The NFL is a matchup-driven league. Offensive coordinators are always looking to scheme their playmakers into one-on-one situations against a defender, while defensive coordinators will attempt to do anything in their power to upset the timing and rhythm of the opposing QB.
Despite the obvious impact that defenses have on opposing offenses, fantasy players and fans alike are often left with one-way metrics to describe offenses and defenses that they are then forced to compare against each other in an attempt to identify mismatches.
The goal here is to provide easy-to-decipher charts and notes to define each week’s key matchups and advantages on both sides of the ball in:
- Explosive Plays
- Trench Battles
- Passing Game
- Red Zone Efficiency
The following charts display matchup-specific information meant to highlight the largest mismatches in these ever-important facets of football to ultimately gain actionable betting and fantasy takeaways. And, of course, to have fun.
Note: This data is based on what has happened in Weeks 1-9.
Big plays make the football world go round. Matchups between explosive offenses and leaky defenses are exactly what we’re looking for when compiling game stacks in DFS, or when betting an over. We can calculate this with help from NFL.com’s team-based statistics.
- Explosive Pass Rate: The sum of an offense’s rate of 20-plus yard completions per pass attempt and the opposing defense’s rate of 20-plus yard completions allowed per pass attempt. A higher percentage is better for offenses (green is good, red is bad).
- Explosive Run Rate: The sum of an offense’s rate of 20-plus yard gains per rush attempt and the opposing defense’s rate of 20-plus yard runs allowed per rush attempt. A higher percentage is better for offenses (green is good, red is bad).
- Only the Lions (13.3%), Vikings (12.6%), Seahawks (11.7%), Chiefs (11.5%) and 49ers (11.3%) have posted an explosive pass-play rate above 11% this season.
- Stefon Diggs will continue to work as the Vikings' undisputed No. 1 pass-game target with Adam Thielen (hamstring) not expected to suit up this week. Diggs is plenty capable of balling out against a Cowboys Defense that has yielded big days to each of Robby Anderson (5-125-1), Jamison Crowder (6-98-0), Michael Thomas (9-95-0) and Terry McLaurin (5-62-1) through nine weeks. Diggs' pitiful 1-4-0 performance in Week 9 snapped his three-game streak with at least 140 yards, but he's tentatively expected to see more volume this week considering Kirk Cousins has fed his featured WR 15, 7, 7, and 11 targets in games following a performance with fewer than five pass-game opportunities since 2018.
- Be sure to monitor our Week 10 Injury Dashboard for daily practice participation along with estimated and official game statuses for every injured player.
- QBs that are set up for success this week in creating chunk plays through the air include: Philip Rivers, Lamar Jackson and Drew Brees.
- Of course, Jackson's ability to rack up yards on the ground will continue to force defenses to pay little attention to their pass defense. Only Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Josh Jacobs, Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott and Chris Carson have more fantasy points from strictly rushing production than Lamar Jackson this season.
- The likes of Matthew Stafford, Patrick Mahomes (ankle), Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, Jacoby Brissett (knee) and Jimmy Garoppolo are also set up better than usual to rack up some explosive plays in the passing game.
- The Raiders (14.4%), Bengals (14.4%), Dolphins (13.3%), Giants (12.5%), Falcons (12.5%), Lions (11.6%) and Cardinals (11.2%) are the only defenses to allow an explosive pass-play rate above 11% this season.
- It's safe to say the return of Patrick Peterson hasn't fixed the Cardinals' woes in the secondary just yet.
- QBs that could struggle to consistently create chunk plays through the air include: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Daniel Jones, Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph.
- Perhaps feeding the Browns' No. 1 WR anything resembling a featured workload would help the Browns create more explosive pass plays. Overall, Odell Beckham Jr. already has more games without at least eight targets (4) in 2019 than he did in any single season with the Giants from 2014-2018. With that said: I'll have plenty of exposure to OBJ in DraftKings tournaments, as he hasn't been this cheap ($6,100) since 2014.
