Week 8 Matchups

If we take out the game between the Falcons and Seahawks (which is currently without a line as Vegas awaits news on Matt Ryan), there are 11 games on the slate with a vote from Vegas in hand. In eight of those games, the favored team is favored by 5.5 or more. The Over/Under in the remaining games currently sit at 40.0, 43.5, and 46.0. The game with the 46.0 total is Bucs at Titans.

That’s the sort of week this is. Five of the 24 teams on the main slate have a Vegas-implied team total of 28.0 or higher, but all of those teams are expected to win fairly easily, which removes some of our opportunities for a shootout to materialize. (I.e., it’s easy for players in those games to produce, but it’s more difficult for slate-breakers to materialize, as shootouts open multiple additional paths to such scores.) And in the games expected to remain close, none are expected to light up the scoreboard.

How we use that information to our advantage will take form throughout the week as we sort through each game.

Here are some quick-hit, birds-eye thoughts on each game to help us get started ::

Seahawks at Falcons ::

  • Russ can light fire to this matchup, and the Falcons run defense is underrated, but the Seahawks won’t unleash Russ unless they have to; if Atlanta can’t score, it may not matter how soft the matchup is
  • If Ryan plays and is truly healthy, this becomes the likeliest spot on the slate for a shootout

Buccaneers at Titans ::

  • An underrated shootout spot of its own
  • Trying to run on the Bucs is like trying to score on the Patriots, and if Tennessee realizes this and begins to pass, they have the pieces for a nice game
  • Tough matchup for Jameis, but they’ll remain aggressive, and if anything hits downfield, it could flip a switch on this game

Cardinals at Saints ::

  • Potential return of Brees and Kamara; this game has very different looks depending on how injury news shakes out
  • There is a chance for the Saints pass rush to overwhelm Kyler, but ownership should plummet after the dud, and the upside remains

Bengals at Rams ::

  • Zac Taylor takes on Sean McVay; and right now the protege’s offense is doing nothing well: the line is a mess, they can’t run, they can’t get open, and they can’t catch the ball when they do
  • This game sets up perfectly for the Rams to hide Jared Goff and hammer the Bengals on the ground, but the Rams line and run game has looked nothing like last year’s elite unit

Jets at Jaguars ::

  • The Jets offense has explosive upside with Darnold under center (we’ve only seen them against strong to elite defenses so far: the Bills, Cowboys, and Patriots), but solid pass rushes can throw a wrench into what Darnold is able to do
  • With the Jets filtering opponents to the air and the Jags pass defense not as fearsome as it was the last couple years, this is another sneaky shootout spot…
  • Though with these young offenses and strong front sevens, this game could also run off the rails in a hurry

Eagles at Bills ::

  • Two of the most adaptable offenses in the NFL; the matchups point the Eagles offense toward the ground and the Bills offense toward the air
  • Can Josh Allen be pinpoint enough to take advantage of the disciplined but talent-low Eagles secondary?

Chargers at Bears ::

  • Two teams that are falling apart — and so many different ways this game could viably play out
  • The pieces for a low-scoring game are obviously in place here, but the pieces for a shootout are quietly in place as well (big play weapons, and offensive-minded coaches willing to use those weapons aggressively if the game develops that way)

Giants at Lions ::

  • A great spot for the Lions to ride Ty Johnson, but it’s not outside the realm of realistic possibilities that Matt Patricia dunks on everyone and turns this backfield into some sort of timeshare
  • If the Giants can keep this game close, they could force the Lions into another big game through the air; but can the Giants keep this game close?

Raiders at Texans ::

  • The Texans are best against rushing attacks and tight ends, and are worst at defending wide receivers — an interesting setup for this Raiders offense that has funneled action through their rushing attack and tight end
  • The Raiders continue to slow down the run and get torched through the air; three-wide sets for the Texans this week should feature DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills, and Keke Coutee

Panthers at 49ers ::

  • The Panthers will try to move the ball against San Francisco on the ground; the matchup is tough for Christian McCaffrey, but this is a great spot for volume to pile up again
  • There is a fairly wide tributary for this game in which it is among the lowest-scoring on the slate, especially as the Panthers filter action to the ground as well, where the 49ers prefer to focus

Browns at Patriots ::

  • Players don’t really get “open” against the Patriots, so it is up to a quarterback to be willing to fire the ball into tight windows — something Baker Mayfield is very willing to do; he could make a couple big plays in this one, but there could be some disaster plays as well
  • The Browns have been easiest to attack on the ground and in the short areas of the field, which lines up well with how the Patriots prefer to attack

Broncos at Colts ::

  • The Colts are strong enough against the run that they may be able to force the Broncos to the air
  • Ultimately, of course, neither team in this matchup has any real desire to be aggressive, so most paths to a high-scoring affair get choked off pretty quickly

Packers at Chiefs :: FDraft ::

  • Teams have preferred to attack the Chiefs on the ground where they are far softer
  • The Packers prefer to run…
  • But don’t put it past Rodgers to take some shots if Adams returns
  • Andy Reid will have cooked up something (likely run game related) to have his offense humming without Mahomes, and it isn’t a crazy bet to assume a Chiefs running back pops off in this spot

Kickoff Thursday, Oct 24th 8:20pm Eastern

WFT (
12.5) at

Vikings (
29.5)

Over/Under 42.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Washington Run D
17th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O
2nd DVOA/6th Yards per carry
Washington Pass D
6th DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O
20th DVOA/22nd Yards per pass
Vikings Run D
27th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Washington Run O
21st DVOA/25th Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D
8th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Washington Pass O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per pass

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

The woeful Redskins take on the Vikings in another exciting island game matchup (seriously, what is with the island games this year?), with the Vikings 16 point home favorites in a 42 point total game. Yes, that means the Vikings have a 29 point team total and the Redskins are projected to score….13 points (and that might be a stretch). This game also has multiple important injury situations to pick through.

Let’s start with the Vikings’ run game and the obvious smash play: Dalvin Cook. As a 16 point home favorite, Cook is going to be the most popular play on the slate, and for good reason. But, it’s worth noting that the Vikings don’t really want to give Cook a massive workload; they usually keep him in the 21-23 touch range with an upside this season of 27. He’s clearly a smash play as a massive home favorite in a good matchup (Washington is 18th in run defense DVOA) with pass game involvement. He’s also $13,000, which is an absolutely massive price in a Showdown, so there is at least some merit in considering a fade and hoping the touchdowns go a different way. In blowout scenarios, rather than just continuing to feed Cook, the Vikings have handed reasonable workloads to backup Alexander Mattison. This has resulted in as many as 14 carries, though he only has 1 target on the season and would basically need a touchdown to pay off. In a real blowout scenario, though, a touchdown is not terribly unlikely, and it’s possible for Cook to smash early and then Mattison to grab another touchdown late, so they can both succeed together.

In the pass game, at the start of the week it looks more likely than not that Adam Thielen misses. If Thielen plays, the Vikings’ pass offense is what it always is: incredibly concentrated on Thielen and Stefon Diggs, with just scraps available for Kyle Rudolph at tight end and Bisi Johnson as the slot receiver, and with overall volume concerns in a run-first offense. Even in the last three games in which the Vikings have tried to pacify their star receivers by feeding them some volume, Kirk Cousins has only attempted 27, 29, and 34 passes. It’s hard to see the lowly Redskins forcing Minnesota to throw more than this. If Thielen is active, both he and Diggs are overpriced for the volume they are likely to see, though of course they both have very high ceilings. I would consider only having one, though, based on how hard it is to see them both getting the kind of volume that they need in order to truly smash. 

If Thielen misses, things get more interesting. Remember that Thielen was injured very early, so we can look to last week for a decent idea of how the Vikings will use their pieces in his absence. They would clearly lean heavily on Diggs, and even at $11,000, a case could be made for him as the alpha receiver in an offense that seems fine ignoring its ancillary options and forcing the ball to its stars. Laquon Treadwell would be likely to take Thielen’s place on the outside and is just $3,800, though I believe it was Adam Levitan who likened Treadwell to an exceptionally unathletic 6th grader. Treadwell also barely played last week after Thielen was injured as the Vikings used more 12 personnel. I would be more interested in seeing some additional volume for Johnson. Slot receivers have blown up the Redskins defense thus far and Johnson saw eight targets last week after Thielen left the game. Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith saw six targets each last week as Minnesota used a lot of heavy sets, with Rudolph scoring his first touchdown on the season. We can’t know for sure how much of this was opponent-specific planning and how much was just how the Vikings would deploy their players without Thielen against any old opponent, but it’s fair to guess that Treadwell doesn’t have much of a role here — he’s been around the league for a while as a depth piece and he’s never really done much, and he’s not some exciting youngster waiting for a chance to shine. Johnson and the tight ends are much more exciting plays, though they’re also all priced up some to account for this. 

On the Washington side, I generally don’t write up quarterbacks in a ton of detail because my opinion of them flows through their receivers, but I want to note that I think Case Keenum has a legitimate chance of being benched mid-game here. We’re at the midpoint of the season, the team is terrible, Keenum hasn’t had anything approaching a decent game since Week 3, and we know that at some point the team wants to get more of a look at Dwayne Haskins. Keenum is fine as a tournament play but I’m hesitant to ascribe the same level of floor to him as I normally do to a QB in showdown. 

The Washington run game is going to be dictated by injuries. Adrian Peterson has both a high ankle sprain, a low ankle sprain, and a chronic condition of being old. He says he plans to suit up, but that double sprain sounds nasty. Chris Thompson missed last week and didn’t practice Tuesday, which likely means he’s on track to miss again. If both starting RBs miss, Wendel Smallwood is an absolute smash play as the only healthy RB left on the roster (though they’ll surely promote or sign some other scrub) at just $1,800. If just one of the other RBs misses, Smallwood is still a very strong play due to his price; normally Draftkings does a good job pricing up backups in injury situations, but they seem to have forgotten Smallwood. He’s a strong value play and a good candidate to fill in as your lone Redskin if you want to do a Vikings onslaught. 

The Redskins’ pass game is kind of a mess. Terry “F1” McLaurin (vroom vroom) is a truly exciting young player who has excelled this season and this matchup is not particularly imposing for a wideout — the Vikings have allowed more catches than any secondary in the NFL, in part just due to the volume of passing they’ve faced, and McLaurin should see plenty of targets in this one. Beyond McLaurin, Paul Richardson has looked ineffective on the perimeter while Trey Quinn has been equally ineffective in the slot. Quinn is cheaper as a floor play but has never exceeded 50 receiving yards in his career, so the upside here is limited to say the least. Richardson has at least shown some ceiling, both in his career and earlier this season with an 8 for 83 day against the Bears. Jeremy Sprinkle should draw the start at tight end again with Vernon Davis likely to miss another game, but the Redskins just haven’t been using him like they did Jordan Reed and Davis in the past. There are a couple of other rotational receivers in Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims who may be on the field enough to get a target or two as a deep MME dart throw. 

The most likely way for this game to play out is the Vikings should absolutely smash the Redskins. The hardest part of this showdown is really figuring out how to make the 5-1 onslaught lineups work given how priced up the Vikings are. 

Some other ways the game could play out:

  • I guess the Redskins could be more competitive? The Vikings are massive 16 point favorites, but from an odds perspective, that “only” gives them around 85-90% chances of winning this game. This is the NFL, weird things can happen (remember the Vikings losing at home to the Bills last year when they were favored by a similar amount?). Stranger things have occurred.
  • More realistically, Dalvin Cook is going to be massively owned, and he should be. But, what if the Vikings end up scoring all of their early touchdowns through the air, and then Cook is pulled to rest while Mattison closes the game out? It’s possible to see Cook ending with something like 80 yards rushing and 2 catches for 15 yards, which at his price is nowhere near good enough.

That last point aside, my favorite captain is, obviously, Cook. Past that, though, I think the way to approach this slate from a large-field tournament perspective is from a contrarian angle, so I also like McLaurin, Johnson, and Mattison as captain plays. With the Vikings as massive favorites and also possessing such an incredibly condensed offense, there are going to be a LOT of duplicate lineups in this showdown, so I’m willing to go a bit off the board in search of a less likely game outcome.

Some rules to consider:

  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain receivers with their QB
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
  • At most 1 of Thielen or Diggs (this is a tough group to think about because of how concentrated the Vikings’ offense is, but given the pricing on these two, it’s just hard to see them both smashing together with very limited pass volume; you could also consider applying this only in lineups in which one of them is in the captain slot)
  • At most 1 of Richardson, Quinn, and Sprinkle

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 27th 1:00pm Eastern

Hawks (
28.5) at

Falcons (
21)

Over/Under 49.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Seahawks Run D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O
26th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Falcons Pass O
16ths DVOA/3rd Yards per pass
Falcons Run D
8th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
8th DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Falcons Pass D
30th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards per pass

Note :: Matt Ryan did not practice on Wednesday and may not practice this week, but he is currently expected to suit up for this game on his busted ankle. If that changes, we will revisit this game in later-week content; but in that case, the entire Falcons passing attack would almost certainly go into the tank, while the Seahawks’ chances of leaning run-dominant would be heightened.

We’ll begin this game with a look at the disciplined Seattle zone defense that is shaving almost 8% off the league-average aDOT and over 4% off the league-average catch rate — but that ranks middle of the pack in receptions of 20+ yards allowed, middle of the pack in wide receiver receptions, and middle of the pack in wide receiver yards. With Seattle ranked 30th in adjusted sack rate, good quarterback/pass-catcher combos are typically able to wait out open spots in the zone and move the ball on this squad.

Of course, once we start taking pricing into account, Julio Jones (priced as a top four wideout on all three sites) is a bit overpriced for an offense that is — frustratingly — refusing to emphasize their generational player, with target counts across his last five games of 9 // 7 // 7 // 9 // 9. Julio has a respectable aDOT of 12.8 and a 33.8% share of the Falcons’ air yards, but he is simply not being used to the level he should be used (with this head-scratching usage further highlighted by his limited red zone role on the year — a mind-boggling trend for this team — with Julio having only five looks (and three touchdowns on these looks) inside the 20-yard-line). From a narrative-driven perspective, Julio (who is typically a quiet leader) did give a postgame speech last week to his teammates that got some attention in the Atlanta media. Perhaps this team feeds him a bit more fully this week. As always: if Julio gets 12+ targets, he’ll almost certainly smash. If he gets seven to nine targets, he has a shot — though truly, “Why, Koetter? Why?”

One of the few bright spots this year for the sure-to-soon-be-overhauled Falcons has been Austin Hooper, who has recent target counts of 7 // 11 // 9 // 8 // 5. The Seahawks have struggled against tight ends this season, allowing the sixth most catches and the third most yards in spite of a schedule (including Bengals // Cardinals // Browns) that has not exactly given them a list of world-beating tight ends. Those marks would be even worse had Mark Andrews not had multiple drops last week. This is a good spot for Hooper.

With Mohamed Sanu and his four to six targets per game shipped out of town, this passing attack has potential to become a bit more concentrated than it has been — which could further tighten up the looks Calvin Ridley typically sees. Ridley has only two games in his career of 100+ yards, but he has 14 touchdowns across 23 games and is generally a safe bet for around six “downfield-ish” targets with touchdown upside. As always, Ridley’s production is a bit of a guessing game — but the upside is there.

The other main piece on the Falcons is Devonta Freeman — and after he disappointed as chalk last week, it’s likely people will move off him in this spot against a solid (but non-dominant) Seattle run defense. But as the field moves off him, it’s worth noting that Ito Smith will be out this week, which puts Freeman in position to push for 70% of the team’s snaps and 20+ touches. (He has 19+ touches in three of his last five games. Four to five targets is likely in this spot.)

The biggest potential issue for the Falcons offense is not matchup so much as it’s concern that the ankle injury for Matt Ryan could put a bit of a dent in his effectiveness as a passer. Additionally, Seattle is allowing the sixth fewest opponent plays per game, and — especially with this team spreading the ball around so much — Atlanta thrives on volume.

Swinging over to the Seattle side of the ball :: we know that the Seahawks want to run, run, run as long as they are leading in a game or a game is remaining close — and as they are favored by 6.5 points, we are likely to see a lot of Chris Carson once again in this spot.

The matchup is not great for Carson. Atlanta ranks fourth in DVOA against the run and is giving up only 3.72 yards per carry to running backs. On top of the tough matchup, Seattle is refusing to give Carson the ball on the ground in touchdown range (he has 20 carries in the red zone, but only three carries inside the five) — but he has recent touch counts of 26 // 28 // 28 // 24, and volume is almost certain to be there once again in this spot, yielding solid floor and paths to volume-driven upside.

Given the matchup (Atlanta — as you are fully aware — is one of the more attackable teams through the air, ranking 31st in DVOA and 28th in yards allowed per pass attempt), it’s a shame that the volume for Russell Wilson will likely be low. The upside is still in place (Russ has three top-of-slate scores on moderate volume, and he should be able to get to that range against a powerful Atlanta offense), though if targeting that upside from Russ, realize that his (likely) moderate volume makes it tough for slate-breakers to emerge from his pass-catchers, making him a strong candidate for a solo spot on a roster.

If choosing to chase the low-volume upside from the Seahawks’ pass catchers (or if choosing to build around a shootout scenario — in which the Falcons take a lead and Seattle plays catch up), Tyler Lockett is the alpha of this passing attack. Lockett’s recent target counts (4 // 4 // 5 // 7) and production on the year (only one game over 79 yards) leads to questions as to why he is priced like an elite-volume player on a pass-heavy offense across all sites — but while the price makes this a poor play on paper, the upside is high enough to chase in tourneys if you want to take shots on this game environment as a whole turning positive.

Behind Lockett, this low-volume passing attack spreads the ball around to “tight end” (in the first game without Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister played 37 snaps to 34 for Luke Willson — though Hollister held a massive six to zero edge in targets), DK Metcalf, Jaron Brown, David Moore, and the running backs. We know that this matchup is good (hence the viability of Russ naked) — but a bet on one of these guys is either A) a bet on your ability to guess right (on production that is not guaranteed to emerge in the first place) or B) a bet on this game shooting out and upside piling up across the board.

JM’s Interpretation ::

With both teams spreading the ball around enough that high-scoring games don’t necessarily translate into slate-winning production (especially with the top pieces from this game priced up), there is nothing in this spot that stands out to me at the front end of the week as a staple piece. But if we move away from the “staple piece” discussion and talk purely upside, there is plenty to consider in this game. My favorite pieces (likely in this order — with price considered) are Russ // Hooper // Julio // Devonta // Carson, with Ridley and the deeper Seattle pieces in the conversation from there.

Naturally, if Matt Ryan can’t give it a go in this spot and Matt Schaub takes over, all pass catchers become far more thin (especially on Atlanta), and Carson’s volume and upside become that much more secure.

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 27th 1:00pm Eastern

Bucs (
21.75) at

Titans (
23.75)

Over/Under 45.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Buccaneers Run D
3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O
11th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D
1st DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O
2nd DVOA/16th Yards per pass
Titans Run D
16th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O
6th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Titans Pass D
24th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O
9th DVOA/8th Yards per pass

It takes over 25 hours to put together the NFL Edge, and I typically need every bit of that time; yet for some reason this week, I wasted a good 20 minutes trying to figure out how to write up this game. Why the uncertainty? Because there are basically two very clear, but very different, ways that this game could play out, and for some reason it seemed to me that I was required to pick one of those two ways. But instead (duh), we are going to go ahead and take a look at each of these two very viable paths.

Game controlled by Titans D ::

Although this is not reflected in DVOA (the Titans rank third in DVOA against the run this year, but rank only 23rd against the pass), the Titans have generally choked out opposing passing attacks – having faced Odell Beckham, T.Y. Hilton, DJ Chark, Julio Jones, John Brown, Courtland Sutton, and Keenan Allen, and having not yet allowed a wide receiver to crack 100 yards (with none of the players on that list cracking even 76 yards!). The Titans have a talented and adaptable coaching staff that is generally able to figure out ways to slow down an opponent’s top weapons – and the best way to move the ball on the Titans this year has been with running backs and tight ends (Austin Hooper, Austin Ekeler, Hunter Henry, and Devonta Freeman all have more receiving yards against the Titans than the star wide receivers on that list; and the Austins each cracked 100 yards). With the Titans ranked third in DVOA against the run and the Buccaneers not yet figuring out how to get O.J. Howard involved in the offense, it’s not outlandish to think that the Titans could completely check the Buccaneers passing attack this week – holding both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to below-expectation results, and slowing the entire Buccaneers offense as a result. In a similar spot in Week 4 – facing a Falcons team with an explosive offense, a strong run defense, and an attackable pass defense – the Titans took a two score lead and then gave the ball to Derrick Henry as many times (27) as they called on Marcus Mariota to pass. If the Bucs fail to get their offense on track and the Titans score early, we could see Tennessee slow down this game with a run-heavy approach in spite of the nearly impossible run game matchup, which could lead to this offensive environment as a whole disappointing, and to no players from this game posting anything resembling a week-winning score.

Every other way ::

Given how solid Tennessee has been against wide receivers and how conservative the offensive identity of the Titans is, that first tributary likely accounts for over half of the viable outcomes for this game. But every other viable tributary for this game opens up opportunities for it to become more aggressive and higher-scoring. If the Buccaneers are able to get things going with their passing attack in this spot, it is more likely than not that Tennessee would be able to get something going through the air as well. Although Ryan Tannehill is no world beater, he is perfectly competent in the short to intermediate areas of the field, and especially with the weapons he has on hand (a strong route runner in Adam Humphries, and a couple elite athletes in A.J. Brown and Corey Davis), he should have no trouble carving up the Buccaneers defense underneath, while potentially taking a couple downfield shots to A.J. Brown or Corey Davis. (Brown’s role this year has been primarily short area looks mixed with shot plays, while Davis has primarily worked the intermediate areas of the field.)

And even if the Buccaneers are unable to get things going on offense, there is still a very viable scenario in which the Titans choose to lean a bit more pass-heavy the normal, and in which they continue along this path even with a lead. If we go back to the Titans’ game against the Falcons, we can keep in mind that it took place in Week 4, before it would have been as clear to the Titans coaching staff that Atlanta was difficult to attack on the ground. This Buccaneers run defense is a completely different animal than anything else in the league (2.72 yards per carry allowed to running backs, in spite of having already faced half the elite running backs in the league). This could lead to the Titans offense having a good game through the air even without the Bucs putting up points. And as noted in the Angles email last week, the Buccaneers run defense is so good they make it difficult for opponents to bleed the clock, which could lead to enough opportunities for the Buccaneers to hit for some long plays in garbage time even if they fall far behind.

JM’s Interpretation ::

The likeliest way for this game to play out is for the Titans to remain one of the more run-heavy teams in football in spite of the matchup, while doing well enough through the air to produce solid but unspectacular games from their underpriced wide receivers (but not producing anything on offense that you “have to have” this week). In this likeliest scenario, no individual Bucs player does enough to warrant consideration at their salaries – with one of Mike Evans or Chris Godwin scoring a touchdown (possibly even both), but with neither piling up the sort of yardage or even reception totals you would want at their salary. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate are probably both a bit more involved than normal, though in this likeliest scenario this is a lower scoring game as a whole, and even these guys don’t put up anything that will show up on a tournament winning roster. Because of this, no players beyond the Titans wide receivers stand out in cash (and even these guys are a slightly thin in that format; it is fairly likely that two of these three receivers post a strong enough price-considered score to be worth a spot on any roster, but in this likeliest scenario at least one of these three is also sure to disappoint – and it would be easy to come up with a very viable and strong defense for any of these guys as the least likely to dud, making it a bit of a guessing game across the board).

