Headline of the game: Trevor Lawrence, come on down!
Thursday Night Football typically isn’t the game of the week, but this week’s iteration is next-level ugly. It was expected that the Jets would be one of the worst teams in the NFL heading into the season, and they have solidified that title with their performances through the first three weeks. New York ranks 32nd in EPA per play on offense, and Sam Darnold’s 54.4 PFF grade on the season ranks ahead of only Carson Wentz, Dwayne Haskins and Jeff Driskel — the quarterback on the other sideline for this game.
Driskel was benched in favor of 2019 undrafted free agent Brett Rypien in Week 3, and it appears as if Rypien will hold on to the job for at least one more week. The quarterback dilemma that Denver finds itself in isn't the only injury-related conundrum the team has had to deal with this season. Along with Drew Lock, key players such as Von Miller, A.J. Bouye, Courtland Sutton and now Jurrell Casey will all miss the contest, with most of those injuries falling under the season-ending variety. Trevor Lawrence to the Jets is the more obvious fit, but Denver’s injuries may put them in a position where they have to make a quarterback decision early in the 2021 NFL Draft, as well.
There’s not a ton of fantasy value to extract from this game outside both DSTs being in play. The Denver Broncos are the preferred option considering the Jets have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing DSTs this season, but the Broncos are not far behind, having allowed the third-most.
It’s worth considering that the New York Jets’ three opponents this season (Buffalo, San Francisco and Indianapolis) have all graded inside the top 13 in PFF pass-rush grade, with Denver’s defense presenting a significant downgrade. They currently own PFF’s 29th pass-rush grade (59.6).
The Broncos’ offense only allowed three fantasy points to the Tennessee Titans DST in Week 1, and that was the lowest graded pass-rush unit (63.2, 19th) they faced this season. Their last two games — with a combination of Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien under center — have been against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who both rank inside the top four in PFF pass-rush grade.
The Jets’ pass-rush grade ranks 10 spots higher (62.2, 19th), and some of their pass-rush numbers this season suggest that they could be all over the Broncos’ quarterback on Thursday night.
The Jets are tied with the Bills for the sixth-highest quarterback hit percentage and rank eighth in the league in DB blitz percentage (18.5%). If New York aggressively blitzes the Broncos — similar to how Pittsburgh (25.5%) and Tampa Bay (36.2%) did in their games versus Denver — that’s the path for the Jets DST to score 14.5 fantasy points. That point total is the average amount of points Denver has allowed to DSTs over the past two weeks.
The Broncos have also allowed four sacks to defensive backs over the past two weeks. Jets safety Marcus Maye — one of the few bright spots on their defense — is one of five defensive backs this season to have two sacks.
The Jets DST is the perfect pivot off the Broncos DST, which might be the higher-owned of the two defenses on the DraftKings Thursday Night Showdown slate. We usually see a difference of around $200 between the two defenses in Showdown. For this game, the Jets DST is priced $1,600 less than the Broncos DST ($5,600 vs. $4,000).
Offensively for the Broncos, their best bet is to take advantage of the Jets’ league-worst PFF graded coverage unit (41.0) by leaning on rookie wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. Jeudy played almost exclusively from the slot in Week 3 (94.4%), which means he’ll draw Brian Poole in coverage. Poole has allowed 12 catches for 114 yards on 15 targets in the slot this season.
Hamler led the Broncos in routes run (44) in Week 3 and offers home-run hitting ability as Denver’s main vertical threat. The Jets have allowed the eighth-highest explosive pass play percentage this season (27.6%).
Hamler played the majority of his snaps from LWR, which means he is going to see plenty of Jets RCB Blessuan Austin. He’s PFF’s 81st-graded cornerback out of 85 qualifiers and runs a 4.74. Hamler reportedly clocked a 4.27 before suffering a hamstring injury in preparation for the NFL Draft.
The Jets are the team facing a backup — or third-string — quarterback, but the market has still moved against them since the opening and preseason line. That should tell you everything you need to know about this matchup. Thankfully, even the direst of matchups can offer betting intrigue.
The line movement indicates one market direction, but the cash percentage was heavily shaded toward the Jets early in the week. The Jets are also getting all of the volume on the moneyline, with 72% of cash and 76% of tickets. Our predictive models offer a viable play before the key number three. There is also some value on the total, which has held steady since the opening.
Headline of the game: Dwayne Haskins needs to do a better job of taking care of the football
Haskins recorded just four turnover-worthy plays over his first nine NFL starts, so while there certainly were other areas that needed improvement heading into his 10th career start in Week 3, his protection of the football stuck out as a definitive strength to his game. Then, against the Browns last week, Haskins put up five turnover-worthy plays — more than he had in his prior nine games combined.
Those mistakes offered up points to Cleveland on a silver platter, and you can be certain Wink Martindale and this Ravens defense will be looking to force the second-year quarterback into more of them after a rough showing on Monday Night Football against the Chiefs. Since the start of last season, Baltimore’s 29 forced turnovers rank sixth in the NFL. Additionally, no quarterback has taken a sack on a higher rate of their pressured dropbacks than Haskins has (31%) since 2019. With how often the Ravens bring the blitz, it could be a rough afternoon for Haskins.
There’s a chance that this game gets out of hand for Dwanye Haskins Jr. and the Washington Football Team. Head coach Ron Rivera has already stated that Haskins needs to play to learn, but if he continues to struggle the coach won’t be hesitant to bench him.
