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Trendspotting: Week 9

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.
  • 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 one touchdown if they've played all four weeks
LeVeon Bell 0 10.3 24.6% 42.0 at BAL
Mike Wallace 0 11.0 23.9% 46.0 vs. PIT
Allen Robinson 0 9.7 22.3% 43.3 at KC
Dennis Pitta 0 9.3 20.3% 46.0 vs. PIT
Willie Snead 0 8.7 20.0% 43.3 at SF

Bell is such an interesting case, as this section is generally reserved for wide receivers and tight ends, but his market share is actually the highest of the players who qualify for this list (and 17th in the entire NFL over the last four weeks).

If I had to choose just one player from this list to score this weekend, I'd choose Bell. But if forced to choose only based on receiving touchdowns (after all, the whole list is predicated on targets), I like Wallace as well. Pittsburgh's secondary is not good, and Baltimore's passing game volume has been consistenly high all year. 

Robinson is saddled with a poor offense, and Snead is too far down the totem pole -- especially in the red zone (despite still qualifying with the 20% market share number).

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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 table should help illustrate 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
New York Jets 290.9 74.0 7.3 3.3 79.7% 20.3%
Carolina Panthers 286.9 80.1 7.4 3.3 78.2% 21.8%
Green Bay Packers 247.1 74.4 6.8 3.3 76.9% 23.1%

These three teams continue to allow plenty of passing game production and little on the ground. This week is interesting because the beneficiaries of playing against these defenses may not actually be able to benefit too much. Miami hosts New York, and Los Angeles hosts Carolina. Neither have very high-octane passing games. Green Bay hosts Indianapolis, who between the funnel effect and game script should be throwing early and often.

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Green Bay Packers

Green Bay (vs. Indianapolis)


  • Indianapolis has allowed 2+ touchdown passes in five straight games and six games overall.
  • Aaron Rodgers has multiple touchdown passes in five games.
  • Green Bay is scoring 59.3% of its points via passing touchdowns, the second-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Rodgers has averaged 45.25 pass attempts per game since returning from the team's Week 4 bye.
  • Green Bay has averaged 20.5 rush attempts by players other than Rodgers since their Week 4 bye.


As the graphic above shows, where Green Bay's offense is weak, Indianapolis' defense is strong, at least from a DvP/fantasy points perspective. The only exception is quarterback. This tweet from 4for4's Chris Raybon tells you all you need to know about Rodgers' fantasy value right now.

Finding a "stack-mate"; for Rodgers in GPPs is difficult as Indianapolis doesn't really have a pattern in terms the types of receivers to which they yield big performances. And Green Bay doesn't have a competent tight end to exploit the Colts' weakness there either. If Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery are out again, choosing either Jordy Nelson or Davante Adams based on volume alone makes sense. With Rodgers recent run game production, he could even be a good "naked" play (no stacked teammates).

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas (at Cleveland)


  • Cleveland has allowed 275+ passing yards to six quarterbacks and 2+ passing touchdowns to seven.
  • Dak Prescott has never thrown for 300+ yards (and thrown for 250+ just twice).
  • Prescott has 6+ rushing fantasy points in four of his last six games.
  • Cleveland has allowed at least 3.3x value to four running backs in their past two games.
  • Cleveland has allowed 10 rushing touchdowns to running backs (and 12 running back touchdowns in total).
  • Cleveland is allowing 20.0 rushing fantasy points per game to running backs, second-most in the NFL.
  • Among Dallas running backs, Ezekiel Elliott has 80% the carries, 66% the targets, and 68% of the receptions.
  • Notable performances against Cleveland by secondary receivers, from Week 5-8: Hogan (4-114-0), Wright (8-133-1), LaFell (4-83-1), Enunwa (4-93-1).
  • With Dez Bryant back last week, he played 69 of 78 snaps, Terrence Wililams played 60, and Cole Beasley played 52. Brice Butler was the casualty with just 21. Jason Witten played 78 of 78.
  • Beasley and Wililams each had 7 targets; Witten had 3.
  • Cleveland is still ranked worst in the league against tight ends, despite allowing just seven tight end receptions in the last three weeks (to Tennessee's "exotic smashmouth" offense, a healing Tyler Eifert/not-good Tyler Kroft combo and to the Jets, who use tight ends less frequently than any other team).


