#Trendspotting: Week 13 - 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:

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.

vs. Quarterbacks
Team NSoS DvP Delta
Miami Dolphins 31 15 -16
Baltimore Ravens 18 4 -14
Dallas Cowboys 24 10 -14
Jacksonville Jaguars 27 14 -13
Chicago Bears 17 5 -12
Seattle Seahawks 19 9 -10
Indianapolis Colts 26 16 -10
"NSoS" = Normalized Strength of Schedule Ranking
(see the link in the paragraph above for an explanation on NSoS)
"DvP" = Defense vs. Position Ranking
(raw fantasy points allowed to that position)
"Delta" = NSoS-DvP

Commentary and Action Items

Baltimore has been a matchup to avoid all season, but if we look at their DvP over the last five weeks, they've actually allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Baltimore allowed two passing touchdowns in three of their four games in that span, with Oakland being the only team to not achieve the feat. They have also allowed two rushing touchdowns during that stretch.

His team has been bad, but Matt Ryan hasn't been. Ryan has eight top-12 finishes this season, including five of his last six games. His worst finish since Week 5 is QB15. He should be rostered in fewer DFS lineups this week than any other this season, making Ryan a GPP-worthy DFS play.

vs. Running Backs
Team NSoS DvP Delta
New York Jets 30 16 -14
Washington Redskins 25 12 -13
Chicago Bears 11 3 -8
Green Bay Packers 19 12 -7
New York Giants 32 25 -7

Commentary and Action Items

The Jets have been bad against the pass, but Tennessee may lean on the run in this game. Following two straight losses, and as a 7.5-point home favorite, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Titans try to control this game and win a snoozer. That makes both running backs viable, but the case is stronger for Dion Lewis (more on this later).

The Chicago running game is in a great spot against a Giants team that performs poorly vs. running backs regardless of the metric being used. Prior to yielding "only" 84 yards on 22 Josh Adams carries last week, the Giants had allowed a 100+ yard rushing performance in three straight games. On the season, the Giants allow 15.6 rushing fantasy points per game, eighth-most. Tarik Cohen is the more explosive player, but he's a GPP-only selection for DFS purposes due to his low touch volume and the presence of Jordan Howard.

vs. Wide Receivers
Team NSoS DvP Delta
Arizona Cardinals 32 13 -19
Miami Dolphins 24 11 -13
Detroit Lions 28 15 -13
Jacksonville Jaguars 16 5 -11
New England Patriots 21 14 -7
Indianapolis Colts 14 7 -7
Los Angeles Rams 28 22 -6

Commentary and Action Items

Arizona has allowed multiple touchdowns to wide receivers in three of its last five games and 5+ receptions to at least one wide receiver in 10 of its 11 games this season. Only Oakland's injury-depleted receiving corps failed. Many will flock to Aaron Jones against Arizona, and rightfully so given Green Bay's status as a near-two-touchdown home favorite. But don't sleep on the receiving corps, especially Davante Adams, whose 27% target share is ninth in the NFL over the last five weeks.

The Rams have allowed two 200-yard receivers in their last three games and 15+ PPR fantasy points to eight wide receivers in their last seven games. Since Marvin Jones Jr was injured, Kenny Golladay is seeing 67% of Detroit's air yards, by far the highest percentage in the NFL. And Golladay's 29% target share in those two games is ninth. Golladay makes for a solid DFS play in all formats and is a low-end WR1 in season-long leagues.

Don't disregard Indianapolis because of the Jacksonville matchup. The Jaguars are a team who appears to have surrendered on its season. Also, they're not as good as they appear on paper. Jacksonville also appeared above in the quarterbacks section, making an Andrew Luck-T.Y. Hilton stack a potential DFS differentiator.

vs. Tight Ends
Team NSoS DvP Delta
Baltimore Ravens 30 18 -12
Seattle Seahawks 17 6 -11
Miami Dolphins 31 22 -9
New York Jets 14 5 -9
Oakland Raiders 27 19 -8
Philadelphia Eagles 12 4 -8

Commentary and Action Items

We called Matt Ryan a GPP candidate above, but when using quarterbacks for DFS tournaments, a stack partner is often necessary for correlation. Julio Jones is always a candidate due to his usage, talent, and consistency, but Austin Hooper may have the better matchup this week. Baltimore allows 29.2% of its total passing yardage to tight ends, the highest percentage in the NFL. And at tight end, DFS players like to spend up or spend way down. With Hooper's middling price and Atlanta facing Baltimore's tough defense, Hooper isn't likely to be discussed (or rostered) much this week.

Speaking of paying up, Travis Kelce is always capable of providing GPP-winning upside. And the matchup this week is promising as well. Oakland allows 26.5% of its total passing yardage to tight ends, the third-highest percentage, while Kansas City gains 28.9% of its total passing yardage via tight ends, the fifth-highest percentage.

