Fantasy Football: The Report, Week 9
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 9's report.
|Team||Pass Att||Rush Att||Ratio||+/- 6 Ratio||RZ Plays||RZ Ratio||GL Plays||GL Ratio|
The leader in neutral script pass-to-rush attempt ratio has been Indianapolis for much of the year, but that's changed since they've found a running game. The top team is now the Falcons, who have thrown almost twice as much as they've run the ball when games are within six points. That's not much of a surprise, but the team in second kind of is: it's the Giants. New York has the highest overall pass-to-rush attempt ratio in football, but even when games are close, they've been really pass-heavy. Good thing they spent their second-overall pick on a running back.
No team has thrown fewer passes this year than the Seahawks, but only five quarterbacks have more touchdown passes than Russell Wilson. He's got a touchdown rate of 8.8%, when his career average is 5.9%. So if Wilson's going to keep this up, the Seahawks are either going to have to throw more, or he's going to have to break math.
The Jacksonville offense has been one of the worst in football this year, and that's led to few opportunities close to the goal line. On the season, the Jets and Dolphins are the only teams with fewer goal-line plays run, and that's something to monitor if and when Leonard Fournette returns from injury.
Kirk Cousins is pacing towards 680 pass attempts this year, which would mark a career high for him. And, honestly, it's surprising that we haven't seen more three-plus touchdown games from the Vikings' passer this year. He has two of them, but Minnesota's been the most pass-friendly team in the red zone in 2018, and they rank fifth-highest in pass-to-rush ratio at the goal line. I'm hopeful for a strong second half from Cousins.
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 teams listed at the bottom of the pass defense rankings continue to be the same: Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Atlanta. Cleveland still comes in at the top of the schedule-adjusted pass defense list thanks to their ability to create turnovers, but one riser of late is Denver, who now ranks second-best against the pass. A lot of that has to do with their ridiculous performance against Josh Rosen, but they do have an interception in each of their last four games, including one this past weekend against Patrick Mahomes. Essentially, they're not a cakewalk matchup.
Kansas City owns the worst rush defense in the league. We're seeing that translate to fantasy football, but it's nice when fantasy points allowed and an expected points model match up so cleanly. Start your running backs against the Chiefs.
There's a pretty big separation between the bottom three offenses in the league versus the rest. Buffalo has an Adjusted NEP total of -82.79, when the league average is 42.05. To put that another way, if you were to give the Bills a league average offense, we'd see a 125-point swing in their favor across the season. That's between 15 and 16 points per game.
Team Directional Passing
All numbers below reflect yards per play.
Deshaun Watson threw 20 passes for a modest 239 yards last Thursday, but he was able to hit a receiver for a score on 5 of those tosses. You guys know that a 25% touchdown rate isn't sustainable. As I mentioned above, Denver's secondary -- Watson's opponent this week -- has gotten stronger over the past few weeks within numberFire's expected points model. Their most impressive performance was probably against Jared Goff, holding him to just 201 yards passing, zero scores, and a pick.
Watson has combined for 29 rushing yards over his last three games when he averaged over 40 rushing yards per contest across his first five this year. Prior to last week, that really was hurting his fantasy production. But we also know his fantasy production was a little flukey in Week 8. And that's what makes this matchup scary: he's running it less, the passing yard totals haven't really been there of late, and the matchup isn't the easiest one in the world. That, and without Will Fuller (small sample alert), Watson's averaged almost three fewer yards per attempt than with Fuller.
Quarterback isn't strong this week outside of the top guys, but there are plenty of reasons to think Watson's not some slam dunk play.
I can't say the same about Drew Brees. Plenty of fantasy managers are concerned about the Saints' lack of passing since Mark Ingram returned to the lineup, but it has everything to do with game script and situation. In Week 5, New Orleans took the lead and never looked back against Washington, and Brees threw it just 29 times. In Week 7, he tossed it 30 times against a great Baltimore secondary. And then, this past week, the Saints got ahead of the Vikings, and Brees had just 23 attempts.
I'd be shocked if he's under the 30 attempt mark in Week 9. The game against Los Angeles is in New Orleans, and the over/under is 60 points. The Rams have faced the 10th-highest pass-to-rush ratio in football this year, and in contests where the game ended with a single-digit point margin this year, Brees has averaged almost 40 pass attempts per game. This game has a 1.5-point spread. And as you can see from the chart, he should be able to take advantage of the matchup. The Rams are above average in yards per attempt allowed, but they rank eighth-worst against the pass according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics.
In his three games since returning from injury, Greg Olsen has seen 16 targets, accounting for about 15% of Carolina's targets. As you can see in the chart, they're facing a Tampa Bay secondary that's been beat everywhere this year, but they've specifically not been great in the middle of the field and against tight ends. C.J. Uzomah posted a goose egg against them last week, but prior to that outing, the Bucs had allowed a top-six tight end performance in five straight games. Olsen should have a good outing this week.
John Brown was a buy in this week's 15 Transactions column, and on paper, the matchup is right this week against Pittsburgh. He was able to work the Steelers on the deep ball the last time these two teams faced one another, but since that game, Pittsburgh's been pretty good at limiting deep-ball plays. From Weeks 1 through 4, they were surrendering four 15-plus air yard completions per game, on average. Over their last three contests, that number's been cut in half. Brown's a fine play, but there's some worry about the Steelers' defensive improvements.
Team Directional Rushing
All numbers below reflect yards per play.
Like I said earlier, the Chiefs have been horrendous against the run this year. They're actually allowing more than seven yards per rush to the outside, whether it be to the left or right. In two games without Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb has carried the ball 36 times (18 in each contest), while playing well over half of Cleveland's snaps. He's a really strong play this week, and don't sleep on Duke Johnson in a probable negative game script with a new offensive coordinator.
The Lions have allowed the third-highest Success Rate -- the percentage of positive expected point runs made by a back -- to opposing backfields this year, and even with Damon Harrison in Week 8, Chris Carson rushed for more than 100 yards against them. Minnesota gets them this week, and while the Vikings have struggled to run the ball this year, Latavius Murray has seen 11-plus carries in four straight contests. That type of volume against a bad rush D in what could be a positive script for the Vikes makes Murray a strong option in Week 9.
The Saints have allowed the lowest Success Rate to running backs this year. Not that you'd bench Todd Gurley against them this week, but keep an eye on how they perform in a tough matchup -- it'll be a good test to see how legitimate they are at stopping the run.
If you're thinking about streaming Derek Carr this week, one fear with the matchup is that San Francisco may be able to run all over Oakland, shortening the game and making it lower-scoring. The Raiders are one of the worst teams at stopping running backs, and they've surrendered below-average rushing marks to all areas of the field, per the chart. Carr is fine if you're in a pinch, but he's still more of a middle-of-the-road to lower-end QB2 this week.
Running Back Usage
|Player||Att||Rush %||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Att||RZ Targets||GL Att|
In their first game without Marshawn Lynch, the Raiders split up their backfield in a pretty predictable way. Doug Martin saw early-down work, while Jalen Richard was the team's primary pass-catcher. Richard is now pacing to catch 89 passes this year, and he's the preferred option in PPR formats with Oakland likely to trail in games.
In Week 7, Kerryon Johnson played 59.4% of Detroit's snaps with Theo Riddick sidelined. That was in a positive game script, though. This past week, the Lions trailed the Seahawks, and Johnson was on the field for 81.4% of the team's snaps. His fantasy day was saved thanks to his 12 targets, but there's reason to be cautious about the rest of his 2018 with Theo Riddick eventually returning. Or, if we assume Riddick returns.
No Royce Freeman in Week 8 meant the Denver backfield would be split into halves instead of thirds. Devontae Booker ended up seeing a bump to a 43.8% snap share (his season average is 31.1%), but the real winner was Phillip Lindsay, who played over 56% of Denver's snaps. It was just the second time a Denver back hit the 50% mark this season, but it was the second consecutive week where Lindsay did it. Keep plugging him in as an RB2 in PPR formats.
Aaron Jones finally got a decent shot in Week 8, and he delivered, running the ball 12 times for 86 yards and a score. His 61.5% snap share almost matched the season high for a Packers' back, which was 61.7% by Jamaal Williams back in Week 1. Keep in mind, Jones was suspended for that game. It's a great sign for his rest-of-season potential. You should consider him an upside RB2, especially with Ty Montgomery headed to Baltimore.
Over the last two weeks, Alvin Kamara has handled about 44% of New Orleans' rushes. Through Week 4 -- so, without Mark Ingram -- that number was about 59%. This drop was to be expected and, really, Kamara's 44% share is still about 13% to 14% higher than what he saw last year without Adrian Peterson in the backfield. And his 19% target share in Weeks 7 and 8 is right where we saw it a season ago, too. So, overall, he's being used more than last year, and he's an RB1 as a result.