Elliott is Dallas' best player; his matchup is as juicy as one gets outside of San Francisco or New Orleans; and if you need a little "something extra," there's a #NarrativeStreet angle of him returning to Ohio. Prescott has a safe floor due to matchup and his rushing ability, but I'm not calling out Bryant because Cleveland allows non-primary options to beat them so frequently. I'm willing to chalk up Witten's low targets number last week to matchup. Philadelphia is among the NFL's best at preventing tight end production. Cleveland, as you can see above, is not.

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New Orleans Saints

New Orleans (at San Francisco)


  • San Francisco has allowed at least 3.2x value to five "team" quarterbacks (the qualifier being that if Russell Wilson and Trevone Boykin's production and salaries were averaged, they hit over that specific marker).
  • San Francisco has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in its last four games and five games overall.
  • New Orleans is gaining 78.7% of its total yardage via the pass, the second-highest rate in the NFL.
  • San Francisco is allowing 54.6% of its total yardage via the pass, the lowest percentage in the NFL (next-lowest is 60.2%).
  • San Francisco is allowing 6.6 net yards per pass attempt, 20th-best is the NFL.
  • San Francisco has allowed 100+ yards to six running backs in its last six games (the last four of which have been 138 or more yards).
  • Mark Ingram II has received 16.7% (2 of 12) of the team's carries from inside the five yard line.
  • Ingram has converted one of two for touchdowns.
  • Tim Hightower has received five such carries and converted zero for touchdowns.


I've been waiting to post this tweet for two weeks now. While Ingram can't be trusted as a cash game play, "RB vs. San Francisco" is a cash game type of matchup. In what can only be described as an "assumption of rational coaching" special, Ingram could be used as a GPP play and could reach value via a somewhat pedestrian 11-50-2 (plus a catch or two) type of stat line, or he could get his job back in a game New Orleans wins handily and go for a more conventional 100+ yards and a touchdown line. It wouldn't be surprising if New Orleans had multiple 100-yard rushers here either.

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Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City (at Green Bay)


  • Jacksonville has allowed at least 3x value to just two quarterbacks.
  • Jacksonville has allowed six touchdowns to running backs in its last four games (all rushing).
  • Jacksonville has allowed 80+ yards to six wide receivers in its last six games.
  • Notable wide receiver performances against Jacksonville, starting with most recent: TEN - Matthews (4-38-1), Wright (4-84-1); OAK - Cooper (4-29-0), Crabtree (8-96-1); CHI - Jeffery (7-93-0), Meredith (11-113-0); BAL - Wallace (3-34-0), Smith (8-87-0)
  • Chris Conley snap percentages and target percentages over the last three weeks: snaps - 59%-58%-73%; targets - 18%-9%-12%
  • Tyreek Hill snap percentages and target percentages over the last three weeks: snaps - 28%-35%-28%; targets - 9%-4%-15%


With Jalen Ramsey about the only thing going as planned in Jacksonville this season, WR1s are struggling to perform against the Jaguars.Tight ends have also struggled, leaving complimentary WR2s to do the bulk of the damage. Hill has been electric, but he's doing it with smoke, mirrors, and very limited volume (as you read above). One week samples are difficult to use, but I would be more likely to recommend Hill as a GPP play had his snaps from last week been over 50% to accompany his production.

Nick Foles came in last week and was bold with his throws and used Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin as they should be used. However, for just $400 more, another low-priced quarterback is more attractive this week (more on him later). Game script and anticipate volume leaves Charcandrick West as the only must-play here. 

