled D.J. Chark onto the field for 30 snaps. Chark’s usage may have been specific to last week’s game plan, but he did see seven targets, going 4-31-0. He had exactly one target in three of his previous four games, and he played behind all of Westbrook, Cole, and Moncrief last week, but his usage is worth noting for those taking deep shots on the Showdown.

JAGUARS RUN OFFENSE

Jacksonville has struggled to get much going on the ground this year as one of only 10 teams in the NFL averaging under 100 rushing yards per game as a team — in spite of Bortles contributing a healthy 31.1 rushing yards per game of his own. This week, they are taking on a Philly unit that has unsurprisingly allowed the second fewest rushing yards per game in the league. Through seven games, the Eagles have faced an average of only 19.0 rush attempts per game — by far the lowest mark in the league.

The Jaguars appear set to feature Carlos Hyde on first and second downs this week, while turning the backfield over to T.J. Yeldon on passing downs. Either guy will need to reach the end zone (possibly more than once) in order to make a dent.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

On the full-weekend slate, I would not play a single player from this game, and I honestly wouldn’t have much interest in the Showdown slate even if I were a regular in those contests. If playing the Showdown, however, I would likely use this spot to simply think about game flow. For example: “What if the Eagles score two quick touchdowns with the running backs? What would that mean for the rest of the game?” In this instance, you would assume that each running back on the Eagles has a solid start and continues to be featured throughout, and you would assume that the Jags go pass-heavy afterward (from here, you could further decide whether you want to tell a story in which Bortles plays great, or if you want to instead figure out what your team should look like if Bortles struggles). Then, you could flip it around and build another roster that tells a story in which Bortles comes out hot and throws an early touchdown to Donte Moncrief. What would this mean for game flow? And what would this mean for who you should roster from there? (And so on.)

On a slate like this, the best thing you can really do is understand how the players on each team are used (above), and then build some variations on your rosters that tell different stories about how the game could play out.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 28th 1:00pm Eastern

Ravens (
23.5) at

Panthers (
21)

Over/Under 44.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Ravens Run D
2nd DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
16th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
7th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
11th DVOA/11th Yards per pass
Panthers Run D
26th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
5th DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
13th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
19th DVOA/31st Yards per pass

RAVENS // PANTHERS OVERVIEW

When I first set up this game in the document where I write the NFL Edge, I said, “This is a good game.” Every year when I was a kid, my goal was to watch at least one game from all 32 teams. This is a game I would have circled for these two teams. The Ravens sit at 4-3 right now, while the Panthers sit at 4-2. Each team is clearly a playoff-caliber unit, but each is also fighting for their life in a difficult division.

While this is a great matchup from an “NFL” perspective, this game is less immediately appealing from a DFS perspective, with an early-week Over/Under of 43.0. The Ravens play at the third fastest pace in the NFL, but they are allowing the fewest yards per game and the fewest points per game. Carolina also ranks 13th in fewest yards allowed and 10th in fewest points allowed.

Baltimore has the edge on offense, ranking ninth in yards per game (18th for Carolina) and 15th in points per game (Carolina ranks 18th again), while each team is above-average at drive success rate (15th for Baltimore; 9th for Carolina). Baltimore, of course, is lethal on defense (first in DSR), while Carolina is easier to move the ball on (22nd in DSR). If patterns from the first seven weeks of the season hold, Baltimore should have a fairly easy time scoring when they reach the red zone, as they rank fourth in red zone touchdown rate on offense, while Carolina ranks 29th on defense.

RAVENS PASS OFFENSE

Through the first seven weeks of the season, Michael Crabtree has worked the sidelines for the Ravens in a possession-type role, while Willie Snead has worked the middle of the field in a possession-type role — leading to an aDOT of 10.2 for Crabtree on an eye-popping 9.14 targets per game, with Snead seeing 7.14 targets per game and an aDOT of 8.5. Crabtree has topped 66 yards only once this season, and Snead has not yet topped 60 yards, but the targets have been consistent, as the Ravens have filtered over 80% of their air yards through Crabtree, Snead, and John Brown.

Brown saw encouraging usage last week — in terms of his ability to be viewed as a matchup-proof guy — as zero of his seven looks came 20+ yards downfield. Typically, we prefer “lots of targets on deep balls” over “lots of targets on short passes,” as deep passes create more opportunity for upside — but given that Brown had averaged over 20 yards per target on the year (leading the league coming into last week), his seven targets of under 20 yards were a reminder that he can be used effectively at all levels of the field. JB came out of that game with a 7-134-1 line — catching every pass that came his way.

Each of these three receivers has such a clearly-defined role that matchup has not mattered much for their usage — with Brown seeing seven or more targets in five of seven games, Crabtree seeing eight or more targets in six consecutive games, and Snead seeing seven or more targets in four straight games (with target counts of 6 // 8 // 5 in the three weeks prior). Each guy has elements in his route tree that play well against the Panthers — but with the Panthers shining in YAC allowed per reception (no team in the league has been better), upside is capped on the guys in Crabtree and Snead who see most of their work closer to the line of scrimmage.

While Carolina has been average in catch rate allowed, only five teams have allowed a deeper average depth of target — with the Panthers increasing opponent aDOT more than 9% above the league average. This bodes well for Brown, who ranks second in the NFL in aDOT, and who leads the team with seven red zone targets (to go with his big-play scoring ability). Carolina has allowed the seventh most pass plays of 20+ yards, in spite of the early bye.

Behind the wide receivers, the Ravens are running a four-way timeshare at tight end.

With Carolina allowing the sixth fewest opponent plays per game, they rank middle of the pack in passing yards allowed per game and in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, creating middling expectations for Joe Flacco in this spot.

RAVENS RUN OFFENSE

Only three teams in the NFL have faced fewer rush attempts than the Panthers, and only four teams have allowed fewer yards — in spite of Carolina ranking middle of the pack in yards allowed per carry. Much like the Eagles, teams prefer to attack through the air against this team. (Last year, the Eagles were the only team in the league that faced fewer rush attempts than Carolina.)

When the Ravens do run the ball, they will be working behind an offensive line that ranks bottom eight in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards (Carolina ranks sixth in adjusted line yards on defense), giving the ball to a running back in Alex Collins who is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry on the season, and who has yet to top 68 rushing yards in a game. Collins is averaging two receptions per game, and can be counted on for a respectable stat line when he scores, and for a likely dud when he doesn’t. The Panthers have allowed only two rushing touchdowns to running backs. (Only three teams have allowed fewer.)

