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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.
Seahawks (-5.5) vs. Raiders
Seahawks total: 25.5
Raiders total: 22
Pete Carroll's analytically-inclined team is back from its bye so I'm once again writing about the Seahawks. I wrote on Tuesday about Seattle -- which has been pass-first for the entirety of 2022 -- leaning even harder toward the pass over the past four weeks. Geno Smith and company are encroaching on Chiefs territory in pass rate over expected.
That, along with the Seahawks' matchup against Vegas, should make Seattle stacks popular in DFS this week. Even Russell Wilson was shockingly close to a big game against the Raiders in Week 11. As a refresh on how atrocious the Vegas defense has been: The Raiders allow the league's fourth highest expected points added (EPA) per play, the highest drop back EPA, and the seventh lowest rush EPA.
Yet, curiously, the Raiders are a run-funnel defense. Vegas opponents have a -3 percent pass rate over expected on the year. Only nine defenses qualify as more extreme run funnels. While EPA tells us the Raiders have been solid against the run, other peripheral numbers suggest they can be had on the ground. They rank 15th in the rate of positive rushes allowed and 16th in “boom” rush rate -- meaning carries that increase an opponent's EPA by at least one.
But wait, there's more. Vegas has allowed the NFL's fourth highest rate of broken tackles; opposing running backs have posted the fifth highest evasion rate against the Raiders; and they're 16th in “stuff” rate. There are enough cracks in the foundation of a seemingly stellar Raiders run defense to suggest Ken Walker can post a hefty stat line in a game where Geno Smith, Tyler Lockett, and DK Metcalf will be popular options.
Walker's league-leading 51.2 percent breakaway rate (per Pro Football Focus) confirms he is, in fact, a big play machine, a long touchdown run just waiting to happen. The rookie's big play ability makes him a sensible leverage option against Geno-Lockett-Metcalf stacks in Week 12. I think there are avenues to using Walker alongside Geno and one of his main wideouts, who should be able to do whatever they want against a Raiders secondary allowing the NFL's highest rate of positive pass plays. Both Derek Carr and Geno Smith face toothless pass rushes this week. The Raiders and Seahawks rank among the bottom-10 teams in pressure rate through Week 11.
The Vegas run-back options are, as per usual, straightforward: You have Devante Adams seeing all the targets and you have Josh Jacobs seeing all the carries (and a not-hateful 12 percent target share). Adams, in what is (almost) sure to be negative game script against the Seahawks, is in line for another double-digit target day -- this time against a Seahawks secondary giving up the eighth highest EPA per drop back in the league.
In keeping with the theme of this funnel-centric column, I'm required, per the Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit, to tell you the Seahawks are the NFL's third most extreme run funnel defense. Only the Texans and Cowboys are bigger run funnels.
The Raiders, meanwhile, have been unapologetically run heavy in 2022. They have been under their expected pass rate in seven of their past eight games, a stretch that has included lots of negative script for Josh McDaniels' down-bad offense. Over the past four weeks, they're 24th in PROE on first down.
If the Raiders can defy expectations and keep things even or play from ahead against Seattle, Jacobs could push for 30 touches. He's averaged 24.3 carries and 3.3 receptions in three Vegas wins this season. Jacobs, fifth in expected rushing fantasy points, probably won't have much rostership in Week 12 DFS tournaments. Let's go, things of that nature.
Game Stack Ideas
Geno, Lockett or Metcalf, Walker, Jacobs or Adams
Metcalf or Lockett, Walker, Jacobs or Adams
Carr, Jacobs, Adams, Walker or Lockett or Metcalf
Cardinals (+3) vs. Chargers
Chargers implied total: 25.5
Cardinals implied total: 22.5
Maybe I'm underestimating the potential popularity of this game in DFS circles if Kyler Murray (hamstring) is able to suit up. Popular or not, this game sets up well from a funnel defense standpoint, making it illegal for me not to write about it this week. I, for one, have never broken a law.
The Chargers have slowly but surely become a slight run funnel defense while the Cardinals are the league's most extreme pass funnel. Even Kyle Shanahan's run-first Niners were above their expected pass rate against Arizona in Week 11. We can fully expect the Bolts to be well above their expected pass rate against these Cardinals. EVen better: These two teams lead the NFL in offensive snaps per game through Week 11. It's a formula that could inflate route, target, and reception volume and lead to multiple DFS tournament-worthy pass catchers in this matchup.
Justin Herbert should have a (somewhat) easy time carving up an Arizona secondary that has reached Raiders-level bad in recent weeks. The Cardinals have allowed the second highest passing success rate over the past month; only the Raiders and Falcons have given up a higher rate of positive pass plays on the season. Four of the past five quarterbacks to face the Cardinals have at least 25 points. The lone expectation? John Wolford. Every underlying number says this Arizona secondary is among the league's worst.
You'll have your choice of stacking options alongside Herbert. Keenan Allen, with a Week 11 route participation rate of 74 percent (and 94 yards on five catches), is certainly in play despite the Cardinals' success against opposing slot receivers. Josh Palmer will likely be the most popular Chargers wideout option on the heels of his massive Week 11 performance. Of course, Austin Ekeler should be considered as a primary stacking piece. His DFS price point along with Herbert and the below Cardinals players crushes one's salary though.
Then there's Mike Williams, who looks likely to play through the ankle injury he's had since 11th grade. The team's lone downfield threat, Williams is the best way to capitalize on a big-time Herbert outing in which he hits on multiple deep shots. I'd guess Williams will have exceedingly low rostership a week after he burned DFS players with an early-game exit. We'll take it.
Running it back with DeAndre Hopkins and his uninterrupted target domination will be the natural move for DFS gamers fixated on stacking this game. It makes sense: If this game shoots out and each team logs a ton of offensive snaps, Hopkins -- third in expected fantasy points among wideouts since Week 8 -- is all but guaranteed a dozen targets. LA's defense hasn't been stellar against the pass either, giving up the 12th highest drop back EPA since Week 7.
James Conner is the sneaky run-back option though (who can be included in a lineup with Hopkins). Conner has 87 percent of the Cardinals' backfield touches over the team's past two games. With Eno Benjamin dispatched, Conner is the only game in town.
Don't mistake this for me touting a hyper efficient runner matching up with a defense allowing the third highest rush EPA since Week 7. Conner has been bad. Miserably bad, some are saying. Only seven running backs have a worse rush yards over expected per attempt this season. Conner is what the zoomers are calling “extremely mid.” No matter, he's getting the ball a lot and the Chargers are a slight run funnel. LA has allowed the league's 11th highest rate of positive rush plays. Conner, as I said, is sneaky.
A quick note on Arizona's slot receiver situation: Rondale Moore is out for Week 12 and Greg Dortch is looking iffy to play against LA. That could conceivably force the team to give a full complement of routes to Robbie Anderson, who has been a ghost since playing himself out of Carolina. Anderson could be a low-cost run-back option if it becomes clear that his playing time will ramp up. This assumes Marquise Brown will remain sidelined. If Brown plays, he becomes an interesting run-back option alongside Herbert and a couple of his pass catchers.
Game Stack Ideas
Herbert, Williams, Allen or Palmer, Hopkins, Conner
Ekeler, Palmer or Allen or Williams, Conner
Herbert, Ekeler, Palmer or Allen or Williams, Conner or Hopkins