Tua Tagovailoa, MIA vs. LAC ($5.6K DK | $6.2K FD | O/U: 50.0 | Implied: 26.3)
The Dolphins were able to build a 28-7 lead over the Rams with a little under three minutes left in the second quarter in Week 8 of Tua Tagovailoa’s debut. Prior to the one-yard plunge by Myles Gaskin to put them ahead by 21 points, Tagovailoa had completed five-of-11 attempts for 34 yards and a three-yard TD pass to DeVante Parker. It should be noted that Jalen Ramsey was forced to miss that Week 8 showdown due to a pregame illness. If Miami didn’t have the luxury of that cushion, Tagovailoa could’ve done much more. Evidence to that end was provided in Week 9 against the Cover 1-heavy defense of Arizona.
Before I dig into that Week 9 performance, let’s flash back to Tagovailoa’s Alabama career when he displayed rare composure, and patience in allowing zone coverages to reveal their mistakes. Tuanigamanuolepola was also able to rack up impressive stats against man coverages overall but, from my recollection of grading his Crimson Tide games, he just did not have that seasoned-vet level of confidence at that moment in his career. Case in point: the 2018-19 FBS Championship against a man-heavy Clemson secondary.
The Tigers were able to pull ahead on the third play of the game when Tagovailoa took liberties without consideration for the spacing between K’Von Wallace and A.J. Terrell while forcing the ball to Jerry Jeudy on a quick out. As you can see here, Terrell, in man coverage on DeVonta Smith, jumped the quick out as Jeudy passed underneath of Smith, and took it to the house.
On the very next drive, Tagovailoa read a Clemson Cover 2 perfectly, connecting with Jeudy on an 89 combo down the seam for a 62-yard TD. Jeudy’s elite route running ability is on full display as his sharp cut spun Tanner Muse in a complete circle. As my former coverage diagnosis mentor at PFF,John Kosko, used to tell me: “if he’s even, he’s leaving.” Tua would connect with Hale Hentges for a one-yard score on the next drive that ended up being his last of the game. Clemson made adjustments to their secondary over the remainder of the game, the most significant of which being to mask their zones to have a man coverage appearance.
The result: Tagovailoa would throw for more yardage in that opening quarter (157) than the rest of the game combined (138). His YPA dropped by 46 percent, and his completion percentage by 32 percent. Jumping ahead to last week against the Cardinals, Arizona threw man coverages at Tagovailoa on just under 40 percent of all snaps. He responded with the composure that had been missing from his game. Against man coverage, Tagovailoa found Mack Hollins in the end zone to knot the game at 31-all in the fourth, averaged 7.9 YPA, and with over 95 percent of the yardage coming prior to the catch.
The Bottom Line: The Chargers’ secondary has been struggling all season since losing both Derwin James and Chris Harris Jr.. So much so that opposing offenses have not attacked their awful run defense -- 4.9 YPC allowed (5th) and 4.2 percent of attempts going for 20-or-more (2nd) -- as much as you’d expect. However, that secondary became all the more vulnerable when they traded Desmond King II to Tennessee. Los Angeles will now rely on Tevaughn Campbell out of Canada, who’s allowed 22.9 FPs in two games, to cover the slot.
Jakeem Grant will see more snaps with Preston Williams out for the year and could pay dividends at his basement prices. As for Tagovailoa, you can read my analysis on his marksmanship against zone coverageshere. He’ll face an LAC Cover 3 at the league’s highest rate -- overall zone rate of 80 percent -- with one of the most lethal Cover 3 WRs, DeVante Parker, in the entire game! Did I mention Tagovailoa won’t have to deal with Joey Bosa? With an expected ownership below five percent, Tagovailoa could flip the main slate on its head.
Drew Brees, NO vs. SF ($6.4K DK | $7.6K FD | O/U: 51.0 | Implied: 30.0)
Let’s face it, folks, the San Francisco defense is only a shadow of its former self. I’m not going to waste your time listing all of the impact names currently out for the season or watching from the sidelines. That said, they do still have Jason Verrett and Fred Warner, both at the top of the coverage game at their respective positions. However, whereas man-heavy schemes can actually do quite well limiting opposing passing offenses with only two-or-three skilled defensive backs (i.e., the Texans with shadow CB Bradley Roby and FS Justin Reid), the 49ers play from a Cover 3, 4, and 6 zone on well over two-thirds of snaps.
