What difference will a new Offensive Coordinator make to Cincinnati?

After a 0-2 home start and an offense that mustered just 3 field goals, the Cincinnati Bengals moved swiftly on from long t-rm coordinator Ken Zampese.

His replacement, Bill Lazor, will head up the offense for the week 3 visit to Green Bay. While we don’t expect to see immediate benefits the change in philosophy should see some longer-term changes to fantasy output and touches.

Zampese, a Coryell/Man blocking disciple will make way for Lazor’s West-Coast Zone blocking scheme. A profile of touches for the Zampese offense for each opponent is shown below.

Zampese(1)

The main focus of the Zampese offense was the setup of the passing game using the run. The lead back profiled to see in the region of 240 rushing attempts and 50 targets with the secondary back seeing 120 attempts and 50 targets.  The main receiving target was the WR1 seeing 126 targets with the WR2, WR3 and TE seeing 100, 70 and 88 targets respectively.

The addition of Lazor should result in a change in workload for both the backfield and the main receiver. In comparison to Zampese, at a basic level, Lazor runs less and passes more. However, the workload for the RB1 should stay relatively stable (234 carries/ 49 targets), its the RB2 who’ll lose out (102 carries/36 targets). Given that Lazor’s two previous stops have seen him use LeSean McCoy and Lamar Miller as RB1’s the likelihood of Jeremy Hill seeing the same workload is probably very slim. Expect to see the usage of Joe Mixon increase or if he’s not ready in the short term then Giovanni Bernard will absorb most of the passing work.

The biggest beneficiary of Lazor’s ascension will be AJ Green with his target workload expected to increase to 142. The WR2/3 and TE targets should stay relatively stable. A profile of touches for the Lazor offense for each opponent is shown below.

Lazor(1)

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Earlston Super Bowl IV

Panthers Win! Panthers Win!jordy_superbowliv

The week began with some early waiver wire activity by the 69ers as they frantically searched for a startable TE with the No.8 overall, Jordan Reed sidelined by injury. Indeed he would have been a valuable asset for the 69ers with the Panthers heavy reliance on Washington Redskins. In the end, Coach Richie settled for veteran Antonio Gates and his match-up against the worst team at defending fantasy TEs (the Cleveland Browns). The rest of the 69ers starting lineup continued with just WR Tyreek Hill making way for the returning Julio Jones.

As for most of the year, the Panthers stuck with a winning line-up and restarted all of last week’s semi-finalists. In the main, that was a line-up that matched expert rankings with only the decision to go with Cousins over Rivers courting any controversy.

The Panthers had never beaten the 69ers on any of their six previous attempts and the final didn’t start well with TE Zach Ertz posting a disappointing 3.3 on Thursday night. That was the last time Coach Richie enjoyed a final score from a Panther starter.

The early Christmas eve games would be where the final would be won and lost with seven starters going for the Panthers against the 69ers five. It was the Panthers who built an early lead posting 122.8. It most have been galling for the 69ers to watch the No.4 QB, the No. 8 and No. 9 RB, and the No.2 WR scores for the week go against them with only Antonio Gates posting a top 20 positional score. In fact the Panthers score as so dominant even a perfect lineup including Charles Clay and Tyreek Hill wouldn’t have made any difference.

Things did improve for the 69ers late with Andrew Luck and Doug Baldwin clawing back most of the early damage, but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough. A further 10 points for the Chiefs DST finally sealed the victory and Coach Rab’s first championship.

SanFran-Gordon 69ers

104.02-132.8

Pilton Panthers

SanFran-Gordon 69ers Pilton Panthers
QB Andrew Luck 24.72 QB Kirk Cousins 29.8
RB Carlos Hyde 11.2 RB LeSean McCoy 20.5
RB DeMarco Murray 6.0 RB Tevin Coleman 19.5
WR Doug Baldwin 23.7 WR Jordy Nelson 27.4
WR Julio Jones 6.0 WR DeSean Jackson 11.4
F-WR Ty Montgomery 4.0 F-WR Jarvis Landry 2.9
TE Antonio Gates 15.4 TE Zach Ertz 3.3
K Adam Vinatieri 5.0 K Mason Crosby 8.0
DST Green Bay Packers 8.0 DST Kansas City Chiefs 10.0

EFFL Semi Finals

A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.

