Butt Ugly. I don’t use that term too often these days (people’s feelings get hurt too easy in 2020) but that is the the term that keeps running through my head about tonight’s Thursday Night Football game between the Browns and the Bengals. The thing is, in my opinion, these two teams are a few steps away from each other. Yes both had tough week 1 matchups and yes both teams came out on the losing end. But in my opinion one team had a much better game than the other – that would be the Bengals and because of that they are the Vegas Favorites to get a win tonight. So let’s begin.
(Quick note – pricing here refers to the Player’s Flex Prices on DK and FD. Keep in mind you have to add ½ of the player’s salary on DK to enter him in as a Captain in Showdown Contests)
Another reason why Vegas has the Bengals favored is because tonight the Browns will be without Starting Corner Backs Greedy Williams and Kevin Johnson. Additionally the Browns D will also be without Linebackers Mack Williams and Jacob Phillips and Defensive End Olivier Vernon is questionable. So let’s talk Bengal’s offense!
I think you have to be encouraged by the quarterback play of Joe Burrow in Week 1 against the Chargers. He looked to already be assimilating to the NFL action and that jog behind his center into the end zone was one of the highlights of Week 1. Burrow sits at $10,800 on DK and $14,500 on FD. With a banged up Bengal’s defense I think Burrow will find some room to throw and even to run. I like Burrow tonight to start to show off his new NFL swagger. However if I am playing a Bengal’s heavy lineup tonight, I like another Bengal more than Burrow…
AJ Green tonight comes in as the most expensive Wide Receiver on the slate at DK coming in at $9,000. On Fan Duel he is an even $11,000. First, if you watched the Bengal’s game in Week 1 it was clear that Green was Joe Burrow’s #1 target and I expect that to continue. In Week 1 the Bengal’s held AJ Green to roughly 45% of the snaps, but with his first game back now behind him I think that those reigns will be let off tonight. Additionally against the Browns last week we saw Hollywood Brown carve up the secondary to the tune of 101 yards on roughly the same amount of snap share that Green had against the Chargers. I like AJ Green a lot tonight against a depleted Brown’s secondary. I do expect him to be a popular play however, so you will need to try and diversify to be different in tournaments.
One way to be different tonight could be to look at Joe Mixon and to a lesser extent Giovanni Bernard aka the Cincinnati run game, as I believe most of the field will be looking at Chubb and Hunt from the Browns. There is more reason to look at Mixon specifically too. We have already addressed the key injuries to the linebackers and line for the Browns which should already give you a clue, I also think that we will see Burrow throwing a lot tonight which is only going to open the box up more for Mixon. I also think that there is a real chance that the Bengals go up early in this game and if so they will want to control the clock with Mixon. I like Joe Mixon at $8,600 on DK and $13,000 on FD. I don’t like Giovanni Bernard nearly as much BUT at the bare minimum on DK ($3,000) he is a nice way to round out a Bengal’s stack or be the last piece of a lineup filled with studs. I think he is way over priced on FD at $7,000 and I will be staying away there.
Tyler Boyd and John Ross are also interesting plays tonight. In Week 1 Boyd and Green matched for target share from Burrow at just over 20% – however I think a lot of that had to do with the limit of snaps Green Played. With it likely that Green will have closer to a full compliment of snaps tonight I expect a gap between the two will emerge. For that reason, while I do think Boyd is a fine play every week, I will likely be underweight on him in Tournaments at $7,000 on DK and $10,000 on FD I am just too concerned that the targets he get won’t be the high value ones (ie; red zone, deep throws) enough to pay off that salary. I do however have interests in John Ross, who paced the Bengal’s receivers in snaps in Week 1. With a depleted secondary and likely the Browns throwing what they do have available at AJ Green, it could open up the field for the very speedy John Ross. I could see Burrow testing the deep ball as well here and Ross often is the beneficiary of that kind of route. Ross sits at $5,200 on DK and $7,500 on FD and worth a couple shots if you are playing multi-lineups tonight.
While I would play AJ Green or Joe Mixon naked (ie; without stacking with Burrow) or alone on Browns heavy lineups, I wouldn’t do the same with either Boyd or Ross. I think that should you use one or both in a lineup you will need to stack with Burrow to maximize what yardage and/or scoring plays that they make.
I also wanted to mention Bengal’s Tight End CJ Uzomah who in week 1 saw 5 targets and turned them into 48 yards. Last week we saw Mark Andrews eat the Browns alive and notoriously – even when healthy – the Browns have been one of the worst defenses against Tight Ends. While I don’t suggest him to see a massive amount of targets, again 5 to 6 targets in a great matchup could turn what was 48 yards in week one to 60+ in week 2. He also certainly could be a Red Zone target for Burrow as well. At only $5,000 on DK and $6,200 on FD, I think Uzomah could be a cheap; sneaky play tonight for production. Like Ross and Boyd though I think you need to pair him with Burrow.
Now let’s talk some Cincinnati defensive injuries.
