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Next Gen Stats: Week 10 fantasy football matchups

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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 10 slate through the lens of Next Gen Stats:

Saints at Bengals (1 p.m. ET)


Key matchup: Saints vs. banged up Bengals

Decimated on defense after injuries to DE Carl Lawson (ACL), slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard (shoulder; questionable) plus linebackers Vontaze Burfict (hip; questionable) and Nick Vigil (knee; questionable) -- the Bengals are in a rough spot as Drew Brees and Co. come to town.

With their various injury-based deficiencies, the Bengals have quickly become a defense to target in fantasy football. Over their last four games, Cincinnati has allowed 345.5 pass yards per game (most), they're tenth-worst in Next Gen Stats' pass success rate, and the Bengals are sixth-worst in gains of 20 or more yards through the air in this span (11 percent).

The Bengals defense hasn't been any better against enemy ground games, either -- as Cincy has coughed 5.7 yards per carry over the last month (second-worst in span). For added context, Cincinnati's front seven is giving up 1.5 yards before a defender closes (second-worst per Next Gen Stats), indicating ample initial space for the opposing running back.

Cincinnati had their Week 9 bye to get a little more healthy, but this is about the worst possible time to face a Saints' attack that is now No. 1 in points scored per drive.

Falcons at Browns (1 p.m. ET)


Key matchup: Matt Ryan's return to MVP form against reeling Browns

Thanks in large part to the NFL's most-improved coach, Steve Sarkisian, Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense are all the way back. Heading into Week 10, Atlanta ranks fourth in points scored per drive, they're second in pass yards per game, first in third-down offense, and seventh in red-zone efficiency.

While Sarkisian deserves a ton of credit for manufacturing the Falcons resurgence, Matt Ryan is quietly playing right at his 2016 MVP form. He's been less effective against pressure this season, but Ryan is actually out-performing his 2016 pace in a few key areas:


Cleveland now has to round out their stretch of brutal matchups over the last month (Chargers, Bucs, Steelers, Chiefs) with the white-hot Falcons. Both Browns' starting boundary corners, Denzel Ward (hip) and E.J. Gaines (concussion; IR), are injured ahead of Week 10, too -- causing an even larger mess for the Browns defense. Matt Ryan has finished as a fantasy QB1 (top-12) in 6-of-8 games this year and is in a perfect position to make it 7-of-9 against Cleveland. Over the last month, the Browns have surrendered the third-most pass yards per game, the seventh-most yards per pass attempt, and the most explosive plays in this span (48).

Lions at Bears (1 p.m. ET)


Key matchup: Can Marvin Jones get loose vs. Bears?

In Golden Tate's first absence last week, Marvin Jones was the Lions clear lead receiver. Detroit's aerial attack never got off the ground in Week 9 because Matthew Stafford was under pressure on 37 percent of his dropbacks and sacked ten times, but Jones' usage was incredibly promising without Tate. He did not stuff the stat-sheet (6/66 receiving), but Jones carried a monster share of Lions' targets (24 percent) and air yards (45 percent), per Next Gen Stats. Even before Tate was dealt to Philadelphia, Jones also handled a mammoth 53 percent of Detroit's end zone targets. Jones' usage indicates a high-end WR2 role for fantasy.

Bears' boundary CBs Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller are no pushovers, but Chicago is most vulnerable on the perimeter. Per Next Gen Stats, 49 percent of the Bears passing output allowed comes on the perimeter -- the seventh-highest dependency in the league. Marvin Jones runs 83 percent of his routes on the outside and has tagged useful fantasy days on the Bears in each of his four meetings with Golden Tate on the roster over the last two years (5/74, 4/67, 4/85/1, 3/85). Right now is your last chance to buy-low on Marvin Jones.

Cardinals at Chiefs (1 p.m. ET)


Key matchup: Patrick Mahomes' blitz beaters

Fresh off pasting the Browns for a single-game, season-high 8.60 yards per play in Week 9, the Chiefs face another blitz-happy defense in Week 10. Whereas the Browns send five or more pass rushers at the sixth-highest clip in the NFL (32 percent), the Cardinals are even more blitz-heavy at 43 percent (highest rate). As you can imagine, the rocket-arm Mahomes has been excellent against enemy blitzes this season. Among qualified quarterbacks, Mahomes' 9.1 YPA vs. the blitz is fourth-best behind only Jared Goff (10.9), Deshaun Watson (10.0), and Tom Brady (9.7) per Next Gen Stats.

As a true gunslinger looking for splash plays when the defense leaves fewer men in the secondary, Mahomes beats most blitzes by targeting Tyreek Hill at an insane 29 percent clip:

To be fair, the Cardinals have done an excellent job at limiting big passing gains this year, allowing a 20-plus yard completion just seven percent of the time (second-lowest rate). Mahomes to Hill is another breed of danger, though. In a nuanced strength on strength draw, watch for Mahomes-to-Hill deep blitz beaters in Week 10.

