Things change quite a bit in just one year. Let’s take a short trip down memory lane.
It is the end of last season. The NFC West sent three of its four teams to the playoffs. The Rams won the Super Bowl. The 49ers were a dropped interception away from winning the NFC Championship. The Cardinals were the last undefeated team in the league at 7-0 and won 10 of their first 12 games.
In the AFC North, two of the teams advanced to the playoffs. The Bengals made it to the Super Bowl and nearly won. The Steelers beat the Bills, the juggernaut Titans and the Ravens twice during the regular season. The Ravens dealt with the midseason injury to Lamar Jackson, accruing an 8-4 record before he was hurt but going 0-5 after.
The Packers and Buccaneers both won their divisions with 13-4 records. The 12-5 Titans were the top seed in the AFC.
Now, boldly enter the present time with me.
None of these teams have a winning record after six games this season (the 3-2 Titans have yet to play their sixth). However, the Giants and Jets do. In fact, at this point in the season, the only playoff teams from last season that are currently over 0.500 are the Titans, Bills, Chiefs, Eagles and Cowboys.
Even though things look bleak for many teams compared to their 2021 glory, the season is still young. There are teams that move the ball yet get unlucky when it comes to scoring.
Yards per play is a good indicator of how well an offense is operating. Teams that gain yards should score points, but sometimes our expectations are off. Think about a running back rushing for 250 yards in a game. Without knowing whether that player scored a touchdown, you would likely guess that he scored at least once.
If he didn’t, that would be a low-probability outcome. Expand that idea team-wide, including all yards gained. Teams with plentiful yards and paltry scoring either have really poor offenses or are due for major regression to the mean.
This week’s focus will be point-scoring regression candidates.
This chart demonstrates how many points each offense scores points based on yards per play. The line shows the “best fit” for the distribution; it’s what you’d expect a team to score, given how many yards they gained per play. We can see the Cardinals, Commanders, Rams, Texans, Cowboys, Colts, Buccaneers, Falcons, Jaguars, Saints, Ravens and Bills all fall extremely close to the line (our expectation).
Candidates for regression are the teams far from the line. Teams far above the line score more than expected, given their yards per play. The teams beneath the line are not scoring the points we expect for them, given their lofty yards per play.
Teams to Target Based on These Numbers
- Packers (vs. Commanders)
- 49ers (vs. Chiefs)
- Patriots (vs. Bears)
- Dolphins (vs. Steelers)
- Seahawks (vs. Chargers)
The older, Super-Bowl-winning QBs are starting to unravel this year. Russell Wilson is cooking up kitchen fires, and new bachelor Tom Brady is jet-setting around the country instead of being with the team. What is the deal with Aaron Rodgers? The loss of Davante Adams is substantial, but Rodgers should overcome that. Is he meditating a bit too deeply or consuming too much ayahuasca? I am not sure, but given their yards per play, we would expect the Packers to score about three more points per game than they are.
With the Commanders’ yards per play scoring expectation around 17, and the Packers’ around 21, we might expect the offenses to score a total of 38 points, agnostic of defenses. Those defenses combine to allow 43 points per game. The total is set at 41, which seems about right given the Commanders’ QB situation. Green Bay is favored by 5.5 points. Even with regression, there isn’t enough meat on the bone for me to risk guessing at a side or total.
The 49ers floundered against the Falcons, but they will be at home sweet home playing an angry Chiefs team. The total is 48.5 points, but I don’t have a strong inclination either way. The 49ers are +3 home underdogs, which is a fair number. However, with their injuries and the sting of their defeat by the Bills, I would gladly take the Chiefs at a field goal before the line moves to -3.5 and beyond.
The Patriots must be happy with Bailey Zappe, as the QB helped to roll the Browns last week. The expected regression for the Patriots puts them at around 23.5 points per game. Chicago is due for some positive regression to about 19.5 points. If we expect about 43 total points, then the current total of 40 is an easy over bet. As a bonus, both defenses are expected to have allowed more points than they actually have based on yards per play allowed (graphic at the bottom of the article).
The Dolphins have struggled since QB Tua Tagovailoa went down. With his anticipated return this week, it’s “go time” for Miami. Playing a Steelers offense that bested the Buccaneers, the once-hot Dolphins should turn this game into a track meet. With the Dolphins due for a positive regression of about four points, I am all over the over at a total of 45.
Geno Smith is cooking in Wilson’s old kitchen, and it’s going fine. While Wilson makes rotten bologna sandwiches in his new Denver kitchen, Smith is quarterbacking Seattle into respectability. When you have more yards per play than the Chiefs but lower points per game than the Jets, a positive correction is bound to happen soon (of about 3 points).
