It’s Week 11 and we’re back to deconstruct the Vegas lines. If you’re unfamiliar with what we do in this piece, here’s the gist:
- We’re breaking the implied team total into three scoring types — passing, rushing, and kicking points.
- To do this, we’re leveraging the rates at which teams score their points and opposing defenses concede them in each phase of the game.
In the below tables you’ll see a column labeled “Matchup %.” That number takes the percentage of total points an offense has scored in a specific way, such as through passing touchdowns, and averages it with the percentage of total points the opposing defense has allowed for that same scoring type.
Highlighting matchups that feature offenses and defenses that score and allow points in similar ways presents an opportunity to exploit the implied team totals. To do that, we apply the “Matchup %” to the implied team total to break it down into projections for passing, rushing, and kicking points. These projections are not fantasy points; rather, they are expected in-game points derived from the implied team totals.
Passing Scoring and Notes
2017 League Average Passing Touchdown Points Rate: 40.9 percent
Alex Smith on the Road
The Chiefs head to East Rutherford to take on the Giants and their league-high 20 passing touchdowns allowed. They’ve allowed multiple passing touchdowns in five of their last six games as well as each of their four home games this year. Alex Smith has been dominant on the road in 2017. He’s thrown multiple touchdowns in each of five road games while settling for exactly one passing score in each of his four games at Arrowhead. He’s also racked up more yardage, averaging 290 passing yards on the road versus 248 at home on nearly identical attempts per game. Some of the split is due to better passing matchups on the road, but that aligns well in Week 11 with the Giants. Most of the Chiefs are priced up for the matchup, particularly at DraftKings, but that also might allow a high-priced stack with Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill to have lower ownership.
Stay Away from Bortles?
There aren’t many cheap quarterbacks in plus spots, but Blake Bortles facing the Browns qualifies. The Browns have had a solid run defense by most accounts, including Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average, which rates them second in the NFL, but they have been much worse against the pass. They’ve allowed 19 passing touchdowns against just six on the ground, contributing to the league’s sixth-highest rate of points allowed through the air. The Jaguars, however, don’t push Bortles. They’ve won four games by 21 or more points, and he’s averaged just 23 pass attempts in those contests. He’s thrown for multiple touchdowns just once this year, and as a team Jacksonville has scored the fourth-lowest percentage of points via passing touchdowns. Jacksonville’s favored by 7.5 points in a game that opened under 40 and has already dropped a full point to 37. Keep an eye on the line, because everything outside the matchup — the Jaguars’ own tendencies as well as the current team total — suggests Bortles has a limited ceiling.
Rushing Scoring and Notes
2017 League Average Rushing Touchdown Points Rate: 19.6 percent
Will Rivers Play?
The Bills defense has nearly broken the system. The only team allowing more than 30 percent of their points against via rushing touchdowns, they sit at a whopping 42.9 percent rate. Their 14 rushing touchdowns allowed are four more than the total for any other team. It’s the Chargers who draw this matchup in Week 11, but Philip Rivers (concussion) is uncertain to play. Austin Ekeler‘s role is also unclear. Prior to Week 10, Melvin Gordon had played an average of 83 percent of the snaps in four games without an injury designation versus 62 percent in the four where he was questionable. Coming out of the bye and not on the injury report for Week 10, Gordon played just 68 percent while Ekeler played a season-high 33 percent. Still, while Ekeler handled 15 touches, Gordon had 21 of his own. Gordon’s workload has been massive all year, and his eight touchdowns speak to his strong touchdown equity. Assuming Rivers plays and the Chargers’ team total doesn’t crater, Gordon will be an intriguing option even with Ekeler.
Jerick or Latavius?
The Rams allow the second-highest rate of points via rushing touchdowns, and it gives the Vikings a nice rushing touchdown projection for Week 11. The issue is identifying who benefits. Jerick McKinnon scored on touchdowns of one and three yards in Weeks 6 and 8, while Latavius Murray got the two-yard plunge after the bye in Week 10. In that game, Murray played his highest snap rate of the season and out-carried McKinnon 17 to 10. The pricing provides some opportunities, as the two are similarly priced on FanDuel whereas DraftKings left Murray down at $4,000. The Models like both Vikings backs at their price points on DraftKings but are less interested in Murray at his elevated FanDuel price tag.
Kicking Scoring and Notes
2017 League Average Kicking Points Rate: 33.1 percent
Return of the Mac
Many of the top projections belong to kickers who often see solid ownership, but Brandon McManus is a contrarian name to consider this week. Between some accuracy issues earlier in the year and the Broncos’ stumbling offense, McManus has been lower-owned recently. He may have turned a corner, though, hitting all eight field goal tries over the last three weeks. The matchup’s fantastic as well, as the Bengals allow a league-high 44 percent of points through the kicking game. I like some of the higher-projected kickers in cash because the Broncos don’t carry a strong implied total, but McManus has tournament upside at home this week.
Ben Gretch is the Senior Fantasy Analyst at RotoViz, where he authors the weekly column Stealing Signals.