#Trendspotting: Week 14 - 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:

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Last week, we paid close attention to what teams have done over the last five weeks. After all, what happened in Week 2 is less relevant than what has happened since the calendar flipped to November and December.

So in this section, we'll look at some teams who have been struggling defensively lately that might be surprising relative to how they started the season.

QBs vs. Oakland

Passing Rushing
Week Comp Att Yds TDs Int Car Yds TDs FPs Price FP/$
Patrick Mahomes II 13 23 38 295 4 0 9 52 0 33.0 $7,600 4.3
Lamar Jackson 12 14 25 178 1 2 11 71 1 22.2 $5,700 3.9
Josh Rosen 11 9 20 136 3 2 1 0 0 15.4 $4,800 3.2
Philip Rivers 10 18 26 223 2 1 1 1 0 16.0 $6,000 2.7
Nick Mullens 9 16 22 262 3 0 4 -3 0 22.2 $4,300 5.2
"FPs" = Fantasy Points
"Price" = DraftKings price for that week
"FP/$" = Fantasy Points scored divided by (player's price / 1,000)
For instance, if a player with a $5,000 price scores 20 fantasy points, the formula is 20/(5,000/1,000). That player's FP/$ would be 4.0 (20/5.0).

  • Trend: Oakland is yielding 21.8 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks over the last five weeks, fifth-most in the NFL. This is despite them facing only 26 attempts per game during that stretch, third-fewest. Oakland has allowed three or more passing touchdowns in three of its last five games.
  • This Week: Ben Roethlisberger is passing more than anyone in the NFL. Since Week 9, his 220 attempts lead the league by a wide margin over Matt Ryan's 197. If Pittsburgh chose to pass 45 times against the L.A. Chargers -- a team more beatable on the ground than through the air -- when James Conner was healthy, they'll probably be pass-heavy again this week without Conner. The offense will flow through Roethlisberger against a defense that allows production in nearly every way its opponents choose. Roethlisberger has overall QB1 potential in season-long leagues and is playable in all formats in DFS, especially GPPs.

RBs vs. Cincinnati

Rushing Receiving
Week Car Yds TDs Rec Yds TDs FPs Price FP/$
Phillip Lindsay 13 19 157 2 1 2 0 31.9 $5,400 5.9
Nick Chubb 12 28 84 1 3 44 1 27.8 $6,300 4.4
Gus Edwards 11 17 115 1 0 0 0 22.5 $3,000 7.5
Mark Ingram II 10 13 104 0 3 58 1 28.2 $4,500 6.3
Alvin Kamara 10 12 56 2 4 46 0 26.2 $8,700 3.0
  • Trend: Cincinnati is allowing 39.4 fantasy points per game to running backs over the last five weeks, most in the NFL. Cincinnati has allowed multi-touchdown games to three running backs in its last four games.
  • This Week: The L.A. Chargers host Cincinnati as a two-touchdown favorite. Austin Ekeler disappointed some fantasy GMs last week, but it's worth noting that he still had 13 carries to Justin Jackson's 8 and 8 targets to Jackson's 1. As the main passing downs back on a team slated to score plenty of points, Ekeler is an attractive DFS play, especially as a pivot off similarly-priced Philip Lindsay, who will be popular after his big game last week (against Cincinnati, coincidentally).