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San Diego Chargers

San Diego (vs. Tennessee)


  • San Diego is gaining 74.3% of its total yardage via the pass, seventh-most in the NFL.
  • Tennessee is allowing 75.9% of its total yardage via the pass, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • Tennessee has allowed 330+ yards and multiple touchdowns in three straight games.
  • Tennessee has allowed 100+ scrimmage yards to just one running back.
  • Tennessee has allowed 4+ receptions to four running backs.
  • Tennessee is allowing 9.2 rushing fantasy points per game to running backs, third-fewest in the NFL.
  • Tennessee has allowed 6+ receptions to eight wide receivers.
  • Tennessee has allowed at least 3.1x value to five wide receivers in the last three games.
  • Tyrell Williams averaged 6 receptions (8 targets), 128.5 yards, and 0.5 touchdowns in his last two games against opponents other than Denver.
  • Tennessee has allowed at least 2.8x value to seven tight ends.
  • Tennessee has allowed 50+ receiving yards to six tight ends.
  • Tight ends Tennessee has faced, from most recent to least: Julius Thomas, Jack Doyle, Gary Barnidge, Dominique Jones/Dion Sims, C.J. Fiedorowicz/Ryan Griffin, Clive Walford, Eric Ebron, Kyle Rudolph.
  • Antonio Gates has 19 targets in the last two weeks; Hunter Henry has 7.


Travis Benjamin went for a second opinion on his knee, but he returned to a limited practice Thursday. Stay tuned on his status. His absence wouldn't impact Williams much, other than a couple more targets. But Dontrelle Inman would fall into more snaps and become notable. A Benjamin absence would also likely lead to more snaps with both Gates and Henry on the field. Tennessee's raw DvP numbers against tight ends are welcoming, especially considering they haven't faced a "murderer's row" of tight ends.

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San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco (vs. New Orleans)


  • New Orleans has allowed at least 2.8x value to four quarterbacks.
  • Colin Kaepernick's points-per-$1,000 finishes in his two starts: 3.6x value and 3.0x value.
  • San Francisco is scoring 41.7% of its points via rushing touchdowns, most in the NFL.
  • New Orleans is allowing 33.5% of its points via rushing touchdowns, fourth-most in the NFL.
  • Since Week 3, New Orleans has allowed at least 3.6x value to five of the six running backs who have gotten 10+ touches against them.
  • New Orleans has allowed 2+ rushing touchdowns to three running backs (and four teams).
  • New Orleans is allowing 19.3 rushing fantasy points per game to running backs, third-most in the NFL.
  • Carlos Hyde played at least 70% of the team snaps in four of the five games he finished.
  • Hyde has 66% of the team's running back carries (75% if the Week 7 game he missed is excluded).
  • Of the 11 quarterbacks with at least 100 rushing yards on the season, only Kaepernick and Matthew Stafford have zero rushing touchdowns.
  • Kaepernick has rushed for 150 yards in two games. The next-highest rushing yards per game total among quarterbacks is Tyrod Taylor's 39.9.


It seems just as appropriate to consider Kaepernick a running back when accounting for the positive matchup here. New Orleans has a soft front that allows plenty of rushing production. Whether the rusher is taking the snap or having the ball handed to him, lanes should be available. And if New Orleans gets ahead, Kaepernick will be forced to pass more, which could also lead to impromptu runs.

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Carolina Panthers

Carolina (at Los Angeles)


  • Notable quarterback performances against Los Angeles, beginning with most recent: Manning (196 pass yards-0 touchdowns-0 interceptions / -2 rush yards-0 interceptions), Stafford (270-4-0 / 14-0), Taylor (12-2-0 / 28-0), Palmer (288-1-1 / 0-0), Winston (405-3-1 / 13-0).
  • Los Angeles has allowed three touchdowns to running backs since Week 1.
  • Los Angeles is allowing 7.7 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, sixth-fewest in the NFL.
  • Los Angeles is allowing 25.9 targets per game to wide receivers, second-most in the NFL.
  • Los Angeles has allowed 8+ receptions to five five wide receivers in its last five games (the only teams to not have a receiver qualify for this were the Giants and Bills, who are not noted for their high-octane offenses).
  • Los Angeles has allowed eight touchdowns to wide receivers in its last five games.
  • Los Angeles is allowing 11.7% of its total points via touchdowns scored by the opposing defense/special teams, second-most in the NFL.
  • Los Angeles has been sacked on 6.32% of its passing attempts, the 12th-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Carolina has sacked the quarterback on 7.35% of opponent's pass attempts, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL.