Perhaps it wasn’t a revolution, but it was certainly a shake-up of the established order. The Semi-Finals saw the last remaining team of the “old guard” despatched and 2 playoff newcomers advance to EFFL Superbowl IV. Both victors posted dominant performances in two closely fought and exciting match-ups. The losing teams will curse their luck, but the two most inconsistent teams in the league finally got their mojo on at just the right point of the season.

SanFran-Gordon 69ers 104.20 @ 87.98 Jimmy’s Jerman Jaguars

It was a game that was highlighted more by its absent stars than its star-studded lineups. Both teams were missing their star receivers (Julio Jones and AJ Green respectively) and some frantic (and late) waivers claims punctuated the week.

San-Fran were first on the board on Thursday Night with Doug Baldwin and Steven Hauschka posting a reasonable 15.5 points during Seattle’s pummeling of the LA Rams. However, the game would be decided on Sunday night with 6 69ers and 9 Jaguars playing.

Things started with a bang for the 69ers as Tyreek “the freak” Hill took his only touch of the game 68 yards for a TD on a play that summed up both coaches night. Murray, Luck and Montgomery added 61.2 points in contrast to the Jaguars 6 starters posting 54 points and critically Tyler Eifert’s crushing 0.9 to finish the early evening games. The Jaguars faced a daunting 36 point deficit and their first ever playoff exit.

Drastic action was taken at Jaguars HQ with Janikowski and JJ Nelson added to help boost a pedestrian start. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough with the four remaining Jaguars adding just 34 points and despairingly a 56 yard TD drop by Nelson. Carlos Hyde, the Falcons DST and Jordan Reed added 14.7 to pile on the misery for the 2 time champion Jaguars and their first ever season missing the EFFL Superbowl.

The 69ers advance to the EFFL Superbowl for the first time in their history and are the bookies early (and heavy) favourite.

Pilton Panthers 114.5 @ 112.36 Kelso 187’s

It was easily the highest scoring games of the weekend and served noticed that the 4 best teams in the EFFL had made the Semi-Final. It was an (almost) all Sunday affair with 14 of the 18 starters for both teams featuring.

On Saturday evening the 187s Bilal Powell and Panthers Jarvis Landry faced off with both players scoring considerably better than expected, but with a slight advantage going to the Panthers WR (+0.6).

The early Sunday games did little to separate the teams with 4 direct matchups at RB1, WR1, TE and DST. The Panthers McCoy and Chiefs edged Mathews and Texans (+8.6) whereas the 187s Beckham and Rudolph edged Nelson and Ertz (+2.6). Mason Crosby added a healthy 12 points for the Panthers with the 187 pair of Tyrod Taylor and Dwayne Washington added just 19.86. The biggest question on everyone’s mind was whether Coach Euski’s decision to bench Dak Prescott would come back to haunt him.

The evening games went slightly better for the 187s as they began to build a lead. Crabtree and Bryant added 25 points to take their total to 112.36. With every point crucial Prescott’s 19.16 on the 187’s bench was to be their eventual downfall as Cousins and Jackson added 21.8 points to take the game at the last gasp.

This was the 5th straight victory for the rampant Panthers despite being underdogs in 4 of those games. They now face another first-time finalist in the 69ers, a team they have never beaten in 6 previous attempts.

