#Trendspotting: Week 6 - 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. At #Trendspotting HQ, we received some feedback that the green vs. red text was indecipherable for red-green colorblind folks. So going forward, blue text is a good matchup for that team's offensive players. And 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 examine how the worst passing defenses in the NFL allow their production.

RBs WRs TEs
Team Tgt% YdsRk TDs Tgt% YdsRk TDs Tgt% YdsRk TDs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23.2% 31 2 54.2% 24 9 22.6% 32 2
Kansas City Chiefs 20.9% 32 3 59.0% 23 5 20.1% 31 1
New Orleans Saints 19.3% 14 1 63.2% 32 10 17.5% 2 0
Pittsburgh Steelers 13.4% 2 2 58.7% 31 8 27.9% 30 3
Indianapolis Colts 26.9% 28 1 49.2% 10 6 23.8% 28 1
Cleveland Browns 18.2% 18 0 62.7% 25 5 19.1% 22 2
Carolina Panthers 16.5% 9 2 64.7% 28 3 18.7% 19 2
Minnesota Vikings 17.3% 23 2 58.3% 19 6 24.4% 27 2

Commentary

  • Tampa Bay allows 103.8 yards per game to tight ends, most in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay allows 27.9% of its passing yardage to tight ends, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh allows 84.8 yards per game to tight ends, third-most in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh allows 27.9% of its targets to tight ends, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • C.J. Uzomah played 92% of Cincinnati's snaps in Week 5.
  • Pittsburgh allows 216.2 yards per game to wide receivers, second-most in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh allows a 9.8-yard average depth-of-target (aDOT), highest in the NFL.
  • John Ross leads Cincinnati with a 13.3-yard aDOT, but he only has 15 targets on the year and is still nursing an injury. Not far behind him is A.J. Green, with a 12.3-yard aDOT.
  • Pittsburgh has allowed more than two receptions to zero running backs this season.
  • Pittsburgh allows 13.4% of its targets to running backs, the lowest ratio in the NFL.

Action Items

Don't forget about Austin Hooper, as Tampa Bay is yielding huge numbers to tight ends. Atlanta showed a willingness last week to use Hooper if the opposing defense puts more emphasis the wide receivers. Hooper is a low-end TE1 in season-long leagues but just a GPP play in DFS due to his increased price. Uzomah is on the streaming radar in season-long leagues.

Green is in prime position to have a big game. His skills align far better with Pittsburgh's weaknesses than Tyler Boyd's do. And Cincinnati's running backs shouldn't be expected to contribute as much as usual to the passing attack.

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Going Deep

This week, we're replacing "Funnel Watch" with a new section.

The "Funnel Watch" charts weren't generating any revolutionary actionable advice for this week, and now that we have at least four games of data for each team, this section feels appropriate to introduce. The goal here is to unearth some DFS GPP plays and some "what-the-heck flex" types for season-long leagues by examining which offenses like to throw deep most often and which defenses see the most deep passes attempted against them. We'll look at the five teams who throw deep the most and the five teams who see the most deep passes against them.

Offenses

Offensive Team Deep Att./Gm. Deep Pass% Defensive Team Deep Att./Gm. Deep Pass%
Buffalo Bills 7.4 26.2% Houston Texans 6.0 16.6%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9.5 25.5% Atlanta Falcons 5.8 14.6%
Cleveland Browns 9.2 24.1% Los Angeles Chargers 6.4 19.3%
Kansas City Chiefs 8.4 23.9% New England Patriots 8.2 20.6%
Arizona Cardinals 5.6 20.1% Minnesota Vikings 6.2 18.7%

Commentary

  • Kansas City attempts 8.4 deep passes per game, tied for the third-most in the NFL.
  • New England faces 8.2 deep pass attempts per game, third-most in the NFL.
  • Cleveland attempts a deep pass on 24.1% of its pass attempts, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • The Chargers face a deep pass on 19.3% of passes attempted against them, the ninth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Cleveland's deep balls by quarterback: Tyrod Taylor - 23; Baker Mayfield - 23. It's as much a function of play-calling as it is quarterback.
  • Atlanta faces a deep pass on 14.6% of passes attempted against them, the sixth-lowest ratio in the NFL.