Javorius Allen will continue to handle passing downs, with target counts on the year as low as two and as high as eight. Only two teams have allowed fewer passing yards to running backs this year.

PANTHERS OFFENSE

This is an extremely difficult matchup for a Carolina offense that flows first and foremost through Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton. Starting with CMC: No team in the NFL has allowed fewer receiving yards per game to running backs than the Ravens, and only two teams have allowed fewer receptions per game to enemy backs. Only five teams have allowed fewer rushing yards per game to running backs. Only four teams have allowed fewer yards per carry. No team has allowed fewer touchdowns to the position.

Baltimore has also been elite against quarterbacks, allowing the second fewest fantasy point per game to the position, while allowing the fewest yards per pass attempt, the second fewest passing yards per game, the lowest catch rate in the league, and the fifth-lowest YAC per reception. Quarterbacks have had moderate success running against the Ravens, averaging 16.0 yards per game. Cam will have a tough time through the air and on the ground, but he should be able to at least double that mark of 16; he has at least 29 yards rushing in every game this year, with three touchdowns on the ground (to go with 11 through the air). Baltimore, of course, has allowed only 11 total touchdowns all season.

Through the air, Carolina is essentially a slower-paced, less-effective version of the Saints — with several speed guys (Curtis Samuel, Torrey Smith, and Damiere Byrd) who can open things deep, with a tight end in Greg Olsen who can work the seams and intermediate out routes, and with a big-bodied number one receiver in Devin Funchess. As with the Saints: volume on Carolina away from the backfield and the “big-bodied number one receiver” is a tossup. Samuel has seen recent target counts of 4 // 0 // 1. Byrd has only one target all year. Smith has produced 43 and 61 yards the last two games, but he is still a part-time player and is dealing with a knee injury. Alongside all these guys, Carolina still has Jarius Wright soaking up short-area looks and D.J. Moore mixing in for roughly 50% of the team’s snaps (with recent target counts of 4 // 5 // 5). Because this team is playing the Ravens, I imagine only half of you are actually reading this. If for some reason you feel compelled to attack in this spot, the most bankable workloads belong to Devin Funchess (recent target counts of 9 // 7 // 7 // 8 // 11) and Olsen (7 // 5 targets since he returned). None of these guys boast an above-average matchup, vs a Ravens team that has allowed fewer yards per game and fewer points per game than any other team in football. The Ravens are weakest against tight end (ranking bottom 10 in yards and receptions allowed) — though of course, they have allowed only one touchdown to the position (only two teams have allowed fewer).

JM’S INTERPRETATION

There is not a thing that jumps out at me in this game — and after poking around at the slate before starting the NFL Edge, it appears there will be much better spots than this. With that said, John Brown will surely make my early-week list, and if I go with a multi-entry tourney strategy this week in lower-dollar stuff, I’ll at least sprinkle in some of him for his big-play upside.

I don’t have interest in the possession pieces of the Ravens, as the great tackling of the Panthers leaves these guys as touchdown-dependent options — and even then, it would likely take multiple scores for Snead or Crabtree to be a true difference-maker.

The Baltimore rushing attack has not been of interest to me all season, and that won’t change in a tough spot. Rostering players against the Ravens is also something I have avoided, and it has worked out well so far. I expect to stick to that plan this week.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 28th 1:00pm Eastern

Browns (
19.75) at

Steelers (
28.25)

Over/Under 48.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Browns Run D
20th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
14th DVOA/11th Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
19th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
12th DVOA/23rd Yards per pass
Steelers Run D
1st DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
7th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
8th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
23rd DVOA/27th Yards per pass

BROWNS // STEELERS OVERVIEW

We are at the point in the season where we begin to see repeat matchups, with the 3-2-1 Steelers and the 2-4-1 Browns squaring off in Pittsburgh after their sloppy-weather Week 1 tie in Cleveland. This is a different Browns team, with Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb in the backfield, and we know more about each team than we knew in Week 1 (with guys like James Conner and Denzel Ward reshaping our perceptions of each squad), but ultimately, this game is just like any other on the slate — with two teams that will be looking to exploit each other’s weaknesses in a battle for a still-wide-open AFC North.

Unsurprisingly, Vegas has given the nod to the home Steelers — installing them as eight point favorites, with the fourth highest Vegas-implied total on a slate that is packed with potential offensive fireworks. Each team plays fast — with Pittsburgh ranked 12th in pace of play, and with Cleveland really separating themselves from the pack with the second fastest pace of play in the league. Pittsburgh leans on the pass (fourth in pass play rate), while Cleveland ranks 16th in pass play rate — but they rank ninth across their last three games. Neither team has a substantial edge in drive success rate (Cleveland ranks seventh in the league on defense, but Pittsburgh ranks 12th on offense), but the one clear advantage belongs to Pittsburgh in the red zone, where they rank third in the league in touchdown rate, and will take on a Browns defense that ranks a middling 20th in red zone touchdown rate allowed. This is a spot where Pittsburgh should be able to put together some long drives and punch in scores close to the end zone.

BROWNS PASS OFFENSE

If we take away runs by quarterbacks and wide receivers, the Steelers have been absolutely savage defending the run this year — allowing running backs to average only 3.57 yards per carry (basically turning every NFL running back into Alex Collins), while allowing the fourth fewest rushing yards and the fewest receiving yards to the position. This has forced teams to attack Pittsburgh through the air (only four teams have faced fewer rush attempts than the Steelers — yet even with the early bye, only 10 teams have faced more pass attempts), and this is an approach we should see the Browns lean on, as their 65.7% pass play rate over the last three weeks would rank seventh in the NFL on the season.

This is going to expose Baker Mayfield to a massive mismatch against a Steelers defensive line that ranks fourth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate. No team in the NFL has taken more sacks than the Browns, who rank dead last in adjusted sack rate. The Steelers sacked Tyrod Taylor seven times the last time these teams faced — and with the Steelers mixing up blitzes and trying to force teams to throw deep (by design, the Steelers have faced the second deepest aDOT in the NFL — making up for this by allowing the third lowest YAC per reception rate), there should be plenty of opportunities for the sack parade to continue. This is not the sort of offense that is going to try to turn to a dink-and-dunk attack in order to mitigate the rush. Only the Bucs, Chiefs, and Texans have a deeper average intended air yards than the Browns this year.

When the Browns do dump off the ball, the main beneficiary will be David Njoku, who has a pristine matchup vs a Steelers team that has been hammered by tight ends — facing the most targets per game and allowing the most receptions per game in the league. This is not a fixable issue for Pittsburgh, as their attacking style simply filters short-area targets to the tight end — a matchup that even this Browns coaching staff will be able to exploit. Njoku has target counts across his last four games of 7 // 10 // 12 // 6.

