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NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown with Matt Savoca | Wild Card Sunday Slate

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The reported reason Baker Mayfield is fed up with the Cleveland Browns organization and asking to be traded this offseason has been revealed

Chicago Bears (18.5) at New Orleans Saints (28.5)

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

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Quick-Hitter Game Summary

  • The Saints have the highest win probability of any team this weekend and still might be a valuable bet against the spread despite being 10.5-point favorites. The Saints should dominate on both sides of the ball.
  • New Orleans ranked second in the NFL in net expected points added per play despite losing starting quarterback Drew Brees for a chunk of the season.
  • Since his return from injury, Brees has struggled with his accuracy, ranking dead last among playoff quarterbacks in completion percentage below expectation (CPOE).
  • Alvin Kamara is participating in practices virtually and is expected to play despite currently being on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
  • On a slate with both Kamara and Derrick Henry, the player with the highest expected fantasy points since Week 12 on the slate is none other than David Montgomery. Montgomery ranks second on the slate in DraftKings points per game over his last five starts. The Saints are the toughest team in the NFL against opposing running backs, however.
  • Allen Robinson has the highest usage (measured by expected fantasy points) of any receiver on the three-game slate. His projection on Awesemo.com comes in well-ahead of salary-based expectations.

NFL DFS Upside Analysis

While the Saints have some sneaky upside offensively with Kamara likely back. Michael Thomas is back in the fold after a multi-week absence, and the passing and pace chart below indicates there’s very little shootout potential in this matchup, as the Saints rate as one of the least aggressive offenses in neutral situations. With the Bears grading out conservatively as well, the 47-point Vegas total not only seems fair but could possibly be generous.

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).

NFL DFS Picks DraftKings FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Wild Card Weekend Sunday Playoffs

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).

NFL DFS Player Pool Picker

Despite the Saints ranking best on the slate in schedule-adjusted fantasy points against top wide receivers, Robinson’s expected usage is too good to pass up, and the Awesemo projections agree that Robinson should be a value play as the second-highest-salary wideout on the Sunday slate. For the Saints, Thomas looks particularly appealing as the fifth-highest-salary wideout, especially knowing that he could have a 2019-type game at any moment this postseason. Kamara is a no-brainer play assuming he suits up. While we can’t expect another 60-point fantasy outing, with the Saints coming into Sunday’s matchup as massive favorites and the offense at close to full strength, Kamara is in the best spot of any running back on the slate by a wide margin.

Chicago Bears NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
CHI Mitchell Trubisky, QB #6 #4 #2 #1 19 Fpts (QB4)
CHI Allen Robinson, WR #2 #5 #1 #1 15.5 Fpts (WR2)
CHI David Montgomery, RB #3 #2 #1 #4 15.5 Fpts (RB2)
CHI Darnell Mooney, WR #13 #12 #9 #2 13 Fpts (WR8)
CHI Cole Kmet, TE #7 #6 #3 #2 10 Fpts (TE4)

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 #4 #6 #6 #4 13.5 Fpts (QB6)
NO Alvin Kamara, RB #2 #1 #2 #3 17 Fpts (RB1)
NO Michael Thomas, WR #3 #2 #3 #3 15 Fpts (WR3)
NO Emmanuel Sanders, WR #9 #11 #8 #4 12 Fpts (WR10)

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 expected points chart below does an excellent job at illuminating Montgomery’s massive workload towards the end of the 2020 season. Since Week 12, Montgomery has seen more valuable usage than Kamara (on a per-game basis) and has been nearly as efficient as Kamara. Chicago’s condensed offense, centered around Montgomery and Robinson, is worth betting on in large-field tournaments, but the matchup against the staunch New Orleans pass defense makes both players difficult to trust at their respective prices. The Saints’ Emmanuel Sanders and the Bears’ Darnell Mooney grade out slightly better than expected and could be solid pivot plays off of Thomas or Robinson.

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.

NFL DFS Picks DraftKings FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Wild Card Weekend Sunday Playoffs

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

Though Cole Kmet has taken on a much larger role in the second half of the season, the Bears will almost certainly design a handful of plays for veteran tight end Jimmy Graham, likely near the end zone, and the Saints have been less successful guarding tight ends than wide receivers. Anthony Miller, a clear third option at receiver in the second half of the season, is a punt-play receiver for massive-field tournaments only. If the Saints get ahead by multiple scores early, it’s possible they will give more second-half usage to Latavius Murray, though that is not highly probable. Jared Cook is prohibitively costly as the second-highest salary tight end, but he has a good matchup against a Bears defense that ranks last on the slate in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to tight ends since Week 12.

Chicago Bears NFL DFS Tournament Picks

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Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
CHI Anthony Miller, WR 50% 52 #2 MME-only
CHI Jimmy Graham, TE 45% 56 #2 MME-only
CHI Cordarrelle Patterson, RB 16% 40 #4 Look Elsewhere
CHI Javon Wims, WR 45% 10 #2 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 40% 50 #3 MME-only
NO Jared Cook, TE 42% 81 #6 MME-only
NO Marquez Callaway, WR 36% 62 #1 Look Elsewhere
NO Adam Trautman, TE 49% 6 #6 MME-only

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 a low shootout potential, there’s a ton to like on the New Orleans side of the ball, both in the passing game and on the ground. With the trio of Brees, Kamara and Thomas approaching full strength, the Saints look poised to begin the deep playoff run this team has been longing for after three straight years of playoff heartbreak. The Bears will have their work cut out for them as they try to keep pace with the resurgent Saints offense this weekend.

Prediction: Saints 30, Bears 13


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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