- Additionally, the likes of Matt Ryan, Kyle Allen and Ryan Tannehill aren't in anything resembling a smash spot.
- Backfields that are poised for success in busting off some big runs include the Ravens, Chiefs, Falcons, Seahawks, 49ers, Packers, Browns and Raiders.
- Damien Williams has regained his role as the Chiefs' featured RB. Overall, he was one of just 12 RBs to play at least 70% of their offense's snaps in Week 9. Credit to Williams for displaying some truly elite tackle-breaking ability over the past two weeks. He ranks eighth among 52 qualified RBs in PFF's Elusive Rating metric on the season. Williams has 21 touches since LeSean McCoy lost a fumble in the third quarter of the Chiefs' Week 8 loss to the Packers; Shady and Darrel Williams have combined for just five combined carries and receptions during that span.
- The Jets and Dolphins are the only offenses that still don't have a rush of at least 20 yards through seven weeks.
- Additional run games that don't appear to be set up all that well to break off some explosive plays on the ground include the Lions, Bengals, Titans, Buccaneers and Cowboys.
Fast-paced games lead to more plays, which lead to more points. Every week usually consists of at least a few games that could resemble a track meet based on their combined situation-neutral pace (Football Outsiders).
- Combined Situation-Neutral Pace: Represents the combined situation-neutral pace between each matchup’s two offenses. A lower number indicates fewer average seconds per play (green = fast-paced game), while a higher number indicates more average seconds per play (red = slow-paced game).
- The week's fastest-paced matchups feature the Cardinals (No. 1 in situation neutral pace) at the Buccaneers (No. 17) as well as the Rams (No. 2) at the Steelers (No. 19).
- Additional matchups that could more closely resemble a track meet include Ravens at Bengals, Chiefs at Titans and Vikings at Cowboys.
- The week's slowest-paced matchups feature the Chargers (No. 30) at the Raiders (No. 15) as well as the Giants (No. 9) at the Jets (No. 31).
- Additional matchups that could move more slowly than fantasy owners would prefer include Bills at Browns, Lions at Bears and Dolphins at Colts.
An overmatched offensive line can result in poor fantasy days for all skill-position players involved. Meanwhile, QBs with all day to throw can help generate points in bunches. We can determine which offensive lines might be especially better (or worse) this week with help from Pro Football Focus’ offensive and defensive pressure statistics.
- Combined Pressure Rate: The sum of the offensive line’s rate of pressures allowed per dropback and the opposing defense’s total pressures generated per dropback. A higher percentage (red) is better for defenses and indicates that QB could be under fire, while a lower percentage (green) indicates that matchup’s QB could face reduced pressure.
- QBs that could be under consistent duress this week include Russell Wilson, Jared Goff, Sam Darnold, Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan.
- Wilson should be the MVP frontrunner after nine weeks of action. Overall, he ranks among the league's top-five QBs in adjusted yards per attempt (No. 2), QB rating (No. 1), TD rate (No. 1), yards per attempt (No. 5) and fantasy points (No. 1). Don't even think about fading Wilson this week despite the tough matchup.
- Tyler Lockett is the PPR WR3 after nine weeks and already has a career-high 72 targets. Continue to treat him as an every-week WR1, although 49ers slot CB K'Waun Williams deserves credit for allowing the fourth-lowest passer rating on balls thrown into his slot coverage among 51 qualified corners.
- Be sure to check out my Week 10 WR/CB Breakdown with TE Analysis for more specific matchup information on every passing game.
- The Jets (43.5%), Seahawks (41.6%) and Vikings (40.8%) are the only offenses to be pressured on at least 40% of their dropbacks this season.
- Drew Brees, Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr, Ryan Finley and Kyler Murray stand out as QBs that could have all day to throw this week.
- Still, I wouldn't expect much out of the Bengals' rookie QB in his first career start. Finley (6.3% deep-ball rate) joined an underwhelming group of QBs featuring Mike Glennon (6.6%), Ryan Griffin (6.5%) and Nathan Peterman (6%) as the only signal callers to throw the ball more than 20-plus yards downfield on fewer than seven percent of their passes during the preseason (PFF). Only the Dolphins (16.8 points) are implied to score fewer points than the Bengals (17.8) this week (FantasyLabs).
