Doing Things a Little Differently This Week
With Week 17 being a strange beast, looking at trends like we've done all season can yield misleading results. After all, what good is it to discuss San Francisco's horrible pass defense in the context of Jared Goff's promising prospects if Goff isn't even going to play this week? Why attempt to get in the heads of the Indianapolis players to gauge their level of interest in playing for a head coach who is likely to be dismissed within 24 hours of their game ending?
Something that will carry over from previous weeks is that we're going to provide facts. Those facts will come with a level of guidance, but ultimately, their purpose is to lead you to an informed decision - not to make the decision for you. We'll still look at Vegas lines in the context of our new How Will They Score? section because Vegas is aware of which teams will be playing their starters and going all out.
A Call to Action
Be sure to check out the last section of the article (Ideas for Improvement) to provide feedback and make this column even better for next year.
This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Follow the Targets
In this section, we'll look at the worst passing defenses and dissect how they allow their fantasy production. This week, we're looking at the defenses squaring off against teams motivated and playing for their playoff lives and/or seeding. The table shows how they've allocated their targets, yards, and touchdowns over the course of the whole season.
|Team||RB Tgt%||Yds/Gm Rank||TD||WR Tgt%||Yds/Gm Rank||TD||TE Tgt%||Yds/Gm Rank||TD|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||20.9%||17||2||62.3%||32||16||16.8%||6||3|
- Baltimore's passing attack isn't one we've been able to rely on this season, but we do know that Cincinnati has nothing to play for, is losing their head coach, and put forth an emotional home performance in Week 16. We also know that Joe Flacco loves throwing to his backs and tight ends, which is where Cincinnati has yielded production this season. Danny Woodhead has 15 receptions on 18 targets over the past three weeks; Alex Collins has 8 receptions on 12 targets over the past two games. Ben Watson has 9 receptions, 114 yards, and a touchdown in his last two games. Woodhead makes for an interesting GPP flier.
- It's hard to use older players late in the season, but Antonio Gates and Larry Fitzgerald were both the highest-scoring main slate players at their positions in Week 16. Gates get a great matchup here against Oakland, though his price tag has risen.
- Buffalo can win and still miss the playoffs, but their motivation won't be lacking. That should mean plenty of LeSean McCoy, both rushing and passing. Buffalo targets its backs on 21.8% of its targets, the 12th-highest ratio in the NFL. Meanwhile, 24.6% of total targets vs. Miami go to running backs, the second-highest ratio in the NFL. With only Le'Veon Bell priced higher, McCoy could be the surest thing on the slate at running back.
- Drew Brees and Michael Thomas appear to be the chalkiest stack on the slate. Tampa Bay allows the most yards and fifth-most touchdowns to wide receivers.
- If you've ever read this column or watched PowerGrid, you've seen/heard my "Atlanta vs. pass-catching running backs" stats. But indulge me once again, if you will. 25.4% of targets against Atlanta go to running backs, the highest ratio in the NFL. Atlanta yields 6.9 receptions per game to running backs, most in the NFL, and 13.6 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, second-most in the NFL. Carolina, meanwhile, targets its running backs 27.0% of the time, the second-highest ratio in the NFL. Christian McCaffrey is the recipient of most of those targets, ranking second in the NFL with 105 targets on the season (Le'Veon Bell has 106). McCaffrey lacks the touch floor to be a solid cash game play, but he's always in play for GPP contests.
- If you believe in not rostering any players from teams out of contention (in this instance, DeAndre Hopkins), Julio Jones is likely the top projected wide receiver scorer on the slate. Carolina has been bleeding production to wide receivers lately.
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).
|New York Jets||237.7||116.0||6.6||4.1||67.2%||32.8%|
- Whether or not Detroit gets "up" for this game, are we really trusting Brett Hundley and a group of youngsters (Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson unlikely to play) to exploit the Lions? Moving on...
- Indianapolis and Houston could be the best game of the week that doesn't matter. Both defenses are terrible, which should lead to some scoring via the air. The only potential issue is if T.J. Yates can't lead Houston's offense to make it a back-and-forth affair. Regardless of what Houston does, T.Y. Hilton is a nice value in a matchup he exploited to the tune of 5 catches, 175 yards, and 2 touchdowns earlier this year.
- Recommending Tom Brady isn't going out on a limb, but the Jets pass defense provides the highest of floors.
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)
|Los Angeles Chargers||195.0||132.9||5.4||4.9||59.5%||40.5%|
|Los Angeles Rams||212.2||119.2||5.6||4.6||64.0%||36.0%|
- Alex Collins has played no fewer than 41% of the snaps in the last six games, with the low watermark being in the comfortable win at Cleveland. Between that volume and being a big home favorite for a team in a must-win game, he makes for a solid DFS play at a low price.
