Week 15 NFL Matchup Manifesto: Derek Carr, Jeff Driskel Poised for Success Against Bad Defenses

Dec 16, 2018 5:58 AM EST
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USA Today Sports. Pictured: Derek Carr, Jeff Driskel

  • Derek Carr and Jeff Driskel could have success through the air this week thanks to favorable matchups.
  • David Johnson, Doug Martin/Jalen Richard and Leonard Fournette should have success on the ground.
  • See what a bevy of other matchup-specific stats say about various players and games.

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 underwhelming performances for Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky, solid rushing days for Aaron Jones and Austin Ekeler as well as uber-efficient passing performances from Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady.

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 1-14.

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).

  • Thursday night’s Chargers-Chiefs matchup could feature some high-octane offense. They join the Rams as the league’s only offenses with an explosive pass play rate of at least 13%.
  • Still, the over/under has dropped to 53.5 after opening at 56.5 (see live odds here). Estimated forecasts currently call for a 24% chance of precipitation with 14 mph winds in 37 degree weather at Arrowhead.
  • Other pass offenses that are set up well to create explosive plays in the passing game include the Browns, Raiders, Bengals, Titans, 49ers, Rams and Saints.
  • Matchups in which both passing games should create chunk plays include Raiders-Bengals, Eagles-Rams, Chargers-Chiefs, Seahawks-49ers and Saints-Panthers. Surprisingly, each of these over/unders have dropped since opening.
  • Rush offenses that are set up to break off big runs include the Chargers, Browns, Vikings and Rams.
  • Running backs from the Chiefs, Texans, Broncos, Bears, Bengals, Giants, 49ers and Eagles are also positioned better than usual to create some explosive runs.
  • The Jets, Buccaneers, Jaguars, Colts and Saints stand out as offenses that could struggle to consistently rip off chunk plays on the ground.
  • Offenses that aren’t poised for many big plays through the air this week include the Packers, Lions, Cardinals and Colts.
  • The Falcons, Redskins and Cowboys aren’t set up much better, although Dak Prescott’s recent play with Amari Cooper would certainly suggest otherwise.

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).