Is there anything more to the Ravens offense — or is this it?
The Ravens offense is still at the top of our watchlist but nowhere close to the top of any positive passing (or offensive, for that matter) metrics. Obviously, a date with the Steelers last week was never going to be the time to get out of neutral but their Week 9 opponent, the Indianapolis Colts, isn’t much easier.
Indy ranks third in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA and, with Darius Leonard back and healthy, are operating as a difference-making unit. The speed with which they play and the enhanced blitz rate they debuted last week could be problematic for Baltimore. We know Lamar Jackson has been one of the stone-worst quarterbacks when facing extra heat, sporting a 76.4 passer rating. It’s hard to imagine that not being an even bigger issue now that star left tackle Ronnie Stanley is out for the season.
The Ravens need to add more outlet and layup passes for Lamar and it needs to start happening this week. Baltimore still runs the ball so well they essentially base their entire passing game on vertical shots into big windows downfield. That’s a great idea in theory but it’s leading to too much pressure and inefficient passes from Jackson.
There are a couple of solutions here. J.K. Dobbins is coming off acing his first shot as the clear primary back last week. With Mark Ingram not practicing mid-week, he could easily find himself back in that role. Greg Roman and company could try to get him more involved in screens and passes to the flat. He already leads the backs in routes run.
The Ravens can also look to get Marquise Brown — who is already a squeaky wheel in need of some greasing heading into Week 9 — more looks on shorter routes. He has just nine targets on slants/screens/crossers this year. Those were bread and butter plays for Brown in college but have been almost completely absent this year as Baltimore overdoes it with the deep ball.
Will Chase Edmonds seize this opportunity?
It’s no secret that Kenyan Drake has been one of the more underwhelming running backs this season. Arizona ranks 10th in run-play percentage and Drake personally has the seventh-most carries per game among backs. And yet, he’s been largely a hit or miss proposition in fantasy, sitting at RB22 on the year.
Now that he’s sporting an ankle injury that will likely keep him out at least this week, the Cardinals are set to turn to Chase Edmonds. The backup has long been an intriguing player dating back to his three-touchdown effort against the Giants in 2019. This season, Kliff Kingsbury has praised Edmonds as a starting-caliber back in the league and he’s been the clear leader in the passing down role with a 13.6 percent target share (to Drake’s 4.2 percent).
You can also argue that Edmonds has been the more explosive of the two runners with his 6.1 yards per carry figure.
Edmonds will more than likely get another shot to prove Kingsbury’s faith in him is well placed this weekend. He’ll get to do it against a Miami Dolphins defense that is ranked in the top-five in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metrics as a pass defense but dead last vs. the run. There’s a chance he never relinquishes the top gig if he runs well in this spot and Drake continues to miss time.
Will the Bills offense finally get back on track?
The Bills offense of September and early October feels like it operated in an entirely different universe than the one we currently inhabit. After averaging north of 30 points per contest in Week 1 to 4, Buffalo has scored 16, 17, 18, and 24 points the last four. Some of the face-plants were excusable but mere average outings against the Jets and Patriots in Weeks 7 and 8 are not.
Buffalo gets a golden opportunity to finally look like the unit that tore through the first month of the season here in Week 9. Josh Allen and his enviable cast of wide receivers will go to work against a Seahawks team that’s been bludgeoned all year long. The team ranks bottom-five in a sack rate and now sports injuries at key spots. This should be the perfect get-right game for the Bills offense.
While we in fantasy mostly care about Stefon Diggs getting the ball, Buffalo (and Allen’s own fake football stock) might be helped by mixing things up a bit. No starting quarterback targets wide receivers at a higher rate than Allen at 71 percent. Getting a tight end involved now that their COVID list is looking lighter at that spot or juicing up a stagnant running game wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world for Brian Daboll. Keep an eye on Zack Moss potentially drawing more volume to assist with the latter issue after his two-touchdown performance against New England last week.
Can James Robinson survive a quarterback change?
Something odd is going on in Jacksonville.
After reports surfaced of a possible benching coming for Gardner Minshew, he enjoyed a mixed outing in a loss to the Chargers with two touchdowns but a mere 51.9 percent completion rate. Now, coming out of their bye, he’s dealing with a thumb injury that’ll keep him out at least this week.
Rookie Jake Luton is set to start in place of Minshew. At least it’s not Mike Glennon but the sixth-rounder Luton is, at best, an unknown.
It’s not like Minshew was lighting the world on fire or anything but Luton can still be a downgrade. In that scenario, things could get hairy for breakout fantasy star James Robinson. The rookie is a top-five back in fantasy this year but it’s typically not great to associate your running backs with a bottom-three offense. With Minshew, Jacksonville is more like a middle of the road unit. That’s all we’re asking out of Luton here.
Robinson does have two things working in his favor even if Luton takes the offense to lower depths. First, his opponent this week in the Houston Texans are one of the absolute worst teams against the run this season. Secondly, he’s managed four-plus catches in five straight games. With Chris Thompson on the roster, we didn’t know if he’d be a big factor as a receiver. Question answered there. That passing game role will at least keep Robinson’s floor afloat even if poor quarterback play caps his ceiling.
Can the Buccaneers shake the primetime funk?
If you’ve only watched the Buccaneers in primetime this year, you probably think they’re a pretty overrated outfit.
The Bucs endured their second loss of the season against Chicago several weeks back on Thursday night. They consistently struggled to move the ball and eked out a late win over the hapless Giants last week. If you’ve just kept up with them all season, you know they’re one of the best teams in the NFL. You’d have seen them thump the Packers and Raiders or come back against the resilient, Justin Herbert-led Chargers.
Even if you don’t believe the Buccaneers are the best team in the NFL, you have to admit they’re the most balanced.
Tampa Bay has the best defense in the NFL, per Football Outsiders’ efficiency measures and Tom Brady‘s offense has shaken off the early season funk to rocket up to a No. 6 ranking. Both sides of the ball are hitting their stride. Announcing that they are this good of a team to the national audience on Monday Night Football against the division rival Saints would be a strong move for the Bucs this week.
While the world over will be keeping all eyes on Antonio Brown as the new addition to Tampa Bay in Week 9, the real matchup will be between the Saints offense and the Buccaneers defense. The Bucs blitz at a high rate and have several strong pass rushers up front. The current version of Drew Brees, however, is not the best under duress. He sports a 60.6 passer rating when under pressure, a bottom-20 mark in the league. He’s yet to throw a touchdown when under pressure.
If the Bucs are able to hold back New Orleans’ offense, they could roll in this spot. The Saints defense just hasn’t been up to the task at slowing down strong offenses this season.