In advance of this weekend’s wildcard games, I wanted to isolate specific advantageous matchups that could be interesting from a fantasy and prop perspective. We’ll break it down by game, now with the Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots.
Tennessee offense vs New England defense:
- The Patriots defense ranks first defending the pass and seventh defending the run, based on DVOA.
- Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing this season and has been on a mad tear of late. Since Week 10, a span of six games, Henry has rushed for 896 yards on 139 carries, good for a ridiculous 6.44 YPC and 149 yards per game. It’s not as if one game is skewing the numbers either, he has rushed for at least 149 yards in four of the six games. The Patriots have faced an easy schedule of run offense, having only faced three teams all season in the top 10 in DVOA run offense. Against Cleveland, Baltimore, and Dallas, the Patriots allowed over 100 yards rushing in all three games and allowed 478 yards on 89 attempts and 5.37 YPA. By far the three best RBs the Patriots have faced, Ezekiel Elliott, Nick Chubb, and Joe Mixon, they allowed at least 86 yards to all three and over 130 yards to Chubb and Mixon.
- The New England pass defense started the season being hailed as maybe the best of all-time. The pass defense continued to play well but it’s obvious the historically easy schedule early in the season helped skew their numbers. Since Week 10, the pass defense has allowed a success rate of 44%, 14th in the NFL after allowing only a 34% success rate in the first nine games. Since Week 10, the Pats have allowed WRs to gain 20+ yards on 14% of pass attempts, ranking 27th in the NFL. This is after ranking first in the NFL in the first nine weeks.
- Ryan Tannehill has averaged 260 yards per game with 22 TDs and only 5 INTs. He has been fantastic this season but has only faced two top 10 DVOA pass defenses. Against the Panthers and Chiefs, Tannehill threw for 512 yards on 58 attempts, for nearly 10 yards per attempt.
- A.J. Brown has had a tremendous rookie season but will most likely be shadowed by lockdown CB Stephon Gilmore. Brown has matched up with just one strong cornerback over his hot stretch and was limited to one catch on two targets for 34 yards against Marshon Lattimore in Week 16. That will leave guys like Corey Davis and Tajae Sharpe having to get open for Tannehill.
- An area that Tannehill might turn to is the TE position and specifically Jonnu Smith. Smith has high variance. In his 10 games with Tannehill, Smith has games with 64, 78, 60, and, 63 yards with three receiving touchdowns, but also has been held to 30 or fewer yards in the other six games, with two complete 0-0-0 goose eggs. Smith has been targeted just 15 times over the past six games. Six of the 16 touchdowns that the Patriots allowed to skill positions this season went to opposing tight ends, which was the highest touchdown share in the league allowed to tight ends.
New England offense vs Tennessee defense:
- The Titans defense ranks 20th defending the pass and 6th defending the run, based on DVOA.
- The Patriots have struggled all season running the football and against the sixth-best run defense, don’t expect a big game from Sony Michel. Tennessee has been vulnerable to RBs out of the backfield ranking 31st in receptions allowed per game (6.3) to opposing backs. Normally this could be a great opportunity for James White, but he has been sharing time with Rex Burkhead.
- In the passing game, we really only need to look at one WR, Julian Edelman. Edelman has been banged up lately so it’s hard to know how effective he will be this weekend. He does have a good matchup and has spent 68% of his snaps in the slot. He’s ninth in the NFL in yards per route run from the slot from WRs who have spent at least 50% of their snaps in the slot. When he is in the slot, he most likely will match up with Logan Ryan, who has allowed an absurd 80% catch rate, 4 TDs, and a league-leading 198 yards after contact since week 10. Overall, Ryan has been targeted in the slot the most in the NFL on the season.