The 9ers simply do not have the horses to compete against competent offenses. I think it’s fair to say that the Saints’ offense falls into that category. Before I explain why Drew Brees will be a great ME tourney play, I want to pass along the potential downside first. New Orleans is currently a nine-point home favorite. In spite of their skeleton crew of a defense, SF has limited opposing RBs to the third-least pure rushing (18.6) and second-least receiving FPG this season (8.9). As long as that continues to hold up, we are in business. If they let Alvin Kamara and/or Latavius Murray run wild, the floor could drop out from under Brees’ and his receiver’s upside.
Assuming San Francisco holds up their end of the deal, that vulnerable secondary will find themselves in a world of trouble. “Cool Brees” is averaging the second-highest FPs/dropback (FPDb) against Cover 3 (0.51), ninth-highest against Cover 4 (0.39), and 15th-highest against Cover 6 (0.35) since Week 1 of 2019. His YPA jumps into the green when facing each of these shells, and he’s been one of top-three QBs (along with Russell Wilson and Tom Brady) at punishing Cover 3’s -- the shell he’ll see the most this week -- over his entire career.
Rather than rehashing all of the same analysis when opposed by Cover 3, gohere to read my tout of “Hurricane Drew” before dismantling the Panthers’ Cover 3 in Week 7 for 300 yards and three total TDs. Keep in mind, the Saints were without Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and even Marquez Calloway in that game.
The Bottom Line: I find it rather shocking that Brees’ anticipated exposure will be under two percent in Week 10. With the 49ers’ solid run defense, Thomas now back in the fold, and Sanders COVID-19-free, we have ourselves a recipe for dinkage. While “Breesus” hasn’t hit the 30 FP-threshold yet, this is the week for it to happen. When he hosted San Francisco in Week 14 last season, he had a hand in six scores that resulted in 40.1 FPs.
Tom Brady, TB at CAR ($6.3K DK | $7.8K FD | O/U: 49.0 | Implied: 27.5)
Deshaun Watson, HOU at CLE ($6.9K DK | $8.3K FD | O/U: 54.0 | Implied: 25.8)
Darrell Henderson, LAR vs. SEA ($5.9K DK | $5.8K FD | O/U: 55.5 | Implied: 28.3)
During a first look at the matchups early this week, I quickly tossed Darrell Henderson’s name aside facing a Seattle defense I knew had limited opposing RBs all season. However, while in data collection-mode two days later, I noticed that the Seahawks had actually begun to display some rifts in their ground game armor. During their last three games, the Hawks have surrendered the eighth-most RB FPG (25.3). However, they’ve actually held backs outside the top-15 in pure rushing FPG at only 11.3. But their struggles can be attributed to allowing the third-most RB receiving FPG (14.0), eighth-most red zone touches/game (5.0), and third most goal-to-go carries/game (3.0).
The fact that Henderson was rested entirely on Wednesday following the bye week should serve him well heading into Week 10. As for the quad strain that forced him to miss the second half of Week 8, HC Sean McVay already passed along that he is perfectly fine. We’ve yet to see the Seattle offense face such an imposing total defense. Vegas is giving a point in the Rams’ favor and, if Russell Wilson’s struggles from Week 14 of last season opposing Jalen Ramsey and company carry over, Henderson could be leaned upon to kill the clock.
The Bottom Line: Los Angeles’ run blocking has easily been one of the top-five in the game this season. After a couple of duds in Weeks 4 and 5, Henderson has picked up his game over the last three. With a 64 percent hold on goal-to-go carries, Seattle’s recent allowance could set up Henderson as a top-five scoring back. That would be a tremendous boon to his DFS rosters since he is expected to be owned by less than one percent of the field.
Kareem Hunt, CLE vs. HOU ($6.7K DK | $7.5K FD | O/U: 54.0 | Implied: 28.3)
With Nick Chubb set to return, many will look right past Kareem Hunt this week. Now, there’s no arguing against the exceptional matchup for Chubb against a Houston defense that’s allowing 30.3 FPG to opposing RBs (third-highest). In addition to allowing the most rushing YPG (159.5), they are surrendering the fifth-most TDs/game (1.38), fifth-highest percentage of runs of at least 20 yards (3.6 percent), and eighth-highest third-down conversion percentage (48 percent).
