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:
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 1-12.
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 (11.9%), Lions (11.8%), 49ers (11.4%) and Seahawks (11%) have posted an explosive pass-play rate of at least 11% this season
Of course, the Lions aren't quite the same team these days. Both Matthew Stafford (back, out) and Jeff Driskel (hamstring, questionable) will miss the team's Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Bears. Undrafted rookie QB David Blough will get the start, but it's unclear how much magic he has in store for this tough matchup.
Be sure to monitor our Week 13 Injury Dashboard for daily practice participation along with estimated and official game statuses for every injured player.
There are a few potential theories that can help explain why Wentz and the passing game have struggled so much this season. Injuries: Nelson Agholor (knee), Alshon Jeffery (ankle) and DeSean Jackson (abdomen, IR) aren't the only hurt players impacting Wentz, as RT Lane Johnson (concussion) and RG Brandon Brooks (illness) were each sidelined in Week 12 as well. Non-QB friendly scheme: Mitchell Trubisky, Matt Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Wentz are the only QBs averaging fewer than 4.5 yards after the catch per completion this season. Drops: The Eagles are one of just seven teams with at least 20 dropped passes this season. With all that said: Wentz has fed his receivers on-target throws on a league-worst 61.8% of his passes this season.
The Bengals (14.6%), Raiders (13.8%), Dolphins (13%), Giants (11.8%), Lions (11.5%) and Cardinals (11.1%) are the only defenses to allow an explosive pass-play rate above 11% this season.
Patrick Mahomes has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 1,019 yards in three career games against the Raiders. No defense has allowed more passes of 20-plus yards this season. Travis Kelce has hung 12-168-2, 5-62-0 and 7-107-1 lines in three games against the Raiders with Mahomes under center. The 30-year-old TE should be the week's consensus top play at the position regardless of the format.
Jacoby Brissett has attempted 25, 24 and 25 passes in his last three full games, throwing just one touchdown and averaging a putrid 160 passing yards per contest. T.Y. Hilton is playing through the pain, but he posted a pedestrian 37% snap rate in Week 12. Coach Frank Reich admitted the team was careful to not re-aggravate his calf injury by avoiding any fantasy-friendly deep routes. Hilton later noted that his calf acted up during the game and said, "I didn't have my explosiveness."
Poor Terry McLaurin.
Backfields that are poised for success in busting off some big runs include the Panthers, Seahawks, Ravens and Chiefs.
The Chiefs fed Damien Williams (ribs) 45 of the backfield's 55 total touches since LeSean McCoy lost a fumble in the third quarter of their Week 8 loss to the Packers up until Monday night in Week 11. This entire situation is a complete mess exiting the Chiefs' Week 12 bye. Damien would tentatively be expected to regain his starting role if healthy against the Raiders in Week 13, but he'll be at risk of reduced snaps and further re-aggravation due to the nature of ribs injuries. Shady showed off some vintage cuts and moves the last time we saw him in Mexico City, but he was lucky to recover another fumble. Darrel Williams remains capable of handling a three-down role, although it's clear both Damien and McCoy are more-explosive options with the ball in their hands.
The Dolphins are the only offense that still doesn't have a rush of at least 20 yards through 12 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 Bears, Lions and Bengals.
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 Rams (No. 4 in situation neutral pace) at the Cardinals (No. 2)
Additional matchups that could more closely resemble a track meet include Bills at Cowboys, Raiders at Chiefs and Patriots at Texans.
The week's slowest-paced matchup features the Titans (No. 24) at the Colts (No. 30) as well as the Chargers (No. 29) at the Broncos (No. 19).
Additional matchups that could move more slowly than fantasy owners would prefer include Redskins at Panthers, 49ers at Ravens, Buccaneers at Jaguars and Browns 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.
Jamison Crowder, has worked as a legit WR2 at times with Darnold under center this season, posting PPR WR12, WR19, WR10, WR11 and WR14 weekly finishes to go along with three performances outside of the top-60 WRs. Crowder has a great chance to bounce back from last week's dud in this matchup against the Bengals' 31st-ranked defense in DVOA against No. 1 WRs.
Be sure to check out my Week 13 WR/CB Breakdown with TE Analysis for more specific matchup information on every passing game.
The Jets (43%) and Seahawks (41%) are the only offenses to be pressured on at least 40% of their dropbacks this season. The Dolphins (39%), Lions (39%), Giants (38.9%), Texans (38.1%) and Colts (38%) aren't too far behind.
Of course, pressuring Russell Wilson and getting him to the ground are entirely different obstacles.
Ted Ginn benefited from Brees nearly attempting as many deep passes in Week 12 (8) as he did in Weeks 1-11 (9) combined. The problem is that the Saints' field-stretching WR will continue to work as the offense's No. 4 (at best) pass-game option behind each of Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook. Still, Ginn has as good a chance as ever of cashing in on his limited opportunities this week against the Falcons' 32nd-ranked defense in DVOA against No. 2 WRs.
The Steelers, Eagles, Saints, 49ers, Browns, Rams, Packers, Patriots 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 Raiders, Eagles, Saints and Bills boast the week's most favorable matchups in the trenches.
Miles Sanders has posted 85% and 84% snap rates over the past two weeks, which are the two-highest single-game marks from any RB since coach Doug Pederson took over in 2016. The rookie certainly didn't benefit from Carson Wentz's inability to complete easy throws to his wide-open RB in the flat in Week 12, but it appears as if Sanders is locked into RB2 usage as long as Jordan Howard (shoulder) remains sidelined.
