Week 9 Matchups

There are only 10 games on the Main Slate this week for FanDuel and DraftKings. Six of those 10 games have Over/Unders of 43.0 or below.

One of those games pits the poor Bears offense against the spread-it-around Eagles; another game is Colts and Steelers — with the Steelers producing very few “have to have it” fantasy scores in the pass game this year (where the Colts are far more susceptible), and with the Steelers’ defense having allowed only one player to crack 100 yards through the air against them this year (with no notable stat lines allowed on the ground); another is a pair of defensive-minded teams in the Titans and Panthers (though the Panthers do, at least — rather quietly — rank near the top of the league in pace of play); another is Washington at Buffalo (two teams that rank bottom nine in scoring); another is Browns at Broncos, where career practice-squadder Brandon Allen will make his first start against the Browns, and where Baker Mayfield and the Browns will take on a Broncos team that has allowed only one running back and one pass catcher to crack 100 yards this year. There are pieces from these games that can be considered; but these game environments as a whole can be largely crossed off the list.

The sixth game with a low Over/Under is Jets at Dolphins, which opened at 41.0 and has since fallen to 40.5. The Dolphins have point totals on the year of 10 // 0 // 6 // 10 // 16 // 21 // 14, so it has been tough for their games to eclipse 40 points even with their opponents scoring (only two of their seven games have topped 43.0). The Jets with Sam Darnold under center have scored 16 // 24 // 0 // 15 (though the three lower-scoring games did come against the Bills, Patriots, and Jags, while even the 24-pointer came against the Cowboys). The likeliest scenario in this game will have both quarterbacks playing fairly aggressive football (more on this in the NFL Edge) while making too many mistakes and failing in the red zone too often for the game to become a shootout — but it at least has a solid shot at pushing for 40+ points, and there are a few paths to the game producing strong stat lines. (The Dolphins’ offense in particular has some fun things to look at in the NFL Edge.)

This essentially leaves us “four and a half games” (the four below, plus some interest in Jets // Dolphins at their prices) to seriously consider this week from a “game environment” perspective. Here are some quick-hit thoughts on each of those four spots ::

Vikings at Chiefs

We don’t yet have a line in this game, as Vegas appears to be awaiting clear confirmation on the status of both Adam Thielen and Patrick Mahomes, but the Vikings have potential this week to demolish the Chiefs on the ground, and Minnesota has shown enough leaks on defense lately that this game has clear paths for multiple notable fantasy lines to emerge.

Packers at Chargers

Four of the Packers’ last five games have combined for 55 or more points. The Chargers have only topped 20 points on two occasions this year :: Week 1 in overtime against the Colts, and Week 4 against the Dolphins. They fired offensive coordinator Ken Wisenhunt this week — in part because Anthony Lynn wants the team to run the ball more. This will be an interesting game to dive into.

Lions at Raiders

This game has an Over/Under of 51.0. The controlled nature of the Raiders’ play style has kept them from getting into any true shootouts (they’ve cracked 24 points only once), but their offense is consistent enough and their defense is bad enough that four of their last five games have produced 45 to 55 points (with the outlier in the group being a 66-point game between the Raiders and Packers), while the Lions have a tendency to play to the level of their opponent (only one of their seven games has produced a final score with more than five points separating the two teams). This is a solid spot for points to emerge, with narrow distributions of touches.

Buccaneers at Seahawks

The Bucs’ shootout-producing setup (aggressive downfield passing plus a stout run defense and a poor pass defense) travels to Seattle to take on a team that epitomizes the concept of playing to the level of their opponent. The Seahawks can score almost at will when they unleash Russ as more than a game manager, and the Bucs will be consistently aggressive enough to open opportunities for points to pile up in this spot.


Kickoff Thursday, Oct 31st 8:20pm Eastern

49ers (
26.5) at

Cards (
16.5)

Over/Under 43.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
49ers Run D
7th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O
2nd DVOA/2nd Yards per carry
49ers Pass D
22rd DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per pass
Cardinals Pass O
18th DVOA/15th Yards per pass
Cardinals Run D
10th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
49ers Run O
9th DVOA/8th Yards per carry
Cardinals Pass D
10th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
49ers Pass O
17th DVOA/21st Yards per pass

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

Week 9 starts us off with a game projected to be awfully one-sided (what is with these island games this year?), with the 49ers traveling to Arizona to take on the Cardinals as 10 point road favorites. Arizona is projected to score just 16.5 points, and as the 49ers have only allowed an opponent to reach this lofty total twice in seven games, even this might be aggressive. 

The 49ers are taking establishing the run to a new level as they’re rushing on an NFL-high 57.5% of their offensive plays. For context, the next highest here is the Vikings at 53.3%, and last year’s Seahawks squad “only” ran the ball at a 52.4% pace. The frustration here for us as DFS players is the backfield is still (and will likely always be) a timeshare. Tevin Coleman stole the show last week with four touchdowns and 105 rushing yards, but he did it on only 13 total touches. Matt Breida saw 12 touches of his own despite leaving early in the second half with an ankle injury, while Raheem Mostert salted the game away with nine touches. Now, where this gets interesting is that Breida and Mostert both missed practice on Tuesday. Watch the practice reports on Wednesday (I’m writing this article earlier in the day); if Breida plays, expect the normal timeshare. If Breida sits but Mostert plays, the latter should slide into Breida’s role at a modest discount, but Mostert also lacks the big play ability of Breida. If they both miss, though, Jeff Wilson becomes awfully interesting as a value play at just $2,000. Finally, it’s worth noting that despite their relatively close counts of overall touches, Coleman has crushed Breida in red zone usage with 16 red zone touches versus just three for Breida. Breida is used between the 20s and likely needs big plays in order to smash, though he is very capable of hitting them, especially in this matchup. As long as the game stays close, Coleman will dominate the workload here (he’s seen 20 touches in two games this year and is averaging over 17 since returning from injury in Week 5), but if the game gets out of the hand the 49ers seem to have no trouble handing the ball to their other backs and saving Coleman for later. (Note: as of Wednesday evening, we have no further clarity here. Breida and Mostert are both questionable, and we likely won’t get word on their statuses until Thursday afternoon.)

The 49ers passing attack is a low volume affair with a rotational wideout corps that has not really given us any tremendous receiver scores for the entire season. Jimmy Garoppolo is averaging just 27 passes per game and has only nine touchdown passes on the season. The Cardinals defense has been the gift that keeps on giving to opposing quarterbacks, but without volume, even a great matchup is more likely to result in a solid score than a must have one. The 49ers pass game basically starts and ends with George Kittle, who is the only receiver seeing consistent volume (though “consistent” here is still only averaging seven targets per game, which is lower than we would like to see for a player in his price range) and is in the best possible matchup against a Cardinals defense that has given it up to tight ends all year long. Kittle should be the most popular receiver play in this game and deservedly so. Behind Kittle, Emmanuel Sanders saw five targets in his first game with his new team, and ran most of his routes out of the slot and should thus mostly avoid Patrick Peterson’s coverage. He’s an overpriced play, albeit one with some ceiling. The Dante Pettis experiment seems to have come to a crashing halt in Week 8 as his snaps plunged from 92% to 30% and he has failed to take a step forward in his second season. He’s a hope and a prayer play. If you really want to dig deeper into the 49ers receivers, Deebo Samuel resumed his WR2 role last week with 70% of the snaps, though he runs on the perimeter and will see a lot of Peterson in a very challenging matchup. Kendrick Bourne and Richie James are rotational guys who will get a couple of targets and need a touchdown, making them not very attractive even as MME darts. Finally, Marquise Goodwin didn’t play last week, which could cause him to go overlooked here. He may also draw Peterson, but Goodwin is an Olympian-level sprinter who can dust anybody, and speed wins GPPs; he’ll likely only see a couple of targets, just like Bourne and James, but unlike those two he has a much stronger chance of scoring a long touchdown which could make him very relevant on just a single catch.

The Cardinals are in a brutal spot against one of the top defenses in the NFL and looking like they are going to be without their top two running backs. New trade acquisition Kenyan Drake looks positioned to lead the backfield in touches here, but the matchup is horrendous against a 49ers defense that has only allowed 300 total yards of offense once on the season. Drake is also unlikely to see a true lead back workload as he’s only been with the team since Monday. Zach Zenner is expected to back up Drake, but when Chase Edmonds left last week’s game early, Zenner saw only two touches in what is likely to be a similar game script to this game with the Cards falling way behind early. This run game is barely playable and you’re just hoping for broken plays.

It doesn’t get much better in the Arizona pass game as the 49ers defense has only allowed one quarterback to score more than 12.5 Draftkings points. Kyler Murray always has explosive upside with his legs, but he’s going to be running for his life here against the San Francisco pass rush. The Arizona spread offense has basically come down to “throw it a ton to Christian Kirk, when he’s healthy,” with Kirk seeing 11 targets in his first game back, good for a 33% market share. Arizona’s problem is that while they play extremely fast and throw at a high rate, they can’t sustain drives, so their overall play volume has not been anywhere near what some optimists expected it to be before the season. Murray has only averaged 31 pass attempts over his last five games, which has not been enough to sustain multiple fantasy-relevant receivers, especially when most of the targets have been short. Kirk is a pure volume play and my favorite of the Arizona wideouts, while fellow slot receiver Larry Fitzgerald has predictably faded in effectiveness as the season has gone on (play old dudes early before they wear out!). The spread out, air raid-style offense works when the perimeter attack can reliably offer deep threats to complement the shorter slot routes, and that has been Arizona’s problem — Damiere Byrd is out there running longer routes and has tremendous speed, but has only caught one pass of over 20 yards all season. The 49ers haven’t given up many deep shots (or much of anything), but Byrd could of course nab one here, and for a guy playing 80% of the snaps he is frankly just too cheap despite his limited success so far. The rest of the Arizona receivers, including the tight ends, are all just MME dart throws. 

The way this game is likeliest to play out is for the 49ers to dominate with their run game and defense, as per usual. George Kittle is the likeliest 49ers receiver to be relevant, though he’ll have to do his damage early in the game before it gets out of hand. Betting heavily on Arizona players is betting on outlier outcomes (which can certainly happen and which will come at relatively low ownership).

Some other ways the game could play out:

  • The 49ers could still crush the Cards but the touchdowns could come predominantly through the air instead of on the ground. Touchdowns are the least predictable element of football and Jimmy G does have three multiple touchdown games.
  • The Cards are highly unlikely to win this game (though you could certainly build that way as a contrarian play!), but it’s not entirely unreasonable to think that they score first, perhaps more than once. The Dolphins/Steelers game on Monday is an interesting example of how this could play out: the Steelers ended up winning handily, but before they did, the Dolphins had a two-score lead which led to Pittsburgh opening up their passing attack and producing two receiver scores that were required to win a tournament.

My favorite overall captain is Tevin Coleman, followed closely by George Kittle. I’m also interested in whoever the RB2 ends up being for San Francisco. I have little to no interest in captaining any Arizona players in a matchup like this, though if I end up entering 150 lineups in this one (which I normally do but may not on Thursday due to the holiday), I will probably have a little bit of captain exposure to Kirk and the Arizona running backs.

Some groups to consider:

  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
  • I’m actually not sure we need to partner captain receivers with their QB in this one given the QB pricing and the likelihood of a low-scoring game in which a receiver could lead all scorers purely through volume and yardage and without a touchdown.
  • At most 2 49ers running backs, possibly consider not using this rule in 5-1 onslaught builds.
  • At most 1 Cardinals receiver not named Christian Kirk

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, Nov 3rd 9:30am Eastern

Texans (
23) at

Jaguars (
24)

Over/Under 47.0

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Notes

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

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

We get a fairly exciting London game this week between the Texans and the Jaguars. The game projects to be close at a 46.5 Over/Under with the Texans as 1.0 point favorites, which unlike many Showdowns we’ve seen lately means we should get a pretty exciting match instead of a one-sided beatdown. 

Both of these teams lean run heavy (22nd and 24th in pass play percentage), but Houston’s run-game matchup is good against a vulnerable Jacksonville D while the Texans’ run D is stout. This is, of course, offset by the run offense for the Texans being a mishmash of Carlos Hyde and a criminally underutilized Duke Johnson, while the Jaguars have a legit bellcow in Leonard Fournette who is seeing CMC-level snap and touch counts. 

The Jaguars offense begins with Fournette. He plays almost every snap and sees almost every running back touch. He’s one of the highest scoring backs in the league so far and that’s with only scoring one touchdown on the entire season. When touchdown regression comes his way, he’s going to put up some monstrous games. He’s heavily involved in the passing game, averaging 5.6 targets per game. He has big play ability, with runs of 40+ yards in four of eight games. But….when he doesn’t get those big individual runs, he can struggle (Week 8 he had 17 carries for 76 yards with a long run of 66 yards; Week 5 he had 23 carries for 108 yards with a long run of 48 yards; Week 3 he had 15 carries for 66 yards with a long run of 69 yards….yeah, that one isn’t a typo; his other 14 carries resulted in negative three yards). Fournette doesn’t have that consistent, every play success that backs like CMC and Dalvin Cook have shown; he’s awfully reliant on hitting a big play or two, and in this matchup against a Texans run D that is 5th in DVOA against the run and much more vulnerable against the pass (and just lost its best pass rusher), I see more risk than reward. That said, monstrous volume roles always come with solid floors and big ceilings, and I won’t really argue with anyone who wants to side with volume over matchup.

