NFL Championship Round Matchup Manifesto: The Rams Can’t Guard Michael Thomas, More

Jan 18, 2019 11:31 PM EST

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13), Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters (22).

  • Saints WR Michael Thomas had monster game against the Eagles on Sunday and is in position to do the same against the Rams in the NFC Championship game.
  • Below are various matchup-based advantages and disadvantages to leverage in the four playoff teams remaining.

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 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 key matchups on both sides of the ball in:

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

Our Divisional Round manifesto accurately forecasted an underwhelming performance for Andrew Luck, a solid day for everyone rushing behind the Rams’ offensive line as well as an uber-efficient performances from Michael Thomas and Sony Michel.

The following charts have matchup-specific information meant to highlight the largest mismatches in these ever-important facets of football to ultimately gain actionable betting and fantasy takeaways for the two NFL Championship round matchups.

Note: This data is based on games from Weeks 1-17.

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’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).

  • The Chiefs and Saints boast the week’s most-explosive offenses on the ground and through the air.
  • Still, each of the remaining teams managed to consistently create big pass plays throughout the season. The Chiefs (No. 1), Rams (No. 2), Saints (No. 5) and Patriots (No. 12) all posted an explosive pass play rate above 9%.
  • The Chiefs (No. 1) were also the league’s most-explosive offense on the ground during the regular season. The Rams (No. 15), Patriots (No. 21) and Saints (No. 27) were unable to routinely bust big runs this season despite each team having plenty of talent in their respective backfield.
  • Jared Goff (391 yards-3 TDs-1 INT), Drew Brees (346-4-0), Patrick Mahomes (352-4-2) and Tom Brady (340-1-0) managed to ball out during their respective first matchups this season against their upcoming opponent.
  • The Patriots boasted the league’s 15th-best defense in explosive pass play rate allowed this season. Still, their man-heavy defense could be troublesome against Patrick Mahomes and his group of speedy playmakers.

  • Of course, the Saints (No. 20), Chiefs (No. 26) and Rams (No. 30) weren’t any better at limiting explosive plays through the air this season.
  • Be sure to monitor our industry-leading NFL twitter feed for updated weather information in Kansas City on Sunday. The over/under opened at 59.5 points, but has since dropped all the way to 55 (per our Live NFL Odds Page).
  • The Saints (No. 6) were the only defense that had any sort of success with consistently limiting big runs. The Chiefs (No. 15), Patriots (No. 20) and Rams (No. 30) have all had trouble limiting explosive runs throughout the season.
  • Damien Williams has the best breakaway percentage (runs of 15 yards or more, PFF) among all backs in the playoffs. Overall, the Chiefs’ electric featured back has turned 7-of-75 rushes (9.3%) into big runs.


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).