5 NFL Red Zone Trends to Monitor for Week 3

Through a couple weeks of play, NFL teams have produced 153 offensive touchdowns. Of those, 105 have come through the air with another 48 on the ground -- a 68.6% share in favor of the passing game.

Compared to last year, though, numbers in the red zone are up early. A total of 54 passing touchdowns and 41 rushing touchdowns have originated inside the 20-yard-line. Through Weeks 1 and 2, passing and overall scores are down in the red zone, but rushing touchdowns have seen a very slight increase. Those scores account for 216 fantasy points from passers, 246 from rushers and 324 for those on the receiving end of those touchdown throws.

All that is to say that red zone opportunities are valuable for fantasy football players. In season-long leagues and daily games alike, we want to target guys with touchdown upside because of the amount of points you get on that one play compared to the 60 rushing or receiving yards you need to add up to that touchdown.

The question is, why are we talking about this if it is such a logical approach? The reasoning is simple: touchdowns are pretty hard to predict. Certain players are off the field in certain situations and packages, while others might be called upon as go-to guys in the red zone because of their size or versatility.

That's why we're here. All season, we're diving into the data to uncover valuable red zone trends that either point us toward one player or suggest we avoid another. Let's get down to it.

Josh Jacobs Is Getting All the Opportunity

Josh Jacobs is not the addition the Raiders necessarily expected would contribute to more touchdowns this season. Everyone knew the rookie back would be a factor, but I don't think anyone expected this much out of the Alabama product.

Through two games, Jacobs has totaled 184 rushing yards with two rushing scores and an average of 5.3 yards per carry. He does only have one target, and many are pointing to the first-year back's lack of involvement in the passing game, but there is a primary reason for optimism in fantasy football, and that stems from the prime scoring zone.

Per Pro Football Reference, Jacobs ranks first in the NFL in red zone rushes with 12, including five inside the 10 and two inside the 5. He has two touchdowns on those dozen attempts, but even more encouraging is Jon Gruden's willingness to turn to the run over the pass. While the Raiders have run the ball 12 times in total, they've only passed the ball in close eight times.

For Jacobs, the volume is there even if the end results haven't been all that great. And still, he is RB7 in PPR scoring with weekly finishes of RB7 and RB28, the latter coming in a negative game script against the Kansas City Chiefs.

But, as JJ Zachariason pointed out, this looks like a time to sell high. Over the next five weeks, Oakland faces only one team -- surprisingly, the Chicago Bears -- in the bottom half of the league in red zone plays against.

Antonio Brown In New England

Transitioning from a Raider to one that never was, we get a seasoned vet and fantasy football juggernaut now donning the blue and silver of the New England Patriots. Brown, amid all the off-the-field drama he has surrounded himself with, took part in his team's Week 2 game against the Dolphins and looked like he had been reading up on the playbook for months.

In the Patriots' 43-0 win, Brown logged only 24 snaps (33% of the team's) but proceeded to turn eight targets into four catches for 56 yards and this 20-yard touchdown. However, that touchdown actually falls outside the scope of Pro Football Reference's red zone work, which already has AB down for four red zone targets. Counting that score, he had two catches and a touchdown on five targets from inside the 20.

The four red zone targets Brown put him in a tie for sixth in the NFL despite his low snap rate. As that ramps up -- and so long as he avoids league discipline -- expect Brown's fantasy numbers to take off. If you bought low in your draft or nabbed him off a panicking league-mate, that move should pay dividends in due time. And for those owners looking for a lifeline already, it couldn't hurt to see where the panic meter is on your league's AB owner; it could be worth the ongoing risk. Our models project the All-Pro wideout for double-digit touchdowns the rest of the way.

David Montgomery Is the Bears' Back to Own

After Week 1, David Montgomery truthers definitely felt the disappointment of drafting a high-upside rookie only to see him get a partial workload and produced underwhelming results. The first-year talent played on just 38.0% of the offensive snaps, which limited him to six carries, one catch (on one target) and five fantasy points. At a glance, Week 2 wasn't much better as Montgomery received the same number of snaps (27) but saw a jump to a 44.3% snap rate to Mike Davis 24.6% (15 snaps).

