Game Flowbotics A-to-Z – Week 11
In case you missed it, I redesigned my Game Flowbotics spreadsheet for this week and wrote up a new primer for how to use it in my Week 11 Rankings post. Check out the new look:
Let’s celebrate the improvements with a gif:
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not the type of person to go against the will of an eternally looping Nic Cage, so I put the following observations from Game Flowbotics into the right order, according to alphabetical order. You know? Let’s dive in.
A is for Alternative Angle.
I’m watching NBC’s broadcast of Thursday night football as I type, and like many football junkies, I’m enjoying their extra use of skycam in the broadcast. From this angle, I find it challenging to determine how many yards are gained on plays around the line of scrimmage, where lineman obscure the hash marks. With that said, I love how this over-the-shoulder look helps us better see the paths to success for rushers and crossing receivers. The traditional broadcast angle doesn’t show running lanes or gaps in defensive zones nearly as well as skycam does. Altogether, it’s aided my understanding of lateral space and movement in a football game, and I hope they continue to use it more liberally.
B is for Ben Watson.
He’s my favorite cheap tight end play of the week because his matchup with Green Bay appears so poor, which should keep his ownership low. The Packers have allowed the fewest fantasy points to tight ends this season, but largely because they’ve only faced two quality players at the position, Kyle Rudolph and Jason Witten. Watson isn’t necessarily on par with those two, but he leads all Ravens receivers in red zone targets (9).
C is for Conspiracy Theory.
I have a weird one for football at the end of the article, but my favorite sports conspiracy theory is the rigging of the 1985 NBA draft lottery to get Patrick Ewing to the New York Knicks. In this video, you can see one particular envelope thrown into the side of the mixing drum, theoretically denting the corner to make it identifiable to commissioner David Stern. It doesn’t matter if the rotation of the drum could have dented any corner of any envelope in there, because everyone knows the Knicks’ envelope was frozen, making it cold to the touch for secondary identification. Brilliant.
D is for Difficult Decision.
Between Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, who is the Vikings’ number one wideout and who is the number two? Be careful with your distinction this week because the Rams have been favorable to first options (allowing 14.9 yards above the NFL average), but tough on second options (holding them to 14.3 yards below league average). Anecdotally this season, bigger possession-type receivers like Thielen have fared better against Los Angeles than technician-types like Diggs.
E is for End of the Line.
Is this it for Ryan Fitzpatrick? It was easy to blame his struggles last season on the Jets’ organization as a whole, but Josh McCown has found success there this year. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick has continued to underwhelm us, despite his supposed better situation in Tampa Bay. His current mark of 6.6 yards per attempt is his lowest since 2009. If Fitz can’t find some magic with Mike Evans back on the field against DVOA’s second-worst pass defense, we can probably consider him officially washed up.
F is for Feed Fitzgerald.
If Houston’s sixth-ranked run defense can keep Adrian Peterson and Arizona’s last-ranked run offense in check, Blaine Gabbert will be forced to win through the air. That’s not a particularly tough ask, though. The Texans rank 25th or worse in DVOA against all wide receiver types, allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to the position. I like J.J. Nelson and John Brown as potential dart-throws, especially with Gabbert replacing Drew Stanton, but Larry Fitzgerald is the only truly trustable commodity in the Arizona passing attack. He leads the team in red zone targets, and his 677 receiving yards are more than any other two Cardinals receivers have posted combined.
G is for Gauging Gabriel.
The thought of using Taylor Gabriel this week is pretty terrifying. He averages only 2.5 target per game over the last four weeks, and the Seahawks rate second in DVOA against number three wide receivers. But with Richard Sherman now out for the year, I’m very interested to see how the Seattle defense adapts. Will they shift more attention toward top targets and start to slack off against third options like Gabriel? Keep an eye on this game’s outcome, because this third receiver matchup might be one to exploit in future weeks.
H is for Hoomanawanui.
Over the past few weeks, Michael Hoomanawanui has taken over the lead in snap percentage among tight ends for New Orleans. That tells you everything you need to know about the state fantasy value at that position for the Saints. It’s a shame because they face a Washington team allowing 75.3 yards per game to TEs, which is 21.6 yards per game above the NFL average. With Michael Thomas squaring up against Josh Norman, running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara figure to be the primary beneficiaries of the Saint’s production void at tight end. Both rushers should maintain their distinctions as top-10 fantasy rushers this week.
I is for Impossible Odds.
