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Matchup: Broncos @ Cardinals

by Evan Silva
Updated On: October 16, 2018, 9:01 am ET

Thursday Night Football

Denver @ Arizona
Team Totals: Broncos 21.5, Cardinals 19.5

Broncos-Cardinals projects as a fantasy-unfriendly affair with Week 7’s lowest game total (41) pitting against each other teams that rank 26th (DEN) and 31st (ARZ) in scoring. Thursday night’s top volume- and matchup-based play is David Johnson versus a Denver defense that got ethered for a 89/677/4 (7.61 YPC) rushing line by running backs in the last three weeks. On Monday, GM John Elway publicly deemed the Broncos’ defense “soft.” Although Johnson’s passing-game involvement remains discouraging – he is averaging just 4.5 targets per game after drawing 7.5 per game during his 2016 breakout year -- Johnson has 20-plus touches in 3-of-3 Josh Rosen starts and has topped 90% playing-time clips in three straight games. At home facing a broken run defense with a voluminous workload projection, this is perhaps the most-favorable spot Johnson will draw for the rest of 2018. … Although Rosen has sporadically flashed promise through three NFL starts, his fantasy results are QB23 – QB27 – QB25. Rosen is a low-end two-QB-league option regardless of opponent. Rosen hasn’t cracked 250 passing yards in a game this year.

Rosen’s 2018 target distribution: Christian Kirk 19; Larry Fitzgerald 18; Ricky Seals-Jones 16; Chad Williams 13; Johnson 12. … The optimal place to attack Denver’s defense is at boundary corner, where RCB Bradley Roby has allowed the NFL’s fourth-most yards (358), and neither Tramaine Brock (groin) nor Adam Jones (hamstring) can stay healthy. Robby Anderson (3/123/2), Amari Cooper (10/116/0), Robert Woods (7/109/0), John Brown (5/86/0), Michael Crabtree (7/61/0), Tyreek Hill (9/54/0), and Brandon Marshall (3/46/1) have succeeded on the outside against Denver, where Rosen-target-leader Kirk runs 59% of his routes. … Dealing with a lingering hamstring injury, Fitzgerald is scoreless on the year and has not reached 40 yards since Week 1. As an 80% slot receiver, Fitz draws Arizona’s toughest pass-catcher matchup against Broncos shutdown slot CB Chris Harris. … Shadowed by Vikings top CB Xavier Rhodes last week, Williams was held below 25 yards for the sixth straight game. As an 89% perimeter wideout, this will be the softest matchup Williams faces all season. Unfortunately, Williams has drawn four targets or fewer in 5-of-6 games and is only an option on single-game DFS slates. … Seals-Jones quietly offers the highest ceiling in Arizona’s pass-catcher corps, also checking in as Week 7’s No. 2 buy-low tight end in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model. The Broncos have allowed the NFL’s sixth-most yards to tight ends (422).

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The Denver crowd’s chanting outcry when “Swag” Chad Kelly replaced Case Keenum for last week’s first-half kneeldown was a concerning sign for Keenum’s job security, which hangs in the balance after four straight losses. Even against a lowly 1-5 Cardinals team, this is a tough draw for Keenum with first-round disappointment LT Garret Bolles hemorrhaging blind-side disruption, LG Ronald Leary (Achilles) done for the year, and RT Jared Veldheer (knee) unable to get healthy. Arizona’s strength is pass rush, where RE Chandler Jones should eat Bolles’ lunch. Steve Wilks’ defense ranks top five in sacks (18) and No. 9 in QB hit rate (17.0%). … Although Phillip Lindsay continued to pace Denver’s Week 6 backfield in touches (10), the undrafted rookie played just 30% of the team’s offensive snaps. Royce Freeman led Broncos running backs in playing time (38%), remaining a touchdown-or-bust commodity who has gone scoreless in consecutive games with single-digit touches in four of the last five weeks. Albeit while handling only four or so touches per game, Devontae Booker has maintained a significant usage drain by siphoning nearly a third of the backfield snaps each week. The good news is Arizona poses fantasy football’s top running back matchup, having allowed league highs in touchdowns (10) and touches per game (36.0) to the position. The bad news is Denver’s running back distribution is split three ways, run blocking is an increasing concern, and the Broncos may struggle to capitalize on this matchup with their struggling offense as a unit in a difficult spot. Lindsay and Freeman have regressed into low-floor flex options.

Keenum’s Weeks 1-6 target distribution: Emmanuel Sanders 54; Demaryius Thomas 43; Courtland Sutton 30; Jeff Heuerman 25; Booker 20; Phillip Lindsay 19; Matt LaCosse 8; Freeman 6. … Arizona’s slot coverage has been carved up by Adam Thielen (11/123/1) and Trent Taylor (7/61/1) in consecutive weeks, boding well for Sanders, who runs 63% of his routes inside. After drawing zero red-zone targets in Weeks 1-4, Sanders has drawn five in the past two games, including three inside the ten. Sanders nearly scored two TDs last week, but his would-be first was overturned when replay showed Sanders was down at the one. He is an exciting WR2 play in this matchup. … Whereas Thielen went off in Week 6, Stefon Diggs (3/33/0 was kept silent by Patrick Peterson’s shadow coverage. Thomas figures to get similar treatment on Thursday night, raising his risk as a WR3 play. Dating back to last year, Demaryius has topped 70 yards in just two of his last 17 games. He typically needs touchdowns to pay fantasy dividends. Thomas has scored eight TDs during that 17-game stretch. … Sutton led the Broncos in Air Yards in September, but his role has been scaled back since. He logged season lows in snaps (53%) and routes run (30) in last week’s loss to the Rams and cost Lindsay a potential fourth-quarter screen-pass score with a downfield blocking penalty. Held below 60 yards in all six games, Sutton’s fantasy appeal is limited to single-game DFS slates. … Heuerman managed 23 scoreless yards on six Week 6 targets as Keenum repeatedly overthrew him. Heuerman did play 88% of Denver’s offensive snaps and ran a season-high 36 routes. On the season, Heuerman leads the Broncos in red-zone targets (8) and targets inside the ten (5). He was targeted twice inside the ten last week.

Score Prediction: Cardinals 24, Broncos 20

Evan Silva
Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .