Nation, here is a quick analysis of the NFL Primetime short slates (Monday and Thursday night games). Short slates are often tough to differentiate in GPPs, but if your trying to do it your going to have to think outside the box. For cash games, keep in mind if you miss on a player you’re likely going to have a tough time making that up. The margin of error for cash games on these slates can be minimal.
NFL Monday-Thursday Breakdown
IND @ TEN – 7.5 – 47.5 O/U
The Colts are about as good as expected without Andrew Luck, only beating the Browns the 49ers both at home in Indianapolis and barely at that. QB Jacoby Brissett has done well considering he was acquired a week before the first game of the season. It’s been well over a month now since Brissett came aboard via trade and he seems to be building a solid rapport with both TE Jack Doyle (who missed some time with injury) and star WR T.Y. Hilton. Brissett’s throwing upside has been a bit limited thus far but he does carry rushing touchdown upside, already having three through five games.
QB Marcus Mariota is expected to play despite nursing a sore hamstring. Mariota is limited on offensive weapons so his rushing touchdown upside is usually what makes him valuable. Without the the ability to run, his fantasy upside is limited and much more dependent on his receivers both getting open and actually catching the ball. Mariota is very talented and has a solid arm so on a two game slate he shouldn’t be ignored when raw points are what matters the most. If Mariota gets scratched, QB Matt Cassell will get a chance to redeem his terrible performance last week against the Texans in which the Titans were embarrassed. Expect the Titans to be ready to play tonight at home after getting humiliated last week.
There has been a lot of talk about RB Marlon Mack who’s coming off a 91 yard performance on only nine carries. The Colts have said they plan on getting Mack more involved in the offense, but we will have to wait until we see it before we go too far in. Expect Mack’s ownership to be a little higher than it should be here for a back-up running back as veteran RB Frank Gore is still considered the primary back. Mack’s performance last week was impressive but in two other games he failed to produce anything close to that production. The Titans are pretty bad in power rushing situations but the Colts run blocking isn’t too much better. Marlon Mack has only been used on three red zone rushes while Gore has had eight and even RB Robert Turbin has had six.
The Titans have been very vocal about involving RB Derrick Henry in the offense more after two straight losses. The Titans are 10-1 when Henry touches the ball at least seven times and 1-8 when he touches the ball six times or fewer. Unlike Marlon Mack, Henry is the team leader in red zone rushing attempts with six over starting RB DeMarco Murray. Murray has certainly been the primary back but hasn’t shown us the upside he has shown in years past albeit the game scripts lately for the Titans have not been favorable for the running backs but with Mariota (the teams 2nd leading red zone rusher) on a bad wheel, Henry should be the guy pounding it in on the goal line and the Titans are ranked 8th in run blocking with an 83% power success rate (success on rushing plays requiring 1-3 yards), and a 19% stuff rate (how often their backs are stopped in the back-field) both of which are extremely good numbers. One thing in Murray’s favor is he actually the teams’ pass catching back with 14 targets on the year.
T.Y. Hilton is the guy for the Colts and dominated last week despite failing to reach the end-zone. Hilton will be on most people’s roster for sure against a Titan defense that is ranked 25th against the pass (DVOA). WR Kamar Aiken was able to sneak past TE Jack Doyle for second in total team targets but that was largely due to Doyle missing last week with a concussion. Aiken has gotten targets but the completion percentage on passes thrown to him is terrible and Aiken has failed to do anything with those targets. WR Donte Moncrief is probably the receiver who misses Andrew Luck the most as he has seen a huge dip in his targets and overall efficiency, still we cannot ignore three red zone targets he has gotten which actually puts him second on the team.
WR Rishard Matthews is the target leader for Tennessee and he’s still batting it out with TE Delanie Walker. Despite the consistent targets Matthews has only scored one touchdown this season and has only broken double digit FanDuel points once. Matthews is second in red zone targets behind WR Eric Decker who was supposed to be a big off-season pick-up though the production hasn’t been impressive. Eric has five red zone targets which leads the team but he has also failed to reach the end-zone. With Mariota unable to really on his legs as usually does in the red zone, this could be the day Decker finally gets a touchdown in the red zone of course Rishard Matthews has just as good a chance, though we can’t forget about Mariota’s great rapport with Walker.
As mentioned previously Jack Doyle will be returning to action and the Titans are ranked 21st against tight-ends (DVOA). Ironically even on a two-game slate, the tight end position is pretty deep here. Doyle has gotten a lot of attention from Brissett this season and should continue to be a staple in the offense. Doyle is third in total team targets but he would be second had he not missed a game last week. The Titans are ranked near the bottom of the league in pass rush, but the Colts rank near the bottom in pass-protecting so if Brissett is under pressure we could see Doyle be used more often as an outlet.
