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Week 17 NFL DFS + Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown Column With Matt Savoca

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Philip Rivers said that he has not 'completely ruled out' returning to the NFL if someone comes calling and the Colts could really us a quarterback...

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(48) New Orleans Saints (27.25) @ Carolina Panthers (20.75)

Sunday Update: At this point, every fantasy gamer knows Alvin Kamara has tested positive for COVID-19, and that all Saints’ running backs except for Ty Montgomery have been deemed close-contacts, and are out for week 17. Below is the writeup as it appeared prior to that news.

Quick-Hitter Game Summary:

  • After his six touchdown explosion in Week 16, Alvin Kamara is in yet another smash spot against the division-rival Panthers, and has a projection higher than every running back not named Derrick Henry.
  • Drew Brees ranks 20th among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game since the start of the second half of the season, and yet he has the 12th-highest salary among quarterbacks this weekend. The Panthers’ defense is sub-par, but Brees is priced-up for matchup somewhat unjustifiably.
  • Though it appeared he was trending towards missing Sunday’s contest, it looks like Robby Anderson will play, putting the Panthers’ passing attack at near-full strength. Though the New Orleans’ defense is one of the best in the NFC, Teddy Bridgewater is still a viable tournament option in daily fantasy football lineups.
  • Curtis Samuel quietly ranks 12th in the NFL in expected fantasy points over the last eight weeks, and still has a salary outside the top-30 wideouts. He’s a clear value this weekend.

Data Deep-Dive:

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

NFL DFS Upside Analysis:

Significant takeaways: Though both Saints and the Panthers (at least under 2020 offensive coordinator Joe Brady) have public perceptions as being progressive offenses, over the last five weeks, neither team ranks above-average in passing or pace of play, choosing instead to operate conservative, run-oriented offenses. Drew Brees should continue to ramp-up his passing as he gets healthier, but fantasy gamers can’t expect 50 total points in this NFC South showdown like one usually can.  Teddy Bridgewater‘s inefficiency on a per-play and per-drive basis lowers the shootout probability, as well.

Passing and Pace

Why look at passing at 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

Why examine 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.

Week 17 NFL DFS Picks for daily fantasy football lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel based on expert analysis and projections

The three columns represent my three primary performance indicators for quarterbacks. Furthest left (tDSR) is True Drive Success Rate, a drive-based efficiency metric that measures a quarterback’s ability to turn drives into touchdowns, regressed based on sample size. The middle column, Expected Points Added (EPA), is a measure of per-play efficiency and includes scrambles and designed runs. Finally, on the right is per-pass efficiency, Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE) based on the publicly available completion percentage model included in the NFLFastR package.

NFL DFS Player Pool Picker

Significant takeaway: Though Alvin Kamara is certainly viable in all formats, none of the Saints’ primary skill-position players stand out as clear values. Over the past five weeks, the Panthers have been a top-10 defense against running backs and primary wide receivers. For Carolina, Curtis Samuel looks like a fantastic play as the third-highest salary wideout on his own team, despite ranking first on the team in expected fantasy points. The Saints are not nearly as strong in pass defense as they are against opposing rushers, and have struggled particularly against secondary and tertiary wideouts in the second half of the season.

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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 #12 #20 #25 #23 13.5 Fpts (QB23)
NO Alvin Kamara, RB #1 #2 #2 #7 24.5 Fpts (RB2)
NO Emmanuel Sanders, WR #28 #38 #50 #4 9 Fpts (WR51)
NO Latavius Murray, RB #25 #23 #33 #7 10 Fpts (RB28)
NO Jared Cook, TE #6 #25 #24 #23 6 Fpts (TE21)
Carolina Panthers NFL DFS Core Offenses
Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
CAR Teddy Bridgewater, QB #20 #11 #14 #9 16 Fpts (QB19)
CAR Robby Anderson, WR #26 #38 #30 #6 11.5 Fpts (WR37)
CAR DJ Moore, WR #24 #29 #24 #17 14 Fpts (WR22)
CAR Curtis Samuel, WR #31 #12 #12 #15 16 Fpts (WR11)

NFL DFS Skill Position Values: Expected Points

Significant takeaway: With Mike Davis slated to miss this game (along with Christian McCaffrey), Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray are the only viable running backs from this contest. The charts below also help illuminate just how valuable the Panthers’ passing attack is compared to the Saints’ low-volume pass offense, with the lowest value of the “big 3,” DJ Moore, receiving nearly double the expected fantasy points of the top active Saints’ wideout.

Why examine expected fantasy points? 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.

 

Week 17 NFL DFS Picks for daily fantasy football lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel based on expert analysis and projections

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

Significant takeaway: Rodney Smith and Trenton Cannon are expected to split backfield duties, assuming Mike Davis is inactive, but fantasy gamers will need some serious chutzpah if they plan on starting either play in their daily fantasy football lineups. The Saints haven’t been the same stout rush defense over the last five weeks as they were to begin the year, but they still rank near the top of the league in rush yards allowed per game and yards allowed per rush attempt this season.

Check out today's FREE DFS tool of the day
New Orleans Saints NFL DFS Tournament Picks
Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
NO Marquez Callaway, WR 26% 63 #6 Look Elsewhere
NO Adam Trautman, TE 46% 27 #23 Look Elsewhere
NO Juwan Johnson, WR 33% 16 #31 Look Elsewhere
NO Josh Hill, TE 35% 2 #23 Look Elsewhere
Carolina Panthers NFL DFS Tournament Picks
Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
CAR Rodney Smith, RB 24% 10 #18 MME-only
CAR Trenton Cannon, RB 5% 12 #18 MME-only
CAR Ian Thomas, TE 66% 40 #8 Look Elsewhere

Prediction: Saints 31, Panthers 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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