Game Flowbotics A-to-Z – Week 8
By now you know the drill. Each week, I look into how teams line up against each other and against individual players in terms of DVOA from Football Outsiders, as well as the weekly betting lines. Based upon those factors and some other statistical analysis, I try to predict how games will play out with respect to fantasy production. For my own reference and yours, I put together the Game Flowbotics spreadsheet as a sort of one-stop shop for matchup data. Here’s the Week 8 edition:
Now let’s dive in, A to Z, in search of fantasy gold.
A is for Aaron Jones.
I don’t care that he’s on bye this week. He’s free! Tell ‘em, William Wallace.
B is for Boom or Bust.
I weighed in on a handful of boom/bust wide receivers in my weekly rankings article.
C is for Cole Beasley.
Aside from his fluky two-touchdown game in Week 5 against Green Bay, Beasley has been largely invisible this season. He might turn things around against Washington this week. D.C.’s football team rates well in DVOA against #1 and #2 receivers, but third bananas like Nelson Agholor and Aldrick Robinson have given Washington trouble. The problem for Beasley is, despite a DVOA matchup ranking better than Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, there are other better matchups for the Cowboys. Dallas has the best rushing offense in the league, and their offensive line has a 17-spot advantage in Adjusted Line Yards rankings over Washington’s defensive front. Meanwhile, D.C.’s defense ranks 28th against tight ends and 20th against rushers as receivers in DVOA. Getting Beasley involved shouldn’t be a priority for Dak Prescott or your lineups this weekend.
D is for Dead Wrong.
Like me, when I completely disregarded O.J. Howard in last week’s A-to-Z. Buffalo did the same, and Tampa Bay’s rookie tight end caught all six of his targets for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Cameron Brate still led the Bucs’ tight ends in targets (9 to Howard’s 6), but Howard won the snap battle (71% to Brate’s 53%). Mixing both in makes the Tampa offense better as a whole, and as long as they’re both seeing targets, each player can stay fantasy-relevant. Howard’s targets aren’t guaranteed after one good game, though. Week 7 was the first time he’s seen more than four targets, but his recent dominance in snap share is reason for optimism.
E is for Efficiency.
On average, NFL teams allow 8 passes and 49.2 yards per game to running back as receivers. The Colts allow only 6.4 passes per game, but 52.1 yards per game. Those are efficient touches, so even though he is splitting time with Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard is a nice flex option this week.
F is for Forecast.
Panthers at Buccaneers projects as the breeziest game on this slate, with 20-MPH winds expected as of Thursday night according to NFLWeather.com. Check back close to game time, and if the forecast holds, be willing to pivot from Graham Gano and Patrick Murray to safer plays at kicker.
G is for Game Show.
Welcome to Round 1! Here’s your first question: Will the Bears fall behind enough against the Saints for Mitchell Trubisky to attempt double-digit passes this week? If you answered yes…. you are correct! With that correct answer, you’ve unlocked the Round 1 bonus question: Tanner Gentry and Tre McBride, Chicago wide receivers or country singers? If you answered wide receivers… you are correct again! Final question of the round: With more volume on tap for Trubisky, will either Gentry or McBride be fantasy-relevant against New Orleans?… TIME’S UP! By failing to answer, you have unwittingly answered correctly for the third time in a row! Incredible! In truth, nobody knows the answer to this one. The proper response is probably to request a better, more actionable question. Don’t waste time worrying about Bears receivers. There are 25 other active teams to consider this week if you’re looking for a wide receiver play. Thanks for playing. You’ve won 19 more blurbs related to Week 8 fantasy football. Enjoy!
H is for Hilton.
T.Y. Hilton is in a tough spot against Cincinnati’s sixth-ranked defense against #1 wide receivers, but bad matchups haven’t kept Jacoby Brissett from trying to feed Hilton. I like them as a bargain stack in DFS this week.
I is for Icy.
Matty Ice has been ice cold lately, at least compared to last season. He’s only eclipsed 300 passing yards once in 2017, and he owns a 7:6 TD-to-INT ratio. This week’s matchup against the Jets’ lackluster pass defense should help Ryan heat up. If he can’t get it done in New York, it’s probably time to panic.
