5 NFL Red Zone Trends to Monitor for Week 8

Through seven weeks, NFL teams have produced 510 offensive touchdowns. Of those, 320 have come through the air with another 190 on the ground, which comes to a 62.7% share in favor of the pass.

In the red zone, it is closer to even as teams have accounted for 203 passing (33 in Week 7) and 171 rushing scores (19 this week) inside the 20-yard line. Surprisingly, red zone passing touchdowns and overall scores are down from a year ago, but rushing touchdowns are up by 23. Those scores account for 812 fantasy points from passers, 1,026 from rushers and 1,218 for those on the receiving end of red zone touchdown passes.

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.

Here Comes Darren Waller

Entering Week 7, Darren Waller ranked as TE7 in PPR scoring. But what was impressive about that is that the Oakland Raiders tight end accomplished the feat absent a single touchdown catch. In fact, Waller had just three red zone targets on the year, all of which he hauled in successfully.

Waller was due for positive regression, and regression was right on time this week. On the road against a tough Green Bay Packers defense, the breakout talent received three red zone targets and converted the opportunities into 24 yards and a pair of scores. In doing so, Waller made a jump of five spots all the way up to second in PPR formats. His 31.6 PPR points led all tight ends, and by a margin of 14.6 fantasy points.

And still, Waller is a positive regression candidate going forward. Usually a player scores a touchdown for every 100 yards, so Waller's 485 yards would suggest closer to five touchdowns -- nearly three more than where he's at based on one game alone. He could also benefit from the continued absence of receiver Tyrell Williams, who is tied with Waller for red zone targets with six.

Be patient as you await Waller's next big game, though. A Week 8 matchup with the Houston Texans could limit his ceiling, as J.J. Watt and company rank fourth in Target Success Rate allowed and in a tie for seventh in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. The Lions, Chargers and Bengals present better opportunities in Weeks 9 through 11; all three rank in the bottom half of the league in Target Success Rate against the position.

Zeke's Back to His Old Tricks

As much as some fantasy owners panicked to start the year, Ezekiel Elliott was productive right out of the gate. He was limited in Week 1, and because of that, he had only 53 yards and a touchdown. But in the very next week, he eclipsed 100 yards and scored another touchdown before rounding out the first three games with 125 scoreless yards. Dallas dominated their weak schedule, so Zeke left a little to be desired under the circumstances.

However, a good chunk of that blame could be placed on offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Across the first three weeks, the Cowboys ran it at just a 55.2% clip inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Since then, they have ran the ball twice as many times (28) as they have passed (14) in the red zone, resulting in a 66.7% share. Of those 28 carries, Elliott's gotten the call on 23, and Dak Prescott's the only other player to run one in close. In other words, Tony Pollard has been phased out where it matters most.

Knowing that Elliott is so heavily involved in scoring situations is great, but what has it done for his fantasy owners? Over the last four games, he is the RB3 in points per game, but he's also the RB2 in this most recent two-game stretch.

The 'Boys are on bye in Week 8, but depending on your roster and place in the standings, as well as where your league's Zeke owner stands, this could be a buy or sell spot on Elliott. Our rest-of-season projections have him ranked as our RB6, meaning if you have lucked into other solid backs, you could part with him for an elite receiver and feel OK about it. If you are on the other side of that and looking to add a top back, you can't go wrong with Elliott's role, particularly in the red zone. He is projected for 6.6 rushing scores over the remainder of the year.

Don't Sleep on Golladay

This past week turned out to be Marvin Jones week, as the Detroit Lions wideout tallied four touchdown grabs in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings. That was to the chagrin of DFS players who had hoped for Kenny Golladay to perform in a buy-low week against Xavier Rhodes, and it disappointed Babytron's owners in season-long leagues.

In spite of this week's result, there is a reason for optimism around Golladay. Yes, he's a top-25 receiver, but he's also tied for the team lead with eight red zone targets. Jones has eight of his own, although five came just this week. Golladay had his eight through the first half-dozen games.

Golladay's done a good deal with his chances, having scored three of his four touchdowns in the red zone. And that's after hitting pay-dirt five times (on a team-high 15 targets) in the red zone in 2018.

Over the next 10 games, we project Golladay for 4.6 scores en route to a WR11 ranking. If there was ever a time to buy at a reduced cost, it's here. The Lions face off against the Giants and Raiders in the next two weeks as part of a five-game stretch in which they'll oppose four defenses ranked 21st or worse in our power rankings.

The Jets' Goal Line Defense

The New York Jets are not having a promising first year under Adam Gase. Not only are they 1-5 with a quarterback that sat out with mono and admitted to seeing ghosts his last game, but their defense has been bad. Gregg Williams' unit is giving up 26.0 points per game, but 10 have come via the ground game.

On the year, New York has allowed 10 rushing touchdowns -- the most in the league. And while it is good to know that they're not giving up 30-yard outbursts, all 10 have come inside the red zone. Teams are not afraid to run it down their throat when things get tight closer to the goal line.

According to Sharp Football Stats, the Jets are second-worst in rushing success rate (64%) allowed in the red zone, while also having teams run it 57% of the time. That trails only five other teams, all of whom have a success rate at least seven percentage points better in those situations.

The Jets have been particularly bad at holding teams inside the five. Their opponents sport a 78% rushing success rate and 2.4 yards per carry (a league-worst) on nine runs inside the five. All nine have gone for touchdowns, including four to Sony Michel and a total of six in the last three weeks.

It doesn't get much better this week, when the Jets go to Jacksonville to meet Leonard Fournette and company. Fournette is still in line for more touchdown runs, and the Jags run it 54% of the time inside the 20. He should be locked into season-long lineups, but at $7,700 he's also a great option on FanDuel.

Play-Calling Trends

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.

TeamPass RatePass SuccessRun RateRun SuccessTeamPass RatePass SuccessRun RateRun Success

There was some movement here this week, but let's take a look at things when narrowed down to the true goal line area.

From the five in, the Browns, Chargers, Jets and 49ers have combined for exactly zero rushes. That's despite some top-end running backs like Nick Chubb and Le'Veon Bell, not to mention Tevin Coleman and the rest of Kyle Shanahan's run-heavy attack in San Fran.

Meanwhile, five other teams -- Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Chicago and Atlanta -- have yet to throw in such situations.

The Los Angeles Rams' nine opportunities are the most in the NFL by a margin of three. They have presented balance, though, passing the ball five times and rushing it four. They've enjoyed more success with Todd Gurley and the run game producing a 75% success rate and 3.5 yards per carry.

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.