I'm a film guy at heart, I'll admit. Watching tape can reveal unique talent and truths about the game before they become apparent in the stat sheet. However, there's a ton to learn from the numbers as well. There's a tremendous amount of resources out there, and spreadsheets to compile. Here are some of my favorite notes from my research for Week 5. You'll see some more team-centric stats in this week's edition, as a quarter of the way through the season, we have a more concrete idea of who these teams are.
The Bears allow a touchdown on 12.1 percent of the wide receiver targets against them, 3.3 percent higher than the second-worst team
The Bears defense was one of our favorites to attack early in the season. Ironically, their raw statistics look skewed, as they get eaten up by yards on the ground, but scores through the air. However, on a per target basis, wide receivers are tearing them apart. The Bears' cornerback trio of Sherick McManis, Alan Ball and Kyle Fuller (the biggest letdown) can't cover anyone. The amount of touchdowns they've allowed, considering they have the seventh-lowest wide receiver targets against, is inexcusable. With all context added, this is a ghastly statistic.
For some reason, people still want to sell high on Jeremy Maclin. There's no real reason for it, outside of incorrect preseason expectations. Time to adjust to what the game is telling us. Maclin has 289 yards and a touchdown on 24 targets the last two weeks. He has a stranglehold on the Chiefs' passing game work. Now he draws a game with the Bears' woeful pass defense. Ride Maclin while you can, he'll be a WR2 the rest of the season.
Devonta Freeman is averaging 4.6 air receiving yards per target, most of any running back with 20-plus targets
We highlight some way in which Devonta Freeman is tremendous every week, or so it feels like. Here's one more. While Freeman's volume of touches, rushing ability and efficiency stand out, his work in the pass game needs equal mention. He's been targeted 11 times over the last two games, and caught 90.9 percent of them. What this stat illuminates, however, is that Freeman isn't just catching short dump-off check downs. He's making plays downfield and in traffic like a wide receiver.
With Freeman proving a pivotal part of the offensive game plan, more questions arise about the split when Tevin Coleman returns. The rookie might have more natural running talent than Freeman, but he's likely unable to impact the passing game in the same way the veteran has to this point. If you're a Coleman owner, let's hope you've drastically altered your expectations. If you've been riding Freeman so far, selling high may not be the right move after all. Backs with the versatility to impact multiple phases of the game rarely get their touches cut.
Despite a pass rush led by one of the best defensive players in the NFL, Justin Houston, the Chiefs' 2015 defense is one of the worst in the NFL. They just can't stop bleeding touchdowns. Kansas City allowed the most quarterback and wide receiver touchdowns through two games, and let a running back score on them three times, as well.
We looked at the Bears' eye-popping touchdowns allowed to wide receiver rate earlier. The Chiefs are right with them in bleeding fantasy points to perimeter pass catchers. This game could sneakily turn into a shootout. While there's only a few realistic fantasy options at the skill positions on either team, don't be surprised if a number of them exceed expectations. If the game script falls into place, both Jay Cutler and Alex Smith could finish as top-10 Week 5 fantasy quarterbacks.
We're at such a small sample size looking at just this season alone that numbers like touchdown percentage must be weighed against their career averages. Rivers throws a touchdown on 5.7 percent of his 2015 throws, which is right in line with his career expectations. Somehow, Rivers goes underrated every fantasy season, but is one of the most consistent touchdown producers in the NFL. His supporting cast is better than usual this year, with now at least two strong options at tight end, wide receiver and running back.
The Detroit stop unit just isn't the same after so many players walked out of the building and with DeAndre Levy standing on the sidelines. They're far too easy to attack over the middle, with no interior pressure and the linebackers struggling in coverage. The corners aren't much better, with two players in their mid-30s seeing significant playing time.
While the Cardinals offense wasn't firing on all cylinders in Week 4, they have a great chance to get back on track against Detroit. Larry Fitzgerald (1.92 fantasy points per target) and John Brown (70.4 percent catch rate) have been among the league's most efficient wide receiver duos. These two should carve up this anemic pass defense.
