Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 11 (Fantasy Football)
In this series, I walk through seven trends that I’m seeing evolve as the season progresses. All data, unless otherwise specified, comes from nflfastR.
Math Behinds the Matchups (Passing)
We can break down passing yardage by distance: checkdown, short, mid, and deep passes based on air yardage. Here are the leaders over the last three weeks for pass-catchers:
From here, we can analyze which defenses perform best against these different types of passes. This performance is vs. expectation: that is, it accounts for the strength of the opposing offense. We don’t want to punish a defense that gives up a large amount of yardage to the Kansas City Chiefs; we also don’t want to credit a defense that holds the New York Giants to a low passing total.
Here are my takeaways:
- You might be tempted by the Washington Commander’s inability to stop checkdowns and mid-yardage passes…but the abysmal New York Giants offense counteracts any hopes of a matchup play. Tommy Devito has maxed out at 13.5 points (QB18), none of the WRs have stood out in the offense and the team is 32nd in points per game. Even Saquon Barkley isn’t a must-start any longer: he’s an RB2 at best, and I’ve seen teams where he is better left on the bench. So I guess my note here is: don’t target Giants just because the Commanders haven’t been able to stop the pass.
- On the other hand, Breece Hall has been racking up the checkdown yardage despite disappointing performances in back-to-back weeks (eight and nine points in Weeks 9 and 10, which is a funny pattern). He gets the Buffalo Bills, who have been the sixth-worst team against checkdowns (and second-worst against short passes) in recent weeks. You can confidently stick with Breece this week.
- The Los Angeles Rams have been super stout against mid- and deep-distance passes, and above average on short passes and checkdowns. That’s not good news for the Seattle Seahawks, who travel to L.A. for the divisional matchup this weekend. Geno Smith bounced back last weekend with an overall QB5 performance, but it was just his second top-10 outing of the year (QB8 all the way back in Week 2). I’m avoiding him outside of SuperFlex formats, and am bumping down my expectations for Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf (although with their upside should probably still be started).
Math Behinds the Matchups (Rushing)
We can break out yardage for rushers based on where the play took place:
And what defenses allowed:
- The marquee matchup of the week — Philadelphia Eagles at the Kansas City Chiefs in a Super Bowl rematch on Monday night — has an interesting rushing storyline. The Chiefs have been exceptional at runs up the middle, but quite poor at left- and right-facing runs. Meanwhile, the Eagles are bad at running up the middle…but excel on the edges! D’Andre Swift has slowed down a bit (10.3 PPG over the last three weeks) but I think you can be confident rolling with him even against a stout Chiefs defense. Not that that’s a ‘hot take’: Swift is the RB10 on the season, after all!
- For all of the ferocity on the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ defensive line, they have been middling against the run. Kareem Hunt and Jerome Ford have been splitting work since the Week 5 bye (with Ford getting most of the volume) but both have made it work: 12.4 PPG in the last five weeks for Hunt, 10.5 for Ford. I wouldn’t call them high-upside RB1s, but I would feel comfortable starting them as RB2s, especially Ford, who has a pretty steady floor.
In this section, I use a simple regression model that uses air yards, targets, and defensive ability to predict how many fantasy points a player should score, and compare that to how many they actually score. An overachieving player might be one who catches a few TDs on only a couple of targets; an underachieving one sees a lot of targets (against a bad defense) and doesn’t do much with them. Here are the standouts:
It’s no surprise to see Keenan Allen atop this list: even with 14 targets, his insane stat line (175 yards and two touchdowns) is considered ‘overachieving’. But we expect a player of his caliber, with a quarterback like Justin Herbert, to overachieve. More likely to regress is Brian Robinson, who turned six targets into 119 yards and a score. It was his first time gaining more than 42 yards in the air, and only his second receiving touchdown of the season; that is, it felt very much like an outlier. To be honest, I was shocked to discover that BRob is the RB4 on the season, although a big factor is that he’s not past his bye. Frankly, I would be looking to trade him on the back of this receiving outburst: he has Dallas in Week 12, a late bye in the all-important final regular season in Week 14, and the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers in Weeks 16-17.