 

EFFL Wildcard Weekend

The wildcard weekend certainly lived up to its name despite the dearth of fantasy scoring around the NFL this weekend (unless you were a LeVeon Bell owner). The margins for error were small and every lineup choice was crucial. In a weird twist of fate both of our wildcard teams were heavy favourites against our third and fourth seed division winners, but as Burns said “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft agley”

SanFran-Gordon 69ers 76.54 @ 75.12 Tweedbank Pirates
The SanFran-Gordon 69ers entered their matchup with Tweedbank Pirates as early 8 point favourites, but the loss of star receiver Julio Jones changed everything leaving the Pirates as slight favourites with the emergency addition of Breshard Perriman. Perriman was described as “having no value to teams in the fantasy playoffs”, but of course value is in the eye of the beholder!
The 69ers decided to roll with a 2 RB/3WR split with surprise starts for Jordan Reed, Terrelle Pryor and the Lions DST over Tyreek Hill, Antonio Gates and the Steelers who all had superior matchups. Both 69ers RBs (Murray and Hyde) and their QB (Luck) faced tough matchups with Vinatieri and Baldwin rounding out the starters.
The Pirates had the benefit of a settled lineup with flex the only one up for grabs. In the end, the upside of Dion Lewis won out over Justin Forsett although Cobb and Coleman were also contenders. Stafford started at QB with Gurley and Jennings leading at RB. The WRs picked themselves with Hilton balancing Luck’s 69er output and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. Kelce, Santos and the Vikings rounded out the rest of the starters.

Pirates were on the board first with Kelce making a healthy 10.10, but Santos could only muster a disappointing 3 on Thursday Night Football.

The early Sunday games helped maintain the Pirates lead with Hilton offsetting Luck, but Fitzgeralds brutal 1.2 in a monsoon in Miami would have caused concern if it hadn’t been balanced by the 69ers Pryor anonymous 0.3 outing. Further pain was lessened with Reed managing a paltry 1.0. Stafford produced a decent outing for the Pirates at 16.42. The defences also squared off in the early games with the Pirates again having the edge +3, but this was balanced by Vinatieri’s advantage over Santos (+2). With some tough matchups to come for the 69ers things looked good for the Pirates.
However, the late and night games on Sunday finally got the 69ers back into the tie with Carlos Hyde and DeMarco Murray producing the goods with a 21.2 position swing. The tie rested on the Monday Night matchup between the Ravens and Patriots although the Pirates could have confidence from a 2 point cushion and an expected heavy workload for Lewis.
Of course, “Belichick hates your fantasy team” and unfortunately for the Pirates, the Patriots changed their normal game plan against a tough run D and spent most of the evening pounding with Blount rather than using their more dynamic RB. Lewis saw minimal touches and produced a paltry 1.9. That was enough for Perriman to break open the game with a 47-yard sideline catch to win the game for the 69ers (76.54-75.12) and set up a grudge match with 2-time champion Jaguars.

Kelsae Avengers 57.3 @ 92.76 Pilton Panthers

It’s a game in which every GM not in the playoffs felt Stuart’s pain and everyone still in the playoffs breathed a sigh of relief as the high-flying Avengers crashed out.

The Avengers were early and heavy favourites in this game with a 16 point advantage. Analysis backed this view with the Avengers scoring more than 100 points in 10 of their 13 regular season games and averaging a dizzying 115 points over the last 5 weeks of the season. In contrast, the Panthers had broken 100 points only twice during the season and averaged just 89 points over the final 5 weeks of the season.

But when it goes wrong in fantasy it goes wrong spectacularly. Both teams put out their best line-ups although the one question mark with the Avengers was their heavy reliance on Seahawks in evening matchup against the Panthers best player Jordy Nelson (Packers).

Both teams put out their best line-ups although the one question mark with the Avengers was their heavy reliance on Seahawks in an evening matchup against the Panthers best player Jordy Nelson (Packers).

The game got underway well for the Avengers with Latavius Murray posting an excellent 16.3 points on Thursday Night, but an ominous 11 point game from the Chiefs DST kept the Panthers in touch…however, things went downhill quickly from there.

The early Sunday games started badly for the Avengers and they found themselves facing a very large deficit as Cousins, Jackson and McCoy all posted big numbers for the Panthers as Newton, LaFell, McManus, and critically, David Johnson all came up small for the Avengers. The Panthers could even afford the error of starting Gillislee over Tevin Coleman as they took a 21 point lead to the evenings crucial matchup between Seattle and Green Bay.

