Hoppen to Conclusions: Week 14 Insights and Analysis
Hello and welcome to the Week 14 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 week's top matchup for pace comes as a divisional game between the Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys. This is the first of two matchups in the next three weeks for these teams and comes at a time in which both are vying for a division title. Dallas has consistently been one of the fastest teams, running a play ever 28.4 seconds (fastest in the league this season) and using a no-huddle offense 11% of the time (6th-highest). While Washington hasn't been as fast (30.6 seconds per play), they are averaging just under 68 plays per game the last five weeks, the third most.
- Coming off of their first win, the Detroit Lions are riding high! But that doesn't mean that their game this week will be any more exciting. In fact, it sets up to be a slogging matchup against the Denver Broncos. Both the Lions and Broncos have played at a pace far below league average this season and feature offenses that pride themselves on throwing the ball as little as possible. With a 42-point game total, the second-lowest of the week, fantasy points will likely come at a premium in this matchup. Aside from a few key players (Jerry Jeudy, Javonte Williams, and TJ Hockenson), I would caution starting many players in this game.
Team Pass Rates
- The Bills will obviously go down as playing in a game with very little passing, but don't expect that to be the case this week. Buffalo and Tampa Bay face off as two of the pass-happiest teams in the league, each with a PROE over 4.5% and a neutral-script pass rate over 67%. These are both top-five marks in the league, setting up for a day filled with plenty of passing. With the highest game total of the week at 53.5, this game will surely carry plenty of ownership in DFS, so picking the right players will be paramount. In redraft, start as many players in this game as possible.
- The once pass-happy Cincinnati Bengals have, unfortunately, reverted back to a more run-centric team. In the four weeks leading up to their bye, Cincinnati boasted a 4.5% PROE, 8th in that span. However, taking back-to-back losses before the bye must have spooked Zac Taylor. In their three games since returning from the bye, Cincinnati has dropped to a -5.7% PROE. On the plus side, the Bengals still have a very concentrated passing attack, and Joe Mixon has been boosted tremendously by this playcalling to the tune of scoring a touchdown in nine straight games. But in order for this passing offense to really open up and the likes of Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase to hit their ceilings, they need to start passing more.
Team Game Scripts
- The Indianapolis Colts have risen from the ashes, winning six of their last eight games. In that stretch, the Colts have relied on Jonathan Taylor as a true bellcow back, giving him an average of 24.3 opportunities per game and a whopping 74% of the backfield's total touches. Because of this massive workload, Taylor is averaging 28 PPR points per game, tops in the league over that span. Taylor's usage has rendered Nyheim Hines useless from a fantasy football perspective, as he's only averaging 6.9 PPR points per game during these games. The Colts are on bye this week but don't expect that usage to change when they return.
- The Los Angeles Rams, conversely, hit a skid with a three-game losing streak before getting back in the win column against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13. However, this hasn't caused the Rams to change how they treat their lead back. Whether it's Darrell Henderson or Sony Michel, the primary running back in this backfield is given a full workload. Last week it was Michel, who got a season-high 28 opportunities as Henderson was only going to be used in emergency situations. But when Henderson plays at least 70% of snaps in a game, he's given an average of 18.8 opportunities per game. You can fire up either one when we know they're getting the lead role.
Running Back Usage
- Over the past several weeks (and really for most of the season), James Conner has been a stud fantasy running back, scoring 14 touchdowns on the season. But Chase Edmonds is set to return soon, so how will that impact his usage? Most notably, I expect Conner's rushing usage to decline - he went from averaging just 0.6 targets per game with Chase to 4.3 targets per game. Edmonds is one of the best pass-catching backs, and Arizona likes to use him that way. Additionally, his carries per game jumped from 11.8 per game with Edmonds to 18 per game without Edmonds. Conner should still maintain RB2 level fantasy status with his touchdown equity, but Edmonds will certainly lower his ceiling a tad.
- Kenyan Drake is now out for the season, leaving the door open for Josh Jacobs to have a massive workload. In Week 13, a game that Drake only played on 12% of snaps, Jacobs had a season-high 85% snap rate, 71.4% routes run per dropback rate, and 10 HVTs. These are the type of usage numbers that many people expected entering the season, and now he may finally get a chance to see it. The player most likely to step up in Drake's absence is Jalen Richard, but he currently finds himself on the COVID list. With Drake primarily playing a passing-down role, I don't expect Peyton Barber's workload to spike that much. We can just hope that Jacobs is given the workload that he deserves.
- Among the many things that Urban Meyer has mismanaged in his short stead as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, it's the backfield usage. On Sunday, lead back James Robinson inexplicably seemed to get benched and Meyer explained it away by passing the blame off to the running backs coach. This led to Robinson getting three of his eight carries in the final two minutes of the game when Jacksonville was down 37-7. Robinson also saw his lowest snap share of the season in games that he was fully healthy (52%) and his second-fewest opportunities of the season (12). It's difficult to trust how Jacksonville will use their running backs this week, making Robinson more of a flex option than an RB2.
Wide Receiver Usage
- Elijah Moore has been surging the past couple of weeks, and now with Corey Davis out for the year, he is ready for a full-blown liftoff. In the past two games, Moore has run a route on 90% of dropbacks and has a 32% target share. Not to mention, he led the league in air yards in Week 13 with 201 air yards, one of just 13 instances of a receiver recording over 200 air yards. Look for Moore to end his rookie season on a strong note.
- Another rookie wide receiver that's going in the opposite direction is Rashod Bateman. He has seen his routes run percent and targets drop in each of the last three weeks, bottoming out at season-low marks of 38% of routes run per dropback and just one target, both season-lows. This has come with a slight uptick in usage for Sammy Watkins, who saw six targets in Week 13, his most since Week 4. But Devin Duvernay also got involved this past week with three targets and running a route on 62% of dropbacks, his most since Week 10. Marquise Brown still holds the top spot, but in an offense that passes the ball so little, I would not trust anyone besides him in my starting lineup.
- We now have three games with Odell Beckham Jr. as a Los Angeles Ram, and his usage has been mixed. Overall, he's run a route on 59% of dropbacks and has a 15% target share. Though he seems to be getting used as a deep threat with over 100 air yards in back-to-back weeks and a 16.8-yard average depth of target. Meanwhile, Van Jefferson has run a route on an elite 96% of dropbacks, has at least seven targets in each of his last four games, and is tied for the team lead with a 27% air yards share. Cooper Kupp is still the number one option, but Jefferson and Beckham will continue to fight for the number two role.
Tight End Usage
- Kyle Pitts is struggling recently, which is not something I ever expected to say (nor something I ever wanted to say). But he is one of 47 players who has recorded at least 33 targets since Week 8 and he has the fewest red zone targets among those players with only one. These are all games in which Calvin Ridley hasn't played and he's averaging just 6.3 targets per game, which is second on the team in that span. This has made him the TE17 since Week 8 with an average of just under seven PPR points per game. You should still continue to start him because of the elite ceiling he has shown, but expectations have definitely been lowered.
- Another (former) stud tight end who has struggled recently is TJ Hockenson. Since the Lions' bye in Week 9, Hockenson's targets have ridden a roller coasting going from one to eight down to three and back up to eight again this past week. He's still running a route on 88% of dropbacks in those games, which is good to see, but his 0.19 targets per route run are not that encouraging. Fortunately, he's found the end zone twice in these four games, keeping fantasy managers alive while they've continued to trot him out.