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Week 16 NFL DFS + Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown Column With Matt Savoca

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Matt Savoca gives you the most in-depth data for Week 16 NFL DFS slate and breaks down NFL DFS Picks for DraftKings + FanDuel lineups

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(50) Philadelphia Eagles (26.5) @ Dallas Cowboys (23.5)

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

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Team Passing and Pace

First, let’s take a look at the possibility of this game turning into a shootout, as 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).

Though neither team stands out in the chart above as particularly fast-paced or pass-happy, Jalen Hurts has absolutely breathed new life into the Eagles’ offense. With this chart spanning the last five weeks of play, if Hurts continues to play like he did against New Orleans in Week 14, and Arizona in Week 16, we should expect the Eagles to quickly ascend toward the top-right of this chart.

Recent Quarterback Performance

Next, let’s examine the starting quarterbacks’ recent play. 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.

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.

The sample size is still quite small. but Jalen Hurts‘ expected points added per play (the chart in the middle) is off-the-charts for a rookie quarterback. Hurts has put up some impressive numbers to start his career, but the advanced metrics say there’s still a little bit of work to do in the efficiency department. Regardless, it appears the Eagles have a new franchise quarterback, and the Eagles’ skill-position players have significantly more upside than they did a few short weeks ago. Andy Dalton, from a fantasy football perspective, is as unexciting as they come. Look elsewhere.

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NFL DFS Player Pool Picker: Upside Analysis

Now, let’s examine the primary skill players from each offense. Unless participating in a large-field tournament, these are the players you should be focusing on in your daily fantasy football lineups. For each player, I’ve made it easy to compare their per-game fantasy (in column 3) to their DraftKings main slate salary ranking (in column 2). Column 4 ranks the player using my favorite position-specific volume metric: Expected fantasy points, which is curated by PFF.  The Defense vs. Position column is an extremely helpful position-specific and player-group specific (for example, the metric delineates between primary wide receiver vs. secondary wide receivers) metric 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.

The final column, Expected Projection, 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.

Philadelphia Eagles NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
PHI Jalen Hurts, QB #6 #19 #30 #27 11 Fpts (QB19)
PHI Miles Sanders, RB #5 #20 #23 #9 10.5 Fpts (RB17)
PHI Dallas Goedert, TE #11 #4 #8 #11 11 Fpts (TE4)
PHI Zach Ertz, TE #17 #20 #28 #11 5.5 Fpts (TE18)
PHI Jalen Reagor, WR #31 #58 #71 #28 10 Fpts (WR31)
PHI Greg Ward, WR #39 #45 #74 #15 8 Fpts (WR47)

While the Eagles’ receivers all have expected projections right in-line with salary based expectations, Jalen Hurts will need to be efficient not only as a passer, but as a rusher in order to be a value as the sixth-highest salary quarterback on the main slate. The expected projection isn’t so rosy for Hurts, but the ceiling is still sky-high.

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Dallas Cowboys NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
DAL Andy Dalton, QB #14 #12 #11 #13 19 Fpts (QB10)
DAL Amari Cooper, WR #17 #22 #34 #26 11.5 Fpts (WR24)
DAL Ezekiel Elliott, RB #7 #33 #29 #14 9.5 Fpts (RB21)
DAL CeeDee Lamb, WR #22 #25 #37 #8 11 Fpts (WR27)

Andy Dalton is a ho-hum high-floor option this weekend, fine for season-long leagues, but nearly unusable in daily fantasy football lineups. His expected projection does rank higher than his salary-based expectations, however. The same can’t be said for any of Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott (if he even plays this weekend), or CeeDee Lamb. Over the last few weeks, the Eagles’ secondary has become one of the tougher units in the league, and while there’s still upside here, the Cowboys make much better tournament plays than cash game options.

