5 NFL Red Zone Trends to Monitor for Week 14
Over 13 full weeks, NFL teams have put up 916 offensive touchdowns. Of those, 596 have come through the air with the other 320 on the ground, giving us a 65.1% share in favor of the pass.
In the red zone, teams have accounted for 389 passing (36 in Week 11) and 281 rushing scores (21 this past week) inside the 20-yard line. As we've become accustomed to this year, passing touchdowns and overall scores are way down from where they were in 2018, but rushing touchdowns are up by one. Those same scores account for 1,556 fantasy points from passers, 1,686 from rushers, and 2,334 for those on the receiving end of red zone touchdown passes.
All that is to say that red zone opportunities are valuable for fantasy football players. In season-long leagues and daily games alike, we want to target guys with touchdown upside because of the amount of points you get on that one play compared to the 60 rushing or receiving yards you need to add up to that touchdown.
The question is, why are we talking about this if it is such a logical approach? The reasoning is simple: touchdowns are pretty hard to predict. Certain players are off the field in certain situations and packages, while others might be called upon as go-to guys in the red zone because of their size or versatility.
That's why we're here. All season, we're diving into the data to uncover valuable red zone trends that either point us toward one player or suggest we avoid another. Let's get down to it.
Opportunity in Pittsburgh
This week, we will be primarily focusing our attention on the last two to three weeks with a lot transpiring of late. That includes a changing of the guard -- even if just for a spell -- in the Pittsburgh Steelers' backfield. When James Conner has been sidelined this year, it has mostly been the Jaylen Samuels show, but over the last two weeks -- with Conner mending to a shoulder injury -- Benny Snell Jr. has taken over most of the work.
Of Snell's 37 combined carries over the last couple weeks, according to Pro Football Reference, 10 have come in the red zone. That places him second to only Christian McCaffrey. And he's turned that workload into 33 yards and a score, or 9.3 of his 24.0 FanDuel points (38.8%).
Prior to these last two weeks, Pittsburgh ran the ball on 30 of their 69 plays inside the 20, and Conner led the way with 12 rush attempts for 38 yards and a team-best four touchdowns. He also garnered four targets for four catches. At the same time, Samuels converted 16 opportunities into 22 yards and 2 combined scores through the air and ground game.
Even more promising is that Pittsburgh ranks first in red zone rushing plays -- at 17 -- despite playing only two games in the last three weeks (on 23 total plays). In other words, they're getting opportunities with Devlin Hodges under center and their skill positions banged up.
This situation is certainly one to monitor though. Early on this week, Conner is questionable to play against the Arizona Cardinals. If he's in, he should be in all season long lineups and makes for a strong DFS play at $7,100 against a defense allowing 23.0 FanDuel points per game to running backs -- 10th-worst in the league. However, if Conner sits Snell will take on the bellcow role, and at $6,100 he would be a go-to value at back.
All the Adams
Davante Adams is another elite fantasy talent that has found himself on the mend for a portion of the 2019 season. The Green Bay Packers' star receiver missed Weeks 5 through 8, but since he's returned he has been a target monster, drawing at least 10 in all four contests. His yardage totals haven't been exciting, yet he has three receiving scores, all of which have originated in scoring territory.
In the last two games alone Adams' six targets place him in a tie for the most in football. He's managed to haul in all six for 31 yards and those three touchdowns, now giving him 3 on 13 red zone targets this season. The rest of his team has converted on 25% of their targets, so we could still be in for some regression from Aaron Rodgers' top target. After all, he had 13 touchdowns a year ago, 10 in 2017 and 12 in 2016.
Up against Washington, Adams is a slam dunk play in all formats. At $8,400, he is the second-most expensive receiver on the main slate, but his 0.66 projected touchdowns are only a hair behind the 0.67 we have DeAndre Hopkins down for. Fire him as part of a Packers' attack oddsmakers expected to total the second-most points (27.75) on the week.
In the last three, the Carolina Panthers have scores 3, 31 and 21 points. All three have resulted in losses, and for that Ron Rivera was canned on Tuesday afternoon. But under Kyle Allen, Carolina's offense hasn't been all that bad.
In that same time frame, the Panthers are second in red zone plays (37), turning in six touchdowns. They have been held down by three sacks, a pick and a fumble, which has played a role in limiting them to four passing touchdowns and two rushing. That, and a 54.3% lean toward passing, has kept Christian McCaffrey to one touchdown on the ground, though he does have one receiving.
The efficiency could be better, however, the volume is there for the Allen-led Panthers. Beyond CMC, D.J. Moore has seen six red zone targets for three catches and two touchdowns in the last three. And he could continue that this week against the Atlanta Falcons, who have surrendered 16 touchdowns to 1 interception in the red zone. All three players are worthy of consideration this week. While McCaffrey is our top projected player (though with an $11,000 price tag), Moore ($7,100) is a top-12 play by projected points despite being the 15th-priced player at his position. Allen is just an OK play at the same price.
The Jags Against the Run
Jacksonville has been on their brand of hard-nosed defense in recent years. But Jalen Ramsey is no longer there to stop the pass, and the team's reputation as a top unit has dropped off, starting with the run game.
This year, the Jaguars rank sixth-worst in FanDuel points (24.1) allowed to running backs, and their 12 touchdowns against are third-worst. Opposing teams have notched a rushing score every four red zone attempts, compared to the league average of one every 5.5.
Over the last three, teams have run it 13 times to 6 passes in the red zone. They have found a lot of success in doing so, converted at a 77% success rate (50% via the pass) on the ground for 7 touchdowns on 20 attempts -- one every 2.9 rushes.
With the Los Angeles Chargers coming to town, it could lead to a show-out game for Melvin Gordon. Gordon has tallied 10 red zone rushes in the last 3 games alone with only one score to show for it. At $7,300, he's a good value in the same range as Mark Ingram and Le'Veon Bell.
Again, our last trend is a full snapshot of each team's pass and run rate in the red zone, as well as their success rate in those two facets, per Sharp Football Stats.+
|Team||Pass Rate||Pass Success||Run Rate||Run Success||Team||Pass Rate||Pass Success||Run Rate||Run Success|
It's been five weeks with Drew Brees back under center for New Orleans, and his Saints have been slinging it around in recent games. While they've thrown it at the third-highest rate (66%) in the red zone going back to Week 8, they have upped that to 77% in the last two, throwing it 10 times to merely 3 runs. The matchup isn't pretty against the San Francisco 49ers' highly touted defense, but they have given up twice as many passing touchdowns (12) as rushing touchdowns to date. In GPPs, why not?
Unlike the Saints, the Indianapolis Colts have been relying heavily on the ground game in the red zone. In the past three, they have 13 rushes to 3 passes in close, and their success rate is up to 69% on the ground. Before this past week, that benefit Jonathan Williams, but his 16 snaps were nearly half of both Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins this week. Hines took both of the team's red zone rushes, finishing one between the pylons. He has quietly taken five red zone carries for 19 yards and two touchdowns over the last three weeks of action. Hines costs just $5,600, and though he goes against the pass-funnel Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he is the team's best passing attack, as well.
Brett Oswalt is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Brett Oswalt also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username BrettOswalt. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.