#Trendspotting: Week 10 - A Smash Spot

Examining player and team trends to identify valuable DFS options and start/sits in season-long leagues

Graphics Tutorial

I've gotten feedback that my graphics aren't as self-explanatory and intuitive as I think they are, so I provided a guide at the beginning of a past version of this article.

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:

Follow the Targets

Yes, we're taking a brief hiatus from Targets Lead to Touchdowns this week. Between regression working out and injuries occurring, there weren't any players that fit my criteria who I felt good about recommending. But have no fear, I'm replacing that section with something even better and more actionable.

The table below looks at the bottom eight (8) pass defenses in terms of yards allowed per game and shows how those defenses allow targets, yards, and touchdowns. The teams are listed from most yards per game to least. For example, Tampa Bay allows the third-most total passing yards per game. They allow 62.9% of their targets to wide receivers, they're 29th in the NFL in yards per game yielded to wide receivers (i.e. they allow the third-most), and they've surrendered nine touchdowns to wideouts.

Another example is the New York Giants. They allow the fourth-most passing yards per game, with the majority of the damage being done by tight ends. They allow the third-most yards per game to tight ends, and opposing tight ends are targeted 22.3% of the time against them.

  Team RB Tgt% Yds/Gm Rank TD WR Tgt% Yds/Gm Rank TD TE Tgt% Yds/Gm Rank TD
New England Patriots 21.6% 31 3 58.6% 32 8 19.9% 17 5
Indianapolis Colts 17.6% 30 2 62.9% 30 7 19.5% 18 4
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 22.9% 23 2 62.5% 29 9 14.5% 4 3
New York Giants 17.2% 15 2 60.6% 24 7 22.3% 29 8
Kansas City Chiefs 16.5% 1 0 64.9% 31 15 18.7% 26 1
Detroit Lions 23.6% 22 1 61.6% 22 7 14.9% 24 2
Buffalo Bills 21.2% 20 1 59.6% 20 4 19.2% 28 2
Philadelphia Eagles 21.8% 18 4 58.0% 25 6 20.2% 21 4
                   

Notes

  • Expect Ben Roethlisberger to get back on track this week, despite the road matchup. Indianapolis is weak against running backs and wide receivers in the passing game, and we know Pittsburgh's targets are primarily going to Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell, Roethlisberger's best weapons.
  • The N.Y. Giants are so poor vs. tight ends, and George Kittle isn't playing for San Francisco this week. Garrett Celek is the only tight end remaining with ability/experience. Considering the Giants have allowed more than one touchdown per game to tight ends, Celek makes for a solid GPP play in DFS or a desperation steamer in traditional leagues.

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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.

  • Bottom 1/3 in the NFL in Net Yards per Pass Attempt allowed
  • Top 1/3 in the NFL in Yards per Rush Attempt allowed
  • Bottom 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Pass (looking for high percentage figures here)
  • Top 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Rush (looking for low percentage figures here)
Team PaYd/Gm RuYd/Gm NYd/Att Yd/Rush %PassYd %RushYd
Detroit Lions 251.9 89.9 6.9 3.6 73.7% 26.3%
Houston Texans 243.1 96.0 7.0 3.7 71.7% 28.3%
Philadelphia Eagles* 249.4 66.4 5.8 3.6 79.0% 21.0%
Buffalo Bills* 250.3 94.4 6.3 3.7 72.6% 27.4%
Cleveland Browns** 229.3 84.3 6.6 2.9 73.1% 26.9%
             

Philadelphia and Buffalo narrowly miss the bottom-third in Net Yards per Pass Attempt. Cleveland misses in raw passing yards per game, but that's a function of volume. They allow the fourth-most rushing yards and are in the correct thirds in Net Yards per Pass Attempt and in yards per carry allowed.

Notes

  • Detroit and Cleveland play each other this week. On top of Cleveland being a "Funnel Defense," Detroit is a "Funnel Offense." More on that in the Lions section below.
  • Last season, a funnel would've been a problem for Jared Goff and the L.A. Rams. This season, he's having his way with inferior defenses. Houston is next.
  • Drew Brees hasn't been himself this season (partly because New Orleans has been balanced lately), but Buffalo's defense has the potential to fix that.

"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:

  • Bottom 1/3 in the NFL in Yards per Rush Attempt allowed
  • Top 1/3 in the NFL in Net Yards per Pass Attempt allowed
  • Bottom 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Rush (looking for high percentage figures here)
  • Top 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Pass (looking for low percentage figures here)
Team RuYd/Gm PaYd/Gm Yd/Rush NYd/Att %RushYd %PassYd
Jacksonville Jaguars 124.9 156.4 4.9 4.3 44.4% 55.6%
Los Angeles Rams 121.6 205.4 4.6 5.7 37.2% 62.8%
Los Angeles Chargers 135.1 201.9 4.6 5.6 40.1% 59.9%
Pittsburgh Steelers* 106.6 180.0 4.5 5.0 37.2% 62.8%
Baltimore Ravens** 125.9 184.7 4.2 5.5 40.5% 59.5%
             

Pittsburgh just misses the bottom-third in pass yards per game allowed, due to yielding over 400 to Detroit their last time out. Baltimore narrowly misses the yards per rush allowed criterion.

