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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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(40.5) Arizona Cardinals (21.75) @ Los Angeles Rams (18.75)

Quick-Hitter Game Summary:

  • Both teams are into the postseason with a victory. For the Cardinals, there’s no other scenario in which they can make the playoffs other than taking care of business against the Rams this weekend.
  • The Rams’ Jared Goff had surgery on his thumb, and is out for this weekend’s contest, meaning backup John Wolford will get his first NFL start at quarterback for Los Angeles.
  • Star wideout Cooper Kupp was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and is out for this week’s game. Running back Darrell Henderson has a high-ankle sprain, and is out as well, leaving the primary backfield duties to rookie Cam Akers. But that’s assuming he can play, as Akers has a leg injury of his own but isn’t being ruled out by coach Sean McVay. If Akers can’t go either, that would leave Malcolm Brown, at $4,300, as the only healthy running back for Rams against the Cardinals’ mediocre rush defense.
  • Kyler Murray has a leg injury, and coach Kliff Kingsbury originally listed Murray as week-to-week, but Murray has been practicing in full since Wednesday. He may have limited mobility Sunday, but he’s expected to start for the Cardinals this weekend.
  • DeAndre Hopkins is the only primary option on the Cardinals’ offense with a projection that’s in line with salary-based expectations.
  • Despite being the unquestioned primary receiver on the Rams, the Awesemo projections aren’t particularly bullish on Robert Woods.

Data Deep-Dive:

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

NFL DFS Upside Analysis:

Significant takeaways: The Cardinals are one of the most up-tempo teams in the league and over the last five weeks, have passed much more than league-average in neutral situations, while the Rams’ offense ranks middle of the road in pace of play and game-adjusted rush rate.  There’s a very low probability of a shootout here, unless John Wolford is shockingly efficient in relief of Jared Goff.

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).

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

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: DeAndre Hopkins is by far the safest play from this game (that’s why he has the fifth-highest salary among active wideouts on the slate), but little else stands out from the data below. Robert Woods would be much more viable if Goff were at the helm.

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Arizona Cardinals NFL DFS Core Offenses
Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
ARI Kyler Murray, QB #4 #5 #2 #3 19 Fpts (QB11)
ARI DeAndre Hopkins, WR #5 #9 #9 #18 16 Fpts (WR11)
ARI Chase Edmonds, RB #38 #28 #31 #9 8.5 Fpts (RB32)
ARI Kenyan Drake, RB #26 #18 #15 #9 13 Fpts (RB15)
Los Angeles Rams NFL DFS Core Offenses
Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
LAR John Wolford, QB #27 n/a n/a #19 n/a
LAR Cam Akers, RB #15 #25 #24 #22 12 Fpts (RB18)
LAR Robert Woods, WR #17 #21 #11 #9 16 Fpts (WR11)

NFL DFS Skill Position Values: Expected Points

Significant takeaway: Kenyan Drake is performing well below expectation, but is the only other non-DeAndre Hopkins skill position player that’s viable in cash games or small-field tournaments.

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.

 

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: Fantasy gamers don’t need to go digging for fantasy value at the bottom of these depth charts. Dan Arnold has a decent matchup, as the Rams rank surprisingly poor against opposing tight ends, but besides that, stick to the primary weapons mentioned above.

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 Arizona Cardinals NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
ARI Christian Kirk, WR 83% 69 #2 Look Elsewhere
ARI Larry Fitzgerald, WR 79% 59 #11 Look Elsewhere
ARI Dan Arnold, TE 35% 68 #24 MME-only
ARI KeeSean Johnson, WR 31% 21 #11 Look Elsewhere
Los Angeles Rams NFL DFS Tournament Picks
Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
LAR Tyler Higbee, TE 78% 70 #11 Look Elsewhere
LAR Gerald Everett, TE 63% 72 #11 Look Elsewhere
LAR Malcolm Brown, RB 33% 6 #22 Look Elsewhere
LAR Van Jefferson, WR 22% 12 #6 Look Elsewhere

Prediction: Cardinals 23, Rams 14.


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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