Game Flowbotics A-to-Z – Week 10
It’s Week 10. You know the drill by now. First, I link to my Game Flowbotics spreadsheet, so let’s get that out of the way:
Then we dive into the analysis (and a little nonsense), A-to-Z, for the upcoming weekend of NFL action.
A is for Are You New Here?
If you’re just a caveman and this world frightens and confuses you, or if you generally just need an explanation of the Game Flowbotics page, check out this primer from last season. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.
B is for Blade Runner 2049.
It took a long time, but I finally saw it. I give it two holographic thumbs projected onto two replicant thumbs way up.
C is for Constants.
Death, taxes, and Rob Gronkowski scoring touchdowns. This week he faces Denver, who have allowed a tight end score in three of their last four games.
D is for DeShone at Detroit.
This a difficult spot for the Browns’ rookie quarterback. The Lions rank 11th in defense by DVOA, while their offense should score a ton of points against Cleveland’s leaky pass defense and force DeShone Kizer into predictable passing situations. Outside of Ricardo Louis and Duke Johnson, the Browns don’t have reliable sources of targets, and their individual matchups don’t line up particularly well, either. Detroit ranks fifth in DVOA against No. 1 receivers and third against running backs as receivers. Tight ends Seth DeValve and David Njoku seem to have the most exploitable matchup. They probably need to post strong performances for Kizer to reach startability.
E is for Explode.
We’ve waited for Michael Thomas to do just that all season, but this week’s matchup at Buffalo looks tough on the surface. The Bills rate 14th in pass defense DVOA and have allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, but there are a couple glimmers of hope for Thomas. According to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards metric, Buffalo’s D-line is much better against the run than the pass (6th vs. 30th). Such a discrepancy in the trenches could push the Saints to lean relatively pass-heavy and inflate Thomas’s already solid target volume. The Bills have fit that tendency to this point of the season, affording No. 1 wideouts 0.9 passes and 13.5 yards above average per game. Physically comparable players to Thomas like A.J. Green, Mike Evans, and Robby Anderson have all found success in this matchup. Thomas’ fuse is lit.
F is for Fitzmagic.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was my streamer of the week on Monday’s podcast with Justin Mason, but I worry about that call since Mike Evans’ suspension appeal failed. Fitzpatrick may only be as good as his weapons, and Evans is a significant piece to lose. Still, he remains a seemingly safe option against the Jets. New York has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to passers, including good games to a number of mediocre-to-bad quarterbacks, which gives hope to Fitzpatrick’s Week 10 cause despite missing Evans.
G is for Goff’s Generosity.
He really likes to spread the ball around. I touted Goff in DFS last week as a pivot off of Jacoby Brissett, who I thought would be overly owned. I was rewarded with a QB1 performance from Goff, but Brissett at his lower price was still the better play, assuming you stacked him with T.Y. Hilton, and especially if you faded the wrong Rams wideout like I did (Robert Woods). L.A.’s receivers all look good again this week against Houston’s floundering pass defense. DVOA points to Woods and Cooper Kupp as the best plays, but I’m more intrigued by Sammy Watkins’ matchup. All the best receiving performances against the Texans have been by field-stretchers like Watkins, including Brandin Cooks, Tyreek Hill, Paul Richardson, and T.Y. Hilton. Meanwhile, against lead receivers, the Texans allow an average number of passes, while allowing nearly 10 yards per game above average to those players. Efficiency alert!
H is for Hilton Hangover.
We might get one this week. T.Y. Hilton faces a Steelers’ defense giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, while limiting No. 1 wideouts specifically to 17.8 yards below NFL average per game. Hilton really scares me because he seems so easy to gameplan against in the context of the Colts’ offense. If the Steelers can prevent big plays to Hilton, who else on Indianapolis will hurt them? The candidates aren’t especially scary. With that said…
I is for Iteration.
The case I just made against T.Y. Hilton led me to recommend Jack Doyle as a PPR value back in Week 4 against the Seahawks. He led the Colts in targets that week (7), catching five of them for only 27 yards. Doyle’s matchup this week against the Steelers is slightly more imposing. Pittsburgh has stonewalled the tight ends they’ve faced, including both Travis Kelce and Kyle Rudolph. Doyle should still deliver target volume, but similar to his performance against the Seahawks, those targets will likely be inefficient.
J is for Just Browsing.
That’s what I feel like I’m doing when I consider the pass-catching options in Chicago for fantasy. Tre McBride is starting to show flashes of his athletic talent, his snap share is stabilizing, and Green Bay is a nice matchup for No. 2 wide receivers. But without bankable passing volume from Mitchell Trubisky, there’s no way to trust McBride, Tanner Gentry, Kendall Wright, or Dion Sims. I’ll take a look as I pass through Chicago’s aisles, but I can’t buy the Bears’ receivers right now.
K is for Kyle Rudolph.
Christmas comes early for Rudolph this year, in the form of the Washington defense. Greg Manusky’s secondary ranks fourth in DVOA against No. 1 wideouts, sixth against No. 2 wideouts, and sixth against No. 3 wideouts. Opponents have responded by feeding tight ends with 7.5 passes and nearly 80 yards per game.
L is for Liking LaFell.
Get into it. All the cool kids are doing it. Plus, Brandon LaFell’s Week 10 opponent, the Titans, rank 29th in DVOA against No. 2 wide receivers. They allow 1.4 passes and 7.5 yards above average to second fiddle pass-catchers.
