Trendspotting: Week 13

Examining player and team-based trends that could identify valuable DFS options

Before we get to this week's column, allow me a mea culpa. No need to click on the "Looking Back" section this week. I was brutal in Week 12. I'd like to blame the sluggish performance, which included an abysmal 0-for-9 in my GPP calls on the turkey, but I wrote the article before Thanksgiving. I had some near misses but was generally terrible. This week, however, I'm back in the typical routine of laying the foundation of this article on Wednesday and completing it on Thursday evening. So let's get back on schedule and back on track! 

Reader's Guide

  • Green text is a good matchup for that team's offensive players.
  • Red text is a bad matchup.
  • When a player's name is green, it means that he exceeded 2.75x value on his DraftKings salary that week.
  • If a name is red, it means that player was under 2x his value.
  • All reference to fantasy points assumes DraftKings scoring rules unless otherwise specified.
  • All stats reference the full 2016 season, unless otherwise specified.
  • All fantasy points rankings in the matchup graphics are on a per-game basis to account for bye weeks.

This week, we'll discuss the following topics:

Targets Lead to Touchdowns

In this section, I'll attempt to identify potential regression candidates whose workloads suggest they should have earned more touchdowns. This week (and going forward), I'll be using only the most recent four weeks as the examination period. The qualifications here are:

  • at least seven (7) targets per game
  • at least 20% of their team's Target Market Share
  • on teams in the top one-third of the NFL in passing attempts per game
  • zero touchdowns if the team has played three games in the four-week period, or one touchdown if they've played all four weeks

PlayerTDTgt/GmMS%TmAtt/GmMatchup
LeVeon Bell 1 8.2 22.8% 36.3 vs. NYG
Jordan Matthews 0 8.5 20.9% 40.8 at CIN
Michael Crabtree* 0 8.7 26.3% 33.0 vs. BUF
Travis Kelce* 0 9.2 25.9% 35.8 at ATL
DeAndre Hopkins** 0 9.7 29.0% 33.3 at GB
C.J. Fiedorowicz** 0 7.0 21.0% 33.3 at GB

* Neither Crabtree nor Kelce meet the pass attempts criteria, but I expect their teams to both throw quite a bit this week, so they're worth noting

** This is in no way whatsoever a recommendation that you roster anyone from the Houston passing offense; these players are included only because they made the same criteria as Crabtree and Kelce and just missed the pass attempts criteria as well

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Funnel Watch

A "funnel" defense is one with a stout run defense but a suspect (or worse) pass defense. These units "funnel" production to the exterior and deep parts of the field (places where passing games focus) and away from the short middle (where the running game typically occurs). The following criteria are used to determine funnel defenses.

  • Top 1/3 in the NFL in Yards per Rush Attempt allowed
  • Bottom 1/3 in the NFL in Net Yards per Pass Attempt allowed
  • Top 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Rush (looking for low percentage figures here)
  • Bottom 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Pass (looking for high percentage figures here)
TeamPaYd/GmRuYd/GmNYd/AttYd/Rush% PassYd% RushYd
Carolina Panthers 275.2 79.4 6.7 3.3 77.6% 22.4%
New York Jets 262.8 85.9 6.7 3.6 75.4% 24.6%
Green Bay Packers 260.6 90.2 7.3 3.8 74.3% 25.7%
New Orleans Saints 271.4 99.1 7.0 3.9 73.3% 26.7%
Dallas Cowboys* 280.4 81.8 6.8 4.1 77.4% 22.6%

* Dallas is 12th in average yards per rush allowed, meaning they narrowly miss that category, but they're firmly inside the others.

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New Orleans Saints

New Orleans (vs. Detroit)

Notes

  • Detroit is allowing 55.5% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • New Orleans is scoring 55.7% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Detroit is allowing 12.6% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the fourth-lowest ratio in the NFL.
  • Detroit is 32nd in Pass Defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders. That includes being 32nd against "other" wide receivers and 28th against tight ends.
  • Detroit has allowed at least 3.0x value to at least one tight end in every game.
  • Detroit has allowed at least 4.2x value to six tight ends.
  • Coby Fleener snaps - Josh Hill snaps since Hill's Week 6 return: 41-46 (of 73); 43-41 (of 74); 26-61 (of 76); 30-64 (of 87); 32-36 (of 51); 41-43 (of 75); 18-58 (of 74).
  • Fleener targets - Hill targets since Week 6: 7-5 (of 48); 2-1 (of 47); 4-1 (of 35); 6-4 (of 39); 2-1 (of 29); 5-2 (of 44); 4-6 (of 35).

