Week 12 NFL Matchup Manifesto: Andrew Luck, Colts Once Again Poised to Shine
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck
- Ian Hartitz analyzes a handful of key metrics to determine which NFL Week 2 matchups offer exploitable mismatches.
- Daily fantasy players and sports bettors can use this information when building lineups and betting on spreads and over/unders.
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 each week’s key matchups on both sides of the ball in:
- Explosive Plays
- Trench Battles
- Turnover Margin
- Passing Game
Last week’s manifesto helped correctly forecast high-scoring matchups in Chiefs-Rams and Bucs-Giants, tough afternoons for the Texans’ and Vikings’ respective offensive lines, as well as solid rushing performances for Aaron Jones and Ezekiel Elliott.
Check out my special edition Thanksgiving Matchup Manifesto for more matchup-specific information on the Bears-Lions, Redskins-Cowboys and Falcons-Saints matchups.
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: This data is based on what has happened in Weeks 1-11
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).
- Offenses best positioned to create explosive plays through the air include the Bears, 49ers, Buccaneers, Ravens and Chargers. Ironically, only the Chargers will have their Week 1 starting quarterback under center this week.
- Games featuring multiple offenses that could consistently create chunk plays in the pass game include: Falcons-Saints, 49ers-Bucs, Seahawks-Panthers, Giants-Eagles and Steelers-Broncos.
- Offenses that could struggle to create big plays include the Lions, Redskins, Jaguars, Bills, Dolphins and Titans.
- Be sure to monitor our Week 12 Injury Report to track Marcus Mariota’s daily practice participation and official game status for the Titans’ Monday night matchup against the Texans.
- Redskins-Cowboys, Jaguars-Bills, Patriots-Jets, Dolphins-Colts and Titans-Texans could each feature a limited number of explosive plays from both offenses.
- Teams best positioned to create explosive plays on the ground include the 49ers, Browns, Giants, Chargers and Steelers.
- The 49ers in particular are set up well against a Buccaneers defense that has allowed 115-plus yards in five consecutive games since losing linebackers Kwon Alexander (knee, IR) and Jack Cichy (knee, IR) for the season. Stud linebacker Lavonte David (knee) missed Week 11 and should be considered questionable for Sunday.
- The Saints, Bengals, Panthers and Broncos also don’t have a run-game matchup that should scare off fantasy investors.
- Rushing “attacks” that could struggle to bust some big runs include the Buccaneers, Packers, Titans, Texans, Ravens and Cardinals. Note the Ravens and Cardinals have made significant strides in the run game during recent weeks thanks to Lamar Jackson and Byron Leftwich, respectively.
- The Lions, Cowboys, Redskins and Raiders also aren’t set up particularly well to create splash plays on the ground.
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 fastest-paced game is between the Dolphins (No. 23 in situation neutral pace) and Colts (No. 2).
- 56% of public tickets, but 66% of the money, has backed the Dolphins-Colts’ over since opening at 51 points (per our Live NFL Odds Page).
- Additional matchups that could more closely resemble a track meet include Browns (No. 13) at Bengals (No. 6), 49ers (No. 12) at Bucs (No. 5), Patriots (No. 1) at Jets (No. 32) and Steelers (No. 8) at Broncos (No. 11).
- The week’s slowest-paced matchups feature the Bears (No. 19) and Lions (No. 30), Redskins (No. 28) and Cowboys (No. 22), Seahawks (No. 24) and Panthers (No. 26), as well as the Giants (No. 25) and Eagles (No. 27).
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.
- Eli Manning and Kirk Cousins are the two quarterbacks facing the highest-combined pressure rate this week against the Eagles and Packers, respectively.
- Other quarterbacks that could be under pressure often include Dak Prescott, Blake Bortles, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Case Keenum and Aaron Rodgers.
- Home defenses best positioned to pressure the opposing signal caller include the Bills, Panthers, Eagles, Chargers and Vikings.
- Drew Brees, Andy Dalton and Lamar Jackson stand out as the week’s top-three quarterbacks that should have all day to throw.
- Other quarterbacks that shouldn’t be overwhelmed by pressure include Chase Daniel, Nick Mullens, Tom Brady, Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger.
- Matchups featuring two pass rushes that could struggle to get home include the Falcons-Saints, Browns-Bengals and Dolphins-Colts.
- Jaguars-Bills and Packers-Vikings stand out as the week’s top matchups featuring lethal pass rushes on both sidelines. Both over/unders have dropped since open.
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 running backs best positioned for consistent success this week include Ezekiel Elliott, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson, as well as Marlon Mack and Aaron Jones.
- The likes of Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson, along with Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton, are also set up well in their respective matchups against the Raiders and Seahawks.
- Running backs that could have a long day at the office include: Adrian Peterson, Tevin Coleman/Ito Smith, LeSean McCoy and Derrick Henry/Dion Lewis.
- Saquon Barkley doesn’t have a very good matchup on the ground vs. an Eagles defensive line that will welcome back difference-making defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. Still, Barkley has regularly overcome the Giants’ porous offensive line all season thanks to his electric big-play ability in both the pass and run game.
- The 49ers are set up better than their matchup indicates considering the Buccaneers’ aforementioned struggles since losing multiple linebackers to injury.
- David Johnson stands out as another running back that could overcome a mediocre matchup. The Chargers have lost starting linebacker Denzel Perryman (knee, IR) and run-stuffing defensive tackle Corey Liuget (quad, IR) to season-ending injuries in consecutive weeks. Additionally, DJ’s newfound workload with Byron Leftwich calling plays has been an overwhelming success.
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 Lions and Jets stand out as the week’s two offenses poised to play some sloppy football this week. It remains to be seen if Sam Darnold (foot) will start.
- Other offenses that could make a habit of turning over the ball include the Bengals, Jaguars, Bills, Cardinals and Dolphins.
- Matchups featuring offenses on both sidelines that don’t take the best care of the ball include the Jaguars-Bills and Dolphins-Colts.
- The Saints and Giants stand out as the week’s safest offenses in terms of units that aren’t expected to make many mistakes.
- The Bears, Redskins and Ravens will have a different quarterback than normal under center. They’re still set up well against defenses that haven’t frequently created turnovers, but we shouldn’t necessarily expect mistake-free play from the likes of Chase Daniel, Colt McCoy and Lamar Jackson.
- Additional offenses that aren’t expected to make a habit of turning the ball over include the Falcons, Raiders, Chargers and Texans.
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 Falcons-Saints’ matchup stands out as the week’s top potential shootout. As mentioned in my Thanksgiving Day Manifesto, the combined passer rating between the offenses and defenses is superior to the totals from the Chiefs-Rams’ instant-classic.
- Additional pass offenses that are expected to throw with consistent efficiency include the Buccaneers and Chargers.
- The Bears, 49ers and Ravens are also set up well through the air, but once again we must consider how the offenses will react with a new quarterback under center. The Lions, Buccaneers and Raiders are the league’s No. 31, No. 30 and No. 32 ranked defenses in pass DVOA this season.
- Potential shootouts featuring two offenses that could efficiently throw the ball are highlighted by the Falcons-Saints and 49ers-Bucs.
- Offenses that could struggle to efficiently move the ball through the air include the Bills, Jaguars, Raiders Lions and Cardinals.
- Matchups featuring multiple offenses that could have issues in the pass game are highlighted by the Redskins-Cowboys and Jaguars-Bills.