M is for Mismatches.
The Steelers have them all over the field against the hapless Colts this week. Pittsburgh has a good offense, Indy has a bad defense. Pittsburgh has a good defense, Indy has a bad offense. The over/under for this game moved up from 43.5 on Tuesday 45 as I type this Thursday night. That total plus the 10-point spread puts the Steelers’ implied total at 27.5 points, which promotes consideration for all their offensive weapons. The reported return of Martavis Bryant muddies the situation, but regardless, I’m confidently using Le’Veon Bell (duh), Antonio Brown (double-duh), Ben Roethlisberger, and JuJu Smith-Schuster this week. I don’t mind Bryant or tight ends Jesse James and Vance McDonald as what-the-hell type gambles, either.
N is for Not Buying It.
As of this writing, the total on the NYG-SF game has dropped half a point. That’s not a significant delta, but it backs up the prevailing expectation of an ugly game. I’m going the other way. Yes, both these teams are bad, but what makes them truly awful are their defenses. Even Eli Manning and C.J. Beathard with depleted depth charts should be able to move the ball in this contest. Give me the over on 42 points, as well as a handful of DFS darts on these teams’ remaining offensive options.
O is for One Track Mind.
It doesn’t matter that the Green Bay defense ranks much better in DVOA against the run than the pass (11th vs. 23rd). The Bears are going to pound the rock on the ground. And without Aaron Rodgers on the other side of the ball to create game flow pressure on Chicago to pass, Jordan Howard’s rushing volume seems all but guaranteed.
P is for Pass the Baton.
That’s what the injured George Kittle will do to Garrett Celek this week. Celek couldn’t have picked a better week to take over, as he faces a Giants defense that’s allowed a touchdown to a tight end in every game this season. The 49ers’ wide receiver group is in shambles, so I love Celek as a value play in this matchup.
Q is for Questioning Alex Smith.
R is for Reflection.
When the Jaguars defense looks in a funhouse mirror, they probably see the Chargers defense staring back at them. Jacksonville’s pass defense is elite, but Los Angeles has also been very good in that phase of the game (9th in DVOA). Meanwhile, both teams are bottom-six in DVOA against the run. With potential for both teams to struggle sustaining drives, this matchup could depend more on game script than your average NFL tilt. Factor in a relatively low over/under, and we’re left with a recipe for fantasy busts on both sides of the ball. The defenses and lead running backs for each team are usable, but I’d avoid most passing game options. The receiving piece I’m most interested in is Hunter Henry. The top-notch cornerbacks for Jacksonville could direct more work to nontraditional receiving threats, and Henry has the talent to deliver big fantasy numbers.
S is for Sean Lee.
His return to action has shored up Dallas’ rushing defense in a significant way. Since their Week 6 bye, the Cowboys haven’t allowed more than 68 rushing yards or 8.8 standard fantasy points to any single running back. As receivers, however, backs are averaging 7.0 targets per game in that same span, which is why I’m still relatively high on Devonta Freeman this week. After a slow start in the receiving department, Freeman has flipped the script and out-targeted Tevin Coleman 15 to 5 over their past four games.
T is for Tremendous Trolling.
After drawing the ire of fantasy owners everywhere with a goose egg in Week 9, Blair Walsh is already up to 8 points as I type this in the fourth quarter of Thursday Night Football. I feel like he’s messing with us.
U is for Undefeated.
Examples include Father Time and Green Bay’s defense against tight ends. They haven’t allowed a touchdown to the position this season, which doesn’t bode well for the fantasy owners taking a shot on Dion Sims or Adam Shaheen this week in the wake of Zach Miller’s injury.
V is for Volume Bump.
If Ezekiel Elliott stays suspended and is replaced by a bunch of backup running backs, Dak Prescott could be in for extra volume down the stretch, starting this week against Atlanta’s 24th-ranked pass defense by DVOA and 25th-ranked pass rush by Adjusted Sack Rate. Dez Bryant is dinged up, but should play, so Dak is a no-brainer QB1. It will be interesting to see how he fares going forward, though. After this week, four of his six fantasy-relevant are against top-11 pass defenses by DVOA. I wouldn’t be too worried, though. Two of those “bad” matchups are more favorable by fantasy standards. Philly allows the 14th-most fantasy points to opposing QBs and Washington allows the 11th-most. With more pass plays in the game plan, Dak should be just fine.
W is for Williams Waiting in the Wings.
If Dez Bryant can’t play this weekend, you’ll want Terrance Williams on DFS and waiver wire speed dial.
X is for X-Files.
The truth is out there, and I need an investigation from Mulder and Scully to help understand the New England backfield. James White is the only guy I trust, but his matchup this week is terrible. The Broncos allow below average target and yardage volume to backs as receivers. Chris Hogan’s injury might be the saving grace for White, forcing the satellite back into a more locked-in workload despite the poor matchup.
Y is for Youth Versus Experience.
This dichotomy last week between Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams played to a draw, or close enough. They scored 10.4 and 12.1 fantasy points, respectively. This week, the upper hand should still belong to Williams. He’s the more active receiving option, and that might matter because the Panthers are stout against the run and they could put the Dolphins into negative game flow. Carolina’s overall defensive prowess makes me wary of both Williams and Drake, though. I’d look for safer options if possible.
Z is for Zen.
Try to find a moment for it amid all the chaos of fantasy football. You are not your rosters. You are not your bankroll. You are playing a game. Enjoy the experience. Good luck.
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.