We now have six weeks of data for the 2017 season, but that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore certain longer-term trends. Here are a couple of short- and long-term trends you should be aware of before setting your Week 7 DFS lineups.
1. Julio Jones’s production spikes when his team is the underdog
Jones’s lack of target volume has apparently become a point of contention for head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian just in time for Jones to be unleashed under the circumstances in which he’s historically been the most productive. Jones’s averages of 6.0 receptions, 89.8 yards, and 0.47 touchdowns on 9.7 targets in 55 career games when the Falcons are the favorite are nothing to sneeze at, but in 28 career games when the Falcons are the underdog, those averages jump to 6.9 receptions, and 108.5 yards on 10.1 targets, with his touchdown average remaining at 0.47. If you look at the numbers only since Quinn took over as head coach, the splits hold true. Jones’s per-game averages of 6.8 receptions, 96.0 yards, and 0.29 touchdowns on 10.4 targets when Atlanta is the favorite jump to 7.5 receptions, 122.1 yards, and 0.64 touchdowns on 10.8 targets when Atlanta is the underdog. The Falcons will be underdogs for the first time the season this Sunday night against the Patriots, who, by the way, rank 27th in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to wide receivers.
2. LeSean McCoy’s production spikes when his team is a home favorite
When a team is the favorite in a given game, it means that team has a discernible edge in any number of areas that could help a running back’s box score outlook. An edge for his team’s passing offense could mean more touchdown-scoring chances for him, and an edge for his team on defense could mean more short fields and time of possession, which would enhance his touchdown and attempt outlook, respectively. This has been true of McCoy, who in his career averages 108.6 total yards and 0.79 touchdowns per game when his team is a home favorite, but 96.5 total yards and 0.49 touchdowns per game in all other games. The trend has intensified since McCoy was traded to Buffalo, with averages of 139.4 total yards and 1.29 touchdowns per game in seven games as a home favorite, compared with 91.9 total yards and 0.40 touchdowns per game in 25 games as a road underdog. This is notable not only because the Bills are favored at home against the Buccaneers this week, but because McCoy is slated to be the team’s entire offense—he leads the Bills in targets (32) and the team will likely be without two receivers responsible for 31% of its targets in Charles Clay (knee) and Jordan Matthews (finger)—against a defense allowing the third most schedule-adjusted fantasy points to opposing offenses.
3. The Cleveland Browns rank last in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to tight ends—by a mile
The Browns’ 21.6 schedule-adjusted PPR points per game allowed to tight ends is three points more than the second-worst team, the Giants (18.6). The Browns have allowed the most receptions (43), third-most yards (418), and third-most touchdowns (five) to the position. Last week, Delanie Walker (63% snap rate) split snaps with rookie Jonnu Smith (61%), but Walker ran 22 routes to Smith’s eight and is a high-upside tournament option against the Browns generous defense to opposing tight ends.
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4. Joe Flacco has played 16 games in the last calendar year and thrown an interception in 14 of them
Flacco and the Ravens are a road underdog this week against the Minnesota Vikings, who are tied for fifth in the league in interceptions (seven) and allow the fifth-fewest points per game (17.2). The Vikings are a high-upside DST this week that can be had at a modest cost: $4,700 on FanDuel and $3,300 on DraftKings.
5. More than 50% of the variation in wide receiver fantasy points is explained by variation in red-zone targets
Regression analysis of the 2017 season to date reveals that 55% of the variation in wide receiver DraftKings points and 54% of the variation in wide receiver Fanduel points is explained by how often they’re targeted within 20 yards of the goal line.
The best fit equation for wide receiver DraftKings points is y = 2.7 + (9.0 x red zone targets per game), with “y” representing expected DraftKings points. That means you can come up with a rough projection of how many points a wide receiver is expected to score based on his red-zone opportunity.
For example, Dez Bryant averages 1.8 red-zone looks per game, which would equate to y = 2.7 + (9.0 x 1.8), or 18.9 DraftKings points. Bryant has actually underperformed that pace thus far, averaging only 13.7 DraftKings points per game, indicating he still has untapped upside relative to his to-date performance.
The best fit equation for wide receiver FanDuel points is y = 2.0 + (7.2 x red zone targets per game). Again, “y” represents expected points, this time on FanDuel.
The league leaders in red zone targets per game among wide receivers are Larry Fitzgerald (2.0), Davante Adams (2.0), Bryant (1.8), Mike Evans (1.6), Chris Hogan (1.5), and Jordy Nelson (1.5). For red zone statistics for the entire league, visit the Red Zone Statistics page at 4for4.com.