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 four 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 (in regulation only, overtime excluded) 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 ps rate over expectation (PROE) to its red-zone pass rate. 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.
- 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
- Just as you sit down to enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey, the Dallas Cowboys will be hosting the New York Giants in a battle for NFC East positioning. Recently, these teams have been two of the fastest-moving offenses in the league as they each rank in the top ten in both neutral-script pace and plays per game over the last four weeks. These two teams also rank in the top eight in pace over expected on the season, running a play more than 1.25 seconds faster than expected. Neither offense has been particularly destructive, though. New York is tenth in offensive EPA per play but 23rd in yards per play, while Dallas is 15th in offensive EPA per play and 14th in yards per play. Dallas' strength has been on defense with the third-best EPA per play allowed, and they have what it takes to shut down this paltry (not poultry) Giants offense. Despite what the pace metrics say, I would minimize my exposure to this game in the Thanksgiving DFS slate and bet on this being a rough-and-tumble NFC East matchup, with scoring coming at a premium.
- Action: bet under 45.5 (-110) at FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, or Caesars
- Once you're on day three of Thanksgiving leftovers, we get a special treat with the Arizona Cardinals hosting the Los Angeles Chargers. These are two offenses that have been as consistent as the texture of canned cranberry sauce, but damn do they move fast. By every metric - neutral-script pace, plays per game, and pace over expected - these teams play at some of the fastest speeds and are near the top of each. This game comes with a 47.5-point total, which is tied for the highest on Sunday, making it ripe for fantasy scoring. All of the healthy players in this game are worth starting, and some of the ancillary pieces in the offenses (i.e., Greg Dortch, Josh Palmer) are worth exploring as DFS dart throws for the main slate.
- Action: target this game in DFS
Team Pass Rates
- Over the last four weeks, less than a third of the league has a positive PROE. One of those teams, surprisingly, has been the Cincinnati Bengals. While they've been a rather pass-heavy team all season (they rank 3rd in PROE so far this season), the loss of Ja'Marr Chase had many concerned if Zac Taylor would continue with this style of play calling. In only one of three games that Chase has missed, did the Bengals have a negative PROE, and that came in a game in which Joe Mixon ran all over the Carolina Panthers. The Bengals have actually passed so much recently that Samaje Perine is averaging three targets per game over his last three games, and he could see an increased workload if Joe Mixon were to miss time.
- Action: buy all Bengals pass catchers
- One team that I was hoping would start to turn on the pass burners is the Dallas Cowboys. Since Dak Prescott returned from injury in Week 7, Dallas has a -2% PROE, good for just 15th in the league over that span. Part of this may be due to their three wins in that span coming with a margin of victory of at least 18 points. Upon his return, Prescott has keyed in on two players as his favorite targets - Ceedee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. Lamb and Schultz are the only two Cowboys players averaging more than five targets per game in the four games that Prescott has been back. They also both boast a yards per route run rate above 2.4, which is good for top eight in their respective positions since Week 7. I don't want people to forget about Michael Gallup, too, who is still running a route on 78.5% of Dallas' dropbacks. Unfortunately, after having three end zone targets in the first six weeks of the season, Gallup has just one in his last four games, and he hasn't scored since Week 1. Lamb and Schultz are clear weekly starts, but Gallup will need a bump in the team's passing in order to offer any sort of flex value, and I'd be betting on his talent to win out, too.
Running Back Usage
- The Washington Commanders are 4-1 with Taylor Heinicke under center this year, but that's not what I want to focus on here. Instead, let's take a peek at the backfield now that JD McKissic will miss the rest of the season due to a neck injury. The first game that McKissic missed was Week 9, so we'll take a look at things since then. Between Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson, Robinson has out-carried Gibson by a count of 54 to 43 since Week 9. But that's really about all that Robinson has going for him. In those same three weeks, Gibson has more carries inside the 10-yard line (6 to 3) and is playing on 15% more snaps at a 56.5% rate. What really sets Gibson apart, though, is his usage as a receiver. Gibson has run a route on 57.6% of Washington's dropbacks since Week 9 compared to just a 14.1% rate for Robinson. It's close between these two, and it seems like it'll continue to be a shared backfield, but I'm much more bullish on Gibson rest of season.
