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Lamar Jackson ready to lift Ravens and DFS lineups vs. Browns

·10 min read
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  • Baltimore Ravens
    Baltimore Ravens
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Cleveland Browns
    Cleveland Browns
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Lamar Jackson
    Lamar Jackson
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Kareem Hunt
    Kareem Hunt
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Nick Chubb
    Nick Chubb
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|

By Matt Savoca, 4for4

Special to Yahoo Sports

Yahoo's single-game DFS offering has a roster construction of one "Superstar" that scores at a 1.5 multiplier, while the remaining four FLEX roster spots accumulate points at the normal rate. This is half-point PPR scoring and the "Superstar" salary does not change from the Utility. All scoring and rules can be found here.

Depending on the type of contest we’re creating rosters for, we’ll need to adjust our player selection strategy. If playing in a tournament with a huge amount of contestants, it will be vitally important to play something other than the optimal lineup based on projections. Differentiating yourself from the rest of the field is equally valuable. Once we understand the type of roster we need to be building for the specific contest you’re trying to take down, we can then focus on player selection, working to identify combinations of players who could all hit their respective ceilings together, based on specific game environments. Slow, run-oriented defensive battles often allow very different players to hit their ceiling score compared to when a game is fast-paced and pass-happy.

The Sunday night single-game slate should be excellent this week, as we’ve got an epic matchup between two bitter AFC North rivals, the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens. Sitting at second and eleventh, respectively, in the AFC playoff standings, both teams will be desperate to win this matchup, as teams have officially begun jockeying for playoff seeding as the season hits the home stretch. It’s also the first time these two squads have met since the thrilling 47-42 overtime victory in Week 14 of last season, where Lamar Jackson infamously disappeared into the locker room for a large chunk of the fourth quarter, only to re-emerge just in time to grab victory from the jaws of defeat.

Vegas Total and Spread

The Vegas total for this game sits at 46.5 points, down from where it began earlier in the week. The Ravens are favored by 3.5 points, giving them an implied team total of 25 and 21.5 for Cleveland. 

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Weather

None. Temperatures will be in the high-30s in Baltimore, with little to no wind in the forecast.

Potential Game Flow Scenarios

Even casual fans know how Cleveland wants to try and win football games. The Browns want to control the pace of play with their two fantastic running backs Nick Chubb ($28) and Kareem Hunt ($19). The duo haven’t both been active at the same time since Week 5, but during those first five weeks, they handled 96.7% of Cleveland’s running back carries and 80% of the total red-zone attempts, with Chubb taking roughly 60% of the workload across the board. Hunt is the passing-game specialist of the two, as Chubb has yet to see more than two targets in a game this season, but we can’t be certain that Hunt, in his first game back after an ankle injury, will be quite up to full speed, or even be able to play his typical 45-50% snap share. Hunt still has as high of a ceiling projection as any Browns’ player in this matchup, but Chubb almost certainly provides a safer floor. If star lineman Jack Conklin is able to return for Cleveland, it would boost my projection for both players.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 29: Cleveland Browns Running Back Nick Chubb (24) and Cleveland Browns Running Back Kareem Hunt (27) during the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 29, 2020 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fl.(Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
It will be interesting to see Cleveland's ground game distribution with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt both active for the first time since Week 5. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Browns will only lean on the pass if absolutely necessary, as their 29.4 pass plays per game ranks 29th in the NFL. It’s no surprise then that Baker Mayfield’s ($22) production has remained quite middling for most of the season. Mayfield has scored more than 20 fantasy points one time all season and has scored below 10 fantasy points in three of his last four starts. While the Ravens’ secondary hasn’t been elite this season, the defense still ranks right around league-average in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) to opposing offenses, which likely means Mayfield spends most of the game handing the ball off to Chubb or checking the ball down to Hunt.

Jarvis Landry ($12) should be able to command between seven and nine targets, but it’s hard to see a scenario where he, or any other passing game option for the Browns, gets 10 or more looks. Rashard Higgins ($10), as well as tight ends Austin Hooper ($12) and David Njoku ($13), will serve as the auxiliary weapons in the Browns’ low-volume passing attack. The trio combined for 18 targets and 126 air yards last week, which indicates all three are viable-yet-volatile options in a single-game slate.

Baltimore will be thrilled to get Lamar Jackson ($39) back under center but are likely even more excited about escaping Week 11 with a win, however ugly it was. With Jackson back, along with wideout Marquise Brown ($24), expect the Ravens to put the game in Jackson’s hands, allowing him to pass or run upwards of 50 times in this contest. Jackson is averaging 11.7 rushes and 35.6 pass attempts this year, so that’s far from out of the question, especially with Baltimore’s trio of passing-game options, Brown, tight end Mark Andrews ($23) and standout rookie wideout Rashod Bateman ($20), looking like one of the strongest young receiving corps in the NFL.

Cleveland’s defense has slipped in yards allowed per pass attempt over the last few weeks, ranking 19th in that metric since Week 9. The unit is also 29th in yards allowed per rush attempt in that same span, which means Jackson could end up having a field day in the read-option game as well. The Browns’ poor rush defense still doesn’t get me excited to start Devonta Freeman ($18) or Latavius Murray ($17) unless the lineup is specifically fading the Ravens’ passing attack, but we can expect the duo to split 40-45% of the team’s rush attempts, which makes either of the pair (but not both) viable in large-field tournaments.

