Game Flowbotics A-to-Z - Week 2
It’s pretty easy to avoid fantasy-related panic in Week 2. We do a lot of prep in the preseason, but scheme and player usage remain unknown going into the first week of the season. For example, fantasy footballers drafted Alex Collins around the fourth round on average, expecting a discounted feature back, but Kenneth Dixon was the Ravens’ rusher who saw the most work in their opener. Week 1 gave us clarity on Collins’ role, and those who drafted him were luckily bailed out by an injury to Dixon.
The point is, we’re still uncovering a ton of information at this stage of the season. Individual statistics can help us in our search for actionable analysis, but we’re dealing with extremely small samples sizes for each player. It’s challenging to distinguish reality from mirage. Ranking players and setting lineups therefore requires more “feel” than we might like.
The goal of my Game Flowbotics spreadsheet is to help us hone our “feel.” Using betting lines and Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics, we can zoom out from the player level to look at team-level matchups, then try to predict game plans, resulting game flow, and player usage. Here’s this week’s installment:
It will take a few weeks for the stats to accumulate and more accurately reflect the strengths and weaknesses of teams. Until then, I recommend leaning on FO’s weighted efficiency (DAVE), which combines in-season DVOA with preseason projections for each team. Starting next week, we’ll also have access to offensive and defensive line statistics. The data will be limited for a while, but that won’t stop me from digging into Flowbotics and various other fantasy football resources each week. Here’s are my most intriguing findings for Week 2 from A to Z…
A is for Anthony Amico’s Analysis.
Check out this great article from TwoQBs alum Anthony Amico on the potential for a shootout between Deshaun Watson and Marcus Mariota.
B-C is for Bench Carr.
There are 25 quarterbacks ranked ahead of Derek Carr in my Week 2 rankings, meaning that even in 2QB and Superflex leagues, there’s a good chance you have two better options at the position. Like many quarterbacks, Carr performs worse on the road than at home. He heads to Denver this week, and it’s a small sample size, but in his two games at Mile High since 2015, Carr has only posted 14.3 fantasy points per game and 139 passing yards per game (according to the RotoViz Game Splits App). The Broncos’ defense may not be what it used to be, but they still rank seventh in DAVE. Park Carr on your bench this week if at all possible.
D is for Don’t Doubt Doyle.
DVOA’s one-game sample of data has Washington pegged as the fifth-best team at defending tight ends, but consider the Arizona offense they faced in Week 1. Sam Bradford and Ricky Seals-Jones weren’t the toughest draw. And while Eric Ebron caught the Colts’ tight end touchdown in the opener, Jack Doyle had more targets, snaps played, and routes run. He’s Andrew Luck’s second receiver behind T.Y. Hilton.
E is for Equal Opportunity.
That appears to be the type of receiving corps Detroit is employing. Golden Tate should continue to be a target hog and PPR monster, especially considering Adam Thielen’s smoke show from the slot against San Francisco. On the outside, Kenny Golladay matched Tate in Week 1 receptions on fewer targets and led the team in yardage. He might muscle Marvin Jones out of the picture over the course of the season, but until we gain more insight, ranking these three wideouts relative to each other will likely be a pain. Evaluating them for DFS should be a little easier because we can get exposure to all three and try to get an edge based on relative costs and projected ownership. Jones was the low man on the Week 1 totem pole, so he could have some contrarian value in Week 2, especially because he’ll draw a good deal of coverage from a slowed-down Richard Sherman.
F is for Fitzpatrick Faces Foles.
Look for the Philly defense to flip the script on Ryan Fitzpatrick. After taking advantage of the Saints’ overrated defense in Week 1, he has a much tougher test against the Eagles, who shut down Matt Ryan on opening night and rank third in weighted defensive DVOA. And while Fitzmagic is fizzling out, Nick Foles is set up for success against a Tampa defense that might be the worst in football, which correlates to good outlooks for both Nelson Agholor and Mike Wallace.
G-H-I is for Get Hines In.
Indianapolis should be pass-heavy to keep pace with Washington, and Nyheim Hines figures to be an under-the-radar beneficiary of a shootout game script. Look for Hines to build on the nine targets he garnered last week.
J is for Jarvis, Josh, ‘Joku, & Johnson.
The Saints have an implied total over 28 points. They’re going to score, and Cleveland will try to keep up. I’m not sure if Tyrod Taylor is up to the task, but I didn’t think Ryan Fitzpatrick was either. Regardless, some or all of the Browns’ pass-catchers are bound to benefit from game flow. Maybe I’m a slave to recency bias, but I’ll go with the two players who played the most snaps in Week 1, Jarvis Landry and David Njoku. With that said, the Saints were one of the best teams in football against tight ends last season, so Njoku could take a back seat to Josh Gordon or Duke Johnson. Regardless of Cleveland’s receiver usage, I’ll be watching the Saints defense closely to see if they come out more focused and start to back up the hype they generated in the preseason.
