The NFL season is upon us, and with Thursday Night’s matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers fast approaching, some teams are finalizing starting lineups as others deal with unwelcome developments. This is the week that Broncos edge rusher Von Miller suffered a season-ending ankle injury in practice last year, a theme that has repeated itself, and it has also become clear that COVID will once again play a prominent role in the NFL season.
This article will explore the Houston Texans naming Tyrod Taylor the starting quarterback, COVID sending star Cowboys guard Zack Martin to the sidelines for the opener, and Ravens running back Justice Hill tearing his Achilles during practice.
Tyrod Taylor Named Houston Texans Starter
Tyrod Taylor was officially named the starting quarterback of the Houston Texans, an outcome most anticipated, though Deshaun Watson’s availability clouded the issue.
It’s an announcement that cements Houston’s status as the front-runner for the first overall pick. At his best, Taylor presents a threat in the run game, stretches the field on vertical routes up the sidelines, and posts one of the league’s lowest interception rates. He led the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs in 2017, so his style can be reasonably effective, but he needs to be coupled with a strong defense and run game.
The Texans have neither. The defense profiles as the league’s worst unit entering the season, which may force Taylor out of the run-heavy attack that he is best suited to operate. Taylor and the offense will likely be chasing the score in the majority of their contests, and that’s not Taylor’s game.
Houston invested heavily in veteran running backs, acquiring Mark Ingram, Rex Burkhead, and Phillip Lindsay to go along with the incumbent David Johnson. This level of attention to the position indicated that the Texans coaching staff intended their offense to produce a high volume of carries, but that’s not a viable strategy if a team is consistently playing from behind. At the receiver, they added veterans Chris Conley and Anthony Miller along with rookie Nico Collins, and that group could fill a variety of complementary roles around speed threat Brandin Cooks, but it lacks an established star. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil is their best player on offense, but one great lineman doesn’t equate to good blocking, and there are significant questions about the other four starters, which could be particularly problematic if the Texans lose the threat of the run game.
Taylor also has not played particularly well in his limited opportunities with the Chargers and Browns in recent seasons. He is the starter for now and is likely to remain in position for at least half the season, but Houston will want to get third-round pick Davis Mills on the field to get an evaluation of him ahead of next year’s draft when the Texans are likely to be in the quarterback market. Houston’s win total over/under is set at 4 on DraftKings, a remarkably low number in a seventeen-game season, but without Deshaun Watson at quarterback, the under at -110 is the attractive side of this bet.
Zack Martin Out Thursday Night
Cowboys right guard Zack Martin was ruled out of Thursday Night’s NFL Opener against the Buccaneers, a significant blow to the Dallas offense that is particularly concerning with quarterback Dak Prescott making his return from a major injury.
The debate regarding the NFL’s best guard has changed since Indianapolis drafted Quenton Nelson, but Martin remains one of the elite players at the position. Martin’s balance and patience make him an outstanding pass protector, and while he may lack Nelson’s savagery in the run game, Martin has excellent play strength in the run game and rare range. He’s been nicked up over the past few years, but at full strength, his ability to climb to the linebacker level and latch onto defenders in the zone run game is as good as any player in the league.
His absence will be significant against a loaded Bucs front. Center Tyler Biadasz, who started four games with uninspiring results during his rookie season, will now take on the league’s premier nose tackle, Vita Vea, with the average-at-best Connor McGovern on his right side instead of Martin. Add in the fact that right tackle La’El Collins has only recently returned to practice after a stinger, and there is cause for concern with this offensive line.
At his best, Prescott has the tools to compensate for some offensive line issues, but he is coming off a broken ankle as well as a shoulder injury and now has to face a Buccaneers defense that was last seen dominating Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Tampa Bay came out as a 9.75 point favorite in my model before this news, and the BetMGM number of Tampa Bay at -7.5 looks even better with Martin out of the picture. DraftKings moved the line to -8 shortly after this announcement. Update: BetMGM moved the line to -8.5 shortly after this was written.
Justice Hill Tears Achilles
If Justice Hill had torn his Achilles before Baltimore’s final preseason game, it would not have rated as news-worthy, but in the wake of starter J.K. Dobbins’ season-ending injury, daily and season-long fantasy players now need to pay closer attention to second-year back Ty’Son Williams, who is now in line to split touches with Gus Edwards.
Williams is available for a salary of $4,500 in DraftKings DFS and is an intriguing roll of the dice as a low-cost option to round out an option. He is an unknown but will get an opportunity in a running-back friendly system built around quarterback Lamar Jackson against a Las Vegas Raiders defense that has been poor in all facets since Jon Gruden took over as head coach. If Williams capitalizes on this opportunity, he will be a Waiver Wire target for season-long leagues once Week 1 is wrapped up, so if you play in a league with an unusually deep bench or simply need to gamble at running back after your draft, it might be worth considering adding Williams sight unseen.
This article examined three recent NFL moves and their impact on the fantasy and gambling markets. For more content from the Professor, including his weekly appearances on Razor’s RedZone to talk DFS, check out the BeerLife Sports website.
Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.