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 1-13.
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 (11.6%), Vikings (11.6%), Rams (11.3%), 49ers (11.2%) and Cowboys (11.2%) have posted an explosive pass-play rate of at least 11% this season.
- Of course, things are different in Detroit these days. Matthew Stafford (back, hip) is still considered week to week, while Jeff Driskel (hamstring, IR) is done for the season. The good news is the Lions hardly abandoned their downfield-oriented attack, as David Blough posted a respectable 13% deep-ball rate in his first career start (PFF).
- Be sure to monitor our Week 14 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: Ryan Tannehill, Baker Mayfield and Kirk Cousins.
- Ryan Tannehill has attempted 29, 33, 39, 19, 18 and 22 passes in his six starts this season. Clearly the Titans' offense goes through Derrick Henry. With that said: Tannethrill has operated as one of the single-most efficient QBs in the entire league. Only Kirk Cousins (9.5) has averaged more adjusted yards per attempt than Tannehill (9.44) this season. Patrick Mahomes (9.36), Russell Wilson (9.32) and Matthew Stafford (9.12) are the only other QBs over nine.
- The likes of Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and Sam Darnold are also set up better than usual to rack up some explosive plays in the passing game.
- The Bengals (13.2%), Raiders (13%), Dolphins (12.4%), Cardinals (12.2%), Giants (11.9%) and Lions (11.1%) are the only defenses to allow an explosive pass-play rate above 11% this season.
- QBs that could struggle to consistently create chunk plays through the air include: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Lamar Jackson, Eli Manning and Mitchell Trubisky.
- Of course, Jackson's tough matchup through the air hardly impacts his fantasy upside. His average of 81.4 rushing yards per game this season is presently the highest single-season mark from a QB in NFL history.
- Additionally, the likes of Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray and Matt Ryan aren't in anything resembling a smash spot.
- Backfields that are poised for success in busting off some big runs include the Ravens, Falcons and Browns.
- The Panthers have allowed at least twice as many rushing touchdowns as 25 other defenses this season. Only Christian McCaffrey (11), Austin Ekeler (10) and Leonard Fournette (10) have more games with at least three receptions than Devonta Freeman (9).Treat Freeman as a borderline RB1 in this spot.
- Run games that don't appear to be set up all that well to break off some explosive plays on the ground include the Cowboys, Dolphins, Lions, Bengals, Bears, Jets, Packers and Eagles.
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 Chiefs (No. 5 in situation neutral pace) at the Patriots (No. 1).
- Additional matchups that could more closely resemble a track meet include Cowboys at Bears, Panthers at Falcons, Steelers at Cardinals and Seahawks at Rams.
- The week's slowest-paced matchups feature the Redskins (No. 32) at Packers (No. 22) as well as the Chargers (No. 30) at Jaguars (No. 31).
- Additional matchups that could move more slowly than fantasy owners would prefer include Colts at Buccaneers, Dolphins at Jets, 49ers at Saints and Titans at Raiders.
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 Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, David Blough and Kyler Murray.
- Tyler Lockett (88% snaps in Week 13) and D.K. Metcalf (80%) are each playing full-time roles. Lockett has struggled recently, posting 1-38-0 and 0-0-0 lines on just five targets since the Seahawks' Week 11 bye. He's battled both a leg injury as well as an illness, but the limited opportunities are still surprising given he's played a near every-down role. Things won't be easy in a potential shadow date with Jalen Ramsey, who played a majority of his snaps in the slot against JuJu Smith-Schuster back in Week 10. People enjoy laughing at Metcalf for the things he can't do. Ultimately, the rookie is the PPR WR29 on the season and possesses one of the position's most fantasy-friendly roles thanks to this plethora of deep-ball and end-zone targets.
- Be sure to check out my Week 14 WR/CB Breakdown with TE Analysis for more specific matchup information on every passing game.
- The Jets (44%) and Seahawks (40%) are the only offenses to be pressured on at least 40% of their dropbacks this season. The Dolphins (39%), Giants (39%), Colts (38%), Lions (38%), Falcons (38%) and Texans (38%) aren't too far behind.
- Of course, pressuring Deshaun Watson and getting him to the ground are two entirely different obstacles.
- Derek Carr, Tom Brady and Kyle Allen stand out as QBs that could have all day to throw this week.
- The Steelers, Saints, Eagles, Browns, Packers, 49ers, Patriots, Rams and Vikings have separated themselves to this point as the league's top defenses in creating consistent pressure.
- Danielle Hunter (76), Cameron Jordan (71), Za'Darius Smith (70), T.J. Watt (66) and Shaq Barrett (61) are the only defenders with at least 60 pressures this season.
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 Redskins, Vikings, Patriots and Saints boast the week's most favorable matchups in the trenches.
- It'd be a lot easier to get behind either Derrius Guice (30% snap rate) or Adrian Peterson (36%) if they weren't splitting snaps and touches nearly right down the middle. Chris Thompson's (36%) return and heavy involvement on passing downs lowers the floor and ceiling alike of everyone involved. Week 13 marked the first time since Week 2 that the Redskins scored even 20 points. I wouldn't go chasing this production in a road matchup against the Packers that pits the Redskins as 13-point underdogs.
