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 1-10.
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 (12.3%), Cowboys (12.1%), Lions (12%), Chiefs (11.2) and Seahawks (11%) have posted an explosive pass-play rate above 11% this season.
- Of course, the Lions are a bit compromised at the moment after Matthew Stafford (back, hip) missed his first game since 2010 in Week 10. Backup Jeff Driskel will start for the Lions if Stafford is again sidelined. The 26-year-old QB shouldn't be confused with Detroit's long-time franchise signal caller, but Driskel did at least demonstrate a willingness to throw downfield during last week's loss to the Bears. The 89th-percentile SPARQ-x QB has enough athleticism to make things happen when the play breaks down.
- Be sure to monitor our Week 11 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: Dak Prescott, Josh Allen, Ryan Finley and Derek Carr.
- Unfortunately for Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate, Finley's reluctance to throw the deep ball in the preseason carried over against the Ravens, as the rookie threw just 2-of-30 passes more than 20 yards downfield. I'm hesitant to treat anyone involved in this passing game as a realistic fantasy option until Finley demonstrates any level of competency despite the plus matchup.
- Allen is set up well through the air and always carries a robust rushing floor. Only Lamar Jackson (55.9) has averaged more rushing yards per game than Allen (43.1) over the last two seasons among all QBs. Even more impressive: Todd Gurley, Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones, Christian McCaffrey, James Conner, Jordan Howard and Alvin Kamara are the only players with more rushing scores than Allen (14) since Week 1 of last season.
- The likes of Patrick Mahomes, Jeff Driskel and Jimmy Garoppolo are also set up better than usual to rack up some explosive plays in the passing game.
- The Bengals (14.6%), Raiders (14.1%), Dolphins (13.2%), Giants (12.2%) and Lions (11.3%) are the only defenses to allow an explosive pass-play rate above 11% this season.
- The Lions rank among the league's bottom-12 defenses in yards allowed per game to both opposing No. 1 and No. 2 WRs (Football Outsiders).
- QBs that could struggle to consistently create chunk plays through the air include: Kyler Murray, Mitchell Trubisky, Carson Wentz, Dwayne Haskins and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
- The Cardinals have struggled to elevate multiple fantasy-relevant WRs beyond Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald. Andy Isabella is the one complementary WR in this offense worth keeping an eye on. He leads all rookies with 3.41 yards per route run while catching all six of his targets for 174 yards and a touchdown over the past four weeks. Don't expect a breakout game against the 49ers, but perhaps the Cardinals will give their 2019 second-round pick more of a full-time role following the team's Week 12 bye.
- Additionally, the likes of Sam Darnold, Mason Rudolph, Baker Mayfield, Matt Ryan, Jameis Winston and Jared Goff aren't in anything resembling a smash spot.
- Note that the Falcons could benefit from facing the Panthers' banged-up secondary. CBs James Bradberry (groin), Donte Jackson (hip) and Ross Cockrell (quad) each failed to get in a full practice on Wednesday.
- Backfields that are poised for success in busting off some big runs include the Falcons, Jaguars, Cardinals, Ravens and Raiders.
- Devonta Freeman (foot) is reportedly at risk of missing a week or two. Coach Dan Quinn said he's "confident" that Brian Hill can handle a lead role if Freeman is ultimately sidelined. Hill deserves to be the week's most-popular addition on the waiver wire ahead of a smash spot against the Panthers' 32nd-ranked defense in DVOA against the run (Football Outsiders).
- The Dolphins are the only offense that still doesn'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 Jets, Bengals, Patriots, Bears, Redskins 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 Cowboys (No. 4 in situation neutral pace) at the Lions (No. 12) as well as the Cardinals (No. 1) at the 49ers (No. 13).
- Additional matchups that could more closely resemble a track meet include Falcons at Panthers, Bengals at Raiders and Patriots at Eagles.
