Trendspotting: Week 14

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

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.

This week, we'll discuss the following teams:

Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis (vs. Houston)


  • Houston allowed 2+ passing touchdowns one time in its first eight games.
  • Houston has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in each of its last four games.
  • Houston has allowed at least 3.3x value to three quarterbacks in its last four games.
  • Houston has allowed 300+ passing yardszero times.
  • Houston allowed 100+ scrimmage yards to seven running backs in its first eight games.
  • Houston has allowed 100+ scrimmage yards to zero running backs in its last four games.
  • WR1 performances against Houston in the last four games: Nelson (8-118-1); T. Williams (8-70-1); Cooper (4-57-1); A. Robinson (9-107-1).
  • WR2 performances against Houston in the last four games: Adams (1-17-0); Inman (6-119-1); Crabtree (3-5-0); Lee (4-50-0).
  • Per Football Outsiders DVOA Rankings, Houston is 22nd-best against WR1s and second-best against WR2s.


I didn't bother listing how good Houston is against tight ends because Dwayne Allen isn't repeating Monday night's performance, and playing him may probably results in watching Jack Doyle out-produce him anyway. As you can see from some of the trends above, Houston's defense has flipped on its head over the last month.

What was once a tough pass defense and soft run defense has become the opposite. A lot of that could be opponent-induced, however, as Houston has faced Jacksonville, Oakland, San Diego, and Green Bay since the bye week. Some of those teams (Jacksonville) don't have an elite pass offense, some (San Diego and Oakland) have had success rushing the ball this year, but all share a common them that their passing games are more effective than their running games.

So while Frank Gore has some things that make him attractive here (home team, favored to win, likely 20+ touch floor), it's certainly possible that Indianapolis keep their passing game rolling. That could lead to Gore getting looks in the red zone (or as my esteemed colleague Justin Howe calls the area inside the 10, the "dark zone"), he still has to contend with Donte Moncrief and the aforementioned tight end duo in there too.

[return to top]

Detroit Lions

Detroit (vs. Chicago)


  • Since 2011, Matthew Stafford averages 5.0 more fantasy points per game in wins.
  • Prior to last week's meltdown by San Francisco, Chicago had allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in four out its prior five games.
  • Last week was Stafford's first 300+ yard passing game since Week 3 and his first multi-touchdown game since Week 6.
  • Chicago's Pass Defense DVOA ranks vs. receiver types: WR1 - 14th, WR2 - 22nd, "Other WR" - 25th, TE - 25th, RB - 10th.


Rarely do I pick teams for this article in order to stay away from them, but Detroit is a tough sell this week. The biggest positives for them are the following:

  1. The game is indoors.
  2. They are projected by Vegas to score ~25.75 points (third-most on the main slate).

If Marvin Jones is once again unable to play (he practiced on a limited basis on Thursday), Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin are nice plays based on volume (Tate) and matchup (Boldin). Eric Ebron will be mentioned later as well. Call that one a hunch, but it's contingent upon Jones being out.

[return to top]

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas (at NY Giants)


  • New York has allowed at least 2.75x value to four quarterbacks.
  • New York has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns to three quarterbacks.
  • New York has allowed 3+ passing touchdowns to zero quarterbacks.
  • New York is allowing 1.0 passing touchdowns per game, fourth-fewest in the NFL.
  • New York has allowed 300+ passing yards to three quarterbacks.
  • New York is allowing 278.0 passing yards per game, eighth-most in the NFL.
  • New York is allowing 74.4% of its total yardage via the pass, the seventh-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • New York is facing 40.9 pass attempts per game, tied for most in the NFL.
  • New York has allowed 43 receptions to running backs over its last seven games.
  • New York has allowed 3+ receptions to nine running backs in its last seven games and 6+ to three in that span.
  • New York has allowed at least 2.8x value to a running back in its last three games.
  • Recent WR1 performances against New York: A. Brown (6-54-1), Pryor (6-131-0), Chicago (no WR1), Green (7-68-1).
  • New York is allowing 69.8 yards per game to tight ends, third-most in the NFL.
  • New York has allowed 50+ receiving yards to nine tight ends overall and six in its last six games.
  • Jason Witten has missed seven snaps in the last six games.


