#Trendspotting: Week 4 - Footballguys

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

Reader's Guide

As you read, you may run into some colors in the text. Green text is a good matchup for that team's offensive players. Red text is a bad matchup. Some other key items are below:

  • All reference to fantasy points assumes DraftKings scoring rules unless otherwise specified.
  • All stats reference the full 2018 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

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 eight teams that allow the highest net yards per passing attempt, listed from most to least.

RBs WRs TEs
Team Tgt% YdsRk TDs Tgt% YdsRk TDs Tgt% YdsRk TDs
New Orleans Saints 12.0% 5 1 67.4% 32 9 20.7% 9 0
Oakland Raiders 15.2% 6 1 70.7% 30 5 14.1% 6 0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20.9% 28 1 55.0% 29 5 24.0% 32 1
Los Angeles Chargers 23.4% 26 1 57.4% 28 7 19.1% 4 0
Arizona Cardinals 21.9% 29 1 62.5% 15 0 15.6% 13 2
Kansas City Chiefs 23.6% 32 2 60.0% 16 5 16.4% 31 1
Houston Texans 27.3% 13 1 56.8% 9 3 15.9% 22 2
Green Bay Packers 16.7% 9 0 57.8% 22 6 25.5% 19 0

Commentary

  • New Orleans allows 67.4% of its targets to wide receivers, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • New Orleans allows 281 yards per game to wide receivers, most in the NFL (the next-highest amount is 216.3).
  • The Giants will be without Evan Engram this week, which should move some of their targets to wide receivers.
  • The Chargers allow 61.7 receiving yards per game to running backs, seventh-most in the NFL.
  • The Chargers allow 194.3 yards per game to wide receivers, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • The Chargers allow 29.0 yards per game to tight ends, fourth-fewest in the NFL.
  • Houston is allowing 28.0% of its total receiving yardage to tight ends, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Indianapolis is gaining 33.7% of its passing yardage via its tight ends, the fourth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Indianapolis targets its tight ends on 29.6% of its passing attempts, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.

Action Items

  • With Jimmy Garoppolo out in San Francisco, it's easy to assume that C.J. Beathard may lean on his running backs and tight ends due to those being higher-probability throws. He did that last season with Carlos Hyde. Fade the San Francisco receivers until further notice.
  • Matt Breida is in play as a season-long RB2 or a GPP tournament play, but George Kittle is a wait-and-see this week due to L.A.'s limited production allowed to tight ends thus far.
  • Monitor Jack Doyle's health. If Doyle can play, he's worth a look. If not, don't be afraid to go back to Eric Ebron, despite his disappointing-as-the-chalk performance in Week 3.

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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).

Team PaYd/Gm RuYd/Gm NYd/Att Yd/Rush %PassYd %RushYd
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 362.7 70.7 7.9 3.6 83.7% 16.3%
New Orleans Saints 336.7 84.3 10.2 3.0 80.0% 20.0%
Denver Broncos 262.7 77.7 6.9 3.3 77.2% 22.8%
Miami Dolphins 288.3 89.0 7.0 3.3 76.4% 23.6%

Commentary

  • Tampa Bay is allowing 83.7% of its total yardage via the pass, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay is allowing 362.7 passing yards per game, tied for the most in the NFL.
  • The New York Giants are gaining 72.5% of their total yardage via the pass, the 12th-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Denver is allowing 77.2% of its total yardage via the pass, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Kansas City is gaining 74.1% of its total yardage via the pass, the 11th-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Kansas City is scoring 66.1% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.

Action Items

  • It's not as though you had to be told to start Patrick Mahomes II II and his dynamic bunch of playmakers. But it is worth noting here that Denver isn't as fearsome against the pass as they have been in recent years.
  • Denver's fantasy points against numbers don't immediately tell us which Chiefs playmaker to use. But digging deeper, Denver has allowed 78.7 yards per game to tight ends, sixth-most in the NFL, which is good news for Travis Kelce.

Reverse Funnels

Sometimes, the funnel effect can happen in reverse, where a team is very good against the pass but poor against the run.

Team PaYd/Gm RuYd/Gm NYd/Att Yd/Rush %PassYd %RushYd
Detroit Lions 152.0 149.3 5.5 5.4 50.4% 49.6%
Seattle Seahawks 215.3 132.7 5.6 5.1 61.9% 38.1%
Jacksonville Jaguars 171.0 115.3 5.1 4.2 59.7% 40.3%
Baltimore Ravens 169.3 103.7 4.3 4.2 62.0% 38.0%

Commentary

  • Detroit allows 49.6% of its total yardage via the rush, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Dallas gains 47.8% of its total yardage via the rush, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • It’s not rushing production but still worth nothing that Detroit allows 34.8% of its targets to running backs, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.

