One of the struggles with using data in the NFL is that there are so few trials in order to get a good perception of what a team or player truly is. In the early portion of the season you must sort through the information that you have and constantly cross check to ensure that there isn’t any noise (schedule, injury, etc) in the data that you are attempting to use. Therefore, I’ve always enjoyed the back half of the season. There are more pieces to put together to tell a story of what is going to happen on a Sunday slate. I’ve nailed down some edges below that I’m hoping you can use to propel you into the season long playoffs, or get to the top of the DFS leaderboard.
Drew Brees Has A Noodle Arm (Source: Sharp Football Stats, Next Gen Stats, and Sports Info Solutions)
Brees unwillingness to push the ball downfield began to show itself in 2018. It seems to have returned in 2019. Brees is +5% in completion percentage over expected, but much of this success is coming on underneath throws. The NFL average QB attempts over 15 yards downfield is approximately 19% of all throws, but Brees is currently at 12%. This is with 2 of his 3 starts trailing heavily. New Orleans is elite at two things: running the football and rushing the passer. Tampa Bay is #1 in the NFL at stopping the run and has moved up to the top half in the NFL at preventing QB pressures. I’m not sure that Brees can take advantage of a porous Tampa Bay secondary and being 5.5-point road favorites seems like a poor line.
D.J. Moore Finally Scores (Source: Sports Info Solutions)
Don’t let the Falcons week 10 upset of the Saints fool you. This defense, primarily this secondary, is horrid. The Atlanta Falcons do not have a cornerback within the top 100 in success rate on passes defended. D.J. Moore has the 2nd most targets in the NFL with one or fewer receiving touchdowns (h/t @Ihartitz on twitter). The Falcons are bottom 10 in the NFL in pressuring the passer. This looks like a possible “get right” game for Kyle Allen and the entire Panthers passing offense. There is a true shootout opportunity in this one as the Panthers could be missing their 3 top corners.
I recognize the Dolphins have won two games, but they remain the worst team in the NFL per DVOA. They intended on tanking and are now on the fringe of losing a top 5 pick in the draft. While the Bills have their issues, they will be highly motivated to continue this schedule based playoff run. The Bills are #2 in the NFL in adjusted line yards, and the Dolphins are #30 defensively. This is a great bounce back opportunity for Devin Singletary, who disappointed in Week 10, but remained on the field for 67% of snaps for the 3rd week in a row.
Terry McLaurin Returns (Source: Player Profiler and Sports Info Solutions)
The Jets being considered “better” than the Redskins is odd. The Jets were ravaged by injury. The injuries snowballed, and their season has become the flaming pile of crap that we see now. They finally found the win column last week, but are they aren’t much different than the Redskins, who are at home and off a bye. How are the Jets possibly only 1-point underdogs? The Skins want to run he ball, but the Jets are elite at stopping it. However, the Jets have one of the worst cornerback tandems in the NFL now that Trumaine Johnson (bad anyways) has been placed on IR. The Jets seem to have decided to continue to keep Brian Poole (actually good) in the slot and are rolling out Darryl Roberts (#125 in success rate) and Nate Hairston (#153 in success rate) on the perimeter. Terry McLaurin only runs 12% of his routes in the slot. He has struggled lately but has had a tough run of pass defenses against the Niners, Vikings, and Bills. There is a good chance he finds a connection with Dwayne Haskins in this one.
We just saw this game. Arizona covered at home based on an 88-yard Andy Isabella scamper. This remains a poor matchup for the Cardinals offense. The 49ers have arguably the best pass rush in the league (#1 in adjusted sack rate) and an above average secondary to match. They just sacked Russell Wilson 5 times and held him to 225 yards passing. Kyler Murray only had 150 passing yards in the last contest without the Isabella catch and run. My concern offensively on the Niners side is they don’t have enough options in the pass game with George Kittle and Emmanuel Sanders missing to have any explosiveness on offense. This total is to high at 45 and I don’t expect many fantasy relevant players to show themselves on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.