NFL Thursday Night & London Football: Week 8
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is the Thursday night matchup and it carries a low projected game total of 43 points, with the Titans the 3.5-point favorite on the road.
Quarterback – Titans QB Marcus Mariota had a solid Week 7, but is likely to see more handoffs in a positive running game script which limits his overall ceiling and usage. The Titans have run on 50.52% of their plays away from home and it is a good matchup for them against Jacksonville who has the 24th ranked run defense by Football Outsiders ‘ DVOA metric and the Titans are fifth in run blocking by adjusted line yards.
Running Back – Because of that rushing efficiency, RB DeMarco Murray will continue to be a cash game play and top running back target this week. Murray also continues to see action in the passing game, with five targets last week, and he dominates the red zone. His five redzone touches last week gave him 30 for the season, with the next closest Titans player being WR Tajae Sharpe, who has five touches, with four of those occurring in the first four games of the season.
Wide Receivers – As expected, the breakout of WR Kendall Wright in Week 6 only diluted the concentration of pass targets, with nobody passing seven targets despite Mariota’s 37 pass attempts. None of the wide receivers were targeted in the red zone, so despite the overall low pricing of the entire receiving corps there is not much to hang our hats on.
Tight Ends – The exception to the receivers is TE Delanie Walker, who had eight catches and a touchdown last week, and is a solid cash game option only with his tournament upside heavily tied to a second touchdown or 80+ receiving yards. On DraftKings his $4,700 price tag is especially enticing this week.
Defense/Special Teams – With the game script favoring the Titans, a top ten pass rush, and Jacksonville being completely unable to run the football, the Titans are in play as a team defense at their middling prices across the industry.
Quarterback – The terrible offensive line play has made QB Blake Bortles so inefficient that he is not a solid play in any format until it gets fixed. Jacksonville’s offensive line is ranked 30th in run blocking and 20th in pass protection and the resulting chaos has led Bortles to fall outside the top 15 QBs in fantasy points per game despite being second in the league in pass play percentage, meaning volume is not the problem, it is a lack of execution.
Running Backs – Neither running back in this offense has produced behind the terrible offensive line, so running backs Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon are completely out of play here.
Wide Receivers – WR Allen Robinson was highly owned and highly disappointing in Week 7, where he was targeted eight times but caught only two of those targets. He still has not surpassed his Week 1 yardage total of 72 in any game since then. At his current lofty price point he is only a speculative tournament play until further notice.
WR Allen Hurns seems to be lost in the shuffle, so with the lack of overall targets, only WR Marquis Lee is in play and that is only as an extreme discount option, as he is $3,300 on DraftKings and $4,500 on FanDuel.
Tight Ends – Julius Thomas continues to be just too high priced for the lack of volume and efficiency in the Jaguars lineup. His three red zone targets in Week 7 were his first three of the season, and it still did not lead to him “paying off” his salary.
Defense/Special Teams – Marcus Mariota has turned the ball over eight times this season and Tennessee has given up the fourth most fantasy points per game to opposing defenses. This makes the Jags defense an ok tourney play on FanDuel, where they are the minimum priced ($4,000), but not so much on DraftKings where they are $2,900.
Washington Redskins at Cincinnati Bengals – Wembley Stadium, London
Quarterback – Quietly, the Bengals have allowed the sixth most fantasy points per game to opposing signal-callers including 1,734 yards passing, six passing TDs, 142 yards rushing and a (tied for) league-worst two rushing TDs after Kevin Hogan ran all over them last week. Coincidentally, Kirk Cousins turned a mediocre afternoon into a respectable one in Week 7 by rushing for a 19 yard TD late in the fourth quarter with just 1:05 remaining against the Detroit Lions. With Washington only implied to score 22 points and only around 25-percent of the public money on the Redskins, Cousins can safely be faded on DraftKings at $6,300. However, on FanDuel his $7,200 price is pretty reasonable considering the favorable matchup and a RB core in flux. Since his ownership percentage should be around one-percent, rostering in big FanDuel GPPs makes for a nice way to be contrarian.
Running Back – Coach Jay Gruden admitted Matt Jones may see his carries reduced in the future due to his fumbling issues and the trend already began last week when Chris Thompson carried the ball a season-high 12 times and even caught a season-high seven receptions. Clearly Thompson is the best back of the bunch and he would be especially useful if the Redskins were to get down early. Game flow will likely determine his value but it should be noted the Bengals have allowed the sixth most receiving yards to opposing backs and that still is Thompson’s specialty. With Robert Kelley involved in the mix as well, Jones cannot be trusted but Thompson makes for an intriguing GPP play if the trend of increased touches continues to ascend in his favor.
