Washington Football Team (1-1, 0-2 ATS) at Buffalo Bills (1-1, 1-1), 1 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Washington 18.5, Bills 27
Spread/Total Movements: 47.5 to 45.5
Weather: 65 degrees, 40% chance of rain, 15 mph
Washington Injuries to Watch: DT Matt Ioannidis (knee, questionable)
Bills Injuries to Watch: CB Levi Wallace (knee, questionable)
Brolley’s Washington Stats and Trends
Washington is 5-1 ATS in its last six games as an underdog but the Football Team is 1-4 ATS in their five games overall.
Washington is 6-2 toward unders in its last six games.
Antonio Gibson is slowly gaining a bigger role with more snaps in obvious passing situations this year, but OC Scott Turner isn’t ready to turn over the entire backfield to his second-year back. The fantasy masses were pissed last Thursday when hurry-up back J.D. McKissic scored a touchdown at the end of the first half before catching a 56-yard pass in their four-minute offense at the end of the game. Gibson still held a 61% to 44% snap advantage in a game that Washington trailed for much of, and he turned his snaps into 13/69 rushing (5.3 YPC) with 2/4 receiving on two targets. McKissic held just a 24-to-22 advantage in routes but his routes came in the much more valuable hurry-up situations when the quarterback is more likely to check it down. The Bills held Najee Harris to 16/45 rushing and 1/4 receiving in Week 1 while Myles Gaskin posted 4/21 receiving with the Dolphins playing from behind all of last week.
Taylor Heinicke delivered some late-game heroics multiple times in Week 2 after he almost gave the game away. He completed 34/46 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns, and he led the Football Team on two different go-ahead scores in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning field goal after an ugly interception. He ran for just six yards in their Week 2 victory, which was a disappointment, but he showed some chemistry with Terry McLaurin with 11 connections for 107 yards and a touchdown. He gets a tough matchup this week against a Bills’ defense that’s allowed the fewest FPG (9.6) to QBs through the first two weeks.
Terry McLaurin needed a performance like the one he gave in his first action with Taylor Heinicke as his starting quarterback in 2021. He routinely made top CB James Bradberry look silly with his route running in Week 2 on his way to 11/107/1 receiving on 14 targets against the Giants. Heinicke is going to be the starting quarterback for at least the next two months with Ryan Fitzpatrick (hip, IR) out of the lineup, and he quickly discovered that McLaurin is the guy this passing game funnels through. McLaurin draws another tough matchup against Tre’Davious White in Week 3. Diontae Johnson managed 5/36/1 receiving in this matchup in the season opener.
Logan Thomas caught a touchdown pass from Heinicke in Week 1 before posting 5/45 receiving on seven targets with him in Week 2. He also posted 5/74 receiving with Heinicke in his first start with Washington in the playoffs last season. Mike Gesicki managed 3/41 receiving in this matchup last week.
Dyami Brown has run the second-most WR routes (75) behind McLaurin but he’s turned his 10 targets into just 4/32 receiving. Slot WR Adam Humphries has run just 62 routes but his 10 targets have turned into 9/54 receiving. The Bills have given up minimal production to slot WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster (4/52 receiving) and Jaylen Waddle (6/48) through two weeks.
Brolley’s Bills Stats and Trends
The Bills are 10-3 ATS in their last 13 games, and they’re 6-2 ATS in their last eight games as a favorite.
Buffalo is 4-1 toward unders in its last five games as a favorite.
Josh Allen is off to a slow start based on his standards, falling short of 19+ FP in each of his first two games. He hit 19+ FP in seven of his final eight regular season games in 2020. He threw for just 179 yards in Week 2 and he’s averaging just 5.3 YPA in the early going. Washington limited Justin Herbert to 15.4 FP in the season opener before Daniel Jones ripped them on read options last week for 95/1 rushing.
Stefon Diggs has mostly survived Allen’s slow start with 15.9 and 16.0 FP in his first two games while seeing a 24% target share in the early going. Four different WRs have reached 14+ FP against Washington through two weeks.
Cole Beasley wasn’t needed in Buffalo’s shutout victory over the Dolphins last week as he caught all four of his targets for 36 yards. He still ran a route on 78% of Allen’s dropbacks (28 of 36) in the lopsided affair. Slot WRs Keenan Allen and Sterling Shepard each caught nine passses against the Football Team in the first two weeks.
Emmanuel Sanders finished second in routes (31) behind Diggs last week, but he managed just 2/48 receiving on five targets with Allen throwing for just 179 yards. Gabriel Davis didn’t see a target and he played on just 32% of the snaps after coming into the game with an ankle injury. Washington is giving up the seventh-most FPG (48.6) to WRs through two weeks.