Mariota’s favorite target since he was drafted has been Delanie Walker and while father time is working against Walker, he has still proven to have reliable hands and his big frame makes him a match-up issue for most secondaries. With Mariota forced to stay with-in the pocket, we should see at least a few more throws to the receiving options and Walker has the highest completion percentage of them all at 71.88%, and again he’s second on the team in total targets. The Colts also happen to rank 29th against TEs (DVOA).
These two teams have struggled pretty mightily on defense though the Titans are certainly the team who have let everyone down after higher expectations prior to the start of the season. The Colts are ranked 28th against the pass and 21st against the run (DVOA) while the Titans are ranked 25th against the pass and 17th against the run (DVOA). Both teams rank near the bottom of the league in sacks.
KC @ OAK + 2.5 – 47 O/U
QB Alex Smith has looked a lot better this year than he ever has before with the exception of last week’s home loss against the Steelers. The Chiefs have plenty of weapons on offense and most of Smith’s big scoring plays are between WR Tyreke Hill and TE Travis Kelce so if you want to play Smith the pairing pool is a bit smaller. The only drawback here is RB Kareem Hunt has made a lot of noise and could take away from of Smith’s upside. The good news here is Hunt isn’t actually a huge snap count (compared to other feature backs) but that could change on this short week.
QB Derek Carr was unable to lead his team into victory last week against the Chargers. Carr was playing with a bad back and he missed quiet a few throws, but he was able keep is team in the game. Now he will play on short rest against a division rival who’s defense has been weak this year compared to years past. With WRs Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, Carr always has big play upside though Oakland’s pass blocking DVOA ranking is below the halfway mark at 19th and a QB with a bad back under pressure could be a scary thought. There is no doubt that Carr is a solid NFL QB regardless.
RB Kareem Hunt is a virtual must-play this week if Charcandrick West is unable to suit-up due to his concussion. One of the biggest draw-backs with the very talented Hunt, is his low snap count percentage of 67.4% and if West is out he should see that number go up at least for this week. The team reportedly signed C.J. Spiller on Monday but we shouldn’t expect too many snaps from Spiller with such little prep time. The Raiders are ranked 19th against the run (DVOA) and Kansas City is ranked 5th in run-blocking (DVOA) with an impressive 100% power success rate.
RB Marshawn Lynch hasn’t had more than 13 touches in a game since getting 18 in week one against the Titans. Even in games where he has had success running, the Raiders always resort to the triple Cs of Carr, Crabtree and Cooper. The Raiders offensive line isn’t the best in either pass or run blocking but on a two game-state where raw points matter, Lynch shouldn’t be ignored especially against a Chiefs team was just dominated by Le’Veon Bell. Of course Marshawn Lynch is no Le’Veon Bell.
WR Tyreke Hill is certainly one of the most explosive players in the game and is second in total targets right behind star TE Travis Kelce. Hill, Kelce and Hunt are the three playmakers and the Chiefs know it as they are also the top three leaders in passing targets. One thing for sure is that the Raider defense hasn’t looked very good at all ranking 30th against the pass.
WR Michael Crabtree continues to be the guy in Oakland while for some odd reason WR Amari Cooper seems to draw a higher ownership week in and week out. Cooper has struggled with drops this season while Crabtree has virtually carried his team. Don’t be fooled when looking at the total targets and seeing Cooper ahead of Crabtree, remember that Crabtree missed a game. Amari does hold value as he is the team’s red zone target leader by far with eight. The only guy who can take some of these targets away consistently is TE Jared Cook who’s actually tied with Crabtree for total targets. The Cheifs have struggled against number one recievers this season but have done really well against WR2s.
TE Travis Kelce is going to be the play everyone wants of piece and rightfully so. He is his team’s target leader and physically a mismatch for most secondaries. Ironically the TE position is where the Raiders’ have allowed the least amount of damage ranking 11th against opposing TEs (DVOA). Kelce is not just an average TE and he is relied upon much more than most TEs in the league.
TE Jared Cook has had his share of opportunities this season currently tied with Michael Crabtree in total targets. Cook is also second on the team in red zone targets with five behind only Amari Cooper who has eight. The Chiefs are ranked 14th against opposing TEs so if Cook is having a big game here it’s most likely due to touchdown catches in the red zone.
The Chiefs Defense has been disappointing this year to say the least especially on the road. They rank 14th in pass rush (DVOA) which could spell trouble against a poor Oakland offensive line and a QB with a bad back on short rest. The Chiefs have really struggled against the run ranking 24th (DVOA). I’d expect the Chiefs to be among the most popular defenses’ played due to their history but his not the same Chiefs defense you may have grown accustom to.
The Raiders Defense is bad, very bad. They rank 30th against the pass (DVOA), 19th against the run (DVOA) and they’re pass rush is ranked 23rd. It’s tough to imagine a scenario where the Oakland Raiders Defense would be in play.