After a Week 3 full of amazing island Showdown games, Week 4 starts off with the Broncos visiting the Jets. The game total here is just 40.0 points with the visiting Broncos favored by a point. The Broncos are starting a new QB who may or may not get a full game here if he struggles early. On the Jets’ side, I don’t think Sam Darnold is going to get benched as they just have too much invested in him (and Adam Gase is too stubborn), but Gase’s job security has to be worrying him, so a switch isn’t completely outside the realm of possibility. I don’t think I’ve ever written up a game in which there was a non-zero chance of BOTH starting QBs getting benched mid-game; how exciting! There is also a lot of injury news that is going to be very relevant to this game, so since I write these before we have final injury reports (and since some guys will be game-time decisions), I’m going to approach this from an if/then standpoint. There is a LOT of uncertainty in this game — between injuries, QB situations, and Gase’s desperation, there are a lot of ways things could play out very differently.
Before I start digging into the Jets, it’s worth noting that when a team is this bad (and this injury-ravaged), past usage can be less predictive; they might decide to change things up (again, with Gase probably worried about keeping his job and trying to figure out something that might work). I’m going to write up what I think the likeliest usage is, but it should not be a surprise if some of these roles change.
On the Jets’ side, the lead running back is, for reasons I cannot figure out, Frank Gore. Gore is predictably averaging under four yards per carry this year, but they’re giving him work even when they get blown out, and if the Jets manage to make it to the goal line he’s probably the guy getting the carries. The backfield behind Gore is a mess, with Kalen Ballage and La’Mical Perine each playing snaps in the 30% range last week but seeing decent involvement when they’re in, especially Ballage in the passing game with a surprising five targets last week. Ballage and Perine both saw their snap counts increase last week, while Gore’s decreased. There’s a bit more to Ballage’s usage that’s interesting to me, as he had four of his five targets before halftime, so it wasn’t just garbage time involvement; with all of the injuries to their receiving corps, they seem to want Ballage to be involved. He’s $5,800, so not exactly cheap, but if Crowder remains out he seems to be one of the few Jets we can count on for a decent passing game floor. Gore is a low floor, touchdown-dependent option who should still get work even in negative game scripts (because lol Jets), but he needs to score to deliver value, so I’d only want him on rosters that are built around the game being competitive or the Jets winning. Ballage is viable anywhere, while Perine is an MME dart throw.
In the passing game, Jamison Crowder is looking like a game-time decision and would be the Jets’ best receiving option if he is back to full health (which, of course, is always a risk with a guy coming back in his first game after a soft tissue injury). Denver has been vulnerable to slot receivers so far, allowing catches on six of seven targets to Adam Humphries, seven of eight to JuJu Smith-Schuster, and five of six to Chris Godwin. Worth noting is that Denver’s secondary has just been vulnerable across the board, but the slot seems like the best place to attack them, which also lines up with the “strengths” of Sam Darnold (such as they are), who has been more successful targeting short-area routes. If Crowder misses, Braxton Berrios will be the Jets’ slot receiver and WR1, and Berrios has led the Jets in targets and fantasy scoring in the last two weeks. Berrios’ role if Crowder plays is not completely clear, but the consensus among the OWS staff is that despite his strong performance, he’s a slot receiver and neither he nor Crowder are suited to perimeter work and thus he would take a backseat (with some amount of rotational work depending on how much Crowder can play in his first game back). Chris Hogan, Josh Malone, and Lawrence Cager form the perimeter receiving corps, in roughly that order, with Hogan looking crazily cheap at $3,200 and Malone even more so at $200, while Cager looks overpriced at $5,500. At tight end, Chris Herndon is the most talented receiver that the Jets have, but he’s been inexplicably utilized heavily as a blocker and has been short on route-running. If you want to take a shot on that changing in a game that the Jets have to win for Gase to keep his job, or just based on the assumption of rational coaching (never a safe assumption with Adam Gase) and letting your best receiver actually run routes, he’s underpriced at $5,400. Finally, you can take a stab at Ryan Griffin as an MME dart throw, though he has two targets and zero receptions on the year. This receiving corps is a mess due to lack of talent and injuries, and on top of it, we have boneheaded coaching limiting their best option. And even if Crowder plays, we don’t know if he will play a full complement of snaps (and there is re-injury risk with soft tissue injuries like hamstrings). The Jets’ receivers are all better suited to MME than cash. If Crowder plays, I’d rank Crowder first, then Hogan, then Herndon as the only guys I would be comfortable with any meaningful (above 10% or so) tournament exposure, while if Crowder misses, you can replace his name with Berrios’ in the rankings.
