Game Flowbotics A-to-Z – Week 14
Congrats, you made it to the fantasy playoffs. To help you set your postseason lineups and grind out every possible edge (you definitely need those edges if you’re facing Derrick Henry), here’s the Week 14 Game Flowbotics matchups spreadsheet:
Now let’s dive in, A to Z, for Week 14 of the 2018 NFL season.
A-B is for Allen’s Better.
On this week’s 2QBXP podcast, Tod Burros had to talk me out of Case Keenum as my quarterback streamer of the week, and while I mentioned Josh Allen as a possibility, we settled on Eli Manning as a better option. After researching for the week and giving more thought to playoffs game theory, however, I’m pivoting back to Allen. I had lost sight of what matters when seeking out streamers—ceiling.
We know Allen has a floor. All signal-callers do. They have inherent volume because virtually every play begins with the ball in the quarterback’s hands. But Allen provides the extra upside to own all of his team’s touchdowns, both rushing and passing. What can we call this phenomenon? Is “Newton’s Law” taken? One thing’s for sure. We can’t call it “the Eli Effect” because New York’s rushing scores are going to Saquon Barkley, not Manning.
Anyway, if you’ve made it this far, but still need a quarterback streamer, you’re probably facing a good team. And if you need all the points you can get, it makes sense to shoot for the stars with a higher-variance play like Allen. That’s why he’s moved ahead of Manning in my streaming considerations and my Week 14 rankings.
C is for Cam, Christian, & Curtis.
Speaking of Cam Newton, he’s playing through a shoulder injury, but it hasn’t been going well. Against a beatable Tampa Bay defense in Week 13, Newton’s adjusted yards per attempt cratered to 3.90, the 14th-worst single-game mark in his 121-game career. But all is not lost with the Panthers offense. Cam can make up for his weakened arm with low depth of target throws to satellite specialists Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. They should hold value in fantasy down the stretch, even if Newton can’t.
D is for Denver Dominating Despite DaeSean?
Don’t get too excited about DaeSean Hamilton just yet. He’s worth a speculative add now that Emmanuel Sanders is on injured reserve, but Denver’s matchup with San Francisco projects better for running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. The Broncos are 5.5-point favorites against San Francisco, but Keenum averages under 30 pass attempts per games in wins this season, compared to 39.2 in losses. If the betting line holds true, there might not be enough passing volume for Hamilton to be fantasy viable.
E-F is for Ekeler, Forgotten.
After a relatively tough matchup against Pittsburgh’s 10th-ranked run defense by DVOA, folks are forgetting how good Austin Ekeler has been this season. But I say fade recency bias, as he faces a softer opponent in Week 14 in the Bengals, who rank 28th in run defense DVOA. Justin Jackson needs to be owned and has flex appeal based on the matchup, but Ekeler is still the lead back for the Chargers.
G is for Galloping Gallup.
After Cole Beasley was limited in practice to start the week, the Michael Gallup buzz was palpable. The Eagles rank 27th in DVOA against No. 2 receivers, allowing above-average adjusted targets and yardage to the position. But then Beasley was upgraded to a full participant on Thursday, and we’re back to worrying about Gallup’s limited market share of Dallas’ targets. Same as it ever was.
Gallup’s perceived value downgrade could present a buying opportunity in DFS, though. The Eagles get beat more often by big-play receivers than slot-types like Beasley, and if you’ve been force-fed Cowboys games on local television like the rest of America, you’ve seen Dak Prescott just miss Gallup on a handful of splash attempts over the past few weeks. If those types of plays happen against Philly, a small target total won’t matter nearly as much as Gallup’s low ownership.
H is for Hilton vs. Hopkins.
The over/under for Indianapolis at Houston is 50 points, “only” the sixth-highest on the slate, but sometimes it’s okay to expect the over and project a game’s fantasy players accordingly. I think this is one of those times. The Colts and Texans both rank top-8 in situation-neutral pace, so we should see a lot of passing volume on both sides of the matchup. As a result, I’m looking to stack T.Y. Hilton and DeAndre Hopkins in some GPPs with other pass-catchers from the game and their respective quarterbacks.
Don’t worry about how mediocre Hopkins’ matchup looks on the Game Flowbotics spreadsheet. Indy ranks 23rd in DVOA against No. 1 receivers and restricts them to 6.5 adjusted yards per game below the league average, but he’s a matchup beater. In fact, he’s already done it this season against the Colts, posting 10 catches for 169 yards and touchdown back in Week 4. And in the same game, Hilton caught four of six targets for 115 yards. My fingers are crossed for another shootout.
I is for Immovable?
Does defense matter? *The* fantasy question of the 2018 season will once more be put to the test this week when the Rams face the Bears in Chicago. Sean McVay has his hands (brain?) full against the Monsters of the Midway, who rank first in both passing and rushing defense DVOA.
Sean McVay just scouted the entire Bears defense from memory. pic.twitter.com/5ZYew6whLs
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 6, 2018
I’m picking the Rams to win and cover the three-point spread, but I think they’ll get there on the back of Todd Gurley more so than Jared Goff. With that said, one of my favorite contrarian plays of the slate is from this game: Brandin Cooks. His ownership should be low based on the matchup, and (similar to Michael Gallup discussed above) Cooks only needs to haul in a couple high-value targets to hit. Meanwhile, the Bears allow 67.6 adjusted yards per game to No. 2 wideouts, which is 14.9 above the league average. They’re beatable, and Cooks fits the receiver-type mold of players to deliver against Chicago in past weeks like Tyler Lockett, DeSean Jackson, Albert Wilson, and Stefon Diggs.
J is for Jones vs. Joe?
Aaron Jones is entering the most prime matchup possible for running backs. Atlanta ranks 29th in run defense DVOA and 28th against running backs as receivers. Not even Joe Philbin could screw this up, right? Wait, don’t answer that.
K-L is for King LeGarrette.
NFL matchups are frequently likened to chess matches, but Lions-Cardinals might be more like checkers. And in a big dumb battle of blunt-force strategy, give me LeGarrette Blount, the simplest and most straightforward implement of fantasy scoring on the board. Blount’s unsexy aesthetic shouldn’t matter against an Arizona defense allowing the second-most points to running backs. If he maintains a workload of 16-plus carries, he should be a king yet again in Week 14.
M-N is for Matchup Nirvana.
Shootout-leaning games like Saints at Buccaneers are fun because we can stack up the most interesting tertiary pieces from each offense, but make sure you have exposure to the studs in the matchup. It’s cool to win with a killer potential value like Keith Kirkwood, but it’s easier to win with Michael Thomas.
O is for Odell.
Don’t sweat Josh Norman. It’s worth paying up for Odell Beckham Jr. against Washington. They allow the most adjusted yardage per game and the third-most adjusted yardage per target to No. 1 wide receivers.
P-Q is for Pettis Quo.
Dante Pettis has set a new precedent for his fantasy output over the past couple weeks, racking up a combined 14 targets for nine catches, 206 yards, and three touchdowns. But I’m not comfortable locking him into my lineups, not with Marquise Goodwin set to return. Pettis could still be flex-worthy, working underneath while Goodwin goes vertical, but his target share is still likely to drop. Expectations seem too high for Pettis based on recency bias, so he slots significantly lower than consensus in my rankings.
R is for Ravens Receivers.
Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead haven’t done much for fantasy purposes since Lamar Jackson took over as the starter. So who will step up if game script Baltimore to pass more often and keep up with Kansas City’s prolific offense? In the post-Flacco era, Crabtree leads the Ravens’ wide receivers in targets, receptions, and receiving yards, plus he caught Jackson’s only touchdown pass. But Brown leads the team in air yards. He just hasn’t found a connection yet with Jackson, only securing two of his twelve targets since Week 11. Maybe Brown and Jackson will finally get on the same page against the Chiefs—they should have enough passing volume after all—but I’m more intrigued by Snead. Kansas City’s defense ranks 26th in DVOA against No. 3 wide receivers and allows the second-most adjusted targets and adjusted yards per game to the position.
