Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 4 (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.
The Math Behind the Matchups (Passing)
Here’s a breakdown of the most prolific pass-catchers based on where they are doing their work:
And the same for quarterbacks; apologies about the Mahomes-only checkdown box, no other QB has passed the mark (60 yards) to be included on this chart (Tua Tagovailoa sits just under 60 yards).
Finally, we can look at which defenses have been allowing significant yardage in these areas of the field. These numbers are against expectation, which is crucial because we don’t want to punish a good defense for giving up yards to great offenses. Similarly, we don’t want to put a bad defense on a pedestal just because they played well against the Bears. The idea, then, will be to look at how many yards the defense allowed minus the average yards the opposing offense usually gains.
Here are some of my takeaways:
- The Indianapolis Colts have been gouged by short and mid-length passes in recent weeks, which could mean a bounce-back for Puka Nacua after a decent — but not exceptional — Week 3 outing. On the flip side, the Colts have been stupendous against checkdowns, which doesn’t bode well for Kyren Williams, one of this season’s best performers on dump-offs.
- Say what you will about the flailing Denver Broncos, but Russell Wilson has still had plenty of success on deep throws, especially thanks to Marvin Mims. The Chicago Bears‘ defense isn’t good in general, but they are certainly bad against the deep ball (6th worst by this metric). Russ is a great option at QB2 and, frankly, not the worst streamer.
- The Cleveland Browns have been one of the stoutest pass defenses in the league this season. That’s not great news for division rival Lamar Jackson and company, who have been less than prolific through the air. You’re starting Mark Andrews, but I’m keeping Zay Flowers out of my lineup. In a single-quarterback league, there might even be better options than Lamar.
The Math Behind the Matchups (Rushing)
We can check out the same metrics for ground games:
Here are my takeaways:
- James Cook and the Buffalo Bills have found success running it up the middle…and the Miami Dolphins, their Week 4 opponent, have had no success stopping runs up the middle. Cook is averaging 12.8 PPG despite not once finding the end zone; he’s a great target for managers who aren’t paying full attention.
- The Tennessee Titans have been really tough against runs in all areas of the field. Does that mean that you sit Joe Mixon, the RB38, this week? Well…probably not, unless your team is totally stacked, or you’ve been super active on the waiver wire. But if you do have depth at the running back position — maybe you’re thinking about Zack Moss or Joe Mixon — I’m apt to lean away from Mixon.
- Just a comment on how dominant the Philadelphia Eagles‘ lines have been: they are near the top in terms of yards rushed and near the bottom in terms of yards allowed. A difficult team to contend with!
Big Play Mavens
An important part of fantasy football is consistent volume. You generally don’t want players who are dependent on a few big plays each game. Sure, it’s nice when they rattle off a 60-yard TD, but it’s not so fun when they goose the next week. Here are receivers who have scored 30+ points ranked by the percent of receiving points they received from their top 20% of plays (so, if a player has 50 plays, the percent of points from their top 10 plays).
It’s interesting to see Jordan Addison and Devonta Smith near the top since they both had massive TDs in a Thursday night game against each other. I noted after Week 2 that Smith was not getting the type of workload you would want to see, and he put up just 4.8 points in Week 3…he’s obviously in your lineup, but it’s something to watch. Jordan Addison‘s big play dependency is pretty surprising, given that he was projected as a slot receiver. I’m probably still starting him in the flex position because the Vikings’ offense has been humming — and his snap percentage has risen each week — but it’s important to realize that he’s more boom/bust than we predicted.
Ja’Marr Chase sits at the other end of the spectrum; the Bengals’ superstar hasn’t found the end zone in 2023. But he does have 32 targets this season, and his 10+ targets per game are from one of the best QBs in football. He’s a high-end trade target if your league mate is feeling scared by the Bengals, although it might be harder to make the trade happen after Chase’s WR10 performance in Week 3.
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:
Well, we knew there would be a bunch of Dolphins on the overachieving list! More intriguing to me is Jerick McKinnon, who had just three targets that turned into two touchdowns as the Chiefs rolled the Bears (with Taylor watching!). McKinnon played 29% of snaps (he’s averaging 31% this season after 47% last season) and doesn’t appear to be more than a weekly dart throw for your roster (at least for now, we have obviously seen him go on a tear before). He’s a trade-away candidate for me.
I won’t discuss Treylon Burks much, who had six targets turn into just one catch for five yards. More interesting to me is Tee Higgins, whose eight targets netted just 2-21-0. It hasn’t been pretty — he’s the WR44 — but he’s averaging 9.3 targets per game. I’m certainly looking to trade for him from a manager that is feeling anxious.
Here’s a look at teams that are most likely to run when they maybe shouldn’t:
And pass when they might not need to:
The Dallas Cowboys have a pretty small sample size in terms of ‘foot on the brake.’ What’s more interesting (and sad) to me is the Atlanta Falcons. If you haven’t heard, they want to run the ball. Over and over, forever and ever. Kyle Pitts is the TE22 and he has 14.1 points on the season. Drake London is the WR56 with 19.8 points. Meanwhile, Bijan is averaging nearly 19 opportunities per game (plenty for him), and Tyler Allgeier is averaging almost 15 (although he’s disappointed in the last two weeks). Adjust accordingly.
On the ‘foot on the gas’ side of things, the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills are perennial leaders on this chart. A player that I’m looking at is Rashee Rice, who saw his snap percentage rise to 51% and was tackled on two separate plays just short of the goal line. He saw seven targets and is my best bet to emerge as the top dog in the WR room in Kansas City. It helps that the Chiefs like to throw the ball no matter what.
Here’s a look at the players that eat the largest ‘slice of pie’ for their team:
Davante Adams saw an insane 20 targets in Week 3. The trade rumors are certainly swirling but, if it doesn’t get done and he stays in Vegas, you shouldn’t be worried about him delivering. A sadder picture is Garrett Wilson, who is averaging 11.5 points per game…and has over a quarter of his team’s points. His talent makes him a decent flex play (or maybe WR2 in a pinch?) but otherwise, I’m avoiding any Jets options (yes, even Breece for the time being).
One of my biggest fantasy pet peeves is that defensive pass interference (DPI) calls advance the ball for a real-life NFL team…but don’t accumulate any fantasy points. Here’s an estimate — using a simple model to predict how many fantasy points would have been scored — of how many DPI points were wiped out for each receiver.
A big shout-out to Amari Cooper, averaging 8.3 targets per game, currently the WR16 on the year, and looked incredible last Sunday. His outing would have been even more incredible had not DPI cut his production short! Anyways, he’s a trade target with WR1 upside for the rest of the season.
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