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.
Last week the Bills' rushing net was 312 yards. While that's a trivia-worthy high number, it's also not likely an attainable figure for the Buccaneers this week. Prior to that game, the Niners' were still pacing the league in rushing yards allowed at 146.8 per game. The Jameis Winston-era Bucs are 6-0 in games when they run the ball on 50-plus percent of the offensive plays, and 2-13 when passing plays are called more frequently. In their five games this season, Jameis Winston's passer rating has ranged from 39.2 to 125.1, with nine passing touchdowns, one rushing score, and 10 total giveaways (eight interceptions and two fumbles).
Fantasy Impact:Jameis Winston's stats have been very inconsistent. Very. With Niners cornerback Jimmie Ward returning this game, the Bucs' slot becomes a far less appealing place to throw the ball for Winston and also makes Adam Humphries, Vincent Jackson's replacement, less of a sneaky wide receiver play this week. To be clear, Humphries is a great value, but Ward's return limits his upside. With Doug Martin still sidelined, Jacquizz Rodgers becomes a top option. Since I am making my editor super happy and writing this earlier than normal this week, I'm going to give ranges for projections. Rodgers is in my RB9-12 range this week.
2) Allen Robinson is averaging 2.2 yards after catch (YAC) per reception (75th out of 79 qualified pass catchers).
The qualifier is 20 receptions, so this includes some tight ends and running backs. Last year, his average for the season was 4.5 YAC/reception. Watching Jaguars game film, you can see that part of this decrease is on him and part of it is on the person throwing him the passes. However, working in Robinson's favor is an Oakland defense that allows the most passing yards per game (312.7) and the fifth-most yards after catch to opposing pass catchers.
The Jags' defense is only allowing 321.4 total yards per game (eighth-fewest) and 218.4 passing yards per game (also eighth-fewest). However, they are allowing 25.4 points (12th-most) and their third-down percentage is the fifth-most generous to opposing offenses (44.37 percent). Oakland's offense is averaging 25.3 points per game with a balanced approach, averaging the 10th-most passing yards per game (263.8) and the 13th-most rushing yards per game (110.2). Derek Carr's stats have also improved behind an offensive line that has allowed the fewest sacks (seven) and QB hits (13) of any team in the NFL.
Fantasy Impact: This week I have been looking deep into YAC, and Amari Cooper's 5.6 YAC/reception average (22nd of the 79 qualified pass catchers) is closer to what one would expect from a No. 1 wide receiver. Amari Cooper ranks as my WR8-12 and Crabtree is in the WR26-30 range per my projections this week. As an interesting note, Crabtree's 2.0 YAC/reception average ranks 78th out of the 79 qualified pass catchers. Keep in mind, he has five receiving touchdowns and YAC isn't how I would judge his value given how he's deployed in this offense -- it's just a good one for trivia purposes!
Meanwhile, the Broncos have allowed the fewest YAC to opposing teams so far this season (441 YAC). Last year, Nuk ranked 132 out of 132 qualified pass catchers in this category, averaging 2.0 YAC/reception. The statistical difference between Hopkins this year and last is pretty dramatic in terms of targets (tracking at 9.5 per game versus 12 last year) and average receiving yards per game (59 this year versus 95 last). No team is allowing fewer passing yards per game than the Broncos' 182.3 average. On the ground, the Broncos are allowing 112.7 yards per game (22nd in the league).
Fantasy Impact: It should come as no surprise that LeSean McCoy is in my RB1-3 range this week, but I want to talk about his hamstring. McCoy didn't finish practice on Wednesday due to a tight hamstring and now looks like a game-time decision at best. This is a situation to keep a close eye on, as if Mike Gillislee gets the start his value will sky rocket. Also, if you are looking for a quarterback, Tyrod Taylor is in my QB11-14 range, and he would also get a little bump if Shady were to sit. Right now, Taylor is averaging 39 rushing yards per game which would likely increase without McCoy.
6) Jarvis Landry leads the NFL in both share of team targets (31.3 percent) and receptions (33.1 percent).
Landry is averaging 9.3 targets and 82.3 receiving yards per game. The Bills defense allows the 14th-most passing yards (242) and 15th-most rushing (103.2) yards per game. What stands out here is that they already have recorded 20 sacks (second in the NFL) and 12 takeaways (tied-second), and are set to face Ryan Tannehill who has been sacked 17 times.
Fantasy Impact: Our awesome research team and I looked at all the No. 1 wideouts to face the Bills so far this season and found 28 total receptions for 267 yards and zero touchdowns. This is an average of 44.5 yards per game on just under five receptions. Jarvis Landry's opportunity (targets and catches) should be greater than that average, but he's usually ranked higher overall for me than the WR14-18 range he falls in this week. Also, Jay Ajayi is in my RB31-35 range this week. His usage is inconsistent, so until it becomes more consistent don't fall victim to recency bias with that 204-yard, two-touchdown monster game last week.
7) Since 2013, Geno Smith has thrown 21 interceptions on 191 passing attempts of 15-plus air yards, the most among 30 quarterbacks with 150 or more attempts of 15-plus air yards in that span.
It follows that his passer rating on such attempts is 58.7, which is also the lowest of the group. The Ravens defense is giving up the third-fewest total yards per game (294.8), owns the third-highest interception rate (3.72 percent), gives up the fewest yard on the ground per game (69.7) and the ninth-fewest passing yards per game (225.2).
Fantasy Impact: If you have Brandon Marshall, you should probably still start him, but just manage expectations. He still falls in my WR17-21 range. The thing to know is that last season 17 of Smith's 42 pass attempts were to Marshall (40.4 percent) which means the targets were there. The problem was that Smith was only 8-for-17 (47.1 percent) for 100 yards with a measley 41.3 passer rating when targeting Marshall.
8) Washington is averaging the fifth-most 276.8 passing yards per game this season and the second-most total yards per play (6.2).
9) Matthew Stafford is averaging career-highs in completion percentage (68.9), yards per attempt (7.8) and passer rating (106.1).
The Lions offense also currently has a 46.5 third-down conversion percentage (third in the league) and 28.6 touchdown percentage (drives ending in a touchdown, tied-fourth). And they've accomplished all of this while only averaging 88.7 rushing yards per game (26th).
His 526 rush yards rank fourth in the NFL and his 4.6 yards per carry are one full yard more than last year's average. If he keeps this pace, he would finish the year with 1,403 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, 64 receptions, 459 yards and five receiving touchdowns. The Colts' defense has allowed at least 20 points in each game so far this season (29 points per game allowed, 28th in the NFL) along with 411.2 total yards per game (30th).
Luck has been sacked at least twice in each game this season. The Titans' defense has sacked opposing signal callers six times in each of their past two games. They are holding opposing offenses to the ninth-fewest yards per game (324), including the seventh-fewest rushing yards per game (88.5) and the 11th-fewest receiving yards per game (235.5).
Gordon is averaging 85.8 scrimmage yards per game on 21.7 touches with seven total touchdowns. The Falcons' defense is giving up the 24th most total yards per game (379.5) with 94.2 coming on the ground (11th-fewest) and 285.3 through the air (tied-seventh most). Atlanta allows the second-most passes to running backs and is also vulnerable to tight ends, surrendering 37 receptions (third-most), 438 receiving yards (second-most) and five receiving touchdowns (tied, fourth-most) to the position.
Fantasy Impact: Gordon is in the RB6-10 range and Philip Rivers is in the QB9-13 range. As for the tight ends, Antonio Gates was on the field for fewer snaps than Hunter Henry last game and Henry's production has been excellent when lined up tight, in the slot and wide. For me, Henry is a top-10 tight end this week.
His overall passer rating right now is 117.9, which would be the best in his career and is averaging 345.8 passing yards per game (which would also be a career-best). Ryan has connected with Julio Jones on 62 percent of his targets for 656 yards (most in the NFL), with a passer rating of 124.2. The Chargers defense ranks fifth in rush defense this year (83.5 rushing yards per game and 24th in pass defense (279.7 pass yards per game). Joey Bosa's pressure is a noticeable upgrade to this Charger defense and he was up to playing 75.7 percent of the snaps last game.
15) Le'Veon Bell has 100 or more scrimmage yards in all three games he's played this year, and in 12 of his past 15 games.
Starter Landry Jones only averaged a 57.6 completion percentage in his two games last year. Looking only at passes traveling 20 or more air yards, his completion percentage actually improved to 71.4 and he racked up 132 yards on those passes. While the amount of plays where a deep pass was called was low, he was efficient. The Pats' strong defense gives up the 13th-fewest total yards per game (347), the ninth-fewest rushing yards per game (92) and the 18th-fewest passing yards per game (255).