In tournaments, however, there is a fairly strong case to be made for targeting this game. The Buccaneers are similar to a really good offense in MLB DFS that you can target against even a good pitcher in the hopes of this offense producing anyway and shooting you to the top of the leaderboards with very little competition; i.e., even in a bad matchup the Bucs can be considered as shootout producers, as they have a vertical-minded offense, a bad pass defense, and a tremendous run defense that makes it difficult for opponents to bleed out the clock with a lead. If going here in tournaments, the Titans wide receivers are the sharpest starting point, with the Buccaneers having allowed the following notable stat lines to wideouts:

7-100-1 Shep
13-164-0 Woods
9-121-1 Kupp
11-182-2 Mike Thomas

5-91-0 Samuel
9-89-0 D.J. Moore
3-82-0 Slayton

In spite of having already had their bye week, the Buccaneers have allowed the ninth most catches and the eighth most yards to the wide receiver position. The Titans unfortunately run a four-man rotation at wide receiver (Tajae Sharpe is in there too, though he is almost never schemed targets), while also running a huge chunk of their plays out of 12 personnel (giving us only two wide receivers on the field); but the players with the most upside are Davis and Brown, with Davis locking in the largest guaranteed target share. Humphries is also completely viable to include in tourneys, as he’s a gamer facing his old team with solid red zone skills and occasional busted-play potential in his back pocket. Jonnu Smith is also completely viable for upside if Delanie Walker misses – against a Bucs team that has allowed the fourth most catches to the tight end position while ranking behind only the Cardinals in yards allowed to tight ends. Tannehill can also be leaned on at his price, on a week in which there is not a lot to love at quarterback in the middle ranges.

On the Bucs side, the best matchup belongs to the tight ends, and at their prices a few shots as part of an MME block in large field play isn’t an outlandish bet. But the likeliest contributors are, of course, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. You could build for this game producing enough points (especially with the home team favored) for the Titans’ pass game options to produce at a rate well above salary based expectations, while the Buccaneers pass catchers fail to produce at their higher-end salaries in the same game environment. But given how explosive this Buccaneers offense can be (24 or more points in four straight games, with two tough opponents in that mix), you could also assume one of these guys cracks this matchup and produces at a tourney-winning level. Godwin and Evans each have 55 targets on the year, while Evans has a substantially higher average depth of target (15.7 vs 11.4) and thus a much larger percentage share of team air yards (37.37 vs 27.15). Godwin’s edge in touchdowns (six to four) is more variance-driven than anything, especially considering Evans has nine red zone targets to six for Godwin. Though with that said, Godwin will see less of Adoree Jackson, and his higher-percentage routes give him far less boom/bust than Evans has in his game. With both in a tough matchup, of course, neither is a slam dunk. But both are very viable in tournaments for the upside in this spot.

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 27th 1:00pm Eastern

Cards (
17.75) at

Saints (
30.25)

Over/Under 48.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Cardinals Run D
10th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O
12th DVOA/14th Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D
10th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Saints Pass O
14th DVOA/9th Yards per pass
Saints Run D
4th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O
2nd DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
Saints Pass D
15th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O
18th DVOA/15th Yards per pass

The Cardinals will be going on the road this week to take on a strong Saints defense that enters this week ranked 11th in points allowed per game, seventh in yard allowed per game, and seventh in opponent drive success rate. Notable games through the air against the Saints this year have all come from elite wide receivers ::

8-111-2 Nuk
5-120-0 Kupp
11-154-1 Lockett
7-125-2 Godwin

Throughout the season, we have tracked a number of ways in which the Cardinals’ offense has been adaptable and willing to evolve — but while most of these trends toward adaptability have been positive for DFS, the trend that has really taken away from expectations on players in this offense has been the Cardinals’ willingness to spread the ball around through the air. Through the first two weeks of the season, Larry Fitzgerald averaged 12 targets per game while Christian Kirk averaged 10, and these two players combined for three games of 100+ yards in that stretch. Since those first two games, however, only Kirk (once) has topped even eight targets, and no wide receiver or tight end on the Cardinals has topped even 70 receiving yards. New Orleans is shaving over 5% off the league-average expected yards per target, with elite tackling and solid catch rate prevention. This makes it difficult for broken plays to hit against this defense and creates a situation in which volume is the best way to chase upside — while volume has been difficult to come by on the Cardinals offense of late. If Kirk returns this week, he carries legitimate upside (as an obviously still-speculative play after a long layoff, and now returning to a team that has been spreading the ball around), but everything else in this passing attack right now is just hoping for a touchdown or for a shift in volume in a below-average matchup. (If choosing to make this bet :: Fitz is obviously the player likeliest to post a touchdown and/or see a volume spike.)

New Orleans is also solid against running backs — having allowed 3.97 yards per carry to the position. The Saints have faced the fifth lowest opponent rush play rate in the league; but there are some interesting elements in this matchup if the Cardinals decide to lean on the run. The Saints have been really tough to run on up the middle, but it has been possible to hit them on runs to the edges. Throughout the season, we have used this space to explore the fact that David Johnson is being over-used on runs up the middle — but while DJ has been over-used on such runs, Chase Edmonds has been kept away from such runs, with over half of his carries so far coming off tackle or to the edges (rather than over center/guard). DJ failed to practice on Wednesday this week, and the Cardinals signed both Alfred Morris and Zach Zenner — signaling potential concern over DJ’s status. Zenner and Morris (especially Morris) are potential goal line vultures, but neither player does a whole lot that fits well with this offense. While we don’t typically target running backs against the Saints, Edmonds is legitimately viable this week if DJ misses — with likely four or more catches and 15+ carries, and with the matchup setting up fairly well for what Edmonds does best.

On the other side of the ball, Arizona has been a no-resistance defense, ranking bottom eight in run defense DVOA, pass defense DVOA, yards allowed per carry, and yards allowed per pass attempt. The Cardinals have allowed the fourth most yards and the fifth most points, while ranking 29th in opponent drive success rate.

Long-term, we should see this defense improve somewhat with Patrick Peterson able to shut down one side of the field — but he has a really difficult test this week against Michael Thomas, who can win in almost any matchup. Last week, Peterson looked about like you would expect a guy to look who hasn’t been allowed to practice with his team for six weeks :: a bit rusty and in need of extra reps. Of course, that can go away quickly, and Thomas has not been priced down for Peterson (instead being left alone for his matchup with “Arizona”) — introducing clear price-considered risk here as one of the highest-priced wide receivers on all sites (though the raw points should still be solid). As crazy as it is to say, expectations don’t change all that much based on whether or not Drew Brees makes it back under center this week. If you had just been watching Thomas’ box scores, you wouldn’t know Brees had missed time — and in fact, you might even think Brees must have been on a hot streak of late.

Even as the Cardinals focus on taking away opposing rushing attacks, they are allowing 4.36 yards per carry to the position without the talent to really be a force in this area. Arizona has also struggled against running backs out of the backfield — with a low target count to running backs on the year (due to wide receivers and tight ends running free downfield), but with an 87% completion rate allowed to the position. For a Saints team that focuses on Thomas and the running backs first and foremost (with Thomas set to do battle with Patrick Peterson), this is a solid spot for whichever player finds himself in the backfield this week. If it’s Alvin Kamara, he will enter with recent touch counts of 25 // 20 // 22 // 18 — and he would likely land in the 18 to 20 touch range once again with Latavius Murray playing well (and with the bye week just around the corner). If Kamara misses, Latavius will likely see a heavy snap count and workload again after playing 64 out of 76 snaps last week. Twenty or more touches with ground work, a red zone role, and pass game involvement should be the expectation for Latavius if Kamara is out.

And while the Saints tend to run their offense through Michael Thomas and the backfield, we should also expect Sean Payton to exploit the tight end matchup. The floor here is a big fat question mark — but if Jared Cook is playing, four to seven targets is a comfortable range for him; and if Cook misses, there is potential for Josh Hill to see four or five looks of his own.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Kyler Murray is always viable for his rushing upside in a fast-paced offense — but this is a tough spot on the road vs a solid all-around defense, which likely leaves Kyler as a tourney-only piece for me this week. And with the Cardinals spreading around the ball so much through the air, I’ll likely have no interest in Kyler’s pass catchers outside of deeper play as well. The most interesting piece on the Cardinals is Edmonds (assuming DJ misses). The matchup is non-ideal, but it’s also not the worst a running back could have, and Edmonds will be involved enough to have opportunities to hit.

On the Saints’ side, Michael Thomas is overpriced for his date with Patrick Peterson, but he’s still a solid play with some paths to upside (regardless of who is under center). The Saints running backs are also viable with the Saints carrying a lofty Vegas-implied team total of 29.75, and with this being the spot that will need to pick up the slack if Thomas is checked by Peterson.

Behind these options, “Saints tight end” is interesting in tourneys — and while the Saints have had a difficult time this year getting other wide receivers going (and while volume on these guys has been locked into the lower ranges), Ted Ginn is viable as a large-field play. The Saints are going to find a way to score points in this spot — and if Thomas gets held to a non-elite game, that action will have to spill over into some other spots.

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 27th 1:00pm Eastern

Bengals (
18) at

Rams (
30)

Over/Under 48.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bengals Run D
23rd DVOA/28th Yards allowed per carry
Rams Run O
1st DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
16th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Rams Pass O
10th DVOA/18th Yards per pass
Rams Run D
21st DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
27th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Rams Pass D
11th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
26th DVOA/13th Yards per pass

The Rams and Bengals will be traveling to London this week to square off in a matchup of similar-style teams with vastly different levels of talent. (Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, of course, came over from the Rams and is trying to build a similar style of offense in Cincinnati, while both teams also rank top three in situation neutral pace of play.)

One of the bigger mismatches on the slate this week is the run game of the Bengals against the run defense of the Rams — with the Rams ranked second in run defense DVOA and the Bengals ranked 32nd in DVOA on offense. The Rams have allowed a respectable-low 3.7 yards per carry to running backs this season, and Joe Mixon has been embarrassed behind the Bengals’ poor excuse for an offensive line, rushing for only 3.0 yards per carry with a mere 36.3 rushing yards per game.

But if the news on the ground is the worst for the Bengals, it doesn’t get much better through the air, where — as explored last week in this space — the Rams have potential to be a completely different defense with Jalen Ramsey added.

It’s tough to say how the Rams will deploy Ramsey this week (PFF has this projected as a shadow situation with Ramsey sticking to Tyler Boyd, but outside of the first game of his career, Ramsey has never played anywhere close to the majority of his snaps from the slot, so I’m expecting Boyd to largely avoid Ramsey this week), but even if Ramsey doesn’t stick to Boyd, his presence on one side of the field allows the Rams to tilt the rest of their coverage toward the Bengals’ only real threat through the air. Ramsey played only a portion of last week’s game and estimated he knew about 30% of the playbook, but he should be fully good to go by the time this game kicks off.

Given the ability of the Rams to put the Bengals’ poor run game in its place and to play 10-on-10 football in the pass game with a talent edge across the board, it could prove very difficult for the Bengals to get a whole lot going on offense in this game.

On defense, the Bengals are facing a pass on only 46.4% of opponent plays — the lowest rate in the league. (The Rams are on the moderately higher end of pass play rate on offense at 63.1%, though they have proven in the past to be very comfortable leaning run-heavy when the spot is right.)

Given the early-season struggles endured by the Rams’ defense and the fast pace at which this team plays, they have been below-average in time of possession this year; but the Bengals are second worst in time of possession themselves, and if the Rams are able to hit just the average mark of a Bengals opponent, they’ll add almost four and a half minutes to their own time of possession (enough for about nine additional plays). The fast-paced Rams already rank fourth in plays per game even without time of possession in their favor, while the Bengals are allowing the sixth most opponent plays per outing.

With teams running so many plays against the Bengals and attacking so heavily on the ground, running backs are averaging 32 touches per game against them. The Bengals have also allowed the most running back touchdowns in the league.

