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NFL Funnel Defense Ratings: Vikings in Another Pass-Heavy Showdown in Week 9

NFL Funnel Defense Ratings: Vikings in Another Pass-Heavy Showdown in Week 9 article feature image

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kirk Cousins

  • Funnel defenses are successful at defending either the run or the pass, but not both.
  • Ryan Collinsworth explains how to leverage Week 9 ratings of these defenses in fantasy football and betting.
  • Kirk Cousins and the Vikings are primed for another pass-heavy matchup against Matthew Stafford and the Lions this Sunday.

Action Network senior editor Bryan Mears introduced the funnel defense metric last season, and after a brief hiatus, it has made its glorious return.

The following 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 and then dig into the Week 9 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 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 can produce weekly matchup-based ratings for each NFL team.

Week 9 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 opportunity for a potential shootout.

Consider rostering or stacking players from these high-volume games in DFS, and also consider taking the over on these matchups.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers

With Ryan Fitzpatrick back at the helm, expect the Buccaneers to install a pass-heavy game plan against the Panthers. Fitzpatrick is one of our top streaming quarterback options for Week 9 and boasts a league-leading 10.8 yards per pass attempt.

This could be another great matchup for Mike Evans and Chris Godwin given Tampa Bay's implied point total.

This matchup features the third-highest game total of the slate, thanks in part to the Buccaneers' passing prowess and defensive shortcomings. (They rank dead last in Football Outsiders' defensive pass DVOA.)

On the other sideline, Cam Newton is quietly having a phenomenal season. He ranks third among quarterbacks in PPR points per game. With the return of tight end Greg Olsen and the emergence of highly-touted rookie receiver D.J. Moore, the Panthers offense should feast on the Bucs' secondary. Also don't forget about star running back Christian McCaffrey, who already has 44 receptions this season and is our consensus PPR RB2 for Week 9.

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings

The Lions made major headlines on Tuesday by trading star receiver Golden Tate to the Eagles. Detroit is still in a heated playoff race in the crowded NFC North, so it's doubtful this trade was made in any kind of tanking effort.

Instead, I believe the Lions felt comfortable dealing Tate because of the emergence of Kenny "Babytron" Golladay.

Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay.

Golladay has seen his targets dip the past two weeks, but he should be the prime candidate to inherit the lion's share (pun intended) of Tate's 9.9 targets per game. Through the first five weeks of the season, Golladay averaged 5.4 receptions for 85.6 yards per game and ranked as the PPR WR16 and standard WR13 over that span.

Marvin Jones is also coming off a 7-117-2 receiving game and has five touchdowns in his past six games.

The Vikings also draw an advantageous passing matchup against a Detroit defense that ranks 31st in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. Minnesota is one of our most underrated teams in Week 9 according to our NFL betting Power Rankings and should feast on a porous and inconsistent Lions secondary.

Kirk Cousins is our consensus QB5 this week and boasts top-five median, ceiling and floor projections. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs both rank inside the top 10 among wide receivers, and are coming off 100-plus yard receiving games against the Saints.

Potential Run Funnels

Chicago Bears at Buffalo Bills

Let's get my Bills take out of the way: I think their Run Funnel Rating is a bit deceiving.

The Bears are Pro Football Focus' No. 1-graded run defense, and Bills running back LeSean McCoy has struggled in both efficiency and scoring all season. On top of that, we saw last week that the Bills coaching staff was more than willing to let Derek Anderson air it out 39 times despite the matchup with New England suggesting a strong run funnel.

This game has the lowest Vegas total on the slate, and Buffalo has the lowest Implied Team Total. Fade the Bills this week.

Chicago, by contrast, offers genuine rushing upside. The Bills boast the fourth-best pass defense DVOA but only an average Run Defense Rating. The Bears should have little incentive to pass as 10-point favorites, which could set up Jordan Howard for a high-volume rushing day. He's coming off a 22-81-1 rushing performance against the Jets and has scored rushing touchdowns in three of his past five games.

Also don't forget about quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who has at least 47 rushing yards in each of his last four games.

Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns

Believe it or not, the Browns boast the No. 1 pass defense DVOA and are one of the strongest run-funnel teams in the NFL. Just as remarkably, they are terrible defending the run, allowing 4.6 yards per carry. That bodes well for Kareem Hunt, who is in an elite spot this week and is our consensus PPR RB5.

Still, the Chiefs' run defense might be even worse than that of the Browns. Kansas City ranks dead last in run defense DVOA by a huge margin and has surrendered a league-high 5.4 yards per carry this season. That could signal a big day for Nick Chubb, who has earned 19.0 touches per game since Cleveland traded away veteran Carlos Hyde.

Of course, game script could limit Chubb's opportunities should the Browns play from behind.

Additionally, it's unclear how the Browns offense will look after firing Hue Jackson and Todd Haley. Nonetheless, Chubb's defensive matchup could provide him with valuable upside this week, especially if Cleveland opts for a conservative offensive game plan.

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