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.
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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
- Yards Before Contact
- Passing Game
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: Data is from Weeks 1-2, 2021. There are obviously plenty of limitations to this due to the small sample size at hand; key discrepancies will be highlighted in the ensuing paragraphs and the metrics will get stronger as the season continues.
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.
- 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 (blue is good, red is bad).
- Explosive Run Rate: The sum of an offense’s rate of 15-plus yard gains per rush attempt and the opposing defense’s rate of 15-plus yard runs allowed per rush attempt. A higher percentage is better for offenses (blue is good, red is bad).
Mismatch Manifesto Week 3: combined explosive play rate.
Higher or lower % = large or small combined sum of the pass/rush big-play rate from the matchup's offense and defense (blue = good, red = bad)
Big pass play: 20+ yds
Big run play: 15+
All data from 2021, PFF pic.twitter.com/9zuRnOa0Bg
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 22, 2021
These offenses breed explosive plays: Just five offenses have an explosive pass-play rate north of 12% after two weeks of action: Cardinals (14.2%), Buccaneers (13.3%), Texans (13.2%), Chiefs (12.3%) and Seahawks (12.3%). Kyler Murray, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson … and Tyrod Taylor? Unfortunately, the Texans will be without their newfound offensive leader due to a hamstring injury; don’t expect rookie Davis Mills to replicate the artist known as TyGod’s excellent yet ill-fated start to the season.
Yeah sex is cool, but have you watched the Cardinals offense this season?: For the second straight week, Murray put up bonkers numbers, and for the second straight week the gaudy box score still didn’t do his performance service. Murray has racked up 690 passing yards and seven scores through the air, but it's been the style points on hand that have truly separated him from his peers. Overall, nobody had racked up more big-time throws (9) or posted a higher big-time throw rate (13.2%). Things manage to work out even when it looks like Murray is simply heaving the ball up in desperation.
Ultimately, Murray has been on God mode for the better part of the last two seasons when healthy. He’s largely turned in nothing except highly productive performances in his 11 fully healthy starts during this span:
- Week 1, 2020: overall fantasy QB5
- Week 2, 2020: QB5
- Week 3, 2020: QB6
- Week 4, 2020: QB7
- Week 5, 2020: QB5
- Week 6, 2020: QB4
- Week 7, 2020: QB2
- Week 9, 2020: QB1
- Week 10, 2020: QB2
- Week 1, 2021: QB1
- Week 2, 2021: QB1
At this point, it’s impossible to rank Murray as anything other than *THE* QB1 in fantasy land; he’s got passing production on par with Patrick Mahomes while also being one of the only threats to Lamar Jackson’s stranglehold on the position’s rushing crown. His inevitable highlight reel against the Jaguars might as well be labeled NSFW.
Good offense beats good defense in today’s NFL: Quarterbacks best set up to thrive thanks to a combination of their own excellence as well as their opponent’s mishaps include Murray, Wilson, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert.
Put some respect on the 2019 MVP’s name: Jackson’s Sunday night performance was truly exceptional. The jump pass score showed off the sort of “anything can happen” feel to his game, while the gutsy pickup on 4th and ballgame demonstrated the reality that this offense flows through Jackson more than any other group in the league.
Seriously: Jackson gets more grief from having less help than just about any quarterback out there. Fellow young signal-callers like Baker Mayfield (Odell Beckham), Josh Allen (Stefon Diggs) and Kyler Murray (DeAndre Hopkins) each had their respective organization go out of their way to bring a high-end WR1 into the offense; Jackson has had to get by with one rookie receiver after another (and Sammy Watkins).
This isn’t to suggest Marquise Brown hasn’t balled the hell out during his last 10 games, or that Rashod Bateman can’t be a No. 1 receiver in time. It’s just annoying to see Jackson face so much scrutiny while largely getting the most out of his teammates despite operating on a team that has devoted bottom-three spending to its offense in each of the past three seasons. Expect his highlight reel to grow this Sunday both through the air and on the ground.
Offense is easier when the defense sucks: Only five defenses have allowed an explosive pass-play rate of at least 12% this season: Chiefs (15%), Titans (13.7%), Lions (13.1%), Ravens (12.9%) and Jaguars (12%).
