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.
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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
- 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 1-3, 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 4: 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/QnAKiUwTkO
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 29, 2021
These offenses breed explosive plays: Only the Raiders (14.3%), Cardinals (13.2%), Ravens (13.1%), Rams (12.2%) and Buccaneers (12%) have gained 20 yards through the air on at least 12% of their dropbacks through three weeks. File Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson mixing in with the pocket gunslingers under things you absolutely love to see.
Sometimes it helps to watch the game: Speaking of the 2019 NFL MVP: Please don’t mistake Jackson’s lack of counting numbers in Week 3 as any sort of evidence that he was anything other than excellent.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 27, 2021
Jackson is the NFL’s leader in big-time throw rate (9.2%). He trails only Derrick Henry, Joe Mixon and Nick Chubb in rushing yards, which is objectively bonkers. Haters gonna hate, but all Jackson continues to do is function as one of the NFL’s single-most exciting and best players at the position.
Good offense beats good defense in today’s NFL: Six quarterbacks stand out the most in terms of expected success in creating big plays through the air: Sam Darnold, Russell Wilson, Jalen Hurts, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Baker Mayfield. Perhaps the latter signal-caller’s head coach will have fireworks in mind for his revenge-themed return to Minnesota.
Browns-Vikings is the best game on the early slate: And part of the reason why is thanks to the return of Odell Beckham, whose season debut was largely fantastic. The ex-Giants’ receiver caught five of nine targets for 77 scoreless yards and also chipped in a 10-yard rush. Things could have been even bigger if Mayfield had managed to get OBJ a better ball down the sideline on what had the potential to be a long score.
Don’t mistake the latter point for slander on Mayfield: The Browns’ QB1 has already put together one helluva mixtape through three weeks.
Beckham couldn’t ask for a better matchup against arguably the NFL’s single-worst pair of starting corners. Overall, Bashaud Breeland and Patrick Peterson have allowed 28 of the 34 targets into their coverage to be caught for 439 yards and six scores after just three weeks of action. He’s my WR22 on the week and deserves upside WR2 treatment in more matchups than not.
Related content for you: Week 4 WR/CB mismatches and shadow coverages to leverage in DFS & fantasy football leagues via Ian Hartitz
Offense is easier when the defense sucks: Additional quarterbacks that could see plenty of success in creating splash plays this week include Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson and Zach Wilson. The latter quarterback’s inclusion is far more due to the Titans’ dismal secondary as opposed to anything the Jets have done; they literally haven’t score a touchdown since the fourth quarter of Week 1.
It was so much more fun to theorize about the Jets’ future a month ago: The 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 2 overall pick has been a bottom-five quarterback by just about any metric through three weeks.
Of course, life hasn’t exactly been easy for the rookie, facing off against the Panthers’ pressure-heavy defense before facing Bill Belichick and Vic Fangio’s ever well-coached Patriots and Broncos defenses in Weeks 2-3.
The Titans boast a bottom-10 defense in passer rating (No. 25), yards per attempt (No. 25) and yards after the catch per completion (No. 31); this could be the spot where Wilson gets something going.
As bad as things have been, Wilson has demonstrated the sort of borderline erotic arm talent that made many fall in love with his skill set during the last 12 months. I’m cautiously optimistic their two-week streak with zero touchdowns will come to an end this Sunday.
Not every passing attack is meant to fly: Four signal-callers are looking especially rough in getting something going downfield this week: Daniel Jones, Jameis Winston, Ben Roethlisberger and Patrick Mahomes. The 2018 NFL MVP is on this list purely because the Eagles have surrendered a completion of at least 15 yards on a league-low 2.9% of their opponent’s dropbacks — no other defense is under even 4.2%.
Seriously: don’t worry about this Chiefs offense: Back-to-back duds from Tyreek Hill are hardly what fantasy investors were hoping for, but a breakout performance could be on the way against an Eagles defense that badly failed their first real test of the season against Dak Prescott and company. Look no further than last season’s relatively underwhelming start from Hill to soothe any concerns about his future: The Chiefs’ No. 1 wide receiver failed to finish inside of fantasy’s top-20 receivers in four of his first seven games before ripping off five separate top-five finishes during his ensuing six games.
This pass defense is operating at less than 100% with DE Brandon Graham (Achilles, IR), S Rodney McLeod (knee), S K’Von Wallace (shoulder, IR) and CB Josiah Scott (hamstring, IR) each all banged up. Even a healthy version of this secondary likely wouldn’t stand much of a chance against Hill and Mahomes if the NFL’s most-explosive QB-WR duo is clicking; continue to fire up Hill as a top-two receiver and strongly consider forcing him into DFS lineups ahead of this seemingly inevitable blow up.
