#Trendspotting: Week 10 - 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. Blue text is a good matchup for that team's offensive players. Red text is a bad matchup. Some other key items are below:

  • All red/blue highlighting in tables is relative to the entire NFL, even when showing only a limited number of teams.
  • 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
Oakland Raiders 18.5% 8 2 62.6% 13 11 18.9% 24 6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20.0% 28 3 57.9% 29 14 22.1% 32 5
New Orleans Saints 19.6% 11 2 61.9% 32 14 18.5% 11 1
Miami Dolphins 24.8% 24 3 55.2% 17 8 20.0% 15 5
Cincinnati Bengals 19.7% 23 4 58.8% 31 9 21.5% 31 5
Atlanta Falcons 29.4% 32 3 51.9% 24 12 18.8% 18 3
Detroit Lions 26.8% 12 2 50.7% 1 10 22.4% 16 4
New York Giants 22.1% 16 5 55.3% 9 5 22.5% 17 1

Commentary

This week's eight teams were chosen by net passing yards per attempts. Oakland is the worst in that category, but their overall stats against the pass aren't as bad as what we normally see in this section when we sort by yards per game.

Oakland's standing as the worst per-attempt team means they are a defense that can be beaten in any way. Game script will be key with the Chargers this week, as they are a team with plenty of weapons. Some of the other matchups are more obvious to dissect.

  • New Orleans has allowed 14 touchdowns to wide receivers and 1.8 per game, both are the most in the NFL.
  • Cincinnati allows 75.3 yards per game to tight ends, second-most in the NFL.
  • Cincinnati allows 203.3 yards per game to wide receivers, second-most in the NFL.
  • Two teams allow more than 200 yards per game to wide receivers - New Orleans and Cincinnati.
  • Atlanta allows 9.5 receptions per game to running backs, most in the NFL by far (Indianapolis is second at 7.5 per game).
  • Atlanta allows 20.0 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, most in the NFL.

Action Items

It may be a leap to assume Tyler Boyd can succeed as a WR1, but if there's any week worth taking said leap, this is the one. New Orleans has tried to improve their secondary via trades, but they are still yielding plenty of aerial production. Boyd is a low-end WR1 in season-long leagues and a high-floor DFS play.

Playing Duke Johnson Jr this week may feel like chasing points. But the matchup dictates that even if Johnson had caught zero balls for zero yards last week, he'd still be worth a look. This column has highlighted so many times in the past that Atlanta stinks against pass-catching running backs. Johnson is a player who can take advantage of that. Johnson is an RB2 with RB1 upside this week. The only thing keeping him from being a DFS lock is that he'll be rostered in so many lineups that he may not be worth the DFS GPP selection.

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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%
Cincinnati Bengals 66.9% New Orleans Saints 63.4%
Atlanta Falcons 66.9% Cleveland Browns 66.2%
New York Giants 66.8% San Francisco 49ers 66.1%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 66.5% Washington Redskins 63.7%
Pittsburgh Steelers 66.1% Carolina Panthers 63.7%
Indianapolis Colts 65.3% Jacksonville Jaguars 53.7%

Commentary

  • Cincinnati and Atlanta call pass plays on 66.9% of their neutral script plays, tied for the highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Cleveland faces a pass play on 66.2% of its neutral script plays, the second-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay calls a pass play on 66.5% of its neutral script plays, the fourth-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Washington faces a pass play on 63.7% of its neutral script plays, the sixth-highest percentage in the NFL.

Action Items

Cleveland's secondary is an injury-riddled disaster, and Atlanta wants to throw anyway. Fire up Matt Ryan, who has been every bit as good as his MVP season two years ago. The only difference is his team's record. With less expensive options projected for similar (or better) production, Ryan has GPP-winning DFS potential.

Tampa Bay has shown little reluctance to pass, pass, and pass some more. This week's opponent won't make them change their game plan. The only thing limiting Ryan Fitzpatrick's ceiling in this game is Washington's offense not being able to keep up. Still, Fitzpatrick is a top-five season-long option and an attractive DFS cash game option at his price.

Rushing

Offensive Team Rush% Defensive Team Rush%
Washington Redskins 51.0% Tampa Bay Buccaneers 40.6%
Seattle Seahawks 51.0% Los Angeles Rams 42.6%
Buffalo Bills 50.3% New York Jets 39.2%
Tennessee Titans 47.9% New England Patriots 34.4%
Dallas Cowboys 47.7% Philadelphia Eagles 32.6%
Carolina Panthers 46.3% Pittsburgh Steelers 37.9%

Commentary

There aren't any action items here, but this table remains to show how important game script can be to fantasy football. All of these offenses, save for Carolina perhaps, would like nothing more than to run the ball. However, their Week 10 opponents -- either because of strengths and weaknesses or projected game script -- likely won't let them.

