Sep 21, 2017
One of the more interesting things to watch recently has been the backlash to data analysis in the sporting world. It started with the mainstream success of sabermetrics in baseball, moved to the odd experiments in roster building in basketball, and has become accepted and embraced in most sports now. There are robust communities built around a love for a particular sport, and a drive to further understand the minutiae of the mechanics of the game. As we gather and analyze more data, it becomes easier to approximate what we know with what will happen. This is just a long way of saying something that everyone has been feeling about this week: the matchups stink. But, as Thursday night’s game just showed us, there will likely always be a gap between what we think will happen and what actually happens and that is part of the magic of sports. After what was one of the most entertaining Thursday night games in a long time, it’s worth remembering that games built around the split second decisions of 22 humans on a field can, and will, deviate from what should happen, and venture into the territory of what could happen. Let’s look ahead at what we think will happen this week.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
While normally a team from the west coast traveling to the east coast doesn’t sound like an appealing option, Carr had a good amount of success doing just that last year. In three games against Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore he averaged 304 yards, 3 TDs, and threw no picks. With a better run game this year, and a good match up against Washington on Sunday night, those concerns don’t seem to really hold up. Carr has shown no ill effects from his injury last year and it appears last year was truly the next step in his evolution as a player and not a fluke. Josh Norman has a sprained shoulder and is expected to play, but he won’t be 100%. Even if he was, he still can only cover one of the duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree at a time. The Raiders should take care of business in this game and Carr will be leading the charge.
Tampa Bay looked good making their delayed opening to the season last week with an easy win against a clearly over matched Chicago Bears team. This week, things should be a little tougher against a Minnesota Vikings defense that was a top ten unit last year. Xavier Rhodes did an excellent job last week against Antonio Brown, holding him to 5 catches on 11 targets for only 62 yards. He will be matched up on Mike Evans this week, which should open the door for DeSean Jackson. Minnesota has been vulnerable to speedy outside receivers so far this year, with Ted Ginn Jr. catching 4 of 5 targets for 53 yards in week 1 and Martavis Bryant catching 3 of 4 targets for 91 yards and a TD in week 2. DeSean is better than both of those players right now, and should have no problem separating from whomever the Vikings want to throw at him. He’s definitely a bit of a boom or bust guy, but he’s cheap, has a good match up to exploit, and he got 7 targets last week in his first game action with QB Jameis Winston. Even if Sam Bradford misses this game, the play calling should remain similar to what we saw against the Bears, and a 7 target floor for a player like DeSean with the kind of match up he has is worth the risk.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Green was very vocal about his displeasure with his teams poor offensive showing against the Texans. He wasn’t the only one as the Bengals fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and promoted QB coach Bill Lazor. Lazor’s system tends to skew pass heavy and favors a more uptempo system. Both those changes should favor Green, and that’s wihout factoring in the Bengals matchup with the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau on Sunday. Between Green calling out the play calling and Lazor wanting to make an impression, I expect a lot of work for Green, and I don’t think the Packers have the personnel to stop him. He’s an obvious target, but we just saw Julio Jones light the Packers up before the Falcons started to run the ball with a big lead. Green is just as talented as Jones, and with a full game of the offense trying to keep up, he’s primed to go off. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him match his season total for yardage this week, and his price has dropped off of where the other elite WRs typically reside. Pay up for Green and enjoy the show.
Javorius Allen, Baltimore Ravens
Buck has a long trip to make as he crosses the Atlantic and takes on the Jaguars in London Sunday morning, local time. Not quite an elite talent, Allen looks like the best of several mediocre options in the Baltimore backfield. Buck has out touched Terrence West in both games and has been the more versatile of the two in both games. With Danny Woodhead out, there isn’t a ton of competition for the pass catching role in addition to his work on the ground. Making his day look even better from an opportunity stand point is the presence of Jalen Ramsey, who has abolsutely locked down whoever he’s been matched up against. If Ramsey is around, there’s one less viable pass option on the field, and dump offs to Allen become more likely. On the ground the Jags have given up decent days to RBs against both the Houston (and it might have been worse if they hadn’t built the lead they had) and just got gashed by the Titans. If they don’t have a lead the Jags look vulnerable to the rushing attack, and with Baltimore’s defense looking strong to start the season and Blake Bortles being Blake Bortles, I can’t see Leonard Fournette being able to do enough to give the Jags a sizable lead. I expect Allen to continue to look better than West in this game, and there aren’t many backs in his price range that are capable of playing all three downs.
Duke Johnson Jr., Cleveland Browns
It’s still pretty open on the DJJr bandwagon, as his early work this season has left much to be desired. There was a lot of talk this off-season about getting him more involved in the offense, and he spent a lot of time out in the slot in training camp and preseason. Coach Hue Jackson talked about how they wanted him to do everything. Then week 1 happened and Duke had only 5 targets for 2 catches and 20 yards. He did show some signs of life last week, as he got 4 carries for 21 yards and caught 3 of 6 targets for another 59 yards. That is closer to the kind of production that should be his floor moving forward. This week he faces the Indianapolis Colts, who were hurt by Cooper Kupp in week 1 and rolled coverage to Larry Fitzgerald in week 2. With Corey Coleman out, everyone has been looking to Rashard Higgins as the main target for the Browns, but Johnson still has a role to play. Assuming Higgins, Britt, or Ricardo Lewis assume most of the outside receiver duties, Johnson will be set up as the slot receiver for this team. Vontae Davis has been downgraded to doubtful and rookie Quincy Wilson is also likely out. Add those two plus safety Darius Butler who missed last week and Indy is down three key pieces in the defensive backfield, which makes an already questionable unit very thin. Duke should be able to produce his best line of the young season.
Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
Oh, Doyle rules? Despite still not having Andrew Luck around to throw him passes, Doyle has a nice matchup this week against the Cleveland Browns at home. Cleveland has actually played well in their first two games, there are a lot of teams that would start 0-2 against the Steelers and Ravens, and enter this game as a road favorite. Game flow should lead to Indy needing to throw, and the Browns have struggled against TEs this year. They gave up 2 TDs to Jesse James in Week 1 and a team high 91 yards to Ben Watson, his most in a game since a 52-49 shootout as a member of the Saints playing against the Giants in 2015. Doyle is coming off a 79 yard game against a Cardinals team ranked one spot below Cleveland against TEs according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings, and showed good chemistry with new starting QB Jacoby Brissett. He’s so cheap in DraftKings this week that it won’t take much to triple up his price.Back to DFS