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 identify 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 1-6.
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 Vikings (12.6%), Lions (12.6%), Chiefs (12.6%), Seahawks (12.2%), Cowboys (11.9%) and Patriots (11.9%) have posted an explosive pass-play rate above 11% this season.
- Note that Cowboys LT Tyron Smith (ankle) and RT La'el Collins (back) didn't play last week and failed to practice on Wednesday. Be sure to monitor our Week 7 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: Gardner Minshew, Kirk Cousins, Kyler Murray, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson.
- Murray didn't have the explosive start to the season that many hoped for, but the first overall pick of the 2019 draft has come on strong over the past two weeks, displaying the type of ridiculous dual-threat ability that led to so much offseason hype in the first place.
- The likes of Jared Goff, Josh Allen, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott are also set up better than usual to rack up some explosive plays in the passing game.
- Goff posted a deep-ball rate of 11.9% and 11.6% in 2017 and 2018, respectively (PFF). That's fallen to just 6.1% in 2019, which ranks dead last among 36 qualified QBs.
- The Dolphins (14.3%), Giants (14.2%), Raiders (12.7%), Falcons (12.2%), Bengals (11.9%) and Cardinals (11.2%) 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, Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Ryan, Jacoby Brissett, Case Keenum and Sam Darnold.
- RBs that are poised for success in busting off some big runs include Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook as well as Carlos Hyde/Duke Johnson.
- The Rams, Ravens, Seahawks and Colts are also backfields that stand out as having above-average matchups at the line of scrimmage this week.
- Todd Gurley (quad) didn't practice at all last week before ultimately being inactive on Sunday. I'd expect him to again lead the backfield if healthy, although we could see more of a 60-70% snap rate vs. the 93% mark he posted in Week 5 prior to the injury. The Rams' utilized a two-back committee in Gurley's absence, with Malcolm Brown (68% snaps) working well ahead of Darrell Henderson (32%).
- The Bengals, Dolphins and Jets are the only offenses that still don't have a rush of at least 20 yards through six 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 Saints, Raiders, Eagles, Patriots and Lions.
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 Giants (No. 11) as well as the Rams (No. 2) at the Falcons (No. 10).
- Additional matchups that could more closely resemble a track meet include Chiefs at Broncos and Eagles at Cowboys.
- The week's slowest-paced matchup features the Chargers (No. 32) at the Titans (No. 23).
- Additional matchups that could move more slowly than fantasy owners would prefer include Raiders at Packers, Saints at Bears and Ravens at Seahawks.
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 Case Keenum, Matt Ryan, Mitch Trubisky (shoulder), Dak Prescott and Sam Darnold.
- Keenum in particular could be in trouble against the 49ers' fearsome front seven. Only the Patriots (4.1) have allowed fewer yards per play than the 49ers (4.3). Keenum isn't exactly the type of veteran QB that consistently avoids making bone-headed plays.
- The Rams (43%), Vikings (42%), Jets (42%) and Seahawks (41%) are the only offenses to be pressured on at least 40% of their dropbacks this season.
- Goff was pressured on 35.7% and 32% of his dropbacks in 2017 and 2018, respectively. That rate has ballooned to a brutal 43.3% in 2019, which ranks as the 36th mark among 38 qualified signal callers. The Rams also just lost starting LG Joseph Noteboom (knee, IR) for the season.
- Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyler Murray, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady stand out as QBs that could have all day to throw this week.
- Allen is set up well as a streaming option this week and beyond. The Bills play the Dolphins, Eagles, Redskins, Browns, Dolphins (again) and Broncos from Weeks 7-12.
- Teddy Bridgewater and Lamar Jackson are also not expected to be under too much pressure throughout their respective matchups.
- The 49ers, Saints, Packers, Eagles, Rams and Panthers 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, Raiders and Broncos boast the week's most favorable matchups in the trenches.
- Devin Singletary (hamstring) is tentatively expected to suit up Sunday after having a bye week to get right. His presence should relegate T.J. Yeldon back to the bench. The Bills' third-round rookie flashed in Weeks 1-2 by converting 15 touches into 155 yards, although Frank Gore still worked as the clear-cut lead RB with 32 touches during that span.