Expect some lightning bolts in Kansas City: Through two weeks, it’s become apparent that the 2021 Chargers view Mike Williams as far more than a one-trick, field-stretching receiver. His route trees reflect this reality, as the former No. 4 overall pick has been utilized far more frequently in the underneath and intermediate areas of the field. Overall, Williams’ 10.8 yard average target depth is well removed from his marks in 2020 (16.5), 2019 (17.7) and 2018 (15.2) alike.
And then there’s Keenan Allen, who continues to look like one of the position’s best pure talents more weeks than not. One of just three receivers to gain at least 100 yards in both Week 1 and 2, Allen has racked up at least 10 targets in 11 of his 13 non-injury-shortened games with Justin Herbert under center. Even the non-qualified games produced seven and eight targets; the Chargers' passing game still flows through Allen first and foremost.
Herbert had 83 passing yards called back via penalty in Week 2 — the second-highest mark in a single week dating back to Week 1 of last season. Don’t confuse the Chargers’ 17-point effort against the Cowboys as a reason to fade this passing game in this week’s sneaky smashable spot.
Not every passing attack is meant to fly: Quarterbacks who could struggle in their quest to create explosive plays through the air this week include: Taylor Heinicke, Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins and Josh Allen. Note that Prescott’s inclusion here comes down to the Eagles having allowed just a single pass play of 20-plus yards this season — every other secondary has given up at least three such completions.
Are we just going to call them the Football Team forever?: Credit to Heinicke for putting the Football Team in a position to win last Thursday night’s entertaining back-and-forth affair, even if the W was more so due to the Giants jumping offsides (maybe?) before Washington’s initial missed game-winning field goal attempt.
Ultimately, Heinicke has now thrown for over 300 yards in each of his last two extended appearances under center in tough matchups against the Buccaneers and Giants. It’s great to see Washington finally have some level of competence under center, and a closer look at Heinicke’s performance reveals just how good the journeyman has been during this stretch:
- PFF passing grade: 84.6 (No. 11 among 45 quarterbacks with 100-plus dropbacks since 2020, including playoffs)
- Big-time throw rate: 8.1% (No. 1)
- Turnover-worthy play rate: 0.7% (No. 1)
- Yards per attempt: 7.3 (tied for No. 22)
- Adjusted completion rate: 78.6% (tied for No. 6) QB Rating: 94.9 (No. 23)
Seriously, first in both big-time throw rate *and* turnover-worthy play rate is bonkers. The man has been nothing short of fantastic in his starting opportunities. Heinicke could always fall back to Earth in a larger sample, but more of the same should leave little doubt as to who deserves to be under center if/when Ryan Fitzpatrick (hip) is healthy enough to return.
Don’t let these run games get hot: There are four rushing attacks that stand out as backfields positioned to best break off some big runs: Chargers, Ravens, Dolphins and Lions. The latter team is surprising, but the Lions boast the league’s second-best explosive run-play rate at 11.6%, while Baltimore accounts for the third-worst rate (8.3%) on defense.
Running backs that can catch are fantasy cheat codes: Austin Ekeler has largely made the most out of his opportunities on the ground this season, but his top highlight during the Chargers’ loss to the Cowboys was making arguably the single best catch of the week. Seriously: How in the absolute hell did this 5-foot-8 and 195-pound man catch this ball?
Austin Ekeler had the best catch of Week 2 pic.twitter.com/44fQoU7QUU
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 21, 2021
The fifth-year back could find plenty of success on the ground against a Chiefs defense that largely looked helpless against the Browns and Ravens’ rushing attacks; nobody has allowed more yards before contact per carry through two weeks. Continue to lock in Ekeler as an RB1; any start/sit question involving the Chargers’ dual-threat back will be considered a personal insult.
These offenses might just want to pass the ball: Four offenses look especially screwed in creating explosive plays on the ground: Bears, Falcons, Buccaneers and Rams
Sean McVay’s ever-evolving backfield of nightmares: Darrell Henderson is dealing with a rib cartilage injury, although the team is reportedly hopeful he’ll be ready for Sunday. Note that Cam Akers had the same injury last year and missed multiple weeks.
At a minimum, Henderson’s stranglehold on workhorse duties could be a thing of the past. Sean McVay openly spoke about his concerns surrounding Henderon’s ability to stay healthy during the summer; asking the third-year back to handle an every-down role while playing through pain doesn’t seem especially likely, particularly with Sony Michel providing plenty of juice in his first extended run with the offense during the fourth quarter of Week 2.