Unfortunately for the second-year quarterback, he draws one of the toughest matchups in Week 4 versus the Baltimore Ravens, who will be hell-bent on playing well after a disappointing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football.
The Ravens’ defense enters Week 4 ranked second in the league in pressure, and Haskins has the third-worst quarterback rating under pressure so far in 2020 (35.8).
We don’t usually bench players like Terry McLaurin, but wide receiver production is so volatile that he is better left on the bench in what projects to be a tough spot for the whole Washington offense.
I would be willing to go back to Logan Thomas at tight end, because he is still being heavily featured in the offense (24 total targets) and the Ravens have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the tight end position. Thomas has also been the most targeted receiver when Haskins has been under pressure this season.
Last week the Ravens’ offense laid an egg, but they will be in the get-right spot in Week 4. Marquise Brown has seen six targets for three straight weeks, but his receptions and yards have dropped each consecutive week.
Brown leads the team in air yards (248) and Washington’s secondary has been attacked with the deep ball. Over the first three weeks of the season, the Washington Football Team has allowed the seventh-highest deep pass attempt percentage (30.8%).
Washington’s defense also ranks fifth in play-action throws faced. On play-action throws, Brown leads the Ravens in aDOT (19.0), receiving yards (72) and yards per reception (24.0).
J.K. Dobbins led the Ravens backfield in snaps (45%) in Week 3, but that was because the team was in a negative game script. Dobbins is the best pass-catcher of the group and compiled a team-leading four catches for 38 receiving yards.
Mark Ingram led the backfield in carries, and I would expect him to be much more involved in a positive game script scenario in Week 4 with Baltimore coming in as heavy favorites.
Over the past two weeks, Washington has faced the second-most rushing attempts. Last week alone they allowed Cleveland Browns running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to combine for over 150 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. But it is extremely important to note that the Browns rushing attack started cooking after the injuries to Washington defensive linemen Chase Young and Matt Ioannidis. Their availability will be important to monitor up until Sunday.
The Ravens find themselves in need of a rebound on a shortened week after failing to keep pace with the Chiefs on Monday night. Meanwhile, Dwayne Haskins struggled mightily in Week 3, earning a negative grade on 26.8% of his pass attempts. Bettors have understandably moved to the other side, and Baltimore has received 98% of the cash and 72% of the tickets so far. Our predictive models find value on the spread that should be playable throughout the week.
Headline of the game: The Steelers look to continue their absurd start to the season as a pass-rushing unit
Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward all rank among the NFL's top 10 pass-rushers in terms of total pressures generated through three weeks. And while the team's blitz rate of 52.3% is in Ravens’ territory, it’s hard to say it isn’t working.
Besides the Steelers, no other NFL team has a pressure rate above 40%. Pittsburgh’s pressure rate sits at 50% even through three weeks. It’s an intimidating matchup for any offensive line, and it’s of particular importance that Tennessee’s group up front keeps Ryan Tannehill clean in this matchup.
So far in the 2020 season, Tennessee is averaging 8.6 yards per pass play from a clean pocket (7th) and just 2.4 yards per play (26th) when the defense is able to get pressure. It was a similar story in 2019, when they ranked first in yards per pass play from a clean pocket and 22nd in yards per pass play with pressure. A big part of that is the fact that Tannehill — as good as he’s been — takes sacks at one of the highest rates in the NFL when under pressure. Pittsburgh will look to add a few more tallies to that number in Week 4.
This game is in flux due to a COVID outbreak for the Titans. If you intend on starting anyone from this game, it’s good to have a backup plan. If Tennessee is unable to practice all week but still has to play on Sunday, that is a boost for the Steelers offensive players, making basically all of their starters startable.
The Titans have maintained an average defense both last year and this year. Malcolm Butler is one player the Steelers offense should be able to take advantage of. He has played right cornerback and has allowed 153 receiving yards over the last two weeks. This helps their outside wide receivers more-so than JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Steelers wide receiver with the most yards lined up at left wide receiver this season is Chase Claypool. He could be worth a start especially if Diontae Johnson were to miss the game.
The Steelers have been a top-five defense by PFF grade. This will be particularly tough on Derrick Henry, as the Steelers have been second-best in preventing fantasy points to running back. Adam Humphries is the player most likely to have a better game than usual. He’s been very consistent with six to seven targets each game and between 40 and 50 yards. This is already a step up from his average game last year, but we could see numbers closer to his Tampa Bay days.
Steelers slot cornerback Mike Hilton has allowed more receiving yards than anyone on the team and ranks in the top five for most slot receiving yards allowed in the league. He has typically been an asset to the Pittsburgh defense but this season has been off to a slow start. Last year he had slow stretches as well as consecutive games of excellent play. The Titans will hope this isn’t the week Hilton turns things around.
With this contest up in the air due to the Titans' exposure to COVID-19, it's best to steer clear from a betting perspective.
Headline of the game: With all the focus on their offense, Tampa Bay’s defense has continued its hot close to the 2019 season
The Buccaneers currently sit at first in the NFL in expected points allowed per play — in other words, they’ve been the best defense in the league through the first three weeks of the season. It’s a continuation of the way they were playing on that side of the ball to close last season. The Buccaneers have several young players in the secondary who are playing well, and both Vita Vea and Shaquil Barrett have pass-rush win rates over 20% early in the year. Lavonte David, meanwhile, remains one of the game’s best off-ball linebackers, and he's earned a 90.6 coverage grade through three weeks.
