Funneling Fantasy Points: Week 10



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We want to know -- we need to know -- how defenses are being attacked.

Though it won't translate perfectly from week to week, understanding which NFL defenses qualify as run funnels and which are pass funnels can and should change the way we create our daily fantasy lineups. Is a team's stalwart run defense forcing opponents to the air at a remarkable rate? How about secondaries so dominant (or teams so bad) that opposing offenses are turning to the run more often than usual?

In this space, I'll highlight which players may benefit from squaring off against a run funnel or pass funnel defense in a given week, along with run-back options on the opposing team.

Analyzing pass and run funnel defenses can often generate DFS stacking ideas, both team stacks and game stacks. I'll highlight stacking plays -- for DFS tournament purposes -- where I see fit. I've found evaluating run and pass funnels is an excellent starting point for exploiting matchups and crafting correlated lineups. A tightly correlated DFS roster means you have to get less right, a welcoming prospect in a wildly difficult game.

Steelers (+1.5) vs. Saints
Saints implied total: 20.75
Steelers implied total: 19.25

When you can stack a game with a miserable Vegas total of 40 points, you simply have to do it.

One thing this Saints-Steelers game has going for it: It's ugly, and therefore no one outside (maybe) Chris Olave will have much DFS rostership of which to speak. Making a lineup with two or three -- or four -- players from this matchup will either make you horribly wrong or wonderfully right in large-field tournaments. While the cool kids are partying with their Chiefs-Jaguars stacks, we'll be at home drinking Code Red Mountain Dew, seeking blowup spots for players in a game with two beatable defenses before going to bed at a reasonable hour.

The Steelers are coming out of their bye bound and determined to do something -- anything -- about their catastrophically awful offense. I won't bore you with the myriad numbers showing how bad Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh offense has been; suffice it to say Matt Canada's stale and predictable offense has failed to produce any big plays. Well, here's one number: The Steelers have the league's lowest rate of “boom” plays on offense, or the rate of pass attempts that result in an expected points added of at least one.

Canada and head coach Mike Tomlin have talked up George Pickens' role in the Steelers moribund passing attack following the team sending Chase Claypool to Chicago in a trade before the NFL's November 1 deadline.

Pickens since Week 4 leads the Steelers with a 28 percent air yards share while Claypool accounted for 23 percent of the team's air yards over the past five games. That's a sizeable chunk of air yards available to Pickens and Diontae Johnson. Pickens, of course, has an average depth of target (15) that dwarfs Johnson's (10.5). Pickens' 13.6 air yards per target is by far the Steelers' highest mark. In Week 10, Pickens will face off against a pass-funnel New Orleans defense allowing the tenth highest passing EPA since Week 5. Studly Saints CB Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) could miss another game and make Pickens' matchup that much better.

I see Pickens as a standalone option if you're stacking this game (I suppose regression-candidate-for-life Diontae Johnson is playable with a hefty 24 percent target per route run rate). And maybe a mini-stack is the way to go, using Pickens and Alvin Kamara or the aforementioned Olave. Since Andy Dalton took over at quarterback for the Saints, Kamara and Olave have combined for a 53 percent target share. Kamara's rushing volume saw a boost in Week 9 with Mark Ingram out with a knee sprain. Ingram hasn't practiced this week and should once again sit in Week 10. That's big for Kamara's touch-based upside.

Olave, meanwhile, has continued dominating air yards, accounting for 40 percent of the Saints' air yards with Dalton under center. Even for the most galaxy brained among us, it's tough to envision this Steelers-Saints game going off without Olave having a ceiling game, or something close to it. He's a good candidate to roast a Pittsburgh secondary that Pro Football Focus grades as the tenth worst coverage unit this season.

Dalton, I think, can be played here in part because the Steelers have struggled mightily to pressure the QB and they profile as a slight pass funnel defense. Only the Rams, Falcons, and Saints have a lower pressure rate through Week 9. Pittsburgh is 26th in sack rate. Dalton has been horrific under pressure in 2022, completing 49 percent of his attempts for 6.2 yards per attempt. Those numbers jump to 70.8 percent and 7.8 when Dalton operates from a clean pocket.

Game Stack Ideas
Dalton, Kamara, Olave, Pickens
Kamara and/or Olave, Pickens
Pickett, Pickens, Johnson, Kamara or Olave

Bears (-3) vs. Lions
Bears implied total: 25.75
Lions implied total: 22.75

Chicago's defense being so reliably incompetent against the both the run and pass gives this game the sheen of a potential shootout -- if you squint hard enough to give yourself a migraine.

From Week 4 to Week 9, the Bears have allowed the NFL's second highest EPA per play. The only team being bludgeoned for a higher EPA per play? Detroit. Both of these teams can be had through the air and on the ground. The Bears are among the league's most extreme run funnel defenses while the Lions are neither a run nor a pass funnel -- again, because teams can do whatever they want against Dan Campbell's tragically down-bad defense.

The defensive ineptitude of each of these means both Justin Fields and Jared Goff are in play for game-stacking purposes.

If you're deploying Goff, the hope is that Fields -- who has run incredibly hot as a rusher of late, making him something of a regression candidate -- continues cooking and forces Detroit into a pass-heavy script. Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has continued to devour targets in Detroit's passing offense, would be a must-stack alongside Goff if you go that direction. Goff isn't going to succeed this week -- or any week -- with St. Brown coming along for the ride.

Finding a Chicago run-back option in the team's low-volume pass offense is tougher than telling my wife there are NFL games on Christmas again. Darnell Mooney, the only Chicago pass catcher seeing valuable downfield looks from Fields, would be the best (and most obvious) run-back, though it might behoove us to look to the Bears' backfield if we're set on stacking this game.

The Bears offense is basically a three-headed backfield and not much else. Khalil Herbert, who's been far more efficient than David Montgomery -- who continues to get far more playing time for some reason -- could conceivably be stacked with Fields if Chicago is able to bludgeon Detroit on the ground. Herbert has been superb through Week 9, ranking fourth in yards after contact per rush and sixth in yards before contact per rush. Against a Detroit defense allowing 148.9 rushing yards per game, an efficiency machine like Herbert can do a lot of damage with a dozen touches.

I'm bouncing all over the place here, but this game might lend itself to mini-stacks since both teams desperately want to run the ball and both teams stink out loud against the run. That could mean Jamaal Williams, who has accounted for a nice 69 percent of the Lions' rushing attempts over the past two games with D'Andre Swift limited. While Williams has been awfully inefficient and 45 percent of his fantasy points this season have come on touchdowns, the matchup could hardly be better against a Bears defense allowing the seventh highest rush EPA since Week 5.

Game Stack Ideas
Fields, Williams and/or St. Brown
Fields, Mooney, St. Brown
Fields, Herbert, St. Brown
Goff, St. Brown, Herbert or Mooney