Game Flowbotics A-to-Z – Week 3
The goal of my Game Flowbotics spreadsheet is to gain perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of each NFL team. Using betting lines and Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics, we can zoom out from the player level to look at team-level matchups, then try to predict game plans, resulting game flow, and player usage. Here’s this week’s installment:
It will take a few weeks for the stats to accumulate and more accurately reflect the strengths and weaknesses of teams. Until then, I recommend leaning on FO’s weighted efficiency (DAVE), which combines in-season DVOA with preseason projections for each team. The data will be limited for a while, but that won’t stop me from digging into Flowbotics and various other fantasy football resources each week. Here’s are my most intriguing findings for Week 3 from A to Z…
A-B is for Advantage, Barkley.
Houston owns DVOA’s best defense against No. 1 wide receivers and third-best defense against the run. Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley are the types of talents to transcend bad matchups, so it’s difficult to say how the Giants will find the most success against the Texans. I lean toward Barkley because he’s likely to touch the ball more and he’s not as reliant on Eli Manning.
C-D-E is for Cowboys Describe Eternity.
Every thousand years / this metal sphere / ten times the size of Jupiter / floats just a few yards past the earth. / You climb on your roof / and take a swipe at it / with a single feather / hit it once every thousand years / ’til you’ve worn it down / to the size of a pea. / Yeah, I’d say that’s a long time / but it’s only half a blink / in the place you’re gonna be.
Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch wasn’t referring to the pace of the Cowboys’ offense when he wrote this song, but the comparison works. According to Football Outsiders, Dallas ranks last in actual pace (31.89 seconds per play) and 26th in situation neutral pace (33.53 seconds per play). If this trend continues against a Seattle defense allowing fourth-most time between plays, we can’t count on much volume for the Cowboys’ skill position players. Ezekiel Elliott’s heavy share of usage keeps him fantasy-relevant, but this isn’t the week to gamble on Dak Prescott’s receivers.
F is for Funnel.
Say what you will about their slow start, but the Eagles still excel in defending the run. They rank second in DVOA against the rush, and their defensive line ranks first in Adjusted Line Yards. Considering the state of the Colts’ running back corps, it’s fair to expect the Indy offense to funnel through Andrew Luck’s arm. T.Y. Hilton is a no-brainer start in this situation, but Ryan Grant, Jack Doyle, and Eric Ebron also merit consideration. Philadelphia has allowed above-average adjusted yardage to No. 1 receivers, No. 2 receivers, and tight ends through two games.
G is for G-unit.
The 49ers have a ton of G-names in the offense — Garoppolo, Goodwin, Garcon, George, and Garrett. With the highest over/under of the week, their game against Kansas City figures to be high-scoring, and you want some exposure to both teams in your DFS lineups. Jimmy Garoppolo is shockingly cheap on DraftKings, and George Kittle is still priced below bigger names at the tight end position. I’ll have more exposure to those two than the rest of the San Francisco skill players.
H is for Hate Henry.
Unless Dion Lewis gets hurt or Tennessee is slated for extremely positive game script, Derrick Henry is a trap. Neither of those scenarios are true this week.
I-J is for Imitate Jared.
Will the Chargers steal from Jon Gruden’s Week 1 game plan against the Rams and concentrate targets on the tight end? I don’t believe Antonio Gates and Virgil Green are up to the task. The Chargers’ more traditionally archetyped wide receivers should struggle to get open against the Rams’ lockdown corners, but Mike Williams blurs the line between wideout and tight end with his immense frame. He could return value by imitating Jared Cook’s opening week performance.
K is for Kareem & Kenyan.
Kareem Hunt and Kenyan Drake are two of my favorite DFS plays this weekend. As discussed on this week’s 2QBXP podcast with John Proctor, it makes some sense to dig in on Hunt as his price bottoms out while pricing on Patrick Mahomes skyrockets. Meanwhile, Drake gets to face an Oakland defense ranked 32nd in run defense DVOA, 31st in Adjusted Line Yards along the defensive line, and 29th in DVOA against running backs as receivers.
L-M is for Love McCaffrey.
Don’t be scared off by Christian McCaffrey’s matchup against Cincinnati’s seventh-ranked run defense according to DVOA. Scroll down a little further on the Flowbotics spreadsheet and check out his receiving outlook. The Bengals have allowed the second-most adjusted targets per game to running backs (13.0) and McCaffrey leads the NFL in running back targets. This confluence of his skill set relative to his opponent’s key weakness makes McCaffrey a top-10 option at running back in both PPR and standard leagues.
