Sunday Night Football
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
Team Totals: Steelers 27, Ravens 24
Fresh off dropping Monday night’s 30-burger on the Bucs, the Steelers return home to face a Ravens defense with a long history of stark home-road splits which carried over into 2018, allowing 31 points at Cincinnati in Week 2 but only 3 (Buffalo) and 14 (Denver) in two home games. Week 2’s fantasy QB2 and Week 3’s QB10, Ben Roethlisberger is white hot with an enticing resume against Baltimore; his last three yardage/touchdown/interception totals versus the Ravens at Heinz Field are 506/2/0 > 279/3/2 > 340/6/0. After facing Nathan Peterman, Andy Dalton, and Case Keenum in Weeks 1-3, this Ravens defense is in for a rude awakening against a high-octane Pittsburgh passing attack just now hitting its stride. … The Steelers showed no intentions of easing off James Conner at Tampa Bay, feeding him 20 touches on 85% of the snaps. Only six NFL running backs have more catches than Conner’s 15. Nursing injuries to NT Michael Pierce (foot) and ILB C.J. Mosley (knee), the Ravens allowed a moderate 49/194/1 (3.96 YPC) rushing line to Bengals and Broncos backs in Weeks 2-3. Favored at home with a 20-24 touch projection in a prolific offense with plus run blocking, Conner remains a volume-driven every-week RB1.
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Roethlisberger’s Weeks 1-3 targets: Antonio Brown 42; JuJu Smith-Schuster 38; Conner 17; Jesse James 11; Vance McDonald 10; James Washington 7; Ryan Switzer 6; Justin Hunter 5. … Baltimore will miss suspended top CB Jimmy Smith for one more week, untimely with Brown on deck. Brown’s last two stat lines against the Ravens without Smith are 11/213/0 > 10/96/1. Despite a mildly rocky 2018 start, Brown ranks second in the NFL in targets and fifth in Air Yards (440). Over the previous four seasons, Brown scored 30 of his 44 touchdowns at home (68%). (He is scoreless at home so far this year.) … JuJu’s receiving line over his last 16 games: 85/1,273/8. He’s scored a touchdown and/or cleared 100 yards in seven straight. Smith-Schuster runs 88% of his routes inside, where PFF has charged Ravens slot CB Tavon Young with 8-of-9 targets allowed for 92 yards and two TDs. No NFL wideout has as many red-zone targets as JuJu (10), and only four have more targets inside the ten (4). … Although James (50%) and McDonald (48%) continued to share Week 3 snaps, McDonald took a commanding lead in routes run (26, 18) and showed his superior upside on a dominant 75-yard catch-and-run score. A Weeks 1-2 tease, James was targeted once and is droppable in season-long leagues. The Ravens have given up minimal tight end production so far, although facing Bills and Broncos TEs in two of the first three weeks helps. McDonald is a viable streamer with every-week TE1 upside. … Washington’s Week 3 snaps dipped to 60% with only two targets as Switzer and McDonald got more involved. Washington should be viewed as a boom-bust WR4/flex until his weekly role stabilizes.
Quietly top five in the NFL in points per game (32.3) with 27-plus points in six of their last eight games stretching into last season, the Ravens visit a Steelers team that is bleeding points with an average of 28.8 allowed in eight games since losing difference-maker ILB Ryan Shazier (spine). Joe Flacco has accounted for multiple touchdowns in seven of his last eight starts, while Pittsburgh has been torched for fantasy results of QB6 (Tyrod Taylor), QB1 (Patrick Mahomes), and QB4 (Ryan Fitzpatrick). Flacco is an underrated streamer in what sets up as a back-and-forth affair. The Steelers will be without SS Morgan Burnett (groin) and stingy slot CB Mike Hilton (elbow). … Another plus to Baltimore’s passing game is Pittsburgh’s solid run defense, holding enemy backs to a combined 59/210/1 (3.56 YPC) rushing line and forcing offenses to lean on the pass to move the sticks. Only six NFL teams have faced more pass attempts than the Steelers. A pass-oriented Ravens approach would favor Javorius Allen, who has run 73 pass routes to Alex Collins’ 49 while out-targeting Collins 17 to 9. Allen is also dominating carries inside the five-yard line (4) over Collins (1). Collins’ Week 3 season high in touches (21) bodes well and keeps him in the RB2 mix, but Allen isn’t going away and has RB2/flex standalone value in PPR leagues.
