Thursday Night Debate: Jaguars vs. Titans
(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)
Week 14’s Thursday night matchup features the Tennessee Titans hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars in a divisional showdown. The Titans are five-point favorites in what is projected as a low scoring game with an over/under of 37.5. Erik Smith and Matthew Bevins list the players they would start and sit this week in the opening game of the fantasy playoffs, and give you both sides of the debate on their key disagreements. Decisions are based on PPR scoring.
Jaguars @ Titans
|QB Marcus Mariota||Start||Sit|
|QB Cody Kessler||Sit||Sit|
|RB Leonard Fournette||Start||Start|
|RB Derrick Henry||Start||Sit|
|RB Dion Lewis||Start||Sit|
|RB T.J. Yeldon||Start||Sit|
|RB Carlos Hyde||Sit||Sit|
|WR Corey Davis||Start||Start|
|WR Tajae Sharpe||Sit||Sit|
|WR Taywan Taylor||Start||Sit|
|WR Dede Westbrook||Start||Sit|
|WR Donte Moncrief||Sit||Sit|
|WR Keelan Cole||Sit||Sit|
|TE Jonnu Smith||Start||Sit|
|TE James O’Shaughnessy||Sit||Sit|
|K Ryan Succop||Start||Sit|
|K Josh Lambo||Start||Sit|
Up For Debate
Start: It’s week 14, and fantasy football is getting spooky. We’re starting third-string running backs at tight end, RB David Johnson is unreliable, and quarterback has become a horror show. So, I seemed to feel a bit possessed when I clicked “start” on the QB Marcus Mariota field, but alas, here we are. If you look at the fantasy jackpots this year for quarterback, you have a few old reliables (legitimately old), in QB Drew Brees and QB Philip Rivers, but the real trick is getting yourself a quarterback who can run and pass. In the vein of that, we have QB Lamar Jackson, QB Patrick Mahomes, QB Mitch Trubisky, and now to a lesser extent after a season marred in injuries, Mariota. Someone who came out of the draft with QB Jameis Winston as a quarterback who could push the value of himself with his legs, Mariota has spent most of his three years ailing, on the bench injured, or underachieving. But, there are some signs of life in the last couple weeks, the Titans offense is interesting and has some pieces of interest, and he’s starting to run again, coming in to face an incredibly underachieving defense.
Combined over the last two weeks, Mariota has rushed for 71 yards, adding an average of 3.5 additional fantasy points to his line per week. Don’t get me wrong, I would not be starting Mariota over your consistent studs like Brees, or Mahomes, or even Rivers, but I wouldn’t be so opposed to taking a risk/reward run on him over your quarterbacks like QB Tom Brady or QB Aaron Rodgers who have both underachieved, while also showing their age. Mariota has some talented options to dump off to, in RB Dion Lewis, WR Taywan Taylor, or even his big-play threat in WR Corey Davis. In the last two games, he’s had one game where he’s had his best completion percentage of the year (95.65 in week 12, whoa), and his highest passing attempt number (35 in week 13). I’m trying to read the tea leaves, and think that there’s a possibility that Mariota is a low-end top 10 quarterback play, can outplay some of your quarterbacks who have thrived this year on name alone, and could be a solid salary saver in your DFS lineups, going up against a defense this year has talked more than they’ve walked. –Matthew Bevins
Sit: While Mariota has produced some start-worthy fantasy lines lately, there are plenty of quarterbacks with higher floors and upside that I would rather start in the fantasy playoffs. Mariota is not a high volume passer, with only three games all year in which he has thrown more than 30 passes, and is not a high yardage passer, with only two games this year where he has exceeded 300 yards passing. Mariota will give you a few points a game with his legs, but he only has two rushing touchdowns on the season and his weekly rushing totals are not in the QB Lamar Jackson or QB Josh Allen category. Mariota’s lack of yardage leaves you fairly dependent on two or more touchdowns just to get a low-end starting caliber fantasy performance. And this week’s game against the Jaguars doesn’t set up well for quarterback production.
With Jacksonville starting QB Cody Kessler and coming off of a 6-0 win against Indianapolis, the Jaguars will be looking to keep this a low scoring defensive battle. And Tennesse seems more than content most weeks to play ugly defensive games as well. Vegas projects this as the lowest scoring game of the week, and with the Titans favored by 5, I don’t feel confident that Mariota will be asked to throw often enough to be a fantasy starter. Mariota has had six games this year with less than 10 fantasy points scored (due to injury or performance), making him hard to trust even as a safe floor play. You should be able to find better options this week. -Erik Smith
Start: Begrudgingly, I’m going against my personal opinions to start the year, and telling you to start RB Derrick Henry, a running back who has given me fits, and has angled his way into a position before the year started that I had expected would mostly be filled by Dion Lewis. As recently as week 11, the job was a true timeshare, with Henry receiving ten carries to Lewis’ nine. The sad part for us Lewis lovers is that he hasn’t done much at all in the rushing game, greatly impacting his value, as he was always a slightly above average rusher, and a game-changing pass catching back. In week 12, more of the same, as Henry has seen eight carries to Lewis’ seven. But as of last week, when the Titans broke out and beat the lowly Jets, Henry actually out carried Lewis ten to six, and is finally seeing half the snap counts as well, which could tell us he’s either gaining coaches trust, the game plan is changing to find a spark, or what I sadly believe to true, Henry is gaining some run due to Lewis underachieving (just slightly over 3 yards per carry). The Titans are currently 6-6 and have actually played a pretty solid season, especially under a rookie coach, so I wouldn’t be shocked if this is a total timeshare to end the season, as they attempt to eke into the playoffs. Henry may thrive with the rushing carries starting to become his part in the Titan’s offense.