- Carlos Hyde as 15+ touches in every game but one since Week 5. He contributes in both the passing game and the running game. And his team will face a Rams team whose coach has already said he'll use the opportunity to rest his starters. Hyde is the best value of the week at running back. Furthering Hyde's case, San Francisco is the rare long-since-eliminated team that is looking to play Week 17 as though they're actually in playoff contention. There is a ground-swell of momentum around Jimmy Garoppolo, and the Niners can continue to build momentum into next season.
How Will They Score?
I have a confession. What you're about to see and read is not my idea. This is a concept created by Ben Gretch at Rotoviz and now published on FantasyLabs. However, it's one I wanted to share as it is an interesting way to think about how teams score and allow points and can lead to some surprise/contrarian lineup decisions. For some background, check the intro to Ben's Week 1 column from earlier this year, or get a bullet-point summary below.
- Take each team's implied Vegas team total
- Average the percentage of points that team scores via passing touchdowns and the percentage their opponent allows via passing touchdowns
- Multiply that average percentage by the implied total
- Do the same for rushing touchdowns
- Bold text denotes a home team
- Passing + Rushing won't add up to the total. There are kicking and defense/specials teams points as well. However, those aren't as predictable, so we're focusing on offense only.
You'll get the hang of it with the help of the charts and some examples.
|Offense||Defense||LV Total||Off PaTD%||Def PaTD%||Proj. Pass|
|New England Patriots||New York Jets||29.75||41.67%||47.19%||13.22|
|Seattle Seahawks||Arizona Cardinals||24.00||56.14%||39.17%||11.44|
|Detroit Lions||Green Bay Packers||24.75||41.60%||46.42%||10.89|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Cleveland Browns||24.50||44.44%||42.41%||10.64|
|Los Angeles Chargers||Oakland Raiders||25.00||46.15%||36.73%||10.36|
|Atlanta Falcons||Carolina Panthers||24.75||36.25%||47.21%||10.33|
|Washington Redskins||New York Giants||20.25||48.80%||50.79%||10.08|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||New Orleans Saints||21.75||49.34%||42.71%||10.01|
|New Orleans Saints||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||28.75||31.13%||35.20%||9.53|
|Minnesota Vikings||Chicago Bears||25.50||40.11%||34.34%||9.49|
- We've already discussed Tom Brady, but this only makes the case to roster him stronger.
- Seattle has a chance to make the postseason, and Russell Wilson doesn't seem like the kind of player who will give anything less than 100%. Aside from that, he's really #good, and Arizona is not. Wilson is the "1b" to Brady's "1a" in cash games.
- Buyer beware on Ben Roethlisberger and his teammates. They may not play long, if at all. More on their scenarios later.
- Kirk Cousins is intriguing in GPPs. The Giants gave up weeks ago, and Cousins has some #NarrativeStreet going for him as he looks to leave any potential suitors (including his current team) with a good impression.
|Offense||Defense||LV Total||Off RuTD%||Def RuTD%||Proj. Rush|
|New Orleans Saints||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||28.75||31.13%||26.82%||8.33|
|Tennessee Titans||Jacksonville Jaguars||22.75||33.86%||21.34%||6.28|
|New England Patriots||New York Jets||29.75||20.83%||20.22%||6.11|
|San Francisco 49ers||Los Angeles Rams||20.50||26.26%||26.44%||5.40|
|Baltimore Ravens||Cincinnati Bengals||24.50||21.20%||22.36%||5.34|
|Buffalo Bills||Miami Dolphins||22.75||23.57%||21.02%||5.07|
|Green Bay Packers||Detroit Lions||18.25||25.24%||29.59%||5.00|
|Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans||22.50||24.90%||18.84%||4.92|
|Denver Broncos||Kansas City Chiefs||20.75||18.11%||28.57%||4.84|
|Dallas Cowboys||Philadelphia Eagles||21.25||31.03%||14.53%||4.84|
- The only reason to not load up on the Drew Brees-Michael Thomas stack mentioned in the "Targets" section above is the New Orleans run game. As a heavy favorite against a team that might want to pack it in a week early, it seems like more of a Mark Ingram II week.
- Take note of the New England running back injury situation. If James White and Rex Burkhead are out again, Dion Lewis is once again in a high-usage spot.
- As mentioned in the "Runnel" section, the Rams rush defense isn't very good. 26.4% of their total points allowed are via rushing touchdowns, the seventh-highest ratio in the league. And that's when they are fully loaded with starters and playing "all systems go."
