Hoppen to Conclusions: Week 12 Insights and Analysis
Hello and welcome to the Week 12 edition of Hoppen to Conclusions! This is where I, Sam Hoppen, will share some of my favorite charts, which are designed to give you an overview of the NFL landscape. These charts, along with the commentary that I provide, aim to help you make start or sit, DFS lineup construction, or any other fantasy football decisions. There can be a lot of noise in fantasy football analysis, but these charts have been carefully selected to give you some of the most relevant and useful decision points.
Each of the charts has been designed in a way that you want to be targeting players and teams that are in the top-right quadrant of the chart as denoted by the dotted black lines, which signify the median value for the stat on either the x-axis or y-axis. Before getting to each of the charts and analyses, here are some brief descriptions of what you will find on each chart and how to interpret them. As you can see, I have also added views on the last five weeks of games.
Note: neutral game-script is defined as plays outside of the two-minute warning with a win probability between 20% and 80% for the offensive team.
- Team Pace and Plays: Compares a team's average plays per game to its neutral-script pace, using seconds per play as a measure of pace. On the chart, the y-axis flipped to show faster-paced teams (fewer seconds per play) on top. Simply put, teams (and overall matchups) with more plays and faster pace will offer more opportunities for fantasy point-scoring.
- Team Pass Rates: Compares a team's neutral-script pass rate (NPR) to its red-zone pass rate, with the size of the team's point showing its pass rate over expectation (PROE). Here we can identify which teams are passing the most when game script isn't a deciding factor and when they get close to the goal line.
- Team Game Script: Shows the distribution of a team's plays based on their win probability throughout their games - where there is a higher bubble for a team is where the team ran more plays under the win probability. This can help explain potential play-calling and usage decisions.
- Running Back Usage: Compares running back snap percent to his high-value touches (carries inside the 10 and receptions), with the size of the player's point as his total opportunities per game.
- Wide Receiver/Tight End Usage: Compares player weighted opportunity rating (WOPR) to his targets per route run (TPRR), with the size of the player's point as his receiver air conversion ratio (RACR). WOPR weights both air yards share and target share to evaluate a player's opportunity while RACR divides a player's receiving yards by his air yards to evaluate his efficiency in the opportunity he is given. The charts show the same information for both the wide receiver and tight end position.
Team Pace and Plays
- This Thanksgiving we get a matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders, both of whom are coming off of disappointing losses, in a game with the second-most combined plays per game. The Cowboys put up their worst offensive performance of the season and could be down several key offensive pieces, once again. While on the surface this doesn't sound great, it could mean a higher concentration of opportunities for the remaining players. Michael Gallup figures to be a big focal point of Dallas' passing attack, and if Ceedee Lamb is out, then look to Cedric Wilson and Dalton Schultz to step up, both of whom are averaging over five targets per game since Week 7.
- This week's Sunday Night Football game is a matchup of AFC North rivals vying for playoff position. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns face off in what is the game with the highest combined plays per game of the slate, but be cautious of expectations that this game will be as high-flying as that suggests. Both teams are in the bottom third in neutral-script pace over the last month and have leaned towards the run with pass rates below 55%. Hopefully, Lamar Jackson is back to spark the Ravens offense and guys like Marquise Brown, Mark Andrews, and Rashod Bateman. But, I'd be staying away from starting any Browns player not named Nick Chubb with a banged-up Baker Mayfield or Case Keenum under center.
Team Pass Rates
- The Philadelphia Eagles have found an offensive identity. Since Week 7, the Eagles have a -15% PROE, the lowest in the league. With such low passing volume, this makes anyone outside of DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert (more on him later) unstartable pass catchers. But what about the running backs? Granted, they've been without their lead back, Miles Sanders, for two of those three games, but the backfield is very messy. In their last five games, no running back has commanded more than a 40% share of the backfield touches. Sanders figures to be the primary guy moving forward, but ancillary guys like Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell should remain involved, capping Sanders' weekly ceiling.
- Despite plenty of quarterback turnover, the New York Jets have been one of the more pass-happy teams. Over the last five weeks, the Jets rank seventh in PROE at 4.6% and fourth in neutral-script pass rate at 66%. This has benefitted rookie Elijah Moore, who has a team-leading 17% target share and 7.4 targets per game over that span, helping him put up over 18 PPR points per game. However, he's only running a route on 60% of the team's dropbacks. He's also still competing for targets with Corey Davis and Jamison Crowder, both of whom are averaging over 6.5 targets per game since Week 7, on an extremely unconcentrated team. If you can pick the right guy, he could provide a fruitful week for fantasy, but your guess on who that might be is as good as mine.