The lead would have been worrying for the Avengers, but with the Mike Evans facing the Saints and the Seattle trio of Rawls, Jimmy Graham and the DST they were expected to claw back the Panthers unexpected early lead. In fact, Seattle were 3 point favourites despite being the road team against the Packers.

What happened next probably doesn’t need repeating. The Packers destroyed the Seahawks at Lambeau with Jordy Nelson scoring 10 points more than all 3 Seahawks combined and with Mike Evans making a paltry 4 points against the #29 pass defence it was up to Panthers K Mason Crosby  and his 8 points to apply the coup de gras on the Avengers wonderful season.

The Panthers face the Kelso 187’s in next week’s semi final.

Road to the Playoffs

All 64 remaining scenarios were analysed. No possibility of tied games was considered.

The maximum points any team could gain or lose used in tiebreaker calculations was 74.

Note: Some ‘weak division’ scenarios (25%) may have impacted wildcard calculations (see instructions).

No scenario was analysed in which a team with less than 6 wins got a wildcard spot.

In all scenarios analysed 8 wins was guaranteed a wildcard spot.

Earlstonian Bohemians (6-6-0)…. Division odds: Clinch 25%. Tie 25%. Wildcard odds: Clinch 18%. Tie 6%.
Kelsae Avengers (7-5-0)…. ELIMINATED from division race. Wildcard odds: Clinch 84%. Tie 0%.
Kelso 187’s (8-4-0)…. CLINCHED a DIVISION spot!
Tranent Tigers (4-8-0)…. ELIMINATED from playoff contention.
Tweedbank Pirates (6-6-0)….. Division odds: Clinch 50%. Tie 25%. Wildcard odds: Clinch 0%. Tie 6%.
Pilton Panthers (6-6-0)…. ELIMINATED from wildcard race but still in division race. Division odds: Clinch 75%. Tie 0%.
Earlston Earthquakes (3-9-0)…. ELIMINATED from playoff contention.
Nitten Pickaxe (5-7-0)…. Division odds: Clinch 25%. Tie 0%. Wildcard odds: Clinch 12%. Tie 0%.
Fife Fire (4-8-0)…… ELIMINATED from playoff contention.
SanFran-Gordon 69ers (6-6-0)…. ELIMINATED from division race. Wildcard odds: Clinch 68%. Tie 0%.
Fog on the Tyne (6-6-0)…. ELIMINATED from division race. Wildcard odds: Clinch 34%. Tie 0%.
Jimmy’s Jerman Jaguars (11-1-0)… CLINCHED a DIVISION spot!

Upcoming round’s DIVISION paths-to-clinch (if any)…

Earlstonian Bohemians CLINCH a Division spot IF:
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Earlstonian Bohemians BEAT Fife Fire

Earlstonian Bohemians clinch at least a tie for a Division spot (points tiebreaker to resolve) IF:
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates
Could fight for points tiebreaker with: Tweedbank Pirates

Tweedbank Pirates CLINCH a Division spot IF:
Tweedbank Pirates BEAT Earlston Earthquakes

Tweedbank Pirates clinch at least a tie for a Division spot (points tiebreaker to resolve) IF:
Fife Fire BEAT Earlstonian Bohemians
Could fight for points tiebreaker with: Earlstonian Bohemians

Pilton Panthers CLINCH a Division spot IF:
Pilton Panthers BEAT Fog on the Tyne; OR
Tranent Tigers BEAT Nitten Pickaxe

Nitten Pickaxe CLINCH a Division spot IF:
Fog on the Tyne BEAT Pilton Panthers -AND- Nitten Pickaxe BEAT Tranent Tigers

Upcoming round’s PLAYOFF paths-to-clinch (if any)…

Earlstonian Bohemians CLINCH a Playoff spot IF:
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Earlstonian Bohemians BEAT Fife Fire; OR
Earlstonian Bohemians BEAT Fife Fire -AND- Kelso 187’s BEAT SanFran-Gordon 69ers; OR
Earlstonian Bohemians BEAT Fife Fire -AND- Jimmy’s Jerman Jaguars BEAT Kelsae Avengers

