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 1-11.
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 (12.4%), Cowboys (12.4%), Vikings (12.3%) and Seahawks (11%) have posted an explosive pass-play rate above 11% this season
- Lions QB Matthew Stafford (hip, back) has been called week to week. Backup QB Jeff Driskel has performed admirably in Stafford's absence, particularly against the Cowboys in Week 11. Overall, Driskel completed 15-of-26 passes for 209 yards and a pair of scores through the air while adding an additional 51 yards and another touchdown on the ground after having a whole week to work with the starting offense.
- Be sure to monitor our Week 12 Injury Dashboard for daily practice participation along with estimated and official game statuses for every injured player.
- Amari Cooper is the Cowboys' No. 1 WR, but Dak Prescott has gotten all three of his top options involved since their Week 8 bye. Overall, each of Cooper (18-265-2 on 29 targets), Michael Gallup (15-257-2 on 29 targets) and Randall Cobb (16-256-2 on 23 targets) have each worked among fantasy's top-12 PPR WRs over the past three weeks.
- QBs that are set up for success this week in creating chunk plays through the air include: Mason Rudolph, Jeff Driskel and Baker Mayfield.
- Rudolph's best statistical performance this season was throwing for 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns at home against the Dolphins in Week 8. He's otherwise been held under 250 passing yards in every game. Rudolph's recent stretch of play has been even worse, as the second-year QB has averaged fewer than 6.5 yards per attempt in three consecutive games.
- Could this finally be the week that Odell Beckham goes off? He's expected to face shadow coverage from under-qualified No. 1 CB Nik Needham, who was just roasted by John Brown (9-137-2) in Week 11. OBJ has a massive advantage over Needham in both the talent and speed departments.
- The likes of Derek Carr, Sam Darnold and Jimmy Garoppolo are also set up better than usual to rack up some explosive plays in the passing game.
- The Bengals (15.4%), Raiders (13%), Dolphins (12.8%), Giants (12.2%), Lions (11.7%) and Cardinals (11.2%) are the only defenses to allow an explosive pass-play rate above 11% this season.
- Jamison Crowder has worked as a legit WR2 with Sam Darnold this season, finishing as the PPR WR12, WR19, WR64, WR67, WR10, WR11 and WR14 in seven games with the Jets' young QB under center. The Raiders rank No. 28 and No. 30 in DVOA against No. 1 and No. 2 WRs, respectively. The absence of starting nickelback Lamarcus Joyner (hamstring) makes this as good of a matchup as possible for the Jets' starting slot WR.
- QBs that could struggle to consistently create chunk plays through the air include: Daniel Jones, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kyle Allen.
- D.J. Moore's current streak of six games with at least eight targets is only bested by DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas. He can survive a poor performance from Allen with volume alone. The same can't be said for Curtis Samuel, whose downfield-heavy role requires more precise passing. Only the Browns have had a lower percentage of catchable targets than the Panthers this season (PFF).
- Additionally, the likes of Brandon Allen, Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson and Ryan Finley aren't in anything resembling a smash spot.
- Of course, passing matchups don't tend to impact Jackson all that much. Jackson actually leads the Ravens in rushing and is averaging an absurd 78.8 yards per game on the ground. That mark is the highest ever by a QB in the history of the league, while only nine RBs have topped that average in 2019.
- Backfields that are poised for success in busting off some big runs include the Colts, Steelers, Texans and Saints.
- Alvin Kamara is averaging a league-high 0.44 broken tackles per attempt this season. Only Duke Johnson (0.43) is also evading defenders at over a 40% rate. The Saints' featured RB has posted 7-72-0, 8-50-0 and 10-47-0 receiving lines in three games with Drew Brees under center. Kamara has surprisingly failed to reach 100 rushing yards in a game this season and has just one touchdown on the ground, but his ability to thrive in the underneath portions of the field should continue to result in one of the position's highest floors with the league's most check-down heavy QB under center:
- The Dolphins are the only offense that still doesn't have a rush of at least 20 yards through 11 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 Bengals and Patriots.
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 matchup features the Cowboys (No. 3 in situation neutral pace) at the Patriots (No. 1).
- Additional matchups that could more closely resemble a track meet include Steelers at Bengals and Ravens at Rams.
- The week's slowest-paced matchup features the Jaguars (No. 31) at the Titans (No. 26).
