Going Deep: Week 3 Fantasy Passing Preview – WR/CB Matchups to Exploit and Avoid

Welcome to Going Deep! This weekly article will use charting data, advanced metrics, and other RotoViz tools to help its readers better understand the challenges facing wide receivers and tight ends in the coming week.

Heading into Week 3, we have more 2021 data at our disposal and a better idea of how each team’s secondary will operate. More importantly, the picture of the number of fantasy points that defenses are likely to surrender is becoming clearer.

With that in mind, the structure of this article will change going forward. The goal is to provide a number of actionable tables that you can use to focus on specific matchups that might not be covered in the following notes. These tables can be found in the Google Sheet linked at the end of the article. The data utilized in the sheet and article span from Week 13 of 2020 to Week 2 of 2021. Playoff weeks are not included.

What’s in the Going Deep Sheet?

The sheet consists of three tabs, and I’ll provide some visual examples of each. The first is titled Prognosis. In this tab, each matchup has been labeled as “positive,” “neutral,” or “negative.” These labels are assigned based upon fantasy points surrendered in recent games, the strength of the offense in question, and specific player-level matchups.

In the case of an elite offense like Kansas City, the team’s WRs and TEs draw neutral matchups despite facing a Chargers team that has been stingy in surrendering fantasy points to these positions in recent matchups. The idea here is that we see Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and the team’s Patrick Mahomes led passing game excel regardless of the team that they oppose. In general, I’d recommend playing elite players even if their offense and positional group are playing in a matchup labeled as negative.

The 10+ WR and 8+ TE Per Game tab shows, on a per game basis, the average number of WRs that have scored more than 10.0 points and the average number of TEs that have scored 8.0 or more points when facing the listed defenses. As noted above, for this week’s article, regular season games from Week 13 of 2020 have been included. This allows the results of the first two games of the 2021 to be included while not entirely influencing the numbers. A range of seven weeks allows opponents-faced to play a small role in shaping these numbers, however research shows that a range of six to eight weeks works best for exercises like this.

The Matchups tab lists the six WRs or TEs that have played the most snaps from each offense and overviews the percentage of snaps that they have taken in the slot, lined up to the left of center, right of center, or as a TE. Average PPR points per game (PPG) are also included in this table for the range of games used in the article. The opposing defense’s corners and safeties are listed to the right of the offensive players. For each defensive back, the percentage of snaps played as a corner from the left of center, right of center, slot, or as a safety are listed. For defensive players, the average points listed are those surrendered to opposing players on targets where the player was the primary defender. These are presented on a per game basis. Please note that players are listed based on snap counts. As a result, each row does delineate an expected offensive/defensive matchup.

Keep in mind, defenses allow WRs and TEs to earn fantasy points that are not accounted for in the matchups table. This is because players can be covered by other positions, notably linebackers, players that have participated in fewer snaps, or players where the game charters did designate a primary defender. Or, the team could be more inclined to rotate players in and out of the game, effectively spreading points-allowed over a larger number of players. For example, the group of defenders listed for the Jets has limited fantasy points allowed on targets primarily covered. However, the team has not been as impenetrable of a pass defense as this would lead one to believe. So the takeaway here, as is often the case in fantasy football, is that we shouldn’t focus primarily on a single data point.

The matchups tab will also designate players that had an injury status of “out” as of Friday morning. It will not update. Also, rankings for each defense for the “10+” and “8+” averages mentioned above are included as are rankings for expected points added per player and yards allowed per coverage snap.

Finally, the “Pass Defense” tabs include a variety of metrics, such as expected points added, points above average, points saved, yards allowed per game, and QBR against. This provides a level of detail that isn’t available by considering fantasy scoring alone. This data relates to 2021 alone. As a result, we won’t focus on it heavily until we have a couple more weeks of data available.

Week 3 Notes

Arizona @ Jacksonville