- The Eagles, Saints, Rams, Steelers, 49ers, Vikings, Patriots, Packers and Cowboys have separated themselves to this point as the league's top defenses in creating consistent pressure.
RBs receive most of the praise for an offense’s rushing output, but an overmatched offensive line can thwart a team’s run game before it even has a chance to get started. We can determine the offensive lines that might be especially better (or worse) off this week with help from Football Outsiders' offensive and defensive adjusted line yards per rush statistics.
- Combined Adjusted Line Yards Per Rush: The sum of an offensive line’s adjusted line yards per rush and the opposing defense’s adjusted line yards allowed per rush. A higher number (green) is good for RBs, while a lower number (red) indicates that matchup’s offense could have some trouble consistently running the ball.
- The Bills, Cowboys, Panthers and Colts boast the week's most favorable matchups in the trenches.
- Marlon Mack could be relied on more than ever with Jacoby Brissett (knee) banged up. The entire Colts' rushing attack is set up brilliantly against the Dolphins' 31st-ranked defense in rush DVOA.
- Tevin Coleman was my favorite RB play in Week 8, while Derrick Henry got the nod in Week 9. This week I'm most intrigued by Bills RB Devin Singletary. The rookie boasts the week's single-best matchup in combined adjusted line yards per rush. Additionally, he racked up 20 carries in Week 9 alone after having 20 combined carries in his first four games, demonstrating the ability to work as more than just a pass-down back for the first time all season. Overall, Singletary has racked up an absurd 6.7 yards per carry this season and is tied with Dalvin Cook for the 12th-best Elusive Rating (PFF) among 52 qualified RBs. I absolutely love Singletary at just $5,000 on DraftKings this week in GPP and cash lineups alike.
- Check out my Week 10 Backfield Report for more specific information on the league's ever-evolving RB stables.
- The Ravens, Raiders, Saints, Vikings and 49ers also boast above-average matchups at the line of scrimmage.
- The Ravens (2.89), Giants (2.62), Cardinals (2.52), Panthers (2.41) and Texans (2.19) have been the league's best rush offenses when it comes to yards before contact per rush this season.
- Rookie Josh Jacobs has quickly emerged as one of the league's best talents at the RB position. The only thing that has somewhat held Jacobs back has been usage. Overall, he's played fewer than 60% of the offense's snaps in all but two games this season. Richard (17 targets) and Washington (11) have been just as involved as Jacobs (15) when it comes to pass-game opportunities. Give this man the ball as much as possible, please.
- The Cowboys (5.14), Saints (5.11), Bills (5.08), Raiders (4.98) and Vikings (4.82) are the league's only offenses that have averaged more than 4.75 adjusted line yards per rush this season.
- The Bengals, Giants, Chiefs, Cardinals and Falcons stand out as offenses that could have a tough time creating much of a consistent push against their respective opponent's fearsome defensive lines.
- Saquon Barkley fantasy owners shouldn't sweat the moderately tough matchup. Only 14 players in the entire league have more targets than Barkley (23) over the past three weeks.
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Some pass offenses are obviously more efficient than others, while certain secondaries are seemingly capable of shutting down any aerial attack. We can determine the week’s largest mismatches in the passing game using each offense’s and defense’s net yards per pass attempt (via Pro Football Reference).
- Combined Net Yards Per Pass Attempt: Net yards gained per pass attempt differs from yards per attempt by accounting for sacks. The rate is calculated by subtracting a QB's sack yards from his passing yards, then dividing that number by the sum of the QB's pass attempts and sacks taken. A higher number (green) is good for QBs and receivers, while a lower number (red) indicates that matchup’s pass offense could be in trouble.
- Philip Rivers, Lamar Jackson and Drew Brees are set up the best to consistently find success through the air this week.