Commentary

New Orleans likes to score via the pass; Detroit allows points via the pass in bunches; New Orleans scores more at home than on the road; New Orleans is at home this week. Then there are those pesky Drew Brees home/road splits. Since 2014:

StatHomeRoadDelta%
Games 22 20 n/a n/a
Attempts 42.5 40.4 2.1 5%
Completions 29.8 27.8 2 7%
Yards 340.5 296.2 44.3 15%
Touchdowns 2.64 1.85 0.79 43%
Interceptions 0.77 0.9 -0.13 -14.4%
Fantasy Points 24.65 18.71 5.94 32%

As for who Brees will throw to, tight ends and slot receivers are who Detroit is beaten most effectively. The tight ends split snaps so inconsistently (and are targeted at the opposite ratio) that it's hard to call either a safe cash game play, but if you want the cheapest part of this game, you could do worse than Hill, who has outsnapped Fleener in six of the seven games since his return (and by very wide margins in three of those).

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Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh (vs. New York Giants)

Notes

  • New York has allowed 250+ passing yards in nine of its last ten games.
  • New York is allowing 74.8% of its total yardage via the pass, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • New York has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in two games.
  • New York is allowing 28.2% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the third-lowest ratio in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh is scoring 54.1% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • LeVeon Bell is receiving 22.8% of Pittsburgh's passing targets in the last four weeks.
  • Bell's 8.2 targets per game rank 20th in the NFL among all players, not just non-WRs.
  • Bell's running back touch share over the past four weeks: 95%, 100%, 100%, 82% for a 94% total.
  • New York has allowed 4+ receptions to five running backs (and three receptions to six more).
  • Notable WR1 performances vs. New York: Pryor (6-131-0), Green (7-68-1), Matthews (6-88-0), Wallace (4-97-0).
  • New York has allowed 5+ receptions to five tight ends and 55+ yards to eight tight ends.
  • New York is 19th in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends despite only allowing two touchdowns to the position.

Commentary

I'm not scared by the Giants' DvP numbers against quarterbacks, as much of that is touchdown-driven. Pittsburgh's ability to score through the air (especially at home) can overcome what appears to a be a somewhat fluky ranking vs. opposing passers. As I've said in this space before, yards are more predictive than touchdowns and, in fact, are a predictor of touchdowns. Speaking of Pittsburgh's passing game at home, if you thought Brees' splits were drastic, I present to you Ben Roethlisberger since 2014:

StatHomeRoadDelta%
Games 18 20 n/a n/a
Attempts 39.7 36.8 2.9 8%
Completions 26.9 24.2 2.7 11%
Yards 346.1 271.6 74.5 27%
Touchdowns 2.94 1.1 1.8 167%
Interceptions 0.72 0.95 -0.2 -24%
Fantasy Points 25.12 14.79 10.3 70%

70% difference. 70%! Sure, much of that is due to touchdowns, but a 27% delta in yardage isn't a small gap either.

Rostering Bell is like rostering a solid, "possession-style" WR2 on an elite passing offense (think Doug Baldwin sans touchdown efficiency or Golden Tateand a workhorse early-down running back (think 90% of Ezekiel Elliott or perhaps Adrian Peterson circa 2014). Bell's points-per-dollar multiplier is such a high bar, even at cash game levels, but I'm putting him on the list anyway. Regardless, he's a great raw points play.

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Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta (vs. Kansas City)

Notes

  • Atlanta is scoring 3.5 offensive touchdowns per game, second-most in the NFL.
  • Kansas City is allowing 56.1% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the second-highest ratio in the league.
  • Kansas City is allowing 11.2% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the lowest ratio in the league.
  • Kansas City is allowing 15.1 receptions per game to wide receivers, most in the NFL.
  • Kansas City is allowing 203.4 yards per game to wide receivers, most in the NFL.
  • Taylor Gabriel has five touchdowns in four games since his initial breakout in Week 8.
  • Gabriel has just 16 touches in those four games.
  • Julio Jones has a 35.1% target market share over the last four weeks (just three games for Atlanta that includes last week's matchup against Patrick Peterson).
  • 35.1% is the highest in the NFL, with Mike Evans trailing all the way down at 31.7%.