[Play in Yahoo's $50K Single Game Baller for CLE vs. BAL]

Here’s a brief rundown of which players would likely benefit the most from various game flow scenarios.

Close, low-scoring game

  • Nick Chubb

  • Kareem Hunt

  • Lamar Jackson

  • Mark Andrews

  • Jarvis Landry

  • Rashod Bateman

  • Austin Hooper

Close, high-scoring game

  • Lamar Jackson

  • Kareem Hunt

  • Marquise Brown

  • Nick Chubb

  • Mark Andrews

  • Rashod Bateman

  • Jarvis Landry

  • Baker Mayfield

  • Rashard Higgins

  • Devonta Freeman

Blowout for home team

  • Lamar Jackson

  • Marquise Brown

  • Mark Andrews

  • Kareem Hunt

  • Devonta Freeman

  • Latavius Murray

  • Nick Chubb

  • Rashard Higgins

  • Baker Mayfield

Blowout for away team

  • Nick Chubb

  • Kareem Hunt

  • Rashod Bateman

  • Jarvis Landry

  • Marquise Brown

  • Baker Mayfield

  • Austin Hooper

  • David Njoku

  • D'Ernest Johnson

  • Devin Duvernay

Cheap/Unique Stack Options

Kareem Hunt ($19) and Austin Hooper($12) or David Njoku ($13)

The Browns will be thrilled to get Hunt back in the lineup, as he has been one of the most productive offensive weapons on the team when healthy. Despite ranking outside the top-36 running backs in opportunity share, Hunt ranks top-12 in target share, yards per touch, yards per route run, and fantasy points per game. His 7.2% rate of 10-plus yard rushes ranks seventh among all players this season. Meanwhile, Hooper operated as the number two option in the Browns’ passing attack last weekend, commanding seven targets, just one shy of team-leader Jarvis Landry, and has seen a healthy 23% of Cleveland’s red-zone targets this season. Njoku has played nearly the same snap share, saw a nearly equal share of team air yards, and has earned more red-zone targets than Hooper over the last two weeks, making Njoku an appealing alternative in large-field tournaments, with just a $1 increase in salary.

Low Salary Volatile Plays

Rashard Higgins ($10)

With Donovan Peoples-Jones inactive for the Browns in Week 11, Higgins played on 71.6% of the Browns’ snaps and earned five targets, third-most among Browns’ players a week ago. Higgins ranks outside the top-50 wideouts in average separation at target, QB Rating when targeted, and yards per route run, but with an outside shot at 6–8 targets at an extremely low salary, Higgins could still be viable this Sunday.

Devin Duvernay ($13)

Duvernay has established himself as a key role player in the Ravens’ weekly game plans this season, contributing both on special teams and in the passing game. The second-year speedster has played on 54.5% of the team’s offensive snaps this season and earned 9% of the team’s targets and 7% of the team’s air yards. While those aren’t incredibly impressive numbers, Duvernay’s five looks inside the 20 yard-line this season ranks third on the team, behind just Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews.

Sammy Watkins ($11)

The clear fourth fiddle in the Baltimore passing attack, Watkins has been surpassed in playing time and in usage by first-year receiver Rashod Bateman but is still averaging a 53.9% snap share since Week 6. Watkins ranks third on the team during that span in air yards share but has seen his target share plummet to sub-10% levels, making him tough to justify playing in anything but large-field tournaments.

Superstar Picks

Marquise Brown ($24)

Brown missed last weekend’s game with a thigh injury, but is expected to return to action this week against Cleveland, and is a near-lock to lead the Ravens in target share. Brown is transforming into a true No. 1 receiver right before our eyes this season, seemingly getting open at will over the past few weeks, having earned a staggering 39 targets over his last three starts. He has four double-digit target weeks in his last five games, and he leads the NFL in targets of 20-plus yards downfield. While Cleveland’s pass defense has been about average this season, Brown has proven he’s capable of taking the top-off of any secondary in the NFL.

Nick Chubb ($28)

Chubb looked like his typical self against the Lions after a one-game absence on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Chubb saw a season-high 24 total opportunities, and turned it into the seventh-best fantasy output of any running back in Week 11, earning 144 yards from scrimmage and finding the end zone. His two receptions also tied his season-high. Chubb has earned 308 total yards over his last two starts and scored more than 50 fantasy points during that span. As he does seemingly every season, Chubb ranks top-five in breakaway run rate and top-10 in yards created per touch. He’s simply one of the greatest pure runners we’ve ever seen, and the Ravens’ middle-of-the-road rush defense won’t be enough to completely shut him down, even if Kareem Hunt returns to his normal role this Sunday night.

Mark Andrews ($23)

Andrews ranks third at his position in slot snaps, second in targets and first in targets per route run, meaning he’s officially entered the elite tier of tight ends in terms of both opportunity and production. Andrews has seen at least eight targets in five of his last seven games, and he’s seen more than five targets in every single game he’s played since Week 2. Andrews is also highly-respected by defenders, as he’s given an average of 4.3 yards of cushion every play, by far the most of any tight end. Lamar Jackson has recognized defenders playing off of Andrews this season, as Andrews averages nearly two yards of separation from defenders each time he’s targeted. In simpler terms, Andrews is always open. He could easily have a multi-score game in this contest.

This article originally appeared in its full form on 4for4.com

A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position in middle school, Matt has been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, he loves to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone.

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