NFL Grind Down Week 2: Cardinals vs. Ravens

Vegas Overview

ARI @ BAL Team Spread Total Implied Moneyline
BAL -13 47 30 -700
ARI 13 47 17 540

Betting Quick Take: I think the under would have been interesting, though I am watching the Ravens defensive backfield for injury news. Being shorthanded against a team that runs 4 wide every play and was the fastest team in the league by 2.5 seconds per play isn’t good news for the under. It’s enough to take me off that line, but possibly move me onto Arizona +13.

We’re all expecting the Ravens to shut down the Cardinals at home, which I agree is fully in play. That said, the strongest part of your defense missing bodies against one of the opponent’s offensive key advantages (spread formation) doesn’t make me want to lay the points. Instead, I might grab a small glass of Kyler Murray Kool-Aid and pray they keep it relatively close. I’ll take Arizona at +13. Confidence Level: 6 out of 10

Injury Situations

Player Team Pos Status Part Impact
Marquise Brown BAL WR P Hip 4

Injuries to Monitor: The Wednesday practice report featured several defensive backs that could influence my view of this game if out. Jimmy Smith is already out, while Marlon Humphrey DNP with a back injury. Humphrey’s absence would be trouble, as the names behind him qualify as either unproven or straight up bad (if we’re talking about Justin Bethel). Arizona looks pretty healthy, and will have everyone outside suspended DB Patrick Peterson.

Other News and Notes: Arizona ran a lot of plays, but what’s more interesting is that they ran 67% of them in 4 WR sets. In fact, only 11% of their plays had 2 WRs or less. They are who we thought they were!

Matchup Factors, Team Identity Metrics, and Game Flow Expectations

Expected Game Pace and Tempo: Especially if Baltimore is short handed in the secondary, the pace of play could be ridiculous in this game. I use total play volume as a way to gauge “pace”, and not seconds per snap. Baltimore was the league leader in total plays last year, and including overtime the Cardinals ran 82 plays last week. Baltimore tends to take their sweet time at the line, but they are efficient and their defense usually gets them the ball back quickly. Arizona was the fastest team at the line by 2.5 full seconds in Week 1, and that should at least get them whichever direction they are going in a hurry. Suffice to say I expect this game to have a lot of plays run, with Baltimore as a heavy favorite to run the most.

Baltimore Ravens Projections Breakdown

Team Projections

QB Team Proj Rank ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Lamar Jackson BAL 21.17 QB2 36.52 252.94 Rank 4 Rank 12 Rank 9 Rank 11
RB Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Mark Ingram BAL 11.87 RB26 44% 6% Rank 34 Rank 43 Rank 50 Rank 41
Gus Edwards BAL 3.87 RB65 18% 1% Rank 56 Rank 57 Rank 60 Rank 58
Justice Hill BAL 3.83 RB66 10% 4% Rank 59 Rank 58 Rank 59 Rank 57
WR/TE Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Marquise Brown BAL 10.1 WR56 17% 6.03 Rank 56 Rank 69 Rank 77 Rank 61
Willie Snead BAL 9.44 WR65 16% 5.84 Rank 50 Rank 63 Rank 60 Rank 62
Seth Roberts BAL 3.09 WR116 5% 1.83 Rank 102 Rank 98 Rank 103 Rank 101
Chris Moore BAL 3.44 WR108 6% 2.19 Rank 100 Rank 94 Rank 99 Rank 93
Miles Boykin BAL 8.43 WR74 16% 5.66 Rank 54 Rank 10 Rank 47 Rank 13
Mark Andrews BAL 11.23 TE7 18% 6.57 Rank 6 Rank 4 Rank 5 Rank 5
Hayden Hurst BAL 4.58 TE34 8% 2.92 Rank 30 Rank 29 Rank 28 Rank 30

ARI 18-19 Fpts Allowed: QB Rank 25/RB Rank 2/WR Rank 16/TE Rank 26

Rushing Opportunity Metrics of Note:
MS Rush Week 1: Edwards 37% / Ingram 30% / Hill 15%
RB Targets % Week 1: 0%
Lamar RuAtt: 3 for 6 yards

Rushing Efficiency Metrics of Note:
BAL Rushing EPA: Rank 3
BAL Early Down Success%: 71.4% (Rank 3)
ARI D Early Down Success%: 60% (Rank 8)

Baltimore is going to win this game with certainty if the Cardinals can’t slow down their opponents more than 40% of the time on early downs. 3rd and short is a recipe for disaster against this team, which is built from top to bottom to convert on that kind of down and distance. It spells good news for the RBs as a group, but that doesn’t mean we’re locked into any Ravens rusher in DFS.