Unlike the soft matchup they got last week against Carolina, this will be a real test for a Chargers’ offense that once again figures to be led by Justin Herbert. It will be worth monitoring how he responds.
In Week 4, Brady won’t have Godwin, but the Los Angeles Chargers won’t have cornerback Chris Harris Jr. due to a foot injury which more or less levels the playing field. Godwin’s absence will lock Mike Evans into double digit targets, as he saw in Week 2, and should expand the role of second-year wideout Scotty Miller.
It could also create a role for rookie slot wide receiver Tyler Johnson, who could be the starting No. 3 receiver if Justin Watson is inactive for a second-straight week. Harris has been locking down the slot for the Chargers for the past three weeks, but the matchup should be there for Brady and company to exploit in his vacancy.
Tight end Rob Gronkoswski also flashed a pulse of fantasy life during Week 3, finishing with six receptions on seven targets for 48 yards. I wouldn’t put too much stock into this because 57% of his snaps were spent blocking in Week 3. He had a season high in routes run (26), but that mark leaves a lot to be desired because it ranked outside the top 15 tight ends in Week 3.
Justin Herbert has thrown for over 300 yards and has averaged north of 20 fantasy points per game in his first two NFL starts. But that streak won’t continue in Week 4. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks to start the season.
As for Austin Ekeler, he will continue to be a force in the passing game — the Buccaneers have allowed the fourth-most receiving yards, third-most receptions and second-most targets to the running back position.
Mike Williams is questionable with a hamstring injury — if he were to sit out, Keenan Allen would need to be a lock in DFS based on the sheer volume he’s been getting with Herbert under center. Allen has a 35.5% target share over the past two weeks, which he has converted into 20 catches for 228 yards and one touchdown.
The Buccaneers draw their second straight game against a backup quarterback. The spread movement has been all over the key number seven in this matchup. The preseason line of -8 was readjusted to -6 to start this week before being bet back up -7.5.
The Chargers experienced the third-biggest drop in our Elo rankings after their disappointing Week 3 performance. These two teams are heading in different directions, according to the betting market. The Bucs are clearly becoming a public team, with 74% of the cash and 82% of the tickets. Any line movement could open up opportunities on the spread, according to our predictive models.
Headline of the game: A heavy dose of man coverage could spell trouble for the Dolphins in this matchup
The Dolphins currently rank fifth in the NFL in man coverage snaps, yet they have earned the third-lowest coverage grade in the league on those snaps (40.0). The Patriots in Week 1 and the Jaguars in Week 3 weren’t necessarily well equipped to win one-on-one matchups outside when they faced Miami, but Buffalo certainly was in Week 2 — they hung nearly 300 receiving yards on Miami in man-coverage snaps alone, which is no surprise given that the Bills' receiving corps is one of the league's best at creating separation.
Now, the Dolphins get a Seattle offense that is similarly inclined to beat man coverage with the trio of Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. Hopefully, Miami will get back Byron Jones for the game, but even then, we saw that someone like Metcalf is capable of winning in man coverage against Stephon Gilmore — the best cornerback in the NFL. If I had to wager a guess, I would say that Wilson is on his way to another big game on Sunday.
The Russell Wilson train is not going to be stopped. The Seahawks currently rank eighth in pass play percentage (64.9%), and no quarterback has an easier remaining strength of schedule than Wilson for the remainder of the season.
Wide receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf also look primed to continue on their productive run — they have the easiest remaining schedule for their position. If you can buy high on the Seahawks’ players from an owner that might be looking to sell high, pull the trigger.
I don’t expect running back Chris Carson to play, considering the severity of his injury and the fact that Seattle has a bye week coming in Week 6, so that would insert Carlos Hyde into the starting lineup. Hyde would become an easy plug-and-play RB2 versus the Miami Dolphins, who have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is a legitimate streaming option this week whom you can easily acquire off the waiver wire. The Seahawks have allowed the most fantasy points to the quarterback position due in part to their extremely poor defense and strong offense, resulting in games continuously shooting out.
The offensive skill player to highlight for the Miami Dolphins is tight end Mike Gesicki. He has had solid fantasy production over the past two weeks (19.25 fantasy points per game) and he should be able to do damage from the slot versus Seattle.
The Seahawks have allowed the most targets, receiving yards and passing plays of over 15 yards to players in the slot this season. Their defense might also be without Jamal Adams, which would make Gesicki a smash play in DFS.
This is one of the more uneven Week 4 matchups by our ELO differential. Seattle has been unable to move up to the key number seven as road favorites. This number has been locked in since the pre-season which may surprise some people based on how good Seattle has looked. The Seahawks have dominated the cash and ticket percentages on both the spread and moneyline, which shouldn’t surprise many people. Unless we see some line movement from one of the markets, this looks like a situation to target solely for fantasy goodness.
Headline of the game: Deshaun Watson should have time to find his receivers against Minnesota
The Texans have started the season against three of the better teams in the AFC, and as a result, they come into this game at 0-3. In a shocking turn of events, Watson has been under a lot of pressure in those three games. Houston’s pressure rate allowed as a team sits at 40.3% heading into Week 4 — one of four teams in the NFL at 40% or higher. The results haven’t been pretty when Watson has been pressured, either. The Texans are averaging just 2.5 yards per pressured play in 2020 (25th).
