When the Kansas City Chiefs get Inside the red zone, expect RB Jamaal Charles and his sidekick Knile Davis to get their number called most of the time.
The great John Madden once said, “They’ll score if they can just get into the end zone.” It does seem to make sense, doesn’t it? Part of the trick to fantasy football is figuring out who is going to score each week. Just like I mentioned last week, I think opportunity is the key here. Although not a perfect measure, looking at red zone data can help identify team-specific trends when they near the end zone.
After Week 4 there are six NFL teams that are averaging 11 or more red zone plays per game (BAL, IND, NYG, MIA, KC and CIN). Five of those teams are in the Top 10 in points per game, and the sixth is 14th. All of them are averaging 24 points per game or higher, and the Colts and Giants are the top two red zone scoring teams, with over three red zone touchdowns per game.
I looked at rushing and passing tendencies from all 32 NFL teams from inside the 20 and inside the 5 yard line. The most interesting trend was that only six teams change their approach drastically when entering the goal line zone (inside the 5). For the most part, if a team likes to run or pass near the goal line, they do it consistently from either distance.
Red Zone Rushing Tendencies
Hue Jackson’s Cincinnati Bengals are the prototype for red zone rushing and are Top 6 in the league in getting into the red zone. They run the ball on over two-thirds of the plays inside the red zone, and that increases to 90% of plays inside the five. Both are tops in the league. They are the only team to have 80% or more of their red zone touchdowns come from running plays. Giovani Bernard has three red zone rushing touchdowns and Jeremy Hill has their other two. New England has given up six touchdowns to running backs already this year and are reeling after their trouncing on Monday night. Look for more of the same here.
Baltimore is averaging the most plays inside an opponent’s red zone of any team (13.5 plays per game). Unfortunately, they are second to last in touchdown conversions (13%), which is good for Justin Tucker but no one else. The good news is they run more than they pass, and with Bernard Pierce out the last two weeks, they have trended up. Simply put, Lorenzo Taliaferro has been better. Taliaferro is third in the league in red zone rushes (9) the past two weeks, and he has converted two of those into touchdowns. Justin Forsett had a third, while they only managed one in the first two weeks. They have a plus matchup in Indy this week that could keep them on this same trend.
Kansas City is 50/50 split on pass/run inside the red zone, but 54% passing inside the 5. This is deceiving though, as Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis have combined for 65% of all looks and touches, and seven of their nine red zone touchdowns have gone to running backs. They feed their running backs and will feast again this week at San Francisco.
Red Zone Passing Tendencies
100% of the Chicago Bears’ red zone touchdowns have been passing touchdowns, and they have one of the highest touchdown conversion rates in the league (26%), helping them average 2.5 passing touchdowns per game inside their opponent’s 20. They throw a pass over 70% of their plays inside the red zone and it only decreases to 63% inside the 5. The beneficiaries of this are Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett, as 61% of all red zone targets are throw their way, and they have combined for 9 touchdowns on the season. With Marshall banged up, Alshon Jeffrey has been second in targets the last two weeks. They match up with Carolina whose defense has been atrocious the past two weeks against good receivers (Antonio Brown, Steve Smith and Torrey Smith.)
The Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers don’t seem to believe in running the ball into the end zone. They each have the throw the ball inside the five yard line an astounding 69% of the time. They actually increase their pass rate the closer they get to the end zone. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are the top receiving tandem in the league in percentage of red zone targets (66%), while the Thomas pair, Demaryius and Julius, garner 63% of red zone targets themselves. They are playing the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings, respectively. Both of which are in the top five of least allowed red zone plays, but neither have faced such high caliber offenses.
Red Zone Dominators
The top five players in the league with the highest percentage of red zone involvement (looks and touches) are Marshawn Lynch (58%), Matt Forte (50%), Lamar Miller (48%), Matt Asiata (46%) and Rashad Jennings (44%).
Interestingly, Seattle actually increases their amount of passes by 15% inside the five yard line, but Marshawn Lynch has two receiving touchdowns already this year, and he has garnered five of the six red zone touchdowns for Seattle. Rashad Jennings is facing the Falcons this week, who are bottom three in the most red zone plays allowed, and they have been terrible against the run. Even with Jerick McKinnon‘s big game, Matt Asiata will continue to be a monster red zone threat until someone can stop him, and I expect Matt Forte’s scoring drought to end soon even if it is a receiving touchdown. DeMarco Murray leads the league with four rushing touchdowns.
Andre Johnson (55%), Larry Fitzgerald (41%), Jordy Nelson (38%) and Vincent Jackson (37%) are the top targeted wide receivers in the red zone. While the top targeted tight ends are Delanie Walker (43%), Larry Donnell (35%) and the trio of Martellus Bennett, Rob Gronkowski and Julius Thomas (29% each).
Aside from the two old guys (AJ and Fitz), all of these players have multiple red zone receiving touchdowns, and their streaks probably won’t end anytime soon. All five of those tight ends seem unstoppable as they all have four red zone touchdowns, except for Gronk, who while ailing still has three. Brandon Marshall leads all receivers and players with five red zone touchdowns on the year.
Finally, if you’re looking for a matchup to exploit for touchdowns, the Falcons and Titans have allowed the most red zone touchdowns, and they join the Bears, Jaguars and Raiders as the top five most allowed red zone plays/touchdowns.
Good luck scoring big in your Throwdown challenges this week!