K-L is for Knee Ligaments.
I’m worried about those belonging to Aaron Rodgers. He toughed it out against Chicago last Sunday night, but any sort of limitation could be a liability against Minnesota’s fearsome defense in Week 2. I feel dirty ranking Rodgers outside my top-10, and he could certainly make me regret it, but Green Bay’s hobbled hero feels too risky with so many other viable quarterback options available.
M-N is for Manning’s Night?
I was so uninspired by Dallas’ first game that I started to talk myself into Eli Manning this week. Then I looked this up:
Manning has been atrocious versus the Cowboys in recent seasons. His numbers from games in Dallas look a little better, but they’re still bad (under 15 fantasy points per game). He’s a serviceable streamer in seasonal leagues, but in daily fantasy, I’ll get my exposure to Manning via Odell Beckham Jr. and find better options at quarterback.
O is for Olsen, Out.
Greg Olsen broke his foot in Week 1. Is his absence enough reason for the Falcons to be favored by six over the Panthers? These teams rank two spots apart in DAVE, and evenly matched teams usually result in the home team favored by three. Maybe I’m not giving the dirty birds proper due in their fancy new dome (and with extra prep time thanks to playing on opening night), but both these offenses have issues—red zone scoring for Atlanta and offensive line for Carolina—and both defenses are solid. I expect a closer game than the line reflects.
P-Q-R is for Pretty Questionable Receivers.
That what the Bills are stuck with. A rookie quarterback with accuracy problems doesn’t help the situation. Don’t try to talk yourself into Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, or Charles Clay this week under the rationale that “they’ll have to throw to keep up.” There’s no point in being so contrarian with a full 16-game schedule to mine for upside. Buffalo has the second-lowest implied point total of the slate for a reason.
S-T is for Start Tom.
I was surprised to see Jacksonville’s defense ranked 11th in DVOA when adjusted to account for preseason projections (and not higher). They’re good, no question. But good enough to merit benching Tom Brady? I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, though. The “never sit your studs” mantra is overblown. If smart process leads you to a stud-benching decision, there’s no shame in doing so. This week, however, my process tells me Brady is still a top quarterback. New England simply doesn’t have any choice in the matter. Their running back group is a MASH unit outside of James White, so Brady will have to sling it against the Jaguars. And unlike Aaron Rodgers, Brady’s insulting matchup isn’t added to an injury. Maybe Rodgers should sign up for TB12.
U is for Unsustainable.
Jakeem Grant won’t continue to lead the Dolphins in targets on a 40% snap share.
V is for Vannett-related Venting.
I was all over Nick Vannett as a budget tight end in drafts, often landing him with my last pick in best ball formats. And sure, he could still work out as Seattle’s game plans evolve over the course of the year, but it was pretty tilting to see a different no-name tight end get the Week 1 glory for the Seahawks. I take some solace in having good process that identified Seattle’s tight end spot as undervalued in fantasy, but on the other hand…
W is for Will Dissly Can Go to Hell.
Brian Schottenheimer can be his plus-one.
X is for XL Target Volume.
Receiving shares were extra large for Chargers running backs last week, as they piled up 18 targets and 14 catches against the Chiefs. With an over/under of 52.5 points, this week’s Chiefs-Steelers tilt could play just as favorably for James Conner. He tallied six targets in Week 1 and, as the only Pittsburgh rusher with any usage, he’s at no risk of being game-scripted out of his gig in Week 2.
Y is for Yeldon.
T.J. Yeldon is in line for a lot of work against the Patriots. He was already going to lead the Jaguars’ running back group in targets, and with Leonard Fournette dinged up, Yeldon could also become their lead ball-carrier. Meanwhile, New England and Jacksonville both rank top-11 in situation neutral pace (yet another reason to keep Tom Brady locked into your lineup). One week is a small sample, but those pace rankings for the Pats and Jags are actually a fair assessment, as both teams ranked top-13 over all of last season. We should expect plenty of plays in this contest, ensuring a solid workload for Yeldon.
Z is for Zero.
That’s how many targets DJ Moore saw in Week 1. I’m curious if that will change in Week 2 with Greg Olsen out of the picture.
Editor’s Note: DVOA, Adjusted Line Yards, Adjusted Sack Rate, and Versus-Receiver statistics from FootballOutsiders.com. Fantasy Scoring and Red Zone statistics from FantasyData.com. Snap data from RotoGrinders.com.