#Trendspotting: Week 1 - Footballguys

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

Week 1 is finally here, and welcome to another season of #Trendspotting! Some new stats, graphics, and features have been added this season. We'll walk you through them as we go in order to call attention to the main takeaways with each section.

The Agenda

In most weeks, we'll have more topics. Because it's Week 1, a couple of #Trendspotting staples won't appear because we don't have any 2018 data yet.

Developing Trends

In the thick of the season, this section will discuss newly-developing trends. For Week 1 purposes, let's look at some trends that were in place throughout 2017 and some others that could emerge in 2018.

  • QBs vs. Kansas City - This was an average matchup last year, but the Chiefs are worse in the secondary this season.
  • RBs vs. Buffalo - They were poor last season (most fantasy points allowed), and the game scripts aren't going to be in their favor with a putrid offense.
  • RBs vs. Atlanta - For two consecutive years, backs have performed well in the receiving game vs. Atlanta (second-most receiving fantasy points allowed in 2017).
  • WR1s vs. Baltimore (without Jimmy Smith) - Baltimore was unable to contain WR1s without Smith last season. He's suspended for the first four games this year. Unfortunately, we might need until Week 2 to figure this out since Buffalo is unlikely to provide a challenge.
  • WR2s vs. Arizona - Will the player not seeing Patrick Peterson continue to be productive?
  • TEs vs. N.Y. Giants - Will this carry over with the loss of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie no longer providing a "tight end funnel?"
  • TEs vs. L.A. Rams - This wasn't a great matchup last season, but with the addition of two elite cornerbacks, might opposing offenses shift more targets to their tight ends?

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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.

Disclaimer: A couple words of caution should be mentioned with these tables. First, the data here is based on 2017. Second, Vegas lines are less accurate early in the year (especially in Week 1) since there is no data upon which to base the lines.

Passing Points

Offense Defense LV Total Off PaTD% Def PaTD% Pass Pts.
New England Patriots Houston Texans 28.50 41.7% 42.0% 11.93
Detroit Lions New York Jets 25.75 41.6% 47.2% 11.43
Houston Texans New England Patriots 22.50 51.7% 49.7% 11.40
Pittsburgh Steelers Cleveland Browns 26.00 44.4% 42.4% 11.29
Green Bay Packers Chicago Bears 27.50 46.6% 34.3% 11.13
Los Angeles Chargers Kansas City Chiefs 25.50 46.2% 40.0% 10.98
Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers 26.00 40.1% 43.8% 10.91
Miami Dolphins Tennessee Titans 22.00 52.1% 46.8% 10.88

Action Items

  • The first seven teams listed here are no-brainers in terms of utilizing their passing games for fantasy purposes. The surprising team here is Miami. Whether or not DeVante Parker plays, Kenny Stills should be the most targeted receiver in Miami, making Stills worth a shot in DFS tournaments. He's even cash-game viable without Parker.

September 5 edit: Parker isn't going to play. Stills is a quality play in all formats if you need savings, but his GPP ownership should go up with the Parker news.

Rushing Points

Offense Defense LV Total Off RuTD% Def RuTD% Proj. Rush
New Orleans Saints Tampa Bay Buccaneers 29.50 31.1% 26.8% 8.55
Baltimore Ravens Buffalo Bills 23.75 21.2% 36.7% 6.88
Tennessee Titans Miami Dolphins 23.00 33.9% 21.0% 6.31
Indianapolis Colts Cincinnati Bengals 25.75 24.9% 22.4% 6.08
Oakland Raiders Los Angeles Rams 22.75 26.8% 26.4% 6.06
Los Angeles Chargers Kansas City Chiefs 25.50 18.5% 28.6% 6.00
Cleveland Browns Pittsburgh Steelers 20.50 28.6% 27.5% 5.74
Green Bay Packers Chicago Bears 27.50 25.2% 16.2% 5.69

Action Items

  • 2017 data or not, both the New Orleans and Baltimore backfields attractive this week. Each team is a touchdown-or-more home favorite. Alvin Kamara is likely to be the chalkiest player on the board, but Kamara is worth the play in all formats. Alex Collins should be fed early and often as Baltimore's primary workhorse. Collins is a nice GPP play if looking to differentiate by paying up at wide receiver instead of running back, and he should be a low-end RB1 in season-long formats this week.
  • Between the attention paid to the passing games in the L.A. Chargers-Kansas City game and the attention paid to the higher-priced running backs, Melvin Gordon III III is a forgotten man this week. Don't forget about him.