Flacco’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Michael Crabtree 26; John Brown 23; Willie Snead 19; Allen 17; Nick Boyle and Mark Andrews 11; Collins 9; Maxx Williams 7. … As Mike Evans (6/137/1), Jarvis Landry (7/106/0), Sammy Watkins (6/100/0), Tyreek Hill (5/90/1), and Chris Godwin (5/74/1) have shown, Pittsburgh’s secondary is fun for wide receivers to play against. Baltimore’s best wideout bet is always Brown, who ranks fourth in the NFL in Air Yards (457) and leads the Ravens in targets inside the ten-yard line (3). … Crabtree is being used as a full-on possession receiver with a 9.7 Average Depth of Target that is dwarfed by Brown’s 19.9 clip. Crabtree topped 60 yards for the first time in ten games last week, finishing with 61. Crabtree surprisingly has only one red-zone target and none inside the ten. Nevertheless, this matchup and Crabtree’s high-volume usage make him a rock-solid WR3/flex in PPR leagues. … Slot man Snead is a lower-upside PPR-specific WR4 with an even lower aDOT (6.9) than Crabtree’s and zero targets inside the ten. … The Ravens ticketed first-round pick Hayden Hurst for a major passing-game role before he suffered a late-August stress fracture in his foot. Hurst’s playing time is uncertain, but he is on track to debut in a plus matchup. Pittsburgh got hammered by Travis Kelce (7/109/2) in Week 2 and Bucs TEs (9/106/1) last Monday night.
Score Prediction: Steelers 34, Ravens 27
Monday Night Football
Kansas City @ Denver
Team Totals: Chiefs 29.5, Broncos 25.5
Struggling on offense with 20 points or fewer in back-to-back games, the Broncos return home for a get-right matchup with Kansas City, which has allowed the NFL’s third-most points (92) and a league-high 1,422 yards. Only the Saints (6.9) and Raiders (6.9) have given up more yards per play than the Chiefs (6.7). Facing Kansas City has spiked passing volume; opponents are averaging a league-high 47.0 pass attempts per game against Andy Reid’s club. In Philip Rivers (QB3), Ben Roethlisberger (QB2), and Jimmy Garoppolo (QB10), each of the three quarterbacks to face Kansas City has finished as a top-ten fantasy passer. Case Keenum is this week’s top matchup-based streamer QB1. … Phillip Lindsay’s Week 3 second-quarter ejection for throwing a punch narrowed Denver’s three-man RBBC to a two-man ordeal. It was telling that Royce Freeman still drew just one target and barely out-touched Devontae Booker (14, 10); the Broncos are clearly committed to multi-back usage. The good news is Week 4 opponent Kansas City has yielded a generous 54/279/2 (5.17 YPC) rushing line to enemy backs, in addition to a 27/334/2 receiving line. Based on this backfield’s pre-ejection usage, we can project roughly 16 touches for Lindsay, 12 for Freeman, and 4 for Booker. Freeman’s utter lack of receiving involvement cripples his floor, but he has the highest touchdown probability with team highs in carries inside the ten (5) and inside the five (2). Lindsay’s lead-back role and big-play ability give him RB2/flex appeal in this plus draw.
