Three Unsolved Mysteries Heading Into Week 3 (Fantasy Football)
On today’s Fantasy Footballers episode, Andy, Mike, and Jason discussed a number of fantasy football issues facing managers heading into Week 3.
Let’s dive further into Kyle Pitts‘ usage, Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense, and what to do with Russell Wilson moving forward.
Kyle Pitts Usage
2 games: 10 targets, 4 receptions, 38 receiving yards. Woof. This was by far the top reply on Twitter when we put out the call.
What are some of the "Unsolved Mysteries" after two weeks into the NFL season?
The Bears passing game, Austin Ekeler's usage and other unexplained phenomenon.
What would you like to see broken down on tomorrow's show? pic.twitter.com/aGQgKKgSG6
— Fantasy Footballers (@TheFFBallers) September 20, 2022
The underlying metrics still are strong: 88% of snaps, Ran a route on 82% of Marcus Mariota dropbacks. His alignment (40 in-line, 38 slot, 38 wide, 2 backfield, 2 OL) is all over the place but he’s been asked to block more than he did last year. On 16 “outside WR” routes, he’s been targeted ZERO times. Almost 70% of his routes have been versus zone coverage which shouldn’t be shocking considering most of the NFL is trending in that direction for secondaries.
Much of the vitriol is pointed at head coach Arthur Smith after a quote came out saying he “isn’t playing fantasy football”. The full context of the quote from Falcons reporter Tori McElhaney has a lot more to it: “Kyle is a huge part of our offense. You just have to take it with context. Other guys made plays. It’s not fantasy football. We’re just trying to win. We will continue to look at everything and try to get better.”
Aside from scheming plays for Pitts, Marcus Mariota might be the main problem. On non-play action passes, Mariota is bottom-5 in PFF passing grade and yards per attempt. He’s routinely been a one-read guy through the 1st two weeks and his added rushing ability is something Pitts managers didn’t have to worry about last year with Matt Ryan.
There comes a point where you move past “but I drafted him early”. The guys discussed if Dallas Goedert, Pat Freiermuth, or T.J. Hockenson were better options and who they would trade straight up or package for Pitts. Andy wants to wait one more week
The Bengals offense / Offensive Line Woes
This off-season the Bengals spent a boatload to fix their OLine issues yet Joe Burrow currently ranks 31st in expected points per pass attempt and on pace for 111 sacks. Burrow’s aDOT is down in every metric (Blitzed, Not Blitzed, Pressured, Clean Pocket) along with INTs galore. If you drafted Burrow to be your starter, the streaming options off the waiver wire have to be enticing.
But beyond Burrow, the team is just straight inefficient ranking 26th in yards per play. According to Football Outsiders, they rank dead last in Offensive DVOA.
One of the keys is how ineffective they’ve been running the ball through two weeks.
- 2021: Avg a respectable 4.0 yards per carry. They slowly transitioned offense to be efficient/big plays in play action, especially in 2nd half.
- 2022: 30th in rush success rate highlighted by gaining a 1st down on just 13% of their rush attempts.
Through two weeks, they’ve also gone ALL-IN on 3WR sets.
- 2021: 78% of their snaps were 3 or more WRs, a top-5 number in the NFL
- 2022: 92%, #1 in the NFL
The values of the main Bengals (Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins) are still relatively the same. The guys agree to hit the panic button on Burrow if the Bengals don’t write the ship versus the Jets this week. Reminder: CIN lost @ NYJ last year 34-31 (the infamous Mike White/Michael Carter game)
Russell Wilson: Will he turn it around?
Through two weeks, Wilson finished as the QB14 & QB22 despite juicy matchups that likely lined him as a starter out the gate for fantasy managers. The Broncos shockingly lost to Seattle in Week 1 with some major miscues near the goal-line and clock management. They looked rough in Week 2 versus Houston pulling out a close win and losing Jerry Jeudy to injury. Russ has been underwhelming on play-action passes with just a 56% adjusted completion rate. Only Matt Ryan is worse.
But the most glaring issues for this team are in the red zone. They are about as strange a phenomenon as you could find through two weeks. You know all about the RBs fumbling twice on the goal-line in Week 1 versus SEA.
Through two weeks, every QB with 6+ pass attempts inside the red zone has at least ONE passing TD… except for Russell Wilson. He has 18 RZ pass attempts (tied for 2nd MOST in NFL) but ZERO passing TDs in the red zone. He’s scored almost 22 fantasy points BELOW expectation in the red zone.
Nathaniel Hackett on how to fix the red zone issues: “First and foremost, we have to make sure we have the best plays called”
I went back and watched ALL 18 RZ passing attempts through 1st two weeks
- 3-DPIs set up goal-to-go situations for them.
- 2 inexplicable Delay of Games
- Major miscommunication issues (blocking, timing, etc.)
- Lots of conservative check-downs, 3rd Down Throw Away?!?!
- 4 “would-be TDs” (i.e. receiver caught but feet not down in EZ)
He’s likely hitting lots of waiver wires this week because of the matchup (vs SF on SNF) this week and the disappointment. The #1 question in our Start/Sit tool this week: Russell Wilson vs SF or Tua Tagovailoa vs BUF?