Hoppen to Conclusions: Week 9 Insights and Analysis
Hello and welcome to the Week 9 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 matchup of teams with the most combined plays per game comes between two purple teams, the Baltimore Ravens and the Minnesota Vikings. Both teams are coming off of disappointing losses and will attempt to bounce back against each other. Over the last five games, these teams are both in the top six in plays per game, but those numbers are slightly inflated with each having played an overtime game. As you'll see in the chart below, Baltimore has become more pass-heavy in recent weeks with a 3.9% PROE and a league-median 59.8% neutral-script pass rate. the past five weeks. However, Minnesota currently ranks third in passing DVOA and 20th in rushing DVOA (per Football Outsiders) so I would expect Baltimore to return to their run-heavy ways.
- One game that I'm avoiding, where possible, is the Bears vs. Steelers game. While the Bears have played at an above-average pace this season, they have not had much success (outside of their game last week), causing them to have a below-average number of plays per game. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's pace is well below league average and is outside of the top 12 in plays per game. Additionally, both teams have leaned heavily on the run over the past five weeks, which is usually a recipe for a slow and groggy game environment. Besides Diontae Johnson, Najee Harris, and maybe Chase Claypool, I would look for alternative options.
Team Pass Rates
- With more confidence in his starting quarterback, Sean McVay has not been shy about throwing the ball as much as possible. Since Week 4, the Rams rank fifth in PROE. Cooper Kupp has obviously benefitted greatly from this, as has Robert Woods, who has recorded five straight games with double-digit PPR points. But who this makes the biggest impact on is Van Jefferson, who has solidified himself as the Rams' WR3 after they waived DeSean Jackson. Jefferson has two straight games with double-digit PPR points himself and has only run one fewer route than Kupp and Woods the last two weeks. He's a viable flex play at this point in almost any matchup.
- Kansas City has employed similar playcalling tendencies, but has had much less success than the Rams at a team level. Combined, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce account for exactly 50% of the targets that Patrick Mahomes has thrown, making them the only reliable starters on a weekly basis. Mecole Hardman is the only other player with a target share above 8%, but he has struggled to produce consistently, averaging just under 10 PPR points per game, and his targets have fluctuated from a season-low three targets to a season-high 12 targets. Hardman could be a spot start in the right game environment but is really more interesting in DFS as a leverage option.
Team Game Scripts
- The Detroit Lions' win probability chart looks like the hills I would go sledding on in my youth back in Wisconsin - and not in a good way. As spunky as this team has been at times, the Lions haven't scored more than 20 points in a game since their 33-point Week 1 game and have a total of just 10 touchdowns since Week 2. D'Andre Swift and TJ Hockenson remain weekly high-end starters at their position while Jamaal Williams is one of the premier handcuffs, but those may be the only three Lions players worth holding through their Week 9 bye.
- After starting 0-3, the Indianapolis Colts have won three of their last five, with their two losses coming in overtime. This is thanks to Carson Wentz's improved play as he's thrown 15 touchdowns to just three interceptions. The two biggest beneficiaries of the Colts' recent success have been Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman, both of whom are averaging over 17 PPR points per game in the Colts' last five games. These two have combined for nine double-digit PPR performances over the last five weeks while the remaining non-quarterbacks on the Colts have combined for just four such performances in that span. Pittman and Taylor are weekly must-start players, while the remaining non-quarterbacks for the Colts hold little relevance if any.
Running Back Usage
- I know I wrote about him last week, but I don't care because Michael Carter has been on an absolute tear lately as he's been the beneficiary of the post-bye rookie bump. Carter has 49 opportunities in the last two weeks and had a league-leading 12 high-value touches in Week 8 thanks to nine receptions. He's also run a route on 61% of routes the last two weeks, which is up from the 33% rate he had run routes on before the bye. Despite the team he's on, Carter is a solid RB2 moving forward and viable DFS play.
- Following the Bills' bye, we have gotten more clarity that Zack Moss is the RB1 in Buffalo. In Week 8, Moss had a 64% snap rate (second-highest of the season), 15 opportunities (second-highest of the season), and 7 HVTs (highest of the season). Meanwhile, Devin Singletary has been above a 35% snap rate just once in the last three weeks and is averaging just 8.7 opportunities per game over that span. Singletary remains a valuable asset, but this gives Moss a little more DFS appeal knowing you can bank on him having the majority of the opportunities.
- Entering last week, the biggest concern about Alvin Kamara's value would be the potential opportunities that Mark Ingram would take away. However, that didn't end up being that big of a deal. Kamara was still given 19 carries but had only four targets, which was the second-fewest in a game this season. I understand that Kamara has gotten several opportunities when Taysom Hill was the starter, but Hill will take more away than Jameis Winston or Trevor Siemien would, and that's the biggest concern right now.
Wide Receiver Usage
- Mike Williams was great to start the year but has struggled to produce lately. Williams now has fewer than five PPR points in three of his last four games, but that isn't a reason to be concerned quite yet. In only one of those four games has his routes run rate dropped below 80%, and that was the week when he was dealing with injury issues. Now is the time to buy-low on Williams before he returns to being a stud.
- Over the last three games (all without DJ Chark), Jamal Agnew leads the Jaguars with a 20% target share. In fact, last week, Jamal Agnew, Dan Arnold, and Carlos Hyde accounted for 30 of Trevor Lawrence's 54 passing attempts. I hope that the talent (aka Laviska Shenault) eventually rises to the top, but this at least makes Agnew an interesting play given the Jaguars' need to pass the ball every game.
- A.J. Brown is starting to look every bit the WR1 that we all drafted him to be and now, with Derrick Henry sidelined, he may be featured even more heavily. Brown's 0.8 WOPR leads the league over the last five weeks and saw a season-high 11 targets this past week. However, he doesn't need a lot of targets to be elite as he's still averaging just under 25 PPR points per game in his last three games on fewer than ten targets per game. Fire him up confidently in any league that you have him and watch the points come to you!
Tight End Usage
- Pat Friermuth has taken on a larger role the past two weeks, earning seven targets in each game. Granted, Eric Ebron was out this past week, but his rate of routes run per dropback has risen each of the last three weeks, topping out at 65% in Week 8. He leads the tight ends on the Steelers with a 10% target share, which isn't great, but his 0.2 targets per route run rate is quite solid for a tight end. He definitely has streamer capability in the right matchup, especially if Eric Ebron is out for an extended period of time.
- Mike Gesicki has continued to get an elite level of work. His 98% routes run rate was his highest of the season, and, like Friermuth, his routes run rate has risen in the past three games. It also helps that the Dolphins' passing attack has been extremely concentrated around him, DeVante Parker, and Jaylen Waddle, making it much easier to predict opportunities. He's locked in as a TE1 the rest of the season, especially given that Miami has the sixth-highest PROE on the season, and is in an excellent spot to smash this week against the Texans.