#Trendspotting: Week 11 - 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:

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.

This week, we are focusing on plays call in the last five weeks only.

Passing

Offensive Team Pass% Defensive Team Pass%
Atlanta Falcons 69.0% Dallas Cowboys 56.5%
New York Giants 67.0% Tampa Bay Buccaneers 61.4%
Kansas City Chiefs 66.4% Los Angeles Rams 53.5%
Pittsburgh Steelers 65.5% Jacksonville Jaguars 51.9%
Philadelphia Eagles 65.4% New Orleans Saints 59.3%
Green Bay Packers 65.1% Seattle Seahawks 61.6%
Cincinnati Bengals 64.9% Baltimore Ravens 55.9%

Commentary

  • The Giants pass on 67.0% of their neutral script plays, the second highest percentage in the NFL.
  • The Giants gain 76.8% of their total yardage via the pass, the third-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay allows 73.0% of its total yardage via the pass, the fifth-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay allows 7.7 net yards per attempt, third-most in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay allows 14.9 receptions per game to wide receivers, third-most in the NFL.
  • The Giants gain 70.3% of their passing yardage via wide receivers, the ninth-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay allows 57.5% of its total yardage to wide receivers, the fifth-lowest percentage in the NFL.
  • The Giants total 30.6% of their receptions via running backs, the fifth-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Tampa Bay allows 20.5% of its total receptions to running backs, the seventh-lowest percentage in the NFL.
  • Philadelphia passes on 65.4% of its neutral script plays, the fifth-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • New Orleans allows 78.7% of its total yardage via the pass, the highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Philadelphia gains 42.9% of its passing yardage via tight ends, the highest percentage in the NFL.
  • New Orleans allows 13.5% of its passing yardage to tight ends, the third-lowest percentage in the NFL.

Action Items

It's a strange week in this section because the offenses that like to pass that are playing defenses who often face the pass don't match up well with how they gain and allow yardage via the pass. What seems like it should be a big week for Odell Beckham Jr and/or Saquon Barkley doesn't align that well with how Tampa Bay allows production. The same goes for Zach Ertz of Philadelphia, facing a New Orleans team that is generous to everyone except tight ends.

These players are still no-brainer starters in season-long leagues, but they're probably more GPP plays than safe cash game plays in DFS.

Rushing

Offensive Team Rush% Defensive Team Rush%
Seattle Seahawks 58.8% Green Bay Packers 44.7%
Houston Texans 54.3% Washington Redskins 36.2%
Detroit Lions 48.4% Carolina Panthers 42.5%
New Orleans Saints 47.5% Philadelphia Eagles 35.8%
Washington Redskins 46.5% Houston Texans 37.2%
Jacksonville Jaguars 46.0% Pittsburgh Steelers 34.9%

Commentary and Action Items

The most run-heavy teams are facing mostly pass-heavy defenses. Remember, though, that these are neutral script percentages. Game script is key to assessing fantasy value. Even though these offenses would prefer to run, it doesn't mean they'll have the chance. Jacksonville, for instance, is a six-point underdog to Pittsburgh. If you believe the Steelers will control the game, Blake Bortles will likely see increased volume. And he'll see it against a Pittsburgh defense that faces passes on 65.1% of its neutral script plays, the third-highest percentage in the NFL.

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Follow the Targets

In this section, we'll examine how the worst passing defenses in the NFL allow their production. The teams listed here are those playing this week who have seen the highest percentage of neutral-script passing plays called against them.

RBs WRs TEs
Team Tgt% YdsRk TDs Tgt% YdsRk TDs Tgt% YdsRk TDs
Pittsburgh Steelers 15.3% 2 4 60.9% 21 11 23.8% 28 4
Philadelphia Eagles 22.7% 27 1 62.8% 29 9 14.5% 3 2
Washington Redskins 24.9% 23 2 54.7% 30 10 20.4% 10 3
Houston Texans 22.0% 10 5 59.7% 11 6 18.2% 19 4
Cincinnati Bengals 20.7% 28 5 57.7% 31 11 21.6% 30 5
New York Giants 20.5% 13 5 56.4% 10 6 23.2% 18 1
Tennessee Titans 19.2% 3 0 63.4% 26 11 17.5% 2 0
Atlanta Falcons 30.0% 32 5 51.8% 22 13 18.2% 14 3

Commentary

  • New Orleans has gained 616 receiving yards by running backs, third-most in the NFL.
  • Philadelphia allows 56.0 receiving yards per game to running backs, sixth-most in the NFL.
  • Houston gains 77.0% of its passing yardage via wide receivers, the fourth-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Washington allows 67.2% of its passing yardage to wide receivers, the seventh-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Atlanta allows 30.0% of its targets to running backs, the highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Atlanta allows 80.9 receiving yards per game to running backs, most in the NFL.
  • Atlanta allows 20.8 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, most in the NFL.
  • Since Amari Cooper joined Dallas, his 26% target share leads the team. Ezekiel Elliott's 18% share is second on the team. Elliott's target share is sixth among all running backs in that time frame.

