Fantasy Football: The Report, Week 15
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 15's report.
|Team||Pass Att||Rush Att||Ratio||Neutral Ratio||RZ Plays||RZ Ratio||GL Plays||GL Ratio|
After a crazy Thursday night performance from Derrick Henry, the Titans now have a pass-to-rush attempt ratio of 0.99, joining the Seahawks as the only team with a rate lower than 1.00. But they haven't been the most run-heavy teams of late. No, no. That's the Ravens, who've seen their overall season-long ratio drop from 1.69 (nice) to 1.17 since Lamar Jackson took over.
Miami continues to trail the rest of the league by a wide margin in goal-line plays run. They've only run eight plays within their opponent's five-yard line, which is six fewer than any other team. And it's also 52 (!!!) plays fewer than the league-leading New Orleans Saints. It's honestly amazing that Kenyan Drake has four rushing touchdowns this season.
The Dolphins and Cardinals are currently pacing towards 887 and 886 total plays run offensively this year (this includes sacks, not just attempts). No team has run fewer than 890 plays in a season since the 2005 San Francisco 49ers. And fun fact: the offensive coordinator of that 49ers team was Mike McCarthy.
The Steelers continue to be the most pass-heavy team in football, throwing it nearly two times for every rush. Their opponent this week, New England, hasn't been nearly as pass-happy, but in neutral game scripts, they rank in the top-half of the league in pass-to-rush ratio. Both teams also play at a top-11 pace (seconds per play) in the league. In other words, expect there to be scoring in the Steel City this weekend, as long as Ben Roethlisberger is suited up.
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|
Baltimore continues to own the league's best secondary, but after a dominating performance on Sunday night, Chicago's not far behind. This makes two semi-reliable fantasy quarterbacks not-so-easy-starts this week with Jameis Winston traveling to Baltimore and Aaron Rodgers to Chicago.
Ben Roethlisberger missed a chunk of Week 14's game against Oakland, and the Raiders faced backup Joshua Dobbs as a result. Even still, when adjusted for strength of opponent, Oakland has numberFire's worst-ranked secondary. But one team that's coming for that crown is Carolina. They're ranked third-worst, and they'll face the Saints on Monday night. Maybe this is a "get right" type of game for Drew Brees?
There are a few teams separating themselves in the rush defense category: Chicago, Dallas, and Houston. Unsurprisingly, those three squads are also pretty good at stopping opposing running backs in fantasy football. If you were wondering if they were legit or not, though, wonder no more.
Team Pass Defense Splits
The chart below displays the raw number of yards and the percentage of yards allowed by pass defense to wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs.
Amari Cooper has been fantasy football's top receiver since joining Dallas, and those rostering Cooper in Week 14 specifically are probably feeling pretty good right now. But there's some reason to be nervous about his matchup this week against Indianapolis. We don't think of the Colts as tough against wide receivers, but they've allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to the position this year,and just 50.24% of their passing yards allowed have gone to wideouts. That's easily the lowest rate in the league. Cooper should be in your lineup this week, but it seems logical to temper expectations a bit.
Ian Thomas stepped up in big way for Greg Olsen on Sunday, hauling in 9 of 11 targets for 77 yards. He ran the third-most routes at tight end across the league, per Pro Football Focus. His matchup against the Saints this week is an interesting one. Yes, New Orleans just allowed a multi-score game to Cameron Brate, but Brate also had just 12 yards receiving. New Orleans has given up a lot of receiving yards to wideouts this year, but they've been good at limiting tight ends -- only about 12% of the receiving yards they've allowed have gone to tight ends, the lowest rate in the league. Thomas is a fine streamer, but the matchup could be a lot better.
Speaking of Brate, he's someone you can look to use again here in Week 15. Baltimore is great at stopping opposing wideouts, but they've allowed the second-highest rate of receiving yards to tight ends in football. It's not a great matchup for the Bucs' passing attack, but Brate's someone you can still use.
Kenny Stills is coming off of back to back strong outings, but you shouldn't be playing him this week against Minnesota. The Vikings have given up the fourth-fewest yards to wideouts this year and, on the season, only four wide receivers have ranked better than 20th in weekly PPR scoring against them. One of those players is Davante Adams, who did it twice, and the other three are all on the Rams. That's it. Those are the only instances where a player has hit 15-plus PPR points. Stills is a very risky play.
Pittsburgh has seen just 10.6% of their receiving yards allowed go to running backs. That's the lowest rate in the league. They're also first in Success Rate (percentage of positive expected point plays) allowed to running backs through the air. And that doesn't bode well for the pass-catching James White, who's finished with fewer than nine PPR points in three of his last four games. If there's one thing that makes him a viable RB2, it's that this game could be high-scoring. But this matchup isn't that attractive -- it shapes up to be much more of a Julian Edelman game given how the Steelers have performed against slot receivers.
Team Directional Rushing
All numbers below reflect yards per play.
The Chiefs now rank dead last in rush defense on a per-rush basis according to numberFire's expected points model, and no team has allowed a higher Success Rate to running backs. That means you've got to really keep an eye on the Chargers' running back situation this week, since it's a short week and both Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon are banged up. It could create a huge opportunity for Justin Jackson.
Doug Martin makes for an interesting play in Week 15 as well. Cincinnati is numberFire's second-least efficient rush defense, and they've allowed more points to the position than any other squad in the NFL. Martin has double-digit carries in seven straight games, and he's dominated goal-line looks for Oakland since Marshawn Lynch's injury -- only Christian McCaffrey has more attempts from within the opponent's five-yard line since Week 8.