Action Items

  • If Dallas moves the ball, they do it on the ground. And Detroit can be had. If there were ever a week to recommend a player on a slow, boring, non-dynamic Dallas team, it would be Ezekiel Elliott in this spot. Consider Elliott a cash game or GPP play in DFS and a safe RB1 in season-long leagues.
  • David Johnson has been far from his 2016 self, and the shine is wearing off James Conner. But both are viable GPP plays in DFS and RB1s for season-long leagues. If Josh Rosen can ignite any kind of spark into Arizona's offense, Johnson's production will improve. Meanwhile Conner showed sparks at the end of Monday night's game in Tampa Bay. And if the right side of his offensive line (both of whom have missed each of the last two games) can get healthy, he'll have more success rushing.

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The Weakest Links

In this section, we'll discuss the matchups that should top your list every week. And because even the strongest trends don't last all season long, we'll break this into two sections -- ongoing trends and developing trends.

Ongoing Trends

  • QBs vs. Kansas City - Jimmy Garoppolo threw for over 250 yards and 2 touchdowns. His 22+ fantasy points were the least scored by a quarterback against the Chiefs this year. Run it back.
  • RBs vs. Buffalo - In the oddity of the year, Minnesota's running backs combined for only four carries. This is still a matchup to target in the right spot.
  • RBs vs. Atlanta - After allowing 14 catches to Christian McCaffrey, Atlanta decided that wasn't generous enough and saw Alvin Kamara catch 15 passes in Week 3. Skeptics might say, "of course they allow a lot of catches to McCaffrey and Kamara! Those players catch a ton of passes regardless of opponent." Those skeptics should hold that argument for a while, because Bernard is next. And he doesn't have Joe Mixon in the fold to share snaps.
  • WRs vs. Tennessee - Jacksonville can't crack Tennessee. This is still something we should target, even if the Jaguars couldn't make it happen.

Developing Trends

  • RBs vs Arizona - Arizona has allowed at least three receptions to three running backs this season. They have also allowed six total touchdowns to running backs, most in the NFL.
  • WRs vs. New Orleans - if Marshon Lattimore can build on his Julio Jones-mitigating performance from Week 3, WR2s will be particularly interesting against the Saints.
  • WRs vs. Pittsburgh - The Steelers have allowed at least five receptions to five wide receivers already this season. They are one of three teams (New Orleans and Oakland) allowing over 200 yards per game to wide receivers.
  • TEs vs. Pittsburgh - This defense is bad. They're so bad that opposing offenses can pick their poison and play to their strengths. So while this positional matchup may not stick, it's worth noting for future weeks when Pittsburgh plays a team with a competent tight end. This team has yielded over 100 yards and at least 1 touchdown in each of the last two games.

Action Items

  • If you believe in Chris Carson's usage last week (32 carries!), he's worth a play again this week. Any back with a pulse has performed well in fantasy football vs. Arizona.
  • As long as Mixon is out, Bernard remains an RB1. Against Atlanta, in PPR leagues especially, he's rock solid again in DFS, even with an increased price.
  • Calvin Ridley showed what WR2 compliments can do vs. New Orleans.
  • Sterling Shepard will look to do the same as Ridley. Shepard has played at least 95% of the snaps in two straight games and is second on the team in wide receiver targets and total air yards.
  • Pittsburgh allows a 10.8-yard average depth of target, the highest aDOT in the NFL.
  • Excluding the Week 1 game vs. Tyrod Taylor in a rainstorm, Pittsburgh is allowing a 67.9% catch rate, which would be ninth-highest in the NFL.
  • Baltimore at Pittsburgh is not on the DFS main slate, but John Brown should be on fantasy radars. He is three targets behind Michael Crabtree for the team lead, but he has three red zone targets to Crabtree's one.
  • Brown's aDOT is 19.9 yards. Crabtree's is 9.7 yards. Against an opponent more likely to allow deep catches than most, Brown is in store for a big game.

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How Will They Score?

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, see the 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
  • An asterisk denotes a home team

Passing + Rushing won't add up to the entire team total. There are kicking and defense/special 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.

