5 NFL Red Zone Trends to Monitor for Week 10
Through eight weeks of action, NFL teams have produced 651 offensive touchdowns. Of those, 417 have come through the air with the other 234 on the ground, which equates to a 64.1% share for the pass.
In the red zone, it is closer to even, as teams have accounted for 270 passing (34 in Week 8) and 206 rushing scores (20 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 16 to this point. Those same scores account for 1,080 fantasy points from passers, 1,236 from rushers, and 1,620 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.
Saquon Is Coming
In Week 9, the New York Giants scored just 18 points at home against the Dallas Cowboys. Their only touchdown came on a one-yard pass from Daniel Jones to Cody Latimer. For the fourth time this season and second time in two weeks, Saquon Barkley was held without a rushing score. And for the third time, he failed to get in the end zone at all.
Nonetheless, things are still promising for the Giants' star running back. Not only is he another week removed from his injury, but over the last two weeks, he's received 11 red zone carries and 4 targets inside the 20. That accounts for 91.7% of the team's red zone rushes and 22.2% of the red zone targets.
For all that usage, he has only one receiving score to show for it, but sooner or later, he'll breakthrough in a big way. In his debut season last year, Barkley turned 13 targets and 47 carries into 10 total touchdowns. That's a touchdown once every six red zone touches.
Saquon is due, and just in time for a plus matchup against the New York Jets. The Jets' defense has allowed the fourth-most rushing touchdowns (10) on the year, which have all come on 46 red zone rushes. Our models project Barkley for a total of 0.95 touchdowns and 21.2 FanDuel points at his $8,600 price tag, making him a top-two play and value at the position.
The Post-Whisenhunt Chargers
Following the Chargers' narrow Week 9 win over the Chicago Bears, the team decided to cut ties with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt due to the offense's lackluster performance. Over the four weeks prior, they averaged just 16.8 points per game, with 36 of their 67 (53.7%) points on the offensive end.
Through the first eight weeks, the Bolts ranked 17th in red zone touchdowns with nine passing and four rushing. They passed on 64% of those plays for a 44% success rate compared to 41% on the ground.
However, things changed under new coordinator Shane Steichen, as the Chargers scored 26 points against a tough Green Bay Packers defense. They opted to run the ball on 8 of 14 red zone plays (57.1%) with four carries going to Melvin Gordon and three to Austin Ekeler. Gordon converted two for touchdowns and another for a first down, resulting in a 56% success rate -- 9% above the league average for the week.
The sample size is small, but it's definitely worth noting for such a mid-season change. More success and efficiency already bodes well for Gordon and -- to a lesser extent -- Ekeler, and if this red zone tendency sticks, Gordon could be a weekly RB1 with Ekeler as a flex or DFS option. L.A. is not on this week's main slate, but a Thursday matchup with the Oakland Raiders makes Gordon a must-play and should help us get a better idea of what is going on for future weeks.
Brady's Touchdown Shortage
In year 20 of his Hall of Fame career, Tom Brady has watched his touchdown total fall. He has just 14 through 9 games, putting him on pace for 24.9 over the course of a 16-game season. That's more than four fewer than a year ago and seven short of the 32 he had in 2017.
Brady's had his fair share of lower-touchdown seasons, but his 3.9% touchdown rate is 1.6% under his career average and 1.2% below that of 2018. In the red zone alone, that figure is down to 12.1% on 58 throws, the most attempts of any quarterback inside the 20. On average, all other quarterbacks have thrown for a touchdown on 23.4% of their red zone attempts.
The GOAT is in for regression at some point, especially with New England throwing it 53% of the time there, according to Sharp Football Stats. Upcoming matchups with bottom-half pass defenses like the Eagles, Cowboys, Bengals, and Dolphins, present a great finishing stretch to the year. If you need a quarterback, send out a feeler in your league while Brady is on bye. In DFS, we might also get a buy-low opportunity starting in Week 11.
The Bengals Gashed on the Ground
The Bengals are having an awful year. At 0-8, they are headed toward a top-two or three pick in the upcoming draft, especially with a switch to youth at quarterback -- in Ryan Finley -- and injuries all around the team. But amidst all the offensive shortcoming, their defense is among the worst in the NFL, particularly against the run.
Going into Week 10, they sit 32nd, 32nd, and 29th in opponent rushing yards, yards per attempt, and touchdowns. Teams have absolutely gashed them on the ground. They've given up 200-plus rushing yards four times, while teams have converted 8 of 48 carries for touchdowns in the red zone. Their 53% rushing success rate against is tied for fourth-worst in the NFL.
When teams are up by any amount, that jumps to 57%, with teams running 67% in the red zone. This week, the visiting Baltimore Ravens are 9.5-point favorites, so look for Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram to eat up Cincy's defense. We project them for 0.51 and 0.65 rushing scores, respectively, on Sunday afternoon.
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|
The Seattle Seahawks are known for wanting to #establishtherun. That's what makes Chris Carson a viable top-end play every week, but he hasn't garnered as much red zone usage as you would expect. Already above a 50% pass rate in the red zone, Seattle increased that from 53% to 56% on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Russell Wilson threw the ball on 10 of 13 plays for four touchdowns. In fact, he threw it five times for two touchdowns inside the 10. That is great for Wilson's upside, and it should raise the floor and ceilings of Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, and -- maybe down the line -- Josh Gordon.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns are doing the opposite of what they should be doing. They are passing it 53% of the time in the red zone, but their 28% pass success rate is 13% below the league average and dead last in all the NFL. They are spot on league average with a 49% success rate in the run game, behind Nick Chubb's 5 rushing touchdowns on 24 carries. Hopefully, Freddie Kitchens acts on this data before their season is over.
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.