Week 7 NFL Matchup Manifesto: Expect the Rams to Score a Lot in San Francisco

Oct 19, 2018 8:45 PM EDT
  • Week 7 features three notably explosive matchups: Saints-Ravens, Rams-49ers and Bengals-Chiefs.
  • Joe Mixon, Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon are set up for success thanks to their respective offensive lines.
  • Meanwhile, the Texans, Cardinals and 49ers could be overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage trying to protect their quarterbacks.

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 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

Last week’s manifesto helped us correctly forecast the Houston Texans’ offensive line issues, Todd Gurley’s massive performance and the Indianapolis Colts-New York Jets’ sneaky fast-paced, high-scoring spot.

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 1-6, so it’s a small sample size and doesn’t fully factor in new injuries (e.g. the 49ers, Bills).

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).

  • The Rams and Jets are best positioned to create explosive plays through the passing game. Be sure to monitor our Week 7 Injury Report for updates on the statuses of New York wide receivers Robby Anderson (hamstring) and Terrelle Pryor (groin).
  • The most explosive overall pass-game matchups feature the Saints-Ravens, Rams-49ers and Bengals-Chiefs.
  • The Broncos-Cardinals, Titans-Chargers and Browns-Buccaneers matchups are also seemingly poised for plenty of success through the air.
  • The least explosive overall pass-game matchups feature the Bills-Colts, Cowboys-Redskins and Patriots-Bears. The first two of those three matchups also feature rush offenses that haven’t consistently created big plays.
  • The Jets and Falcons are dealing with injuries in their backfields, but they’re both well positioned to create explosive plays against the Vikings and Giants, respectively.
  • The rush offenses of the Chargers, Texans, Bears, Colts, Saints, Cowboys and Redskins aren’t set up particularly well to pop off 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 week’s only matchup with two teams ranked in the top 10 in situation neutral pace features the Rams (No. 7) and 49ers (No. 8).
  • Other fast-paced matchups feature the Texans-Jaguars, Bills-Colts, Browns-Buccaneers, Saints-Ravens and Bengals-Chiefs.
  • The Colts (No. 1) are easily the fastest-paced team in the league, with the Ravens (No. 2) and Buccaneers (No. 3) rounding out the medal positions.
  • The Vikings-Jets and Lions-Dolphins represent the week’s slowest-paced matchups, while the Panthers-Eagles, Cowboys-Redskins and Giants-Falcons aren’t much faster.
  • It makes sense that slow-paced matchups featuring explosive offenses (Vikings-Jets) are more fantasy-friendly compared to those with less-explosive offenses (Lions-Dolphins).
  • The Jets (No. 32), Lions (No. 31) and Giants (No. 29) are the week’s slowest-paced teams.

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) off 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, Cardinals and 49ers are expected to have the most problems protecting their quarterbacks against the Jaguars, Broncos and Rams, respectively.
  • The only matchups featuring two defenses that thrive at getting after the quarterback are the Panthers-Eagles, Vikings-Jets and Cowboys-Redskins.
  • The Browns-Buccaneers and Lions-Dolphins matchups feature defenses that have struggled to get to the quarterback against offensive lines/schemes that have done a great job of keeping their signal-caller upright.
  • Joe Flacco is likely smiling as he reads this sentence: The Ravens’ offensive line boasts the week’s single-largest advantage in combined pressure rate.
  • The Dolphins, Bears and Buccaneers also appear to be positioned to protect their respective quarterbacks.
  • The Eagles join the Packers (on bye) as the league’s only defenses that have pressured opposing quarterback on more than 55% of their dropbacks.

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 which offensive lines 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 Bengals, Dolphins and Rams offenses boast the week’s strongest advantages in the run game at the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys, Chargers and 49ers aren’t too far behind.
  • Joe Mixon, Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon are thus the week’s three-down running backs best positioned for consistent success on the ground, while the 49ers and Dolphins will each feature committee backfields.
  • The Broncos-Cardinals, Patriots-Bears, Rams-49ers and Bengals-Chiefs matchups feature offenses that are all expected to be able to run the ball with at least moderate success.
  • The Ravens, Texans and Buccaneers could have problems running the football in their respective minus matchups against the Saints, Jaguars and Browns.
  • Additional rushing “attacks” that aren’t set up well include the Browns, Bills, Redskins and Falcons.

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 Patriots and Buccaneers are the week’s worst-positioned teams in terms of having a turnover-prone offense against a takeaway-happy defense.
  • The Vikings-Jets, Patriots-Bears and Lions-Dolphins matchups are the week’s most-turnover prone battles featuring at-times sloppy offenses on both sides of each of the matchups.
  • The Saints-Ravens, Bengals-Chiefs and Giants-Falcons matchups aren’t expected to feature a heavy dose of turnovers for any of the six teams.
  • The Rams and Falcons have done a particularly good job taking care of the ball this season and are set up well against the 49ers’ and Giants’ respective takeaway-adverse defenses.
Credit:

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Jared Goff, Todd Gurley

Follow Ian Hartitz on Twitter
@IHartitz

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SCHEDULE
OPEN
CURR
# BETS
OAK
ARI
41
-4
41
-4.5
DEN
LAC
47
-7.5
47
-7
PHI
NO
54.5
-9
56.5
-7
MIN
CHI
45.5
-2.5
44
-2.5
KC
LA
63.5
-1
63
-3