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.
Earlier this season 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 in Week 5: Although the opposing Jaguars boasted an elite secondary and were the best against the pass in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), Ben Roethlisberger chucked it 55 times.
I’ve given lots of my thoughts on the pros and cons of this analysis in past pieces, and we’ve written about how sometimes coaches suck at coaching football. Instead of yet another rant, let’s dive right into Week 14 funnel ratings.
Potential Shootout Games
The Vegas lines actually somewhat mirror the combined funnel ratings this week:
The top games in terms of combined pass funnel ratings are the Raiders-Chiefs and Lions-Buccaneers matchups. The latter does not currently have a Vegas total since QB Matthew Stafford is questionable to play, but it’ll likely be a decent number when released, even if backup Jake Rudock gets the start. The Bucs aren’t exactly great in run defense — they rank 22nd in DVOA on the year — but they are atrocious in the pass game, ranking 31st, and thus they have a pass funnel defense. Marvin Jones is especially interesting given the matchup and his recent production: He’s averaged a +6.34 DraftKings Plus/Minus on 70 percent Consistency over his last 10 games. On the other side of the ball, the Bucs set up really well for what seems like the millionth game in a row. Can Jameis Winston and Mike Evans get back on track?
The Raiders-Chiefs affair has a 48.5-point total — the second-highest mark of the week — and went for 61 back in Week 7, with Oakland edging out Kansas City by a single point. If you don’t remember that game, here’s a hint:
You have got to be fucking kidding me Amari.
— Peter Jennings (@CSURAM88) October 20, 2017
That was a Thursday night match in which Amari Cooper finally went off, scoring 47.0 DraftKings points thanks to an epic 11-210-2 line. He has yet to return to practice since entering the concussion protocol and is questionable to suit up in Week 14. That could mean a ton of work for Michael Crabtree, who has never played as Derek Carr‘s WR1. Regardless, he has a beautiful matchup against a Chiefs squad that ranks 24th in pass DVOA and will be without top cornerback Marcus Peters (suspension). It’s certainly possible this game shoots out again, although you’ll likely have to pay an ownership premium for these pass-catchers: All three of Crabtree, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce are currently projected for 13-16 percent ownership on DraftKings. There could still be value in the over, which has already moved up a point since opening and is currently receiving 75 percent of the tickets.
The game with the highest Vegas total on the week — the Thursday night Saints-Falcons match at 51.5 — has the third-highest combined run funnel ratings. Jonathan Bales bet the under on this game in this week’s Three Donkeys podcast, and one of his points was that the Saints are much different this year and the public has yet to adjust. Indeed, after being pass-heavy for many years, the Saints have a more balanced offense this year, and it even skews more toward the run, as they rank 23rd in the league with a 55.1 pass play percentage. The Falcons, meanwhile, face a Saints defense that is one of the stronger run funnel defenses in the league: New Orleans ranks 27th against the run but fifth against the pass, per DVOA. As a current 2.5-point favorite at home, the Falcons could be more run-heavy than expected with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. This total has already come down three points since opening, but it still might be too high.
Notable Potential Funnels
The team with the strongest run funnel rating in Week 14 is the Seattle Seahawks, who are 2.5-point underdogs in Jacksonville. That could lead to a more pass-heavy game script at the end, but Jags still have a secondary to avoid. Jacksonville ranks first by a mile in pass DVOA, and Seattle might actually have a competent running back starting this week in former fourth-round draft pick Mike Davis. He got 20 opportunities last week, while Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls got three offensive snaps apiece. At just $5,500 on DraftKings, Davis sets up well in this affair, especially if the Seahawks are able to grab an early lead.
The two teams with the strongest pass funnel ratings are the Raiders and Lions, both discussed above. Number three on the week is the Arizona Cardinals, who want to be pass-heavy: They rank second in the league this season with a 63.4 percent pass rate, and they face a Tennessee Titans defense that is a moderately strong funnel ranking 14th against the run but 25th against the pass. Cardinals QB Blaine Gabbert has been surprisingly solid for Arizona this season despite facing two brutal matchups against the Jaguars and Rams in Weeks 12-13. In an easier matchup in Week 11 he completed 65 percent of his passes against the Houston Texans and finished with 257 yards and three touchdowns. As three-point home dogs, the Cardinals have sneaky upside.
As I have the past couple of weeks, I included an “Oppo” column in the first table. It is the absolute value of the difference between each team’s run/pass rating and the defense’s run/pass funnel rating. It highlights negative situations, such as when a pass-heavy team faces a team that is a strong run funnel. The team with the highest Oppo Rating is the Seahawks, who want to be pass-heavy with Russell Wilson but face the strongest run funnel defense in the league. This will be a fascinating matchup in Week 14. On the other side, the team with the lowest Oppo Rating is the Indianapolis Colts, who are better running the ball and face a Bills defense that funnels production in that direction. If they face Nathan Peterman instead of Tyrod Taylor, they could see positive game script. Frank Gore and Marlon Mack are not exciting players to roster, but this is a situation to monitor over the weekend.
Bryan Mears is an editor at FantasyLabs and host of the Daily Fantasy Flex podcast.