Jakobi Meyers loses the handle on a pass from Tom Brady, one of 10 drops by New England skill-position players over the past four weeks. Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Week 14 NFL mismatches: How Patriots, Ravens could struggle

Yardbarker's Michael Nania analyzes the biggest positional mismatches each week during the NFL season.

GLOSSARY: 

DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average): A method of evaluating teams, units or players in a comparative fashion. It takes every play during the NFL season and compares each to a league-average baseline based on situation.

EPA (Estimated Points Added): The measure of a play’s impact on the score of the game. It represents the difference between a team's "expected points value" (the net point value a team can expect given a particular combination of down, distance and field position) before and after a play.


Chiefs pass defense vs. Patriots passing attack

Why Patriots are overmatched: The Patriots have scored fewer than 24 points in four consecutive games, something they had not done since 2009. They are 15th in scoring per drive (1.95 points), their lowest ranking since 2003 (19th).

A surprisingly dormant Tom Brady-led passing attack is a major part of the problem. Brady has posted a passer rating below 90 (league average 91) in four consecutive games, his longest such streak since 2013 and tied for the second longest of his career (six games in 2006). Brady has averaged only 5.8 yards per attempt over this span (league average 7.3). Skill-position players have done Brady no favors with 10 dropped passes over the past four weeks, third most in the NFL.

Why Chiefs have edge: Kansas City's run-stopping issues are well documented (30th in run defense DVOA), but the pass defense is excellent (sixth in DVOA). The Chiefs shut down the Raiders' Derek Carr and Chargers' Philip Rivers over their past two games, holding them to a combined two touchdowns, six interceptions and a 57.7 passer rating. Kansas City also shut down Baltimore's Lamar Jackson (70.6 passer rating vs. Chiefs, his second lowest of season) and Houston's Deshaun Watson (77.5 passer rating, fourth lowest) earlier this season.

The Chiefs have several players thriving in the back end. Bashaud Breeland has allowed 0.80 yards per cover snap, which ranks 11th best among qualified cornerbacks. Tyrann Mathieu has taken on a heavy load in coverage and handled it excellently. He has faced 49 targets, second most among safeties, and allowed a passer rating of 71.1 (fifth lowest among the 32 safeties with 25-plus targets). Safety Juan Thornhill has allowed 0.23 yards per target, eighth best among safeties.

Fantasy impact: Kansas City's defense has produced at a high level over its past two games, racking up four sacks, seven takeaways and allowing only 27 points. However, while the Chiefs' defense may hold the New England offense to a low scoring total, it is unlikely they will continue their takeaway hot streak. Brady has turned the ball over just twice over five home games.

How Chiefs do it: Mathieu, signed as a free agent in the off-season, is a great addition for Kansas City. He has executed at a high level in a variety of coverage roles. In Kansas City's Week 13 win over Oakland, Mathieu set the tone early with an interception of Carr on the game's opening drive. Mathieu (#32) begins the play over Tyrell Williams in the slot, on the defense's right side. Mathieu carries Williams deep, then makes a beautiful transition to tight end Darren Waller's out-breaking route as he sees Carr begin to wind up. Carr, already having begun his throwing motion before Mathieu broke on Waller, throws the ball right into Mathieu's chest for the pick. Tremendous anticipation and awareness by Mathieu.

Bills rushing attack vs. Ravens run defense

Why Ravens are overmatched: Baltimore, which leads the NFL in point differential (plus-187), does not have many weaknesses. The Ravens have a top-three pass offense, pass defense, and rush offense, according to DVOA. Run defense represents their one major hole, as the Ravens are ranked 22nd in yards per attempt (4.5), 24th in EPA, and 25th in DVOA.

Big plays have been an issue for the Baltimore run defense. The Ravens have allowed a gain of 15-plus yards on 6.8 percent of opposing rush attempts, sixth worst in the league. They have also yielded an average of 1.15 open field yards (yards gained over 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage) per running back carry, third worst. Power situations have been another problem. On third or fourth down with three yards or fewer to go, the Ravens have given up a conversion 75 percent of the time, tied for fifth worst.

