Week 9 NFL Matchup Manifesto: Broncos, Rams Have Huge Advantages

Nov 04, 2018 11:02 PM EDT
  • The week's best advantages in the run game belong to the Patriots, 49ers, Browns and Saints, although each team will feature committee backfields consisting of at least two backs.
  • The Rams easily boast the week's best matchup in the pass game against the Saints' porous secondary. Cooper Kupp specifically is set up well in the slot against P.J. Williams.
  • The Texans (45%), Vikings (41%), Cowboys (40%) and Cardinals (40%) are the only offenses that have been pressured on at least 40% of their dropbacks this season.

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 quarterback.

Despite the obvious impact that defenses have on opposing offenses, fantasy players are often left with one-way metrics to describe offenses and defenses that we’re then forced to compare against each other in an attempt to identify mismatches.

My here goal is to provide easy-to-decipher charts and notes to identify each week’s key matchups on both sides of the ball in:

  • Explosive Plays
  • Pace
  • Pressure
  • Trench Battles
  • Turnover Margin
  • Passing Game

Last week’s manifesto helped us correctly forecast shootouts between the Buccaneers-Bengals and Colts-Raiders, tough afternoons for the Jaguars and Giants offensive lines, as well as solid rushing performances from Phillip Lindsay/Devontae Booker for Denver, Chris Carson and Marlon Mack.

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.

Note that this data is based on what has happened in Weeks 1-8, so it’s a small sample size and doesn’t fully factor in new injuries.

Explosive Plays

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).

  • Week 9’s most-explosive matchup in the pass game is unsurprisingly Rams vs. Saints, but Chargers vs. Seahawks isn’t far behind. All four offenses rank among the league’s top five in 20-plus yard completions per attempt.
  • Other matchups with explosive pass offenses on both sides of the ball include the Buccaneers-Panthers, Chiefs-Browns and Texans-Broncos.
  • The 49ers, Jets and Lions each boast a fairly significant advantage in creating big plays through the air against the Raiders, Dolphins and Vikings, respectively.
  • Matchups that might not feature an abundance of big plays through the air include the Bears-Bills, Steelers-Ravens, Falcons-Redskins and Titans-Cowboys.
  • Both rushing attacks between the Buccaneers-Panthers, Chiefs-Browns and Jets-Dolphins could have success creating big plays. Monitor our Week 9 Injury Report for the statuses of Bucs DE Vinny Curry and DT Gerald McCoy.
  • The run offenses from the 49ers, Bears, Vikings, Redskins and Chargers are also seemingly positioned well to rip off some explosive runs.
  • The Rams-Saints and Packers-Patriots matchups aren’t set up well to feature many huge runs despite carrying the two highest over/unders in Week 9.
  • The Raiders, Bills and Falcons stand out as rush offenses that could particularly struggle to create big runs.

Pace

Fast-paced games lead to more plays which lead to more points. There are several games that could resemble a track meet based on their combined situation-neutral pace ranking (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 Ravens (No. 4 in situation neutral pace rank) boast the week’s fastest-combined pace for their matchup with the Steelers (No. 11).
  • The Packers (No. 20) and Patriots (No. 2), Rams (No. 5) and Saints (No. 16), and the Chiefs (No. 6) and Browns (No. 13) form the week’s next three fastest-paced matchups.
  • Matchups between the Buccaneers-Panthers, Texans-Broncos, and Chargers-Seahawks also boast potential above-average paced games.
  • The week’s slowest matchup comes courtesy of the Jets (No. 31) and Dolphins (No. 27).
  • The Lions (No. 32) and Redskins (No. 29) are each dragging the pace down in their respective matchups against the Vikings (No. 19) and Falcons (No. 18).
  • The Raiders-49ers, Bears-Bills and Titans-Cowboys matchups also don’t figure to feature an abundance of fast-paced play.

