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.
That ranked first in the NFL among running backs through Week 8 of the 2015 season. Bell also averaged 119 yards per game, which our awesome research team tells me is good for the most scrimmage yards per game by any player in the past 30 seasons. Also, watch for yards after contact -- Bell topped the NFL in YAC last season. You can see them on the field and the stats reflect their consistency (he averaged over three yards after contact last season).
Fantasy Impact: Head coach Mike Tomlin has openly said Bell won't be limited post-suspension. This game is projected to have the sixth-most total points, and the markets have Pittsburgh coming out on top. The Chiefs' secondary (ahem Marcus Peters) is really tough from a matchup perspective, even for Antonio Brown. My projections have the bulk of plays called on the ground and in the short passing game with some deeper throws when Rothlisberger gets the right matchup. My projections have AB as the No. 3 receiver this week, Le'Veon Bell the No. 1 back, and I would only play DeAngelo Williams if we hear different news before Sunday. Also, this isn't a week I would consider using Eli Rogers as slot receivers have had an especially rough time against the Chiefs' secondary.
2. Alex Smith's completion percentage to Jeremy Maclin is only 51.7 percent so far this season, down 18.5 percent from last season (70.2%).
Last year, the two connected for 1,088 passing yards and eight touchdowns (two interceptions). This year, those numbers are 166 passing yards and only one touchdown (one interception). Maclin has fewer than 70 receiving yards in all three games this season, as well as in the last four from last season.
Fantasy Impact:Travis Kelce leads the Chiefs with 197 receiving yards off of a team-high 17 receptions and a touchdown. Alex Smith has a passer rating of 121.6 when targeting Kelce so far this season. I bring up Kelce to help show the difference in the Smith-to-Maclin connection this year versus last. Smith's passer rating when targeting Maclin currently sits at 66.1, down 45.8 from last year's 111.9 mark. Kelce's seven targets per game this season is tracking higher than his 6.25 average last. Maclin's 9.6 target average is also tracking higher than his 7.75 average last season, but the fantasy production hasn't followed ... yet. I think this is the week we see Maclin produce the numbers we think of for him, in a game where KC could be playing from behind. I rate him as my No. 11 wide receiver for the week. Also, Kelce is my No. 3 tight end (duh).
3. The Bears are averaging 56 offensive plays per game (31st in the NFL) and have the fewest rushing attempts in the NFL so far this season (53).
I didn't realize that Brian Hoyer has never faced the Lions. It makes sense once you name the teams he's started for, but still a fun fact. The Lions' defense has blitzed the most so far this season (36.9 percent) and even with all these seemingly point-suppressing stats, I think this Lions at Bears game might just surprise us all with the number of total points scored. The Lions have amassed over 375 yards on offense in each of their first three games, partially due to their defense keeping opposing offenses competitive -- currently allowing the 12th-most yards per game to opposing offenses (379).
Fantasy Impact:Alshon Jeffery is my No. 5 wide receiver this week. Also, if you need a tight end this week, welcome Zach Miller to your team as a matchup pick. Tweet at me if you'd like me to tell you the Lions' deficiency to opposing tight ends, or read last week's article, or watch anything I've said on Fantasy Live, or ask Jack Doyle twice (or Richard Rodgers, Delanie Walker, Dwayne Allen...).
Of Matthew Stafford's 81 completions (No. 3 in NFL), 18 of them have been to Jones. Nine of those receptions were for gains of over 20 yards and five for 20-plus air yards (both tops in the NFL).
Fantasy Impact: Just above, I told you that there is a chance we see more points than expected in this Lions-Bears game. The Bears' Jeffery is my No. 5 wide receiver and Marvin Jones is a close No. 6. Theo Riddick has seen his scrimmage yards decrease each week (108 in Week 1 to 65 in Week 2 to 48 last week). I have him projected at 10 carries for 42 yards and three receptions for 36 receiving yards, also he only scored a touchdown in 32 percent of my simulations. Start or not depends on your roster, but that's my math.
5. Case Keenum was 5-of-6 (avg 22.2 yards/att) with two touchdown and had a perfect 158.3 passer rating on passes traveling 10-plus air yards in Week 3.
Will this be the case this week against the Cardinals? Not likely with Peterson, Mathieu and Jones on the field, but the Cardinals are allowing opposing offenses to convert third downs into first downs 45.2 percent of the time, which is the fifth-worst rate in the NFL (last year they were eighth-best in this metric at 35.7 percent). Also, against the run specifically, they are allowing 133 YPG (28th in the NFL) which is 41.7 more YPG than last year, when they rated sixth-best in this metric.
Fantasy Impact: This season, Todd Gurley is only averaging 2.9 yard per rush. Last season, this number was 4.8 (second amongst qualified RBs). Both of his rushing touchdowns this season came last week against the Bucs. This game projects to be low scoring overall with the home team Cardinals favored. Due to all of these factors Gurley rates as my No. 11 running back. His floor is high, but ceiling limited.
And also in seven of his eight career starts. His 386 scrimmage yards are good for third in the NFL this season, and he's seen the end zone 10 times in 10 games.
Fantasy Impact:David Johnson is my No. 2 running back for the week, and Larry Fitzgerald, who has seen no fewer than 10 targets in each game so far this season, is my No. 13 wide receiver.