However, it’s safe to say that this current Vikings’ pass rush sans Danielle Hunter is the worst pass rush that Watson has faced to this point in 2020. Even with the addition of Yannick Ngakoue, Minnesota’s 18.9% pressure rate as a team through three weeks ranks 30th in the league ahead of only the Broncos and the Seahawks. Ifeadi Odenigbo (seven pressures) and Ngakoue (six pressures) are the only two players with more than three total pressures this season. That should be music to Watson’s ears as he looks for his first win of the season.
The Houston Texans have been one of the worst teams this season at stopping the run. They’ve allowed the most rushing yards and the fourth-most fantasy points to the running back position. Dalvin Cook has owned the lion's share of touches over backup Alexander Mattison the past two weeks, edging out the second-year player in running back carries (36 vs. 11), routes run (38 vs. 10) and receptions (four vs. one).
Quarterback Deshaun Watson is currently the QB15 in fantasy football after a tough three-game stretch to open the season. He finally draws an easy matchup in Week 4 when he takes on a Minnesota Vikings’ defense that has allowed the third-most passing yards (300 yards per game) to the quarterback position.
David Johnson is a great buy-low candidate coming off a 12.6 fantasy point performance. His touches haven’t changed too much even with Duke Johnson Jr. out of the lineup, so I wouldn’t be concerned with Duke’s eventual return.
What also makes Johnson a buy right now is his upcoming schedule. Including the Vikings, the Texans’ next five games are against teams that either rank top-10 in fantasy points allowed or top-10 in total touches to running backs.
This is one of the most intriguing matchups between winless teams that you will ever see, with both teams needing a win to stay relevant. The betting market looks more fond of the Texans after pushing this preseason line from -1 out to -4, and it has stayed between -3.5 and -4 throughout the week. The Vikings have 13% higher cash than ticket percentage — making it appear that bigger bettors are initially backing their side.
This total is the second-highest on the main slate. Bettors are unfettered as the early week cash and ticket percentages have all been on the over. Our predictive models are intrigued by this number, making it an intriguing betting option with actionable information for DFS, as well.
Headline of the game: The Saints need to involve someone other than Alvin Kamara in the passing game
The only players with more targets than Kamara through three weeks are DeAndre Hopkins, Amari Cooper, Keenan Allen, Calvin Ridley and Allen Robinson. Kamara’s 30 targets are more than double the next closest Saints player (13). For better or worse, New Orleans’ passing offense is running through the star running back.
The clear contributing factor in that is just how conservative Drew Brees has been to start the season, even by his and this offense’s standards. Brees’ average depth of target of 5.1 yards is over a full yard below the next closest qualifying quarterback, Sam Darnold at 6.3 yards. It’s not a surprise that the quick, short passing attack is at the core of what the Saints are doing, but how short is a surprise. You have to be extremely efficient when you’re not taking chances down the field, and Brees simply hasn’t been that early in the season.
A matchup against Detroit should give this offense an opportunity to get other players outside of Kamara going in the passing game, with or without Michael Thomas.
Kenny Golladay returned to the lineup in Week 3, and that did not negatively impact tight end T.J. Hockenson. Both players led the team in with seven targets, but Hockenson had a mediocre day because he couldn’t find the end zone.
Still, the peripheral numbers were the best we have seen so far from the second-year tight end. Per PFF’s Dwain McFarland, Hockenson’s routes per dropback jumped to 89.7% — career rate 65% — and his snap share jumped to 80% after sitting at 66% the first two weeks.
Hockenson’s matchup in Week 4 could also not get much better. The New Orleans Saints have allowed the most fantasy points to the tight end position this season — three points per game higher than the next closest team (Atlanta Falcons).
It’s hard to be too selective when it comes to finding startable running backs (especially in this economy), so Latavius Murray pops as an interesting option in Week 4. He has just one fewer carry than Alvin Kamara (31 vs. 30) on the season and the Detroit Lions have allowed the third-most rushing yards to opposing running backs.
You also might be more inclined to lean toward Emmanuel Sanders over Tre’Quan Smith, but Smith is still the guy if there is no Michael Thomas. Smith and Sanders both saw the same amount of targets (five), but Sanders came down with a touchdown.
The only difference was that Smith played 100% of the team’s offensive snaps and saw an aDOT (8.2) catering more to Drew Brees’ current quarterback play. It’s too bad because this would be the spot to unleash Smith as the vertical threat we’ve seen in years past — the Lions have allowed the most deep pass attempts (20 or more yards). Brees currently only has three deep pass attempts this season, which is the least among all starting quarterbacks.
The Saints opened as 8-point road favorites in the preseason before flopping out of the gate for the 2020 season. This spread has quickly adjusted to +4, with all early action on the Saints to rebound. The moneyline percentages have a higher cash percentage on the Lions, but 74% of the tickets on the Saints.
Totals are intriguing targets in Week 4. Scoring has been up, which has caused betting markets and models to readjust to a new 2020 normal. This can create inefficiencies that are exploitable early in the week. This total has actually dropped two points since the open — bringing in some potential value, according to our predictive models.
Headline of the game: The Cowboys’ secondary provides a good opportunity for Baker Mayfield to post a big game
Mayfield hasn’t had to throw the ball all that much in the past two games, with just 23 pass attempts in each contest, but that may not be the case here with the Cowboys’ ability to put up points on the other side of the ball. It’s a matchup that Mayfield should be able to win if he is forced into a high passing volume game, though.
The Cowboys sit at 28th in team coverage grade through the first three weeks of the 2020 season, and it’s clear that they miss Byron Jones at cornerback. The rookie Trevon Diggs has allowed 223 receiving yards into his coverage so far this season, and teams have gone after the Cowboys’ linebackers in coverage in the middle of the field, as well.