The Bengals will be without Starting Safety Shawn Williams. Additionally two Defensive Tackles will sit in Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels. I think even if the Bengal’s Defense was at full health, most DFS Players tonight would still be on Brown’s players… so let’s talk about ’em
But before we do, we need to talk about the Brown’s Offensive Line. At the time of this writing 4 Browns Offensive Lineman are Questionable including on again off again stud Jack Conklin. If the Browns have to start basically a back up offensive line I collectively down grade everything I am about to write. Just wanted to mention that.
You can’t start a conversation about Brown’s Offense without talking about Baker Mayfield. I am not sugar coating this – Baker Mayfield in week 1 was BAD. He was bad with his reads, he was bad with his decisions and his throws weren’t all that great. I think most will give him a pass saying “well it was Baltimore” but I watched a lot of this game this week and I have to tell you – I think it is a confidence issue more than anything else. He just simply didn’t look good completing just over 50% of his throws. Yes he did throw a touchdown but also a pick and he ended with only a shade over 150 yards in the air. He also rushed for 2 yards. Yuck. What’s up with Baker? Now tonight he will get a significantly softer defense to line up against, but it’s not a sure thing lock in my opinion to play him. At $10,200 on DK and $15,000 on FD you can’t have him end another week with only 10.86 Fantasy Points. Baker will be the more popular play than Burrow and while this isn’t me telling you to do the same – I will be underweight on my exposure to Baker in tournaments tonight (meaning I will not be playing him in as many lineups as the field). I will take some shots but if I do, I will be stacking him with every pass catching option available to try and maximize and hedge what I believe will likely be a sub par performance for the beguiled QB.
The funny thing about the Browns’ offense is, they come in pairs. Let’s start with Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry for instance! The overall target share that these two players see from Baker is over 20% with Beckham leading the way and while I am shaky on Baker himself, I do like both of his main receiving options. OBJ saw 10 targets last week and he will be in for another healthy dose and the Bengal’s defense does not scare me, particularly with an injury in the secondary. OBJ is my favorite Brown to run back with on heavy Bengal’s stacks tonight. Jarvis Landry comes into the game tonight with a Questionable tag. Between the red Q against his name and how many targets OBJ saw in Week 1, I believe Landry could go largely under owned by a lot of players tonight and so if he plays, he immediately takes OBJ’s place as my favorite Brown to play. While I would never advise against stacking a receiver with his wide receiver, I don’t think it’s a priority to play Baker with either of these guys. Both will be involved and if Landry sits it just puts the emphasis on OBJ even more. Odell clocks in at $8,200 on DK and $11,500 on FD. Beckham is appearing to be the most popular player tonight in DFS, while only $200 less sits Jarvis Landry. By pricing models, it will be tough for many to pass up on OBJ at only $200 more than Landry, but if he plays I like Landry a lot. Keep an eye on the injury report.
It isn’t that there aren’t other receivers on the Browns by the way, it’s just with such low volume and target share being directed at them at best they are salary saver dart throws at the end of lineups. My favorite of which is Khadrel Hodges who saw three targets last week. He is only $400 on DK and obviously could be a great play just to round out a heavy stud like stack. However, you have to assume a Goose Egg is as likely as 3 points for 1 catch when rostering.
Browns Couple #2 – Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. In season long fantasy I stayed away from this pair. It was too risky to draft Chubb highly expecting RB1 numbers every week knowing that Hunt was going to cut in to the touches. Then the Browns go out and PAY Hunt and look at Week 1. Hunt out touched Chubb 17 to 11 and had more yards than Chubb 81 to 66. Now analysts will tell you that the Browns were in a negative game script so naturally they needed to air it out more and that is where Hunt comes in. True – but let me ask you, when have the Browns NOT been in a negative game script lately? I do not see that changing tonight. While early on when these teams are feeling each other out I think Chubb gets a lot of his work, by the 3rd or 4th quarter there is a strong possibility that Hunt once again walks away with the better fantasy day. Coupled with the potential for a significant downgrade at Offensive Line tonight, I also tend to like Hunt more than Chubb in tournaments as I think he will be seeing a lot of check downs coming from Baker as he runs for his life. For pricing Draft Kings doesn’t seem to think there is much difference with Chubb at $7.600 and Hunt at $7,400. Fan Duel however is a different story. At $13,500 I can’t play Nick Chubb tonight on Fan Duel. Hunt at $9,500 is a bit more manageable, but for $1,500 more you could get Tyler Boyd and for $2,000 less you can take a shot at John Ross… I think due to pricing, the Browns RBs are DK exclusive plays for me tonight. Hunt will rival OBJ for popularity tonight by other DFS Players, so at lower ownership I will play some Nick Chubb.
I also want to mention that Browns Tight End David Njoku will not play tonight, so I do have some interest in Austin Hooper who came over from the Falcons in the off season. We have seen Hooper take over games before in Atlanta and with little to no competition for tight end targets tonight, he could be a solid play and a safety net for Baker Mayfield. He has a nose for the Red Zone and End Zone and great hands and I think he will largely go un unowned with more priority targets ahead of him. Additionally, if Jarvis Landry sits – I really like Austin Hooper tonight as a sleeper in this game. The Hoop clocks in at $6,800 on DK and $8,000 on Fan Duel.
Good Luck in your Contests!
Find me on Twitter @DelRayBoston