Still, life won’t be easy for whoever winds up carrying the load against the Buccaneers’ league-best defense in yards before contact allowed per carry. Treat Henderson as more of a borderline RB2 if active due to the potential for limited touches, while Michel could be viewed as the same if forced into a starting role. The ceiling for the latter back as the starter will be higher in the future 1.) in better matchups, and 2.) if Jake Funk doesn’t steal away pass-down work.
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 (blue = fast-paced game), while a higher number indicates more average seconds per play (red = slow-paced game).
Mismatch Manifesto Week 3: combined situation-neutral pace.
Low combined numbers (blue) = two fast-paced offenses
High combined numbers (red) = two slow-paced offenses
Data from 2021, Football Outsiders pic.twitter.com/iicHRSG3XX
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 22, 2021
Get ready to see a track meet: The week’s top-two fastest-paced matchups feature the Football Team (No. 8 in situation neutral pace) vs. the Bills (No. 1) as well as the Buccaneers (No. 2) against the Rams (No. 3). The latter game total has risen to 56 points after opening at 54. Perhaps the former game would be on the rise as well if it wasn’t for estimated 15-plus MPH winds in Buffalo this Sunday.
We’ll be moving plenty fast elsewhere, too: Additional matchups featuring offenses that won’t give you much time to get a snack between plays include Cardinals-Jaguars, Dolphins-Raiders and Eagles-Cowboys. Obviously the loss of Tua Tagovailoa (hip) could lead the the Dolphins (No. 6) slowing things down for Jacoby Brissett if they feel like the ex-Colts/Patriots signal-caller doesn’t have full command of the offense just yet.
Unfortunately some offenses are slow and lame: The Colts (No. 32) square off against the Titans (No. 26) in this week’s snail bowl. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Indy lean even further off the gas with Carson Wentz battling not one but two ankle injuries.
Seriously, what are you waiting for: More matchups that are looking a bit too slow for Usain Bolt’s liking include Bears-Browns, Saints-Patriots and Packers-49ers. To be fair, Kyle Shanahan might only need a handful of plays to make big things happen against the Packers. His offenses have racked up 33, 44, 30, 37, 37 and most recently 17 points against this defense since 2018. The latter effort was largely due to the 49ers losing almost their entire wide receiver room to covid; that didn’t stop Richie James from busting out with a 9-184-1 receiving line.
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 PFF’s 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 quarterback could be under fire, while a lower percentage (blue) indicates that matchup’s quarterback could face reduced pressure.
Mismatch Manifesto Week 3: combined pressure rate
Sum of pressure rates between opposing offenses and defenses.
Higher percentage: that offensive line could be in trouble (red)
Lower percentage: not expecting much pressure on QB (blue)
Data from 2021, PFF pic.twitter.com/8S3gmH4COI
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 22, 2021
Under pressure: good song, bad for fantasy football: It might be better for the following quarterback’s parents to plan on attending a different game in person: Davis Mills, Jameis Winston and Jacoby Brissett. I guess the latter signal-caller is playing in Vegas, so that’d be understandable if Mr. and Mrs. Brissett wanted to attend, but you guys get the point. Raiders DE Maxx Crosby has 19 total pressures through Week 2 — the most by a defender through the first two games of a season since 2006. Madness.
The Jameis experience: Winston’s time as the Saints’ starter has featured a five-touchdown masterpiece … as well as last week’s performance that produced multiple interceptions that likely drew laughter from viewing parties all around the world.
This has always been the Winston experience: extreme highs mixed with even worse lows. In Week 1, he posted the season’s fifth-best single-game PFF passing grade. In Week 2, Winston produced the worst single-game mark among 64 qualified signal-callers. This sort of Jekyll and Hyde production is incredibly entertaining for basically everyone except, you know, Winston’s team.
The Patriots didn't allow either the Dolphins or Jets to crack 200 passing yards in Weeks 1 and 2, although at this point it’s anyone’s guess as to which version of Jameis will appear on Sunday. Either way, football is more fun with Winston starting somewhere; here’s to hoping Sean Payton puts up with the Red Zone channel’s love child for as long as possible.
Death, taxes: Brandin Cooks outperforming his ADP: Cooks posted a stupid 50% target rate with Davis Mills under center in place of Tyrod Taylor (hamstring) last week. The veteran receiver has largely done nothing other than ball out in six games since taking over as the Texans’ true No. 1 pass-game option.
