Inside Edge: 3 Week 2 Matchups That Could Decide Games
When seeking value on betting lines and predicting fantasy football outcomes, the difference between success and failure can come down to a few key matchups that can have a large impact on the final outcome of those games.
Every game every week is decided by the combination of numerous matchups, but each week, some matchups matter more than others. The aim of this series is to identify a few key matchups every week that will likely have a large impact on the final outcome of select games.
Without further ado, here are three Week 2 matchups to look forward to.
Carson Wentz vs. Matt Ryan
Jackson is the vertical threat the Eagles have been searching for since drafting Carson Wentz in 2017. Philadelphia has arguably the deepest and most talented offensive unit in the league.
The Eagles started slowly in their season opener but put up 32 points in the final 35 minutes of game time. Philly ranked eighth in numberFire’s adjusted passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play last week as Wentz threw for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Up next for the Eagles is a Falcons defense that ranked bottom-eight in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP, passing yards allowed, passing touchdowns allowed, and points allowed last year. In Week 1, Atlanta gave up 98 yards and a touchdown on just 10 passing attempts from Kirk Cousins and ranked 30th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Meanwhile, Matt Ryan struggled against the Vikings' loaded defense on Sunday, but the former MVP should be able to bounce back this week (with help from his own talented offensive unit). Minnesota ranked 2nd in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP last season, while Philadelphia ranked 17th. The Eagles also allowed the third-most passing yards in 2018.
Last week, Philadelphia ranked 26th in Adjusted Passing Defense NEP per play and allowed Case Keenum to throw for 380 yards, which was the fourth-most by any quarterback in Week 1.
Another interesting note is that Cousins and Keenum both ranked top-seven among starting quarterbacks last week in Adjusted Passing NEP per deep pass (16-plus air yards) against Atlanta and Philadelphia, respectively.
Wentz and Ryan are both upper-tier quarterbacks with great surrounding weapons that should benefit from weak opposing pass defenses this week. Expect the Eagles and Falcons to both put up considerable points against each other -- especially through the air.
Bills Offense vs. Giants Defense
The Bills handily won just about every team matchup: total yards, yards per play, first downs, sacks, and penalties.
However, Buffalo did lose two significant battles: turnovers and return touchdowns. The Bills lost the ball four times (two fumbles and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown), while the Jets lost the ball just once (fumble).
Per Sharp Football, teams that were -3 in turnover margin and allowed a return touchdown went 0-18 last season and have won 2% of games since 2010. Yet Buffalo was still able to win Sunday's game.
With the exception of turnovers, the Bills' offense had a solid season opener. Buffalo ranked top-20 in total yards, passing yards, yards per play, and first downs in Week 1. Not terrible for a team that ranked bottom-six in each of those categories in 2018.
Granted, the Jets defense isn’t great, but neither is the Giants' D. The Bills will be returning to MetLife Stadium for the second week in a row to face the G-men.
New York ranked bottom-four in total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, points allowed, and Adjusted Defensive NEP per play among all teams in Week 1 after facing the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants ranked 24th in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play in 2018 and are without playmakers Olivier Vernon and Landon Collins this year.
Additionally, Dak Prescott completed all three of his deep pass attempts against the Giants. Josh Allen also completed three deep passes last week, albeit on nine attempts (sixth-most in Week 1). Per Next Gen Stats, Allen ranked first in the league last season in average intended air yards, so he will continue looking downfield. He should have better success going deep against New York this week.
The Bills certainly don’t have one of the league’s most exciting offenses, but if Allen can do a better job protecting the ball, their offense should play well against the Giants in Week 2.
Jaguars Secondary vs. Texans Receivers
The Jaguars' pass defense ranked first and sixth, respectively, in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP the past two seasons. In Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs, they ranked 28th (on a per-play basis).
Jacksonville lost four key defensive starters last season, and it showed. Current safeties Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson had a combined 10 career starts prior to this season. The Jaguars allowed three deep pass plays to the Chiefs, which was the ninth-most in the league last week.
Patrick Mahomes threw for 378 yards even without Tyreek Hill for most of the game (shoulder injury). Jacksonville hadn’t allowed that many passing yards in a regular season game since December of 2015.
Deshaun Watson threw for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns. Slot receiver Keke Coutee didn’t play due to injury, but Watson’s other top receivers – DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Kenny Stills – combined for 13 catches on 19 targets for 217 yards and all 3 of Watson’s passing touchdowns. Kansas City’s top three receivers had a near identical stat line against Jacksonville last week: 12 catches on 15 targets for 214 yards and all 3 of Mahomes’ touchdowns.
Additionally, the Texans had four deep pass plays against the Saints, which ranked fourth in the league. Watson completed a pair of passes for 75 yards and a touchdown in just two plays on Houston’s last drive of the game.
Week 1 is always full of overreactions. Saying that the Jaguars now have a bad secondary is an overreaction. But saying that their secondary is worse than it was a season ago is fair. Jacksonville’s pass defense used to be the only thing keeping them in games -- we’ll see if it’ll be enough to keep the Jaguars in contention with Watson and his arsenal of receivers.