Mark Ingram was able to tally a big fantasy day against the Dolphins in this situation last week, but the numbers say he’s still not an elite fantasy projection thanks to another poor game script for RB passing game work. The Ravens didn’t look to the backs at all Week 1. You can’t play any of these other backs with such a wide split of duty, and Ingram is your best bet hoping for another two TD game. I’d only call him a half PPR, low exposure GPP guy. A week winning performance is the under dog despite a fantastic situation for the Ravens run game as a whole.

Passing Game Opportunity Metrics of Note:
Lamar Deep Ball Attempts: 4 (Rank 12)
MS Air Yards: Brown 37% / Andrews 28% / Snead 17.5%
MS Targets: Andrews 31% / Brown 19% / Hurst 15%

Passing Game Efficiency Metrics of Note:
Lamar Adj. YPA: 20.2 (Rank 1)
Lamar Accuracy Rating: Rank 6
Lamar Clean Pockets: 81.5% (Rank 3)

Only the pass rush is likely to take Lamar Jackson off his game in Week 2, and Arizona had some success with that in Week 1 at times. They weren’t consistent though, and Stafford found enough attempts later on to put the Cardinals to bed on the road. Jackson’s week one performance was a glimpse of what he can do as a passer when kept clean, although it’s not his median outcome. He’s not an MVP caliber player. What he remains is a dual threat QB favored at home with multiple out to success and a huge ceiling. He’s a secondary play with plenty of GPP appeal, even at the elevated prices.

Update 9/13: I’m now calling Lamar closer to optimal after reviewing the slate in more detail. Mahomes is my QB1, but Lamar is on the table across the board.

WR56 is the best projection you’ll get from RG on these Ravens WRs, and that’s more than fine by me. This is going to be a mix and match offense all season long, and not even Mark Andrews is going to be a consistent producer. Of course, we did see T.J. Hockenson OWN this defense for a massive stat line last week. That is at least some encouragement that one of these Ravens TEs can do it again, but it’s not something you can hang your hat on as a certainty considering the diversity of weapons.

Marquise Brown didn’t play a huge snap total, and quite frankly just isn’t as good as he looked in his first game. We’re never playing Willie Snead or Chris Moore, and Miles Boykin isn’t ready to ascend yet. If you’re looking to pair somebody with Jackson in GPPs, it’s going to be Mark Andrews or else you’re making a lot of lineups with darts at these WRs.

Quick Summary: Lamar is a secondary option, but pairing him in tournaments will be a challenge for now. Mark Andrews is the best bet. Mark Ingram is a possible tournament long shot, but I suspect you can do better on a 13 game slate for high exposure plays.

Arizona Cardinals Projections Breakdown

Team Projections

QB Team Proj Rank ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Kyler Murray ARI 16.02 QB26 37.82 249.61 Rank 11 Rank 24 Rank 7 Rank 16
RB Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
David Johnson ARI 15.96 RB12 73% 14% Rank 13 Rank 30 Rank 28 Rank 22
Chase Edmonds ARI 4.48 RB63 8% 7% Rank 57 Rank 56 Rank 56 Rank 55
WR/TE Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 12.11 WR37 22% 8.32 Rank 18 Rank 11 Rank 43 Rank 16
Christian Kirk ARI 10.74 WR51 20% 7.56 Rank 34 Rank 35 Rank 20 Rank 46
Damiere Byrd ARI 5.12 WR98 10% 3.78 Rank 86 Rank 83 Rank 85 Rank 82
KeeSean Johnson ARI 5.56 WR95 11% 4.16 Rank 84 Rank 80 Rank 83 Rank 76
Maxx Williams ARI 2.3 TE50 4% 1.51 Rank 45 Rank 43 Rank 44 Rank 43
Charles Clay ARI 3.65 TE42 7% 2.65 Rank 34 Rank 36 Rank 33 Rank 33

