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Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown: New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts | Week 3

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The Jets have been grounded by their first two opponents. Now the streaky Colts, fresh off a victory against the Vikings, play host to struggling New York. Can the Jets avoid an 0-3 start? 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 13 games on tap for Week 3 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 Jets-Colts.

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New York Jets (16.75) at Indianapolis Colts (26.75)– Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Jets Passing Game

Simply put, there’s not much to like in the Jets’ passing game for fantasy football. Already decimated by injuries at the skill positions with lingering injuries to Jamison Crowder, who is trending towards missing another week, and Breshad Perriman, who looks like he’ll be able to suit up Sunday, the New York offense heads into Indianapolis as massive road underdogs. To make matters worse, they are graded by PFF to have the third-worst net passing advantage of any team in Week 3 and fourth-worst net pass blocking advantage. At least on paper, it appears the Colts have the edge in both their front seven and in their secondary despite a slew of injuries of their own to deal with, the most substantial being the replacement of safety Malik Hooker, who was lost for the year in Week 2.

The fear surrounding the Jets offense starts with the up-and-down play of Sam Darnold, who leads a conservative offense (18th in the NFL in passes per game) that has spent more time in negative game scripts than any other squad over the first two weeks. Darnold’s throwing for a putrid 5.5 adjusted yards per attempt and only a 40% completion rate inside the red zone, both 28th at the position.  He’s also been erratic when facing pressure as his 27% pressured completion percentage ranks 27th. He can’t find the touch on his deep ball, ranking 26th in completion rate on passes of 20 or more air yards. This has led to back-to-back finishes outside of the top 25 in at the position. With only three rushing attempts to his name, including zero in the red zone, Darnold’s rushing upside is essentially non-existent in this offense, capping an already abysmally low ceiling. It’s not impossible for Darnold to produce a top-15 score this week, but it remains very difficult to see a scenario where Darnold dominates at a level fantasy gamers need, even with 25 signal-callers priced higher on the main slate.

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Braxton Berrios is a name to know after commanding the most air yards in Week 2 for the Jets. The 5-foot-9, 184-pound sixth-rounder, who profiles mainly as a slot receiver, ran 29 routes and had only 59 yards receiving to go with a second half touchdown, but it was the only bright spot in what was an extremely tough matchup against the NFC champion 49ers. Berrios, in his limited playing time, is up 11th among wideouts in yards per route run and should get more playing time, particularly if Crowder, who dominated the receiving game in Week 1, continues to nurse his hamstring injury.

Chris Herndon, a late-round tight end pick of many fantasy analysts during draft season this summer, simply doesn’t get the playing time needed to be viable for fantasy football. At only a 64% snap share in a low-volume offense, he can’t be trusted in lineups. Relatively unknown tight ends such as the Packers’ Robert Tonyan, the Titans’ MyCole Pruitt and Patriots’ Ryan Izzo are all running more routes per game than the aforementioned Herndon. Even so, Herndon’s 16% true weighted opportunity share ranks 11th among tight ends. Considering the low-volume nature of the offense, he’ll need to be quite efficient with that opportunity to reach the 15-point score he needs to be a value pick this Sunday.

Chris Hogan (18% of true weighted opportunity share), Josh Malone, who was put on the active roster last Sunday, (15%) and the aforementioned Perriman (11%) round out the receiving game. Awesemo’s projections suggest that Hogan isn’t the worst dart throw relative to his $5,000 price tag on DraftKings, but they’re all tough options to trust this Sunday.

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Jets Running Game

Frank Gore continues to receive the bulk of the backfield work with Le’Veon Bell still on injured reserve, and unsurprisingly, the results of have been quite poor. Gore is PFF’s 103rd-ranked rusher this season among all players. Darnold (88) has a better rushing grade than Gore. His longest run is 13 yards, and he finished Week 2 at exactly 3.0 yards per carry on 21 attempts. And yet, at 5,400 on DraftKings, he has the touch count to be considered in lineups this Sunday. You might need a shower after starting him, but Awesemo projections consider Gore a decent value relative at his salary this Sunday.