Wide Receiver Usage
|Player||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Targets||< 10 Targets||GL Targets|
There were some trades that went down at wide receiver on Tuesday, shaking up the fantasy football world. One of the deal sent Demaryius Thomas to Houston, freeing up Courtland Sutton to see more work in the Broncos' offense. He'd been playing fewer than 70% of their snaps, but do know that, per Pro Football Focus, Sutton has actually run more routes this season than Thomas has. He's seen 19 fewer targets, so we're probably looking at a 2 to 3 target bump through the end of the season. That's not insignificant, but with Case Keenum under center, Sutton's still probably more of a high-end WR3 with (lots of) upside given his talent.
Golden Tate was also traded, but he went to the Eagles. We know Tate is one of the best slot receivers you can find, so this may hurt Nelson Agholor's fantasy value, as he's been much more productive since moving to the slot last season. He's played 61% of his snaps from that area of the field this year according to Pro Football Focus. But you can probably downgrade most Philly pass-catchers with another mouth to feed in that offense. Alshon Jeffery may be impacted the least given he plays on the outside, but Zach Ertz, who catches passes in Tate's area of the field, could see a dip in volume as a result of the deal. Tight end is a dumpster fire, so Ertz will still be valuable, but be aware that this trade could make him slightly less reliable.
One situation to monitor is Green Bay's wide receiver usage. Marquez Valdes-Scantling played the second-most snaps at the position for them in Week 8, and Randall Cobb was easily fourth among Packer wideouts in routes run. It could be a situation where the coaching staff was easing players in after being injured, but MVS has been strong this year and deserves more run.
I mentioned this last week in this column, but Chris Godwin is playing more snaps for Tampa Bay. He almost hit the 72% mark on Sunday, marking a season high. He continues to be a player to watch down the stretch, especially with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center -- Godwin scored a touchdown in Fitzpatrick's first three starts this season.
Tight End Usage
|Player||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Targets||< 10 Targets||GL Targets|
With Jack Doyle back from injury this past week, Eric Ebron's snap share dropped significantly. As you can see, his season-long share is up in the 58% range, but in Week 8, it was 21.8%. There were actually three tight ends on the Colts who played more snaps than Ebron on Sunday. So things are looking up for Doyle, but not so much for Ebron.
An interesting tight end name to watch with the Demaryius Thomas trade is Jeff Heuerman. He only has a 10% target share this year, but he's seen 12 red-zone targets and 8 looks from within the 10. The aforementioned Sutton is easily the biggest winner in that deal, but Heuerman may become a streamer in more than just good matchups.
Chris Herndon has scored three times in three weeks, but he's been a little lucky. Over these three games, he ranks 32nd in routes run at the tight end position with just 36. Now, he did see a bump up to 17 routes run this past week, but that's still not a great number to rely on in fantasy football. He's a decent enough streamer in Week 9 because of the lack of options, but we'll keep track of the number of routes he's running to see if he can become a more predictable asset.
Deep Ball Passing
|Player||15+ Yd Att||15+ Yd Att %||15+ Comp %||15+ % of Tot Yds||15+ Yd TD %|
Derek Carr and the Raiders have continued their conservative approach, tossing it 15-plus air yards on 12.3% of his throws. The thing is, Carr's still completing half of his deep-ball attempts, which is a top-five number in the league. But the lack of depth to his throws is going to keep hurting Oakland pass-catchers.
The player with the top completion rate on deep throws is Drew Brees, but like Carr, he's been cautious to throw it long as well. His 13.2% deep-ball rate is the lowest we've seen from him in recent history. Over the last seven years, his average rate has been 17.0%.
There should be some regression coming for Ryan Fitzpatrick and his deep-ball success, but his high rate of throwing it 15-plus air yards is what makes him so much fun in fantasy football. Jameis Winston, too, if we're being honest. The two of them have actually combined for the second-best points per game average at quarterback in fantasy behind only Patrick Mahomes this year.
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|
Kerryon Johnson isn't finding the end zone, and it's partially due to LeGarrette Blount's usage at the goal line. In most cases, a player with his yardage-to-touchdown profile would be a buy in fantasy football. But with Blount stealing important work and Theo Riddick possibly returning soon, Johnson, who's insanely talented, is more of a hold.
Wide Receiver Touchdown Regression
|Player||Rec Yds||TD||Should Have||Difference|
|Odell Beckham Jr||785||2||4.71||-2.71|
You could continue to consider all four of the players at the bottom of the wide receiver touchdown regression list as buys. Especially Keenan Allen and Julio Jones, who are really frustrating fantasy managers with their lack of touchdowns.