Hypothetically, this is the perfect spot for David Johnson. Atlanta owns a bottom-five rush defense, and they've been notoriously bad at allowing receiving yards to running backs. But, unfortunately, it may not matter given Arizona's offensive deficiencies. Despite an average of 19.3 carries and 4.5 targets per game over his last four contests, Johnson has ranked in the top-20 in weekly running back scoring (PPR) just once while maintaining a points per game rate of 12.2. You can play him, but it's tough to expect a lot from him.
Running Back Usage
|Player||Att||Rush %||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Att||RZ Targets||GL Att|
Ito Smith saw his snap rate jump to 45.1% in Week 14, marking the second week in a row where he's hit a 45% snap share. He's now seen more attempts than Tevin Coleman over the past two weeks. We could be seeing a changing of the guard in Atlanta.
Dalvin Cook has now played five games since returning from injury. In his first four, he saw 55.9% of Minnesota's running back attempts. On Monday night, that number jumped to 81.3%. He's got a great matchup this week against a beatable Miami rush defense and, given his usage, he needs to be in your lineup.
Washington is a mess offensively, and it's hurting Adrian Peterson. Without that 90-yard run two weeks ago, we're looking at a starting back who (hypothetically) would have ranked outside the top-40 in weekly running back scoring across three consecutive weeks. As I mentioned in this week's 15 Transactions column, Peterson has averaged about 35 rushing yards in losses this year versus roughly 105 in wins. Considering Washington is heading in the wrong direction, he can safely be dropped.
Derrick Henry's huge night came on 17 carries, but he still was on the field for just 40% of Tennessee's snaps. It's hard to believe given the performance, but Dion Lewis played 14 more snaps than Henry did on Thursday night. Henry does have flex appeal this week against a Giants defense that easily ranks in the bottom half of the league against the run since losing Damon Harrison, but don't get carried away expectation-wise.
Wide Receiver Usage
|Player||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Targets||< 10 Targets||GL Targets|
Without Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton didn't do a whole lot this past week, but part of that was because of a thigh injury. The player who emerged in that Denver offense was DaeSean Hamilton, who played two-thirds of his snap from the slot, a role Sanders had played throughout the season. Hamilton ended Sunday with nine targets and seven catches. That's also an area of the field that Case Keenum seems to enjoy targeting -- last season, Keenum's Vikings ranked eighth in slot yards.
Curtis Samuel is being used more and more in the Carolina offense, having seen 19 targets over the past two weeks. He's now played three straight games with a snap share north of 83%. As this has happened, Devin Funchess has watched his share drop dramatically, as he's become just a part-time player.
The Bears only threw Anthony Miller onto the field for 52.1% of their snaps on Monday night, which was his second-lowest snap share of his season. Earlier in the season, it looked like he was emerging as a potential fantasy starter, but he's seen just three targets over the last two weeks. He's not someone you can trust, despite a plus matchup this week.
If you played Chris Godwin last week, you got the process right. He saw 10 targets -- you'll always take 10 targets from a fantasy wideout. The problem is that many of those looks weren't catchable, and he finished the day with just one reception. Nevertheless, without DeSean Jackson in the lineup over the last two years, Godwin is averaging 8.5 targets per game. With him, that number drops to just 4.1. Considering D-Jax is having trouble gripping a football right now, Godwin remains someone who should see volume in the Bucs passing attack. His matchup this week is tough, though, so you may not be able to start him.
Tight End Usage
|Player||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Targets||< 10 Targets||GL Targets|
Gerald Everett played more snaps than Tyler Higbee in Week 14, and that was the first time that's happened in 2018. Everett's 57.1% snap share was easily his highest of the season -- it makes sense that he also saw a season-high seven targets. That's something to keep an eye on this week, because he could make for a decent streamer during championship week.
If you had told me at the beginning of the season that David Njoku would be seventh in target share at tight end through 14 weeks, I'd almost expect him to be a top-five tight end. But for whatever reason, Njoku hasn't been all that heavily involved in the red zone this year -- among the top-30 tight ends, only two have fewer red-zone targets.
One of my favorite streamers this week is Blake Jarwin, who's not even listed in the tight end usage report. He ran 19 more routes than any other Dallas tight end this past Sunday, and he saw more than two targets (he had seven) for the first time all season. If that workload continues against Indy, he'll be useful -- as I mentioned above, the Colts have been strong against wide receivers, but are surrendering a large percentage of receiving yards to tight ends and running backs.
Deep Ball Passing
|Player||15+ Yd Att||15+ Yd Att %||15+ Comp %||15+ % of Tot Yds||15+ Yd TD %|
Prior to Freddie Kitchens taking over as Cleveland's offensive coordinator, Baker Mayfield was throwing it 15-plus air yards on about 22% of his passes. Since, that number's jumped to 27.5%. Had he been throwing it deep that often all year long, he'd be ranked second in deep-ball rate behind only Josh Allen.
The Minnesota offensive line has been a mess, and that's part of the reason why Kirk Cousins ranks towards the bottom in deep-ball rate. He's tossed it 15 or more yards through the air on roughly 14% of his pass attempts this year, far lower than Keenum's 18.3% rate with the Vikings last season.
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|
We still haven't seen a rushing touchdown from Frank Gore despite 708 rushing yards. If he finishes the season without a rushing score, he'd become the first player to do so with 700 or more rushing yards since 2003.
Wide Receiver Touchdown Regression
|Player||Rec Yds||TD||Should Have||Difference|
Now that JuJu Smith-Schuster saw positive touchdown regression, we've got a couple of newcomers towards the bottom of this week's wide receiver list. Nelson Agholor has seen inconsistent usage of late, but he's scored just once despite nearly 600 yards receiving. And Willie Snead is in a similar boat. The problem is, that positive regression may not come given their current usage and, in Snead's case, quarterback situation.