Since Hunt was still averaging 17.4 FPG as the 1B to Chubb’s 1A, if Chubb cedes even a handful of his touches in Hunt’s direction as he’s eased back, “Kareem Supreme” will be DFS gold. Cleveland’s running the ball at the fourth-highest rate behind another of the league’s top-five run blocking O-lines. The fact that “Kareem Soda” is guaranteed a continuation of running 46.7 percent of routes and a 10.7 percent target share is all the more comforting.
The Bottom Line: I strongly hold to the belief that Chubb is the far-superior athlete, rushing threat of the two. But we don’t need Hunt to run circles around Chubb, just for him to do his thing with his allotment, and hopefully see a few additional touches. I would never wish harm on anyone, but the reality remains that Chubb is just returning from a slight MCL tear after missing the previous 4.5 games. What seals it for me is that Hunt’s expected ownership is nearly four times less than Chubb’s. Should Chubb need to head to the sidelines for any length of time, we could have a back competing for the top Week 10 output on our hands.
D’Andre Swift, DET vs. WAS ($5.1K DK | $6.0K FD | O/U: 41.5 | Implied: 22.8)
Antonio Gibson, WAS at DET ($5.6K DK | $6.1K FD | O/U: 41.5 | Implied: 18.8)
DeVante Parker, MIA vs. LAC ($5.0K DK | $6.0K FD | O/U: 50.0 | Implied: 26.3)
In the lengthy analysis on Tua Tagovailoa above, I mentioned that DeVante Parker has done rather well against Cover 3 shells. And, yes, the underwhelming tone of the previous sentence was a poor attempt at throwing shade on his explosive opportunity. I’ve already written up Parker’s matchup this weekhere. But there’s still plenty left to analyze. The last time Parker faced a featured Cover 3, he set his current career high for receptions (10), generating 110 yards, and 24.0 FPs in Week 4 against Seattle. That’s 30 percent over value at his, then, $5.7K salary on DK. The only thing missing for Parker was a TD or two. Without the score/s, Parker will hold a bit more value within the DK PPR format. However, do not let that carry you away from the fire that Parker is going to set this week.
I’ve already established that Tagovailoa entered the league with an NFL-ready zone coverage doctorate. Week 10 will be Parker’s first game with Tagovailoa leading the offense against a Cover 3. One interesting trend from the Dolphins in two games controlled by Tagovailoa, they’ve gone from an 11 personnel-heavy offense to splitting snaps between 11 and 12 personnel. That’s possibly due to opposing DCs attempting to rattle the rookie QB with blitz packages. If that continues this week, the middle of the field will open up even further for Parker to deal his damage.
The Bottom Line: We can only trust ownership expectations so much but, even the week after Preston Williams landed on IR, the anticipation is for Parker’s ownership percentage to fall south of 10 percent. That’ll still make him one of the top-10 most owned WRs in a smash spot. At only $5K/$6K, GPP lineups may find it difficult to survive the profit cut without him. You might’ve noticed that the Chargers have been a bit more lenient with FPs out of the slot than outside. If you think that points the favor finger toward Jakeem Grant, you’d be mistaken. Parker has actually run a higher percentage of routes from the slot (23 percent) than Grant (22). With so many Miami snaps being played with a pair of TEs, that will likely average out to be a non-factor.
Terry McLaurin, WAS at DET ($6.8K DK | $7.0K FD | O/U: 41.5 | Implied: 18.8)
Run this through the think-tank: has there been another WR over the last two seasons that’s produced anything close to Terry McLaurin with similarly lackluster QB play? Nothing comparable comes to mind. Rather than delving into all of the reasons McLaurin is an excellent play this week, I’ll detail how team’s have contained him. First-and-foremost, elite shadow corners, like most every other WR, have given him fits. Darius Slay held McLaurin to 11.1 FPs in Week 1 with his blanketing man coverage skills. The very next week, “McLaurin F1” threw down 28.5 FPs on Patrick Peterson and Co. In Week 5, Jalen Ramsey came to town within his multiple-zone shadow to hand McLaurin a season-low 5.6 FPs.