On the Broncos’ side, it seems more likely than not that Philip Lindsay returns after he practiced before Week 3 but did not suit up. Assuming that happens, Melvin Gordon probably loses his bell-cow role and goes back to the timeshare that we saw in Week 1 before Lindsay went down. MG3 is still the favorite for touches and pass game work, and has one of the highest floors and ceilings in this game, but Lindsay threatens his workload a lot more than Royce Freeman would and renders him overpriced relative to his likely production (that said, there is enough value on this slate that being “overpriced” is not the limiting factor that it is on other Showdowns, and just locking in a solid floor of guaranteed points is valuable). Lindsay would probably play something like 40-45% of the snaps and handle 10-12 touches, while if Lindsay misses, Royce Freeman probably sees 4-7 touches. Freeman is much cheaper but offers very little upside unless the game just gets way out of hand as the Jets’ game with the Colts on Sunday did. Lindsay at least brings upside, as he can score from anywhere. The matchup here is not that friendly — the Jets are much better against the run than the pass and have performed reasonably well against three tough rushing offenses so far: Devin Singletary and Zack Moss managed only 41 yards on 18 carries in Week 1, Raheem Mostert ran for 11 yards on seven carries outside of one broken play in Week 2, and Jonathan Taylor was mostly bottled up early on until a couple of longer runs later in Week 3. All of those have more dynamic rushing attacks than the Broncos, so expectations on the ground are more volume/touchdown-based than matchup-based.
In the passing game, Brett Rypien has been named the starter for the Broncos for this week. Scouts have said Rypien is a smart quarterback with limited athleticism and arm strength but believe he can be successful managing a short passing game. He’s also a pure pocket quarterback with little mobility, which could render him vulnerable to the Jets’ aggressive blitzing if he can’t make decisions quickly enough. Rypien has been priced way up on Draftkings at $10.2k ($200 less than Driskel; Bortles has also been priced up to this level), but on Fanduel, Rypien is just $12k, which is well under the normal salary for a starting QB.
The Broncos’ receiving corps is Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Tim Patrick, and Noah Fant, with Daesean Hamilton and Jake Butt seeing backup/rotational work (they’re both just MME dart throws here). Fant brings the most upside, with his snap count increasing week to week, showing tremendous explosiveness, and leading all Denver receivers in catches, yardage, and touchdowns — he’s a fantastic play on this slate. Jerry Jeudy is just behind him with three more targets but he hasn’t found the end zone yet. Patrick is running shorter-yardage routes and seeing less volume, and will probably need to find the end zone to pay off, while Hamler has game-breaking speed and has been heavily involved since Courtland Sutton went down. All of them are viable in this cupcake matchup, with Jeudy and Fant having the safest floors; but otherwise it’s going to be “who gets into the end zone.” On that note, the red zone target distribution is Fant with four and the wide receivers with one each. Fant stands out as the clear best play here to me, with Jeudy a close second, then Hamler, then Patrick. Finally, Nick Vannett played in Weeks 1 and 2 but was a healthy scratch in Week 3 due to a roster crunch and the need for other positions, and if he’s active in this one, he could play 20-30% of the snaps as a fairly competent receiver at nearly zero ownership. Vannett is my favorite MME dart.
WAYS THIS GAME COULD PLAY OUT
The way this game is most likely to play out is a slow-paced slog and likely a low-scoring affair. Denver has more overall talent on the field, so the likeliest scenario is that they win the game (Vegas odds aren’t good at taking into account Gase’s miserable coaching and playcalling when setting their odds). In a low-scoring game, kickers are more viable, as we aren’t likely to see enough big yardage totals to render them superfluous — two field goals and an extra point could land a kicker in the optimal lineup in this one. Some other ways this could play out:
The Jets have gotten absolutely wrecked in every game so far, albeit against much better teams, but we’re looking at a team that has scored 37 points through three games while giving up 94. Even with a better matchup, this team is a disaster, and we could see them just get dumpstered yet again.
We could also see the Jets win. It’s rare that we see an NFL team not win a single game (it’s only happened five times since 1944!), and while the Jets are certainly bad enough to do so, I wouldn’t bet on it happening. They could win ugly in a close game, or maybe the Broncos just aren’t able to move the ball effectively on the road with a new quarterback. Ownership is likely to be focused heavily on the Broncos, so this would be a nice contrarian approach for tournaments.
In Cash, it’s hard to feel good about anyone’s floor outside of the QBs and Gordon (even those floors are shaky, but so is everyone else’s in this game). While kicker pricing has led to me not just locking in both kickers in cash on every slate, in this game they feel more viable to me.
In Tournaments, my favorite captains are Fant, Jeudy, Crowder/Berrios, and Gordon, in that order. I’ll also take a few shots on the other primary guys, but will probably be largely focused around those four.
Some groups to consider (and again, just a note on the uncertainty here — there is so much of it in this game that my groups are “looser” than they would be normally because there are so many ways this game can go weird):
• At most 1 kicker, as always…
◦ But what? What about at most 1 kicker? Well, in a low-scoring game with shaky offensive situations, it’s not outrageous to think both kickers could end up in the optimal lineup. I’ll have them negatively correlated but not excluded.
• Pair captain receivers with their QBs (or consider boosting the QB if using a captain receiver if you don’t want 100% exposure to this pairing)
• Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
• If RB captain, negatively boost or exclude the opposing defense
• At most 1 of Crowder and Berrios, if Crowder plays (given the uncertainty in this game, I would not just exclude Berrios from the player pool entirely if Crowder is active)
• At most 2 of the Jets’ perimeter receivers: Hogan, Malone, and Cager
• At most 2 of Gore, Ballage, and Perine
• At most 2 of Rypien, Gordon, and Lindsay/Freeman unless building a full Broncos onslaught
• At most 1 of Butt, Vannett, and Hamilton