- Both the Patriots and Saints find themselves in matchups against run funnel defenses, as each of the Chiefs (No. 6 in DVOA vs. the pass, No. 30 vs. the run) and 49ers (No. 1 vs. pass, No. 14 vs. run) have been significantly better at shutting down their opponent's passing attack vs. controlling the trenches this season.
- Check out my Week 14 Backfield Report for more specific information on the league's ever-evolving RB stables.
- Matt Breida is tentatively expected to return in Week 14. He's far too #good to keep on the sideline if healthy. Of course, Raheem Mostert also deserves additional touches after his massive Week 13 performance, while Tevin Coleman is unlikely to be relegated to the bench considering he's worked as one of the offense's top-two backs for the entire season when healthy. This has the looks of a three-RB committee moving forward. Jeff Wilson could even steal a few snaps away himself.
- The Saints (5.09), Cowboys (4.83), Raiders (4.75) and Ravens (4.73) are the league's only offenses that have averaged at least 4.7 adjusted line yards per rush this season.
- Ezekiel Elliott was the least of the Cowboys' problems in Week 13, averaging a robust 5.92 yards per carry and catching seven passes for 66 yards. The only issue in recent weeks has been in the scoring department, as Elliott has contributed zero of the Cowboys' 23 points over their past two games. Zeke is the PPR RB7 on the season and remains the undisputed lead back of one of the league's better offenses. Continue to fire him up as a no-doubt RB1 regardless of the matchup.
- The Dolphins, Giants, Chiefs, Colts and Bears stand out as offenses that could have a tough time creating much of a consistent push against their respective opponent's fearsome defensive lines.
- Melvin Gordon's outlook is considerably better with LB Myles Jack (knee, IR) done for the season. Overall, both Gordon (PPR RB10) and Austin Ekeler (RB14) have provided borderline RB1 value in four games since getting a new play caller. Up next is a winnable matchup against a Jaguars Defense that has been significantly better at stopping the pass (No. 16 in DVOA) than the run (No. 31) this season. Gordon is very affordable on DraftKings at just $6,400 and is averaging 22.3 combined carries and targets per game since Week 9. I wouldn't be shocked if a pilot drops down from a helicopter to call out MGIII's name come Sunday morning.
- The best offenses in terms of yards before contact per rush have been the Ravens (2.8), Cardinals (2.46), Giants (2.25), Panthers (2.18) and Texans (2). The worst have been the Steelers (1.1), Rams (1.1), Dolphins (0.8) and Jets (0.7).
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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.
- Kirk Cousins, Dak Prescott and Baker Mayfield are set up the best to consistently find success through the air this week.
- I couldn't have been more wrong in assuming that moving from Eli Manning to Baker Mayfield would be a positive for Beckham's downfield production. Instead, OBJ (17) is tied with Kenny Golladay (17) for the most deep ball targets (20-plus yards downfield) that were deemed un-catchable this season (PFF). Beckham (26%) ranks fourth worst in rate of catchable deep ball targets among 53 qualified players, so this isn't a case of ridiculous volume like it is for Golladay (45%).
- The Cowboys (7.9), Vikings (7.6), Chiefs (7.5), 49ers (7.2), Ravens (7.1), Seahawks (7.1) and Raiders (7.1) are the league's only offenses averaging more than seven net yards per pass attempt this season.
- Mitchell Trubisky, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Drew Brees, Andy Dalton, Kyler Murray and Eli Manning have the week's least-promising matchups in terms of expecting consistent aerial success.
- The Bills (5.1), Patriots (4.5) and 49ers (4) are the league's only defenses to allow fewer than 5.5 net yards per pass attempt through 12 weeks.
- The Bengals (7.7), Giants (7.5), Cardinals (7.5) and Dolphins (7.5) are the only defenses allowing at least 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 Titans, Dolphins, Seahawks, Vikings and Packers 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.
- Players with the most touches this season with one or fewer touchdowns include: Kenyan Drake (141), Alexander Mattison (94), Robert Woods (76), Ty Johnson (72) and Benny Snell (68).
- The Falcons, Dolphins, Lions, Eagles, Panthers, Rams, Jets, Titans, Texans and Raiders are the only defenses to allow a red-zone touchdown rate of at least 60%.
- On the other side of the ball, the Titans, Packers, Vikings, Dolphins, Ravens and Texans 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 with one or fewer receiving scores include: Robert Woods (98), Leonard Fournette (81), Alvin Kamara (76), Auden Tate (76), Danny Amendola (69), Mike Williams (69), Le'Veon Bell (67) and Anthony Miller (63).
- The Redskins, Steelers, Cardinals, Jaguars, Bengals, Browns and Saints stand out as offenses that could wind up settling for three points more than fantasy owners might prefer this week.
- The Bengals, Cardinals, Jaguars, Redskins and Steelers have been the league's worst offenses in scoring position when it comes to touchdown percentage inside the 20-yard line.