It’s a big game for both teams with Dallas off to a disappointing 1-2 start and the Browns looking to keep pace with Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC North. It’s also a big opportunity for Mayfield to show he’s getting back towards what we saw from him in his rookie season.
Odell Beckham Jr. was invisible in Week 1 and has at least been WR28 over the last two weeks. That is still disappointing compared to where he was drafted, but this week he should be able to turn things around. He should often be lined up against rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs. Both play almost exclusively on the outside. Dallas hasn’t used any shadow coverage this year, so the Browns can line up Beckham against Diggs as much as they want.
Diggs has allowed at least 60 receiving yards in all three games, leading to a 50.6 overall grade. In fairness to Diggs, he’s gone up against some of the best receivers in the league, but Beckham should be able to take advantage. Daryl Worley will likely be the cornerback opposite Diggs and who Beckham will see for the rest of his snaps. Worley has yet to have a coverage grade above 64.0 for a season, so Beckham should be able to take advantage of that matchup as well.
The Cowboys have faced the Falcons and Seahawks the last two weeks. Those two teams have allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers outside of the Cowboys' own defense. The Browns haven’t been far behind, with the sixth-most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers.
The four players with the most receiving yards against the Browns defense so far have been Marquise Brown, Terry McLaurin, Tyler Boyd and Willie Snead IV. All four of them saw at least 50 of their receiving yards come from the slot. The Browns’ outside cornerbacks have done relatively well, but the middle of the defense has been allowing all of the yards. This is great news for CeeDee Lamb — the majority of his yards come from the slot. He and Dalton Schultz can both expect big numbers.
These two teams are closer than many expect, sitting back-to-back in the middle of our Elo rankings. They have taken different paths to arrive at this point, as the Browns have added almost 20 Elo points since the start of the season. The Cowboys have dropped after two disappointing losses and come from behind victory. The early market has been all over the Cowboys on both the cash and ticket percentage. There are some viable betting opportunities on all three markets, making it one of the most anticipated games of the main slate.
Headline of the game: Joe Burrow is having an impressive start to his rookie season despite one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines
Burrow’s 76.1 PFF passing grade through the first three weeks of the season ranks ninth in the NFL. That number is even more impressive when considering that the Bengals have allowed pressure on 38.4% of their dropbacks this season (fifth-most in the NFL) despite Burrow posting a relatively quick average time to throw of 2.6 seconds. He’s overcoming pressure to post solid performances, and he’s overcoming quick pressure at that.
Compared to some of the pass rushes Burrow has faced early in the season, Jacksonville should give him a bit of a breather. They lost both Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue this offseason, which has led to a 26% team pressure rate that ranks just 24th in the league. The current pass rush is a far cry from the “Sacksonville” team of 2017 that led the NFL in pressure rate. The Jaguars will still win their share of matchups up front against Cincinnati, but it will be interesting to see what Burrow is able to do from what should be a few more clean pockets in Week 4.
Joe Burrow has the most dropbacks for a quarterback through three weeks at 162. That has helped him come in as QB9. His PFF grade of 76.1 is 12th among all quarterbacks, which isn’t bad for a rookie who didn’t have a preseason. He’ll have an opportunity to continue his streak of strong fantasy performances against the Jaguars.
Jacksonville’s defense has been average by grade, but they’ve allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks at 22.3. They have a few players like linebacker Myles Jack who have played well in coverage, but there are also weaknesses throughout the defense that the Bengals can exploit. There might not be a particular skill player for the Bengals to have a huge game, but Burrow can spread the ball around — he should be in starting lineups.
The Bengals’ defense has played surprisingly well in coverage thanks to safety Jessie Bates III and cornerback William Jackson III. This week might not be one to start Gardner Minshew or any of the wide receivers, but James Robinson should remain in starting lineups.
Robinson has been the RB4 through three weeks. The Bengals have been allowing just under 30 fantasy points per game to running backs this season. The main concern for Robinson would be if the Bengals get a big lead early and the Jaguars have to pass to catch up. If that’s the case, Robinson would be splitting his playing time with Chris Thompson. It’s worth the risk with how Robinson has been playing.
This spread has moved between -3 and -3.5 throughout the week. Adding the hook completely changes the complexion when betting on this game. The early markets have been all over Jacksonville, with last week seemingly a blip on the radar for Minshew backers. There are few viable betting opportunities present at the given prices for this game. This should be a quality matchup to target via player props, as misunderstood usage rates still abound for both teams.
Headline of the game: Does Nick Foles give Chicago enough at QB to make them a contender in the NFC?
After the Bears traded for Foles this offseason, it was assumed he would be the starter heading into the year. Instead, Mitchell Trubisky reclaimed the job and led the Bears to a 2-0 start. Trubisky’s leash appears to have been very short, however, because he was pulled in favor of Foles after a poor start to the Bears’ Week 3 contest against Atlanta. Foles was able to lead Chicago to a comeback victory, and now, he appears to be the starter.
In that performance, Foles had his highs and lows. He ended the partial game with three big-time throws and two turnover-worthy plays — neither of which resulted in turnovers. That's in line with how his career has gone. Foles hit the highest of highs with back-to-back 90.0-plus PFF grades in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl with the Eagles in 2017, but he also turned in a 58.8 overall grade during the 2015 season with the Rams.
