Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Baker Mayfield
- The most explosive games of the week will once again feature the Rams and Chiefs, who have favorable matchups against the Lions and Raiders, respectively.
- Baker Mayfield and the Browns have been on a roll recently, but will face their toughest test yet against the Texans' stout defense.
- Todd Gurley, Gus Edwards, Phillip Lindsay, Aaron Jones and more running backs should be in smash spots this weekend.
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 correctly forecasted high-scoring matchups in Seahawks-Panthers and Dolphins-Colts, tough afternoons for the Giants’ and Jaguars’ offensive lines as well as solid rushing performances for Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott.
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 1-12
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).
- The Chiefs and Rams are in a class of their own offensively … and both have great matchups against the Lions’ and Raiders’ respectively underwhelming defenses. These matchups boast two of the three highest over/unders of Week 13 (see live odds here).
- Other offenses that are set up well to create explosive plays in the passing game include the Buccaneers, Panthers, Bears, Broncos and Chargers.
- Be sure to monitor our Week 13 Injury Report to see whether Mitchell Trubisky (shoulder) is ultimately able to suit up. Chase Daniel will once again draw the start if Trubisky doesn’t play.
- Matchups featuring offenses on both sidelines that are capable of making big plays through the air include Panthers-Buccaneers, Broncos-Bengals, Rams-Lions, Chiefs-Raiders, 49ers-Seahawks and Chargers-Steelers.
- The Bengals won’t have Andy Dalton (thumb, IR) for the rest of the season, but they’re at least expected to get A.J. Green (toe) back for their matchup against the Broncos.
- Passing attacks that aren’t set up to shred opponents through the air include the Ravens, Giants, Dolphins, Colts, Jaguars, Browns and Vikings.
- Lamar Jackson has thrown 25 or fewer passes in each of his two starts. Joe Flacco (hip, doubtful) threw at least 34 passes in each of his nine starts.
- Baker Mayfield and the Browns have been on a roll, but they’ve faced the Bengals, Falcons and Chiefs. It remains to be seen whether this performance will hold up against the Texans’ No. 4 defense in Football Outsiders’ overall DVOA.
- Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon and Matt Breida are set up exceptionally well to create explosive plays on the ground.
- Breida in particular could be set up to thrive if Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright (knee) remains sidelined.
- Other running backs who have solid matchups and sit alone atop their team’s depth chart include: LeSean McCoy, Phillip Lindsay, Kareem Hunt and Austin Ekeler (assuming Melvin Gordon’s knee injury keeps him out).
- The Cardinals, Patriots and Eagles stand out as backfields that could struggle to create explosive plays on the ground this week.
- Running backs from the Seahawks, Raiders, Saints and Falcons also aren’t set up well in their respective matchups.
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 Patriots (No. 1 in situation neutral pace) are easily the league’s fastest-moving offense. They boast the week’s fastest-projected matchup despite the Vikings’ (No. 19) middling offense. The over/under has increased to 48.5 points since opening at 48.
- The week’s other fast matchups feature the Ravens (No. 4) and Falcons (No. 12), the Colts (No. 2) and Jaguars (No. 21) as well as the Broncos (No. 7) and Bengals (No. 6).
- The Browns-Texans and Chargers-Steelers matchups could also closely resemble a track meet this week.
- The week’s three-slowest matchups feature the Cardinals (No. 29) and Packers (No. 17), the Jets (No. 31) and Titans (No. 24) as well as the Redskins (No. 28) and Eagles (No. 25). The over/unders for the latter two have dropped.
- Saints-Cowboys, Bears-Giants, Bills-Dolphins and Chiefs-Raiders are also expected to have a slow pace of play.
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.
- Josh Rosen is the quarterback most-likely to be teed-off on this week by the Packers’ ferocious pass rush. Still, the potential absence of stud defensive tackle Mike Daniels (foot) won’t help matters.
- Other quarterbacks who aren’t expected to have much time to throw include Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy and Phillip Rivers.
- Redskins-Eagles stands out as a game in which both quarterbacks could struggle to have much time to throw down the field.