- That's right: Jackson is set up brilliantly in the passing game AND as a runner this week. The Bengals have allowed a league-high 352 rushing yards to opposing QBs this season, yielding big performances to each of Jackson (19-152-1), Kyler Murray (10-93-1) and Josh Allen (9-46-0).
- We know Michael Thomas is a weekly WR1 regardless of the matchup, but perhaps this is also the week that Ted Ginn posts a boom performance. The Falcons boast an incredibly mediocre group of CBs in Desmond Trufant (PFF's No. 74 CB among 127 qualified corners), Isaiah Oliver (No. 71), Damontae Kazee (No. 102), Kendall Sheffield (No. 130) and Blidi Wreh-Wilson (No. 114). The 34-year-old is locked in as the offense's No. 2 WR and has posted solid enough 2-42-0, 7-101-0, 3-58-0, 3-44-0 and 5-74-0 lines in his last five games with Brees under center.
- The likes of Derek Carr, Jacoby Brissett (knee) and Jimmy Garoppolo are also popping a bit as signal callers with plus matchups this week.
- Jimmy G easily played his best game of the season in Week 9, demonstrating enhanced timing and the ability to create off script on his way to completing 28-of-37 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns. The Seahawks have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to the QB position this season.
- The Cowboys (8.1), Chiefs (7.8), Vikings (7.8), Lions (7.6), Seahawks (7.5), Raiders (7.5), 49ers (7.3) and Chargers (7.2) are the league's only offenses averaging more than seven net yards per pass attempt this season.
- Baker Mayfield, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Russell Wilson have the week's least-promising matchups in terms of expecting consistent aerial success.
- Each of Ryan Tannehill, Mitchell Trubisky, Sam Darnold, Daniel Jones and Mason Rudolph also stand out as signal callers that aren't set up in anything resembling a smash spot.
- The Patriots (4.1), 49ers (4.3), Bills (5.2) and Panthers (5.4) are the league's only defenses to allow fewer than 5.5 net yards per pass attempt through seven weeks.
Red Zone Efficiency
The field shrinks inside the red zone, as the defense essentially gains an extra sideline with the back of the end zone limiting the types of vertical concepts that offenses can run. We can help identify which teams have the best potential to cash in on their opportunities inside the 20-yard line using each offense and defense's red zone TD rates (via TeamRankings.com).
- Combined Red Zone TD Rate: The sum of an offense's rate of TDs per red zone possession and the defense's percentage of TDs allowed per red zone possession. A higher percentage (green) indicates an efficient offense inside the 20-yard line against a defense that struggles to keep their opponents out of the end zone, while a lower percentage (red) indicates an offense that hasn't had much success converting their scoring chances into six points and is facing a defense that has managed to largely thrive with their backs against the wall.
- The Packers, Colts and Bills stand out as the week's top offenses in terms of who is least likely to have to settle for field goals in scoring position.
- Additional offenses that are set up better than usual to convert drives inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns include the Titans, Falcons and Saints.
- Players with the most touches this season with one or fewer touchdowns include: Leonard Fournette (214 touches), Adrian Peterson (123), Kenyan Drake (88), Alexander Mattison (68), Gus Edwards (63) and Tarik Cohen (60).
- The Jets, Texans, Falcons and Panthers are the only defenses to allow a red-zone touchdown rate of at least 65%.
- On the other side of the ball, the Bills, Titans, Colts, Packers, Seahawks, Texans and Vikings are the league's only offenses to score a touchdown on at least 65% of their red zone possessions.
- Players with the most targets this season without a score include: Mike Williams (54 targets), Christian Kirk (53), Davante Adams (47) and Adam Humphries (41).
- The Bengals, Jets, Cardinals, Steelers and Seahawks stand out as offenses that could wind up settling for three points more than fantasy owners might prefer this week.
- The Steelers (38% touchdown rate), Cardinals (35%), Redskins (35%), Jaguars (34%) and Bengals (33%) have been the league's worst offenses in scoring position when it comes to touchdown percentage inside the 20-yard line.