Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 9 (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 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 York Jets to a low passing total.
Here are my takeaways:
- It’s no surprise that Rashid Shaheed leads all pass-catchers in the ‘deep ball’ category; he’s got a WR6 and WR4 performance in the last three weeks, on just two and three receptions, respectively. In Week 9, he draws the Chicago Bears, who ostensibly seem an easy target…but have actually been very stout against the deep ball. Shaheed should be in your lineup if you desperately need upside, but his floor this week is super low. He’s been outside of the top 50 at the position five times this season! On the other hand, Shaheed’s teammate Alvin Kamara has been prolific in the checkdown game, which the Bears have struggled to stop…look for him to continue his dominant season.
- Josh Downs continues his very solid run, posting four straight weeks of double-digit fantasy output. Unfortunately, he does a lot of that work over mid-range throws, which the Carolina Panthers — his Week 9 opponent — have been the best at stopping. You, like me, might be forced to start Downs because of the many byes this week, but he should be a flex at best for a team with the appropriate depth.
- The Kansas City Chiefs have excelled against stopping short passes, but have been vulnerable against mid- and deep-range passes in recent weeks. That’s great news for the Miami Dolphins, and those of us rooting for a shootout in the Week 9 marquee matchup. Obviously, Tyreek Hill is in your lineup, but I have some leagues where I have to decide between Tua Tagovailoa and a QB with more rushing upside. I’m going with Tua this week!
Math Behind the Matchups (Rushing)
We can break out yardage for rushers based on where the play took place:
And what defenses allowed:
- The Indianapolis Colts have excelled at running the ball up the middle and to the left, both areas of the field that the Carolina Panthers have been below average at stopping. As strange as it seems, you can probably keep rolling with Zack Moss, who has scored 11.8 fantasy PPG since Jonathan Taylor‘s return (until we see his snap percentage really fall off a cliff). Of course, Taylor is in your lineup.
- The Houston Texans have been among the league’s best at stopping all three types of runs, which doesn’t bode well for Rachaad White in Week 9. However, White has put up great numbers as a receiver, with 13 catches for 135 yards in the past two weeks. So you can probably roll him out as an RB2, but temper your expectations.
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 might be a ‘hot take’ but I’m trying to trade DeAndre Hopkins wherever I can. He had just four catches that turned into 128 yards and three touchdowns. They were his first scores of the season, and it was only his second time inside the top 30 at the position (and eclipsing 100 receiving yards). Was it exciting to see Will Levis throwing the ball deep for DHop? Yes. Do I expect the same sort of success going forward for a rookie quarterback? Certainly not.
On the other side of things, DK Metcalf had an absurd 14 targets that turned into just five catches for 67 yards. He’s had 23 targets in his past two games, but just 18.1 fantasy points total, in addition to missing Week 7 with an injury. He’s a real trade target for me from a manager who isn’t paying attention (he’s also past his bye!).
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 plays:
Well, it’s time to worry about Jordan Addison again with Kirk Cousins out for the season. Addison has five scores in the last four weeks, a rate that will probably be unsustainable, especially with a rookie QB and/or Joshua Dobbs. Brandon Aiyuk sits on the other end of the spectrum: he’s the WR16 despite missing a game and only scoring two touchdowns on the season (both in Week 1). That’s what happens when you have 7.4 targets per game in the electric San Francisco 49ers’ offense.
One of the signal-callers to note is Russell Wilson. He’s the QB11 on the season but is much lower than that in terms of passing yardage, racking up just over 200 yards per game. He’s not having a ton of success on the ground, either: just 25 yards per game and zero scores. I would actually try to capitalize on his big win over the Kansas City Chiefs and potentially deal him in a SuperFlex league during his bye week. I don’t see him as a top-12 option for the rest of the season.
Finally, I want to note Buffalo Bills‘ running back James Cook, who is seeing nearly 13 carries a game and averaging 4.8 yards per carry but has only found the end zone once (it’s a similar story through the air: 24 yards per game, just one touchdown). Maybe Leonard Fournette steals some work…but maybe Fournette’s signing makes it easier to trade for Cook. Ultimately, James has the talent, the volume, and the potent offense to get it done for fantasy.
Let’s look at teams that like to spread the ball around:
As well as breaking down passing probability by down:
It’s really interesting to see the Washington Commanders atop these charts. The ‘Manders just traded away their defensive stalwarts Montez Sweat and Chase Young, and are set to be in some high-scoring affairs from here on out (although maybe not against the New England Patriots this week). This, combined with their passing proclivity, is good news for Jahan Dotson (who finally had a massive stat line in Week 8) and Terry McLaurin (12.7 points per game over the last five weeks). Not to mention Sam Howell, the QB8 on the season. Terry is an interesting trade target, while Dotson and Howell might even be on your waivers.
I enjoy looking at the players who take up the ‘biggest slice of fantasy pie’ on their NFL team:
Let’s do a quick shout-out to Adam Thielen, who has been eating up all of the meager Carolina Panthers fantasy pie. Incredibly, he’s averaging more PPG than he ever did in nine seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. He’s a must-start, and probably a top-15 option, from here on out.
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!).
I think it’s quite interesting that Amon-Ra St. Brown and Sam LaPorta are so negatively correlated; what’s more, there’s a good chance that both are on your roster if you picked LaPorta up off of waiver wires to invest more in the Detroit Lions‘ high-flying offense. On the other hand, the Rams, Ravens, and 49ers’ top options have all been very correlated.
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