#Trendspotting: Week 8 - The Forgotten Elite

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:

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
PlayerTgt/GmMS%TmAtt/GmRecTDMatchup
Pierre Garcon 9.0 23.1% 45.5 0 at PHI
Adam Thielen 9.3 28.3% 38.3 0 vs. CLE (LON)
Demaryius Thomas 8.3 23.8% 42.0 0 at KC
Julio Jones 8.3 24.9% 40.2* 1 at NYJ
Keenan Allen 9.7 27.3% 41.5* 1 at NE

*Neither Julio Jones nor Keenan Allen are on teams in the top one-third of passing attempts, but they are targets hogs without many touchdowns, so they are listed for informational purposes.

It's worth noting here that all of these players have excellent matchups this week. Here is one brief nugget on each:

  • Philadelphia allows the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers despite allowing the 21st-most touchdowns to wide receivers. Against wide receivers, the 14.4 receptions per game they allow are second-most in the NFL, and the 182.9 yards are fifth-most.
  • Football Outsiders ranks Cleveland 32nd against opposing WR1s.
  • Kansas City has allowed 13 touchdowns to wide receivers; no other team has allowed more than 10. They also have one particularly weak cornerback
  • The New York Jets are allowing 55.9% of their total points via passing touchdowns, the highest percentage in the NFL.
  • New England is allowing 200.0 yards per game to wide receivers, third-most in the NFL.
  • New England is allowing 310.3 passing yards per game, most in the NFL. No other team allows more than 300.7.

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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
Detroit Lions 244.2 94.3 6.6 3.7 72.1% 27.9%
Philadelphia Eagles* 272.9 67.0 6.2 3.8 80.3% 19.7%
Arizona Cardinals* 246.9 105.9 6.5 3.7 70.0% 30.0%
Miami Dolphins* 225.8 82.3 6.4 3.6 73.3% 26.7%
Cleveland Browns* 221.0 83.7 6.7 3.0 72.5% 27.5%

That's plenty of asterisks, I know, but there are a few teams just barely missing one of the four criteria above, and in certain cases, it's one outlier performance that moved their average outside of those ranges. For example, Arizona was just run all over by the L.A. Rams. In a game where their offense was poor and their quarterback was injured, the proverbial dam had to break when game script went way south.

For Miami and Cleveland, their per-game passing yard averages are middle-of-the-pack. But their per-game rushing averages are very strong, and their per-play passing stats suggest they're susceptible.

"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
Los Angeles Chargers 140.6 185.4 4.9 5.5 43.1% 56.9%
Jacksonville Jaguars 138.6 161.7 5.2 4.2 46.1% 53.9%
Baltimore Ravens* 145.3 189.3 4.4 5.9 43.4% 56.6%
Los Angeles Rams* 123.1 204.6 4.6 5.8 37.6% 62.4%
Pittsburgh Steelers* 111.7 147.0 4.7 4.3 43.2% 56.8%
Dallas Cowboys* 115.5 216.0 4.6 5.4 34.8% 65.2%

All of the asterisks here represent near misses. Each team misses just one criterion and is still ranked 12th-14th (as opposed to the 11th or lower required to be in the top/bottom 1/3 of the league).

A couple of these teams are off this week, and a couple face weak running games (Dallas visit Washington, while Pittsburgh visits Detroit). The most actionable item here might be Miami vs. Baltimore. Owners shouldn't be scared of playing Jay Ajayi later this evening.

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The Weakest Links

With the Giants getting some rest, this space will finally be void of "NYG vs. Tight Ends" discussion (at least until next week). Here are some other items of note:

Kansas City is a Doormat for Wide Receivers

The list below is filtered to players who have received at least three targets. It could probably be filtered further to just look at primary receivers, and the green-to-red ratio would be even higher. After all, no one is going to tell you to start Cordarrelle Patterson, regardless of opponent. We already discussed the 13 touchdowns allowed to receivers above; here are some more observations:

  • Kansas City has allowed 19+ fantasy points to seven wide receivers.
  • Kansas City has allowed 100+ yards and/or multiple touchdowns to six wide receivers.
  • Kansas City has allowed 20+ fantasy points to four wide receivers in their last three games.

KC vs. WRs

Last week, Demaryius Thomas was blanketed by Chargers star cornerback Casey Heyward. Denver's passing game has been brutal, but Thomas is an attractive GPP play for anyone playing on Monday slates or sites that include that game in their main slate.