Commentary

Are you picking up a theme from the bullets above? Here is said theme:

  • Atlanta will score touchdowns in a number of ways.
  • Kansas City allows touchdowns via the pass at a very high rate.
  • Kansas City allows said touchdowns (and receptions and yards) to wide receivers at the highest rate in the league.
  • Taylor Gabriel is a nice player, but his production-to-volume ratio (a phrase I may have just created) is unsustainable.
  • Julio Jones has not been consistent but is still getting volume.

Jones' cash game multiplier is crazy high, but I'm feeling bold and putting him in this week's plays anyway. Even 22 fantasy points leaves him 1.9 short, but I'm sure those who roster him would be fine with that. And while the following admittedly isn't the most "sticky"/predictive stat, it does show a nice ability for Jones to bounce back and for Matt Ryan to correct the team's target distribution following a clunker by Jones.

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Oakland Raiders

Oakland (vs. Buffalo)

Notes

  • Buffalo has allowed at least 3x value to a quarterback in each of its last six games.
  • Buffalo has allowed 6+ rushing fantasy points to quarterbacks in four of its last six games.
  • Derek Carr has 49 rushing yards this season, including negative 15 yards in his last two games.
  • Buffalo is allowing 14.4 passing fantasy points per game, seventh-fewest in the NFL.
  • Buffalo is allowing 33.1% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Latavius Murray's snaps from Week 8 on: 38%, 49%, 55%, 66%.
  • Murray's percentage of running back touches from Week 8 on: 52%, 49%, 59%, 71%.
  • Early-season bright spot DeAndre Washington played four snaps in Week 11 and was a healthy scratch in Week 12.
  • Oakland wide receiver red zone opportunities: Amari Cooper - 12, Michael Crabtree - 13, Seth Roberts - 13.

Commentary

Buffalo isn't a great DvP matchup for quarterbacks in general, but when the rushing production they have allowed is removed from the equation, they're even better. Sometimes, quarterback rushing can be a scheme thing, but Buffalo has faced some pretty accomplished rushers in Blake Bortles (8.1 fantasy points rushing), Andy Dalton (7.0), Russell Wilson (7.0), Ryan Tannehill (2.1), and Colin Kaepernick (6.6). Getting perhaps far too bogged down in the details, it appears as though Oakland's best bet is to beat Buffalo via the running game. Add in that they're favored at home in a high over/under game, and it sets up nicely for Murray. Oakland will, of course, have to pass at some point. There aren't many plays as cheap as $3,000 who are tied for their team lead in red zone targets. Roberts has at least one in every game except one.

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San Diego Chargers

San Diego (vs. Tampa Bay)

Notes

  • Tampa Bay is allowing 198 passing yards per game and just two total passing touchdowns in its last three games.
  • Tampa Bay is allowing 46.7 receiving yards per game to running backs, eighth-most in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay has allowed 60+ yards to zero wide receivers in its last three games.
  • Notable tight end performances against Tampa Bay, from most recent to least: Graham (6-67-0), Kelce (7-108-0), Z. Miller (4-32-0), Hooper/Toilolo (4-78-2), Rivera/Walford (6-67-1)

Commentary

With the enigma that is Tampa Bay, this game seems more like a "feel-based" analysis than a facts-based one (hence the lack of bullet points above). Tampa Bay has righted the "pirate" ship (sorry, had to) since being sliced and diced by Derek Carr and Matt Ryan in consecutive weeks. However, the quarterbacks they have faced since then have been Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, and Russell Wilson.

