Joe Burrow, CIN at PHI ($6,200 DK, $7,400 FD, O/U 47.0)
I covered Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green in this week’s WR/CB matchup piece. I also went into detail on the pending matchup Joe Burrow will face from Philadelphia. Burrow has faced zone coverage on more than 90 percent of passing snaps. Despite that fact, he has still claimed a 29 percent share in team rushing attempts over two weeks. For argument's sake, let’s say Burrow generates five FPS (21 percent below his average) with his legs on Sunday. Then let’s say he throws a single TD on the day. For Joe to match the league FPG average for QBs through two weeks of 18.2, he’ll just need to pass for 180 yards. Passing for 180 yards and a single TD are not exciting numbers. But that is how high Burrow has been able to raise his floor during his first two weeks in the league.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Eagles’ defense. Philly will oppose Burrow with the league’s third-highest utilization rate of man coverage. Defenders must remain extremely disciplined within a man shell with their eyes always locked onto the receiver. If they look back to the QB, even for a moment, their coverage assignment can adjust their route to pick up large gains. Whereas you’ll see “holes” open up in zone coverages, those gaps will usually have multiple nearby defenders able to clean up the easy completion. Sans Cover 0, man coverages will also have at least one assigned defender stationed deep. But they will not have the benefit of those additional nearby defenders. Many of the longest TD passes in the NFL on short-to-intermediate targets are the result of man coverage busts.
The Bottom Line: The Eagles field three of the most vulnerable coverage defenders in the NFL through two weeks: RCB Avonte Maddox, Slot Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Sam LB Nathan Gerry. Both NRC and Gerry will cover Burrow’s favorite positions to target: slot WR Tyler Boyd and TE Drew Sample. They will also attack one of the most deficient O-lines with one of the nastiest pass rushes. With Philadelphia playing man coverage throughout the game, they’ll all have their backs to Burrow while he is scrambling from the pocket, away from that pass rush. These factors are more than enough for LU exposure to Burrow this week. Did I mention that Burrow simply obliterated man coverages while at LSU?
Cam Newton, NE vs. LV ($6,700 DK, $7,700 FD, O/U 47.5)
A grand total of five QBs have carried the football 12-or-more times this season. Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, and Cam Newton. Only one of those QBs has carried the ball more than Jackson’s 23… Newton with 27. I mentioned above that the average FPG for a QB so far in 2020 is 18.2. Newton has averaged 18.1 FPG on carries alone. And he’s only scrambled three times! Nearly 90 percent of those carries have come on designed runs. Allow me to put that into perspective. If Newton collects his rushing FPS average by the end of the games, he will need to pass for all of 2.5 yards to score the league average. Yet, Newton has averaged 276 passing yards/game and at the sixth-highest completion percentage in the NFL this season (69 percent).
It should be considered as a fact that the two QBs with the highest floors each week are Murray and “Superman” Cam. However, since only a bit over half of Murray’s carries were on designed runs, will we still see him produce rushing FPS in matchups against defenses with nothing close to resembling the elite pass rushes he faced from San Francisco and Washington? Very unlikely. We can now alter the previous statement to say that Newton has the highest floor potential in the NFL each week.
The Bottom Line: If this doesn’t convince you, nothing will. “Slam” Newton has produced the fourth-highest FPG among QBs this season while only throwing a single TD pass. Okay, I’ll keep trying. His Week 3 opponent, Las Vegas, is tied with three other teams for the most rushing TDs allowed (4), tied with three other teams for most rushing yards allowed per attempt (4.9), and have allowed the third-highest passing yard per game average (285.5). Yes, being without starting C David Andrews is a huge loss. But did I even mention that the Patriots feature one of the absolute best O-lines in the NFL?
Chris Carson, SEA vs. DAL ($6,600 DK, $7,700 FD, O/U 57.0)
One of the byproducts of the #LetRussCook campaign is Chris Carson ever so quietly (shhh) posting the sixth-highest RB FPG (22.6) this season. Speaking of elevated floors, Carson is pacing all NFL RBs with a 17.6 FPG through the air. He also leads NFL RBs in FPS produced on designed screen passes (5.9). He’s generated a near perfect QB rating by catching all nine of his targets for three TDs to go along with generating a yards per route run efficiency that would rank him 13th among all WRs with at least nine catches.
I’ll go ahead and point out the elephant in the room. The Seahawks have only run the ball 50 times this season, the seventh-lowest total in the league. That’s a reasonable tradeoff for averaging the second-most yards per pass attempt (9.7). Rather than nitpick Carson for what Seattle doesn’t do enough, let’s strip his numbers down, like I did for the QBs above, to see what we can reasonably expect from Carson this week. “Smoke” has been targeted on three designed screen passes that generated 11.8 total points (3/28/1). Since each of those were actual gamebook plays built to put the ball in Carson’s hands, we can add 1.5 receptions, 14 receiving yards, and 0.5 TDs to his weekly floor (5.9 FPS).