Patriots at Titans (1 p.m. ET)


Key matchup: Josh Gordon vs. Malcolm Butler

The Titans defense has stiffened drastically this season, permitting the league's third-fewest points per drive (1.70) behind the Bears (1.49) and Ravens (1.64) for tops in the league. Tennessee is doing a particularly incredible job limiting yards after the catch, as they are holding enemy receivers to -0.08 YAC below expectation (best in NFL).

Tennessee's only deficiency on defense comes in a spot where you may not expect it, though. Free agent prize signing, Malcolm Butler, is struggling immensely in coverage this season and will have to do battle with quickly re-ascending Josh Gordon in Week 10. Butler is primarily a stationary right cornerback, where Gordon runs 57 percent of his routes this season:


As a unit, the Titans are stingy -- but Josh Gordon easily has the best individual draw on the Patriots in Week 10. Per Next Gen Stats, Butler has permitted 517 yards (fifth-most), six touchdowns (second-most), and a 13.4 percent catch rate above expectation (sixth-worst) when he's the nearest defender. Since becoming a full-time player for the Patriots a month ago, Josh Gordon easily leads the team in share of air yards (39 percent) and end zone targets (57 percent). The Titans must provide Butler with safety help against Flash.

Redskins at Buccaneers (1 p.m. ET)


Key matchup: Is it finally Jordan Reed's week?

The song remains the same in this space. We're looking for the receiver who is next on the Bucs' turnstile of slot production and it's Jordan Reed's turn to vaporize Tampa's shoddy coverage. Reed has been a floor play (at best) in fantasy this year, but we may finally see a ceiling week from the once-dominant tight end in Week 10. Tampa Bay is permitting a laughable 150.3 yards per game to opposing slot wideouts, easily the most in the NFL. The Bucs' also permit the third-most yards to receivers "tight" to the formation, teeing Reed up further for a monster game. Per Next Gen's tracking, Reed lines up in the slot 44 percent of the time and tight to formation on 33 percent of Washington's snaps. If Reed can't get it done in this spot as he runs over three-fourths of his routes against the most advantageous matchup in all of football ... all hope is lost.

Bills at Jets (1 p.m. ET)


Key matchup: Jets defense in a smash spot

Outside of the Jets D/ST, there is literally zero fantasy goodness in this game. Just darkness. The last four teams to face the Bills "offense" have finished 2nd, 3rd, 1st, and 1st in fantasy D/ST scoring. With Josh Allen (elbow) and Derek Anderson (concussion) still extremely questionable for Week 10, we have to tee up New York's D/ST for a monster performance at home against Buffalo. If Nathan Peterman has to start again ... look out. In his career, Peterman owns a 9.8 percent completion rate below expectation (second-worst since the start of 2017) and has averaged 4.2 yards per attempt (worst).

Jaguars at Colts (1 p.m. ET)


Key matchup: White-hot Luck vs. Jags' still elite defense

Finally healthy off of a two-year shoulder injury and getting substantial pieces of his offense back from serious ailments (T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle, Marlon Mack), Andrew Luck is back to balling. Luck has thrown three or more passing scores in five-straight games and his resurgence is due in large part to his aggression with the ball. In Weeks 1-4, Luck averaged 6.4 air yards per attempt (second-lowest) as he threw into a tight window 19 percent of the time (fifth-highest rate). In Weeks 5-8, a switch flipped, as Luck has since averaged 7.8 air yards per throw. His tight window attempts have dipped considerably in this span, too (14 percent; sixth-lowest rate).

Obviously, Week 10 presents Andrew Luck's tallest task to-date. The Jags' will be without stud CB A.J. Bouye (calf) again, but even in a "down" year relative to their 2017 season -- Jacksonville's defense has still been phenomenal. Per Next Gen Stats, the Jaguars own the NFL's lowest success rate versus both the pass (42 percent) and run (42 percent). Luck's streak of five-straight top-ten fantasy finishes is in jeopardy in Week 10.

Chargers at Raiders (4:05 p.m. ET)


Key matchup: Melvin Gordon erupting vs. tanked Raiders

He hasn't gotten nearly the same acknowledgment as Todd Gurley, but Melvin Gordon is having an all-time great fantasy season. Gordon is averaging 124 yards from scrimmage, 1.4 all-purpose TDs, and 25.4 fantasy points per game. For reference, Gurley's yardage floor has been only slightly higher than Gordon's (136.6 YSM per game) while he's averaging 1.8 all-purpose TDs and 28.4 PPR points per contest.

Gordon has gone over 120 yards from scrimmage in four-straight games and is in an excellent position to do so again in Week 10 against the completely cooked Raiders. Oakland is allowing 5.13 yards per carry (third-most) to opposing backs, 1.17 of which comes before a defender closes (second-most) -- per Next Gen Stats. This indicates Oakland's front seven is allowing ample space for running backs to operate, giving Gordon clear lanes to run through.

