The Fantasy Options Most Hurt by Their Division in 2021


The NFL schedule changes every season. But the constant is a team’s intradivisional games. If you’re the Colts, you might face the Chiefs one season and the Jets the next, but you know you’re playing two games each against the Jaguars, Titans and Texans. It’s a small piece of knowledge, but it’s one we can dive in on in fantasy football.


In other words, you can look at how players perform in interdivisional games (which change every year) against how they perform against their division foes (which, pending a transaction, does not) and look for the key takeaways. This is a piece of information. It’s not conclusive, but it’s something we can look at and decide if there is anything to take away from it.

Today, I’m looking at the players who fared the worst inside their division compared to outside it — in other words, the players whose divisions hurt them the most in fantasy last year. Sunday, we’ll take a look at the players whose divisions helped them the most.

(All scoring PPR.)

Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

Outside the division: 15.5 points per game
Inside the division: 6.7
Dropoff: -56.7%

Saquon Barkley had something of a disaster season in general, but it was even worse in his NFC East games against Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington. Barkley had two games of 20-plus PPR points last year; they were both outside the division. He had six games of 10-plus PPR points last year; they were all outside the division. His best game in the NFC East last year was 15 carries for 50 yards and 4 receptions for 24 more against Dallas in Week 15.

In other words, the Giants might be trading Barkley this offseason … and he’s probably cool with that.

Kendrick Bourne, WR, New England Patriots

Outside the division: 13.2
Inside the division: 5.8
Dropoff: -56.1%

This is mostly touchdown-based, because Kendrick Bourne had 5 receiving scores in 2021, and all five of them came outside of the AFC East — though he did have a passing score against the Jets in Week 7. But on top of that, eight of Bourne’s nine games with 50-plus receiving yards came outside the division. He had a 0-yard, a 10-yard, a 17-yard, a 24-yard and a 33-yard receiving game against AFC East opponents. Is that a factor of them knowing how to defend him? Probably not. This is probably noise. But he certainly struggled.


Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets

Outside the division: 14.0
Inside the division: 6.6
Dropoff: -53.1%

Zach Wilson missed two of the Jets’ four AFC East games, but he did appear both times the team faced the “seeing ghosts” Patriots. In those two games, he went 25-for-43 as a passer for 261 yards with no touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Add in his one game each against the Bills and Dolphins, and Wilson’s AFC East games last year averaged 129.5 passing yards against the division and totaled 1 passing touchdown in those four. Wilson still has a bright future, but this division could just be a miserable one for him.

Dawson Knox, TE, Buffalo Bills

Outside the division: 13.1
Inside the division: 6.6
Dropoff: -49.3%

Dawson Knox did score two of his nine touchdowns against the AFC East last year, but he only cracked even 20 yards in a divisional game once, in Week 18 against the Jets. He put up 17 yards against the Dolphins in Week 2, 17 against the Jets in Week 10, 14 against the Patriots in Week 13 and 11 against the Patriots in Week 16 (he missed the Bills’ Week 7 game against Miami). He averaged 21.6 yards against the division; In nondivisional games, he averaged 47.9 (and 53.2 if you omit his zero-yard Week 17 against Atlanta). Beware the AFC East.

Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

Outside the division: 18.6
Inside the division: 11.1
Dropoff: -40.5%

Line up all 14 of Nick Chubb’s fantasy performances of 2021, most PPR points to fewest, and his five games inside the AFC North come in 14th, 13th, 12th, 11th, ninth and … first. He had 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Bengals in Week 9; outside of that, he averaged 58.2 scoreless scrimmage yards in the division. With the AFC North famous for being a cutthroat set of games — especially with the Bengals coming up in the world last year — Chubb’s struggles might be representative of his future.

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