WRs vs. Houston

Player Wk Rec Yds TD FPs Price FP/$
Jarvis Landry 13 6 103 0 19.3 $5,300 3.6
Rashard Higgins 13 4 62 1 16.2 $3,400 4.8
Antonio Callaway 13 3 84 0 10.4 $4,100 2.5
Corey Davis 12 4 96 1 23.5 $5,200 4.5
Trey Quinn 11 4 49 0 8.9 $3,000 3.0
Josh Doctson 11 3 32 0 6.2 $4,200 1.5
Michael Floyd 11 1 18 0 2.8 $3,000 0.9
Maurice Harris 11 1 13 0 2.3 $4,500 0.5
Emmanuel Sanders 9 6 47 0 10.7 $6,400 1.7
Courtland Sutton 9 3 57 0 8.7 $3,900 2.2
Tim Patrick 9 1 17 0 2.7 $3,000 0.9
  • Trend: From a raw Defense vs. Position (DvP) standpoint, Houston looks like a difficult matchup for wide receivers. But this is why Normalized Strength of Schedule (NSoS) is so valuable. It provides us context that DvP doesn't. For further context, we can look at who Houston has faced and see that it's far from a Murderer's Row of wideouts. 4-96-1 to Corey Davis is notable, as are the efforts from the Cleveland receivers last week. Houston is the fifth-most normalized fantasy points to wide receivers over the last five weeks.
  • This Week: Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton are superior to any quarterback-receiver listed above. Hilton is a WR1 in season-long leagues and a cash game play in DFS as one of the lower-priced WR1 projections.

WRs vs. Green Bay

Player Wk Rec Yds TD FPs Price FP/$
Christian Kirk 13 3 54 0 10.7 $4,600 2.3
Larry Fitzgerald 13 3 48 0 7.8 $5,100 1.5
Adam Thielen 12 8 125 1 29.5 $7,800 3.8
Stefon Diggs 12 8 77 1 22.9 $7,600 3.0
Doug Baldwin 11 7 52 1 18.2 $4,700 3.9
Tyler Lockett 11 5 71 0 12.2 $5,300 2.3
David Moore 11 4 57 0 9.7 $3,800 2.6
Danny Amendola 10 7 72 0 14.2 $4,500 3.2
DeVante Parker 10 5 43 0 9.3 $4,200 2.2
Kenny Stills 10 2 26 0 4.6 $4,100 1.1
Josh Gordon 9 5 130 1 27.0 $6,300 4.3
Julian Edelman 9 6 71 0 17.4 $6,600 2.6
  • Trend: Unlike Houston, Green Bay has been poor vs. receivers both on a raw and a normalized basis. Over the last five weeks, Green Bay is allowing 41.7 fantasy points per game to wide receivers, fifth-most in the NFL. These numbers come despite a schedule that had a pathetic Arizona team and a run-first Seattle team making up 40% of the games in this timeframe.
  • This Week: Atlanta comes to town with Julio Jones fresh off his worst game of the season. Jones had six consecutive games of 100 or more yards (and had hit that figure in seven out of eight). Look for him to get back on track in a big way against a Green Bay team that struggles against big, physical wideouts.

TEs vs. Oakland

Player Wk Rec Yds TD FPs Price FP/$
Travis Kelce 13 12 168 2 42.8 $7,000 6.1
Demetrius Harris 13 3 39 1 12.9 $2,500 5.2
Mark Andrews 12 1 74 0 8.4 $2,600 3.2
Hayden Hurst 12 3 25 0 5.5 $2,500 2.2
Ricky Seals-Jones 11 1 5 0 1.5 $2,900 0.5
Virgil Green 10 2 30 0 5 $2,500 2.0
George Kittle 9 4 108 1 23.8 $5,600 4.3
  • Trend: Since the chart above only covers the last five weeks, it doesn't even include the 133 yards and three touchdowns the Indianapolis tight end trio accumulated vs. Oakland. On the season, the Raiders are allowing the following statistics to tight ends:
    • 74.7 yards per game, second-most in the NFL.
    • 0.8 touchdowns per game, most.
    • 17.5 DraftKings points per game, second-most.
  • All of that tight end production comes despite the fact that Oakland only allows 61.4% of its total yards via the pass, the second-lowest percentage in the league and only faces passing plays on 53.2% of its neutral script plays, the lowest percentage in the NFL. In fact, over the last five weeks, Oakland faces passing plays on 44.3% of its neutral script plays, also the lowest percentage.
  • Oakland has been effective limiting production to wide receivers. Let's look at their NSoS rankings over the last five weeks by position (with 1 being the toughest matchup and 32 being the easiest).
    • QB - 26
    • RB - 8
    • WR - 9
    • TE - 32
  • This Week: When teams pass against Oakland, they utilize their tight ends to do so. And Pittsburgh is going to pass quite a bit. Vance McDonald has overtaken Jesse James as the more productive pass-catcher at tight end. Expect McDonald to be a TE1 this week in season-long formats. He should be at or near the top of your DFS GPP list due to his huge upside and low percent-rostered projection.

