Each week in this space, we’ll be taking a look back at Sunday’s games to find five of the most important stats for fantasy football owners going forward. With 15 of 16 games from NFL Week 4 in the books, here are the five stats you need to know:
1. Malcolm Butler, the cornerback who was infamously benched by the Patriots in the Super Bowl last year, has been targeted 26 times while surrendering 390 yards (most in NFL) and four touchdowns (most in NFL) when in coverage.
In total he’s surrendered 83.0 PPR points into his coverage, or what would rank seventh among all wide receivers. Butler has spent 82% of his snaps in coverage lined up as Tennessee’s right cornerback, which means he should be spending the majority of next week’s game against Kelvin Benjamin, who has run 56% of his routes from that side of the field. This comes after a disappointing and unlucky start to Benjamin’s tenure in Buffalo. He missed time Sunday with a head injury after spending his first three games in shadow coverage against some of the best cornerbacks in the league – Baltimore’s Brandon Carr, the Chargers’ Casey Hayward, and Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes. Just like anyone else on Buffalo’s offense, he’s hard to trust, but a bounceback game makes sense given the soft matchup.
2. To the ire of fantasy owners everywhere, the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers do not appear to be backing down from their committee-approach at the running back position.
- Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams both totaled 11 carries Sunday. Jones amassed 38 more rushing yards and a score.
Among all 39 running backs to handle at least 30 carries this season, Williams is the only one who has failed to force a single missed tackle this year. Meanwhile, Jones leads the position in missed tackles forced per carry (eight missed tackles forced on 17 attempts). Throughout their careers, Jones averages 5.66 yards per carry (on 98 attempts) while Williams averages only 3.59 (on 200 attempts). I’m not sure why it hasn’t happened already but I’m optimistic the Packers will eventually commit to Jones as their early-down workhorse.
- On only two more carries than LeGarrette Blount‘s seven, Kerryon Johnson rushed for 43 more yards and a score.
For the season, Johnson totals only three more carries than Blount (38 to 35) but has more than double his rushing yards (216 to 95). Johnson averages more yards after contact per attempt (2.9) than Blount averages in total yards per carry (2.7). I fully believe Johnson is the superior option but, unlike with Jones, I’m not sure that will necessarily translate into the sort of workload we’re hoping for. Lions GM Bob Quinn said back in May, “We’re not a one-back team. It’s a running-back-by-committee league. We’ll probably have three of them active every week, and every one of them is going to have a role in our offense.”
3. Mitchell Trubisky, across 15 career games heading into this week, averaged 11.2 fantasy points per game with highs of only 21.3, 18.1, and 15.9 fantasy points. He came into the week as our second-worst-graded quarterback of 34 qualifying (ahead of only Sam Bradford). Sunday, he did something that has only been done 31 other times in the history of the NFL – he threw for six touchdown passes and over 300 yards. No, he’s not a priority waiver add. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have a historically bad pass defense.
Over the past decade, no defense in any season has surrendered more than 300.0 passing yards per game to opposing offenses. Tampa Bay is currently giving up 360.5 passing yards per game. No defense surrendered more than 2.90 passing touchdowns per game and only one other team surrendered more than 2.20 passing touchdowns per game. Tampa Bay is giving up 3.25 passing touchdowns per game. The New Orleans Saints, in 2015, posted the worst opposing passer rating by any defense this past decade (116.2). The Buccaneers currently have an opposing passer rating of 129.5. They are also an extreme “pass funnel” defense. 80% of their total yardage allowed has been via the pass, which would also be a new record over the past decade. Tampa Bay is on bye in Week 5, but they get Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6.
4. With one game still to be played in Week 4, there have been 226 passing touchdowns through the first four weeks of the season. That’s the most in any season of the past decade by 22 touchdowns. Completions, passing yardage, and passer rating are also all at all-decade highs.
Pretty sure we're seeing all-time highs in completions, passing yards, touchdowns, and passer rating. At the very least it's easily all-decade highs through the first four weeks of the season (and with the best passing game in the NFL still to play on Monday Night). pic.twitter.com/ryTg4HkLh7
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) October 1, 2018
I’m not sure what to make of this but I don’t think it’s an outlier. Passing stats have been trending upwards for years and some of the new player safety rule changes might be giving the passing game an even larger advantage over the defense.
In 2017, Jones totaled 10.0 expected touchdowns but only scored three touchdowns. This was the largest negative differential of the past decade. In Week 1, this year, Jones totaled 18 targets, including three red-zone targets and three end-zone targets. This was good for 1.52 expected touchdowns. He scored zero. Then, they stopped targeting him near the end zone. In the three weeks since, Jones has seen zero red-zone targets and zero end-zone targets and has totaled just 0.45 expected touchdowns. Meanwhile, over this span, Ridley totals five red-zone targets, two end-zone targets, 1.96 expected touchdowns, and, of course, six touchdowns. He’s due for a regression and might be a strong sell-high candidate but is encouraging to note he does appear to be the team’s preferred option near the end zone. In plus-matchups against Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay he’ll be a low-end WR2 in my rankings over the next two weeks.