Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 8 (Fantasy Football)
It’s hard to believe, but we are halfway through the fantasy season. It feels like just yesterday that we were all scrambling to pick up Dameon Pierce on the waiver wire, a move that has – so far – proved prescient. In any case, here are seven things to look for in Week 8. All data is from nflfastR.
It is well-established that fantasy scoring has been down in 2022. One might posit the question: who is to blame? Which teams are most responsible for this downward trend in production? Here are NFL teams ranked by year-over-year changes in fantasy scoring:
Surprisingly, the Dallas Cowboys lead the way in the drop-off, down more than 40 PPG in 2022. They were a top-scoring offense last season, and the injury to Dak Prescott certainly didn’t help matters. Hopefully, they can get back on track moving forward. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams, unsurprisingly, fill out the podium. Overall, there are more teams with scoring declines – and larger declines – than upward growth.
Here’s the same chart, but broken out by position:
Shoutout to the Detroit Lions, who have improved at every position and have the largest (positive) change year over year. The largest team-position jumps are the Miami Dolphins thanks to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, and the New Orleans Saints thanks to rookie Chris Olave. On the other side, the Arizona Cardinals WR room has seen the biggest decline of any team-position group this year. Hopefully, this will be addressed with the return of Deandre Hopkins.
It’s also important to note that the QB chart is especially bleak. Just seven teams have improved by one PPG or more at the position. This difficult year at the position has helped to solidify top options like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Jalen Hurts as elite fantasy studs.
Out of all eligible RBs this year (30+ points), Nick Chubb has the greatest discrepancy between points as a rusher and points as a receiver with a whopping 111 more points on the ground than through the air. This is a much bigger gap than 2nd place Josh Jacobs, with 75 more points on the ground. Both players are top-tier fantasy RBs at this stage, but managers would ideally like to see more balance. On the other end of the spectrum, Leonard Fournette and Austin Ekeler both have more points through the passing game than the ground game (17 and 12 more, respectively). Ekeler especially is the runaway RB1 at this point as he’s seeing almost nine targets a game!
This checks out with the current Elo rankings, which gives us a sense of what ‘form’ each running back is currently in. Austin Ekeler is far and away the top-ranked player here:
It’s been an unfortunate slide for Jonathan Taylor. He’s still top ten at the position, but that’s not where we expected the consensus 1.01 to land. The Breece Hall ACL is even more unfortunate. He was playing himself into the top echelon of backs in the league.
By the same token, we can look at the best and worst defenses against the position:
The Tennessee Titans have surpassed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the stoutest run defense, and face the division rival Houston Texans this week. Dameon Pierce has been excellent this year, RB13 on the season, and already past his bye, but it could be tough sledding in a negative game script, and it might do to look elsewhere if you have options. On the other end, Raheem Mostert is fresh off of an RB7 performance and draws the toothless Lions’ defensive front.
This is one of my favorite charts to look at. It ranks players by what percentage of their total points scored come from their top five biggest plays.
Gabriel Davis didn’t budge on this list, since he was on bye, and Rashod Bateman climbed up to nearly join him. These two explosive wideouts post a startling result: nearly 80% of their points have come from just five plays. They exemplify boom/bust, which is fine if you can live with the volatility. Personally, I would be looking to trade them after a big performance. Most of the top pass-catching options – Tyreek Hill, Justin Jefferson, Austin Ekeler, Travis Kelce, Cooper Kupp – sit on the other end of the chart thanks to steady, built-in volume.
Another fun skew metric ranks players by the share of their team’s fantasy points:
Lamar Jackson continues to lead this list with nearly a third of the Baltimore Ravens’ points scored. It’s been touch-and-go for Lamar managers. He’s posted just one QB1 performance (and the QB11 at that) since putting up 40 points in Weeks 2-3. Still, and I said this last week, it’s not like the scoring is going elsewhere. The offense runs through Lamar, and when the points start flowing again in Baltimore, he should return to the limelight.
It’s worth shouting out Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones, the only duo on this chart, who together make up more than 50% of the New York Giants’ scoring. We know that Saquon has been elite, but Danny Dimes is sneakily the QB9 on the year. Another funny result is Christian McCaffrey, who despite playing for a different team in Week 7, still has 26.3% of the Carolina Panthers‘ points on the year.