A week ago — in his first game back from his quad issue — Todd Gurley played only 64% of the team’s snaps — though he played 93% of snaps in Week 5 before sustaining the injury. There are two ways to look at this, then. 1) Perhaps the Rams ramp Gurley back up to at least north of 80% of the snaps (which could be enough for about 25 running back touches in this pristine matchup), or 2) Perhaps the Rams decide to continue protecting Gurley after he emerged from his last big workload with an injury — in which case Gurley could see 18 to 20 touches, while Darrell Henderson could see 12 to 14. Over a large sample size, you can generally expect a yield of around 1.1 to 1.15 DraftKings/FantasyDraft points-per-touch from a Rams-type running back role, so if you think Gurley sees 25 touches he becomes pretty clearly underpriced (while he’s fairly priced for the upside with some floor risk if he’s down at 18 to 20 touches), while Henderson would carry legitimate price-considered upside (with some floor risk) if you think he steps on the field for 12 to 14 touches. (On FanDuel, point-per-touch expectations are tougher to lean on as scoring is more touchdown-heavy, and thus more random; but in terms of touches/expectations, the same applies over there.)

Through the air, the Bengals are facing only 29.4 pass attempts per game — and the Rams have been spreading the ball around more than ever, with Gerald Everett now more fully involved. The Bengals have given up the eighth-fewest wide receiver catches and the sixth fewest tight end catches in spite of not yet having played their bye.

The matchup is not daunting, of course — against a disciplined but banged-up and talent-low Bengals secondary — but by rostering the Rams passing attack you are either betting on big plays to hit on lower volume, or you are betting for the Rams to lean unexpectedly pass-heavy in this spot. (Another path to big games from Rams wide receivers would be for the Bengals to keep pace.) As such, you should build accordingly if targeting the Rams — considering Brandin Cooks to have the best shot at hitting in his downfield role if the the Rams passing volume is low, while considering any of Robert Woods // Brandin Cooks // Cooper Kupp to be viable if you think the Rams lean unexpectedly pass-heavy, or if you choose to build for a game scenario in which the Bengals find a way to keep pace. (Kupp would be the safest option in these scenarios, of course — with as much upside as anyone else in the bunch. Everett — with recent target counts of 8 // 11 // 5 // 10 — is also a bet for a big play on low volume, or for a solid game if the Rams ramp up passing volume.)

JM’s Interpretation ::

After running through the angles on this game, I feel it’s likely I don’t end up on any pieces from this spot on my main build, as the Rams prices are somewhat high for the “likeliest scenario” volume on individual pieces (with the Rams likely to lean run-heavy, and then likely to divide up the backfield work) — but the player I’m likeliest to lean on if I start gravitating toward this game a bit more as we move deeper into the week is Gurley, who has multi-touchdown upside and is heading into a spot that is too good for a true “fail” to be a major concern.

The rest of the Rams are viable for me in deeper tourneys for their potential  if the volume ramps up vs a low-talent secondary. It’s likely that someone from this passing attack posts a strong game with yardage and a score, but it’s also likeliest that this won’t be a “have to have it” game — and the likeliest paths for this game also have only one pass catcher producing a high-end game, which makes this all a bit thin for my style of play.

On the Bengals’ side, Boyd is still tourney-viable for the potentially monster volume, but the matchup should be considered bad.

There is also enough juice with two fast-paced offenses that you could build around this game as a shootout for large-field play — but outside of that scenario and possibly Gurley, I’m not overly excited.

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 27th 1:00pm Eastern

Jets (
16.5) at

Jaguars (
23.5)

Over/Under 40.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Jets Run D
14th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O
17th DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
31st DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Jaguars Pass O
21st DVOA/19th Yards per pass
Jaguars Run D
22nd DVOA/29th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
29th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Jaguars Pass D
32nd DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
30th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass

While the Jaguars struggled early in the season on defense, they have been turning things around of late. At this point, the Jaguars rank ninth in opponent drive success rate, 11th in points allowed per drive, and seventh in red zone touchdown rate. They are shaving 4% off the league-average aDOT and 9% off the league-average catch rate. (Only the 49ers and Patriots are better in this last category — though it should be noted that the Patriots, of course, are miles better.)

Where the Jaguars have struggled the most this year has been vs “route runners” who can do damage both underneath and in the intermediate areas of the field. Since Sammy Watkins cratered this defense in Week 1, they have allowed the following “notable” stat lines (in quotes because none represent particularly dominant efforts) ::

5-104-0 Manny

6-93-0 Humphries
6-91-0 D.J. Moore
8-89-0 Mike Thomas

The player who profiles best in this matchup is Jamison Crowder who had seen 17 and nine targets from Sam Darnold before the Jets ran into the “boogeyman” Patriots defense. The Jaguars rank 28th in situation neutral pace of play when they have the ball, but they are still middle of the pack in opponent plays allowed per game — and the Jets should be able to pass the ball enough for 8+ looks to be viable for Crowder in this spot.

The player with the next best shot at producing here is Demaryius Thomas, who has 9 // 4 // 9 targets in his last three games. Thomas is not the player he once was and would need some things to break right for upside, but he’s too cheap everywhere if he sees 8+ targets again.

The player least likely to hit is Robby Anderson, but the Jags have allowed the third most pass plays of 20+ yards this year, and it only takes one play to make Anderson’s day. He’s likely in the doghouse with Adam Gase after some of the things he put on film against the Patriots last week, but he should be given a couple downfield shots (and a few other looks) to try to bail himself out.

With pricing low on the Jets across the board and only three non-Le’Veon players on whom targets have been focused, there is some appeal to this unit — though a bit of a wrench could be thrown in if Chris Herndon does indeed return this week. Herndon is a legitimate weapon (50+ receiving yards in five of his last 11 games last year — and he’s set to take a step forward this year), and he could siphon a couple looks from each of Crowder and Demaryius, so we’ll watch for reports on Herndon’s snap count if he continues to trend toward playing.

Unfortunately for Le’Veon Bell, the Jets rank 30th in adjusted line yards — though he does catch a soft matchup this week against a Jaguars team that has allowed 4.87 yards per carry to running backs. Bell is on the field all game and has target counts of 9 // 10 // 4 // 9 // 1 // 4, so there are certainly paths for a strong game here even behind this poor excuse for an offensive line.

While the Jets have a full-time back in a good matchup behind a bad offensive line, the Jaguars have a full-time back in an awful matchup behind a decent offensive line. The Jets have allowed only 3.29 yards per carry to running backs this year, with the fourth fewest yards allowed and a sixth place DVOA ranking. The Jets have allowed the most running back touchdowns on the ground — though this has been a bit fluky (i.e., this is not necessarily a weakness so much as there has been a plethora of short-yardage situations available for opponents). Consider this a bad matchup for a workload-secure back in Fournette — with obvious upside available given all his touches, but with his chances of hitting that upside a bit low for the price. Working in Fournette’s favor is the fact that the Jets have allowed the sixth most receiving yards to the running back position.

The Jets haven’t really been tested through the air much this year. Through the first two weeks the Jets allowed season-high marks to John Brown and Odell Beckham, and they have since faced the short-area attack of the Patriots (twice), the Eagles in a drubbing with Luke Falk under center, and a Cowboys team against which they tilted coverage toward Gallup after Amari went down. Brian Poole has played well in the slot for the Jets (a welcome surprise), earning an 83.5 PFF grade — but Daryl Roberts (51.9) and Trumaine Johnson (47.4) have pulled predictably poor grades while getting regularly beaten when attacked.

Over the last four weeks, D.J. Chark has target counts of 8 // 11 // 7 // 4. One of these is not like the others; and that “one” came against the Bengals — unsurprising to NFL Edge readers. Chark has a healthy aDOT of 14.4 and ranks eighth in the NFL in percentage share of team air yards. He carries volatility attached to Gardner Minshew, but his upside is for real.

Behind Chark, it will be Chris Conley on downfield routes and Dede Westbrook in the tougher matchup in the slot, which he will be hoping to crack.

JM’s Interpretation ::

The Jets offense is going to surprise people a few times down the stretch with everyone healthy, and this is a spot in which they should be able to post at least a respectable game. (Though to be honest, I’m sort of hoping they fail in this slightly below-average spot and can be targeted against a fearful field in a softer matchup down the road.) Crowder is a solid play with an outside shot at an elite score for his price, while Demaryius is also viable for the savings and the target share. Robby would be an outlier upside bet, while Herndon would be a ballsy play unless we get clarity on his snaps (with his biggest impact potentially being to make it tougher to trust any of these guys outside Crowder in cash). I imagine right now that it’s unlikely I’ll be on Bell until I see something change in his ability to produce upside behind this line (especially as ownership has stayed fairly high on him), but his volume could obviously lead to him busting out.

On the Jags’ side, Chark is the only one standing out for tighter builds (his floor is a bit rickety, but the ceiling in this matchup is attractive), while Fournette is obviously very much in play for the volume if you want to bet against the matchup. (The matchup closes off a number of his paths to a ceiling game, but the workload also makes it difficult for him to dud.)

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 27th 1:00pm Eastern

Eagles (
19.25) at

Bills (
20.25)

Over/Under 39.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Eagles Run D
15th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
29th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O
4th DVOA/6th Yards per pass
Bills Run D
24th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
25th DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Bills Pass D
28th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
29th DVOA/24th Yards per pass

Eagles at Bills carries an Over/Under of only 43.5 — and it’s no big secret why. The Bills defense has allowed the third fewest points per game and the third fewest yards per game — behind only the Patriots and 49ers in these categories. Further affecting scoring expectations :: the Bills are tremendous against the pass — ranking fifth in DVOA and fourth in yards allowed per pass attempt, while shaving 10% off the league-average aDOT, 9% off the league-average catch rate, and 9% of the league-average YAC/r rate. The Bills trail only the Patriots (by a mile) and the 49ers (barely) in expected yards allowed per target.

The way to beat Buffalo (it likely goes without saying) is to try to lure Josh Allen into mistakes when he has the ball, and to attack the Buffalo defense on the ground. The Bills rank 10th in yards allowed per carry, but they rank 23rd in DVOA vs the run — and while they are elite up the middle, they are very attackable to the edges.

This creates an interesting setup for this game, as Miles Sanders has only 13 runs this season over center/guards (where the Bills rank first in adjusted line yards) compared to 50 carries over tackle and to the edges (where the Bills are attackable). Jordan Howard, meanwhile, has run over center/guard on 60% of his carries. So the ultimate question is: how bold is Doug Pederson? He is known for his aggressiveness and adaptability (two traits that we love) — but with the Eagles season practically on the line at 3-4 in the ultra-tough NFC, is Pederson bold enough to build his game plan around getting the ball to his fumble-prone but electric rookie back to the edges of the Bills defense? Ultimately, the answer to this question may not even matter, as the Bills — while non-threatening against the run on a per-touch basis — have allowed the eighth fewest running back rushing yards, with this defense as a whole ranking third in drive success rate allowed (making it tough for running backs to compile against them). But for tourneys, it’s at least an interesting thought, as Sanders carries upside if Pederson deploys him (as he should) as the key to an Eagles win.

Last week in this space, we asked if the ultra-adaptable Bills offense would attack the Dolphins on the ground as most teams choose to do, or if they would instead try to drop the hammer out of the bye with an attack built around Josh Allen. The Bills tried to drop the hammer, and they failed pretty hard.

This week, then, the question is the opposite. The Bills pride themselves on being adaptable from matchup to matchup in their offensive identity — and it goes without saying at this point that the way to attack Philly is through the air. But injuries have been piling up for Philly — shortening the rotation on their defensive line and over-straining Fletcher Cox — and the Vikings and and Cowboys were both able to expose some of these cracks the last couple weeks. So do the Bills try to protect Allen and win with “run game, defense, and well-chosen opportunities for Allen,” or do they instead unleash Allen to attack this matchup?

One thing working in Allen’s favor is that Philly has remained dominant on runs up the middle — where Frank Gore is getting almost all of his work. The way to try to exploit the Eagles’ run D is to the edges with Devin Singletary — whom the Bill are not yet putting that sort of faith in. It’s likeliest, then, that Allen gets his share of shots this week.