That’s what Kirk Cousins seems to face against New Orleans’ fourth-ranked pass defense. The Saints rank top-10 in DVOA against all receiver types. Without an obvious path of least resistance, look for Cousins to lean on his most talented and consistent players, Chris Thompson out of the backfield and Jamison Crowder out of the slot. Even if Cousins struggles, his primary receivers should see plenty of volume as Washington tries to keep pace with New Orleans’ high-powered offense.
J is for J.D. McKissic.
He’s the only Seahawks running back worth any consideration right now. Thomas Rawls has been ineffective, and I don’t care if Eddie Lacy is back at practice, he’s as relevant to fantasy football these days as Eddie Money. Now that C.J. Prosise has realized his injured reserve destiny, McKissic is the best pass-catching option out of the backfield for a team built to throw. This week, Seattle faces an Atlanta team allowing 8.5 passes per game to running backs (compared to the NFL average of 7.4), and we’ve seen other teams attack the Falcons’ defense with satellite backs. Even in non-PPR scoring, the best fantasy performances against the dirty birds this season belong to Ty Montgomery (23.0 points), Tarik Cohen (17.3 points) and Christian McCaffrey (15.4 points). McKissic has sneaky upside if the Seahawks come to their senses and let him eat into Rawls’ and Lacy’s snap shares.
K is for Kelce and King.
Travis Kelce facing the New York Giants’ defense is the perfect storm for fantasy production. The G-men have allowed a tight end touchdown in every game this season, and Kelce has five scores on the season (only Zach Ertz and Jimmy Graham have more, with six each). This particular matchup is only one tree in the Giants’ forest of pass defense ineptitude. They allow the most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks and rank 29th in pass defense DVOA. With Alex Smith and company set to go off, we should expect plenty of passing on the other side of the ball from Eli Manning. On the receiving ends of his throws, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard should command the most defensive attention from the Chiefs, and that could open things up for Tavarres King. Kansas City allows 1.6 targets per game and 6.9 yards per game above average to number three wide receivers, and game script should force King to top his modest average of five targets per game from the past two weeks.
L is for Latimer.
Don’t look now, but Cody Latimer has overtaken Bennie Fowler as the Broncos’ number three wide receiver since Brock Osweiler took over the starting quarterback gig. If Demaryius Thomas somehow can’t play through his lower body injuries, Latimer will benefit most, not Fowler.
M is for Marqise Lee.
While the per game yardage for number one wide receivers against Cleveland is only 12th-most in the league, wideouts have posted those stats on only 5.9 passes per game, which is a full two targets below league average for the position. That translates to a hyper-efficient 11.5 yards per pass allowed by Cleveland to No. 1 receivers, the second highest mark in football. With Cleveland’s second-ranked run defense angling to contain Leonard Fournette, this could be a huge game for Marqise Lee. Lee has seen double-digit targets in three of his past four games, and that volume should continue to swell with Allen Hurns sidelined in this contest.
N is for No Chance I’m Playing DeShone Kizer Against Jacksonville.
O is for On the Other Hand…
Cleveland’s tilt with Jacksonville is a nice spot for Isaiah Crowell to keep rolling. After disappointing fantasy owners for most of the season, Crowell has posted consecutive 15-point games over the past two weeks. The Jaguars rank 30th in run defense DVOA, and the Browns have incentive to limit Kizer’s pass attempts with a heavy dose of handoffs. If Cleveland can keep it close against Jacksonville, Crowell should be startable for the third week in a row.
P is for Pass Rush.
The Bears have a good one according to Adjusted Sack Rate, a statistic in which they rank second among all teams. Unsurprisingly, Chicago’s ability to get after quarterbacks has translated to fantasy, as they allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to passers. Only two quarterbacks have scored more than 15 points against them, and only Aaron Rodgers has thrown more than one touchdown pass against the them. Matthew Stafford should be faded in the Windy City to some extent, but don’t overdo it. The Lions’ running game is bad, and Stafford’s arm is still their best route to victory, especially with a healthy Kenny Golladay rounding out his arsenal of receivers.
Q is for Quietly.
Amid all the fanfare for Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, and TwoQBs mascot Alex Smith, Russell Wilson has quietly climbed to the top of the fantasy scoring charts. He’s finished top-10 among passers in six of his past seven games and hasn’t finished outside of the top-20 since Week 1. If you’re looking to pair him with a Seattle wide receiver this week, Paul Richardson might actually be the better play than Doug Baldwin. Atlanta holds number one wideouts to 22.2 yards per game less than the NFL average, while number two wideouts have averaged 10.3 yards per game above the NFL average for their position.
