This series uses the FantasyLabs Tools to analyze the relevant players from Thursday Night Football. The series does not provide play or fade recommendations. It provides analysis by looking at the dynamics of expected game flow, pace, Vegas lines, and advanced analytics.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans
In his first year as an offensive coordinator, Ken Zampese oversaw an offense that was less focused on the ground game than Hue Jackson’s units had been in the past. The Bengals were fifth and ninth in plays and yards per drive and also seventh in neutral pace — the highest marks of the Andy Dalton era — and they are likely to have a fast-paced unit in 2017.
Bill O’Brien’s offenses have historically highlighted studs and played at a fast pace. In two of his three seasons with the Texans, they’ve been top-eight in pace and have averaged a ranking of 6.7 in run/pass ratio over the last three years. They skew heavily toward the run and have averaged the fourth-most rushing attempts under O’Brien while never falling outside the top-six in a single season. Additionally, because they play so quickly, they’ve even been ranked an average of 11.5 of 32 in passing attempts over the past two years. When they pass they target DeAndre Hopkins at a sky-high rate: Over the last three seasons he has finished 23rd, third, and seventh in targets. Even with a strong defense, the Texans are likely to play quickly while emphasizing the running game.
Thursday Night Football will feature the lowest over/under of the week (38.0) and a six-point spread in favor of the Bengals at home (per our Vegas Dashboard). The Bengals have a pathetic implied total (22.0), which make sense given the Texans defense allowed the fewest total yards per game (301.3), second-fewest passing yards per game (201.6), and fifth-fewest yards per offensive play (5.1). Also, Dalton is coming off a putrid Week 1 performance, completing 16-of-31 passes for 170 yards with no touchdowns, four interceptions, a lost fumble, and five sacks.
The Texans have finished sixth, seventh, and fifth in pass DVOA over the past three seasons and enter the year with Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 ranked front seven unit. That said, they gave up 142 yards on the ground to Leonard Fournette in Week 1 after the Jaguars got an early lead. Even if that poor run defense continues, however, it may not mean much for fantasy given Cincinnati’s three-man committee with Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, and Joe Mixon.
With 16 targets in Week 1, people may roster Hopkins at a high rate. In that case, it could be wise to pair him with a lower-owned DeShaun Watson. Watson has a fantasy points correlation value (based on positions) of 0.46 with Hopkins and a 0.58 ownership correlation (per our NFL Correlations page), although that latter data point could be lower in this game. That said, players from the Thursday game can often go over-owned, and one way to differentiate your lineup and increase the ceiling could be to roll it back with A.J. Green on the other side of the ball. Here are the correlation values for actual fantasy points versus the ownership values for these positions:
The ownership correlation between Watson, Hopkins, and Green will be low, despite the fact that they have very correlated outcomes. If you want to stack Watson with Hopkins, do it with our Lineup Builder, but there is probably more merit to fading the skill positions tonight. That said, correlations can provide a huge edge in GPPs, as they provide free upside, and there are many secrets yet to be found within the FantasyLabs Tools.
Andy Dalton, QB
Dalton’s touchdown rate dropped to a career-low 3.2 percent in 2016, but he still outperformed his career averages with a 64.7 percent completion rate, 1.4 percent interception rate, and 7.5 Y/A last year. The Bengals lost their best offensive linemen from last year in Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler — PFFs’ No. 2 and No. 7 players at their positions — and that proved to be problematic in Week 1. The Texans should have no problem getting to the quarterback tonight, and Dalton had a poor 57.1 QBR while under pressure in 2016.
A.J. Green, WR
Before his season-ending hamstring injury in Week 11 last year, Green was on track for the best year of his career with 11 targets per game (TPG), 7.3 receptions per game (RPG), 107.1 yards per game (YPG), and 22.04 DraftKings PPG. His 23.2-point projected ceiling is easily the top mark in this game among all skill position players, although he will line up against Kevin Johnson (per our NFL Matchups Dashboard), who was thrown at just four times in Week 1. Further, Green has significant home/road splits over the past three seasons, averaging 17.03 DraftKings PPG and a +0.32 Plus/Minus at home versus 19.46 and +2.30 on the road.
Joe Mixon, RB
Houston was 28th in DVOA to running backs in the passing game in 2016, and while Mixon was a fantastic receiver out of the backfield in college, he played just 36 percent of the snaps in Week 1 and had only 11 touches.
DeShaun Watson, QB
Houston allowed 10 sacks last week, including four to Calais Campbell, who also had a league-leading eight pressures in his Jaguars debut. The Bengals allowed the 11th-fewest passing yards (249.1) and sixth-lowest QBR (83.1) in 2016. Watson is nothing more than a contrarian flyer in tournaments Thursday night, especially given his accuracy issues: He completed just 51.8 percent of his passes in the preseason and 52.2 percent in Week 1.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR
Per our Texans Fantasy Preview, in DeAndre’s three seasons with O’Brien, the only players with more than his 470 targets are Antonio Brown (528), Demaryius Thomas (505), and Julio Jones (495). His 16 Week 1 targets will likely regress, but he could still be a strong volume play at $5,800 on DraftKings with an 83 percent Bargain Rating. Per our Week 2 Market Share Report, Hopkins owned a 44.44 percent target market share in Week 1, leading all players, but his efficiency is a concern. He caught just one of eight targets from Tom Savage, and though Watson threw him a touchdown late, Hopkins accumulated just 55 yards on seven total receptions.
Lamar Miller, RB
Miller has volume-based appeal against a Bengals team still without Vontaze Burfict (suspension), but he carries limited upside. In 2016, he was 73rd with a 14.0 percent juke rate, 69th with 0.7 yards after contact per touch, and just 64th with 0.63 fantasy points per opportunity (PlayerProfiler). Over the past two seasons with comparable implied totals as a road underdog, Miller has historically averaged 7.4 FanDuel PPG and a -5.10 Plus/Minus (per our Trends tool). All that said, on FanDuel his $6,400 price tag is by far his lowest mark as a Texan.
Good luck, and be sure to read our positional breakdowns!
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players herein mentioned, as well as keep you up to date with our NFL Week 2 Injury Dashboard. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading NFL News feed: