Splitsville: Air travel

Let’s start the Week 10 Splitsville by looking at average air yards per reception for wide receivers. These are the guys who do not need a lot of targets to be productive. I’m going to also note their catch rate, too. A leader in the air yards average with a catch rate over 60 percent is obviously very explosive while being relatively efficient, too:

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Eric Decker over Wes Welker? (USAT)

Torrey Smith (13.06, 52.2% catch rate), Alshon Jeffery (12.58, 57.6%), Riley Cooper (12.54, 58.1%), DeAndre Hopkins (12.52, 64.6%), Nate Washington (12.46, 46.4%), Vernon Davis (12.07, 61.7%), T.Y. Hilton (12.06, 51.5%), Jordy Nelson (11.79, 68.3%), Doug Baldwin (11.79, 72.5%), Calvin Johnson (11.43, 59.5%), Jimmy Graham (11.16, 66.2%), Josh Gordon (11.02, 53%), Victor Cruz (11.02, 61%), Terrance Williams (11, 62.2%).

Look at Williams and note that Dez Bryant is 7.41 and, worse, he’s at a 58.6 percent catch rate. Bryant is eighth among wide receivers in yards after catch (6.41).

Trailers in average air yards per catch with catch percentage are (WRs only): Tavon Austin (3.19, 60.8 and Austin is averaging just four yards per target), , Mohamed Sanu (3.97, 67.4%), Kendall Wright (5.21, 68.3%), Julian Edelman (5.41, 66.2%), Davone Bess (5.52, 51.7%), Marlon Brown (5.88, 60.5%), Golden Tate (5.97, 61.4%, outstanding 7.4 YAC), Eddie Royal (6.14, 70.3%), Wes Welker (6.38, 69.4%), Pierre Garcon (6.54, 60.7%).

I’m taking a lot of barbs in the Scouting Notebook for still saying that Eric Decker is a much better player and remains a better fantasy bet going forward than Wes Welker. My reasons are mainly size and speed (as if those are minor considerations). Note that Decker is 9.52 and 65.7 percent. Their respective TD rates this season make no sense. No one looks for Welker near the end zone and clearly Peyton Manning and the Broncos are making them pay for that. But the idea that Wes Welker, who came into the season with a silly bad TD rate (catches per touchdown), has suddenly turned into some red zone god is just too absurd to take seriously.

Speaking of which, here are the current leaders in touchdown rate among all receivers with at least 150 career catches and 10 career TDs:

Rob Gronkowski (receiving TD every 5.28 catches), Robert Meachem (6.23), Bryant (7.17, and why Bryant could be the best fantasy receiver going forward, even over Calvin Johnson, 8.77), Decker (7.24, and now tell me how his 2013 rate relative to Welker makes sense; eager to read the tortured logic of Welker owners in the comments), Nelson (7.43), Jimmy Graham (7.54, and why Gronk if healthy is the play over Graham; and maybe their health is at worst a wash now anyway), James Jones (7.56), Vincent Jackson (7.90), Vernon Davis (7.96), Sidney Rice (8.10), Kenny Britt (8.11, and don’t even think about picking him up).

[Watch: Andre Johnson's stock sky high]

Trailers: Jason Avant (25.82), Bess (25.14), Ginn Jr. (22.75), Steve Smith (20.42), Kellen Winslow Jr. (18.2),Brandon Pettigrew (17.93), Jason Witten (17.73), Welker (17.40), Zach Miller (17.06), Jerricho Cotchery (16.80, what a joke last week was), Brandon Gibson (15.45), Eddie Royal (15), Andre Johnson (14.83, so much for being big and fast as this is one of the stat oddities of all time), Jared Cook (14.82).

I wrote about the craziness with field goals this year for the Wall Street Journal this week, complete with a chart. As I’ve said here before, teams are making an insanely high rate of 50-plus-yard field goals (65.8 percent entering Monday). But, as I noted: “Teams are attempting barely more 50-plus-yard field goals today (4.6 a season) than in 1980 (2.9), when the success rate was a meager 28.4%.”

So that got Scott Lindholm (@scottlindholm) of the great Beyond the Boxscore looking more deeply and he came up with this great chart. There seems to be a cliff where field goal efficiency just craters at 53 yards. But to my eye and memory, it sure seems that the vast majority of 50-to-52 yarders would be good from deeper distances. It’s not often that they are barely good. So I’m thinking this apparent cliff in efficiency may be a product of a much smaller sample where coaches simply are opting to punt unless the game is on the line. And if coaches mainly line up kickers from outside 53 yards in do or die situations, maybe what we’re seeing is the effects of feeling extra pressure versus when kickers attempt random 50 yarders in normal game flow. Keep these numbers in mind when your kicker lines up from 53-plus yards.

Let’s end this week with the matchup decider but, by popular request, I've added who these defenses are facing this week. Remember, this is for deciding who to play against these defenses. This in no way is meant to rank defenses for the fantasy points they will score themselves.

Toughest pass defenses measured by average fantasy points allowed to QBs and by extension WRs per game: Seahawks (12.1, at Falcons), Panthers (13.3, at Niners), Chiefs (13.8, bye), Saints (14.3, Cowboys), Titans (14.6, Jaguars), Steelers (16.3, Bills), Niners (16.3, Panthers), Dolphins (16.6, at Bucs), Bengals (16.8, at Ravens), Texans (16.9, at Cardinals).

Easiest pass defenses: Vikings (26.1, Redskins), Raiders (24.6, at Giants), Redskins (24.6, at Vikings), Falcons (23.7, Seahawks), Cowboys (23.3, at Saints), Bills (23, at Steelers), Broncos (23, at Chargers), Jets (22.8, bye), Jaguars (22.8, at Titans), Eagles (22.5, at Packers), Packers (22.3, Eagles).

Toughest run defense: Panthers (9.4, at Niners), Jets (10.7, bye), Ravens (10.8, Bengals), Cardinals (11.1, Texans), Bills (12.9, at Steelers), Bengals (13.1, at Ravens), Chiefs (13.2, bye), Bucs (13.8, Dolphins), Raiders (14, at Giants), Giants (14, Raiders).

Easiest run defenses: Jaguars (25.9, at Titans), Steelers (22.1, Bills), Bears (20.3, Lions), Rams (19.9, at Colts), Titans (19.8, Jaguars), Redskins (19.2, at Vikings), Dolphins (18.4, at Bucs), Saints (17.4, Cowboys), Vikings (17.2, Redskins), Cowboys (16.7, at Saints), Chargers (16.3, Broncos).

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