Trench Warfare

My colleague Matt Bitonti has been very gracious in giving me previews of his o-line vs. d-line matchups. Last week, we identified Dallas' offensive quintet having a sizeable advantage over San Francisco's front, the L.A. Rams having advantages on both sides of the ball, Pittsburgh's defensive line being likely to overpower Cincinnati's offensive front, and Seattle's defensive line having no issue in New York against the Giants.

Let's see what Matt has in store for us this week. Keep in mind, when measuring "advantages," it's the net of the team's offensive line rank minus their opponent's defensive line rank (or vice-versa for defenses).

  • Atlanta has the largest offensive line advantage and the sixth-largest defensive line advantage; their offensive line is ranked 2nd overall in Matt's rankings.
  • Pittsburgh has an advantage on both sides of the ball. Their top-ranked defensive front contributes the week's fourth-largest defensive advantage, and they also have the sixth-best defensive line advantage.
  • A defensive line advantage for Seattle is nothing new; this week, their advantage is ranked third. What's unusual for Seattle is having an offensive line advantage. However, this week, their 22nd-ranked offensive unit squares off with Houston's 32nd-ranked defensive unit. Losing J.J. Watt certainly hurt that group.

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Matchups to Avoid

In an effort to keep this column fresh and constantly improving, we strive to generate new ideas. This section is one of them. If you can think of any you'd like to see in the column, reach out on twitter or via e-mail.

Pittsburgh vs. Quarterbacks

PIT vs. QBs

As you can see, no quarterback has eclipsed 250 yards vs. Pittsburgh. None of these opponents resemble Hall of Famers, but it's a defense gaining confidence and very good at home. This week, they visit Matthew Stafford, who will be a stiff test compared to the rest of the bunch.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Wide Receivers

This is an example of "Defense vs. Position" stats being misleading. Los Angeles ranks 16th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. But let's look a bit deeper:

  • The Chargers have allowed 7+ receptions to one wide receiver.
  • The Chargers have allowed 80+ yards to two wide receivers.

Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos vs. Running Backs

Both of these teams have been excellent against the run. This is notable, especially, for Denver; not only have they been the stiffer test of the two here, but they were very susceptible to the run last season, which makes this year's results a bit surprising.

  • Carolina has allowed 70+ rushing yards to zero running backs.
  • Carolina has allowed 80+ total yards to one running back.
  • Carolina has allowed 15.5+ fantasy points to zero running backs.
  • Denver has allowed 55+ rushing yards to one running back.
  • Denver has allowed zero rushing touchdowns to running backs.
  • Denver has allowed 10+ fantasy points to three running backs (two of those totals were buoyed by a touchdown).

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Philadelphia Eagles (vs. San Francisco 49ers)

PHI vs. SF

Notes

  • Football Outsiders ranks of San Francisco vs. WR1s, WR2s, Other WRs, TEs, and RBs: 28, 26, 28, 1, 31.
  • LeGarrette Blount fantasy points in games where his team is a favorite of 10 or more points: 14.6 per game.
  • Blount fantasy points in games where his team is not a favorite of 10 or more points, or an underdog: 8.7 per game.
  • Running backs vs. San Francisco in the past two seasons:

SF vs. RBs

That's a LOT of green.

Commentary

Philadelphia has achieved much of their success via Carson Wentz and the passing game, particularly via Zach Ertz. San Francisco has been so inept against the run that "RB1 vs. SF" ranks fourth in PPR points per game since the beginning of 2016. If Philadelphia still chooses to attack via the pass, San Francisco is so poor on the perimeter that Ertz may see his volume decrease at the expense of the outside players, particularly Alshon JefferyJeffery is a solid GPP option this week, while Ertz is a fade, and Wentz is likely to be the chalk this weekend.

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New Orleans Saints (vs. Chicago Bears)

NO vs. CHI

Notes

  • Chicago is allowing 0.7 rushing touchdowns per game to running backs, tied for sixth-most in the NFL.
  • Chicago has allowed 4+ receptions to four running backs (including 6+ to three backs).
  • New Orleans targets its running backs on 31.8% of its pass attempts, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Chicago has faced Tampa Bay, Green Bay (in the week Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams were injured), and Carolina - all teams in the bottom half of the NFL in rushing.

Commentary

Both Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara are in play this week. New Orleans should be able to score enough to put their backs and their defense in position to accumulate fantasy productions. Despite Chicago's recent success, it's very "smoke and mirrors." See below. Ingram should be a cash game staple this week.

