- Adams primed for a big performance: Las Vegas Raiders WR Davante Adams appears poised to have an especially great day at the office and carries PFF’s highest WR/CB matchup grade
- Barkley should repeat Week 1 performance: New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley looks to be once again set up nicely to create some explosive plays in the run game
- Target Week 2's fast-paced matchups: The Commanders-Lions and Bengals-Cowboys games stand out as the week’s fastest-paced matchups, leading to plenty of fantasy football points.
Estimated reading time: 20 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 quarterback.
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
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 Week 1, 2022. 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).
These offenses breed explosive plays: Six offenses managed to average an explosive pass play on at least 12% of their dropbacks in Week 1: Titans (20%), Vikings (18%), Saints (15%), Commanders (13%), Chiefs (12%) and Panthers (12%).
Will the real Carson Wentz please stand up: After one week of action, the Lions rank 31st in EPA allowed per play. Of course, plenty of this can be attributed to Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ stellar Week 1 performance, but that also wasn’t exactly a surprise. Overall, the Lions entered the season with PFF’s 25th-ranked secondary and 26th-ranked defensive line.
Enter Carson Wentz, who was rather awesome in Week 1 on his way to throwing for four touchdowns for the first time since originally injuring his knee back in 2017. There are talented wide receivers all over the field in Washington at the moment, and his six rush attempts demonstrated there might still be a bit of a rushing floor here.
Wentz is the top waiver wire add of the week at the position. Check out the Tuesday edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for more thoughts on Wentz and the rest of the week’s top waiver options.
Can anybody alive cover Davante Adams?: PFF’s WR/CB matchup tool denotes which wide receivers have excellent, good, average, below average or poor matchups. Note that the matchup rating is derived from both the wide receiver’s personal PFF grade in addition to their projected coverage, so sometimes, it’s simply a matter of a receiver being too damn good for just about anybody to handle. Just six receivers are deemed to have an excellent matchup ahead of Week 2:
- Davante Adams vs. Cardinals: 100.0 matchup rating
- Marquise Brown vs. Raiders: 95.7
- Terry McLaurin vs. Lions: 91.7
- Justin Jefferson vs. Eagles: 89.7
- Cooper Kupp vs. Falcons: 87.6
- Stefon Diggs vs. Titans: 85.5.
Maybe there’s a new No. 1 wide receiver in Carolina: Probably not, but at least for a week Robbie Anderson worked as the Panthers’ No. 1 wide receiver ahead of D.J. Moore. While Moore holds the edge in targets (287 versus 254), receptions (162 versus 153) and receiving yards (2,393 versus 1,717) since the two joined forces in 2020, it’s possible that Baker Mayfield involves Anderson at a more even rate moving forward. Anderson, like Donovan Peoples-Jones, is elevated from “nobody cares” to “boom-or-bust WR4/WR5” at the moment.
Offense is easier when the defense sucks: The only six defenses that allowed an explosive pass play on at least 12% of their opponent’s dropbacks: Giants (20%), Packers (18%), Falcons (15%), Jaguars (13%), Cardinals (12%) and Browns (12%).
- Week 10, 2021: Flacco was subbed in late for Mike White, threw three passes and completed two of them to Moore for 40 yards and a touchdown.
- Week 11, 2021: Moore impressively went 8-141-1 in a tough matchup against the Dolphins.
- Week 1, 2022: Moore went 5-49-0 with a touchdown that was (rightfully) nullified due to offensive pass interference.
This week’s matchup in Cleveland shouldn’t be seen as a smash spot, but the secondary didn’t exactly shut down Robbie Anderson (5-102-1). The Browns are happy to move CB Denzel Ward all over the field, but Diontae Johnson (Week 17, 2021) is the only No. 1 receiver he’s actively shadowed under current defensive coordinator Joe Woods. Don’t expect this to change against a Jets offense that has weapons all over the place.
Only the Raiders (76.8%) had a higher non-garbage time pass-play rate than the Jets (76.7%) in Week 1. Meanwhile, the Browns allowed -0.1 rushing yards before contact against the Panthers. Even if the Jets manage to keep things close and want to run the ball more, they might not have much of a choice in the matter against Myles Garrett and company.
Amari Cooper deserves better than this: Browns fans can rather easily find out if fellow fans watched their Week 1 victory over the Panthers by asking what they thought about their new No. 1 wide receiver. Yes, Cooper’s 3-17-0 receiving line wasn’t productive. Also yes, a mixture of Brissett and defensive penalties were precisely why the former Raiders' and Cowboys‘ receiver struggled to get much going on the stat sheet.
Amari Cooper looked good in Week 1 despite the 3-17-0 receiving line pic.twitter.com/QyOFKkR9KJ
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 12, 2022
Brissett also missed Kareem Hunt deep on what had the potential to be a 60-yard house call. Credit to the veteran quarterback for making a few clutch throws to ultimately earn the Browns the victory, but the career journeyman sure didn’t look like the best quarterback on the field against Baker Mayfield last week. I’m afraid these sort of “sheesh” moments will continue to flood the Browns’ passing game in Week 2 and beyond.
Did Kadarius Toney sleep with Mrs. Daboll?: The Giants’ talented second-year receiver is quite easily the biggest faller of the week at the position. He managed to flash both times that he touched the ball in Week 1. The problem is that Toney played just seven snaps in a game that featured Wan’Dale Robinson (knee) get injured. The Giants unironically played Richie James over Toney. Let that sink in.
Fully in the doghouse, Toney is impossible to start in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes until we see any sort of sign that more of a full-time role is on the table.