Notes

  • Jacksonville hosts the L.A. Chargers. It's another early start for the west-coasters, but if they can avoid sleepwalking through the game, Melvin Gordon will be their best chance to be competitive.
  • The Rams have been bad at allowing large chunks via the run. But they've been winning games so frequently that game scripts are mitigating that weakness.
  • The Chargers are in for a long day against a refreshed Leonard Fournette.

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The Weakest Links

Last week, we discussed Indianapolis vs. running backs and Green Bay vs. wide receivers. The former was shot when Deshaun Watson's injury ruined the game script for Houston, while the latter continued in a big way with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate torching Green Bay on Monday night.

Didn't Think We'd Forget, Did You?

Prior to their bye week, "NYG vs. TE" was a staple in this space. They're insistent on it remaining one.

  • The New York Giants have allowed nine touchdowns to tight ends in eight games. 
  • No other team has allowed more than six. Some of those teams have played nine games (not just eight).
  • The 19.7 fantasy points per game they allow to tight ends is the most in the NFL.

Travel Via the Air vs. Tampa Bay

Whether it's quarterbacks or wide receivers, the Buccaneers are yielding fantasy production in bunches to players who throw and catch the football against them.

TB vs. WRs

  • The double-digit PPR weeks we've referenced here in the past grew by two last week.

Breaking Contain vs. Washington

While rushing yards by quarterbacks are difficult to predict because it's not a skill set that every quarterback has, this seemed notable nonetheless as the announcers in last week's Washington at Seattle game praised the Redskins early for aggressively rushing Russell Wilson and not worrying about his legs. The "result" was 77 rushing yards for Wilson, the third quarterback rushing performance over 50 yards Washington has allowed this season.

  • Washington is facing 4.8 carries per game by quarterbacks, second-most in the NFL.
  • Washington is allowing 29.8 rushing yards per game to quarterbacks, most in the NFL.
  • Washington is allowing 3.73 rushing fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, most in the NFL.

This item may not be actionable this week because Case Keenum isn't known for his mobility, but if Keenum simply gets into the double digits in rushing yards, this could be a team-centric trend with Washington.

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Matchups to Avoid

These are holdovers from the last couple of weeks, but they're staying strong.

L.A. Chargers vs. Wide Receivers

  • The Chargers have allowed 6+ receptions to one receiver.
  • The Chargers have allowed 80+ yards to two receivers and 100+ yards to zero receivers.

It might be wise to avoid the Jacksonville receivers this week, particularly given this strong stat/glitch in the matrix:

Carolina Panthers vs. Running Backs

  • Carolina has allowed 70+ rushing yards to one running back (and it was 71 yards).
  • Carolina has allowed 80+ total yards to one running back.
  • Carolina has allowed 15.5 PPR points to zero running backs.

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Pittsburgh Steelers (at Indianapolis Colts)

PIT at IND

Notes

  • Indianapolis allows 62.9% of targets to wide receivers, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh targets its wide receivers 69.2% of the time, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh gains 80.0% of its passing yards via wide receivers, the highest ratio in the NFL.

PIT WRs vs. IND

  • Antonio Brown targets by week, starting in Week 1: 11-11-14-9-19-10-10-10.
  • Pittsburgh's passing yards to touchdowns ratio is 209 yards for every passing touchdown, the ninth-most yards per score in the NFL.
  • League average is 164 passing yards for every passing touchdown.
  • Ben Roethlisberger is the poster boy for home/road splits.

Commentary

Indianapolis has faced Tom Savage, Andy Dalton, Blake Bortles, Brian Hoyer, and DeShone Kizer this season, and they still rank second-to-last in passing yards per game and third-to-last in passing yards per play. This is the beginning of a soft schedule stretch for the Pittsburgh passing game (at IND, vs. TEN, vs. GB) before a difficult two-week stretch (at CIN, vs. BAL) and then a soft landing in Weeks 15-17 (vs. NE, at HOU, vs. CLE). For traditional leagues, Roethlisberger is a quality start this week. And for DFS purposes, he's not the best cash game play due to other options around his price, but he certainly has GPP upside. Brown is a target monster whose role is unquestioned. He should be a cash game staple this week.

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Atlanta Falcons (vs. Dallas Cowboys)

ATL vs. DAL

Notes

  • Atlanta is averaging 6.2 yards per play, tied for the most in the NFL.
  • Atlanta is averaging 4.6 yards per rush, fourth-most in the NFL.
  • Dallas is allowing 4.4 yards per rush, eighth-most in the NFL.
  • Dallas allows 47.2% of their total points via passing touchdowns, the sixth-highest ratio in the NFL.

