Credit: USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Derek Carr (4), Russell Wilson (3).
- Week 6 will most likely have some high-scoring games including Seahawks-Raiders, Buccaneers-Falcons and Chiefs-Patriots on Sunday night.
- Christian McCaffrey and Sony Michel could should have success with their respective dominant offensive lines.
- The Giants, Cardinals, Texans and 49ers could be overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage trying to protect their QBs.
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 we’re then forced to compare against each other in an attempt to identify mismatches.
My goal 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
Last week’s manifesto helped us correctly forecast the Colts-Patriots’ shootout, solid rushing performances for the Jaguars and Saints and the Rams-Seahawks’ sneaky fast-paced high-scoring spot.
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 that this data is based on what has happened in Weeks 1-5, so it’s a small sample size and doesn’t fully factor in new injuries (e.g. the 49ers).
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 only matchups featuring especially-explosive passing games on both sides of the ball are Buccaneers-Falcons, Seahawks-Raiders, Chargers-Browns, and Rams-Broncos.
- The Rams have given up an average of 28.3 PPG over their past three games in part due to their inability to limit big pass plays … but there could be snow in Denver this Sunday. Follow our industry-leading news feed for weather details.
- This week’s London matchup between the Seahawks and Raiders trails only Rams-Broncos in terms of combined explosive pass rate. The over/under has moved to 48.5 points since opening at 47 (per our Live NFL Odds page).
- The Colts-Jets, Ravens-Titans and Jaguars-Cowboys matchups each boast not-fantasy-friendly combinations of offenses that can’t create big pass plays facing solid defenses that have continuously limited big plays this season.
- The road rushing attacks from the Eagles, Buccaneers, Steelers, Rams, and especially the Panthers are set up particularly well to bust some big runs.
- The likes of Latavius Murray and Lamar Miller might be playing on heavy home favorites, but their matchup up front doesn’t bode well for their ability to create explosive plays.
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 matchups feature the Buccaneers-Falcons, Ravens-Titans, Rams-Broncos and Chiefs-Patriots. The latter two matchups are the week’s only games featuring two top-10 offenses in situation-neutral pace.
- The aforementioned fast-paced matchups make up three of the week’s four-highest over/unders, with only the Ravens-Titans failing to boast an over/under higher than 50 points.
- The week’s slowest matchups include the Eagles-Giants, Panthers-Redskins, Cardinals-Vikings and Bears-Dolphins. The Redskins (15th) and Vikings (17th) are the only teams in that group ranked lower than 20th in situation-neutral pace.
- Only the Cardinals-Vikings’ matchup has an over/under that hasn’t dropped since opening among the week’s aforementioned slowest-paced matchups.
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) off 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.
- The Cardinals, Giants, Texans, and 49ers are expected to have the most difficulty keeping their quarterbacks off the ground.
- Overall, the Eagles (58%), Rams (53%), Packers (53%), Bears (53%), Vikings (52%) and Jaguars (51%) are the only defenses that have pressured opposing quarterbacks on at least half of their dropbacks.
- The Eagles, Bills, Bears, Rams and Packers possess offensive lines and/or systems that have kept their quarterback’s clean, while their defenses have specialized in getting after the opposition’s quarterback.
- The Buccaneers-Falcons and Seahawks-Raiders each combine mediocre pass rushes with offensive lines/systems that have managed to largely protect their quarterbacks this season.
- The Buccaneers, Seahawks, Bears and Rams are expected to have the largest advantages on offense in terms of keeping their quarterback upright.
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 which offensive lines 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 Panthers and Patriots boast the largest run-game advantages at the line of scrimmage in the entire history of this three-week-old article. The rushing games from the Rams, Broncos and 49ers are also set up well.
- The Giants are considerably worse off than just about any other rush offense. That’s what happens when the league’s second-best defensive line in adjusted line yards allowed faces the league’s single-worst run-blocking offensive line.
- The Dolphins, Falcons, Titans and Redskins offenses also have below-average matchups in the run game.
- The Colts-Jets and Bills-Texans combine good run-stuffing defenses with porous run-blocking offensive lines.
- The Rams-Broncos, Chiefs-Patriots and 49ers-Packers matchups boast the most game-wide fantasy-friendly combinations of good run-blocking offensive lines against bad run-stuffing defenses.
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 Bears boast the league’s most turnover-happy defense and face the league’s third-most giveaway-friendly offense.
- Other defenses that are set up well to create takeaways include the Panthers, Seahawks, Colts, Jets and Browns.
- Eagles-Giants and Ravens-Titans combine offenses that haven’t routinely turned the ball over with defenses that aren’t known for consistently creating turnovers.
- The Falcons, Seahawks, Rams and Packers have done a great job not giving away the ball. They each face defenses that have struggled to do just that.