@MagicSportsGuy breaks down everything you need to know ahead of this week’s Thursday Night Football matchup: Don’t set those DraftKings or FanDuel lineups without it!
If you aren’t yet tailing my prop bets on Elite Sports Betting, it’s time you did. After destroying the NBA, I am 416-223 in MLB props (65%, +126 units @ an average -130) and 28-14 in week one NFL props (+14.14 units!).
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Buccaneers @ Panthers
CAR -7, o/u 49
Implied Team Totals: Bucs 21 | Panthers 28
The line opened at 5, but has moved to 7 at most sites with 82% of the public betting on the favorite. I have a little interest in the Bucs now that it has moved to a full TD, but as of now I am not betting on the side or total. If we can get to 7.5 by kickoff, I will probably tease the Bucs up to +17.5 and +20.5.
Panthers came out hoping to run, operating at the 22nd slowest pace in “neutral situations” (33 sec. per play), which equates to the first quarter that ended in a scoreless tie. They fell behind 13-3 going into halftime and then dramatically sped things up to 20.09 sec. per play in the second half (1st). That means we could see two different games depending on how Tampa starts. If they lay an egg early and let the Panthers get a lead, CAR will grind it out.
TB played from behind the entire game in week one, finishing 13th in overall pace, but also sped things up when trailing by 7 or more (5th fastest). Of course with one week, not every team was ever down by 7 or more points so you have to take that with a grain of salt. Bruce Arians has always operated quickly however, finishing 6th and 7th in his last two years in AZ.
If you don’t like playing the chalk, you may want to avoid this slate. Christian McCaffrey is simply unstoppable, barring an injury, he is going for 25+ FP again.
Over his last 17 games (2018 and week one), CMC is AVERAGING 7.35 more carries per game at home (17 carries per game/10 away), which has led to a DK average of 28.35 FPPG (9 home games).
In CAR his total yards per game averages go up from 104 to 148 and there is no reason to think they will go away from this trend with the Bucs traveling on short rest (averaged 175 total yards, last two games vs. TB).
It goes further in regard to CMC and volume. In 7 career games with 15+ carries, he is averaging over 33 FPPG on DK (19 carries/105 rush yards + 7 catches/61 receiving yards + 7 rushing TDs)
CMC played 100% of snaps in week one, got 19 carries & 10 targets (29% target share), he is going to be tough to fade if he is getting 29 touches (1.12 FP per opportunity, 2018 – 1.43 in week one).
Fullback, Alex Armah played 12 snaps, which allowed McCaffery to line up as a WR. He also vultured a TD on his ONLY carry of the game. They used CMC as a decoy which allowed Armah to plunge ahead for a 1-yard score.
I wrote last week that the strong home splits/usage rates for CMC has taken an effect on Cam Newton. He did not look good last week (4.7 ANY/A 26th), but let’s look at the entire situation. For one, the Panthers allowed Cam to be under pressure on 40% of his attempts (12th). When he was kept clean, he completed 82.6% of his passes. Panthers also scored THREE rushing TDs and he didn’t have a single rush yard. I don’t think we can say after one game that he is not going to run anymore (If that is the case, I am going to be sending a lot of $$$ to DraftCheat and BigT for my Cam vs. Kyler bets.
TB’s defensive passing stats look good, but if you watched the game you know Jimmy G had TWO TDs to Kittle reversed on penalties (plus a Raheem Mostert rush TD was called back), so continue playing all your guys against TB. I think Cam bounces back in this spot and posts a respectable 20 FP game, but he is too expensive in relation to the player pool to play on the full slate. Especially without seeing him run a bit this season (he is a $5.5k QB without legs).
DJ Moore gets moved all over the formation, playing a ⅓ in the slot, and ⅓ at each outside WR position. TB does not shadow, so DJ will get a chance at Vernon Hargreaves, MJ Stewart and Carlton Davis. He had two down games against this unit last season, so hopefully, the box score watchers fade him. He got 26% of Cam’s targets (2nd, CMC – 29%), and led the team by getting 42% of Cam’s air yards.
I was vocal in the off-season that Ian Thomas was the guy to take with your 18th and final pick in Best Ball. I just see no way Greg Olsen makes it through a season. Olsen returned to practice on Wednesday, after sitting out Monday and Tuesday (sore back), so it looks like he will go. Either way, I am doubling down on Thomas, Olsen got a healthy 9 targets in week one and we know the TE is a major part of the Norv Turner offense. The matchup is GREAT for Olsen this week, with TB allowing 8 of 10 catches to George Kittle + TWO TD passes (8 and 22 yards) reversed.
Curtis Samuel was a bust in week one at his high ownership, especially with so many value WRs going bananas. These low target, high variance WRs are easy fades in DFS when they come in at high ownership. Hopefully, recency bias keeps people off of Samuel. They move him around too, but his primary matchup will be 6-1”, Carlton Davis, who ran a 4.53 at the combine. Expect Samuel to go off in this spot.
CAR only played Chris Hogan on 5 snaps, using just Samuel/DJ and slot WR, Jarius Wright. He only got one target on 24 routes. For the one game slate, he’s literally the only other Panthers pass catcher even seeing the field.
Byron Leftwich’s debut was unimpressive. He lined up in two-TE personnel 47% of plays, and then ran it 82%. On the 53% with 3-WRs, he passed it 73%. Take NE for an example of how to do it correctly: NE lined up in 3-wide 67% of plays and passed 48%. They lined up in 2 TE sets 34% of plays and (you guessed it), passed 45% of plays. Such a simple/logical concept, but you would be surprised how few teams actually do it.
