Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 13 (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 England Patriots to a low passing total.
Here are my takeaways:
- Another late-season stretch, another burst of relevance for Samaje Perine. The Denver Broncos‘ back has double-digit fantasy points in the last two weeks, partly driven by seven catches for 60 yards in Week 11. Fortunately for him, the Houston Texans are bottom-10 against checkdowns. I’m not saying that Perine is a smash start, but he’s a solid, high-floor flex option in Week 13.
- Calvin Ridley has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence, with WR1 and WR8 performances in the past two weeks. He’s gotten it done via deep passes, and the Cincinnati Bengals — his Week 13 opponent — are second-worst against deep throws. You can start him with confidence this week.
- Speaking of WR resurgences, Brandin Cooks has put up 287 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the last three weeks. But…two of those weeks were against the New York Giants and Washington Commanders, notoriously bad passing defenses (32nd and 21st according to the Stream Finder). The Seattle Seahawks aren’t that stout against the pass, but they have been pretty tough (top three) against the deep passes where Cooks has done his damage. I’m comfortable keeping Cooks in the flex while the Cowboys continue to rampage, but I don’t think it’s absurd to sit him this week.
Math Behinds the Matchups (Rushing)
We can break out yardage for rushers based on where the play took place:
And what defenses allowed:
It’s been really tough sledding against the Miami Dolphins‘ defense, who are near the top of the pile on rushes going in every direction. That’s bad news for the overall RB5 on the season (!!!) Brian Robinson Jr. Here’s BRob’s next five weeks: Dolphins, bye, Rams, Jets, and 49ers in the fantasy championship. He’s an excellent trade-away target for a team that is getting desperate at the position.
On the other hand, it’s been incredibly easy to run against the Arizona Cardinals. It’s been hard to decide between Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, the RB27 and RB25 on the year, respectively. This week, though…I think you can start both as an RB2 or flex. Both have scored exactly 12.3 PPG since the bye!
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 seeing a pair of Los Angeles Rams atop the overachievers…with opposite advice going forward. Tyler Higbee managed to haul in two touchdowns on just five targets en route to the weekly TE1 performance. Unfortunately, that’s his first top-eight finish on the year, and he can be avoided going forward. On the other hand, Kyren Williams returned after a long spell to turn six targets into 61 yards and two scores. He has been amazing this season (20 PPG) and appears to be right back in early-season form. You can feel confident rolling with him from here on out.
DK Metcalf tops the list of ‘underachievers’: nine targets turned into just three catches for 32 yards. DK is averaging 9.6 targets per game since he missed Week 7; with that volume and his talent, you should feel fine starting him as a WR2 for a stretch run. I should also mention Josh Downs, who saw a whopping 13 targets that turned into just five for 43. He had some injury concerns in Weeks 9-10 (playing less than 25% of snaps in each), then a Week 11 bye, then 13 targets in Week 12. He’s a high-volume, low-floor flex in Week 13.
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 want to highlight Adam Thielen, who has cooled off since 17 PPG over the first six weeks of the season. He’s still notching 7.5 targets per game, and he’s so low on this chart because he has only found the end zone four times (all before the Week 7 bye). His managers might be frustrated with 7.2 PPG over the last five weeks, but Thielen is still playing nearly every snap, and still getting the volume that made him one of the most surprising early-season breakouts. He’s an interesting trade target with a decent upcoming schedule and a potential scoring bump following the firing of his head coach (which we so often see!).
On the other hand, I want to highlight David Montgomery. It might be a surprise to see him atop this chart. Well, while he’s scored 16.5 PPG since the Week 9 bye, he hasn’t been on the field much: just 34% of snaps, and 13 opportunities to Jahmyr Gibbs‘ 17.3 per game. That’s worrying for a player who has the newly stout defense of the Denver Broncos, followed by the equally stout Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys, in the fantasy playoffs.
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:
Courtland Sutton‘s five-game TD streak was broken in Week 12, and he finished with just 7.8 points…but it could have been upwards of 12 points without DPI! In the previous five weeks, he averaged 13.4 PPG with 6.2 targets (7.3 in the last three weeks) and is the clear WR1 on this surprisingly resurgent Denver Broncos team. He’s the WR22 on the season and a decent WR2 option/great flex option on your roster.
The Correlation Game
Fantasy football is often about matchups. Maybe you’re projected to beat your opponent, but their most explosive player is Patrick Mahomes. Perhaps to try to ‘cap’ their roster’s potential, you opt for Rashee Rice in the flex instead of Jaylen Warren. After all, if Mahomes has a monster game, Rashee Rice could participate in the upside, and you could be able to ride the wave.
This all comes down to correlation: do players tend to score together, or when one scores a lot does the other tend to score a little? Here’s a guide of teams’ top scorers, excluding quarterbacks (since they are generally very positively correlated with pass-catchers!).
It’s interesting to see CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard so diametrically opposed, although that’s probably a function of CeeDee having mostly amazing games and Pollard having mostly not-so-good games. It is surprising that TJ Hockenson and Jordan Addison, two pass-catchers in an offense featuring a backup QB, are positively correlated.
I enjoy looking at players who have the highest share of their team’s fantasy output:
Maybe the most surprising players on here are Russell Wilson and Jordan Love. The Broncos and Packers haven’t been known for fantasy abundance this season…but whatever pie there is to be had, these QBs have eaten their fair share. Love is now the QB9 on the season, Russ the QB14. Neither have a very scary playoff schedule and should be considered high-end QB2 options in superflex and even potential streams if your main signal-caller can’t make it.
We should also shout out Christian McCaffrey, the only non-quarterback on this list. He’s averaging 22.6 PPG, and his worst finishes are two weeks as the RB15. Domination.
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