Now in its third season, Next Gen Stats has quickly exploded. The statistics are featured in game broadcasts, they are leveraged in countless articles, tweets, and podcasts throughout the week, and the Next Gen Stats database is free to access.
In this weekly column, we'll dive deep into Next Gen Stats' metrics and explore player and team-based matchups. The goal is simple: Next Gen provides truly unique analytical data we can use to uncover edges when making fantasy lineup decisions. Most importantly, Next Gen Stats' data coffers make us more informed viewers of the game.
Let's break down the Week 11 slate through the lens of Next Gen Stats:
Cowboys at Falcons (1 p.m. ET)
Fresh off shellacking one of the NFL's most talented front seven's for 187 yards from scrimmage last week, Ezekiel Elliott enters Week 11 in an obvious ceiling spot. Atlanta is permitting 4.85 YPC to opposing backs (eighth-most) and giving up the most rushing fantasy points per carry (0.80) to the position. The Falcons are also yielding the fifth-highest rate of 10-plus yard carries (15.9 percent) and giving up the third-most receiving YPG (58.3) to pass catchers aligned out of the backfield, too. No defense has given up more receptions per game to opposing backs for four-straight years running.
On the full season, Atlanta has been pasted for an "RB1" (top-12) PPR weekly performance in 8-of-9 contests. Zeke is going to eat.
Bengals at Ravens (1 p.m. ET)
As the injury situation has worsened across the board, the Bengals defense has fallen apart over the last five weeks. In this span, Cincinnati has surrendered an enormous 365.5 passing yards per game (worst) and 5.5 rush yards per carry (fifth-worst). The Bengals are giving up chunk plays left and right, as 16 percent of all carries have gained 10 or more yards (eighth-worst) while 14 percent of all passes have gained 20 or more yards (third-worst) in Weeks 6-10.
The Bengals may get LB Vontaze Burfict (hip) and slot man Darqueze Dennard (shoulder) back in Week 11, but starting boundary CB Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion) is questionable while LB Nick Vigil (knee) remains out and DE Carl Lawson (ACL) is on injured reserve. Regardless, Cincinnati's defense remains one of the main matchups to target in fantasy football. Over the full season, the Bengals have allowed the eighth-worst completion rate above expectation (per Next Gen Stats) and have leaked the sixth-most rushing yards per game to quarterbacks. If he does indeed start, Lamar Jackson is catching Cincy at the best possible time.
Panthers at Lions (1 p.m. ET)
Coming off a disappointing performance in Pittsburgh in Week 10, the Panthers now have 10 days to prep for the reeling Lions. While Detroit's run defense has stiffened since adding DT Damon 'Snacks' Harrison, their secondary has shown gaping holes. Since their Week 6 bye, the Lions have given up a 15.1 percent completion rate above expectation (worst; per Next Gen Stats), they've surrendered a league-worst 134.0 passer rating, and have been ripped for 10.1 pass yards per attempt (worst). Unsurprisingly, Detroit has yielded a passing gain of 20 or more yards on 17 percent of pass attempts, also the worst clip in the NFL over the last five weeks.
Detroit is particularly vulnerable out of the slot, where they have allowed 112.8 yards per game (third-most), a 145.7 passer rating (worst), and a monster 13.7 yards per attempt (worst) since their Week 6 bye. This is of particular concern when facing a dynamic team like Carolina. TE Greg Olsen runs 40 percent of his routes from the slot while 22 percent of Christian McCaffrey's targets have come when he splits out aligned as a wide receiver.
Even in his worst fantasy performance of the season last week, Cam Newton still managed to throw for multiple passing scores for the eighth-straight game of the year and he now has one of his most advantageous matchups to exploit in Week 11. CB Darius Slay (knee) may return, but even he has struggled to perform up to his usual standards this season. Per Next Gen Stats, Slay has allowed a 10 percent completion rate above expectation and a 114.8 passer rating when he's the nearest defender in coverage. Play all of your Panthers in Week 11.
Titans at Colts (1 p.m. ET)
For the first time in his career, Andrew Luck is routinely operating out of clean pockets and dicing up secondaries without much concern of the opposing pass rush. The results have been glorious. Luck has thrown three or more passing scores in six-straight games, joining Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Dan Marino as the only four quarterbacks to do so in NFL history (h/t to Rotoworld's Patrick Daugherty).
So, what has changed?
Not only have the Colts solved their offensive line problems by adding G Quenton Nelson, finding a diamond in the rough in G Mark Glowinski, and getting LT Anthony Castonzo back healthy a month ago -- head coach Frank Reich has emphasized a lethal quick-passing offense for Luck. The results speak for itself:
Compared to 2016, Luck is getting the ball out nearly 10 percent faster and facing an enormous 7.3 fewer pressures per game. Indy kept Jacksonville's elite front seven at bay in Week 10 by getting the ball out Luck's hands even faster, as the Colts star QB averaged 2.53 seconds to throw. As a result, Luck only faced four pressures -- the lowest amount generated in a single-game by the Jags' defense this year. Look for the Colts to employ another quick pass approach in Week 11 against a Titans front seven that just confused Tom Brady and Co. a week ago.
