Welcome to "Frelund's 15," where each week analytics expert Cynthia Frelund provides you with her 15 must-read stats for the upcoming slate of NFL games. These might not be end-all, be all stats for making a start or sit decision for your fantasy team, but they're here to help you understand the matchups and make the most informed lineup decisions possible.
So far this year, he's seen his volume increase to 20 attempts per game (up from 9.5 last season) while averaging 4.2 yards per carry, a rushing touchdown and at least three receptions per game. The Bengals defense has given up an average of 138 yards per game on the ground, which is the most in the NFL.
Denver has blitzed 39.5 percent so far this season, good for second-most in the NFL. Also, Dalton has been sacked eight times, tied for the most so far this season. Seven of those coming from the Jets in Week 1. It would seem that pass-catchers in this Bengals offense might have a quiet outing. However, I am not ready to count A.J. Green out quite yet, especially considering Andy Dalton has passed on 71.3 percent of plays (up from 53.5 percent last season) and earned 366 yards in each game so far this year. Fun fact that our awesome research team gave me: no Bengals quarterback has ever passed for 350+ yards in 3-straight games.
Fantasy Impact: If you are playing Perfect Challenge, understand that A.J. Green is a riskier pick, but one that could pay off. Here's why: First, DeMarcus Ware is out, which doesn't mean that this defense should be downgraded but does provide a little relief. Next, looking back at last year's Week 16 matchup between Denver and Cincinnati (Broncos won 20-17 in OT with Osweiler and McCarron quarterbacking each team), when Green lined up across from Chris Harris Jr he had one reception off two targets (in seven plays). When Green was lined up across from Aqib Talib he had three receptions off four targets and a touchdown in 20 plays.
3. Kirk Cousins has a passer rating of 19.6 in the red zone this season, down from 113.5 last year, including two interceptions and only one touchdown (last year his touchdown-interception was 22-0 in the red zone).
In the same way that I don't overweight his 64.1% completion percentage in the red zone last year, I also won't overweight the interceptions and inefficiency this year (29.4% completion percentage), at least not yet. Remember, in Week 1 against the Steelers, Washington was playing from behind (24-6) shortly after half time. I don't think this is the week when we see the guy who led the League last year in completion percentage, as the Giants defense has improved their passing yards allowed per game by almost 62 from last year (averaged 298.9 last year versus 237 this year) but I think he starts to trend up in coming weeks.
Fantasy Impact: First, due to the Giant's defense being 4th best against the run so far this season (only allowing 71 yards per game) and the Redskins running game only earning 68.5 yards per game, ranking 26th in the NFL. My projections rate Jordan Reed as the No. 1 TE. Reed leads the league in tight end targets at 18 with 12 receptions). Looking ahead, Washington faces the Browns next week where Kurt Cousins will likely be a top option. Also, I am staying away from Matt Jones in this matchup, for sure.
4. All three of the Giant's wide receivers have played in at least 91% of their offensive snaps
I bet you thought I was going to say that Beckham was targeted six times against Norman last year when he was a Panther, caught four of those passes for 30 yards and a touchdown. Or maybe that so far this season Norman lined up against Antonio Brown on 25 of 66 plays (all on when Brown was on the right) but also 30 of 57 plays against Dez Bryant (15 times on each the left and right sides) and followed him every time he lined up wide left in the 4th quarter? No?
Here's the reality… Where Norman lines up is not the same as where he goes or who he covers. We really don't know what Washington's defensive coordinator Joe Berry will ask Norman to do. It's far better to focus on Beckham's 19 targets, with Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard each having 12 so far this season. Further, the improvement to the Giant's defense makes me think this will not be the highest scoring game of the week. Maybe the best thing about Norman's coverage in relation to the receivers is that he's only lined up in the slot on 11 plays this season (7.6 percent of his snaps) and Sterling Shepard paces the NFL with 117 yards from the slot.
5. Willie Snead has 164 yards off of 11 receptions (both second in the NFL) and one touchdown out of the slot.
Per the NFL's Next Gen stats, the Falcons defense has allowed 7-of-10 for 125 yards and a touchdown from the left slot and 10-of-16 and a touchdown from the right slot.
