Fantasy Football: The Report, Week 10
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 10's report.
|Team||Pass Att||Rush Att||Ratio||+/- 6 Ratio||RZ Plays||RZ Ratio||GL Plays||GL Ratio|
James Conner is crushing it, and a big reason for his fantasy football success is Pittsburgh's play-calling at the goal line. They've run 21 plays there this year, which is 10th-most in the league, and only Washington and Los Angeles (Rams) have a lower pass-to-rush attempt ratio in that area of the field. What's interesting is that Pittsburgh's actually fairly pass-friendly in the red zone in total, ranking ninth in pass-to-rush ratio. As a result, they've seen the largest discrepancy in passing play percentage in the red zone versus the goal line this season.
Somewhat surprisingly, only Arizona and Miami have run fewer plays per game than the Chargers have this year. And the reason is because LA is running at the slowest pace in football. That lack of volume hasn't necessarily hurt some of the playmakers in the offense, but those same players could have a higher ceiling if not for the pace.
Bad teams who want to run the football will usually see the largest differences in overall pass-to-run ratio versus neutral script ratio. Why? Because in a neutral script -- when the game is within six points -- they can dictate what they want to do offensively. If they're losing a lot, that means they're trailing. And when they're trailing, they're usually forced to throw. That's why we see the Bills, Jaguars, and Giants with the most extreme splits between neutral and overall pass-to-rush ratio.
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|
Oakland was beaten -- destroyed, really -- by a third-string quarterback last Thursday night, and they're the current owners of the worst schedule-adjusted pass and overall defense in football. They've allowed no fewer than 26 points in a game since Week 2, and that's in games against teams like Cleveland and San Francisco. If you have Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, or Melvin Gordon, you're starting them this week with confidence.
The only pass defense with a negative mark in NEP this year is Cleveland's. That's not a mistake -- numberFire's expected points model relates back to multiple years of data, not just this single season. So the "average" pass defense, or the "average" rushing offense isn't set at zero. It's all relative. That tells us how insane passing efficiency has been this season.
Team Directional Passing
All numbers below reflect yards per play.
Alex Smith has a perfect matchup this week against Tampa Bay, numberFire's second-worst pass defense. On the season, every quarterback to face the Bucs has finished as a top-12, QB1 outside of Nick Foles' Week 2 performance, where he threw for 334 yards and a score. Does that make Smith a slam-dunk play? Not exactly. The Washington offensive line was already down Trent Williams, but they lost both their starting guards this past Sunday, too. For a team that's run the ball frequently this year and relied on that line, this is not something Smith managers want to hear. So while the matchup is right on paper, you've got to be concerned about the offensive line. And, remember, Kirk Cousins really struggled with a poor line last year in that Washington offense.
Another quarterback with a good matchup and an injured piece around him is Andy Dalton. It looks like A.J. Green will be sidelined at least two games, and that changes a lot for Dalton, regardless of matchup. Back in 2016, Green missed six games, and in those contests, Dalton scored 13 or fewer fantasy points in four of them. With a healthy Green, Dalton would probably be a lower-end QB1 against the Saints. Instead, he's more of a mid-range QB2.
One streamer you could look towards this week is Marcus Mariota. He looked healthy for the first time this year on Monday night, and he'll get a Patriots defense that's been average against the pass according to our metrics. You can see that in the chart, too. New England has faced the seventh-highest pass-to-rush ratio in the league this year, which should increase the odds of a Titans touchdown being a passing one. That's what we've seen happen in 2018 -- 86.3% of touchdowns that the Patriots have given up have been through the air, which is the second-highest rate behind only the Bears.
If you notice with Detroit's row above, the defense they're facing, Chicago, has been good at limiting big plays on the perimeter, but much worse in the middle of the field. That -- along with the fact that the Lions' offensive line was putrid in Week 9 -- makes me nervous about Matthew Stafford in Week 10. They don't have a true threat in the middle of the field with Golden Tate now in Philly. It could be a long day for that passing attack.
Team Directional Rushing
All numbers below reflect yards per play.
Melvin Gordon is in a dream matchup this week. Oakland has been laughably bad defensively of late, and over their last four games, they've allowed the third most fantasy points per game to opposing backs while surrendering the second-most rushing yards. They've given up the fourth-most fantasy points per game to the position, and with the Raiders being so bad as a team, the defense has faced the lowest pass-to-rush ratio in football. In other words, the Chargers are probably going to run in this game, and they're going to run against a weak D.
The Browns rank third-worst in points allowed to the running back position per game this year, but over their last five contests, they've easily been the worst team against opposing rushers. They've actually given up eight rushing touchdowns during this time -- only seven teams have allowed eight rushing scores to running backs all year. And they're weakest at defending perimeter runs, which is where Atlanta, their Week 10 opponent, is strongest. Both Ito Smith and Tevin Coleman are in play this week.