- Buffalo is one of the aforementioned teams that has a positive PROE, but after trading Zack Moss for Nyheim Hines, this backfield started to garner a bit more attention. Unfortunately, Hines has not been a factor with the Bills, playing on only seven total snaps and getting just two touches on four opportunities in three games with Buffalo. Recently, Devin Singletary has continued to be treated as the workhorse as he's commanded a 71.9% snap share in the last three weeks in addition to 16 total opportunities per game. This isn't much different from his pre-trade usage, but it's enough to keep him relevant as a weekly RB2 option. Meanwhile, James Cook has seen a slight uptick in usage (21.2% snap rate since Week 9), but it's not enough to give him standalone value without an injury to Singletary.
Wide Receiver Usage
- I'm not going to lie; things are getting a little concerning for the Eagles' wide receiver group. Yes, losing Dallas Goedert should theoretically free up more targets, but he was operating in a different area of the field than everyone else - his 5.2-yard average depth of target was the lowest of all Eagles players with at least 10 targets this season. As the wide receivers go, AJ Brown looked to be the clear-cut WR1 in this offense, but DeVonta Smith has pulled closer as more of the 1b to Brown's 1a. It could partly be due to Brown nursing an ankle injury, but Smith has out-targeted brown 17 to 10 over the past two weeks combined. With Philadelphia's PROE down to -0.9% since returning from the bye, volume has come at a premium. You're still going to start Brown and Smith in season-long formats, but I would temper expectations for their weekly floor and fade them in DFS for now.
- Action: fade Eagles wide receivers in DFS
- Now that Cooper Kupp is likely done for the year (not confirmed, but it seems all but certain with the direction LA's season is going), some opportunities have opened up for other Rams receivers. In the first game without Kupp (which was this past Sunday), three wide receivers ran a route on more than 80% of the team's dropbacks: Allen Robinson, Van Jefferson, and Ben Skrownek. The three of them earned five, five, and four targets, respectively, so it was a rather diffused approach to who would be targeted. Robinson got the lone end zone target (putting his total on the season to 11), which got him into the end zone for the first time since Week 6. Still, no Rams receiver other than Kupp has yet to eclipse 70 receiving yards in a game. This Rams offense, ranked 30th in passing EPA per play, offers such a low ceiling. Even if there are more opportunities to go around without Kupp, Robinson is the only one I would consider trusting given he's been a fixture for most of the season already.
Tight End Usage
- The tight end position continues to get worse and worse after every passing week. Fortunately, TJ Hockenson has started solidifying his role in Minnesota to the point where he's a tight end that you want to start on your team. Hockenson has nine targets in the three games he's been with the Vikings. Even while running a route on nearly 80% of the team's dropbacks, Hockenson still has a target per route run rate of 0.27, which is the 7th-highest among tight ends with at least 20 targets this season. His volume is as good as it gets for the tight end position. Of course, now that I've sung the praises of Hockenson, he's probably doomed to fail, but alas, he's a major buy right now.
- Action: buy TJ Hockenson
- David Njoku returned to action on Sunday after missing two weeks (and a bye week) due to injury. However, his return was less-than-spectacular as he was only targeted three times in a game where Cleveland had a win probability below 25% for the entire second half. Frustratingly, teammate Harrison Bryant earned seven targets on Sunday after just five total targets in the two games Njoku missed. It very well could have been that Cleveland was easing Njoku back following his ankle injury (even though it looked like he was just fine) as he only ran a route on 42.2% of dropbacks in Week 11 (a season-low for him). With Deshaun Watson's inevitable return right around the corner, signs are pointing up for Njoku, who was having a phenomenal season prior to his injury.