Wild Card Saturday Showdown DFS Primer (Raiders at Bengals)
The Raiders and Bengals jumpstart the 2022 NFL playoffs on Saturday evening. The host Bengals are rightfully favored, and I’ll be more heavily invested in their players than the Raiders.
Game: Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals
Spread: CIN -5.5 Points
Over/Under: 49.5 Points
Raiders Analysis: The Raiders were manhandled at home by the Bengals in Week 11, managing a meager 13 points and 278 total yards of offense, per Pro-Football-Reference. Last week, they fought tooth and nail to reach the postseason, needing the entire overtime period to lock up their victory. Now, they're playing on a short week and traveling to Cincinnati. Frankly, the game's spread feels light.
Thus, despite listing many players in their table, I'm mainly avoiding the Raiders. Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller are the top-flight members of their offense I'm most interested in. First, according to Sharp Football Stats, since Week 10, when the offensive scoring margin has been between trailing by six points and leading by six points, the Raiders have run at a slightly above-average rate (46% versus the league average of 45%).
So, if the Raiders can keep it close, Jacobs is an excellent bet to tote the rock a bunch. Further, if they fall behind, he's likely to be heavily involved in the passing attack. According to Pro Football Focus, since Week 14, Jacobs has been fifth on the Raiders in routes (101), well ahead of his backfield mates, parlaying his usage into 19 targets, 15 receptions, and 112 scoreless yards. Moreover, according to Pro-Football-Reference, the Bengals allowed the fifth-most receptions (108) to running backs in the regular season.
Second, Waller makes sense if you, like me, expect the Raiders to spend most of Saturday afternoon playing catch-up. He hauled in seven of eight targets for 116 yards in the first meeting, representing the lone bright spot in their dismal showing. In his return last week, he tied for the team lead in routes (37) and targets (eight). Finally, the matchup is rock-solid, as the Bengals ceded the seventh-most FanDuel and sixth-most DraftKings points per game to tight ends.
However, since I plan to allocate the bulk of my salary cap to the Bengals, my favorite option from the Raiders is Zay Jones. The veteran receiver tied Waller for the team lead in routes and targets in Week 18, securing five receptions for 27 yards. So, obviously, the production was lackluster, despite the optimal underlying numbers. Regardless, from Week 14 through 18, he was tied for first on the team in receptions (30) and alone in first for routes (170), targets (40), and receiving yards (289). Further, according to Pro Football Focus, he had an average depth of target (aDot) of 10.8 yards downfield, which might play well against the Bengals. According to Sharp Football Stats, since Week 10, the Bengals allow the third-highest average explosive pass rate (10%).
Bengals Analysis: The Bengals rested many of their top players last week. As a result, might they be rusty? I suppose it's possible. However, I'm not concerned. When the Bengals steamrolled the Raiders earlier this year, it was a run-heavy gameplan, feeding Joe Mixon 30 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns. I believe they will hammer the Raiders again, possibly setting the stage for another Mixon-heavy game.
However, Mixon's value ascended in the passing game as the year wore on, adding an out if the game script gets sideways for the hosts. From Week 14 through Week 17, Mixon ran 85 routes versus only 51 for Samaje Perine, cementing his status as the top receiving back on the depth chart. In addition, he efficiently reeled in 16 of 17 targets for 122 yards and a touchdown. As a result, Mixon is my favorite player on either team in this single-game contest.
Meanwhile, Joe Burrow has played elite football in his sophomore campaign. Burrow concluded the 2021 regular season third in passing yards per game (288.2), eighth in passing touchdowns (34), and second in Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt (7.51 ANY/A). Interestingly, while the Bengals stomped the Raiders on the ground the first time they played, the matchup is easier for the passing attack. According to Football Outsiders, the Raiders are 10th in rush defense Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), and 21st in pass defense DVOA.
Burrow has an embarrassment of riches to cut the ball loose to in the passing game, making him the safest and my favorite option. Meanwhile, rookie Ja'Marr Chase is a game-breaker. If I multi-enter single-game contests, I'd have some exposure to Chase. However, I'll also be underweight relative to the field. The matchup is a better stylistic fit for Tee Higgins (grossly underpriced, relative to Chase), Tyler Boyd, and C.J. Uzomah. From Week 14 through 17, Chase's 13.2 aDot was the deepest among Cinci's meaningful pass-catchers. Conversely, Higgins had a 12.1 aDot, followed by Boyd's 9.6 aDot, and Uzomah's 3.9 aDot.
On the flip side, the Raiders allowed the sixth-lowest average explosive pass rate (seven percent). From Week 10 through the end of the year, they slipped to the 13th-lowest average explosive pass rate allowed (seven percent). However, as you might have astutely noticed, their average explosive pass rate remained precisely the same down the stretch as their full-season mark. As a result, I expect Burrow to wisely take the path of least resistance, peppering Higgins, Boyd, and Uzomah. Again, Chase is a matchup-proof monster. So, he's not a must-fade player by any stretch of the imagination. However, there's merit to going against the grain and using him on fewer rosters than the field.
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