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Fantasy Football: Week 8 Mismatch Manifesto & Top Blow-Up Picks

  • New Orleans Saints rookie WR Chris Olave has earned near auto-start treatment, and a boom could be incoming against the Raiders’ vulnerable secondary.
  • The Falcons’ ridiculously banged-up secondary adds credence to the idea that Carolina Panthers WR D.J. Moore could keep on keeping on after last week’s top-10 finish
  • Houston Texans RB Dameon Pierce will have to continue to operate like a borderline God with the ball in his hands in order to win out against a tough Titans front-seven.
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
  • 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: Just three offenses are averaging an explosive pass play on at least 10% of their dropbacks: Patriots, Chiefs and Lions.

The whole “spread the ball around” thing really worked for the Chiefs in Week 7: Patrick Mahomes warned fantasy managers before the season that things would be spread around on a week-to-week basis. This certainly proved to be true (aside from Travis Kelce’s typical excellence) for the first six weeks of the season, but the entire wide receiver room really got going in the team’s dominant Week 7 win over the 49ers:

  • Week 1: 34.6 total fantasy PPR points scored from Chiefs wide receivers
  • Week 2: 27.8
  • Week 3: 23.9
  • Week 4: 25.4
  • Week 5: 38.8
  • Week 6: 38.9
  • Week 7: 75.2

Through seven weeks, Mahomes leads the NFL in passing yards (2,159) and touchdowns (20). Both league-high marks are at least somewhat due to Josh Allen already having had a bye week; either way, Mahomes’ performance has largely been nothing short of masterful especially after considering he’s dealing with life without arguably the NFL’s single-best wide receiver.

Former Giants WR Kadarius Toney has a bye week to integrate himself into the offense; he possesses legit upside WR2 potential should he earn a full-time role and the injury gods chill out for a bit (two big ifs). His presence is worse news for Mecole Hardman and Skyy Moore than JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who are both expected to remain full-time starters in two-WR sets.

Good offense beats good defense in today’s NFL: Offenses set up to thrive in their quest to create some explosive pass plays: Titans, Bengals, Lions, Saints and Eagles.

Pain: Stud Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase is expected to miss four to six weeks with a hip injury. The potential for Joe Burrow to keep on putting up big numbers in an offense suddenly cool with throwing the ball more and pushing the pace means that all non-injured parties receive boosts. This applies to Tee Higgins, Hayden Hurst and especially Tyler Boyd, who has managed to ball out quite nicely in 13 career games with Joe Burrow, but without one of Chase and Higgins. Overall, Boyd has posted a whopping seven finishes inside the position’s top-20 PPR performers in this span, while only on three occasions did he finish lower than the PPR WR36.

Further helping matters is a solid matchup against the Browns this week; they have struggled mightily against the deep ball this season:

Browns defense vs. passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield

  • Yards per attempt allowed: 19.4 (No. 28)
  • Explosive pass-play rate allowed: 50% (No. 26)
  • QB rating allowed: 12.6 (No. 26)

Believe in the Sun God: As long as the man is actually OK. The NFL’s new concussion protocol ruled Amon-Ra St. Brown out in the Lions’ Week 7 loss to the Cowboys. Good news: The Lions clarified that St. Brown actually didn’t suffer a concussion. Side note: Amon-Ra was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday due to concussion protocol. Does anyone else feel like we’re taking crazy pills?

If active, St. Brown needs to continue to be jammed into fantasy lineups of all shapes and sizes. And why wouldn’t he? Reminder: St. Brown has barely missed in his last nine games not impacted by injury:

  • 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)

I’m less keen on trusting this offense’s ancillary weapons at the moment; this group has scored a whopping 6 points in their last eight quarters of football. Still, St. Brown should avoid the Lions’ toughest matchup from the friendly confines of the slot if healthy enough to suit up: No. 1 Dolphins CB Xavien Howard has spent 88% of his snaps at outside cornerback this season. 

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 (11.6%), Browns (10.5%), Raiders (10.2%) and Seahawks (10%).


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