How bizarre are the Giants passing defense stats? They face a ton of volume and allow a lot of yards, but they don't allow them in huge bunches and don't give up many touchdowns. Consequently, WR1s are producing but not "going nuclear" against them (side note, it really speaks to the expectation of Brown that six receptions and a score still leave him under 2x value). And then the leftover production goes mainly to tight ends.

Oddly, the Giants have a very poor DvP vs. tight ends despite only allowing three tight end touchdowns. If you read this column often, you know I like volume and believe it's more predictive than touchdowns. Fire up your low-upside-but-high-floor, never-misses-a-snap Witten.

[return to top]

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle (at Green Bay)


  • QB performances against Green Bay in the last six games: Osweiler (202-2-0 / 20-0 / 3.5x value); Wentz (254-0-1 / 33-1 / 3.4x); Cousins (375-3-0 / 4-0 / 5.2x); Mariota (295-4-0 / 8-0 / 5.0x); Luck (281-1-2 / 15-0 / 2.2x); Ryan (288-3 / 9-0 / 3.5x).
  • Green Bay has allowed 3+ passing touchdowns five times.
  • As shown above, Green Bay allows the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. However...
  • Five running backs have received 18+ touches against Green Bay...
  • Those running backs have averaged 4.9x value on their respective salaries.
  • A Seattle running back has received 18+ touches five times (with 17, 15, 17, and 16 touches also being registered).
  • Green Bay's Pass Defense DVOA ranks vs. receiver types: WR1 - 32nd, WR2 - 31st, "Other WR" - 26th, TE - 8th, RB - 7th.
  • Tight end receptions allowed by Green Bay in the last six weeks, starting with most recent: Houston - 10, Philadelphia - 6, Washington - 5, Tennessee - 10, Indianapolis - 7, Atlanta - 7.


This one took a lot of time, but I'm here for you, dear readers. Here is an exhaustive list of quarterbacks shut down by Green Bay:

  • Eli Manning (Week 5)
  • Brian Hoyer/Matt Barkley (Week 7)

That's it.

Going further on the running back point, Green Bay was once a "funnel" defense, then they were a seive, and now recently, they're back to being stout. This is a classic example of opponent-driven numbers. Workhorses such as Ezekiel Elliott, Frank Gore, and DeMarco Murray averaged 24.8 DraftKings points. Add Rob Kelley to that mix, and the average acutally goes up to 27.3. Gore and Kelley scored five touchdowns combined against Green Bay. The point here is that workhorse runners on at-least-competent offenses can produce against Green Bay. To me, Thomas Rawls checks both boxes.

In regards to the DVOA rankings, Seattle is a team whose pass-catchers are hard to define. Is Doug Baldwin a true WR1? Is Jimmy Graham a prototypical tight end? Both run routes from the slot, which makes the answer to both questions "no." In other words, Baldwin isn't a lock, and Graham isn't a must-fade due to the DVOA rankings alone. Seattle will do what they want, and they want to use both Baldwin and Graham.

And yes, I'm trying to poke holes in metrics that I use for my own analysis. The reason is that numbers without context aren't foolproof. I try every week to poke holes in DvP rankings because they are the numbers that mislead people the most. Raw DvP (such as the rankings that DraftKings shows in their player selection pages) doesn't account for opponent. There's always more than numbers, and Seattle pass-catchers vs. Green Bay's defense is a prime example. I'm excited to see how it plays out.

[return to top]

New Orleans Saints

New Orleans (at Tampa Bay)


  • Tampa Bay allowed 319.5 passing yards per game from Weeks 5-9.
  • Tampa Bay has allowed 204.8 passing yards per game from Weeks 10-13.
  • Tampa Bay is allowing 20.8 completions per game and 33.8 attempts per game, both eighth-fewest in the NFL.
  • Drew Brees has thrown for 300+ yards in eight games (six of seven at home and two of five on the road).
  • New Orleans is scoring 53.6% of its points via passing touchdowns and gaining 74.5% of its total yardage via the pass, both are the fourth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay is allowing 1.33 touchdowns per game to wide receivers, fifth-most in the NFL.