Wide receiver numbers against Pittsburgh look glossy because of the 10 passing touchdowns they have allowed, though they have been merely a middling matchup in terms of yards and receptions allowed.

The best way to attack Pittsburgh with wide receivers is on out-breaking routes and passes over the middle (especially the deep middle). These are routes that all three of Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, and Damion Ratley (or Rashard Higgins, if he returns) can run — so we should expect Landry to continue operating as the alpha, coming off recent target counts of 14 // 10 // 11 // 10 // 15. Inefficiency continues to be a problem for Landry in this miscast role (he has caught only 50% of his 82 targets), but even a 50% catch rate in this spot with little in the way of YAC should yield something like a 6-70-0 line, with clear upside for more.

Mayfield threw a season-low 34 pass attempts last week, but it was still concerning to see Callaway and Ratley at only five combined targets. Each guy has the downfield skill set to post a big game on only one or two catches, so don’t count them out as large-field upside plays (these are the sorts of guys you can throw onto a few rosters if multi-entering, taking them as a low-owned value play alongside an otherwise well-thought-out team, recognizing that if you “guess right” and catch a big play or two, your low-owned value could shoot you past the field). Expect only three or four targets apiece for these guys, but recognize that they could get more. Of course, Callaway has connected on only 41% of his targets this year. Ratley has caught nine of 11 looks across the last two weeks.

BROWNS RUN OFFENSE

Nick Chubb has a locked-in role in this backfield now, though as hypothesized last week: his box score will mostly come down to touchdowns. He won’t always end up with zero catches (last week, we gave him a projection of one to two catches for 15 to 20 yards; and he did see two targets), but big receiving games will be outliers in his role — which means that on weeks in which he fails to score, he’ll likely disappoint. As noted above, this is one of the toughest run defense matchups in the NFL.

Naturally, Duke Johnson did not see a major spike in work last week, either — catching the same four passes he had caught in two of his previous three games, and taking only one carry on the day. Duke has the ability to pop off for a good game any time he touches the ball, but this is a disciplined defense that tackles well, and that has sealed off running back receptions on the year, making this a difficult spot for him to find much breathing room for upside.

STEELERS OFFENSE

Can I interest you in some Steelers offense?

This is one of my favorite stats on the year:

Only one team has faced more rush attempts this year than the Browns.

Only two teams have faced more pass attempts this year than the Browns.

Obviously, the Browns have faced the most opponent plays per game — and while four overtime games has something to do with this, there would only be seven teams that had allowed more plays per game than the Browns if we took away OT (and if we wanted to play that game: two of those teams have had overtime games, which would bump the Browns ahead of them). Any way you dice it, this fast-paced Browns offense is allowing plenty of opponent plays per game. With the Steelers giving 70.1% of their total offensive touches to Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and James Conner, there should be a good chunk of work to go around. Pittsburgh already ranks eighth in plays per game at 66.8, and they project for a slight boost in this spot.

On a per-play basis, Cleveland has been tough through the air, allowing the second lowest catch rate in the NFL and even cleaning up their YAC allowed problems — leading to the fifth lowest yards allowed per pass attempt. Cleveland tries to make opponents fight for every catch, which makes volume a necessity. Wide receivers in particular have had a tough time on a per-play basis, catching only 56.0% of passes thrown to them.

The good news for AB and JuJu is that volume is very much on their side. Through six games, AB has fallen shy of nine targets only once, and he has 11 or more targets in four games (with 16 targets the last time these teams met). JuJu has four double-digit games of his own, with only one game below eight targets. He has 42 receptions on the year, to 40 for AB. Each guy should see a decent amount of Denzel Ward, but each should also see plenty of looks — providing a solid floor on each guy, to go with whatever they can do after the catch.

The easiest position to hit against the Browns has been the tight end, as Cleveland has allowed a 62.9% catch rate to the position, facing the third most targets and allowing the seventh most receptions. It should be noted that Cleveland has tackled well after the catch against tight ends, ranking down at 13th in yards allowed, in spite of all the catches. Vance McDonald and Jesse James continue to “split time,” but neither is really eating into the workload of the other, with each playing 51 snaps a couple weeks ago (out of 73 total offensive plays). Vance is the better bet for a big play or two. James is the better bet for an end zone target. Each should see a handful of targets in this one.

In the backfield, Conner is coming off a 90.4% snap share in Week 6, and he has touch counts of 25 and 23 in his last two games. Cleveland ranks 20th in fewest yards allowed per rush attempt and 28th in fewest rushing yards allowed per game, with the second most rushing touchdowns allowed in the NFL. As noted at the top, Cleveland ranks 20th in red zone touchdown rate allowed, while Pittsburgh ranks third in red zone touchdown rate — a great recipe for running back touchdowns. Running backs have scored more touchdowns against Cleveland than wide receivers and tight ends combined — one of only three teams in the NFL for which this is the case. (Arizona and Miami are the other two.)

JM’S INTERPRETATION

This is the first of the higher-scoring games I have written up (I’m writing this game on Tuesday, but most of the higher-scoring affairs have to be saved until Wednesday as I wait for injury news), so I’m not quite sure yet how the rest of the slate shapes up. But there are a few plays in this game that really stand out to me after digging through the research:

The Steelers’ DST unit should be able to pile up sacks in this spot, with a couple turnovers in play as well. Somehow, they cost under 5% of the salary cap on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, and they are one of the lower-priced units on FanDuel as well.

Njoku should pile up targets again, making him a strong floor/ceiling play at a perpetually thin position, while Vance McDonald and even Jesse James carry nice ceiling (with obviously iffy floors).

James Conner really pops in this spot for me, with guaranteed involvement (he has not settled back into that 30+ touch Le’veon-like role that he showed in Week 1 vs these Browns, but the only times he really fell out of the game plan came when the Steelers’ opponent jumped out to a big lead — something that should not concern us in this spot), and with a strong shot at a touchdown (with multi-touchdown possibility), same as we noted a couple weeks ago against the Bengals.