The Jaguars’ pass game is where things get really interesting to me. First, J.J. Watt is out. Watt has six of Houston’s 17 sacks and a whopping 16 of its 24 QB hits. Suffice it to say that the Houston pass rush is significantly diminished without him, and Gardner Minshew should have plenty of time to throw here. It seems likely that Dede Westbrook will return to action for this game, which means we get our normal Jags trio of Westbrook, D.J. Chark, and Chris Conley, with Keelan Cole fighting for scraps. Baby Chark (doo doo) has led the Minshew-era Jags in targets and is somewhat quietly on pace for a massive breakout season. He’s doing it on modest volume of 7.6 targets per game, which lowers his floor, but Chark has one of the highest ceilings in this game and a tremendous matchup. Opposite him on the perimeter, Chris Conley has had some big boom games, but he’s doing it on very modest target volume and massive yards per catch — he has ceiling, but an atrocious floor. Dede Westbrook is the guy I’ve wanted to smash all season long, and should be smashing given how good of a route runner he is, but he just doesn’t seem to see the volume (or sees it too close to the line of scrimmage to do much with it). I like Dede, and I do want to note that in the three games prior to an early exit in Week 8 he saw 28 targets and saw his yards per catch climb well over 10 after hovering around six for the first three games of the year. Dede should go less owned than Chark here, and while I love Chark, I think Dede brings almost as much ceiling at what will likely be significantly less ownership. Should Westbrook miss the game unexpectedly, Keelan Cole would be the primary beneficiary, even though his increased snap count in Week 8 only led to a total of two targets. The Jags don’t really use their tight ends in the pass game, so you’re on your own if you want to chase plays like Seth DeValve or Josh Oliver; they’re MME dart throws who need touchdowns to be worthwhile.

On the Texans’ side, we have a team that wants to run against a defense that can be run on. The problem is that Carlos Hyde is being used as a one-dimensional back with just 10 targets on the year (and, curiously, five of them coming in a single game). Hyde is averaging a pedestrian 4.2 yards per carry, but Houston is willing to give him the ball 20+ times in games in which they’re winning, which gives him ceiling on top of a shaky floor. Poor Duke Johnson must have thought he was moving to a team that would finally utilize him when the Browns traded him to the Texans, but he’s only seen 8 touches per game, and just over three targets per game for the supposed “passing down back” despite being a far superior runner and pass catcher to Hyde. Poor Duke. 

The Texans’ pass game, of course, begins with DeAndre Hopkins. Nuk isn’t seeing the downfield usage that we’ve seen from him in past years, with an aDOT of just 7.6, but he’s still averaging 10 targets per game and still has multi-touchdown upside. He’s a safe play who is overpriced for his median outcome but has a strong floor and ceiling. Kenny Stills played just about every snap last week with Will Fuller out, and while that only resulted in five targets, it could easily be more this week and his big play ability means he can hit on just one catch. He’s also fairly pricey at $7,400 when you have Chark and Westbrook in that range, but he’s a ceiling option. Keke Coutee didn’t even play last week, strangely enough, despite being a clearly better player than DeAndre Carter, so who even knows what’s going through the coaches’ heads on that one. If you think Coutee takes his role back, he’s awfully cheap at $3,600. If you think Carter keeps the slot receiver role, he’s even cheaper at $800, but despite playing 57% of the snaps he only walked away with three targets (and this is a game in which Deshaun Watson threw 39 times). The Texans have actually been getting their tight ends more involved lately, running more 12 personnel sets, which resulted in Darren Fells playing 90% of the snaps and Jordan Akins playing 52%. The two tight ends saw six and five targets, respectively, though Fells has seven red zone catches to just one for Akins. Fells is the stronger overall play, though he is also about three times more expensive. I will go so far as to say that Akins is my favorite play who is priced below the kickers. 

The way this game is most likely to play out is for both teams to start slowly, leaning on the run game as they both prefer to do. Houston is more likely to be successful here, which should eventually force the Jags to open up their pass game a bit more. The Texans are favorites but this game is basically a tossup, so either team could win, and you could approach your roster-building from multiple ways.

Some other ways the game could play out:

  • One team could get out to an early lead and thus be able to rely more on their run game while the other team takes to the air in an attempt to catch up. This could play out both ways, so take your pick, but based on the pieces, the pricing, and the likeliest scenarios, I prefer betting on the Texans to take the lead and the Jags to play catch-up.
  • I always like betting on onslaught outcomes in Showdowns. It’s hard to imagine it happening in this game, really, but weird things happen in the NFL and onslaughts go underowned (I feel like I haven’t had to write this up very often given how frequently we’ve seen one-sided Showdowns, but the time to find low-ownership onslaught options is on games like this). 
  • While both teams lean run heavy, we never know where the scoring comes from, and it’s entirely possible to think that the scoring is all via the air.

My favorite captain in this one is D.J. Chark. I love his combination of price and upside. Westbrook, Hopkins, and Hyde are some others who look attractive to me, but frankly this is a pretty open slate with a lot of viable captain options. You’ll want to choose your captain exposures based on the game scenarios for which you’re building.

Some groups to consider:

  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain receivers with their QB
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 1 receiver (Watson) or 2 receivers (Minshew)
  • At most 1 of Coutee and Carter, and, at most 2 of these two and the Texans’ tight ends
  • If you’re feeling bold, at least 1 of Chark, Conley, and Westbrook. Other than a dud game against the Saints, Minshew has thrown for at least 1 touchdown in every game, and 2 or more touchdowns in 5 of 7. With the target tree so concentrated, it’s highly likely that at least one of these guys will smash, and in fact at least 1 of them has been right around or above 20 points in 6 of 8 games so far.

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 Notes for Thursday-to-Monday Players ::

  • Both of these are run-leaning offenses. The matchup sets up well for the Texans to attack on the ground (Jacksonville ranks 7th in DVOA against the pass // 25th against the run) and for the Jags to lean toward the air (Houston DVOA :: 5th vs run // 23rd vs pass)
  • Because we prefer the Jags for their rushing attack and the Texans for their passing attack, this isn’t a priority game on the big, 14-game slate
  • If chasing on the Texans’ side, this is a good spot for DeAndre Hopkins to push for double-digit targets again, with most of these targets coming on shorter-area throws. His double-digit touchdown upside would be the main reason to chase him for ceiling in tourneys; other pass game pieces on this side are more shots-in-the-dark on the big slate
  • D.J. Chark has not been consistent enough in this Minshew-led offense to be considered a floor play, but he’s dripping with upside in this spot against the struggling and banged-up Texans secondary. The absence of J.J. Watt in this game will also make things easier on the Jags’ passing attack as a whole. While Chark is not a staple piece, he is a strong Tier 3 option for his upside in tourneys. Chris Conley also maintains a deep-shot role that makes him Tier-3-playable.
  • Fournette draws a tough matchup, but is a potential “play the role” option if you want to roll the dice; on a slate as large as this, everything else gets thin beyond the plays mentioned above, unless building for a shootout. In that scenario: Chark or Conley (or even Fournette, who has breakaway ability) score a couple early touchdowns to push the pace in this game, and the Texans respond by going pass-heavy with Stills or Hopkins beating a tough matchup (and one of the quarterbacks in this game being carried up toward the top of the slate along the way). This isn’t a crazy scenario, but it’s best saved for large-field play, as there are much likelier scenarios than this.

Kickoff Sunday, Nov 3rd 1:00pm Eastern

Bears (
18) at

Eagles (
23)

Over/Under 41.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bears Run D
11th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
25th DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Bears Pass D
2nd DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
29th DVOA/24th Yards per pass
Eagles Run D
15th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O
28th DVOA/32nd Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
29th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O
24th DVOA/25th Yards per pass

Bears at Eagles presents a matchup of two teams that reached the playoffs last season and have scuffled throughout the first half of this year with similar-minded coaches (Nagy was the quarterbacks coach under offensive coordinator Doug Pederson for three years in Kansas City).

We’ll start with the matchup on the Eagles side, where they will be taking on a Bears team that is not as ferocious as they were last year, but that still has enough juice to be referred to as one of the better squads in the league. The Bears defense is allowing the seventh lowest expected yards per target on the year, while shaving 16% off the league-average aDOT and 13% off the league-average YAC/r rate. Only five teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns than the Bears. Only five teams have allowed fewer rushing yards to running backs. The Bears defense has allowed the seventh fewest yards per game and the fifth fewest points per game, in spite of facing the eighth most plays per game. Fantasy production against the Bears has all been built around volume (Josh Jacobs went for 123 yards on 26 carries; Latavius Murray went for 119 yards on 27 carries; Michael Thomas went for 131 yards on nine catches; Emmanuel Sanders went for 98 yards on 11 catches; the list goes on), which makes this an interesting spot for an Eagles team that is built around spreading the ball around. If we take away the 40-attempt game for Carson Wentz chasing points against the Vikings, the Eagles have produced only two instances of a player topping six targets in the last months — with Alshon Jeffery seeing eight targets and Zach Ertz seeing seven targets, both in the game against the Jets. Obviously, you could go to the Eagles passing attack for a “hope and pray” bet on low volume in a difficult matchup — but if you want to target the Philly passing attack for more than just “hope and pray” shots, your best bet is to build around a game scenario in which this contest becomes a bit higher-scoring than expected and volume ramps up on the passing attack as a whole. There are no “good” matchups against the Bears, but if volume ramps up for this passing attack, Ertz and Alshon should be expected to benefit first (with Dallas Goedert and Nelson Agholor behind them). (Note: If DeSean Jackson returns this week, he should be expected to play limited snaps; but he would obviously enter the large-field mix as a “post a big score on one play” type of player, even in a below-average matchup.)

The clearest place for volume to concentrate on one player — in the likeliest game flow — is in the Eagles backfield, where we asked last week if Pederson would trust his electric rookie (Miles Sanders) enough to lean on him in a matchup that played best to his strengths, and where Pederson answered with a thundering No: giving Sanders only 13 snaps and six (electric) touches before his shoulder injury in the third quarter took him out of the game. Jordan Howard ended up handling a season-high 23 carries — and while that number will likely go down to his typical range of “15ish” if Sanders returns to the field, he’ll have a chance to be a 20-carry back once again if Sanders fails to get cleared The matchup is non-ideal, but it can be cracked open for yardage and touchdowns if given enough time.

On the other side, the Eagles are not the same, legendarily attackable defense they were earlier in the year through the air, as they have now returned Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby to the field across the last two weeks — while this defense has also lost some pieces up front (as detailed last week) that have made them a more attackable unit on the ground than in the past. Part of the reason we love targeting passing attacks against the Eagles is not only because they have a below-average-to-truly-bad secondary, but is also because they are so strong against the run they filter their opponents heavily to the air. This has not been the case across their last three games, however, as the Eagles have faced the ninth lowest opponent pass play rate in that stretch. Given Matt Nagy’s follow-through on his desire to get back to running the ball (31 touches for our boy David Montgomery), it is fair to wonder how heavily he will attack through the air with Mitchell Trubisky struggling so thoroughly. It’s likely that the Bears at least somewhat try to keep this game low-scoring in order to control things with their run game and defense.

Even with all the “attacking” opponents are doing on the ground against the Eagles, they are not finding resounding success. Ezekiel Elliott averaged 5.0 yards per carry in this spot and Devin Singletary averaged 6.3 on limited touches, but Dalvin Cook (2.6 YPC), Le’Veon Bell (2.9), and Frank Gore (3.8) failed to get much going. As with pretty much everything in this game, Montgomery (75% of the Bears plays last week) is a “bet on volume in a below-average matchup” play.

The one spot in this game that is not a below-average matchup (unless you want to count Trubisky as part of the “matchup” for his pass catchers) is the Bears wide receivers. The only reliable piece on the Bears passing attack has been Allen Robinson, who has target counts this year of 13 // 7 // 7 // 7 // 9 // 16 // 7. Robinson has cracked 100 yards only once (102), but he has fallen shy of 60 yards only once as well (41). Attached to a low-scoring offense, he has fewer paths to slate-breakers; but his floor has been excellent all year, and the matchup makes him a solid bet for production. Behind Robinson, the Bears offense is a bunch of chess pieces that Nagy can deploy in different matchups, in different ways. Last week (where we talked about Nagy potentially trying to exploit the Chargers’ communication issues by getting them out of position for a big play to Gabriel or Cohen), Trubisky completely missed a wide open Gabriel for what should have been a long touchdown — so targeting this offense is not without hope. But ultimately, you are just crossing your fingers for something to unexpectedly click in order for the risk on this offense to be worth it.