N-O is for Nagy’s Overrated.
The Matt Nagy experience has been a bust so far. Mitchell Trubisky has not ascended the way Jared Goff did in 2017, despite his team’s addition of a promising new coach. But that might not matter this week, as the Bears face a floundering Cardinals team ranked 31st in overall DAVE and 30th in pass defense DVOA. Even with a positive passing matchup, Trubisky might disappoint because the Cardinals offense is also terrible. They will struggle to score against Chicago’s top-flight defense, which means a big game from Jordan Howard is more likely than a big game from Trubisky.
O-P is for Open, Possibly.
Keep an eye on Friday’s practice reports and Sunday mornings inactive reports for an idea of Darius Slay’s health. Detroit’s shutdown cornerback would normally be expected to take out the top opposing receiver—either Chris Hogan or Josh Gordon this week—but Slay was in concussion protocol and missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday. If he can’t play, the Patriots’ receivers should routinely get open and have a field day with the Lions’ otherwise beatable secondary.
Q-R is for Quarterback Replaceability.
Here’s a list of the quarterbacks who have posted the ten best single-game scores through two weeks: Ryan Fitzpatrick (twice), Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Mahomes (also twice), Kirk Cousins, Blake Bortles, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Philip Rivers. Want to know what they have in common? All fell outside the top-six in quarterback ADP. Stop drafting the position early.
S is for Sit Sanders.
The Ravens rank fourth in DVOA against No. 1 wide receivers, allowing 49.5 adjusted yards per game compared to a league average of 74.2. What makes that lack of production most damning is it’s coming on a higher target volume than average. Less yardage on more targets? Not great, Bob! Baltimore has been even stingier against No. 2 wideouts, so no matter how you slice it, this isn’t an appealing week for Emmanuel Sanders.
T is for Tevin’s Targets.
Tevin Coleman had two targets in Week 1, then his volume doubled to four targets in Week 2 as Devonta Freeman didn’t play. In Week 3, Coleman faces a Saints team allowing by far the fewest adjusted targets per game to running backs (3.8 compared to a league average of 8.1). This is likely a statistical fluke based on the Saints playing the Bucs, who don’t have relevant pass-catchers out of the backfield, and the Browns, who have entombed Duke Johnson for some strange reason (only three targets through two games, RIP). Last season, New Orleans allowed 7.7 adjusted passes per game to rushers, compared to the league average of 7.1, so their 2018 smothering of RBs as receivers should regress as the season continues. And while Coleman isn’t a prolific receiver, the Falcons trust him more in that role than third-stringer Ito Smith (9 carries, but only 1 target in Week 2). With New Orleans likely to key on Julio Jones, Coleman should get plenty of run as a receiving option in addition to his workload as a rusher.
U-V is for Unnecessary Vikings.
The Vikes are huge favorites this week against the Bills, and I’m worried they won’t need to heavily involve their key skill position players. No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers have posted below-average adjusted yardage against Buffalo, so don’t expect big games from both Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. From the Minnesota backfield, we should see a lot of Latavius Murray (and maybe even some Michael Boone or Roc Thomas) because there’s little reason for Dalvin Cook to risk aggravating his injured hamstring. Be careful taking on too much exposure to this game.
W-X-Y-Z is for Washington’s X, Y, & Z.
Even with a hobbled Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay managed to hang 29 points on the imposing Minnesota defense in Week 2, so they should be able to score against Washington’s 13th-ranked defense (by DAVE) in Week 3. Washington’s offense will have to keep pace, and I hope they don’t completely turtle into a ball-control shell to do so. While the Packers rank better by DVOA against the pass than the run, they’ve allowed a lot more fantasy points to receivers (fifth-most) than rushers (24th-most). Meanwhile, one of the best ways to attack the Green Bay defense is with long throws. Their defense ranks 28th in DVOA against deep passes and ninth against short passes.
Paul Richardson, Washington’s “Z” receiver, leads the team’s wideouts with 12 targets through two games, but Chris Thompson (21) and Jordan Reed (13) are Alex Smith’s true top receivers. It makes sense for Washington to be mindful of the clock and of giving Aaron Rodgers too many opportunities to score, but they still need to look downfield with Richardson and Josh Doctson. If Washington’s game plan doesn’t pepper in enough YOLO balls to exploit this matchup, I will look to sell or drop my shares of their deep-threat receivers next week.