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 1-8.
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 (13%), Lions (12.4%), Seahawks (12.3%), Chiefs (12%), Packers (11.3%), Cowboys (11.3%) and Patriots (11.2%) have posted an explosive pass-play rate above 11% this season.
- Adam Thielen (hamstring) is plenty capable of winning any matchup, but it's been Stefon Diggs who has truly been on a different level this season. Overall, Diggs' average of 3.54 yards per route run is the highest single-season mark by any WR since Steve Smith back in 2008 (PFF).
- Davante Adams (toe) is tentatively expected to suit up this week for the first time since Week 4. Keep in mind that Aaron Jones is currently Aaron Rodgers' most-targeted receiver this season. Adams will obviously take away that title sooner rather than later, but this new-look Packers Offense spreads the ball around enough that there might not be enough targets for a consistently productive No. 2 WR.
- Be sure to monitor our Week 9 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: Matthew Stafford, Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Jameis Winston.
- The likes of Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins are also set up better than usual to rack up some explosive plays in the passing game.
- The Dolphins (14.6%), Bengals (14.4%), Raiders (13.7%), Giants (12.9%) and Falcons (12.5%) are the only defenses to allow an explosive pass-play rate above 11% this season.
- The Dolphins' secondary could be in even more trouble than usual with stud CB Xavien Howard (knee, IR) done for the season. Robby Anderson is accordingly my favorite GPP play of the week at the WR position. Check out the Rotoworld Building Blocks podcast for more DFS-specific plays for Week 9 from myself and John Daigle.
- QBs that could struggle to consistently create chunk plays through the air include: Mitchell Trubisky, Jacoby Brissett, Case Keenum, Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen.
- Brissett isn't set up all that well this week, but make no mistake about it: The man has been playing some great football this season and is a major reason why the Colts are sitting pretty at 5-2 after eight weeks.
- Additionally, the likes of Carson Wentz, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Lamar Jackson and Daniel Jones aren't in anything resembling a smash spot.
- Backfields that are poised for success in busting off some big runs include the Jaguars and Ravens.
- The Dolphins and Jets 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 Eagles, Colts, Seahawks and Packers.
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 is easily the 49ers (No. 11 in situation neutral pace) at the Cardinals (No. 1).
- Additional matchups that could more closely resemble a track meet include Vikings at Chiefs, Patriots at Ravens and Cowboys at Giants.
- The week's slowest-paced matchups feature the Jets (No. 32) at Dolphins (No. 14), Redskins (No. 31) at Bills (No. 17) and Packers (No. 26) at Chargers (No. 30).
- Additional matchups that could move more slowly than fantasy owners would prefer include Bears at Eagles and Colts at Steelers.
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 Philip Rivers, Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson.
- Of course, Watson regularly makes a few plays a week that most mortals wouldn't even dream of attempting. Last week's edition featured Watson literally getting kicked in the face before the Texans' franchise QB recomposed himself and threw a touchdown.
- Rivers' underwhelming performance in Week 8 was a bit of a fluke, as normally-reliable WRs Keenan Allen and Mike Williams each dropped fairly-easy touchdowns.
- Be sure to check out my Week 9 WR/CB Breakdown with TE Analysis for more specific matchup information on every passing game.
- The Jets, Seahawks, Dolphins and Vikings are the only offenses to be pressured on at least 40% of their dropbacks this season.
- Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle Allen, Derek Carr, Tom Brady and Dak Prescott stand out as QBs that could have all day to throw this week.
- Prescott in particular has been absolutely lethal when given time to throw. Overall, Michael Gallup (85% catchable ball rate) and Amari Cooper (84%) join Tyler Lockett (91%), Michael Thomas (89%), Mohamed Sanu (84%) and Stefon Diggs (84%) atop the leaderboard when it comes to percentage of targets that have been deemed catchable this season (PFF, among 70 WRs with at least 30 targets).
- The 49ers, Eagles, Saints, Rams, Patriots, Vikings and Packers 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 Vikings, Bills, Raiders, Broncos and 49ers boast the week's most favorable matchups in the trenches.
- From last week's manifesto: "I can't stress enough how much of a smash spot this is for Tevin Coleman. The 49ers' No. 1 RB has racked up 16-plus touches in each of his three games since returning from injury and is facing a Panthers Defense that has been significantly better against the pass (No. 3 in DVOA) compared to the run (No. 30). Sure, Matt Breida will remain involved, but fantasy owners can live with a two-back committee when it's taking place inside of the league's most run-heavy offense. I'll have an irresponsible amount of exposure to Coleman on DraftKings at just $5,000."
