Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 6 (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. Note: I made these charts before the Monday night game, so be wary about any takeaways regarding the Raiders (the Packers are on bye this week).
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:
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 Denver Broncos. 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 my takeaways:
- The Las Vegas Raiders have been surprisingly stout against the pass, ranking in the top three against checkdowns, short passes, and deep throws. They face the reeling New England Patriots this week; it’s probably time to relegate all of the Pats to your bench if you haven’t already (although Rhamondre Stevenson is still in flex consideration).
- The Miami Dolphins are by far the worst team against short-range passes in this span, which is good news for Adam Thielen, their Week 6 opponent. Thielen is the WR10 (!!!) on the season, averaging 19.2 PPG since Week 2; it’s strange to say, but he is a locked-in WR1 this week.
- Puka Nacua has been feasting on mid-distance throws (10-20 yards). While the Arizona Cardinals are tough against these types of throws, they have been gouged by short distance (2-10 yards) in the last few weeks. I’m confident that the Los Angeles Rams will adjust, and Puka is very much worth keeping in lineups.
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have cracked down on deep shots, which isn’t good for newly reinstated Jameson Williams. I’m keeping Williams on my bench and waiting for better matchups ahead.
The Math Behind the Matchups (Rushing)
Here are the same stats for rushing:
Here are my takeaways:
- The Denver Broncos have been bad — like, really bad — against the run this season. You can pretty much start anyone against the hapless horses, and you can certainly start Isiah Pacheco, the RB13 on the season.
Running backs vs. the Denver Broncos:
Josh Jacobs: 8.1 points
Brian Robinson: 27.9
Raheem Mostert: 41.7
De'Von Achane: 49.3
Khalil Herbert: 20.2
Breece Hall: 26.9
— Matt DiSorbo (@datavizuals) October 9, 2023
- The De’Von Achane injury news is a massive bummer. I am here to tell you that you can start Jeff Wilson Jr. fresh off of IR in your flex or, honestly, RB2: he draws the Carolina Panthers, who have struggled against left- and middle-runs, exactly where the Miami Dolphins thrive. Raheem Mostert, of course, is locked in your lineup.
- On the other hand, the Cleveland Browns have been really good against rushing attacks. Does that matter for Christian McCaffrey? No, of course not, he’s in your lineup. Might you need to target higher-upside players around Christian McCaffrey, in case he doesn’t have a world-beating day? That certainly sounds reasonable.
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).
Jordan Addison has sat atop this chart every week, but the narrative is now completely different: he saw nine targets on Sunday with Justin Jefferson going down to injury. Now we have news that Jefferson might be out for an extended period, making Jordan Addison a weekly must-start. So don’t worry about his big-play proclivity in the interim.
A more concerning name is Sam LaPorta, the TE1 on the season (yes, you read that right). LaPorta scored 15.7 points on just three catches this week and is averaging only 6.2 targets per game on the season (TJ Hockenson is at 7.8, Travis Kelce at 9.3). Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying: LaPorta is an every-week start at the position if he’s on your roster. I would just personally be trying to trade him high; I don’t expect him to be the season-long TE1 with this workload. But if you can trade LaPorta plus another player for Kelce at the position, that’s a no-brainer to me.
Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins sit on the other end of the spectrum. Thomas is seeing 7.8 targets per game; DHop is at 8.4 targets. But neither of them has reached the end zone, which explains their respective rankings as the WR41 and WR34. If a manager isn’t paying attention, they are excellent trade targets for volume-based plays in your flex.
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:
And the ‘underachievers’:
George Kittle is the perfect definition of an overachiever. He had three catches…which turned into three touchdowns. Overall, he’s been super disappointing on the year, with three performances of 4.5 points or less; he’s notching just 4.6 targets per game. I would be trying to capitalize on the big performance and get George Kittle off of my roster; there are just too many mouths to feed in San Francisco, and CMC proves the hungriest mouth of all.
It’s no surprise to see a Baltimore Raven leading the ‘underachievers’ after the drop-fest that went down on Sunday. Zay Flowers had a whopping 11 targets that turned into just five catches and 73 yards. It’s a huge bummer for those who stuck with Zay in a plus matchup…but it’s good news moving forward for the rookie. He’s a very reasonable volume-based play in the flex.
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.
I want to highlight Christian Kirk here, who has battled to stay atop the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ WR room. He scored a very respectable 11.4 points last week, but it could have been 15+ if not for defensive pass interference. Kirk is putting up 11 PPG this season (on an average of 8.6 targets) and should be started until we start to see otherwise.
I like to categorize teams that insist on passing the ball when they are in the lead as ‘Foot on the Gas’ teams. Here are the leaders so far:
And the opposite, teams that prefer to run the ball even when down:
The Cincinnati Bengals are back, baby! They finally put on an offensive show against the Arizona Cardinals and threw the ball all over the yard in doing so (46 pass attempts). Joe Burrow is back in starting lineups for me, and Ja’Marr Chase might be the overall WR2 with Justin Jefferson out (the overall WR1 spot goes to Tyreek Hill).
On the other hand, the Indianapolis Colts have shown a proclivity to ‘establish the run’ even in losing game scripts. With Anthony Richardson sidelined, they might lean into the run game even more. Personally, I’m starting both Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss, at least until one of them sees a massive drop in snap percentage.
Playing All 60 Minutes
One interesting stat to consider is fantasy output accrued in ‘garbage time’, or periods in the game where the outcome of the game is almost certainly decided. Here are the leaders over the last three weeks:
Look, I manage the Justin Fields / DJ Moore stack in my dynasty league, so I am very invested in them performing well. And they certainly have, especially over the last two weeks. But…let’s not forget those performances were against a bad defense (the Washington Commanders) and a putrid one (the Denver Broncos). Do I think you can play Fields (as a QB1) and Moore (as a WR2) for the rest of the season? Yes. Do I think you can capitalize on their performance and get excellent value in a trade? Also yes.
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