Of course, we should also realize that this is a different Josh Allen in 2019. He has topped 32 pass attempts only twice. He has topped 40 rushing yards only once. He quietly has a respectable 62.4% completion rate; but with 7.0 yards per pass attempt and a ninth place ranking in average intended air yards, things are different across the board. The field is rostering Allen this year for what we were getting out of him down the stretch last year. His best game this season has been 254 passing yards. (None of which is to say Allen can’t produce in this spot; but it’s not the lock-and-load play some will expect it to be, in this current offense that wants him to be more of a “playmaking game manager” than a do-it-all piece.)

In the Bills’ passing attack, the prize piece remains John Brown. Brown’s targets are down lately (5 // 11 // 5 // 6), but with an aDOT of 14.1 and a 36.59% share of the Bills’ air yards, he’s an integral member of this offense with a solid shot at producing in this soft matchup.

Behind Brown, Cole Beasley has a high floor (especially in this spot), though he needs a broken play or touchdowns for any sort of ceiling.

Behind Beasley, the rest of this attack is a bit of a tossup, with Duke Williams looking iffy for this week (and volume on him insecure anyway) and with key free agent addition Tyler Kroft looking to carve into the role that Dawson Knox has created.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Given that this game carries the fourth lowest Over/Under on the slate, it’s unsurprising that nothing stands out as a major, locked-in piece. It’s also no surprise that the spot that draws the eye is the Bills passing attack against the secondary of the Eagles.

JB is a solid play (though it would sure be nice to see a couple extra targets added to what he’s been seeing of late). His reliance on Allen and the low-ish volume lately introduce some volatility — but this adaptable offense should lean toward the pass, and it’s a good spot for him to climb up to 7+ looks and to produce if he does. His floor is a bit uneven for the price on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, but he’s priced really low on FanDuel — and his ceiling is high across the board in this matchup.

Allen is also an upside piece, with some obvious risk; while Beasley is a floor piece with some paths to upside.

Running backs are a guessing game on both teams (the game is best-suited to Sanders and Singletary, but that would require the coaches showing more faith in these two than they have to date; Sanders, of course, is the likelier of the two to be given a chance to hit).

And of course :: in any matchup, a talented player (Carson Wentz // Zach Ertz // Alshon Jeffery // even Dallas Goedert) can hit for a strong game — but given my style of play, I’ll be avoiding the Philly passing attack this week. They’re a low-floor guessing game in this spot with most of the paths to slate-winning upside sealed off right away.

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 27th 1:00pm Eastern

Chargers (
18.75) at

Bears (
22.25)

Over/Under 41.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Chargers Run D
21st DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O
28th DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
11th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O
24th DVOA/25th Yards per pass
Bears Run D
11th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
31st DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Bears Pass D
2nd DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
7th DVOA/5th Yards per pass

This game between the Chargers and the Bears carries an Over/Under of only 40.5 — the lowest mark on the Main Slate.

A few big-picture thoughts ::

Some big-picture thoughts before we dive in: each backfield has a split workload; the Bears are inept on offense; the Bears still have a strong defense; Allen Robinson will be stuck facing Casey Hayward; Keenan Allen still requires heavy volume to hit; the Bears have still allowed the sixth fewest receptions of 20+ yards and are shaving 25% off the league-average aDOT (easily the best mark in the league), which is a dent for Mike Williams. The Bears are also shaving 5% off the league-average YAC per reception rate.

On a 12-game slate, if looking at likeliest scenarios, this is a good game to avoid. Similar to what we talked about with last week’s Bears game, then :: the best way to target this game is to target an unexpected shootout.

How good things might happen?

Outside of just building around this game for an unexpected shootout, here is a look at how some other good things could happen ::

The Bears are allowing only 3.65 yards per carry to running backs (a very strong mark), but are allowing the fifth most receiving yards to the position. One thought in this spot is that the Chargers might look to get Austin Ekeler involved as their best player — even if this means putting their “big name” back Melvin Gordon on the bench for a larger portion of this game. The Chargers coaches are adaptable enough to lean this direction — though they are not adaptable enough to sell out fully and turn Ekeler into a workhorse. This requires him to still post some nice efficiency to really get things going.

Another thought is that the Chargers could focus on hammering Keenan Allen on underneath routes. He would likely require 12 to 15 targets to hit for 100+ yards, but he could still get there along less-likely paths with a broken play, and he also has the ability to catch a touchdown pass. With the Bears allowing the third fewest wide receiver touchdowns on the year, things get a bit thin here, but Allen at least has a spot in the “small exposure in large-field” discussion.

If chasing elsewhere on the Chargers, you’re purely hoping for broken plays or (again) guessing on a shootout, as the Bears are stout vs downfield wide receivers (Mike) and tight ends (Hunter Henry).

On offense, the Bears are an absolute mess, with Mitchell Trubisky having posted a comical 5.2 yards per pass attempt, with only five touchdowns on the year. Trubisky can’t read defenses or hit open wide receivers or make decisions under pressure. He has five rush attempts for 21 yards all year. Something is not right, and his confidence seems to be getting worse. Allen Robinson will also be shadowed by Casey Hayward (a matchup he’s good enough to beat if you want to fire off a shot in large-field play — but it definitely lowers his floor and his paths to ceiling). So how might good things happen here? The biggest issue for the banged-up secondary of the Chargers has been communication away from Hayward, with opposing receivers running completely free a few times each week. There is a chance, then, that Matt Nagy is able to free up a player (the likeliest wide receiver would be Taylor Gabriel; the likeliest player would be Tarik Cohen) on a misdirection play to create a chunk gain — creating some large-field bets to consider outside of betting on A-Rob to win his tough matchup.

On the ground, the Bears rank 29th in DVOA and 28th in yards per carry, while ranking 29th in adjusted line yards. But there has been a lot of talk around the team this week concerning the low run volume for this offense, and it’s fair to expect this to be a focus this week.

David Montgomery played 66.9% of the snaps in Week 3 and 4 and picked up 16 and 24 touches (after 19 touches in Week 2), and with Mike Davis taking a backseat of late, we should see Montgomery push for 15+ touches here. We’ll also likely see Davis regain a bit of a role; and while the Bears have been poor on the ground, the Chargers rank 24th in DVOA and 21st in yards allowed per carry.

JM’s Interpretation ::

I am unlikely to end up on any Chargers players myself this week. The most attractive option on this side of the ball to me is Ekeler for the upside he would carry on the off-chance the Chargers emphasize him — though the speculation here makes the play a bit thin. There are also ways in which the Chargers passing attack could produce some nice pieces, but I’ll look elsewhere myself.

I’m slightly intrigued by Taylor Gabriel and Tarik Cohen in tourneys, though there are better plays than these guys — while the most attractive play on the Bears is Montgomery, who could easily push for 15+ touches with the run a likely point of emphasis this week, and who has underperformed relative to his role this year (with his last three matchups all coming against teams that rank top 11 in DVOA against the run).

Outside of Montgomery (who’s certainly no smash; more of an “add to the mid-week list” than a “lock-and-load”), I’m likely to leave this game alone. There’s a reason this game has the lowest Over/Under on the slate, and while each team has the pieces to break through, most of the tributaries for this game have it landing on the lower end of the scoring scale.

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 27th 1:00pm Eastern

Giants (
21.5) at

Lions (
28)

Over/Under 49.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Giants Run D
15th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
13th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D
23rd DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
Lions Run D
30th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O
30th DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
12th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O
29th DVOA/30th Yards per pass

We’ll start this game between the Giants and the Lions (where else?) in the Lions’ backfield, where sixth-round rookie Ty Johnson will be taking over this week (and, presumably, moving forward) for the injured Kerryon Johnson.

What do we know about Ty Johnson?

  • He’s fast
  • He can hit big plays
  • He can try too hard for the home run
  • He was limited in his pass-catching role at Maryland
  • He struggled in blitz pickup in college and was often subbed out on passing downs

What do we know about this matchup?

  • The Giants rank 25th in adjusted line yards on defense
  • The Giants have given up the second most rush plays of 20+ yards (funny side note: they’re second with eight; the Bengals are first…with 14)
  • The Giants have allowed the fourth most rushing yards to running backs
  • The Giants are getting hit for 4.48 yards per carry by enemy backs
  • The Giants have allowed the second most rushing touchdowns
  • The Giants have allowed the fourth most receiving yards to running backs

___________

Last week, Ty Johnson played 49 snaps to 16 for J.D. McKissic, and he ran 33 pass routes and caught four of four targets for 28 yards — encouraging usage given his supposedly suspect pass-catching chops coming out of college. Because this is the Lions — where Matt Patricia is doing his best to blindly imitate what he thinks Bill Belichick would do — there is a non-zero chance that the Lions more heavily involve McKissic this week with extra time to prepare a new plan for this backfield moving forward. But the likeliest scenario has about 75% of the snaps going to Ty — and with the Lions likeliest to play with a moderate lead, things set up well.

The matchup is also warm and comfortable for the Lions passing attack, as they will be taking on a Giants defense that ranks 27th in DVOA and has allowed the fourth most wide receiver yards — while contributing at least a 6.5% boost to all of aDOT, catch rate, and YAC/r rate. The Giants rank ahead of only the Dolphin and Raiders in expected yards allowed per target.

Before last week’s usage bomb, Kenny Golladay had been given eight to 10 targets in every game — and he is likely to see eight to 10 targets once again even without this game turning into a shootout, giving him a nice floor and ceiling in this spot. Golladay ranks fifth in the NFL in average depth of target, and the Giants have given up the second most pass plays of 20+ yards.

With only two games this year north of six targets, Marvin Jones is more volatile than Golladay — but it goes without saying that the upside is obviously in place.

Behind these guys, the Giants don’t force many short-area throws, so T.J. Hockenson and Danny Amendola should take a backseat — though both have proven to have enough ceiling to chase if building around this game.

Can the Giants keep it close?

Because the Giants are so short-area focused (and because they don’t have many pieces that can help them break out of that), it will be difficult for a true shootout to develop in this game; but if the Giants are able to keep this game close, this spot could become at least somewhat exciting as a whole. The Lions defense ranks only 26th in drive success rate and 18th in opponent red zone touchdown rate, so there are certainly available paths for the Giants to put up points.

The best way for the Giants to move the ball (maybe someone can call Pat Shurmur and tell him?) is on the ground against a Lions team that ranks 21st in DVOA against the run and 28th in yards allowed per carry — with 4.76 yards per carry given up to the position. The Lions have also allowed the seventh most receiving yards to running backs in spite of having already had their bye.

As with the other side of this game :: coaching is the biggest issue, with Shurmur truly dunce-level as a head coach. (I was actually thinking the other night how crazy it is that there are only 32 of these highly-coveted jobs…and Shurmur has one of them.) Saquon Barkley has yet to top 21 touches in a game this year (which is stunning, and embarrassing). He carries a steep price on DK/FDraft, but he also carries the best raw running back projection on the slate. On FanDuel, where running back pricing is more condensed, Saquon is a blue-chip play.

Like the Patriots, the Lions are a man-heavy coverage scheme that generally plays the same assignments all game. The toughest matchup falls to Golden Tate in his revenge game, vs Justin Coleman. Volume should show up for Tate regardless, so you can bet on high efficiency or a broken play or a touchdown if you want to go here. None are crazy bets (especially with volume in his favor) — though obviously, Tate is not a staple piece this week as a short-area route runner with little explosiveness to his game.

It currently looks like Sterling Shepard will miss another week — but if he returns, he’ll be playing on the outside (where his skill set doesn’t fit quite as well — but where he’ll also have a bit more upside). He’ll be a boom/bust option vs a strong secondary.

Detroit has struggled at times with big plays as teams attack relentlessly downfield against them (tight coverage + a weak pass rush = time, time, then a shot downfield; leading to a low catch rate and a low YAC/r vs the Lions, but to a few big catches downfield hitting). This creates a few paths for Darius Slayton to hit.