R is for Regression.
Jared Goff is due for some this week against the Vikings and their ninth-ranked defense. The second-year Rams quarterback has been incredible over the past few weeks, but his last three matchups were all extremely favorable. In terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, the Cardinals, Giants, and Texans all rank in the top four. The Vikings are much stingier. They’ve only allowed the 23rd-most fantasy points to passers, profiling closer to the Seahawks defense, who held Goff to 7.72 points back in Week 5.
S is for Sieve.
Like the Buffalo Bills’ run defense. The Saints went wild against them in Week 10, running the ball on 24 straight plays for one particular stretch. If the Chargers paid attention, they’ll know to feed Melvin Gordon in Week 11.
T is for Targets from Tom Brady.
When the best quarterback of all time helms the NFL’s best passing offense, and they face the league’s worst pass defense, all his receivers are in play for fantasy. Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, and James White are weekly no-brainers, but don’t dismiss Rex Burkhead or Danny Amendola when evaluating this slate.
U is for Unleash the Underused.
Cole Beasley and Brice Butler have both been underused to this point in the season. I get it. The Cowboys want to pound the rock, and Terrance Williams is a great run-blocker from the wide receiver position. But Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension is finally reality, and Week 11 is the perfect time for Dallas to open up their passing game for Dak Prescott. The Eagles have a good defense, but they allow 18.7 receiving yards per game over the league average to third receivers. Please, Jason Garrett, unleash Beasley and Butler in Philadelphia.
V is for Victory Formation.
It’s always bothered me that kneel downs at the end of games count for negative rushing yards for the quarterback in victory formation. They are meaningless plays and should have no impact on player statistics.
W is for Where’s Wallace?
If Mike Wallace is on waivers, you might want to add him for this week’s tilt against Green Bay. Looking ahead, he has a very favorable schedule down the stretch, facing Houston, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Indianapolis through Week 16.
X is for Xavier Rhodes.
Will the Vikings’ star cornerback line up primarily against Robert Woods or Sammy Watkins? Looking at basic fantasy points against numbers, the best wideout performances against Minnesota have been by teams’ designated field-stretchers like Martavis Bryant, DeSean Jackson, Davante Adams, Chris Moore, and Maurice Harris. Watkins fills that high depth-of-target role for the Rams, which makes me believe Rhodes will probably focus on Woods. Beyond the Rams’ top receivers, I remain intrigued by Cooper Kupp. The Vikes have allowed more yards to tertiary wideouts than both No. 1 and No. 2 guys, and Kupp has as many red zone targets this season as Woods & Watkins combined (7).
Y is for Yeoman’s Work.
Steady Jarvis Landry does just that. He’s garnered double-digit targets in all but two games this season, and managed 9 or more fantasy points in five of the past six weeks. He matches up with the Buccaneers this week, who allow 2.2 targets per game and 16.1 yards per game above the NFL average to secondary wideouts. Those numbers point toward a potential blowup week for someone who’s already a target magnet like Landry, but Tampa is also a great matchup for number one wideouts. Most of the best performances against them have come from bigger-bodied receivers like DeVante Parker, so I expect to Landry stick to his yeoman’s regimen of nine to 12 fantasy points.
Z is for Zero Expectations for Nathan Peterman.
Peterman doesn’t bring much promise with his promotion to the starting role. He wasn’t a highly touted prospect, and he thrived on boring throws in the preseason. Against first-string opponents, and particularly this week against the Chargers sixth-ranked pass defense, Peterman can’t be expected to do much. The Bolts have a top-3 pass rush and the Bills have bottom-3 pass protection according to Adjusted Sack Rate. I don’t understand why Buffalo doesn’t want Tyrod’s scrambling ability in the game to offset the Chargers pass rush advantage. It doesn’t make sense.
Or does it? What if Sean McDermott is benching Tyrod Taylor to protect him? At 5-4, in the thick of the AFC playoff race, could the Buffalo Bills be pulling a San Antonio Spurs move and resting a key player in a terrible matchup to preserve the team’s long-term outlook? Does this tinfoil hat make my butt look big? Did I really make two different basketball references in a football article? I have so many questions! If you have any for me, feel free to share them in the comments blow or hit me up on Twitter. Good luck in Week 11.
Editor’s Note: DVOA, Adjusted Line Yards, Adjusted Sack Rate, and Versus-Receiver statistics from FootballOutsiders.com. Fantasy Scoring and Red Zone statistics from FantasyData.com. Snap data from airyards.com.