Fantasy Impact: Snead is a must-start. It's always tough to determine Drew Brees' favorite target, but Snead leads his team with 14 receptions. Snead and Cooks both have two touchdowns and over 200 receiving yards this season already (Cooks 211, Snead 226). There's a good chance the Saints score the most points of any team this weekend. Brees, Cooks and Snead are all in a great spot.
Which is up from 66.3 percent last season. He's also averaging almost 80 more passing yards per game (365 versus 286.9) and has about a 30-point passer rating increase (121.4 compared with 89). Last year, Julio Jones saw League-highs in terms of targets per game (12.7), receptions per game (8.5) and receiving yards per game (116.9). This year he has nine total receptions off 13 total targets, 172 total receiving yards and two touchdowns.
The Saints defense is allowing more points and yards per game this year than last (29.8 versus 25.5 and 451.5 versus 413.4). The one improvement, however, has been in allowing passing touchdowns. Last year they set an NFL record with 45 passing scores allowed, and this year they've only allowed one in two games.
Fantasy Impact:Julio Jones is my No. 1 wide receiver for the week, Matt Ryan is my No. 5 quarterback. Also, even though we've seen a shared backfield both weeks so far, Devonta Freeman's 5.5 yards per carry makes him the more efficient back (Coleman averaged 3.8 yards per carry) and I wouldn't be surprised if he earned you a bunch of points this weekend.
7. Over the past eight games, Matthew Stafford's passer rating is 113.2 (second best among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts).
He's also averaged 281.9 passing yards per game with a completion percentage of 70.9 and a touchdown to interception ratio of 21-2. Over the past two games, Marvin Jones has 12 receptions on 21 targets for 203 receiving yards, Golden Tate has nine receptions on 16 targets for 54 yards and Anquan Boldin has seven receptions on 10 targets for 83 yards and a TD. Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron both also have nine receptions for 91 and 99 yards.
Fantasy Impact: Since Green Bay has limited opponents to fewer than 50 total rush yards in both of their games so far (39 rush yards per game, fewest in the NFL) I am only considering pass catchers in this matchup. Marvin Jones is my ninth-ranked wide receiver for the week. If Eric Ebron doesn't end up playing (he sat out of practice on Wednesday with a back injury but returned Thursday), Theo Riddick becomes more valuable.
8. Aaron Rodgers has a completion percentage of 33.3 on 10+ air yard passes this season (tied for the lowest in NFL).
His overall completion percentage is 57.1% so far this season, which ranks 30th and his fourth quarter passer rating is 41.0, which is 32nd in the NFL. I'm writing this all now because this won't continue and I want to be on record saying this is when we see Aaron Rodgers stats look Aaron Rodgers-like again. There is enough data on Rodgers to show high and low outliers and it would appear we are in a valley. One item that jumps out to me: Rodgers' passer rating is 54.5 when targeting Davante Adams (6-14, 76 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and 89.6 when targeting anyone else (34-56, 336 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT). Another is that Eddie Lacy has not had 65 or more yards in a single game over his past 5 games.
Fantasy Impact: My projections say the order goes - Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, and Jordy Nelson from an upside perspective. Nelson has the higher median projection compared to Cobb but figures to see more of the Lions stellar corner Darius Slay, so Cobb has a higher touchdown expected value. The Lions, especially with linebacker DeAndre Levy out, have also been vulnerable to tight ends. Do I think there's going to be another thrilling Hail Mary? Not likely. But the Lions have surrendered an average of 88 yards and at least one touchdown (three to the Colts) in both games to tight ends so far this year. This is a trend that has continued from last year. If you are in need of a tight end you can consider Jared Cook (5-of-8) or Richard Rodgers (3-of-5). I value targets here, so Cook has the edge per my math.
OK, so this sample size (12 catches on 13 targets) is tiny, but it's good for trivia purposes. After losing both Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead to injury, Travis Benjamin has really stepped up. In Cleveland, he averaged 2 receptions off 4.1 targets per game for 31.2 yards (49.3% catch percentage). It's only been two games but so far he's tracking at 6.5 catches off 7 targets for 73.5 yards. This catch rate will come down, but the targets are the key and those project to increase, especially against the Colts this week.
