#Trendspotting: Week 5 - Smoothing the Tension

Examining player and team trends to identify valuable DFS options

Graphics Tutorial

I've gotten feedback that my graphics aren't as self-explanatory and intuitive as I think they are, so let's start this week with a brief tutorial.

Tutorial Pic

The graphics are designed to show an offense vs. a defense. For instance, above is the Dallas offense vs. the Green Bay defense. The idea is to look at each team's offensive strength (how good the offense is) and if they favor the pass or the rush. The same look is given for the defense. All ranks in the "Yards/Gm" and "FanPts" sections are on a per game basis.


  • Offense: green is a strength; red is a weakness.
  • Defense: red is a strength (i.e. a defense we want to avoid); green is a weakness (i.e. one we want to exploit).

Red Circles: Yards per Game


  • The Dallas offense gaines the 12th-most total yards per game. Green Bay allows the 6th-fewest.

Blue Circles: Yards per Play


  • Dallas ranks 4th in rush yards per attempt. In an uptempo game, they could be expected to exceed their yards per game number, which the previous section told us is 14th.

Green Circles: Yardage Distribution


  • Green Bay allows 62.9% of its total yardage via the pass. That cell is color-scaled orange to indicate a better-than-average ratio.

Yellow Circles: Points Distribution


  • Dallas has scored 51.1% of its total points via passing touchdowns. That cell is color-scaled green to indicate a higher-than-average ratio.

Bottom Sections: Fantasy Points Scored vs. Allowed

  • Ideally, you want to see green (offensive strength) vs. green (defensive weakness) when considering a player.

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 2017 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 in 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
Jarvis Landry 11.0 31.4% 35.3 0 vs. TEN
Zach Ertz 9.0 25.0% 40.3 1 vs. ARI
Pierre Garcon 8.3 22.6% 40.3 0 at IND
Adam Thielen 8.0 24.8% 35.8 0 at CHI
Golden Tate 8.0 23.5% 41.5 1 vs. CAR
Christian McCaffrey 7.3 24.8% 40.3 0 at DET

It’s worth noting that Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas also qualify here, but they were left off because their teams have a bye this week.

In terms of actionable items, we know Miami is a train wreck, and we know Jarvis Landry isn’t a prolific touchdown scorer. But if he’s ever going to break through, why not against the pass offense that has allowed a WR1 performance every single week? DeVante Parker is also in play this week due to the matchup.

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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
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 315.7 78.7 7.4 2.9 80.1% 19.9%
Miami Dolphins 272.3 77.7 7.6 3.1 77.8% 22.2%
Cleveland Browns 240.8 87.3 7.2 3.0 73.4% 26.6%
Minnesota Vikings* 246.8 71.3 6.4 3.1 77.6% 22.4%

* Minnesota is 20th in net yards per pass attempt, meaning they narrowly miss that criteria, but they meet the other three.

"Runnel" Defense

Sometimes, the funnel effect can happen in reverse, where a team is very good against the pass but poor against the run (hence, "runnel" defense) Side note: I didn't create this term; I saw it on Twitter last season, but I can't recall who posted it. If you know, drop me a line so I can give proper credit.

Here's a look at Runnel Defense the criteria:

  • Top 1/3 in the NFL in Net Yards per Pass Attempt allowed
  • Bottom 1/3 in the NFL in Yards per Rush Attempt allowed
  • Top 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Pass (looking for low percentage figures here)
  • Bottom 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Rush (looking for high percentage figures here)
TeamRuYd/GmPaYd/GmYd/RushNYd/Att% RushYd% PassYd
Jacksonville Jaguars 165.5 147.0 5.7 4.2 53.0% 47.0%
Pittsburgh Steelers 113.0 154.0 4.6 4.0 42.3% 57.7%
Seattle Seahawks 134.0 184.8 5.0 5.3 42.0% 58.0%
New York Jets 143.8 194.8 4.7 5.5 42.5% 57.5%
Los Angeles Chargers* 163.5 192.0 4.8 6.1 46.0% 54.0%

* The L.A. Chargers are 13th in net yards per pass attempt, meaning they narrowly miss that criteria, but they meet the other three.

