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TNF Preview Plus Injury Notes

Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

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We’re past the halfway mark of the season, and I’ve never felt this confused so deep into the year. Arizona’s JV squad beat the 49ers’ varsity team. Cincinnati has gone from the top of the AFC North to the bottom in two weeks. And don’t forget the Josh Allen on Josh Allen violence in Florida. We have less sense of who’s playoff-worthy this season, but we get treated to one player that surely deserves it. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens headline TNF as they head to Miami. I’ve put together some notes for the game, along with all of the news from Wednesday’s practices.

TNF Preview: Lamar Jackson – A Complete Quarterback

It’s been two years since Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown were able to head back home to South Florida and play ball together. In their first game together, they caused a ruckus in Miami.

So much has changed since then, but Jackson’s MVP-caliber play has been the source of the Ravens’ success this season. But the truly remarkable part is the evolution of his game. His 1,206 rushing yards and 9.0% touchdown rate headlined his 2019 MVP campaign as Baltimore leveraged his mobility to freeze defensive secondaries. However, Jackson and the Ravens have re-invented themselves this season while staying atop the AFC North standings.

The 2019 Ravens were bottom-5 in nearly every passing metric outside of deep-ball rate but were top-5 in offensive DVOA, EPA per play, and yards per drive. They’ve flipped the script this year, sit at 14th in pass rate over expectation, and are still top-12 in each metric. Jackson is top-10 in total passing yards, yards on passes of 20 air yards or more, and still pacing for his third straight season of 1,000-plus rushing yards. He’s commanded this offense all while they’ve dealt with 13 season-ending injuries on both sides of the ball. However, despite the losses, their offense matches up well with the Dolphins’ defense, especially with Sammy Watkins returning to the lineup.

Miami is 25th in defensive DVOA, and their secondary is 23rd in EPA per dropback allowed. They’ve allowed at least one passing touchdown to every quarterback except for Tyrod Taylor, who was just one week removed from a six-week stint on IR. Josh Allen is the only true mobile quarterback they’ve faced, and he’s averaged 45 yards against Miami’s front (along with a score in Week 8). But their pass defense is even more enticing for folks rostering Ravens’ pass-catchers.

Outside receivers have had a tough time with Byron Jones and Xavien Howard manning the perimeter. Mike Evans is the only receiver to post more than 70 yards against them (Week 5, 4-70-1). In turn, teams have turned to the slot.

Over half of the passing touchdowns scored against Miami have come from the interior (52.9%). Cole Beasley (Week 8, 8-96-0) and Kyle Pitts (Week 7, 6-96-0) were highly productive during their outings, setting up well for Watkins and Mark Andrews. However, the hope is that Miami’s offense can fight back enough to keep the Ravens’ offense on the field all four quarters. We don’t even know who the quarterback will be yet.

Miami is down bad, folks. DeVante Parker and Will Fuller are on IR, and Tua Tagovailoa might miss his fifth game. Expectations should be low because the team’s output predictably falls with Jacoby Brissett under center. Their yards per drive drops (32.3 to 26.4), and they convert fewer first downs (20.5 to 18.5) while maintaining their typical pace of play. It may look dire without Tagovailoa, but the Ravens have a couple of flaws on defense.

They’ve been susceptible to explosive plays as their secondary lacks the speed they’ve had in years past. Three of the last four enemy quarterbacks to face them have all connected on passes of 40 yards or more for touchdowns. Baltimore has also been friendly to opposing tight-ends. Five tight ends account for 42.9% of the total touchdowns scored against the Ravens. Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki might be Miami’s only hope for success tonight, but they’ve got a path to giving Miami a chance.

Points of Interest in TNF

For Baltimore, my interest lies in the pass-catching group. Specifically, how the targets shake out. It will be the first time their receiving corps will be at full strength, assuming Watkins plays. Targets earned, target depth, and types of routes run will give an insight into how the team envisions the offense moving forward. We may have gotten a glimpse over the last couple of games.

Yes, Jackson hits Brown for a touchdown but rewind the clip to the beginning. Let’s start with the formation. Notice they’re using a three-receiver set (20 personnel). Baltimore’s used three receivers on 49.5% of Jackson’s attempts over the last two weeks. The Ravens eclipsed that same rate in a single game just once over the season’s first month. With an upgrade in personnel, we can see an even more diverse passing attack from Baltimore.

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Watkins likely replaces Duvernay in the slot, and the veteran has had the higher aDOT from the interior (15.1 vs. 2.8). That same shot to Brown could have Watkins at the other end of it tonight. Or, Jackson could look to Bateman on the perimeter. Worst-case scenario, the check-down option to Freeman or Bell is available. And we haven’t even talked about Jackson’s rushing ability. Miami’s defense will have a tough time defending the Ravens, especially with a fully operational passing attack.

My main interest in Miami is their backfield. We know who the focal points are in the passing game regardless of the quarterback. I want to think Gaskin continues his takeover of the running back touches, but it’s been tough to trust.

