#Trendspotting: Week 12 - Footballguys

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is always a hectic week for us at Footballguys. Deadlines shift forward, there are more early games, injury news is plentiful as usual. But it's not lost on us that this week is out of routine for you all as well. So let's remember that it's a "weird" week for a great reason -- a fantastic day that celebrates the things we hold dearest in our lives.

We are thankful that you spend all of your weeks during football season with us. And on this special week, we're thankful that you're carving out (turkey puns!) the limited fantasy football time you have by reading this site. But please don't worry if you miss something this week -- as long as the time you spent "missing" us was doing something great with family and friends, eating amazing food, or taking in some daytime mid-week football. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Enjoy the article -- and the various Thanksgiving food references throughout.

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:

Strength vs. Weakness

This section is an enhancement the "Funnel Watch" and "Reverse Funnel Watch" section we used to include each week. Instead of looking at defenses only, we'll look at how offenses gain their yards vs. how defenses allow their yards for this week's matchups.

Passing
Offensive Team PaYd% Rank Defensive Team PaYd% Rank Avg. %
Atlanta Falcons 78.0% 2 New Orleans Saints 78.3% 32 78.1%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 78.7% 1 San Francisco 49ers 70.3% 20 74.5%
New York Giants 74.5% 5 Philadelphia Eagles 73.2% 29 73.8%
Detroit Lions 70.8% 11 Chicago Bears 75.3% 31 73.0%
Green Bay Packers 72.7% 7 Minnesota Vikings 70.4% 21 71.6%
"PaYd%" = the percentage of a team's yards gained or allowed via the pass
"Rank" = the ranking of that percentage among NFL teams
(for offenses, 1 is the highest percentage; for defenses, 32 is the highest percentage)
"Avg. %" = the average of both "PaYd%" figures
(the higher the number, the more passing yardage we can expect for the offense)

Commentary and Action Items

The following may seem simple since they're right on the chart, but for the sake of making this easier to interpret, here are a couple of takeaways.

  • Atlanta gains 78.0% of its total yardage via the pass, the second-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • New Orleans allows 78.3% of its total yardage via the pass, the highest percentage.

Now for some commentary that doesn't appear explicitly in the table:

  • Atlanta averages 7.5 net yards per pass attempt, sixth-most.
  • New Orleans allows 7.5 net yards per pass attempt, third-most.
  • The Giants gain 257.9 passing yards per game, 13th-most.
  • Philadelphia allows 276.5 passing yards per game, seventh-most.
  • The Giants attempt 36.5 passes per game, 13th-most.
  • Philadelphia faces 38.8 pass attempts per game, fourth-most.

If these teams move the ball, it makes sense that they would do so via the pass. Atlanta appears to be the most well-suited to do it, but the New Orleans secondary has been improving steadily since acquiring Eli Apple. Like green bean casserole as a side, the Giants passing game isn't one you should sleep on this week. The matchup is there, and the volume should be as well.

Rushing
Offensive Team RuYd% Rank Defensive Team RuYd% Rank Avg. %
Buffalo Bills 40.5% 3 Jacksonville Jaguars 34.2% 27 37.4%
Seattle Seahawks 43.9% 1 Carolina Panthers 28.0% 5 35.9%
Cleveland Browns 37.5% 5 Cincinnati Bengals 34.2% 26 35.8%
Los Angeles Chargers 30.9% 15 Arizona Cardinals 39.3% 32 35.1%
Chicago Bears 34.3% 10 Detroit Lions 34.3% 28 34.3%
"RuYd%" = the percentage of a team's yards gained or allowed via the rush
"Rank" = the ranking of that percentage among NFL teams
(for offenses, 1 is the highest percentage; for defenses, 32 is the highest percentage)
"Avg. %" = the average of both "RuYd%" figures
(the higher the number, the more rushing yardage we can expect for the offense)

Commentary and Action Items

LeSean McCoy has received at least 14 touches in his last five healthy games. He has been over 18 touches in 4 of those games and over 20 in 2 of them. McCoy is too cheap in DFS (especially DraftKings) for his touch volume. Seattle at Carolina will be interesting for the #DefenseDoesntMatter crowd. If Seattle is successful with their run-centric game plan against the team that allows the fifth-lowest percentage of rush yards, it will be a small victory lap for that group.

The opposite is true of the L.A. Chargers, who host Arizona. The Chargers are a middle-of-the-road team in terms of the percentage of yards they gain on the ground, while Arizona is a sieve. Of course, much of that for Arizona is skewed by game script, for which this section does not account.

In this week's Footballguys Power Grid (which in this rare instance was recorded prior to this article being written), I called Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen a leverage stack on the masses who will be playing Melvin Gordon III. As a three-down running back who gets work in the passing game and is a double-digit home favorite, Gordon is the delicious turkey of this slate -- a mainstay.

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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.

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

Passing

Offensive Team Pass% Defensive Team Pass%
Atlanta Falcons 70.4% New Orleans Saints 59.5%
New England Patriots 69.0% New York Jets 55.9%
Green Bay Packers 65.9% Minnesota Vikings 51.2%
Philadelphia Eagles 65.0% New York Giants 61.3%
Denver Broncos 64.5% Pittsburgh Steelers 45.9%
New York Giants 64.0% Philadelphia Eagles 63.8%
Carolina Panthers 62.4% Seattle Seahawks 68.6%
Cincinnati Bengals 62.1% Cleveland Browns 68.1%
"Pass%" = the percentage of neutral script plays where an offensive team calls a passing play or a defensive team has a passing play called against it

Commentary and Action Items

  • The Giants pass on 64.0% of their neutral script plays, the seventh-highest percentage in the NFL (this table does not show Kansas City or the L.A. Rams because they are off this week).
  • Philadelphia faces a pass on 63.8% of its neutral script plays, the 13th-highest percentage.
  • Carolina passes on 62.4% of its neutral script plays, the ninth-highest percentage (again, KC and LAR are not shown).
  • Seattle faces a pass on 68.1% of its neutral script plays, the highest percentage.
  • Despite their playcalling, Carolina gains 36.1% of its total yardage via the run, the eighth-highest percentage.
  • Seattle allows 32.0% of its total yardage via the rush, the 13th-highest percentage.
  • Carolina scores 27.7% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the sixth-highest percentage.
  • Seattle allows 22.2% of its total points via rushing touchdowns, the 12th-highest percentage.

Again, we see the Giants passing game vs. the Philadelphia pass defense. If Eli Manning weren't so pedestrian these days, the entire passing game would be in play. Luckily, there's a pretty solid target distribution to tell us where the production is likely to go. Manning also did well enough last week in a plum matchup vs. Tampa Bay to elevate the fantasy outlook of his main skill position teammates.

Carolina's passing game shows up here. Oddly, when looking at their overall matchup with Seattle, so does their running game. Christian McCaffrey is the gravy of your Thanksgiving meal -- involved in everything. He's a key player on a favored team playing at home. McCaffrey is viable in all DFS formats and should be among the first running backs evaluated for cash games.

Rushing

Offensive Team Rush% Defensive Team Rush%
Houston Texans 59.2% Tennessee Titans 33.0%
Seattle Seahawks 57.5% Carolina Panthers 38.5%
Jacksonville Jaguars 51.9% Buffalo Bills 35.6%
Arizona Cardinals 50.0% Los Angeles Chargers 40.0%
Baltimore Ravens 49.6% Oakland Raiders 54.2%
Buffalo Bills 47.3% Jacksonville Jaguars 45.5%
New Orleans Saints 47.0% Atlanta Falcons 43.4%
Tennessee Titans 45.1% Houston Texans 37.0%
"Rush%" = the percentage of neutral script plays where an offensive team calls a running play or a defensive team has a running play called against it

Commentary and Action Items

  • Baltimore calls a run on 49.6% of its neutral script plays, the fifth-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Oakland has a run called against it on 54.2% of its neutral script plays, the second-highest percentage.
  • Baltimore scores 32.9% of its points via rushing touchdowns, the second-highest percentage.
  • Oakland allows 36.7% of its total yards via the rush, the second-highest percentage.

