The Venn diagram of people watching Thursday Night football and sports betting or fantasy enthusiasts will be a single circle. In a week with eight games projected to be over 50 points, we’re treated to the lowest point-total on the slate to open Week 4. The Jets at 0-3 have mustered just 37 points to start their 2020 campaign. Seattle has scored 38 points in a single game twice already this season. The Broncos arrive in New Jersey already on their third quarterback after a series of catastrophic injuries. While the game might not be as entertaining, there are a few fantasy points of interest for managers to watch out for during the contest.
Brett Rypien’s Time to Shine
Rypien was signed by the Broncos as a UDFA in 2019. Drew Lock had already been drafted in the second round that year and Joe Flacco was still on the roster, but Boise State product showed some promise averaging 8.7 Adjusted Yards per Attempt for his collegiate career. After sitting for a season, we got to see him in limited action last Sunday against Tampa Bay. Midway through the fourth quarter, Rypien replaced Jeff Driskel for the team’s final series. While acknowledging the inherent small sample size, the Broncos executed 10 plays with 90% of them being pass attempts. Rypien’s aDOT was only 4.9 yards, but he was able to finish the game at +17.3% Completion Percent over Expected and eight of his nine attempts were graded as being on-target. He threw an interception on his final attempt, but has a slightly easier defensive matchup along with the short week to prepare for his first official start.
Sam Darnold flashed in multiple games last season and on a few plays this season. But the peaks are quickly followed by valleys of sacks, turnovers, or bouts of inaccuracy. He’s 13th in catchable target rate (74.0%), but in the Bottom 5 for aDOT. The injuries to Breshad Perriman (Out for Week 4) and Jamison Crowder (Questionable) have reduced an already anemic offense, but New York’s defense is in similar shape. Their secondary has allowed an average 243.7 passing yards to opposing quarterbacks and only collected 2 sacks per game and a single interception. Adam Gase is already on the outs with the Jets’ front office and may be the first head coach dismissed from their team in 2020 should the Broncos win on the road. And, given the state of things, it’s possible.
Points of Interest in TNF
I’ll be watching for how Vic Fangio and Pat Shurmur have planned for this game on a short week. The Broncos were passing at about the league average rate in neutral situations (56.4%). It’s plausible to expect a run-first approach with Melvin Gordon, but New York’s pass coverage offers a fair test of Rypien’s ability to process the field. Fantasy managers with Noah Fant on their roster should be excited as the past two tight-ends to face the Jets finished as TE1s on the week (Mo Alie-Cox 3-50-1, Jordan Reed 8-50-2). Personnel usage and Rypien’s own play will give us some insight into how to adjust our expectations towards all Broncos’ players for the coming weeks. Our only hope is that the Jets can keep it competitive enough for us to learn something.
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COVID-19 Forces Steelers at Titans to Reschedule – Raiders Launch Investigation
The reality of the pandemic has forced the NFL to postpone the Steelers’-Titans’ Week 4 match. Originally scheduled for a 1 PM EST start, the league is looking to delay the game until Monday or Tuesday as they conduct more tests and gather more information. League safety has been consistently enforced in the midst of the constant interaction between players, coaches, and league personnel. The slew of positive results comes just a week after the league began fining several head coaches for not wearing face masks and the Titans are now under scrutiny for how they handled the results. Tennessee placed their outside linebackers coach in COVID-19 protocol on Saturday before their Week 3 contest against the Vikings. With the team now dealing with the first outbreak, the timeline of events doesn’t look good for the Titans as they continue to monitor the health of their personnel. While the league awaits the results, Las Vegas is investigating their own players to avoid what’s happened in Tennessee.
Darren Waller hosted a charity event for his foundation on Monday night to raise funds. Many of his teammates including Derek Carr and Jason Witten attended the event drawing 100+ people to the indoor gathering. While the purpose was positive, videos of the event sparked concern. The players and many of the guests were without masks and the amount of people at the event was twice the size of the state-mandated limit for indoor gatherings. NFL and NFLPA rules banned players from attending activities of gatherings of more than 15 people without masks. An occurrence like this at the same time as an outbreak won’t ease our hopes of a successful season, but there haven’t been any reported positive cases stemming from the event.
The possibility of games being delayed or cancelled was always in the range of outcomes. Hopefully, your league commissioner laid out contingencies for how to deal with your studs being out of the starting lineup. For those looking for guidance, the fantasy community had a couple thoughts:
- Allow managers to select a backup player prior to Thursday kickoff. In the event the Titans/Steelers don’t play, the designated player is moved into the starting spot.
- Treat the players affected like an injury designation. Managers will be forced to gamble on their players being available for the contest or take a 0 in their active spot.
Regardless of your league’s settings, the fantasy-relevant players will be the focus of the next few days. Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Tannehill present the least amount of risk given the number of streaming options at quarterback. The pass-catchers, from JuJu Smith-Schuster to Jonnu Smith, are in a similar position given the available options on most benches or waiver wires. The decision point comes down to squads with either Derrick Henry or James Conner. With the news breaking on Tuesday morning, it’s possible that emergency options were available on the waiver wire (e.g. Rex Burkhead, Carlos Hyde). They’re not the best option, but they offer some fantasy production should the game ultimately be canceled.
Injury Slant – Injury Optimism for Once
George Kittle logged his first full practice since his knee sprain in Week 1. Jerick McKinnon, who sustained a rib injury during last week’s contest, was also at practice indicating both will be available for their Week 4 matchup against the Eagles. Chris Carson was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice for Seattle. Pete Carroll was unsure their starting running back would be available for the team’s trip to Miami after Carson’s knee was twisted during a tackle. His limited practice puts him on the path towards a game-time decision, but a positive development given the nature of the injury. D.J. Chark returned to the Jaguars in a limited role after additional tests for his chest and back injuries. Jacksonville beat writers will be noting his progress over the remainder of the week as the team travels to Cincinnati on Sunday.