Action Items

The matchup says it's more of an Alvin Kamara week than a Mark Ingram II week, but both are in play in DFS due to Ingram's lower salary. DeAndre Hopkins is in a great spot, given how Houston gains yardage and how Washington allows it. Elliott has overall RB1 potential this week. His DFS salary may be prohibitive compared to other elite running back options around him. So be sure to check Steve Buzzard's Percent Rostered projections throughout the week.

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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.

This week, we'll show the top-four and bottom-four deltas between NSoS and DvP. The teams with negative deltas are worse in NSoS, suggesting they could be easier matchups than one might think. Those with positive deltas are probably more difficult matchups than DvP suggests.

vs. Quarterbacks
Team NSoS DvP Delta
Chicago Bears 31 13 -18
Indianapolis Colts 32 21 -11
Detroit Lions 28 18 -10
Arizona Cardinals 11 2 -9
Cincinnati Bengals 21 32 11
Cleveland Browns 8 19 11
Washington Redskins 11 24 13
Pittsburgh Steelers 4 26 22

Commentary and Action Items

Last week, this exercise led to the recommendation of Bortles due to Indianapolis' poor NSoS ranking and below average DvP ranking. Speaking of the UCF alum, it's not advisable to double down on his Week 10 success. Pittsburgh's defense has been stifling of late. Indianapolis, however, is still in play as a target this week due to those same factors.

Marcus Mariota's DFS price tag has risen after his big Week 10 performance, but he's still a reasonable GPP option as the masses may flock to other cheap quarterbacks like Dak Prescott. Both Mariota and Prescott make for excellent season-long Rent-a-Quarterback/streamer options this week.

If you're playing the full slate or primetime slate, don't shy away from Kirk Cousins despite the apparently difficult matchup with Chicago. The Bears have allowed an average of 15.1 fantasy points to quarterbacks over the past three weeks.

However, those quarterbacks were Matthew Stafford, Nathan Peterman, and Sam Darnold. Prior to that, Chicago had yielded 22.7 to Tom Brady and 31.0 to Brock Osweiler. In fact, Chicago has allowed at least 3.7x points-per-dollar value to four of the last five quarterbacks they have faced. Cousins makes for a sneaky GPP choice in DFS.

vs. Running Backs
Team NSoS DvP Delta
Chicago Bears 15 1 -14
Jacksonville Jaguars 14 6 -8
Indianapolis Colts 29 22 -7
New York Giants 27 20 -7
Washington Redskins 7 14 7
Arizona Cardinals 16 28 12
Detroit Lions 10 23 13
San Francisco 49ers 5 19 14

Commentary and Action Items

This exercise is valuable when it shows us teams such as Indianapolis and New York above. But it might even more helpful than when it shows teams such as Chicago and Jacksonville. It can be a big advantage to know when the top DvP teams aren't quite as tough a matchup as many think. This makes James Conner interesting.

Just two weeks ago, we saw the same situation with Conner. His matchup with Baltimore was difficult, but his DFS salary was adjusted down because of it (especially on DraftKings, where they tend to matchup-adjust more). Conner continued to dominate backfield touches and put up a dominant performance. Assuming he clears the concussion protocol, Conner makes for a GPP leverage play as much of the roster percentage concentration will be on other elite backs with better on-paper matchups, despite those players being more expensive.

It appears that the acquisition of Damon Harrison is helping Detroit's previously-beleaguered run defense. Christian McCaffrey is unsusceptible to game script due to his passing game involvement, but Conner is the better play in DFS when considering salary.

vs. Wide Receivers
Team NSoS DvP Delta
Indianapolis Colts 26 7 -19
Detroit Lions 28 14 -14
New York Giants 18 7 -11
Arizona Cardinals 23 13 -10
Philadelphia Eagles 15 29 14
Cincinnati Bengals 16 30 14
Pittsburgh Steelers 4 21 17
Cleveland Browns 8 27 19

Commentary and Action Items

Sensing a theme? The Colts passing defense is not nearly what the season-long raw DvP numbers suggest. Indianapolis has allowed three wide receiver touchdowns in its last two games and seven in their last six games. Corey Davis is another Tennessee player who saw his price tag rise after a strong Week 10, but he's still the preferred mid-price wide receiver in DFS and a solid WR2 with WR1 upside in season-long leagues.

