Saturday, December 12, 2015

Red zone outlook, Week 14

Remember that in fantasy football, we first chase touchdowns. Yardage is nice, but it usually doesn't pile up the fantasy points like touchdowns do. And since most touchdowns are scored from near the goal line, it's essential to get a grasp on the best red zone and short-yardage outlooks of a given week.

Here's a rundown of the Week 14 options most likely to find the end zone, based on their last four games and those of their opponents. I track passing/receiving opportunities from the red zone and rushing opportunities from inside the 10-yard line, where most touchdowns are scored. Don't worry about wild outliers - I normalize these stats to temper those bizarre one- and two-game eruptions. For example, a receiver sporting an unsustainable red zone TD rate over 45% will be capped there, and a guy scoring on just 10% of his targets will be boosted to a fair threshold of 20%.. Those outliers and unexpected happenings have their place in DFS, sure, but not in a realistic set of projections. Ultimately, each player's projected red zone touchdown projection will be spat out in the far right columns.


Gm Tm RZ At Op RZ At RZ TD RZ TD Proj
Blake Bortles 4 33 26 9 2.19
Jameis Winston 4 22 23 7 2.10
Ryan Fitzpatrick 4 25 22 6 2.07
Matt Hasselbeck 3 20 19 5 1.98
Cam Newton 4 24 14 10 1.88
Tyrod Taylor 4 10 32 3 1.73
Matthew Stafford 4 21 19 8 1.63
Johnny Manziel 2 20 16 2 1.52
Ben Roethlisberger 4 26 8 6 1.42
Brian Hoyer 4 19 15 7 1.38
Andy Dalton 4 13 30 4 1.34

With that remarkable volume, Bortles looks like a near-lock to generate at least 1-2 red zone scores this week. Not only has he thrown 33 passes (nine for TDs) from there over his last four games - the Colts have allowed eight TDs on 26 attempts over theirs.

The Saints' atrocious defense makes DFS stars out of any soul fortunate enough to face them, so Winston looks golden this week. The Buccaneers have been throwing more and more in the red zone, and New Orleans looks incapable of keeping anyone out of the end zone, With a two-TD projection, Winston makes for a high-upside, solid-floor QB option in the middle salary tiers and is eminently stackable with Mike Evans (or better yet, with $4,500 Vincent Jackson).

That said, I have to wonder how sustainable that is. The Panthers aren't an especially talented team at the skill positions, so their success in tight red zone situations rely largely upon Newton's accuracy and timing. That was a great bet at $6,800, but an iffy one at $7,500.


Gm Tm RZ Att RZ Tar RZ TD RZ TD Proj
Brandon Marshall 4 25 8 4 0.86
Jeremy Maclin 4 15 5 2 0.64
Demaryius Thomas 2 6 2 1 0.60
Allen Robinson 4 27 7 2 0.56
Calvin Johnson 4 21 5 3 0.55
T.Y. Hilton 3 20 4 2 0.53
Antonio Brown 4 30 8 3 0.53
Doug Baldwin 4 15 5 2 0.52
A.J. Green 4 13 3 2 0.52
Jarvis Landry 4 16 4 2 0.51
Mike Evans 3 20 4 2 0.50
Eric Decker 4 25 10 1 0.48
Kamar Aiken 2 11 4 1 0.47
Sammy Watkins 4 10 2 1 0.42

With the Jets throwing the ball like maniacs in the red zone, both their All Pro-caliber wideouts are solid-to-excellent TD option. No one sees the ball more often near the goal line than Decker, who's found the end zone in eight of his 11 games - that's amazing cash consistency. The GPP dice roll for a multi-TD line, however, is Marshall. That efficiency you see above is just remarkable, and only two teams have allowed more red zone TD passes over the last four weeks than Tennessee.

Note that these Robinson totals do not include last week; this is his recent red zone dominance even alongside Allen Hurns. Few teams throw the ball in that area more than Jacksonville, so this is actually a fair expectation going forward. Robinson's salary has really ballooned, but he's a target-hogging No. 1 wideout who's a solid bet to hit the end zone on any given week.

It's hard to find another No. 1 wideout more vultured near the end zone than Green. Tyler Eifert is a nominal part of the team's game plan prior to reaching the 20, but he sucks a lot of Andy Dalton's attention away from Green once there. Still, Green has a nice TD outlook for Week 14 - the Steelers have been the league's most passed-against team in the red zone of late.


Gm Tm RZ At Op RZ At RZ TD RZ TD Proj
Tyler Eifert 4 17 7 5 0.93
Jordan Reed 4 8 3 2 0.56
Scott Chandler 2 8 2 2 0.44
Gary Barnidge 2 20 4 1 0.38
Delanie Walker 4 8 2 1 0.34
Antonio Gates 4 22 4 2 0.32
Travis Kelce 4 15 2 1 0.29
Julius Thomas 4 27 5 1 0.28
Benjamin Watson 4 17 4 1 0.25

The model considers Eifert the odds-on favorite to lead the position in touchdowns this week. He's earned it, with a commanding 41% target share in the red zone and a league-leading five such TDs over his last four games. As a Steelers fan, I'm intimately familiar with the sight of Lawrence Timmons listlessly chasing an athletic TE up the seams and across the field. If Andy Dalton notices that mismatch near the goal line, chalk up a touchdown for Eifert.

Washington doesn't field a successful offense and simply isn't in the red zone often. That said, Reed has been the clear king of their passing game from there, drawing three of their eight targets over the last four weeks. His field-wide role is a bit up in the air, but he's an asset and a threat on the goal line.

As discussed above, the Jaguars are as pass-happy as anyone inside the 20 - I project them to 7.6 red zone targets as a team - so Thomas makes for a fair GPP chase.

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