While I'm not recommending anyone in the plays at the bottom of the article, if you're someone who wants to stay away from #NarrativeStreet and just roster players who should play in a high-scoring, competitive game, taking players from here is a smart move. All of the New Orleans wide receivers are in play. Michael Thomas would be the safest, and Willie Snead is the cheapest and probably has the highest upside.

[return to top]

Washington Redskins

Washington (at Philadelphia)


  • Philadelphia allowed 250+ passing yards to two quarterbacks in its first six games.
  • Philadelphia has allowed 250+ passing yards to six quarterbacks in its last six games (including 300+ in its last two).
  • Philadelphia allowed 2+ passing touchdowns to two quarterbacks in its first six games.
  • Philadelphia has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns to four quarterbacks in its last six games.
  • Philadelphia has allowed at least 4x value to four quarterbacks in its last six games (and 3.7x to another).
  • Washington is gaining 73.8% of its total yardage via the pass, the sixth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Philadelphia has allowed three rushing touchdowns to running backs in its last three games (after just three all season prior).
  • Rob Kelley's touch percentage since his Week 8 emergence: 64%, 76%, 89%, 64%, 82% (72% overall).
  • Philadelphia is allowing 191.3 yards to wide receivers, second-most in the NFL.
  • DeSean Jackson is averaging 12.7 yards per target over the last four games, most in the NFL among players with at least five targets per game in that span.
  • Philadelphia has allowed less than 2.5x value to tight ends seven times.
  • Vernon Davis fantasy points per game average in games Jordan Reed has played: 7.6 (2.8 receptions, 40.1 yards)
  • Davis fantasy points per game average in games Jordan Reed has not played: 12.1 (4.3 receptions, 58.0 yards)


Philadelphia is trending downward in most phases, particularly in pass defense. Without A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati should be a lmited passing offense. But the Bengals put up nice numbers against the Eagles, and they did so while controlling the game - not in a garbage time situation. Philadelphia is stout against opposing tight ends, but the very good ones have still generated some production (Tyler Eifert: 2-25-1; Jimmy Graham: 3-46-1 in two of the last three weeks).

Davis is the only game in town if Reed doesn't play. And at his salary, he's a nice cost savings in that scenario. Kelley is a nice cost savings as well. He's getting plenty of touches, and his coach just said he wants to run more (and wants to use Kelley to do so).

[return to top]

San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco (vs. NY Jets)


  • Notable quarterback performances against New York (Jets) in the last five weeks: Luck (278-4-0), Brady (286-2-0), Keenum (165-0-0), Tannehill (149-1-0), McCown (341-2-0).
  • New York allows 5.0 rushing yards per game to quarterbacks, second-fewest in the NFL.
  • New York allows 18.9 passing fantasy points per game, seventh-most in the NFL.
  • New York is allowing 13.7 receptions per game to wide receivers, 11th-most in the NFL.
  • New York is allowing 180 yards per game to wide receivers, sixth-most in the NFL.
  • New York allows 8.6 yards per target to wide receivers, fourth-most in the NFL.


Are we really going back to this well? As of Monday around 8:15pm EST, I would have said, "never in a million years." But after watching the Jets play Monday night, it seems irresponsible to not at least investigate the possibility of targeting their defense.

Sure, Colin Kaepernick could be benched again. Perhaps you even believe in the "Chip Kelly self-sabotage-so-he-can-co-back-to-coach-college" theory (though that one is out the window as it relates to Oregon, who just hired a new coach). But this column is about the numbers and spotting trends as they're happening. And the Jets defense being bad is a trend.

While I do think the 2.75x multiplier target is reachable for a number of 49ers this week, I'm not going to actually say I recommend them in cash games. Therefore, any 49ers recommended will be in the GPP section.