J is for Jets Running Backs.
This exchange on Twitter between Evan Silva and Josh ADHD piqued my curiosity in the Jets’ backfield for this week’s matchup against the Falcons, and Game Flowbotics agrees with their assessments. Atlanta’s defense ranks 30th against the run, 29th in Adjusted Line Yards, and 18th against running backs as receivers. The Jets want to shorten every game, so look for heavy involvement from Matt Forte and Bilal Powell as long as this game stays relatively close.
K is for Kyle Rudolph.
Mostly quiet to this point in the season, Rudolph is in an awesome spot this weekend against the Browns. Cleveland ranks 30th in DVOA against tight ends, and only Washington has allowed more yardage to the position.
L is for London Calling.
Are you considering DeShone Kizer as a desperation streamer? Forget it, brother (or sister), you can go it alone.
M is for Missing Marshawn.
While Marshawn Lynch was busy getting tossed in Week 7, backups DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard split work about as evenly as they possibly could. Both had the same number of carries and targets, while Richard played only one more snap than Washington (26 to 25). Richard differentiated himself with receiving production, and Washington did so with a rushing score. Neither skill set profiles particularly well against Buffalo, though. The Bills rank seventh in run defense DVOA, their offensive line ranks fourth in Adjusted Line Yards, and they’ve allowed only three rushing touchdowns this season. Against rushers as receivers, they only rank 19th in DVOA, but target and yardage volume against them are both below average. With all of that said, take note of the teams the Bills have faced this season. According to DVOA, the Raiders have the best rushing offense the Bills have played this season aside from the Falcons. Lynch factors into their high-end rushing rank, but his replacements for this game aren’t slouches. In standard scoring, I prefer Washington for his touchdown upside. In PPR, Richard is the play.
N is for Not Completely Sure.
That’s me when it comes to ranking Tyler Lockett versus Paul Richardson each week. Lockett has slightly more targets and receptions, but Richardson leads the Seahawks in touchdowns, and he’s leading the team in WR snaps since Week 3 (yes, even ahead of Doug Baldwin). Lockett can make a better case for himself if he starts to find the end zone. Until then, I’ll continue to value P-Rich slightly higher.
O is for Only Option.
Adam Thielen’s fantasy owners are hoping he fits that description across the pond on Sunday. If Stefon Diggs can’t play, Thielen inherits a matchup with the worst team in DVOA against #1 wide receivers.
P is for Phone Home.
The Alien, Martavis Bryant, and his agent will seemingly phone anyone to find a new home at this point. Elliott wanted E.T. to stay on Earth, and I want Bryant, Antonio Brown, and JuJu Smith-Schuster to coexist in an intergalactic celebration of passing offense, but aliens were meant to fly away. Thankfully, Smith-Schuster’s first contact is going gangbusters. He’s a must-add and a fine start this week against the Lions.
Q is for Qualms.
I have some with folks in fantasy ready to crown Deshaun Watson an every-week QB1. My qualms come from questions about Houston’s schedule thus far. Watson hasn’t faced a good pass defense since his post-halftime debut in Week 1 against Jacksonville. In the good matchups since, he’s enjoyed an otherworldly touchdown rate. He’s not building a house of cards, as rushing production generally creates a strong foundation, but his ceiling should cave in a little against Seattle’s fifth-ranked pass defense.
R is for Redial.
Forgive me while I go full sidebar and revisit “P is for Phone Home” from above, but we need to talk about Henry Thomas, the kid who played Elliott in E.T. His IMDB page was a total shocker to me. Legends of the Fall, All the Pretty Horses, and Gangs of New York? I didn’t put it together and recognize him in any of those movies. Demaryius Thomas, no relation, has been pretty unrecognizable this season, at least in terms of scoring TDs. Over the past two seasons, he’s only scored 11 total touchdowns, but he had approximately one for every 29 targets and 17 receptions. In 2017, Thomas is up to 50 targets and 30 catches without a score. Something’s got to give, and while he’s not a burner-type like most of the wideouts to torch the Chiefs this season, Thomas should still see a ton of work this week with Emmanuel Sanders sidelined. Touchdowns will come his way eventually, perhaps on Monday in Arrowhead.