JM’s Interpretation ::

When we look at this game through the lens of “where on this slate can we find slate-winning scores?” we find very little; but with price factored in, some of these players become a bit interesting from a “hey, they don’t cost that much and they’ll probably get me points” perspective. That’s not the best way to build a winning tourney roster in the best of circumstances, of course; but value is thin enough this week that some of these guys can be considered. The players I would be most interested in from that perspective are Montgomery // Robinson (his price is most attractive on FanDuel) // Anthony Miller (recent target counts of 7 // 9 // 3) // Eagles tight ends // Alshon Jeffery — in roughly that order. Outside of targeting this game for “they don’t cost that much, and they could put up points,” you could build around the Bears getting on track through the air and the Eagles finding holes in the Bears secondary with an aggressive attack — though that’s not a particularly likely way for this game to play out.

:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 3rd 1:00pm Eastern

Colts (
19.5) at

Steelers (
20.5)

Over/Under 40.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Colts Run D
6th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
14th DVOA/11th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
12th DVOA/23rd Yards per pass
Steelers Run D
1st DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
22nd DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
8th DVOA/6th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
15th DVOA/10th Yards per pass

This game presents us with an interesting setup when we ask, “What are the Steelers good at?” This is similar to a couple weeks ago when the Lions were playing the Vikings and we asked, “Why are the Vikings a good pass defense?” — and we found that their strengths matched up with elements the Lions’ passing attack wasn’t even focused on, while they were average at defending things that the Lions do well. This week, when we ask, “What are the Steelers good at?” the answer is creating turnovers and getting after the quarterback. The Steelers are a perfectly average pass defense in nearly every metric. They’ve been really solid against the run (3.75 yards allowed per carry to running backs), but they rank bottom half of the league in drive success rate allowed. And in spite of these “solid, but not particularly scary” metrics, the Steelers have allowed fewer notable stat lines than any team in the NFL (Hunter Henry’s 8-100-0, and Phillip Dorsett’s 4-95-2). The other three teams in the Steelers’ division are averaging over 10 notable games allowed apiece. So how have the Steelers kept opponents from compiling any meaningful stat lines against them? By ranking sixth in the league in sacks and second in the league in turnovers. But this week, the Steelers will be taking on a Colts team with a strong offensive line and a ball-out-quick attack that has allowed the fourth fewest sacks and suffered the fourth fewest giveaways in the league. If Jacoby Brissett and the disciplined, well-schemed Colts can avoid sacks and turnovers, it’s not crazy to think we could see a third “notable stat line” emerge in this spot.

The best bet for such a game, of course, is T.Y. Hilton, who has bounce-around target counts on the year of 9 // 6 // 10 // 4 // 11 // 6. Steelers opponents have been neutral in how they choose to attack, and it’s highly likely that this run-leaning Colts team (fifth lowest pass play rate in the league) continues to lean toward the run for as long as they control this game (which — given the coaching advantage Frank Reich has over most opponents — tends to be the entirety of most games). As such, Hilton will need one of two things to happen in order for volume to pile up (which is necessary to bet on him and his short-area role beyond just “throwing a dart and hoping for the best”). 1) He’ll need the offense to simply concentrate heavily on him, or 2) He’ll need the Steelers to get enough going on offense for the Colts to be forced into a more aggressive game plan. From a “concentrating heavily on him” standpoint, this is an average spot for that bet. The Steelers corners have been stationary this year, which will allow Hilton to move around for the matchup that suits him best; but there is no clear weak link in the Steelers secondary for the Colts to go out of their way to exploit. This leaves “needing the Steelers offense to get going” as a worthwhile bet to make on the other side of a Hilton roster, as that may prove to be his clearest path to big volume.

The rest of the Colts passing attack is entirely whack-a-mole — with Brissett’s often-limited pass attempts spread across eight to nine players each week. There are players like Jack Doyle or even Eric Ebron who can be considered for savings on FantasyDraft and DraftKings as “three to six target players in a good matchup” (the Steelers’ weakest link is tight ends, as explored in this space multiple times over the last few weeks), but nothing in this passing attack becomes a true upside play outside of hoping for the best. In fact, the same can be said for this offense as a whole, as Marlon Mack runs into the toughest matchup and still sees no schemed work in the pass game (on a team that doesn’t operate outside its scheme much), leaving him as a yardage-and-touchdown back in a below-average matchup with a low scoring expectation for his team as a whole.

Which brings us to the “possible exception” we have mentioned a number of times: can the Steelers score enough points to force Indy to become more aggressive?

Short answer: probably not.

Pittsburgh has run the ball on 51.7% of their plays across their last three games — and while that includes the Devlin Hodges week, they haven’t exactly been asking Mason Rudolph to let it rip, either, with only one game on the year north of 28 pass attempts, and with a high-water mark of 251 passing yards…on 36 attempts…in comeback mode against the Miami Dolphins. In other words: barring some fluky ball-bounces early (some missed tackles and a big play; a turnover (or two) returned for a touchdown; a trick play working early in the game and leading to a two-score lead for one of these teams), this game should play out about the way Vegas expects (21 to 22 is the current Vegas-implied outcome), with the Colts moving the ball well enough to score the occasional touchdown or field goal, and with the Steelers trying to control the game on the ground against Darius Leonard and one of the tougher run defenses in the league. In this scenario, the Steelers will hammer the shorter areas of the field against a defense that invites teams to do exactly that — with a small number of strategic shots mixed in. The game will remain close and scientific rather than free-form and aggressive, and while this will likely lead to one or two Steelers players posting a solid, price-considered output, it will be difficult for any player from this offense to produce a score you have to have.

JM’s Interpretation ::

If you want to play an alternate path here :: the Colts force everything to the short areas of the field and tackle well after the catch, but they are generally content allowing receptions (providing a 7% boost to the league-average catch rate — the fifth highest boost in the league). If Rudolph and the Steelers can avoid the mistakes and negative plays that the Colts bank on each team eventually making against them (taking sacks, missing an open throw to set up third-and-long, focusing too heavily on the run, committing a penalty, turning the ball over, etc.), they should be able to move the ball on underneath throws to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson; and this could lead to the Steelers producing more points than expected (and the Colts responding in kind). It’s an interesting scenario to build around, as each team has multiple players who can score from anywhere on the field (Mack // Hilton // JuJu // Diontae // Washington — just among players who are actively involved). But each team is also good at tackling, and is disciplined on the back end; so such breakdowns remain unlikely.

On my main builds, of course, I’ll view this game through the lens of the likeliest scenarios — which has a few strong scores emerging from this game, but with some unpredictability as to where those scores will come from, and without a lot of clear paths to slate-breaking upside to make the plays worth whatever “mediocre game” risk exists on guys like Hilton // JuJu // Diontae // Conner // etc. Conner actually ends up being the player I’d be likeliest to play, as his role is just so valuable. He has smashed in obvious spots (Dolphins // Chargers // Bengals) while failing to show up in “tough to average” spots so far, but the workload still gives him some level of attractiveness. I could also see a shot on Doyle as a deep salary saver (DK/FDraft only) in order to open other spots on your roster (you can typically capture eight to 12 points from him), but outside of that I’m seeing this game as more of a “game-stack-only” spot for me this week.

:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 3rd 1:00pm Eastern

Jets (
22.75) at

Dolphins (
19.75)

Over/Under 42.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Jets Run D
14th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards per carry
Jets Pass D
31st DVOA/24th Yards allowed per pass
Dolphins Pass O
11th DVOA/17th Yards per pass
Dolphins Run D
32nd DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Jets Run O
29th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Dolphins Pass D
10th DVOA/16th Yards allowed per pass
Jets Pass O
30th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass

This game between the 1-6 Jets and the 0-7 Dolphins creates a handful of interesting notes to kick us off ::

The Jets (27:29) and the Dolphins (26:31) are combining for only 54:00 in time of possession per game this year — opening opportunities for one side (or both sides) to see a notable bump in play volume.

Both pass protection units rank bottom three in adjusted sack rate…but both pass rush units rank bottom eight — opening opportunities for each offense to have more time for plays to develop through the air than they typically have.

Each team ranks bottom 12 (Jets 21st; Dolphins 32nd) in pass defense DVOA.

The Dolphins have allowed the most points per game, and the Jets have allowed the eighth most points per game.

As noted at the top of the NFL Edge this week ::

The Dolphins have point totals on the year of 10 // 0 // 6 // 10 // 16 // 21 // 14, so it has been tough for their games to eclipse 40 points even with their opponents scoring (only two of their seven games have topped 43.0). The Jets with Sam Darnold under center have scored 16 // 24 // 0 // 15 (though the three lower-scoring games did come against the Bills, Patriots, and Jags, while even the 24-pointer came against the Cowboys). The likeliest scenario in this game will have both quarterbacks playing fairly aggressive football while making too many mistakes and failing in the red zone too often for the game to become a shootout — but it at least has a solid shot at pushing for 40+ points, and there are a few paths to the game producing strong stat lines from various spots.

We’ll kick things off on the Dolphins side, where they will be facing a Jets team that ranks third in DVOA against the run and has allowed only one rusher to eclipse 100 yards against them in spite of their 1-6 record. As someone who doesn’t look at ownership projections throughout the week and relies primarily on my own research, I was genuinely stunned when games kicked off on Sunday and Leonard Fournette was one of the highest-owned running backs against the Jets at his ultra-lofty DraftKings price (he needed 30+ points to really be worth a roster spot) — and was requisitely annoyed when Fournette picked up 66 yards on a single run right off the bat. From that point forward, however, Fournette gained 10 yards on 18 carries, which is a good snapshot of what this run defense can do against a mediocre to below-average line. The Dolphins rank 25th in adjusted line yards on offense — one spot ahead of the Jags (and without a talented bellcow back like Fournette in the backfield), making this a really difficult spot for Miami to move the ball on the ground.

When the Dolphins take to the air, however, the story is a bit different. Although there isn’t any “roots-level” overlap between the development of last year’s Buccaneers coaching staff, this year’s Buccaneers coaching staff, and this year’s Dolphins coaching staff, all three passing attacks (’18 Bucs with Jameis and Fitzpatrick; ’19 Bucs with Jameis; ’19 Dolphins with Fitzpatrick) incorporate similar elements. While Jameis ranks first in average intended air yards this year (10.8), Ryan Fitzpatrick ranks third (10.4). While Mike Evans ranks fourth in aDOT (15.7), DeVante Parker ranks sixth (15.4). And while Chris Godwin (aDOT of 11.1) has the “intermediate + deep” role on the Bucs, Preston Williams (14.3) has that role on the Dolphins. Evans has 38.2% of the Bucs’ air yards while Parker has 31.2%. Godwin is sitting at 25.3% compared to 32.2% for Williams — and Fitzpatrick ranks third in aggressiveness percentage compared to sixth for Jameis. (Fitzpatrick even has a slightly higher completion percentage and expected completion percentage than Jameis.)

Of course, the similarities end there, as the Dolphins have been totally incapable of sustaining drives or scoring points — and while Williams/Parker are not far behind Evans in catch rate, all three are miles behind Godwin, who plays a big role in keeping Bucs drives alive. But against a Jets secondary that has given up season-best games to John Brown, Odell Beckham, and Chris Conley (while otherwise facing the short-area, spread-it-around Patriots attack twice, the spread-it-around Eagles once in an obliteration with Falk under center, and the Cowboys with Amari getting hurt early), there will be opportunities for these players to perform at a level above salary-based expectations — especially if the Jets are able to get things going on their side of the ball.

We know by now that there are no bad matchups against the Jets, only bad volume; but with this game being played in Miami and currently carrying a spread of only 3.0 points, there is a solid chance the Jets are unable to just sit on their poor rushing attack and kill the game in that way.

It has been an interesting year for Sam Darnold, as he has completed an impressive 69.9% of his passes if we take out his game against the Patriots — but he is averaging only 6.1 yards per pass attempt, with his matchups so far coming against three teams (Patriots // Bills // Jags) that rank top eight in DVOA against the pass, and his other matchup (10.6 yards per pass attempt; 338 yards and two touchdowns) coming against a Cowboys team that ranks 17th. The Dolphins rank 32nd.

Darnold topped 250 yards passing only four times last year (and had only five games with multiple touchdown passes), so there is obvious risk in what has become a fairly directionless Jets offense under Adam Gase (who I will loudly proclaim I was wrong on this year — as I actually liked the setup with him joining forces with Darnold; instead of the aggressive, pace-up offense Gase promised (and practiced) in the offseason, however, we have gotten the same old Vanilla Gase playing slow and blaming his players for everything that goes wrong). But given the matchup and the weapons around him (Robby Anderson // Jamison Crowder // Demaryius Thomas // with Chris Herndon tentatively expected to return this week), there are certainly paths to a really nice game (especially with prices considered) from the Jets passing attack.