For Washington, being run-heavy behind a decimated offensive line is sub-optimal anyway. Doing so against a pass funnel defense would be coaching malpractice. Seattle, Buffalo, Tennessee, and Dallas aren't likely to be neutral or ahead for too long.

This doesn't generate any safe plays this week, but it's a reminder that game script counts. Think about how every game will go when making decisions.

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Looks Can Be Deceiving

Viewing raw "defense vs. position" (DvP) stats can be misleading, as it makes no consideration for the strength of opponents. So, in this section, we're going to compare our Normalized Strength of Schedule (NSoS) over the last five weeks vs. raw DvP for the entire season and find notable deltas between the two. The idea is to find defenses to target that other DFS players might not.

For those who have been reading the last two weeks, we called this section "Paper Champions" before. This name seems more appropriate.

vs. Quarterbacks
Team NSoS DvP Delta
Dallas Cowboys 24 11 -13
Indianapolis Colts 32 20 -12
Philadelphia Eagles 27 21 -6
Chicago Bears 19 14 -5
Jacksonville Jaguars 8 4 -4

Commentary and Action Items

Indianapolis allows the 13th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. On its own, that's a promising number. But when adjusted for strength of schedule and considering the last five weeks, the Colts have been the worst team in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Since Week 4, three of five quarterbacks have exceeded 5x points-per-dollar against Indianapolis. Another was Sam Darnold, who scored 19 fantasy points at $5,300. The only quarterback to fail against Indianapolis since Week 4 was Derek Anderson of the historically bad Buffalo Bills.

Indianapolis has allowed 2+ touchdowns to four of the last five quarterbacks. Blake Bortles gets Indianapolis next. It's a leap of faith, but you could do worse than Bortles as a streamer in season-long leagues. And in DFS, Bortles has GPP appeal. At a sub-$5,000 DraftKings salary, he might be the cheapest access to 20 fantasy points at the quarterback position.

vs. Running Backs
Team NSoS DvP Delta
Oakland Raiders 32 24 -8
Jacksonville Jaguars 15 8 -7
Dallas Cowboys 20 14 -6
Los Angeles Rams 20 15 -5
New York Giants 28 23 -5

Commentary and Action Items

Similar to the quarterbacks above, it's nice to see a team that's much worse on an NSoS basis but still bad on a raw DvP basis. Oakland fits that bill, having been consistently bad vs. running backs on the season but especially poor over the last five weeks and adjusted for strength of schedule. Melvin Gordon III will take advantage of Oakland's lack of talent and a positive game script. Gordon is a fantastic combo of high floor and high ceiling and is a fine play in any DFS format.

vs. Wide Receivers
Team NSoS DvP Delta
Indianapolis Colts 29 9 -20
Dallas Cowboys 17 1 -16
Miami Dolphins 20 10 -10
Denver Broncos 20 12 -8
Detroit Lions 14 6 -8

Commentary and Action Items

Where Miami ranks in both of these metrics is why this exercise is so fascinating. 10th is a ranking to fade, but 20th is one to think about attacking. Let's dig deeper into Green Bay wide receivers vs. Miami.

  • Miami allows 61.4% of its passing yardage to wide receivers, the 16th-lowest percentage in the NFL.
  • Green Bay gains 81.9% of its passing yardage via wide receivers, the highest percentage in the NFL.

Xavien Howard is emerging as a shut-down cornerback, but elite wide receivers have still been effective. DeAndre Hopkins accumulated a 6-82-2 line while A.J. Green went for 6-112-0. Those are the only two true WR1s Miami has faced, which helps to explain their NSoS being worse than their raw DvP.

Davante Adams is a clear WR1 on a team with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Howard is reason for pause when the quarterback-receiver connection isn't among the league's best. In this case, Adams is still a fine play for DFS GPP purposes and is even acceptable for cash games as well.

vs. Tight Ends
Team NSoS DvP Delta
Detroit Lions 32 15 -17
Miami Dolphins 31 17 -14
New Orleans Saints 18 6 -12
Los Angeles Chargers 27 16 -11
Philadelphia Eagles 11 4 -7

Commentary and Action Items

The Chargers have more deficiencies against tight ends than their raw stats would lead many to believe. Since Week 4, Los Angeles has faced only three tight ends with a DraftKings price over $2,700 for that week. Those tight ends (George Kittle in Week 4, Jared Cook in Week 5, and David Njoku in Week 6) averaged 17.3 fantasy points. That includes Cook's stinker of only 6.0 fantasy points.