Outside of the two games against Slay and Ramsey and a turnover-laden Week 3 from Dwayne Haskins against the Browns, McLaurin has hit at least 85 percent value in the remainder. He’s been fed with at least seven targets -- 10-or-more in four -- in every 2020 game from three different QBs. In Week 10, McLaurin will face off with Detroit’s Cover 1-heavy secondary. No other team can come close to the Lions’ near 50 percent usage of Cover 1. Since Detroit may offer the worst run defense in the NFL, a list of teams have simply run straight at them without ever needing to exploit their equally horrendous secondary.
The Bottom Line: Let’s face facts, the majority of the field will be all over Davante Adams’ historic fantasy production, Stefon Diggs facing an Arizona defense bent on donating FPs to outside WRs, and the WRs in the Seattle at LA Rams game. To be clear, Diggs is my overall No. 1 WR in Week 10 opposed by Peterson. However, McLaurin is a far cry from a terrible pivot. When “Scary Terry” has been opposed by a Cover 1 over his career on 29 percent of snaps, he’s collected 31 percent of his yardage, and 56 percent of his TDs! His FPs/route (FP/Rt) increases by 21 percent and his yards per route run (YPRR) by 10 percent. Did I mention that he’s expected to be rostered in less than nine percent of lineups?
Chase Claypool, PIT vs. CIN ($5.8K DK | $6.1K FD | O/U: 47.5 | Implied: 28.5)
If everything falls into place the way I’ve foreseen it, William Jackson III will oppose Diontae Johnson and Mackensie Alexander and a few other slot defenders will smother JuJu Smith-Schuster as the seventh-most stingy crew on slot production (11.4 FPG). That will leave Chase Claypool to have his way with one of the bottom-five outside CBs in the NFL this season, LeShaun Sims. During his six games of play, Sims is allowing 2.00 yards per coverage snap (YPCS, 25 percent over league CB average), 14.2 FPG (49 percent more than league CB average), and a near perfect passer rating on targets to his coverage.
Since Pittsburgh will welcome Cincinnati as 9.5-point home favorites, the obvious scenario exists for the Steelers to build a lead, and run out the rest of the clock. That said, risk is the name of the game in the GPP business. The Cincinnati run defense has been consistently average all season and Joe Burrow will never accept defeat until the final second falls. As long as the run defense holds up, OC Randy Fichtner and Ben Roethlisberger will have no other option but to pepper targets at both Claypool and Eric Ebron.
The Bottom Line: You might remember the last time Roethlisberger was forced to send volume toward Claypool and when facing a defense featuring a Cover 1 at a top-five rate. Both factors fell into place in Week 5 versus Philadelphia when Diontae was injured early. Claypool ended up seeing 11 targets, procuring 116 total yards, four TDs, and 45.6 FPs. We should never put too much faith in TD expectations. However, the statistics never lie. On 33 percent of snaps during his rookie season facing Cover 1, Claypool has captured 40 percent of his receptions, 42 percent of his yardage, and 40 percent of his TDs. With an expected ownership at less than seven percent, Claypool simply must be inserted into a considerable percentage of lineups this week.
Curtis Samuel, CAR vs. TB ($4.9K DK | $5.7K FD | O/U: 49.0 | Implied: 21.5)
Michael Thomas, NO vs. SF ($7.4K DK | $8.5K FD | O/U: 51.0 | Implied: 30.0)
Alshon Jeffery, PHI at NYG ($4.0K DK | $4.8K FD | O/U: 41.5| Implied: 22.3)
Austin Hooper, CLE vs. HOU ($3.9K DK | $5.1K FD | O/U: 54.0 | Implied: 28.3)
Austin Hooper’s absence because of an appendectomy the last two weeks has likely grayed out the magnitude of the opportunity in store. The season-ending knee injury to Odell Beckham Jr. opened up around 40 percent of the Cleveland target share. Rashard Higgins stepped up for a big game in Week 7 before being blotted out by gail force winds in Week 8. Higgins is in for another storm in Week 10 from the shadowing man coverage of Bradley Roby. Jarvis Landry has provided us with more than enough evidence over his career that he is ill-suited as the No. 1 target. He is far more befitting as a second option and his production actually suffers without a producing No. 1 leading the way.
