- The Miami Dolphins passing game continues to function as anyone’s idea of a top-five unit and at times looks downright unstoppable.
- Look for New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley to be the latest running back to torch the Texans.
- Pick a rushing stat, rushing any stat, and there’s a good chance that Travis Etienne’s name is near the top of the leaderboard.
Estimated reading time: 25 minutes
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
- Yards Before Contact
- Pass yards per dropback
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.
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).
These offenses breed explosive plays: Four offenses are averaging an explosive pass play on at least 10% of their dropbacks: Eagles (10.7%), Patriots (10.5%), Lions (10.4%) and Dolphins (10.3%).
Arm strength is overrated: At least when Tyreek Hill is so far behind the defense anyway that he has time to come back and make the catch. I agree with the general sentiment that Tua Tagovailoa has left a lot of meat on the bone when it comes to getting the ball to his speedy playmakers deep downfield; just realize it hasn’t stopped the third-year signal-caller from working as one of the game’s most efficient deep-ball passers.
Tua on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield
- PFF passing grade: 94.6 (No. 2 among 32 quarterbacks with at least 15-such attempts)
- Passer rating: 117.6 (No. 2)
- Yards per attempt: 20.3 (No. 1)
- Adjusted completion rate: 71.4% (No. 1)
This isn’t to suggest that Hill and Jaylen Waddle have caught each and every one of Tua’s downfield ducks. There was a particularly egregious misfire at the end of Week 9 that should have resulted in a 77-yard score for the latter speedster:
Waddle should still be running pic.twitter.com/3kR9d7TSOq
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 7, 2022
Style points be damned: This passing game continues to function as anyone’s idea of a top-five unit and at times looks downright unstoppable. Don’t be surprised if that deep ball continues to produce more good than bad against a Browns secondary that has been rather brutal defending exactly that:
Browns defense on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield
- Passer rating allowed: 134.4 (No. 29)
- Yards per attempt allowed: 19.7 (No. 31)
- Explosive pass-play rate allowed: 51.8% (No. 28)
Good offense beats good defense in today’s NFL: Offenses set up to thrive in their quest to create some explosive pass plays: Dolphins, Eagles, Lions and Saints.
Rookie of the year?: The following leaderboard denotes the most yards per route run among rookie wide receivers with at least 50 targets since 2015:
- A.J. Brown (2.67)
- Justin Jefferson (2.66)
- Ja'Marr Chase (2.51)
- Chris Olave (2.38)
- Tyreek Hill (2.28)
Up next is a matchup against the league’s single-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers. Each of Gabriel Davis (3-171-2), A.J. Brown (6-156-3), Ja’Marr Chase (10-129-1), Nelson Agholor (6-110-1), Stefon Diggs (8-102-1) and Amari Cooper (7-101-1) managed to flame the Steelers for over 100 yards and a touchdown; don’t be surprised if the arguable Rookie of the Year is the next to join that group.
Believe in the Sun God: Especially with T.J. Hockenson now residing in Minnesota, and D’Andre Swift (ankle, shoulder) still seemingly not operating at 100%. Last week marked the first time in 10 non-injured games that ARSB failed to catch at least six passes:
- Week 13, 2021: 10 receptions-86 yards-1 TD (12 targets, PPR WR6)
- Week 14, 2021: 8-73-0 (12, WR26)
- Week 15, 2021: 8-90-1 (11, WR6)
- Week 16, 2021: 9-91-1 (11, WR6)
- Week 17, 2021: 8-111-1 (11, WR2)
- Week 18, 2021: 8-109-1 (10, WR9)
- Week 1, 2022: 8-64-1 (12, WR12)
- Week 2, 2022: 9-116-2 (12, WR4)
- Week 3, 2022: 6-73-0 (9, WR37)
- Week 8, 2022: 7-69-0 (10, WR23)
- Week 9, 2022: 4-55-0 (9, WR31)
Further helping matters is that this Bears defense has been fairly brutal against slot wide receivers. Overall, Chicago has posted bottom-eight marks in yards per attempt (10.3), explosive pass-play rate (24.5%) and passer rating allowed (118.9) to wide receivers aligned out of the slot this season.
Fire up ARSB as a top-10 wide receiver ahead of Sunday’s smash spot. Rookie Bears nickelback Kyler Gordon might have a bright future but through nine weeks he grades out as PFF’s 13th-worst cornerback in coverage among 126 qualified defensive backs.
Offense is easier when the defense sucks: The only four defenses allowing an explosive pass play on at least 10% of their opponent’s dropbacks: Texans (11.1%), Steelers (10.6%), Falcons (10.4%) and Browns (10%).