Devin Singletary sprinted out of the gates with a 46-yard touchdown run on Buffalo’s second offensive play of the game, which set the tone for their 35-0 beatdown of the rival Dolphins in Week 2. The Bills dressed Zack Moss in this one after they made him a healthy scratch in the season opener, but Singletary still dominated the overall workload with 13/82/1 rushing (6.3 YPC) and 2/9 receiving on 66% snap share. Moss stole two touchdowns inside the 10-yard line, including a goal-line carry on his way to finishing with 8/26/2 rushing and 2/8 receiving on 28% snap share — Matt Breida played just two snaps (3%). Singletary has wrestled away the top spot in this backfield for now with 171 scrimmage yards on 29 touches while playing 71% of the snaps, but Moss has climbed out of the doghouse and he could be ready to make some noise if Singletary has any missteps. Washington has given up 89.0 scrimmage yards per game to RBs so far.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Week 1-2 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 25.9 (10th)
Week 1-2 – Plays per game: 57.5 (26th)
Week 1-2 – Pass: 59.5% (19th) | Run: 40.5% (14th)
Week 1-2 – Pace: 25.4 (6th)
Week 1-2 – Plays per game: 72.0 (6th)
Week 1-2 – Pass: 62.8% (13th) | Run: 37.2% (20th)
We only have two real starts to work off of, but the small sample on Taylor Heinicke has been a positive one from a fantasy perspective. Heinicke answered the bell in the Wild Card round last year, putting up 24.8 FP in a loss to the Bucs’ and was solid once again with a 20 FP outing in a short-week pinch last week against the Giants. I’m cautiously optimistic that Heinicke 1) will keep this offense afloat without FitzMagic and 2) might actually turn into a decent streamer – but he’ll have his work cut out for him here as massive 7.5-point road underdogs going into Buffalo. While the Bills secondary has played well to start the year, it was against (maybe washed) Ben Roethlisberger and Jacoby Brissett. I’m not ready to pronounce Buffalo’s defense as “back” just yet. Overall, this projects as a fast-paced, pass-heavy matchup with Josh Allen doing what he always does (throwing a ton) and Washington trying to play catch up on the scoreboard. Both sides are top-10 in pace to start the year, making this matchup the fifth-best in my model for this week – which is just a nose hair behind Chiefs-Chargers. Washington’s defense has been a massive disappointment to start this season, too, giving this game further sneaky shootout appeal if the Bills indeed hold a lead and force Washington to throw a bunch.
(Note: We’re dealing with very small sample sizes early in the season – so I’m saving the deep dive into play-calling tendencies until Week 4.)
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
His production hasn’t lived up to his draft status, but I do like this spot for Josh Allen. WFT has allowed opposing offenses to convert 58.1% of third-down attempts (third-highest). Perhaps it’s a stat that will correct itself over the next few weeks, perhaps not. Despite a pair of tough matchups from Pittsburgh and Miami, Allen is still averaging the third-most opportunities (passing plus rushing attempts) per game (49). Allen also frequently succeeds against coverage shells Washington deploys.
If Washington DC Jack Del Rio ends up using William Jackson III to cover Stefon Diggs, it will lessen Diggsy’s upside. But Del Rio hasn’t done that against some good receivers in Weeks 1 and 2. If Del Rio simply keeps his alignments intact, Diggs will do his work against rookie Benjamin St-Juste. Judging from the first two weeks, Del Rio has appeared comfortable enough to let the rookie learn on the job against the likes of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Kenny Golladay.
The one metric from Taylor Heinicke’s portfolio that stands out above all others as it relates to Terry McLaurin’s upside: ranking 10th-highest among all QBs during his brief career with 9.44 air yards/attempt.
With it being very unlikely that Bills DC Leslie Frazier utilizes Tre’Davious White as a shadow on McLaurin, the two will only face one another on less than half of his routes.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Keep an eye on the weather for this game. Some projected high winds early in the week have knocked the total down a couple of points.
In Week 2, QB Taylor Heinicke showed why betting markets and sportsbooks didn’t have a tangible difference between him and Ryan Fitzpatrick. I think Heinicke’s presence is just fine for the receivers and other options here, but I’m not exactly scrambling to start him against a Bills defense that’s given up the fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs through two games (to be fair, those two QBs have been the mummy of Ben Roethlisberger and a cold Jacoby Brissett).
