Fantasy Football: The Report, Week 8
What is The Report? It's a comprehensive, statistical look at how teams and players are functioning offensively, with notes as to what it all means for the fantasy football future. Each week, The Report will feature charts on team play-calling tendencies, player usage close to the end zone, deep ball rates, and so much more. With added commentary, the purpose is to not only hand you information, but provide actionable information to crush both season-long and daily fantasy football.
Let's dig into Week 8's report.
|Team||Pass Att||Rush Att||Ratio||Neutral Ratio||RZ Plays||RZ Ratio||GL Plays||GL Ratio|
The Bills rank fourth in plays run while trailing this year, but somehow, they've got the fourth-lowest pass-to-rush ratio. That's some dedication to establishing the run. When in neutral game script situations, no team has been more run-heavy -- they've got a 0.80 ratio, when 31st-ranked Seattle sits with a 0.90 one.
Something that's really helped Andrew Luck's fantasy football season is Indianapolis' goal-line play-calling. They're tops in the league with a 3.50 pass-to-rush attempt ratio within the opponent's 5-yard line, and Luck has converted 9 of his 13 passes from that area of the field for 9 touchdowns. Only Deshaun Watson has more goal-line attempts this year, but no player has thrown more goal-line touchdowns than Luck.
On the other side of things is Washington and Alex Smith. They've got a 0.74 pass-to-rush ratio in the red zone and a 0.33 ratio at the goal line, which are both the lowest marks in football. In turn, Smith hasn't been all that viable in fantasy football. He has only four red-zone touchdowns (24 quarterbacks have more this year), and he's averaged just a little over 14 fantasy points per game since Week 1. That's not going to get it done.
Here's your weekly Arizona Cardinals update: they're still not running a lot of plays. Seattle's the only team with fewer plays run this season, and they've had their bye. Naturally, things could change with Mike McCoy out as offensive coordinator, but the lack of volume is really hurting everyone in that offense fantasy-wise.
Schedule-Adjusted Net Expected Points
To learn more about numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, check out the glossary. (Note: Negative figures for defense are good.)
|Team||Adj NEP||Adj Pass NEP||Adj Rush NEP||Adj D NEP||Adj D Pass NEP||Adj D Rush NEP|
The Falcons own numberFire's worst schedule-adjusted defense, which isn't much of a surprise considering the injuries they've seen on that side of the ball. The Falcons have the fourth-worst rush defense and the second-worst pass defense. They've got a bye this week, but upcoming for them is Alex Smith, Baker Mayfield, and Dak Prescott, three streaming-type quarterbacks. Keep those passers on your radar.
Cleveland's secondary is by far numberFire's top-ranked unit. It might seem weird because they rank fifth from the bottom in passing yards allowed this season, but they're getting it done through turnovers -- they're tied for the league lead in interceptions. They've also faced the second-most pass attempts in the league, boosting that yardage total. Cleveland's been pretty good at limiting passing scores, too, having allowed just nine in seven games, one of the better marks in football.
The Browns have faced pretty good quarterbacks this year as well, including Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers. They limited each of those guys to a non-QB1 performance in fantasy football. Roethlisberger gets them again this week and should be fine considering he's playing at home, but don't think Cleveland's a cakewalk of a matchup for opposing passers. They're not.
Even after a pretty strong outing against the Bengals and Joe Mixon, Kansas City still ranks last in schedule-adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points. Or, to put it in a less nerdy way, they've got the worst rush defense. They get Denver this week, and the last time the two teams faced off, Denver rushed for 159 yards, a mark they've only hit once this year. With Royce Freeman banged up, it could be a big day for Phillip Lindsay.
Team Directional Passing
All numbers below reflect yards per play.
There's been a lot of talk -- negative talk -- about the Jacksonville defense, but they're still really good against the pass. Only Dak Prescott has finished higher than QB17 in fantasy football against the Jags this year, with Patrick Mahomes being the only passer to throw for over 300 yards. In the chart, you can see the red for Philadelphia's opponent, and it's because Jalen Ramsey and company still aren't close to a plus matchup. You can more than likely sit Carson Wentz this week.
The Vikings entered the year with what was considered a pretty strong secondary, but it's underperformed thus far. They're allowing below-average marks to the middle and left side of the field, and according to NEP, they've been a completely average unit when adjusted for strength of opponent. Don't be afraid to play Saints pass-catchers in this one.
The Panthers haven't been super effective throwing the ball on a per-play basis, ranking 19th in adjusted yards per attempt. And things won't be easy this week. The Ravens are in town, and they're allowing no more than 6.56 yards per attempt to any area of the field. The Baltimore secondary has been awesome, which makes starting Cam Newton and Devin Funchess is a risk this week.
Team Directional Rushing
All numbers below reflect yards per play.
Marlon Mack had his much-needed breakout game in Week 7, running the ball 19 times for 126 yards against the Bills. The fear with Mack in the Colts offense is that he'll be game scripted out -- two weeks ago, he was only on the field for 34.8% of the team's snaps as they trailed against the Jets. In Week 8, though, he's got another great matchup against the Raiders who, as you can see in the chart, have been crushed by opposing runners all over the field. On a per-rush basis, Oakland ranks fifth-worst in rush defense efficiency, per numberFire's expected points model. If you have Mack, you'll want him in your lineup this week.
We should probably expect a lot of passes from Kirk Cousins this week. The Saints have been really good against the run this year, limiting opposing running backs to 2.8 yards per carry. That's not only better than any other team in football, but it's a whole half yard better than the second-ranked Houston Texans. Considering the Vikings haven't gotten it going consistently with their rushing attack this year, expect Cousins to air it out on Sunday night.
Seattle wants to run the ball -- as I mentioned earlier, they're 31st in the league in neutral script pass-to-rush ratio. They're also the only NFL team with more rushing attempts than passing attempts this year. That bodes well for their matchup against the Lions. Detroit's allowing below-average marks to rushers across all areas of the field, and they rank third-worst at stopping the run according to numberFire's model. Chris Carson, who's seen 65 carries over his last three games, makes for a good play in fantasy.
Cincinnati's been another team that's had trouble stopping the run. Per numberFire, they've got the fifth-worst run defense, and as you can see above, they're allowing at least 4.5 yards per carry to every area of the field, including over 5.3 yards per attempt to the outside. Peyton Barber gets them this week, but Barber may be banged up. If he misses time, Ronald Jones becomes a legitimate sleeper.
Running Back Usage
|Player||Att||Rush %||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Att||RZ Targets||GL Att|
Jalen Richard's near 16% target share is really interesting. Because not only is there the potential for him to take on more of an early-down role with Marshawn Lynch sidelined (that would help his sub-8% rushing share), but without Amari Cooper, there's more room for targets in the Oakland offense. He's got a decent matchup against the Colts this week, and if game script goes south, he should benefit. Especially considering Indianapolis has allowed the second-most receptions to the position this year.
Tarik Cohen has easily become the back to have in Chicago. Over the team's last three games, he's outscored Jordan Howard 75.8 to 19.2. Howard's still been the goal-line back, though, having carried the rock five times to Cohen's zero within the opponent's five-yard line, and Howard has eight more red-zone rushes as well. So not all hope is lost for Howard -- he's still a touchdown-dependent RB2 or so, and the schedule looks favorable for him in the short term. But Cohen is looking awesome in this offense.
Todd Gurley has as many goal-line attempts as Melvin Gordon has red-zone attempts. And Gordon ranks 10th in red-zone rushes at the position. The touchdown column should, hypothetically, regress for Gurley (you can see in the touchdown regression chart below), but this kind of usage means it's a lot easier for him to sustain his ridiculous performance.
The Falcons did what we expected them to do with their backfield: they split it almost down the middle between Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith. Smith played 43.1% of Atlanta's snaps on Monday night, while Coleman was on the field for 56.9% of them. They each saw two targets, and Coleman out-attempted Smith 11 to 7. The big issue with both backs is that Atlanta's not been a very good running team this year -- the Falcons' backs are fourth-worst among team running back groups in rushing yards per game.
Wide Receiver Usage
|Player||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Targets||< 10 Targets||GL Targets|
Corey Davis has struggled this year in fantasy football, but there's a lot of reasons to be optimistic after the team's done with their Week 8 bye. First off, the schedule gets a little bit easier. That's a plus. But Davis' role in the offense is pretty awesome. He's sixth in the league in target share, has nine red-zone targets, and six looks from within the 10. He's tough to start given the state of the passing attack, but he's the perfect stash.
Tampa Bay has had frustrating wide receiver usage this year. Adam Humphries has out-snapped Chris Godwin 283 to 246 this season, and he's run 50 more routes, per Pro Football Focus. Godwin, though, has seen six more targets and has scored 36 more fantasy points. (Because he's a far superior player.) Godwin also out-snapped Humphries for the first time since Week 1 on Sunday. Given his usage when the team's been close to the end zone (he's got eight targets within the opponent's 10, third-best among wideouts), he, too, is a great stash if and when he starts getting more playing time.
Marvin Jones isn't really getting it done this year. The splits with and without Kenny Golladay were pretty strong last season, where he averaged 12.5 PPR points with Babytron active, and 17.5 without him. This year, Jones' per-game average has dropped to 10.7, partially due to Golladay completely jumping him in target share. If there's any good news, it's that Jones leads the wide receiving group in targets within the 10-yard line and end-zone targets.