Wide Receiver – One week Pierre Garcon looks like the number two receiver and the next Jamison Crowder is catching 7-9 targets for 108 yards and 20.80 DraftKings fantasy points. The receiving core is talented but also tough to predict with the targets changing so drastically from one week to another. Trusting any of them in cash is a risky proposition. With that being said, at least one member of the receiving core is likely to be viable in GPPs and DeSean Jackson draws the most favorable individual matchup against CB Dre Kirkpatrick. At the combine, Kirkpatrick ran a 4.51 40 and Jackson is closer to a 4.30 type speedster. He should be able to burn Kirkpatrick for a long one.
Tight End – With Jordan Reed slated to sit again, Vernon Davis will continue to fill-in for him. Last week, Davis finished as TE4 without scoring a TD and he dropped a pass in the end zone. The Bengals have allowed the seventh most fantasy points to opposing TEs including four TDs to the position and Davis is still only $2,900 on DK. It is difficult to suggest any other punts at the position are safer than Davis considering his Reed-esque production in Reed’s absence so far.
Defense/Special Teams – At just $2,400 on DraftKings, the Redskins defense project as one of the top point-per-dollar producers at defense. Since Week 1, the Redskins have allowed 27 points or less, recorded at least a sack and managed at least 4.00 fantasy points in every game. With one of the safer floors of any defense, the Redskins will square off against QB Andy Dalton who has already been sacked 22 times. Even if they allow a fair amount of points, they should finish in the positive. They make a lot of sense as a punt in cash games (if not using the Vikings) or even as a tournament play in case one of those sacks turns into a fumble taken to the house.
Quarterback – While the Redskins don’t boast the most elite passing defense in football, they simply won’t need to; since they have only surrendered seven touchdowns through the air while boasting the 11th ranked pass defense DVOA as we near the midway point of the season, and much of this can be attributed to their absolute ineptitude when it comes to containing opposing runners. It is hard to envision Marvin Lewis emphasizing the pass when Cincinnati should be able to exploit the holes in Washington’s run defense every step of the way. Andy Dalton will always have WR A.J. Green to rely on, but his other options are limited with TE Tyler Eifert not yet back to full health, and Brandon LaFell isn’t a game-changing WR-2 by any stretch. Overall, Dalton likely won’t see enough volume to be considered a viable option in any format this weekend.
Running Back – The Bengals carved up Cleveland’s run defense last week behind Jeremy Hill and his career-high 168 rushing yards on only nine carries. While we shouldn’t expect another 18.6 yards per carry average from the third-year Louisiana State product, Hill should still be able to churn out another quality performance against Washington’s 31st ranked run defense (DVOA). The Redskins have already coughed up nine rushing touchdowns this season (28th), while allowing the second most yards per carry to opposing backs (5.0 YPC). Hill came into Sunday’s game banged up and suffered a few more dings along the way, which likely explains light workload despite the obvious eye-popping production. Assuming he’s healthy for Sunday’s tilt in London, Hill should be a good bet for a relatively heavy workload and enough red zone opportunities to punch one in the end zone.
Giovani Bernard has been the more reliable Cinci running back this season, averaging 9.4 carries and 4.3 receptions per game. While he won’t dominate touches on the ground, Bernard should continue to be used heavily as a receiver out of the backfield (5.3 TGT/G). Hill — assuming he isn’t limited by any lingering ailments — is the preferred option on Sunday, but both Bengals backs possess enough upside in this matchup to be considered in all formats.
Wide Receiver – A.J. Green should always be considered an elite GPP option regardless of matchup, but his cash viability is limited this week as a result of expected suppressed passing volume from Dalton, and there are more appealing high-end options to choose from in Julio Jones and Mike Evans. Brandon LaFell was an excellent value receiver in last week’s matchup with Cleveland, and he should remain an appealing cash game option for Week 8. LaFell incredibly leads all Bengals receivers in snaps and red zone targets through seven weeks, and could see some additional looks from Dalton with Green contending with CB Josh Norman (if he clears the concussion protocol) for a large part of this contest. It’s also worth noting that Washington ranks 32nd against WR2s according to FootballOutsiders’ DVOA metric. LaFell has tallied four touchdowns over his last three games, and could realistically add to that total on Sunday.
Tight End – Tyler Eifert saw only 15 snaps in his 2016 debut, garnering two targets in Cincinnati’s 31-17 win over Cleveland. While he is expected to see his role expand on Sunday, taking the wait and see approach would still be the prudent move here. Eifert is always a threat to score, as evidenced by his 13 touchdowns in 2015, but we can’t rely on him to see enough of the field to make an impact just yet.
Defense/Special Teams – There is nothing exciting about Cincinnati’s defense, and with Jordan Reed seemingly in line to play, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere on Sunday. Moreover, home teams are generally more appealing defensive options, and this game will be held at a neutral location at Wembley Stadium. You could certainly do worse than the Bengals, as Washington owns one of the lower implied team totals on this slate, but if you aren’t spending all the way up at the position, it’s probably best to punt it altogether.