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By the Numbers

NFL Divisional Round Mismatch Manifesto

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: January 12, 2020, 1:49 am ET

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 QB.

Despite the obvious impact that defenses have on opposing offenses, fantasy players and fans alike 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 define each week’s key matchups and advantages on both sides of the ball in:

  • Explosive Plays
  • Pace
  • Pressure
  • Trench Battles
  • Passing Game
  • Red Zone Efficiency

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. And, of course, to have fun.

Note: This data is based on what has happened in 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. All individual deep ball rates and targets, as well as explosive rush data, is courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

  • 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).
Explosive D Round

  • This week's playoff offenses have the following league-wide ranks in explosive pass play rate: 49ers (No. 1), Titans (No. 2), Vikings (No. 6), Chiefs (No. 8), Seahawks (No. 12), Ravens (No. 14), Texans (No. 17) and Packers (No. 18).
  • This week's playoff defenses have the following league-wide ranks in explosive pass play rate allowed: 49ers (No. 2), Vikings (No. 6), Chiefs (No. 7), Ravens (No. 12), Seahawks (No. 17), Titans (No. 18), Texans (No. 22) and Packers (No. 23).
  • It's tough to overstate just how good Ryan Tannehill was at throwing the football during the regular season. Overall, he ranked among the league's top-eight QBs in: adjusted net yards per attempt (No. 1 among 33 qualified QBs), net yards per attempt (No. 1), adjusted yards per attempt (No. 1), yards per completion (No. 1), touchdown rate (No. 2), completion rate (No. 3), QB Rating (No. 1) and QBR (No. 8).
  • Travis Kelce's 2019 season felt like a disappointment ... and he finished as the PPR TE1 for the fourth consecutive season. The Chiefs' stud TE has been so good for so long that we've taken his high-end production for granted.
  • Only nine teams had at least four CBs graded outside of PFF's top-50 corners this season. The Texans (5) and Vikings (4) are the only playoff teams to appear on that list.
  • Deshaun Watson will likely have to (again) put the entire team on his back if the Texans have any hope of pulling off the upset.
  • If Kirk Cousins does manage to connect on some deep balls, they'll probably be caught by Stefon Diggs. Nobody has more receiving yards (635) or touchdowns on deep passes (6) than Diggs this season (PFF).
  • Only Matthew Stafford (19.6%) threw a higher percentage of his targets at least 20 yards downfield than Russell Wilson (16.5%) this season (PFF). Wilson's 119.2 QB rating on these throws ranks No. 4 among 36 qualified signal callers. Naturally, the Seahawks ran the ball more than anyone other than the Ravens and 49ers in Weeks 1-17.
  • DFS stacks featuring Lamar Jackson must include Mark Andrews due to his stranglehold on the team's receiving production. No TE had a larger chunk of their team's air yard market share than Andrews (28%, per AirYards.com). Andrews (8) literally has as many games with at least 50 receiving yards as Marquise Brown (3), Miles Boykin (2), Willie Snead (2) and Seth Roberts (1) combined.
  • Davante Adams missed four games, but his eight contests with double-digit targets trailed only Michael Thomas (12), Keenan Allen (10) and Julian Edelman (10) at the position. Aaron Rodgers has force fed his No. 1 WR for good reason: Adams (2.33 yards per route run) has easily been the team's most-efficient receiver ahead Allen Lazard (1.62) and Aaron Jones (1.55).
  • The Chiefs appear to be the most-primed offense to rip off some big gains on the ground this week. LeSean McCoy has been a healthy scratch in back-to-back games. He also was a healthy scratch in Week 10, which coach Andy Reid explained by saying Shady is "not getting any younger so it's important I manage him the right way as we go." Both McCoy and Damien Williams averaged five yards per touch this season, with McCoy (4.6 yards per carry, 5.3 yards per target) functioning as the better runner, and Williams (4.5 YPC, 5.8 YPT) as the superior pass-game option. Neither Shady (3 fumbles) nor Williams (2) have done the best job consistently securing the football.
  • Coach Kyle Shanahan has enabled each of the team's backs to explosive seasons thanks to his RB-friendly scheme. PFF's Breakaway % metric denotes which runners earn the highest (and lowest) percentage of their yardage on big plays. Among 60 RBs: Matt Breida (No. 2), Raheem Mostert (No. 8) and Tevin Coleman (No. 11) each rank highly.
  • Nick Chubb (20), Derrick Henry (18), Josh Jacobs (16), Raheem Mostert (14), Devin Singletary (14), Joe Mixon (14) and Chris Carson (14) led the league in rushes of at least 15 yards this season.

