NFL Funnel Defense Ratings: Panthers’ D.J. Moore Primed to Continue Breakout
- Ryan Collinsworth breaks down how you can leverage fantasy football matchups against funnel defenses.
- Funnel defenses can defend either the run or the pass, but not both.
Action Network senior editor Bryan Mears introduced the funnel defense metric last season, and after a brief hiatus, it has made its glorious return.
These ratings use advanced data to analyze situations in which teams are more likely to pass or run than they usually do. For a comprehensive explanation of how Bryan developed this metric, check out his take here.
Let’s start with a brief recap, then dig into the Week 13 ratings and how to leverage them.
Funnel Defense Explained
Funnel defenses are successful at defending either the run or the pass, but not both. Strong funnel defenses are so good against either the run or the pass that they tend to “funnel” offensive play-calling toward their complementary weakness.
Measuring the Strength of a Funnel Defense
Using data to quantify the strength of a defensive funnel is complex. We must weigh several factors simultaneously:
- How good is a defense versus the running game and passing game? We employ Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric to measure this.
- What is the difference between DVOA production defending the run versus the pass? If the differential is great, it would imply the probability of a funnel.
- How good is an offense in the running game and passing game? We can use DVOA here, as well.
- What is the difference between offensive DVOA production?
- What are the offense’s typical run/pass splits?
Our metric weighs each of these statistical factors and produces weekly matchup-based ratings for each NFL team.
Week 13 Funnel Ratings
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Potential Shootout Games
By averaging the Pass Funnel ratings for both teams in a given matchup, we can more easily identify games that could favor a passing-game script on both sides. Heavy passing volume presents an opportunity for a potential shootout.
Consider rostering or stacking players from these high-volume games in DFS, and also consider taking the over on games toward the top of this list.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When these two teams met in Week 9 in a game with a high Combined Pass Funnel, they combined to score 80 points on 708 total yards of offense. This rematch might not achieve those lofty totals, but it still projects as a potential passing shootout with a Combined Pass Funnel Rating of 76.21.
The Panthers have one of the NFL’s best rushing offenses featuring Christian McCaffrey, but they could be inclined to throw more than usual against a porous Buccaneers secondary.
Tampa Bay ranks last in pass defense DVOA and has allowed the sixth-most passing yards per game (274.3) to opposing quarterbacks. That sets up well for Cam Newton, who is coming off two great statistical performances. He threw for a season-high 357 yards against the Lions in Week 11, then followed that up with 256 passing yards against the stout Seahawks defense last week.
McCaffrey also posted 125 rushing yards and 112 receiving yards against Seattle. He’s averaging 7.5 targets per game and has nine total touchdowns in his past five games.
Also consider targeting D.J. Moore. The dynamic rookie has really come into his own over the past several weeks, taking advantage of injuries to Torrey Smith and Devin Funchess. In his last two outings, Moore has averaged 8.5 targets, 7.5 receptions and 124 receiving yards per game.
That translates to an average of 23.3 PPR points, making Moore the No. 5 fantasy receiver over that span.
The Buccaneers enter this game with the highest individual Pass Funnel Rating (90.32) of the slate, thanks in large part to their league-leading 355.8 passing yards per game. The Panthers are also particularly bad defending the pass, ranking 27th in pass defense DVOA and 22nd in passing yards allowed per game (260.1) to opposing quarterbacks.
Wide receiver Mike Evans has two straight games with six receptions and more than 100 receiving yards. Adam Humphries has at least 53 receiving yards in six of his past seven games and, believe it or not, is the 18th-ranked wide receiver in PPR formats since Week 6.
The matchup against the Panthers secondary also projects well for tight end Cameron Brate. With O.J. Howard (foot) out for the season, Brate remains the Buccaneers’ sole receiving tight end. He faces off against a Carolina defense that ranks first in fantasy points per game (11.1) allowed to tight ends.
Potential Run Funnels
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins
The Bills make this list every single week, and man am I tired of writing about Buffalo football.
If you’ve been keeping track of our weekly Funnel Ratings, you probably know the drill already: The Bills aren’t very good at running the football, but the coaching staff insists on a run-heavy game plan anyway.
Nonetheless, Josh Allen did provide a new wrinkle to that game plan last week by rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown on 13 attempts. The Bills are also on a two-game winning streak — albeit thanks to wins over the Jets and the Jaguars — and carry momentum into their matchup against the Dolphins.
Running back LeSean McCoy has averaged 22.3 rush attempts for 81.3 yards and 0.7 touchdowns in wins this season. But, he’s averaged just 8.7 rush attempts for 26 yards and zero touchdowns in losses. For DFS purposes, rostering Shady likely depends on whether you believe the Bills will win this game.
The Dolphins rank 29th in rushing yards allowed per game (139.8) and 22nd in pass defense DVOA against running backs. Both of those metrics suggest Shady and Allen could provide sneaky value this week.
Even though Buffalo seems to make this list every week, it’s actually the Dolphins — not the Bills — who own the slate’s highest individual Run Funnel Rating (82.26) for Week 13.
The Bills’ secondary is suffocating, allowing the fewest passing yards per game (193.7) to opposing quarterbacks this season. But their run defense ranks a more pedestrian 15th in run defense DVOA and 15th in rushing yards per game allowed (111.3).
With Jakeem Grant (leg) and Albert Wilson (hip) out for the season — and with DeVante Parker (shoulder) and Danny Amendola (hip) both questionable for this game — the Dolphins could lean more heavily than usual on their run game.
Unfortunately for fantasy purposes, however, that run game features a frustrating backfield split between Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore. Drake averages 8.1 rush attempts and 37.1 rushing yards per game compared to Gore’s 12.9 attempts for 54.1 yards on average. Gore has the more stable floor each week, but Drake’s additional receiving volume and touchdown upside make him the better fantasy target.
Still, this matchup is by no means a smash for either Dolphins back. Instead, use the Dolphins’ Run Funnel Rating as justification to avoid Miami’s passing game this week.