NFL Grind Down: Week 2
Welcome to the RotoGrinders NFL Grind Down, an all-encompassing preview of the week ahead in the NFL from a daily fantasy sports perspective. We’ll provide all the statistics, insights and analysis you need to set your lineups for this week’s contests.
Every game will be broken down statistically, with several key elements highlighted in our charts. Vegas lines are broken down to show projected team totals, to give you an idea of who is favored to win, and often more importantly, how many points they’re expected to score. Each contest is then analyzed team-by-team, with a focus on finding matchups to exploit and trends to follow.
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|Baltimore Ravens||Cincinnati Bengals|
Hello Grinders. Well that was an interesting Week 1. I didn’t expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to dominate the stout Saints defense and morph into the greatest quarterback to grace the face of this planet. I didn’t expect James Conner to go completely ham. I didn’t expect Leonard Fournette to go down with an injury and leave the game early. Week 1 was a reminder of why we need to practice good bankroll management and that there are still so many unknowns going into Week 2. I’ll do my best to break down the games and share information that I’ve come across so that we can make the most informed decisions we can.
One thing to note – we will be publishing the Grind Down for the Thursday game early in the week, and then slowly release analysis for the remainder of the games over the course of the week. That way we can get content in your hands for this Thursday game as soon as possible. So if you don’t see analysis yet for the rest of the games, don’t worry, it’ll be coming soon. This new format allows us to roll out content on a game-by-game basis as it’s completed.
Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or use the comments section below if you have any thoughts. Let’s dive in!
Quarterback: The good news is Joe Flacco and the Ravens are 1-0 and looked like a playoff caliber team in Week 1 after winning 47-3. The bad news is that win was against the dreadful Buffalo Bills, so we need to put some context around these numbers. Flacco lit up the Bills going 25/34 with 236 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. More impressive is the fact Flacco left early in the third quarter and didn’t even play the whole game since the Ravens were already up 40-0. I expect the Bengals to put up more of a fight but Flacco has looked good in the preseason and in this first regular season game, so it’s possible he keeps on rolling. The Ravens’ decision to draft rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson seems to have motivated Flacco.
This game has one of the lower over/unders in Week 2 so I don’t think I would play a Thursday-Sunday slate just for the sake of getting exposure to this game or Flacco. But if you’re playing a Showdown-type slate, exposure to Flacco does make sense in that format.
Running Backs: Despite scoring 47 points, starting running back Alex Collins finished with just seven carries, 13 yards and a touchdown. Collins did lose a fumble and was benched for Javorius Allen, but was never really needed after his benching given the lopsided score. This allowed Allen to have four rushes for 17 yards and a touchdown. We even got to see Kenneth Dixon rumble for 13 carries, 44 yards and a touchdown. Dixon did leave the game early with less than two minutes to go with an injury and limped to the locker room. There’s a report he’s expected to miss some time now, so that’s a bump for Collins and Allen. I still like Collins and think his low workload was due to a combination of his fumble and the game getting out of handle, but it’s still a bit concerning he wasn’t fed more.
Pass Catchers: Every starting wideout caught a touchdown, which makes it hard to pinpoint how to handle things this week given how much Flacco spread it out. Let’s take a look at the target share in Week 1:
A few things stand out to me. The first is that Flacco evenly targeted Willie Snead, Nick Boyle, Michael Crabtree and Javorius Allen with 16% of his targets (six targets each). The second is that the tight end trio of Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams and Mark Andrews accounted for roughly a third of the targets. I’d be lying if I said I knew which Ravens pass catcher to play for this Thursday game. I still lean Crabtree as my favorite of the bunch because of his history of success in the end zone, but it looks like Flacco is just looking for the open man. It’s a good sign John Brown is finally looking healthy too.
Regarding the spread-out usage of the tight ends, this is likely a situation I would try and avoid. Nick Boyle had a touchdown wiped out due to an offensive pass interference penalty on Willie Snead (who ended up catching a touchdown on the next play, oh you sneaky Snead, you…). It looks like Boyle may be the one Flacco is looking most to and would be my preferred option of the trio, but keep in mind that if Snead didn’t get called for pass interference, that would’ve been Boyle’s first ever touchdown in four NFL seasons so it’s not like he has a history of being an offensive threat.
The Takeaway: I’m not going out of my way to play Ravens on a slate with this Thursday game, but if I did, I’d have some interest in Joe Flacco with the way he’s looked. It’s a bit worrisome that Alex Collins didn’t see a bigger workload, but I would think he sees more carries this week if the game stays closer and with Kenneth Dixon out. Flacco’s willingness to spread the ball out makes it hard to pinpoint which pass catchers to use, but I’d lean Michael Crabtree as my favorite.
Notable injuries and suspensions: None
Quarterback: Chalk Andy Dalton is never a comfortable feeling, but he came through against the Colts going 21/28 for 243 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He has a much tougher matchup now in Week 2 against a Ravens team that ranked 2nd in pass DVOA and 9th in run DVOA last season. I was happy to jump on the Dalton bandwagon in Week 1 against a poor Colts defense but I’m hopping off now against the Ravens (even without cornerback Jimmy Smith, who is suspended for the first four games). I just see better quarterback options to target.
Running Backs: Joe Mixon had himself quite a day, rushing 17 times for 95 yards and a touchdown. He was also involved in the passing game, catching five of his seven targets for 57 yards. Giovani Bernard only saw one rushing attempt and one target, suggesting Mixon will truly see a bell-cow role this season. Mixon is probably my favorite Bengals player this week if you decide to play anyone from this game. Again, I don’t love the matchup here.
Pass Catchers: Let’s break down the snap counts for the team’s offensive players in Week 1:
A few things stand out. One is that A.J. Green played nearly the whole game, which is great. He finished with a 6-92-1 line and while he’ll avoid cornerback Jimmy Smith, he’s going to deal with second-year corner Marlon Humphrey. Humphrey was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2017 and was solid in Week 1, allowing just two of six passes thrown his way to be completed.
The second is that Tyler Boyd saw more snaps (48) than John Ross (36), who drew a lot of preseason buzz. Ross did catch a 3-yard touchdown but that would be his only catch of the day. Boyd ended up seeing five targets, which was the third most on the team. If deciding between the two, I’m going to side with Boyd for this week. The last thing I notice is that Tyler Eifert only saw 22 snaps, which amounts to just 40% of the offensive snaps. He did catch all three of his targets for 44 yards, but the team using C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Kroft is a sign they want to ease Eifert back slowly. I’m going to continue monitoring Eifert’s snap counts moving forward to see if they creep up or if this split is going to hold. If he’s not catching touchdowns, he’s going to be hard to recommend.
The Takeaway: Joe Mixon and A.J. Green are my primary targets on the Bengals, but by no means a must-play given the Ravens defense is above-average. I don’t love this matchup for Dalton, and the low snap counts for John Ross and Tyler Eifert concern me enough where I wouldn’t play them on a full slate. In a Showdown format, you’re going to need a touchdown from them to hit or exceed value if they see a similar amount of snaps as they did in Week 1.