5 NFL Red Zone Trends to Monitor for Week 5
Through a couple weeks of play, NFL teams have produced 238 offensive touchdowns. Of those, 198 have come through the air with another 106 on the ground -- a 65.1% share that has declined for two straight weeks but not to the point where the run is the more likely means of scoring.
In the red zone, it is closer to even as teams have accounted for 122 passing and 97 rushing scores inside the 20-yard line. Compared to 2018, passing and overall scores are slightly down in the red zone, but rushing touchdowns are up by 12. Those scores account for 488 fantasy points from passers, 582 from rushers and 732 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.
Matt LaFleur's Offense
Last year under the direction of Mike McCarthy, the Green Bay Packers' offense passed the ball 64% of the time inside the 20 (according to Sharp Football Stats). When you have Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback, that does make sense, but what doesn't add up is continuing to pass it when you're failing. Their 36% pass success rate was far from the 56% rush success rate turned in by the likes of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.
If Thursday is evidence of anything, it looks like nothing's changed with Matt LaFleur at the helm.
Clearly Matt LaFleur is unaware:
6 PLAYS INSIDE THE 5
Success Rates Inside the 5
Run: 57% success
Pass: 45% success
2019: R: 64%, P: 52%
2018: R: 56%, P: 47%
2017: R: 55%, P: 53%
2016: R: 59%, P: 44% https://t.co/mkch1XT1Ub
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 27, 2019
LaFleur and Rodgers certainly got cute in their Week 4 loss. But that's just a snapshot of this year's struggles in close.
Through four games, the Pack's pass rate is up to 68% in the red zone, and while their 44% success rate is better than last year (and above league average), they have succeeded on 58% of their 12 rush attempts. Jones has managed to turn his nine rushes into four touchdowns, converting four of six inside the 10. According to Pro Football Reference, he was five for seven in those same types of opportunities a year ago.
After this latest showing, it would be unwise for LaFleur to lean so heavily on the pass in the red zone -- and that spells regression for the Packers' backs. Now, Williams isn't practicing after suffering a head and neck injury on Thursday, and if he can't play, Jones would be a prime spot to capitalize as Green Bay looks to course-correct against the Dallas Cowboys.
Regression Coming for Fournette
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team we fully expect to commit to the run. They have been forced into starting a rookie quarterback, Gardner Minshew, and their offense has and continues to revolve around Leonard Fournette. However, the Jaguars have passed the ball at a 59% clip on the season, a number that's dropped to 48% in the red zone. They have a bottom-of-the-barrel 20% success rate on 15 red zone runs, but for Fournette the opportunity -- over efficiency -- is there.
This past week, a big one for Fournette, the big back rumbled seven times inside the 20, but he didn't have a single score. In fact, he has yet to score a touchdown this year despite 10 red zone rushes. Runners have a 19.1% touchdown rate so far in 2019, which would call for roughly two scores on his workload in the red zone.
Go To Golladay
Very dissimilar to Fournette, Kenny Golladay has had no problem reaching the end zone early on. The big-bodied wideout has garnered 6 of his 36 targets in the red zone, where he has three of his four receiving scores this year. In Week 4, he tied for third with three red zone targets, two of which he caught and the other an end zone catch brought back on a questionable catch-no-catch call.
The opportunity is there for Babytron. According to ESPN's Mike Clay, he is tied for first among receivers with seven end zone targets on the year -- two more than one Mike Evans. And his six red zone targets are four more than Marvin Jones and make up a 37.5% market share inside the 20.
Matthew Stafford is on his game, and it shows with dimes like this, but don't overlook the amazing talent of Golladay. We project the third-year stud for an additional 4.96 touchdowns over the remainder of the season, and if Detroit keeps clicking offensively we could see him turn in double-digit scores in 2019.
What's actionable for season-long players? Following this week's bye, Golladay has two touch matchups against the Packers and Vikings, a situation that could present a buy-low opportunity ahead of a five-game stretch that includes games against the Giants, Cowboys and Washington.
Running Against the Pack
It is a bit comical, but while Green Bay has refused to run in the red zone, other teams have been sure to take it to them in the opposite fashion. Overall, the Packers are dead last against the run by our rankings, and teams have been willing to do it frequently as they approach the goal line. Versus Green Bay, teams have managed 17 successful plays on 22 runs, resulting in a league-high 77% success rate and four touchdowns.
In Week 4, Jordan Howard rushed the ball six times inside the 20, and he came away with 5.8 yards per attempt, four first downs and two touchdowns to show for it. The week before was more of the same with Phillip Lindsay scoring twice on seven attempts. He was joined by Royce Freeman, who ran the ball four times for 18 yards.
Next up? Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys, followed by the Lions' Kerryon Johnson and the Raiders' Josh Jacobs. Those three backs have 15, 11 and 11 red zone attempts to date, which puts them inside the top-10 at the position through four weeks. Johnson is a great buy candidate after tallying six red zone rushes just this week.
Again, our last trend is a full 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|
Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans lead the NFL with a 58% pass success rate, but they are an even 12-12 in the distribution of passes to rushes in the red zone. They've also succeeded on 67% of their run attempts, so neither side has really suffered. It's just a matter of the Texans getting there. Their 24 red zone plays are better than only a handful of awful teams: the Jets, Dolphins, Bengals and Steelers.
As for the Vikings, they are anything but balanced, particularly in the red zone, where they have thrown only 6 pass attempts to 19 rushes. On the team's six pass attempts, Kirk Cousins has maintained a 17% success rate -- a long, long cry from Minnesota's 68% rate in the red zone running game.
Brett Oswalt is 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.