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New England Patriots (vs. Houston Texans)

Commentary

Again, this is 2017 data, so take it with a grain of salt. But the graphic is still valuable because it offers a tutorial on how to interpret these numbers and colors that will be appearing regularly in this column. The blue circle shows us that on a yards per game basis (both total yards and passing yards), New England has a significant passing game advantage.

2017 New England was first in both of those categories, while 2017 Houston ranked 23rd and 26th in total yardage allowed and passing yardage allowed. The yards per play rankings directly to the right of the blue circle show a similar story (New England = good; Houston = bad).

The yellow circle shows rankings for points per drive (New England offense vs. Houston defense). New England ranked first in points per drive, while Houston ranked 30th. As progress through the season and more 2018 data becomes available, these graphics will become more useful.

Setting aside 2017 data, there are still 2018-specific factors in this game that are important. The high total, the explosiveness and effectiveness of both offenses, and trying to figure out the ball distribution in New England are keys to fantasy football success. The Patriots only have four wide receivers on their roster, and two are Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson, which should mean plenty of opportunity for non-wide receivers.

Action Items

  • It's easier to see Rex Burkhead and James White catching 12 passes between them than it is to see Dorsett and Patterson combining for half that many. Both Burkhead and White are attractive in GPPs.
  • Rostering Rob Gronkowski in DFS doesn't allow for paying up at running back and wide receiver, but because of that, Gronkowski provides a natural point of differentiation for roster structure.

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New Orleans Saints (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Commentary

Again, if we look at the blue circle, we can see that 2017 New Orleans was an elite offense, while 2017 Tampa Bay was a poor defense. This may seem obvious to say, but noticing the blue vs. blue color shading in these charts is how to quickly identify positive matchups.

Action Items

  • Kamara was discussed earlier in the article, but the different way to get a piece of New Orleans is via the passing game with Drew Brees and Michael Thomas. Reserve a GPP lineup for those guys.
  • While it's not called out here specifically since the graphic is a look at the New Orleans offense, the Saints D/ST is a solid cash game play as well.

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Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Kansas City Chiefs)

Commentary

Kansas City struggled against the deep ball last season, allowing an average depth-of-target of 10.4 yards, the highest figure in the NFL (the next-highest was only 9.3 yards). Kansas City also allowed 43 deep completions (12th-most) on 124 deep attempts (most). This is a defense to pick on early in the season before the rest of the fantasy community catches on.

Action Items

  • This game has shootout potential. Philip Rivers and any of his pass-catchers make for a nice combo, but a cheap play that few will roster is Tyrell Williams. Williams has the best combination of playing time and deep-ball skill on the L.A. roster.
  • Rivers is an ideal cash game play due to his combination of floor, ceiling, and price.

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Kansas City Chiefs (at Los Angeles Chargers)

Commentary

Another graphics tutorial point: this time, the blue circle points out an offensive weakness vs. a defensive strength. Last season, Kansas City was poor in the red zone, while the Chargers were the best in the NFL. If this were 2018 data through a significant portion of the season, it might lead us to believe that Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker was a good play (if your format still utilizes a kicker).

On to 2018, this author's love for Patrick Mahomes II II has been well-documented. But this is a tough spot for him on the road, in the division, against a fearsome pass rush and high-end secondary. That said, he has a cannon arm and game-breaking weapons.

Action Items

  • Tyreek Hill did not draw shadow coverage from Casey Hayward in either matchup last season, something my colleague Devin Knotts pointed out on this week's DFS Power Grid. With Hill, all it takes is one play, but the team also showed in the preseason that they're not afraid to give him a large target share. Hill is still a WR1 in season-long formats this week.

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Cincinnati Bengals (at Indianapolis Colts)

Commentary

As the blue circle indicates, Cincinnati ran the fewest plays in the league in 2017. That number is bound to increase. They performed at a decent per-play rate (19th in net yards per pass attempt, 25th in total per-play offense), so an increase in volume should increase the fantasy production of the team members. Additionally, their offensive line is improved, which could help that per-play efficiency, as well.

Last season, Indianapolis allowed an average depth-of-target of 9.0 yards, fourth-highest in the NFL. They also allowed 53 deep completions (second-most) on 102 deep attempts (eighth-most).

Action Items

  • Andy Dalton is cash game viable and this week's best "Rent-a-Quarterback" in season-long leagues.
  • A.J. Green is priced fifth among DraftKings main slate wide receivers but could finish at the top. Green is a great cash game play and Dalton-Green makes for one of the week's most valuable "cash-plus" stacks.
  • John Ross and his deep speed will finally see the field in a regular season game. One of the best points-per-dollar plays on the slate, Ross makes for a great GPP pivot away from the similarly-priced Keelan Cole.

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