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The Fantasy Options Most Hurt by Their Division in 2022

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Because teams play only 17 games every NFL season, the identities of the teams they face change all the time. The Vikings might play the Giants one year, the Falcons the next, the 49ers the next. But for every team, there is the constant of the division. The Vikings might see those other teams only once every few years, but we know they will 100% play two games apiece against the Bears, Lions and Packers.

 

That means we can draw some meaning — not hard and fast conclusions, but takeaways — from how an individual team’s players fare in those intradivisional matchups. If Justin Jefferson, for example, put up way more points per game against the Eagles, Bills and Colts last year, well, what do you do with that information? He might not face them again as a Viking. But if his PPG went up 80% in games against the Bears, Lions and Packers, that’s worth noting. Might be signal, might be noise, but it at least warrants a deeper dive.

Today, I’m looking at the players who saw their production suffer the most against their divisional foes last year (min. four intradivisional games) and exploring whether it means anything for 2023. Thursday, I looked at the players who saw their production dip the most.

(All scoring PPR.)

The Players Most Hurt by Their Division in 2022

Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Outside the division: 15.6 points per game
Inside the division: 7.3
Dropoff: -53.4%

The obvious takeaway is to see how Tony Pollard fared when Ezekiel Elliott was vs. was not on the field in 2022. And per the FTN Fantasy splits tool, there was a big difference:

Elliott missed two games last year, and Pollard put up 33.7 and 21.8 PPR points in those weeks. Zeke returned in Week 11 to his lightest snap load of the season, and Pollard put up 36.9 in that one. All three games were outside the division (in fact, all three were against the NFC North). Take out those three games, and Pollard’s outside-the-division average dropped from 15.6 PPG to 12.0. That’s still a drop of 39.7%, so definitely not nothing, but this is a Zeke stat, not an NFC East one.

Mack Hollins, WR, Las Vegas Raiders (now Atlanta Falcons)

Outside the division: 9.1
Inside the division: 5.4
Dropoff: -41.0%

Mack Hollins just had his career year, more than tripling his previous career high in yards (690 — plus 40 rushing — compared to a previous peak of 226) and seeing 94 targets and 57 receptions after a five-year total of 98 and 56, respectively, entering 2022. He parlayed that into a deal with the Falcons this offseason, which could bode well if his relative struggles in the AFC West meant anything. Hollins’ six best games last year, and eight of his top 10, came outside the division. Three of his worst four came inside it. He escaped at his first chance.

Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

Outside the division: 14.1
Inside the division: 9.0
Dropoff: -36.2%

Alvin Kamara’s worst season also featured him struggling against the NFC South. All four of his 2022 touchdowns came outside the division. He topped out at 13 receptions yards against NFC South opponents, averaging 2.0 receptions per game against his division. Between increased struggles, a likely suspension and the arrivals of Jamaal Williams and Kendre Miller, Kamara’s biggest fantasy virtue in 2023 is that he’s likely to come very cheaply in drafts.

 

Gabe Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills

Outside the division: 11.5
Inside the division: 7.4
Dropoff: -35.8%

Gabe Davis was a disappointment in 2022 after being a popular breakout pick entering the season. Nowhere was that disappointment clearer than when he faced his AFC East peers — Davis didn’t reach even 10 PPR points inside the division, doing so in six of nine games outside the division. Only 1 of his 7 touchdowns came against the AFC East, and that was a game where he had 2 receptions for 15 yards. He had a 68.9% catch rate outside the AFC East, 44.7% inside it. Stop me when I get to something good.

Davis was one of my veteran winners of the draft, but he’s going to need to show a lot after 2022’s rough go.

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Outside the division: 21.9
Inside the division: 15.7
Dropoff: -28.5%

The No. 1 running back in fantasy had four games of 30-plus PPR points last year. All were outside the AFC West. He had nine games of 20-plus. Eight were outside the AFC West. Austin Ekeler’s three worst games, and five of his worst eight, all came against divisional opponents. Am I discounting Ekeler much at all because of his division? Nah. Is it an interesting thing that makes me raise my eyebrows? Sure.

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