Saturday NFL Divisional Round Picks
Smith-Schuster was on his way to a massive game against the Jaguars when these teams met in Week 10, racking up 33 yards on 16 routes before being forced from the game due to a concussion midway through the second quarter.
Despite being up-and-down since from a production standpoint, I think this sets up as another big game for Smith-Schuster.
Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell dials up zone coverage at a top-six rate, and Smith-Schuster’s 2.24 yards per route versus zone ranked 13th among 101 qualified wide receivers during the regular season. And if Caldwell decides he wants to switch things up by going with more man coverage, Smith-Schuster will most often line up against Jags nickel corner Tre Herndon, who has allowed a 119.5 passer rating when targeted in coverage this season.
The Jags are 30th in both pass defense DVOA overall and DVOA on passes to the short middle, which is where Smith-Schuster does the majority of his work. Based on how the Chiefs closed the season, Caldwell will have to prioritize not only Travis Kelce over Smith-Schuster, but also Jerick McKinnon and Kadarius Toney, which should open things up for Kansas City’s No. 1 wide receiver.
Excluding the aforementioned game against the Jags when he left early and his first game back where he saw a reduced workload, Smith-Schuster is averaging 61.6 receiving yards per game.
The key as it pertains to this prop, though, is that he was never close to his average – it was either a JuJu game or it wasn’t. He posted at least 74 receiving yards in seven games and 46 or fewer in the other seven.
This line has been rising steadily since opening with a recency bias discount at 50.5, but I have it projected at 62 and wouldn’t hesitate to bet it up to that for a player who is yet to see his receiving yardage land in the 50s or 60s this season.
Shoutout to my Action Network Podcast co-host, Stuckeyfor unearthing this one as one of his Sunday Six Pack plays for this week, because I probably would have tried to snipe him for it if we had a do-over.
Etienne was in on 85% of Jacksonville’s pass snaps in his playoff debut while JaMycal Hasty was relegated to a bit role.
Though the uptick in usage didn’t translate into much production for Etienne against a Chargers defense that allowed the sixth-fewest schedule-adjusted receiving yards per game to running backs (24.8), that should be an entirely different story against a Chiefs defense surrendering the third-most (46.9).
Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo deploys two-high safety coverages at the highest rate in the league, which invites offense to check the ball down to underneath targets. In fact, the Chiefs have allowed 20 or more receiving yards to a whopping 19 running backs this season.
Even with last week’s down performance as a receiver, Etienne has still posted 24 or more receiving yards in three of his past five games. Among the 47 running backs with at least 25 targets this season, Etienne ranks fifth in yards per reception at 9.1, giving him a shot at clearing this prop on one catch.
I have him projected for 25 receiving yards on Saturday afternoon.
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This is no Ray Ray McCloud III under 0.5 receiving yards, but a goose egg isn’t out of the question for Watkins.
The key to this under is the presence of Dallas Goedert; Watkins had nearly as many targets in five games without Goedert (24) as he did across 12 games with Goedert (25).
Without Goedert in the lineup from Weeks 11-15, Watkins averaged 3.6 reception for 25.6 receiving yards on 4.8 targets. He was targeted on a respectable 19.2% of his routes and produced receiving yardage totals of 31, 35, 37, 19 and 6.
With Goedert in the lineup, Watkins goes into Do Not Disturb mode, drawing a target on just 9.0% of his routes and producing a measly 1.3 receptions per game on 2.1 targets. His average of 17.7 receiving yards in those spots overstates his productiveness. He posted a median of just seven receiving yards, finishing with 14 yards or fewer in 7-of-12 games and 19 yards or fewer in 9-of-12 games.
Watkins produced 14 yards on four targets with Goedert back in the lineup in Week 18, but the kicker is that he wasn’t even productive against the Giants with Goedert sidelined in Week 14, finishing with 19 yards on five targets.
The Giants have limited tertiary receiving options all season, ranking sixth in DVOA against non-Nos. 1 and 2 wide receivers. That doesn’t figure to change, as the healthier version of the defense forces quarterbacks to get the ball out quicker, but still presents plenty of opportunities for the quarterback to get the ball to his top two or three options.