The Seahawks are willing and can compete in a track meet. The Chargers are getting healthier and are also willing participants in a high-scoring game. The total is a fair 51, and while the over is tempting, the Seahawks are being gifted 6.5 points as road underdogs. With the Chargers due for negative regression of about three points, I am on Seattle +6.5.
With Carson Wentz out at QB for the Commanders, Taylor Heinicke ($5000) becomes a pay-down play at the position. Commanders WRs Terry McLaurin ($5900) and Curtis Samuel ($5300) become decent mid-range options. Rookie WR Jahan Dotson is likely out, so Dyami Brown ($3400) is viable as a cheap position-filler with tremendous upside (105 yards and two TDs on Oct. 9). RB Brian Robinson ($5500) has assumed lead-back duties.
For Green Bay, Rodgers ($6000) could pop at any time. The beneficiaries would be WRs Allen Lazard ($6100), Romeo Doubs (5000) and TE Robert Tonyan ($4100). Good luck capitalizing on the RB uncertainty in the Packers’ backfield because I can’t trust either Aaron Jones ($7600) or A.J. Dillon ($5600) at their prices.
While visiting the Bay Area, Patrick Mahomes ($7800) has a chance to soak up some sun and kick in some teeth against a 49ers squad hampered by defensive injuries. Last week’s “dice roll” suggestion on JuJu Smith-Schuster ($5600) was spot-on, and he could continue the momentum this week. Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($4400) is less reliable. But the most reliable play is the man himself, TE Travis Kelce ($8000). If Kyle Pitts can score a TD on your defense, imagine what Kelce will do. For whatever reason, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($6100) is being given loads of opportunities.
On the flip side, the 49ers also want to “get right.” While George Kittle ($5300) has all the talent, he has none of the opportunity. My boss gets it:
“Billy, this is George Kittle.
He’s an elite route runner, maybe the most dangerous TE in NFL history after the catch, and he’s a fiery competitor.
His defect is he now plays left tackle.” pic.twitter.com/L7bvx2gltO
— Josh Larky (@jlarkytweets) October 4, 2022
WRs Brandon Aiyuk (6000) and Deebo Samuel ($7600) both have eruption potential. Who is throwing to them? QB Jimmy Garoppolo ($5500) is a relatively cheap option considering a possible shootout. RB Jeff Wilson ($5800) continues to lead the backfield.
New England plays at home against Chicago on Monday evening, so if you like single-game slates, focus on the Patriots’ offense. RB Rhamondre Stevenson was the biggest recommendation last week, and he hit in spades. In fact, he could have had more than his two touchdowns if he converted his goal-line opportunities better. Sometimes, it’s alright to eat chalk. If Damien Harris sits again, go back to the well.
The Dolphins-Steelers game is also off of the main slate. However, a healthy Tagovailoa is a smash this week at QB, and his WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are, too. It is too bad for DFS purposes that they are a night game.
Yet, we have a consolation prize: Seahawks-Chargers. This game has everything you want in an eruption game: two electric offenses and two below-average defenses. Remember Seahawks-Lions? I am thinking that this is part twp for Seattle.
Per The 33rd Team’s The Edge tool, the Chargers are allowing the fifth-most points to slot WRs. This looks like a Tyler Lockett ($5800) week in an expected shootout. However, don’t neglect DK Metcalf ($6600). With RB Rashaad Penny out, rookie Kenneth Walker ($5800) becomes an excellent value play. Of course, Smith ($5600), can both throw and run, so the Smith-Lockett-Metcalf or Smith-Lockett-Walker stacks should be flowing.
Bring that stack back with Chargers TE Gerald Everett ($4000). Seattle is dead last in fantasy points allowed to the TE position, and Everett ranks 10th in TE fantasy points. WR Mike Williams ($7200) is an interesting play this week. Seattle is allowing the fewest fantasy points to WR split out wide, but Williams is actually getting a decent run from the slot this year (138 slot snaps vs. 153 out wide snaps).
That is likely due to the absence of slot WR Keenan Allen ($6700), who, if healthy, will be worth a look. QB Justin Herbert ($7200) seems healed enough from his rib injury to sling the ball around.
For your enjoyment, here is the defensive version of the yards per play vs. points per game chart:
Defenses beneath the line are outperforming their expected points allowed, so it might be wise to play skill position players against them. Use players facing the Giants, Texans, Falcons, Vikings and Titans.
Check out what my colleagues are saying about waiver pick-ups! Also, beware of those spooky BYE weeks.
WR Robbie Anderson could pay dividends if DeAndre Hopkins cannot find his old self, and TE Daniel Bellinger has a consistent role on an ascendant team; scoop them both!
Check in again next time for The Wednesday Watchman: Week 8!
WATCH MORE: Robbie Anderson’s Fantasy Impact