Hoppen to Conclusions: Week 8 Insights and Analysis
Hello and welcome to the Week 8 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.
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 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.
As you can see, I have also added views on the last five weeks of games. While this is only a one-game difference, for now, this will allow us to see more recent trends as we progress throughout the season. With that, let's get into it!
Team Pace and Plays
- The premier matchup comes on Sunday Night Football when the Minnesota Vikings host the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams are above-average in neutral-script pace and plays per game (both on the season and over the last five weeks). While it should be noted that these teams have played a combined three overtime games, which will naturally boost their plays per game count, but this game will still be a fantasy feast. With so many premier fantasy players in this game, there should be no shortage of scoring. I'd start all players available and think that Kirk Cousins is a viable quarterback streamer if you are without Lamar Jackson this week.
- After losing four straight, Carolina is in a get-right spot against division rival Atlanta. According to Football Outsiders, Atlanta ranks 30th in defensive DVOA, so Sam Darnold has a chance to revert back to how he played in his first three games of the season. You're already starting D.J. Moore and Chuba Hubbard in season-long leagues, but Robby Anderson has played poorly as of late, making him difficult to trust in a starting lineup. That said, he's seen 9.5 targets per game in his last four, and Carolina is 10th in pass rate over expectation this year, so I would tend to trust the volume and hope that the defensive matchup allows him to break free.
Team Pass Rates
- While it may come as a shock to see Green Bay be so pass-heavy, this is the second year in a row in which they've had a pass rate over expectation over 4%. But should we expect that to be the case come Thursday when Green Bay will be without two of their top receivers in Davante Adams and Allen Lazard? Surprisingly, yes! In the six games that Davante Adams missed across the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the Packers still had a pass rate over expectation of 5.8%. With that, the biggest change will just be how the targets are distributed. I expect Aaron Jones, Robert Tonyan, and Randall Cobb to see the biggest boosts in passing-game usage, with Marquez Valdes-Scantling being heavily involved, if active.
- One game that I'm staying far away from, especially from a DFS perspective, is the game between the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers. Both teams have been extremely run-heavy this season, ranking in the bottom five of teams in pass rate over expectation. Additionally, these two teams' combined plays per game are the fourth-lowest total on the week. Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel should still get their fair share of work, but there isn't anyone outside of those two that are must-starts.
Team Game Scripts
- After starting 2-2, the Washington Football Team has lost its last three games. The slightly positive news (at least for those with Antonio Gibson on their teams), is that this hasn't negatively impacted Gibson's usage an extreme amount. Over the last three games, Gibson has averaged 17 opportunities (carries plus targets) per game after being at 17.5 per game in the first four games. That doesn't capture the full story though, as Gibson has played a season-low 39% and 42% of snaps the last two weeks and has just 12 PPR fantasy points combined. Fortunately, Gibson faces a Denver defense that ranks 26th in rushing DVOA (per Football Outsiders), so, as someone who has commanded a 73% share of Washington's backfield carries, he has an opportunity to have a spike week.
- The Seattle Seahawks are down bad without Russell Wilson (thanks Captain Obvious). In Geno Smith's two starts, Seattle has scored a total of 30 points and combined for just 519 total yards of offense. The player who has seemingly been impacted most by this is Tyler Lockett, who has just ten total targets the past two weeks after having at least 10 targets in two of his first five games. Though they play a Jacksonville team that ranks last in most defensive categories, the Seahawks have averaged just 55 plays per game (by far the fewest in the league this season) and have a -8.8% pass rate over expectation with Geno. DK Metcalf is the only person in this passing attack that should even sniff a starting lineup.
Running Back Usage
- This past week, Michael Carter set season-high marks in several relevant statistical categories. He recorded nine targets, nine high-value touches, and 16.4 PPR fantasy points while playing on 72% of snaps and running a route on 59% of dropbacks. Granted, this was in a game in which Ty Johnson left early and Tevin Coleman didn't play, but this usage is still very encouraging. Without knowing how Mike White will impact this offense (it honestly couldn't be that much worse than with Zach Wilson), things are looking up for Carter.
- The Cardinals' running back usage continues to be annoying, but I remain confident in Chase Edmonds' long-term value. Despite being in an extremely positive game script this past week, Edmonds ran a route on a season-high 77% of dropbacks in addition to recording double-digit carries for the first time since Week 4. It was also the first time this year that Edmonds had more carries than teammate James Conner, who played on a season-low 30% of snaps. Thursday Night's game figures to be a weird one (what else is new?), but even if that's the case, Edmonds doesn't look like he'll be phased out by game script.
- While Elijah Mitchell has gotten at least 60% of the running back rushes in every game he's played this season (for a 75% backfield rush share on the season), he is not a factor in the passing game, leaving a lot to be desired from a high-value touch perspective. JaMycal Hasty has locked up the receiving work for San Francisco running backs - with 12 total targets in the three games that he's played, he has more targets than all other 49ers running backs combined. Mitchell and Hasty, though unexpectedly, are a solid running back tandem, with Mitchell having more upside in the traditional sense.
Wide Receiver Usage
- Calvin Ridley is currently my favorite buy-low target in season-long leagues right now (especially given that Atlanta is past its bye). As a manager with him on several teams, this season has been extremely frustrating. But, it's important to put his performances into context as he's still getting a very large and valuable workload, he just hasn't been able to produce from a fantasy perspective. He's the only Falcons wide receiver that's running a route on more than 70% of dropbacks this season (he's at 92%) and he has double-digit targets in every game since Week 2. Finally, per PFF, he is averaging nearly 20 expected PPR fantasy points per game but is delivering 5.7 fantasy points under expectation this season - this clearly indicates how big his role is and a sign for potential positive regression.
- One name that you should start to become familiar with is Kalif Raymond, who looks like the Detriot Lions' WR1. In the past two weeks (with Quintez Cephus out), Raymond has run a route on 95% of the team's dropbacks and has 15 total targets. He's actually turned this into fantasy production, too, with double-digit PPR points in three of his last five games. D'Andre Swift and TJ Hockenson are still the top targets on this offense, but Raymond is playing well as of late and could offer some usable weeks down the road.
Tight End Usage
- In his first game without Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert set season-high marks in routes run per dropback (85%), targets (5, tied for season-high), receiving yards (70), and air yards (99). With Philadelphia ranked in the top 10 in pass rate over expectation and no clear indication of who their WR2 is, Goedert should have a chance to flourish. He's a TE1 for the remainder of the season.
- Noah Fant is quietly having a solid year. As the TE6 on the year, Fant has produced at least a dozen PPR fantasy points in over half of his games. After starting the year running a route on 69% of dropbacks in the first three games, Fant has been at an 86% rate the last four weeks. He's also seen his target share jump up to 21% in those same four games, seeing double-digit targets in two of those games. Jerry Jeudy is set to return this upcoming week, but I don't expect that to impact Fant's production that much.