Being the Divisional Round isn't easy. It was never super, wild or a champion...
In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by Noom:
- Good News for Justin Herbert?
- Utilization Report. Chase distancing from Higgins?
- Fantasy Life Power Rankings.
- Maher gets another chance?
- It's 1/18. Take it away, Dwain McFarland...
The Chargers had to do something after a baffling two weeks to end the season. It all started in Week 18 when Brandon Staley & Co. decided to play starters in a meaningless game with zero impact on playoff seeding. Of course, Mike Williams got hurt and was unavailable for the Wild Card round, where the Chargers blew a 27-0 halftime lead to the Jaguars.
Despite the traumatic end to the season, the Chargers appear to be standing by Staley while offering up Joe Lombardi — a long-time acquaintance of Staley — and Shane Day as sacrificial lambs.
The #Chargers also fired QB coach Shane Day, per source. twitter.com/TomPelissero/s…
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero)
Jan 17, 2023
While many will think this move doesn't get to the root of the problem, it could have significant fantasy football ramifications. Lombardi's offense was refined with short-area specialist Drew Brees, which was a perfect fit for the veteran QB late in his career.
Unfortunately, many of those same tendencies bled over to his play calling with strong-armed QBs with the Lions and Chargers, where he had Matthew Stafford and Justin Herbert.
where quarterbacks with joe lombardi as offensive coordinator ranked in average depth of target:
•matthew stafford (2014-15): 30th/33
•justin herbert (2021-22): 30th/33
taking two quarterbacks with high end arm talent and scheming up short passes was a choice
— Tej Seth (@tejfbanalytics)
Jan 17, 2023
Ideally, the Chargers will look to hire a coordinator that can unlock Herbert's capacity to attack all areas of the field. However, a scheme change alone likely won't be enough because a WRs talent is the biggest factor in average depth of target — that is why it is the stickiest metric year over year for the position.
If the Chargers also prioritize WRs with the ability to stretch the field via free agency and the NFL draft, we could see a big step forward from Herbert in 2023.
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Volume is king in fantasy football and sports betting, and this report will help you understand which players are due more or less according to their roles. Each week, Dwain dives deep into the data, so you don't have to.
📈 QB – Daniel Jones
From Weeks 1 through 10, the Giants trailed on an average of 43% of plays by four-plus points. Yet, they opted to pass only 55%. Since Week 11, their average pass-play rate is 64% despite trailing less (36%).
Jones’ performance is a key component of the Giants’ willingness to throw the ball more since Week 11.
The veteran signal-caller averaged 26.3 passing attempts through Week 10, but that jumped to 33.8 over his last eight games.
On Wild Card Weekend, the Giants deployed Jones in the designed-run department a season-high 42% of the time, well above his already solid 16% on the season.
When Jones clicks in both phases of the game, he carries high-end QB1 upside.
📈 RB – Travis Etienne
Etienne shared more of the backfield than usual in Week 18, with JaMycal Hasty taking 48% of the snaps. However, in the first round of the playoffs, the Jaguars erased any doubts about Etienne’s status as an every-down workhorse.
The former first-round selection handled 86% of snaps, 95% of rushing attempts, and posted a sweet 75% route participation. He regained the majority of LDD (78%) and two-minute work (81%).
Etienne is back to low-end RB1 status.
📈 WR – Ja’Marr Chase
Chase has led the Bengals in target share every game since his return from injury in Week 13. Over that span, the second-year WR averaged a 34% target share, which is 16 percentage points ahead of Tee Higgins (18%).
We are still dealing with a limited sample size, but Chase now carries a 25% TPRR versus 19% for Higgins. The second-year phenom has ascended to clear No. 1 status for the Bengals, rather than a 1A/1B situation with Higgins.
Chase and Stefon Diggs are battling for the title of No. 1 WR remaining in the NFL playoffs.
📈 WR – Deebo Samuel
Samuel has underperformed this season thanks to a crowded run-first attack and injuries, but his 28.5 fantasy points on Wild Card Weekend are a reminder of his upside.
The veteran WR dominated with a 36% target share and pitched in with three rushing attempts for 32 yards. For the season, he leads the team in TPRR (24%) and points per game (14.3).