Arizona has struggled on the ground all season long, partially due to personnel, but also because of a lack of creativity. Things were slightly better in Byron Leftwich's offensive coordinator debut the last time we saw them, but this week is a great matchup for David Johnson to really turn things around. Kansas City ranks fourth-worst against the run according to numberFire's expected points model, and they've allowed 13 top-25 running back performances in 9 games. The worry with any running back against KC is game script, but with DJ being a beast of a pass-catcher, and considering the Cardinals started utilizing him more creatively as a receiver back in Week 8, he should have a high floor this week. The Chiefs haven't been good against receiving backs, either, having allowed a top-10 Success Rate against the position through the air all while giving up the second-most receptions to the position this season.
Over the last five weeks, no team has allowed fewer fantasy points to running backs than the Pittsburgh. And the defense itself has gotten a lot stronger since their initial loss to Baltimore. From Weeks 1 through 4, Pittsburgh was allowing 32.7 yards per drive, and 38.5% of their defensive series ended in scores. Since then, their yards per drive rate has dropped by five yards, and teams are scoring on 32.6% of their drives. The Steelers have also been the best team against opposing fantasy backs across the last five weeks of the fantasy football season. This isn't to say Christian McCaffrey is a bad play this week, but perhaps we should temper expectations.
Running Back Usage
|Player||Att||Rush %||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Att||RZ Targets||GL Att|
Aaron Jones had a costly fumble against New England this past week, but for a second straight game, he played a significant number of snaps for the Packers. His Week 8 and 9 snap rates -- 61.5% and 58.1% -- are two of the four highest rates seen by a Green Bay back this year. And they're easily the highest marks since Jones returned from suspension in Week 3. He's their featured back, and should be considered in your fantasy football lineups weekly.
As you can see in the chart, Duke Johnson's snap share wasn't significantly different in Week 9 than it has been this season -- he's played 43.4% of Cleveland's snaps this year, but played 46.7% against the Chiefs. According to Pro Football Focus, the number of routes that he ran last week (26) was high compared to other backs in football, but it was pretty similar to what he'd seen in Weeks 5, 6, and 7 this year. It's just that he saw 9 targets after averaging 3.6 this season. Now, that could continue in a plus matchup against the Falcons, who love giving up receptions to backs, but it's hard to say whether Duke Johnson is truly "back."
Jalen Richard continues to rack up volume through the air -- just seven running backs have a higher target share than Richard this year. The main problem is that he's not seeing a ton of looks where it matters: in the red zone. He has just one red-zone attempt on the season, the least of any of the top-60 running backs that are listed above. But in PPR formats, considering the Raiders are so bad and should see a lot of negative game scripts (benefiting Richard), he should continue to be a viable option.
Eight backs have 20 or more red-zone carries this season, and Jordan Howard is one of them. He's also got seven goal-line attempts, a top-10 number at the position. He was a sell candidate in this week's 15 Transactions column, though, and it's because he's relying heavily on this type of work. Howard's target share is just 5.8%, giving him a scary floor in PPR formats. From purely a usage standpoint, he's in a similar spot as Alex Collins, but with more touchdown upside.
Tevin Coleman is playing more snaps than Ito Smith, but Smith continues to see more work in the red zone. He has 15 carries within the opponent's 20 compared to Coleman's 8, and since Devonta Freeman's season ended, Smith has 5 red-zone attempts versus Coleman's 1. That's something to consider when evaluating Coleman's overall worth in fantasy football.
Wide Receiver Usage
|Player||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Targets||< 10 Targets||GL Targets|
What in the world is going on with Kenny Golladay? Less than a month ago, he had a 20.8% target share in Detroit's offense. Today, that number is 16.3%. And over the last three games, Golladay's target share has been 7.1%. Maybe it has to do with matchups, but it's not all that encouraging. The good news is that he's still playing a ton of snaps (97.1% last week), and Marvin Jones has run just two more routes than Golladay has over this time. I'd be shocked if this type of production continues.
Over the last four games, Julian Edelman has just three more targets than Josh Gordon. Meanwhile, during this time, Gordon is tied for fifth in the NFL in targets that traveled 15-plus air yards with 13, while Edelman has just 5. Edelman may be a safer bet each week, but there's no doubt that Gordon has the ceiling.
Only Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins have a higher target share than Corey Davis this year. Davis saw 10 looks in Monday night's game, and things are looking up for him and the Tennessee passing attack moving forward. After a rough first half of the season matchups-wise, they'll get New England this week, and then the Colts, Texans, Jets, Jaguars, Giants, and Redskins. Aside from that Jags game, things shouldn't be too hard on Davis. His arrow is pointing up.