BAL 18-19 Fpts Allowed: QB Rank 29/RB Rank 31/WR Rank 27/TE Rank 13

Rushing Opportunity Metrics of Note:
Johnson Week 1 MS Rush: 78%
Johnson Week 1 MS Tar: 14%

Rushing Efficiency Metrics of Note:
BAL Ru Success Allowed Week 1: 27%
ARI Rush % Week 1: 28%

The Ravens run defense was expected to be something close to top 10 quality entering the season, and they passed their first (and likely easiest) test against the Dolphins. Their test gets only slightly more challenging against the Cardinals, who rushed on just 28% of plays last week and ranked #29 in rushing EPA a season ago. Thanks to a heavy share of team workload and the opportunity upside presented by the Cardinals pace, we still have David Johnson projected as RB12. Passing game work is where you are likeliest to experience success, as he was targeted like a WR3 last week and there is upside beyond that. His target depth has a chance to rebound from where he was a season ago, and his long TD catch is evidence of that. We can’t slot him in as a primary Week 2 option, but those of you with contrarian minds have a sliver of justification if you decide to play him at lower ownership industry wide.

Passing Game Opportunity Metrics of Note:
Murray Deep Ball Attempts: 9 (Rank # 3)
Air Yards Wk 1: Fitz 29% / Kirk 26% / KeeSean 21 %
Targets Wk 1: Fitz 25% / Kirk 23% / KeeSean 19 %

Passing Game Efficiency Metrics of Note:
Murray Clean Pockets: 64.41% (Rank 25)
ARI Pass Success Rate: 35.59% (Rank 31)
ARI Passing EPA: Rank 25

Defense doesn’t matter (often) to you as a fantasy decision maker, but what does matter is the relative strength of opportunity. We can win without this spot often, and you don’t need to feel pressure to be the smartest guy in the room Week 2. You can avoid this spot and still have a chance even if it goes a different way than the betting markets expect.

Arizona is still not a good team, and they can play 11 WRs for all I care. You can’t fully fix the problems associated with disrupted pockets simply by saying you’re going to get the ball out quickly. Great coordinators can find solutions to spread offense on early downs, and picking up difficult 3rd downs will eventually be a thing you need to do. I don’t like teams projecting for 3rd and long against the Ravens. What I am saying here is this: Don’t convince yourself this is an elite fantasy situation just because the Cardinals can play fast. My endorsement at the top is that they MIGHT not lose by two TDs, but I still don’t expect them to win. That could mean a long day on offense is well within the range.

Kyler Murray is projected conservatively in our numbers, and that’s fine by me. I get it if you wanted to tag him with much better efficiency or huge play totals to get him looking like a value in your projections, but I see troubling numbers both on their offense and the Baltimore defense that have me wanting to side with the conservatives. He’s nothing but a GPP play in a terrible matchup.

The missing Baltimore defensive backs could offer a small window for one of these WRs to produce, but your guess is as good as mine in terms of which one finishes Week 2 with a GPP viable output. The issue could become even more cloudy with Michael Crabtree possibly returning to the lineup this week and changing up the distribution at the low end. Larry Fitzgerald looks like the best median projection choice of the group, but Christian Kirk could find himself with a better matchup if Marlon Humphrey can’t go. At the end of the day, these pass catchers are pure dart throws. You’re playing the leverage game if you go here in massive fields, and I can’t officially locate anything but game theory as a reason to love this spot.

Quick Summary: The entire offense is comprised of long shots in GPP. You’re only using them as a contrarian strategy against the widely popular belief that this offense could struggle in Week 2.

DFS Recommendations

Update 9/13: After more consideration, I’m bumping Lamar to optimal.

Optimal DFS Plays: Lamar Jackson, Ravens DST (borderline, but it’s the right kind of situation)

Leverage Plays: Mark Ingram, Mark Andrews, Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson

Secondary Plays: Kyler Murray

About the Author

  • Chris Gimino (ChrisGimino)

  • Chris Gimino is a top mind in the DFS industry and one of the primary contributors at RotoGrinders including one of the most accurate ownership projection systems in the industry. A multiple time live-finalist, Chris delivers actionable tools and advice for RotoGrinders Premium subscribers that helps them make informed decisions for their lineup builds.

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