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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.
Colts (+6.5) vs. Eagles
Eagles implied total: 26
Colts implied total: 19.5
In a week featuring a Bears-Falcons game that will be popular and has a few paths to failure (see below for more), I'm thinking (hoping) DFS players will forget Jalen Hurts exists.
Justin Fields, on a tear that has shortened the lifespan of every GPP bro on the planet, will certainly be the most rostered quarterback in DFS this week. In a scenario where Fields doesn't get all the way there -- maybe he finally doesn't break a 60-yard rushing score -- quarterbacks like Hurts, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson will be savvy tournament pivots with significantly lower rostership.
Stacking Hurts and Eagles pass catchers probably doesn't qualify as getting weird in DFS tournaments, but it could be just weird enough on the heels of a down game on Monday night against the Commanders. The idea -- the hope -- is that Eagles players' rostership is suppressed in Week 11.
I suppose I'm violating the premise of this column by recommending Hurts stacks against a Colts defense that has been a slight run funnel this season. The Eagles' hefty implied total (26) and Indy's less-than-intimidating secondary give us reason to attack this game with Hurts and his primary pass catchers though. Only seven defenses are allowing a higher drop back success rate than the Colts. The horseshoes helmets have the league's fifth worst pass rush, per Pro Football Focus, and the 12th best coverage unit. Hurts, playing behind the fifth best pass blocking unit, should have plenty of time to pick apart of top-half Colts secondary.
DeVonta Smith is my favorite stacking option alongside Hurts, mostly because a Hurts-A.J. Brown stack is prohibitively expensive if you're committed to stacking this game. Smith, incredibly, has just nine fewer expected fantasy points than AJB over the Eagles' past four games. Brown, of course, has continued dominating air yards, making him the big play threat. He has a 42 percent air yards share over the past month; Smith's share sits at 14 percent.
Tyree Jackson, the uber athletic former QB playing tight end, could be a sneaky throw-in here if you're going for an Eagles mega-stack. Dallas Goedert (shoulder) is out and Jackson was activated from the PUP list ahead of Week 11. Jackson got the start in Week 18 last season and was targeted four times on 27 pass routes, catching three for 22 yards and a touchdown. He's the stone minimum in DFS this week. And the Colts have allowed the tenth most tight end catches through Week 10.
Colts run-back options are straightforward: Jonathan Taylor against a beatable Philadelphia run defense, Michael Pittman in a renewed alpha role, or Parris Campbell as a PPR scam who could soak up a bunch of short targets as the Colts chase points against the Eagles.
Pittman is my preferred option alongside Hurts and one or two of his pass catchers. My colleague Patrick Kerrane in his Week 11 Walkthrough column highlighted Pittman's Week 10 usage against the Raiders as unquestionably elite: Pittman was a first-read target on one-third of his routes against Vegas, a rate we simply don't see outside of the game's most notorious target hogs (Hopkins, Kupp, Jefferson, Adams). Jeff Saturday and his staff seem intent on getting the ball into the hands of the Colts' best players -- a truly model-breaking idea in the NFL. The matchup against a tough Philly secondary stinks; there's no doubt about that. But massive volume could counter the matchup for Pittman, whose DFS rostership will certainly be in the single digits this week.
Taylor, with Nyheim Hines dispatched to Buffalo, ran a route on 83.4 percent of the team's drop backs against the Raiders in Week 10. He caught both of his targets for 16 yards. Taylor with Hurts and Smith crushes one's DFS salary but could pay off if Taylor runs wild against a down-bad Eagles rush defense and continues working as the Colts' pass-catching back. No defense allows a higher rate of positive rushing attempts than the Eagles this year.
Game stack ideas
Hurts, Smith, Taylor or Pittman
Hurts, Brown, Smith, Taylor or Pittman or Campbell
Hurts, Brown or Smith, Jackson, Pittman or Campbell
Falcons (-3) vs. Bears
Falcons implied total: 26.25
Bears implied total: 23.25
We like to get weird in this space, for weirdness is the key to DFS tournament differentiation. We want to be right alone or wrong alone. The risk of looking like a complete and utter idiot is the price of admission here.
Just because this Atlanta-Chicago game -- with the highest total on the DFS main slate -- is going to be popular doesn't mean we can't get a little weird with stacking the contest. The weirdness starts and ends with fading Justin Fields at his elevated price point. He could (should) have a nice outing against a horrible Atlanta defense and not break the slate, as he's done in each of the past two weeks. Getting weird would also require one to fade the red-hot Cole Kmet, who has five touchdowns on his past fourteen targets.
Stop telling me to “play the best plays.” I'll never “play the best plays.”
If this game fails -- if it does not develop into a true shootout -- players like David Montgomery and Tyler Allgeier will benefit. Allgeier has operated as the team's lead back (just barely) in Coradarrelle Patterson's return to the lineup. He led the Falcons backfield in pass routes and targets last week against Carolina and has a backfield-leading 0.81 yards per route run on the season.
