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NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown with Matt Savoca | Divisional Round Slate

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The best Yahoo NFL Picks for Divisional Sunday Night Football Chiefs vs. Bills single-game contests with expert projections, rankings & ownership

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (24.25) at New Orleans Saints (27.25)

All Graphs Reflect Last Five Weeks of Data, Click Graphs to Enlarge

Quick-Hitter Game Summary

  • In two prior meetings this season, the Saints are 2-0 and have outscored the Buccaneers by an average of 23 points, and yet the Saints are only 3-point favorites this week.
  • Both the Tampa Bay and New Orleans defenses ranked in the top seven in the NFL in defensive per-play efficiency this season. They were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to running backs this season as well. Expect a majority of the fantasy scoring to come through the air.
  • It’s hard to know which receiver will ultimately get the most usage, but betting on Tom Brady seems to be the safest play this game outside of the Saints’ Alvin Kamara. The Buccaneers have three receivers in the top 10 in expected fantasy points on the slate, and Brady ranks first among quarterbacks in per-play efficiency since Week 14.
  • The typically pinpoint accuracy of Drew Brees simply hasn’t been there since Brees returned from a rib injury late in the regular season. Brees ranks dead last among remaining quarterbacks in completion percentage versus expectation since Week 14.

NFL DFS Upside Analysis

Despite the offensive-oriented public perception of both the Buccaneers and Saints, both teams actually had defenses that outpaced their offenses in per-play efficiency. Even though the Tampa Bay offense plays at a faster pace than league average, the Buccaneers still rank right at playoff team average in early-down pass rate. The Saints, even with Brees at the helm, are as conservative as they’ve ever been offensively, instead relying on backfield-oriented play calling to grind out victories. Having a player like Kamara in the backfield helps that gameplan significantly. With Brady playing as efficiently as he ever has, and the Saints having a huge amount of success stopping opposing rushing games, the Buccaneers will be forced into doing what they do best: Passing deep.

Passing and Pace

Teams that play faster and pass more than average tend to score more fantasy points. When both teams play aggressively, it often creates a game environment perfect for fantasy scoring. Games have a higher probability of going over their Vegas total as well. Ideally we’re seeking matchups where both teams are in the upper-right quadrant of the chart below (see the chart’s caption for more details).

The X-axis is Early-Down Air Yards divided by team game-script-adjusted plays per second (using Awesemo’s Game-Adjusted Pace from the Advanced Stats Page). The Y-axis is True Neutral Early-Down Pass Rate, a key indicator of a team’s desire to have a pass-oriented game script. The matchup-specific teams’ logos are displayed amongst all other teams in order to contextualize team pace and passing versus league averages (the dotted lines on the chart).

Quarterback Efficiency

Sustained drives in the NFL rely on efficiency at the quarterback position, so I’ve identified my three favorite performance indicators for assessing quarterback performance. The three bar charts below (see the graph’s caption for more detail) represent a quarterback’s per-drive efficiency (left bar chart), per-play efficiency — including rushes/scrambles (center) — and per-pass efficiency (right). Higher rankings from both players indicate a higher likelihood of efficient play, thus a higher probability of fantasy points.

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The X-axis is Early-Down Air Yards divided by team game-script-adjusted plays per second (using Awesemo’s Game-Adjusted Pace from the Advanced Stats Page). The Y-axis is True Neutral Early-Down Pass Rate, a key indicator of a team’s desire to have a pass-oriented game script. The matchup-specific teams’ logos are displayed amongst all other teams in order to contextualize team pace and passing versus league averages (the dotted lines on the chart).


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NFL DFS Player Pool Picker

Antonio Brown immediately stands out as a value play in the Tampa Bay receiving game, ranking third among wide receivers on the slate in fantasy points per game over the last five weeks while still just ninth among receivers (and last among the Buccaneers’ big three) in salary. Chris Godwin, who had decent production against Washington during Wild Card weekend but made several mental errors and had multiple drops, still looks like a solid value play as the sixth-highest-salary wideout on the slate. Mike Evans salary is tough to swallow, but to call him overpriced would be a mistake; Evans’ projection is right in line with salary-based expectations. For the Saints, Kamara ranks first among running backs in expected fantasy points, fantasy points, fantasy and points scored above expected, completely justifying his top-overall salary on the slate. In large-field tournaments, it makes some sense to fade Kamara, as the Buccaneers stop opposing running backs better than any defense in the league, but in cash there’s no reason whatsoever to pivot off of him this week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
TB Tom Brady, QB #5 #5 #4 #3 21 Fpts (QB4)
TB Chris Godwin, WR #6 #7 #3 #2 17 Fpts (WR7)
TB Mike Evans, WR #5 #4 #5 #3 18.5 Fpts (WR4)
TB Antonio Brown, WR #9 #3 #6 #5 19 Fpts (WR3)
TB Ronald Jones II, RB #7 #8 #7 #6 11.5 Fpts (RB8)
TB Leonard Fournette, RB #9 #5 #5 #6 13.5 Fpts (RB7)

New Orleans Saints NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
NO Drew Brees, QB #6 #7 #8 #8 17.5 Fpts (QB7)
NO Alvin Kamara, RB #1 #1 #1 #1 24.5 Fpts (RB1)
NO Michael Thomas, WR #4 #6 #10 #8 18 Fpts (WR6)
NO Emmanuel Sanders, WR #16 #12 #13 #7 13 Fpts (WR11)
NO Jared Cook, TE #4 #4 #5 #4 11 Fpts (TE4)