The highest upside in this attack belongs to Anderson, who has target counts with Darnold this year of 7 // 8 // 8 // 6, and whose aDOT of 14.6 and percentage share of team air yards of 40.84 (fifth highest in the league) point to at least a couple big games coming from him during the second half of the season. He comes with a low floor, but this in-shambles Dolphins secondary is as good a spot as any for Anderson to hit. (The Dolphins have allowed 4-147-2 to Marquise Brown // 4-100-2 to Terry McLaurin // 5-83-1 to John Brown — all of whom profile similarly to Robby.)

The highest floor likely belongs to Crowder, though his targets aren’t quite as bankable against the poor pass rush of the Dolphins. If the work is there, Crowder will have no trouble in this matchup; but there is at least some chance that the work remains on the lower end with Darnold having extra time to look downfield.

The Demaryius Value Train paid off last week on DraftKings and FantasyDraft at his dirt-low price; he has target counts with Darnold of 4 // 9 // 5 and has caught nine of nine passes from Darnold in games where he wasn’t dealing with the Patriots. He’s a solid salary-saver with four or five catches in three of his last four games and 40 to 65 yards in four straight. He’s not a major threat for big plays, but he’s a reliable intermediate target for Darnold and can pay off for ceiling with a touchdown. (He’s a much better play on DraftKings and FantasyDraft than on FanDuel, as FanDuel salary is always loose enough that you should be looking to build some form of an All Star Team each week.)

Finally, we have the Jets backfield — where Le’Veon Bell (for sake of example) has scored DraftKings/FantasyDraft totals of 23.2 // 21.9 // 10.3 // 15.8 // 12.3 // 8.6 // 6.5, and has seen his DraftKings price go from a low of $6000 in Week 7 to a “WTF” $7700 this week. Bell is more affordable on other sites (on FantasyDraft, his salary is the equivalent of $7.15k on DraftKings — though pricing as a whole is a bit looser over there; on FanDuel, he costs the DraftKings equivalent of $5.83k — though again, with salary looser as a whole, Dalvin Cook (for example) costs the equivalent of $7.5k, so you’re still “paying up” for Bell compared to what you can get elsewhere). From a salary perspective on DK/FDraft, Bell needs to be able to hit around 28 to 31 points to really be worth a roster spot (while on FanDuel — you know, All Star Teams and all — his salary multiplier isn’t as important as the raw score you need; and you essentially need him to be able to at least come close to Cook/CMC, as you can always fill up your FanDuel roster with high-scoring plays across the board). Working in Bell’s favor is a workhorse role and a great matchup. Working against Bell is his atrocious offensive line and the fact that Darnold has only thrown to him 4.75 times per game (including giving him only one target in his softest matchup against the Cowboys). The likeliest scenario has Darnold throwing downfield to open receivers with time on his hands, instead of checking things down to Bell, so you need something different from the “likeliest scenario” or you need a big game on the ground for Bell to produce at the level his salary requires.

JM’s Interpretation ::

I’m a bit perturbed by the Bell price tag, as his path to a 20-point DraftKings/FantasyDraft game and 17-point FanDuel game is pretty clear; and yet, you need him to be able to do so much more in this “offense that should be able to pass the ball this week” than he has done all year. The matchup is tremendous, and he’s a safe play with upside; but it will still be difficult for him to reach the sort of score you really need him to reach.

Bell is the only player in this game with real “staple piece” potential (with the price — again — detracting from that a bit), but all of Darnold // Fitzpatrick // Parker // Williams // “Jets pass catchers” are in the tournament conversation, especially with prices cheap on these guys and value thin this week. Some things would have to go really right for this game between two inefficient offenses to turn into a genuine shootout; but things would have to go really wrong for points to not be scored in this spot as well, as each offense is willing to be aggressive (the Dolphins in particular), and each defense is very attackable (the Jets through the air; the Dolphins all the way around). With that, three or four “solid price-considered scores” should emerge from the main pass game pieces on the Dolphins and Jets, and it won’t be surprising if at least one really strong price-considered Upside score shows up as well (with Robby // Parker // Williams leading the way in that regard, but with other pieces carrying some potential in this area as well).

:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 3rd 1:00pm Eastern

Vikings (
25.75) at

Chiefs (
20.25)

Over/Under 46.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Vikings Run D
27th DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
17th DVOA/9th Yards per carry
Vikings Pass D
8th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
1st DVOA/12th Yards per pass
Chiefs Run D
28th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O
2nd DVOA/6th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
2nd DVOA/4th Yards allowed per pass
Vikings Pass O
20th DVOA/22nd Yards per pass

Much like this last week’s game between the Packers and the Chiefs, the NFL is not exactly set to get their money’s worth in this clash between the 5-3 Chiefs and the 6-2 Vikings, as it appears likely that we will be without Patrick Mahomes for at least one more week (Vegas is holding off on posting a line for this game just in case, but Mahomes was practicing with the second team on Wednesday and will need a bit of a miracle recovery in order to be ready by Sunday). This creates an interesting setup, as we’ll have “competent but unspectacular” backup Matt Moore trying to beat the tough pass defense of the Vikings, and we’ll have the Vikings happy to hammer the Chiefs on the ground if the Chiefs fail to put up points in this spot.

We’ll start on the Vikings’ side of the ball, where the expectation heading into this game should be for Andy Reid to find ways to keep this game close (especially at home), but for the contest to play out with either the two teams battling neck-and-neck or the Vikings playing with a lead.

Last year’s Seahawks team was the first team in five seasons to finish with a pass play rate below 48% — and this year, the Vikings (46.65%) and 49ers (42.49%) are on track to both blow past that mark themselves. The Vikings catch a matchup this week against a Chiefs team that is so much easier to attack on the ground than through the air (30th in DVOA against the run; fourth against the pass) that they have faced the ninth lowest opponent pass play rate this year in spite of typically playing with a lead. Teams are going out of their way to hammer the Chiefs on the ground, which has led to the Chiefs giving up the third most rushing yards (and the second most receiving yards) to running backs this season, while having given up the ninth fewest yards to wide receivers. Dalvin Cook has been unleashed of late as well, with recent touch counts of 27 // 18 // 26 // 28 — giving him a strong shot at 25+ touches in one of the best matchups he will catch all year. The Chiefs have also allowed the fifth most touchdowns to running backs. Crazy things happen every week in the NFL, but this spot sets up tremendously for Cook.

Through the air, the Vikings have called on Kirk Cousins to top 29 pass attempts only three times (and he has yet to top 36 attempts) — which is the range in which expectations should land once again this week barring some crazy, outlier game flow scenario. With Adam Thielen expected back, we should expect most of the passing offense for the Vikings to focus on Thielen and Stefon Diggs (outside of screen passes to Cook, of course) — with seven to eight targets the likeliest range for each player (Thielen has not topped eight targets in a game this year; Diggs has topped eight targets only once). This sort of workload requires significant efficiency at the prices where you will find these two — though each player does have “efficiency” as part of their arsenal. Thielen has topped 75 yards only once (and has topped 57 yards only twice), but he has seven touchdowns in seven games. Diggs has topped 100 yards four times in eight games in spite of seeing target counts in those spots of 7 // 11 // 8 // 7. Both players have low floors for their prices in a spot that likely won’t call for a volume spike, but both are capable of posting the sort of high-end score you would need at their salaries. Diggs, of course, is the better bet for yardage, while Thielen is the better bet for scores.

With value thin on DraftKings and FantasyDraft this week, it’s also worth noting that the Chiefs have faced the second most tight end targets and allowed the fifth most tight end yards, while the Vikings have played with three or more wide receivers on the field less often than any team in football — typically focusing instead on 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) and 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end). Last week, Irv Smith ran 60% of available pass routes for the Vikings and Kyle Rudolph ran 80%, and across the last three weeks these two have combined to average 7.7 targets and 16.4 DraftKings/FantasyDraft points per game. Their best combo game in this stretch was 27.8 points against the Lions, and their worst combo game was 9.8 points. At $6k in combined salary and the DK equivalent of $5.85k on FantasyDraft, they’re an interesting player block for savings — with a bit of a lower floor than we would like, but with realistic paths to ceiling as well. These two become more attractive if Mahomes plays, as that will increase the chances of their usage spiking in a back-and-forth matchup.

As we know by now, the best thing the Vikings do in pass defense is tackle after the catch, with this team shaving over 20% off the league-average YAC/r rate — helping them to allow the ninth fewest pass plays of 20+ yards in spite of not yet having had their bye. We should keep in mind, then, that DFS sites have had to hedge their pricing a bit on Chiefs skill position players — pricing them high enough for the chance that Mahomes might return, and making them all a bit overpriced (especially in the matchup) if Matt Moore is under center. For example: based on to-date production alone, Travis Kelce should be priced at around $5k on DraftKings and $10k on FantasyDraft (on FanDuel, he’s priced about right — especially as FanDuel condenses tight end pricing so much). But instead, Kelce is priced as a guy who needs about 25 to 28 points in order to justify the spot on your roster — a mark he has come close to only once this year. If Mahomes plays, this pricing is justified by how high Kelce’s ceiling remains, especially as Minnesota (while not yet allowing a tight end touchdown) has given up the second most catches to the position as teams look for a way to move the ball against this tough unit; but if Mahomes misses, this remains a bit like all those Gronk years when it was like, “Wait, why is everyone spending so much for a guy who typically gets 15 points and only occasionally pays off his salary?” There are just better ways to spend salary than this, outside of hoping something clicks (a generally -EV bet to make with ownership never really dipping too much on Kelce, anyway). If Mahomes happens to play, Kelce is viable for the ceiling; if Mahomes misses, Kelce is a “play for the upside in spite of the floor” option, with the added caveat that ownership on him is rarely low. (On FanDuel, Kelce can still be considered — though that’s largely because there isn’t a ton to love at tight end this week and pricing is so condensed on there that you can fully justify just taking the most talented player and hoping for the best).

The same can be said for Tyreek Hill, who has the speed to hit in any matchup, but who is priced as a guy who needs one of the top three or four wide receiver scores on the slate to be worth the spot on your roster (across all sites). In what should remain a spread-the-wealth offense — especially with Mahomes likely sidelined — Hill is just a bet-on-talent option.

Spread-the-wealth is the name of the game behind these two, of course, with Sammy Watkins likely in line for five to eight targets and DeMarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, LeSean McCoy, Damien Williams, and Darrel Williams all splitting up remaining touches. Watkins provides affordable exposure to volume on a well-schemed passing attack if you want to hope for a broken play or a touchdown. McCoy is the best bet for volume in the backfield — but no player in this backfield has topped even 14 touches since Week 1, making all these guys more “hope for a big play or multiple scores” than players you can roster for bankable production.

JM’s Interpretation ::

There are obviously ways you can build around this game that have it turning into a shootout (with two well-schemed offenses both capable of putting up points — and with players in Cooks // Diggs // Tyreek // Kelce // Hardman // Robinson // the-list-goes-on who can score from anywhere on the field), but outside of those builds (which would optimally sell out for this scenario — picking up three or four guys from this game instead of just trying to guess right on one), this game pretty quickly appears to boil down to “Dalvin Cook, and the rest is fairly thin.” Kelce breaks out of that when we bring FanDuel pricing into the discussion, and the Vikings tight end player block is worth considering on a thin week for value on DK and FDraft; but Cook is the only player who lines up well for a slate-wrecking score. (In fact, Cook is the only player who lines up well for a score that can pay off his salary, given where players from this game are generally priced.) Everything else is just trying to isolate a busted play or a multi-touchdown game, or building around this contest turning lively with a shootout.

:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 3rd 1:00pm Eastern

Titans (
19.75) at

Panthers (
23.25)

Over/Under 43.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Titans Run D
16th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
16th DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Titans Pass D
24th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
11th DVOA/11th Yards per pass
Panthers Run D
26th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O
11th DVOA/5th Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
13th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Titans Pass O
2nd DVOA/16th Yards per pass

The Titans have been one of the more unexciting, nondescript teams in the league this year, ranking bottom half of the league in pass offense, run offense, and pass defense, while picking up the sixth fewest yards per game, scoring the seventh fewest points per game, allowing the ninth fewest yards per game, and allowing the fourth fewest points per game. This coaching staff knows they cannot win a track meet, so they play at the fourth slowest pace in the league and run the ball at the 10th highest rate (a rate that would be higher if they controlled more of their games than they do).