- Oh look, we're talking about the Baltimore running game again. Boxes checked include: big home favorite, win-or-go-home spot, player on the field for most downs, goal line back, opponent that allows passing game production to running backs, opponent not playing for anything, opponent in let-down spot after an emotional win in home finale last week.
Who's Playing for What?
Beware the teams playing for nothing, as they may rest starters or "go through the motions."
AFC (listed in order of standings)
|NE||-15.5||NYJ||1||2||Win or PIT loss clinches 1-seed|
|PIT||-11||CLE||1||2||Need NE loss to Petty-led NYJ to get 1-seed; can't get worse|
|JAX||+3.5||TEN||3||3||Locked into #3; playing next weekend|
|KC||+3.5||DEN||4||4||Locked into #4; playing next weekend; Mahomes starting|
|BAL||-9.5||CIN||5||OUT||Win or BUF or TEN loss = 5-seed; can still get in with loss|
|TEN||-3.5||JAX||5||OUT||Win and in. Loss + LAC win = LAC IN|
|LAC||-8||OAK||6||OUT||Need win + TEN loss + BAL win; or win + TEN loss + BUF loss|
|BUF||-3||MIA||6||OUT||Win + BAL loss = IN (regardless of TEN result)|
|CIN||+9.5||BAL||n/a||n/a||Lewis planning to leave; "Super Bowl" last week?|
|DEN||-3.5||KC||n/a||n/a||Would they fire Vance Joseph after one season?|
|NYJ||+15.5||NE||n/a||n/a||Potential coaching change?|
|HOU||+4||IND||n/a||n/a||Potential coaching change?|
|IND||-4||HOU||n/a||n/a||Likely coaching change?|
- "All Systems Go" teams: Baltimore, Tennessee, L.A. Chargers, Buffalo
- Playing-for-something-but-not-everything teams: New England
- "Buyer Beware" teams: Pittsburgh (if New England is up big in its game, starters could be pulled) and Jacksonville (might be better off losing to face Tennessee again next week instead of the Chargers or Bills).
- Teams eliminated weeks ago with no reason to shut down now: Miami, Houston, Indianapolis, Cleveland
- "Who knows?" teams: Cincinnati, Oakland, Denver, N.Y. Jets
NFC (listed in order of standings)
|PHI||+3||DAL||1||1||Homefield advantage throughout regardless of result|
|MIN||-11.5||CHI||2||3||Drop to 3 possible but requires 4 unlikely results|
|LAR||-3||SF||3||4||Will rest players; probably better off with 4-seed than 3|
|NO||-7||TB||3||5||Clinch South with win or CAR loss|
|CAR||+4||ATL||2||5||Clinch South with win + NO loss; plenty to play for|
|ATL||-4||CAR||6||OUT||Win and in.|
|SEA||-9.5||ARI||6||OUT||Need win + ATL loss/tie|
|DET||-6.5||GB||n/a||n/a||Surprise elimination last week; potential coaching change?|
|DAL||-3||PHI||n/a||n/a||Rest-the-starters candidate after elimination last week|
|CHI||+11.5||MIN||n/a||n/a||Likely coaching change?|
|TB||+7||NO||n/a||n/a||Potential coaching change?|
- "All Systems Go" teams: New Orleans, Carolina, Atlanta, Seattle
- Playing-for-something-but-not-everything teams: Minnesota
- "Buyer Beware" teams: Detroit (who knows how they'll respond after last week's disappointment), Dallas (ditto)
- Teams eliminated weeks ago with no reason to shut down now: Arizona, San Francisco, Tampa Bay
- As the comment suggested for the Rams, wouldn't you rather go through Philadelphia (and Nick Foles) than Minnesota? Leave it to a young, cerebral head coach to actually execute such a plan.
- Oddly, Carolina can get the 2-seed, but it requires a win by them and losses by all of the above teams: Minnesota (vs. Chicago), L.A. Rams (vs. San Francisco), Tampa Bay (vs. New Orleans. While that seems unlikely, Ron Rivera has stated that Carolina will play to win, despite the fact that they may know their fate before or during their game.
Ideas for Improvement
First and foremost, I wanted to thank all of you for reading my weekly brain-dump here. I've acquired some "regulars," and for that, I'm very appreciative. But whether you've read all year or stumbled here for the first time, I'd love some ideas for making this column better. So please feel free to reach out via Twitter or e-mail (both shown below) and provide me with some feedback. Here are some questions to get your brains storming.
- What weekly features provided you with valuable insight/opinions?
- What weekly features seemed random or wonky and didn't guide you in the right direction?
- What was easy to grasp/understand?
- What was hard to grasp/understand?
- Is there any information you wish could be compiled for you that didn't appear in the column? How would this be helpful?
- Anything else...
Questions, comments, suggestions, and other feedback on this piece are always welcome via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org