Steelers at Jaguars (1 p.m. ET)
With A.J. Bouye (calf) likely returning after a two-game absence, the Jags' will be at full-strength on the boundary just in time for Antonio Brown to come to town. Brown needed 19 targets to post 10/157 on Jacksonville when these two sides met in the regular season last year, but Brown easily got the best of the Jags' secondary in the Divisional Round of the playoffs in Pittsburgh (7/132/2 on 11 targets). Interestingly, Jacksonville did not use shadow coverage on Brown in either contest, instead electing to play sides and let the Steelers' offensive formation dictate whether or not Ramsey or Bouye covered him.
In their two meetings last year, Brown spent 60 percent of his routes on the left side of the Steelers formation, 36 percent of his routes were on the right side, and just four percent in the slot (per Next Gen Stats). However, whereas Jalen Ramsey was a borderline stationary right corner last year -- the Jags are allowing more free movement on defense this season and letting the Jags' top two corners rotate sides depending on the coverage. Jacksonville's defense isn't performing at the same clip as last season, but both Ramsey (76.8 passer rating allowed) and Bouye (69.0) have been up to their old tricks. Ramsey (2.3 yards) and Bouye (2.4 yards) are well above-average in yards of separation allowed per target, too (NFL average is 2.8).
Jacksonville is desperate for a win, and slowing down the Steelers starts with No. 84. Getting Bouye back to help is monumental.
Buccaneers at Giants (1 p.m. ET)
*Key matchup: Beckham vs. Bucs' broken secondary *
With WR1, WR11, and WR7 weekly fantasy finishes in his last three games, Odell Beckham rides his hot-streak into Week 11 just in time for the most advantageous matchup he'll face all year. Odell Beckham runs 74 percent of his routes split out wide, where he will be "covered" by Bucs boundary CBs Brent Grimes (127.5 passer rating allowed) and Carlton Davis (124.2 passer rating allowed). Grimes is particularly struggling this season, allowing a disastrous 11.4 yards per target when he's the nearest defender to a receiver (sixth-worst among corners). With fellow routine burn victim M.J. Stewart (foot) on the sidelines, the Bucs have turned to undrafted free agent Javien Elliott to cover the slot. The results ... haven't been pretty. Over the last two weeks, Elliott has allowed a 26.7 percent completion rate above expectation and 3.3 yards of separation per target. Over the full year, the Bucs have allowed a hilarious 141.1 YPG to enemy slot wideouts -- by far the most in the NFL.
Provided Eli Manning can deliver semi-accurate passes, Beckham is going to absolutely shred the Bucs.
Texans at Redskins (1 p.m. ET)
Bit by the injury bug once again, Washington's offensive line is in complete danger of being exposed against Houston. J.J. Watt is all the way back to his pre-injury form, as he leads all pass rushers in fastest average time to sack (3.54 seconds). Teammate Jadeveon Clowney is wrecking the opposing backfield, too -- averaging 3.65 seconds to sack (fifth-fastest). Meanwhile, Alex Smith has been under pressure on 32.4 percent of his dropbacks over the last five weeks, the seventh-worst rate in the NFL. Fresh out of their Week 10 bye, Houston has recorded multiple sacks in seven-straight games. Look out.
Raiders at Cardinals (4:05 p.m. ET)
Coming off of his best performance of the season (28 touches, 193 yards from scrimmage, 2 total TDs), David Johnson finds himself in another blowup spot at home in Week 11. The tanking Raiders have completely quit on head coach Jon Gruden as their defense has slid to second-worst in points and fifth-worst in yards allowed, respectively, on a per drive basis. Hilariously, Oakland is allowing a league-leading 9.1 pass YPA ... and they might own the NFL's worst run defense, too. The Raiders are permitting 5.12 yards per rush to enemy backs, the second-worst clip in the NFL. What's worse, 1.28 of those yards are coming before a defender closes in on the play -- indicating tons of space for enemy rushers to operate. Now, Oakland has to deal with David Johnson.
New Cards' offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich has excelled early with Johnson's usage in the running game. Whereas Mike McCoy was essentially just slamming Johnson up the middle and running him into the back of his offensive lineman over half the time, Leftwich has resumed using Johnson more off-tackle:
Since their Week 7 bye, Oakland has allowed 333 yards on 60 off-tackle carries (5.55 YPC), per Next Gen Stats. DJ is back in the top-five fantasy graces in Week 11.