Landry, JuJu, and AB all belong on my early-week list as well. None of them jump off the page, so I won’t be surprised if they get bumped off down the road; but all three have big upside and solid floor — in spite of being in below-average spots.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 28th 1:00pm Eastern

Broncos (
22.25) at

Chiefs (
30.75)

Over/Under 53.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
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
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 // CHIEFS OVERVIEW

The 3-4 Broncos will travel to take on the mighty, 6-1 Chiefs at Arrowhead on Sunday afternoon in what should be a fun game for DFS — between two teams that rank in the top half of the league in pace of play (Denver quietly ranks fifth), and featuring (on the Main Slate for the first time in a while) a Kansas City team that ranks third in the NFL in yards per game and 32nd in yards allowed per game. This game has been given an early-week Over/Under of 55.0, with the Chiefs installed as 10 point favorites and carrying a massive Vegas-implied team total of 32.5. Each team ranks middle of the pack in pass play rate, and each team also allows an above-average number of opponent plays per game. Kansas City is second in drive success rate on offense and 31st in drive success rate allowed. The last time these teams met — in Denver — the Chiefs won 27-23.

BRONCOS PASS OFFENSE

It is a difficult thing to try to quantify home field advantage, but we do know that Arrowhead is one of the most difficult places to play — and we know that the Chiefs’ defense traditionally plays better at home. This has been an attackable unit since the beginning of last year, and on the road in 12 games across 2017 and 2018, KC has allowed an incredible 27.9 points per game, essentially turning the average opponent they have faced into this year’s Chargers. It has been a completely different story at home, however, with the Chiefs allowing only one team to top 20 points at Arrowhead across 11 games — holding opponents to an overall average of 16.9 points per game, essentially turning the average opponent they have faced into this year’s Jaguars. The Chiefs have stepped up their pass rush lately, ranking a middling 15th in adjusted sack rate, while Denver has been merely average at protecting Case Keenum. Keenum has thrown at least one interception in every game this year.

While the Chiefs generally have an easier time generating sacks and turnovers at home and are better at keeping opponents off the board, yardage does still pile up against them — creating opportunities for solid games from receivers who find themselves in “attack mode” for much of the game. The Chiefs have gifted an increase of 11% above the league-average in aDOT this season, while increasing opponent YAC per reception by 7% above the league average. Only two teams have allowed more receptions to wide receivers, and only seven teams have allowed more yards. Returning to the theme of “Kansas City potentially limiting upside in this spot”: only four teams in the NFL have allowed fewer touchdowns to wide receivers than the Chiefs have allowed. This is a spot to target volume and yardage, and to hope for a bonus touchdown.

In the “volume” department, Courtland Sutton is sadly being left behind, with recent target counts of four and three, after three six-target games in a four week stretch. Keenum has managed to hit Sutton on only 14 of 33 passes so far (and that’s even with Sutton hauling in a couple spectacular grabs), making him a thin option this week.

Demaryius Thomas has seen recent target counts (starting in Week 3) of 5 // 7 // 6 // 4 // 6, and he has topped 63 yards only once in that stretch. As a declining route runner, he matches up poorly against the man-heavy coverage scheme of the Chiefs, and when these teams met a few weeks ago he went 4-24-0 on seven looks. He’ll need a broken play or an unlikely touchdown to provide strong value.

Emmanuel Sanders continues to produce every time he is given an opportunity — with only the Broncos’ desire to lean on the run when they grab a lead standing between him and consistent production. Sanders has hauled in 75.4% of his 61 targets on the year, with 603 yards and three touchdowns on the season — putting him on pace for roughly 100 yards and half a touchdown in any given 10-target game. Sanders matches up best against the Chiefs’ secondary, and nine to 11 targets seems likely in this spot.

BRONCOS RUN OFFENSE

The Chiefs have been awful against the run, ranking 30th in yards allowed per rush attempt and allowing the third most rushing touchdowns in spite of facing the 12th fewest rush attempts. Three of these rushing touchdowns have come from quarterbacks (a small boost to Keenum), but running backs have pasted the Chiefs for nine total touchdowns — tied with the Falcons, Bills, Bucs, Dolphins, Giants, and Bengals for the third most in the league. Right now, it appears that Royce Freeman (ankle) will miss this game — which will open the door for Phillip Lindsay Week. Lindsay has averaged 5.8 yards per carry and 7.9 yards per reception, while Lindsay and Freeman have combined for recent carry counts of 20 // 17 // 13 // 27, and for recent catch counts of 2 // 6 // 6 // 1 (only three of those receptions belonged to Freeman). Devontae Booker will continue to waste the Broncos’ time on passing downs, but Lindsay should soak up most of the 20+ touches this role projects for, putting him in a premier spot this week.

Naturally, if Freeman plays, each guy goes back to his low-floor space, with Lindsay still carrying the moderate ceiling he has carried all year.

CHIEFS PASS OFFENSE

On a per-play basis, the Denver pass defense has been slightly above-average — and with their pass rush coming on lately (third in adjusted sack rate), they have managed to hold the Chiefs (27 points) and the Rams (23 points) well below their season averages across the last four weeks. Both of those games were at home, however — and 27 points from the Chiefs would still be a solid day. It’s safe to add an extra touchdown to projections for Kansas City with this game moving to Arrowhead, creating opportunity for yet another four touchdown spot for this offense.

While the Broncos have actually been “borderline good” against the pass for the most part, it is the long play that has crushed them this season. In the last meeting between these teams (with Sammy Watkins leaving early in the game), Denver sold out to slow down Tyreek Hill, but this started a new trend in this offense — in which Hill gets targeted more when things fail to hit early. Hill tied a career high with 13 targets in Denver, and he has since followed up that game with 12 targets against the Patriots and 10 targets against the Bengals. Hill is getting short looks and deep looks, and his volume is higher than it has ever been — so while he still carries a lower floor than any other wide receiver priced in his range, this floor is no longer back-breaking, and his ceiling remains as high as any player on the slate.

Watkins continues to see reliable usage in this offense, with target counts of 7 // 8 // 8 // 4 // 7 in his last five healthy games, backed by an all-over-the-place route tree that changes from matchup to matchup. Sometimes he is featured on short stuff; sometimes he is used downfield. It is worth noting that when Watkins left in the first half the last time these teams met, Hill assumed a much heavier short-area role than normal — suggesting this was how Andy Reid planned to use Watkins in that spot.

Chris Conley will primarily contend with Chris Harris in the slot, creating a lower-than-normal floor. Conley’s red zone role impacts DFS more for the way he vultures scores from the superstars on this team than for the way he becomes a usable piece himself.

With so many mouths to feed in this offense, Travis Kelce has seen unpredictable workloads, with bounce-around target counts on the year of 6 // 10 // 10 // 12 // 8 // 9 // 5. When these teams last met, the Chiefs forced the issue with Kelce, feeding him 12 targets — though with Watkins on the field this week, nine to 10 looks is a more comfortable projection. The Broncos are a middling tight end matchup, with the 11th most yards allowed to the position. This spot neither raises nor lowers expectations on Kelce.

