Last updated: September 26th at 7:45am ET
Team Totals: Broncos 21, Jaguars 18
Improved to 1-2 by Gardner Minshew’s thrilling Thursday night effort versus Tennessee, the Jags visit Denver with weekly point totals of 26, 12, and 20 under their offensive belts. Even as Minshew has beaten expectations with QB13 (Texans) and QB18 (Titans) results, his fantasy appeal remains limited to two-quarterback leagues as a low-ceiling, short-distance passer in the Alex Smith mold. Vic Fangio’s Broncos checked Aaron Rodgers (QB25), Derek Carr (QB21), and Mitchell Trubisky (QB31) in Weeks 1-3. … Leonard Fournette’s tape shows he’s devolved into an inefficient, tip-toeing dancer, but sheer volume keeps him in RB2 play on touch counts of 17 > 19 > 21 with corresponding snap rates of 86% > 97% > 100%. Particularly in the passing game – he ranks fourth among NFL backs in routes run (84) and fifth in targets (20) – Fournette’s floor is raised despite his to-date lack of touchdown luck. With almost zero backfield competition in a surprisingly functional offense, Fournette is shaping up as one of fantasy’s sneakiest buy-low candidates entering this date with Denver, which has permitted the NFL’s second-most rushing TDs (5) and lost star DT Derek Wolfe to a high ankle sprain in last Sunday’s loss to Green Bay. After this week, Jacksonville catches the probably Cam Newton-less Panthers, definitely Drew Brees-less Saints, and Andy Dalton’s Bengals all in a row, signaling run-friendly forthcoming scripts.
Mintruth’s target distribution: Dede Westbrook 20; Fournette 18; D.J. Chark 15; Chris Conley 13; James O’Shaughnessy 11; Geoff Swaim 9. … Even as Westbrook owns a commanding team target lead, his on-field play has been atrocious with three drops, one pass-interference flag, and 49 scoreless yards on 14 targets over the Jags’ last two games. Westbrook’s Week 4 on-paper outlook is favorable because the Broncos no longer use top CB Chris Harris in the slot, but Westbrook needs a performance turnaround to realize his WR2 potential. His second-half touchdown drop in last Thursday’s win over the Titans was painful. On the bright side, Westbrook is popping in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards Model as a Week 4 buy low. … Chark is Jacksonville’s likeliest wideout to draw Harris’ coverage after Harris wasn’t allowed to shadow in Week 1 but locked down Allen Robinson (4/41/0) in Week 2 and Davante Adams (4/56/0) in Week 3. I’d bet on this being the week Chark’s three-game touchdown streak comes to an end. … Just two enemy wide receivers (Tyrell Williams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling) have topped 56 yards against the Broncos. Even if Harris eliminates Chark, Conley is a tough sell above WR4/flex dart-throw scenarios. … Locked in as Jacksonville’s go-to tight end, O’Shaughnessy is an underrated deep-league streamer against a Broncos defense that has allowed the NFL’s eighth-most receptions (18) to his position.
The Broncos showed their lack of Joe Flacco trust and devotion to Vic Fangio’s offensive philosophy by staying pot committed to their running game even down by two scores in negative script during last week’s 27-16 loss at Lambeau. Through three games, Denver’s point totals are 16 > 14 > 16 with minimal room for forward-looking hope. Pocket sloth Flacco’s Weeks 1-3 fantasy outcomes were QB20 > QB17 > QB31 with 11 sacks absorbed. Maybe the Broncos should have kept Chad Kelly around. … OC Rich Scangarello’s undying run-first belief is benefiting Denver’s backs; Phillip Lindsay’s touch counts have risen each week (15 > 17 > 25), strengthening his RB2 foothold as a home-favorite lead runner facing a mediocre Jaguars run defense that conceded a 69/285/2 (4.13 YPC) rushing line to Chiefs, Texans, and Titans backs in Weeks 1-3. Royce Freeman’s touches (11 > 16 > 19) are also in weekly incline with surprising passing-game usage; Freeman has 13 targets in three games and ranks top 20 among running backs in routes run (56). Freeman’s Week 3 box score would have been far more plentiful if Emmanuel Sanders’ holding flag didn’t negate his 18-yard TD run. I like Freeman as an underrated low-end RB2/flex in this spot and think he is a sneaky trade target for RB-needy season-long teams. Freeman is a legit every-week flex play right now and could flirt with low-end RB1 value if 184-pound Lindsay went down.
Flacco’s target distribution: Emmanuel Sanders 24; Courtland Sutton 23; Lindsay 18; Freeman 13; Noah Fant 11; DaeSean Hamilton 10; Jeff Heuerman 7. … Sanders crashed back to Earth (2/10/0) in Week 3’s loss to Green Bay, erased by Jaire Alexander and picking up a quad injury along the way. Jalen Ramsey’s (child birth) Week 4 absence does elevate Sanders’ WR3 outlook, even if he lacks excitement play at age 32 battling lower-leg injuries. … Sutton is a buy target for deeper-league teams in search of a boom-bust WR3/flex. In the midst of a low-key exciting sophomore leap, Sutton has hiked his catch rate from 50% to 70% and ranks No. 23 among 81 qualified receivers in yards per route run (2.11) after managing 1.32 YPRR as a rookie. Sutton also leads Denver in Air Yards by a 264-to-189 margin over Sanders. Scoreless three weeks in, Sutton should soon experience positive touchdown regression. Even in an ugly game like this, Sutton is a viable DFS-tournament dart against the Ramsey-less Jaguars. … Hamilton’s role in the Broncos’ offense is minimal so long as Sanders is healthy. Hamilton goose egged last week. … Fant hasn’t popped for fantasy purposes yet, but I really think it’s coming. He’s No. 8 among tight ends in routes run (85) and has played 69% of Denver’s offensive snaps. Fant was stripped by Alexander for a Week 3 lost fumble, however, and has 99 scoreless yards on his 11 targets. He’s a TE2 stash with room for growth.
Score Prediction: Broncos 21, Jaguars 17