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.
1) Lamar Miller is averaging 20.2 carries per game and 3.7 yards per rush, along with 2.8 receptions per game with 5.9 yards per reception.
The Texans offense overall averages 16.4 points per game (tied-31st), 4.66 yards per play (31st), while scoring six touchdowns on 62 drives for a 9.7 percent touchdown rate (32nd). However, since head coach Bill O'Brien took over play-calling duties in Week 4, their points per game and yards per play are both trending up (and remember they faced the Vikings and that lockdown defense last week).
Fantasy Impact: The Colts' defense allows 109.6 rushing yards per game (18th), 410.6 total yards per game (30th) and 29.6 points per game (tied-30th). I know that Lamar Miller's volume was down last game (only eight rushes and one reception) but that was the Vikings and this is the Colts. My projections rank Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins in the top 10 at their respective positions (Lamar Miller in the top seven), and Will Fuller also has a projection that exceeds expectations (top-30 WR for me). Since my math has the Texans edging out the Colts in a game with a normal amount of total points, I wouldn't play all my Texans in say, Perfect Challenge formats.
Last week, both Hilton and Jarvis Landry were on this streak, and this week Hilton stands alone. If you look at his home and away splits so far, the two away games (Jacksonville and Denver) stand out as far less than his averages. So far this season in home games he averages 141.3 receiving yards with two scores versus 41.5 receiving yards with one score in away games. He's playing on the road this week against the Texans defense so ...
Fantasy Impact:T.Y. Hilton is a top-12 wide receiver this week. In the past two games, the Texans' defense (without J.J. Watt) has allowed an average of 25.5 points per game (up from 17.7 in first three games), 335.5 total yards per game (up from 277) and 225.5 passing yards per game (up from 151.3). They've also reduced their sack average from 3.3 to 1.5 per game.
He was 5-of-7 for 201 yards and a touchdown in those four games (which included the Broncos). Last week against the Cowboys, Dalton had only a 39.6 passer rating on two deep attempts to Green… neither of which were caught. Our NFL Next Gen Stats track this metric, and the Patriots defense allows only a 56.6 passer rating against deep passes, which is below the NFL average of 79.8.
Fantasy Impact: There is a good chance the Bengals will be playing from behind, possibly even very behind. Green's 52 targets lead the team and rank sixth in the NFL. Those deep catches are likely something we will see this week. I say catches (and not targets) because based on a longer history than just last game he's almost coverage-proof. With Tyler Eifert's out, there's a good chance Green's targets are above his 10.4 per game average. Also, I know Brandon LaFell saw 11 targets and caught eight of them for 68 yards and two touchdowns against the Cowboys last week, but if you're looking for a Perfect Challenge value I would stick to the potential upside from Green here. Green has the highest ceiling for any wide receiver this week and is in the top-seven in my median projections for his position.
4) Last week Gronk lined up in the slot for 21 plays (19 percent) where he caught three passes on five targets for 30 yards
He lined up tight on 78 plays (70 percent) where he caught two passes on the three targets that came his way for 56 yards. The Bengals' defense has allowed 13.9 yards per reception (fifth-most in the NFL) to pass-catchers out of the slot. They're also tied with the Detroit Lions in giving up the most touchdowns out of the tight end alignment (three).
Maclin earned 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns last season on passes from Smith, while this year those numbers are only 244 yards and one. The Chiefs are passing on a league-high 68.6 percent of plays but only averaging 248.3 passing yards per game (15th) and 5.9 yards per pass play (28th). The Raiders' defense allows 452.6 yards per game (32nd), with 330.6 coming through the air (also 32nd). The Raiders have already given up over 1,650 yards through the air to opposing offenses.
Fantasy Impact:Jeremy Maclin is my No. 12 wide receiver with top-five upside, and Travis Kelce is my No. 3 tight end with the highest ceiling at his position for the week. Maclin has seen the most targets (averages 9.25 per game) and Kelce leads the team in receptions (22). I asked Marshall Faulk how the Chiefs might attack the Raiders defense, he described how they are very susceptible to tight ends. In other words, Marshall thinks we'll see Kelce have the bigger day. Also, Jamaal Charles should be impactful in this game, and I have him slated for the majority of the work on the ground (with pass-catching upside).
It follows that the quarterbacks they've faced so far this season have all ended up with a passer rating of over 100 against them. They've allowed the second-most plays of over 40 yards in the air (eight) so far this season, giving up at least one in each game. They have, however, kept rushing yards in check, allowing the second-fewest in the NFL per game (68.4).
Fantasy Impact:Carson Palmer is my No. 7 quarterback option this week in all formats of fantasy play. Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson both should benefit from this game script, where the Cardinals should have one of the highest point totals on the week. Both are in the top-five at their positions, though I will say Johnson's projection isn't as insanely good as it has been in past weeks given the Jets' ability to stop the run. That being said, considering Johnson's pass-catching upside and a favorable script, I still think he ends up near the top of the running back heap. I also have John Brown slated to over perform our expectations of him, those deep passes and his recent uptick in targets (don't look at the Stanton game) all suggest that we could see tons of upside from him.
8) Arizona's defense has 12 takeaways this season, tied for first in the league.
In each of their last three games, they've held opposing offenses to fewer than 300 total yards. They also have 18 sacks on the year, third-most in the league.