- Week 13, 2020: 5 rec-65 yards-0 TD, fantasy WR43
- Week 15, 2020: 6-59-0, WR35
- Week 16, 2020: 7-141-1, WR5
- Week 17, 2020: 11-166-2, WR1
- Week 1, 2021: 5-132-0, WR22
- Week 2, 2021: 9-78-1, WR8
Brian Burns and this Panthers defense have been one of the best earlier surprises of the year; there’s a reason why the Texans are implied to score a putrid 17.75 points. Still, the 2021 Texans have established Cooks is the featured No. 1 option; he can still be fired up as an upside WR3 with his sort of guaranteed high-end volume, even if it’s not guaranteed to be pretty.
Some offensive lines and quarterbacks are just more prone to pressure: Four offenses have been pressured on over 45% of their dropbacks through two weeks: Jets (50%), Saints (48%), Dolphins (48%) and Broncos (46%).
Maybe this is a new Teddy two-gloves: Once (deservingly) mocked as “Teddy check-down,” the Broncos’ QB1 has emerged as one of the league’s most-voluminous deep-ball passers. The following list displays the top five quarterbacks in highest average target depth through two weeks of 2021 (pre-MNF):
- Russell Wilson (10.4)
- Tom Brady (10.3)
- Trevor Lawrence (10.2)
- Josh Allen (10.2)
- Teddy Bridgewater (9.9)
Bridgewater ranks eighth in adjusted completion rate and PFF passing grade: He hasn't forfeited his usual high-end accuracy while becoming more of a downfield passer. Here’s to hoping this sort of entertaining play continues against a potentially overrated Jets secondary that hasn’t faced a downfield-minded signal-caller yet this season. The projected pressure rate isn’t ideal, but it’s more of a factor of Bridgewater taking the longest average time to throw at 3.1 seconds as opposed to a serious issue up front for the Broncos.
Sundial joke about having a ton of time to throw: Each of Sam Darnold, Justin Herbert and Baker Mayfield might as well bring a beer to drink in the pocket this week based on their bright blue combined pressure rates. Somehow, Darnold is only 278 days older than Herbert.
We have another post-Gase explosion candidate and unfortunately I’m not talking about Chris Herndon: The mere fact that Donald has played well through two weeks is fantastic news for his future in Carolina. There simply weren’t many good performances to pick from during his three years with the Jets. Overall, two of Darnold's top six career games in PFF grade have come during his first two appearances of 2021.
Of course, matchups against the Jets as well as a Saints defense missing five starters weren’t exactly what the kids would call tough bosses. It makes sense swapping out Adam Gase for Joe Brady and Jamison Crowder for D.J. Moore would produce better results; just realize we haven’t exactly seen this offense face a real challenge through two weeks.
This latter point won’t be changing anytime soon: Up next, the Panthers take on the Texans before traveling to Jerry World in Week 4. All Darnold can do is continue to play well against whoever happens to be in front of him; I’ll just be waiting another few weeks to *best Dennis Green voice* crown his a**.
Pass rushes that haunt the dreams of your favorite quarterback: Pass rushes that have posted a pressure rate above 35% through two weeks feature the: Panthers (56%), Bills (44%), Jaguars (43%), Browns (39%), 49ers (38%), Patriots (38%), Steelers (38%), Dolphins (37%), Seahawks (36%) and Raiders (36%). Thus far the Panthers and Raiders stand out as the top-two overall defenses that many expected to be rather meh this season. It’s early, but, hey, better to be good than bad.
The league’s finest individual rushers of the passer: Eleven defenders have racked up double-digit pressures this season: Maxx Crosby (19 pressures), Arik Armstead (15), Aaron Donald (14), Cameron Heyward (14), Micah Parsons (11), Melvin Ingram (11), Von Miller (11), Harold Landry (10), Romeo Okwara (10), Matthew Judon (10) and Chandler Jones (10). Seeing Parsons on this list makes sense after his rather brilliant Week 2 performance. Seldom did a play go by where Justin Herbert didn’t have to deal with the 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 12 overall pick.
Still thinking about how quickly Parsons closes here for the sack. A lot of DEs are stumbling to the turf when the QB breaks back across their face like that pic.twitter.com/Omjb1zUGwK
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) September 20, 2021
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 by looking at yards before contact.
- Combined Yards Before Contact 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 consistently running the ball.
Mismatch Manifesto Week 3: combined yards before contact per rush
Sum of each offense and defense's YBC/carry.
High number: Good run-blocking o-line vs. bad run-defending D (blue)
Low number: Bad run blocking o-line vs. stout D against the run (red)
Data from 2021, PFF pic.twitter.com/mFKvIlr83i
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 22, 2021
Great day to be a great running back: Running backs set up for the most success on the ground this week include: Saquon Barkley (FINALLY), Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, Clyde Edwards-Helaire as well as Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
Ya’ll must’ve forgot: Spare me the “take away Barkley’s big run and what do you have” quips: monster runs have always been a part of his game. It’s not exactly surprising Barkley and company failed to get the ground game going against the Broncos' and Football Team’s beastly defensive lines; just realize his usage is moving in the right direction after failing to play even half of the offense’s snaps in Week 2.
Barkley couldn’t ask for a better get-right spot than a matchup against the Falcons’ league-worst scoring defense; they’ve allowed the second-most yards before contact per carry through two weeks. I’m confidently sliding Barkley back into the position’s top-10 backs now that snap concerns are a thing of the past: Only Najee Harris (95% snaps), Alvin Kamara (84%) and Joe Mixon (83%) were on the field as often as Barkley (83%) in Week 2.
It’s legal for teams to have two good running backs: Many truly believe Pollard is better than Zeke. You’d be hard-pressed to find a stat that says otherwise, although this is also true for essentially every other back in the league:
- Pollard PFF rushing grade: 82.0 (No. 2 among 51 qualified backs)
- Missed tackles force per carry: 0.19 (tied for No. 22)
- Yards per carry: 7.7 (No. 1)
- Yards after contact per carry: 3.5 (tied for No. 7)
It’s OK to say both Zeke and Pollard are good at football, albeit the latter back has certainly looked like the superior option with the ball in his hands for the better part of his time in Dallas. One doesn’t need more than two hands to count the number of offenses Pollard could be on where the conversation would NOT revolve around the need to get him more involved.
Moral of the story in fantasy land: Elliott still has a workhorse role and is the featured back inside of an offense that looks capable of putting up 30 on just about anyone even if his backup is also very good at football. The man was the PPRB RB10 in Week 2 and most seemed to consider the performance a disappointment. Continue to treat Zeke as a top-tier fantasy back in leagues of all shapes and sizes. I agree with the idea of buying low on the $90 million back if one of your league mates is enough of a fish to bail already, but I feel like this storyline is more of a trendy talking point amongst fantasy analysts as opposed to a real life possibility.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Pollard’s Week 2 performance was his best of 2021; the man finished as the PPR RB5, after all. It’s good the Cowboys seem inclined to get their overqualified backup double-digit touches per week; just realize Pollard remains more of a flex dart with league-winning handcuff potential as opposed to someone who needs to be forced into starting lineups.
Personal note: Check out my Week 3 Backfield Report for more specific information on the league's ever-evolving running back stables.
More running backs expected to have a little thing called success: The likes of James Robinson and hopefully not but probably Carlos Hyde, Austin Ekeler as well as D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams also look poised to have all sorts of running room this week.
The Urban Meyer experience: Robinson has eight and 14 touches in two games this season; he had at least 16 touches in all 14 of his games in 2020. Ideally, the latter touch total will come to fruition if/when the Jaguars experience a more positive game script; just realize the sort of workload that helped the artist formerly known as RB1son reach great heights is a thing of the past.
Perhaps Robinson and company can take advantage of a matchup against the Cardinals’ league-worst defense in explosive run play rate allowed; the problem is this offense’s putrid start to the season calls into question how many scoring opportunities are even on the table. The Jaguars have yet to call a run play inside the 20-yard line this season. Not great, Bob.
Treat Robinson as more of a borderline RB2 as long as both his usage and Trevor Lawrence continue to be more meh than good. Hyde is nothing more than deep league bench stash who hysterically would probably get a bell-cow role should Robinson miss any time.
Everyone is faster indoors, it’s science: Swift had just one target before getting force fed during garbage time in Week 2. This certainly seemed like a mistake: The second-year talent continued to just look different with the ball in his hands, adding a hurdle to his growing highlight reel of open-field goodness. Still, Williams remained plenty involved in his own right and could feasibly be the backfield’s touch leader if this offense ever gets the chance to fully operate with a positive game script.
The good news for both: Jared Goff’s 6.7 yard average target depth reflects the reality that this passing game is built to go through the running backs and T.J. Hockenson. Historically, targets are worth 2.7 times as many PPR points as carries; both Swift and Williams have the potential to turn into every-week starters if this sort of usage persists. This is particularly true for the former back; Swift sure has the look of a legit top-15 option in full PPR formats.
Facing off against the Ravens on a shorter week than usual isn’t ideal, but this remains a fantasy-friendly situation thanks to the target share on hand and lack of a third party. Goff has fed his two backs 28 combined targets through two weeks; the Falcons (22) are the only other offense that has provided their running backs with even 20 pass-game opportunities this season. Swift should be in starting lineups of all shapes and sizes in leagues that reward even a half point per reception, while Williams remains the class of the “flex with benefits” tier of backs.
Gotta love a good run game scheme: Seven offenses have averaged at least 2.0 yards before contact per carry: Ravens (2.59), Lions (2.44), Cowboys (2.39), Bills (2.25), Eagles (2.22), Jaguars (2.19) and Giants (2.17). Having the best rushing quarterback in the game certainly helps matters, right New York? (Kidding, but seriously this shit is getting wild.)
“The zone read bandit”
“The white Aaron Brooks”
“4.81 is only a number”
The best rushing quarterback in the NFL: Daniel Jones pic.twitter.com/6u63RwrnZs
— Seth Galina (@pff_seth) September 17, 2021
Best Steven Tyler voice: Run away, run away from the pain yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah: Three run games stand out as particularly screwed in their quest to establish the run this week: Texans, Bears and Steelers. Good news: David Montgomery and Najee Harris have large enough roles to essentially ignore their matchup more weeks than not. As for Houston: Please don’t start any of their running backs in fantasy land unless it’s some sort of weird hostage-esque situation and you have no other choice.
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 biggest mismatches in the passing game using each offense and defense’s pass yards per dropback.
- Combined Passing Yards Per Dropback: The sum of an offense’s passing yards per dropback and the opposing defense’s passing yards allowed per dropback. A higher number (green) is good for quarterbacks and receivers, while a lower number (red) indicates that matchup’s pass offense could be in trouble.
Mismatch Manifesto Week 3: combined pass yards per dropback
Sum of offense's pass yards/dropback with defensive rate.
Higher number: efficient pass offense vs. bad pass defense (blue)
Lower number: inefficient pass offense vs. good pass defense (red)
Data from 2021, PFF pic.twitter.com/tqRqK6LyEF
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 22, 2021
What’s better than this, guys being dudes: The following quarterbacks are set up exceptionally well to throw the ball this week: Russell Wilson, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Here’s to hoping the middle quarterback is joined by Odell Beckham (knee) for the first time this season, particularly now that Jarvis Landry (knee, IR) is out for at least the next three weeks.
Moon ball szn: No pair of receivers has more concentrated share of their offense’s targets (63%) and air yards (87%) than D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The latter receiver has certainly made better use of his opportunities through two weeks, but a blowup spot should be on the horizon for Metcalf.
I’ll fight anyone that says the present-day version of Patrick Peterson is capable of causing any sort of problems for Metcalf.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 22, 2021
Truly, the only games when Metcalf has “busted” have been due to Russell Wilson throwing the ball elsewhere. Yes, Metcalf posted 1-6-0, 0-0-0, 2-23-0 and 3-46-1 receiving lines in four career matchups against the Cardinals. Also yes, he received four, one, five and five targets in those contests.
Note that Metcalf was being shadowed by Peterson for the majority of those matchups; the Vikings didn’t ask the veteran corner to travel with any of the Bengals or Cardinals receivers during the first two weeks of the season.
This should allow Metcalf and Lockett to take turns against Bashaud Breeland, who most recently helped make A.J. Green actually look decent for literally the first time in years. PFF’s worst-graded cornerback among 113 qualified players, Breeland has allowed nine of 12 targets into his coverage to be caught for 155 yards and a trio of scores through two weeks. Peterson hasn’t been any better, allowing six of seven targets into his coverage to be caught for 111 yards and a pair of scores. Neither corner has intercepted a pass or even registered a pass breakup this season.
Lockett (WR7) and Metcalf (WR9) both deserve to be treated as top-10 matchups in a contest featuring the week’s highest game total.
The government calls it a passing league for a reason: Additional quarterbacks who shouldn’t have too much of a problem making good things happen through the air include Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Matthew Stafford. As we know with Mahomes, basically the only thing capable of slowing him down is the complete and utter absence of an offensive line.