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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 77.8% 2 New Orleans Saints 78.7% 32 78.3%
Indianapolis Colts 71.7% 8 Houston Texans 73.3% 31 72.5%
New York Giants 72.6% 5 Washington Redskins 72.0% 28 72.3%
Minnesota Vikings 76.2% 4 Seattle Seahawks 68.2% 16 72.2%
Atlanta Falcons 79.1% 1 Green Bay Packers 63.7% 4 71.4%
Philadelphia Eagles 71.4% 9 Dallas Cowboys 71.3% 26 71.3%
Kansas City Chiefs 72.4% 6 Baltimore Ravens 69.0% 19 70.7%
Los Angeles Rams 68.3% 15 Chicago Bears 73.0% 30 70.7%
"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

Tampa Bay gains 344.5 passing yards per game, most in the NFL. New Orleans allows 279.3 passing yards per game, third-most. All season long, Tampa has required the passing game to move the ball successfully. If they are going to approach the 23.75 points Vegas projects them for, they'll do so by moving the ball through the air. Jameis Winston continues to be an overlooked QB1 and should be at or near the top of cash game lists for DFS purposes.

We discussed Hilton above, but Houston is also weak against tight ends. They are allowing 21.2 fantasy points per game over the last five weeks, most in the league. That includes shutting down David Njoku last week. In games that Eric Ebron has played over 20 snaps where Jack Doyle has not played, Ebron averages 6.0 receptions, 60.2 yards, and 0.7 touchdowns on 11.0 targets. Ebron is a top-three tight end in season-long leagues and viable in all DFS formats.

Rushing
Offensive Team RuYd% Rank Defensive Team RuYd% Rank Avg. %
Buffalo Bills 42.4% 1 New York Jets 34.1% 24 38.2%
Seattle Seahawks 42.1% 2 Minnesota Vikings 30.3% 11 36.2%
New York Jets 36.0% 9 Buffalo Bills 36.4% 30 36.2%
Tennessee Titans 36.3% 6 Jacksonville Jaguars 34.4% 25 35.3%
Carolina Panthers 37.4% 5 Cleveland Browns 33.1% 20 35.2%
Arizona Cardinals 35.9% 10 Detroit Lions 33.8% 23 34.9%
Washington Redskins 36.0% 8 New York Giants 33.1% 21 34.6%
Detroit Lions 29.8% 22 Arizona Cardinals 39.0% 32 34.4%
"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

There's little reason to make Bills-Jets appointment viewing, and the fact that both teams focus on the run offensively and allow a high percentage of rushing yards defensively could make this game even less aesthetically pleasing.

Cleveland allows 4.8 yards per carry, 10th-highest in the NFL. Carolina averages 5.5 yards per carry, the highest in the NFL. Christian McCaffrey's usage is what fantasy football dreams are made of. He's an every-week top-three running back in season-long leagues. In DFS, his price is now above that of Todd Gurley on DraftKings, making him less of a cash game play there. But with his usage and playmaking ability, he's a GPP candidate every week.

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Playcalling Preferences

In this section, we'll look at how teams call plays. Because game script and the 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.