It’s tough to expect much fantasy output even with the workload, though. But, to be fair, it’s not entirely Gaskin’s fault. Miami’s offensive line is ranked dead last in Football Outsider’s adjusted line yards. Plus, it’s not like Gaskin’s competition has done much better. Salvon Ahmed has a 28.2% success rate on his carries and has yet to earn more than three targets. The expectation is for Gaskin to maintain his role as the lead, but with just two wins on the season, Miami might try anything.

Injury Slants

Let’s start the week off with some good news.

Carson’s neck injury has kept him sidelined since Week 4. His return, along with Russell Wilson’s, comes at the perfect time. Seattle will face two divisional opponents over the next month as the Seahawks look to improve their playoff potential. Hopefully, neither has any setbacks as they enter the second half of their season. Kansas City also had some help returning to the field on Wednesday.

It’s been a month since we’ve seen Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the field. During that time, the Chiefs have looked less like the Chiefs of old. Plus, the backfield has gotten more confusing with the emergence of Derrick Gore. However, Patrick Mahomes has targeted his running backs (mostly Darrel Williams) 14 times in the last two weeks. They saw 13 targets the whole first month of the season. Edwards-Helaire may never live up to his draft cost (real or fantasy), but there will be a role for him in the Chiefs’ offense should he return in Week 10. T.Y. Hilton is trying to do the same in preparation for the weekend.

The veteran receiver has dealt with multiple injuries already this season but was back to practice yesterday. It’s a positive sign after Frank Reich quickly ruled Hilton out ahead of their Thursday night matchup in Week 9. Michael Pittman has performed well in Hilton’s absence, but the team could use a more reliable presence on the perimeter. We’ll see if Hilton will be needed as the Colts gear up to face the Jaguars, but it’s good to see him back nonetheless.

Now, let’s get to the bad news.

What was speculation is now a certainty: Sam Darnold will miss a significant amount of time. PJ Walker is the short-term solution, but the Panthers are exploring any and all options. It’s been an absolute rollercoaster as Darnold appeared to have shed the Gase from his system only to regress, get injured, and have the team looking at other options. Walker’s a wildcard under center, which puts players like D.J. Moore at risk. However, it can’t get much worse than the last few weeks.

Chris Godwin popped up on the report with a foot injury putting his Week 10 availability in doubt. Meanwhile, Antonio Brown continues to recover from his ankle injury, and Rob Gronkowski isn’t expected to play. Mike Evans becomes the focal point of passing offense along with Tyler Johnson and comeback-kid Breshad Perriman. The Buccaneers may be short-handed this week but should have enough to take on Washington coming out of their bye. I can’t say the same for Arizona.

It was just a walkthrough, but the list of DNPs is concerning. Kyler Murray’s, DeAndre Hopkins’, and Chase Edmonds’ absences aren’t much of a surprise as they were either out on Sunday or injured during the game. Rondale Moore being in the concussion protocol is a shocker. He played a season-high 81% of the team snaps, and there isn’t an in-game report that suggests he was sent to the medical tent. It leaves Christian Kirk as the lone healthy wideout for Arizona as we’ll need to monitor practice reports ahead of Sunday. New England has a similar problem.

Head injuries cut the day short for both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson on Sunday. Any practice involvement would be a positive sign, but fantasy managers should be stashing either Brandon Bolden or J.J. Taylor as New England prepares to host the Browns. Cleveland has their own issues at running back this week, too.

Nick Chubb and Demetric Felton tested positive for COVID-19 leaving D’Ernest Johnson as the next man up. Chubb and Felton are fully vaccinated, so two positive tests would restore them to the active roster in time to play on Sunday. Jarvis Landry also missed practice but was likely given a rest day and seen on the side field. His status isn’t in doubt for Week 10, but worth keeping an eye on over the next couple of days. All eyes will be on the Saints’ practice reports, too.

In-game reports noted Alvin Kamara going to the medical tent during the Saints matchup against Atlanta. Kamara rejoined the team, finished the game but missed practice on Wednesday. Mark Ingram is already up to 11 touches per game since his return to New Orleans in Week 8, and Taysom Hill may start in Week 10. All point to a downtick in usage for Kamara, but we at least want him back on the practice field before the weekend. Pittsburgh wants the same for their playmakers.

Ben Roethlisberger has typically started the week with a limited practice, so a DNP is a concern. However, he did speak to the local media, instilling some confidence in his availability for Sunday. Claypool’s absence is another matter. His MRI didn’t indicate a season-ending injury, but he is considered “week-to-week” as the team assesses his health. Denver at least has a player returning to go with their lengthy injury report.

The Broncos activated Noah Fant off of the reserve/COVID-19 list, and he returned to practice on Wednesday. The timing couldn’t be better as Albert Okwuegbunam and Tim Patrick were DNP’s. Patrick was seen on the side field while Okwuegbunam is dealing with a knee injury sustained on Sunday. Friday’s report should give us a better idea as to how both are faring. Finally, let’s look at Jacksonville’s personnel.

After suffering a heel injury in Week 8, James Robinson missed last week’s game leaving Carlos Hyde as the primary rusher. Robinson similarly opens Week 10 with a DNP leaving his status for the weekend in doubt. Urban Meyer indicated Robinson “could probably do more,” so we may see him back out on the field before the weekend.