This is a playoff team if Foles plays well. It’s just hard to say exactly what version of Foles they’re going to get.
Wide receiver Zach Pascal has seen the majority of snaps in the slot (73.5%) since Parris Campbell went down in Week 2. With the news that rookie Michael Pittman Jr. is going to miss an extended period of time, Pascal becomes a plug-and-play WR3 option in Week 4.
T.Y. Hilton has not looked great this year, and Pascal has a favorable matchup in the slot versus the Chicago Bears. During the first two weeks of the season, Danny Amendola and Golden Tate each had five receptions when they faced the Bears.
Pascal is far from a household name, but he performed admirably last season when the Colts’ wide receiver room was depleted by injuries. He led the team in targets (51) and receptions (28) from Week 8 onward. He has also averaged more fantasy points per game than Hilton (8.6 vs. 7.2) over each of their last eight games played.
Nick Foles will get the start at quarterback for Chicago, but that does not mean that the Bears’ offense is “out of the woods” quite yet. The Colts’ defense has been one of the best across the board this season. They rank first in averaged yards per play against (4.4), first in success play allowed percentage and second in EPA per play against (-0.204). They also rank inside the top six against all positions in terms of fantasy points allowed.
You’ll start Allen Robinson and David Montgomery based solely on projected volume, but fringy players like Anthony Miller are to be avoided. Jimmy Graham also falls into the tight end streaming pool even though he has a terrible matchup because he is seeing volume and we can’t be too picky when it comes to tight ends.
Foles has a strong history of targeting tight ends, and that was fully showcased once he entered the game in Week 3. Graham was Foles’ most-targeted receiver.
The Colts have also not exactly faced a juggernaut of tight ends so far this season. It’s easy to be the No. 1 team versus the tight end position when you’ve faced Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph and Chris Herndon over the first three weeks of the season.
This is one of the tightest projected games in Week 4. Chicago sits 13th in our ELO rankings, with the Colts one spot behind. It took the Bears three weeks to move on from Mitchell Trubisky, but they find themselves in the most ideal situation from a win-loss perspective.
The early-week line movement has gone toward the Colts. It hasn’t crossed any worthwhile numbers, but we shouldn’t see this number move onto +3. Bettors are comfortable backing the Bears on the moneyline. The spread percentages are more evenly split. Our predictive models offer value on the current spread, but any new line movement could alter values drastically.
Headline of the game: Kyler Murray’s rushing ability continues to be an asset to this Arizona offense
Through the first two weeks of the season, Murray led all quarterbacks in rushing yards (158) and yards per carry (7.5). He didn’t quite keep that pace in Week 3, producing just 29 yards on the ground, but Murray did have one of the plays of the week on his lone rushing touchdown — getting to the edge against Jeff Okudah, who had no reason not to make the tackle. You have to respect Murray’s speed as a defense because if he gets a step in the open field, he could be gone.
There are still some areas as a passer in which Murray needs cleaner play — he has a 67.6 passing grade through three weeks — but talent isn’t the issue. He has the arm to make all the throws and a true No. 1 option in the passing game to deliver the ball to in DeAndre Hopkins. The Panthers’ defense stepped up against the Chargers in Week 3, but it’s going to be tough for them to repeat that performance against Arizona here.
It’s time to send out trade offers for D.J. Moore. He is coming off his worst performance of the season (8.5 fantasy points), but it’s important to recognize that he ranks 15th in the NFL in receiving yards and it's his lack of touchdowns that has limited his ceiling.
I expect this to change over the coming weeks because Moore leads the Carolina Panthers in end-zone targets (three) and ranks fifth in the NFL in air yards.
He also is in a good spot in Week 4 versus the Arizona Cardinals who have allowed over 23 fantasy points per game to the last two No. 1 wide receivers (Terry McLaurin, Kenny Golladay) they’ve faced this season.
This is a make-or-break spot for Kenyan Drake, who has the perfect matchup against the Panthers. They’ve allowed the second-most fantasy points to the running back position this season, and the three lead backs they faced (Josh Jacobs, Leonard Fournette, Austin Ekeler) all scored 30-plus fantasy points.
The Cardinals have turned into one of the more public teams in the NFL. The preseason line has rocketed out from 1.5 to 3.5, backed by the hype from Arizona. While 59% of the cash has come in on the Panthers, 89% of the tickets have been on the Cardinals. This is a clear public versus sharp matchup, with any more line movement opening up value.
The total looks unplayable at the current 52 print. The Cardinals disappointed DFS players in Week 4, so this matchup should also be under the radar from a fantasy perspective. Our predictive model has a solid lean on this total, which is a strong signal to help guide your fantasy decision-making process.
Headline of the game: The Rams continue to follow the formula for offensive success with Jared Goff
It came in a loss, but Goff once again put up a strong showing in Week 3 against the Bills. His 85.3 overall grade ranked seventh among all quarterbacks this past week, and his 90.4 PFF grade on the season ranks fourth at the position. The Rams are running a heavy dose of play action while keeping Goff clean — both big factors to previous success we’ve seen from him. When he is able to sit back and make throws on simple reads, he looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. It becomes apparent why he was the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Rams have done a great job of putting him in those situations, which is what they did when he was playing at his best early in the 2018 season. A Giants defense that just allowed over eight yards per pass play to a 49ers team sans Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel shouldn’t pose as much of a roadblock to that continuing.
This game is one of the most difficult to figure out from a fantasy perspective for the week. With the quality of these two teams, we can expect the Rams to get a lead early and run late to maintain the lead. The Giants in turn will need to pass to attempt to catch up.
The problem with this scenario is that the Giants have a strong run defense and are weak in coverage. The Rams will likely have success against the pass, but because of that, they do not need to pass often. They also should be running a lot but might not be successful at it.
The Rams have been better at coverage than run defense, but similarly the Giants might not have much opportunity to run if they need to throw, but running is where they should find the most success.
Because of all of that, it should even out to an average matchup for everyone involved. Start your players you would usually start, and sit your players you would usually sit.
The action has been completely one-sided on this spread and moneyline. The preseason market had the Rams as six-point favorites before opening this week at -9. It has now pushed through -10 out to -13, making it the biggest spread change since the preseason number. These two teams had opposite starts to the season. The Giants find themselves last in our ELO rankings, while the Rams have gained the sixth-most ELO points since the start of the 2020 season. They are one defensive pass interference call away from a perfect start. It is tough to back big numbers this early in the season, but we may know enough about both teams to make this a more comfortable situation.
Headline of the game: With Josh Allen playing like he is right now, the Bills’ offense is for real
We talked this offseason about how the Bills did well to put Allen in a position to succeed in his third season. They’ve improved their offensive line since drafting him in 2018, and their top three receivers have all been added in the past two seasons. That trio of Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley is one of the best in the NFL in the area that matters most at the receiver position — creating separation. Allen has been put in a good spot, but his improvement through three games this season is the biggest reason why this offense has become dangerous.
It’s not just the fact that he’s been more accurate and has hit more downfield throws. He’s also doing a good job with some of the more nuanced aspects of the quarterback position, as PFF’s Seth Galina pointed out this week. It has all come together for an 83.9 PFF passing grade through three weeks, which ranks sixth at the quarterback position. This is the improvement that the Bills have been waiting for from a player who has all the tools needed to be a high-level NFL quarterback. They’re a contender in the AFC if that continues.
Devin Singletary has the opportunity for a big game against the Raiders defense. Last week, Zack Moss missed the game with injury; he’ll either be out again or be mixed in a little bit more than what T.J. Yeldon was last week as they ease him back into action. The Raiders have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season.
The Bills also have the eighth-highest grade for a team at 77.8, while the Raiders have the fourth-lowest at 63.0 despite having a winning record. The Bills should be ahead in the fourth quarter, leading to even more rushes for Singletary to close out the game. Singletary has been discouraging at RB26 through three weeks, but this week he should turn it around.
Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller are both top-six at their positions, but the Raiders have no wide receivers in the top 36 while Derek Carr isn’t top 12. Best to start the stars and sit anyone else. There isn’t any particular matchup against the Bills that should change this thinking.
This game will be particularly interesting for Jacobs. Last week the Raiders used him less frequently on third downs and not much in the fourth quarter. The game script this week should be similar. It will be interesting to see if Jacobs again has limited playing time.
We are constantly updating priors at PFF. And no prior has been updated more than our initial understanding of Josh Allen and the Bills to start the season. Allen has the highest percentage of positively graded throws of any quarterback in the 2020 NFL season. The Bills sit third in expected points added on passing plays, and they sit ninth overall in our ELO rankings heading into Week 4. The question is, are they playable as field-goal favorites against an unimpressive Raiders team? The spread has moved significantly in their direction — with PFF Greenline finding value only if certain numbers become widely available.
Headline of the game: Good offense beats good defense
The Chiefs didn’t let what was a disappointing offensive performance by their standards in Week 2 keep them down for long. They got whatever they wanted against Baltimore on Monday Night Football, generating the highest EPA per play mark of any offense in Week 3. That came against a good Ravens defense, as well. Patrick Mahomes at quarterback and Andy Reid at the sticks calling plays is simply going to be too much to handle when they’re at their best — no matter what defense is on the other side of the field.
That's worth noting because the Patriots do have one of the better defenses and secondaries in the NFL. It's a unit that has been able to force Mahomes into some mistakes in their three prior meetings, forcing him into seven turnover-worthy plays.
That’s going to change at some point, though. Good offense beats good defense, and the Chiefs’ offense is as good as it gets in the NFL. We saw the Seahawks exploit New England’s defense earlier in the season, and Kansas City is fully capable of doing the same. It’s a chance for Mahomes to put those two losses in 2018 behind him and even out his career record against the Patriots.
Both the Patriots and Chiefs have a weak point in defense when it comes to stopping the run, as both are in the bottom eight in terms of PFF team run-defense grade. This should mean big things for Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs will likely do their best to avoid the Patriots’ cornerbacks as long as they can find success elsewhere. CEH was the top fantasy running back in Week 1 but hasn’t put up as big of numbers the last two weeks, coming in as RB17 in that time. His chance for a big game will increase if Kansas City can establish a lead.
For the Patriots, Cam Newton is the only player worth starting. Over the first two weeks of the season, Newton was the third-highest scoring fantasy quarterback, but he did not play as well in Week 3. He still is one of just three quarterbacks with over 100 yards rushing and could get to 200 against the Chiefs.
Kansas City has given up an above-average number of fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks despite only being thrown at 93 times. We saw on Monday night that they can also give up a lot of rushing yards to Lamar Jackson — one of the other quarterbacks with over 100 rushing yards on the season. The Chiefs have given up the second-most rushing yards to quarterbacks with a total of 128 rushing yards. With Newton’s rushing floor and potential for passing attempts while trying to catch up from behind, Newton will have the recipe for a top fantasy performance.