Jacksonville's receivers had a nice outing in Week 10, but part of that was their matchup with the aforementioned Colts. Their Week 11 opponent, Pittsburgh, has improved dramatically of late. Avoid the Jacksonville passing game. If they are to compete and/or win, they'll likely do so in a low-scoring game where they force multiple turnovers.

vs. Tight Ends
Team NSoS DvP Delta
Detroit Lions 26 14 -12
Miami Dolphins 29 17 -12
Seattle Seahawks 18 6 -12
New Orleans Saints 16 5 -11
Denver Broncos 8 18 10
Minnesota Vikings 9 20 11
Cincinnati Bengals 14 30 16
Pittsburgh Steelers 12 29 17

Commentary and Action Items

Tight end has been difficult to peg, even in DFS formats where every player is in the potential pool of choices. This week, it will be difficult due to tight pricing, but Greg Olsen has a better matchup than it appears. Detroit hasn't faced a tight end anywhere near Olsen's caliber. Because pricing is so tight (especially on DraftKings), Olsen is a GPP-only play.

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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 Los Angeles Rams 30.00 52.7% 49.4% 15.31
Los Angeles Rams Kansas City Chiefs 33.50 39.4% 40.0% 13.30
Indianapolis Colts Tennessee Titans 25.25 60.0% 43.7% 13.09
Los Angeles Chargers Denver Broncos 26.75 52.5% 45.1% 13.05
Seattle Seahawks Green Bay Packers 25.75 57.5% 38.9% 12.41

Commentary

The Rams show up here as a function of their overall total, but if you look closer, they may not belong. They score 39.4% of their total points via passing touchdowns, the 11th-lowest percentage in the NFL. Meanwhile, Kansas City allows 40.0% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the 10th-lowest percentage in the NFL. This not a recommendation to ignore the Rams passing game, but with Cooper Kupp out, they could lean on the run more, especially in the red zone. And there's also this...

This isn't

Rushing Points

Offense Defense LV Total Off RuTD% Def RuTD% Proj. Rush
Los Angeles Rams Kansas City Chiefs 33.50 25.1% 30.0% 9.23
New Orleans Saints Philadelphia Eagles 32.00 30.9% 19.7% 8.09
Carolina Panthers Detroit Lions 27.50 29.9% 19.7% 6.81
Pittsburgh Steelers Jacksonville Jaguars 26.75 25.8% 21.1% 6.27
Baltimore Ravens Cincinnati Bengals 23.25 31.0% 22.9% 6.27

Commentary

The Rams score 25.1% of their total points via rushing touchdowns, the 10th-highest percentage in the NFL. Kansas City allows 30.0% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the third-highest percentage in the NFL.

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Tempo, Tempo, Tempo

In this section, we'll look at the fastest and slowest neutral-script offenses and the defensive tempos of their opponent this week. Since this piece is relatively new, teams on their bye week remain in the tables for informational purposes.

Fastest Offenses

Offensive Team Pace Rank Defensive Team Pace Rank
New England Patriots 1 N/A - Bye Week N/A
Indianapolis Colts 2 Tennessee Titans 16
Baltimore Ravens 3 Cincinnati Bengals 13
Los Angeles Rams 4 Kansas City Chiefs 10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5 New York Giants 20
Cincinnati Bengals 6 Baltimore Ravens 11
Kansas City Chiefs 7 Los Angeles Rams 29
Los Angeles Chargers 8 Denver Broncos 4

Commentary

  • In neutral situations, the Rams run a play every 28.88 seconds, the fourth-fastest pace in the NFL.
  • In neutral situations, Kansas City faces a play every 30.28 seconds, the 10th-shortest time between plays in the NFL.
  • In neutral situations, Kansas City runs a play every 30.02 seconds, the seventh-fastest pace in the NFL.
  • In neutral situations, the Rams face a play every 30.02 seconds, the fourth-longest time between plays in the NFL.

Action Items

The Rams have faced Oakland, Arizona, and Seattle (twice). That means four of their games have been against the eight slowest offenses in the NFL. Tempo is more a function of the offense than the defense, so expect Monday night's showdown to be not only high-octane but fast-paced as well. As if we weren't excited enough to watch...

Slowest Offenses

Offensive Team Pace Rank Defensive Team Pace Rank
New York Jets 32 N/A - Bye Week N/A
Detroit Lions 31 Carolina Panthers 28
Washington Redskins 30 Houston Texans 14
Oakland Raiders 29 Arizona Cardinals 27
Arizona Cardinals 28 Oakland Raiders 22
Seattle Seahawks 27 Green Bay Packers 2
Philadelphia Eagles 26 New Orleans Saints 18
New York Giants 25 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21

Commentary

  • In neutral situations, Detroit runs a play every 33.61 seconds, the second-slowest pace in the NFL.
  • In neutral situations, Carolina faces a play every 32.05 seconds, the fifth-longest time between plays in the NFL.
  • In neutral situations, Philadelphia runs a play every 32.09 seconds, the seventh-slowest pace in the NFL.

Action Items

None of these teams are particularly attractive offenses, and their pace has something to do with that. Faster pace means more plays, and more plays mean more opportunities to accumulate fantasy stats. The team on here that might be surprising is Philadelphia. Can quality overcome a lack of quantity?

This week, that's likely, considering their matchup with New Orleans in the Superdome. It's also worth noting that New Orleans is favored by nine, suggesting the neutral situations won't last all game and Philadelphia could speed up.

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