The Giants offense has actually been remarkably efficient, despite getting nothing from their run game and a non-other worldly effort from Odell Beckham Jr. Ancillary players like Dwayne Harris and Reuben Randle are stepping up with at least competent complementary roles. Eli Manning has a 96.4 passer rating this season.
All this is actually good news for the aforementioned Beckham. While he's dominated portions of games, the opposition's willingness to completely sell out to stop him limited his output in others. Teams won't be able to continue employing that strategy if other players produce with easy matchups. Beckham is still the target hog in an offense that is keeping pace with some of the best in the NFL. He's bound to have a nuclear game in Week 5 against a woeful 49ers secondary. I want him on all my daily fantasy teams when that happens.
Only 17 percent of the Broncos' offensive drives end in touchdowns, down from 35 percent in 2013 and 28 percent in 2014
It's easy to see with the eye test, and backed up by the numbers, just how much the Broncos offense took a massive step back this season. Two players, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, account for 59 percent of the team's targets. It's no longer an "all tides rise" passing offense with a diminishing Peyton Manning behind center. The running game has been anything but on track. Outside of Sanders and Thomas, our Denver fantasy assets are matchup plays, at best, right now.
The good news: they draw a solid matchup this week against the Raiders. We know all the stats displaying Oakland's inability to cover the tight end, and their defense is terribly undermanned talent-wise in the secondary right now. If ever there was a week for the Broncos to look like the previous two year's incarnation, it is Week 5.
Washington leads the NFL in time of possession with 3:22 per drive
With three talented running backs in the fold, Washington has its formula to bleed out the clock perfected. They have a grinder in Alfred Morris, an aggressive tone-setter in Matt Jones and a short area pass-catching back in Chris Thompson. All three backs are playing big roles. That's frustrating for fantasy, and for each player as an individual with the lack of reps to find a rhythm, but it's working for Washington's offense. We know they want to take the air out of the ball, and limit their quarterback. It helps that their defense took a massive step forward up front this year.
With the team traveling to Atlanta, it will be interesting to see if they can continue holding such a massive time of possession advantage. The Falcons could easily build a fast lead with Julio Jones and Leonard Hankerson (revenge game) going against a banged-up secondary. That will force Cousins out of his comfort zone and the team off winning script. Game flow and matchup indicates Chris Thompsonis the best play out of the three for this weekend.
File this one under the "I don't know what to do with it" section. We've seen plenty of evidence to show that the 49ers are a floundering team. Their run defense was supposed to be one strength they could count on, but teams are still piling on scores coming from the ground.
The trouble here is the Week 5 opponent. No team lacks clarity in the backfield like the Giants. For this week at least, there's no actionable information to take from this stat in making your lineup decisions. If there's one thing to note, it's don't be surprised if people are chasing Andre Williams' points in Week 6, if he increases the 49ers touchdowns allowed rate. Don't fall into that trap, ever.
Marcus Mariota ranks fifth in the NFL with 9.9 air yards per attempt, and second in the NFL with and 8.2 touchdown percentage
He's only played in three games, but it should be more widely recognized what a tremendous rookie season Marcus Mariota is enjoying. While the team is certainly scheming up some easy reads for its rookie quarterback, he's been far from passive. His air yards per attempt is one of the highest figures in the NFL. Mariota is picking his spots for shot plays judiciously, and taking what's underneath when the deep game is shut down. He's also been one of the most efficient touchdown scorers in the NFL, albeit in this very small sample size for him.
If the early season outlook holds up, Mariota will be an every week fantasy starter the rest of the way. He's impressed with his poise, and his overall passing acumen. Many figured that Mariota's rushing ability would boost mediocre passing numbers in year one. However, the rookie quarterback has just five runs to his name this season. He's doing all his work via the air. The Bills have a strong defense that could put the heat on Mariota this Sunday. Yet, they've been had by quick striking offenses during portions of this quarter season, as well. Mariota has the type of game to pick them apart underneath. He's a solid contrarian play in DFS, and easy to stack with Kendall Wright.