Passing Points

Offense Defense LV Total Off PaTD% Def PaTD% Proj. Pass
Kansas City Chiefs Denver Broncos* 30.00 66.1% 42.9% 16.34
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Chicago Bears* 23.15 64.7% 76.4% 16.33
Los Angeles Chargers* San Francisco 49ers 29.00 58.5% 53.9% 16.31
Atlanta Falcons* Cincinnati Bengals 28.50 52.5% 46.8% 14.14
Green Bay Packers* Buffalo Bills 27.50 51.4% 50.0% 13.95
Indianapolis Colts* Houston Texans 24.00 50.0% 56.8% 12.81
Pittsburgh Steelers* Baltimore Ravens 25.75 47.7% 47.1% 12.20
Miami Dolphins New England Patriots* 20.25 64.0% 54.5% 12.00

Commentary

  • Tampa Bay's presence here is notable. Even with a modest overall total, Tampa is second on the projected passing points list.
  • Chicago allows 77.4% of its total yardage via the pass, the fourth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay gains 84.6% of its total yardage via the pass, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Chicago allows 76.4% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay scores 64.7% of its points via passing touchdowns, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh's passing touchdown percentage and Baltimore's passing touchdown percentage allowed aren't among the league's highest. Pittsburgh's team total is simply so high that they appear here (and below too).

Action Items

  • It feels like Ryan Fitzpatrick is due to turn back into a pumpkin soon (it can be argued that he already did on Monday night). But on paper, the matchup is good for him. He's a high-floor low-end QB1.

Rushing Points

Offense Defense LV Total Off RuTD% Def RuTD% Proj. Rush
Oakland Raiders* Cleveland Browns 23.75 34.6% 40.7% 8.94
Denver Broncos* Kansas City Chiefs 25.50 39.3% 19.6% 7.51
Cleveland Browns Oakland Raiders* 21.25 50.0% 14.8% 6.89
Pittsburgh Steelers* Baltimore Ravens 25.75 27.3% 23.5% 6.54
Atlanta Falcons* Cincinnati Bengals 28.50 22.5% 23.4% 6.54
Chicago Bears* Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25.65 19.0% 26.4% 5.83
Dallas Cowboys* Detroit Lions 23.25 29.3% 20.5% 5.78
Baltimore Ravens Pittsburgh Steelers* 22.75 37.1% 13.3% 5.74

Commentary

  • Cleveland is allowing 40.7% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Oakland is scoring 34.6% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the sixth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Chicago gains 39.4% of its total yardage via the rush, the seventh-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Chicago scores 19.0% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the 17th-highest ratio in the NFL.

Action Items

  • Marshawn Lynch has eight carries inside the 10 yard-line this season, tied for sixth-most in the NFL. Lynch has at least two such carries in all three games.
  • Lynch is one of three running backs in the NFL with at least one rushing touchdown in every game this season. Lynch is a great low-dollar cash play in DFS and an attractive GPP play due to multi-touchdown upside.
  • Chicago's rushing score percentage is bound to increase, considering the mix of their offensive game plan (and their quarterback being a limited player). Don't forget about Jordan Howard.

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Playcalling Preferences

In this section, we'll look at how teams call plays. Because game script and red zone can skew pass-to-run ratios, the percentages below only show plays called when the game is within seven points in either direction and plays run between the 20s.

Passing

Offensive Team Pass% Defensive Team Pass%
Baltimore Ravens 70.8% Pittsburgh Steelers 53.1%
New Orleans Saints 70.5% New York Giants 56.0%
Cincinnati Bengals 69.5% Atlanta Falcons 67.5%
Buffalo Bills 69.2% Green Bay Packers 59.2%
Detroit Lions 68.2% Dallas Cowboys 52.4%
Indianapolis Colts 68.2% Houston Texans 43.7%
Minnesota Vikings 68.1% Los Angeles Rams 61.2%
Pittsburgh Steelers 67.1% Baltimore Ravens 58.5%

Commentary

  • Cincinnati calls a pass on 69.5% of its neutral-script plays, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Atlanta has passes called against its defense on 67.5% of its neutral-script plays, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Every week in this column, we discuss the fact that Atlanta yields plenty of catches to opposing running backs (40.0% of receptions go to running backs, the highest ratio in the NFL). The fact that passing plays are called against them so frequently makes sense, because if easy yards can be had via short-aDOT passes to running backs, the running game isn’t as important.
  • This won’t yield any action, but it’s fascinating that Buffalo has run only 13 neutral-script plays all season. Between getting blown out twice and last week’s surprising demolition of Minnesota, they haven’t played in a close game yet. Conversely, Indianapolis leads the league in neutral-script plays, with 132 (more than 10 times as many as Buffalo).

Action Items

  • Break ties in favor of Bernard this week in any contest type, especially full PPR scoring systems.