Meanwhile, Evan Engram scuffled last week against the Cardinals and now has only two games this year over 54 yards. With Tate added to the mix, Engram’s targets have become less reliable, and with such a short-area role, he needs a big YAC play (or he needs his one or two downfield shots to hit) in order to reach ceiling. The floor is decent for Engram at his price, but some of the paths to ceiling have gone dry, making him more speculative than he was earlier in the year.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Ty Johnson is a “don’t overthink in cash games” play, as he’s almost certainly locked into 18+ touches and is underpriced for the work on all sites. Ownership is also likely to be high enough that it’s probably just not worth the risk of trying to get cute in cash.

In tourneys, Johnson is also a solid play — with a decent floor, a solid ceiling, and most of his paths leading to him out-producing salary. He’s viable in all contest types (especially on a week without a ton to love at running back) — though due to the risk factors (primarily: Patricia), a strategic tourney fade of Ty is also viable. If he puts up 12 FanDuel or 15 DraftKings/FantasyDraft points, that will be solid for those who rostered him; but it would by no means be a “must have,” and it could enable you to find a way to soar past the field. Add in a few slim, slippery paths to duds (the Giants jump out to a lead; or again: Patricia), and Ty becomes more “strong play” than “must play” in GPPs.

Saquon is also strong — with only his coach to hold him back. It’s also viable to play both backs from this game, as the likeliest path has this game played close enough that game flow won’t have a major impact on either (plus, Saquon has his pass game role if the Giants fall behind — which is the likeliest way for this game to play out).

In the passing attacks, Slayton is interesting in large-field play, and you could probably make a case for other Giants in the hopes of capturing lightning; but the play that stands out the most is Golladay. As we saw last week :: a good matchup for Golladay could turn into a monster game for Jones; but it’s likeliest that things swing back toward the Lions’ alpha this week.

Finally — with Kerryon out and a good matchup on tap — you could lean on Matthew Stafford as a sneaky bet in tourneys. If the Giants are able to keep this game close enough, Stafford has an outside shot at lighting it up in this spot.

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 27th 1:00pm Eastern

Raiders (
22.75) at

Texans (
29.25)

Over/Under 52.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Raiders Run D
31st DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
23rd DVOA/31st Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D
26th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
8th DVOA/4th Yards per pass
Texans Run D
23rd DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O
24th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
8th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O
5th DVOA/7th Yards per pass

As is almost always the case when the Texans play a game, Bill O’Brien runs into a coaching mismatch against Jon Gruden and the Raiders. In spite of working with really limited weapons, the Raiders rank 13th in yards per game this year. Derek Carr is holding back the Raiders in the red zone (the lack of weapons certainly aren’t helping), but with the Raiders playing at the second slowest pace in the league and ranking 10th in time of possession, they are allowing the seventh fewest opponent plays per game.

With all of that said: the Texans do enjoy a large talent edge here — and this offense ranks barely behind the Rams // Saints // Seahawks // Patriots for the highest Vegas-implied team total on the slate.

Because the Raiders tend to set the tone for their games with a slow pace and long, run-heavy drives (even when they fall behind), we are not seeing teams attack too aggressively against them (psychologically, it’s tough for a coach to attack aggressively after a long drive by the opponent, as fear creeps in that they might give the ball right back and invite another long, sustained drive) — which has kept the Raiders from becoming a true pass funnel (16th in opponent pass play rate). But this defense ranks 11th in DVOA against the run and fifth in yards allowed per carry while ranking 30th in DVOA against the pass and 31st in yards allowed per pass attempt. The Raiders have allowed the most pass plays of 20+ yards, they are adding 13% to the league-average aDOT, they are adding 3.4% to the league-average catch rate, they are adding 8.4% to the league-average YAC/r rate, and only Miami ranks worse in expected yards allowed per target (with the Raiders barely worse than the Giants). As we know, Raiders defensive boss Paul Guenther will likely try to isolate and slow down DeAndre Hopkins — though there is so much that Nuk can do, it will be difficult for this talent-poor secondary to really put him in check. As explored of late :: Hopkins is being mismanaged to an aDOT of only 9.7 — but with Will Fuller gone and Keke Coutee and the tight ends available underneath, we should see Hopkins working downfield a bit more. Hopkins has averaged 11.07 targets per game (15 games) across the last two seasons without Fuller on the field compared to 10.69 (16 games) with Fuller playing, so his target share doesn’t project to change a ton over whatever time Fuller is out; but in terms of the value of his role, there is a likely spike on tap without Fuller taking up downfield routes alongside Kenny Stills.

Stills should largely step into the Fuller role — which will continue to make him somewhat boom/bust, but with this spot of course offering a good opportunity for him to hit. Five to seven targets is the likeliest range for Stills, with upside for more looks from there.

Behind Hopkins and Stills, Coutee offers elite speed underneath — with four to six looks his likeliest range, but with opportunities for random volume spikes, and with big-play/touchdown potential also giving him some “uncertain, but still very real” paths to upside. The tight ends (Darren Fells played 41/63 snaps last week and ran 18 pass routes; Jordan Akins played 40/63 and ran 29 pass routes) will also continue to have roles, though their largest value outside of broken plays or “trying to guess right on a touchdown” comes from the way they pull a few targets away from the higher-upside pieces on this offense.

The Texans run game, of course, is a split backfield in a tough spot — which creates a situation in which rostering one of Duke Johnson or Carlos Hyde is largely just “guessing and hoping for things to break right.”

On the Raiders side of the ball, Josh Jacobs is a yardage-and-touchdown back (only nine catches for 87 yards all year) who will be taking on a defense that ranks fifth in DVOA against the run and fourth in yards allowed per carry. Jacobs (shoulder) is fully expected to play this week, though Gruden has made it clear he is legitimately banged up. He should see 20+ touches as the engine of this offense. The ceiling is there, but the floor is low.

Unfortunately for Oakland, Tashaun Gipson and the Texans have been strong against tight ends this year, holding Jared Cook, Greg Olsen, Austin Hooper, and Travis Kelce to below-expectations games. Waller is a volume bet in a difficult spot.

Even when the matchup has called for something different this year, the Raiders have stubbornly refused to expand beyond Jacobs and Waller, so it’s tough to get excited about other pieces on this offense with stronger value available elsewhere this week. If Tyrell Williams returns, he should see his seven-ish targets, and he’ll carry upside vs a Houston defense that has allowed the second most catches, the fifth most yards, and the most touchdowns to wide receivers. Houston is more “below-average” than “awful” against wide receivers, with the biggest boost for wideouts in this matchup coming from the fact that Houston is facing the second highest opponent pass play rate and has made it difficult to throw to tight ends — which is filtering targets to wideouts. With the Raiders so set on running their offense through Jacobs and Waller, then, there is a chance that none of the Raiders wideouts are able to matter in this spot if Tyrell misses, though Trevor Davis and Keelan Doss both maintain legitimate paths to hitting (the Texans should score; it should be tough for the Raiders to run; and Waller should be covered fairly well most plays). If you want to fire off a shot or two in this spot: Doss had five targets last week to two for Davis (Davis also had a third wiped out by penalty — with all of his looks coming early in the game), though Davis played 50 snaps and ran 25 pass routes compared to 29 // 15 for Doss. Both are risky bets. Both come with upside.

JM’s Interpretation ::

The Houston passing attack presents one of the premium spots on the slate — with the upside pieces of Watson/Hopkins/Stills entering a matchup that tilts strongly in their favor. Watson/Hopkins are unfortunately priced up — but both remain very much in the mix. Stills is a strong upside play in tourneys as well. Coutee requires more guessing and hoping than the others, but there are paths for him to hit.

That likely represents the extent of my focus in this game on tighter builds, though if expanding beyond that list, Waller and Jacobs can obviously both have a volume-based case made even in a difficult draw. If Tyrell plays, he also carries ceiling (and an iffy floor) in tourneys, while Trevor Davis and (to a lesser extent) Keelan Doss are interesting large-field options if Tyrell misses. These guys come with thin floor, of course; but both also carry “score from anywhere on the field” upside that is enhanced by the matchup.

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 27th 4:05pm Eastern

Panthers (
18.25) at

49ers (
22.25)

Over/Under 40.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Panthers Run D
26th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
49ers Run O
9th DVOA/8th Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
13th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
49ers Pass O
17th DVOA/21st Yards per pass
49ers Run D
7th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
16th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
49ers Pass D
22rd DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
11th DVOA/11th Yards per pass

We’ll dive into this game on the 49ers’ side of the ball first, where this offense ranks dead last in the NFL in pass play rate — throwing the ball on only 42.9% of their plays (an absolutely unheard of number). Before we go further, then, it’s also worth exploring how the 49ers have come by this mark, as it is not necessarily fully by design.

This week, Kyle Shanahan talked about how he has never before had an elite defense on the other side of one of his offenses — and how ‘every play call is designed to help the 49ers win their game,’ and with an elite defense on the other side of the ball, this brings some unique elements into what is likeliest to help the team win that particular game. To put that another way: if a team were able to put up points on the 49ers, this offense would not have any problem turning more heavily to the passing attack; but as long as they control their games, they will continue to be one of the run-heaviest teams in the NFL.

This game sets up well for the 49ers to continue along this path, then, as the Panthers have been very strong against the pass this season — ranking third in DVOA and seventh in fewest yards allowed per pass attempt — while struggling to stop the run, ranking 30th in DVOA and 23rd in yards allowed per rush attempt.

Before we move on, however, there is a deeper layer here that should be explored, as the Panthers (as we have looked at multiple times throughout the season — including a few deeper dives into exactly why this has been the case) are getting wrecked on runs up the middle while still playing strong defense on runs to the edges. The 49ers, of course, are one of the edge-heaviest run offenses in the NFL — and that is not only where they center most of their action, but is also where their line and their running backs are built to be able to attack. To put that another way: given how the 49ers are built to attack on the ground, this is actually an average to slightly below-average matchup for them.

Given that the 49ers are running a split backfield that spreads “upside” responsibilities to different backs (with Matt Breida handling the larger pass game role and carrying more big-play upside, but with Tevin Coleman seeing all the work near the goal line as a largely “yardage and touchdown” back in a split backfield), it’s typically difficult to lean on this backfield outside of hoping to guess right on a big play or a multi-score game. But the bigger impact in the matchup is that it could make it difficult for the 49ers to be quite as effective on offense on the ground, which could lead to a bit more pass game work for this team than normal (while also creating opportunities for this game to stay close). Ultimately, it’s likely that this proves to be “largely throwaway” information (the 49ers will have a slightly tougher time on the ground than the matchup, on the surface, would indicate; but they should be able to do enough to still lean run-heavy as a whole, and to remove fantasy upside from most players on this offense), but it’s all worth noting as we hunt for any overlooked plays on what is unlikely to be a particularly popular game in DFS.

When the 49ers do pass, we are likeliest to see them leaning on George Kittle (target counts on the year of 10 // 3 // 8 // 8 // 8 // 5) and newly-acquired Emmanuel Sanders (who may not be ready to play a full compliment of snaps, but who has been in pretty much this same offense in Denver and should be able to integrate fairly quickly).

The new-look Panthers defense has faced the Rams, the Bucs (twice), the Cardinals, the Texans, and the Jaguars, and the only notable stat lines they have allowed to pass catchers are as follows ::

8-121-1 Godwin
8-164-2 Chark
10-151-0 Godwin

7-82-0 Dede
9-96-0 Evans

Godwin // Chark // Evans all have significant downfield usage, and had volume working in their favor as well, so chasing upside from Manny is a bit thin — though he should run enough routes out of the slot and over the middle of the field (where Carolina is weakest) that there are paths to him hitting. Kittle — as always — doesn’t quite see the work that the field seems to believe he sees, and the 49ers have still not figured out how to get scoring juice out of him (eight career touchdowns in 37 games; zero multi-touchdown games), but he’s an integral piece in this offense and has cracked 100 yards in 16% of his games (roughly once every six games), keeping him very much in the “upside” mix.