Kyle Pitts has broken hearts for long enough to hold down his rostership even in an objectively fantasy friendly environment. Leading tight ends in air yards this season, Pitts is 35 points under his expected fantasy output this year -- the worst mark among all tight ends. I have some cold comfort for Pitts truthers: He ranks second in targets per route run among tight ends and ninth in yards per route run. He's one of the very few NFL tight ends who can put up a monster stat line with half a dozen targets.
Maybe, just maybe, the regression angels will descend and push Pitts back toward the mean in a favorable matchup.
Chicago can be beat through the air and on the ground. I'm thinking Arthur Smith and his tough-guy offense prefers to get it done via the rush against a Bears defense -- the fourth most extreme run funnel -- allowing the NFL's tenth highest EPA per rush and the ninth highest rushing success rate. Allgeier could do quite a bit against the Bears with 15 touches in neutral or positive game script.
Montgomery will be chalky, there's no way around it. His matchup is the best you could possibly want for a running back who is all but guaranteed a heavy workload with Khalil Herbert sidelined. The Falcons are heinous against the rush: They allow the eighth highest EPA per rush, the seventh highest rate of big rushing plays, and the fourth lowest stuff rate against opposing backs. The always-inefficient Montgomery has a tantalizing ceiling against Atlanta. It might be worth consuming a little chalk with Monty, even if you, like me, have sworn off the best plays.
Game stack ideas
Pitts, Allgeier, Montgomery or Mooney
Pitts and Montgomery
Saints (-3) vs. Rams
Saints implied total: 21
Rams implied total: 18
Among the words I said when the pass/run funnel numbers pushed me toward this game: Gross, disgusting, and several other words I can't include in NBCUniversal content.
Nevertheless, we're stacking this game if we're trying to be different in large-field DFS tournaments this week. I won't pretend this game is stackable without Matthew Stafford, who remains in the league's concussion protocol even though Sean McVay doesn't know if Stafford actually has a head injury. We're going to need Stafford to make this work. John Wolford, it turns out, is not an NFL-caliber quarterback. If only there had been a way for the Rams to know as much.
Maybe I'm off base in saying Tyler Higbee won't be a chalk option on the Week 11 DFS slate. I don't think he will because of this game's on-the-surface game environment and the general shortcomings of Mcvay's offense with the lifeblood that is Cooper Kupp. I think Higbee, however, has top-end fantasy upside based on volume alone with Kupp sidelined.
This week Higbee goes up against a Saints defense that ranks as the NFL's 13th most extreme pass funnel defense. The tendencies of New Orleans opponents combined with the negative game script the Rams will likely encounter should push LA -- which cannot run the ball -- into inflated pass volume.
After a miserable three-week stretch for Higbee -- who may have been injured during that span -- he reclaimed his spot as the Rams' No. 2 pass catcher in Week 10 against Arizona, catching all eight of his targets for 73 yards. On the season, Higbee -- with the fourth most expected fantasy points among tight ends this season -- has a 21 percent target share. Kupp and his 31 percent target share on the sideline could mean double-digit targets for Higbee as a new norm in LA's offense, which ranks tenth in pass rate over expected.
That the Saints have been stingy against opposing tight ends in 2022 shouldn't mean a whole lot for Higbee in Week 11. The New Orleans defense, which sports the NFL's eighth lowest blitz rate, plays plenty of zone, and no tight end in the league has more targets or receptions against zone than Higbee this year. Higbee won't have to be uber efficient against the Saints if he gets the target volume I'm expecting.
Mini-stacks are the best way to attack this ugly matchup. Going against the eighth most extreme run funnel defense, I would point to Alvin Kamara as the run-back option opposite Higbee. Mark Ingram is still struggling through a knee issue; the Saints on Wednesday inked David Johnson as a possible Week 11 backup for Kamara. Kamara has operated as something of a workhorse since the middle of October: He's seen 55 percent of the Saints' rushing attempts since Week 5 while commanding 22 percent of the targets. His targets should remain stable with Dennis Allen sticking with Andy Dalton under center. Kamara might be able to get there on rush volume against the Rams if game script remains relatively stable. LA opponents have established it hard when leading this season. Dallas running backs had 31 rushes against the Rams in Week 5; the 49ers combined for 41 RB carries in two easy wins over the Rams; and Arizona backs saw 22 carries in the Cardinals' Week 10 win over LA.
If you really think this game could go way beyond its dismal 39-point total, you could do worse than throwing Chris Olave in the mix. Andy Dalton might be functional against an LA defense with the lowest QB pressure rate in the NFL. I would still avoid this game's quarterbacks though.
Game Stack Ideas
Kamara, Olave, Higbee