Rookie La’Mical Perine operated as the change-of-pace back Sunday in his first action of the young season. He had just three carries and played on just 13% of snaps. Perine is an intriguing prospect who possesses upper percentile athleticism (63 percentile Sparq-X score) and presents more upside at this stage of his career than Gore, but only time will tell if he ever gets a workload that makes him fantasy football viable. Josh Adams has played on 15% of snaps and is actually the Jets’ highest-ranked rusher by PFF at 47th. Kalen Ballage, the former Dolphin, will eventually fold more into the mix. He played 12% of snaps after being signed off the street and received three opportunities. All three players should be off fantasy radars for Week 3.


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Colts Passing Game

Philip Rivers wasn’t asked to do much of anything Sunday against the Vikings, as the Colts were able to lean on the rushing game to grind out a victory. He threw just 26 times, compared to 46 in the Colts’ Week 1 loss to Jacksonville, and finished the day with just 214 yards passing, one touchdown and an interception, rankings 28th among quarterbacks. The Colts will very likely aim to take the same approach this Sunday when the Jets come to town as they did last week, which doesn’t inspire confidence in Rivers as an option for fantasy football in Week 3. While Rivers remains an accurate passer (his 78% clean pocket completion percentage ranks 13th), his air yards per attempt is 22nd in the league, as Rivers is content to dink and dunk his way to victory.

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Still, there remains the possibility that the Jets will sell out to stop Jonathan Taylor and the running game, forcing Rivers to beat them through the air. Though the Colts appear to have the edge in both team rushing grades and team passing grades against the Jets’ defense, Indianapolis’ rushing advantage isn’t quite as significant as the advantage in the passing game, so this plan may actually backfire on New York. More importantly for Rivers and the Colts would be how Rivers distributes his passes.

T.Y. Hilton has underwhelmed significantly in these first two weeks. His seven targets per game ranks a healthy 26th, and his air yards share of 39% is top 10 at the position, but his 50% catch rate (on 80% catchable passes) ranks 87th. Hilton is struggling to separate from defenders this season, ranking 58th in yards of separation at target. It could be a sign that he’s less than 100% healthy. Still, an average target distance hovering around 14 yards is strong on a per-target basis, and if one were to project another seven targets, roughly 100 air yards of opportunity in a plus matchup against the Jets should not be something to shy away from. Hilton’s projection vastly outpaces his DraftKings salary-based expectation.

With the likely season-ending loss to Parris Campbell (21% of true weighted opportunity share), Mo Alie-Cox (12%), Michael Pittman Jr. (10%) and Zach Pascal (9%) stand to gain the most from Campbell’s extended absence. Both Alie-Cox and Pittman present intriguing upside as low-priced options on the slate, but after Cox’s breakout performance in Week 2 (he’s currently the top tight end in yards per route run), we should expect significantly increased ownership at his $5,000 salary on DraftKings. From a contrarian perspective, Pittman presents as the slightly better play, and that’s reflected in the Awesemo projections. Pittman is ranked well ahead of his WR60 salary.

Colts Running Game

Taylor is the undisputed lead back for the Colts after his 101 yards on 26 attempts helped mow down the Vikings defense last week. While it would be fun to bore the reader with an endless amount of incredible college metrics for Taylor, or several intriguing stats related to his heavy workload in Week 2, there’s a simpler explanation — Taylor is fundamentally mispriced as the 15th-most expensive running back option at the position, as he will consistently be projected as a top eight running back. Needless to say, Awesemo.com’s projections absolutely love Taylor relative to salary despite the eighth-highest projected ownership at the position.

What’s to be made of the bizarre fluctuations in Nyheim Hines usage? After being featured heavily against the Jaguars in Week 1, including his traditional receiving game work and several red zone touches, Hines was relegated back to a gadget role against the Vikings in Week 2, hinting at a possible up-and-down season for the third-year player. While projecting Hines’ usage remains difficult enough, he’ll be worth consideration as the 40th-highest-priced running back on the slate, particularly in tournaments.

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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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