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Stats & Trends

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NFL fantasy football stats & trends for Week 14: A Stroud-favorite WR1?

Each week, NFL fantasy researcher Joel Smyth will identify important stats and trends to inform fantasy decisions ahead of your next matchup. These won't be your basic, elementary stats, but rather deep and unique insights to give you an edge over your friends (and enemies).

Here are eight notable nuggets ahead of Week 14 of the 2023 NFL season.

1) Favorite fantasy playoff D/STs

We are one week away from the most wonderful time of the year: the fantasy playoffs. No position is more affected by matchups than D/ST. Below are the five best defenses in terms of pure playoff schedule, followed by the five best overall fantasy defenses in terms of their current fantasy rank combined with future playoff schedule. If you can make a move to set yourself up with one (or two) of these squads, do it now!

Best Matchups

  1. Rams: vs. Commanders, vs. Saints, at Giants
  2. Falcons: at Panthers, vs. Colts, at Bears
  3. Texans: at Titans, vs. Browns, vs. Titans
  4. Bears: at Browns, vs. Cardinals, vs. Falcons
  5. Jets: at Dolphins, vs. Commanders, at Browns

Best D/STs + Matchups

  1. Jets: at Dolphins, vs. Commanders, at Browns
  2. Texans: at Titans, vs. Browns, vs. Titans
  3. Browns: vs. Bears, at Texans, vs. Jets
  4. 49ers: at Cardinals, vs. Ravens, at Commanders
  5. Colts: vs. Steelers, at Falcons, vs. Raiders

2) A Stroud favorite

Nico Collins
Houston Texans · WR

The Houston Texans were the only team to have multiple players rank among the top 15 wide receivers in targets per game from Week 9 to Week 12. Nico Collins' teammate, Tank Dell, had 43 targets during that span, the fourth-most in the NFL. With Dell now sidelined for at least the rest of the regular season, those targets are up for grabs. We got a sense of how they'd be distributed last Sunday after the rookie wideout exited. With no Dell or Dalton Schultz on the field, C.J. Stroud targeted Collins on 40 percent of his throws. For context, Tyreek Hill leads the NFL with a 32.5 percent target share on the season. This came by no accident, as Collins was the first-read target on 55 percent of plays in that game, according to Fantasy Points -- 14 percentage points more than the season-leader Keenan Allen’s average. The combination of a quarterback leading the NFL in passing yards and a pass-catcher ranking fourth in yards after catch among his fellow WRs is profitable enough. Add in elite volume and a great fantasy playoff schedule, and you might have a league-winner on your hands.

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3) Three-quarter speed

Tyreek Hill
Miami Dolphins · WR

Tyreek Hill faces a top-10 fantasy defense in each of his playoff matchups, starting with the toughest team versus receivers, the New York Jets. But there are signs beyond Hill’s generally matchup-proof talent that he’ll continue to dominate in the biggest moments. He is the highest-scoring player in fantasy this season despite the fact that neither the Dolphins’ game script nor their margin of lead throughout the game has been favorable for him. Against the Chargers in Week 1, he had 13.6 fantasy points in the fourth quarter. That was the only game all season in which Miami finished within 6 points of its opponent. Since then, in terms of purely fourth-quarter fantasy scoring, the fantasy MVP is WR113. He has a whopping 42 receiving yards in the final quarter since Week 2. When he and the Dolphins face the Cowboys and Ravens in the final two games of the fantasy season, things will likely be much closer down the stretch than they typically have been for Miami, and that means we’ll get to see Hill play a vital role in all four quarters, not just three. Somehow, his ceiling is even higher than it’s been most of the year.