[return to top]

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo (vs. Pittsburgh)


  • Pittsburgh is allowing 16.7 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, eighth-fewest in the NFL.
  • Eight quarterbacks had a DraftKings price under $6,000 the week they played Pittsburgh (counting any duos who were both below that threshhold as one player).
  • Pittsburgh is allowing 19.6 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks whose DraftKings price was $6,000 or higher, which would be 16th-most in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh has allowed 300+ passing yards to three of those four quarterbacks.
  • Pittsburgh is alllowing 1.9 rushing attempts per game to quarterbacks, fewest in the NFL, and 6.8 rushing yards per game to quarterbacks, sixth-fewest in the NFL.
  • Tyrod Taylor has rushed for 30+ yards in seven straight games and has a rushing touchdown in five of his last six.
  • Pittsburgh is allowing 25.4% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the 11th-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Buffalo is scoring 45.2% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the highest ratio in the NFL (second-highest is only 36.0%).
  • Pittsburgh is allowing 52.2 receiving yards per game to running backs, second-most in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh has allowed five receiving touchdowns to running backs, tied for most in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh is allowing 9.9 yards per reception to running backs and 7.4 yards per target to running backs, both fifth-most in the NFL.
  • LeSean McCoy has seen 12 targets (15% of Buffalo's total) in the last three games, second-most on the team.
  • Four running backs have gotten more than 15 carries in a game against Pittsburgh this season; they've averaged 131 rushing yards per game.


Pittsburgh's DvP against quarterbacks is misleading. This isn't a talented secondary, but the defense has gotten its "swag" back against weak offenses recently. Even looking back throughout the whole season, this team hasn't faced many quality quarterbacks. But it's Buffalo's run game that is interesting here, both because that's their preferred method of production and because Pittsburgh allows running back production via the ground and the air.

[return to top]

This Week's Cash Game Plays

Kirk Cousins $6300 17.3 WAS at PHI
Tyrod Taylor $5400 14.9 BUF vs. PIT
Andrew Luck $6900 19.0 IND vs. HOU
Rob Kelley $4200 11.6 WAS at PHI
LeSean McCoy $8200 22.6 BUF vs. PIT
T.Y. Hilton $7500 20.6 IND vs. HOU
Jason Witten $3100 8.5 DAL at NYG
Jimmy Graham $5500 15.1 SEA at GB
Vernon Davis* $3500 9.6 WAS at PHI

*if Jordan Reed is inactive

[return to top]

This Week's GPP Plays

Colin Kaepernick $5800 21.8 SF vs. NYJ
Thomas Rawls $5700 21.4 SEA at GB
Rob Kelley $4200 15.8 WAS at PHI
DeSean Jackson $5200 19.5 WAS at PHI
Torrey Smith $3500 13.1 SF vs. NYJ
Eric Ebron* $3800 14.3 DET vs. CHI
Jason Witten $3100 11.6 DAL at NYG
Vance McDonald $3000 11.3 SF vs. NYJ

*if Marvin Jones is inactive

[return to top]

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

Drew Brees $7600 20.9 13.0 No
Aaron Rodgers $6700 18.4 17.0 No
LeVeon Bell $9200 25.3 26.2 Yes
Latavius Murray $5400 14.9 25.5 Yes
Melvin Gordon $7200 19.8 23.8 Yes
Willie Snead $5100 14.0 5.8 No
Julio Jones $8700 23.9 21.3 No
Anquan Boldin $4100 11.3 8.0 No
Eric Ebron $3900 10.7 7.8 No
Jimmy Graham $5500 15.1 18.3 Yes

*left his game early due to injury

  • Last Week: 4-for-10 (40%)
  • Season: 47-for-92 (51%)

GPP Plays

Russell Wilson $6300 23.6 17.0 No
Latavius Murray $5400 20.3 25.5 Yes
James Starks $4400 16.5 0.1 No
Theo Riddick $5800 21.8 12.7 No
Seth Roberts $3000 11.3 5.8 No
Marvin Jones* $4400 16.5 N/A N/A
Josh Hill* $2500 9.4 1.3 No
Ladarius Green $2800 10.5 26.0 Yes
Antonio Gates $4100 15.4 7.7 No

*inactive or left his game early due to injury

  • Last Week: 2-for-8 (25%)
  • Season: 24-for-79 (30%)

[return to top]

Questions, comments, suggestions, and other feedback on this piece are always welcome via e-mail