Last week I mentioned how I expected more from the TNF Bucs-Panthers matchup than we saw in Week 1 between the Bears and Packers. Technically we saw more, but it was still a snoozefest. The Panthers were seven-point favorites with a high total and only scored 14 points while Cam Newton continued to struggle. He’s now dealing with the same injury he did in the preseason and will be sidelined for a handful of weeks. Just out of pure randomness you’d think this week’s Thursday night game should be better, but I’m not sure it will be. Before we dive into the matchup between the Jaguars and Titans be sure to check out Ian Hartitz' Week 3 WR/CB Matchups column.
Thursday Night Football
This week’s Thursday Night matchup is between the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Titans are small road favorites, with the spread ranging anywhere from a pick-em to two-points. They opened as 2.5-point favorites but sportsbooks have since moved that down. The total has also moved down since opening at 41 and now hovering around 39. There rightfully seems to be little confidence that either team scores much in this one. The Titans scored 44 in the opener against the Browns but just 17 against the Colts last week. The Jaguars scored 26 in their opener against the Chiefs but mustered just 12 last week against the Texans.
The Titans’ passing offense is pretty much a mess with Marcus Mariota continuing to be slightly below average. He wasn’t very accurate in Week 1 (58 percent completion rate), and in Week 2 averaged only 5.5 yards per attempt. Delanie Walker leads the team with 12 targets which he has converted to a 9-94-2 stat line through two games. He is the best bet among all of their pass-catchers for fantasy purposes. Beyond him, A.J. Brown and Corey Davis have seen nine and eight targets through two games. Brown has looked like the better of the two with a 6-125-0 line while Davis has just 3-38-0. Derrick Henry has as many receptions as Davis so far. Speaking of Henry, the Jaguars have allowed the eighth-most rushing yards to opposing running backs with 228 yards on 49 carries (4.65 yards per carry). This is a solid draw for him as he’s rushed for 82 and 84 yards on 15 and 19 carries through two games. Expect a heavy dose of Henry against the seemingly susceptible Jaguars run defense.
The Jaguars Offense has mostly been pioneered by Washington State alum, Gardner Minshew. He’s been extremely accurate so far, completing 88 percent of his passes against the Chiefs in Week 1 and 69.7 percent in Week 2 against the Texans. Unsurprisingly, the Jaguars have been pass-heavy with OC John DeFilippo in town. They have passed 60 percent of the time in one-score games and 66 percent overall. Minshew will continue to see heavy passing volume, something he’s used to coming from the Mike Leach air raid offense at Washington State. This isn’t something that should be taken lightly as Minshew attempted 662 attempts in just 13 games (50 attempts per game) and completed 70.7 percent of them. Through two weeks Minshew has spread out his targets fairly evenly among his pass-catchers with DJ Chark. Dede Westbrook, and Leonard Fournette all at 11, while Chris Conley has 10. It’s tough to rely on any one pass-catcher in particular but for a dart-throw you could certainly do worse considering the expected volume from Minshew. Fournette’s increased pass-game usage has been a good sign, but the lack of overall offensive efficiency has really hurt his fantasy potential with just 113 rushing yards and no touchdowns through two games. The offensive line also gets LT Cam Robinson back from a knee injury and moves backup Will Richardson to the bench. Fournette also has a plus matchup in this one against a Titans Defense that’s allowed 234 rushing yards and one touchdown on 46 attempts (5.08 yards per carry) so far. It’s tough to love Fournette given his previous output, but the usage is there and so is the matchup. When it comes down to it, I like the Jaguars to pull off the upset (according to the spread) at home.
Prediction: 20-17 Jaguars
David Njoku to miss multiple weeks
Njoku suffered a concussion during Monday Night Football in their game against the Jets and was unable to return. He remains in concussion protocol but also reportedly suffered a wrist injury on the same play where he was upended. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports David Njoku (concussion, wrist) is seeking a second opinion on his injured wrist and it was later reported to be broken. He’ll miss at least a month and maybe longer depending on the severity of the break. With Njoku sidelined, TE Demetrius Harris is expected to step in and play a significant role. He’s a solid waiver addition for any fantasy teams in need of a tight end.
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Matt LaFleur wants to “even up” the touches between Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams
Just when Aaron Jones fantasy owners thought he was set up for a significant workload, LaFleur says not so fast. Through two games, Jones has 41 touches (36 carries, five receptions) to Williams’ 19 (14 carries, five receptions). On the surface this statement seems like a real head-scratcher and after digging into their efficiency through the first two weeks, I have no explanation. As a rusher Jones is averaging 4.3 yards per carry with a 53 percent success rate. Williams is averaging 2.0 yards per carry with a horrid 29 percent success rate. Williams’ success rate is so bad it ranks 49th among 53 running backs with 10 or more carries this season. When comparing them as pass-catchers, Jones is also better. He averaged 0.2 more yards per touch with a seven percent higher success rate. The only reasonable explanation for LaFleur’s desire to “even up” the touches between the two would be to keep Jones healthy and even that’s a weak excuse when trying to win games and maximize offensive efficiency.
Coach Sean Payton refused to name Teddy Bridgewater as the Saints' Week 3 starter against the Seahawks. Payton is likely playing coy as he said a reporter was “assuming” Taysom Hill is the team’s No. 2 option. Bridgewater’s leash likely isn’t very long but he’ll probably start this week against the Seahawks. … NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reports Cam Newton is in a walking boot and is "trending" towards not playing Week 3. Not too much of a surprise here as Cam has been expected to miss some time based on the latest reports. Kyle Allen will draw the start against Arizona this weekend. … Sterling Shepard (concussion) remains in the league's concussion protocol. He was at practice in a no-contact jersey which means he is advancing through the protocol but not fully cleared. He has a good chance of playing in Week 3 against the Bucs if he keeps progressing. … Coach Freddie Kitchens said he "would love" to give Nick Chubb more touches. Chubb already has significant usage but Dontrell Hillard and D'Ernest Johnson have taken some touches away from him in the passing game. If he can see even more work as a pass-catcher he will be in the top-5 discussion on a weekly basis. …. James Conner (knee) said he's "good to go" for Week 3 against the 49ers. Even though he will start and play, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more of Jaylen Samuels especially considering Conner didn’t practice on Wednesday. … NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports Jalen Ramsey is unlikely to be traded prior to Thursday night's Week 3 game against the Titans. He added that Friday would be the most likely day he’d be traded. Doug Marrone said that Ramsey will play Thursday night against the Titans. … Colts waived QB Chad Kelly. He was the third-string quarterback behind Brian Hoyer and Jacoby Brissett so this move isn’t all that unexpected. Chad “Swag” Kelly will likely find a new home quickly. … Marlon Mack (calf) missed practice Wednesday. He was spotted carrying a walking boot but wasn’t wearing it. His status is one to monitor the next few days. … Browns OT Chris Hubbard (ankle) is in a walking boot. This is a bad sign for a Cleveland offensive line that hasn’t been good through two weeks. … Chiefs LT Eric Fisher will undergo sports-hernia surgery and be sidelined multiple weeks. He’ll likely be sidelined for 4-6 weeks but could return earlier if he’s up to it. … Raiders acquired WR Trevor Davis from the Packers in exchange for a 2020 sixth-round pick. Davis balled out (5/78/1) against the Raiders in preseason so it isn’t too much of a surprise Gruden and Mayock (mostly Gruden) decided they should ship a sixth-round pick for him.