Fantasy Football: Week 16 Red Zone Report
The red zone is a gold mine for fantasy scoring. Of the 78 offensive touchdowns scored in Week 15, we saw 61 of them (78%) come from within the 20-yard line, bringing the season total to 731 of 1010 (72%).
Touchdowns are also one of the most volatile stats on a week-by-week basis, but by taking a look under the surface and identifying players who are getting the ball in the red zone, we can identify those who have the highest probability of reaching the end zone.
This can give us an idea of whose fantasy success is likely to continue while also identifying players who are scoring at unsustainably high rates and may make for good sell-high candidates. Furthermore, it can help us identify which players are scoring at low rates and which are likely to improve, making it worth considering trying to acquire them for cheap.
Let's get right to it.
The Steelers Without Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown has already been ruled out for Week 16's game against the Houston Texans, leaving an obvious void in the Steelers offense. We can expect this to change things in the red zone significantly, as Brown has accounted for 25.6% of the targets and 13.6% of the opportunities (targets + rush attempts) inside the 20 for Pittsburgh this season.
Le'Veon Bell is always going to be a huge threat for touchdowns, ranking second on the Steelers with an 18.2% target market share and first with a huge 48.1% share of the opportunities. He could see a bump, but an extra target or two wouldn't make a huge difference in his market share, and he already has one of the league's biggest red zone workloads, so it's not like he can get any more appealing.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is in line for a more dramatic up-tick. Despite playing 60% or more of the Steelers' snaps in only nine games this season, Smith-Schuster ranks third on the team with 12 red zone targets, accounting for a 14.6% market share. He's the only wideout (other than Brown) on the team with double-digit targets inside the 20, and he looks to be one of Ben Roethlisberger's favorite targets in the red zone.
Expect a Bounce-Back From Keenan Allen
Over the past four weeks, nobody has more red zone targets than Keenan Allen, whose 11 have accounted for a huge 42.3% of the Los Angeles Chargers' total. Nobody else on the team has more than four in that span. Hunter Henry, who is second on the team in red zone targets this season, has been placed on the IR, so Allen is a safe bet to get plenty of scoring chances this weekend.
Allen hasn't been an especially efficient red zone threat over his career, with touchdowns on 20.6% of his career targets inside the 20, but he has scored on only 1 of those 11 targets over his last four games, and things should pick back up for him moving forward, likely looking a lot more like his career-average.
Zeke Should Return with a Bang
Ezekiel Elliott will be making his return to the Dallas Cowboys' lineup this week, and his upside hasn't gone anywhere. When he was active in Weeks 1 through 9, Elliott's 35 red zone rush attempts were the second-most in the NFL, accounting for a hefty 68.6% -- a mark that jumps to 81.4% if we narrow our view to carries by running backs.
Dallas didn't become shy about giving their running backs the ball near the goal line without Zeke either, and Alfred Morris ranks fifth in the NFL with 17 red zone carries since Week 10. Rod Smith also notched a respectable 10 (ranking 25th) in that time.
Zeke should take those opportunities right back in his return, and with a 24.3% red zone rushing touchdown rate in his young career, that means big-time upside this week.
Play-Calling Trends to Monitor
Heading into Week 16, this is the biggest our sample size gets during the fantasy season, and that means we can count on past play-calling trends to largely hold true this week.
Over the entire season, the five-most pass-heavy red zone teams have been the Miami Dolphins (2.62-to-1 pass-to-run ratio), Detroit Lions (1.83), Seattle Seahawks (1.74), Kansas City Chiefs (1.69) and Oakland Raiders (1.67). On the other end of the spectrum, the most run-heavy have been the Jacksonville Jaguars (0.72), Dallas Cowboys (0.78), Tennessee Titans (0.78), Carolina Panthers (0.82) and Indianapolis Colts (0.86).
There's also a big discrepancy between the teams running the most red zone plays and the fewest. The top-five have been the New England Patriots (11.3 red zone plays per game), Pittsburgh Steelers (10.5), Los Angeles Rams (10.5) , Philadelphia Eagles (9.8) and Dallas Cowboys (9.7), and the bottom-five are the Raiders (5.2), Chicago Bears (5.5). New York Jets (6.1), New York Giants (6.2) and Miami Dolphins (6.3).
Reflecting on Last Week's Trends
Looking back at last week's Red Zone Report, here are how the players outlined fared in Week 15.
The return of Aaron Rodgers seemed to really take away Jamaal Williams' red zone workload. He was the only Packers' back with a carry inside the 20, but it was also only one (with no targets), and the Packers threw five passes (and Rodgers ran the ball once), in a shift from their recent playcalling. Rodgers is out again this week though, so expect a bounce-back for Williams with Brett Hundley at the helm again.
The Indianapolis Colts' offense couldn't get much going against the Denver Broncos, and they ran only three red zone plays, while Frank Gore completely fell off the map, not seeing a single red zone opportunity. They draw another tough matchup against the Baltimore Ravens this week, and while Gore does still have some touchdown upside, he's a very risky play, with a big chance of posting a dud.
The Chiefs went surprisingly run-heavy in the red zone last week, with Kareem Hunt rushing the ball seven times and Alex Smith only attempting five passes. This was a blow to Travis Kelce, who saw only one red zone target, but his workload has been consistent enough and big enough that a one-week blip like that shouldn't be cause for panic.