On defense, the Titans are pretty solidly “average to slightly above-average” in all areas on a per-play basis — but they are solid enough on third downs (allowing the sixth lowest conversion rate in the league, and holding opponents to the fifth lowest drive success rate as a result) that it has been difficult this year for big DFS scores to pile up against them. Only three players have topped 100 yards receiving against them — with one of those games belonging to Austin Hooper, another belonging to Austin Ekeler, and the third belonging to “this team ran into the Bucs” with Mike Evans. D.J. Chark (4-76-1), Mohamed Sanu (9-96-1), and Hunter Henry (6-97-0) have supplied the only other notable lines against the Titans — and given that the Panthers rank 23rd in DVOA through the air and 25th in yards per pass attempt and D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel have each failed to top even 91 receiving yards in a game this year, the Panthers’ passing attack is fairly thin in this spot. Working in Moore’s favor is “role certainty,” as he has target counts in his last four games with Kyle Allen of 5 // 8 // 10 // 9, with his shorter-area role allowing him to haul in 65.6% of his targets in this stretch. If he breaks off a long YAC play or scores a touchdown, he could prove worthwhile at his price. Working in Samuel’s favor is the eighth deepest average depth of target in the NFL and the sixth largest percentage share of team air yards. Samuel and Allen have connected on only 46.7% of their passes across their last four games, leaving Floor a thin proposition; but Samuel is seeing enough consistent downfield work that he will eventually strike for another big game or two this year.

The best matchup belongs to Greg Olsen, who has seen target counts of 7 // 7 with Kyle Allen in his two tight end friendly matchups (Arizona and Tampa), while seeing target counts of 4 // 2 // 2 in his less-attractive matchups. Tennessee is not in the same bottom-class as the Bucs and Cardinals (who have been the two worst tight end defenses this year), but they have been easier to attack with tight ends than with wide receivers, making Olsen a viable (low floor with ceiling) salary saver on DraftKings and FantasyDraft.

Tennessee’s greatest strength on defense is against the run (second in DVOA; 12th in yards allowed per carry), but this will be put to the test against All World running back Christian McCaffrey, who has recent touch counts of 27 // 37 // 25 // 26 // 18, and who has been one of the most consistently dominant players in football regardless of matchup. Tennessee is disciplined enough to not get sucked in by all the movement and misdirection the Panthers play with, but there will still be opportunities for big plays and touchdowns from the Panthers’ back. With scoring expectations low in this game against a defense that doesn’t allow opponents to put up many points, CMC is less likely to go for 35+ DraftKings/FantasyDraft points than he is in other spots (which is about the score you need for him to really be worth a spot on your roster) — and even on FanDuel (where all superstars are just priced too low compared to the rest of available players), he takes a backseat to Cook on paper this week. But it will also be surprising if CMC “fails,” and the upside is always there — making him a worthwhile “fit him alongside Cook” play if you find you can easily make it work, or making him a tourney pivot if you want to go that direction.

On the Titans’ side, we have an offense that typically gets crossed off our list pretty quickly unless the matchup introduces some sort of major spark (and even then, there is risk involved: see their matchup against the Bucs last week), with this offense generally unable to notch many points, and leaning on a one-dimensional back as their engine to get there.

The matchup sets up best for Derrick Henry this week, as the Panthers rank third in DVOA against the pass and 32nd against the run. Carolina has been repeatedly run over by enemy attacks (allowing 4.91 yards per carry to running backs), though here’s a look at what Henry has provided so far this year (courtesy of Sharp Football Stats) ::

The Tennessee line ranks 24th in adjusted line yards, and Henry has cracked 100 yards only once (hitting exactly 100 yards, on 27 carries), with an average of one reception per game to make him an extremely one-dimensional player. The Panthers have allowed the second most rush plays of 20+ yards and the most rush plays of 40+ yards, which is the best bet for Henry to hit for some upside.

The Titans passing attack, meanwhile (20th in DVOA; 28th in yards per pass attempt; only three games this year north of 29 pass attempts, and only one game north of 34), will be taking on a Panthers defense that has allowed only “Buccaneers” and D.J. Chark to top even 82 yards through the air against them. Corey Davis and A.J. Brown are cheap enough that their talent could allow them to produce at above-salary expectations (and they’ll be virtually un-owned after failing in a great spot against the Bucs), but the likeliest scenario obviously has those players falling shy of what you would need from them, making them pure hope-and-pray plays. The best price-considered bet here is Jonnu Smith — who doesn’t have nearly the matchup he had last week against the Bucs, but who should be in line for four to six targets again, with outlier scenarios in which he sees more work than that. He also sets up as the best way for the Titans to move the ball through the air.

JM’s Interpretation ::

With scoring expectations low across the board in this game, nothing stands out as a particularly strong price-considered option beyond hopping on board the CMC volume train and seeing where the talent can take you. Outside of CMC, the tight ends are viable and Derrick Henry has a high ceiling (in spite of a fairly mediocre floor in his one-dimensional role), while everything else is more geared toward “hoping to guess right on something and land a big score as a result.”

:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 3rd 1:00pm Eastern

WFT (
13.25) at

Bills (
23.75)

Over/Under 37.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Washington Run D
17th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Washington Pass D
6th DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Bills Pass O
4th DVOA/6th Yards per pass
Bills Run D
24th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Washington Run O
21st DVOA/25th Yards per carry
Bills Pass D
28th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
Washington Pass O
32nd DVOA/29th Yards per pass

Washington at Buffalo :: the lowest Over/Under on the slate. (Lowest of the season?) Let’s dive in and see if there is anything to like.

What the Washington defense is good at ::

  • Red zone touchdown prevention — 8th best
  • Turnovers forced — 11 turnovers forced ranks 13th; WAS has the fifth most interceptions
  • Forcing short throws — shallowest opponent aDOT in the NFL

What the Washington defense is bad at ::

  • Preventing catches on short throws — largest catch rate boost in the league
  • Preventing yards — seventh most yards allowed per game
  • Getting the opponent off the field — near the bottom of the league in both opponent plays per drive and time of possession per drive
  • Stopping the run — 4.19 yards allowed per carry, and the fourth most running back rushing yards allowed in the league

______________

That’s an interesting list to examine in conjunction with the Bills offense, as we typically want to target the Bills for their downfield passing and aggressive quarterback play while avoiding their timeshare running back situation (in which the guy seeing the bulk of the work is the guy with the least upside). In addition to the Bills aiming to be the most adaptable and opponent-specific offense in the league (and therefore likely to lean run-heavy in this matchup that tilts toward the run — with the Bills offensive line ranked first in adjusted line yards and the Washington defense ranked 29th), we also have concerns when Josh Allen does pass about the way his talents mesh with this matchup. While Allen has shown improved accuracy this season, we would still prefer him in a matchup that doesn’t require him to be a precise short-area thrower against a defense that is good at hunting down interceptions. John Brown is one of only two wide receivers in the NFL (Michael Thomas is the other) to have gone for 50+ yards in every game this season and is involved enough to hit in spots that “don’t line up perfectly,” but this is a spot in which another “solid but unspectacular” game is the likeliest scenario, while Cole Beasley should produce another typically-solid game of his own while requiring a touchdown (or a majorly broken play) for any real upside.

On the ground, the Bills have given touch counts to Frank Gore in games shared with Devin Singletary of 11 // 21 // 12 // 9, while Singletary has seen touch counts of 9 // 6 // 7 // 7. Washington is dead last in time of possession and could realistically yield opportunities for four or five extra touches to be given to one of these two — though we made the same case against Miami (second-to-last in time of possession) a couple weeks ago, and the Bills proved that there are no foregone conclusions when it comes to this offense.

The Bills are a much more stable unit on defense, of course, where they are shaving over 13% off the league-average aDOT, 7% off the league-average catch rate, and 5% off YAC/r, while allowing the third fewest passing yards and the second fewest passing touchdowns in the league. No wide receiver has topped 100 yards against them. The Steelers are the only other team in the league that can say that (though…there are at least a couple others who can say, “If we hadn’t run into the Bucs, we would not yet have allowed a 100-yard receiver…). Oh — and the Steelers allowed Hunter Henry to go for 100, so the Bills stand alone in not having given up 100 yards to a pass catcher this year. In other words: it’s the Washington Redskins against this defense. Pass catchers — even McLaurin the Magnificent — are merely dart throws. This statement doubles if Dwayne Haskins is under center. We have seen stranger things in 100 years of NFL football than a raw player like Haskins lighting up a matchup like this…but we haven’t seen many stranger things. Maybe the helmet catch. I don’t know. In any case: play Washington pass catchers with your eyes closed and a prayer in place.

The backfield is a bit more interesting for Washington, as Adrian Peterson has 25 // 20 // 16 touches in three games with Bill Callahan as the head coach and should remain the focal point for as long as this game remains close. Vegas has the Bills installed as 9.5 point favorites, but that doesn’t mean the game is necessarily going to be out of hand, and we know Washington will continue running in a 10-point game deep into the fourth quarter. Volume will be there for Peterson unless the Bills jump out to a big, early lead.

JM’s Interpretation ::

This game doesn’t offer much that I want to go out of my way to target (there is a reason, after all, that it carries the lowest Over/Under on the slate), but there should be some solid scores that emerge from here, if you want to chase — with John Brown the likeliest bet for “a solid game,” and with the Buffalo backfield also in that conversation. But the bigger draw for me in this game is the “ugly value” available — plays that either A) provide pretty solid floor (Beasley) but very little opportunity for slate-breaking ceiling, or B) provide some sneaky ceiling (Peterson) but with very little floor (he’s averaging 3.9 yards per carry; his team likely won’t score many points; and he’s extremely one-dimensional in his production). These guys can open things up in other spots on your roster — though anything big from such plays should be considered a bonus.

We don’t usually isolate DST plays until later in the week, but both defenses stand out in this game. I don’t typically roster the Bills defense, as they are a talented squad, but with a mediocre pass rush and a bend-but-don’t-break mentality that rarely yields big DST scores. But if Haskins starts, everything we’ve seen from him so far points to a mistake-heavy game. As for Washington: they’re just simply so cheap across all sites (especially FanDuel and DraftKings), and they’re a slightly below-average defense with an ability to create turnovers, a mismatch in pass rush (17th in adjusted sack rate) vs opponent (27th), and a matchup against an overly-aggressive, mistake-prone quarterback. If Haskins starts, it elevates the chances of the Bills’ defense becoming a smash play and lowers the setup for WAS D (as there will likely be more opportunities for the Bills to work with a short field). But if Case Keenum makes it back on the field in time, there are really no defenses on this slate with clear smash potential, and the four to seven points you can almost certainly scoop up from Washington would make them valuable for the salary they would open up in other spots.

:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 3rd 4:05pm Eastern

Bucs (
23.5) at

Hawks (
27.5)

Over/Under 51.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Buccaneers Run D
3rd DVOA/1st Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
8th DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D
1st DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
3rd DVOA/2nd Yards per pass
Seahawks Run D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O
6th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O
9th DVOA/8th Yards per pass

This week, Seattle beat writer Michael-Shawn Dugar referenced Pete Carroll’s philosophy of “playing to give his team a chance in the fourth quarter” — which is a perfect description of how the Seahawks call a game. This is why Seattle has called on MVP candidate Russell Wilson to throw the ball 28 or fewer times in half their games, while calling on him to top 35 pass attempts only twice. On the season, this has created an interesting setup for Seattle (I was about to say “a maddening setup” — then I realized we’ve had a great handle on this team so far this year; it has been more maddening for the field, which has seemed to be flying a bit blind with this team). Russ has posted one game with 295 passing yards, one game with 300 passing yards, and one game with 406 passing yards, and has been at 268 or below in every other game (including two games below 200 yards passing) — but then, this team with the 15th fewest pass attempts in the league (with their bye still upcoming) ranks third in the league in red zone passing. With all of this, Russ is rarely picking up enough yardage for slate-breaking scores, and this team is rarely piling up enough receptions on individual players for pass catchers to have much utility in PPR and half-PPR scoring. But with Russ ranking first in the NFL in touchdown passes and Chris Carson having only four carries inside the five-yard-line and 11 carries inside the 10 (ranking 27th and 11th, respectively), it’s been difficult to pick up slate-breakers from this rushing attack as well.

To further simplify all of this :: Carson has only been rosterable this year in matchups that set up well on the ground, as even his volume-driven role isn’t producing monster stat lines outside of those spots. (Carson’s role isn’t quite as guaranteed-full-time as most seem to want to pretend, either; last week, for example, Carson played only 68.3% of snaps — and while that can change from week to week…well, that’s sort of the point; it can change from week to week, so at his price, you better be sure you’re getting the touches or a great matchup for him to be more than just “hoping for a multi-touchdown game” with a de-emphasized role in scoring position).

As for Russ :: his only high-volume games (50 attempts against the Saints; 41 against Baltimore) have come in spots in which the Seahawks fell behind. A bet on Russ, then, is a bet on one of two things :: 1) the Bucs jumping out to a lead (more on this in a moment), or 2) Russ producing big numbers on low-ish volume (like his 23-attempt, four-touchdown game against the Rams).

