10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful Notes: Divisional Round
Each week during the NFL season, I’ll work to uncover some interesting bits of information that might shed some light on players from that week’s slate of NFL games. This is not a picks column, nor is it a “fun facts” article – it’s something in between.
I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it helps you think about this week’s NFL plays in a new way as you build your DFS lineups. Here are 10 notes for the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.
1. Ezekiel Elliott had a league-leading 14 carries of 20+ yards in the regular season, and those carries totaled 425 yards. If you subtract every single one of those runs, Elliott’s 1,206 rushing yards would still rank eighth in the NFL. Elliott and the Cowboys host the Packers in the divisional round, who, for what it’s worth, have allowed just six runs of 20+ yards this year, tied for second-fewest in the NFL. One of the questions that could haunt DFS players all week is, “Do I roster Zeke, or do I roster Bell?” At DraftKings, Elliott ($8,500) comes at a $2,000 discount from Bell, which should be enough to make him the higher-owned of the two. However, Bell clearly has the superior matchup, as he faces a Kansas City defense that ranks 26th in rush defense DVOA (as opposed to Green Bay’s 14th). It’s a tough call, and it’s certainly one that will make or break a lot of lineups this weekend.
2. Antonio Brown has three straight games of 20+ DraftKings points against the Chiefs; that’s the longest active streak of such games against the Chiefs. Given Julio Jones less-than-ideal matchup against the Seahawks (and potentially Richard Sherman shadow coverage), Brown is clearly the top raw points play of the weekend at the wide receiver position. It’s true that the Chiefs rank seventh in pass defense DVOA, and it’s true that they haven’t allowed a WR touchdown since allowing one to Aldrick Robinson (of all people) back in Week 13. But Brown is one of the safest bets of the weekend, and he could easily put up a GPP-winning performance.
3. In the Seahawks’ first-round playoff game against Detroit, Doug Baldwin caught 11 of 12 targets (91.7% catch rate); he was since 2006 the first receiver since 2006 to record 11+ targets and better than a 91 percent catch rate in a playoff game. That player? It’s Steve Smith, who is the reason Baldwin wears number 89 (12 catches on 13 targets for 218 yards and two scores back in 2006). Before Smith, only Deion Branch (11 catches in 12 targets, 133 yards) in 2005 had done it since Pro Football Reference began tracking targets in 1992. Baldwin’s price has spiked recently ($8,100 at DK, $7,900 at FD), but if you can’t get up to Antonio Brown, Baldwin offers similar upside in what should be a high-scoring affair against the Falcons, who have been mediocre at best against opposing wideouts (19th in pass defense DVOA).
4. One more Baldwin note: Among all WRs in NFL history with at least 50 playoff targets, Baldwin ranks second with a 73.5 percent catch rate – only Wes Welker (75.9 percent) has caught a higher percentage of the passes thrown his way during the playoffs.
5. How bad is the Packers secondary? They’ve allowed three games of 182+ receiving yards to a wide receiver this season; the rest of the NFL has allowed…three games of 182+ receiving yards to wide receivers. And to put make matters worse, the players they allowed these huge games to weren’t exactly future Hall of Famers (sorry Stefon Diggs, Marvin Jones, and Adam Thielen). It’s not getting any better, either. Over the past four weeks, Green Bay has allowed an astounding 255 receiving yards per game to wide receivers alone. Dez Bryant, who has been quiet lately (and that’s putting it mildly – he’s received fewer targets than Eli Rogers over the past four weeks), should see lower ownership than Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and possibly even Doug Baldwin, and we’ve seen the type of multi-touchdown potential he possesses.
6. Aaron Rodgers now has four touchdown passes in three consecutive games. If he’s able to throw four more against the Cowboys, he’ll tie Dan Marino four second-most consecutive four-touchdown games in NFL history. It won’t be easy for Rodgers, as he faces the secondary that Pro Football Focus just ranked best in the NFL. Even so…I wouldn’t be betting against Rodgers in anything right now.
7. In the Texans’ Wild Card matchup against the Raiders, Lamar Miller carried the ball 31 times, despite averaging just 1.4 yards after contact. It’s really rare for a back to receive such a heavy work load despite being so ineffective. Case in point: no other back this season besides Miller had more than 20 carries with a 1.4 YAC or below, let alone Miller’s 31. With the Patriots being 15-point favorites at home, it’s tough to envision a game script that involves heavy Miller usage in this game. And then there’s this:
8. The New England Patriots haven’t allowed a rushing play of 20+ yards since Week 8.
9. On the other side of the same game, though, we have LeGarrette Blount, who is in the midst of a five-game touchdown streak, which is his second five-game touchdown streak of the season. The rest of the NFL has one such streak (DeMarco Murray had touchdowns in Weeks 6-10). To find another running back with two separate five-game touchdown streaks in the same season, you have to go all the way back to 1994, when Emmitt Smith did it (he actually had two seven-game touchdown streaks that year). The Patriots will get out to a lead on Saturday, and when that happens, they will lean on Blount, who should be highly owned given his reasonable price tag ($5,800, just $200 more than the aforementioned Miller). Given the multi-touchdown upside, though, he’ll be a tough fade.
10. Since Rob Gronkowski went down with injury in Week 10 (so, starting in Week 11), the NFL leader in targets, with 80, is Chris Hogan. Just kidding – it’s Julian Edelman (which is a lot less surprising, but no less impressive). Edelman also leads the NFL in receptions during that stretch, with 50, and ranks second with 649 receiving yards. Houston will deploy A.J. Bouye (whose 92.5 grade at Pro Football Focus is second-best in the NFL), but given that Bouye has only ventured into the slot on nine percent of plays in 2016, he’ll largely be concerned with locking down Hogan and/or Malcolm Mitchell. This should leave Edelman free to terrorize the middle of the field. And while he may not have the touchdown equity of somebody like Antonio Brown or Julio Jones, he’s as safe as they come for cash games, and double-digit receptions is a real possibility.
10 Notes” Trivia Contest
Shoutout to beffjecker for being the first to correctly identify Johnny Unitas as the answer to the Week 17 trivia contest!
On to this week’s trivia question. As always, leave your answer in the comments thread, and the first to correctly answer the question will get this week’s prize, a RotoGrinders t-shirt, sent directly to your doorstep. Let’s do it!
In note #6 above, I mentioned that this week, Aaron Rodgers could tie Dan Marino for second all-time with four consecutive four-touchdown games. Which player ranks first, with five consecutive games of 4+ passing touchdowns?
Thanks for reading, everybody, and best of luck this week!