Those three players combined for 17 receptions (5.7 per game). Njoku and Kittle would've paid 3x points-per-dollar on DraftKings even without scoring touchdowns.

This week, Cook gets his second chance, and he's playing on a team that is void of legitimate wide receiver options. Cook is a TE1 in season-long leagues and a DFS GPP play with a high ceiling.

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Grab Bag

In this section, we'll highlight a few topics seen on twitter this week that seem noteworthy.

Commentary and Action Items

Chubb's workload appears to be secure. But his target share is small, and with the emergence of Duke Johnson Jr last week, it would seem that Chubb's passing game involvement will be even less. As mentioned above, game script matters. Beware the negative one for Chubb.

Commentary and Action Items

Ryan's stats have been otherworldly this season. His defense is contributing to that by allowing teams to score with Atlanta and keep Ryan's foot on the pedal. He's a plug-and-play QB1. There's no need to stream or Rent-a-Quarterback to sub in for Ryan.

Commentary and Action Items

Because of Ingram's body type and his usage in the team's Week 5 game upon Ingram's return to the lineup, many assume that Ingram is the team's short-yardage/goal line back. But Kamara has been more effective in every part of the field and gives New Orleans the flexibility it needs in all situations - even those close to the goal line.

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NEW Feature: Strength vs. Weakness

If you're a fan of this column, you're well aware that we like to cite the percentage of yards gained via the pass and the rush. This section takes a look at every team, how they gain their yards, and how this week's opponent allows those yards.

The tables below show the percentages of yards gained, where that ranks among NFL teams, and the defensive percentages and rankings of their opponents as well. In order to find strength vs. weakness, we've taken the delta of the defensive rank minus the offensive rank and sorted by that delta.

Passing
Offensive Team PaYd% Rank Defensive Team PaYd% Rank RkDelta
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 79.8% 1 Washington Redskins 74.0% 28 27
Cincinnati Bengals 73.1% 9 New Orleans Saints 80.3% 32 23
Pittsburgh Steelers 75.5% 4 Carolina Panthers 72.7% 25 21
New York Giants 78.0% 2 San Francisco 49ers 70.8% 19 17
Detroit Lions 70.5% 15 Chicago Bears 73.6% 26 11
New Orleans Saints 72.1% 12 Cincinnati Bengals 71.3% 21 9

Commentary and Action Items

  • Washington allows 67.1% of its passing yardage to wide receivers, the sixth-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay gains 76.2% of its passing yardage via wide receivers, the eighth-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay attempts 10.5 deep passes per game, most in the NFL. Tampa Bay attempts a deep pass on 25.2% of its passes, the highest percentage in the NFL.

Mike Evans was one of Week 9's most disappointing players, finishing with 1 reception for 16 yards. He did, however play 90% of the snaps and see 10 targets. Evans is a bounce-back spot this week. He's too cheap in DFS (especially DraftKings), where he's priced like a high-end complimentary receiver instead of a low-end WR1.

Rushing
Offensive Team RuYd% Rank Defensive Team RuYd% Rank RkDelta
Chicago Bears 35.8% 8 Detroit Lions 39.9% 32 24
San Francisco 49ers 38.0% 6 New York Giants 33.4% 24 18
Indianapolis Colts 30.8% 16 Jacksonville Jaguars 39.3% 31 15
Buffalo Bills 39.1% 3 New York Jets 31.1% 17 14
Seattle Seahawks 40.3% 2 Los Angeles Rams 30.2% 16 14
Los Angeles Chargers 32.3% 15 Oakland Raiders 35.5% 28 13

Commentary and Action Items

One team is head and shoulders above the others here for this strength vs. weakness matchup. Chicago, a 6.5-point favorite at home, is a team that likes to run and is facing a poor rush defense.

  • Detroit allows 5.1 rush yards per attempt, second-most in the NFL. Detroit and Kansas City (5.3) are the only teams allowing more than 5.0 yards per carry.
  • Detroit allows 17.9 rushing fantasy points per game to running backs, fourth-most in the NFL.

Jordan Howard is rarely cash-game-safe in DFS due to the presence of Tarik Cohen and the potentially low floor of the entire offense. But Howard deserves GPP consideration and is an RB2 with RB1 upside in season-long leagues.

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