The Buc’s poor play calling was followed by poor execution (3 INTs, 1 fumble). TB also averaged 4.2 yards per play (27th), so when they did hold onto the ball, they weren’t efficient.
This is why I didn’t have Jameis Winston as a primary/cash play, new OC, new HC, and a (to be kind) volatile QB isn’t a combo I pay UP for in cash. Another reason is QB is the EASIEST position to fade ownership on. We have mounds and mounds of data that proves (unequivocally) that QB has the lowest variance and scoring differential of all positions. We should be able to go out and find value at QB (literally) every week. Unless it is an ELITE QB on an ELITE offense, in a great spot (e.g. Mahomes this week with all the value at RB/WR on the board), I simply do not pay up at QB. Throw in the high projected ownership and he was an easy fade for me.
It just may take them a few games to get into a flow with Arians/Leftwich. I thought it was odd they fired Dirk Koetter, after TB finishing behind the Chiefs in yards per play in 2018 (6.3) and 11th in PPG. With a short week of preparation, Winston is a tough sell for me on a full 16 game slate. He got a $700 price reduction, but that still puts him in the mid-tier with many more appealing options just below and just above. He is an easy fade again on the full slate.
Mike Evans stats jump off the page, with 124 air yards and 28 receiving yards. The 28 yards came on two targets (27 air yards), which means he averaged 32 yards per attempt on his other 3 targets. He had been sick all week and thus was left out of the breakdown. James Bradbury held Evans to two of his worst games in 2018 and was awesome in week one, holding Brandin Cooks in check. He allowed 1 catch in coverage on just four targets, picked off a pass and was rewarded with PFFs top grade for week one. CAR did not shadow last week, but have in the past with Bradbury on Evans. I wouldn’t put him on main my LU, or even top 10, but I would be sure to get some exposure in the one-game slate. There is no “low owned” star players in those contests, but I am guessing he will be lower owned than he normally is, given the poor week one + sub-optimal matchup.
I have been playing slot WRs against the Panthers like it’s religion so you know Chris Godwin is my man this week. Besides CMC, he is the only guy I am using on the full 16 game slate in a “main” lineup (I always stack the game in a lower $ GPP, just makes the game more fun). Cooper Kupp’s final stat line wasn’t great for us, but 7 catches on 10 targets are something I will take EVERY time at $5.7k in a full PPR. I am just praying the Winston recency bias keeps people off of him. Godwin lined up inside on 58% of snaps last week, with newly acquired Breshad Perriman playing outside on those 3-wide sets. That means Godwin will get primary coverage on Javien Elliott, a 5-11” 26-year old, UDFA. You’ll notice I always write “primary” as WRs (especially slot WRs) will end up running routes against LBs and safeties also.
Godwin has 18 RZ targets in his last 17 games (101 targets, 17%) versus Evans’ 14 RZ targets (144 targets, 10%).
Perriman played 66% of plays and ran 24 routes. He got 5 targets and is a VERY viable play on the short slate. If Bradbury shadows, Perriman will get second-year enigma, Donte Jackson. Jackson is very talented, but gave up some monster stat lines last year, including 7/117 to Godwin in 9 targets (yet another reason to like Godwin, as they will match up again in two-wide sets).
OJ Howard should also be a guy no one will want to roster again after being a chalky flop in week one. He lost a fumble, had a ball hit his hands which ended up as an interception and also lost two RZ targets to Cameron Brate (both were TDs that got called back!). If Brate registers either of those, people would be overreacting even harder to OJ. Looking at the cup half full, he played his highest snap share (77%), was tied for second in targets (5) and had his best game as a pro against CAR in week nine last season.
Brate will be a troll all season for OJ owners. He is the kind of player that can bust these short slates with a 2/14/2 line, and one of the reasons I don’t invest much of my bankroll in these contests. I believe I gain an edge as the player pool expands.
Who would have thought that the TB running back situation would actually be the most interesting thing to discuss. They ran out a legit RBBC, playing Peyton Barber (36%), Ronald Jones (31%), and Dare Ogunbowale (39%), but the usage isn’t what anyone predicted. Ogunbowale led the trio in snaps and received 5 targets, but didn’t get a single carry. Jones (the “passing down” back) played the fewest snaps but got the MOST CARRIES (13) and only 1 target (1/18 yards). Finally, Barber (“the grinder”) got 8 carries and a surprising 4 targets (2/12). We just saw LA RBs run all over this front seven (25 carries/150 yards/2 TDs), so I would think TB comes out and tries to take the pressure off of Winston and run the ball (TB, 60/40 pass/run split in week one).
Jones is my top choice for the short slates, he (and the OL) looked great, averaging 6.7 ypc against 7-man fronts (6 evaded tackles on 13 carries).
It was just one game, but this run-blocking unit had it’s way with SF, averaging 5.73 adjusted line yards per carry (Jones, 5.7 adj YPC). They invested a second-round pick in the guy and Arians was talking him up this week:
The lack of targets was odd but was probably a one-week anomaly. Looks like they like how Ogunbowale pass-blocks, which gave him the lead in snap share, but Jones was the guy that had the highest usage rate. It will be a frustrating situation to handicap, but Jones is my guy if you were rolling out a single LU for the short slate.
(all formats, even on the Thu-Mon slates)
GPPs & 1-Game Slates
(in order of exposure)
- Samuel (stack w/ Cam)
- DJ (stack w/ Cam)
- OJ (Stack w/ Winston)
- Perriman (Stack w/ Winston)
- Evans (stack w/ Winston)
- Olsen (Stack w/ Cam)
- Brate (Stack w/ Winston)
- Jarius Wright
- Ian Thomas