Pace

Fast-paced games lead to more plays, which lead to more points. Every week usually consists of at least a few games that could resemble a track meet based on their combined situation-neutral pace (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).
Pace D Round

  • The week's fastest-paced matchup features the Texans (No. 14 in situation neutral pace) at the Chiefs (No. 6).
  • Vikings (No. 10) at the 49ers (No. 15) also figures to move at a fairly quick speed regardless of who has the ball.
  • The week's slowest-paced matchup features the Titans (No. 19) at the Ravens (No. 27).
  • The Seahawks (No. 24) and Packers (No. 18) also haven't made a habit of upping the pace on offense this season.


Pressure

An overmatched offensive line can result in poor fantasy days for all skill-position players involved. Meanwhile, QBs 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 and indicates that QB could be under fire, while a lower percentage (green) indicates that matchup’s QB could face reduced pressure.
Pressure D Round

  • Kirk Cousins has ranked among the league's top-10 most-pressured QBs in each of the past two seasons. Of course, this is also simply a side effect of both Cousins' playing style as well as this scheme. Nobody averaged a longer time between getting the snap and throwing the ball than Cousins (2.83 seconds) this season (PFF).
  • It's likely that Cousins sees plenty of pressure Saturday against the 49ers' beastly front-seven. Still, we just saw arguably the best version of Cousins to date against the Saints' top-ranked pass rush. This Vikings Offense is tough to stop when their signal caller is playing at this high of a level.
  • The Ravens blitz way more than any other defense. Overall, their 55% blitz rate during the regular season easily surpassed the Buccaneers' (43%) second-place mark. Still, this strategy could be problematic if Baltimore fails to make one-on-one tackles against the likes of A.J. BrownDerrick Henry and Jonnu Smith.
  • Deshaun Watson is always a threat to extend the play and make something out of nothing. With that said, he'd certainly benefit from getting ace field-stretching WR Will Fuller (groin) back in the lineup. Overall, Watson has averaged 8.69 YPA and a 7.1% TD rate in 22 games with Fuller compared to 6.99 YPA and a 3.9% TD rate in 17 games without.
  • The Seahawks' long-time franchise QB remains ridiculously efficient even when his back is against the wall. Overall, Russell Wilson posted a 10-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio under pressure this season while ranking among the league's top-six signal callers in both yards per attempt and QB rating while under pressure. He'll be challenged this week by stud DE Za'Darius Smith, who led the league in pressures this season (PFF).
  • Shutting down the Chiefs' plethora of talented receivers is only the first step in containing Patrick Mahomes. Only Lamar Jackson (11) and Ryan Tannehill (11) averaged more yards per rush on scrambles than Mahomes (9.3) among all QBs with at least 10 rush attempts on non-designed runs this season (Pro Football Reference).
  • Jimmy Garoppolo surprisingly averaged a league-high 21 yards per attempt on deep balls this season (PFF), but he also threw passes at least 20 yards downfield on a league-low 6.5% of his attempts. It remains to be seen if he'll have enough time to complete these shot plays against Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and the rest of the Vikings' ferocious pass rush.
  • Pressuring Lamar Jackson is one thing, but getting him to the ground is an entirely different obstacle. He's the only QB in NFL history to average at least 80 rushing yards per game and one of just eight players regardless of position to accomplish that feat in 2019.
  • It'd be a lot easier to feel good about Aaron Rodgers in this home spot if his offensive line was a bit healthier. Overall, each of C Corey Linsley (back), G Billy Turner (ankle) and RT Bryan Bulaga (concussion) popped up on the injury report this week.
  • Be sure to monitor our Divisional Round Injury Dashboard for daily practice participation along with estimated and official game statuses for every injured player. 
  • Each defense's respective rank in pressures per dropback: 49ers (No. 3), Packers (No. 8), Chiefs (No. 9), Ravens (No. 14), Vikings (No. 17), Texans (No. 20), Titans (No. 27) and Seahawks (No. 31).
  • "Havoc" is mostly a college football stat, but it can still be applied to the NFL. The metric is compiled by: (TFL + FF + INT + PD + Pressures)/Plays. Each defense's respective rank in Havoc: 49ers (No. 2), Ravens (No. 9), Vikings (No. 10), Packers (No. 17), Titans (No. 19), Chiefs (No. 22), Seahawks (No. 25) and Texans (No. 29).

(Analysis on trench battles, passing games and red zone efficiency continues on the next page)

Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.