CHIEFS RUN OFFENSE

The Broncos have been most attackable on the ground, ranking 27th in adjusted line yards and 31st in yards allowed per carry, while facing the fifth most rush attempts in the league. Only the Cardinals have allowed more rushing yards (one more rushing yard allowed, on 42 more carries), and only the Browns and Cardinals have allowed more rushing yards to running backs. On average, the Broncos have faced 24.9 running back rush attempts per game (top five in the league), while Kareem Hunt has 84.9% of the Chiefs’ rush attempts on the year — putting him in line for a 20-carry game against a team allowing over five yards per carry. Hunt has also seen a rise in schemed usage in the pass game of late, with recent target counts of 4 // 2 // 6 // 6. He ranks third in the NFL in touches in the red zone, and he ranks third in the NFL in touches inside the 10.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

The running backs in particular stand out to me in this game, with Lindsay and Hunt both looking like top plays on this slate. Each guy should see plenty of work on the ground with a small number of reliable targets mixed in — and each guy will also be a premium piece in scoring position. (Royce Freeman will be leaving behind three carries inside the five-yard-line — one more than Lindsay has on the year.)

Sanders is my favorite wide receiver in this game — with strong floor and solid ceiling — and I also like all of Hill, Watkins, and Kelce for their upside. I see all three of these pieces on the Chiefs as properly priced on all three sites, with the only potential “underpriced” case belonging to Hill on FanDuel, where five guys are priced above him. As noted above: Hill still has a lower floor than the other guys in his range; but given that he can post the highest score on the slate on any given week, he’s interesting in tourneys at a discount. Hill is likelier to hit in a true shootout, but he is capable of hitting in literally any spot.

I also see Patrick Mahomes as appropriately priced, against a Broncos team that has allowed the sixth fewest fantasy points per game to the position. No matchup scares me for Mahomes, but the Broncos are so easy to run on (especially close to the end zone), it becomes more difficult for quarterbacks to post monster games against them. Mahomes is not a guy I’ll pay up for in cash (again: I always expect a strong game from him — but the likeliest scenario this week is that we can match or even exceed his score for a lower price), but he does carry tourney-winning upside every time he steps onto the field.

Finally: I’m not on Sutton this week. So…yeah. Maybe this is the week he smashes.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 28th 1:00pm Eastern

Jets (
17) at

Bears (
25.5)

Over/Under 42.5

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Jets Run D
14th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O
28th DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
31st DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O
24th DVOA/25th Yards per pass
Bears Run D
11th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
29th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Bears Pass D
2nd DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
30th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass

JETS // BEARS OVERVIEW

Most people probably wouldn’t realize, at first thought, that the hyped Bears have the same number of wins as the Jets — and this public perception is backed up by Vegas installing the Bears as seven point favorites at home this week. While the Bears’ three losses have come by a combined total of 11 points, the Jets’ four losses have come by a combined total of 51 points, with the Jets playing “Good Darnold // Bad Darnold” football. Darnold’s only road win came in an outlier Week 1 game in which the Jets intercepted five passes and Darnold had to throw the ball only 21 times. He has failed to top a 50% completion rate in either of his other two road games (and has in fact failed to top a 50% completion rate in four of his last five contests overall).

JETS PASS OFFENSE

The Jets are further limited by injuries, with Bilal Powell suddenly out for the season, and with Robby Anderson looking unlikely to play this week. Trenton Cannon will fill in as the pass-catching back moving forward (the last time we mentioned Cannon, I believe, was as a potential deep-sleeper in the Week 1 Showdown slate), while the Jets will likely move forward with Jermaine Kearse, Rishard Matthews, and Andre Roberts at wide receiver. Matthews will have had only a couple weeks with the playbook (and just as little practice time with Darnold), while Roberts has three receptions all season.

Making the Week 7 Kearse dud even more surprising was the fact that Darnold threw the ball 42 times, but Kearse had only two targets. For whatever it’s worth, the Jets gave Kearse a locker next to Darnold this year to be a mentor to him, and the two showed a real connection two weeks ago, with Kearse going 9-94-0 on 10 targets. Even with the Jets primarily leaning on two tight end sets last week, Kearse ran 40 of his 64 snaps from the slot, and the only place where the Bears are even moderately attackable in the short area of the field is over the middle. According to Football Outsiders’ metrics, no team has been more stingy to the short right than the Bears, and only five teams have been tougher to the short left, but the Giants are the only team in the league that has been more attackable over the short middle. Kearse will still have Darnold throwing to him, but this is a spot that should land him in the middle of his Week 5 breakout and his Week 6 disappointment.

Behind Kearse, the Jets gave at least 22 snaps to four different tight ends — and they did not give more than 32 snaps to any of those four guys. Jordan Leggett ran the most pass routes of the bunch, but saw only one target. Chris Herndon and Neal Sterling each ran 13 pass routes, with Herndon somehow seeing seven targets (going 4-42-1) on these limited opportunities. In spite of back-to-back spiked weeks, Herndon still carries a scary 0-0-0 floor that Sterling and Leggett both showed last week.

JETS RUN OFFENSE

Chicago has been awesome against the run — ranking sixth in yards allowed per carry, and standing out as the only team in the NFL that has yet to allow a touchdown on the ground. Isaiah Crowell has been extremely inefficient outside of his long runs, so it is worth noting that the Bears have allowed only one rush play all year of 20+ yards (only two teams have allowed fewer such plays). Crow has yet to top 16 carries in a game, and he has 40 or fewer yards in five of seven games. He may see a slight bump with Powell out, but with a foot injury slowing him down, there is only so much the Jets can increase his work.

Cannon stepped in for two carries and five targets last week, and even in a matchup against a ferocious Bears front that had stamped out pass-catching backs before getting beat by the great James White last week, he carries some intriguing upside. As many of you likely recall: the Jets were calling rookie Cannon their “Ferrari” during training cap, as this guy has sick speed in space and can make big things happen with the ball in his hands. His glossy Week 7 line (4-69-0 through the air) was driven by soft defense in garbage time, but he does carry that sort of upside. He likely has only one week to showcase his skills before Elijah McGuire returns, but 10 to 14 touches is reasonable in this spot. (Powell saw 10 to 14 touches in four of six fully healthy games — with more than 14 touches in his other two.)