Baltimore wants to run. Oakland isn't good at stopping the run. Baltimore is a huge home favorite, so game script should only enhance game plan. And Baltimore has a running quarterback starting in Lamar Jackson. So the question isn't if we are going to pick a piece (or two) of the Baltimore running game, it's which one(s).

Last week, Gus Edwards took over for Alex Collins, efficiently rushing for 115 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Carries after the first quarter were 14-2 in favor of Edwards. Baltimore may have been experimenting, but after a performance like that, they'd be crazy to put this genie back in the bottle.

The same goes for Jackson and the run-centric game plan with him. He's highly unlikely to see 27 carries again, but 15 isn't out of the question. Sure, fewer carries might mean under 100 rushing yards. But what happens when the touchdowns come? What happens when Jackson gets more comfortable passing and that fantasy production comes too?

Both Edwards and Jackson are both worthy of DFS consideration this week, Jackson in cash games and Edwards in GPPs due to the unknown time split in the backfield. But Edwards is an RB2 with RB1 upside, while Jackson is firmly in the QB1 ranks in season-long formats.

Jackson is the candied yams this week -- something a little unconventional (is this a dessert? is it not?) but satisfying nonetheless. Edwards is the cranberry sauce due to the variability of his outcomes. If you get that canned stuff, throw it in the trash; but homemade, slightly tart, with some orange zest involved and you're ahead of the field.

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Follow the Targets

In this section, we'll examine how the worst passing defenses playing this week allow their production.

RBs WRs TEs
Team Tgt% YdsRk TDs Tgt% YdsRk TDs Tgt% YdsRk TDs
Cincinnati Bengals 19.7% 26 5 58.4% 27 11 21.9% 28 5
Cleveland Browns 18.1% 27 1 59.1% 28 10 22.8% 24 5
Atlanta Falcons 30.1% 32 5 51.9% 19 13 18.0% 14 3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21.3% 23 4 56.2% 20 16 22.5% 32 5
New Orleans Saints 20.4% 13 2 61.7% 32 15 18.0% 6 1
Philadelphia Eagles 21.3% 28 2 64.9% 31 12 13.9% 4 2
New England Patriots 20.3% 19 3 57.9% 16 11 21.9% 22 7
Washington Redskins 24.7% 21 2 55.3% 30 11 19.9% 10 3
"Tgt%" =  Target Percentage (the percentage of passes on which that position is targeted)
"YdsRk" = a team's ranking in receiving yardage allowed to that position
"TDs" = passing touchdowns allowed to that position

Commentary

  • Atlanta allows 20.5 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, most in the NFL (Kansas City is second-most with 17.4 per game, 15% fewer than Atlanta!)
  • New Orleans scores 17.3 receiving fantasy points per game from their running backs, third-most.
  • Atlanta also allows 15.4 rushing fantasy points per game to running backs, eighth-most.
  • Tampa Bay allows 26.0% of its total passing yards to tight ends, the third-highest percentage in the NFL.
  • San Francisco gains 36.4% of its total passing yards via tight ends, the second-highest percentage.
  • George Kittle sees 7.1 targets per game, third among all tight ends. Kittle's market share of air yards is 20%, third on San Francisco and seventh among all tight ends.
  • Philadelphia allows 68.8% of its total passing yards to wide receivers, the sixth-highest percentage.
  • The Giants gain 69.4% of their passing yards via wide receivers, the 10th-highest percentage.

Hopefully, you're reading this before the Atlanta-New Orleans Thanksgiving night game. If not, just know that we can't run this column without mentioning pass-catching running backs vs. Atlanta; we're contractually obligated.

For Sunday purposes, if you haven't gathered by now that Odell Beckham Jr is in a great spot, please pay more attention next time. Beckham is the best option if paying up for a wide receiver in cash games. As the player with overall WR1 potential on the DFS main slate and an outside shot at the overall WR1 in season-long formats as well, Beckham is the stuffing (or dressing, if you're from the south) of the week.

George Kittle has been a revelation this season, as predicted by our own Phil Alexander in the preseason. Kittle's athleticism and Kyle Shanahan's scheme have been an exciting match -- much like mashed potatoes and gravy.

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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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