- The week's slowest-paced matchups feature the Jaguars (No. 29) at the Colts (No. 27) as well as the Jets (No. 30) at the Redskins (No. 32).
- Additional matchups that could move more slowly than fantasy owners would prefer include Steelers at Browns, Saints at Buccaneers and Chiefs at Chargers.
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 Jameis Winston, Brandon Allen, Mitchell Trubisky and Jeff Driskel.
- Perhaps Trubisky's reluctance to run the ball this season stems from concerns in regards to getting injured again. Overall, Trubisky gained at least 20 rushing yards in 12-of-22 games before his right shoulder injury last season, but he's surpassed that threshold in just 1-of-13 games since.
- Hopefully Winston has enough time to keep his best receivers involved. It took 10 weeks, but O.J. Howard finally posted a stellar 4-47-1 line against the Cardinals' league-worst defense vs. opposing TEs. He did so on a season-high 99% snap rate and received more than five targets for the first time all season. And why shouldn't the Buccaneers get Howard more involved? The talented TE has averaged 10.9 yards per target since entering the league in 2017, making him Jameis Winston's most-efficient pass catcher ahead of Godwin (9.4). Cam Brate appears to be playing through the pain and has been on the field for a combined 26 snaps over the past two weeks.
- Be sure to check out my Week 11 WR/CB Breakdown with TE Analysis for more specific matchup information on every passing game.
- The Jets (44%), Seahawks (42%) and Vikings (41%) are the only offenses to be pressured on at least 40% of their dropbacks this season.
- Kirk Cousins hasn't benefited from Adam Thielen's (hamstring) extended absence. Still, give Cousins some credit for demonstrating a new-found ability to create off script and keep the offense moving.
- Kyle Allen, Dwayne Haskins, Jimmy Garoppolo and Patrick Mahomes stand out as QBs that could have all day to throw this week.
- Allen should thus be able to attack the Falcons' mediocre secondary to his heart's desire this week. Atlanta boasts the league's seventh-worst defense in PPR per game allowed to the WR position through 10 weeks. The return of Desmond Trufant (toe) would help, but D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel alike are plenty capable of eating against a secondary that doesn't have a single CB graded among PFF's top-70 corners this season.
- The Eagles, Saints, 49ers, Steelers, Packers and Vikings 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, Raiders and Chargers boast the week's most favorable matchups in the trenches.
- Melvin Gordon appears to be nearly all the way back to 100% after a troubling first few games since returning from his holdout. Overall, Gordon worked as the PPR RB3 and RB6 in Weeks 9 and 10, respectively, while racking up 47 combined carries and targets. Continue to fire him up as a borderline RB1 with this type of bell-cow usage, particularly against the Chiefs' 31st-ranked defense in DVOA against the run.
- The Vikings bottled up Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys' run game in Week 10, holding Zeke to just 47 yards on 20 carries. The good news for everyone involved is that the Lions aren't in the same conversation as Minnesota when it comes to rush defense, particularly while defensive linemen Mike Daniels (foot), Damon Harrison (groin), A'Shawn Robinson (ankle), Da'shawn Hand (ankle), Kevin Strong (ribs, IR), Romeo Okwara (groin) and John Atkins (wrist) are all banged up and figure to be operating at less than 100% if active Sunday.
- Check out my Week 11 Backfield Report for more specific information on the league's ever-evolving RB stables.
- Josh Jacobs is set up brilliantly against the Bengals, who have allowed league-worst marks in both total rushing yards allowed (1,557) as well as yards allowed per rush (5.2).
- The 49ers, Ravens, Vikings, Broncos and Rams also boast above-average matchups at the line of scrimmage.
- NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports Matt Breida (ankle) "may miss some time." The NFL's version of Iron Man has played through an abundance of injuries over the past season and a half, but it appears Breida's Week 11 availability is in serious question. Tevin Coleman is locked in as the offense's No. 1 RB. It's a bit of a mystery beyond that if Breida is out. Raheem Mostert has been the unit's No. 3 RB for most of the season and filled in when Breida was out on Monday night, although Jeff Wilson was a healthy scratch. It wouldn't be surprising if both of the 49ers' backup RBs see something in the range of 20-30% of the offense's snaps if Breida is ultimately sidelined.
- The Saints (5.13), Bills (5.08), Cowboys (4.92), Raiders (4.89), Vikings (4.78) and Ravens (4.76) are the league's only offenses that have averaged more than 4.75 adjusted line yards per rush this season.
- The Redskins, Bengals, Patriots, Bears, Dolphins 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.
- This doesn't mean you should fade Leonard Fournette. Only Christian McCaffrey (25.9 touches per game) and Dalvin Cook (24.3) have been fed more often than Fournette (23.8) through 10 weeks. The return of Nick Foles could potentially elevate the entire offense and help Fournette find the end zone for the first time since Week 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.
- Derek Carr, Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes are set up the best to consistently find success through the air this week.
- Oakland is presently implied to score a week-high 29.5 points (per FantasyLabs). Still, it's extremely tough to figure out which receivers to target in this week's smash spot. Carr's target distribution in three games since getting No. 1 WR Tyrell Williams back has been as follows: Hunter Renfrow (16 targets), Darren Waller (15), Williams (15), Jalen Richard (11), Josh Jacobs (9), Zay Jones (9), Foster Moreau (4), DeAndre Washington (4) and Trevor Davis (2).
- At this point it's difficult to know for sure if Prescott is capable of throwing a pass that Amari Cooper can't catch.
- The likes of Lamar Jackson, Jimmy Garoppolo, Deshaun Watson and Drew Brees are also popping a bit as signal callers with plus matchups this week.
- It's safe to say the entire NFL, and particularly the Buccaneers, can't guard Michael Thomas. Overall, the overall PPR WR1 has posted 6-98-0, 8-65-0, 6-94-0, 16-180-1, 11-98-0 and 11-182-2 lines in six career matchups against the Saints' NFC South foe.
- The Cowboys (8.1), Chiefs (7.8), Vikings (7.7), Lions (7.3), Raiders (7.3), Seahawks (7.2) and Ravens (7.1) are the league's only offenses averaging more than seven net yards per pass attempt this season.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carson Wentz and Kyler Murray have the week's least-promising matchups in terms of expecting consistent aerial success.
- The good news for Murray is he carries arguably the second-highest rushing floor among all QBs. Only Lamar Jackson (78 rush yards per game) and Jeff Driskel (37) have racked up more rushing yards per 60 minutes than Murray (35) this season. Jackson (417) and Murray (192) are the only QBs with triple-digit rushing yards that have come on designed runs.
- Each of Brandon Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Mitchell Trubisky also stand out as signal callers that aren't set up in anything resembling a smash spot.
- The Patriots (4.1), 49ers (4.4) and Bills (5.2) 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 Falcons, Panthers, Cowboys, Bills and Ravens 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 Colts, Dolphins, Texans, Buccaneers and Bears.
- Players with the most touches this season with one or fewer touchdowns include: Leonard Fournette (214 touches), Adrian Peterson (123), Kenyan Drake (104), Alexander Mattison (84) and Jaylen Samuels (69).
- The Texans (67%), Jets (68%) and Panthers (70%) are the only defenses to allow a red-zone touchdown rate of at least 65%.
- On the other side of the ball, the Titans (72%), Bills (71%), Packers (69%), Seahawks (68%), Ravens (66%) and Texans (66%) 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 receiving score include: Robert Woods (71 targets), Davante Adams (57), Mike Williams (57) and Leonard Fournette (51).
- The Cardinals and Jaguars stand out as offenses that could wind up settling for three points more than fantasy owners might prefer this week.
- The Steelers (39%), Redskins (35%), Jaguars (34%), Cardinals (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.