Rushing

Offensive Team Rush% Defensive Team Rush%
Tennessee Titans 56.4% Philadelphia Eagles 28.8%
Los Angeles Chargers 53.3% San Francisco 49ers 31.5%
New England Patriots 48.7% Miami Dolphins 43.8%
Chicago Bears 48.6% Tampa Bay Buccaneers 37.0%
San Francisco 49ers 48.0% Los Angeles Chargers 47.1%
Dallas Cowboys 47.4% Detroit Lions 46.4%
Cleveland Browns 47.3% Oakland Raiders 33.3%
Houston Texans 44.4% Indianapolis Colts 40.2%

Commentary

  • San Francisco calls a running play on 48.0% of its neutral-script plays, the seventh-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • The Chargers have running plays called against them on 47.1% of their neutral-script plays, the fourth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Dallas calls a running play on 47.4% of its neutral-script plays, the eighth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Detroit has a running play called against its defense on 46.4% of its neutral-script plays, the seventh-highest ratio in the NFL.

Action Items

  • San Francisco may have wanted to conserve Matt Breida due to his size and experience, but without Jimmy Garoppolo in the fold, Breida has been moved up the pecking order of offensive weapons for the 49ers. Expect Breida to be heavily involved in all phases against the Chargers.
  • Elliott's snap percentage, targets, and touches by week: 92% snaps, 4 targets, 18 touches / 94% snaps, 6 targets, 22 touches / 95% snaps, 8 targets, 19 touches. Elliott also surpassed 100 rushing yards last week for the first time this season. It it's ever going to be #ZekeWeek, this is it.

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L.A. Chargers (vs. San Francisco)

Commentary

  • San Francisco is allowing 74.8% of its total yardage via the pass, the ninth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • San Francisco is allowing 301.7 passing yards per game, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • San Francisco is allowing 27.8% of its total targets against to running backs, the sixth-highest ratio in the NFL (despite playing a game against Kansas City, who targets its running backs as little as anyone).

Action Items

  • Melvin Gordon III is a great spot as a double-digit home favorite, but the numbers say to lean on the Chargers passing game here. Using Gordon in cash games would be a sharp move, but using the Chargers primary passing game weapons in GPPs might be even sharper. No one will be expecting San Francisco to keep up with the Chargers, which could limit the rostering of players like Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen.

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Atlanta (vs. Cincinnati)

Commentary

  • Cincinnati has allowed 1,053 air yards, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • Cincinnati has allowed six passing touchdowns. They are the only team in the top seven of air yards allowed to yield fewer than seven touchdowns.
  • Julio Jones leads Atlanta in air yards with 548. Calvin Ridley is second with 208.
  • Austin Hooper leads Atlanta in air yards inside the 10 yard-line, seeing 41.3% of those total yards.
  • Cincinnati's defense has faced the most total plays and the most neutral-script plays in the NFL.
  • Cincinnati is allowing 7.7 receptions per game to tight ends, third-most in the NFL.
  • Cincinnati has allowed at least three receptions to five tight ends this season.

Action Items

  • Jones is being used the same as ever, but the touchdowns aren't there. He's still a WR1 and useable in DFS.
  • Hooper is often a touchdown-dependent play, but the tight end position such a wasteland after the top tier, most are relying on a score anyway. The matchup is right for him to get one this week.

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New Orleans (at N.Y. Giants)

Commentary

  • New Orleans targets, receptions, and yards percentages for running backs this season: 33.3% of targets, 32.7% of total receptions, and 29.0% of receiving yardage. Those totals rank second, eighth, and seventh in the NFL.
  • New York Giants targets, receptions, and yards percentages allowed to running backs this season: 26.6% of targets, 32.8% of total receptions, and 22.9% of receiving yardage. Those totals rank ninth, seventh, and sixth in the NFL.
  • The Giants have allowed three receiving touchdowns to running backs this season, most in the NFL.

Action Items

  • The Giants are allowing 17.8 receiving fantasy points to running backs, fourth-most in the NFL. They are yet to play a back as dynamic and explosive as Kamara. He should have had an even bigger Week 3 performance as he had a touchdown in overtime overturned by replay.

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Denver (vs. Kansas City)

Commentary

  • Kansas City is allowing 474 total yards per game and 362.7 passing yards per game, both most in the NFL.
  • Kansas City has allowed eight scores in nine red zone trips against (88.9%), the third-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Kansas City is allowing 2.87 points per drive, most in the NFL.
  • Kansas City is allowing 29.6% of its passing yardage to running backs, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.

Action Items

  • Denver is not on the main slate for DFS purposes, so these have more of a season-long feel. As detailed earlier in the week, Case Keenum is on the streaming radar. His receivers are squarely in play as well, with Emmanuel Sanders at the top of that list due to his dynamic usage so far this season.
  • Philip Lindsay represents a strong flex play due to his pass-catching ability and explosiveness.

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


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