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Trendspotting: Week 15

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:

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta (vs. San Francisco)


  • San Francisco is allowing 58.9% of its yardage via the pass, the lowest ratio in the NFL.
  • San Francisco is allowing 23.7 rushing fantasy points per game to running backs, most in the NFL (second-most is 19.1).
  • San Francisco is allowing 170.8 rushing yards per game, most in the NFL (second-most is 146.2).
  • San Francisco is allowing 1.54 touchdowns per game to wide receivers, tied for most in the NFL (with Baltimore).
  • San Francisco has allowed at least 4.5x value to a wide receiver in its last three games; they've played the wide receiver machines of Miami, Chicago, and New York (Jets) in those games.


San Francisco is bad at everything. Even the one "red" item they have going for them is only that way because they allow much rushing production and are behind so often, teams don't even have to pass. There are so many more bullet points I could include above. If you're a regular reader, you can read previous versions because we focus on San Francisco's opponent in most weeks. In short, teams can do whatever they want against the 49ers.

Matt Ryan is a tough call this week. Generally, you want a quarterback with the highest team total on the board, but Atlanta should be running the ball most of the fourth quarter (if not earlier). And if they get ahead via the run or due to its piping-hot defense, Ryan's day gets even shorter. It kind of limits his floor and his ceiling. In most weeks, I would fade him, but in a week with so many elite quarterbacks in very difficult matchups, Ryan is still in play for cash lineups.

Picking the right Atlanta running back is always a tough task, so I'll probably be off of them despite the great matchup. If Julio Jones is inactive again, Taylor Gabriel is worth a look once again.

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Oakland Raiders

Oakland (at San Diego)


  • San Diego has allowed one or zero passing touchdowns in six of its last eight games.
  • Quarterbacks faced in those games: Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Matt Ryan, Siemian again.
  • San Diego is allowing 274.2 gross passing yards per game, eighth-most in the NFL.
  • San Diego is allowing 1.38 passing touchdowns per game, tied for ninth-fewest in the NFL.
  • San Diego has allowed at least 2.5x value to zero running backs in its last three games.
  • San Diego has allowed 100+ scrimmage yards to zero running backs in its last six games.
  • Since Week 1, the most scrimmage yards allowed by San Diego to a running back is 105 to Mark Ingram II (followed by 100 to Devonta Freeman and 97 to Jalen Richard).
  • San Diego is allowing 29.4% of its yardage via the rush, the sixth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • San Diego has allowed 4+ receptions to six tight ends in its last six games (Miami being the only team to not record one).


The Chargers have been an improving defense lately, particularly against the run, but they are still allowing rushing scores (especially from short yardage). But Latavius Murray is back to workhorse status in Oakland, and he's the clear goal line back now. Just look at the stats:

Regular readers know that we like to follow the volume when predicting touchdown production (as opposed to following touchdowns and expecting the fantasy production to keep coming). San Diego allows plenty of yardage via the pass but a lack of touchdowns. Perhaps that regresses this week. And after all, we have to pick a cash game quarterback at some point this week. Why not take one in one of the few high-total games -- a game that won't be impacted by weather?

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Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota (vs. Indianapolis)


  • Indianapolis had allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in eight straight games prior to facing the formidable duo of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty in Week 13 and Brock Osweiler in Week 14.
  • Indianapolis is allowing 67.8 yards per game to tight ends, third-most in the NFL.
  • Indianapolis is allowing 6.0 yards per play, second-most in the NFL.
  • Indianapolis pass ranks per Football Outsiders: 31st vs. WR1s, 7th vs. WR2s, 10th vs. Other WRs, 30th vs. TEs, 30th vs. RBs.
  • Minnesota is gaining 75.8% of its yardage via the pass, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Kyle Rudolph has 30 targets over his last three games.


Minnesota should be able to move the ball and put up points in a climate-controlled home game in which they are favored. Based on what Indianapolis has done all season, Kyle Rudolph should be the favorite to lead the team in targets and production once again. But there's another somewhat cheap option on the team that's compelling for ceiling purposes.