With Donte Moncrief sidelined, Phillip Dorsett projects to see an increase in volume. Here's the breakdown so far: T.Y. Hilton has 10 catches on 23 targets, Moncrief has 7 of 10, while Dorsett has 5 catches on 11 targets. Also, Hilton doesn't appear to be 100 percent healthy either. I also think Dorsett could see the least of the Chargers' cornerback Jason Verrett.
11. Jeremy Maclin has lined up on the right side of the offense 51 percent of the time and on the left side 49 percent of the time so far this season. His touchdown was on a deep left pass, but he has also caught passes deep right and deep middle as well this season.
Jets' cornerback Darelle Revis lined up mostly on the defensive left in Week 2, after shadowing AJ Green in Week 1. Revis allowed 10 receptions on 10 targets for 152 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. He allowed two receptions on five targets for 90 yards and a touchdown in Week 2. Revis has allowed an 80 percent completion percentage so far the year (12-15) as opposed to a 42.2% (38 of 90) last season.
I am not ready to declare the decline of Revis in full-effect, but I do like situations where the offensive pass volume seems to be displaying a trend. Maclin has 11 receptions off of a team-high 22 targets so far this season. The next closest wide receiver in terms of volume is Chris Conley with 6 receptions off 11 targets for a total of 58 yards. Travis Kelce also has 11 receptions on 14 targets so far this season.
Fantasy Impact: Maclin has five or more receptions in seven of his past eight games and my projections like Maclin to finish in the top 28 of wide receivers for the week. Kelce has five or more receptions in both games so far this season, but the Jets defense is not a great match for a tight end. If he's your season-long starter you are playing Kelce for sure, but if you're looking for Perfect Challenge options he's not the one I would pick. Also, if Jamaal Charles doesn't return, I would definitely play Spencer Ware.
12. Matt Forte's 52 carries over the past two games are the most over a two-game timespan in his career.
Also, his seven receptions are seven more than any tight end the Jets roster. The Jets have not recorded a reception at the tight end position yet this season. The Chiefs defense has yet to match the levels of efficiency they were operating at over their final 10 regular season games last year, allowing 23 points per game and 369.5 yards per game, with only one takeaway per game. Compared with Weeks 7 to 17 of last season (including their bye), the Chiefs were only allowing an average of 12.8 points per game, 303.2 yards per game but with 2.3 takeaways. On the ground specifically, they're allowing an average of 126 yards per game (third most in the NFL).
Fantasy Impact:Matt Forte is in a great spot again this week. I don't think it's a three-score type of great spot, but he's my No. 7 running back for the week in PPR formats. Also, watch the injury report carefully as it seems both Marshall and Decker are a bit banged up. In terms of wide receiver receptions and targets, Marshall has nine on 17, Decker has eight on 15, and Enunwa has 13 on 14. All of them are worth playing this week if they are on your team, but if Marshall or Decker doesn't play it would give a projection boost to Enunwa. Remember, the Jets haven't used their tight end as a pass catcher for more than two targets yet this season, so some of that would-be volume goes to Forte and the wideouts.
13. The Raiders are pacing the NFL in both total yards earned on offense at 470 yards per game AND yards allowed on defense at 517.5 so far this season.
Fantasy Impact:I really like Tajae Sharpe again this week, his 11 receptions on 18 targets are both team highs. Delanie Walker with nine receptions on 11 targets is also an excellent choice, per usual. I'm not saying he's reached elite receiver status and I do see that most of his targets and catches are not coming off deep balls. However, the volume is there for the rookie and I point him out specifically because it appears Sharpe is only owned in 10.1 percent of NFL.com leagues… go get him!
I know this is a one-week stat, but one of Ben Roethlisberger's two interceptions last week came when the Bengals blitzed (even though they only blitzed 18.4 percent of the time) and in that game his passer rating overall was 1.2 when he faced the blitz. Roethlisberger has thrown multiple interceptions in four of his past five games. The Eagles defense has shown improvement this season, allowing about 115 fewer total yards per game and improving their red zone touchdown rate allowed from 65.6 to 40% this year.
Sam Bradford had a 71.0 completion percentage against the Packers and has averaged a 68.4 completion percentage over his last seven starts. Diggs has been a top performer (16 catches on 20 targets for 285 yards and one touchdown). Carolina's defense is tough, but there are some targetable spots in their secondary…