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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. %
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 78.3% 2 Carolina Panthers 73.0% 30 75.6%
New York Giants 73.9% 5 Chicago Bears 74.4% 31 74.2%
Minnesota Vikings 76.9% 4 New England Patriots 71.5% 25 74.2%
Atlanta Falcons 79.2% 1 Baltimore Ravens 68.8% 19 74.0%
Pittsburgh Steelers 77.3% 3 Los Angeles Chargers 67.9% 14 72.6%
"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

Just because a team passes for a high percentage of yards doesn't mean they pass for a high volume of yards. And the same is true of defenses. So let's look at where these teams rank in terms of passing yardage on the season:

Passing Yards per Game Rank (Offense):

  • Tampa Bay - 1st, N.Y. Giants - 12th, Minnesota - 7th, Atlanta - 4th, Pittsburgh - 2nd.

Passing Yards per Game Rank (Defense):

  • Carolina - 22nd, Chicago - 10th, New England - 25th, Baltimore - 2nd, L.A. Chargers - 7th.

Tampa Bay and Minnesota are in the best matchups of these pass-happy teams facing funnel-esque defenses. The entirety of the Tampa Bay passing game is in play, though the "Going Deep" section later will make a compelling case for two pass-catchers over the rest. And Kirk Cousins and his dynamic receiving duo are both in play in all DFS formats and are WR1s in season-long.

Rushing
Offensive Team RuYd% Rank Defensive Team RuYd% Rank Avg. %
Buffalo Bills 41.7% 1 Miami Dolphins 35.0% 28 38.3%
San Francisco 49ers 38.0% 4 Seattle Seahawks 33.7% 25 35.9%
Tennessee Titans 36.8% 6 New York Jets 34.3% 26 35.5%
Seattle Seahawks 41.4% 2 San Francisco 49ers 29.3% 10 35.4%
Miami Dolphins 34.0% 12 Buffalo Bills 36.5% 30 35.2%
"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

Expect plenty of running in the San Francisco-Seattle matchup, unless the game gets out of hand. But with Seattle's preference to run, they may not score fast enough to take this game out of a neutral situation. For San Francisco, it's worth noting that undrafted rookie Jeff Wilson played only three fewer snaps than Matt Breida last week.

For Seattle, Chris Carson appears to have wrestled back the majority of the backfield for what seems like the ninth time this season. He out-snapped Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny 32-18-10 and out-carried them 16-4-4 after 17-4-8 the week prior. Carson's upside is only in scoring touchdowns, though, as he has seen zero targets in almost as many games as he has seen multiple (and he's only seen more than two targets once).

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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. We're also looking at the last five weeks only, and we've sorted by defensive percentage to see how defenses are attacked by opponents.

Passing

Offensive Team Pass% Defensive Team Pass%
Atlanta Falcons 70.8% Baltimore Ravens 67.2%
Los Angeles Rams 63.8% Detroit Lions 67.2%
New York Jets 60.7% Tennessee Titans 66.7%
San Francisco 49ers 59.3% Seattle Seahawks 66.5%
Seattle Seahawks 48.1% San Francisco 49ers 66.4%
"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

  • Atlanta passes on 70.8% of its neutral script plays, the highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Baltimore faces a pass on 67.2% of its neutral script plays, the highest percentage.
  • The Rams pass on 63.8% of their neutral script plays, the eighth-highest percentage.
  • Detroit faces a pass on 67.2% of its neutral script plays, the highest percentage.

This is even more reason to like Atlanta. Their passing game has been effective this season, while their running game has not. Their playcalling suggests they are well aware of that. And despite Baltimore being a tough on-paper matchup, their recent opponents are telling us that they can be had through the air.

Even though the Rams are big favorites at Detroit, that's not a reason to be scared away from their passing game. If they don't run many neutral plays, it's highly possible that their passing game helped the game get out of hand.

Rushing

Offensive Team Rush% Defensive Team Rush%
Denver Broncos 36.6% Cincinnati Bengals 58.3%
Kansas City Chiefs 32.0% Oakland Raiders 54.3%
Los Angeles Chargers 40.9% Pittsburgh Steelers 50.7%
Tennessee Titans 45.9% New York Jets 48.6%
New England Patriots 34.5% Minnesota Vikings 48.4%
Baltimore Ravens 56.9% Atlanta Falcons 48.2%
"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 runs on 56.9% of its neutral script plays, the second-highest percentage.
  • Atlanta faces a run on 48.2% of its neutral script plays, the sixth-highest percentage.
  • Tennessee runs on 45.9% of its neutral script plays, the eighth-highest percentage.
  • The Jets face a run on 48.6% of their neutral script plays, the fourth-highest percentage.