Sure, Wilson is a high-end talent, but here were the location of his team's last few games: Glendale (at Cardinals), New Orleans (at Saints), Seattle (vs. Buffalo, Monday Night), New England (at Patriots, Sunday night), Seattle (vs. Philadelphia), Tampa Bay (at Buccaneers). Many thought they would lose at New England on a short week. Many others thought they might have a let-down game following that. Perhaps last week at Tampa was a delayed let-down game of sorts. In other words, Tampa has shut down Cutler, Smith, and a beleaguered and weary Seattle team. Let's not consider them a shut-down defense quite yet. 

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Seattle Seahawks

Seattle (vs. Carolina)

Notes

  • As noted above, Carolina is a "funnel" defense. In terms of yardage allowed, their pass:run ratio is the most pass-heavy in the NFL.
  • Carolina is allowing 292.4 passing yards per game, second-most in the NFL.
  • Carolina is allowing 14.3 receptions per game to wide receivers, sixth-most in the NFL.
  • Carolina has allowed eight touchdowns to tight ends, second-most in the NFL.

Commentary

This is another "feel-based" game. Carolina is clearly a funnel defense, regardless of how one might classify that. The yardage they allow, the points they allow, and all of their DvP fantasy rankings suggest as much. It makes a DFS owner wish C.J. Prosise were still healthy because a pass-catching running back on a team with limited wide receiver options playing a funnel defense could be a nice GPP play, especially when the majority this week will pay up for at least one of David Johnson, LeVeon Bell, or Melvin Gordon.

Over the last few years, Seattle has shown a tendency to have "get well" games at home after a long road trip or a down performance or two. While many suggested that last week was a jumping-off point for another Seattle second-half surge, perhaps those folks were one week premature. Seattle is in a bounce-back spot against a team playing its second straight game on the west coast whose season was effectively ended last week. Call it #NarrativeStreet if you must, but Seattle could make Carolina quite after two and a half quarters in this one.

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Green Bay Packers

Green Bay (vs. Houston)

Notes

  • Houston has allowed three passing touchdowns in each of its last two games (and eight total in its last three).
  • Houston has allowed 300+ passing yards to zero quarterbacks.
  • Aaron Rodgers is averaging 44.3 pass attempts per game since Week 6, most in the NFL.
  • Green Bay is passing on 70.7% of its plays over the last three weeks, second-highest ratio in the NFL (Cleveland).
  • Houston has allowed 4+ receptions and/or 50+ receiving yards to five running backs in its last four games.
  • Houston has allowed 6+ receptions to five wide receivers in its last five games and four touchdowns to wide receivers in its last four games.

Commentary

James Starks has been dominating running back touches since his return, but Mike McCarthy spoke positively about both Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael this week, making Starks a bit of an iffy proposition, even against a team in Houston that has managed to allow passing game production to running backs despite not being an offensive powerhouse.

I use that qualifier about Houston's offense because if a team has a great offense, they are likely ahead more, thus leaving opponents in catch-up mode and boosting all passing games assets, particularly running backs on check-down style passes. For reference, the teams that allow the most receiving points to running backs are Atlanta, San Diego, New England, Pittsburgh, and Carolina. Houston isn't a team that allows receiving production to backs simply as a product of being ahead in games. It's a shame we have a lack of clarity in the Green Bay backfield. But Starks should still get the lion's share of the work, making him a GPP play due to a lack of confidence in cash games.

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Detroit Lions

Detroit (at New Orleans)

Notes

  • New Orleans has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in seven games but have only allowed three touchdowns one time (last week, to Jared Goff).
  • New Orleans is allowing 281.7 passing yards per game, eighth-most in the NFL.
  • New Orleans allowed 300+ passing yards to four quarterbacks in its first five games.
  • New Orleans has allowed 300+ passing yards to one quarterback in its last six games.
  • New Orleans is allowing 1.09 rushing touchdowns per game to running backs, third-most in the NFL.
  • New Orleans allowed 547 of its 949 rushing yards to running backs in its first five games (109.4 per game; would rank fourth-most for the whole season).
  • New Orleans has allowed 402 rushing yards to running backs in its last six games (67.0 per game; would rank second-fewest for the whole season).
  • New Orleans allowed 10 of its 12 rushing touchdowns to running backs in its first five games. 
  • New Orleans has allowed just two rushing touchdowns to running backs in its last six games.
  • New Orleans allowed 29 of its 54 receptions to running backs in its first five games (5.8 per game; would rank fifth-most for the whole season). 
  • New Orleans has allowed 25 receptions to running backs in its last six games (4.2 per game; would rank seventh-fewest for the whole season).
  • New Orleans has allowed at least 3.0x value to eight wide receivers in its last six games.
  • New Orleans has allowed five touchdowns to wide receivers in its last three games.
  • New Orleans has allowed 100+ receiving yards to one wide receiver in its last six games.