It's been a rough year for Larry Fitzgerald, but he actually has a top-20 target share at wide receiver, and he's seen 8, 8, and 12 targets across his last three games. Those 28 looks equate to a 25.4% share, which would place him closer to the top-10 in target share at wide receiver. The 12 targets he saw in Week 8 is interesting, as that was Byron Leftwich's first game as the team's offensive coordinator. Coming out of the bye, we should have higher expectations for Fitz. Especially considering they're facing Kansas City and Oakland over the next two weeks.
Tight End Usage
|Player||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Targets||< 10 Targets||GL Targets|
I mentioned Jeff Heuerman in this column last week, noting that his red-zone numbers were actually pretty strong. Well, in Week 9, his target share was great, too. It's unlikely that he becomes some plug-and-play options without Demaryius Thomas in that offense, but considering how much of a mess the tight end position is, Heuerman is definitely going to be usable down the stretch. They've got a bye this week, but he's worthy of a pickup if you have the bench space and need a tight end.
Even with the carousel of quarterbacks in San Francisco this season, George Kittle has been awesome. He's finished as a top-10 option in six of his nine games this year, with five of those finishes being top-six ones. He's just one of three tight ends with a target share north of 20%, making him an easy play each week.
Those three tight ends I just mentioned are the only three with a higher target share than Jordan Reed, yet Reed is 15th in points per game among qualified tight ends. He's only scored once, which is a big reason why, and that's not all that fluky when you consider he has just three red-zone targets. He may give you a decent-enough floor week to week, but Reed's big-game output days appear to be gone.
Chris Herndon's Week 6 2-catch, 56-yard, 1-touchdown game was a little fluky. According to Pro Football Focus, he ran just seven routes in that contest. But his routes run have increased each week since then. In Week 7, he had 12. Week 8 saw Herndon with 17. And then this past week, Herndon ran 26, which is generally what you see from worthy fantasy football starters. All the while, Herndon's captured about a 12% target share over the Jets' last three games. You'd like to see more volume, but things are certainly moving in the right direction for Herndon.
Deep Ball Passing
|Player||15+ Yd Att||15+ Yd Att %||15+ Comp %||15+ % of Tot Yds||15+ Yd TD %|
The Ravens have lost four of their last five, and during this stretch, Joe Flacco hasn't done them many favors. Across the first four games of the season, Flacco was averaging 313 yards per game. During the last five, that number's dropped to 242.6. Flacco's deep-ball rate has risen in the second half of that split, more than likely the result of being in negative game script situations. But his completion percentage on deep balls has dropped, as has his percentage of yards coming on those types of throws. Basically, it's the worst-case scenario: he's throwing it deeper more often now, but he's converting on those throws at a worse rate. The Ravens have a nice schedule for Flacco out of their bye, but you can't start him until we see more consistency.
Marcus Mariota finally looked healthy on Monday night, and as I noted with Corey Davis above, Tennessee's schedule does open up across the second half of the season. Mariota is the only relevant quarterback without a deep-ball touchdown this year, and it's not as though he's throwing it deep at a super low rate -- 12 quarterbacks rank below him in deep-ball rate. Some of those big plays should eventually convert, helping Mariota's fantasy value.
We've been used to Ben Roethlisberger airing it out, but this year's been a little different. Just 15.7% of his passes are traveling 15-plus air yards when, over the last seven years, his season low has been 18.7%. Per AirYards.com, this season marks Roethlisberger's lowest average depth of target dating back to 2009. It hasn't really impacted his stat line much, but it's interesting nonetheless.
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|
The top of the running back touchdown regression list has generally looked the same all season, with the backs coming from strong offenses. That'll happen -- the exercise of comparing yardage totals to touchdowns is to spot glaring outliers. Like David Johnson earlier in the season, for instance. Right now, that outlier looks to be Alex Collins. He's scored almost four more touchdowns than he should have based on his yardage totals, and it's not as though he's in a high-powered offense. Baltimore is slightly above average in yards per drive. And although Collins has seen decent red-zone work, he has six goal-line attempts, ranking him outside the top-10. He's fortunate to have scored as many times as he has.
Wide Receiver Touchdown Regression
|Player||Rec Yds||TD||Should Have||Difference|
|Odell Beckham Jr||785||2||4.71||-2.71|
Antonio Brown's having a low-key crazy season in the touchdown column -- he now has nine, matching his 2017 total. Brown's got a top-10 target share at wide receiver, but it's not as high of one as we typically see from him. The main reason he's doing what he's doing is because, per numberFire's Brandon Gdula, he has 14 end-zone targets, which leads the league. Maybe his rate of scoring right now is a little unsustainable, but at least there's some reason for it.
Hey, Julio Jones scored.