The weekly Funnel Defense Ratings uses advanced data to analyze situations in which teams are more likely to pass or run than they usually do. For more of our weekly football content, visit the NFL homepage.
About a month ago I introduced a new funnel metric; see that piece for the explanation on how I created it. The metric has some hits and misses, and there are a couple reasons it’s best thought of as descriptive rather than predictive. First, I don’t incorporate Vegas data (although I’ll include it in the ratings table below), mostly because I don’t have exact numbers on historical run/pass ratios based on Vegas spreads and implied team totals. That’s a large project perhaps for the offseason. Second, and this is important to remember, some teams simply refuse to funnel production to either part of their offense. We saw this with the Steelers a couple weeks ago: Although their opponent (the Jags) boasts an elite secondary and are the best against the pass in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), Ben Roethlisberger chucked it 55 times.
In the NBA, it’s common for teams and coaches to devise schemes to take advantage of their opponents. Even with the extra time between games, it seems like the NFL is a much less matchup-focused league, perhaps outside of the best coaches like New England’s Bill Belichick. I say this to be fully transparent, as it’s possible many teams just simply refuse to be funneled even if they should; NFL teams stick to their strengths instead of exploit their opposition’s weaknesses. Josh Hermsmeyer tweeted some interesting data points on this topic earlier, and I’m in a similar camp after researching funnel defenses over the last couple of months. I’ll have to do a study on this in the offseason, but my guess is that a team’s run/pass ratio is much more predictive of their run/pass ratio in a single game than any opponent metric.
Still, we press on. Here are the Week 10 funnel ratings.
Potential Shootout Games
I haven’t done this before, but below I’ve averaged the pass funnel ratings for each game to identify potentially pass-heavy contests. While these games won’t necessarily shoot out — especially since scoring is related to offensive efficiency and not just a pass-heavy game script — they’re perhaps more likely to do so than the others. The lowest combined pass funnel rating belongs to the Chargers-Jags game, which makes sense: It’s highly unlikely a game involving the elite Jags secondary will shoot out. It’s also unlikely the Packers-Bears game will shoot out considering how dramatically run-heavy Chicago is with rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky under center.
On the positive side, it seems there could be excellent contrarian value in Week 10, as the four highest combined pass funnel ratings belong to four games with low Vegas totals (and likely low DFS ownership). The game that stands at the top is Giants-49ers, which features two top-six teams in pace of play this season. Further, they are atrocious defensively, ranking 28th and 25th in total DVOA. Just look at the Week 9 results to see the upside of this matchup: The Giants got obliterated to the tune of 51 points by the Rams, while the 49ers let the Drew Stanton-led Cardinals put up 20 points on the road. This game could be close — the spread currently sits at 2.5 in favor of New York — and there are fairly clear game stack targets in guys like Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and even Sir Aldrick Robinson.
Notable Potential Funnels
While the Big Three of Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and Todd Gurley are getting all the love at the RB position this week (for good reason), the team with the highest run funnel rating is the Buffalo Bills. They face the New Orleans Saints, who have turned into a run funnel defense over the last month or so, currently ranking a stellar fourth in pass DVOA but just 28th in rush DVOA. That discrepancy suits the Bills well, who are the fourth-most run-heavy team in the league. LeSean McCoy could certainly have a workhorse role this week: He ranks fourth in the NFL with 83.5 percent of his team’s rushes over his past four games. At just $400 and $500 less than Gurley and Zeke, McCoy could perhaps be a little overlooked despite being in an excellent spot at home.
The same could be said for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Leonard Fournette, who is $100 more than McCoy at $8,400 on DraftKings. The Jags are currently 3.5-point home favorites versus the LA Chargers, who have been a run funnel of late, ranking ninth against the pass but 26th against the run. That fits well with how the Jags want to attack, as they’re the most run-heavy team in the league, rushing on 52.9 percent of their offensive plays. Fournette hasn’t played in three weeks — he was injured in Week 7, had a bye in Week 8, and was suspended in Week 9 for missing a team photo — but he’s the workhorse when he’s playing, as evidenced by his 87.5 percent rushing share in Week 6. In the last three games he’s played, he’s put up 24.8, 34.4, and 24.5 DraftKings points.
The team with the highest pass funnel rating is the Detroit Lions, who should be uber chalky against the Cleveland Browns as 11-point home favorites. It’s hard to dream up a better spot for the Lions: They are eighth in the league in pass play rate (62.4 percent), and they face the Browns, who are now the strongest pass funnel in the league. For all of their warts, and there are many, the Browns are actually stout against the run, ranking first in rush DVOA through nine weeks. They’re equally awful against the pass, ranking 28th in pass DVOA. Matt Stafford and company should be incredibly popular in Week 10 for good reason: They should throw early, often, and against a terrible pass defense.
Good luck this week!