BEARS PASS OFFENSE

The Jets have been slightly better than average against the pass on a per-play basis, but they have faced the fifth most pass attempts in the league this year, while allowing the sixth most opponent plays per game. This has led to the Jets allowing a worse-than-average 13 passing touchdowns, while ranking middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The big concern in this spot for the Bears’ offense will be that only six teams are allowing fewer yards per pass attempt — creating a difficult situation if the volume is not there. So far on the year, the Bears have leaned run-heavy whenever possible, ranking 22nd in pass play rate.

Allen Robinson missed practice on Wednesday and appears genuinely questionable for this week, one week after seeing only five targets (and looking less-than-100%) in the sticky coverage of Stephon Gilmore. If Robinson plays, he will continue to operate as one of the top three options in this passing attack, with recent target counts of 7 // 4 // 6 // 5, while running most of his routes on the perimeter, where the Jets have been more difficult to attack.

Alongside A-Rob in this low-volume passing attack is Taylor Gabriel, who has shown his 10-target Week 5 game to be an outlier, surrounded by target counts of 5 // 7 // 7 // 5 // 4. Gabriel has a pair of 100+ yard games and a two-touchdown game — attesting to his upside. He also has four games with 34 or fewer receiving yards — attesting to his floor. The Jets have allowed a middling 3.7 pass plays per game of 20+ yards, but most of these (as we have explored for several consecutive weeks at this point) have come from intermediate crossing routes and yards after the catch, rather than from downfield passes. Gabriel is the likeliest player to be used in this way, but it’s far from a guarantee. He should see an extra target or two if Robinson misses, but keep in mind that A-Rob is only leaving behind about 5.4 targets per game.

Anthony Miller rounds out the wide receivers, with target counts on the year of 3 // 3 // 5 // 4 // 7. In spite of his role in the slot, Miller quietly has a respectable aDOT of 12.3, and he should be locked into five to seven targets if Robinson misses.

Trey Burton popped off last week on 11 targets, though it is worth noting that A-Rob has a 14 target game on the year (with no more than seven looks in any other game), Gabriel has a 10-target game (with no more than seven looks in any other game), and Burton had not topped five targets in any game before last week. His big-target game should be viewed as an outlier, rather than as a sign of things to come, and the Jets have been magnificent against tight ends this year, allowing only 22 receptions and 290 yards through seven games.

BEARS RUN OFFENSE

Volume for all of those pass catchers is taking a hit as a result of Tarik Cohen, who has seen recent target counts of 7 // 7 // 8. Darron Lee is really the only Jets linebacker with significant speed, which should provide yet another opportunity for Chicago to exploit a defense with Cohen’s skill. If the Jets pour some points on the board and/or this game stays close throughout, Cohen should stick in his recent range of targets, while also providing a bit of value on the ground (he has four to six carries in all but one game this year — a 13-carry outlier — and the Jets are tied with the Broncos for the most rushing plays allowed of 20+ yards). Give Cohen a lower floor than he has carried the last few weeks (for the likelihood that the Bears control this game throughout, and therefore play a less aggressive brand of football), but with a similar ceiling.

Cohen has been splitting time with Jordan Howard, who has continued to look surprisingly good in the pass game (11 catches on 14 targets — with at least a couple truly impressive grabs), but who has taken a backseat in that category with Cohen becoming more involved (Howard had 11 targets the first three weeks, and he has only three targets since). Howard has topped 70 rushing yards only once this year and has averaged under 3.0 yards per carry in half of his games. As I have been saying since he entered the league: Howard is “Just a Guy” back there (nothing special to his game, but he can get what’s given to him), which perpetually makes him a usage-dependent player. With usage trickling backward lately as Cohen has earned a larger backfield share, Howard needs multiple touchdowns or a broken play in order to really pop. Howard has not broken a 20-yard run yet this year.

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I won’t be going out of my way for anything in this spot (unsurprising, given how many high-total games we have on the week), as I expect the Bears to control the game, and to therefore be able to limit volume for Mitchell Trubisky and his pass catchers. While Trubisky has caught fire lately, one of those games came in a 26-attempt blowout of the helpless Buccaneers defense, and two others came in back-and-forth shootouts vs the Dolphins and the Patriots. With Sam Darnold regressing lately with very little to work with in the pass game, it seems likely that the Bears go a little less aggressive in this spot.

If targeting anything, Cohen and Cannon stand out to me the most, but I will be surprised if we get a true impact game from Cannon, and the usage for Cohen shapes up as less guaranteed in this spot — on a week with a lot to like at running back around the slate. Neither guy shapes up as a priority play for me. I could also see a solid game from Kearse and a big game in a “guess the pass catcher” setup on the Bears, but there is plenty that I like quite a bit more in other spots on the slate.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 28th 1:00pm Eastern

Hawks (
22.75) at

Lions (
25.75)

Over/Under 48.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Seahawks Run D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
13th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
Lions Run D
30th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
8th DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
12th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards per pass

SEAHAWKS // LIONS OVERVIEW

The 3-3 Seahawks and the 3-3 Lions will square off in Detroit, carrying an early-week Over/Under of 49.5 — a high-total game that is likely to go somewhat overlooked with all the “better” games on the slate. The surprise story of the Lions this year is that they rank 15th in pass play rate, after ranking top three in three consecutive years. The story of the Seahawks is similar, of course, as they rank dead last in the NFL this year in pass play rate — a trend that may shift slightly over the next few weeks, with Russell Wilson hopefully healed up a bit since the bye, though with Brian Schottenheimer calling the plays for the Seahawks, this will remain a run-heavy team through the remainder of the year.

The weakness of each defense has been on the ground, with the Lions allowing the most yards per carry in the league, and with the Seahawks allowing the eighth most yards per carry. Each team is above-average in preventing opponent plays (Seattle ranks 10th in fewest opponent plays per game; Detroit ranks fifth), while Detroit has faced a pass play rate of only 56.5% (this would rank 24th in the NFL on offense), and Seattle has faced a pass play rate of 57.9% (this aggregate pass play rate would rank 20th if it belonged to a single offense). With each team also playing at a middling pace (Seattle ranks 18th and Detroit ranks 16th — though the Lions rank all the way down at 31st in situation neutral pace), a true shootout is unlikely in this environment, and if this game leans any direction, it leans toward the Under. Seattle, in particular, has been steadily improving on defense — now ranking third in DVOA against the pass and 12th in DVOA against the run.