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Dallas Cowboys (at Washington Redskins)

DAL at WAS

Notes

  • Washington is allowing 24.2 rushing yards per game to quarterbacks, most in the NFL.
  • Washington has only allowed one rushing touchdown to quarterbacks.
  • Washington is allowing the third-most rushing fantasy points per game to quarterbacks.
  • Dallas is scoring on 43.1% of its drives, fifth-most in the NFL; they have 21 offensive touchdowns and 7 field goals.
  • Dez Bryant is seeing 9.7 targets per game, fourth-most and a 28.9% target market share, fifth-best.
  • Josh Norman has been out since injuring his ribs in Week 4, but Washington has still performed well against wide receivers.

WAS vs. WRs

Commentary

The players circled are WR1s for their teams. Before Norman was injured and since then, these players haven't been able to produce vs. Washington. This is a situation where we have to look at the big picture. Dallas' projected total opened at 26.5, they score frequently, they score touchdowns much more often than field goals, their scoring isn't likely to come from Dez Bryant (despite his massive volume), Washington allows quarterbacks to run, and their quarterback can run. All signs point to Dak Prescott if you're playing a Dallas player or to the potential that Dallas is a bust this week.

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Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Indianapolis Colts)

CIN vs. IND

Notes

  • Indianapolis has allowed 300+ passing yards to five quarterbacks (and 295 to another).
  • Indianapolis is allowing 300.7 passing yards per game, second-most in the NFL.
  • Indianapolis is allowing 8.2 net yards per pass attempts, most in the NFL.
  • Andy Dalton averages 3.3 more fantasy points per game against pass defenses ranked in the bottom 1/3 of the NFL.
  • Indianapolis is allowing 59.2% of its passing yards to wide receivers, the third-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Cincinnati gains 54.5% of its passing yards via its wide receivers, 14th-most in the NFL.

Commentary

Between Joe Mixon's performance followed by the team ignoring him and A.J. Green's hot start only to never be seen again, there's a lot of #NarrativeStreet in Cincinnati after last week's game in Pittsburgh. Mixon is a rookie who has already been scolded a bit in the media by Marvin Lewis for speaking out about the team's decisions. But Green is their best player. And when a great talent aligns with a great matchup, I believe in #NarrativeStreet more. Dalton and Green are the plays here; Dalton makes for an auto-start streamer in season-long leagues if he's available, while Green will be the first player plugged into many cash game lineups in DFS this week.

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Seattle Seahawks (vs. Houston Texans)

SEA vs. HOU

Notes

  • Houston faces 30.8 passing attempts, fourth-fewest in the NFL.
  • Houston is allowing 203.3 passing yards, 10th-fewest in the NFL.
  • Houston is allowing 5.5 receptions and 62.2 yards per game to tight ends, both eighth-most in the NFL.
  • Houston is allowing 19.7 rushing yards to quarterbacks, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • Houston is allowing the second-most rushing fantasy points to quarterbacks in the NFL.
  • Russell Wilson has 164 rushing yards, fifth-most among quarterbacks.
  • Wilson is averaging 5.13 yards per rush, sixth-most among quarterbacks with at least three rush attempts per game.

Commentary

Last week, we recommended Jimmy Graham because Seattle scores points via the pass and is weak in the running game. This week, those same factors still apply, and now Graham has even more going in his favor. He's back home, and he has the offensive line advantage we discussed above, which should allow him to run a few more routes. In addition, look at the tight end tendencies of these teams:

SEA-HOU TEs

The 28.3% of targets Houston allows to tight ends is the second-highest percentage in the league, while the 25.7% of the time Seattle targets its tight ends is the sixth-highest ratio. A skeptic might say that last week, we showcased similar stats when Seattle visited the Giants, and Graham disappointed. Beyond the box score, though, Graham dropped a touchdown, which would've made him an elite option last week. Graham is still Wilson's second-best weapon behind Doug Baldwin, making Wilson-Graham stacks with a member of Houston on the other side a contrarian GPP strategy with promise.

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Carolina Panthers (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

CAR at TB

Notes

  • Tampa Bay has been destroyed in the passing game, primarily by wide receivers:
  • Devin Funchess has out-targeted Kelvin Benjamin in four of the last five games.
  • Since Greg Olsen's injury (Week 3 onward), Funchess' target market share is 24.6%; Benjamin's is 17.3%.
  • Christian McCaffrey's 8.4 targets per game ranks him 14th in the NFL among players who have played three or more games.
  • 11 players in the NFL have a target market share of 25% or greater; McCaffrey is the only running back in that group.

Commentary

Tampa Bay gets little pass rush, which contributes to their poor passing game defense. Both receivers are in play to continue Tampa's tendency to yield double-digit fantasy games, but slaves to volume should prefer Funchess. It could be a down week for McCaffrey, though, as Carolina utilizes the extra time to strike downfield more.

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