Why Bills have edge:  Buffalo's rushing attack is the core of its offense, ranking fifth in yards per game (137.9), seventh in EPA and 10th in DVOA. The Bills feature a one-two punch at running back with a pair of varying styles. Devin Singletary is the breakaway threat, ranking second among running backs with 5.6 yards per carry. Frank Gore is the muscle, leading the team with 146 carries and ranking 18th in the NFL with 311 yards after contact. However, Josh Allen is the most dangerous aspect of Buffalo's ground game. Allen leads all quarterbacks with eight rushing touchdowns, tied for sixth most among all players. He is second among quarterbacks in rushing first downs (35) behind Baltimore's Lamar Jackson.

The Bills are well equipped to exploit Baltimore's weaknesses against the run. Singletary will expose the Ravens' big play-vulnerability. He has picked up a gain of 15-plus on 12.2 percent of his carries (12 of 98), the highest rate among qualified running backs. In the short-yardage game, Allen is a major force. He ranks second among all players with 14 conversions on third or fourth down with three or fewer yards to go, trailing only Jackson.

Fantasy impact: Since Week 9, Allen ranks second among quarterbacks in standard scoring with 23.9 points per game. Buffalo's offense is well suited to take advantage of Baltimore's weak spots on defense. That should set up Allen with plenty of chances in the red zone, where his total of 18 touchdowns (10 passing, eight rushing) is tied for fourth-most among quarterbacks.

How Bills do it: As soon as the Bills enter the red zone, Allen is a threat to score. He has an excellent nose for the end zone, particularly to his right. Allen has scored multiple touchdowns by simply seeking out the front right pylon and sticking the ball over. Here, Allen sees the sea of green turf to his right, and uses his upper-echelon speed and finishing power to scamper in for the 15-yard score against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.

Eagles WR  Alshon Jeffery vs. Giants CB DeAndre Baker

Why Baker is overmatched: Teams have aired it out with ease against the Giants all season. New York has allowed 8.5 yards per pass attempt, worst in the NFL. Big plays have been a huge problem. The Giants have given up 12 touchdown passes of 20-plus yards, tied with the Dolphins for most in the league. Overall, the Giants are ranked 30th in pass defense DVOA.

Rookie cornerback DeAndre Baker has been burned frequently. In 58 targets in his direction, Baker has yielded six touchdowns and forced no interceptions. His 135.3 passer rating allowed is the worst among qualified cornerbacks. Opponents have averaged 11.3 targets when throwing at Baker, third worst among corners.

Why Jeffery has edge: Jeffery is a week removed from dominating the Dolphins, one of the few teams with a pass defense as bad as the Giants'. In his return from injury, Jeffery caught nine passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, with all nine receptions resulting in a conversion. Five different Dolphins were victimized for a first down by Jeffery, who asserted his will on whatever coverage Miami threw at him. With the Eagles reeling and their skill-position players struggling, expect Carson Wentz to frequently target Jeffery.

Fantasy impact: Jeffery ranked third among wide receivers in standard scoring last week with 19.7 points. He has had a tendency to stack strong games in the past. In seven career games following performances with 100-plus yards and a touchdown, Jeffery has collected 667 receiving yards and five touchdowns (95.3 and 0.7 average). Playing against a soft defense with a struggling rookie cornerback, Jeffery has a good chance to beat those numbers.

How Jeffery does it: Baker, who plays primarily right corner, should see plenty of Jeffery, who tends to see most of his action from the left side. Jeffery's size (6-foot-3 and 218 pounds) will present a mismatch for Baker (5-foot-11 and 180 pounds), especially in man-to-man situations. Jeffery is a good route-runner for his size, making him a dangerous matchup for anybody.

Jeffery's first catch against Miami was the result of a one-on-one win against man coverage from the left side, a perfect example of how he may dominate Baker and the Giants with consistency on Monday. Jeffery (top of picture) does a good job staying vertical against Ken Webster, then gives a sharp break outside to separate. Although the catch is not the cleanest, he manages to haul in the slightly awry pass, completing a chain-moving play that was created by his route-running ability. 

Michael Nania writes about the NFL, focusing mainly on statistical analysis. His work can also be found at Gang Green Nation and Elite Sports New York. On Twitter, Michael can be found @Michael_Nania.


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