If a Kupp falls in the Woods, does it make a noise?: Only D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett (63%) have posted a higher combined target share than Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods (60%) through two weeks. So far it’s been Kupp who has balled the hell out with his opportunity, but look for the artist known as Bobby Trees to even things out in the box score sooner rather than later.
The Buccaneers boast such an intimidating front seven that Dak Prescott (58 passes) and Matt Ryan (46) were forced to throw more than usual. This could again be the case for Matthew Stafford, particularly with starting RB Darrell Henderson (ribs) uncertain for Sunday.
Both Kupp (WR13) and Woods (WR23) should be in the overwhelming majority of starting lineups against a Buccaneers defense that has surrendered more PPR points per game to opposing wide receivers than anyone other than the Titans. Even Van Jefferson (92% snaps in Week 2) is trending toward becoming a realistic fantasy option if the Rams ever decide to unleash Stafford to the tune of more than 30 pass attempts per game.
These passing games might be a bit rough n’ rowdy: Things might not be smooth sailing in passing games featuring the Jaguars, Saints, Football team and Jets this week. Unfortunately, this is an awfully familiar feeling for everyone on this list except New Orleans.
The Jets haven’t been lifting off so well just yet: Zach Wilson’s four-interception performance reminded me of Dion Waiter’s philosophy on not losing confidence despite a rough start. The rookie did continue to flash some borderline erotic arm talent at times, but as a whole the performance largely consisted of one poor decision after another.
It’s not fair to write off Wilson after two tough spots against the Panthers’ immensely improved defense as well as Bill Belichick’s evil empire that is notoriously tough on rookie quarterbacks. The problem is that Vic Fangio’s Broncos don’t exactly represent an easier matchup, particularly from the friendly confines of Mile High Stadium.
It’d be surprising if Corey Davis doesn’t improve upon his 2-8-0 performance in Week 2; just realize the Jets are employing a bit of a wide receiver by committee system between Davis, Elijah Moore, Braxton Berrios, Keelan Cole and Jeff Smith (seriously). The eventual return of Jamison Crowder will ideally simply bump Berrios out of the conversation, although there’s a chance Denzel Mims isn’t a healthy scratch every week.
The Jets are implied to score a week-low 15.5 points this week; try to wait until the Titans and Falcons come calling in Weeks 4-5 before treating either Davis or Moore as anything more than a borderline WR3.
Dope secondaries always have the best nicknames: Credit to the Bills, Broncos, Eagles and Panthers for functioning as the only four defenses to allow fewer than 5.0 passing yards per dropback this season. It’s always a great day to be great, and these defenses have proved just that.
Points are ultimately what wins football games. We can measure the expected points of every play on offense and defense by considering the down, distance and field position before factoring in the result. Estimated points added (EPA) is thus the value of a play that takes context into account and thereby better measures efficiency at the play level.
- Combined EPA: The sum of an offense’s EPA/play and their opposing defense’s EPA/play allowed. A higher number (green) is good for offenses, while a lower number (red) indicates that offense could be in trouble.
Mismatch Manifesto Week 3: combined EPA per play
Sum of EPA/play of matchup's offense and defense to see biggest potential overall mismatches
High numbers indicate efficient offense vs. inefficient defense (blue), lower numbers are bad for o (red)
Data from 2021, PFF pic.twitter.com/TPmMPP253x
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 22, 2021
Blowout alert: Games that seem to feature one offense set up far better than the other feature the Panthers over the Texans, Cardinals over the Jaguars, Bills over Football Team, Ravens over Lions, Raiders over Dolphins, Rams over Buccaneers and 49ers over Packers. It’s not surprising that all seven of these teams other than the Rams are favored.
Over alert: Chargers-Chiefs stands out as the top matchup featuring two offenses poised to give the scoreboard operator fits. The Ravens-Lions and Seahawks-Vikings are the next-best potential spots for those hoping for all sorts of points.
Under alert: Matchups featuring two offenses that could struggle to move the ball include Panthers-Texans, Saints-Patriots and Bengals-Steelers. The latter two game totals have already fallen by 1 and 1.5 points since opening.
Upset alert: Teams that are expected to have an advantage on offense, yet are underdogs, include the Chargers (+6.5), Bengals (+3), Rams (+1) and Eagles (+4).