Seriously: worry about this Steelers offense: It’s been a rough start to the season for Big Ben to say the least:
- PFF passing grade: 59.7 (No. 29 among 35 qualified quarterbacks)
- Yards per attempt: 6.2 (No. 26)
- Adjusted completion rate: 75.4% (No. 24)
Roethlisberger's 7.5 yard average target depth is far below last year’s previous career-low mark (8.1).
There were times in Week 3 when it looked like Roethlisberger was incapable of hitting a receiver even a few yards downfield. Chunk touchdowns to both Chase Claypool and James Washington were sailed, but that wasn’t even the worst part.
Facing a 4th and 10, down 14 points with just over three minutes remaining: Roethlisberger didn’t even bother to look downfield before dumping the ball off to Najee Harris, who had no fewer than four defenders between him and the first-down marker after catching the pass five yards behind the line of scrimmage. I’m getting mad just thinking about it.
The 39-year-old veteran has never looked older with a pair of shoulder pads on. It’s not a stretch at this point to wonder how Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins might shake out; this passing game can’t get any worse.
Don’t let these run games get hot: The Eagles, Panthers and Titans stand out as the week’s top three run games in terms of having the best chance to rack up some monster runs. Of course, it’d help if the former team gave their starting running back *checks notes* more than two carries in a full football game.
Related content for you: Week 4 Snaps & Efficiency Report for all 32 NFL backfields via Ian Hartitz
Why doesn’t NASA focus less on the moon and more on hamstrings: Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) won’t be put on the injured reserve, meaning the Panthers are tentatively expecting him to miss fewer than three games.
For now, Chuba Hubbard is the back to roster in Carolina. It’s impossible to expect the rookie to fully take over McCaffrey’s role; that doesn’t mean upside RB2 value isn’t on the table ahead of matchups against the Cowboys, Eagles and Vikings. Don’t be surprised if Royce Freeman emerges as a nuisance in short-yardage situations, but Hubbard’s status as the lead pass-down back and overall touch leader still leaves the floor awfully high. He’s the PPR RB15 in our PFF expert consensus ranks.
These offenses might just want to pass the ball: The Saints, Cardinals, Chiefs, Falcons, Bears, Bengals and Packers stand out as backfields that might not have the easiest time getting things going on the ground this week. Of course, the Bears didn’t have an easy time getting literally anything going last week. Justin Fields and the Bears offense turned in the third-worst effort of the last 21 years in Week 3, mustering a putrid 47 total yards against Myles Garrett and company. Sheesh.
But was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no: Removing the fact that Chicago put forward one of the worst offensive efforts of the last two decades during their Week 3 loss to the Browns: David Montgomery’s usage was great to see. His 59% snap rate in Week 1 seems like a distant memory; back-to-back 79% and 81% performances cement him as one of fantasy’s last remaining true three-down backs.
It’s tough for the Bears to be much worse than they were in Week 3, although we probably shouldn’t give Matt Nagy any ideas. Ultimately, a home spot against a Lions defense that didn’t exactly slow down Elijah Mitchell (PPR RB13) or Aaron Jones (RB2) seems likely to provide the medicine this run game needs. Fire up Montgomery as an upside RB2 due for a potential blowup bounce-back performance; I particularly love the idea of pivoting off the potentially chalky and $100 more-expensive Chuba Hubbard in favor of the Bears’ workhorse on DraftKings.
Check out the Wednesday edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for full thoughts on why I consider Montgomery one of fantasy’s top buy-low running backs.
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 4: 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/lHpF0cPix6
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 29, 2021
Get ready to see a track meet: The week’s fastest-paced matchup is provided courtesy of the Cardinals (No. 14 in situation neutral pace) and the Rams (No. 1), although the Chiefs (No. 10) vs. the Eagles (No. 4) as well as the Texans (No. 16) vs. the Bills (No. 2) are on the honorable mention list. No wonder Cardinals-Rams (55 point game total) and Chiefs-Eagles (54.5) represent the week’s top-two highest game totals.
We’ll be moving plenty fast elsewhere, too: Additional matchups lighting up the chart with blue feature the Buccaneers at the Patriots as well as the Raiders at the Chargers. Sunday and Monday night football, love it. Great day to be great.
