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Funnel defense report: Week 11 defenses with ample pass opportunity

Oct 8, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor (21) and cornerback Jason McCourty (30) celebrate after McCourty made an interception during the first half against the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Week 9 Funnel Defense Report, where we examine trends in how defenses are most commonly attacked. It is meant to help narrow our focus from overall game selection, down to the “run versus pass” level. We as fantasy gamers, like NFL game planners, ideally seek paths of least resistance.

The term “funnel defense,” or “pass funnel defense” was coined several years ago by the esteemed Adam Levitan. It has become common parlance among DFS players and other fantasy aficionados, and refers to defenses which are simultaneously soft against the pass and stout against the run.

Identifying such characteristics is not a one-time task, as injury and performance variation create an evolving landscape. In this space we will leverage, among other resources, up-to-date PFF defensive grades and metrics to stay on top of these constant changes and difference-making fantasy trends.

Four teams on bye, plus Thursday night’s matchup, thinned the number of funnel defenses in action this weekend. Five of the six teams not playing on Sunday or Monday have been discussed here from a funnel perspective this season. Fortunately, after this week we can say goodbye to the byes.

Cleveland Browns

The previously impenetrable Browns defense showed cracks on the perimeter in Detroit a week ago. They allowed 8.1 yards per attempt on seven carries outside the tackles – including gains of 21, 19, 10, and eight yards. They gave up a 3.1-yard average on inside runs. Perhaps it had something to do with losing strong side linebacker Jamie Collins after only seven snaps, or maybe the pass-happy Lions caught them by surprise a few times. Either way, our eighth-highest-graded run defense gets a mulligan. Their 24th-graded pass coverage remains the best and most likely way to attack a Browns defense facing the fifth-highest pass rate* (60.4-percent). Even the Lions, who were having apparent success on the ground, threw on 69.3 percent of plays.

Week 11: For some odd reason, the Jaguars decided to take a pass-heavy approach against one of the league’s worst run defenses. Heading into their game with the Chargers, Jacksonville had the second-highest run rate (49.5-percent). 51 Blake Bortles dropbacks later, they had a 38.4-percent run rate – the ninth-lowest of Week 10. The Jaguars nearly blew the game several times, and guess here is they want to get back to pounding the ball to hide Bortles. The problem is it won’t be easy on the road against Cleveland’s funnel defense. The Jaguars and Browns average the most and sixth-most plays per game during the lasts month, respectively. We want fantasy exposure to this game, but attacking the juicy matchup and investing in Bortles comes with even more risk than usual.

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