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Fantasy Football: Week 15 mismatch manifesto & top blow-up picks

Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (9) celebrates after a play against the Tennessee Titans during the first half of the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

  • Good JuJu: Kansas City Chiefs WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has peeled off four top-eight PPR finishes in his last five games with a full-time role.
  • Start/sit: Jacksonville Jaguars RB Travis Etienne has been slumping recently, although his lack of competition for touches still makes him tough to bench in fantasy land.
  • Pretty, pretty, pretty good: The Dallas Cowboys have averaged NFL-best marks in points per game (35.7) and touchdown drive rate (39.7%) since Dak Prescott returned in Week 7.
Estimated reading time: 31 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
  • Pace
  • Pressure
  • Yards Before Contact
  • Pass yards per dropback
  • EPA

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.


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.

  • 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: Five offenses are averaging an explosive pass play on more than 9.5% of their dropbacks: Kansas City Chiefs (10.5%), New England Patriots (10%), Philadelphia Eagles (9.8%), Detroit Lions (9.6%) and Miami Dolphins (9.6%).

Has Tua Tagovailoa been figured out?: Probably not. Even back-to-back relatively porous performances weren’t enough to push Tua off the top of the leaderboard as PFF’s top-graded passer (86.6) while his marks in yards per attempt (8.7, No. 1) and passer rating (108.2, No. 2) also help demonstrate the reality that 2022 has been far more good than bad for his believers.

Still, Sunday night’s inaccurate performance against a banged-up Los Angeles Chargers defense was certainly a bit alarming, as Tua posted personal season-low marks in yards per attempt (5.2) and PFF passing grade (45.0). His 45.8% adjusted completion rate – the first time any NFL quarterback has posted a mark under 50% among 378 instances of a player having at least 25 dropbacks in a game this season — was the most concerning.

Further complicating matters is the Dolphins’ Week 15 matchup in Buffalo. Vegas seems concerned considering the Dolphins’ 17.5-point implied total is tied for the third-lowest mark of the week, although potential porous weather could also be playing a role in that.

Ultimately, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are two of just seven players with 1,000 receiving yards this season. Fire up the PPR WR2 and WR11 as the fantasy studs that they have been all season long, even if there have been a few more bumps in the road than usual over the past two weeks.

Good offense beats good defense in today’s NFL: Offenses set up to thrive in their quest to create some explosive pass plays: Chiefs, Patriots, Eagles, Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers.

Is TE Chigoziem Okonkwo actually a recommended start this week?: The matchup against a potentially Derwin James-less Chargers defense certianly helps. Even with James, the group has allowed the 10th-most receiving yards to opposing tight ends this season.

Week-to-week volume hasn’t been consistent, but the rookie fourth-round pick has managed to gain at least 30 receiving yards in six consecutive games despite hauling in just a single catch during three of those performances. Luckily, these good performances have led to more consistent opportunities, as Okonkwo is fresh off setting back-to-back season-highs in targets.

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