Inside Edge: 3 Week 11 NFL 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 each week is decided by the combination of numerous matchups, but each week, some matchups matter more than others. This series aims 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 11 matchups to look forward to.
Melvin Gordon vs. Kansas City Defense
Through the first two months of the season, the Los Angeles Chargers were 3-5 and in third place in the AFC West. The Chargers ranked 23rd in points per game after previously ranking no worse than 13th in offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s four-year tenure. Whisenhunt was fired after Week 8 and replaced by quarterback coach Shane Steichen.
In the two weeks since Whisenhunt’s release, the Chargers improved to 4-6 after upsetting the Green Bay Packers and narrowly losing to the Oakland Raiders. Los Angeles had a point differential of zero against teams with a combined 0.452 win percentage in Weeks 1-8. They had a point differential of +13 against teams with a combined 0.684 win percentage in Weeks 9 and 10.
The Chargers transitioned to much run-heavier team after Whisenhunt’s departure. Los Angeles ranked third in pass rate (67%) from Weeks 1-8 under Whisenhunt before ranking 29th in pass rate (49%) from Weeks 9-10 under Steichen (per Sharp Football Stats). It is a small sample size, but a significant split nevertheless.
Running back Melvin Gordon has been the main beneficiary of the offensive adjustment. Gordon averaged 11 carries for 28 rushing yards per game under Whisenhunt before averaging 21 carries for 94 rushing yards per game under Steichen.
To be fair, Gordon has played a much easier schedule in the past two weeks. The Chargers faced the toughest schedule of opposing rush defenses in Weeks 5-8 (Gordon held out and did not play Weeks 1-4), and the 12th-easiest schedule of opposing rush defenses in Weeks 9-10, per Sharp Football Stats.
Gordon will continue to see easy matchups, however, as the Chargers will play the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night. The Chiefs rank 28th in numberFire’s Adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play, 30th in yards per carry allowed, and 31st in rushing touchdowns allowed.
Opposing starting running backs have averaged 5.28 yards per carry against Kansas City this season. For context, Nick Chubb is averaging 5.28 yards per carry on the season, which ranks second in the league among qualifying running backs. Just last week, Derrick Henry ran 23 times for 188 yards (8.17 yards per carry) and 2 touchdowns against the Chiefs.
Rushing isn’t necessarily the blueprint for playing against the Chiefs (Kansas City is 4-1 this season when allowing over 5.0 yards per carry), but it has become the blueprint for the Chargers offense. Gordon should continue running well against Kansas City, and it'll be interesting to see if the Chargers' new game plan will be enough to keep up with defending MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense.
Devin Singletary vs. Miami Defense
The Buffalo Bills will travel to South Beach to face the Miami Dolphins this week in a rematch of their Week 6 battle. Devin Singletary rushed just 7 times for 26 yards that game but has seen an increased role in the past few weeks.
Singletary averaged 29.7 snaps per game in Weeks 1-7 before averaging 43.0 snaps per game the past three weeks. Frank Gore averaged 34.5 snaps per game in Weeks 1-7 before averaging 20.3 snaps per game the past three weeks. Singletary has played over 66% of snaps in each of the past three weeks, while Gore played no more than 34%.
Frank Gore is a highly respected NFL veteran, but Singletary has proven to be the more explosive running back this season and has rightfully earned a larger role as the season has progressed. Singletary should have a good chance at having a bigger impact against Miami this week, especially considering the obvious mismatch in the trenches.
Per Football Outsiders, the Bills rank 2nd in adjusted line yards, while the Dolphins defensive line ranks 30th. It’s the largest mismatch in adjusted yards created in any game this week.
Buffalo is 7th in Adjusted Rushing NEP per play, and Miami is 27th in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play. Per Sharp Football Stats, the Bills rank 11th in explosive runs (30) and 10th in explosive run rate (12%). The Dolphins have allowed the fourth-most explosive runs (36) and seventh-highest rate of explosive runs (13%).
Devin Singletary leads Buffalo with 11 of the team’s 30 explosive rushes despite ranking third in the team in carries behind Frank Gore and Josh Allen. Singletary actually leads the league in explosive rush rate among qualifying running backs. His 23% explosive rush rate is well above the league average of 11%.
Singletary appears to be the future at running back for Buffalo and should continue his mid-season breakout against the 2-7 Dolphins.
Nick Foles vs. Indianapolis Defense
Sixth-round rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew led the Jacksonville Jaguars to a respectable 4-4 record as a starter on a team with a middle of the pack offense. Jacksonville ranks between 9th and 14th in passing yards per game, rushing yards per game, yards per play, and offensive DVOA. However, it ranks just 24th in points per game.
Jacksonville’s inability to turn offensive production into points starts and ends in the red zone. The Jaguars rank 19th in red zone scoring attempts per drive but 30th in red zone touchdown percentage. Per Sharp Football Stats, Jacksonville has a 45% success rate outside of the red zone (21st in the league) but a 26% success rate in the red zone (32nd).
Jacksonville ranks first in field goals made per game and 27th in touchdowns per game. It’s safe to say that the Jaguars have left a lot of points on the field. Considering that they’ve lost three games this season by seven points or fewer, converting drives into touchdowns rather than field goals would have made those games much more winnable.
Like Jacksonville’s offense, the Indianapolis Colts defense is middle of the pack. It ranks between 9th and 17th in passing yards allowed per game, rushing yards allowed per game, yards per play allowed, and defensive DVOA. While Jacksonville's offense struggles in the red zone, the Colts defense plays fairly well there. Indianapolis ranks 15th in red zone scoring attempts allowed per game and 12th in red zone touchdown percentage allowed per game.
The Colts rank 10th in touchdowns allowed per game and 29th in field goals allowed per game. Their defense appears to be well-equipped to turn Jacksonville’s drives into field goals rather than touchdowns, which would have a large impact on the game.
However, the Jaguars announced that Nick Foles will be starting this week’s game. Foles, who signed an $88 million contract with Jacksonville this offseason, played just 11 snaps in the season opener before fracturing his clavicle.
Minshew had a 53.1% completion percentage and 102.5 passer rating in the red zone this season. Foles had a 60.5% completion percentage and a 96.9 passer rating in the red zone in his last two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Foles is certainly a big change for Jacksonville’s offense. In order to have the most positive impact on the team, he’ll need to find success in the red zone, starting this week against the Colts.