Earlstonian Bohemians clinch at least a tie for a Playoff spot (points tiebreaker to resolve) IF:
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Pilton Panthers BEAT Fog on the Tyne -AND- Tranent Tigers BEAT Nitten Pickaxe
Could fight for points tiebreaker with: Tweedbank Pirates , SanFran-Gordon 69ers

Kelsae Avengers CLINCH a Playoff spot IF:
Kelsae Avengers BEAT Jimmy’s Jerman Jaguars; OR
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Pilton Panthers BEAT Fog on the Tyne; OR
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Fife Fire BEAT Earlstonian Bohemians; OR
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Kelso 187’s BEAT SanFran-Gordon 69ers; OR
Pilton Panthers BEAT Fog on the Tyne -AND- Fife Fire BEAT Earlstonian Bohemians; OR
Pilton Panthers BEAT Fog on the Tyne -AND- Kelso 187’s BEAT SanFran-Gordon 69ers; OR
Fife Fire BEAT Earlstonian Bohemians -AND- Kelso 187’s BEAT SanFran-Gordon 69ers

Tweedbank Pirates CLINCH a Playoff spot IF:
Tweedbank Pirates BEAT Earlston Earthquakes

Tweedbank Pirates clinch at least a tie for a Playoff spot (points tiebreaker to resolve) IF:
Pilton Panthers BEAT Fog on the Tyne -AND- Tranent Tigers BEAT Nitten Pickaxe -AND- Fife Fire BEAT Earlstonian Bohemians
Could fight for points tiebreaker with: Earlstonian Bohemians, SanFran-Gordon 69ers

Pilton Panthers CLINCH a Playoff spot IF:
Pilton Panthers BEAT Fog on the Tyne; OR
Tranent Tigers BEAT Nitten Pickaxe

Nitten Pickaxe CLINCH a Playoff spot IF:
Fog on the Tyne BEAT Pilton Panthers -AND- Nitten Pickaxe BEAT Tranent Tigers; OR
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Nitten Pickaxe BEAT Tranent Tigers -AND- Fife Fire BEAT Earlstonian Bohemians; OR
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Nitten Pickaxe BEAT Tranent Tigers -AND- Kelso 187’s BEAT SanFran-Gordon 69ers; OR
Nitten Pickaxe BEAT Tranent Tigers -AND- Fife Fire BEAT Earlstonian Bohemians -AND- Kelso 187’s BEAT SanFran-Gordon 69ers

SanFran-Gordon 69ers CLINCH a Playoff spot IF:
SanFran-Gordon 69ers BEAT Kelso 187’s; OR
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Fife Fire BEAT Earlstonian Bohemians; OR
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Pilton Panthers BEAT Fog on the Tyne -AND- Tranent Tigers BEAT Nitten Pickaxe; OR
Pilton Panthers BEAT Fog on the Tyne -AND- Tranent Tigers BEAT Nitten Pickaxe -AND- Fife Fire BEAT Earlstonian Bohemians

Fog on the Tyne CLINCH a Playoff spot IF:
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Fog on the Tyne BEAT Pilton Panthers -AND- Fife Fire BEAT Earlstonian Bohemians; OR
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Fog on the Tyne BEAT Pilton Panthers -AND- Kelso 187’s BEAT SanFran-Gordon 69ers; OR
Earlston Earthquakes BEAT Tweedbank Pirates -AND- Fog on the Tyne BEAT Pilton Panthers -AND- Jimmy’s Jerman Jaguars BEAT Kelsae Avengers; OR
Fog on the Tyne BEAT Pilton Panthers -AND- Fife Fire BEAT Earlstonian Bohemians -AND- Kelso 187’s BEAT SanFran-Gordon 69ers; OR
Fog on the Tyne BEAT Pilton Panthers -AND- Fife Fire BEAT Earlstonian Bohemians -AND- Jimmy’s Jerman Jaguars BEAT Kelsae Avengers; OR
Fog on the Tyne BEAT Pilton Panthers -AND- Kelso 187’s BEAT SanFran-Gordon 69ers -AND- Jimmy’s Jerman Jaguars BEAT Kelsae Avengers

Week 8 Waivers and Free Agents

After a (long) hiatus your weekly waivers and free agents column (or wwfac for short) is back!! Woo, I hear you all cry, just in time for London and it’s shit 4G signal in Wembley.  The list below is my top 5ish players at each position (excluding kickers and DST’s….coz you all hoard them). Enjoy and hopefully I’ll make it back from a dodgy Redskins fan night in ol’London town on Saturday night.