Related content for you: Fantasy Football Utilization Report: Week 4 waivers, trades and drops via Dwain McFarland
Unfortunately some offenses are slow and lame: Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! Mostly just the former and the latter, though, in this case. The Lions rank 23rd in situation neutral pace, while the Bears come in at 29th. Speed it up, man.
Seriously, what are you waiting for: Additional matchups set up to be more snail-paced affairs include Titans-Jets, Browns-Vikings, Steelers-Packers and Ravens-Broncos. Hopefully the dome in Minnesota encourages these offenses to get moving more than usual. Probably not, but you could imagine.
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 4: 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/ChM5jOR8sh
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 29, 2021
Under pressure: good song, bad for fantasy football: The four quarterbacks most likely to feel the heat this week: Zach Wilson, Davis Mills, Carson Wentz and Jameis Winston. To be fair, it’s unclear if Winston ever feels pressure. I imagine he truly believes everything he attempts on the football field will work out until, well you know.
Embrace the Jameis experience while it lasts: In Week 1, Winston’s five-score masterpiece produced 2021’s eighth-best single-game PFF passing grade. Unfortunately, Weeks 2 and 3 produced 2021’s 86th- and 96th-highest graded passing game among 96 instances of a signal-caller having at least 10 dropbacks.
Even the good is sometimes enough to drive a head coach mad, just take a look at last Sunday’s classic “No, NO, Yes!” score to Marquez Callaway.
The Jameis Winston experience in one play pic.twitter.com/0N43W8DWdO
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 27, 2021
The highs are high, and the lows are low: Gotta love Jameis. The problem in fantasy land is that Sean Payton’s lack of a leash on his starting quarterback has resulted in a far more conservative offense than most are used to seeing Winston operate in. Overall, Winston averaged a league-high 319.3 passing yards on the back of 39 pass attempts per game in 2019; he’s gone for just 129 yards on an average of 21 pass attempts per game in 2021. Don’t be surprised if a matchup vs. James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson leads to more of the same from Payton in terms of not asking his erratic quarterback to be more than a game-manager.
Somebody call 911 cause we got TWO broken ankles: Wentz’s ankles are actually sprained, but the whole situation reminds me of this classic line from an old NBA street video game.
Anyways: The Colts’ pressure problem seems to be more of a collective issue. On the one hand, they’re surrendering a league-worst 33.3% pressure rate on passes when the ball is thrown in fewer than 2.5 seconds. On the other, Wentz’s average time to throw of 2.8 seconds is tied for the 10th-highest mark in the league.
The latter variable sunk in Week 3 probably due to the aforementioned ankle problems; the problem was Wentz’s efficiency took a nose dive as well. Once considered the class of the NFL, the current edition of the Colts offensive line simply doesn’t look up to the task with the likes of G Quenton Nelson (ankle), OT Braden Smith (foot) and OT Sam Tevi (knee, IR) either sidelined or operating at less than 100%.
Some offensive lines and quarterbacks are just more prone to pressure: Eight offenses have been pressured on at least 40% of their dropbacks this season: Saints (47%), Jets (47%), Colts (46%), Bills (43%), Broncos (42%), Dolphins (41%), Texans (41%) and Seahawks (40%). Curiously, only the Broncos (No. 5 in PFF pass-blocking grade) and Texans (No. 12) rank inside of PFF’s top-20 groups in protecting their quarterback.
Does Teddy two-gloves wear two gloves to random social events for fun?: Credit to Teddy Bridgewater for leading the Broncos to a trio of wins to start the season. This achievement isn’t all that unexpected; Denver was favored against the Giants, Jaguars and Jets alike. Still, the manner in which Bridgewater has gone about picking up his yards has been great to see.
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 three weeks of 2021 (pre-MNF):
- Lamar Jackson (12.7 yard average target depth)
- Josh Allen (10.0)
- Trevor Lawrence (9.7)
- Russell Wilson (9.7)
- Aaron Rodgers (9.6)
- Derek Carr (9.6)
- Jameis Winston (9.6)
- Teddy Bridgewater (9.5)
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.
Go back to the well with Courtland Sutton as an upside WR2 for however long Jerry Jeudy (ankle, IR) remains sidelined, while Tim Patrick can be treated as a borderline WR3 with K.J. Hamler (knee, IR) also out of the picture. It’d make sense if Bridgewater’s tendency to hold the ball too long comes back to bite him against the Ravens’ blitz-happy defense; just realize this secondary isn’t the same sort of usual monster with Marcus Peters (knee, IR) and Jimmy Smith (30% snaps in Week 3) not providing his usual high-end standard.