From a “notable stat lines” standpoint, this is all the 49ers have allowed this season, six games in ::

10-122-0 Boyd (blowout)
4-112-1 Ross (blowout)

3-81-1 JuJu
4-75-0 Landry

The 49ers rank second in DVOA against the pass and first in yards allowed per pass attempt. No team has allowed fewer receptions or yards to wide receivers. No team has allowed fewer yards to tight ends. The Panthers’ passing attack is completely off-limits outside of simply hoping to guess right on a piece that breaks off a big gain on a busted play — and even that becomes a bit thin when you consider that volume of receptions is unlikely to be high, so the “big play” needs to hit all the way in order to produce a slate-winning score. If chasing here, of course, the YAC upside on D.J. Moore and the downfield role for Curtis Samuel are the likeliest paths to production. With the 49ers allowing no completions downfield (something we’ve explored in this space seemingly every week), Moore is the “better” bet to hit, though these plays are thin enough that you could chase either if chasing.

Of course, the Panthers — at a very legitimate 4-2, and coming off the bye — will be looking to win this game by A) slowing down the 49ers’ rushing attack and forcing them to try to win through the air, and B) attempting to poke holes in the run defense of the 49ers.

Since before Week 1, we have talked up the 49ers defense as a unit with a lot more potential than most entered the season expecting, as this team has the pieces in the secondary to be strong and the pass-rushing pieces to be truly special. Furthermore, the 49ers run a wide-9 scheme that is focused on getting after the quarterback, even if this leaves some run lanes open. Because of this latter point (and because these elite pass-rushing pieces on the 49ers are not nearly as elite against the run), it was expected that the weakness of this defense would be on the ground — though the 49ers have dominated games so thoroughly that this hasn’t proven to be an issue. San Francisco ranks only 12th in DVOA against the run (eighth in yards allowed per carry), and they are allowing 4.01 yards per carry to running backs (which certainly isn’t a boost, but it’s not terrifying either). But with this team allowing the second lowest drive success rate in football and the second lowest opponent red zone touchdown rate, it’s been difficult for enemy backs to compile stats in this spot regardless of matchup. In other words: in an isolated sense, the matchup is not a boost, but it’s also not terribly threatening; but in a macro sense, it’s still been difficult for running backs to get much going in this spot, as it’s so difficult for an offense as a full unit to get anything going against the 49ers.

The good news for Christian McCaffrey is that the usage will be there — with touch counts on the year of 29 // 18 // 27 // 37 // 25 // 26. CMC has five or more targets in all but one game (and double-digit looks in two of six), and he has nine touchdowns on the year as the central piece when the Panthers reach the red zone. The matchup is entirely non-ideal (the 49ers have also allowed the fewest receiving yards to running backs), but the usage is there if you want to bet on CMC being the first back to finally crack this matchup open.

JM’s Interpretation ::

With the 49ers preferring to “lean on the run and trust their defense,” and with the Panthers presenting a matchup that forces opponents to the ground, I’m unlikely to have interest in the 49ers’ passing attack outside of potentially a small number of darts thrown at Manny and/or Kittle if I put in some MME play this week — and with the matchup setting up in a less-than-ideal way for the 49ers’ split backfield, I’m unlikely to have interest there, either.

On the other side of the ball, we have a passing attack that is entering a nearly worst-case spot, which will wipe those players off the board for me (as always: it’s possible for any player with a legitimate role to hit in even the toughest of matchups — but it’s not my style of play to chase something as thin as the Panthers pass catchers on the road vs the 49ers), and I’ll almost certainly leave CMC off tighter builds myself given the difficulty of this game environment as a whole for the Panthers (especially on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, where he needs sooooo many points to justify his salary). With that said: CMC is obviously one of the highest-upside pieces in football, and he has proven capable — given his talent, volume, and role — of smashing even in difficult spots. He’s not a lock-and-load play as the highest-priced running back of the week, but he should see 25+ touches again as the engine of this offense, and there are certainly cases to be made for taking shots in tourneys (especially if the matchup projects to lower ownership this week).

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 27th 4:25pm Eastern

Browns (
16.5) at

Patriots (
26.5)

Over/Under 43.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Browns Run D
20th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O
3rd DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
19th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O
27th DVOA/28th Yards per pass
Patriots Run D
18th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
7th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D
17th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
23rd DVOA/27th Yards per pass

There is always a tendency up to about this point in the season for DFS players to want to still turn a team into what they expected them to be, rather than acknowledging what a team has actually been. The Browns are a perfect example of this, of course, as they are 37.5% of the way into their 2019 season, and they (somewhat stunningly) rank 27th in offensive DVOA, while ranking 30th in DVOA through the air and 29th in drive success rate. Only the Giants and Bengals have more giveaways than the Browns — who will be traveling to New England to take on a Patriots team that ranks first in takeaways, first in defensive DVOA, first in DVOA against the pass, first in opponent drive success rate, first in red zone touchdown defense, first in points allowed per game, and first in yards allowed per game, while having given up one touchdown through the air and two touchdowns on the ground. Those touchdowns on the ground have come from a quarterback and a wide receiver. The Patriots (as noted a couple times already this year) are pushing to finish top three in the NFL in “fewest rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs” for the fourth consecutive season.

There are no good matchups through the air against the Patriots. PFF Grades are obviously not the be all and end all of player evaluation (after all: Marcus Peters ranks fourth at cornerback, and the Rams jettisoned him because they felt he was part of their issues on defense), but Jonathan Jones is the number two rated corner in the NFL, Jason McCourty is number three, and Stephon Gilmore is number 12. Gilmore (as the “12th best corner in the NFL” — a bit of a joke) has allowed a 44% completion rate on passes thrown into his coverage with a QB rating allowed of 36.0. The Patriots also rank fourth in adjusted sack rate on defense, while Cleveland — with their offensive line an absolute mess — ranks 25th on offense.

Things get a little easier on the ground against the Pats. They are allowing the second fewest running back rushing yards in the league — but a large part of this is the fact that they are facing the highest opponent pass play rate in the league. They are decidedly not attackable on the ground (3.6 yards per carry allowed to running backs; eighth in DVOA against the run; second in yards allowed per carry on the whole; and the aforementioned tightening-up near the goal line), but this is the “softest” part of this historic Patriots defense, and Nick Chubb (who has recent touch counts of 27 // 23 // 17 // 25) will get enough work that he could realistically hit.

On defense this year, the Browns have been solid against the pass (21st in DVOA, but sixth in yards allowed per pass attempt as they have done a great job forcing short-area throws with both Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward injured), and they are expected to get their two star cornerbacks back this week; but they have been attackable on the ground, ranking 25th in DVOA and 30th in yards allowed per carry while giving up the eighth most rushing yards to running backs in spite of the early bye — at a pathetic 4.99 yards allowed per carry to the position.

For their part, the Patriots (who have “survived” on offense more than they have thrived) are running a balanced offense that mixes in three running backs and a short-area passing attack with occasional downfield shots.

We’ll start with the Patriots passing attack, where it will be interesting to see what Mohamed Sanu does for this offense after they traded a second round pick(!) for his services. Sanu has been a bit pigeonholed the last couple years as a “slot receiver,” but up until 2018 he had been as active out wide as he had been from the slot throughout his career — and given that Sanu’s size (6’2″) seemed to be one of the main things that drew Bill Belichick toward him (along with the fact that he played his college ball at Rutgers, of course…), it seems likely that Sanu was picked up to replace Josh Gordon, whom the Patriots surely knew they were planning to send to I.R. Whether or not Sanu can integrate right away is an open question, but he should provide a less-athletic (but more polished) version of the Josh Gordon role moving forward.

On the other side of the field, it will likely be Phillip Dorsett continuing to get the majority of the run, though it also seems likely this week that Jacobi Meyers (a Brady favorite who continues to play well when given opportunities — an impressive 13 catches on 15 targets this year) will continue to see time on the field. The matchup is non-ideal against the Browns’ secondary, the Patriots are likely to control this game, and this team has not produced a single 100-yard game through the air away from Julian Edelman (who has two such games himself), so everything in the Patriots wide receiver corps is a bit “hoping to guess right” on uncertain volume without a big “downfield” mindset to this unit as a whole.

As for Edelman :: with nine or more targets in five of seven games, he’s the safest, highest-upside play of the bunch — though the matchup and expected game flow still make him more speculative than lock-and-load at his price on DK and FDraft, while his PPR skill set doesn’t play as well on FanDuel.

With the Patriots gladly spreading running back touches to three different players (with special teamer Brandon Bolden filling in for Rex Burkhead of late), it has been really difficult to capture slate-breaking upside from this group (in fact, no such scores have emerged from the Patriots backfield this season), especially with the Patriots failing to really produce on the ground this year (21st in adjusted line yards; 20th in run offense DVOA). The matchup is good, but cross your fingers for volume if going here. Sony Michel is the best bet for touchdowns, while James White has seven or more targets in all but one game and has gone 10 // 9 // 9 // 8 in his last three — with a few carries mixed in each week, and with a bit of bad luck so far in the touchdown department (first in the NFL in red zone targets this year; only one score).

JM’s Interpretation ::

I can see some people making a case for Odell Beckham or even Jarvis Landry doing something off the bye — but it would take them doing something really special to produce a “have to have it” score, and the fact that “I can see some people making this case” likely means these players won’t carry the 0% ownership we would want them to have in order to chase in this matchup. For me, those ultra-slim paths to slate-breakers are best left alone. I’ll also be ignoring Chubb — as I absolutely think he has the ability to hit, but it has been far too profitable the last several years to just avoid running backs against the Patriots for me to want to chase in this spot with a bad Browns offense and a historic Patriots D.

Outside of Edelman and Gronk, I cannot remember the last time I included a Patriots player on a tighter build of mine, as this team spreads the ball around so much and cares so little about statistics that it’s rare we see a slate-breaking score emerge from this offense — and even when it does, it often comes from an unexpected source.

I do like White in tourneys this week, and Michel is always a threat for a multi-touchdown game (second in the NFL in red zone carries; first in carries inside the 10), but I don’t currently expect to have much interest in this offense on tighter builds, as week-winning scores are always difficult to find.

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 27th 4:25pm Eastern

Broncos (
18) at

Colts (
24)

Over/Under 42.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Broncos Run D
5th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
22nd DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Broncos Pass D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
15th DVOA/10th Yards per pass
Colts Run D
6th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O
20th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Broncos Pass O
31st DVOA/26th Yards per pass

At one point this summer, Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton engaged in a fist fight on the Broncos practice field. The reported cause was that Sanders was fed up with the younger receivers on this team not focusing as fully or dedicating themselves as fully as he felt they should.

Things settled down for a while, but over the last few weeks it seemed that Sanders was becoming a distraction in the locker room due to his desire to win…and the Broncos responded by lowering his usage the last few games and then finally granting him his wish with a ticket out of town. Manny now gets to play for the undefeated 49ers. The 49ers (whose major complaint with their wide receivers has centered around the fact that they don’t feel any of their wideouts have the sort of killer mentality they desire from that position group) now has a gritty, aggressive veteran to lead the way. And the Broncos get Courtland Sutton taking over as the true, undisputed number one receiver at last.

Last year, Sutton struggled as the number one option — but whether he is Manny-like on the practice field or not, he has improved quite a bit from last year to this year, becoming a more complete wide receiver instead of just a physical specimen with outstanding ball skills. As we enter Week 8, Sutton has seven to nine targets in every game on the season, and his worst games on the year have produced stat lines of 4-40-0 and 4-76-0 — solid outputs for “worst” games after seven contests in all. On DraftKings and FantasyDraft, Sutton’s 16.2 points per game is within 2.2 points of Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, and Keenan Allen, and he has been even more valuable on FanDuel (where his lower reception totals matter less) — producing within 1.2 points of all of those names. With the alpha tag to himself, he is underpriced for his role.

