Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 7 (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)
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 QBs and 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 Miami Dolphins; we also don’t want to credit a defense that holds the New England Patriots to a low passing total.
Here are my takeaways:
- The Las Vegas Raiders have been extremely weak against checkdowns, but extremely stout against mid-distance and deep passes. This is bad news for D.J. Moore, who has recently put up excellent deep-throw yardage but will likely be without Justin Fields this week. I’m sitting DJM if I can, starting him in the flex if I must.
- The Washington Commanders have been gouged against short-distance passes of late…which is exactly where Darren Waller excels. It hasn’t been an astounding season for the New York Giant’s tight end, but he’s got Daniel Jones (likely) back and a very soft matchup. I would start him with confidence.
- Jalen Hurts and AJ Brown have had a prolific deep-ball connection…but the Miami Dolphins have actually been quite strong against such passes. You’re not sitting Hurts or Brown, but maybe this can inform the rest of your lineup: you might not get week-winning performances from this Eagles stack, so go for a high ceiling with some of your other choices.
- Just a funny note: Tyreek Hill is the leader in terms of deep pass yardage and checkdown yardage. He’s having an absurd season.
Finally, we can look at fantasy scoring by expectation, broken out across position.
Here are my takeaways:
- The Los Angeles Rams have had a challenging time against opposing tight ends…like, very challenging, allowing more than 10 points over expectation. The Pittsburgh Steelers — and the ‘Muth’ face off against the Rams this week; he’s worth a start if you don’t have one of the top tight ends.
- On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have shut down opposing quarterbacks and tight ends. Kyle Pitts had a strong Week 6, but he can probably return to your bench. And Desmond Ridder can be avoided in all but the most desperate SuperFlex situations.
- It’s not a surprise by now, but the Denver Broncos have not been the most prodigious defense. That’s especially true against quarterbacks and running backs; you should feel confident with Jordan Love as a QB2 or a bye-week induced streamer this week. We’ll talk about AJ Dillon in the next section.
The Math Behind the Matchups (Rushing)
We can break out yardage for rushers based on where the play took place:
And, again, compare this to what defenses actually allow against expectation:
- The Broncos are in the top four in rushing yards allowed across all facets here; that’s great news for the Green Bay Packers’ rushing attack. AJ Dillon is a great option at RB2.
- The Cleveland Browns scored a surprise win against the San Francisco 49ers this week, and most would agree their success is driven by the defense. That rushing defense has been pretty stout, which doesn’t bode well for the mess that is the Indy backfield. You probably have to start Jonathan Taylor, and it’s hard to turn away from the hot hand that is Zack Moss, but I certainly would be looking for better options.
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:
Marquise Brown leads the ‘underachievers’ because 11 targets turned into just four catches for 34 yards. The Arizona Cardinals are not a good team (despite some surprising scrappiness), but Hollywood has seen 31 targets in the last three weeks and sits as the WR16 on the season. He’s a dependable, volume-driven fantasy option.
Cooper Kupp and Tyreek Hill lead the ‘overachievers’, but that’s to be expected: these are both excellent players who do consistently overachieve. I want to highlight Curtis Samuel, who has had a nice run of 14.1 fantasy PPG over the last three weeks. This past week it was 12.2 points, but only on four targets, which turned into a 4-42-1 stat line. I just have a hard time thinking that double-digit fantasy output will continue, especially in the less-than-reliable Washington Commanders offense. Teammates Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson are out-snapping Samuel, and I expect some regression soon.
One of my biggest pet peeves in fantasy football is that pass-catchers don’t get credit for drawing defense pass interference (DPI) penalties. The yardage is the same, after all! I used a similar model to the last section to estimate how much each player missed out on because of DPI last week:
It was a disappointing week for DeAndre Hopkins after his WR8, 18-point performance in Week 5: five targets turned into one catch for just 20 yards. But DPI certainly made his day less productive; the 2.5 points he scored may have been closer to 7+. DHop is on bye this week, which honestly could mean he’s hitting waivers: he’s the WR43 on the season. If you have the roster space, I think he’s worth the add: he’s still drawing 7.8 targets per game and has yet to score a touchdown as a Titan. I could see him being a productive flex play as the season progresses.
I enjoy looking at which players are responsible for the highest percentage of their team’s output:
It’s pretty impressive to see Ja’Marr Chase atop this list; he’s the only WR among the top seven. The Bengals haven’t had the fastest of starts this season, but there is certainly evidence that they are starting to turn things around. Chase is on bye this week, which makes him an interesting trade target for a team that might need a win now. He’s quite obviously a player I’d love to roster heading into the back half of the season.
We should also highlight Adam Thielen, who is incredibly ninth on this list. Puka Nacua and De’Von Achane will get most of the credit for the waiver wire wonders of this season, but I think Thielen should be up there as well: his dominance was completely unexpected given his age, new offense, and rookie QB. He’s a must-start WR1 until proven otherwise (crazy, I know!).
Big Play Mavens
Volume is an important aspect for 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 plays:
I said this last week, but we can ignore Jordan Addison’s primacy on this chart: his volume is more assured with Justin Jefferson on the mend. DeVonta Smith and Sam LaPorta are more interesting to me. Smith has had just one double-digit performance since Week 2, and it was 11.3 points against the Washington Commanders; he’s been the WR99 and WR45 in back-to-back weeks. Now, he is seeing his fair share of targets — 11 this past week — but the reality is that he’s been much more boom/bust than we’ve come to expect. He’s the WR32 on the season, and I don’t think it’s that crazy to sit him if you have solid WR options. I view him as a low-end WR2 or even flex play at this point. Meanwhile, Sam LaPorta lost his brief hold on the overall TE1 spot with a 5.6-point performance in Week 6 (although he also saw 11 targets). We talked about this last week: I do think he’s an every-week start at the position, but I don’t think he’s an elite top-three option and would be willing to trade him away for that type of value.
On the other end of the spectrum sits Brandon Aiyuk who has not found the end zone since Week 1 (when he scored twice). But over the past three weeks, he’s averaged 7.7 targets, 4.7 catches, and 94 yards, making him the most involved piece of the 49ers’ offense outside of Christian McCaffrey. I feel great starting Aiyuk as a strong WR2 (he’s the WR15 on the season despite missing Week 3).
We can break down pass proclivity by down across the 32 teams:
It’s interesting to see the San Francisco 49ers so low…but maybe not so surprising. If you’ve rostered one of the skill players other than Christian McCaffrey, there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself disappointed more often than you expected. The Niners just aren’t throwing the ball much, and that means less pie for George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk. I talked about Aiyuk a moment ago, but I wouldn’t mind trading away Kittle and Deb after their next big performance.
The Cincinnati Bengals sit on the other end of the spectrum: they completed their evolution from a run-first to a pass-happy team a few seasons ago, and have stayed strong to that trend. As mentioned, Ja’Marr Chase should be a trade target for your team (obviously the cost will be high).
Finally, let’s look at teams that like to spread the ball around:
No surprise to see the Kansas City Chiefs leading the pack here. In the absence of Tyreek Hill — and some time missed from Travis Kelce — Patrick Mahomes has had to make it work with a wider variety of personnel. It’s really hard to pick one player to rise to prominence, but if I had to, Rashee Rice would be my bet (especially in keeper and dynasty leagues). He’s put up 10.3 PPG in the last two weeks, including making some big plays en route to 72 total receiving yards against Denver on Thursday Night Football. The path is there!
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