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 the Week 17 funnel ratings.
Potential Shootout Games
This is an incredibly weak DFS slate. Even with a massive 16 games, there’s only one — Saints at Bucs (50.5) — with a total above 45. We typically have a game or two below 40 each week, but that is the norm in Week 17: Six games are currently below 40 and one — Browns at Steelers — is all the way down at 36.5. Sports are volatile, so there will likely be a game that ends up shooting out, but predicting that this week is incredibly difficult.
The game with the strongest combined pass funnel rating is Packers at Lions, mostly because the Lions have the highest pass funnel rating of the week at 86.3. The Packers have turned into a fairly strong pass funnel defense this season, ranking eighth against the run but just 22nd versus the pass. That fits right into Detroit’s game plan, as they rank third this season with a 63.3 percent pass play rate. Further, the Lions have been one of the worst rushing offenses in the league, ranking 30th in rush DVOA. The caveat with everything in Week 17, of course, is motivation: This is one of just five games this week in which neither team has anything to play for.
Notable Potential Funnels
Three teams have pass funnel ratings this week above 80: The Lions, Steelers, and Chargers. Detroit has nothing to play for and the Steelers could elect to take it easy considering they can get the No. 1 seed only if the Patriots lose to the Jets at home as 16.5-point favorites. That is highly unlikely, which means that the Chargers, who need to win to have a chance at making the playoffs, could be in an underrated spot. They are playing the unmotivated Raiders, who have been absolutely atrocious defensively all year, especially in the pass game, where they rank 27th in DVOA. The Chargers own a very strong pass offense and with Melvin Gordon currently questionable with an ankle issue, they could elect to go more pass-heavy in this must-win game.
The team with the biggest run funnel rating in Week 17 is the Tennessee Titans, as if we needed another reason to be excited about Derrick Henry finally getting a backfield to himself. The Titans are three-point home favorites over their division rival Jaguars, who are locked into the No. 3 seed no matter what happens this weekend. The Jags remain one of the strongest run funnel defenses in the league thanks to their historically great pass defense: They rank 29th in rush DVOA and first in pass DVOA. It’s unclear if they’ll rest any of their players on defense, but the Titans shouldn’t complicate this situation. They have a talented RB ready to be a workhorse and they need to win this game to make the playoffs. Henry has a high 17-20 percent projected ownership on DraftKings for a reason.
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 score is the Bucs, who have drastic offensive splits, ranking 10th in pass DVOA but just 27th in rush DVOA. They want to throw the ball, but they’re facing a strong run funnel defense in the Saints, who rank fifth against the pass and 20th against the run. The Bucs could have negative game script as seven-point dogs against a New Orleans team that would guarantee a home playoff game in the first round with a Week 17 win. This game has easily the highest Vegas total of the day, but it’s unclear how the Bucs will be successful on offense; the sharp side of the line might be the under.
And finally, the team with the lowest Oppo score is the Eagles, who last week clinched the No. 1 seed. They have nothing to play for, although they are facing an unmotivated Cowboys squad that caters to Philly’s strengths: Dallas isn’t particularly great against either the run or pass this season, and Philly could want to get right with Nick Foles and company before the playoffs. There’s a ton of risk here, but that’s the case with almost every game outside of Carolina-Atlanta. It’s a tough slate out there; be careful.
Bryan Mears is an editor at FantasyLabs and host of the Daily Fantasy Flex podcast.
Photo via Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports