Dreaming of Streaming: How Not To Stream
April 24, 2015 | C.D. Carter
We don’t base our defensive streamers on who’s hot, or individual matchups or even who has served us well in the preceding weeks.
We base our choices on Vegas lines, home field advantage, and an offense’s propensity for turnovers, quarterback pressures, and sacks. Almost 60 percent of top-12 fantasy defenses, after all, were Vegas favorites in 2014. Almost eight in 10 winners notched top-12 (D/St1) performances in 2013.
The formula for Streaming Scores fared well in 2014, and though it may be in need of some tweaking for 2015, I thought it was important to know what a bad — nay, terrible — streaming target looks like. The results might seem obvious with the benefit of hindsight, but I think there’s some utility in examining traits of teams that destroyed opposing defenses in 2014.
A cursory look at 2013 and 2012 stats shows that the stingiest offenses in 2014 were not much different than any other season. In other words, these traits are similar — if not close to identical — from year to year.
Below is a look at the 10 teams that allowed the fewest weekly fantasy points to opposing defenses.
|Team||Fantasy points allowed to D/ST||Points per game||Turnovers||Sacks allowed|
|Broncos||1.0||30.1 (2nd)||20 (24th)||17 (32nd)|
|Patriots||2.3||29.3 (4th)||13 (32nd)||26 (28th)|
|Ravens||2.3||25.6 (8th)||20 (24th)||19 (31st)|
|Steelers||2.6||27.3 (7th)||21 (23rd)||33 (17th)|
|Packers||2.9||30.4 (1st)||13 (32nd)||30 (21st)|
|Seahawks||3.9||24.6 (10th)||14 (30th)||42 (12th)|
|Cowboys||4.2||29.2 (5th)||25 (13th)||30 (21st)|
|Colts||4.6||28.6 (6th)||31 (3rd)||29 (25th)|
|Saints||4.6||25.1 (9th)||30 (5th)||30 (21st)|
|Eagles||4.7||29.6 (3rd)||36 (1st)||32 (18th)|
That, dear reader, is a collection of numbers that tell disparate stories. The one common thread: we seek overtly negative game scripts that lead to sacks, turnovers and general mayhem when looking for the week’s best streaming targets, and these 10 teams rarely represented any likelihood of such a game script.
All of these teams were borderline must-avoid squads for those who stream defenses, though several of these stingy offenses gave up (parts of) the sort of production we seek in streaming targets.
The Eagles, for instance, gave up more turnovers than any team in the NFL. Sure, they scored a ton of points — Chip Kelly’s simple, genius plan for winning football games — but you’d think the massive number of giveaways would’ve made Philly something of a target.
Interceptions and fumble recoveries, after all, are among the most highly correlated factors for D/ST fantasy points, per research from esteemed fantasy scribe Chris Raybon. Only special teams and defensive touchdowns are (of course) more closely correlated with D/ST fantasy production — a key in why we continually targeted historically inaccurate quarterbacks in 2014, no matter Vegas’ projected points. But there’s the Eagles offense, allowing a paltry 4.7 fantasy points per game to opposing defenses.
Defenses in 2014 scored less than three fantasy points against Philadelphia an incredible nine times. Opposing D/STs notched negative points six times against Kelly’s offense.
And the Eagles were hardly alone. Both the Saints and Colts were among the most turnover-happy teams in the NFL, but remained proverbial defensive matchup nightmares for fantasy footballers in 2014.
While interceptions and fumbles were easy to come by in matchups against Drew Brees and Andrew Luck, their respective offenses continually dumped truckloads of points on opponents and didn’t give up a tremendous number of sacks (remember that Jacksonville allowed 71 sacks and Washington gave up 59, for example).
The rub, we find, is in the total points offenses score, and that correlation with fantasy points allowed to opposing defensive and special teams units. Points scored had a 0.42 correlation to opposing D/ST production in 2014, a strong showing among the various factors we examine. There’s also the sack factor: Sacks had a 0.39 correlation to D/ST production in 2014. And there are the Eagles, giving up a decent number of sacks.
Here’s a nifty look at D/ST correlation in 2014, courtesy of the venerable Fake Football writer Rich Hribar.
(click to enlarge)
Notice that none of the above 10 teams gave up all that many sacks. Seattle stands out here. Russell Wilson was the most pressured signal caller, so perhaps 42 sacks isn’t as bad as it appears. Wilson was under pressure on a league-high 46 percent of his 2014 drop backs, per Pro Football Focus. Tom Brady was pressured on 28.7 percent of his drop backs. Peyton Manning was pressured 21.6 percent of the time. Hence Denver’s league-low sack total.
The importance of sacks in D/ST production was a central reason why we rarely targeted the Arizona offense, even as it gimped through the season after Carson Palmer’s knee once again exploded. Drew Stanton was sacked on a meager 13.9 percent of his drop backs and the ghost of Ryan Lindley was sacked on just 18.1 percent of his pass attempts.
These numbers won’t paint a nice, tidy picture of how we can perfect our approach to streaming defenses. Nothing will. To even wish for such an unfailing formula is a fool’s errand and a waste of brain matter.
What we can learn from looking at 2014’s nightmare D/ST matchups is that simply because an offense is generous in one of the above categories — be it sacks, turnovers, or points scored — a zoomed-out view of an offense is necessary. Making sure we’re not ignoring proficiency in any of these categories will be critical to long term success, though — as you well know — such an approach guarantees very little on a weekly basis. Process over results and all that.
If you ever catch me targeting an offense because they’re deficient in just one category on which we focus, please link to this article and ask me to delete my Twitter account.
I’ll do it. I swear.