Hoppen to Conclusions: Week 15 Insights and Analysis

Dec 15, 2021
Hoppen to Conclusions: Week 15 Insights and Analysis

Hello and welcome to the Week 15 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

  • Perhaps the game that will bring the least excitement this week comes in a divisional matchup between the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. This game features two of the three teams averaging fewer than 60 plays per game this season and has the lowest game total of the week at just 39.5 points. Combined, these teams have just one game in which the offense put up more than 24 points, and that was when Houston ransacked the Jaguars back in Week 1. I don't expect the same level of success for either team this week as Houston is now relying on Davis Mills at quarterback and Trevor Lawrence hasn't thrown for multiple touchdowns since that Week 1 matchup. If you're starting players in this game, make sure you spend extra time at the altar praying for good fantasy fortune.
  • If you want a game with shootout potential, look no further than this week's Thursday night matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers. This game has major playoff implications as the winner will come out as the leader of the AFC West. Though both teams may be without some key players, Keenan Allen looks to make his return after a one-game absence, which will only further keep Mike Williams from returning to his early-season form. Williams has still been on the field a ton, running a route on 92% of the team's dropbacks since Week 10, but has only earned 6.6 targets per game. This gives him a paltry 0.17 targets per route run rate in that span, so until he starts earning more targets, he's a low-end flex option.

Team Pass Rates

  • The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets get to face off in yet another divisional matchup. These two teams have leaned towards the pass-heavier side all season, and that's even when removing game script from the equation. Since Week 10, both teams have a neutral-script pass rate of at least 60% and are attempting a combined 77.3 pass attempts per game this season. Neither team should face much resistance passing the ball, either, as both defenses rank in the bottom half of the league in passing DVOA (per Football Outsiders). The Jets have been decimated by injuries to their wide receiver corps recently, leaving Jamison Crowder to get most of the work, while Miami's passing offense remains concentrated around Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, and Mike Gesicki.
  • On the flip side, the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles appear set to play a game with plenty of rushing. Both teams have a neutral-script pass rate below 55% since Week 10 and seem content rushing the ball as much as possible. This has benefitted Antonio Gibson greatly as he's averaging 21 carries per game over that same stretch of games. Meanwhile, the backfield split in Philadelphia has been much less condensed. In the team's last five games, Miles Sanders (three games played) leads the team with a 49% share of the backfield touches, while Jordan Howard (three games played) is at 43% and Boston Scott (four games played) is at 40%. If all three are healthy, don't expect any one back to secure a large share of the workload.

Team Game Scripts

  • With wins in four of their last five games, the San Francisco 49ers are firmly in the playoff race. During this stretch, they've still stuck to their guns with a run-focused attack, posting a -8% PROE. In fact, they've been running the ball so much that Deebo Samuel has been used more and more as a running back. Over Samuel's last three games, Samuel has seen just six targets but has an absurd 22 rush attempts. This has mostly been due to the lack of health for secondary backs in San Francisco, as Elijah Mitchell hasn't seen his workload decrease, carrying the ball 27 and 22 times in his last two games (was out in Week 14). Samuel is versatile and may be among fantasy's most valuable players this season.
  • The Carolina Panthers are currently riding the NFC's longest losing streak with three straight losses. Uncoincidentally, this has come with Cam Newton starting each of those three games. Newton has played up and down, but more down than up. Fortunately, this hasn't impacted his receivers' ability to produce that much. DJ Moore has had three straight games of at least 14 PPR points but doesn't have the same ceiling as earlier this season as he's failed to reach 20 PPR points in every game since Week 7. Robby Anderson, on the other hand, finally found his ceiling, posting a season-high 21.4 PPR points in Week 14. This has come with increased usage as Anderson earned a season-high 12 targets last week, the first time he's out-targeted Moore all season. Both Anderson and Moore should be considered solid flex plays for the remainder of the season.