I'm going to spoil the Cash and GPP Plays sections below because this is a monumental occasion. We have our first ever D/ST position recommendation in this column's brief history. Ideally, it doesn't lead to me having to fully investigate a fifth position for each opposing defense, but I started by looking into how the Rams allow their points. They were so middling in everything defensively, so I knew there had to be another way there were allowing points.

Putting together Case Keenum, Jeff Fisher, and the very yellow and orange picture above, I looked into opposing defenses against the Rams offense and came up with Carolina, who should lead the game, pressure the quarterback, and force a bad quarterback into more dropbacks than his team would want. And isn't that the dream?

Kelvin Benjamin is a nice play if Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson misses the game. Johnson looks to be progressing towards a return, though.

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Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis (at Green Bay)


  • Quarterbacks to reach at least 3.4x value against Green Bay: Ryan (288-3-0), Prescott (247-3-1), Stafford (385-3-1), Bradford (286-2-0).
  • Quarterbacks who didn't reach 2x value against Green Bay: Hoyer/Barkley (130-0-2), Manning (199-1-0).
  • Green Bay has allowed 50+ rushing yards to one running back


Andrew Luck looks like the only player for Indianapolis who seems like a safe bet to make value, but their team total is still reasonably high at 23.5. Green Bay is also a funnel defense and is favored, making passing game volume very likely. Green Bay has been weaker against WR1s than complimentary receivers, but T.Y. Hilton's hamstring and prohibitive salary make me hesitant to recommend him. Donte Moncrief is the best bet for a touchdown and, therefore, the best bet for multiple touchdowns as well. He's a sneaky GPP play with plenty of other attractive options like Demaryius Thomas, Stefon Diggs, Jeremy Maclin, Davante Adams, and Ty Montgomery all priced at $6,000 or under.

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This Week's Cash Game Plays

Philip Rivers $6500 17.9 SD vs. TEN
Aaron Rodgers $7800 21.5 GB vs. IND
Dak Prescott $6100 16.8 DAL at CLE
Charcandrick West $4400 12.1 KC vs. JAX
Ezekiel Elliott $7900 21.7 DAL at CLE
Ty Montgomery $5800 16.0 GB vs. IND
Michael Thomas $5500 15.1 NO at SF
Antonio Gates $3000 8.3 SD vs. TEN
Jason Witten $3700 10.2 DAL at CLE

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This Week's GPP Plays

Colin Kaepernick $5600 21.0 SF vs. NO
Mark Ingram $4800 18.0 NO at SF
Charcandrick West $4400 16.5 KC vs. JAX
Tyrell Williams $5000 18.8 SD vs. TEN
Donte Moncrief $5800 21.8 IND at GB
Antonio Gates $3000 11.3 SD vs. TEN
Carolina Panthers $3400 12.8 CAR at LA

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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

Jameis Winston $5700 15.7 18.8 Yes
Andrew Luck $6800 18.7 20.4 Yes
Devontae Booker $3700 10.2 18.4 Yes
Frank Gore $4700 12.9 14.2 Yes
Ty Montgomery* $5300 14.6 DNP n/a
Davante Adams $4900 13.5 19.4 Yes
Mike Evans $8100 22.3 11.0 No
Greg Olsen $6500 17.9 2.1 No

*did not play; will not count towards season totals

  • Last Week: 5-for-7 (71%)
  • Season: 20-for-35 (57%)

GPP Plays

Alex Smith $5800 21.8 10.0 No
LeGarrette Blount $5300 19.9 10.3 No
Devontae Booker $3700 13.9 18.4 Yes
Jonathan Stewart $4900 18.4 24.0 Yes
Ty Montgomery $5300 19.9 DNP n/a
Travis Kelce $4900 18.4 26.1 Yes

*did not play; will not count toward season totals

  • Last Week: 3-for-5 (60%)
  • Season: 16-for-32 (50%)

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