Unless participating in a large-field tournament, the players above are the players that fantasy gamers should be focusing on in their daily fantasy football lineups. For each player, it’s easy to compare their DraftKings main-slate salary ranking (in column 3) to their per-game fantasy scoring (in column 4). A player’s opportunity is measured by expected fantasy points, (column 5), which is curated by PFF.  Defense vs. Position (column 6) is an extremely helpful position-specific and player group-specific metric (for example, the metric delineates between primary wide receiver vs. secondary wide receivers) that helps determine if an offensive player is likely to be in a position to exceed their expected fantasy points. Higher numbers in the Defense vs. Position column indicate easier matchups for the offense, while numbers closer to one indicate a stout defense against that specific position group. Finally, expected projection (column 7) combines a player’s expected fantasy points with their weekly matchup into one helpful value metric. Apart from the Awesemo projections (which should still carry the most weight in determining player value), expected projection is one of my favorite metrics to help me narrow down my favorite plays of the week. The rankings are always specific to the slate, meaning if a player or team is ranked No. 1 at a specific metric, they may not necessarily be ranked No. 1 in the NFL, but they are for this specific slate.

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NFL DFS Skill Position Values: Expected Points

The three Buccaneers receivers at the top of the second chart (below) perfectly illustrate the absurd efficiency of Brady over the last five weeks. All three of Evans, Godwin and Brown have massively outperformed their average expected fantasy points. When we see efficiency of this caliber from all primary receivers, that’s typically due to elite efficiency from the quarterback, and the Buccaneers are no exception. Brady is playing stellar football right now, and his elite receiving weapons are reaping the benefits. Unsurprisingly, Kamara trounces all other running backs from this game in expected usage and in overall efficiency. The Saints’ Deonte Harris also stands out as a hyper-efficient receiver in recent weeks, but Harris still ranks fifth on the team in expected fantasy points per game.

By assigning a value to each play (based on score, down, distance to the goal line, distance to first down, play type, etc.), we can measure not just a player’s workload, but the expected value of that workload using recent league history as a guide. Expected fantasy points should be considered a volume metric. If a player scores more fantasy points (represented by the dots in the bar chart below) than expected, that means the player is either talented or lucky (or both) and may have unsustainable fantasy production based on their usage.

This chart measures Expected Fantasy Points (DraftKings scoring) per Game, indicated by each player’s bar, as well as fantasy points per game, indicated by the dot. If a dot is outside the bar, that means the player is performing above expectation. If the dot is within the bar, that means the player is performing below expectation. It includes injured players in order to help contextualize players who might be receiving a smaller or larger workload based on personnel shifts.

 

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This chart measures Expected Fantasy Points (DraftKings scoring) per Game, indicated by each player’s bar, as well as fantasy points per game, indicated by the dot. If a dot is outside the bar, that means the player is performing above expectation. If the dot is within the bar, that means the player is performing below expectation. It includes injured players in order to help contextualize players who might be receiving a smaller or larger workload based on personnel shifts.

NFL DFS Auxiliary Offensive Players for Large-Field Contests

Running back Latavius Murray is far from 100% healthy right now, making him an extremely thin play exclusively for large-field tournaments. With the Buccaneers stifling opposing rushing attacks, there’s not much of a reason to prioritize Murray, even as a contrarian play off of Kamara. Cameron Brate has run more routes and played more snaps than Rob Gronkowski over the last two weeks, making Brate a strong punt play at tight end and an interesting low-salary stack option with Brady. Though not mentioned in the chart below, Tre’Quan Smith was activated from injured reserve this week (dampening expectations for Harris), and isn’t the worst off-the-wall option at just $3,300 on DraftKings.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL DFS Tournament Picks

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Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
TB Cameron Brate, TE 44% 58 #2 MME-only
TB Tyler Johnson, WR 21% 0 #5 Look Elsewhere
TB Scotty Miller, WR 23% 19 #5 Look Elsewhere

New Orleans Saints NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
NO Latavius Murray, RB 31% 56 #1 MME-only
NO Taysom Hill, QB N/A 36 #4 (vs. TE) MME-only
NO Deonte Harris, WR 29% 37 #1 MME-only
NO Adam Trautman, TE 48% 20 #4 Look Elsewhere

In daily fantasy football, depending on the size and type of contest you’re playing, it’s often advantageous to expand your player pool to less-utilized offensive players. In this section, we examine every part-time player’s usage based on playing time, opportunity and defensive matchup. For each player, an Opportunity Score is calculated using position-specific predictive metrics, which are then scaled to number between zero (least valuable) and 100 (most valuable). Scores above 50 tend to indicate starter-level opportunity, while scores over 80 indicate star-level usage. Finally, players are categorized as an NFL DFS value, a mass multi-entry option (MME-only) or a player to avoid altogether.

Final Thoughts

Despite being the second-lowest Vegas total game on the slate, this game features a massive amount of offensive firepower and could easily smash the over, leading to slate-breaking scores from players on both sides of the ball. The issue (and what makes this game so fascinating) is that both the Buccaneers and Saints possess phenomenal defenses, creating one of the best strength-versus-strength matchups of the year. With so many players on the slate in safer spots comparatively, none of the skill players from this contest stand out as priority plays (not even Kamara), but in tournaments, particularly mass multi-entry, this contest has tremendous appeal.

Prediction: Saints 28, Buccaneers 21


Looking for more NFL DFS picks and daily fantasy football matchups content? We have loads of articles, data and more on the Awesemo NFL home page. Just click HERE.

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A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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