Wild Card Round Matchup Manifesto: Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson Set up for Success, More

Jan 02, 2019 06:12 PM EST

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson

  • Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson could be locked into a high-scoring shootout when the Colts and Texans face off on Saturday.
  • Below are various matchup-based advantages and disadvantages to leverage in the four wild-card 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 key matchups on both sides of the ball in:

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

The Week 17 manifesto accurately forecasted underwhelming performances for Kirk Cousins and Sam Darnold, solid rushing days for C.J. Anderson and the Raiders as well as uber-efficient passing performances from Patrick Mahomes and Matt Ryan.

The following charts have matchup-specific information meant to highlight the largest mismatches in these ever-important facets of football to ultimately gain actionable betting and fantasy takeaways for the four wild-card matchups.

Note: This data is based on games from Weeks 1-17.

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, Bears and Seahawks are the week’s top passing games in explosive pass play rate.
  • Most of Philip Rivers’ deep balls have been intended for his outside receivers instead of Keenan Allen. Travis Benjamin (20.7), Mike Williams (15.6) and Tyrell Williams (13.4) all have a significantly higher average target depth than Allen (9.4).
  • The Bears have an even more muddled situation at receiver: Allen Robinson (19% target share), Taylor Gabriel (18%), Tarik Cohen (16%), Trey Burton (16%) and Anthony Miller (11%) have all been heavily involved this season with Mitchell Trubisky under center.
  • A-Rob (ribs), Gabriel (shoulder) and Miller (shoulder) are all banged up. Be sure to monitor our NFL Injury Report for daily practice participation along with estimated and official game statuses for every fantasy-relevant player.
  • Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have utilized a run-first offense all season. Still, Wilson and Tyler Lockett have managed to form the most efficient combination in the league with their limited opportunities.