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 identify each week’s key matchups and advantages on both sides of the ball in:
- Explosive Plays
- 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 1-5.
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).
- Dak Prescott, Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson stand out as this week's QBs that have the best chance to consistently create explosive plays through the air.
- Matthew Stafford, Patrick Mahomes, Gardner Minshew and Case Keenum are also set up better than normal to rack up some long completions.
- Stafford and the Lions have embraced a new downfield-orientated attack this season under new OC Darrell Bevell.
- Only the Chiefs (13.8%), Cowboys (13.6%), Lions (12.8%) and Vikings (12.4%) have posted an explosive pass-play rate above 12% this season.
- Note that Cowboys LT Tyron Smith (ankle) and RT La'el Collins (back) have each failed to suit up for practice in consecutive days to start the week. Be sure to monitor our Week 6 Injury Dashboard for daily practice participation along with estimated and official game statuses for every injured player.
- The Dolphins (14.8%), Giants (14.4%), Bengals (13.2%), Raiders (12.7%) and Jets (12.5%) are the only defenses to allow an explosive pass-play rate above 12% this season.
- The Chiefs, Jaguars, Texans, Giants, Vikings and Cardinals stand out as backfields that could create some chunk plays on the ground this week.
- The Bengals, Packers, Dolphins and Jets are the only offenses that still don't have a rush of at least 20 yards through five weeks.
- The Eagles and Jets stand out as the worst offenses when it comes to hopefully creating big plays in the run game this week.
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).
- The week's fastest-paced matchups feature the 49ers (No. 4 in situation neutral pace) at the Rams (No. 1) as well as the Falcons (No. 5) at the Cardinals (No. 2).
- Additional matchups that could more closely resemble a track meet include Texans at Chiefs, Giants at Patriots and Panthers at Buccaneers.
- The week's slowest-paced matchups feature the Saints (No. 25) at the Jaguars (No. 29) as well as the Seahawks (No. 27) at the Browns (No. 28).
- Additional matchups that could move more slowly than fantasy owners would prefer include Steelers at Chargers, Titans at Broncos, Redskins at Dolphins and Cowboys at Jets.
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.
- QBs that could be under consistent duress this week include Jameis Winston, Kirk Cousins, Gardner Minshew, Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford.
- Goff is already one of just eight QBs to have at least 40% of their dropbacks result in a pressure this season, so he'll have his hands full with Nick Bosa and the 49ers' third-ranked defense in adjusted sack rate.
- The Packers boast a pair of young talented CBs in Jaire Alexander and Kevin King, but the true difference makers for their defense this season have been free-agent acquisitions Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith. The former player in particular has been a joy to watch thanks to his consistently excellent sack dances.
- The Texans (41% pressure rate), Packers (41%), Dolphins (42%), Rams (43%), Vikings (44%) and Jets (45%) are the only offenses to be pressured on at least 40% of their dropbacks this season.
- Case Keenum, Dak Prescott (assuming his LT and RT are healthy) along with Kyler Murray stand out as QBs that could have all day to throw this week.
- Tom Brady, Kyle Allen, Teddy Bridgewater and Andy Dalton are also not expected to be under too much pressure throughout their respective matchups.
- The Packers, Saints, 49ers, Eagles, Rams and Panthers have separated themselves to this point as the league's top defenses in creating consistent pressure.
RBs 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 RBs, while a lower number (red) indicates that matchup’s offense could have some trouble consistently running the ball.
- The Texans, 49ers and Lions boast the week's most favorable matchups in the trenches this week.
- Carlos Hyde figures to get most of the Texans' early-down work, which is simply a shame considering how well Duke Johnson has played with his limited opportunities this season.
- The likes of Alvin Kamara, Sony Michel and Mark Ingram also boast above-average matchups at the line of scrimmage.
- The 49ers (5.4 adjusted line yards per rush), Bills (5.09), Raiders (5.06), Cowboys (5.06) and Broncos (5.04) are the league's only offenses that have averaged more than five adjusted line yards per rush this season.
