In the weekly Fantasy Trends, we leverage the Trends tool to find quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs with notable data points for the upcoming DFS main slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit our NFL homepage.
Both of this weekend’s Conference Championship games opened with a Vegas total of 56 or higher. Since 2003, only 38 games have opened with a total that high. That fact alone makes this week’s DFS slate particularly rich in offensive potential.
In Week 17, we analyzed quarterback performance in high-total games; now we’ll pivot to the running back position. Just like in our previous analysis, we’ll use a Vegas opening total of 50 points or higher as our standard in defining a “high-total game.” Such games have opening totals that are at least one standard deviation higher than average.
In general, running backs perform better in high-total games, scoring on average 1.37 points more than in games with an opening total of 49.5 or less. But, since both of the games this weekend fit that criteria, I wanted to dive a bit deeper. Are there any mitigating variables that amplify running back production in high-total games?
After combing through almost every filter available in our Trends tool, I identified three such variables: Red-Zone Opportunities per Game inside the 10-yard line, Team Projected Offensive Plays and Opponent Rating. Let’s briefly break down each of those filters before we launch into our results.
Red-Zone Opportunities per Game inside the 10-yard line: In games with high Vegas totals, the implicit assumption is that more total points will be scored. So, in order to capture that scoring potential, it’s important to identify which players have the best touchdown-odds. This filter does precisely that by elucidating which running backs receive a high volume of goal-line carries per game.
Team Projected Offensive Plays: This one’s fairly straightforward: Offenses which operate with a faster tempo offer more opportunities for players to accrue fantasy statistics.
Opponent Rating: Our “Opponent Rating” filter reports percentile ranks for the opposing defense’s Plus/Minus allowed to a particular position. From the offensive player’s perspective, a higher Opponent Rating score implies a more advantageous defensive matchup.
When targeting running backs in high-total games, it’s important to roster players with a high scoring probability. Our results suggest that an appropriate benchmark for scoring potential is 0.64 red-zone opportunities per game inside the 10-yard line.
The second variable to consider is a team’s offensive tempo. Our results suggest that only players from teams in the top-25th percentile of projected offensive plays report marked increases in fantasy production. Such players boast the top average actual points, consistency, and Plus/Minus scores among our four quartile samples.
They also report the lowest average expected points, which reflects lower DraftKings pricing. Additionally, ownership from quartile-to-quartile is relatively stable compared to our other two filters. This suggests that DFS players may not place appropriate weight on offensive tempo in high-total games.
The last component of our analysis is also the most intuitive: Opponent Rating. Of course, you generally want to target defensive mismatches in any DFS slate. However, our results suggest that defensive matchup is largely overrated — except at the extremes.
Running backs with an Opponent Rating of 85 or higher represent the only quartile that reports marked increases in fantasy production. So, defensive matchup does matter, but only when the opposing defense is especially vulnerable against the run (like the Chiefs, for example).
Players Who Fit Our Trend This Week
After applying all four statistical filters (beginning with an opening Vegas total of 50 or higher) to this week’s player pool, only two running backs remain: Michel and White. Historically, only 24 running backs have ever fit all the criteria for this trend, which leaves us with a rather small sample size. However, their performance in such situations has been other-worldly:
Considering anchoring your DFS lineup with one — or both — of the Patriots’ stud running backs this week.
- Sony Michel, Patriots: $5,600 DraftKings
- James White, Patriots: $5,400 DraftKings
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players mentioned here. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our NFL news feed.
Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Pictured Above: Sony Michel