Now for the ‘underachievers’:
Another week, another DeAndre Hopkins appearance on this list: his eight targets became just three catches for 27 yards. This was a manifestation of the worries for DHop: lots of volume, but low-quality targets in a bad offense. I’m not ready to give up on him yet (he was the WR2 on just four catches in Week 8, thanks to three touchdowns) but I think it’s reasonable to sit him until further notice. A player I would not sit is Davante Adams, who saw 13 targets become just six catches for 86 yards. With that kind of workload — and his level of talent — Adams should be in your lineup every week. It hasn’t been pretty, but he is still the WR14 on the season!
Big Play Mavens
Volume is an important aspect of fantasy: we generally want players who are seeing a lot of work vs. players who make a couple of big plays out of their few opportunities. Here are players ranked by how many points they’ve scored from their top 20% of receiving and rushing plays:
I’m going to continue highlighting Brandon Aiyuk, who has the lowest share of points scored from big plays. That’s thanks to his touchdown rate this season: just three in eight games, including a score in Week 10. Despite that, he’s scoring 13.1, seeing nearly seven targets, and turning them into nearly 85 yards each game. Deebo is back, but I don’t see the volume going away for Aiyuk anytime soon.
Meanwhile, it’s quite sad to see Bijan Robinson so low on the rushers list: he’s the RB9 on the season despite only finding the end zone four times (twice as a runner and twice as a receiver) and practically missing the Week 7 game. The Atlanta Falcons enter the bye this week, and while it’s too much to expect Arthur Smith to change his mind, there’s certainly a chance Bijan’s touchdown luck improves. If anything, he’s seeing nearly 17 opportunities a game with 82 yards of offense and is always a threat to break a big play. He’s a trade target for me, especially with a wonderful fantasy playoff schedule: Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, and Chicago Bears.
One of my biggest pet peeves in fantasy football is that receivers don’t get credit for drawing defensive pass interference penalties. The ball still moves down the field, after all! Using a similar regression model to the ‘under/over’ achievers section, here’s how many ‘expected’ points were obscured by DPI calls:
Andy mentioned this on the pod this week, but Quentin Johnston drew multiple DPI calls and probably missed out on 5+ points. He already had his best outing amidst the Chargers-Lions shootout, thanks to a touchdown grab that netted him 11.4 points (first time hitting double digits this season).
Now, listen. I don’t really think QJ is someone that you can rely on for the rest of the season; his highest finish before this week was the WR53. But his snap percentage has increased significantly: 79% over the past three weeks vs. 36% up to that point. Is he worth starting in the flex? Probably not just yet. Is he worth a speculative waiver wire add? That I can get on board with.
Here’s a look at the passing rates for each team by down:
Shoutout to the Washington Commanders, who have been surprisingly fun this year. Sam Howell is the QB3 on the season (although he’s not past his bye) with QB1, QB10, and QB4 performances in the last three weeks. That’s partially thanks to super high pass rates on first and second down, and a solid pass rate even on third. It’s good news for Terry McLaurin who, despite the ups and downs, is still the WR20 on the season. You can keep starting both of them with confidence, although I would avoid Jahan Dotson. Other than Weeks 8-9, Dotson has one game with 10+ points and inside the top 30 at the position.
But what I wanted to say is this: the Commanders have a brutal fantasy playoff matchup, which I noted above with Brian Robinson Jr. If you are a contending team, there’s nothing wrong with checking if your league mates would be interested in trading for Howell for the final stretch of the year.
We’ll close with a fun stat: if you take the ratio of rushing points scored to passing points scored at the QB position, 2023 is the highest of the past 24 years (actually tied with 2022). Both totals are down slightly, but the ratio is the same: 0.23 rushing points scored for every passing point scored. The two leaders in terms of rushing points are Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts, with Josh Allen coming in fourth. But a surprise third place goes to Joshua Dobbs, thanks to 368 rushing yards and five scores! He’s the QB7 on the season and has more upside than you think: his past three weeks have been the QB7, QB5, and QB3.
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