It helps that Tarik Cohen is being used like a receiver, but Montgomery's outlook is better because of his red zone usage. After going without a red zone carry in Week 1 (Chicago didn't have one as a team), he received five of six in Week 2. Taylor Gabriel had the other attempt inside the 20, so it is already clear that Montgomery is the go-to back as the Bears get into prime scoring range. Against the Broncos, the Iowa State standout had one touchdown and one first down, and it's worth noting that five carries came from inside the five.

If Week 2 is evidence of anything, it would appear that Montgomery's snap share will continue to rise. That bodes well for his fantasy value and production, particularly for a Week 3 matchup against Washington, whose defense has surrendered 336 rushing yards through two weeks. We have Montgomery down for 10.5 fantasy points in that one and 146.7 over the remainder of the 2019 season.

Jacoby Brissett's Efficiency

When Andrew Luck decided to call it a career, a large part of the fantasy community felt the impact. Quickly, there were questions around the potential of T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack, Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle, and while it's hard to say how things would've played out with Luck under center, things haven't gone all that bad under Jacoby Brissett.

Over two weeks, Hilton is the WR7 and Mack is the RB10. The tight end value isn't there for Ebron or Doyle (at least yet), and due to a lack of volume, Brissett is just 18th among signal callers; his fantasy utility is a streaming option at best.

But Brissett's red zone efficiency has helped others to capitalize on scoring opportunities. On just 17 red zone snaps, the Colts have scored five times with every one coming via the air. As a result, both their 63% pass rate and 60% success rate on passes in the red zone rank among the top teams in the NFL to this point, per Sharp Football Stats. They have been above average on their six runs as well, but the current sample size tells us that Frank Reich sees the value in passing in close.

Hilton has been the biggest beneficiary, hauling in all four of his red zone targets for 32 yards and three touchdowns, while Parris Campbell and Ebron have two targets and one touchdown apiece. This points us to some potential DFS plays in plus matchups, and it is support for Hilton's value opposite Brissett. And with matchups against the Falcons, Raiders and Chiefs on tap, Brissett becomes a very good streaming option for the foreseeable future.

Play-Calling Trends

In the final trend, we look at a snapshot of each team's pass and run rate in the red zone, as well as their success rate in those two facets, per Sharp Football Stats.

Team Pass Rate Pass Success Run Rate Run Success Team Pass Rate Pass Success Run Rate Run Success
100% 67% 0% -- TB 56% 20% 44% 25%
WAS 78% 56% 22% 80% HOU 55% 67% 45% 80%
JAC 78% 43% 22% 50% TEN 54% 57% 46% 67%
NYJ 75% 67% 25% 100% CLE 50% 100% 50% 100%
DEN 71% 35% 29% 63% DET 50% 33% 50% 0%
NO 71% 30% 29% 75% LAC 50% 40% 50% 50%
ARI 71% 41% 29% 29% SEA 50% 75% 50% 50%
ATL 70% 57% 30% 33% DAL 47% 56% 53% 70%
IND 63% 60% 38% 67% NE 46% 46% 54% 60%
GB 62% 88% 38% 40% CAR 46% 0% 54% 71%
PHI 58% 20% 42% 64% LAR 46% 50% 54% 64%
CIN 57% 38% 43% 17% MIN 40% 0% 60% 67%
PIT 57% 38% 43% 83% OAK 38% 63% 62% 54%
KC 57% 23% 43% 50% CHI 33% 0% 67% 50%
NYG 56% 60% 44% 38% BAL 26% 63% 74% 48%
SF 56% 40% 44% 63% BUF 25% 33% 75% 89%

Because of game script, the tanking Dolphins have yet to attempt a single run in the red zone, but Washington has passed the ball 18 times compared to five runs through two games. Baltimore and Buffalo have gone in quite the opposite direction. While the Ravens have run the ball on 23 of 31 red zone plays, the Bills have attempted nine runs to three passes with an 89% success rate on the legs of Josh Allen, Frank Gore and Devin Singletary.

Given the imbalance of success rates for teams like the Saints, Eagles and Steelers, it would be wise for them to rely more heavily on the run in the red zone. The same can be said for the Seahawks, Raiders and Ravens but in favor of the pass over the run.

Brett Oswalt i
s not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Brett Oswalt also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username BrettOswalt. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.