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NFL Funnel Defense Ratings for Week 14: Colts-Texans Has Sneaky Shootout Potential

Dec 07, 2018 3:45 PM EST
  • Funnel defenses can defend either the run or the pass, but not both. Two games (Saints-Buccaneers; Colts-Texans) fit that description.
  • Ryan Collinsworth breaks down how you can leverage fantasy football matchups against funnel defenses in Week 14.

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 14 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:

  1. How good is a defense versus the running game and passing game? We employ Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric to measure this.
  2. 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.
  3. How good is an offense in the running game and passing game? We can use DVOA here, as well.
  4. What is the difference between offensive DVOA production?
  5. 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 14 Funnel Ratings

Check out our live odds page for the latest lines, spreads, totals and betting percentages.


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.

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This matchup features the highest Vegas Total (55) and second-highest Combined Pass Funnel Rating (72.98) of this week’s slate. This high combined rating is primarily being driven up by the Buccaneers’ league-leading Pass Funnel Rating of 87.90 and the Saints’ second-ranked Defensive Pass Funnel Rating of 96.77.

The Saints rank 29th in Football Outsiders‘ pass defense DVOA, but are third in run defense DVOA. They are elite when defending opposing rushing attacks, but incredibly soft against the pass. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers rank ninth in offensive pass DVOA, but just 25th in offensive run DVOA.

They rank eighth in the NFL in pass-rate and first in passing yards per game. So, the Buccaneers are already predisposed to pass, and the Saints’ defensive weakness is defending the pass. That’s a perfect recipe for a pass funnel.

In DFS, consider stacking Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston with Adam Humphries and/or Chris Godwin this week. The Saints rank 28th in pass defense DVOA against No. 2 wide receivers, and both Godwin and Humphries offer elite upside with DeSean Jackson unlikely to play.

When these two teams met in Week 1, they combined for 98 total points, 856 passing yards (each team had over 400), and 1004 total yards. Of course, that game was without Jameis Winston and Mark Ingram, both of whom were serving early-season suspensions.

Still, that impressive display of offensive firepower represents the ceiling for this game, which would encourage hefty passing statistics for both teams.

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans 

From one shootout rematch to another. These divisional foes met in Week 4 and delivered one of the most thrilling offensive showdowns of the season. They combined for 71 total points, 839 passing yards, and 944 total yards as the Texans beat the Colts 37-34 in overtime.

Their rematch features a more conservative over/under of just 50 at most sportsbooks, but that number could have been deflated by the Colts’ goose egg performance against the Jaguars last week. Based on our Pass Funnel ratings, this matchup has sneaky shootout potential, which was evident when they faced off in Week 4.

The Texans seem to have protected Deshaun Watson (ribs/lung) since his Week 5 injury, but statistical evidence suggests Watson may be nearing 100% health once again. He attempted 31 passes in Week 13, his most in a game since Week 5. He has also dramatically increased his rushing volume and productivity over the last four weeks.

If we assume that the Texans are ready to unleash Watson for good, then you have to like his potential in this matchup. The Colts rank 21st in pass defense DVOA, compared to fourth in run defense DVOA.

This suggests that the Texans would be more efficient executing a high-volume passing game plan than running it 30-plus times. Moreover, the Texans rank 11th in offensive pass DVOA compared to 26th in offensive run DVOA. So, they’re already more efficient passing than running the football.

Still, the contrarian play in guaranteed prize pools might be to roster Andrew Luck instead. The Colts rank second in the league in pass attempts per game (41.2), seventh in pass-rate, and second in passing touchdowns (32) this season.

While the Texans’ defensive line, featuring J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, may be well-known for their pass-rushing ability, they’re just as adept defending the run. Houston ranks second in run defense DVOA and allow the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game (91.3).

These elite defensive metrics suggest that the Colts would be better off passing than running the football and they have a few advantageous defensive matchups.

First, the Texans rank 29th in pass defense DVOA against tight ends. They’ve been notorious this year for allowing big performances to tight ends, including Rob Gronkowski, Jeff Heuerman, Jordan Reed, and Jonnu Smith. Colts tight end Eric Ebron is the No. 3 fantasy tight end in PPR settings, averaging 15.2 points per game. He also ranks seventh in the NFL in red-zone targets.

The Colts also have a clear matchup advantage with wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. The Texans rank 24th in pass defense DVOA against No. 1 wide receivers, and Hilton is red-hot over his last four games.

Since Week 10, he has averaged 9.75 targets, 6.75 receptions and 108.5 yards per game. Over that span, he ranks as the seventh-best wide receiver in PPR settings with 20.6 fantasy points per contest.

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