It would appear that there won't be many passing yards in the Jacksonville at Pittsburgh contest. However, here are the quarterbacks faced by each team:

  • Jacksonville - Tom Savage/Deshaun Watson; Marcus Mariota; Joe Flacco; Josh McCown
  • Pittsburgh - Deshone Kizer; Case Keenum; Mike Glennon; Joe Flacco

Add Ben Roethlisberger and Blake Bortles to those lists, and there is a pretty clear "one of these things is not like the other" situation. Roethlisberger (at home) and his crew could end up removing Jacksonville from this list, especially if Jacksonville is able to keep the game semi-close.

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The Weakest Links

In last week's column (thanks for reading!), we discussed cornerback matchups, with a focus on teams with a strong shut-down corner and a weak second corner or slot corner. This week, we're going to look at another part of the field.

Battles in the Trenches

Our Matt Bitonti and Justis Mosqueda co-author a weekly piece that looks at how offensive lines and defensive lines match up against one another that week. In last week's column, the top defensive line mismatches were Seattle against the Indianapolis offensive front and Pittsburgh against Baltimore's offensive line. Both of those defenses held their opponents to modest production. Here's a summary of this week's top defensive and offensive line advantages:

Defensive Line Mismatches

  • Philadelphia DL vs. Arizona OL
  • L.A. Rams DL vs. Seattle OL
  • L.A. Chargers DL vs. N.Y. Giants OL

Temper the expectations of these offenses. Carson Palmer could be sitting duck on Sunday; additionally, he and his mates have been subpar in 1:00 pm starts in the Eastern Time Zone. One item of note with teams like Seattle is that scrambling quarterbacks can often mask offensive line woes. Russell Wilson makes this on-paper mismatch a little less scary.

Offensive Line Mismatches

  • Cleveland OL vs. N.Y. Jets DL
  • Philadelphia OL vs. Arizona DL
  • San Francisco OL vs. Indianapolis DL

DeShone Kizer and a low over/under make the first mismatch less attractive. Philadelphia over Arizona makes both lists, this time showing that Philadelphia's offense should have time and room to operate. Far be it from me to disagree with our trench experts, but Indianapolis has been quite good against the run, due in part to an improved front.

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Dallas Cowboys (vs. Green Bay Packers)

Dallas vs. Green Bay


  • Green Bay points allowed in their last nine road games, dating back to last season and including playoffs: 34 (Atlanta), 44 (Atlanta), 31 (Dallas), 24 (Detroit), 24 (Chicago), 13 (Philadelphia), 42 (Washington), 47 (Tennessee), 33 (Atlanta).
  • That's an average of 32.4 points per game allowed.
  • Of passes attempted against Green Bay, 66.4% are intended for wide receivers, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Of passes attempted by Dallas, 64.3% are intended for wide receivers, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Green Bay has allowed 2.7x value or more to five wide receivers in four games.
  • Dez Bryant is seeing 29% of Dallas' targets, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Green Bay has allowed 2.0x value or less to three of four quarterbacks faced.
  • Green Bay has faced just one running back with a DraftKings price of $5,500 or higher this season. That running back was Devonta Freeman, who posted a 19-84-2 line for 3.3x value.


Green Bay's rushing defense is middling at best, and they haven't faced a back the caliber of Ezekiel Elliott. But Dez Bryant appears to the best play on the Dallas side. Green Bay has been excellent against tight ends, which should only enhance Bryant's already-lofty volume.

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Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)

Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville


  • Jacksonville allows 53.0% of its total yardage via the rush, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Jacksonville allows 40.5% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • LeVeon Bell has 87 carries, most in the NFL, and 81% of his team's rush attempts, the second-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Jacksonville has faced zero wide receivers with a DraftKings price above $5,900. Antonio Brown's price is $8,400 this week.
  • Since 2014, Brown averages over five more PPR points per game at home.
  • Since 2014, Bell averages one fewer PPR point at home.
  • However, Bell averages 22 fewer rushing yards at home, while collecting 0.7 more receptions and 25 more receiving yards at home. 
  • Martavis Bryant leads the team with a 21.9-yard average depth of target. 