Look no further than last week against the Vikings. Despite Justin Jefferson having a quiet day, no. 3 wideout KJ Osborn finished with just three targets and fell 18.5 yards short of his yardage prop because Kirk Cousins hit higher-priority guys like TJ Hockenson and Adam Thielen almost at will. Over the past five games, just 5-of-18 WRs have hit the over against the Giants.
It’s also worth pointing out that Watkins runs lower percentage routes with Goedert in the lineup, with his aDOT jumping from 7.8 to 11.4. This gives Watkins a higher ceiling (good for DFS) but a lower floor and median (good for betting the under on his yardage prop). I have Watkins’ median projected at 15 yards.
Hurts was reportedly instructed to avoid unnecessary contact in Week 18, and it seems to have created some uncertainty in the market in regard to his rushing volume heading into this game.
Though he still finished with nine rushing attempts, four of those were kneel-downs (which still count) and only one was a designed run. To put that into perspective, Hurts came into that game averaging 7.4 designed runs per game that aren’t kneel-downs.
A month removed from his shoulder injury and a trip to the NFC Championship Game on the line, Hurts should be expected to operate with no restrictions.
While Hurts finished the regular seasons second in kneel-downs with 20 and needed four of them to get over this line in Week 18, he is a strong bet to clear this number without the aid them.
Even with his one designed run in Week 18 factored in, Hurts averages 6.9 designed rushes to go along with 2.9 scrambles per game. That adds up to 9.8 non-kneel-down carries, which put the odds squarely in Hurts’ favor to post at least nine rushing attempts for the 12th time in 16 games.
One of the four games Hurts failed to clear this prop was against the Giants in Week 14, when he finished with seven carries, but I’m viewing that more as bad luck. The Giants were missing key defenders and allowed two long touchdown passes early, which robbed the Eagles of additional play volume on each drive. Philly averaged only 4.2 plays per drive over its final 10 drives.
The Giants have since gotten healthy on defense and shifted to a more conservative, zone-heavy scheme, so we shouldn’t see as many explosive plays. The Eagles also took their foot off the gas late in that Week 14 contest, with Hurts being pulled for the final two drives and missing out on a kneel-down that instead went to Gardner Minshew.
Speaking of which, even though I don’t think Hurts will need them to go over, kneel-downs could very well be in order with the Eagles listed as 7.5-point favorites. I’d lean Giants as far as the side goes, but the Eagles’ win probability still dictates that Hurts is a good bet for 1-3 kneel-downs.
Factoring all of that in, I’m projecting 10.9 carries for Hurts, so I show value not just at 8.5, but also at 9.5.
Barkley ran a route on 95% of Daniel Jones’ dropbacks last week and should be heavily involved once again due to the Eagles’ stingy coverage on perimeter receivers.
With Darius Slay and James Bradberry playing at a high level on the outside, the Eagles are second in DVOA versus No. 1 wide receivers and fourth in DVOA versus No. 2 receivers. Their defensive philosophy is predicated on sitting back in coverage and limiting explosive plays, so it’s not surprising their metrics aren’t nearly as good when it comes to defending running backs in the passing game, an area in which they rank 24th in DVOA, their lowest ranking of any position.
Barkley was pulled early due to a stinger when these teams met in Week 14, but the fact that he posted 20 receiving yards on just seven routes in that contest bodes well for him.
He has since seen an uptick in passing-game usage, which has led to him clearing 33 yards in three of his past four games, including a season-high 56 last week in Minnesota.
I’m projecting Barkley at 30 yards, so I’m not showing much value on this compared to earlier in the week when it opened at 22.5 (give me a follow in the action app if you’re looking to get max closing-line value on these).
With that being said, as long as Barkley is playing 90% or more of the snaps, he has shown the ability to leave this number in the dust. The fifth-year runner has cracked a 90% snap rate in a game only four times this season, and he posted 45 or more receiving yards in three of those four contests.