The Bucs’ pass defense has been better than most people probably realize this year — shaving almost 7% off the league-average catch rate and almost 12% off the league-average YAC/r rate — with a deep aDOT (+17% against the league average) and volume (the sixth highest opponent pass play rate in the league) being the main things that have made them appear so attackable. To put that another way: volume is the most valuable element to target against the Bucs — and with the Seahawks “playing to have a chance to win in the fourth quarter,” volume has been difficult to come by. Even a two-touchdown game from DK Metcalf last week produced only 16.3 DK/FDraft points and 14.8 FanDuel points, while a two-touchdown game from Jaron Brown a few weeks ago produced only 17.9 DK/FDraft points and 16.4 FanDuel points. Brown has not topped 60 yards this year. Metcalf has not topped 69 yards since Week 1. It’s been almost impossible to find slate-breaking scores from the Seahawks passing attack — with the lone, even remotely “have to have it” score belonging to Tyler Lockett (11-154-1) in Russ’ 50-attempt game against the Saints. In every other game this year, Lockett has finished significantly below the 26 to 30 points you really need from him on DK/FDraft at his Week 9 salary, while on FanDuel (of course) he would need to produce one of the highest wide receiver scores on the slate (something he has also done only once this year). The matchup should not be a major deterrent for Lockett — but at his price, he either needs to get extremely lucky on low volume, or he needs the volume to spike this week.

The best path for “the volume spiking this week,” of course, would be for the Bucs’ relentlessly aggressive passing attack to hit for some big plays early and force the Seahawks out of their “wait for the fourth quarter” shell.

When the Bucs run the ball (which they certainly will do; they rank 20th in rush play rate and are averaging 21.9 rush attempts per game between their two backs), they’ll take on a talented but underperforming Seattle run D (19th in DVOA; 27th in yards allowed per carry), while splitting work fairly evenly between Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber (with neither topping 15 touches in five of seven games on the year — the lone exceptions being a fairly random 25-touch game for Barber in Week 2 and a fairly random 20-touch game for Jones in Week 4). Either of these guys can be rostered for “savings and hoping to guess right on an unpredictable multi-touchdown game,” but the real focus on this side of the ball swings to the passing attack, where Jameis Winston ranks first in the league in average intended air yards and Mike Evans and Chris Godwin both rank top five in the NFL in both receiving yards per game and receiving touchdowns. (More on these guys in a moment…)

JM’s Interpretation ::

While the Seahawks have players who are talented enough to produce outside of the following scenarios, the template for rostering Seahawks across the last year and a half has been clear enough (and the field has done a poor enough job picking up on this) that it has been wildly +EV to simply stick to the following set of guidelines ::

Russ can be rostered naked in any matchup for his ceiling, but his floor is always a bit low for the price because of the risk that the volume simply isn’t there.

The rest of the passing attack for the Seahawks is “betting on volume or hoping for luck.” If betting on volume, the best way to get there is with the opponent taking a big lead — and as such, any rosters with Seattle pass catchers should have players from the opposing team as well that can help create that lead.

The rushing attack can be targeted in soft matchups and is best left alone otherwise, as touchdown opportunities are a bit slim and yardage often needs to pile up. This backfield belongs largely to Carson, but Rashaad Penny will occasionally mix in more than expected, with no real visible rhyme or reasons to the Seahawks’ usage patterns here.

The only piece outside of those guidelines I’m lightly considering is the Seahawks tight ends, as tight end is a fairly ugly position this week, and the Bucs have allowed the fourth most receptions and the second most yards to the position. Last week, Jacob Hollister saw only two targets on only seven pass routes run, while Luke Willson saw one target on 14 pass routes run. Neither player is attractive, but Hollister (eight targets the last two weeks to two for Willson) appears to be the preferred pass game option at the moment in spite of Willson seeing more snaps, and it’s not crazy to bet on the Seahawks looking to take advantage in this spot.

As to the “betting on volume spiking for Seattle” — it’s not a crazy bet if you want to stack this game this week. The likeliest way for this game to play out is for the Bucs to be aggressive, but for them to make enough mistakes for the game to remain close and the Seahawks to inefficiently bang Carson into the Bucs’ elite run defense until the fourth quarter. But the Bucs also have enough juice to their offense that all their downfield passing could lead to a couple early scores against a Seattle pass defense that ranks 19th in DVOA and 27th in yards allowed per pass attempt, while so far allowing the eighth most catches and 10th most yards to the wide receiver position. John Ross, Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham, and Julio Jones have all topped 100 yards against them.

While Evans or Godwin almost have to be played opposite any Seahawks pass stack rosters, a case could actually be made right now (I actually made this case to myself last week in a much tougher matchup against Tennessee) that a Bucs wide receiver needs to be on every roster you build, every week. We’ll use DK/FDraft scoring for this illustration, but the numbers are impressive no matter what site you look on.

In the Buccaneers’ last six games (that is to say: in every game since Week 1, when Mike Evans was playing through flu-like symptoms against the 49ers) Godwin // Evans have combined for DK/FDraft scores of ::

39.2 // 55.0 // 63.1 // 34.5 // 48.7 // 57.1

And if you took only the best score from between those two each week, you would have grabbed ::

29.1 // 48.0 // 44.2 // 34.5 // 28.1 // 45.8

To put that another way: if you had paired these two receivers each of their last six games — even at their lofty salaries — you would have been on a slate-winning pace three times, and you would have had only two games that would have slightly hurt you (“slightly” in that you would have been averaging over 17 points per player, but their salaries really still require them to go for more). And if you had been able to guess correctly between these two each week, you would have essentially exposed yourself to an extra Christian McCaffrey. Last week, I believe I had at least one receiver from the Bucs on 17 of my 19 Wildcat rosters against the Titans (with the two receivers paired on about half of those). I’ll be looking to play things similarly this week. (On that note: Godwin sets up better in this matchup against the zone defense of the Seahawks that tries to take away downfield shots — though I felt Godwin set up better last week as well and used him on my main roster over Evans, marking three straight weeks in which I nailed a spot but picked the wrong guy for my main roster. Ouch! I was, however, stoked to see that ownership on Evans in the OWS For Life tourney was more than double the ownership of the field in other contests last week!)

The last spot to consider on this side of the ball — in this ugly tight end week — is Cameron Brate. O.J. Howard looks set to miss again this week; and if he does, Brate should again see five or six targets with a low yardage ceiling but a decent chance of striking for a touchdown.

:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 3rd 4:05pm Eastern

Lions (
24.25) at

Raiders (
26.75)

Over/Under 51.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Lions Run D
30th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O
24th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Lions Pass D
12th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O
5th DVOA/7th Yards per pass
Raiders Run D
31st DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O
13th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D
26th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Lions Pass O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per pass

We learned long ago that scoring expectations in a game have very little correlation with how easy or difficult a game is to get a handle on. Low-scoring spots can sometimes prove particularly difficult to unravel (with our efforts sometimes being rewarded with a high-scoring gem or two), and high-scoring spots sometimes prove to be particularly straightforward. This game between the Raiders and Lions with an Over/Under of 50.5 and two of the most straightforward teams in football is a case-in-point example of that second category.

We’ll start on the Lions side, where this offense — as explored a number of times across the last few weeks — has a lot of similarities to the team Darrell Bevell used to coach (the Seahawks), while incidentally being a fairly different offense than the one he used to run himself with the Seahawks. This offense is built around running to set up downfield passing — with Matthew Stafford ranking behind only Jameis Winston (and just in front of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Russell Wilson) in average intended air yards. Unlike the Seahawks, however (who have held Russ to 250 attempts in eight games — or 31.25 pass attempts per game), the Lions have been less committed to the run, which has allowed Stafford to average 35.7 attempts per game (and to reach 250 pass attempts exactly one game early compared to Russ). Stafford has topped 290 passing yards in four of seven games — and while he has also posted games of 245 yards and 201 yards, he has a pair of items working in his favor in this spot:

1) The Lions are less likely to lean on the run with Kerryon Johnson sidelined, and with a matchup on tap against the run-tough Raiders (ninth in DVOA; ninth in yards allowed per carry).

2) The matchup through the air for Stafford is…well, it’s as good as the matchup he had last week against the Giants, when he was one of our favorite tourney plays and went for 342 yards and three touchdowns. Oakland is allowing an 11% increase on the league-average aDOT, a 4% increase on the league-average catch rate, and a 6% increase on the league-average YAC/r rate. Only the Bengals, Dolphins, and Giants are allowing more yards per pass attempt than the Raiders. Only the Lions and Bucs are allowing more passing yards per game.

While we think of the Lions as being primarily a two-man show through the air, Stafford has shown a lot of interest in Danny Amendola the last couple weeks, giving him 11 and eight targets against the Vikings and Giants. The game against the Vikings was easily written off as “a good Vikings pass rush and a defense that tries to force short-area throws,” but the spot against the Giants is particularly noteworthy, as the Giants game set up perfectly (like the Raiders) for the Lions to focus on Golladay and Jones, only for Amendola to see 25% of Stafford’s throws. In all, Amendola has a 24.7% target share across the last two weeks, and given the love Stafford once had for underneath target Theo Riddick, it honestly won’t be all that surprising if this usage continues.

While Amendola has potential to produce some nice role-driven production at the lower ends of the price range once again, Kenny Golladay has potential to produce at the higher ends of the price range in a matchup that sets up just as well as last week’s. The Raiders are tied with the Giants for the second most pass plays of 20+ yards allowed (and are one behind the Giants for most pass plays of 40+ yards); and while the Raiders have allowed 302 fewer yards to wideouts than the Giants have allowed, their 9.9 yards allowed per pass attempt to wideouts sits right behind the Giants’ mark of 10.6. Golladay — as explored last week, before he saw eight targets — has seen eight to 10 targets in all but one game this year.

“Behind” these two is Marvin Jones, who has topped six targets only twice, though those two games have produced lines of 6-101-1 against the Eagles and 10-93-4 against the Vikings. In the Philly game, Golladay was held to only two catches, and in the Minnesota game he was held to only two targets. Your best bet for a Jones blowup is for Paul Guenther to successfully tilt coverage toward Golladay this week. The Raiders have not been successful at isolating and removing a top threat this year (Courtland Sutton, Travis Kelce, MVS, and DeAndre Hopkins have all topped 100 as “the main weapon the Raiders were focused on,” while Allen Robinson went 7-97-2), so the odds lean toward Golladay over Jones — though as always, Golladay exposure should be balanced with at least some “hedge” exposure on Jones if focusing on large-field play.

This offense appears to be scraps behind these three guys at the moment, with T.J. Hockenson still yet to top 32 yards since Week 1 (with target highs since then of six and five), and with Matt Patricia throwing down a thunderous, glass-shattering dunk last week on Ty Johnson owners by giving Tra Carson the first several running back touches and spreading out touches to Tra (12), Ty (8), J.D. McKissic (4), and Paul Perkins (3). That’s 27 running back touches, if you’re counting (or enough for an elite, usage-driven score if it were concentrated on one back), so you could obviously chase here if you want to guess on volume concentrating on one player this week; but with Amendola likely soaking up the majority of short-area looks and the Raiders presenting a much tougher matchup on the ground than through the air, I’ll avoid the Patricia risk myself and stick with the aerial pieces of this attack.

The Raiders have a similarly narrow and bankable distribution of touches, with Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, and Tyrell Williams leading the way.

Jacobs remains primarily a yardage-and-touchdown back (no more than three targets in any game this year, and no games of 30+ receiving yards), but he has recent carry counts of 17 // 26 // 21 // 15. He’ll be taking on a Lions run defense that ranks 19th in DVOA and 26th in yards allowed per carry and is most attackable to the edges, where the Raiders’ rushing attack is built to attack.

Through the air, the Lions play man-heavy defense (much like the Patriots) that invites a lot of wide receiver targets and downfield throws (much like the Patriots), but that has led to a low catch rate and low yards after the catch (much like the Patriots). The Lions (7.96 yards allowed per target to wideouts), of course, are not in the same elite class as the Patriots (an absurd 4.96 yards allowed per target to wideouts), but they have allowed a catch rate of only 56.6% on passes to wide receivers, making them a team best targeted with volume or big-play threats. Tyrell has not yet topped seven targets, and in a Derek Carr offense it’s tough to bet too heavily on big plays (Tyrell has been held under 50 yards in three of five games so far) — but he does have “big plays” to his game, and he has scored a touchdown in every outing so far this year if you decide you want to chase.

At tight end, Waller has only one game below seven targets and only one game above eight targets, giving him a fairly reliable range for looks. The Lions have allowed a 70% completion rate to tight ends this year with the eighth most yards allowed to the position, and they let Kelce (7-85-0) hit them for a solid game earlier this year.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Given pricing on the most attractive pieces in this game (Stafford // Golladay // Waller are all among the highest-priced at their positions on all three sites), nothing jumps off the page as a “must play” (i.e., nothing has such a high combined floor/ceiling at the price that you’ll head into the weekend feeling like you “have to have that piece” in order to have a chance), but there are certainly paths to these plays justifying the price tags, keeping all three guys very much in the Week 9 conversation.

