Saturday NFL Divisional Round Picks
Smith-Schuster was headed for a huge game against the Jaguars when these teams met in Week 10, gaining 33 yards on 16 routes before being forced out of the game midway through the second quarter due to a concussion.
Despite it being up and down production-wise, I think this is going to be another big game for Smith-Schuster.
Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell picks zone coverage with top-six speed, and Smith-Schuster’s 2.24 yards per route versus zone ranked 13th among 101 qualified wide receivers during the regular season. And if Caldwell decides he wants to change things up by going with more man coverage, Smith-Schuster will most often face Jags nickel angle Tre Herndon, who has allowed a passer rating of 119.5 this season.
The Jags are 30th in both pass defense DVOA overall and DVOA on passes to short center, where Smith-Schuster does most of his work. Based on how the Chiefs finished the season, Caldwell will have to prioritize not only Travis Kelce over Smith-Schuster, but also Jerick McKinnon and Kadarius Toney, which should open things up for Kansas City’s No. 1 wide receiver.
Excluding the aforementioned game against the Jags when he left early and his first game back where he saw a reduced workload, Smith-Schuster averages 61.6 yards per game.
However, the key regarding this gag is that he never got close to his average – it was a JuJu game or not. He posted at least 74 receiving yards in seven games and 46 or fewer in the other seven.
This line has risen steadily since opening with a recency bias discount of 50.5, but I’ve projected it at 62 and wouldn’t hesitate to bet on that for a player who has yet to see his receiving yardage land in the 50s or 50s 60 this season.
Shoutout to my Action Network Podcast co-host, Stuckey, for digging this one up as one of his Sunday Six Pack plays for this week, because I probably would have tried to snipe him for it if we did it again.
Etienne was involved in 85% of Jacksonville’s pass snaps in his playoff debut, while JaMycal Hasty was relegated to a minor role.
While the increase in usage didn’t translate into much production for Etienne against a Chargers defense that allowed the sixth fewest schedule-adjusted receiving yards per game to run back (24.8), that should be a whole other story against a Chiefs defense that surrenders. the third most (46.9).
Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo deploys two high safety covers at the highest level in the league, inviting fouls to control the ball under goals. In fact, the Chiefs have allowed 20 or more receiving yards to as many as 19 running backs this season.
Even with last week’s poor performance as a receiver, Etienne has still posted 24 or more receiving yards in three of his past five games. Of 47 running backs with at least 25 goals this season, Etienne ranks fifth in yards per reception with 9.1, giving him a chance to clear this support with one catch.
I projected him at 25 yards on Saturday afternoon.
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This isn’t Ray-Ray McCloud III under 0.5 receiving yards, but a goose egg isn’t out of the question for Watkins.
The key to this is the presence of Dallas Goedert; Watkins had almost as many goals in five games without Goedert (24) as in 12 games with Goedert (25).
Without Goedert in the Week 11-15 lineup, Watkins averaged 3.6 receptions for 25.6 receiving yards on 4.8 goals. He was targeted on a respectable 19.2% of his routes, producing totals of 31, 35, 37, 19 and 6.
With Goedert in the lineup, Watkins goes into Do Not Disturb mode, drawing a target on just 9.0% of his routes and producing a measly 1.3 receptions per game on 2.1 targets. His average of 17.7 receiving yards in those spots overestimates his productivity. He posted a median of just seven receiving yards and finished with 14 yards or less in 7-of-12 games and 19 yards or less in 9-of-12 games.
Watkins produced 14 yards on four targets with Goedert back in the lineup in Week 18, but the kicker is he wasn’t even productive against the Giants with Goedert sidelined in Week 14, finishing with 19 yards on five targets.
The Giants have limited tertiary receiving options all season and are ranked sixth in DVOA against non-numbers. 1 and 2 wide receivers. That doesn’t seem to change, as the healthier version of the defense forces quarterbacks to get the ball out faster, but still provides the quarterback with plenty of opportunities to get the ball to his two or three best options.
Look no further than last week against the Vikings. Despite Justin Jefferson having an uneventful day, No. 3 wideout KJ Osborn finished with only three targets and fell short of his yardage prop by 60 feet as Kirk Cousin’s higher priority guys like TJ Hockenson and Adam Thielen nearly touched at will. In the past five games, only 5 of the 18 WRs have been victorious against the Giants.
It’s also worth pointing out that Watkins runs lower percentage routes with Goedert in the lineup, with his aDOT jumping from 7.8 to 11.4. This gives Watkins a higher ceiling (good for DFS) but a lower floor and median (good for betting on his yardage prop). I projected the Watkins median at 50 feet.
Hurts was reportedly instructed to avoid unnecessary contact in Week 18, and it seems to have created some uncertainty in the market regarding his hasty volume heading into this game.
While he still finished with nine rushing tries, four of those were knee-downs (which still count) and only one was a designed run. To put that in perspective, Hurts came into that game averaging 7.4 designed runs per game that are not knee-downs.
A month away from his shoulder injury and a trip to the NFC Championship Game at stake, Hurts is expected to be able to operate without restrictions.
While Hurts finished the regular season second in knee downs with 20 and needed four to get over this mark in Week 18, he is a strong bet to clear this number without helping them.
Even with his only designed run in Week 18, Hurts averages 6.9 designed rushes and 2.9 scrambles per game. That adds up to 9.8 non-kneel down carries, which put the odds squarely in Hurts’ favor to post at least nine rushing tries for the 12th time in 16 games.
One of the four games Hurts failed to clear this prop was against the Giants in Week 14, when he finished with seven carries, but I consider that more bad luck. The Giants missed key defensemen and allowed two long touchdown passes early, robbing the Eagles of extra playing volume on every drive. Philly has averaged only 4.2 plays per ride over the last 10 rides.
The Giants have since gotten healthy on defense and moved to a more conservative, zone-heavy schedule, so we shouldn’t see as many explosive plays. The Eagles also took their foot off the gas late in that Week 14 game, with Hurts being pulled for the last two drives and missing a knee down that went to Gardner Minshew instead.
Speaking of which, even though I don’t think Hurts needs them to go over, knee downs could very well be in order with the Eagles listed as favorites by 7.5 points. I’d lean Giants as far as the side, but the Eagles’ winning odds still dictate that Hurts is a good bet for 1-3 knee-downs.
Taking all that into account, I expect 10.9 carries for Hurts, so I’m showing value not only at 8.5, but also at 9.5.
Running a route on 95% of Daniel Jones dropbacks last week, Barkley should be heavily involved again due to the Eagles’ stingy coverage on perimeter receivers.
With Darius Slay and James Bradberry playing at a high level on the outside, the Eagles are second in DVOA versus No. 1 wide receivers and fourth in DVOA versus No. 2 receivers. Their defensive philosophy is based on sitting back in cover and limiting explosive plays, so it’s not surprising that their stats aren’t nearly as good when it comes to defending running backs in the passing game, an area they rank 24th. in DVOA, their lowest rank of any rank.
Barkley was pulled early due to a sting when these teams met in Week 14, but the fact that he posted 20 receiving yards on just seven routes in that game bodes well for him.
Since then, he’s seen an increase in passing game usage, leading to him clearing 33 yards in three of his past four games, including a season-high 56 last week in Minnesota.
I’m projecting Barkley at 30m so not showing much value on this compared to earlier in the week when it opened at 22.5 (follow me in the Action app if you’re looking for a maximum close line value on this) .
That said, as long as Barkley plays 90% or more of the snaps, he’s shown he can leave this number in the dust. The fifth-year runner has achieved a 90% snap rate in a game just four times this season, and he posted 45 or more receiving yards in three of those four games.