So much of fantasy football success is dependent on the opportunities that players get to throw, run or catch the ball. Without the ball, a player cannot score fantasy points. So there is benefit to get players that are expected to touch the ball on a regular basis, as this will increase the probability of that player to gain yards and score touchdowns. This opportunity all starts with the play call from the sideline to the QB or the QB audible at the line of scrimmage. In order to identify how many touches or targets a player will get, we first must understand the tendencies that teams have when it comes to the types of plays being called, Run or Pass.
I will be writing a series of articles this week that examine each NFL team and take a look at their offensive tendencies and the tendencies of their current coaching staff. For each team, I will show a grid of the previous 2 years of data, including overall offensive play tendencies and tendencies they have in the Red Zone and Inside the 10 yard line, along with my projection for each team in 2015.
During the season, I will be utilizing this projection along with 2015 data, and other offensive tendency data (such as tendencies a team has when trailing, leading or tied), to examine each game for that week and give some predictive data and tips for the upcoming matchups to try to help you find where the opportunities will come from.
Today, I will examine the AFC South and AFC West divisions.
The Chuck Pagano and Pep Hamilton combo continues to call the shots in Indianapolis this season. As Andrew Luck has grown into an elite quarterback, the Colts coaching staff has continued to put more and more trust and responsibility onto Luck and the passing game. With the addition of Frank Gore to the running game this year, I expect a small regression in pass attempts, but nothing significant.
The Titans will be led by the offensive-minded head coach Ken Whisenhunt for the second season. Whisenhunt runs a pass-oriented offensive as can be seen by the jump in passing plays last season with him at the helm. In the draft, Whisenhunt and the Titans went out and got their man, in quarterback Marcus Mariota, to lead the offense this season. While there may be some growing pains with a rookie QB, I expect Whisenhunt to keep throwing the ball at a similar rate to last season, especially as the season progresses and Mariota gets more comfortable with the offense.
Gus Bradley will begin his third season as the head coach of the Jaguars, but he brought in a new offensive coordinator this season, Greg Olsen. Olsen was previously the offensive coordinator in Oakland, where last season the Raiders passed the ball 66% of the time. Given the Jaguars recent offensive tendencies, Olsen’s history, and the Jaguars likely being behind in many games, expect them to continue to throw the football at a high clip.
The Texans will be led by Bill O’Brien in his second year as the head coach. O’Brien also primarily serves as the offensive coordinator and play caller, bringing his run-heavy mentality to the Texans offense. The Texans had the highest run percentage at 51.9% last season under O’Brien. Even with Arian Foster injured, the Texans lack a highly effective passing attack with Brian Hoyer at quarterback. The Texans will likely pound the ball on the ground in the running game again this season.
Gary Kubiak takes over as the Broncos head coach this season, along with offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. Kubiak served as the offensive coordinator in Baltimore last season where the Ravens passed at a 56.1% rate. Kubiak was also the Houston Texans head coach in 2013 with Dennison as his offensive coordinator for a team that threw 62% of the time. While I expect the Broncos to run the ball a little bit more often than they did the last two seasons, they do still have Peyton Manning, so I don’t expect Kubiak to move too far away from what has been successful for Manning and the Broncos.
Kansas City Chiefs
Expect the same formula in Kansas City this season with Andy Reid and Doug Peterson filling the head coach and offensive coordinator positions again. The mix of plays looks incredibly similar each of the last two seasons. The personnel on the team is largely the same as well with Alex Smith at quarterback running the short passing game, and Jamaal Charles toting the rock. The addition of Jeremy Maclin might help stretch the field, if Reid decides to let Smith throw the ball down the field more. Bold prediction, the Chiefs will have a wide receiver score a touchdown this year.
San Diego Chargers
Head coach Mike McCoy will led the Chargers for the third season with Frank Reich serving as the offensive coordinator for the second straight year. Under McCoy and Reich last season the Chargers where a pass-first team with over 60% pass plays. This continued when the Charges neared the end zone, where the Chargers finished as one of the most pass-heavy teams near the goal line. With the change at running back this season from Ryan Mathews to Melvin Gordon, I don’t see that affecting the play calling much as neither back is considered a short yardage bruising back.
There is a fresh look in Oakland this season with new head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Del Rio was the head coach in Jacksonville from 2003 to 2011. Del Rio is a defensive-minded coach, so the offense will be more in the hands of Musgrave. Musgrave was the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator from 2011 to 2013 with Adrian Peterson at his prime, so naturally he had a slightly more run-oriented tendency while he was there. Given the Raiders skill players with a young quarterback in Derek Carr and rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper, I expect them to have about a league average split of 58% pass to 42% run this season.
To read the article reviewing the AFC East and AFC North click here.
* Note that all stats are from Pro-Football-Reference.com. I count Pass Plays as a combination of Pass Attempts plus Sacks allowed.