NFL DFS Backfield Values: Running Back Opportunities

Nailing the running back position in your fantasy football lineups is vitally important. There are many metrics that help fantasy gamers determine which running backs earn higher-value touches than their peers, but my favorite is Quality Opportunities per game. It only counts running back looks that come via the receiving game (as receptions are much more valuable on a per-play basis than rushes) or via goal line rushes (inside the opponent’s 10-yard line) since there isn’t anything more valuable than a touchdown.

 

This chart measures Quality Opportunities per Game (Targets or Goal line carries), and its variant, Quality Opportunity Share, which are both key performance indicators for running backs. This metric helps filter so-called “empty touches” from a running back’s workload and highlights the opportunities that are most likely to be successful for fantasy football. It includes injured players, in order to help contextualize players who might be receiving a smaller or larger workload based on personnel shifts. Even with Ezekiel Elliott possibly returning for the Cowboys, Miles Sanders remains the most exciting running back in this matchup, Tony Pollard, especially if Elliott plays, not close behind him. Sanders has nearly double the quality opportunities of Boston Scott over the last five weeks and can still be viable despite Hurts’ rushing upside slightly lower the Eagles’ running backs’ floors.

NFL DFS Receiving Values: Skill Position Opportunity Ranges

The wide receiver and tight end positions are two of the higher-variance positions in all of daily fantasy football, so it’s important to consider both floor and ceiling when predicting a player’s usage. Players with unexpectedly high opportunity in the passing game often have the best chances to outperform their projections, so I created a chart that measures a player’s opportunity range of outcomes (see the caption of the graph for more details on how this is calculated.). The horizontal bars represent a player’s expected opportunity range, while the center dot represents their average opportunity.

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This chart measures the mathematical uncertainty in each player’s true weighted opportunity metric (the metric is explained in the caption of the Game Opportunity Chart above), providing an insight into a player’s range of outcomes related to receiving opportunity. For each player, the team-color dot is the “true” metric, while the red dot indicates the “observed” stat. The bars represent a player’s 95% credible interval, which we can use to measure the uncertainty (both positive and negative) related to their expected workload through the air.

Though both teams tend to spread their passing attacks amongst their top three outside weapons, don’t forget about Zach Ertz, who had 69 yards receiving in Week 15 on just two receptions, and could be a value-play as the 17th highest-salary tight end on the main slate this weekend. Ertz’ opportunity upside is counterintuitively higher than Cowboys’ tight end Dalton Schultz.

NFL DFS Auxiliary Offensive Players for Large-Field Contests

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 (again) defensive matchup. For each player, I create an Opportunity Score, which scales a position-specific opportunity metric 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, I categorize the players as an NFL DFS value, a mass multi-entry option (MME-only) or a player to avoid altogether.

Philadelphia Eagles NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
PHI Alshon Jeffery, WR 42% 19 #15 MME-only
PHI Travis Fulgham, WR 59% 65 #15 MME-only
PHI Boston Scott, RB 33% 55 #9 MME-only
PHI Quez Watkins, WR 33% 10 #15 Look Elsewhere

Dallas Cowboys NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
DAL Michael Gallup, WR 86% 84 #21 MME-only
DAL Dalton Schultz, TE 92% 91 #9 MME-only
DAL Noah Brown, WR 19% 18 #21 Look Elsewhere
DAL Cedrick Wilson, WR 22% 26 #21 Look Elsewhere

If creating a daily fantasy football lineup centered-around the idea of Hurts staying red-hot as a passer, then it’s not crazy at all to create contrarian stacks that include lesser-utilized receivers, such as Alshon Jeffrey or Travis Fulgham, or to create lineups with Hurts plus a contrarian run-back option, such as Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz.

Final Thoughts

Jalen Hurts‘ injection of offense into the lifeless Eagles turned this game from a complete dud to an intriguing sleeper-shootout, but the possibility of this game being an ugly late-season slugfest between two mediocre teams remains unnervingly high. Still, fantasy gamers playing in large-field tournaments can absolutely take a chance on Hurts keeping his hot streak going, leading Philly to 30-plus points once again, and forcing Dallas to keep pace.

Prediction: Eagles 30, Cowboys 27

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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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