Samuel has plenty of competition for targets in San Francisco – especially with Christian McCaffrey battling for looks underneath against zone coverage. However, his knack for spike weeks is undeniable, making him a boom-bust WR2 with WR1 overall potential on any given Sunday.
📈 WR – Gabriel Davis
Davis has target shares of 24%, 32%, and 24% over the last three contests and came through with a top-five WR fantasy performance of 23.3 points on Wild Card Weekend.
The third-year WR had a similar run in the middle of the season, with 30%, 15%, 25%, and 28% target shares from Week 8 to Week 11, but subsequently fell off and was only able to register one top-30 WR performance. At this point, we must be careful chasing target share data for Davis – his 16% TPRR is in line with his historical rates, making him a tertiary weapon on most offenses.
Perhaps the more notable trend is the uptick in ADOT over the last four games, with 16.9, 18.2, 18.2, and 21.0 yards. With Josh Allen nursing an elbow injury, he registered an ADOT below 16.0 in four of five games after Week 9 (the week Allen was injured).
Davis remains a boom-bust WR3 profile, but the boom is back with more downfield targets.
📈 WR – T.Y. Hilton
Hilton’s route participation has climbed each week since he arrived in Dallas, and in the Wild Card game, he surpassed Noah Brown as the No. 3 option with a 51% route participation.
His 25% TPRR is extremely impressive and is at a level Michael Gallup and Brown haven’t been able to accomplish. He still isn’t in an ideal role, but for those playing in postseason contests, some won’t know Hilton has ascended the depth chart.
The veteran WR is an ascending WR5 option.
📈 TE – Dalton Schultz
Schultz is a name you are probably tired of hearing if you read much of my writing on a weekly basis. But I will write about him anyway because his underlying route participation and TPRR give him a shot to be the No. 1 TE on any fantasy slate.
The fifth-year TE struggled with an MCL injury early in the season, but since Week 13, his average route participation is 90% and his TPRR is 21%. He has three top-4 finishes and averages 13 points per game.
Schultz is a high-end TE1 with 25-point potential.
🙏 Russell Gage says thank you. He is doing much better.
🤦♂️ Brett Maher had a night to forget. He will get a chance to redeem himself.
🤠 Set aside your egos, Cardinals. There's a new sheriff in town.
🎱 Will the Colts trade up to No. 1? As he sees it, yes.
🕵 An interesting breakdown of the NFC East. Sad but true.
🦄 What is the biggest myth in football? Peyton would know.
🛒 Tell us about it, Micah. Try shopping on the salary of a normal person.
💪 A new QB sneak record. How do they do it?
🐐 Would the GOAT look good in Silver & Black? There are coaching ties and weapons.
🤯 This seems impossible. Especially after watching Brett Maher.
Each week of the playoffs, Chris Allen will provide a macro-level breakdown of the Fantasy Life Power Rankings, including where he agrees and disagrees most with the model.
The Power Rankings are built off of an ELO model designed to account for the strength of the schedule by assigning more value to wins over higher-quality opponents and less value to wins over lesser-quality opponents. The margin of victory also matters, with larger wins gaining value.
I’m still processing the Wild Card games and how slim the margins were for a few teams. Cincinnati’s especially, as I’m a fan and live in the area. But as my blood pressure comes down from last week’s games, we’ve got another round to prepare for in just a few days.
The Divisional Round gives us fewer teams but more scrutiny when diving into the matchups. You’ll hear every analyst pour over any potential scenario for these games. Our team will do the same through game previews and content throughout the week. And our look into the updated ELO model will be no different.
📊 Big Takeaway: Risers and Fallers
As explained up top, our ELO model accounts for each win and its quality (e.g., point differential, strength of opponent, etc.). But a few teams got hot at the right time to get us to the Divisional Round schedule we’ve got ahead of us. So, instead of just breaking down the ranks, I took a new approach.
A team’s Average ELO Delta is the difference between their ELO per game over their last eight contests and their overall ELO, which uses every match. Positive values mean a team’s hitting its stride at the right time. And Jacksonville couldn’t have asked for a better point in the season to give their best performance.
Jaguars final five drives:
Trevor Lawrence in the second half: 18-for-23 for 219 yards and 3 TDs.
Great QBs show the ability to problem solve. He was cooking. Doug P. was in his bag. What a comeback.
— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia)
Jan 15, 2023
In his last eight games, Trevor Lawrence has averaged two touchdowns per game, eclipsed 300 yards three times, and, most importantly, come away with a W in six straight contests. Sheil Kapadia’s tweet perfectly summarizes one of the wilder games of the weekend. But, of course, we’ve got another way to look at Lawrence’s comeback.
First, salute to Anthony for putting together the EPA charts. Second, look at the V notch midway through Saturday’s game. Lawrence went from averaging -0.84 EPA per play in the first half to 0.62 in the final two quarters. Essentially, he played like Patrick Mahomes for a half. He’ll need to do the same for 60 minutes to hang with the Chiefs, but Kansas City has come out flat to start their last few games, and the total’s ticked up since it opened at 50.5 points. So, it’s no surprise the Jaguars are the biggest risers after rallying for another post-season game. But the model doesn’t always reward teams for getting the W.
Daniel Jones is the first player in playoff history to achieve 300 passing yards, two passing TDs, and 70+ rushing yards in a playoff game
He also had no turnovers and rushed for seven first downs.
This was supposed to be a “rebuild” year but the #Giants had none of that talk
— Nick Falato (@nickfalato)
Jan 16, 2023
Here’s where having a hot start ruins the ELO calculations for a playoff victory. The Giants won six of the first seven games, but the victories against the Ravens and Jaguars earlier in the season boosted their overall ELO total. As a result, their last eight games (including Sunday’s win) fall short of their early-season accomplishments. But don’t worry. Daniel Jones didn’t make NFL history without making the offense look all the more potent.
New York was the third-most efficient offense in the Wild Card round. They had eight drives and came away with points on five of them. But let’s say you think Jones is a gimmick. Brian Daboll’s use of presnap motion is just window dressing to hide his quarterback’s deficiencies. Well, even if you believed it, the other pieces of the offense are still showing out.
After Monday night, Darius Slayton (46 yards after the catch) and Isaiah Hodgins (37) are top five in YAC amongst all playoff WRs. Hodgins is also sixth of 27 receivers with five or more targets in YPRR. And, of course, Saquon Barkley tied for second in total explosive runs. So, while the Giants may “technically” be a faller, I’d still bet on a Giants upset after last weekend’s performance.
🤔 Most Overrated Team: 49ers (Power Rank: 2)
So, forget what I said last week about the 49ers. I mean, they’re still a top-tier squad, and one most AFC teams don’t want to face for the Lombardi trophy. After cruising past the Seahawks, they have the second-highest odds in the NFC of reaching the Super Bowl. But finding flaws in an offense is part of playoff football. And they may have one that the Cowboys can exploit.
Quick aside, San Francisco is the only team with a defense having more cumulative expected points added on defense than offense. It’s no wonder 49ers’ DC DeMeco Ryans has to juggle his schedule for head-coaching interviews this cycle. And while having an elite defense may well be the reason they win it all, complementary support from the offense would also be nice.
At first glance, there’s no reason to panic about Brock Purdy’s first playoff start. He eclipsed 300 yards, had multiple passing scores, and even found the paint as a rusher. But two of his touchdowns came on check-downs behind the line of scrimmage. Purdy contributed just eight yards to Deebo Samuel’s 74-yard scamper to the end zone. There’s no hate in pointing out that the 49ers’ personnel and coaching can cover up Purdy’s mistakes. But if they get into pure-passing situations, there may be an issue.
Yep, I get that this is a one-game sample. I also recognize Purdy only threw the ball seven times on third down. However, the Seahawks blitzed once and got pressure on a separate attempt. So, he had a clean pocket on a majority of those throws. And yet, he had the second-lowest completion percentage over expected of the remaining quarterbacks. Plus, he threw short of the sticks on two of the converted third downs.
Tom Brady may be washed, but he was more accurate than Purdy in the same situation on Monday night (+1.8% CPOE). But his 46.7% third-down conversion rate is marginally better than Purdy’s (42.9%). The 49ers closed out the regular season third in EPA per play after Purdy took over. But Dallas’ rushing defense (5th in run defense DVOA for the Wild Card round) may force SF into pure passing situations, putting the game on Purdy’s shoulders.
The Divisional Round is set 🍿
— Fantasy Life (@MBFantasyLife)
Jan 17, 2023