- Most of that same logic applies to Derrick Henry in his potential smash spot this Sunday. The Titans' workhorse back joins Chris Carson, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Nick Chubb and Christian McCaffrey as the league's only RBs with at least 15 touches in every game this season. Additionally, Henry has consistently gotten stronger as the season has gone on throughout his career, averaging way more yards per carry in November (4.9), December (5.23) and January (4.98) than September (3.87) or October (3.87). Finally, Henry carries a season-log $5,700 price tag on DraftKings and is facing the Panthers' aforementioned run-funnel defense.
- Check out my Week 9 Backfield Report for more specific information on the league's ever-evolving RB stables.
- The Chargers, Cowboys and Giants also boast above-average matchups at the line of scrimmage.
- Sources suggest that Saquon Barkley is in fact a beast.
- The Bills (5.13), Saints (5.11), Cowboys (4.91), Raiders (4.89), 49ers (4.88), Vikings (4.84) and Broncos (4.78) are the league's only offenses that have averaged more than 4.75 adjusted line yards per rush this season.
- The Bears, Dolphins and Seahawks stand out as offenses that could have a tough time creating much of a consistent push against their respective opponent's fearsome defensive lines.
- It remains to be seen if Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will alter the offense's run-first strategy against a Buccaneers Defense that has been significantly better against the run (No. 1 in DVOA) than the pass (No. 26).
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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.
- Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers are set up the best to consistently find success through the air this week.
- Rodgers and the Packers struggled to get on track in Weeks 1 and 2 against the Bears and Vikings. Since then they've scored 27, 27, 34, 23, 42 and 31 points, with Rodgers making plenty of absolutely ridiculous plays along the way.
- The likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson and Derek Carr are also popping a bit as signal callers with plus matchups this week.
- We've all poked fun at coach Jon Gruden once or twice over the past year, but give the man some credit: The Raiders (6.2 yards per play) trail only the Vikings (6.4), Chiefs (6.6) and Cowboys (6.7) in overall efficiency on a per-play basis this season.
- The Cowboys (8.2 net yards per attempt), Vikings (8.2), Chiefs (8), Seahawks (7.5), Lions (7.4), Raiders (7.3), Packers (7.3) and 49ers (7.2) are the league's only offenses averaging more than seven net yards per pass attempt this season.
- Kyler Murray, Case Keenum and Lamar Jackson have the week's least-promising matchups in terms of expecting consistent aerial success.
- Please don't even consider benching Jackson this week despite his obviously difficult matchup against the Patriots' juggernaut defense. His average of 82 rushing yards per game is the highest single-season mark among all QBs ... ever. Only Nick Chubb (105 rush yards per game), Christian McCaffrey (105), Dalvin Cook (103), Leonard Fournette (99), Josh Jacobs (89), Ezekiel Elliott (86), Marlon Mack (84) and Chris Carson (82) are averaging more yards per game on the ground than Jackson through eight weeks.
- Each of Mitchell Trubisky, Carson Wentz, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Tannehill, Kyle Allen, Brandon Allen, Baker Mayfield and Daniel Jones also stand out as signal callers that aren't set up in anything resembling a smash spot.
- The Patriots (3.9 net yards allowed per attempt), 49ers (3.9), Panthers (5.2), Bills (5.3), Vikings (5.7), Bears (5.8) and Broncos (5.8) are the league's only defenses to allow fewer than six 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 Titans, Seahawks and Lions 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 Jets, Dolphins, Bills and Packers.
- The Raiders, Bills, Panthers, Dolphins, Falcons and Texans are the only defenses to allow a red-zone touchdown rate of at least 65%.
- On the other side of the ball, the Bills, Seahawks, Titans, Packers, Colts and Eagles are the league's only offenses to score a touchdown on at least 65% of their red zone possessions.
- The Cardinals and Ravens stand out as offenses that could wind up settling for three points more than fantasy owners might prefer this week.
- The Redskins (40% touchdown rate), Jaguars (36%), Bengals (33%) and Cardinals (32%) have been the league's worst offenses in scoring position when it comes to touchdown percentage inside the 20-yard line.
- At some point Leonard Fournette will score more touchdowns. Lord knows the man was robbed last week.