Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 14
The holiday season is awesome, but there is some sadness that comes with it. When the calendar flips to December, the end of the NFL regular season is coming quickly. There are only three weeks left in the regular season, and there have been plenty of ups and downs. We've seen some truly great and not-so-great performances.
Clever fantasy football owners are looking for opportunities to buy low and sell high on potentially unsustainable performances. We spend the entire offseason predicting what will unfold once the action starts, but we can now finally react to actual data and information.
By detailing both negative and positive regression candidates, the hope is that we will uncover some of the truths behind what we've seen so far this year.
Negative Regression Candidates
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears
Among current starters with eight or more games, Trubisky currently clocks in as QB9 so far this season, averaging 18.9 fantasy points per game (PPG). However, there's some warning signs on the horizon that you need to be wary of as we approach the fantasy playoffs.
Through weeks 6 through 10, Trubisky logged 20-plus fantasy points in four contests, supporting that lofty per-game average, but the last two games (albeit book-ending a two-game absence) haven't been so hot. Trubisky has passed for 165 or fewer, and now he gets a Green Bay Packers defense that ranks seventh in passing yards allowed (225 per game).
Trubisky has been a great story but seems to be backsliding quickly.
Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams
Another quarterback that's been struggling as we roar through the fantasy playoffs is Jared Goff. In terms of Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, two of Goff's three worst games of the season have come in the last two weeks, as he's recorded one touchdown pass to five interceptions, and a total of 387 passing yards.
While a tasty matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles' porous passing defense, which ranks 20th by our metrics, could get Goff on track, injuries are important to track as well. Center John Sullivan exited last week's loss temporarily with a purported concussion, and Rodger Saffold missed time with a foot injury. That's not good for a signal caller getting hit a lot lately.
Currently QB10 in fantasy ranks, it could be a tough finish for Goff given his recent play and the banged up offensive line.
Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Jones has now found the end zone in his last five games, scoring six rushing touchdowns over that time span. But should fantasy's RB7 over the last four weeks be expected to keep up this pace?
Jones did log the majority of offensive snaps in Week 14, but it's interesting to note that he received zero touches in the first quarter. Backup Jamaal Williams stole four carries and garnered a target in the Week 14 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
The news gets worse for Jones when you peek into his Week 15 matchup against the Bears, who rank as the league's best rushing defense and have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. While he's been a touchdown beast lately, Jones could be tumbling down the running back list soon.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
After recording double-digit targets in each of the previous three weeks, Brown recorded only seven targets on his way to a mediocre Week 14. If the New England Patriots deploy Stephon Gilmore -- who ranks as the #2 corner back per Pro Football Focus -- in shadow coverage on Brown, the wideout may struggle to get loose.
While the Pats rank as only the 18th-best defense against the pass, big passing outputs -- particularly in the yardage department -- have been tough to come by against them lately:
He's definitely one of the league's elite at the position, but with last week's decline in targets and a tough matchup on tap, Brown could be one to avoid if you have options that allow you to do so.
Positive Regression Candidates
Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
Despite clocking only as QB8 so far this season, Philip Rivers has performed like a beast, and he could be a major weapon over the last three weeks.
With 25 pass attempts in 7 straight contests, tomorrow's Thursday Night Football game against the Kansas City Chiefs could prove to be an even bigger fantasy day for Rivers. The Chiefs have allowed a league-worst 304 passing yards per game, and Rivers roasted them for 424 passing yards and 3 scores in Week 1. In fact, check out how quarterbacks have recently fared against Kansas City:
|Name||Week||Passing NEP per Drop Back|
To give some context to the above numbers, among the 35 quarterbacks in 2018 with 150 or more drop backs, the average Passing NEP per drop back is 0.14 over 14,166 drop backs. In peeping the table above, outside of Rosen, every quarterback bested that number, and some by a very wide margin.
Furthermore, Rivers posted a Passing NEP per drop back mark of 0.36 in Week 1 against the 16th-ranked Chiefs passing D, so he could be in a great position to light up the Chiefs.
Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans
After a very slow start to begin the year, where Lamar Miller didn't find the end zone in the first five weeks, the Houston Texans running back has picked up the pace recently. Over the last four weeks, Miller has recorded double-digit fantasy points in each of those games, and going back to his last seven contests, he's posted 10-plus in 6 of those games.
While he ranks only as RB17 this season, Miller has been pretty efficient in recent weeks. Over those 7 contests, in which he's toted the rock 116 times all total, Miller has posted a healthy 0.14 Rushing NEP per carry mark. Compared to running backs with 100 or more carries, that would place Miller fifth-best if that were his season-long mark.
Facing a New York Jets rushing defense that clocks in 26th, look for Miller to keep up the strong effort.
Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
With only five carries heading into Week 12 this season, Justin Jackson could determine the Chargers' fate in the AFC, if Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler are unable to suit up, which is looking more and more likely as the week goes on.
Jackson's workload has picked up in recent games with a combined 22 carries, and now he takes aim at the league's-worst rushing defense. The Chiefs have allowed the most receiving yards to opposing running backs in 2018, and against them in Week 14, the Baltimore Ravens rushed for 198 yards and a score, averaging 5.1 yards per pop.
Despite being somewhat of a little-known commodity, Jackson is primed for a major coming-out party on Thursday night.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Landing outside of the WR1 grouping, as he currently is pegged as WR12 in 2018, T.Y. Hilton could join that elite group, and very soon at that.
Despite a matchup against the league's 14th-ranked passing defense in the Dallas Cowboys this week, Hilton's recent workload has gone bonkers. He has nine-plus targets in each of his last four games, directly correlated to three 100-plus yard receiving games in that time frame.
The Colts are also a heavy passing attack that goes quickly -- they rank second in situation-neutral pace and seventh in the league in pass-to-run ratio (1.74 passes per run).
Despite Dallas doing a pretty solid job against passing offenses, Hilton's recent volume in a prolific offense can't be ignored.