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NFL Week 10 Trench Matchups: Saints should have no issue with the 49ers' starless pass rush; Thursday Night Football offers an intriguing matchup

Nov 1, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (17) gets sacked by Detroit Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara (95) during the first quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

We are already entering Week 10 of the 2020 regular season, and as more data flies in, our projections are becoming more and more accurate. This is especially true for our trench matchup predictions since history has shown that pressure rates and grades for both pass rushing and pass blocking are among the most predictive performance measures we have.

With the kickoff to Thursday Night Football just hours away, it's time for us to analyze every contest's trench matchups by predicting the survival curves for the offensive line and projecting how often a quarterback will be pressured at a given time after the snap.

Going into each game, a machine-learning model incorporates a number of features in order to come up with a prediction:

  • The survival curve of the offensive line in previous games (or from last year)
  • The survival curve of the defensive line in previous games (or from last year)
  • The PFF pass-blocking grades of the five offensive linemen
  • The PFF pass-rush grades of the pass-rushers and the positions they are projected to line up in
  • How the blend of individual grades and team-level survival curves from the past are weighted toward predicting the cervical curve depends on continuity and how far in the past the information lies. Less continuity means the individual grades are weighted more heavily.
  • Schematic factors such as how often the defense is projected to blitz and how often the offense is projected to use play action, designed rollouts or six-plus-man protections.

[Editor's Note: PFF's advanced statistics and player grades are powered by AWS machine learning capabilities.]

Each week, we will use our projections to highlight the biggest mismatches in the trenches. We will also identify an interesting matchup to watch.

Last week, we anticipated that the New York Giants‘ offensive line would have its hands full with the Washington front seven. This turned out to be true, as Daniel Jones was pressured within 2.5 seconds on 35% of his dropbacks, the fifth-highest rate of the week.

On the other end of the spectrum, we predicted that the Steelers‘ offensive line would be too much of an obstacle for the Dallas Cowboys‘ pass rush. Indeed, Ben Roethlisberger faced quick pressure at the fourth-lowest rate of the week.

As far as our matchup of the week was concerned, the fight between the Miami Dolphins pass rush, and the Arizona Cardinals pass protection was an intriguing one. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray found himself under quick pressure 24% of the time, a slightly above-average rate but well below the season-long rate produced by the Dolphins' defensive line.

Here are our mismatches for Week 10.

Favoring the offensive line: San Francisco 49ers DL vs. New Orleans Saints OL

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