Fantasy Impact:Ryan Fitzpatrick's completion percentage currently sits at 57.8 percent (33rd in the league) while his 10 interceptions and 64.7 passer rating both rank last. When targeting Brandon Marshall, Fitzpatrick is 24-of-54 with two touchdowns and four interceptions … and a passer rating of 48.6. With Eric Decker going on IR, both Marshall and Quincy Enunwa will continue to see an uptick in targets. Opportunity is always a good thing even against the Cardinals. Bottom line, play Marshall if you have him, just temper expectations.
Detroit's Marvin Jones paces the league with 519 receiving yards, then A.J. Green with 518 and Julio Jones with 517. Three yards separate Olsen from the most receiving yards in the league. He has at least five receptions and 60 yards in each game this season. The Saints allow the second-most yards per game (422.8) and rank 28th in receiving yards allowed per game (301.3).
Fantasy Impact: In what should be a high-scoring game for both teams, Olsen has one of my top-three median projections with the top tight-end ceiling. Cam Newton is my top quarterback this week, as well. All of this assumes that Cam is cleared from the concussion protocol, of course. Also, Jonathan Stewart's return helps the Panthers offense overall and Stewart is fully playable this week.
Looking at total yards per game, the Panthers are allowing 341.2 this year compared to 322.9 last year. The metric that really drives this home for me is that the Panthers are allowing opposing quarterbacks a 93.5 passer rating (20th) compared to 73.5 (first) last year. I could add in a bunch of information about the Saint's offense like how they are fourth in the league in points per game, second in passing yards per game and tied for second in touchdowns … but basically what you can see and feel when you watch this team is that the offense keeps them in games despite their defense giving up lots of yards and points.
Fantasy Impact: It's possible that this Panthers at Saints game could have even more points that its projected total, which happens to be the highest of the week. Drew Brees is my No. 6 quarterback this week with the highest ceiling. Navigating the pass-catchers breaks down like this for me: Willie Snead out of the slot has almost the same median projection as Brandin Cooks - the Carolina secondary hasn't been the same this year (see passer rating above). Snead has a bit more upside in my model because his slot production prior to his toe injury was pacing the league, which maps to the vulnerable safeties. Coby Fleener also pops up as a value option with the eighth-most receiving yards projected at the tight end position in my model.
Bell has more than 150 scrimmage yard in both games he's played so far this season and has over 100 in 11 of his past 14 games. Fun trivia question from our awesome research team…. Who has averaged more scrimmage yards per game than Bell's 121.6? In the past 30 years, that answer would be no one. On the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins have the worst rushing margin in the NFL. Opponents have outgained the Dolphins by 392 yards on the ground.
Fantasy Impact:Le'Veon Bell is my No. 1 running back with a monster ceiling. No matter the format of fantasy, he's the best pick of the week in any position in terms of potential. Ben Roethlisberger is my QB2 for the week while Antonio Brown is my WR1, but doesn't have the highest ceiling due to a potential lopsided score favoring the road team (and thus more running plays toward the end of the game). Keep an eye on Sammie Coates' injured hand and the return of Eli Rogers and manage your expectations for Coates on Sunday morning.
Pittsburgh's defense allows an average of 379 total yards per game (25th) with all but 77 coming in the air (302 passing yards per game allowed, 30th).
Fantasy Impact: Landry's 48 targets are 23 more than the next closest receiver (DeVante Parker) and he's had 10 or more targets in all but one game so far this season. Landry cracks my top 10 wide receivers this week primarily due to his volume and the game script likely calling for the Dolphins to be playing from behind. The risk here lies primarily in Ryan Tannehill's ability to get him the ball. Tannehill has been sacked 17 times (second-most in the league) while the Steelers defense has seven sacks and allows an average of 13.5 points per game in their last two contest. The Dolphins' offense has 11 giveaways (tied for fifth-most), nine of which are attributed to Tannehill. In other words, if you need a defense this week, perhaps consider the Steelers.
13) LeSean McCoy averages 5.3 yards per carry and has already rushed for 447 yards this season (fourth in the NFL).
McCoy has 100-plus scrimmage yards in three straight games and 10 of his past 13 games. Think of five as the magic number for yards per carry. Backs who average five or more yards per carry (and see a requisite number of touches) are almost always ones to consider for fantasy. In the past three games his yards per carry average has surged to 6.1. The 49ers defense has allowed 146.8 rushing yards per game (second-most). In Weeks 2-5 they surrendered over 100 rushing yards to No. 1 running backs and five touchdowns.
Fantasy Impact: As far as story-telling goes, I love a great revenge narrative ... but when it comes to math I don't have an input for that - but this week it doesn't matter because they are one in the same. McCoy is a top-10 back and could be a big help in the short passing game as well.
Howard is averaging 147.5 scrimmage yards per game this season. Jacksonville's defense has improved, only allowing 304.5 yards per game (seventh-fewest), but 105.8 of those yards are coming on the ground.
Fantasy Impact:Jordan Howard is my RB12 on the week. Brian Hoyer has led the league with 1,016 passing yards over the last three weeks and has two touchdowns in each game as well. His 71.4 completion percentage is also currently best in the NFL. Despite all that, I don't think this is the defense to play Hoyer against.
15) Jordan Matthews has lined up in the slot on 120 plays (50 percent), where he has caught 12 of his 18 targets for 172 yards (14.3 yards per catch), and scored two touchdowns.