With the Colts generally forcing shorter throws and tackling well after the catch, volume has been necessary (outside of Stills’ game last week) for receivers to pile up yardage in this matchup — but volume should be there for Sutton, and he’s well-suited to the types of routes that can beat this defense: zone-beating crossers and flag routes in particular. The biggest risk for Sutton is any fear that the Colts find a way to tilt extra coverage his direction. The second biggest risk is simply the fact that he has to rely on Joe Flacco to get him the ball.

Behind Sutton, the Broncos passing attack gets thin pretty quickly with Tim Patrick not yet back and no one else producing much so far this year. DaeSean Hamilton is next in line to see his role expand — though we should note that Manny is leaving behind only 3.3 targets per game across his last three contests, so there is no guarantee that any player sees an appreciable bump over the second half of the season. Noah Fant has theoretical upside as well. Anyone but Sutton is just hoping to capture some good fortune and luck if you’re hunting for the sorts of scores that can help you take down a tourney.

The Broncos backfield is in a difficult spot with Darius Leonard back on the field for the Colts. Snaps are split almost down the middle for Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, with Lindsay having picked up 14 more touches on the season while breaking off a much larger share of the scoring-position work (seven touches inside the five-yard-line for Lindsay, compared to only one for Royce). With both of these guys, you are just hoping for something to click: a big play or score to accelerate what otherwise shapes up to be a slower scoring pace.

On the other side of the ball, Denver is a really difficult matchup for offenses, and they are getting better each week. At present, they rank seventh in DVOA against the pass and third in yards allowed per pass attempt, while shaving 8% off the league-average aDOT, 12% off the league-average YAC/r rate, and over 16% off the league-average expected yards per target (the fourth best mark in the NFL). The Broncos have allowed the fourth fewest wide receiver catches and the third fewest wide receiver yards.

Of course, the public belief is that the way to attack the Broncos is on the ground — but outside of the 225-yard effort produced by Leonard Fournette in this matchup, the Broncos allowed 85 yards (on 23 carries) in Week 1 to Josh Jacobs, and they have not yet allowed any other back to go over 62 yards on the ground (with games against the Packers // Chiefs // Chargers // Titans // Bears). The Broncos rank 13th in DVOA against the run and 16th in yards allowed per carry, and they have given up the fourth fewest yards as a whole and the eighth fewest points. Frank Reich will have a plan this week for the Colts to move the ball and put up points, but it will be really difficult for action to concentrate enough on one player for slate-breaking upside to emerge. This may not be the Denver defense of old, but it’s still one of the stronger units in the league, and you’re largely guessing // hoping across the board in trying to capture a slate-breaker in this spot.

JM’s Interpretation ::

We have done a great job this year seeing places where the adaptable Colts offense can be targeted in specific ways for our rosters — but the best bet by the numbers in this spot is to leave this offense alone. It’s likely that we see a few respectable scores emerge from this side of the ball, but it will be difficult for week-winning scores to show up. If wanting to hunt for such scores, your best bet is this team’s “upside” pieces — T.Y. Hilton and Marlon Mack. Mack could shine if the Colts’ tremendous offensive line can get the better of the red hot Broncos run D.

On the Broncos, it’s difficult to get behind pass game pieces outside of Sutton, and it’s difficult to get behind a split backfield in a bad spot. As for Sutton: there is some risk with him being the complete focal point of the defense and with Flacco getting him the ball — but given his upside, his locked-in role, and his cheap price, he’s in play in all contest types this week. His floor carries some volatility risk, but frankly, that’s the case with all wide receivers, every week. The likeliest scenario here has Sutton producing a solid game, with available paths to a big one.

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


Kickoff Sunday, Oct 27th 8:20pm Eastern

Packers (
26.25) at

Chiefs (
21.25)

Over/Under 47.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Packers Run D
25th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
17th DVOA/9th Yards per carry
Packers Pass D
25th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
1st DVOA/12th Yards per pass
Chiefs Run D
28th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O
10th DVOA/10th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
2nd DVOA/4th Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O
6th DVOA/14th Yards per pass

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

This game sure looked a lot more interesting before Mahomes was injured last week. Now the Packers are 3.5 point road favorites against a Chiefs team which has not seen a team total as low as 22 points since Mahomes took over at QB. While this game has no real interesting plays on a full-day or full-week slate, we still get a large Showdown to compete over, so let’s see what we can pick apart.

The first thing to note here is that both of these teams have extremely strong pass defenses (6th in DVOA for the Packers, and a surprising 4th for the Chiefs). This is more of a challenge for Kansas City and their backup QB than it is for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, but with both teams struggling against the run (19th in DVOA for Green Bay, 29th for Kansas City), the easiest path to points for both teams is going to be on the ground. Of course, both teams have split backfields, which leaves us with frustratingly little safety. 

Let’s start with the road favorites. Green Bay’s run game is a frustrating timeshare as they continue to insist on splitting work between emerging stud Aaron Jones and plodding slowpoke Jamaal Williams. Jones’ emergence in the pass game this season with 34 targets (just shy of five per game) is encouraging and significantly boosts his floor. Williams, previously thought of as more of a passing down back, only has 18 targets in five games played start to finish. The timeshare between the two is far from even, with Jones leading 16 touches to seven last week (and that was coming off of a Williams eruption game that could have been thought to have earned him more trust and usage), but the week before it was 15 to Jones versus 18 for Jamaal in Jones’ mistake-heavy outing. This seems to go back and forth and is based to some extent on a hot hand approach. Both are viable for ceiling, but I have a hard time trusting Williams’ floor at a not-exactly-bargain price of $6,400. 

The Packers’ passing game was flat-out confusing last week as we didn’t expect either of Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Geronimo Allison to play and then both ended up active. While both were part-time plays (57% of snaps for Allison, 33% for MVS), we can expect those counts to go up this week assuming no setbacks in practice. Davante Adams hasn’t practiced yet and is a near-certainty to miss this game. Last week, Jake Kumerow and Allen Lazard led the receiving corps in snaps with 72% and 85%, respectively, though despite a complete demolition of the Raiders by the Green Bay passing attack, nobody saw more than five targets in an “everybody in the pool” game that saw Rodgers complete at least two passes to eight different receivers. What seems likeliest to me is that MVS and Allison go back to being full-time players after a full week of practice, while I suspect that Lazard has passed Kumerow on the depth chart based on leading him in snaps, routes run, and targets last week. Jimmy Graham rounds out the full-time receivers and is a touchdown-dependent option, while Kumerow, Marcedes Lewis, and even fullback Dan Vitale could see a target or two as MME dart throws.

The Chiefs’ run game is equally frustrating with a three-way snap share between LeSean McCoy, Damien Williams, and Darrel Williams (note here: if you play “D. Williams” make sure you get the right one). Darrel is the easiest one to throw out of the pool here; although he’s playing a respectable snap share (30% last week), in the last five weeks he has seen a grand total of five touches. Damien Williams’ usage is somewhat more surprising to me, as I (and I think many others) were expecting him to be the lead back in this offense, but he has seen just two and 11 touches in the last two weeks, and despite being touted as the superior receiving option he has only seen a total of eight targets in three games since coming back from injury (McCoy has six in the same timeframe). McCoy appears to be the lead back here, though “lead” only seems to guarantee him about 10-14 touches; but he has taken advantage of the opportunity by running better than he has in years. Shady is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and it is awfully logical to expect the Chiefs to lean heavily on their run game in this one, so I like him to exceed his season-high in touches in this game. 

The Chiefs’ pass game is interesting here. First, Sammy Watkins is back; I expect to see him running a lot of slot, with DeMarcus Robinson outside as the WR3 and Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle going back to reserve roles. All of the Chiefs’ receivers are priced down to account for the difficulty of the matchup and the QB switch, however. Getting a starting QB who is at least anywhere near competent at just $8,000 in Showdown is highly unusual, and Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce still stick out to me as matchup-proof players who smashed in recent years with Alex Smith as their quarterback. Hill can dust anybody on a given route, while Kelce gets the matchup that just let Darren Waller catch 7 of 8 passes for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns. 

The way this game is likeliest to play out is that both teams focus on their run games while taking some occasional passing shots. Whichever team lands those passing shots is likeliest to win, and with Aaron Rodgers, I expect that team is likely to be Green Bay. Vegas expects a close game, which implies both run games are viable on the same rosters as long as the score stays relatively close.

Some other ways the game could play out:

  • One team or the other could jump out to a 2-score lead early, which would lead the other team to respond by being more pass-heavy. This could go either way, but it’s definitely worth thinking about correlation with rosters that are captaining a running back and considering if you want to bring it back with the other team’s passing attack. 
  • I think it’s likely that most rosters will be focused on the running game, given the matchup. But, on the Green Bay side we have a historically great quarterback, while on the Kansas City side we have a highly creative coach and two matchup-proof receivers (plus one of the more talented WR2s in the league in Sammy Watkins). While “both teams focus on the ground attack” is the likeliest way this plays out, there’s a reasonable chance that all of the touchdowns end up coming through the air and we get something of an aerial shootout.

My favorite captain overall is Aaron Jones, as out of all of the running backs, he has the strongest touch projection (including projecting for the most targets). Next comes LeSean McCoy, and then Travis Kelce is someone who I think is likely to go a bit overlooked in the captain spot but is as cheap as we’ve ever seen him in a Showdown.

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 (consider at least 3 with Rodgers given his price, though I’d count Jones and Williams as receivers for this purpose)
  • At most 1 of the Green Bay “everyone in the pool” crowd (Lewis, Kumerow, Vitale, Shepherd)
  • At most 2 of Rodgers, Jones, and Williams (unless you think both Jones and Williams have a receiving touchdown)At most 2 of McCoy and the Williams’

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 ::

  • Packers at Chiefs seems like a spot in which the public will lean on the Packers’ passing attack, given that Rodgers had a monster game in Week 7 and the Chiefs are still believed by the public (and by most content providers) to have a pathetic pass defense. This is a good spot, then, to remind that the Packers rank middle of the pack (15th) in pass play rate, while the Chiefs are facing the eighth lowest opponent pass play rate in the league. This isn’t all about “keeping Mahomes off the field,” either. The Chiefs rank fourth(!) in DVOA against the pass, and 29th(!) against the run. Obviously, that’s not to say that the Packers cannot be successful through the air here (especially if Davante Adams returns) — but on the road, in a game without Mahomes on the other side, the likeliest scenario has the Packers winning this game on the ground.
  • The Chiefs will have creative plays designed to still get the ball downfield into the hands of their playmakers, but the focus on this side of the ball should also be on the run game — vs a Green Bay defense that ranks sixth in DVOA against the pass but 19th against the run.
  • What does this mean from a “15 game slate” perspective? Ultimately, we have two teams with messy split-backfields that should build their offense around the run. This is a situation in which “one or two strong scores will likely emerge, but it will be a bit of a guessing game as to where those strong scores will come from.” Your best bet is to leave this uncertainty alone on tighter builds for the 15-game slate and wait for the Showdown to poke around in this spot.
  • If you want to get a bit more aggressive on your build (or if you are multi-entering and want to target pieces from this game), the running backs are the likeliest sources of points (the Packers should lean on Aaron Jones first and Jamaal Williams second, though both will be involved; the Chiefs may lean a bit more heavily on LeSean McCoy than normal, as he has been their preferred option on the ground, though there is certainly room for them to find creative ways to get Damien Williams and even Darrel Williams involved), while big-play threats at receiver (Tyreek, MVS, Adams) could also be targeted for thin upside.

Kickoff Monday, Oct 28th 8:15pm Eastern

Dolphins (
15) at

Steelers (
29)

Over/Under 44.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Dolphins Run D
32nd DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
14th DVOA/11th Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
10th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
12th DVOA/23rd Yards per pass
Steelers Run D
1st DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
8th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
11th DVOA/17th Yards per pass

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

Week 8 wraps up with the atrocious Dolphins visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh has a massive team total of 28.75 currently, while the Dolphins are sitting at a total of 14.75 (which, given how their offense has performed so far this year, might be aggressive). That said, the Dolphins do have the offensive pieces to make this an interesting showdown, and while 5-1 onslaughts will be popular they are definitely not the only way to build.

The Pittsburgh run game starts with