Due to being a home favorite against a "runnel" defense, Bell is the safest cash game play among the Steelers. However, despite having great cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, Jacksonville hasn't faced a dynamic passing attack this season. Selecting Bell is doing so because of his rushing production, which is lower at home. What rises in Heinz Field is the entire passing game, Bell included.

The title of this post was a reference to the Pittsburgh passing game and the apparent rift between its leaders. Due to lack of production so far this year, matchup, and (perhaps) the publicized conflict, a Roethlisberger-Brown stack will be much lower-owned than usual. Keep an eye on Bryant too, as he and Roethlisberger have been close to connecting on a deep ball in three straight games (pass interference, two near-overthrows).

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Green Bay Packers (at Dallas Cowboys)

Green Bay at Dallas


  • Green Bay scores 58.5% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the second-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Dallas allows 49.5% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Dallas has allowed 5+ receptions to five wide receivers in four games.
  • Dallas has allowed five touchdowns to wide receivers, tied for fourth-most in the NFL.
  • Dallas is allowing 7.5 receptions per game to running backs, third-most in the NFL.
  • Dallas is allowing 68 receiving yards per game to running backs, third-most in the NFL.
  • Dallas is allowing 17.3 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, second-most in the NFL.


Aaron Rodgers and his wide receivers (particularly Jordy Nelson) are the cash plays of the week. A Rodgers-Nelson "cash-plus" stack is a great place to start. However, Ty Montgomery (if healthy) is a nice leverage play in tournaments.

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Los Angeles Rams (vs. Seattle Seahawks)

LA Rams vs. Seattle


  • Seattle has allowed 2.8x value or more to four running backs, including 4x value or more to Carlos Hyde and DeMarco Murray.
  • Seattle has allowed 3+ receptions to three running backs.


Sometimes, there's no need to dive too deep into the numbers. We know Seattle is excellent vs. the pass but has been susceptible to running back production this season. Between his talent and his guaranteed workload, Todd Gurley should be owned in every cash game. If Seattle is to be beaten via the pass, it's more likely to be an interior player that does the damage. Jared Goff and rookie Cooper Kupp have shown their chemistry from early in the preseason. Kupp makes for an interesting contrarian value play.

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New York Giants (vs. Los Angeles Chargers)

NY Giants vs. LA Chargers


  • Of passes attempted against the Chargers, 68.1% are intended for wide receivers, the second-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Of passes attempted by the Giants, 59.6% are intended for wide receivers, the 12th-highest rate in the NFL.
  • San Diego is allowing 28.5 rushing attempts and 152.8 rushing yards per game to running backs, both most in the NFL.
  • The Giants attempt 18.75 rushes per game, tied for the fewest in the NFL.
  • Since 2012, Eli Manning averages 4.5 more fantasy points per game when he attempts 35 or more passes.
  • Manning has attempted 35 or more passes in three of four games this season and 14 of his last 20 dating back to last season.


Coming off last week, it's going to be popular to roster cheap quarterbacks. Also popular will be Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott in the projected shootout of the week. That leaves a hole in the middle of the price range. Among those players is Manning, who carries the burden of his team's offensive production with the running game in shambles. Odell Beckham Jr represents a contrarian pivot away from less expensive players like Jordy Nelson, A.J. Green, and DeAndre Hopkins.

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Trend Tracking

Here's a quick "grab-bag" of items I came across this week and some actionable conclusions:

If Wilson can overcome the mismatch his offensive line faces, he's in line for a big week.

Even after their disaster in London, as we mentioned above, DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry are facing a matchup that makes receivers salivate.

Before you say that the Chargers split their tight end reps, remember that Tampa Bay does as well, and both Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard put up TE1 weeks. For what it's worth, Antonio Gates has run more routes than Hunter Henry this season.

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