A brutal reality of fantasy football is that player production is often at the mercy of play-calling. We’re watching that play out in Atlanta. Kyle Pitts, the highest-drafted tight end of all time, is the TE21 on the year, and head coach Arthur Smith called for just 13 pass attempts on Sunday in a three-possession loss. With this in mind, here are the top ‘foot on the brake’ teams, boasting high run rates despite being down big:
The sample size, frankly, isn’t very large for the Tennessee Titans and New York Giants. The more telltale teams here are the Chicago Bears and the aforementioned Atlanta Falcons, who simply refuse to pass the ball, even when they maybe should. You shouldn’t be rostering any pass-catching options on either of these teams. Justin Fields is worth a look in Superflex leagues; he’s the QB16 on the year and can always get it done on the ground as he did with 82 yards and a score against my New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. We can’t say the same for the other aerial options, though. Kyle Pitts can be traded away or even dropped to the waiver wire, along with Darnell Mooney, who just posted a WR50 performance despite the Bears managing to score 33 points.
On the other end of the spectrum, here are the teams that keep throwing even when they have a comfortable lead:
It’s extremely satisfying to see the Cincinnati Bengals atop this chart. They have finally embraced a modern, pass-heavy NFL offense, and Joe Burrow has posted back-to-back QB1 performances. You can start all of the Bengals options with confidence, even Tyler Boyd, who is a great flex option after a weekly WR3 performance in Week 7 (and a WR9 performance earlier this season).
I built a simple model that takes in targets’ air yards and defensive prowess and predicts how many fantasy points we would expect each player to score. Here are the pass-catchers that most surpassed those expectations:
You might be looking Marquise Goodwin‘s way after he racked up 67 yards and two scores for the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks (no, really). I would advise against this. Goodwin saw just five targets on the day and ended up scoring nearly 15 points over expected. This week was his first inside the top-50 at the position in 2022, and it’s likely a fool’s errand to chase this WR5 performance, even if DK Metcalf misses some time. Ja’Marr Chase makes another appearance on this chart, but that is more a product of him being an elite NFL wide receiver; we expect him to outperform expectations. His teammate, Tyler Boyd, has more sustainability questions, turning nine targets into 155 yards and a TD. That’s why, as mentioned above, Boyd is a good flex option, but probably not a reliable WR2 for your roster.
Let’s check on the underachievers:
It’s been a frustrating couple of weeks for Courtland Sutton managers. The Broncos wideout has been the weekly WR70 and WR69 after a solid start to the year. Still, Sutton is seeing the work. He had another nine targets in Week 7 and is averaging over eight per game on the season. With his talent and volume, he’s worth at least WR2 consideration. I also wanted to highlight Chris Olave, who technically underachieved despite a very solid WR13 performance on the week. That’s because the rookie saw a whopping 14 targets on Thursday Night Football, his highest on the season, bringing his per-game average up to about nine. He’s been the WR16 or better each week since Week 3, and he’s a must-start moving forward, no matter who is behind center for the Saints.
Math Behind the Matchups
We can split out team’s scoring against expectation over the last three weeks:
While the Baltimore Ravens’ defense hasn’t been spectacular in general, they have put the clamps on opposing wide receivers. They play the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week, and while it sounds crazy, Chris Godwin, the WR57 on the year, should probably be on your bench. On the other end of the spectrum, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been gouged by wideouts of late, and draw an undefeated Philadelphia Eagles team coming off of the bye. Star A.J. Brown is always in your lineup, but Devonta Smith should be too. He’s been a top-20 WR in three out of the last four weeks, including the WR1 spot in Week 3.
Funnily enough, the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants have been the worst against tight ends, and they play each other in Week 8. It should be a jamboree for the position. Daniel Bellinger is, unfortunately, recovering after a nasty eye injury, but Will Dissly is the TE11 on the year and a sneaky start for the Hawks.
Finally, let’s zero in with a couple of possible quarterbacks to stream, now that we have solidly entered bye territory. Here are the best (and worst) defenses against the position in 2022:
The Denver Broncos, despite all of their other misadventures, still manage to roll out a pretty stout defense, especially against the quarterback position. That’s not great news for Trevor Lawrence, the QB10 on the year (with back-to-back top-10 performances). On the other end of the spectrum are the Atlanta Falcons, Las Vegas Raiders, and Washington Commanders who face, respectively, the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Indianapolis Colts in Week 8. You’re probably not going to play P.J. Walker or Sam Ehlinger in his first start, but a returning Jameis Winston could make the magic happen against the Raiders. Heck, Andy Dalton was the QB2 in this offense against the Arizona Cardinals last week!
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