SEAHAWKS PASS OFFENSE

Detroit has not been a shy-away matchup for opposing passing attacks, but the Lions have been so bad against the run and have done such a strong job limiting opponent plays, they have actually faced the fewest pass attempts in the NFL. Considering that the Seahawks have 31 fewer pass attempts than any other team in the league this year (with an impossibly low 27.5 pass attempts per game), it will be very difficult to get excited about this passing attack. In his last four games, Russ has pass attempt totals of 26 // 26 // 21 // 23. He has topped 200 yards in only one of his last four games.

Even with the low passing volume, the Seahawks have managed to spread the ball around, with Tyler Lockett seeing a disappointing 20.8% of the available targets on this team over his last four games, and with Doug Baldwin mixing in target counts since his return of 7 // 1 // 8. David Moore has seen nine total targets across his last three games (popping with three touchdowns in that stretch — but failing to top 47 yards in any of those games), while Brandon Marshall has seen five wasted looks in Seattle’s last three matchups as well. Ed Dickson projects to return this week at tight end, further adding bodies for Russ to spread the love to in this low-volume attack.

No team in football has allowed fewer receptions to wide receivers than the Lions, and only the Jaguars and Seahawks have allowed fewer yards.

If you feel compelled to go here, Baldwin is the best bet for valuable volume — but we should keep in mind that he only topped 100 yards twice last year, on a team that was passing the ball a lot more often (Baldwin had four games of double-digit targets in 2017). His main value comes from touchdowns (eight scores last year), and Detroit has been middling in touchdowns allowed to wide receivers, with seven. A bet on Baldwin is a bet on him adding a touchdown to his volume — not an awful bet, as long as the seven to nine targets are there. Baldwin is at least priced down at 11% or less of the salary cap on all three sites.

SEAHAWKS RUN OFFENSE

The fear in rostering Seattle pass catchers is that this offense will continue to pour all their attention into the ground game, with this team carrying an unbelievably low 42.1% pass play rate over their last three games. To put that in perspective: no team has finished below 50% in the last two years, and only Buffalo in 2015 (49.9%) has finished below 50% in the last three years. This team wants to run the ball — and that is exactly how teams have attacked Detroit throughout the year.

Detroit has recognized this, of course, and they went out and traded for Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the Giants — one of the premier run-cloggers in the league. But Snacks is one guy, and this unit as a whole comes into Week 8 ranked bottom two in all three of adjusted line yards, yards allowed per carry, and rushing yards allowed per game.

The reliable good news may end there. While Detroit has been beatable across the entire defensive line, the Seahawks have only been above-average when running right up the gut — where Snacks will make a difference directly. The bye week (and everything we know about Pete Carroll) also introduces some concern that this team will indeed turn into a three-way timeshare with Rashaad Penny more involved (or even some concern that Penny will unexpectedly take over for Mike Davis or Chris Carson; when it comes to Carroll, who really knows?).

All of that is simply speculation, of course. The likeliest scenario is that the Seahawks run the ball around 30 to 35 times, and that roughly 18 to 22 of these carries go to Carson while Davis cleans up the rest. Carson is not schemed targets in the pass game and is unlikely to top two or three looks in any given week, but if he indeed sees 20+ carries in this spot, he does warrant low-floor, solid-upside consideration as a yardage-and-touchdown back. There is at least some chance that Sunday ends and the masses find themselves saying, “Wow, the Lions were allowing the third most rushing yards per game to running backs; how did I not consider Carson?”

LIONS PASS OFFENSE

Seattle has been strong against the pass this year, ranking third in DVOA and fourth in yards allowed per pass attempt, while facing the fourth fewest pass attempts in the league. Overall, Seattle has had a soft schedule for passing attacks (Denver // Chicago // Dallas // Arizona // L.A. Rams // Oakland), but they have excelled primarily by forcing the third-lowest average depth of target in the league — which is something they have maintained through all matchups. When the Rams faced Seattle, Goff threw only two passes of 20+ yards (one fell incomplete, and one was intercepted). Goff threw five such passes the previous game (completing four, with three going for touchdowns) and threw another four the next game. This is not a defense that teams are testing deep.

So far this year, Marvin Jones has been targeted primarily downfield, with an aDOT of 15.3. He has not topped six targets in any of his last four games, and he and Matthew Stafford have connected on only 19 of 37 attempts (51.4%).

Kenny Golladay has seen erratic usage, with target counts of 12 // 9 // 7 // 4 // 9 // 2, and he has a role that is more “downfield” than would be optimal in this matchup. He does run enough crossing routes to create opportunities for mix-ups in coverage, and he projects to see six to eight looks, giving him some upside to go with his iffy floor.

The guy likeliest to pile up looks is Golden Tate, as Seattle is best attacked on underneath routes, and they have sprung leaks in YAC allowed at times — ranking sixth worst in the league in YAC per reception rate allowed, increasing the league-average YAC/R by more than eight percent. Tate has a surprisingly middling xYAC/R of 5.8, but we know the upside he brings with the ball in his hands. With the Lions trending away from their pass-heavy offense, Tate has seen target counts in his last four games of 8 // 8 // 7 // 6. The Jaguars are the only team that has allowed fewer passing yards to wide receivers than the Seahawks.

LIONS RUN OFFENSE

Since Jim Bob Cooter took over as the offensive coordinator of the Lions partway through the 2015 season, this has been one of the pass-heaviest offenses in the league — and they started out that way this year, with Stafford throwing 46 and 53 times in the Lions’ first two games. Part of that was fueled by game flow…but particularly in Week 1 (the 17-48 blowout loss to the Jets), the game flow was fueled by Stafford’s poor play (four interceptions). It seems likely that rookie head coach Matt Patricia made an executive decision at that point that the team would focus more on the run — as the Lions have since shifted, with Stafford building pass attempt totals of only 36 // 30 // 26 // 22, and with the Lions going 3-1 in that stretch (with their lone loss coming by two points at Dallas). Unless this game gets out of hand (which is not the likeliest scenario), the Lions project to continue leaning on the run. And with Theo Riddick set to miss another game, that means we should see another healthy dose of Kerryon Johnson.

Kerryon played 59.4% of the snaps last week (up from 46.8% in Week 5 and 37.0% in Week 4), carrying the ball 19 times and adding two additional receptions. The Lions quietly rank a respectable 12th in adjusted line yards, and they should do fine against a Seattle defense that ranks 14th. The Seahawks have allowed 4.0 yards per carry to running backs (a solid mark), and only nine teams have allowed fewer yards to the position — indicating that this is not quite the slam dunk that Miami was last week (4.5 YPC allowed; the third most yards allowed to the position — with nine RB touchdowns allowed, compared to five allowed by Seattle), but the worst case for Kerryon should still be a solid game for the price, and he has strong upside for the price as well.

