NFL Funnel Defense Ratings for Week 15: Bengals-Raiders Has Surprising Passing Upside

Dec 14, 2018 6:06 PM EST
  • Ryan Collinsworth breaks down how you can leverage fantasy football matchups against funnel defenses.
  • The Bengals and Raiders present potential for a high-scoring affair with their exploitable pass defenses.

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 15 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 15 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.

Oakland Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals

This game offers some sneaky shootout potential despite the relative ineptitude of both offenses. For whatever offensive woes each of these teams have had this season, their defenses have somehow been even worse.

While this matchup doesn’t approach the highest Vegas total on the slate, the combined pass funnel rating is impressive and could indicate high scoring potential. Bettors agree: 70% of tickets but 93% of the money is on the over in this game.

Believe it or not, the Raiders rank 11th in pass offense DVOA and 10th in pass rate (61.72%). Meanwhile, the Bengals’ secondary ranks 27th in pass defense DVOA, indicating a huge mismatch for quarterback Derek Carr.

Carr, Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook have been rolling since Week 13. Granted, both of those games turned into shootouts, but that’s also the projected game script against the Bengals.

Here are those players’ per-game averages over that short span:

The Bengals project just as favorably against Oakland’s 32nd-ranked pass defense in DVOA. And since Jeff Driskel took over as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback, Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd have caught some fantasy momentum:

The Raiders have conceded the second-most fantasy points (11.4) to tight ends this season. While C.J. Uzomah has been difficult to trust, he couldn’t draw a better overall matchup situation. Wide receiver John Ross has also scored a touchdown in four of his last five games.

This Week’s Top Run Funnel Matchup

Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos

I’m so excited about this game from a fantasy perspective on the Saturday DFS slate. It projects as a duel between rookie running backs to determine who reigns supreme in the fantasy universe: Nick Chubb, or Phillip Lindsay?

The case for Chubb: Denver ranks 23rd in pass defense DVOA against running backs, 20th in defense adjusted line yards (4.51), and allows the seventh-most rushing yards to running backs (108.6). Chubb is our consensus PPR RB10 for Week 15.

The case for Lindsay: Cleveland ranks 26th in rush defense DVOA and 22nd in pass defense DVOA against running backs. They concede on average the fifth-most rushing yards (109.9) and seventh-most fantasy points (22.6) per game to running backs. Meanwhile, Denver ranks third in rush offense DVOA this season.

Since Week 9, both running backs have been on a tear, averaging over 100 total yards per game while ranking in the top 10 at the position in fantasy points.

If you can jam both of these guys into your DFS lineups for Saturday, do it. They both offer elite running back volume, receiving usage, touchdown volume, and fantasy upside.


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