Don't be fooled by Baltimore here. Their percentage of run plays has spiked due to Lamar Jackson's presence, and Atlanta hasn't been as bad against running backs lately. They rank 15th in Normalized Strength of Schedule over the past five weeks despite ranking 30th in fantasy points allowed to running backs (i.e. they have allowed the third-most fantasy points).

Atlanta is also more susceptible to production vs. pass-catching running backs, making late-season surprise Gus Edwards and his one target all season less viable. If Edwards can't play (he didn't practice Wednesday), Ty Montgomery could be interesting. Montgomery played ahead of Javorius Allen last week, with eight carries and three targets to Allen's one and zero.

Figuring out the Tennessee committee could be a key to this week. In their last two games, they were blown out, so let's take a look at the two games before that in which they won handily and compare it to the combination of the last two weeks.

  • Week 9: a 28-14 win on Monday Night Football in Dallas
  • Week 10: a home drubbing of New England, 34-10
  • Weeks 11 & 12: a 38-10 blowout loss at Indianapolis and a 34-17 defeat at Houston
Snaps Carries Targets
Player Wk 9 Wk 10 11-12 Wk 9 Wk 10 11-12 Wk 9 Wk 10 11-12
Dion Lewis 83.1% 70.0% 61.9% 73.1% 74.1% 50.0% 12.5% 7.4% 17.3%
Derrick Henry 19.7% 22.9% 40.7% 23.1% 40.7% 50.0% 6.3% 0.0% 5.8%
Team Total 71 70 118 26 27 34 32 27 52

While it's easy to think that Henry would be the more-utilized back in games where Tennessee controls the script, that's actually not the case. Lewis dominated snaps and carries in both wins. But the split of snaps was closer in Weeks 11 and 12, and the carries 17-17 between the two players. Lewis is a sneaky RB1 candidate in season-long formats due to his role and the game script. But in DFS, his touch projection isn't high enough for cash games, and his upside is too lower for tournaments (he only has two touchdowns this season).

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Going Deep

In this section, we'll examine teams that throw deep passes at a high rate vs. the defenses they are playing against this week. This section defines a deep pass attempt as an attempt of 15 or more air yards. Like the prior section, we're only looking at the past five weeks.

Offensive Team Att./Gm. Deep% Defensive Team Att./Gm. Deep%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4.7 11.6% Carolina Panthers 3.0 8.4%
Washington Redskins 3.5 10.1% Philadelphia Eagles 2.9 7.5%
Chicago Bears 3.3 10.0% New York Giants 1.6 4.8%
Green Bay Packers 3.7 9.7% Arizona Cardinals 1.7 5.4%
Buffalo Bills 2.9 9.5% Miami Dolphins 2.5 7.8%
New Orleans Saints 3.1 9.4% Dallas Cowboys 2.7 8.2%
Los Angeles Rams 3.2 9.1% Detroit Lions 2.9 9.8%
"Att./Gm." = the number of passes 15 yards or more downfield attempted by an offense or faced by a defense
"Deep%" = the percentage of overall passes that are 15 or more yards downfield thrown by an offense or faced by a defense

Commentary

In the past five weeks:

  • Tampa Bay has attempted 4.7 deep passes per game, most in the NFL.
  • Carolina has faced 3.0 deep passes per game, sixth-most.
  • Tampa Bay has thrown a deep pass on 11.6% of its total pass attempts, the highest percentage in the league.
  • Carolina has faced a deep pass on 8.4% of its total pass attempts against, the seventh-highest percentage.
  • DeSean Jackson has an average depth-of-target (aDOT) of 19.5 yards on 34 targets. That aDOT is highest in the NFL of all players with at least 10 targets in the last five weeks.
  • Mike Evans has an aDOT of 15.2 yards on 44 targets. That aDOT is 10th in the NFL of all players with at least 10 targets in the last five weeks.
  • The L.A. Rams have thrown a deep pass on 9.1% of their total pass attempts, the sixth-highest percentage.
  • Detroit has faced a deep pass on 9.8% of its total pass attempts against, the highest percentage.
  • Brandin Cooks leads the Rams with an aDOT of 13.3 yards (on 40 targets).
  • Robert Woods isn't far behind, with an aDOT of 13.2 yards (on 32 targets).

In Tampa Bay, the whole passing game is in play, but the top two receivers match up very well with both what Tampa wants to do and what other teams have done to Carolina. Because his price is high, Evans is a GPP play in DFS because he's priced as a high-end WR1 but is a high-end WR2 in season-long formats with other players at the position having juicy matchups as well. If he can get over his thumb injury, Jackson is in play for GPPs as well.

For the Rams, Cooks is always considered the deep ball specialist, but Woods is seeing his fair share of deep targets as well. Woods plays more in the slot, making him more likely to avoid Detroit's elite cornerback, Darius Slay. Woods is a high-end WR in season-long and a GPP play in DFS. His projected output should be close to that Evans but for a cheaper DFS price tag.

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