One of the more frustrating players to have drafted this year is Keenan Allen. He's 17th in receiving yards at the position, and he's seen just five red-zone targets for an average of 0.7 per game. Last season, he averaged 1.5 red-zone looks per contest.
The thing is, he also only scored six times last year. He's not pacing towards that, but six touchdowns isn't anything special. It's just that a lot of things are worse when compared to last season for Allen. His target share has dropped a couple of percentage points, and his average depth of target has fallen by 1.6 yards. The combination of it all is why we're seeing him more as a WR2 instead of the WR1 most drafted him as. Hopefully he'll see a strong second half like he had last season.
Tight End Usage
|Player||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Targets||< 10 Targets||GL Targets|
Chris Herndon saw 7 targets and caught 4 of them for 42 yards and a score on Sunday. That looks great on paper, but according to Pro Football Focus, he only ran 12 routes. Even with his strong usage last week, you can't trust him until we see that routes run number increase.
O.J. Howard has now run 14 more routes than Cameron Brate over the last two weeks, and that's while coming off an injury that was supposed to sideline him for a few games. On the year, he's about doubled Brate's target share. The problem is, Howard's 12.4% target share is nothing to write home about -- for him to really take a leap, that has to increase.
Man, it's been frustrating to have Jordan Reed on your fantasy football roster. He's got the seventh-highest target share at the position, but he's finished as a top-10 tight end just once this year. It doesn't help that, as I talked through earlier, Washington hasn't been very pass-friendly in the red zone. He still should be considered a lower-end TE1 given the state of the position, but things may not get a lot better unless Washington changes up their attack when they're close to scoring. He needs more high-leverage looks.
Over the last two weeks, C.J. Uzomah is fourth in the NFL at the tight end position in routes run, he's seen nine targets, and he's found the end zone once. This week, he'll face a Tampa Bay team that's allowed a top-six tight end performance in each of their last five games. Uzomah's a must start this week.
Deep Ball Passing
|Player||15+ Yd Att||15+ Yd Att %||15+ Comp %||15+ % of Tot Yds||15+ Yd TD %|
Deshaun Watson has become less aggressive throwing the ball down the field. His 18.7% rate of tossing it 15-plus air yards is merely average, and it's far off from the 26.4% rate that he had after the first three games of the season. Perhaps matchups have to do with that, but it's not the best sign in the world for his potential across the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, Mitchell Trubisky keeps moving in the opposite direction. From Weeks 1 through 3, Trubisky had a deep-ball rate of 15.8%. Over his last three games, it's been 30.8%. There's no doubt that this has played a huge role in his success in fantasy football.
Drew Brees is only throwing it deep on 14.1% of his throws, which is his lowest rate in recent history. But in typical Drew Brees form, he leads the NFL with a 64.5% completion percentage on those tosses. And despite so few passes going deep, a good 30% of his yards are coming on those throws, which is about league average. Don't think that he can't throw it long anymore: he can. He and the Saints are just choosing not to.
Running Back Touchdown Regression
Regression analysis doesn't always have to be so complicated. As you'd expect, there's a decent correlation between yards gained and touchdowns scored. The regression analysis in The Report looks at running back and wide receiver yards gained, shows how many touchdowns they've scored, and then finds how many touchdowns they should have scored based on trends from the last seven NFL seasons.
|Player||Rush Yds||TD||Should Have||Difference||Rec Yds||TD||Should Have||Difference||Total Difference|
As I talked about in this week's 15 Transactions column, Kerryon Johnson is talented, but his coaches are irrational. They continue to utilize LeGarrette Blount in scoring situations, which has led Johnson to being one of the biggest positive touchdown regression candidates among all running backs. If he was getting those important touches, he'd be a great fantasy asset. But because he isn't, he's just a good, talented one with a high weekly floor.
Christian McCaffrey has had back to back outings without a ton of production, and he still sits at the bottom of the touchdown regression list. He won't be an elite back in fantasy until he starts seeing more red-zone work. As it stands, 35 of the top-60 running backs in fantasy football have more red-zone carries than CMC, and 27 have more goal-line looks. Todd Gurley has -- wait for it -- 35 more red-zone attempts than McCaffrey does this season. Like Kerryon Johnson, McCaffrey has a great floor, but the ceiling is lacking.
Wide Receiver Touchdown Regression
|Player||Rec Yds||TD||Should Have||Difference|
|Odell Beckham Jr||649||2||3.89||-1.89|
Another week down, another week of Julio Jones sitting at the bottom of the touchdown regression list at wide receiver. Based on his yardage total, he should have almost five touchdowns. Touchdowns should come. Right? Right?