The best way to beat the Lions with running backs has been in the screen game, where Jacobs is unlikely to see as much work as he should — and with his elevated price and yardage-and-touchdown role, he’s difficult to get behind as a core piece. The ceiling with his role in this matchup keeps him in the tournament discussion, however.

I also like Amendola as a “feels disgusting, but has a solid shot at paying off for what would be the fourth time in seven games” play (DraftKings/FantasyDraft only), and I’m not against the idea of stacking this game, either. As noted last week against the Texans: the Raiders tend to control their games, and tend to play a bit too conservative and in-control for true shootouts to emerge; but the Lions have the downfield pieces and the Raiders have enough of an ability to keep pace that there are certainly paths to this finishing as the highest-scoring game on what should be a largely low-scoring Week 9 slate.

:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 3rd 4:25pm Eastern

Packers (
27) at

Chargers (
23)

Over/Under 50.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Packers Run D
25th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
31st DVOA/13th Yards per carry
Packers Pass D
25th DVOA/18th Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
7th DVOA/5th Yards per pass
Chargers Run D
21st DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O
10th DVOA/10th Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
11th DVOA/23rd Yards allowed per pass
Packers Pass O
6th DVOA/14th Yards per pass

As I begin this writeup, we still do not have an Over/Under for the game between the Chiefs and the Vikings, but this game between the Chargers and Packers serves as a bit of a bridge between all the “43.0 and below” games we have on this slate and the two games (Lions // Raiders || Buccaneers // Seahawks) that top 50.0. Packers at Chargers currently sits at 47.5, and we will begin on the Chargers’ side of the ball — where Ken Wisenhunt was fired this week because “winning football teams don’t throw the ball all over the yard” (that’s a paraphrase of Anthony Lynn’s sentiments last week — before the Chargers came out and gave only 11 carries to Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler in Week 8).

Of course, it’s easy to make jokes about that statement given the analytics that show that both expected points and win probability are boosted by passing — and yet, there remains a disconnect between the findings of the analytics community and the reality of what happens on the NFL field (a disconnect I had intentions of digging into this last offseason for an article I wanted to do on the site…but there ended up being much more valuable things we could provide for you with the time available than that). To underscore that disconnect :: the top five teams in rush play rate this year are a combined 29-6, while the five pass-heaviest teams are 6-33. This is not due to “passing while behind” or “running with a lead,” either. The 49ers // Vikings // Ravens // Seahawks // Colts are all built around the run. The Falcons // Bengals // Chargers // Dolphins // Giants are, by and large, built around the pass. There are a lot of elements in play here that it would be pointless to get into right now (I had the whole article mapped out and everything, way back in July; hmmm — maybe next year), but “easy jokes available” or not, Lynn is at least somewhat correct in that the Chargers (especially with all the injuries to their defense) should be more focused on the run.

There are a few problems in place here, however. Firstly, the Chargers have been almost as banged up on their offensive line as they have been in the secondary, and this unit ranks 27th in adjusted line yards. Secondly, the best way to win games is not to explicitly “focus on the pass” or “focus on the run,” but is instead to build an offense around your best players. The Chargers’ best players right now are Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, and Austin Ekeler. But the Chargers have given 55 wildly ineffective touches to Gordon across their last four games (2.71 yards per touch!!!), while relegating Ekeler (6.16 yards per touch on the season) to afterthought duties. Across the Chargers’ last three games, Ekeler has 25 touches to 39 for Gordon.

Expectations in this spot (as long as game flow cooperates) should have Gordon seeing the 17 to 22 touches he could typically be relied on for last season, with Ekeler seeing a handful of carries and eight to 12 touches in all with his pass game usage providing the clearest paths to upside. (Though you could also approach this game hoping for the Chargers to get their head on straight and more heavily emphasize their best player — something they are almost certainly not ballsy enough to do, but that could pay big dividends if it unexpectedly happens.) The matchup is solid for the Chargers ground game against a Packers team that ranks 22nd in DVOA and 24th in yards allowed per carry. Only five teams have allowed more rushing yards to running backs than the Packers, and only one team has allowed more rushing touchdowns.

If the Chargers are able to successfully get the run game going over the next few weeks, the volume of the Chargers passing attack will take a hit, as the Chargers are one of the slowest-paced teams in the league (31st in situation neutral pace), which has led to them running the seventh fewest plays per game. Teams also attack the Chargers heavily on the ground in order to hammer the Chargers’ biggest weakness while avoiding their pass rush (third highest opponent rush play rate in the league), which has also led to them facing the third fewest opponent plays per game. If the Chargers get their ground game working, Rivers (who has 38+ attempts in four games already this year) could drop back to the range he settled into last year, when he went for 30 or fewer pass attempts 10 times (with a stunning 27 or fewer pass attempts in seven of his games). That’s the goal for Anthony Lynn moving forward. We’ll see if he can get his team there this week.

While volume is obviously a concern for the Chargers’ passing attack (this team wants to emphasize the run, and the matchup sets up favorably for that approach; and then even when the Chargers do pass, the running backs are heavily involved in their scheme), the matchup itself has not been all that difficult, with the Packers having allowed four wide receivers and one tight end to top 100 yards against them this year. As always: Keenan Allen is rarely going to post an elite score in games without volume (i.e., your best bet if rostering Allen is to also include some pieces from the Packers’ side with the assumption that Green Bay piles up points early and forces the Chargers to pass) — but in spite of what Jaire Alexander might claim, this is not one of the best pass defenses in the league. Allen will be able to break this matchup on the off chance volume shows up.

Volume is also the biggest concern for Hunter Henry (while Mike Williams — fun fact — has yet to top 83 receiving yards in a game in his career), but again: the matchup is fairly non-threatening if the volume shows up. The Packers have quietly allowed 22 or more points in five consecutive games.

On the Packers’ side, we’ll stick with the “volume” discussion, where the complexion of this spot changes dramatically based on whether or not Davante Adams plays.

If Adams misses (which seems likely at the moment), this entire game plan for the Packers should revolve around the running backs. Across the last two weeks, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow, and Jimmy Graham have combined for 37 targets (an average of 3.7 per player, per game), with no one on that list topping five looks in a game. Meanwhile, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have combined for 19 targets (4.75 per player, per game), with 35 carries mixed in.

If Adams plays, he’s unlikely to see a full workload, and he’ll be shadowed by Casey Hayward — but Aaron Rodgers has a long history of targeting Adams regardless of matchup, which would be enough to spread out volume across the board so that nothing is guaranteed from any Packers players in this spot.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Because it currently looks like Adams will miss, that’s how we’ll approach this section — and we’ll adjust in later-week content if the news changes.

The Packers play slow as well, and it’s unlikely we see either team run a high number of plays — which opens the door for Jones (16 // 20 touches the last two weeks) and Williams (7 // 10 touches) to stick to their typical recent range — requiring strong efficiency in order to be worth a spot on your roster. But this is also a fairly thin week for standout running back plays, and against a Chargers team that ranks 24th in DVOA against the run and 23rd in yards allowed per carry (with notable lines allowed to Marlon Mack, Derrick Henry, and David Montgomery this year), 20 touches from Jones with his valuable pass game role has a genuine shot at getting the job done. Jones is in the mix.

Gordon is also in the mix, though that “mix” is pretty ugly with yardage totals on the year of 31 // 18 // 32 // 31. The issue has been less about volume and more about Gordon being unable to self-create behind a bad offensive line. Consider him a risky play, but with genuine upside in an emphasized role at his plunging price.

Behind these guys, it’s a whole lot of “not a lot to love” in other spots, with the Packers’ pass catchers suffering from spread-it-around play, and with the Chargers looking to emphasize the run for as long as this game remains close. Ekeler is an interesting bet in large-field play on the off chance the Chargers re-emphasize their best weapon while emphasizing the run game. You could also play the matchup and role for Henry, who doesn’t rely on volume quite as much as Keenan does for his production (especially at the thinner tight end position).

But perhaps the most interesting bet (if you can comfortably embrace the concerns about play volume in this game) is to consider rostering Rodgers and one of his running backs together, as the offense has flowed through this band of players so fully the last four weeks without Adams that “Rodgers and his highest-scoring running back” have combined for DraftKings/FantasyDraft totals in this stretch of 61.62 // 45.92 // 65.06 // 74.7 and FanDuel totals of 55.12 // 40.92 // 60.06 // 65.2. If you skimmed those numbers, look at them again and think about how difficult it is for two players on your roster to combine for those scores regardless of salary. The lower-scoring week in there was the game in which Jones made several mistakes early and Williams pretty much took over, so Jones is the sharper play (with more upside); but Williams has been involved enough that it’s not crazy to think he could contribute a strong game as well. This game could slow down enough that the Packers simply can’t produce any major upside — but if Adams misses, that’s the biggest risk here, as the Packers have been one of the better offenses in the league in recent weeks, and the Chargers’ banged up defense “has allowed the 10th fewest points” by playing the Bears (16 points), Titans (23), Steelers (24), Broncos (20), and Dolphins (10). Only the Lions (10) have finished below expectations in this spot, with Indy (24) and Houston (27) giving us reason to believe the Packers will be able to find a way to produce.

:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 3rd 4:25pm Eastern

Browns (
21.5) at

Broncos (
17.5)

Over/Under 39.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Browns Run D
20th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O
20th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
19th DVOA/30th Yards allowed per pass
Broncos Pass O
31st DVOA/26th Yards per pass
Broncos Run D
5th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
7th DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Broncos Pass D
9th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
23rd DVOA/27th Yards per pass

At 38.5, Browns at Broncos has the second lowest Over/Under on the Week 9 Main Slate — and there is a case to be made that this is the least attractive game on the Main Slate, given what each team offers.

When we have a game with a total this low, one of the first things to do is to establish why the game is expected to be low-scoring — and in this particular matchup, all signs in this regard point to the way the Broncos interact with the pass game.

When the Broncos have the ball, they will be playing with Brandon Allen under center — and if you haven’t closely followed the career of Brandon Allen, you’re not alone, as Allen has been primarily a practice squad player through the first three and a half years of his career. And while some of the focus in other corners this week will center around whether or not Allen can play at the NFL level, the most important thing to note here is that he is stepping into the starting role against a Cleveland team that invites teams to run against them (seventh highest opponent rush play rate on the year), for a Broncos offense that would much prefer to win this game with “run game and defense” than through the air with Allen. Only Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, and the Saints quarterbacks have produced a lower average intended air yards than Joe Flacco has produced this season, and it’s unlikely that Allen will be tasked with doing more than delivering on-time passes in the short areas of the field. Against a Cleveland team that already shaves 10% off the league-average aDOT, this will make it difficult for stats to pile up through the air for the Broncos unless the Browns are able to do something when they have the ball that will force Denver to get more aggressive in this spot than they will want to be.

There are two elements, then, that hurt the Browns’ chances of pulling that off. The first is the fact that this game is being played in Denver. The second is the fact that the Broncos have been strong against the pass this year, ranking fifth in DVOA and fourth in yards allowed per pass attempt while allowing only one pass catcher to top 100 yards against them (Tyrell Williams, way back in Week 1) and ranking behind only the Patriots and 49ers in fewest fantasy points allowed per game to quarterbacks. The Broncos have allowed only six passing touchdowns on the year (fourth fewest), and they have held wide receivers to the second fewest yards in the league.

On the Broncos’ side, a player like Courtland Sutton (seven to nine targets in every game before last week…when he saw a “season low” six looks) could still produce in a spot like this, as his role is unlikely to change a whole lot from Flacco to Allen (and it’s fair to wonder how much worse Allen will be than his aging counterpart), while on the Browns’ side you could bet on the talent of Odell Beckham, or could bet on Chris Harris slowing Beckham and Jarvis Landry picking up a solid game as a result. But with the lowest Over/Under on the slate and most signs pointing away from these passing attacks, the clearest path to production in this game is on the ground.

On the Broncos’ side, we know pretty clearly by this point that Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman are going to split snaps and touches fairly evenly, with Lindsay capturing recent touch counts of 19 // 17 // 12 // 19, and with Freeman going 15 // 16 // 14 // 13 in that same stretch. Contrary to what most would assume, Freeman actually has one more target and 34 more receiving yards than Lindsay across their last four games, though Lindsay has seven carries inside the five-yard-line this year to two for Freeman, and while Lindsay only has an edge in yards per carry of 4.5 to 4.1, his three games with a run of 20+ yards is two more than Freeman has, underscoring the extra layer of explosiveness he boasts. While the matchup is good (the Browns rank 20th in DVOA and 29th in yards allowed per carry), neither back has quite the sort of workload we would want for any sort of “certainty” — making each more speculative than lock-and-load.