The Bottom Line: As long as Hooper is 100 percent healed up, as reported, he should not only slide right back into his previous 20-plus percent target share, he should have at least an additional five percent added on top. The return of Nick Chubb could call for Hooper to block on a few additional snaps, but that number should be overshadowed by the added receiving volume. Hooper is grouped into the second grouping of TEs with expected ownership between five-to-seven percent. He’ll face a Texans defense permitting 14.5 FPG to TEs overall (10th) and 18.6 over their last three (2nd). More than enough reason to take the plunge at $3.9K/$5.1K.
Eric Ebron, PIT vs. CIN ($4.4K DK | $5.4K FD | O/U: 47.5 | Implied: 28.5)
As stated above, Ebron will find himself in a prime position for success in Week 10. A funnel of targets should be en route with the Bengals’ key defenders focused elsewhere. The Cincinnati LB unit has been an eyesore on the franchise all season. As mentioned in this week’s Advanced Matchups, on 40 percent of routes over his last 18 games facing Cover 1, Ebron has earned 35 percent of both his receptions and yardage, and 50 percent of his total TDs. As long as Burrow and his talented WRs can keep this somewhat close, Ebron is going to feed, and feed well.
The Bottom Line: Facing a Bengals defense allowing the second-most FPG to TEs (17.6), the most over their last three (24.6), and the most goal-to-go targets this season (8), what more could you ask at $4.4K/$5.4K? Okay, need more? Ebron is expected to be rostered in less than two percent of lineups on Sunday.
Jimmy Graham, CHI vs. MIN ($4.1K DK | $5.6K FD | O/U: 44.5 | Implied: 21.0)
Taysom Hill, NO vs. SF ($4.5K FD | O/U: 51.0 | Implied: 30.0) *FD-only
Los Angeles Rams, LAR vs. SEA ($2.2K DK | $4.0K FD | O/U: 55.5)
Chicago Bears, CHI vs. MIN ($2.9K DK | $3.6K FD | O/U: 44.5)
Optimal Passing Game Stacks
Tua Tagovailoa + DeVante Parker +/- Jakeem Grant
Miami Dolphins’ 11 | 12 Personnel vs. Los Angeles Chargers’ Cover 3 | 4
Line: -2.5 | O/U: 50.0 | Implied: 26.25 | Combined Salary: $13.6K DK | $17.4K FD
Tom Brady + Mike Evans +/or Antonio Brown
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 11 | 12 Personnel vs. Carolina Panthers’ Cover 3
Line: -6.0 | O/U: 49.0 | Implied: 27.5 | Combined Salary: $18.4K DK | $21.6K FD
Jared Goff + Cooper Kupp +/or Robert Woods
Los Angeles Rams’ 11 Personnel vs. Seattle Seahawks’ Cover 3
Line: -1.0 | O/U: 55.5 | Implied: 28.3 | Combined Salary: $20.0K DK | $22.3K FD
Drew Brees + Michael Thomas +/- Emmanuel Sanders
New Orleans Saints’ 11 Personnel vs. San Francisco 49ers’ Cover 3 | 4 | 6
Line: -9.0 | O/U: 51.0 | Implied: 30.0 | Combined Salary: $18.6K DK | $21.9K FD
Deshaun Watson + Will Fuller V +/or Brandon Cooks
Houston Texans’ 11 | 12 Personnel vs. Cleveland Browns’ Cover 3 | 4
Line: +2.5 | O/U: 54.0 | Implied: 25.8 | Combined Salary: $19.2K DK | $21.7K FD
Optimal RB + DST Stacks
Aaron Jones + Green Bay Packers DST vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Line: -13.5 | O/U: 53.0 | Implied for Opponent: 19.8 | Combined Salary: $10.8K DK | $13.6K FD
Miles Sanders + Philadelphia Eagles DST vs. New York Giants
Line: -3.0 | O/U: 41.5 | Implied for Opponent: 19.3 | Combined Salary: $10.0K DK | $12.3K FD
Darrell Henderson + Los Angeles Rams DST vs. Seattle Seahawks
Line: -1.0 | O/U: 55.5 | Implied for Opponent: 27.3 | Combined Salary: $8.1K DK | $9.8K FD