- Additional matchups that could move more slowly than fantasy owners would prefer include Seahawks at Eagles, Lions at Redskins and Raiders at Jets.
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, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Allen, Ryan Finley, Sam Darnold and Aaron Rodgers.
- Still, Davante Adams should have more than enough chances to rack up fantasy points on Sunday night. Rodgers has fed Adams 21 targets in two games since his No. 1 WR returned from injury. Nobody else on the offense has more than 10 targets during this span. Adams trails only Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas, Stefon Diggs and Amari Cooper in yards per route run this season (PFF).
- Be sure to check out my Week 12 WR/CB Breakdown with TE Analysis for more specific matchup information on every passing game.
- The Rams have allowed a league-low 45 rushing yards per game to opposing QBs this season. We'll see how much that matters when they take on Lamar Jackson this Monday night (Spoiler: It's not going to matter).
- The Jets (45%) and Seahawks (42%) are the only offenses to be pressured on at least 40% of their dropbacks this season. The Dolphins (39%), Texans (39%) and Lions (39%) aren't too far behind.
- Thank god Seattle has Russell Wilson. The Seahawks' long-time franchise QB is one of just four signal callers with a passer rating over 100 when pressured this season. Overall, Wilson has thrown nine touchdowns against just one interception under pressure and averaged a league-high 8.8 yards per attempt under duress.
- Derek Carr and Baker Mayfield stand out as QBs that could have all day to throw this week.
- Jarvis Landry has found the end zone in three consecutive weeks and is again set up well in the slot for this #RevengeGame. The PPR WR7 since the Browns' Week 7 bye, Landry has earned every-week WR2 treatment in the Browns' improving offense.
- The Steelers, Saints, Eagles, 49ers, Packers, Browns, Rams, Patriots, Cowboys and Vikings have separated themselves to this point as the league's top defenses in creating consistent pressure.
- Vikings DEs Danielle Hunter (71) and Everson Griffen (58) rank No. 1 and No. 2 in total pressures this season (PFF).
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 Saints, 49ers and Browns boast the week's most favorable matchups in the trenches.
- The Browns have continued to be creative with their new-look backfield by regularly featuring both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt on the field at the same time. Chubb remains locked in as a weekly RB1 with at least 20 touches in all but one game this season. He's a top-five option at the position in Week 12 against the Dolphins' 26th-ranked defense in fewest PPR per game allowed to opposing RBs. Hunt joins Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, Austin Ekeler and James White as the league's only RBs that have at least eight targets in multiple games over the last six weeks..
- Tevin Coleman (49% snaps in Week 11) and Raheem Mostert (49%) formed a two-RB committee with Matt Breida (ankle) sidelined last week. And yet, Jeff Wilson wound up with the most fantasy points among the trio by catching a game-winning 25-yard touchdown on his only snap of the game. The 49ers boast the league's second-ranked scoring offense and run the ball more than anybody. Continue to fire up whoever happens to be their top-two RBs as low-end RB2s on a weekly basis. That would be Coleman and Mostert in Week 12 if Breida remains sidelined.
- Alvin Kamara sure looks like he's back near 100%.
- Check out my Week 12 Backfield Report for more specific information on the league's ever-evolving RB stables.
- The Bills, Redskins, Cowboys and Packers also boast above-average matchups at the line of scrimmage.
- Devin Singletary continues to play a three-down role, but life as Josh Allen's lead RB simply hasn't been great for business over the past two seasons. On average the top Bills RB has finished as the week's PPR RB28 with Allen under center, with much more finishes as a RB3 or worse (13) than a RB2 or better (8).
- Aaron Jones has played between 39-63% snaps in games with Jamaal Williams healthy this season. Jones has been incredibly efficient with this workload and produced RB1 value, but the return of Davante Adams has hurt his pass-game role thus far. Overall, Jones had a team-high 21% target share with Adams sidelined, but has a mediocre 9% target share with the Packer's No. 1 WR on the field.
- The Saints, Bills, Cowboys, Raiders and Ravens are the league's only offenses that have averaged more than 4.7 adjusted line yards per rush this season.
- The Falcons, Bengals, Seahawks, Jets and Jaguars stand out as offenses that could have a tough time creating much of a consistent push against their respective opponent's fearsome defensive lines.