The most intriguing matchup on the Week 4 slate has our top-ranked Chiefs against the sixth-ranked Patriots. Both offenses sit in the top 10, according to our opponent-adjusted offensive grades. The big discrepancy is on the defensive side. The Chiefs showed last Monday night how little that actually matters.
This spread has moved away from the Chiefs. Some 95% of the cash and 67% of the tickets have been placed on the Patriots at +7. We are now seeing 7s with added juice or a change down to 6.5. There is significant value on all three markets in this game, making it one of the best options for viewing and betting pleasure in Week 4.
Headline of the game: Philadelphia’s offense is in trouble
The Eagles were in rough shape offensively heading into Week 3 against the Bengals, and it’s hard to have any more confidence in the group after its performance. Carson Wentz produced another four turnover-worthy plays, bringing his total on the season to 12 — double the next closest quarterback. He is the only quarterback in the NFL with an accurate pass rate below 40%, as well. Outside of Wentz, injuries to Jalen Reagor and Dallas Goedert make an already questionable receiving corps that much thinner for this game against San Francisco.
Even at 0-2-1, the Eagles are very much still relevant in the NFC East from a theoretical standpoint. They sit just a half-game back of the division lead heading into Week 4. Realistically, they will quickly play their way out of contention if this offense continues to struggle. They’re running out of time to right the ship.
The Eagles’ pass offense has plenty of problems this season. Miles Sanders has been one bright spot for the offense. After missing Week 1, he’s been RB13 over the last two games. His 15 targets are tied for the fourth-most in that time, while his 190 rushing yards are seventh. The only thing holding him back from being even higher is too few touchdowns.
His strong start to the season will hit a road bump against the 49ers’ run defense. Even with all of the injuries the defense has faced, they’ve still limited opposing running backs to the fewest fantasy points per game 15.4 points. Running backs have averaged 3.2 yards per carry against them. If you have alternatives to Sanders, it might be good to bench him.
The Eagles’ defense has been great at pass rushing this season and average at everything else. With all of the injuries the 49ers have dealt with, San Francisco could struggle to put up a lot of points. If Raheem Mostert or George Kittle are able to come back from injury, and it sounds like they will play significant playing time, they are worth starting because either one could be the focal point of the offense.
Without them, it could be Jerick McKinnon who becomes the focus. He and Jeff Wilson shared playing time last week, but McKinnon played more regardless of the situation. He is a relatively safe play if Mostert is still out.
The 49ers have weathered significant injuries, and they looked impressive doing it. The Eagles have tried to weather significant injuries, and they looked ineffective doing it. The spread movement has sided heavily with this evaluation, pushing this opening -3.5 out to -7. A lot of this is also related to the positive injury news many expect for Jimmy Garoppolo. The question is, do quarterbacks even matter in a Kyle Shanahan offense?
Our predictive model finds value on the inflated spread and moneyline. Continue to monitor PFF Greenline as things lock in on this currently moving target.
Headline of the game: Aaron Rodgers is playing at an MVP level
The Rodgers that has stormed out to the highest PFF grade of any quarterback in the league this season (95.6) looks very different from the player who people were questioning this offseason. He’s getting rid of the football earlier than he typically has throughout much of his career (2.59 second average time to throw), but he’s also looking downfield often with an average depth of target 10.0 yards — fifth-highest in the NFL. It appears as if Rodgers is starting to get more comfortable in Matt Lafleur’s offense, and that makes the Packers one of the teams to beat in the NFC.
It’s hard to foresee Atlanta doing much to slow the revenge tour. They’ve been a bottom-five team in EPA per pass play to start the 2020 season, and the potential absence of A.J. Terrell for a second straight game won’t help matters, particularly if Davante Adams is able to return for Green Bay. Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes have both had great starts to the year, but Rodgers deserves to be in the early MVP conversation.
Aaron Rodgers has been the highest-graded quarterback this season (95.6), while the Falcons’ defense has allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Rodgers has multiple memorable performances against Atlanta, and on Monday Night Football he should have another one.
Not only does this make Rodgers a must start, along with Davante Adams if he’s healthy, but Allen Lazard should also have a big game. Lazard is the team leader in receiving yards at 254 thanks to a big game this past Sunday against the Saints. If you’re ever going to start Lazard, this is the week to do it.
Todd Gurley has been a little underwhelming with the Falcons to this point. His 197 rushing yards ranks 15th for running backs, but he has just as many receiving yards as catches. The Packers have allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs this season. A big part of that is the 234 receiving yards they’ve allowed to backs.
Packers middle linebacker Christian Kirksey is expected to miss this game and a few more with a shoulder injury. This should make it even easier for Gurley to put up big fantasy numbers. He might only reach his potential if the Falcons start targeting him more, but even with rushing yards alone Gurley can put up good numbers against this Packers defense.
Back the Falcons, they say. It will be fun, they say. They were wrong. The Falcons have dropped the fourth-most ELO points to start the 2020 season.
This spread had a preseason number at -4 that has ballooned out to -7.5, given the early-season performances of both teams. The Falcons have somehow still found some backers in the betting market, with a 21% higher amount of cash than tickets on Atlanta.
The 58-point total is the highest number we have seen since 2018. This isn’t stopping bettors from piling onto the over with 81% of the tickets and 66% of the cash. Due to such high scores this season, totals appear difficult to target until we get a few more samples of data on the impact of scoring in 2020.