Pressure

An overmatched offensive line can result in poor fantasy days for all skill-position players involved. Meanwhile, quarterbacks 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, while a lower percentage (green) indicates that matchup’s quarterback could face reduced pressure.

  • The Texans (45%), Vikings (41%), Cowboys (40%) and Cardinals (40%) are the only offenses that have been pressured on at least 40% of their dropbacks this season. Only the Vikings aren’t expected to be overwhelmed this week.
  • The Chargers-Seahawks and Titans-Cowboys matchups both feature pass rushes that could be holding regular meetings in their opposition’s backfield.
  • Matt Ryan, Baker Mayfield, Deshaun Watson, Brock Osweiler and Philip Rivers could face the most consistent pressure this Sunday. Watson ranks dead last among 39 qualified quarterbacks in average time per pass attempt.
  • C.J. Beathard (wrist, questionable), Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford stand out as quarterbacks who aren’t expected to face much pressure this week.
  • The Raiders-49ers, Steelers-Ravens and Lions-Vikings matchups are expected to feature the least amount of combined pressure.

Trench Battles

Running backs 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 running backs, while a lower number (red) indicates that matchup’s offense could have some trouble running the ball.

  • The week’s best advantages in the run game belong to the Patriots, 49ers, Browns and Saints, although each team will feature committee backfields consisting of at least two backs.
  • The Redskins, Cowboys and Broncos are also set up well in their respective pursuits to run the football.
  • The Buccaneers, Jets, Ravens and Titans stand out as offenses that are expected to have the most trouble running the ball.
  • The Bears-Bills, Buccaneers-Panthers and Steelers-Ravens games each feature below-average outlooks for rushing games on both sides of the ball.
  • Sony Michel (knee, questionable), James White, Kenjon Barner and Cordarrelle Patterson give the Patriots the week’s best run-game matchup against the Packers’ 29th-ranked defensive line. Patterson led the way with 10 carries in Week 8.

Turnovers

Matchups between two careless teams are obviously of interest when it comes to targeting fantasy defenses. Crafting a turnover differential for each individual matchup between an offense and defense can help identify when turnover-prone offenses are taking on ball-hawking defenses.

  • Combined Turnover Rate: The sum of the offense’s turnover rate and the opposing defense’s takeaway rate. A higher percentage (red) is better for defenses, while a lower percentage (green) is better for offenses and indicates the absence of a turnover-prone offense or takeaway-happy defense.

  • The Bills and Buccaneers are expected to be the week’s most-turnover prone offenses in their respective matchups against the Bears and Panthers.
  • Bears-Bills and Jets-Dolphins are projected to be the week’s sloppiest matchups. Each team’s respective quarterback situation doesn’t make this particularly surprising.
  • Titans-Cowboys, Falcons-Redskins and Rams-Saints each feature two offenses that have largely done a solid job at avoiding turnovers this season.
  • The Vikings also stand out as an offense that shouldn’t face much resistance in the form of a takeaway-happy defense.

Passing Game

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 quarterback’s sack yards from his passing yards, then dividing that number by the sum of the quarterback’s pass attempts and sacks taken. A higher number (green) is good for quarterbacks and receivers, while a lower number (red) indicates that matchup’s pass offense could be in trouble.

  • The Rams easily boast the week’s best matchup in the pass game against the Saints’ porous secondary. Cooper Kupp specifically is set up well in the slot against P.J. Williams, who’s been a consistent liability.
  • The Buccaneers and Chiefs are also poised to have plenty of success through the air, along with the Panthers, 49ers, Chargers and Saints.
  • Buccaneers-Panthers and Rams-Saints feature the highest-octane passing attacks on both sides of the ball.
  • The Bills, Browns and Titans are set up the worst through the air. The Bears, Steelers, Ravens, Broncos and Cowboys aren’t much better off.
  • The Bears-Bills, Steelers-Ravens and Titans-Cowboys feature two passing games that could each struggle to efficiently move the ball through the air.
Follow Ian Hartitz on Twitter
@IHartitz

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