Commentary

New Orleans has been more stout against the run but looser against the pass over the last six games. While they haven't allowed huge yardage numbers through the air, they are allowing the touchdowns scored against them to come via the pass more than the run. Between not knowing which of Detroit's pass-catchers is the best value and New Orleans being surprisingly average on defense of late, it's hard to go out on a limb for any pass-catchers for Detroit in cash games.

But with pricing being tighter this week and players like David Johnson, LeVeon Bell, and the elite wide receivers all looking appealing, some savings are necessary. So the cheapest players in a high project over/under game like this could bring value on a points per dollar basis. And while the Saints being significantly better against running backs lately, they haven't faced players like Theo Riddick. Expect Riddick to get at least five catches (which ideally generates at least 8.5 fantasy points), especially if Detroit is behind in the game.

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This Week's Cash Game Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetTeamOpponent
Drew Brees $7600 20.9 NO vs. DET
Aaron Rodgers $6700 18.4 GB vs. HOU
LeVeon Bell $9200 25.3 PIT vs. NYG
Latavius Murray $5400 14.9 OAK vs. BUF
Melvin Gordon $7200 19.8 SD vs. TB
Willie Snead $5100 14.0 NO vs. DET
Julio Jones $8700 23.9 ATL vs. KC
Anquan Boldin $4100 11.3 DET at NO
Eric Ebron $3900 10.7 DET at NO
Jimmy Graham $5500 15.1 SEA vs. CAR

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This Week's GPP Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetTeamOpponent
Russell Wilson $6300 23.6 SEA vs. CAR
Latavius Murray $5400 20.3 OAK vs. BUF
James Starks $4400 16.5 GB vs. HOU
Theo Riddick $5800 21.8 DET at NO
Seth Roberts $3000 11.3 OAK vs. BUF
Marvin Jones $4400 16.5 DET at NO
Josh Hill $2500 9.4 NO vs. DET
Ladarius Green $2800 10.5 PIT vs. NYG
Antonio Gates $4100 15.4 SD vs. TB

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Looking Back

In order to keep myself honest and not just dish out wild prognostications with no repercussions, I'll list my Cash Games and GPP Plays from last week's column. I'm going to aim for a 55% hit rate on Cash Game Plays (with a target of 2.75x per $1,000) and a 20% hit rate on GPP Plays (with a target of 3.75x), as those tend to correspond with cut lines in those contest types. Players who left their game due to injury or had notable injury situations that would have decreased confidence in playing them will be noted and won't count towards the final total.

Cash Game Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetActualHit?
Carson Palmer $5300 14.6 18.6 Yes
Derek Carr $6100 16.8 22.3 Yes
Russell Wilson $6700 18.4 12.0 No
Ryan Tannehill $5500 15.1 26.8 Yes
Jay Ajayi $7600 20.9 12.6 No
Rashad Jennings $5600 15.4 7.9 No
David Johnson $8900 24.5 33.1 Yes
Charles Clay $2700 7.4 3.7 No
Jimmy Graham $5300 14.6 11.7 No
  • Last Week: 4-for-9 (44%)
  • Season: 43-for-82 (52%)

GPP Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetActualHit?
Derek Carr $6100 22.9 22.3 No
Melvin Gordon $7000 26.3 12.9 No
Jermaine Kearse $3000 11.3 2.8 No
DeVante Parker $4700 17.6 9.4 No
Michael Crabtree $6500 24.4 22.0 No
Austin Hooper $2800 10.5 2.8 No
Charles Clay $2700 10.1 3.7 No
Will Tye $3000 11.3 3.2 No
  • Last Week: 0-for-8 (0%)
  • Season: 22-for-71 (31%)

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Questions, comments, suggestions, and other feedback on this piece are always welcome via e-mail hester@footballguys.com