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Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore (vs. Philadelphia)


  • Philadelphia has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in its last three games and five of its last seven.
  • Notable quarterback perfomances against Philadelphia, from most recent to least: Cousins (234-2-1), Dalton (332-2-0), Rodgers (313-2-0 / 6-26-0), Wilson (272-1-0 / 8-19-0), Ryan (267-1-0), Manning (257-4-0), Prescott (287-2-1 / 7-38-1).
  • Philadelphia has allowed at least 2.9x value to four running backs in its last four games.
  • Philadelphia has allowed 5 rushing touchdowns to running backs in its last four games.
  • Baltimore running back snaps and touches from last week: Kenneth Dixon - 42/19; Terrance West - 14/6.
  • Philadelphia is allowing 191.8 yards per game to wide receivers, third-most in the NFL.
  • Philadelphia is allowing 12.3 receptions per game to wide receivers, 19th-most in the NFL.
  • Philadelphia has allowed 90+ yards to seven wide receivers in its last five games.


Let's start with this:

The Eagles have a cornerback who gets burned regularly; they allow plenty of yards to wide receivers but not a ton of receptions. If only Baltimore had a wide receiver known for making many yards on few catches...Mike Wallace will be a GPP play when we get to that section. Dixon is worth a look as well with a low salary and coming off an eight-catch game.

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Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City (vs. Tennessee)


  • Tennessee has allowed 300+ passing yards and/or 2+ passing touchdowns in its last eight games (both 300+ and 2+ in five of those games).
  • Tennessee is facing 39.8 passing attempts per game, third-most in the NFL.
  • Tennessee is allowing 290.9 gross passing yards per game, most in the NFL.
  • Tennessee is allowing 76.0% of its total yardage via the pass, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Notable quarterback performances against Tennessee: Siemian (334-1-0); Barkley (316-3-2); Luck (262-2-1); Rodgers (371-2-2 plus a rushing touchdown); Rivers (275-2-0); Bortles (337-3-0); Luck (336-3-0); Kessler (336-2-0).
  • Tennessee has allowed 3+ receptions to eight running backs in its last eight games.
  • Tennessee is allowing 15.5 receptions per game to wide receivers, most in the NFL.
  • Tennessee is allowing 193.5 yards per game to wide receivers, most in the NFL.
  • Tennessee is allowing 1.23 touchdowns per game to wide receivers, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • Football Outsiders passing game rankings for Tennessee: 7th-best against WR1s, 31st against WR2s, 11th against "other WRs," 10th against TEs, 31st against RBs.
  • Tennessee has allowed 4+ receptions and at least 3.3x value to six tight ends in its last seven games.
  • Travis Kelce has 100+ yards in four straight games.
  • Kelce has zero touchdowns in those four games despite 40 targets on 121 total targeted passes.


Tennessee is allowing an average of 25.6 fantasy points per game to opposing passers over its last eight. The "Murderer's Row" of quarterbacks faced includes Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck (twice), and Philip Rivers, but it also includes Trevor Siemian, Matt Barkley, Blake Borles, and Cody Kessler. In fact, the latter group of four has an average of 25.85 in that stretch, so it's not as though Tennessee has been crushed by elite quarterbacks, thus inflating its average points against. All of that said, some very cold weather could limit both quarterbacks, making Alex Smith more of a floor play than a ceiling play. What scares me away from playing Kelce is more salary constraints than matchup. But if you have the room to get him in and feel comfortable elsewhere, he's a great play in all formats.

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New York Giants

NY Giants (vs. Detroit)


  • Detroit allowed 24.7 fantasy points to per game to quarterbacks from Weeks 1-7, most in the NFL.
  • Detroit is allowing 11.7 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks since Week 8, fewest in the NFL.
  • Quarterbacks faced by Detroit from Week 8 on: Brock Osweiler, Sam Bradford, Blake Bortles, Bradford again, Drew Brees, Matt Barkley.
  • Detroit is allowing 51.5% of its points via passing touchdowns, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • New York is scoring 54.1% of its points via passing touchdowns, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Detroit is allowing 6.1 receptions per game to running backs, fourth-most in the NFL, and 47.9 receiving yards per game to backs, sixth-most in the NFL.
  • Detroit is allowing 11.8 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, sixth-most in the NFL.
  • Detroit is ranked 28th against "other WR" (i.e. slot receivers) and top-10 against both WR1s and WR2s, per Football Outsiders.