Defenses

Offensive Team Deep Att./Gm. Deep Pass% Defensive Team Deep Att./Gm. Deep Pass%
New England Patriots 6.4 17.9% Kansas City Chiefs 11.0 23.4%
Cincinnati Bengals 6.0 16.0% Pittsburgh Steelers 9.4 22.9%
Washington Redskins 5.5 16.3% Carolina Panthers 7.8 22.1%
Seattle Seahawks 5.2 18.3% Oakland Raiders 7.0 21.9%
Kansas City Chiefs 8.4 23.9% New England Patriots 8.2 20.6%

Commentary

  • Seeing Kansas City offense vs. New England defense on both lists should tell a story.
  • Of all players with at least 15 targets on the season, Tyreek Hill's 15.2 aDOT is tied for eighth-highest in the NFL.
  • Oakland faces a deep pass on 21.9% of passes attempted against them, the fourth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Of all Seattle players with at least 10 targets, Tyler Lockett's aDOT of 13.7 yards leads the team.
  • Lockett saw five targets last week. Doug Baldwin saw one. Lockett and Baldwin played 87% and 88% of the team's snaps, respectively.
  • Kansas City has faced 55 total deep ball attempts, most in the NFL, eight more than the next-highest team (Pittsburgh, 47).

Action Items

It's a shame Kansas City-New England isn't on the DFS main slate because there are plenty of potential fantasy stars in the game. Hill is always in play in GPPs and is in the WR1 mix. But Josh Gordon could also benefit from the matchup. Gordon is a GPP dart in DFS and a what-the-heck flex in season-long leagues. One play could make his week. Lockett is a mid-to-high WR2 in season-long and a borderline cash game play in DFS since "safe savings" are at a premium this week.

Opposing WR1s have put up the following performances vs. Pittsburgh this year: 7-106-0 from Jarvis Landry, 5-90-1 from Tyreek Hill, 6-137-1 from Mike Evans, 3-116-1 from John Brown. Only Julio Jones in Week 5 disappointed. As alluded to in the previous section, Green is in a fantastic spot, and he's being overlooked by Jones and Evans in their matchup and even by Sunday's opponent Antonio Brown. Green is an excellent GPP pivot at the top of the salary range.

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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. Tampa Bay

  • Trend: Tampa had a bye week to improve, but the defense that yielded 356 yards and 6 touchdowns to Mitchell Trubisky is still at the top of the target list until they can prove they shouldn't be.
  • This Week: Fire up Matt Ryan.

QBs vs. Kansas City

  • Trend: Kansas City allows a 9.1-yard aDOT, the ninth-highest figure in the NFL. They have also allowed 893 total yards after the catch, most in the NFL. The Kansas City defense is so poor at covering pass-catchers that not only do quarterbacks throw deep against them often, the receivers have room to gain more yardage after they secure the catch. They looked better last week, but their offense was still explosive enough to provide garbage time opportunity for Jacksonville. Blake Bortles finished as the QB3 on the week, something "Rent-a-Quarterback" strategists enjoyed.
  • This Week: Expect a duel for the ages between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes II II.

RBs vs. Arizona

  • Trend: The Cardinals are yielding 132.0 rushing yards per game, third-most in the NFL. They allow 21.6 rushing fantasy points per game, most in the NFL. Even in their first positive game script of the year last week, they yielded over 50 rushing yards to two San Francisco runners and 6-75-0 receiving to a third back.
  • This Week: If Minnesota is ever going to get their running game going, this is the week. Don't hold your breath; but monitor Dalvin Cook's situation just in case.

WR1s vs. Philadelphia

  • Trend: This has graduated from the "Developing Trends" section last week. After allowing 10-169-0 to Julio Jones in Week 1, Philadelphia yielded 10-83-1 to Mike Evans in Week 2. They also saw DeSean Jackson accumulate a 4-129-1 line in that game. Week 4 saw 9-161-1 to Corey Davis, and Philadelphia followed it up by giving up 7-116-1 to Adam Thielen (last week's cover boy in this article, thank-you-very-much) and 10-91-0 to Stefon Diggs.
  • This Week: Odell Beckham Jr Jr is next. Expect a field day for the embattled star.

WRs vs. Tennessee

  • Trend: This one is under-the-radar after "shutting down" Buffalo - quotes necessary considering Buffalo's talent is what really shuts them down.
  • This Week: Don't overlook John Brown, who is seeing 43% of Baltimore's air yards, a market share that ranks him third in the NFL. Brown's 871 total air yards are the most in the NFL. Of the 10 players with the most air yards in the NFL, only Jarvis Landry has fewer PPR points than Brown, suggesting he's due for some positive regression.

WRs vs. Pittsburgh

  • Trend: Pittsburgh is being destroyed by the deep ball. They are one of five teams (New Orleans, Philadelphia, N.Y. Jets, and Carolina) allowing over 200 yards per game to wide receivers, yet they “only” allow 13.8 receptions per game to wide receivers, tied for 13th in the NFL. The second-most yards to wide receivers on the 13th-most receptions suggests a team getting beaten deep frequently, as discussed above.
  • This Week: It's beating a dead horse at this point, but Green has overall WR1 potential this week.

TEs vs. Cincinnati

  • Trend: Despite not allowing huge numbers to tight ends vs. Atlanta or Miami (mostly due to those teams not utilizing tight ends frequently), Cincinnati still allows 5.6 receptions per game to tight ends, sixth-most in the NFL, and 14.7 fantasy points per game to tight ends, ninth-most in the NFL.
  • This Week: Vance McDonald was gaining steam before last week, when game script was the main contributor to his poor day. Dating back to late 2017, in the last five games that McDonald was fully healthy and Ben Roethlisberger attempted at least 30 passes, McDonald has averaged 5.4 receptions, 78.0 yards. McDonald scored one total touchdown in those games.

TEs vs. Pittsburgh

  • Trend: They yielded over 100 yards and at least 1 touchdown in Week 2 and Week 3. Then, Hooper put up career highs in receptions and yards in Week 5.
  • This Week: Uzomah is a streamer.

Developing Trends

QBs vs. Minnesota

  • Trend: It feels odd writing this, but Minnesota is yielding 24.6 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, sixth-most in the NFL.
  • This Week: Arizona isn't a true test. But this is worth monitoring.

RBs vs. Denver

  • Trend: Isaiah Crowell just went nuclear, contributing to Denver's 19.4 rushing fantasy points per game allowed, second-most in the NFL.
  • This Week: Expect Todd Gurley to make that number rise. Gurley is $10,000 on DraftKings, a massive price tag. It's not unprecedented. Here's how previous $10,000+ running backs have fared.

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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
Atlanta Falcons Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30.50 49.6% 56.1% 16.13
Kansas City Chiefs New England Patriots 28.00 48.0% 61.1% 15.28
New England Patriots Kansas City Chiefs 31.50 54.1% 41.9% 15.12
Cincinnati Bengals Pittsburgh Steelers 27.75 47.1% 58.6% 14.67
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Atlanta Falcons 27.00 64.3% 44.2% 14.64
Green Bay Packers San Francisco 49ers 28.00 52.2% 49.3% 14.21
Miami Dolphins Chicago Bears 19.50 60.6% 73.8% 13.11
Los Angeles Rams Denver Broncos 29.75 41.6% 41.2% 12.32

Commentary

  • Atlanta scores 49.6% of its points via passing touchdowns, the ninth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay allows 56.1% of its points via passing touchdowns, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Cincinnati scores 47.1% of its points via passing touchdowns, 13th-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh allows 58.6% of its points via passing touchdowns, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay scores 64.3% of its points via passing touchdowns, the highest ratio in the NFL.

Action Items

Rushing Points

Offense Defense LV Total Off RuTD% Def RuTD% Proj. Rush
Los Angeles Rams Denver Broncos 29.75 24.3% 27.5% 7.70
New England Patriots Kansas City Chiefs 31.50 18.0% 27.9% 7.24
Washington Redskins Carolina Panthers 23.00 36.1% 26.4% 7.19
Carolina Panthers Washington Redskins 22.00 23.1% 34.5% 6.33
Denver Broncos Los Angeles Rams 22.75 36.0% 18.4% 6.18
Atlanta Falcons Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30.50 22.6% 17.3% 6.07
Minnesota Vikings Arizona Cardinals 26.75 0.0% 42.9% 5.73
Seattle Seahawks Oakland Raiders 25.50 20.7% 24.2% 5.72

Commentary

  • The Rams score 24.3% of their points via rushing touchdowns, the 11th-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Denver allows 27.5% of its points via rushing touchdowns, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Kansas City allows 27.9% of its points via rushing touchdowns, the fourth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Minnesota is yet to score a rushing touchdown, yet appears here because Arizona allows 42.9% of its points via rushing touchdowns, the highest ratio in the NFL.

