Funneling Fantasy Points: Week 17

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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.

I'm going to profile matchups against the NFL's three or four most extreme pass funnel and run funnel defenses, highlighting which players could benefit from their team leaning into the pass or the ground game. I hope that provides some more thought material for you, a DFS thought leader.

Packers (-3.5) vs. Vikings
Packers implied total: 25.5
Vikings implied total: 22.5

That Green Bay is a solid favorite here isn't spit in the face of the Vikings -- it's a whole bucket of saliva dumped on their horned little heads. Perhaps Vegas oddsmakers are on to the Vikings as the most fraudulent team of the modern NFL era.

There are a few ways to stack this game, all of them viable. Minnesota is the league's fourth most extreme pass funnel defense; even the run-heavy Giants were eight percent over their expected pass rate against these Vikings in Week 16. The Packers, obsessed with offensive balance all season, were 5 percent over their expected pass rate way back in Week 1 when these teams squared off in a Vikings romp. That marked the Packers' third highest pass rate over expected of the season.

Christian Watson's likely absence opens up a chunk of targets and air yards for Allen Lazard and Romeo Doubs. If Watson plays, he becomes what the teens are calling a “smash play.”

If Watson is sidelined, I would guess Doubs will have similar or higher rostership thank Lazard thanks to his depressed DFS price point. This Vikings secondary -- allowing the 12th highest drop back EPA -- has been torched time and again by boundary receivers. Doubs has run 78 percent of his routes from the outside while Lazard has lined up on the outside at a 58 percent clip. Doubs could be the objectively better stacking partner alongside Aaron Rodgers and his highly questionable hair situation. You could go with Lazard and Doubs with Rodgers if you anticipate a high-scoring back-and-forth affair with a Vikings defense allowing the eighth highest rate of positive pass plays.

Justin Jefferson is the clear run-back option with nuclear upside against a Green Bay coverage unit that gave up 184 yards and two touchdowns to the Vikings alpha wideout in Week 1. Probably Jefferson would have eclipsed 250 yards if the game had been competitive.

Minnesota's passing attack has become more concentrated than wealth: It's Jefferson, then T.J. Hockensen, then no one else unless game script goes haywire and the team's offensive snaps go through the roof. Rolling with Kirk Cousins in a Packers-Vikings game stack means you'll need two of his pass catchers to pop if you're right about Cousins going berserk, since he adds nothing on the ground. Minnesota is fifth in pass rate over expected this season.

I'm legally required to tell you the Packers qualify as the NFL's fifth most extreme run funnel defense. I guess that puts Dalvin Cook in play, but I'm tired of being burned by Cook. Maybe that means it's time to go in on Cook in Week 17.

Game Stack Ideas
Rodgers, Lazard or Doubs, Jefferson
Rodgers, Lazard and Doubs, Jefferson
Cousins, Jefferson, Hockensen, Doubs or Lazard

Jaguars (-4.5) vs. Texans
Jaguars implied total: 24
Texans implied total: 19.5

Probably you haven't spent more than six seconds thinking about Brandin Cooks in what has been a lost season for the disgruntled veteran, a good-but-not-great wideout who desperately wants out of the garbage Texans organization. But Cooks is back, and last week against the Titans, he ran 88 percent of the team's routes and led the Texans with a 32 percent target share and a 41 percent air yards share. That's a dominant wideout profile.

Cooks had a 33-yard score called back on a penalty too, a tough break that won't be incorporated into his Week 17 DFS salary. That's good for anyone determined to mess around with the Jags-Texans game as one that has some fleeting shootout appeal. Houston's offense has found a way to hang in there with vastly superior opponents since the start of December, and I don't think that'll end this week against Jacksonville.

The NFL's sixth most extreme pass funnel defense, the Jaguars have seen teams lean heavily toward the pass over the past month and a half. We can expect more of the same this week with Houston. Cook is a sneaky if somewhat game-script dependent DFS option against a Jacksonville coverage unit allowing the league's tenth highest rate of positive pass plays. Only seven defenses give up a higher drop back EPA than the Jags.

The run-back option is easy: Travis Etienne, with 62 percent of the Jaguars' rushing attempts over their past seven games, gets a juicy -- yes, juicy -- matchup here. Houston, the NFL's most extreme run funnel, has seen more rushes against them (412) than any other team. The Texans have the highest rate of missed tackles against opposing rushers and the fifth highest rate of positive rushing plays. Etienne's (concerning) lack of pass game involvement might not matter if the Jaguars get out to a lead and let their lead back run wild against Houston.

The Texans have been on-and-off terrible against enemy tight ends, giving up 4.9 tight end receptions per game. Last time these teams faced each other, in Week 5, Jacksonville tight ends combined for nine receptions for 104 yards on 15 targets. Evan Engram had a nice line that day: 69 yards on six grabs on the strength of a 22 percent target share.

Game Stack Ideas
Cooks, Etienne
Cooks, Etienne and Engram

Lions (-6) vs. Bears
Lions implied total: 29
Bears implied total: 23

The game with the week's highest total is usually popular for DFS tournament stacking, and this one will be no different. Which players will be mega-chalk in tourneys matters quite a bit though.

Amon-Ra St. Brown will certainly qualify as a chalk play in Week 17. ARSB might be made of chalk come Sunday. And yes, he makes a lot of sense if you're convinced this game will shoot all the way out.

It's Jamaal Williams who profiles as enormous -- the kids would say “god level -- leverage against St. Brown. Williams' recent touchdown-less streak and general struggles will keep his rostership as low as it's been all season (if he plays through a knee injury he picked up near the end of Detroit's Week 16 loss to the Panthers). His low rostership will be nicely aligned with a matchup against the NFL's third most extreme run funnel defense -- one that was bludgeoned last week by the pass-first Bills.

Williams, averaging 15.6 rushes in Detroit wins this season, leads the league by a long shot with 37 rushing attempts inside the 10 yard line and 22 carries inside the five. As regression truthers know all too well, the nerd-owning Williams gets all the high-value touches in the Detroit backfield. Against these Bears in Week 10, Williams led the Lions backfield with three touches inside the ten yard line, going for 59 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts.

My galaxy brain is tingling. Using Williams and downfield maven D.J. Chark -- while fading St. Brown -- and throwing in Justin Fields and Cole Kmet could be a unique way to benefit from a back-and-forth contest between two miserable defenses. Why Kmet? Because the Lions are allowing a league-high touchdown rate to tight ends and Kmet in Week 10 against Detroit caught four of seven targets for 74 yards and two scores. He was targeted on a heady 41 percent of his pass routes that day.

Game Stack Ideas
Fields, Kmet, Williams and Chark
Kmet, Williams or Chark