While the Jaguars have underachieved on the defense side mostly due to the fact that they were expected to be a top two defense, and they’re now falling closer to the bottom end of a top ten defense. I expect with both teams underachieving in parts of their game, that Henry will profit, and could potentially start to see his role as a rushing back maintain around 60/40, and that will only benefit Henry on the goal line, and in his stat line, if he can continue to impress the coaching staff. I’d get ahead of Henry instead of behind, and not only because he’s an intimidating presence who could pancake us. –Matthew Bevins
Sit: Henry is a low-end option this week, especially in PPR leagues, where his utter lack of passing game involvement really holds him back. Henry is averaging one catch for 6.5 yards per game on the season, costing him an easy two or three points per game that virtually all running backs receive in today’s pass-heavy NFL. Henry is on the wrong side of a running back committee, seeing only 41% of the snaps last week in a matchup against the Jets that should have favored a clock-killing running back like himself. And Henry is the definition of touchdown or bust, as he has averaged 4.9 PPR points in his 8 games without a touchdown this year.
Against a Jacksonville defense allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this year, Henry is not an RB2 option this week, and if being considered as a flex play, I would rather go with a receiver with a more bankable fantasy floor. Henry is likely startable in deep leagues due to his regular involvement in the offense and reliable goalline duties. But with all of the recent chaos at the running back position, you should have been able to add some waiver options recently that have higher fantasy floors or ceilings than Henry provides. -Erik Smith
Start: Who has the most rushing yards in the Jaguars backfield this season? Well, don’t say RB Leonard Fournette in passing, he may punch you. As of writing this, the only person in Jacksonville who has eclipsed four hundred yards rushing is the oft-forgotten RB T.J. Yeldon. A second-round pick of out of Alabama, a school known to churn out illustrious running backs, Yeldon disappointed for years but seemed to finally catch his footing when Fournette went down injured last year. Coming in to Thursday night, Fournette is coming back from a one game suspension, but I don’t think he has the highest ceiling in the backfield. He’s punching people, and injuring himself for over a year, and Yeldon has quietly earned himself some run, and also trust from the Jaguars’ brass. I’m not stating that Yeldon is a top ten running back. Hardly that. But it does seem that when Fournette is coming back, or ailing, Yeldon can profit to the tune of over or around one hundred all purpose yards, immediately filling in as a less sexy Fournette option. In a truly unwatchable game last week, unless you thrive off highly defensive tinted gameplay, the Jaguars hardly rushed the ball with Kessler at quarterback, instead looking to break out a bit in the passing game, and Yeldon made good there. On eight targets, he caught seven of those for 49 yards, and I think in a game where there may be a bit of a shootout, I’d be looking at Yeldon as a potential flex/daily fantasy sports bottom of lineup play, as he’s cheap to use and could absorb some passing yards.
It is also worth mentioning that per Football Outsiders, the Titans rush defense is just barely above average, and therefore the backfield may thrive on both fronts. And with Fournette potentially wearing out the Jaguars’ front office, I wouldn’t be shocked if he sees a bit less run, and Yeldon is clearly the one who would profit. Here’s my big sleeper play. Do with it what you will! –Matthew Bevins
Sit: With Fournette back playing in weeks 10-12, Yeldon consistently saw around 35% of the Jaguars offensive snaps. His passing game involvement makes him efficient with his work, but severely limits his fantasy prospects in such a low-end offense. With Fournette in the lineup, Yeldon’s touchdown potential completely dries up, as evidenced by his 7.3 fantasy points per game over the last three games that Fournette has played. Yeldon can be counted on for at least 5-7 fantasy points, but in a matchup against a Titans teams allowing the 5th fewest points to the running back position he lacks much fantasy upside.
I’ve rostered Yeldon all year and will continue to stash him on the bench in case Fournette has another injury pop up. He has proven to be a very dependable player when Fournette misses time. But with Fournette back, he takes a clear backseat. And on an offense operating with a new offensive coordinator and a career backup at quarterback, 35% of the running back snaps is not enough volume to be a fantasy option. The Jaguars are only projected to score 16 points this week, making their offense a stay away for me outside of Fournette. -Erik Smith