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Funnel defense report: Week 13 defenses with ample pass opportunity

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Ndamukong Suh #93 of the Miami Dolphins looks on before the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Welcome to the Week 13 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 esteemed Adam Levitan coined the term “funnel defense,” or “pass funnel defense” several years ago. It has become common parlance among DFS players and other fantasy aficionados, and refers to defenses that 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.

(For brevity’s sake, all references to pass or run rates/percentages are in terms of neutral game situations. Unless otherwise stated, we will reference one-score situations (plus/minus seven points) to get a truer representation of game plan.)

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins face the second-highest pass rate (62.4 percent) for good reason. They allow the fourth-highest completion percentage (67.3), the third-highest touchdown rate (6.3-percent), and the second-best passer rating (105.7). Their 18 sacks are the league’s third-fewest, and they trot out our worst-graded pass coverage. Miami’s 19th-graded run defense isn’t any good (4.4 yards per carry, 11th-most), but it’s simply easier to throw against them. They had been limiting opponents’ snaps, but since trading Jay Ajayi, that’s a memory. The Dolphins have given up 36.7 points and 66.7 plays per game the last three weeks.

Week 13: The Broncos can make even the worst pass defenses look competent, as they did last week in Oakland. The good news is Trevor Siemian is back behind center, which says everything you need to know about their season. He has hit Demaryius Thomas with more 15-plus-yard passes (11) than Emmanuel Sanders (six), and no defense has given up more such plays over the last month than the Dolphins. He also has hooked up with Devontae Booker on four of them. Considering Miami’s run defense is allowing 5.0 yards per carry during the last four weeks, and Booker burned DFS investors last week, he’s an interesting post-hype tournament play.

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