- Check out my Week 6 Backfield Report for more specific information on the league's ever-evolving RB stables.
- The Chiefs, Bengals, Jets, Falcons and Vikings stand out as offenses that could have a tough time creating much of a consistent push against their respective opponent's fearsome defensive lines.
- The Eagles (2.9 adjusted line yards allowed per rush) have been the class of the NFL in terms of stopping the run this season. The Patriots (3.28), Jets (3.55) and Buccaneers (3.57) have been the only other defenses that have come close to matching the Eagles' effectiveness in shutting down their opponent's ground attack.
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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 QB's sack yards from his passing yards, then dividing that number by the sum of the QB's pass attempts and sacks taken. A higher number (green) is good for QBs and receivers, while a lower number (red) indicates that matchup’s pass offense could be in trouble.
- Tom Brady, Case Keenum, Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott are set up the best to consistently find success through the air this week.
- The biggest question mark in regards to Amari Cooper balling out again in Week 6 is whether or not he can overcome his troubling home/away splits. Check out my Week 6 WR/CB Matchups and TE Analysis column for more specific information on every team's passing attack.
- The likes of Jimmy Garoppolo and Lamar Jackson are also popping a bit as signal callers with plus matchups this week.
- The Vikings (7 net yards per attempt), Patriots (7), Texans (7.1), Lions (7.2), 49ers (7.7), Seahawks (7.9), Cowboys (8.8) and Chiefs (8.8) are the league's only offenses to average at least seven net yards per pass attempt this season.
- Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones have the week's least-promising matchups in terms of expecting consistent aerial success.
- Each of Jameis Winston, Josh Rosen, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Marcus Mariota also stand out as signal callers that aren't set up in anything resembling a smash spot this week.
- The Titans (5.7 net yards allowed per pass attempt), Cowboys (5.5), Bears (5.5), Vikings (5.1), 49ers (5), Panthers (4.8), Bills (4.8) and Patriots (4) are the league's only defenses to allow fewer than six net yards per pass attempt through five weeks.
- Teddy Bridgewater's matchup doesn't pop off the page, but he deserves credit for playing much better in Week 5 after an underwhelming start to his Saints career. Bridgewater consistently made accurate throws both in the face of pressure and downfield against the Buccaneers' overmatched secondary.
Red Zone Efficiency
The field shrinks inside the red zone, as the defense essentially gains an extra sideline with the back of the end zone limiting the types of vertical concepts that offenses can run. We can help identify which teams have the best potential to cash in on their opportunities inside the 20-yard line using each offense and defense's red zone TD percentage rates (via TeamRankings.com).
- Combined Red Zone TD Rate: The sum of an offense's rate of TDs per red zone possession and the defense's percentage of TDs allowed per red zone possession. A higher percentage (green) indicates an efficient offense inside the 20-yard line against a defense that struggles to keep their opponents out of the end zone, while a lower percentage (red) indicates an offense that hasn't had much success converting their scoring chances into six points and is facing a defense that has managed to largely thrive with their backs against the wall.
- The Seahawks and Cowboys stand out as the week's top offenses in terms of who is least likely to have to settle for field goals in scoring position.
- The Redskins haven't exactly been a bunch of world beaters in the red zone this season, but the Dolphins have allowed a league-high 75% of their opponent's possessions inside the 20-yard line to result in at least six points.
- The Colts, Chargers, Rams, Saints, Browns, Titans and Jets join the Dolphins as the only defenses to allow a red-zone touchdown rate higher than 65%.
- On the other side of the ball, the Jets, Eagles, Packers, Cowboys, Bills, Texans and Seahawks are the league's only offenses to score a touchdown on over 65% of their red zone possessions.
- The Giants, Dolphins, Bengals, 49ers, Cardinals and Chargers stand out as offenses that could wind up settling for three points more than fantasy owners might prefer this week.
- The Cardinals (30% red zone touchdown rate) join the Bengals (29%) and Dolphins (17%, sheesh) as the league's worst offenses in scoring position.