Can Diontae Johnson Find Fantasy Efficiency with Mitch Trubisky? The Wrong Read, Week 14 – Thursday Night Preview
Image Credit: Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Diontae Johnson.

The Wrong Read has had many lives — first as a reflection on insights from the RotoViz podcasts; then as a freeform space for exploring a variety of metrics and strategies. It will likely continue in that latter function, but at least for now — in season — it’s an in-depth matchup lookahead article.

Each week I’ll gather advanced stats from our tools — mainly the Advanced Team Stat Explorer — to paint a picture of the upcoming week and offer some thoughts on how the games might unfold. My interest is in how the games will impact fantasy teams, and as such I’m looking mainly at the metrics that I think can help us predict how different teams and players will (or won’t) score fantasy points.

This week I’m making one small change to the methodology. Rather than include the entire season in the data below, I’m looking back only eight weeks. This gives enough of a sample that we can (mostly) avoid the biggest negative impacts of the randomness of the NFL schedule. At the same time, it enables us to properly account for various changes that teams have made since the beginning of the season, either in personnel or philosophy.

New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers

  • The Steelers have been one of the top rushing teams in the league over the last eight weeks. But the Patriots have been the toughest rushing matchup. They are No. 1 or No. 2 in every advanced rushing metric.
  • Pittsburgh will likely need Mitch Trubisky to make plays against a New England defense that ranks 28th in EPA allowed per pass attempt and 29th in passing success rate allowed.
  • Most of the Steelers’ passing metrics reflect the play of Kenny Pickett. For as poorly as he’s played, it’s very possible that Trubisky represents a downgrade for the offense. While Pittsburgh ranks 26th in passing game FPOE, they are 12th in passing success rate. They have a chance to move the ball and score points through the air against New England, yet it remains to be seen whether Trubisky can at least produce positive EPA plays as well as Pickett.
  • Both Diontae Johnson and George Pickens get above-average matchups against New England.

  • Johnson leads Pickens in expected points per game. Yet Johnson is scoring 1.5 fantasy points below expectation per game, while Pickens scores a full points above expectation, meaning Pickens leads the way in fantasy points per game.

  • The sample is pretty small, but Pickens has historically performed worse when seeing targets from Trubisky.

  • On the other hand, Johnson has seen a sizable increase in targets from Trubisky, and a consequent increase in fantasy scoring.

  • The Patriots have also been an effective running team over the last eight weeks, yet they will enter this game without Rhamondre Stevenson. Ezekiel Elliott figures to see the bulk of the running back work.
  • Apart from a single game in Week 6, Elliott has generally failed to play up to expectations this season.

  • That wouldn’t be a mark that distinguishes him from Stevenson, but it does call into question his ability to make plays against a Steelers defense that’s No. 6 in rushing success rate allowed and No. 7 in rushing boom rate allowed.
  • The Patriots’ offensive line should have little trouble against Pittsburgh’s pass rush that ranks No. 30 in pressure rate. Yet that might not be enough for a successful day throwing the ball. The Steelers are still No. 9 in passing game FPOE allowed and No. 10 in passing success rate allowed. With all the injuries to New England’s offense, there are legitimate questions about how effective they would be against any defense.

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Blair Andrews

Managing Editor, Author of The Wrong Read, Occasional Fantasy Football League Winner. All opinions are someone else's.

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