Passing

Offensive Team Pass% Defensive Team Pass%
Pittsburgh Steelers 73.2% Oakland Raiders 44.3%
Atlanta Falcons 69.6% Green Bay Packers 58.2%
Philadelphia Eagles 68.8% Dallas Cowboys 66.0%
Indianapolis Colts 67.4% Houston Texans 63.8%
Kansas City Chiefs 66.7% Baltimore Ravens 66.7%
Washington Redskins 66.7% New York Giants 56.2%
Denver Broncos 65.8% San Francisco 49ers 62.6%
Minnesota Vikings 65.7% Seattle Seahawks 68.5%
"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

Teams run against Oakland because they can, but Pittsburgh is deploying an RB1 who never carried the ball more than 78 times in any college season, never carried it more than 12 times in any college game, and only saw eight carries or more on four occasions in college. Jaylen Samuels is a hybrid player who will be the passing downs choice for Pittsburgh, meaning he'll be on the field far more than Stevan Ridley, especially as long as this game remains close. Both players are fine DFS options, with Ridley being more of a GPP dart in the hopes that he gets goal line and clock-grinding work in a blowout.

Indianapolis passes on 67.4% of its neutral script plays, the fourth-highest percentage in the league. Houston faces a pass attempt on 63.8% of its neutral script plays, the 10th-highest percentage. The Indianapolis offense had been as hot as any in the league until an airball at Jacksonville last week. Look for Luck, Hilton, and Ebron to bounce back in a big way. Any time an offense has skilled players, a plus matchup, and a narrow distribution of targets, the main pieces need to be in your DFS player pool. It's also worth noting that Indianapolis is the second-fastest neutral-script team in the NFL, while Houston is the eighth-fastest.

Baltimore is a unique case here. They are difficult against the pass, but teams attempt passes two-thirds of the time in neutral scripts. Last week, picking Matt Ryan and Julio Jones as a low-rostered GPP stack here and on Power Grid went horribly wrong. This week, a similar case can be made for Patrick Mahomes II and any of his pass-catchers. Since Baltimore allows 27.0% of its passing yards to tight ends, the seventh-highest percentage in the NFL, Travis Kelce is the best candidate.

Rushing

Offensive Team Rush% Defensive Team Rush%
Baltimore Ravens 59.3% Kansas City Chiefs 34.9%
Houston Texans 56.1% Indianapolis Colts 46.9%
Arizona Cardinals 54.9% Detroit Lions 32.5%
Jacksonville Jaguars 54.3% Tennessee Titans 40.9%
Seattle Seahawks 52.4% Minnesota Vikings 49.5%
Buffalo Bills 49.1% New York Jets 47.5%
Miami Dolphins 46.7% New England Patriots 35.3%
New Orleans Saints 46.2% Tampa Bay Buccaneers 39.5%
"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

It will be interesting to see how Baltimore handles its offense against Kansas City. The Chiefs have been a target for passing offenses all season long, but Baltimore has been the most run-heavy team in the league recently due to Lamar Jackson's inexperience as a passer and to his own rushing ability. Jackson has top-five quarterback upside this week. A negative game script could lead to more dropbacks, but those dropbacks could result in more rushing attempts and production. If Jackson is afforded three to five carries against a soft, prevent-style defense, he could turn those into a handful of extra fantasy points.

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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 Baltimore Ravens 29.75 55.4% 44.9% 14.91
Pittsburgh Steelers Oakland Raiders 31.00 46.8% 47.4% 14.61
New Orleans Saints Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31.75 43.0% 47.3% 14.33
Los Angeles Chargers Cincinnati Bengals 30.75 49.4% 42.0% 14.06
Los Angeles Rams Chicago Bears 27.25 38.7% 52.3% 12.39
Indianapolis Colts Houston Texans 22.50 59.1% 51.1% 12.39
"LV Total" = the team's projected point total based on Vegas odds
"Off PaTD%" = the percentage of an offense's points scored via passing touchdowns
"Def PaTD%" = the percentage of a defense's points allowed via passing touchdowns
"Proj. Pass" = the projected number of points an offense will score via passing touchdowns

Commentary

  • Indianapolis scores 59.1% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Houston allows 51.1% of its points via passing touchdowns, the fifth-highest percentage.
  • Pittsburgh scores 46.8% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the 12th-highest percentage.
  • Oakland allows 47.4% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the 11th-highest percentage.