Quarterbacks

Dak Prescott– The future is now. Prescott is playing really well and is a solid QB1. Although Tony Romo is due back, he’s made of glass and one hit away from retiring. He’d make an ideal tonic for those owners suffering at QB (ahem Quakes….Bohos and 187s!)

Tyrod Taylor– Welcome back to fantasy relevance Tyrod. Two nice weeks against powder-puff opponents and next week he faces the Patriots. He’ll be a decent streamer with the Pats just average against QBs (16.67fp)

Colin Kaepernick– Two solid showings and a tasty encounter with the Saints D in Week 9…..probably not worth a stash, but could help out in a busy bye week.

Running Backs

Damien Williams– 3 solid weeks of 7 points per game. Sometimes beggars can’t be choosers.

Ka’Deem Carey– John Fox hates rookies. Carey isn’t a rookie so he’ll try and give him as many touches as possible so that he doesn’t have to rely on a rookie. It doesn’t make sense…….it just will be.

Peyton Barber– Jizz Rodgers won’t last at a 25+ carry rate. Barber is next man up and is NO slouch.

Rob Kelley– Producing on limited touches.

Wide Receivers

Cole Beasley– He’s small, white and scoring touchdowns. Dak Prescott loves him…..perhaps he’s worth some of your fantasy love?

Quincy Enunwa– Finally scored after taking a couple of weeks to adjust to increased attention. He’s big, fast and has good hands, SNAP HIM UP!

Cordarrelle Patterson– If you love Tavon Austin but hate his inconsistency…..here’s his bigger, faster and more inconsistent cousin <<buyer beware>>

Darrius Heyward-Bey– The Steelers love big, fast WRs who can’t catch. However, they also like to chuck long bombs at them until they catch them. While their other stone-handed receivers are out, H-Bey is worth a look…..if you squint hard enough Landry Jones might even look like Big Ben.

Dorial Green-Beckham– Seeing more reps and targets, hmmmm

Tight Ends

CJ Fiedorowicz– He’s big, slow, can catch and is starting! What more can you ask for…

Lance Kendricks– The Rams love Kendricks…..he’s not very good unless you’re happy with 5 points production from TE.

Antonio Gates– He’s been a disappointment this season and seen most of his targets move to the Chargers younger, talented WRs. However, don’t be fooled by the Henry hype, Rivers love big Antonio and if you can live with the odd 2 pointer he’ll reward you with the odd 7 pointer 😉

Consistency- QB-RB-WR-TE-K-DST

Playing head-to-head format in fantasy football requires a number of ingredients to hit on that “magic” formula. A good draft, some expert dealing with waivers and free agency are the foundations every good season is built on. Of course, for every 150pt high during the season, there are those inevitable 60pt WTF lows. It’s easy to dismiss these events as luck especially when your RB1 pulls up lame in the first quarter, but a good season is about building a consistent core as much as it is filling it with 30 pt touchdown monsters. As Matthew Berry says;

“Your goal is to start a lineup that gets to 93 points a week”

Predicting the future is always difficult, but armed with some information from the previous 2 years, hopefully, we can make some well-informed decisions for the upcoming season.

The consistency scoring I’ve used is based on the top 32 weekly (or 64 for RB/WR) scorers for each position. An average score is calculated and then used to calculate performance bands for each week (above and below average). This process calculates an average score that changes based on the top 32 performances for each week. What it allows us to capture are the strong performers would have made a difference to our weekly lineup rather than the 4pt “steady eddies”. It’s then up to you to decide when to start Eli Manning rather than suffering through a season of Teddy Bridgewater.