Carson has averaged 12/50.5/0 in his two games on the ground, or 5.1 FPG. That brings his current floor up to 11 FPG. He’s also manufactured a 6/53/2 receiving line outside of those designed screens. Since we’re only allowing for an expected 12 rushing attempts due to the Seahawks’ passing volume, we can entirely expect Carson to see his average of 1.5 targets on top of the 1.5 screens targets. We’ll even remove both TDs, leaving Carson with an expected 1.5/26.5/0 line, or 4.15 FPG. That raises Carson’s floor to an expected 15.15 FPS per week. To provide some clarity, through Week 2, a total of 27 RBs commanded at least 40 percent of team carries and those RBs have averaged 15.8 FPG. Carson will need to run for 6.5 yards beyond his expected floor to reach that RB “average.”
The Bottom Line: I should probably mention that the Dallas/Seattle game has the highest over/under in the NFL with an implied 31 points for the Seahawks. As five-point favorites at home, Carson will benefit from an expected positive script. In games played at CenturyLink Field since 2019, which includes a series of brutal matchups, Carson has averaged 21.3 touches and 18.8 FPG. For DFS purposes, I think it’s fair to state that we simply want to find RBs that finish in the top-10 in RB scoring. That 18.8 FPG home average would place Carson at No. 10 in RB scoring this season. Rather than facing the ‘19 Saints, Rams, Ravens, Buccaneers, Vikings, or ‘20 Patriots, he’ll face a Dallas defense missing Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, Gerald McCoy, Anthony Brown, and after just allowing 39 points at home.
Miles Sanders, PHI vs CIN ($6,400 DK, $7,400 FD, O/U 47.0)
No Geno Atkins or Mike Daniels plugging the interior. A seventh-round rookie -- Markus Bailey -- who has never played an NFL snap starting at Mike LB. The Bengals’ defense already ranked in the bottom-five in rushing yards allowed, yards allowed per carry, rushing TDs allowed, and tied for the most 20-plus yards runs allowed. These are just a few of the “hurdles” faced by Miles Sanders in Week 3 as 5.5 point favorites.
Even in his first game back from a hamstring injury, Sanders played 78 percent of snaps, garnered 79 percent of backfield carries, and a 15 percent target share. To put that into perspective, during the five regular-season games in which Sanders was the lead back, he played on 65 percent of snaps, took 58 percent of rushing attempts, and 13 percent of targets.
The Bottom Line: Targeting skill players facing Cincinnati is very popular this season. That’s particularly true with opposing RBs as they are permitting the third-most FPS and second-most GL carries. Playing inside a positive script with a lion's share of touches, Sanders is set up to multiply value as a top-scoring Week 3 RB.
Adam Thielen, MIN vs. DEN ($6,900 DK, $7,200 FD, O/U 49.5)
Normally, the Titans would cover Adam Thielen with Adoree’ Jackson’s shadow skills. Since Jackson is currently on injured reserve, he’ll face a combination of DBs as he is motioned across the formation. During his first two games, Thielen played against a pair of defenses utilizing man coverage at a rate below 25 other teams. Tennessee, on the other hand, utilizes man shells at the fifth-highest rate in the league. But it won’t just be Thielen who is looking forward to this matchup. Kirk Cousins has thrown 39 percent of his TDs on only 27 percent of snaps since ‘19 when facing any variation of man coverage.
The Bottom Line: Thielen’s splits since last season when facing man coverage are even more pronounced than Cousins’. In addition to scoring 75 percent of TDs on only 26 percent of snaps, his FPS per snap doubles from 0.49 to an even 1.00. I will have maximum exposure to Thielen this weekend.
D.K. Metcalf, SEA vs. DAL ($6,500 DK, $6,500 FD, O/U 57.0)
I’ll preface this recommendation by reminding everyone that D.K. Metcalf just slapped 17.5 of his 19.2 Week 2 FPS on Stephon Gilmore. He’ll go up against Dallas’ Cover 3 defense in Week 3. For most humans, a Cover 3 zone shell that drops three defenders deep will prevent deep passing. But we’re not talking about a normal human, we’re referring to 6-3, 229-pound man-child with 4.33-speed. And we’re talking about a QB in Russell Wilson who just shredded the NFL’s finest collection of the top cover corners for 293 passing yards and five TDs.
You’ll need to take me at my word on this statement, Wilson is hands down the No. 1 QB in the league at picking apart Cover 3 shells. And it’s not even close. Are you really that surprised? Does the “Legion of Boom” ring any bells? Wilson has been practicing across from that dreaded secondary in a Cover 3 shell since he joined Seattle in 2012. As the rate of defenses using Cover 3 has increased in recent years, they have all been setting Wilson up to rip them to shreds. Enter the “Wolverine” last season across from Tyler Lockett’s own 4.40. With defenses keeping an eye on Wilson looking to prevent him from breaking off long runs, the lighting fast duo only requires the slightest movement in the wrong direction to snatch Wilson bombs out of the air and to the house.
