- Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins will need to overcome the Lions’ feisty pass rush in order to rebound in a major way in Week 2.
- The Bills have managed to post the league’s second-highest pressure rate despite easily blitzing less than any defense in the league.
- The early post-Urban returns from the Jaguars passing attack have been good largely thanks to high-priced free agent addition Christian Kirk.
Estimated reading time: 22 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
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, 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: Five offenses are averaging an explosive pass play on at least 10.5% of their dropbacks: Broncos (11.3%), Titans (11.1%), Packers (11.1%), Raiders (10.7%) and Lions (10.5%).
“Why be a king, when you can be a Sun God?” – Amon-Ra St. Brown
What a time to be alive:
- 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)
The most recent performance included 68 rushing yards. St. Brown has now converted nine carries into 129 rushing yards and a score; he can do that too. I’m more curious than Boobie Miles’ father to find out if he can pass.
St. Brown is an every-week WR1 because that’s we now literally have a half season’s worth of games of him being exactly that. Matchups don’t matter nearly as much when double-digit targets are on the table every single week – but hey, St. Brown is set up rather awesomely against the Vikings’ bottom-four defense in yards per attempt allowed to targets aligned in the slot.
Good offense beats good defense in today’s NFL: Offenses set up to thrive in their quest to create some explosive pass plays: Buccaneers, Chargers, Bears, Titans and Lions.
Why won’t Elon Musk step up and prevent injuries from ever happening again: The Buccaneers and Chargers could have a tougher time taking advantage of their plus matchups in the passing game due to some key injuries:
- Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert: Fractured rib cartilage during the Chargers’ thrilling Thursday night loss to the Chiefs. Hopefully, the extended rest allowed him enough time to heal; he’ll need it after being hurt enough to give up on a live scramble opportunity due to the pain. If sidelined, soon-to-be 36-year-old journeyman Chase Daniel will be under center. Note that Daniel has five starts and eight touchdown passes since entering the league in 2010, yet has collected a cool $41.3 million over the course of his career.
- Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (hamstring), Julio Jones (knee), Mike Evans (suspension): Early reports seemed to paint Godwin’s injury as a multi-week ordeal, while Evans is for sure sidelined for starting another fight with Marshon Lattimore. Hopefully, Julio Jones will be a full-time starter with Tom f*cking Brady under center, but that’s also not a guarantee. This could leave TB12 to throw to Breshad Perriman, Russell Gage, Scotty Miller and perhaps recently signed Cole Beasley. Gage should be ranked the highest of the group, but a run-first game plan would make sense if all of Brady’s top receivers are ultimately sidelined.
Offense is easier when the defense sucks: The only six defenses allowing an explosive pass play on at least 11% of their opponent’s dropbacks: Packers (14%), Giants (11.3%), Texans (11.2%), Cardinals (11%), Bears (10.9%) and Bengals (10.7%).
More parties in LA: Matthew Stafford followed up a disappointing three-INT Week 1 performance against the Bills with 272 yards and three scores against the Falcons. The elbow injury doesn’t seem to be limiting the ex-Lions quarterback’s ability to make some truly wild throws. Through two weeks the reigning Super Bowl champion is on pace to throw 36 touchdowns and 43 interceptions. Are you not entertained?
Up next is a Cardinals defense that has struggled to open the season:
- Yards per attempted allowed: 7.85 (No. 26)
- Explosive pass-play rate allowed: 20.7% (No. 32)
- Pass touchdown rate allowed: 9% (No. 31)
- QB rating allowed: 130 (No. 31)
Only Lions-Vikings (52.5) and Bills-Dolphins (52) have higher game totals than Rams-Cardinals (50.5); Stafford and company are set up for a shootout against a defense that has allowed the most points in football through two weeks of action. Giddyup.
Monday night shadow matchup: Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb vs. Giants CB Adoree’ Jackson is one of 11 shadow matchups that I project for Week 3. Credit to Jackson for limiting Robbie Anderson (3-32-0) and Robert Woods (4-39-0) to start the season, but it’d be shocking if Lamb doesn’t exceed their combined eight targets on his own. Cooper Rush has just narrowly missed Lamb on two deep shots during their 4.5 quarters together this season. Treat Lamb as the NFC version of Brandin Cooks while Dak Prescott (thumb) is sidelined; he should have enough volume to put up WR2 production more weeks than not, even if the efficiency isn’t pretty.
Let the rookie watch: Another projected Week 3 shadow matchup pits Bears WR Darnell Mooney vs. Texans CB Derek Stingley. Stingley has flashed early by making a few great plays on the ball, but he wasn’t much of an impedance on Courtland Sutton (7-122-0) in Week 2. Of course, the Broncos’ passing game is a bit (read: a lot) more formidable than the Bears at the moment. Don’t expect the 2022 NFL Draft’s No. 3 overall pick to make life easy on Mooney, but the much larger issue leading to Mooney falling down the ranks is the overall available volume inside of the league’s most run-heavy offense. Through two weeks Justin Fields ranks 33rd in the NFL in pass attempts despite, you know, there being 32 teams in this wonderful league.