7. Washington is averaging 406.3 yards per game on offense… fifth most in the NFL.
Washington is the only team to earn more than 300 passing yards in each game so far this season, which makes sense given they have only run on 31.4 percent of offensive plays, which ranks 30th in the NFL (the league average is approximately 40 percent). Kirk Cousins is averaging 329.7 yards per game this season (second-most) and BOTH Cleveland and Washington's defense are two of the three teams allowing 25 or more points per game.
Fantasy Impact:Kirk Cousins is my No. 7 QB this week and I think we see Jordan Reed in the end zone for the first time this season.
8. Isaish Crowell is tied for second in rushing yards so far this season with 274.
He's also averaging 6.1 yards per attempt which is third in the NFL (among qualified running backs).
Fantasy Impact: So far this season, Washington's defense is allowing 424.7 yards per game to opposing offenses (fourth-most). Crowell is my No. 25 running back this week. Bashaud Breeland is also not playing again this week, which means Terrelle Pryor's jack-of-all-trades upside just got bigger (he's my No. 25 wide receiver). Note: head coach Jay Gruden said Norman wouldn't shadow Pryor but who knows if that's true.
Eric Decker has a partial rotator cuff tear and will not be playing this weekend at home against Seattle. The Seahawks' defense is, again this year, best or second best in pretty much every metric that matters including only allowing only 162.7 passing yards per game (second-fewest).
Fantasy Impact: Enunwa has 17 receptions off 25 targets and a touchdown so far this season. This is an opportunity/upside pick based on increased targets, not at all a pick against the Seahawks stingy defense. With Brandon Marshall appearing on the injury report a number of times this season, and the Jets basically not using their tight end in the passing game it follows that Jets' offensive coordinator Chan Gailey will scheme to get the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder into the end zone.
10. The Jets' defense has allowed 344 yards and three touchdowns off six receptions on passes traveling 20-plus yards in the air (second-most in the NFL).
Our Next Gen Stats confirm what I tracked watching film last week -- Russell Wilson led Week 3 in average air distance (over 24 yards) and average air yards (almost 13 yards). Both Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett have caught a 50-plus yarder in the past two weeks.
Fantasy Impact: We have already established that Christine Micheal is a good volume target in the run game with Thomas Rawls ruled out, so I am more interested in WRs here ... FYI, the Jets are third-best in the NFL in limiting rushing yards per game (71.7 yards). Doug Baldwin is my No. 16 WR and Tyler Lockett is a great upside target.
The 49ers are averaging almost ten more points per game so far this year compared with last year. Their 24.3 points per game average this year is up from their league-low 14.9 points per game last season. Dallas has allowed an average of 379.3 yards per game (No. 22), which is a sizable difference from the 292 yards per game (No. 28) San Francisco's offense is averaging.
Fantasy Impact:Carlos Hyde, who is averaging 19.3 carries and two receptions per game is my No. 13 running back this week. The 49ers have a 70 percent red zone scoring clip (sixth-best) so the touchdown upside is there.
With Dez out, Beasley becomes my No. 32 wide receiver. His 20 receptions on 25 targets (average 6.7 receptions off 8.3 targets per game) for an average of 10.7 yards per reception all figure to increase this week against the 49ers.
13. The average margin of victory in games played in London since 2007 is 15.5 points.
The league regular season average is 12.1 and the average including the playoffs is 11.04.
Five of the 14 games were won by more than 20 points and seven by 13 or more points. The Colts are slight favorites in this game right now.
Fantasy Impact: My projections reflect the Jags playing from behind by at least a score in the fourth quarter -- which is when Allen Robinson and Blake Bortles have historically connected for yards and touchdowns the most. Allen Robinson has a high ceiling and is my No. 7 WR this week. On the other side of this, Andrew Luck has my No. 5 QB projection.
14. Drew Brees is averaging 354 passing yards per game this season (No. 1 -- next closest is 24 yards fewer)
The theme of good offense, bad defense equating crazy passing stats continues here (and has been a theme for the Saints). Brees threw his first pick in 305 passes last week, but don't let that deter you. The Chargers defense is allowing opposing teams to average 81.7 rushing YPG (sixth-best) while at the same time holding strong on third down, allowing only a 26.5 percent conversion rate (second-best).
Fantasy Impact:Drew Brees is my No. 3 quarterback for the week. Brandin Cooks should see a lot of Jason Verrett, driving his projection down to No. 20 for receivers. Willie Snead in the top 25 for wide receivers overall, which will potentially change depending on when we get final injury reports (cornerback Brandon Flowers is already out) and Michael Thomas is a great upside pick whose stock could rise depending on Snead's status. Oh yeah, and even though I said that the Chargers defense has improved against the run, I have Mark Ingram my No. 5 running back this week based on the total number of points scored in this game.
The Saints defense is giving up 32 points per game, 448.3 yards per game (second-most), 299 yards in the air (eighth-most), 149.3 yards on the ground (NFL-worst).
Fantasy Impact:Philip Rivers is my No. 4 QB, Melvin Gordon is my No. 4 RB, and Travis Benjamin is my No. 17 WR.