Here’s the breakdown for the Week 2 Thursday Night Football matchup of Baltimore Ravens (-1) at Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 13 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NFL Network.
Good Matchups & Values
- The Bengals allowed a league-leading 12 receptions to tight ends in Week 1 on 16 targets, giving up 124 yards and a touchdown.
- The Bengals allowed 10 receptions to running backs in Week 1, tied for third-most.
- Joe Flacco targeted tight ends and running backs on 18 of his 34 passes (53%) in Week 1.
- Nick Boyle led all Ravens tight ends in routes run (19) and was targeted on 32% of them, according to data from Pro Football Focus.
- Rookie second-round tight end Mark Andrews was targeted on four of 13 routes (31%), and veteran Maxx Williams was targeted on three of 11 (27%).
- Javorius Allen got four carries but six targets in Week 1. Allen has a top-five Projected Plus/Minus with third-stringer Kenneth Dixon out in Week 2.
- John Brown got two targets inside the 10-yard line (one a 7-yard touchdown) and another on a 2-point conversion. No other Raven got more than one.
- Six of the 16 catches by Colts wide receivers in Week 1 came from the slot, according to PFF data. Eighty-four percent of Willie Snead‘s snaps and all four of his catches came from the slot in Week 1.
- Joe Mixon got 17 carries and seven targets on 79% of the snaps in Week 1, while Giovani Bernard got one carry and one target on 21% of the snaps. Mixon has the highest Projected Plus/Minus on the slate (though the Ravens’ defense held Bills running backs to 16-56 rushing and 1-(-1)-0 on five targets).
- A.J. Green has played in both games against the Ravens in four of his seven NFL seasons, averaging a 7-131-0.75 line in Game 1 compared to a 3-35-0.5 line in Game 2.
- Tyler Boyd costs less than John Ross despite out-snapping Ross (88%-64%) and drawing five targets to Ross’ two (though one of Ross’ went for a 3-yard touchdown). Boyd also went 5-91-1 in Week 17 against the Ravens last season.
- Baltimore’s defense ranked 29th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric on passes to tight ends last season and gave up 42 yards on seven targets (6.0 yards per target) to Bills tight ends in Week 1 … which doesn’t sound good until you realize they allowed 56 yards on Buffalo’s 26 attempts to non-tight ends (2.15 yards per target). Tyler Eifert put up a 3-44 line in Week 1 on just 16 routes run, which is both a positive and a negative.
- Kickers Justin Tucker (fourth) and Randy Bullock (sixth) both rank in the top six in Projected Plus/Minus.
- The Ravens D/ST defense averages 9.67 DraftKings points and a +3.0 Plus/Minus on the road against the Bengals since 2015.
- Chris Moore is only $400 on DraftKings, giving him a sliver of value for contrarian studs-and-scrubs lineups. Moore played 24% of the snaps as Baltimore’s No. 4 wide receiver last week.
Tough Matchups & Fade Candidates
- Flacco looks healthier than he’s been in a while after battling knee and back injuries over the past couple of seasons, but he’s averaged a -1.3 DraftKings Plus/Minus and 35% Consistency Rating on the road since 2014 (compared to +1.5 and 53% at home). He averages a -2.5 Plus/Minus and 28% Consistency vs. Cincinnati over that span, including disastrous -8.0 and 0% marks, respectively, in three road games against the Bengals.
- Baltimore received PFF’s lowest run-blocking grade in Week 1 despite three of its starting offensive lineman (Matt Skura, Alex Lewis, Ronnie Stanley) playing the entire game and the other two (Marshal Yanda, James Hurst) playing 69% of the snaps.
- Thanks to William Jackson III, the Bengals allowed only 6.54 yards per target to No. 1 wide receivers in 2017, according to data from Football Outsiders, and held T.Y. Hilton to 46 yards on 11 targets in Week 1 (though he did catch a short score). Michael Crabtree scored as well in Week 1, but managed only 38 yards on six targets.
- Andy Dalton averages a -2.32 DraftKings Plus/Minus and 25% Consistency Rating vs. the Ravens over their past four meetings.
- Tyler Kroft ran only three routes on 17 snaps in Week 1. (C.J. Uzomah operated as the No. 2 tight end and ran 11.)
Roster Construction Notes
- Since the start of 2017, Dalton’s Plus/Minus has been more strongly correlated with his TE1 (.70), D/ST (.48) and WR2 (.34) than his WR1 (.27).
- Over the second half of last season and Week 1 of 2018, Baltimore’s RB1 and RB2 have a -.49 correlation in actual points and a -.75 correlation in Plus/Minus.
Strategy & Leverage
The past three Bengals-Ravens games in Cincinnati have gone under the total, so you don’t want overlook kickers or DSTs on this slate, as it’s possible you may need either a same-team kicker-DST stack or even three or more of the four to win (especially when one of them is Tucker).
With no clear matchup advantage, it’s a better week than most to go contrarian in the Captain/MVP slot.
Green is obviously a top option based on his historical Game 1 dominance of Baltimore and high weekly ceiling, and Mixon, Collins and the quarterbacks are volume-driven options, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see an under-the-radar player such as one of the tight ends on either team, Brown, Boyd, Allen or one of the D/STs end up with the high score on the day.
Allen, Brown and Eifert have the highest ceiling among those players just mentioned.
Given the matchup, the Ravens figure to heavily use their tight ends, so I wouldn’t hesitate to stack at least two of them to get the studs in, whether the lineup has Flacco or not.
Early sharp action is on the Bengals, so going with a Dalton-Green or Dalton-Green-Mixon stack and then running it back with Ravens tight ends (or Allen) would work particularly well if the Ravens ended up in negative game script.
Green, Mixon and Collins have the three highest projected floors on the slate, and I’d build around them plus Tucker as a core in cash games.
Given Brown is $12,000 on FanDuel but only $6,600 on DraftKings, he’s a player I’d consider playing only on the latter if playing both sites, or at least fading outside of Flacco stacks on FanDuel.
Let’s get this shmoney!
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Chris Raybon is a Senior Editor at the Action Network and a co-host of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+. He has watched every snap of every NFL game since 2010 — even the kneel downs. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRaybon and read about how he quit his accounting job and got paid to watch sports.
Photo credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Joe Mixon.