Now this should be interesting. There is story circulating this week that way back, when Lamar Jackson was first drafted by the Ravens one of the first calls he got was from Cam Newton. Cam, who had his own experiences as a mobile quarterback in an era where mobile quarterbacks were at a minimum, wanted to congratulate Lamar and give him some advice. Isn’t that sweet.
Well fast forward here you have two teams that have had quite the rivalry and history over the last 20 years matching up in a game where it is likely to be cold, rainy and windy. You have the reigning MVP of the League coming in to play the veteran looking to complete a comeback story for the ages. You also have two teams that have, from a fantasy standpoint, underwhelmed this season for a myriad of reasons. BUT someone has to win some money tonight so why not us? Right? So let’s get into it.
My Captain/MVP Picks
The last two times Lamar Jackson has played the New England Patriots, he has given them fits. Largely due to his rushing, Jackson has simply been a mismatch for the Patriots defense – and I should add that was also the Patriots Defense that were fantasy league winners that he was running all over. 2020 we have a much different Patriots Defense but to be fair, we have a different Lamar Jackson as well. First, since week 1 when he threw for 275 yards he has only thrown for over 200 yards twice and he has thrown for UNDER 200 yards five times. Second, while he is still averaging 10 Rushing attempts per game, he has only had one 100 yard game on the ground and across the remaining games he is averaging 52.5 yards per game. Third, the touchdowns. He has only thrown for a touchdown or more in 3 games this season and he also only has 3 rushing touchdowns so far on the season. The funny thing is if you removed Lamar’s name from the above stat lines and looked them as just “starting quarterback” you would say – uh sign me up! But knowing what Lamar was doing by this time just a season ago, you can’t help but say he is having a down year. However, what you can’t deny is that Jackson is far and away the best offensive weapon for the Ravens. While we have had 100 yard games from players here and there, they have been few and far between – both on the ground and through the air. Additionally, you also haven’t seen a consistent target either with Marquise Brown, Willie Snead and Mark Andrews each having individual big games but none have done it in back to back weeks (outside of 3 TD Andrews in Week 1 and 2). So I think it will be tough to trust another Raven as Captain outside of Lamar.
On the other side of the ball, Cam Newton also has had his struggles. Cam was on fire in Week 1 and 2 and then following a loss to the Ravens was sidelined for two weeks due to Covid. He was slow to pick back up where he left off but he has put together two strong weeks over the last two weeks so he does come into this game with some momentum. The problem is the Ravens defense. The Ravens Defense has been fantastic this season. 1st in the league for Points Against at 17. 8th in the league for Total Yards Against. 8th in the league against the run and just outside the top 10 against the pass. Against Quarterbacks they are 10th best in the league. So what is Cam Newton to do. Run. No really, I expect to see an uptick in rushing attempts from Cam. The bad news is if I am thinking that, I am sure the Ravens are too. Both Cam and Lamar are the two most expensive players on the slate. Additionally they are the #1 and #2 highest projected players on the slate and it isn’t even close.
If I am playing a Quarterback in the Captain/MVP, I think I prefer Lamar to Cam. If we are to assume with bad weather we will have two mobile quarterbacks running, I just like the matchup with the Patriots Defense for Lamar than I do the matchup with the Ravens Defense for Newton. But if you aren’t going to a Quarterback in the top spot, who do you turn to.
While I never usually condone this but simply due to the expected weather, I don’t think it is a wild notion to consider either the Ravens D or the Patriots D as Captain on Draft Kings and either Kicker as Captain be it the Ravens Justin Tucker or the Patriots Nick Folk. Obviously if you are playing a defense as Captain you want to use the Defense that has the most potential for turnovers and sacks. On paper this is the Ravens but I think there is something to be said for the Patriots in bad weather at home too. For Kickers, you want to consider which will have the most field goal attempts. Looking at the Game Log, Folk averages 2.5 kick attempts a game to Tuckers 1.5 … but that doesn’t mean that Tucker may be trotted out 5x tonight if the Ravens can’t punch a ball into the end zone.
I think another sneaky approach here would be to look at a Running Back as Captain/MVP. The rub on both defenses is they are ‘good against the run’ but we have seen strong running teams have success. The problem is on both teams you have committees. Mark Ingram is expected to play tonight. Now do the Ravens ‘ease him back in’ we don’t know, however you need to consider – his workload had already diminished. So far this season, Ingram has only seen double digit touches twice. So if we are expecting an even lighter role for Ingram, he is tough to trust here. JK Dobbins showed explosiveness and elusiveness in week 8 against the Steelers but came back down to earth in Week 9. Honestly my favorite of all of them is probably Gus Edwards who has had his opportunities this season including 14 in week 6, 16 in week 8 and 11 in Week 9. Granted this was without Mark Ingram but the advantage to taking a shot on Edwards is two fold. First – he is very cheap on both sites and second his “grind it out” style of run has been a kryptonite to the Patriots over the years. I’m not saying go 100% Gus Edwards by the way, but I do think if the Ravens get an advantage over the Patriots here it will likely be on the ground be it via Lamar or one of the backs, so I’d suggest getting a piece of the running game.
For the Patriots, Damien Harris has been the lead back over the last few weeks but he left the last game with a Rib Injury and is questionable tonight. With Sony Michel on IR, you have to wonder if he does play if the Patriots lighten his load tonight. If he can’t go, JJ Taylor will likely get the nod between the tackles and Taylor looked pretty good earlier this season when he saw his opportunities. But for me, I feel like this is going to be a Rex Burkhead game tonight. Burkhead has been a steady contributor all season and has shown explosiveness on the ground and steady hands in the passing game. Burkhead had a 3 touchdown game as well earlier in the season and since that time he has been getting opportunities in the Red Zone too. No matter what happens with Harris or Taylor, Burkhead will carry low ownership and I think is a sneaky play tonight at Captain. Last but not least is James White the long time Patriot pass catching back and past Superbowl hero. I think White will be a popular pick at Captain/MVP tonight but I am not sure I can go there. White has yet to have a touchdown and only one game this season with more than 40 yards through the air. I think I prefer Burkhead though because it does appear that they are designing plays for him more so than the check down options that White offers.
Before I forget, I will also have some shots on Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown in Captain. The Patriots have been burned by the “big play” multiple times this season and there is no other receiver that will be on the field tonight that has the big play ability of Marquise Brown. I think you need to be a bit mindful of the weather here – but that being said, I think Brown could break one of those bombs tonight and I’ll have a piece of him in a few lineups at Captain.
My last thought on Captain/MVP is to look at taking a shot at either Jakobi Meyers or Damiere Byrd for the Patriots. It isn’t even a question that these two guys have become favorite targets for Cam Newton over the last several weeks and while you do have explosive options in both Hollywood Brown and N’Keal Harry, I also like the volume that these guys are seeing. I also could see Willie Snead having some appeal here. Snead had a solid game two weeks ago against a similarly stout Steelers defense and there certainly is a scenario where Snead could see an uptick of targets, underneath, from Jackson.
Flex, Flex, Flex it up!
I think you need to consider your flex plays tonight based on who you select as Captain. So for instance if you select Lamar as Captain the traditional thinking says stack him up with his pass catchers. But in a game like this, I may suggest getting a little weird. If you are putting Lamar in as Captain you are saying that Lamar is going to have a great game. So I’d fill my Flex spots with Patriots – after all in order for Lamar to have a great game, the Patriots will have to keep things competitive. It will be tough to get both Lamar and Cam in a lineup if you use one or the other as Captain, but not impossible as outside of Jakobi Meyers none of the other Patriots skill players are all that pricey. I also don’t hate using a running back in a stack with Lamar. Again the theory is if Lamar gets the Ravens up deep, they will lean on the run to close it out. The same goes for Cam on the other side. Certainly if you put Cam in your Captain spot, I think you’ll want Lamar in the Flex and then build from there accordingly. I again think using kickers and even defenses in the flex here will be key. I think this is a messy game. Don’t be afraid by the way to roster the opposing defense to your Lamar or Cam stacks. The reality is the defense could pick up fumbles and interception or a sack or two while the QB still hits 3 TDs and 300 yards passing etc and both will have strong scores. Listen, this is just my advice but I think in a game like this where ownership will be extremely concentrated on a few players, I think getting a little different in your builds will be the key to cashing. There will be a ton of QB+Receiver+Reciever stacks tonight. I can easily predict Lamar+Brown+Andrews and Newton+Meyers+Byrd being the highest owned stacks on the slate. So what about building your lineups around Lamar+Edwards+Nick Folk or Newton+Burkhead+Justin Tucker and building from there. I am just saying – get different.
So what else is there to talk about right? Well a few things. First keep an eye on N’Keal Harry news. If Harry plays, he could have a solid shot at being a great play. The read on Harry is the he thrives in contested catches and against the Ravens defense I think we could see several of those opportunities tonight. Using Harry in place of (for instance) Byrd or James White in stacks with Cam could prove worthwhile. The Patriots have been pretty solid against Tight Ends this season but don’t forget about Mark Andrews either. Andrews hasn’t been great for about 6 weeks now so he is kinda due for a big game and in a tough weather environment I can see a path to Andrews seeing a fair amount of targets, particularly in the Red Zone.
And if you want a dart throw, I’d look at Gunner Olszewski who is seeing more and more designed plays, including runs, on the Patriots offense and rookie Devin Duvernay who has shown explosiveness when he has seen opportunities. Especially on DK, both these guys are $200 and if you are multi entering, should be in your player pool. I’d also say taking a shot on the Ravens Myles Boykin if you are multi entering or Patriots Tight End Ryan Izzo. You never know what could happen in a game like this one and could I see Boykin and/or Izzo being in the right place and right time in the red zone – sure. Just keep them in your player pool if you are multi-entering is all I am saying.
Good Luck in your Contests!