The Bottom Line: All things being equal, the Cowboys oppose the Seattle offense with a solid group of CBs consisting of Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and the ability to ease 2020 first-round pick Trevon Diggs into the speed of the NFL. Things are unfortunately not equal for Dallas. Awuzie and Brown are out, Lewis has been banged up all season, and Diggs is being counted on as the No.1 CB with a recent practice squad signee opposite him. Yeah, I guess you could say Metcalf is a decent play this week.
Diontae Johnson, PIT vs. HOU ($5,400 DK, $6,300 FD, O/U 45.0)
Diontae Johnson has surprisingly emerged as Ben Roethlisberger’s No. 1 target this season. Johnson is tied for fourth in the NFL with a 29 percent target share and almost never leaves the field. There is also a matter of JuJu Smith-Schuster seeing limited practice time this week with a sore knee. It’s highly doubtful that it will keep him out Sunday, but his involvement in the gameplan could be slightly reduced. The Steelers began the week as six-point favorites for the home matchup. But that number has dropped to four with Vegas insider news being spread around that the Texans will take this game.
We’ve only seen Pittsburgh play from behind for nearly one continuous quarter of play this season. During that stretch, Roethlisberger passed the ball on 15-of-18 offensive plays, and ended up tossing two-of-five TDs this season. Roethlisberger will face the fifth-highest rate of man coverage from the Texans. When he’s gone against man coverage the last two weeks on 35 percent of his passing snaps, they’ve funded 60 percent of his TD passes.
The Bottom Line: It’s very possible that Johnson will be shadowed by Bradley Roby this week. But this recommendation goes beyond shadow concerns. When Roethlisberger is determined to get the ball to a receiver, he finds a way to make it happen. I trust my sources enough that, when I’m given news that Houston will come away with the victory, I listen. The Roethlisberger passing offense playing under a negative script is more than enticing to get Johnson into my LUs.
Jonnu Smith, TEN at MIN ($5,200 DK, $5,600 FD, O/U 49.5)
Let’s keep this very simple. The Vikings have allowed the most receptions of 20-plus yards in correlation with allowing the most yards in the process. In addition, you could say that Holton Hill, Cameron Dantzler, and Anthony Harris -- the defenders allowing more than 70 percent of that yardage -- were torched during the exercise if futility. Mike Hughes is the only Minnesota CB who has permitted under 2.00 yards/coverage snap this season. But Dantzler and Hughes are out with injuries.
The most devastating news for the Vikings is the season-ending injury to Sam LB Anthony Barr. The “S” in Sam refers to playing on the Strong-side or TE-side of the formation, most usually responsible for coverage of that TE. Barr was excellent in coverage of TEs but, without him, the Vikings will use Todd Davis at Sam. If you think back to the 2018-19 seasons, Davis was one of the Denver starting LBs responsible for the defense finishing with fifth- and eighth-most FPS to opposing TEs, respectively.
The Bottom Line: Minnesota will throw a lot of Cover 2 and Cover 3 zones at Ryan Tannehill. When facing those coverages this season, Tannehill has completed nearly 75 percent of attempts. With A.J. Brown limited this season, Smith has stepped forward as Tannehill’s most-productive receiver. At 6-3, 248 pounds and 4.62 speed, he’s generated 2.76 YPRR that ranks him in the top-five of all NFL receivers. Finally, Tannehill leads the NFL in FPG to his TEs (22.8) with second on the list -- Jared Goff -- coming in at 27 percent less.
Dalton Schultz, DAL at SEA ($4,500 DK, $4,900 FD, O/U 57.0)
I am not ashamed to say that I am unable to unsee Dalton Schultz’s performance from last week. Find me a single person who predicted Schultz would lead Dallas in targets against Atlanta. Despite only connecting with TEs for two receptions and 23 yards in Week 1, Dak Prescott still ranks eighth in targets, FPG, and fifth in yards to his TEs.
Schultz currently holds a 15 percent target share and ended up playing over 70 percent of team snaps last week. The Seattle defense is certainly no slouch in coverage. But Dallas presents their Cover 3 with a significant challenge. Their trio of playmaking receivers forces significant defensive attention elsewhere.
The Bottom Line: With 57 points anticipated going up on the scoreboard, this game is a perfect opportunity for Schultz exposure. When Atlanta utilized a Cover 3 last week, Prescott and Schultz connected for four receptions, 45 yards, and a TD. Smith and Schultz will populate the majority of my lineups on Sunday.