Week 14 NFL Matchup Manifesto: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan Set up for Big Days

Dec 07, 2018 11:15 PM EST
  • The Chargers and Saints have favorable matchups that should set up for explosive pass plays.
  • Aaron Jones, Austin Ekeler, Todd Gurley and more running backs should be in smash spots this weekend.
  • Dak Prescott could be under pressure against the Eagles' ferocious pass rush in the Cowboys' NFC East matchup.

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

Last week’s manifesto correctly forecasted tough afternoons for Baker Mayfield and Matthew Stafford, solid rushing performances for Phillip Lindsay, Todd Gurley and Jalen Richard/Doug Martin as well as uber-efficient passing performances from Patrick Mahomes and Jameis Winston.

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 1-13.

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 Chargers and Saints stand out as the top two pass offenses set up best to create big plays in the passing game.
  • Other offenses that could find plenty of success in creating explosive plays through the air include the Buccaneers, Patriots, Chiefs, 49ers, Bears, Steelers and Seahawks.
  • Mitchell Trubisky (right shoulder) is tentatively expected to suit up on Sunday night after practicing in full on Wednesday. Be sure to monitor our Week 14 Injury Report to check out every fantasy-relevant player’s daily practice participation along with their estimated and official game statuses.
  • Games that feature potentially explosive pass offenses on both sides of the ball include the Saints-Buccaneers, Broncos-49ers, Bengals-Chargers and Rams-Bears.
  • Be sure to monitor our NFL News feed on Sunday morning, as current forecasts call for a 100% chance of rain with wind gusts up to 14 miles per hour in Tampa Bay for the Saints’ matchup against the Buccaneers.
  • Passing games that could struggle to create explosive plays through the air include the Jets, Dolphins, Colts, Lions and Eagles.
  • Games featuring offenses on both sides of the ball that could struggle to create big pass plays include Jaguars-Titans, Jets-Bills, Colts-Texans, Lions-Cardinals and Eagles-Cowboys.
  • The Bengals-Chargers’ matchup stands out as a potential sneaky shootout, but it’s tough to expect the Bengals’ injury-riddled offense to produce at the same level as it did earlier in the season.
  • Running backs who might struggle to create explosive runs include Leonard Fournette, Peyton Barber, Gus Edwards, Marlon Mack, Josh Adams and Chris Carson.
  • Running backs who could find some success in ripping off big runs include LeSean McCoy, Jeffrey Wilson, Austin Ekeler, Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook.
  • Shady is set up particularly well at home, where McCoy has thrived since joining the Bills in 2015.

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).

  • Week 14 features multiple matchups between offenses inside the top 10 of situation neutral pace: The Ravens (No. 4) and Chiefs (No. 7) as well as the Colts (No. 2) and Texans (No. 8).
  • Other fast-paced matchups include the Saints-Buccaneers, Patriots-Dolphins and Broncos-49ers.
  • The week’s slowest-paced matchup is the Lions (No. 32) against the Cardinals (No. 24). The Giants (No. 20) and Redskins (No. 31) aren’t too far behind.
  • Other matchups that are expected to move slowly include the Jaguars-Titans, Jets-Bills, Panthers-Browns, Eagles-Cowboys and Vikings-Seahawks.

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.

  • Dak Prescott is expected to be under siege all afternoon against the Eagles’ ferocious pass rush that has managed to rack up a pressure on a league-high 55% of their snaps this season. Prescott was sacked four times during the Cowboys’ Week 10 win over the Eagles.
  • Other quarterbacks who could be overwhelmed by pressure include Marcus Mariota, Sam Darnold (foot, probable) and Russell Wilson.
  • Matchups featuring pass rushes that are set up well on both sidelines include the Jets-Bills and Vikings-Seahawks.
  • The Eagles (55%), Rams (54%), Jaguars (52%), Packers (51%), Steelers (50%), Bills (50%) and Vikings (50%) are the league’s only defenses that have recorded a pressure on at least 50% of their opponent’s dropbacks.
  • Home defenses that are set up particularly well to pressure the quarterback include the Bills, Redskins, Packers, 49ers and Seahawks.
  • Quarterbacks who should have plenty of time to sit in the pocket include Drew Brees, Mark Sanchez, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton.
  • Matchups featuring quarterbacks on both sidelines who are set up well to avoid constant pressure include Saints-Buccaneers, Panthers-Browns and Bengals-Chargers.
  • Ben Roethlisberger should have all day to throw this Sunday against a Raiders “pass rush” that has recorded a pressure on just 28% of their opponent’s dropbacks. Roethlisberger’s severe home/away splits have been less annunciated when playing at 4 pm ET or later.

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.

  • Aaron Jones, Austin Ekeler, Gus Edwards and Todd Gurley have the best matchups at the line of scrimmage this week.
  • Other offenses that could have some consistent success running the ball include the Saints, Patriots, Broncos and Steelers.
  • Jaylen Samuels is expected to start in place of James Conner (ankle, out). Samuels told reporters on Wednesday that backup Stevan Ridley would also see some snaps, but Samuels is the fantasy back to own thanks to his fantasy-friendly receiving ability.
  • Running backs who could struggle to find much success on the ground include the Titans and Jets’ respective committee backfields, Peyton Barber as well as Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson.
  • Other running backs who aren’t set up well for consistent yardage include Josh Adams, Lamar Miller and Spencer Ware.

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 Saints and Broncos defenses stand out as units that could have plenty of opportunities to create turnovers against the Buccaneers and 49ers, respectively.
  • Other offenses that haven’t made a habit of taking care of the ball include the Jets, Bills, Colts, Panthers, Bears and Rams.
  • Matchups that could feature sloppy football from both sidelines include the Jets-Bills, Patriots-Dolphins and Rams-Bears. Note that Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (knee) isn’t expected to suit up on Sunday. Howard has a league-high seven interceptions after 12 games.
  • Offenses that are expected to do a good job taking care of the ball include the Saints, Broncos and Cowboys.
  • The Chiefs, Falcons, Packers and Chargers also aren’t expected to make a habit of giving away the football.
  • Falcons-Packers stands out as the week’s top matchup with a heightened chance of turnover-free football. The game’s over/under opened at 48 points, but has since risen to 50.5 (see live odds here).

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.

  • Drew Brees, Jameis Winston, Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger stand head-and-shoulders above their peers this week in combined net yards per pass attempt.
  • Other quarterbacks who should be able to move the ball fairly efficiently include Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Jared Goff and Mitchell Trubisky.
  • Matchups featuring plenty-competent quarterbacks on both sidelines include the Saints-Buccaneers, Falcons-Packers, Rams-Bears and Vikings-Seahawks.
  • Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Matt Stafford and Josh Rosen stand out as the week’s worst-off quarterbacks in combined net yards per pass attempt.
  • At least Allen can make some plays with his legs.

  • Other quarterbacks who aren’t set up well for consistent success in the passing game include Cody Kessler, Marcus Mariota, Jeff Driskel and Derek Carr.
  • Matchups featuring porous pass offenses on both sides of the ball include the Jaguars-Titans, Jets-Bills and Lions-Cardinals. It’s not surprising these are the week’s three lowest over/unders.
Credit:

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan

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