Fantasy Football: Week 13 Personnel Tendencies
In fantasy football, we look at a ton of factors when retrospectively dissecting one week and projecting the next. We analyze a player's opportunity in the form of attempts and targets, their matchup against the opposing defense, their game script by betting odds, and a whole lot more. One thing we don't do a lot of, though, is look at a player's opportunity or matchup through the lens of personnel groupings.
By personnel grouping, I mean which type of offensive package his team is deploying on a play-by-play basis. Are they rolling out big sets with frequency, or are they more likely to spread it out with three to four wideouts?
For those who might be a bit unfamiliar, personnel groupings are commonly referred to in numbers like 21. The first of the two figures, the "2", refers to the number of running backs (including fullbacks) on the field, whereas the second, "the 1", indicates the number of tight ends in the formation. So, 21 personnel is very traditional in that you get a fullback, running back, tight end, and two wideouts. Today, that traditional set isn't as popular as it once was, with a trend toward 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, and three receivers) for purposes of efficiency in the passing game.
You can find this personnel grouping information in a neat, sortable format over at Sharp Football Stats. You can see how frequently a team uses (or opposing team faces) each grouping and what kind of success they have found in doing so. You can even narrow it down to run and pass game efficiency.
While shifting our focus forward, we take a look at last week's personnel usage to find a few valuable pieces of data for season-long fantasy owners and DFS players alike.
Let's see what we can find.
The Bears Excel with 10
The Chicago Bears have been a rather stagnant offense all year. They rank 27th in points per game (17.7), and behind the inconsistent play of Mitchell Trubisky they are 26th in passing efficiency and 31st as an offense overall, according to our power rankings.
However, this past week the Bears had a breakout game of sorts, putting up 24 points in their Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Detroit Lions. The Lions are admittedly a bottom-four defense by our metrics, but what Chicago did in what was primarily a negative game script is (let's go with) promising.
After running 10 personnel -- or four wide -- on only 5% of their offensive plays through the first 12 weeks, Chicago utilized that set 42% of the time versus Detroit, a figure that was short of only the Arizona Cardinals. On 26 plays, they dropped back 19 times and completed 15 of 18 passes for a 132.2 passer rating and a 68% success rate. That latter mark is 28 percentage points above the league average for the week, and that's with Trubisky averaging nearly a whole yard more per attempt (8.7) than the average.
That played into the hands of Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller, and to a lesser extent Javon Wims. Wims played 58 snaps, totaling 56 yards on six targets. Meanwhile, Robinson and Miller saw 12 and 13 targets, respectively, and converted them to the tune of 226 combined yards, with Miller leading the team with 140 yards and Robinson benefiting from one of the team's three passing scores.
Chicago trailed for all but one of those passing plays, so maybe we can expect this out of Matt Nagy and company moving forward. If so, we could be seeing a lot of the same personnel packages on Thursday when the Bears host the Dallas Cowboys, who are favored by 3.0 points, per oddsFire. Lock in Miller and Robinson and hope for some boom games just in time for the first round of fantasy playoffs.
The Ravens in 22
Totally opposite the air-it-out, roll-with-four-wide approach, the Baltimore Ravens were much more conservative with their packages even with Lamar Jackson doing dynamic Lamar Jackson things. In their narrow win over the visiting San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore deployed two backs and two tight ends on a league-high 32% of offensive plays.
Over those 20 plays, Baltimore posted a 14:6 run-to-pass ratio for a 60% success rate overall. For that package, they were above average by 14 percentage points, but they were especially deadly on the ground. Their 64% rushing success rate ranks above every other team's total rushing success rate (the Ravens were at 61% overall for the day), and their 55 rushing yards in 22 made up 30.9% of their yards on the ground and included one score by Jackson, who scampered for 101 yards on 16 attempts. Mark Ingram contributed 59 yards on 15 carries.
As it has been all year, this is for pretty much a two-headed monster on the ground. Whether we're talking DFS or season-long, it doesn't matter; you're only considering Jackson and Ingram 99% of the time. What we should note though is that 22 opens up the opportunities for Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst to get more playing time as pass-catching tight ends alongside the elite run-blocking Nick Boyle.
This week against the Buffalo Bills, Jackson is our QB1, projected for 22.4 FanDuel points at his position-high $9,000 salary. Ingram is solid at $7,400 against a Bills team allowing 21.0 FanDuel points per game to running backs on the season.
The Patriots Run with 11
For only the second time this season, the New England Patriots found themselves on the losing end of a game, dropping Sunday's matchup 28-22 to the Houston Texans. They managed 22 points, but a lot of talk has surrounded the state of their offense. One thing is certain, though -- they don't have trouble running out of 11 personnel.
Their 51% rushing success rate in 11 through 12 weeks sat three percentage points above the average, and this past week they went ahead and had a successful run on 50% of plays. They averaged 6.4 yards per carry over 16 attempts between the likes of James White (14 carries) Sony Michel (10) and Rex Burkhead (3), with White proving to be the most effective one on the ground. Oh -- and he did his usual thing in the pass game, catching 8 of 11 targets for 98 yards and 2 scores.
The Pats trailed for 63 of their 79 offensive plays, so it made sense to have White out there because of his versatility. The rushing success was a sort of icing on the cake in the losing effort.
This does muddle the waters between White and Michel as the New England back to play down the stretch run. If there was any time to bet on White to have a repeat performance, it's in Week 14, as the Patriots are favored by only 3.0 points against the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs. KC is tied for the most targets surrendered to running backs (100) en route to giving up 27.4 FanDuel points per game to the position -- second-most of all defenses. White costs just $6,000 for Sunday's AFC showdown in New England.