Team Game Scripts
- The Pittsburgh Steelers have been on a rollercoaster lately, as shown by their win probability chart over the last five weeks. After a four-game win streak, Pittsburgh has failed to win in the last two weeks. However, all of their games since Week 5 have finished within a one-score point differential, so they're playing close games. This is beneficial for fantasy as it makes production and volume more predictable as wonky game scripts will drastically skew player volume. Najee Harris (25 opportunities per game) and Diontae Johnson (10.5 targets per game) have the most secured roles, with Chase Claypool and Pat Freiermuth as the only two players I would consider plugging into my lineup on a weekly basis.
- Winter is right around the corner, but the Minnesota Vikings are starting to heat up. Winners of four of their last six, the Vikings have scored at least 27 points in four of their last five and have been buoyed by the play of quarterback Kirk Cousins. Since Week 5, Cousins has a 4.2% completion percentage over expectation, the sixth-highest mark over that span. This has lifted Justin Jefferson (WR5) and Adam Thielen (WR15) to being top-15 fantasy receivers over that span, both averaging 16 PPR points per game. Though traditionally seen as a run-first team, the targets on this team are very top-heavy, making DFS double-stacks a worthwhile proposition each week, just as we saw this past week.
Running Back Usage
- In the two games since returning from injury, David Montgomery has gone back to being treated like the workhorse back that he was earlier in the season. Montgomery has played on 90% of snaps the last two games while no other Bears running back has sniffed a 20% snap share. On top of that, he's earned 15 opportunities per game and has all five of the Bears' HVTs in those two games - this is a near-elite workload. He now gets to face off against a Detroit rushing defense that's ranked 29th in rushing DVOA (per Football Outsiders). Montgomery has feasted on sub-par defenses, so look for him to have a big game this Thanksgiving day.
- Since the Raiders' Week 8 bye, Josh Jacobs has earned a larger and larger portion of the teams' opportunities. His snap share has risen in each of the last three games, topping out at 66% in Week 11, his second-highest mark of the season. In the last three games, Jacobs is also commanding a 62% share of the backfield's touches with an average of over 5 HVTs per game - on the season, there are only eight running backs averaging as many HVTs as Jacobs has recently. Jacobs may have the chance to hit his ceiling in the Thanksgiving game with the highest total (50.5).
- I'd be remiss if I didn't dedicate just one bullet on here to Jonathan Taylor, who has been absolutely dominant. Whatever you do, don't sell high - this is the player that you were hoping for when you drafted.
Wide Receiver Usage
- We all know that Davante Adams is Green Bay's WR1, but with the Packers leaning more towards the pass when Aaron Rodgers is under center, it's worth examining the rest of the receiving corps. This past week, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Randall Cobb ran a route on 87% and 81% of dropbacks, respectively, both season-high marks. Valdes-Scantling also earned a season-high 10 targets in Week 11, tied for the second-most targets in a game in his career. However, Valdes-Scantling is more clearly the deep threat, earning over 100 air yards in half of the six games that he's played, while Cobb has yet to break 75 air yards in a game. Because of this, I give Valdes-Scantling the edge and would much rather roster him and his weekly upside than Cobb.
- The aforementioned Jonathan Taylor has overshadowed every other fantasy football option on the Colts, and rightfully so. But Michael Pittman is also having a breakout season without many people noticing. Pittman is the WR13 on the season in PPR thanks to a 32% air yards share, 24% targets share, and 96% routes rate, all of which are leading the team. The only other relevant players in the Colts' passing attack are the aged TY Hilton and the low-ceiling Zach Pascal. Hilton has only played in four games this season and hasn't recorded more than five targets in a game this season. Meanwhile, Pascal has run a route on 93% of dropbacks this season but has a lowly 0.14 targets per route run rate.
Tight End Usage
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were not shy about giving Rob Gronkowski a full workload in his first game back after missing several games due to injury. Despite being questionable leading up to the game, Gronkowski ran a route on 56% of dropbacks and secured six receptions for 71 yards on eight targets. In fact, his 17% target share was the second-highest of the season and, with Antonio Brown's return unknown, he should consistently see a solid target share. He has plunged right back into the top-10 tight end conversation.
- For those waiting for the Dallas Goedert breakout, you are getting it. Though he hasn't exactly been producing from a fantasy perspective (he's averaging fewer than 10 PPR points per game the last five weeks), his supporting metrics are great. Since Zach Ertz left (Week 7), Goedert has a 26% air yards share, 26% target share, 74% routes run rate, and 0.55 WOPR, all of which are second on the team in that span. However, the reason he hasn't exploded yet is that he hasn't found the end zone since Week 4. He'll get there soon and will reward fantasy managers who stick with him.