The charts below rank each player on their best to worst performances rather than weekly output e.g. Cam Newton had 7 weeks of excellent production, 1 week of good production, 1 week of above average production, 5 weeks of average production and 1 week of below average production.

qb_consistency

rb_consistency

 

wr_consistency

te_consistency

kicker_consistency

defense_consistency

Consistency- Quarterbacks

Playing head-to-head format in fantasy football requires a number of ingredients to hit on that “magic” formula. A good draft, some expert dealing with waivers and free agency are the foundations every good season is built on. Of course, for every 150pt high during the season, there are those inevitable 60pt WTF lows. It’s easy to dismiss these events as luck especially when your RB1 pulls up lame in the first quarter, but a good season is about building a consistent core as much as it is filling it with 30 pt touchdown monsters. As Matthew Berry says;

“Your goal is to start a lineup that gets to 93 points a week”

Predicting the future is always difficult, but armed with some information from the previous 2 years, hopefully, we can make some well-informed decisions for the upcoming season.

The consistency scoring I’ve used is based on the top 32 weekly (or 64 for RB/WR) scorers for each position. An average score is calculated and then used to calculate performance bands for each week (above and below average). This process calculates an average score that changes based on the top 32 performances for each week. What it allows us to capture are the strong performers would have made a difference to our weekly lineup rather than the 4pt “steady eddies”. It’s then up to you to decide when to start Eli Manning rather than suffering through a season of Teddy Bridgewater.

The chart below ranks each QB on their best to worst performances rather than weekly output e.g. Cam Newton had 7 weeks of excellent production, 1 week of good production, 1 week of above average production, 5 weeks of average production and 1 week of below average production.

qb_consistency

How to spot what a defense is doing….part 3

Last time on How to spot what a defense is doing we discussed the versatile Cover 3 and Cover 2 defenses. This time we’ll concentrate on the final basic coverage defense, Cover 1, and touch briefly on the concepts of zone and man pressure. We’ll also touch briefly on one of my favourite defenses, Buddy Ryan’s 46.

Cover 1

The Cover 1 shell uses (almost) exclusively man to man concepts with the free safety being the lone free defender. For a team to routinely play Cover 1 concepts it needs a star free safety with a rare combination of speed and ball skills. Some of the greatest NFL defenses have featured a player of this calibre. Think Earl Thomas at the Seahawks; Ed Reed at the Ravens, Ronnie Lott of the 49ers and the Cowboy’s Cliff Harris. A talented safety allows underneath defenders to play aggressively and this challenges an offense by making passes on short routes difficult to complete.

In general terms the Cover 1 can be spotted by looking for a single high safety positioned far from the line of scrimmage. You can see this clearly in the image below as the Jets adopt a Cover 1 look against the Dolphins at Wembley (circled red). If you’re eagle-eyed you may be able to spot Revis and Cromartie taking an outside shade on their receivers. They use this technique to limit outside breaking routes (those heading to the sideline) and it helps them re-route receivers to the centre of the field (where the help is!)

cover1_safety

As the cornerbacks can play off-man or jam at the line of scrimmage it’s usually their shade that gives away the technique they’re employing rather than how close they are to the line of scrimmage (although don’t be surprised to see inside shade technique used if a receiver deliberately position themselves close to the sideline . In fact playing man to man gives the cornerbacks a lot of freedom to pressurise routes by using different techniques. They can do this by playing off, jamming at the line of scrimmage or playing 3 step routes aggressively by crowding short breaking routes early (this requires VERY GOOD corners!). Of course Cover 1 was THE shell of choice for the Glasgow Lions D.

This reliance on man to man coverage allows a defense with good cornerbacks to create mismatches close to the line of scrimmage including using 8 men fronts with the cushion of deeper safety help. In fact early in a play there should be 2 levels of help from the free safety and a spare LB.