On the other side of this matchup, the issues with volume go away, as the otherworldly talent of Nick Chubb has been given a chance to shine lately with touch counts of 25 // 23 // 17 // 25 // 21. Chubb’s pass game role remains sporadic and dumpoff-driven (only two games this year north of 17 receiving yards), but he has gone for 87 or more yards on the ground in five straight contests. Of course, the price on Chubb reflects this production on all three sites, and he draws a matchup against a Broncos defense that has been dominant outside their game against Leonard Fournette, holding the Raiders // Bears // Packers // Chargers // Titans // Chiefs // Colts to an awesome-low 3.17 yard per carry. Chubb is averaging 5.5 yards per carry himself and presents a major test for any run defense (creating opportunities for him to hit even in a matchup like this), but his talent will have to overcome the matchup and the low scoring environment of this game in order for him to pay off his high-end price tag this week.

JM’s Interpretation ::

Ultimately (at their prices), even the rushing attacks are a bit thin from a “floor” perspective, as there is a chance that drives stall out and points fail to pile up and production in the yardage department fails to be paired with production on the scoreboard; but if going to this game, the rushing attacks are the main places to look. And outside of tourney bets on Chubb // Lindsay // Royce, this spot is really little more than hoping and praying — either expecting Sutton to get something going in a below-average matchup on a conservative offense with a raw quarterback under center, or expecting the Browns to show a lot more life than they have shown so far this year in a tough road environment against really strong Broncos pass defense. As we often say in these spots: there is a reason this game has the second-lowest Over/Under on the slate. This game offers fringe potential, but nothing that I’ll be looking to actively build around.

:: Compete against the OWS fam in the One Week Season Survivor contest!


Kickoff Sunday, Nov 3rd 8:20pm Eastern

Patriots (
23.75) at

Ravens (
20.75)

Over/Under 44.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Patriots Run D
18th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
5th DVOA/1st Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D
17th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
19th DVOA/31st Yards per pass
Ravens Run D
2nd DVOA/11th Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O
3rd DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
7th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O
27th DVOA/28th Yards per pass

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

New England’s defense has been absolutely ridiculous this year, but of course the (reasonable) criticism is “well they haven’t faced any good offenses yet.” They’ve taken on the Steelers with an injured Big Ben, the Dolphins, the Jets (twice), Bills, Redskins, Giants, and Browns — not exactly a murderer’s row of offensive aptitude. Now they get the Ravens, who have averaged over 30 points per game (though some of that is inflated by 59 against the Dolphins in Week 1) and have yet to score fewer than 23 points (well, 16 offensive points against the Seahawks last week with two defensive touchdowns). The challenge here is that the Ravens can be somewhat of a one-dimensional offense, relying on their running game (powered by not just RBs but also Lamar Jackson) to set up the passing game. The challenge here for the Ravens is that their best receiver is likely to play limited snaps if he plays at all, which really limits the passing weapons available to Lamar Jackson; no receiver besides Hollywood Brown and Mark Andrews is averaging even 10 Draftkings points per game. This will be a really interesting matchup between a raw but overall potent offense against what is looking like the best defense in the league. Will the Ravens be the first team to finally crack the New England defense?

On the Baltimore side, the backfield split leaves Mark Ingram priced at just below bellcow levels despite only seeing 50% of the snaps for the season and averaging just 15.8 touches per game. He’s barely seeing any pass game work and he has succeeded so far by scoring a whopping seven touchdowns in seven games. However, Ingram has only seen 21 total red zone touches this year, while backup Gus Edwards has seen 15 (while scoring zero touchdowns). The workload gap here leans in Ingram’s favor, but he’s hardly a locked-in goal line back, especially when you consider that Lamar Jackson has another 15 red zone carries of his own. Remember that the Patriots defense is known for not giving up rushing touchdowns (fewer this year than anyone but the Vikings, and this isn’t just a one-year anomaly as they allowed fewer last year than anyone but the Bears, and are going on their fourth consecutive season of finishing top three in this category). If Ingram isn’t getting in the end zone, he’s likely not smashing, which means he’s in an awfully difficult spot in this game.

The pass game doesn’t get any easier for Baltimore. Even if Marquise Brown returns he’s expected to play limited snaps, which means the Ravens will have Mark Andrews and then guys like Willie Snead, Seth Roberts, and Miles Boykin taking on the elite New England secondary. It’s hard to see a realistic path to success here, but surely SOME passes will be completed. I’ll bet on Andrews for the most locked-in role and Brown is worth some exposure if he’s active just due to talent. Beyond those two you’re getting awfully thin. I’ll be betting on Boykin first due to his deep role (I’d rather bet on one long pass than a bunch of short ones, as even an elite secondary can screw up once but having them fail over and over is a lot harder to envision), followed by Snead, then Seth Roberts, then Chris Moore, but let’s be clear that none of these guys have anything even approaching safe floors. Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle also get a target or two per game in this spread-out offense. With any of these guys you’re just chasing a fluke play for a touchdown, but past Boykin I’m not really sure there’s much difference between any of them. 

The New England run game is tricky as always now that Rex Burkhead is back. Burkhead only played 19% of the snaps and saw four touches last week, but his workload is somewhat unpredictable. Sony Michel has been struggling this season behind a subpar offensive line, only averaging 3.3 yards per carry, though his massive red zone role (30 red zone touches so far!) keeps him in the conversation despite mediocre performance and a difficult matchup. Michel scored three touchdowns in Week 7 and only put up 22.4 Draftkings points, which is legitimately hard to do. Behind Michel we have James White, who was added to the injury report on Friday (boo) but traveled with the team (yay!) and seems more likely to play than not. Obviously if White misses, Burkhead is a smash play (he had 17 touches the last time White missed action), but I’m going to assume that White will be in. White has only seen fewer than seven targets twice this year and has scored double-digit Draftkings points every single game. That’s actually pretty incredible, especially when you consider he’s only found the end zone once. He’s seen 13 total red zone targets, so positive touchdown regression is coming his way, and his short-area safety valve role should lead to strong volume in a matchup against the Ravens’ above-average pass rush.

The Patriots’ pass game shakes out like it basically always does: there’s Julian Edelman (and James White), and then everyone else. Edelman has seen double-digit targets in five of eight games and is a good bet to get that kind of volume again here as the Pats do their normal short-area passing game to counter a strong pass rush. He already has four touchdowns on the year and, more importantly, two games of over 100 yards, which is something he’s never really been known for. Edelman has generally been more of a high-priced floor play, but he’s really showing some strong ceiling this year. That said, he’s likely to be shadowed this week by Marlon Humphrey, who will shadow receivers in the slot, and who is only allowing a completion percentage of around 50% so far despite spending almost his entire season shadowing opposing number 1 receivers (if Humphrey doesn’t shadow, it will be because he sticks full-time in the slot with this secondary finally healhty — in which case, he will see the most of Edelman as well). Edelman can win this matchup, of course, but while tough matchups don’t really impact ceiling, his floor is lower than normal here. Note that if the Patriots are focused on short area work, that does make it tougher for Humphrey to really contain Edelman, but it also could result in more volume going White’s way. 

Whew. That was a lot of writeup about one receiver. Let’s move on. Phillip Dorsett should have a solid matchup as “the wide receiver not facing Humphrey” has been a matchup we’ve attacked all season in DFS, and even with Jimmy Smith returning (he had a down season last year) and Marcus Peters in the fold (he’s more of a playmaker than a talent specialist), success should continue to be easier to find away from Humphrey. Dorsett is priced very reasonably here in a strong matchup compared to what else is available in this game through the air, and he has great TD equity. Jakobi Meyers lost his lion’s share of the WR3 role last week to newly-acquired Mohamed Sanu, and we can expect Sanu’s involvement to climb this week; he’s not a great option (I very much prefer Dorsett at about the same price), but he’s likely to be low owned. Finally, Ben Watson has been playing a lot of snaps, and while that hasn’t resulted in a lot of production yet, he’s awfully cheap and he did see five targets in Week 7. Down at that price range he’s competing with the kickers, Burkhead, and some of the Ravens random receivers, and I like his odds of beating that group out and being a viable play.

The way this game is likeliest to play out is a fairly close affair. The Patriots’ offense has been heartily mediocre this season, but they’ve been boosted by their defense not just scoring a whopping six TDs in eight games, but also generating 25 turnovers and giving the offense a lot of short fields to work with. This will be their toughest test, but Lamar Jackson is still a young quarterback who can be mistake-prone. The run-heavy nature of the Baltimore offense limits opportunities for turnovers, and if the Ravens can successfully keep the game close and the ball on the ground, they may be able to limit mistakes and refuse the Patriots short fields. This is the fulcrum on which the game pivots, in my mind: can the Ravens succeed via their run game and avoid mistakes? If so, they could pull off a win here, as their defense should be able to stop New England from marching down the field too easily. But, if the Ravens make mistakes, or if the Pats get out in front early and force the Ravens to throw more, that could let the Pats D take over the game.

Some other ways the game could play out:

  • The Pats defense really is covering how mediocre the offense has looked this season. If the Pats D gets cracked here, it’s entirely possible that we could see the Ravens run away with this game.
  • Alternately, though the Ravens are projected for almost three touchdowns (which seems like a shootout when compared to what New England has given up thus far), we’ve seen this defense absolutely take over games in…well, just about every game they’ve been in this season. New England’s D has not scored fewer than 10 Draftkings points yet and they’ve averaged (averaged!) over 3 takeaways per game. 
  • This is all a long way of saying that a lot of different things could happen in this game and it wouldn’t surprise me, so thinking through correlations will be even more critical than normal.

My favorite overall captain is James White as I see him getting a lot of work with Humphrey on Edelman, and he’s due for positive TD regression. The only Raven I really want to captain is Lamar, while I will also have captain exposure to Dorsett, Edelman, and Michel in different scenario builds.

Some groups to consider:

  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain receivers with their QB
  • Pair captain Brady with at least 2 receivers (I think you can run Lamar completely naked here in the captain spot)
  • At most 1 of Meyers and Sanu
  • At most 2 of the non-Andrews Ravens receivers
  • At most 1 of Pats D and the Ravens running backs (this is an aggressive group choice and could backfire, but I’m willing to bet that a game script that has the Pats D smashing is one in which the Ravens bail out on the run game and need to pass a lot)

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 Notes for Thursday-to-Monday Players ::

  • On a 14-game slate, this is a good game to leave alone on tighter builds, as we have the solid Ravens defense taking on the average Patriots offense at home, and we have the elite Patriots defense taking on the electric but limited-dimensional offense of the Ravens.
  • What I mean by “electric but limited-dimensional” :: the Ravens do some things really, really well; but there are a lot of things they simply cannot do with the young, raw personnel they have. So while they are excellent at the things they do well, a team like the Patriots will have a pretty good idea of exactly what to prepare for.
  • The piece likeliest to break through in this matchup, of course, is Lamar Jackson. The Patriots can cover the Ravens in isolated man coverage for the most part in this spot (which will free up extra resources for focusing on the run and trying to force Jackson to beat their elite corners instead), so the matchup should not be considered as soft as the Patriots’ recent issues against the run would indicate. But Jackson is still electric enough to be in play as a “do it all on his own” piece.
  • The rest of this game is off the board for me on a slate this large, with my interest in this game being otherwise saved for the Sunday night Showdown.

Kickoff Monday, Nov 4th 8:15pm Eastern

Cowboys (
27.5) at

Giants (
21)

Over/Under 48.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Cowboys Run D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O
30th DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D
21st DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Giants Pass O
29th DVOA/30th Yards per pass
Giants Run D
15th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O
18th DVOA/24th Yards per carry
Giants Pass D
23rd DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O
22nd DVOA/1st Yards per pass

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

Week 9 wraps up with the Cowboys visiting the Giants in a relatively high total game (48 over/under currently) with Dallas installed as 6.5 point road favorites. The Giants’ defense has been barely there all season and the Cowboys should be able to easily put up points, while the Dallas defense has been more “okay” than “good” this season (17th in overall DVOA and roughly equal against the run and the pass) and thus even the Giants should be able to do something, at least. 

Let’s start with the Dallas run game. This is a slate of strong plays, but Ezekiel Elliott is hands-down the best skill position play in this game. He has a great matchup, a powerful offensive line, a healthy team total, and a voluminous workload (note that after starting a bit slow, likely due to his brief holdout, Zeke has seen touch counts of 24, 14, 33, and 28 in his last four games, with the 14 in a game against Green Bay that had Dallas down by a ton very quickly). Zeke is a premium play if you can pay up for him, and a major game theory decision point in tournaments. Tony Pollard gets just scraps in this offense and isn’t worth mentioning unless you’re hoping for something very bizarre to happen, such as an early-game injury.

The Cowboys are generally thought of as a run-heavy offense, but their passing game has actually been fantastic this year and is ranked third overall by DVOA. There’s even more of a mismatch here than in the run game, as the Giants are 12th in DVOA against the run but just 28th against the pass. While I’ll always lean running backs for predictable workloads, the duo of Amari Cooper and