Running Back Usage

  • For most of the season, Aaron Jones led the Green Bay Packers' backfield. But, that has changed recently. Aaron Jones missed the Week 11 game due to an injury, and in the past two games since returning Jones has only gotten 31% of the backfield touches. That's left a huge 69% of the backfield touches to AJ Dillon, which is up drastically from the 40% share that he had prior to Jones' injury. Both Jones, with his elite touchdown equity, and Dillon, with his increased usage, are fantasy starters at this point, but they may continue to cap each others' ceilings.
  • I'm now all in on Devonta Freeman as the Ravens' RB1 right now. Last week, Freeman hit a season-high 69% snap rate and has at least 14 opportunities in every game since the Ravens' Week 8 bye. Latavius Murray is the only other contender, but he just got one carry this past week (granted, it was a goal-line carry that he converted for a touchdown, which is frustrating, but it's still only one touch). Back to Freeman, though, who has run a route on at least 60% of dropbacks in each of the past two weeks, and his receiving role could expand with a potentially hobbled Lamar Jackson.
  • Conversely, I'm so done with Saquon Barkley, and no longer think he's a must-start running back. What was once an elite, talented running back is now a lackluster plodding back. Despite averaging over 17 opportunities per game in the four weeks since returning from injury, Barkley hasn't eclipsed 19 PPR points. Part of his lack of success is due to the Giants' inability to sustain drives and enter the red zone, but he only has four touchdowns all season, which has historically been his calling card. He's also now ceding opportunities to Devontae Booker, who has double-digit opportunities in each of the past two weeks. You're still likely in a position where you have to start Barkley, but there are a lot more guys I'd be more excited to start going forward.

Wide Receiver Usage

  • There's a chance that the Cleveland Browns are without both Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper in their game against the Raiders on Saturday. This would obviously open up some opportunities, and Donovan Peoples-Jones is the favorite to take advantage of it. In Week 14, Peoples-Jones had a 0.7 WOPR, which was a season-high. He also earned a season-high seven targets and ran a route on 97% of dropbacks, all great marks to hit. Behind him, Rashard Higgins looks most likely to step up. Higgins didn't record a target last week, but did play on 37% of snaps and has a 48% snap rate on the season. This team doesn't pass much, but when they do someone is going to have to get the ball.
  • Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool are still the two top dogs on the Steelers, but Pittsburgh seems to finally have found their replacement for Juju Smith-Schuster. Ray-Ray McCloud has seen a bump in usage the past couple of weeks, running a route on a season-high 91% of dropbacks last week and earning eight targets. He's also run 85% of his routes out of the slot and has a 6.2-yard average depth of target the last five weeks, indicating his role as a possession receiver. He's still likely fourth in the target pecking order behind Johnson, Claypool, and Najee Harris, but he could provide use in games that Pittsburgh is expected to pass a lot.
  • DK Metcalf's blow-up game is coming, and it's coming soon. Fantasy managers have been (rightfully) disappointed since Russell Wilson returned as he's only averaging 6.9 PPR points per game in the last five games. This is all despite leading the team with a 23% target share, having a 33% air yards share, and running a route on 88% of dropbacks. Tyler Lockett is seeing an equivalent amount of deep passes from Wilson, but has been able to convert on them much more efficiently. On the surface, Seattle's matchup against the Los Angeles Rams may seem tough, but the Rams rank 29th in our adjusted fantasy points allowed metric against wide receivers. Both Seattle receivers should be set up well to have big games against Los Angeles.

Tight End Usage

  • I know I mentioned staying away from the Texans vs. Jaguars game this Sunday, but James O'Shaughnessy offers some DFS appeal as a low-priced tight end. Since returning from injury three weeks ago, O'Shaughnessy has run a route on 74% of the team's dropbacks and has a 16% target share (third on the team). He hasn't been able to produce a ceiling as he's averaged just 5.1 PPR points per game, but all he needs to do is fall into the end zone to be valuable. You could find worse options at the position this week.
  • The Saints have not thrown the ball the past couple of games with Taysom Hill at the helm, but they may be forced to against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week. This makes Nick Vannett another intriguing dart throw at tight end this week as he had several season-high marks in Week 14. He ran a route on 78% of dropbacks and saw a team-high six targets last week and has averaged 7.8 PPR points over the last three weeks. Vannett should have a chance to make some noise in this matchup against the Buccaneers.
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