Josh Jacobs and Jalen Richard played the exact same amount of snaps in Week 12. Much of this was due to the Raiders pulling their key starters at the end of the 3rd quarter when they were already trailing 34-3, but it's still rather shocking that Jacobs was only on the field for 23-of-43 plays with Derek Carr under center. Richard is a solid scat back that has more receiving skill than most RBs. Still, both GM Mike Mayock as well as coach Jon Gruden repeatedly noted Jacobs' three-down ability as a major deciding factor when selecting him with the No. 24 overall pick of the 2019 draft. Through 12 weeks there are 41 RBs with more targets than Jacobs.
Check out my Week 13 Backfield Report for more specific information on the league's ever-evolving RB stables.
The Cowboys, Broncos and Vikings also boast above-average matchups at the line of scrimmage.
Ezekiel Elliott is the PPR RB8 through 12 weeks and continues to demand 20-plus touches on a near weekly basis inside of the Cowboys' high-end offense. Elliott's four receptions in Week 12 were as many as he had in Weeks 9-11 combined, but the increase in usage for Tony Pollard in recent weeks doesn't bode well for this heightened pass-game role to continue. The good news is that Zeke is in a smash spot on Thanksgiving Day against a Bills Defense that has been much better against the pass (No. 9 in DVOA) than the run (No. 27) this season. Pollard remains arguably the most-valuable handcuff in all of fantasy football.
Phillip Lindsay has worked as the offense's undisputed lead back in consecutive weeks following the Broncos' Week 10 bye. The problem has been back-to-back road matchups against the Vikings and Bills. Lindsay has an incredibly cozy schedule ahead of and into the fantasy playoffs against the Chargers (27th in fewest PPR per game allowed to opposing RBs), Texans (21st), Chiefs (32nd) and Lions (31st).
The Saints (5.19), Cowboys (4.9), Bills (4.88), Ravens (4.78), Raiders (4.74) and Broncos (4.7) are the league's only offenses that have averaged at least 4.7 adjusted line yards per rush this season.
Good luck tackling Lamar Jackson in space.
The Bengals, 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.
The best offenses in terms of yards before contact per rush have been the Ravens (2.9), Cardinals (2.5), Giants (2.4), Panthers (2.2), Texans (2.1) and the Chiefs (2). The worst have been the Steelers (1.1), Patriots (1.1), Rams (1.1), Jets (0.7) and Dolphins (0.7).
The Rams' inclusion is surprising considering how dominant their offensive line has been in past seasons. Overall, they ranked No. 6 and No. 5 in yards before contact per rush in 2017 and 2018, respectively (PFF).
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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.
The Chiefs, Saints, Rams and Vikings are set up the best to consistently find success through the air this week.
It remains to be seen if Adam Thielen (hamstring) will return for Monday night. Thielen (38 targets), Stefon Diggs (34), Dalvin Cook (26) and Kyle Rudolph (11) were the only players to get double-digit targets from Kirk Cousins in Weeks 1-6.
The Rams have scored 17 or fewer points in three consecutive games since their Week 9 bye. They scored fewer than 17 points *four* combined times in the 2017 and 2018 regular seasons. The problem is simple: Jared Goff. The Rams' franchise QB ranks outside of the league's top-25 QBs in completion rate (No. 30), adjusted yards per attempt (No. 27), touchdown rate (No. 34) and interception rate (No. 28). Goff has the same QB rating as Mason Rudolph this season. Let that sink in.
Don't let Patrick Mahomes' down performance in Week 11 distract you from the fact that the 2018 MVP is always capable of making the impossible a reality.
Still, it's hard to get behind anyone in the Packers' passing attack other than Davante Adams. Rodgers' target distribution since Adams returned in Week 9 has been as follows: Adams (33 targets), Jamaal Williams (15), Allen Lazard (12), Geronimo Allison (9), Jimmy Graham (9), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (6), Jake Kumerow (5), Aaron Jones (4), Robert Tonyan (2) and Danny Vitale (2).
The Cowboys (8.1), Chiefs (7.6), Vikings (7.6), Ravens (7.2), 49ers (7.2), Seahawks (7.1), Lions (7.1) and Raiders (7.1) are the league's only offenses averaging more than seven net yards per pass attempt this season.
The Bills (5), Patriots (4.3) 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 (8.2), Dolphins (7.7), Falcons (7.5) and Giants (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 Colts, Buccaneers, Titans, Eagles and Vikings 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 Bears, Dolphins, Rams, Chiefs and Cowboys.
The Cardinals (60%), Falcons (61%), Browns (62%), Rams (63%), Panthers (64%), Jets (65%), Titans (65%), Raiders (65%) and Texans (66%) are the only defenses to allow a red-zone touchdown rate of at least 60%.
On the other side of the ball, the Titans (72%), Ravens (68%), Packers (68%), Vikings (67%) and Seahawks (66%) 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: Robert Woods (80), Dede Westbrook (70), Davante Adams (69), Auden Tate (69), Mike Williams (62) and Danny Amendola (61).
The Chargers, Redskins, 49ers, Jaguars and Steelers stand out as offenses that could wind up settling for three points more than fantasy owners might prefer this week.
The Jaguars (39%), Cardinals (37%), Bengals (37%), Steelers (36%) and Redskins (32%) have been the league's worst offenses in scoring position when it comes to touchdown percentage inside the 20-yard line.