Dreaming of Streaming: Favoring The Favorites
August 15, 2014 | C.D. Carter
Anyone familiar with this space in 2013 will remember that I spilled quite a bit of digital ink on Vegas point spreads and what the all-knowing odds makers were trying to tell us about that week’s NFL games.
The premise, to put it simply, was to identify games that Vegas had tabbed as decidedly low-scoring affairs, and using defenses from those contests. Targeting defenses in these grind-em-out sort of matchups was an unapologetic attempt to avoid the week’s high-scoring games — the ones that presumably lead to streaming nightmares.
I’m going to shift that Vegas-based focus in 2014. Instead of being singularly focused on total point projections from the masters of odds in Sin City, we’re going to concentrate on streaming defensive options that are favored and/or at home.
Why, you might ask, am I turning away from the analysis of point totals in favor of point spreads? The answer is a simple one: Successful fantasy defenses force turnovers, even when they hemorrhage yardage to the opposing offense.
If the goal is to find defenses most likely to collect interceptions, fumbles, and sacks, then it makes the most sense to target teams that could — or should — have big leads on Sunday afternoon.
It’s a bit on the anecdotal side for my taste, but think about what happens when a team gets down by two or three scores in the second half of a game: They throw and throw and throw some more while the defense pins back its collective ears and gets after the quarterback. Pressure is applied when an offense becomes totally one dimensional.
Jonathan Bales has taken a close look at the correlation between pressure and turnovers and found that teams that apply the most pressure to opposing signal callers record far more forced fumbles and interceptions than defenses that record the fewest quarterback pressures. This is hardly mind boggling, I know.
In fact, you can explain almost half of NFL interceptions with how often teams pressured the passer. That, as Bales wrote, is incredible (And it’s why I’ll take closer looks at sack and turnover-related prop bets).
Prioritizing defensive streaming options whose teams are favored by quite a bit and/or at home won’t serve as a firewall for flame-out streaming performances. Many of our targets will be playing in games expected to be among the highest scoring in a given week. We’re going to run into our share of duds because, well, the football is oblong.
I think moving our focus from total point projections to point spreads will improve our season-long process, and really, process is all that matters in this silly, little game.
This isn’t just a theory bouncing around my degenerate head. Take a look at the below results from the 2013 NFL season and the frequency of Vegas favorites finishing the week as a Top 12 (startable) defensive unit.
|Week||Top 12 D/STs who were favored||Percentage of Top 12 D/STs who were favored|
That’s right: If you simply chose a defense that was favored by Vegas during a given week, you had a 63.6 percent chance of notching a Top 12 performance. It’s amazing, really. I realize that not every defense is available on the waiver wire — sometimes only 15 or 16 are on the wire — but these numbers are, at worst, encouraging (and probably most actionable for daily fantasy purposes).
I think (I hope) with a look into turnover rates, quarterback pressures, and secondary performance, we can whittle down the week’s waiver wire options and pinpoint the best streamers with some consistency.
As lovely as the above numbers are, take a look at the below breakdown to see how often a winning team — not necessarily favored in Vegas — was a startable fantasy defense.
|Week||Top 12 D/STs whose team won||Percentage of Top 12 D/STs who won|
Whelp, as they say. If you’re pretty good at picking winners on any given NFL Sunday, you have a pretty good shot of coming up with a dreamy streamer.
We should simplify fantasy football any way we can, and I think favoring the favorites and listening to Vegas will be a key to working the wire and coming up with consistently finding defenses that post decent fantasy outputs. This will be an improvement of our collective process, and that, in the end, is all that matters.