Broncos at Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET)
The Chargers are finally a contender in the AFC, and it's due in large part to Philip Rivers. Having inarguably the best season of his long Charger tenure, Rivers is enjoying career-high figures in YPA (9.0), touchdown rate (7.7 percent), interception rate (1.5 percent), yards per completion (13.4), and passer rating (115.4).
Rivers is particularly excelling against defensive heat, which is an important weapon to possess against Denver's still-elite front seven. Even though the Broncos have lost six of their last seven bouts, their front seven is still getting after the quarterback. Per Next Gen Stats, the Broncos are in the top-10 in both pressure rate (28.9 percent; ninth-highest) and blitz rate (32.0 percent; sixth-highest). Denver is going to have to disguise their blitzes well in Week 11, though -- as Rivers' 8.8 YPA when blitzed is sixth-best. When facing any pressure at all, Rivers' 95.7 passer rating trails only Carson Wentz (118.3) for tops in the league among qualified passers. He'll need to continue to be sharp against the Broncos' elite duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, who are third and fourth, respectively, in sack rate forced.
Eagles at Saints (4:25 p.m. ET)
The defending Super Bowl champions are 4-5 and are on the outside looking in of the playoff hunt, but the story of Philadelphia's title defense is not all bad. Carson Wentz has arguably been even better this season, and he'll need to have a fantastic game to keep up with the Saints' scoring pace in Week 11.
Wentz was the likely MVP winner if not for a torn ACL last year, but the third-year passer has turned it up another notch in 2018. Wentz's completion rate above expectation (4.4 percent) is fourth-best in the NFL while no quarterback has a higher passer rating under pressure (118.3). Wentz has thrown multiple passing scores in six-straight contests while his 112.2 passer rating in this span would trail only Drew Brees (123.8), Patrick Mahomes (117.4), Philip Rivers (115.4), Matt Ryan (113.2), and Jared Goff (113.0) for tops in the league.
What's more, Wentz has been particularly fantastic on his attempts to receivers outside of the numbers, owning a 7.1 percent completion rate above expectation on such throws (sixth-best). On the flipside of the draw, the Saints have been particularly leaky to enemy boundary receivers, allowing the NFL's most YPG to opposing pass catchers aligned out wide (162.8). If the Eagles are going to upset the white-hot Saints on the road, Wentz will need to continue to be near-perfect in all facets -- particularly when throwing outside the numbers. The Saints secondary is vulnerable.
Vikings at Bears (8:20 p.m. ET); Sunday Night Football
One of the marquee matchups this week, Minnesota and Chicago meet to decide the division lead in Week 11. After an inauspicious start to the year, the Vikes' have won four of their last five games and can take the lead in the NFC North (by a half game) with a win in Chicago.
Of course, getting another "W" will be easier said than done against Chicago's vaunted defense. Khalil Mack is back healthy after missing two bouts with a balky ankle, and his return to the lineup could not be coming at a better time. Kirk Cousins has been pressured on 37 percent of his dropbacks this season (second-most in NFL) while Mack himself ranks inside of the top-12 in both pressure rate (12.3 percent; 11th-best) and sack rate (3.7 percent; sixth-best) among 90 qualifying defenders.
Not only is the Bears' front seven nasty, but Chicago is also particularly tough against opposing passers' deep attempts. On the year, the Bears have limited enemy quarterbacks to a lowly 52.4 passer rating on all throws traveling 20 or more yards in the air. That's second-best in the NFL. Chicago will need to be on top of their game with Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen up next. Cousins-to-Thielen has arguably been the NFL's most efficient connection this season, particularly on deep throws:
Chiefs at Rams (8:15 p.m. ET); Monday Night Football
Andy Reid and Sean McVay are at the forefront of innovation in the NFL. Both Reid and McVay are legitimate geniuses in their own right as they re-define modern offense and both head coaches use similar principles to scheme their talented offenses to success. Reid and McVay's attacks predicate on play-action, misdirection, window-dressing, and motion -- but the Chiefs and Rams use different avenues to achieve their high-flying success.
Per PFF data, the Rams (38 percent) and Chiefs (30 percent) are No. 1 and No. 2 in play-action usage, but the two elite sides use wildly different formations to deceive defenses. Whereas the Chiefs line up in shotgun over 80 percent of the time (second-most in NFL), the Rams put Jared Goff under center on 62.3 percent of offensive snaps (most). Per Next Gen Stats, the Chiefs are second in offensive success rate (55.3 percent) out of shotgun while the Rams are first in success rate in any "under center" formation (62.2 percent).
Rather perfectly, too -- both the Rams and Chiefs struggle mightily at defending the run out of their opponents' best formations, respectively. The Chiefs defense is dead last in the NFL at defending the run when the quarterback is under center and the Rams are dead last at a stopping the run when their opponent lines up in any shotgun formation:
No one matchup can define this meeting of offensive juggernauts, but Los Angeles and Kansas City's respective success out of under center and shotgun formations will lead to fireworks on Monday night.