- The best offenses in terms of yards before contact per rush have been the Ravens (2.9), Cardinals (2.5), Giants (2.4), Texans (2.3), Panthers (2.1), Chiefs (2) and Bills (2). The worst have been the Rams (1.1), Titans (1.1), Jets (0.7) and Dolphins (0.5).
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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.
- Jeff Driskel, Mason Rudolph, Jameis Winston, Matt Ryan, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo are set up the best to consistently find success through the air this week.
- Ryan has been playing brilliantly for most of the season despite the Falcons' lack of team success.
- Julio Jones has failed to score in seven consecutive regular season games in three seasons during his career. His first streak in 2014 was followed by 5-68-1, 10-189-1 and 11-259-1 performances, while Jones overcame last season's infamous drought with 7-121-1, 7-107-1 and 6-118-1 lines. Julio has scored and/or surpassed 100 yards in 11-of-15 career matchups against the Buccaneers. Continue to fire up Jones as a weekly high-end WR1, regardless of the matchup.
- The Falcons have allowed a total of 12 points against the Saints and Panthers since their Week 9 bye. Still, their new-found defensive resurgence hasn't exactly kept opposing No. 1 WRs in check, as D.J. Moore (8-95-0) and Michael Thomas (13-152-0) each managed to have their way with the Falcons' secondary in losing efforts. Mike Evans' 1,510 air yards are a ridiculous 318 more than John Brown's second-place mark.
- The only problem with backing Carr is that the Raiders' franchise QB has spread the ball out in recent weeks more than just about anybody. Overall, Hunter Renfrow (22 targets), Darren Waller (22), Tyrell Williams (19), Jalen Richard (12), Josh Jacobs (12) and Zay Jones (12) have each been plenty involved in the passing game since Williams returned in Week 8.
- The biggest loser of this new-look Raiders Offense has been their stud TE. Waller finished as the PPR TE1 in Week 7 with a sterling 7-126-2 performance. Then Williams returned. Waller has since finished as the TE13, TE22, TE23 and TE10.
- The likes of Baker Mayfield and Russell Wilson are also popping a bit as signal callers with plus matchups this week.
- The Cowboys (8.3), Chiefs (7.6), Vikings (7.6), Raiders (7.4), Lions (7.3), Ravens (7.2), Seahawks (7.2) and 49ers (7.1) are the league's only offenses averaging more than seven net yards per pass attempt this season.
- Brandon Allen, Daniel Jones, Ryan Finley, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Allen and Aaron Rodgers have the week's least-promising matchups in terms of expecting consistent aerial success.
- Only Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas, Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Davante Adams, Julio Jones, Michael Gallup and Cooper Kupp have averaged more yards per route run than Courtland Sutton this season among 48 players with at least 50 targets (PFF). Bills CB Tre'Davious White has been up-and-down in three shadow matchups against Terry McLaurin (4-39-0), Odell Beckham (5-57-0) and DeVante Parker (7-135-0).
- Each of Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Ryan Tannehill and Tom Brady also stand out as signal callers that aren't set up in anything resembling a smash spot.
- The Bills (5.3), 49ers (4.3) and Patriots (4.1) are the league's only defenses to allow fewer than 5.5 net yards per pass attempt through 11 weeks. The Bengals (8.5), Giants (7.7) and Dolphins (7.5) are the only defenses allowing more than 7.5 net yards attempt per pass attempt.
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 Colts, Seahawks, Jets and Titans 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 Dolphins, Buccaneers, Raiders and Ravens.
- Players with the most touches this season with one or fewer touchdowns include: Leonard Fournette (229 touches), Adrian Peterson (134) and Kenyan Drake (126).
- The Texans, Raiders 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 Titans, Packers, Bills, Seahawks, Vikings, Texans and Ravens are the league's only offenses to score a touchdown on at least 65% of their red zone possessions.
- WRs with the most targets this season with one or fewer receiving scores include: Tyler Boyd (94 targets), D.J. Moore (94), Odell Beckham (89), Robert Woods (71), Auden Tate (66), Mike Williams (63), Dede Westbrook (61), Danny Amendola (58), Davante Adams (57) and Deebo Samuel (53).
- The Steelers, Bengals, Redskins, Jaguars, Patriots and 49ers stand out as offenses that could wind up settling for three points more than fantasy owners might prefer this week.
- The Cardinals, Bengals, Redskins and Jaguars have been the league's worst offenses in scoring position when it comes to touchdown percentage inside the 20-yard line.