Keenum’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Demaryius Thomas 26; Emmanuel Sanders 23; Courtland Sutton 14; Jake Butt 13; Booker 9; Jeff Heuerman 8; Lindsay 6; Tim Patrick 4; Freeman 2. … The NFL’s drop leader in Weeks 1-2, Thomas bounced back to secure 5-of-5 targets for 63 yards in last week’s loss to Baltimore, and would have had a bigger day had he not lost a 39-yard catch to penalty. Kansas City has allowed a league-high 17 completions of 20-plus yards, plus the NFL’s sixth-most touchdowns to wide receivers (5). … Sanders salvaged a rocky Week 3 receiving game with a 35-yard touchdown on an end-around. Sanders’ Monday night matchup is mouth watering against a Chiefs defense that has been drilled by fellow interior WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster (13/121/1) and Keenan Allen (8/108/1). Sanders runs two-thirds of his routes in the slot. … Sutton is off to an inefficient start with dropped passes in back-to-back games and just 89 yards to show for his 230 Air Yards, which rank second on the team ahead of Sanders (219) and right behind Thomas (249). This plus matchup does raise the antennae on Sutton as a dart-throw WR4/flex. … Heuerman’s usage will increase after Butt suffered his third-career ACL tear in Wednesday’s walkthrough. Although Heuerman has shown minimal receiving skills in college and the pros, he offers some desperation streamer appeal against the Chiefs, who were creamed by Steelers TEs (8/164/1) in Week 2 and 49ers TEs (6/86/0) last week.
After setting the league record for touchdown passes (13) in the first three weeks of a season, Patrick Mahomes returns to the venue of his first NFL start last Week 17. Despite playing with backups – the Chiefs rested for the playoffs – Mahomes engineered a 27-24 road-game win while teasing the colossal upside he’s put into action this year. Despite their reputation, the 2018 Broncos have not played shutdown pass defense, surrendering the NFL’s seventh-most yards per attempt (8.2), eighth-highest completion rate (69.5%), and fifth-most 20-plus-yard pass plays (13). Showing pass-funnel tendencies, the Broncos have struggled mightily at outside cornerback while limiting enemy backs to a combined 65/226/3 (3.48 YPC) rushing line. Mahomes has earned matchup-proof QB1 treatment each week. … Although Kareem Hunt caught positive-touchdown regression with two first-quarter goal-line scores in last week’s win over the 49ers, Hunt remained a passing-game ghost and is averaging just 57.7 yards from scrimmage per game. Hunt is going to remain a touchdown-dependent RB2 barring an uptick in his all-purpose usage and/or rushing efficiency. Spencer Ware, Damien Williams, and even FB Anthony Sherman have been bigger passing-game factors than Hunt, frequently spelling him in third-down and two-minute situations.
Mahomes’ Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Travis Kelce 26; Sammy Watkins 23; Tyreek Hill 19; Chris Conley 6; Ware 4; Hunt and Demetrius Harris 3. … Kelce leads all NFL tight ends in Air Yards (300) by nearly 60, and his four red-zone targets lead the Chiefs. Denver has yielded the NFL’s fifth-most yards to tight ends (236). … Nursing injuries to boundary CBs Tramaine Brock (groin) and Adam Jones (thigh) while dealing with LCB Bradley Roby’s startling ineffectiveness, the Broncos gave up at- or above-expectation stat lines to Amari Cooper (10/116/0), John Brown (5/86/0), and Michael Crabtree (7/61/0) in the last two weeks. Watkins turned 15 targets into WR2-level 11/155/1 production in Weeks 2-3. Hill was a Week 3 bust (2/51/0), at least partly because Mahomes underthrew him on a would-be 49-yard TD bomb in the first quarter, allowing Richard Sherman to break up the pass. This is your regular Matchups column reminder that Tyreek has strange home-road splits; he has scored 17 of his 24 career TDs (71%) away from Arrowhead. … Conley is locked in as Kansas City’s No. 3 wideout, playing 64% of the snaps and running 30-plus pass routes in back-to-back weeks. Conley primarily played in the slot the last two games, however, and that is where Broncos shutdown CB Chris Harris roams.
Score Prediction: Broncos 30, Chiefs 28
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