Sundial joke about having a ton of time to throw: The Mount Rushmore of Week 4 quarterbacks expected to have plenty of time: Jalen Hurts, Taylor Heinicke, Ben Roethlisberger and Sam Darnold. Of course, it remains to be seen if the former signal-caller will stick around in the pocket long enough to take advantage of the extra time.
Rushing quarterbacks are a fantasy football cheat code: The second-year quarterback has seven professional starts to his name:
- Week 14, 2020: 167 pass yards-1 TD-0 INT, 18 carries-106 rush yards-0 TD, fantasy QB11
- Week 15, 2020: 338-3-0 passing, 11-63-1 rushing, fantasy QB1
- Week 16, 2020: 342-1-2 passing, 9-69-0 rushing, fantasy QB12
- Week 17, 2020: 72-0-1 passing, 8-34-2 rushing, fantasy QB20 (in three quarters)
- Week 1, 2021: 264-3-0 passing, 7-62-0 rushing, fantasy QB5
- Week 2, 2021: 190-0-0 passing, 10-82-1 rushing, fantasy QB10
- Week 3, 2021: 326-2-2 passing, 9-35-0 rushing, fantasy QB10
Overall, Hurts has the 10th-most rushing yards in the NFL since taking over in Week 14.
It’s simply tough for one-dimensional talents to equal the sort of production that rushing quarterbacks and receiving running backs are able to maintain. Continue to fire up Hurts as a top-five fantasy signal-caller even in less than ideal matchups thanks to this rather absurd rushing floor.
Pass rushes that haunt the dreams of your favorite quarterback: The Panthers (50% pressure rate), Browns (43%), Bills (42%) and Patriots (40%) are the only defenses to wreak havoc on at least 40% of their opponents' dropbacks this season. Extra credit to the former and latter groups, as the Panthers and Patriots ranked 22nd and 20th in pressure rate last season.
The league’s finest individual rushers of the passer: Eight defenders have racked up more than 15 pressures this season: Maxx Crosby (25 pressures), Harold Landry (20), Aaron Donald (19), Myles Garrett (16), Romeo Okwara (16), Joey Bosa (16), Danielle Hunter (16) and Arik Armstead (16). Garrett managed to take down Justin Fields 4.5 times last week alone. Imagine trying to block this man.
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 (blue) 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 4: 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/4yjcloj23d
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 29, 2021
Great day to be a great running back: The Mount Rushmore of Week 4 rushing attacks set up to see all kinds of running room feature the Eagles, Browns, Seahawks and Ravens. Unfortunately, the latter group has descended into a full-blown three-back committee tentatively led by Ty’son Williams; it’s impossible to trust any Baltimore running back in fantasy land at the moment.
Cleveland rocks: Nick Chubb (PPR RB8) and Kareem Hunt (RB9) continue to simultaneously provide weekly RB1 production inside of the Browns’ ninth-ranked scoring offense. Extra credit to Hunt, who racked up the second-most broken tackles of Week 3 (7) during Cleveland’s beatdown of the Bears. Either would be ranked inside the position’s top five players on a weekly basis without the other, but beggars can’t be choosers. Up next is a Kevin Stefanski-fueled revenge game against a Vikings defense that didn’t provide much resistance against Joe Mixon, Chase Edmonds or Chris Carson in Weeks 1-3.
Continue to start Chubb in lineups of all shapes and sizes, while Hunt is increasingly close to joining that conversation as well. Even if some of the more gifted lineups might have better options on paper than Hunt, the Browns’ status as 2-point favorites against a mediocre run defense in a matchup with a game total tied for the week’s third-highest mark makes this about as good of a spot as managers could ask for.
Personal note: Check out my Week 4 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 Antonio Gibson, Clyde Edwards-Helaire as well as Zack Moss and Devin Singletary could have all sorts of running room in their respective matchups this week. Great day to be great.
Not so meh anymore!: CEH’s 109 total yards and a score in Week 3 marked the first time he cleared the century mark and found the end zone in the same game since his career debut in Week 1, 2020. It was great to see Edwards-Helaire function as something other than the league’s single-worst running back for a change, although another lost fumble certainly wasn’t ideal.
Edwards-Helaire ranks just 33rd in expected fantasy points this season; his lack of consistent pass-game work makes him far more touchdown-dependent than most realize. Still, heightened efficiency can be expected more weeks than not with opponents (understandably) inclined to pay more attention to Patrick Mahomes and company.
Credit to the Chiefs for sticking with their starting back after Week 2’s disastrous game-losing fumble; a solid Week 3 doesn’t change the fact that Edwards-Helaire has the workload of a middling RB2 as opposed to one of Andy Reid’s past locked-in RB1s.
AG-DC with a lightning bolt should be his nickname: Throw Antonio Gibson the football and good things happen.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 26, 2021
Usually. Gibson’s second target of last week’s loss to the Bills also should’ve gone for six, but unfortunately the second-year back dropped his wide open goal line pass in the flats.
The problem for Gibson is that J.D. McKissic’s commanding usage in pass-first situations hasn’t gone anywhere. Washington will likely continue to afford Gibson a few targets per game on designed screens and quick-hitters; just realize failure to keep up on the scoreboard will inevitably lead to far more McKissic than fantasy managers would prefer.
This situation is essentially the same as in Indianapolis: Gibson remains a borderline RB1 thanks to his status as the offense’s undisputed lead back, but top-five status remains firmly out of reach as long as his backup takes away so much pass-down work. Similar to Nyheim Hines, McKissic presents some full-PPR upside when the right game script emerges; it’s just always going to be tough to predict these sorts of weeks.
Luckily for Gibson: Week 4’s matchup against the Falcons is about as good of a blowup spot as one could ask for. Each of Miles Sanders (PPR RB15), Kenneth Gainwell (RB24), Leonard Fournette (RB20) and Saquon Barkley (RB9) returned RB2 value at worst against this defense; expect Gibson to do the same.
Gotta love a good run game scheme: Just four offenses are averaging over 2.0 yards before contact per carry: Ravens (2.71), Eagles (2.32), Chiefs (2.21), Seahawks (2.13) and Bills (2.11). It’s almost like having a dual-threat quarterback helps open up the run game.
Best Steven Tyler voice: Run away, run away from the pain yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah: The only four offenses with a combined sum of yards before contact per carry under 2.0 feature the Bengals, Texans, Packers and Patriots. Luckily for Joe Mixon, volume rules all in fantasy land. Mixon’s combined carries and targets in seven games since Week 1 of 2020: 21, 20, 20, 31, 22, 21, 33, 22 and 19. Madness.
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 4: 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/aAwGMgjpF3
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 29, 2021
Screw establishing the run; let’s boogie: Baker Mayfield has the single highest combined passing yards per dropback, while Joe Burrow, Sam Darnold, Matthew Stafford and Teddy Bridgewater are all set up well. Life *should* be good for all six of these former first-round picks.
Remember that hilarious August drop narrative: Ja’Marr Chase has scored four touchdowns this season; every other rookie wide receiver has combined for three scores. The “problem” is that Chase has posted his 5-101-1, 2-54-1 and 4-65-2 receiving lines on just seven, four and five targets. The 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 5 overall pick has exceeded expectations ever since playing his first (real) professional game; just realize his volume is more in line with an upside WR3 as opposed to the overall PPR WR11 he’s functioned as for the first three weeks of the season.
Tee Higgins (shoulder) is again sidelined, which should provide a decent boost to Tyler Boyd’s target floor. The Bengals’ longtime slot receiver is certainly capable of making the most out of his opportunities either way.
Tyler Boyd: good at the gamepic.twitter.com/aGmTIp7ug5
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 26, 2021
Chase (my WR25) should be starting in the vast majority of lineups, while Boyd (WR29) is also set up well against a Jaguars defense that has allowed the fourth-most yards per attempt to receivers aligned in the slot this season. Also keep an eye on Auden Tate AKA one of the game’s single-best No. 4 wide receivers.
60% of the time, this Panthers offense works every time: D.J. Moore looks unstoppable and is finally getting the sort of alpha target share that he deserves:
- Davante Adams (39% target share)
- Brandin Cooks (37%)
- Cooper Kupp (36%)
- Deebo Samuel (33%)
- D.K. Metcalf (32%)
- Moore (31%)
Lock Moore into the WR1 spot in your fantasy lineup regardless of the matchup; elite talents with elite workloads shouldn’t be benched even if there’s a fire.
The bigger question mark is Robby Anderson, who has busted in back-to-back weeks after his 1-57-1 season debut. A few things to keep in mind with Robby:
- He was a clear top-two receiver in this offense last season with Christian McCaffrey (hamstring, out) sidelined for all but three games.
- Head coach Matt Rhule stated the following after last Thursday night: “We have to get Robby going as an offense. Against the Saints, we kinda had a couple deep shots to him we didn’t quite connect on. If you watch the tape last night, he’s open quite a bit and the ball’s not getting to him. And the ball’s being spread around to a lot of different people.”