DAL vs. WRs

  • As mentioned last week, Dallas struggles against WR2s and slot receiver types.
  • Dallas ranks by position, courtesy of Football Outsiders - WR1: 3, WR2: 21, Other WR: 15, TE: 29, RB: 20

Commentary

Atlanta's offensive struggles this season are well-documented, which is why it's surprising to see them so good on a per-play basis. The production might be there if they can be forced into volume. Based on how Dallas defends in its secondary, it wouldn't appear to be a great spot for Julio Jones. Mohamed Sanu, however, is the type of receiver that has seen success vs. Dallas. Sanu is an interesting GPP play due to his touchdown upside and what should be a slightly-boosed target share.

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New England Patriots (at Denver Broncos)

NE at DEN

Notes

  • New England is averaging 411.1 total yards per game, most in the NFL, and 302.1 passing yards per game, also most in the league.
  • New England gains 73.5% of its total yardage via the pass, the fourth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Denver allows 48.5% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the fourth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Denver allows 9.1% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the second-lowest ratio in the NFL.
  • Rob Gronkowski has been good vs. Denver in the past:
  • Football Outsiders ranks for Denver - WR1: 3, WR2: 21, Other WR: 27, TE: 27, RB: 8

Commentary

You can see where this is going, but let's take it even further down that path. New England targets its tight ends on 25.2% of its passes, the 12th-highest ratio in the NFL. However, we know the Patriots game plan to exploit weaknesses of their opponents. Denver allows 38.0% of its passing yardage to tight ends, the highest such ratio in the NFL. Find a way to afford Gronkowski in DFS this week, espnecially in GPPs where a high-end tight end is an atypical roster construction that would allow you to pick higher-owned plays at other positions.

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Detroit Lions (vs. Cleveland Browns)

DET vs. CLE

Notes

  • Detroit allows 76.2% of its total yardage via the pass, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Cleveland allows 73.1% of its total yardage via the pass, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Cleveland has allowed seven touchdowns to wide receivers.
  • Cleveland has allowed 5+ receptions to four wide receivers.
  • Detroit's wide receiving corps might be undergoing a changing of the guard.

DET WRs

  • Over the last four weeks (three Detroit games), Marvin Jones has a 28.3% target market share, 12th in the NFL.
  • Cleveland is allowing 2.9 yards per rush, fewest in the NFL (the next-closest team yields 3.4 per carry).

Commentary

It will be interesting to see if the Jones vs. Golden Tate usage is related to any lingering after-effect of Tate's injury. Three double-digit games in a row is a rare accomplishment. Only Antonio Brown, Adam Thielen, Jarvis Landry, and Doug Baldwin have three games with at least 10 targets (that's right, DeAndre Hopkins has not).

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New Orleans Saints (at Buffalo Bills)

NO at BUF

Notes

Buffalo has been bad against quarterbacks lately. Before facing Josh McCown on a Thursday night (a game in which McCown did have a rushing touchdown, thus making his fantasy day completely acceptable).

BUF vs. QBs

  • Buffalo allows 72.6% of its total yardage via the pass, the fourth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Buffalo allows 32.2% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • New Orleans is averaging 7.2 Net Yards per Pass Attempted, second-most in the NFL
  • New Orleans targets its wide receivers on 60.0% of its passing attempts, the 12th-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Buffalo is allowing 59.6% of its targets against to wide receivers, the ninth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Buffalo is last in the NFL over the last five weeks in terms of fantasy points to running backs, per our Normalized Strength of Schedule.

Commentary

Buffalo has been bad all around lately on defense. Illustration of that is below:

Despite a pretty narrow target distribution, choosing which New Orleans player/players to roster in DFS has been difficult over the past few weeks. It's worth noting here that playing a running back and wide receiver from the same team is frowned upon for GPPs as it limits your upside. However, that strategy in cash games is viable, as it raises a team's floor. Rostering both Mark Ingram and Michael Thomas in cash games is definitely viable again this week.

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Carolina Panthers (vs. Miami Dolphins)

CAR vs. MIA

Notes

  • Christian McCaffrey carries, rushing yards, snap percentage, targets, and receptions in the last four games: 44, 99, 72%, 36, 27.
  • Jonathan Stewart carries, rushing yards, snap percentage, targets, and receptions in the last four games: 30, 87, 37%, 2, 0.
  • Miami is allowing 6.6 receptions per game to tight ends, second-most in the NFL.
  • Miami is allowing 60.5 yards to tight ends, eighth-most in the NFL.

Commentary

Similar to last week, this is an "all roads lead to Newton" situation. Miami is solid against the run, and Carolina bad in the run game. McCaffrey is taking over the backfield and is a preferred weapon of Newton. Newton has both cash and GPP viability if playing a DFS slate that includes Monday night. He's a top-five play in traditional leagues as well.

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