Raiders vs. Broncos
Can Derek Carr bounce back?
Last week was not a week to remember for QB Derek Carr. After a three-interception outing and a possible veiled callout by his coach, he needs to rebound this week against Denver.
Unfortunately, improving may be easier said than done. Carr has historically struggled to throw when under pressure. He saw pressure last week from the Los Angeles Rams front and now has to visit pass rush specialist Von Miller and rookie first rounder Bradley Chubb in Denver this week. Both defenders were top 25 performers in Quarterback Pressure Frequency (QBF). Miller was able to produce quarterback pressures on 14.29% of his pass rush snaps and Chubb on 23.33% of his pass rush snaps. They managed a total of four sacks. The scary thing is, only Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald was close to that percentage of pressures last week with 13.16% and totaled no sacks.
Expect more of the same if Carr can’t find a way to get himself settled. That means check downs before deep plays or separation can develop. Take a look at his NFL Next Gen Stats Passing Chart:
Only six attempts over 10 yards. He had the second lowest aDot in football last week with 5.1 yards. I will be avoiding Carr in this matchup this week.
Martavis Bryant is back, now what?
For most teams, cutting a wide receiver that you traded a second-round draft pick for would be the most head-scratching move of the preseason. However, we are talking about the Jon Gruden Raiders Redux. In another unexpected move, the Raiders have brought WR Martavis Bryant back to the team and he may suit up in Denver this week.
We knew last week that Head Coach Gruden wanted to get WR Amari Cooper snaps out of the slot in order to create matchup problems. Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson was successful in that endeavor, getting multiple receivers involved including tight end Jared Cook with a whopping 18 snaps from the slot. The big question now is how does Martavis fit into the game plan?
Amari Cooper was excited to hear the news that Bryant was brought back and understandably so. As Cooper put it, “He is really going to take the top off of defenses…He is a guy that is going to really open things up for us.”
WR Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper just came off an incredibly disappointing opening week. There aren’t many other places else to go than up. Of the 37 potential targets in the game, Nelson received four (11%) and Cooper had just two (5%).
With Bryant back and presenting a speed threat deep, both Nelson and Cooper will be able to run shorter and intermediate routes underneath. This plays to their strengths as receivers.
From a fantasy perspective, this is not a great matchup for any of the receivers. The corners for Denver are very good, with their best playing out of the slot, in CB Chris Harris Jr. Compound that with the pass rush we talked about earlier, I can only see Cooper as a WR3 and Nelson as a low-end Flex option. As far as Bryant goes, I would not start him but may be worth a stash if he is not suspended later this season.
The better backfield value?
The backfield could not get anything going last week against the Rams. This week presents a better matchup, however, the Raiders are underdogs on the road this week. That can lead to negative game scripts so be aware that RB Marshawn Lynch may get limited touches. Last week, he was fairly efficient and got you a TD, but Lynch is much more valuable when getting close to 20 touches.
When playing from behind RB Jalen Richard saw an amazing 11 targets which he converted into 9 receptions for 55 yards. That is a 29.7% target share as his role played right into the quick check down problem Derek Carr was having while under pressure. Look for this to continue this week.
Will Jared Cook continue his hot start?
We knew that TE Jared Cook was going to present the best matchup last week however, I did not expect a performance like that. Cook took advantage of the middle of the field and his matchups against inferior linebacker and safety coverage for 9 receptions for 180 yards on 12 targets. Cook, like Richard, was the safety valve for QB Derek Carr. Denver has historically struggled against the tight end and Cook has another good matchup this week. He is in the TE1 conversation this week.
What can I expect from Phillip Lindsay this week?
If you’re asking this question, I imagine you used a high waiver pick on Phillip Lindsay. I hate to break it to you, but I don’t see Lindsay being anything other than a low-end flex play this week. He only got a few targets in last week’s game against the Seahawks, yet he is being hailed as a PPR monster for the Broncos. Royce Freeman is still the running back to own in Denver. Many people will remember Lindsay’s touchdown catch and mid-game usage, but when the Broncos had to salt the game away, they used Freeman. Both running backs had the same amount of carries. Freeman should see most of the goalline carries. Being drafted in the third round carries certain expectations. This is the same team that kept throwing Paxton Lynch out there to justify their first-round pick. I predict they will do the same with Freeman. The Oakland Raiders gave up 5.4 yards per carry last week, so I’d imagine Royce Freeman has a good day. Look for Freeman to put up high-end RB2 numbers with RB1 upside. Lindsay is a wild card that I’m not trusting just yet. He’s a flex play this week.
Emmanuel Sanders broke out for over 100 yards last week against the Seahawks. Can we expect these types of numbers all season?
Emmanuel Sanders had a great game last week. He had 10 receptions, 135 yards, and a touchdown. As I said in the preseason, Sanders was looking to be the top target in Denver. QB Case Keenum loves looking to his slot receiver. In PPR formats, I think Sanders will continue to excel because he will get a lot of targets. I don’t think he’ll get over 100 yards every game, but he will touch the ball a lot with Keenum under center. Demaryius Thomas had 10 targets, but dropped a few of his early passes. Thomas will still be a decent play, but his production will be more touchdown dependent. I expect Sanders to be a solid WR2 with Thomas being a slightly riskier WR2 to WR3. Courtland Sutton shouldn’t be starting on your fantasy team. He’s still carving out his role on the Broncos. It will be some time before Sutton is fantasy relevant.
Case Keenum finished as QB13 last week, but threw three interceptions. If he’s able to cut down on the interceptions, will Keenum be a fantasy relevant quarterback?
Although Case Keenum threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns, he did have some bad interceptions. Honestly, I don’t think the Broncos want to throw the ball that much. I believe Keenum’s yardage was an anomaly. Judging from their offensive coordinator’s track record, the Broncos aim to be a run-first team. Against a Raiders team that struggled to put up points last week, I’d expect this to be a low scoring affair where the running game is the difference. Keenum will finish outside the top 16 this week at the quarterback position.
Should I start the Broncos defense this week?
Yes. The Orange Crush should be chasing Derek Carr all around the field. Even if they give up some points, I expect a lot of sacks. This one is easy. Start Von Miller and company.