The Lions are a fascinating case in terms of their DvP splits vs. quarterbacks. While noticing trends is the name of the article, there's more to it than just seeing the numbers. Putting those numbers in context by looking at the opponents is another piece of the puzzle. Detroit has played at a slower tempo, which is part of the reason for the improved defense, but a big part appears to be a lack of quality opponents. If they get "good Eli," this week, it'll be a real test of whether their improvement is real or a bit phony. Needless to say, I'm taking a few shots at GPPs with Manning. While the receiving numbers to running backs are compelling, they don't lead to a clear play at the position for New York with Shane Vereen likely to return this week from his concussion. They do help illustrate an "all roads lead to Manning" situation, though.

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Denver Broncos

Denver (vs. New England)


  • New England has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in four of its last five games.
  • New England is allowing 38.1 pass attempts per game, sixth-most in the NFL.
  • New England is allowing 6.7 receptions, 54.8 receiving yards, and 13.6 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, all second-most in the NFL.
  • Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both have over 30% Target Market Share in the last four games.
  • Thomas and Sanders both rank top-eight in terms of Target Market Share for the season.
  • Thomas and Sanders have combined for 146 targets in the last seven games.
  • Both have seen eight or more targets in each of the last seven games.


Among quarterbacks, only Jared Goff, Charlie Whitehurst, and Cody Kessler failed to reach 2.5x value against New England. If the Cleveland duo's points are added together and a $5,000 salary is assumed (both were $5,000 that week), they actually reached over 3.3x value. New England doesn't shut down passing games; bad passing games do that all by themselves against New England.

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This Week's Cash Game Plays

Matt Ryan $7300 20.1 ATL vs. SF
Derek Carr $6300 17.3 OAK at SD
Joe Flacco $5700 15.7 BAL vs. PHI
Alex Smith $5400 14.9 KC vs. TEN
Latavius Murray $5800 16.0 OAK at SD
Kenneth Dixon $3800 10.5 BAL vs. PHI
Michael Crabtree $5900 16.2 OAK at SD
Taylor Gabriel* $5600 15.4 ATL vs. SF
Demaryius Thomas $6300 17.3 DEN vs. NE
Emmanuel Sanders $6600 18.2 DEN vs. NE
Travis Kelce $5900 16.2 KC vs. TEN
Kyle Rudolph $4300 11.8 MIN vs. IND

*only if Julio Jones is inactive

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This Week's GPP Plays

Derek Carr $6300 23.6 OAK at SD
Joe Flacco $5700 21.4 BAL vs. PHI
Eli Manning $5600 21.0 NYG vs. DET
Trevor Siemian $5200 19.5 DEN vs. NE
Latavius Murray $5800 21.8 OAK at SD
Justin Forsett $3000 11.3 DEN vs. NE
Adam Thielen $4800 18.0 MIN vs. IND
Mike Wallace $4800 18.0 BAL vs. PHI
Sterling Shepard $4600 17.3 NYG vs. DET
Demaryius Thomas $6300 23.6 DEN vs. NE
Emmanuel Sanders $6600 24.8 DEN vs. NE
Travis Kelce $5900 22.1 KC vs. TEN

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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

Kirk Cousins $6300 17.3 17.0 No
Tyrod Taylor $5400 14.9 16.3 Yes
Andrew Luck $6900 19.0 19.2 Yes
Rob Kelley $4200 11.6 16.8 Yes
LeSean McCoy $8200 22.6 22.8 Yes
T.Y. Hilton $7500 20.6 29.5 Yes
Jason Witten $3100 8.5 6.6 No
Jimmy Graham $5500 15.1 2.6 No
Vernon Davis* $3500 9.6 1.1 No

*was only a recommended play if Jordan Reed had been inactive

  • Last Week: 5-for-8 (63%)
  • Season: 52-for-100 (52%)

GPP Plays

Colin Kaepernick $5800 21.8 11.6 No
Thomas Rawls $5700 21.4 8.4 No
Rob Kelley $4200 15.8 16.8 Yes
DeSean Jackson $5200 19.5 22.2 Yes
Torrey Smith* $3500 13.1 0.0 No
Eric Ebron** $3800 14.3 7.2 No
Jason Witten $3100 11.6 6.6 No
Vance McDonald* $3000 11.3 0.0 No

*left his game early due to injury

**was only a recommended play if Marvin Jones had been inactive

  • Last Week: 2-for-5 (40%)
  • Season: 26-for-84 (31%)

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