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Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown: Week 4 Arizona Cardinals vs Carolina Panthers

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Week 4 Yahoo daily fantasy NFL rostership picks and pivots for Week 4 lineups with free projections for Josh Allen, Alvin Kamara & D.J. Moore

The Cardinals were dealt their first loss of the season on a last-second field goal, while the Panthers eked out their first win in week 3. Will the Cardinals turn things around and get back in the win column, or will Carolina steal one from Arizona? For the 2020 NFL season, Matt Savoca will be providing his weekly NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown column, going through every single game and offensive and defensive matchup, every week of the season. For your viewing convenience, we have broken up the matchups breakdown into several single columns, each one covering a single game. You can find links to every game right here. We have 12 games on tap for Week 4 NFL DFS and NFL Fantasy Football, so let’s dive in. The entire matchups article will be available in podcast form, every Friday afternoon on the Awesemo Podcast Network. Let’s get into Titans – Vikings for your NFL DFS lineups.

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Arizona Cardinals (27.75) at Carolina Panthers (23.75) – 1 p.m. EST

Cardinals Passing Game

The Cardinals defense couldn’t keep Matthew Stafford from completing a game-winning drive twice, falling for the first time this season. It capped a Week 3 performance that was by far the most mediocre of the young season for the upstart Cardinals. The Lions baited Kyler Murray into two costly interceptions and nabbed a third on a dazzling diving catch by Detroit rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah. It wasn’t all bad for Murray and the Cards, as Murray added another score with his legs to go along with his two touchdowns through the air. It was another 20-fantasy-point day for the second-year signal-caller. But even when including his position-best avoided tackle rate as a rusher, Murray re-enters the middle of the pack in quarterback composite efficiency (highlighted in the Awesemo data deep dive). Murray’s inability to complete touchdown drives is becoming a bit of a problem, as he now ranks 15th in true drive success rate but ninth in expected points added per play. In short, he plays like a top-10 quarterback until he needs to score and then, on average, stalls compared to expectation.

This week will be different, as the Panthers have struggled to stop anyone at all (with the exception of Justin Herbert last Sunday), ranking 22nd in expected points allowed per drive, 22nd in yards per play allowed and 24th in net expected points subtracted (EPA allowed). This should be an exploitable matchup for not just Murray but also for his favorite target DeAndre Hopkins, who enters Week 4 second in the league in targets. He hasn’t had fewer than nine in a game thus far. Hopkins is still getting one deep target per game, but he’s been used closer to the line of scrimmage to begin his Cardinals tenure. Hopkins’ average depth of target is down from 10.2 (and 11.6 in 2018) to 6.4. He’s had wide receiver screen plays designed for him on multiple occasions each game, almost being used as an extension of the running game, and that has a great chance of success this week against Carolina. Arizona is the only team with a top-six net pass advantage (according to PFF grades) and a top-six net run advantage in Week 4. Despite being priced up according to matchup (Murray is the sixth-highest priced quarterback, Hopkins the highest priced receiver), they are both centerpiece options to consider in cash game lineups this weekend.

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Andy Isabella commanded just four targets but caught two for touchdowns in Week 3. He significantly less weighted opportunity than KeeSean Johnson, who had an ADOT of 16 on seven targets. His 112 air yards topped Hopkins’ 103. With Christian Kirk trending towards playing this weekend, it will be interesting to see if Johnson, who was just called up from the practice squad last week, was successful enough with his reps to earn a consistent roster spot. Larry Fitzgerald has 10 catches since Week 2, although he had a relatively quiet day versus Detroit, drawing only three targets. Even without significant production, Fitzgerald has vastly outperformed (via PFF grades) his presumptive slot cornerback matchup, Jeremy Chinn. Fitzgerald could be an interesting pivot play in tournaments. His projection on Awesemo.com slides him ahead of WR58, where he’s priced this weekend on DraftKings.

Arizona Running Game

The Cardinals backfield opportunities in Weeks 1-3: Kenyan Drake 59, Chase Edmonds 23, Murray 16. Drake has yet to have a game with fewer than 18 opportunities, but getting well past 20 seems like a relative longshot. His high of 22 came in the face of a very positive game script against Washington. Edmonds has also out-targeted Drake 11-to-5 over the course of the first three weeks. Drake and Edmonds are tied in touchdowns scored (with one) as well. Both backs have their ceiling lowered due to Murray’s rushing upside (similar to the Baltimore backfield), but in a plus matchup, Drake should be considered a rock-solid running back with guaranteed volume priced outside the top 12 running backs. Edmonds is also a great flyer as the 47th-highest-priced running back on the main slate.


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Panthers Passing Game

The Panthers may have survived a ferocious fourth quarter comeback from the Chargers to secure their first win of the young season, but veteran Teddy Bridgewater, in his first year helming Joe Brady’s quick tempo offense, is not putting it all together just yet. He ranks 24th in true drive success rate and 16th in expected points added per play, good for 20th in composite efficiency ratings. In the positive game script of Week 3, Bridgewater’s attempts shrunk precipitously from an average of 43.5 passes per game in Week 1 and 2 all the way down to 31. This week against the Cardinals, Bridgewater will likely be forced back to the air, as PFF grades Carolina as having a bottom-five net rushing advantage on the weekend. The Panthers have already shown that they’ll let Bridgewater attempt to throw his way back into games, exhibited by his 367-yard, 47-attempt day that included three turnovers against Tampa Bay in a losing effort Week 2.

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Bridgewater needs to find a way to improve his connection with D.J. Moore, who commanded 57% of Carolina’s air yards in Week 3 (second to Calvin Ridley), but caught just three balls for 65 yards. That marks two games out of three where Moore has caught fewer than five passes, which is astonishing for a player who ranks third in the entire NFL in true weighted opportunity rating. The Bridgewater-Moore partnership is currently operating well below expectation, but the underlying metrics remain encouraging. A breakout is coming, and it very well may happen against a Cardinals team that allowed Stafford to throw for 8.7 yards per attempt and two touchdowns in a winning effort Week 3. When matched up against Dre Kirkpatrick and not Patrick Peterson, Moore should have a massive advantage. PFF ranks that one one battle as one of the five most receiver-advantageous matchups of the weekend.

Robby Anderson, on the other hand, continues to outperform preseason expectation, commanding 22% target share and 17% air yard share and ranking second on the squad in receiver air conversion ratio (RACR). He now ranks in the top 20 receivers in true weighted opportunity share. He’ll be a very interesting option this weekend, priced as the 27th-highest wide receiver on DraftKings. This seems right in line with his median projection, but Anderson’s range of outcomes includes a significant ceiling, already exhibited in two games this season.

 

Curtis Samuel is an afterthought in this offense; running back Mike Davis is the third option in the passing game. Samuel ranks a putrid 85th among receivers in true weighted opportunity share and should be off most fantasy gamers radars in most situations. In this possible shootout, he can serve as desperation dart throw but isn’t all that cheap at WR39.

Carolina Rushing Game

Davis has commanded significantly more of the target share than Samuel since Christian McCaffrey went down in Week 2. Davis is now up to second among all running backs in true target share and ninth in quality opportunities (targets or rushes within 10 yards of the goal line). While it looks like it may be tough sledding for Davis from a rushing efficiency perspective in Week 4, his receiving floor (similar to McCaffrey) makes him fundamentally mispriced as the 17th-highest priced on the slate. He is unquestionably a top-10 running back option, representing clear value that many fantasy gamers are sure to take advantage of this weekend.

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Prediction: Cardinals 30, Panthers 27.

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A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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