- The Panthers signed Anderson to a two-year, $29.5 million contract with $20 million guaranteed in August.
Sam Darnold continues to look solid and gets to face the Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings, Giants and Falcons through the end of October. This passing game sure looks capable of enabling more than one solid option; don’t be surprised if Anderson rebounds in a major way against a Cowboys defense that has allowed a league-high 27 explosive pass plays through three weeks of action.
The ceiling is the moon for this Seahawks passing game: Being able to launch moon balls to two stud receivers like D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett must be nice. Russ certainly seems to think so; there truly isn’t another pair of pass-catchers featured more often across the NFL:
- Target share: Metcalf: 32% (No. 5 in the NFL); Lockett: 25% (No. 25)
- Air yard share: Metcalf: 43% (No. 8); Lockett: 39% (No. 14)
Overall, Metcalf and Lockett boast the highest combined sum of target share (57%) and air yard share (82%) among any team’s top two pass-game options.
Wilson hasn’t been completely lights out this season, but it’s tough to see his troubles becoming too glaring so long as his top two receivers stay healthy. This secondary is in such a rough spot that Josh Norman, who has largely been a punching bag for the past three seasons at least, is getting national reporters to unironically keep everyone updated on his injury status.
Both Metcalf (WR5) and Lockett (WR16) need to be in starting lineups until further notice.
These passing games might be a bit rough n’ rowdy: The Jaguars, Saints, Steelers and Ravens stand out as passing “attacks” that might be dealing with more of a paper sword as opposed to a rocket launcher. Something like that. You know what I mean.
Not so fast my friend: Additional quarterbacks not exactly set up for success through the air include Daniel Jones, Jacoby Brissett, Dak Prescott as well as whoever the hell Matt Nagy winds up starting under center. Seriously, did you hear his quote on how he learned new things about Fields while watching him play with the first team? Funny how that works.
Take it easy on Danny Dimes: I don’t blame anyone for failing to watch a good amount of Giants football this season; just realize Jones has hardly been the problem behind their 0-3 start. Overall, only Tom Brady (91.3), Kirk Cousins (89.4) and Ryan Tannehill (87.5) have graded out higher as a pure passer than Jones (87.1). Throw in the fact that only Lamar Jackson (251) has more rushing yards than Jones (161) this season, and one could argue the Giants’ third-year quarterback is starting to look like a (very) poor man’s version of Josh Allen.
The Giants boast PFF’s single-worst team pass-blocking grade and Jason Garrett never makes life easy for anyone; don’t be so quick to simply pin this organization’s struggles on their young quarterback, who continues to largely make the most out of what he’s got. Things won’t be easy if both Darius Slayton (hamstring) and Sterling Shepard (hamstring) remain sidelined, but a lack of high performing teammates hasn’t slowed down Jones thus far.
Dope secondaries always have the best nicknames: Only the Broncos (4.6 pass yards allowed per dropback), Bills (4.9), Panthers (5), Bengals (5.3) and Raiders (5.4) have held their opponents to fewer than 4.5 yards per dropback through the air through three weeks. Easy starts to the season for many aside: Credit to every secondary involved for acing the test to this point.
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 (blue) is good for offenses, while a lower number (red) indicates that offense could be in trouble.
Mismatch Manifesto Week 4: 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/5nWPrdGezL
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 29, 2021
Blowout alert: Matchups featuring the biggest difference in combined EPA between offenses include the Bills over the Texans, Panthers over the Cowboys, Broncos over Ravens and Saints over Giants. Only the Cowboys are favored. America’s Team. Typical.
Over alert: Matchups featuring an overall positive combination of combined EPA are highlighted by Chiefs-Eagles, Seahawks-49ers, Browns-Vikings and Cardinals-Rams. It’s not surprising that every game has an over/under in the 50s.
Under alert: On the other hand, Titans-Jets, Jaguars-Bengals and Lions-Bears stand out as matchups that might cause the scoreboard operator to get caught sleeping on the job. It’s not surprising that every game has an over/under at 46 or lower.
Upset alert: The Colts (+1.5), Vikings (+2), Eagles (+7), Panthers (+5) and Cardinals (+4.5) represent the only five teams expected to have the offensive advantage, yet enter their matchups as underdogs. Last week’s qualifiers featured the Chargers, Bengals, Rams and Eagles, good for a 3-1 record against both the spread and straight up.