It looks like that not only is Terry McLaurin quarterback-proof, but matchup proof. He put Giants top CB James Bradberry in the spin cycle a few times in Week 2, and while he’ll be facing off against a tricky Bills secondary headlined by CB Tre’Davious White, McLaurin has proven this year he’s getting better. Indeed, he’s struggled against Bradberry before, but had a good battle in Week 2. McLaurin is a WR2 this week given all the circumstances.
Terry McLaurin was shadowed by James Bradberry on 83% of his routes, catching 5 of 7 targets for 47 yards, TD, INT against Bradberry in coverage.
Over their previous three matchups, McLaurin was held to only 2 rec, 16 yards & INT vs Bradberry.#NYGvsWAS
The Team has some interesting secondary options at WR, and I wonder if Dyami Brown will break out sooner rather than later. Washington is giving him the opportunity — Brown has run the second-most WR routes (75) behind McLaurin, but he’s turned his 10 targets into just 4/32 receiving. Meanwhile, slot WR Adam Humphries has run just 62 routes but his 10 targets have turned into 9/54 receiving. Humphries had 7/44 in Heinicke’s start last week, but the Bills have given up minimal production to slot WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster (4/52 receiving) and Jaylen Waddle (6/48) through two weeks. Brown is an intriguing stash to me, but Humphries is more usable in Week 3 if you’re really dying for a low-end option. Keep in mind Bills #2 CB Levi Wallace is questionable with a knee injury.
I’m a little discouraged with Logan Thomas’ production thus far, with just 8/75/1 on 10 targets, but he’s still the TE6 in total scoring, he’s played every snap (only he and Tyler Higbee have done so), and he’s tied for 4th among TEs in routes run (58). He’s still a strong TE1 option.
That brings us to the backfield, which is what everyone is wondering about. Here’s the good news: Antonio Gibson still held a 61% to 44% snap advantage in a game that Washington trailed for much of last week against the Giants, and he turned his snaps into 13/69 rushing (5.3 YPC) with 2/4 receiving on two targets. He ran a route on 22 pass plays, just behind JD McKissic with 24. However, Gibson has still run a route on just 46% of Washington’s passing plays, which ranks 26th among RBs. Last year, Gibson was involved on 35% of Washington’s passing plays – so this is improvement – but not where Gibson really needs to be to break out. McKissic is also out-snapping Gibson on third downs (19 to 6), after he did so by a massive 197 to 22 margin last season. Gibson is closing the gap, but we need this gap closed further if he’s going to reach his ceiling. McKissic ripping off a 58-yard reception and a TD last week in hurry-up situations won’t help matters. Buffalo’s run defense has also been stout, rendering Gibson an RB2 this week.
For Buffalo, I’m not going to panic about QB Josh Allen, but it’s certainly not exactly great that he’s the QB18 through two weeks with a 55.1% completion rate. On his throws of 10 or more yards downfield, Allen has only been on-target 43% of the time (third-worst). Last year, Allen was 15th-of-27 in on-target throws 10+ yards downfield (65%). It was the spot he made the biggest leap from Year 2 to Year 3. That could well be noisy right now, but it’s just something to note. One thing that could be interesting is if the Bills decide to mix in some Allen RPOs and designed runs — Daniel Jones lit up the Team for 9/95/1 rushing last week. You’re starting Allen, but let’s hope he looks more like the 2020 version of himself as a passer.
You know what to do with Diggs, and it’s interesting to note from Beasley’s perspective that the Team has allowed 29 receptions to slot receivers through two games, fourth-most in the NFL (Keenan Allen, Sterling Shepard). Beasley is an intriguing WR3 this week.
Meanwhile, Davis (who is dealing with an ankle injury) has been usurped by Sanders and is now operating as the team’s No. 4 option. The Bills’ routes run through two games – Diggs (94), Sanders (90), Beasley (89), and Davis… 49. Sanders is someone to potentially roster as a buy-low guy — he’s run routes on 91% of the Bills’ dropbacks, which is spectacular usage. Again, if Allen looks more efficient, Sanders’ numbers will go up.
In the backfield, I’m still not sure what to think. Singletary still dominated the overall workload with 13/82/1 rushing (6.3 YPC) and 2/9 receiving on 66% snap share in Week 2, despite Zack Moss} being active. Unfortunately, Moss stole two touchdowns inside the 10-yard line, including a goal-line carry on his way to finishing with 8/26/2 rushing and 2/8 receiving on 28% snap share, despite losing a fumble early. Singletary has 171 scrimmage yards on 29 touches while playing 71% of the snaps over the first two weeks, but Washington has allowed a 6th-fewest 13.9 FPG to opposing RBs. Singletary is just a FLEX option.