And just like that, we’re already into Week 7 of the NFL. For the seasonal fantasy football players, this is a tough week as, not only are there six teams on a bye, but five of the six teams are loaded with elite-level talent. The sixth team, the Jaguars, still have a few very useful names as well, so that side of the fantasy world is freaking out. For those of us on the DFS side, it’s just another week of the season. Same ol’ same. And for the Showdown players, it’s a brand-new day.
When the schedule-makers put Denver at Cleveland on the schedule, there was probably a lot of hope for a great game. The Browns have been transforming themselves into a serious contender in the AFC while the Broncos were steadily building into something better than what we’ve seen over the last several years. Unfortunately, it’s not really turning out that way as the Browns have been decimated by injuries and the Broncos are struggling with each and every gaffe, we witness at the helm for head coach Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. But high-quality or not, the DFS contests remain the same and there’s some money to go after.
Now before we begin, please take a moment to understand what exactly you are getting yourself into by playing single-game Showdown Slates. We love to have some skin in the game, for sure, but these slates are, for all intents and purposes, a lottery ticket. Sure, there are times when the chalk hits and everyone shares in the prizes, but, more often than not, you need to hit on that random dart-throw that differentiates your lineup from that of the herd in order to claim the top prize. As a result, we encourage you to play responsibly and not over-invest. Stick to the GPP contests (single-entry preferred), don’t blow your whole bankroll, and understand that, unless you are a max-entry player, you should prioritize having fun.
OK. Lecture over. Let’s get to tonight’s action.
Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns
Spread: Browns -2
Weather: Cloudy with temperatures in the low 60s; winds blowing W at 20 mph
Teddy Bridgewater, QB – foot (questionable)
Garrett Boles, LT – knee (questionable)
Baker Mayfield, QB – shoulder (out)
Nick Chubb, RB – calf (out)
Kareem Hunt, RB – calf (out -- IR)
Odell Beckham, WR – shoulder (questionable)
Jarvis Landry, WR – knee (activated from IR – game-time decision)
Jedrick Wills, LT – ankle (questionable)
JC Tretter, C – knee (questionable)
Jack Conklin, RT – knee (questionable)
Malik Jackson, DT – knee (questionable)
Jadeveon Clowney, DE – ankle (questionable)
Malcolm Smith, LB – abdomen (questionable)
Mack Wilson, LB – calf (questionable)
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB – ankle (out – IR)
DVOA Defensive Rankings
vs Pass: 21st
vs Run: 20th
vs Pass: 20th
vs Run: 3rd
**Please note that players not listed below are not necessarily a complete fade and any player listed can certainly be used as the MVP/Captain. These are merely suggestions for players to use when setting Showdown lineups.
Courtland Sutton, WR DEN – Despite a decent group of corners, the Browns have been struggling in coverage this season and rank 26th in DVOA against the opposition’s top wideout, allowing an average of 99 receiving yards per game. Sutton has been sharp since a quiet Week 1, has two 100-yard efforts and is averaging 107 receiving yards and one TD per game over his last two.
D’Ernest Johnson, RB CLE – The Browns are built as a run-first team and while Johnson is the third-string back, the team is going to try and establish the run early to help take some of the pressure off Keenum. We’ve seen Johnson find success in the AAF and the Broncos defense tends to be a run-funnel up the middle. They may not give up a lot of yardage on the ground, but that DVOA ranking of 20th against the run tells you they can be vulnerable, as evidenced by five rushing touchdowns allowed on the year.
Case Keenum, QB CLE – We’re going to throw Keenum right into the fire this week as the offensive line and running back injuries we’re seeing could spin this offense into more of a passing scheme than the run-first we’re used to seeing. It would be helpful to know if Jarvis Landry is going to play, but even if he doesn’t, the Browns are likely to take it to the air more with Denver’s outside rushers closing in.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR CLE – It doesn’t sound as if Odell Beckham is going to play this week and it looks like Jarvis Landry is going to be a true game-time decision. That will put Peoples-Jones as the team’s leading receiver. He’s lined up all over the field and grades out well against both Patrick Surtain and Ronald Darby. If the Browns turn to the pass more, he should see the bulk of the targets.
Melvin Gordon, RB DEN – With no injury designation heading into this game, you have to assume Gordon will see his usual snaps and touches and that gives him a slight advantage over Javonte Williams. The Browns defense is pretty stingy against the run so don’t expect a lot of yards on the ground. However, if the Broncos get inside the green zone, we could see them use Gordon to punch it in.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB DEN – The foot injury doesn’t sound like it will keep Bridgewater out of this game, so if you believe the Browns run defense will hold, then Bridgewater just might be usable as he is going to have to find his receivers downfield if the Broncos are going to win this one. The 41.5 over/under doesn’t scream shootout, so keep your expectations in check.
Tim Patrick, WR DEN – He’s the secondary target in this passing scheme and the Browns rank 20th against the opponents’ WR2 this season, allowing an average of 63.2 receiving yards per game. Patrick is a clean route-runner and we’ve seen Bridgewater look for him inside the red zone. This game won’t be any different.
Demetric Felton, RB CLE – Given all the injuries and potential struggles for the Browns, Felton could actually be an interesting play as the team’s pass-catching back. If the Broncos are aggressive and jump out to a lead at any point in this game, the Browns could slide into catch-up mode and lean on the pass more. If the Broncos edge-rushers find success, you could see a number of check-downs heading Felton’s way.
David Njoku, TE CLE – We’ve seen the Browns get their tight ends much more involved with all the injuries to their receiving corps and while Austin Hooper has seen more snaps, Njoku has just as many targets and seems to be favored more in the passing attack. The Browns will run a number of two-TE sets, but Hooper will likely be the guy tethered to the line, sending Njoku out to run the routes.
Browns D/ST – The Browns have 18 sacks for 138 yards-lost and while they only have four takeaways, this is a game their defense could really step up for. Something that analysts have noticed is how the Broncos offense routinely lets the play-clock run down to one second which means the defenders don’t need to worry about the snap count. They can just watch the play-clock and know when the snap is coming. That puts the edge-rushers and defensive line at an advantage.
Rashard Higgins, WR CLE – When there’s a quarterback change, we are often looking for the receiver that back-up has been working with the most in practice which is putting us on Higgins this week. He’s been seeing close to 50-percent of the snaps, but Landry’s presence could cut into that if he plays. Stil, if the Browns are throwing late in the game, Keenum likely will be looking for a more familiar face.
Javonte Williams, RB DEN – Everyone in the fantasy community is waiting for Williams to pop off and steal this job away for himself, but with Gordon in-house and without an injury designation, Williams goes back to his “secondary” role. He’s seeing about a 50-percent share and he comes off as the more explosive runner, but Fangio and Shurmur continue to lead with Gordon, especially in the red zone.
Jarvis Landry, WR CLE – He’s a true game-time decision and while you’d like to think the Browns lean on the veteran, he’s nothing more than a dart-throw who will hopefully find some success.
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