- Quarterbacks who should have plenty of clean pockets to throw from include Lamar Jackson, Chase Daniel, Patrick Mahomes and Ben Roethlisberger.
- Some other quarterbacks who shouldn’t be overwhelmed by pressure include Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Jared Goff.
- Matchups featuring two pass rushes that might not get home often include Ravens-Falcons, Browns-Texans, Broncos-Bengals, Chiefs-Raiders and Jets-Titans.
- The Eagles, Rams, Jaguars, Steelers, Vikings, Bills and Packers are the only defenses to record a pressure on at least 50% of their opponent’s dropbacks this season.
- The Texans, Vikings and Cardinals are the only offenses that have had their quarterback pressured on at least 40% of their dropbacks this season.
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.
- Todd Gurley (ankle) was limited during the Rams’ memorable Monday night battle with the Chiefs, but Sean McVay confirmed the Rams’ featured back “should be 100%” for Week 13’s potential smash spot against the Lions.
- Other running backs who are positioned well for success include Gus “The Bus” Edwards, Phillip Lindsay, Aaron Jones, Matt Breida, Austin Ekeler, Josh Adams and Kareem Hunt.
- Christian McCaffrey has an enhanced matchup considering how bad the injury-riddled Buccaneers defense has been in recent weeks.
- The Raiders’ committee backfield featuring Doug Martin and Jalen Richard is also set up well, although it’s worth considering how long they’ll be able to stick with the run game in this potential shootout.
- The Patriots could welcome back Rex Burkhead this week, adding another layer of uncertainty to their ever-evolving backfield entering a favorable home matchup against the Vikings.
- Running backs who could struggle to find consistent rushing lanes include Ezekiel Elliott, Tevin Coleman/Ito Smith, Peyton Barber and Saquon Barkley.
- The Saints boast the league’s No. 3 defense in rush DVOA and have yet to allow a running back to surpass 70 rushing yards despite facing Gurley (68 yards), Joe Mixon (61) and Barkley (44).
- Of course, most teams have been forced to play the Saints in catch-up mode, so Elliott should have more opportunities than most considering the Cowboys’ status as one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses.
- Barkley has consistently overcome the Giants’ porous offensive line all season thanks to his fantasy-friendly combination of big-play ability and receiving prowess.
- As discussed on this week’s episode of The Daily Fantasy Flex, Barkley’s $7,900 price tag on DraftKings is too low despite the tough matchup against the Bears.
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 Bucs stand out as the top-two offenses that could have the most trouble taking care of the football.
- Other offenses that shouldn’t be shied away from in DFS include the Giants, Jaguars and 49ers.
- Check out the best and worst fantasy football playoff schedules for every position including defense and special teams. Those units from the Titans, Broncos, Redskins, Rams and Lions have the best combined strength of schedule from Weeks 13 to 16.
- Bills-Dolphins is easily the week’s frontrunner for the sloppiest overall game. It boasts a slate-low 40-point over/under.
- Offenses that aren’t expected to make a habit of turning over the ball include the Falcons, Panthers, Rams, Seahawks and Redskins.
- Ravens-Falcons isn’t expected to feature much sloppiness when either offense is on the field.
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.
- As was the case in our big-play section, the Rams and Chiefs are in a class of their own.
- The Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers also stand out as pass offenses that could be particularly successful this week.
- Cam Newton has thrown multiple touchdown passes in a career-high 10 consecutive games and continues to possess an absurd rushing floor.
- Saints-Cowboys, Panthers-Buccaneers and Chargers-Steelers stand out as matchups featuring two competent passing offenses. Each game boasts an over/under of at least 50 points.
- Josh Rosen has both the worst combined pressure rate and the worst combined net yards per pass attempt rate among all quarterbacks.
- Baker Mayfield and Ryan Tannehill also stand out as quarterbacks who could struggle to efficiently move the ball down the field.
- Matchups that could feature two inefficient passing offenses include Bills-Dolphins, Colts-Jaguars, Cardinals-Packers, Jets-Titans and Redskins-Eagles.