The best deal on Kerryon comes on FantasyDraft, where he costs 9.5% of the salary cap (compared to 10.6% on DK and 11.5% on FanDuel).

JM’S INTERPRETATION

I don’t expect to have any interest in the Seahawks’ passing attack, though it won’t be surprising if Baldwin posts a solid game for his price. (He’s worth a shot in tourneys. But his usage and floor are less certain than I would optimally like to target.)

As for the rushing attack of the Seahawks: there is a lot more value available this week than there was a couple weeks ago when Carson was worth considering in a similar matchup against the Raiders (a matchup that got derailed by the blowout nature of the game, and by Penny soaking up the garbage time work), so he obviously doesn’t stand out, but it won’t be a surprise if he posts a solid game.

I won’t be interested in the Detroit passing attack, but I’ll absolutely add Kerryon Johnson to my early-week list, and I’ll see where he ends up for me as the week moves along. As of this writing, I only have one “Main Slate” game left to research, so I have a pretty strong feel for the slate, and I suspect I will be looking for a way to pay up for at least two of Gurley // Saquon // Conner // Hunt, and I suspect Lindsay will be my favorite underpriced play (assuming Freeman misses for the Broncos). That would squeeze Kerryon off my main team — but if I’m wrong, and I decide to pay down at multiple RB spots (or Lindsay shifts down my list for some reason), Kerryon will be in the conversation alongside Marlon Mack, and above a couple other guys I “don’t hate” for their lower-floor, solid upside in Adrian Peterson and Chris Carson.


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 28th 1:00pm Eastern

Bucs (
25.75) at

Bengals (
29.25)

Over/Under 55.0

Tweet
Notes

Key Matchups
Buccaneers Run D
3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
27th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D
1st DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
26th DVOA/13th Yards per pass
Bengals Run D
23rd DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O
6th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
16th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O
9th DVOA/8th Yards per pass

BUCCANEERS // BENGALS OVERVIEW

Buccaneers // Bengals sets up as a fun game between two teams that started the season hot and now need a win in order to maintain a straight shot at a playoff berth, with the 3-3 Bucs traveling to take on the 4-3 Bengals. The Bengals are the better all-around team and have been installed as early-week 4.5 point favorites, but offense should be a factor on both sides of this game. The Bengals rank sixth in drive success rate on offense, while the Bucs rank fifth. These teams rank 30th (Cincy) and 28th (Tampa) in drive success rate allowed. Each defense has also been poor in the red zone, with Tampa allowing the highest red zone touchdown rate in the league, and with Cincy allowing the eighth highest. The Bengals rank second in red zone touchdown offense (the Bucs rank 13th).

These teams are also generous in yards allowed per game (Tampa ranks 29th; Cincy ranks 31st) and points allowed per game (Tampa :: 32nd // Cincy :: 28th). Tampa has piled up the most yards per game in the league (the Bengals surprisingly rank 25th in this category — due primarily to them ranking 27th in plays per game, compared to ninth for the Bucs), and each team ranks top 12 in points per game.

This matchup should yield plenty of sustained drives with some splash plays mixed in (each team ranks in the top eight in “most rush plays of 20+ yards allowed” and “most pass plays of 20+ yards allowed”), to go with very few punts and a good chunk of scoring.

BUCCANEERS PASS OFFENSE

The Buccaneers will take on a Cincinnati pass defense that excels at nothing and is poor at nothing — ranking middle of the pack in aDOT, catch rate allowed, and YAC/R allowed. The Bengals have allowed the sixth most receptions and the sixth most yards to wide receivers (driven largely by the Bengals allowing the third most plays per game), but they have allowed only seven touchdowns to wideouts — an average of one per game. The Bengals typically rush only four guys, hoping to get pressure while the extra bodies in coverage clog up the back end, but too often quarterbacks are finding time for a receiver to peel open through the zone, with Cincy ranking 19th in adjusted sack rate. The Bucs’ line has held up fine this year, ranking 13th in adjusted sack rate. Jameis Winston (first in the NFL in average intended air yards) should have enough time throughout this game to look downfield to his lethal quartet of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, DeSean Jackson, and O.J. Howard.

Ryan Fitzpatrick started this year with three straight 400-yard passing games, and since the game against the Bears in which Fitz and Jameis split time, Jameis has contributed yardage totals of 395 and 365. Five of seven teams have passed for 300+ yards against the Bengals this year, creating plenty of room for optimism in this spot for the visiting offense.

For the third consecutive week, Howard and Godwin run the routes that match up best against the opposing defense. Across the last two games, these guys posted the following stat lines:

:: Godwin — 6-56-1 // 5-59-0
:: Howard — 4-62-1 // 5-67-0

These lines don’t stand out against what Godwin and Howard have done in other matchups this year, but this matchup should solidify floor for each player, even in this pass attack that has four guys who genuinely command targets (with two additional guys — in Cameron Brate and Adam Humphries — who are better than most people realize, and who have a not-sexy-for-DFS, but valuable-in-real-life role in this offense).

The other two who command targets are Jackson and Evans. Only five teams have allowed more pass plays of 20+ yards than the Bengals, which bodes well for each of these guys — with Jackson boasting the fourth deepest aDOT in the NFL, and with Evans joining Jackson with eight receptions of 20+ yards (tied for 13th most in the league). Jackson has seen target counts on the year of 5 // 4 // 5 // 8 // 9 // 5, and he has maintained a respectable floor even in the games he has failed to hit — with only one dud on the year. It is genuinely impossible to know for certain the spots in which DJax will hit; but this is an average to above-average spot for him, and he pairs his respectable floor with above-average ceiling.

Evans is usually a tough sell for me, as I prefer to pay up for guys who can provide fantasy points in multiple ways (i.e., yards after the catch — which Evans does not provide, annually ranking near the bottom of the league in YAC per reception), but as a “yardage and touchdown” guy, this is as good a spot as any for him to hit. This shapes up as a high-volume spot for the Bucs’ passing attack as a whole, which will give Evans a chance to push for double-digit looks. As always, he carries multi-touchdown potential — which is primarily what we are targeting when taking a shot with him.

Humphries has seen more downfield looks with Jameis under center, but he is still the “short route” guy in this offense, giving him the least upside of the bunch. Brate is heavily touchdown-dependent, with three touchdowns on the season, but with zero games above four targets.

BUCCANEERS RUN OFFENSE

Peyton Barber missed practice on Wednesday with an unspecified injury — though our assessment of this spot shouldn’t change much from one back to the other (