Action Items

  • Both New England backs are in play if playing non-main slate DFS. James White is the preferred play, he's a PPR RB1 in season-long, while Sony Michel is more of an upside RB2.

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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%
Indianapolis Colts 69.2% New York Jets 62.4%
Baltimore Ravens 68.1% Tennessee Titans 56.5%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 67.9% Atlanta Falcons 64.9%
Pittsburgh Steelers 66.2% Cincinnati Bengals 60.2%
New York Giants 66.1% Philadelphia Eagles 67.7%
Philadelphia Eagles 65.9% New York Giants 54.0%
Cincinnati Bengals 65.9% Pittsburgh Steelers 58.9%
Atlanta Falcons 65.3% Tampa Bay Buccaneers 60.2%

Commentary and Action Items

  • Tampa Bay passes on 67.9% of its neutral-script plays, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Opponents pass against Atlanta on 64.9% of its neutral-script plays, the sixth-highest ratio in the NFL.

Volume will be there for the Tampa Bay passing game. It's a great spot because Atlanta allows production every which way, but Tampa only produces via the air. Jameis Winston should be near the top of every cash game list in DFS and has overall QB1 upside in season-long leagues.

Rushing

Offensive Team Rush% Defensive Team Rush%
Buffalo Bills 58.4% Houston Texans 47.4%
Washington Redskins 52.2% Carolina Panthers 32.5%
Dallas Cowboys 51.1% Jacksonville Jaguars 43.1%
Tennessee Titans 49.5% Baltimore Ravens 34.2%
Chicago Bears 49.2% Miami Dolphins 44.6%
Seattle Seahawks 48.5% Oakland Raiders 36.3%
Carolina Panthers 48.4% Washington Redskins 42.2%
Los Angeles Chargers 48.3% Cleveland Browns 34.4%

Commentary

  • Dallas gains 44.1% of its total yardage via the rush, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Jacksonville allows 34.6% of its total yardage via the rush, the seventh-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Chicago has run the fourth-most rushing plays (script-independent) in the NFL.
  • Miami opponents have run the second-most rushing plays (script-independent) in the NFL.
  • Opponents run against Miami on 44.6% of its neutral-script plays, the 12th-highest ratio in the NFL.

Action Items

The numbers suggest the Dallas running game, but that team is in disarray. Ezekiel Elliott is always a must-play in season-long leagues, but DFS players can find better. Expect Jordan Howard to have a big day against Miami. The Dolphins don't stop the run well, and Howard owns the rushing attempt in Chicago's backfield. Tarik Cohen's Week 4 emergence prior to the bye week was likely specific to Chicago's pass-heavy game plan vs. Tampa Bay's funnel defense.

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New England (vs. Kansas City)

Commentary

  • New England averages 2.29 points per drive, seventh-most in the NFL.
  • Kansas City allows 2.38 points per drive, fourth-most in the NFL.

  • New England gains 28.4% of its passing yardage via running backs, the sixth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Kansas City allows 25.2% of its passing yards to running backs, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.

This makes the case for James White over Sony Michel even more clear.

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Atlanta (vs. Tampa Bay)

Commentary

  • Atlanta gains 77.3% of its total yardage via the pass, the sixth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay allows 80.3% of its total yardage via the pass, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Atlanta has converted 65.0% of red zone drives into points, the eighth-best rate in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay has allowed 92.3% of red zone drive to result in points, the worst rate in the NFL.

Tampa is dreadful. Any Atlanta player is worth considering. Julio Jones might even finally score a touchdown.

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Cincinnati (vs. Pittsburgh)

Commentary

  • Cincinnati gains 74.0% of its total yards via the pass, the 11th-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh allows 73.8% of its total yards via the pass, the ninth-highest ratio in the NFL.

Below are Green's last three home games against Pittsburgh (note: he missed the 2016 game in Cincinnati). While past seasons aren't a "sticky" predictor of current season success, it's nice to see a history of production for Green against this week's familiar opponent.

Year Week Tgt Rec Yds TD FPs PosRk
2017 13 16 7 77 2 26.7 3
2015 14 9 6 132 1 25.2 6
2014 14 15 11 224 1 39.4 2

Pittsburgh's allowance of fantasy production to wide receivers has been documented throughout the column. In a week full of elite high-end receiving options, Green is the perfect dark horse.

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