Action Items

Indianapolis has the 17th-highest team total this week but has the sixth-highest projection for passing points scored. And as stated above, we know where the majority of their production is coming from. Hilton is a WR1 that is still being priced in DFS as middling WR2. Take advantage before it's too late.

The stats above aren't the most favorable in terms of Pittsburgh scoring via the pass, but context is important. As mentioned above, they'll be without Conner and using a running back duo led by a hybrid pass-catcher. Expect their passing volume to be up. The case for Roethlisberger as a GPP candidate and top-three quarterback candidate is this:

  • Matchup
    • Pittsburgh has an implied team total of 31 points, the second-highest in the league this week.
    • Oakland allows 8.2 net yards per pass attempt, most in the NFL.
    • Oakland allows 6.6 yards per play, most in the NFL.
    • Oakland has allowed 28 passing touchdowns this season, most in the NFL.
  • Volume:
    • Roethlisberger has 45 or more pass attempts in three of his last four games (and four of his last six).
    • Conner out and Samuels in should lead to a more pass-centric approach.
  • Production:
    • Roethlisberger has eclipsed 300 passing yards seven times this season.
    • In the eight games where Roethlisbger has surpassed 40 pass attemps, he has averaged 344.6 passing yards.
  • Home/Road Splits Normalizing
    • Starting Roethlisberger on the road used to be a fool's errand, but his road performances in 2018 have been much closer to his home performances
Home/Road Comp Att Yds TD Int Yds/Att FPs PosRk
Home Games 26 40 307.0 2.7 0.7 8.1 29.3 10.3
Road Games 30 46 350.5 1.7 1.5 7.7 25.5 10.2

In our Steve Buzzard's early-week version of "Projecting Roster Percentages," he has Roethlisberger at 8%, Antonio Brown at 11%, JuJu Smith-Schuster at 7%, and McDonald at 4%. Meanwhile, Samuels is at 33%! This is a rare opportunity to leverage away from an unknown player and to a team's best players. And the matchup actually favors the better players!

Rushing Points

Offense Defense LV Total Off RuTD% Def RuTD% Proj. Rush
New Orleans Saints Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31.75 27.2% 23.7% 8.08
Los Angeles Chargers Cincinnati Bengals 30.75 19.4% 25.9% 6.96
Pittsburgh Steelers Oakland Raiders 31.00 26.0% 18.0% 6.82
Carolina Panthers Cleveland Browns 24.25 25.7% 28.8% 6.61
Baltimore Ravens Kansas City Chiefs 23.25 30.3% 25.7% 6.51
Denver Broncos San Francisco 49ers 25.50 34.8% 16.1% 6.48
"LV Total" = the team's projected point total based on Vegas odds
"Off RuTD%" = the percentage of an offense's points scored via rushing touchdowns
"Def RuTD%" = the percentage of a defense's points allowed via rushing touchdowns
"Proj. Rush" = the projected number of points an offense will score via rushing touchdowns

Commentary

  • Denver scores 34.8% of its total points via the rush, the -highest percentage in the NFL.
  • San Francisco allows 16.1% of its total points via the rush, the fourth-lowest percentage.
  • However, as we saw in "Playcalling Preferences" above, teams pass against San Francisco on 62.6% of neutral script plays, the 12th-highest percentage.

Action Items

Denver should be able to do what they want against San Francisco. And after losing Emmanuel Sanders for the rest of the season earlier this week, they are likely going to want to run. Philip Lindsay has taken over the backfield and been effective and efficient. Lindsay is an RB1 in season-long leagues. While he's still attractive for DFS purposes, his rising price tag is at the brink of too rich.

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