5 NFL Red Zone Trends to Monitor for Week 9

Following some changes to the receiving corps, how did the Patriots approach the red zone in Week 8? What can we expect moving forward?

Through eight weeks of action, NFL teams have produced 581 offensive touchdowns. Of those, 370 have come through the air with another 211 on the ground, a balance that equates to 63.6% toward the passing game.

In the red zone, it is closer to even as teams have accounted for 236 passing (33 in Week 8) and 186 rushing scores (only 15 this week) inside the 20-yard line. As we've continued to see, red zone passing touchdowns and overall scores are down from a year ago, but rushing touchdowns have an increased by 19 to this point. Those same scores account for 944 fantasy points from passers, 1,116 from rushers and 1,416 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.

Leonard Fournette's Opportunity

Regression is coming. Right? Right?

That's what we have all been talking about for the past three weeks or so when it comes to Leonard Fournette. Given his usage and yardage totals, he should be scoring more touchdowns, but despite all that he has only one rushing touchdown (and one receiving) to his name this year. That's despite the Gardner Minshew-led Jaguars averaging a respectable 21.6 points per game for the year and 28.0 in the last two weeks alone.

Over the last two weeks, the star back amassed 207 rushing yards and 74 receiving yards on a total of 55 opportunities (rushes plus targets). He caught all nine of his targets but none originated from inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Still, his 15 rushing attempts in the red zone rank first in the league over that span -- two ahead of the next-closest player, according to Pro Football Reference. But Fournette has only two yards (yes, two!) for absolutely zero scores.

Maybe Fournette's the new face of the #NeverJulio movement, or maybe he's still due for some regression in the touchdown department. Only time will tell, starting with these week's matchup with the Houston Texans over in London.

The Texans have allowed only three rushing scores to date, but they're now without J.J. Watt. Maybe Fournette can catch them sleeping early on Sunday morning. Our models think so, projecting him for 0.6 rushing touchdowns and 18.4 FanDuel points at his $7,700 price tag. We also have him down for a total of 5.0 rushing touchdowns and 1.8 receiving scores over the remainder of the 2019 season.

Nothing's Changed in New England

This past week, the New England Patriots made a pre-deadline splash by landing wide receiver Mohamed Sanu in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons. At the same time, they decided to place Josh Gordon on IR and are expected to release him in the coming weeks. The move vacated four red zone targets but took a sizable piece off the board in scoring position.

In Week 8, it was same ole' same ole' even with the presence of Sanu. In the passing game, Julian Edelman drew five of eight (62.5%) red zone targets en route to 3 catches for 27 yards and 2 scores. Meanwhile, Sanu ran eight routes in the red zone and failed to receive a target. And he played over 50% of the snaps, so it wasn't like he was very limited.

Edelman's turned 13 red zone targets into 10 catches and 4 touchdowns, trailed closely by James White, who has compounded 11 catches and a touchdown on 12 targets inside the 20. We know who Tom Brady's go-to guys are when there are points to be had.

The same goes for the New England run game. Despite Rex Burkhead's return to the field, it was all Sony Michel, as the second-year back garnered all five red zone rush attempts. He failed to score, but for the season he has six red zone scores and has accounted for 58% of the team's attempts there.

Continue to concentrate your lineups on the known commodities -- at least for the time being. Against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night, we have Edelman, White and Michel projected for 0.4, 0.4 and 0.6 touchdowns, respectively.

Philly's Rushing Success

There are only two running backs with more red zone rushes than Michel this year, but the Eagles' Jordan Howard has did a lot more with 10 fewer opportunities. On 19 carries, the first-year Philly back has rushed for 68 yards and all 5 of his scores in the run game.

Howard has joined forces with rookie Miles Sanders to form a two-headed monster for the Eagles. According to Sharp Football Stats, they are third in rushing success rate (63%) in the red zone this year on a 51% rushing rate as a team. However, the thunder-and-lightning backfield could be a little more thunder this week against the Chicago Bears. Sanders isn't expected to miss time, but he suffered a shoulder injury and will be monitored closely over the course of the week. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him get limited work, and if for some reason he is ruled out, Howard would get an even heavier workload.