4) Lights, camera, play-action

Michael Pittman
Indianapolis Colts · WR

Nobody sees better volume than Michael Pittman Jr. -- legitimately nobody. In the eight games started by Gardner Minshew this season, Pittman has averaged 11.5 targets per game, which matches the league-leading mark Keenan Allen has put up over the entire season. As a result, Pittman has scored 14-plus fantasy points in seven straight games. And now the most consistent fantasy receiver is set up for more high-ceiling games down the stretch. On the season, the Colts’ go-to guy is the fantasy WR2 on play-action passes (and he's the WR29 without play-action). Most importantly, 100 percent of his touchdowns have come on play-action this season. Although his final four fantasy matchups are against middle-of-the-road WR defenses, three of them rank in the bottom eight against play-action, starting with Cincinnati this Sunday.

5) Moore than meets the eye

Elijah Moore
Cleveland Browns · WR

I wish someone loved me the way Joe Flacco loves Elijah Moore. In Flacco's first start as a Cleveland Brown, he targeted Moore 12 times, continuing their habits from a prior stint together with the New York Jets. These Week 13 targets were even more valuable than average, as Moore totaled 251 air yards, which was a league-wide single-game high in 2023. Three of the 12 targets were in the end zone, nearly matching Moore's total end-zone targets on the season in only one game. Although all that volume resulted in just 12 fantasy points, multiple throws were inches away from translating into a much bigger fantasy day. As those throws start to connect, Moore is set to be a worthy start with Flacco under center, especially if Amari Cooper misses time with injury. Keep an eye on what the Browns do at QB, now that Dorian Thompson-Robinson has cleared the concussion protocol.

6) Turning down the volume

Austin Ekeler
Los Angeles Chargers · RB

The risk that inefficient fantasy players always carry is the possibility of lost volume. Austin Ekeler’s volume is showing signs of that decline, mirroring the dip in his production. In his RB1 overall season in 2022, he led all running backs in fantasy points per opportunity (targets plus carries). His ranking in that category has since fallen to 33rd. Week 13 was a prime example. On Justin Herbert’s 38 dropbacks, the pass-catching specialist ran a season-low 16 routes. As a back with one game over 4 yards per carry since his return from injury, volume in the passing game and at the goal line is imperative. It’s no surprise that in Ekeler’s three-game skid of single-digit fantasy points, he has only seen 12 targets and one goal-line carry. I am more thankful than ever for the Chargers’ advantageous fantasy playoff schedule, but at this point, I'm just hoping for starter production rather than star production from Ekeler. 

7) Courtland is in session

Courtland Sutton
Denver Broncos · WR

Sutton may very well be the most underrated NFL and fantasy wide receiver this season. The veteran has scored in nine different games in 2023, trailing only Christian McCaffrey and Tyreek Hill. There are no signs of him slowing down, either, as he's receiving consistent end-zone volume and remaining efficient in all areas of the field. Not only does Russell Wilson target Sutton in the end zone at the sixth-highest rate in the NFL, the targets have been accurate enough to translate into the most touchdowns on passes thrown into the end zone this year. Fantasy opponents should be scared to face Sutton going forward, as the Broncos' opponents in three of their next four games rank in the bottom five in the league in touchdowns allowed to wideouts. 

8) Need more bell-cow

Since 2020, running backs with 20 or more touches per game have produced 18.6 fantasy points on average. Just 19 backs have hit that volume in a season over the last four years, making it that much more exciting when a player's workload reaches that bar. For now, only Christian McCaffrey, De’Von Achane, Kyren Williams and Alvin Kamara are averaging more than 18 fantasy points per game, but using that volume line as a guide, we can identify a few more candidates to hit that bar for the home stretch. Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Travis Etienne Jr. are all averaging 20+ touches per game on the season (along with McCaffrey and Kamara) and could turn their volume into top-end production on any given Sunday. Two other backs have averaged 20+ touches per game in the second half of the year: Kyren Williams (already in) and Javonte Williams. Rachaad White, meanwhile, hovers at 19.5 in that span. Lastly, two young backs have joined the party late, as Bijan Robinson and Isiah Pacheco have crossed the 20-touch mark over the past month (although Pacheco will miss Sunday's game against the Bills with a shoulder injury). Volume wins championships -- if you're fortunate enough to have any of those backs, you can be confident in a strong finish to the year.

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