S is for Stream Siemian?
T is for Tough on Tom.
That’s what the Chargers hope to be this weekend. They rank eighth in pass defense DVOA, their defensive front ranks fifth in Adjusted Sack Rate, and no quarterback has thrown for more than 242 yards against them this season. Tom Brady isn’t some run of the mill opponent, though. He leads an air attack ranked second in DVOA, averaging 315 yards passing per game. His success this week might hinge on his team’s ability to run the ball. For all their success against the pass, the Chargers rate poorly against the run, and I’m interested to see how aggressively the Patriots attack that weakness. If Philip Rivers can put up enough points on the other side of the ball and force Brady into a pass-heavy script, the Chargers’ defense can cheat against that phase of the game and play into their strengths. This is one of the most fascinating matchups of the season so far.
U is for Underused.
That’s been the story of Theo Riddick’s season so far. With Golden Tate likely out, I’m interested to see how Detroit deploys their offense this week. Pittsburgh’s defense has been stout against quarterbacks and wide receivers. Riddick’s pass-catching ability from an unconventional position could be one of the Lions’ better edges in this contest. I don’t foresee a huge ceiling, but his floor seems safe in PPR formats.
V is for Vig.
The vig is the amount of money an oddsmaker charges for certain bets. If a lot of action comes in on one side of a proposition, the oddsmaker either moves the line, or skews the vig to drive more action to the other side. Studying the vigs will show you where betting action is focused. In the case of Pittsburgh at Detroit, the vig on Detroit (+3) is -120, meaning you need to bet 120 units to win 100. The vig for Pittsburgh (-3) is 100, meaning there is no vig. You would bet 100 units to win 100 if you liked the Steelers in this matchup (the standard vig is -110 on both sides). The betting public likes the Lions, as home underdogs generally perform well against the spread. That doesn’t necessarily mean Matthew Stafford and company are good fantasy plays. First of all, and most importantly, the public could be wrong. Second, a Lions win or cover could be ugly just as easily as it could be fantasy-friendly. Both teams have top-10 defenses in DVOA, as well as bottom-seven situation neutral paces. This game could stay close and be dominated by defense.
W is for Wendell Smallwood.
He didn’t miss a beat in his Week 7 return from injury, commanding an even platoon with LeGarrette Blount. This week, Smallwood faces the NFL’s second-worst defense against running backs as receivers according to DVOA, San Francisco. The Colts somehow rate worse in that phase of the game, despite the Niners allowing the most passes and receiving yardage per game to running backs. Thirty-first, 32nd, whatever. This is a great spot for Smallwood. He only had two targets last week, but in Week 8, he should approach the volume San Francisco allows on average.
X is for X-ed Out.
That’s what the 49ers have been able to do against tight ends this season. No one at the position has seen more than four targets against San Francisco, but Zach Ertz has seen five or more in all his games leading up to this tilt against them. Considering how the Eagles use Ertz more like a wide receiver than a traditional tight end, I expect him to beat this matchup.
Y is for You Thought I’d Forget About Alex Smith!
Shame on you. A 2QBer never forgets! Smith enters Week 8 as the overall QB1, six fantasy points ahead of Joe Paeno’s boy Carson Wentz. Before you fully fade Smith in the face of the Denver defense, note that the Broncos have allowed top-20 quarterback finishes in five of their six games this season. They’ve also allowed 15 or more fantasy points to four of the six passers they’ve faced. Smith’s ceiling is capped to some extent by this matchup, but he’s still a solid bet for top-15 production at his position.
Z is for Zeus.
Travis Kelce is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams, and Denver’s 29th-ranked defense against tight ends should struggle to contain him. Last season in his two games against the Broncos, Kelce averaged 9.5 catches on 13.5 targets for 130.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns.
That does it for this week. Stay classy, planet Earth.
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.