In either situation, Howard isn't a bad tournament play this week, nor should you bench him in most circumstances. For all the strengths of this Bears defense, they have allowed 7 rushing touchdowns on 32 red zone attempts, including 5 on 15 attempts in goal-to-go situations.

At $6,300, Howard is merely the 13th-highest priced back for Week 9, making him a solid value here. Our models project him for 0.5 rushing touchdowns and 12.0 FanDuel points, but again, if Sanders is limited at all he should go beyond that output as a home favorite.

Buffalo's Run D

The Buffalo Bills' defense has been on a net advantage over the course of their first seven games, limiting teams to just 17.4 points per game and 4.8 yards per play. They are third in rushing yards against, but where they have some issues is against the run. They are 18th in yards allowed and sit 30th in rushing touchdowns against (nine) to this point in the season.

In tight, Buffalo has especially struggled. They've been hit up for 7 touchdowns on 31 rushes, while their 55% success rate is tied for seventh-worst in the NFL. Their opponents hold a 62% success rate inside the five-yard line, with four of eight attempts going for six. Over the last two weeks, the Bills have given up a combined five rushing touchdowns to the Miami Dolphins and aforementioned Eagles.

Buffalo hosts Washington on Sunday, and while there are question marks at quarterback (will Dwayne Haskins or Case Keenum start?), Adrian Peterson is in line for heavy work. Peterson took 14 carries for 76 yards last Thursday, and with more time to rest, he should be primed for a plus game, particularly if he's able to get in the end zone. Our models project him for 0.3 touchdowns and 9.8 FanDuel points at a cost of $5,700. Keep that in mind for a very low-owned GPP play.

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.

Team Pass Rate Pass Success Run Rate Run Success Team Pass Rate Pass Success Run Rate Run Success
CIN 69% 33% 31% 41% SEA 53% 40% 47% 55%
NYJ 69% 30% 31% 67% CLE 53% 26% 47% 57%
ATL 67% 51% 33% 43% HOU 53% 55% 48% 50%
LAC 64% 44% 36% 41% NE 51% 45% 49% 50%
WAS 63% 47% 37% 45% NO 50% 48% 50% 41%
GB 63% 46% 38% 60% PHI 49% 36% 51% 63%
DET 60% 47% 40% 33% PIT 48% 30% 52% 59%
NYG 58% 37% 42% 44% OAK 47% 63% 53% 43%
TB 58% 38% 42% 35% JAC 46% 39% 54% 19%
TEN 57% 42% 43% 48% BUF 46% 48% 54% 60%
CHI 56% 32% 44% 42% LAR 44% 44% 56% 57%
KC 56% 35% 44% 47% CAR 43% 41% 57% 48%
ARI 56% 36% 44% 46% SF 40% 42% 60% 40%
MIA 54% 45% 4% 47% DAL 36% 41% 64% 64%
IND 54% 47% 46% 48% BAL 35% 32% 65% 56%
DEN 53% 37% 47% 58% MIN 34% 46% 66% 51%

This is what we are seeing at large. But what about recently? What's noteworthy over the last three weeks?

For starters, the New York Jets with Sam Darnold. Since the young quarterback's return back in Week 6, the Jets have gone from fourth to second in red zone passing rate. However, their success rate is way down has been way down after matchups with Dallas, New England and Jacksonville in consecutive weeks. Darnold could be in for more opportunities, especially this week against the lowly Miami Dolphins.

On the flip side, the spread-'em-out Los Angeles Rams have decided to go with Todd Gurley and company very frequently in close. Over the last three weeks, the Rams have ran it 65% of the time for a 55% success rate -- eighth in the NFL. They're on bye this week, but a well-rested Gurley could be a force to be reckoned with in coming weeks.

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.