I thought in this week’s lede I would further detail my general process for breaking down NFL games. There are a million different approaches, but to be successful everyone needs to find a method and refine it constantly. My process for breaking down games starts with taking the entire slate and checking the injury report prior to moving to line of scrimmage. This is where significant edges are found even in today’s game. I check pressure rates, adjusted line yard data, and articles pertaining to the big guys to find if there is a significant advantage terms of pass rush, or the ability to run the football. If there is an advantage at the line of scrimmage positively, we must ensure we are working in a game environment in which the coach that has the advantage will take the edge. Alternatively, if the edge is a negative, is the quarterback/coach intelligent and talented enough to beat it? The final step is to compare the current secondary using success rates, target rates, yards allowed per target, etc. versus the talent and scheme in the passing game. That information is again tied back to if the coach and quarterback are talented enough to take advantage. Essentially, what I provide to you are the most important notes found in breaking down the individual games and looking at players statistics for the entire seasons. Here are those edges for week 4.
- Hollywood Brown is a WR1 (Source: AirYards.com and Football Outsiders)
I put this out on twitter on Tuesday to get anyone that follows a head start. The perception of Marquise Brown going into the season is that he would primarily be a deep threat. He broke out in week 1 against the lowly Dolphins, but the industry called to pump the brakes as he only played 18% of offensive snaps. Since that game he has played the most snaps of any wide receiver on the roster each week. He has 27 targets (T-15th in NFL) with an ADOT of 17.3 and has 466 air yards (3rd in the NFL). There is only 1 other receiver in the NFL with over 25 targets and an ADOT above 17, Mike Evans. The best thing about Brown is that many of your league mates do not have this perception of him yet. He can be had in trade leagues for a severe discount, and I highly recommend trying to acquire him. The Ravens have played 3 below average defenses thus far this season, but if Brown continues to acquire this target share in an offense designed for explosive plays, he will finish the season as a WR1.
Both teams want to “run the damn ball”, and they should be able to as much as their hearts desire. Last week, because of a slow-paced game, I called for Dalvin Cook expectations to be tempered. He proceeded to put up 110/1 against the Raiders. The Raiders desire to establish dominance at the line of scrimmage, but there is one big problem… They can’t tackle. The Raiders are last in the NFL allowing a broken tackle on 16.6% of plays. The Colts are the second worst team in the NFL allowing a broken tackle on 14.6% of plays. The Raiders are top 10 offensively in adjusted line yards, and the Colts ranked #4 in that category in 2018. The Colts had a defensive renaissance in 2018 primarily on the back of Darius Leonard. Leonard did not play week 3 and is yet to clear concussion protocol. These rushing offenses look to be in line for big weeks.
- Davante Adams: Not an obvious buy-low (Source: SharpFootballStats & Football Reference)
Adams relied heavily over the past 3 years on volume of red zone targets and red zone targets converted to touchdowns. In 2018, he converted 14 red zone targets into 14 receptions and 12 touchdowns. The Packers offense should improve as Aaron Rodgers and LaFleur become more comfortable, which would lead Adams to find more success as red zone opportunities increase. However, an interesting trend is forming. The Packers threw in the red zone at a clip of 64% in 2018. This season the Packers are currently passing in the red zone at a rate of only 53% prior to the week 4 game. LaFleur is forming his offense around the ideas of Kyle Shannahan. Shannahan is frequently running the ball nearly 50% of the time in the red zone, even when coordinating the Falcons prolific offense from the Super Bowl team. Analytics show that running the ball in the red zone is more successful. LaFleur is one of the more analytical based coaches in the NFL. This is bad news for Adams outlook. He is playing on Thursday night and making me look dumb right now, but moving forward keep an eye on the Packers red zone passing rate. Adams is obviously better than his stats from the first 3 weeks, but use a wait and see approach before selling the farm.
- Minnesota Vikings Pass Protection (Source: SportsInfoSolutions)
The Vikings are currently allowing pressure on 36.6% of Kirk Cousins’ drop backs. It is being hidden because they have only allowed 2 sacks on the season. In week 2 against the Packers, who are starting to form an elite pass rush, Cousins put up a 14-32 line with 2 interceptions. The Vikings have been able to hide Cousins this season by limiting drop backs and controlling the line of scrimmage. I don’t believe Cousins is a bad quarterback, but I do believe the Vikings have had one of the worst pass protection units in NFL for the past 1 ¼ season. The Bears being less than 3 point favorites at home seems to be a line built on how ineffective the Chicago offense has looked. I would be very concerned with starting either Adam Thielen, or Stefon Diggs in fantasy, but you may not have a better option.
- Tampa Bay Bucs Run Defense (Source: Football Outsiders)
It is time to accept that the Bucs have completely revamped their run defense with the personnel additions along with Todd Bowles philosophy. They are 3rd best in the NFL in adjusted line yards allowed, and 1st in the NFL in stuff rate. They have shut down the 49ers and Panthers to less than 3 yards per carry this season, and prior to Saquon Barkley getting hurt he was averaging 1.3 ypc in week 3. There is a perception that the Rams and Todd Gurley’s run game is struggling, but that isn’t necessarily what numbers show. The Rams are 3rd in adjusted line yards offensively, but this likely isn’t the week the run game gets going. This doesn’t mean I’m down on the Rams in this game. There is a high probability they gut the Bucs through the air, but it is important that we realize that this team is trending towards elite in the run defense.