Alternatives to the Cover 1 usually involve disguising man to man coverage with zone looks. The Robber (or Rat in the Hole) look uses cover 1 assignments with the strong safety or an athletic linebacker dropping into a hole just beyond the line of scrimmage (circled blue). It can also be disguised as a Cover 2 look and is designed to eliminate inside crossing techniques and catch-out unaware QBs!

ratinthehole

Creating Pressure- Zone and Man

We’ve worked through the basic coverage shells and they are the foundations in which a defense combats offensive gameplans. Occasionally defenses need to force the issue and be a little more aggressive and that’s where pressure schemes come into play. We could easily fill the rest of this year looking at pressure schemes, but lets concentrate on the two basic concepts- zone and man pressure. Although the shells protecting the defense are different the concept behind generating pressure is the same- get to the quarterback!

Zone pressure uses zone shells behind the pass rushers and although conceptually it just involves the defenders having to defend slightly larger areas it’s actually slightly more nuanced than that. Initial set-up put as many defenders as possible into the throwing lanes to disrupt and delay short passes. Obviously the longer it takes the extra rusher to get to the quarterback the more pressure it puts on the remaining defenders. Zone pressure schemes also allow for pseudo-blitzes to come from unexpected directions with athletic linemen replacing linebackers in short zones.

Man pressure generally sees the defense sending more than 1 extra rusher with the rest of the team taking up man to man matchups (generally without help). Defenders will attempt to prevent inside breaking routes as this forces the QB to make more difficult outside or deep throws. It also allows the defenders to use the sideline as an alternative to safety help.

The key to both pressure concepts is disguising the defenses intentions and thus creating maximum surprise and confusion to hopefully lead to big plays and turnovers.

46 Defense

“Some say the 46 is just an 8 man front. That’s like saying Marilyn Monroe is just a girl!”

….And that brings us to the Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense. Made famous by the Chicago Bears Super Bowl win in 1985 and later perfected by the 1991 Eagles defense the 46 was born out of Ryan’s desire to play aggressive football and to endanger the most important position on the field, the QB.

Starting as an assistant with the Jets during their Super Bowl season before moving on to coach one the greatest ever defensive lines at the Vikings. Ryan finally got his chance to coach his own defense when he got to the Bears in the late 70s. It was several years of development before the fully fledged monster appeared, but when it arrived it changed defensive pressure schemes and offensive gameplan forever.

Named after safety Doug Plank (#46) the 46 is  an 8 man run stop front (that is 8 men occupy the line of scrimmage) with a Cover 1 shell. But, as Ryan eloquently described the 46 is more than a simple pressure front. It positively dares an offensive to throw because of its almost complete shut-down of the running game.

Doug Plank teaching the 46

Doug Plank teaching the 46

The defining feature of the 46 is the reduced front. The weakside defensive end lines up outside of the offensive tackle in a wider pass rush position, while the other defensive end and the defensive tackles set up directly over the guards and the center. This forces the interior offensive linemen into awkward and difficult one-on-one matchups.

The innovation didn’t simply end with the linemen. One of the key concepts of the 46 is although it appears to employ Cover 1 concepts it creates pressure based on offensive protections e.g. if the RB stays to protect, the defense rushes 6 men. If the offense uses 2 players to help out the offensive linemen, the defense rushes 7 and so on thereby effectively using the offense’s own protection scheme against itself.

By having so many defenders close to the line of scrimmage the 46 allows the defense to disguise it’s blitzers and extra rushers. This makes it difficult for the QB to find the weak spots as the 46 rushes defenders as a response to reads given to it by the offense and this means it is essentially NOT BLITZING allowing safer zone coverage to be employed.

So what happened to the 46?

Defenses had been reactionary for most of football’s history. “Bend but don’t break” concepts were common through much of NFL history  to combat run first offenses. The 46 was designed primarily as a run stopping defense and it had spectacular success in that era.

However, as offensive innovators like Bill Walsh and Don Coryell led the NFL to a pass first league it became too risky to employ the 46 as an every down defense and it slowly faded into the background. But don’t be fooled into thinking the 46 was a 1-hit wonder defense. It’s legacy of pressure concepts and aggressive defense lives on in Arizona, Baltimore, Buffalo, Carolina, Kansas City, New York and almost every other modern NFL defense. Perhaps it’s time we heralded Buddy Ryan as the father of the passing league.