This isn’t receiver-related, but it feels like a good week to fade Gus Edwards. Again, the Ravens will probably need to be more pass-happy to keep pace with the Chiefs, and Edwards is already losing opportunities to Jackson inside the red-zone. Kenneth Dixon has some deep sleeper appeal, but Ty Montgomery is Baltimore’s primary pass-catcher out of the backfield. He actually has more receptions than Crabtree since Jackson took over.
S is for Sony Stretching.
You can lead Bill Belichick to water, but you probably can’t predict his game plan or player usage. We have to try, though, and it makes some sense for New England to attack Miami on the ground. The Dolphins are being gashed on the ends of their defensive line, depicted below in a graphic from FFStatistics.com.
This image shows yards-per-carry by direction, and Miami is well below average at stopping runs in both directions on the outside. These raw YPC numbers are backed up by Football Outsiders’ directional stats for defensive line play. Meanwhile, FO ranks Sony Michel fifth in success rate among qualified running backs, so I expect a steady diet of stretch plays to him against the Fish.
T-U is for TE Uno.
Sorry for any confusion, amigos, but I’m not referring to Travis Kelce, fantasy’s overall TE1. I’m shamelessly self-promoting one of my tweets regarding the debate about Jaylen Samuels’ loose positional eligibility on some fantasy sites.
Imagine playing Uno with someone who, after 80% of the game, insisted your "Wild Draw Four" could only act a regular "Wild" for the rest of the game. Now look me straight in the tweets and tell me Jaylen Samuels should lose TE eligibility mid-season. Ridiculous.
— Greg Smith (@gregsauce) December 6, 2018
You can’t change the rules of your league mid-season. Don’t even think about it. And Yahoo certainly can’t make that sort of sweeping change across all their leagues. If you think it’s so unfair for Samuels to have tight end eligibility while primarily playing running back, then you should have identified that narrow advantage weeks ago and picked him up yourself. He’s been a tight end all season. Deal with it.
V-W is for Vikings Wideouts.
Don’t look now, but the Seahawks have been scary good against slot receivers.
The #Seahawks have completely shut down slot receivers thus far. They're the only team in the NFL to not allow a single TD and have allowed the 2nd fewest yards to receivers lined up in the slot this year. Adam Thielen on deck. #NextGenStats #12s
— James Koh (@JamesDKoh) December 4, 2018
And while Adam Thielen faces his toughest matchup of the season on paper, Diggs is looking good. Seattle ranks 26th in DVOA against No. 1 wide receivers. Furthermore, on approximately league-average targets, the Seahawks allow 78.9 adjusted yards per game to top targets, nearly 10 adjusted yards per game above the league average. Thielen won’t see that type of efficiency in this matchup, and I’ve moved him behind Diggs in my rankings as a result.
X-Y-Z is for Xtreme Yodeling Zine.
I’m not into extreme yodeling (if that’s even a thing), let alone reading zines about it, but I like a lot of music that other people might consider weird. And I want to share with you some of my favorite albums from this year because, after all, this is the time of year when best-of lists swarm the internet. All of these records exist somewhere along the continuum of “rock” and I’m putting them in alphabetical order, naturally.
Beach House – 7
The Breeders – All Nerve
Cave – Allways
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Dungen – Myths 003
Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
Iceage – Beyondless
JEFF The Brotherhood – Magick Songs
Kurt Vile – Bottle It In
Lucero – Among the Ghosts
The Men – Drift
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
Restorations – LP5000
Reunions – Aching Waits
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
Strand of Oaks – Harder Love
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food
Young Gun Silver Fox – AM Waves
Enjoy the tunes and good luck in Week 14.
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. Air Yards and snap data from airyards.com.