- It'd be surprising to see Royce Freeman fail to find the end zone for much longer: His 87-scoreless touches this season are 27 more than the next-closest player.
- The Vikings, Texans, 49ers, Cardinals, Saints, Ravens and Giants also boast above-average matchups at the line of scrimmage.
- The return of Saquon Barkley (ankle) is likely upon us. Get your popcorn ready.
- The Bills (5.05 adjusted line yards per rush), 49ers (5.02) and Raiders (5.01) are the league's only offenses that have averaged more than five adjusted line yards per rush this season.
- Check out my Week 7 Backfield Report for more specific information on the league's ever-evolving RB stables.
- The Chiefs, Bengals, Chargers, Bears, Seahawks, Cowboys and Jets stand out as offenses that could have a tough time creating much of a consistent push against their respective opponent's fearsome defensive lines.
- Damien Williams (54% snaps) played well ahead of both LeSean McCoy (22%) and Darrel Williams (22%), while also accounting for 13 of the backfield's 15 opportunities in Week 5 with all three RBs healthy. This changed in Week 6, as Shady (50% snaps) was the lead back over Damien (38%) and Darrel (12%), commanding 10 of the backfields 14 combined carries and targets.
- The Eagles (2.85 adjusted line yards allowed per rush) have been the class of the NFL in terms of stopping the run this season. The Buccaneers (3.14), Patriots (3.33) and Ravens (3.57) have been the only other defenses that have come close to matching the Eagles' effectiveness in shutting down their opponent's ground attack.
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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.
- Josh Allen, Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott are set up the best to consistently find success through the air this week.
- The biggest question mark in regards to Prescott is the status of his offensive line, as well as Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (hip). Check out my Week 7 WR/CB Matchups and TE Analysis column for more specific information on every team's passing attack.
- The likes of Patrick Mahomes, Gardner Minshew, Kirk Cousins and Jared Goff are also popping a bit as signal callers with plus matchups this week.
- Minshew's matchup is even more appealing after considering Bengals starting CBs Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) and William Jackson (shoulder) are each expected to miss an extended period of time.
- The Chiefs (8.5 net yards per pass attempt), Cowboys (8.4), Seahawks (7.9), Vikings (7.7), 49ers (7.5), Lions (7.2), Patriots (7), Texans (7) and Falcons (7) are the league's only offenses to average at least seven net yards per pass attempt this season.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and Sam Darnold have the week's least-promising matchups in terms of expecting consistent aerial success.
- Each of Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett, Teddy Bridgewater, Mitch Trubisky (shoulder) and Carson Wentz also stand out as signal callers that aren't set up in anything resembling a smash spot this week.
- Wentz hasn't received much help from his receivers this season in terms of drops and ability to consistently separate. Still, the Eagles' franchise QB has continued to make several plays a game that demonstrate just how high his ceiling is when everything is clicking.
- The Patriots (4.1 net yards per attempt), 49ers (4.4), Bills (4.8), Panthers (5.1), Vikings (5.4), Bears (5.5), Broncos (5.6) and Titans (5.7) are the league's only defenses to allow fewer than six net yards per pass attempt through five 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 percentage 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 Bills and Texans 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 Rams, Falcons, Packers and Seahawks.
- The Dolphins (71%), Titans (67%), Colts (67%), Falcons (67%) and Browns (65%) are the only defenses to allow a red-zone touchdown rate of at least 65%.
- On the other side of the ball, the Texans (71%), Bills (71%), Seahawks (71%), Eagles (70%), Jets (67%), Falcons (65%) and Cowboys (65%) are the league's only offenses to score a touchdown on at least 65% of their red zone possessions.
- The Chiefs, Broncos, Dolphins, Jaguars, Bengals, Redskins, Cardinals, Saints and Jets stand out as offenses that could wind up settling for three points more than fantasy owners might prefer this week.
- The Jaguars (39%), Dolphins (38%), Cardinals (38%) and Bengals (31%) have been the league's worst offenses in scoring position.