Not only is Oakland's run defense completely lost, but they're also permitting a 119.0 passer rating on throws to receivers aligned out of the backfield. Only Tampa (124.6) has given up a higher rating on targets to enemy tailbacks. 90 percent of Gordon's receptions have originated out of the backfield this season, per Next Gen Stats.

Seahawks at Rams (4:25 p.m. ET)


Key matchup: How will Seattle matchup against Woods, Cooks, and Kupp?

This year, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Cooper Kupp have combined to comprise 63 percent of Rams' targets and an enormous 85 percent of the team's air yards. It's fantasy football-ers idea of nirvana. Not only is Los Angeles one of the three most explosive offenses in the NFL, but they also do not spread the ball around to ancillary targets like so many teams do. Instead, L.A. gives Todd Gurley 25.6 opportunities (attempts plus targets) per game and they cram targets to their Big Three at receiver. We know exactly where the rock is going each week.

In Week 10, the Rams face one of their toughest draws on paper against the still-stingy Seahawks. Over the full year, Seattle has held opposing quarterbacks to the NFL's fourth-lowest passer rating (85.1) and ninth-best completion rate below expectation (3.0 percent). Now, Brandin Cooks (concussion) left the Hawks-Rams Week 5 bout early, but both Woods (5/92) and Kupp (6/90/1) got loose against Seattle's secondary.

So, how do these two sides matchup with Woods, Cooks, and Kupp all finally healthy again?

This week, Cooper Kupp will run 78 percent of his routes from the slot (or in tight) primarily against Justin Coleman while both Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods will take turns at Seattle's boundary cornerbacks, Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers. While Seattle has done an excellent job limiting aerial attacks this year, Woods, Cooks, and Kupp present an incredibly difficult challenge.

For example, Kupp leads all receivers in passer rating (157.0) when facing off coverage (five or more yards of cushion). Slot corner Justin Coleman allows 6.8 yards of cushion on average, tenth-most in the NFL. Meanwhile, Woods and Cooks find themselves in advantageous individual draws, too -- as 'Hawks CB Tre Flowers has allowed a 118.4 passer rating in his seven appearances this season while teammate Shaq Griffin has allowed a 9.6 catch rate above expectation, the 12th-worst clip among qualifying defenders. Seattle's secondary has stymied bulk passing numbers this season, but L.A.'s Big Three -- particularly Cooper Kupp -- should exploit their individual draws this week.

Dolphins at Packers (4:25 p.m. ET)


Key matchup: Is Marquez Valdes-Scantling for real?

'MVS' has capitalized on the Packers musical chairs at receiver with Geronimo Allison (hamstring, groin) and Randall Cobb (hamstring) both banged up over the last month. Over his last four games, Valdes-Scantling has 7/68/1, 3/103, 2/45/1, and 3/101. In this span, MVS has tallied 6.8 targets per game and has played over 80 percent of Packers snaps in 3-of-4 contests.

With Allison officially put on injured-reserve, Valdes-Scantling has immense upside as a high-end fantasy WR3 for the rest of the season and he enters Week 10 in a potential blowup spot. Over the last five weeks, the Dolphins have allowed a passing gain of 20 or more yards at the league’s second-highest clip (14 percent). Seven of MVS’ 17 receptions have gained over 20 yards this season as his 4.37-forty jets at 6-feet, 4-inches allows him to glide past would-be defenders and win on contested catches.

While Davante Adams is locked into shadow coverage from Dolphins' CB Xavien Howard, the up-and-coming rookie Valdes-Scantling will run the majority of his routes against Torry McTyer. Per Next Gen Stats, McTyer has allowed 17/298/1 receiving (on 19 targets) when he's the nearest defender this season. McTyer's 136.3 passer rating allowed is sixth-worst while his 19.8 completion rate above expectation is second-worst among 114 qualifying cornerbacks.

Cowboys at Eagles (8:20 p.m. ET); on Sunday Night Football


Key matchup: What does Golden Tate bring to Eagles?

Struggling to get the ground game going as Jay Ajayi (ACL) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) have missed much of 2018, the Eagles made a move right before the trade deadline to acquire Golden Tate. In all likelihood, Philadelphia views Tate as an "extension of the run game" in their offense.

According to Next Gen Stats, Tate ranks first by a significant margin in total yards after the catch (1,528) and YAC above expectation (304 yards) among receivers since 2016. Tate earns most of his YAC running his routes close to the line of scrimmage. In fact, 75 percent of Tate's targets have come within ten yards of the line of scrimmage since 2016 as Detroit relentlessly fed the shifty slot man short passing looks. Philadelphia likely views Tate in a similar way. We may get to see Tate pop quickly in his new digs, too -- as Dallas has allowed the fourth-highest passer rating (122.3) and the third-highest catch rate above expectation (10.3 percent) to enemy slot wideouts this year, per Next Gen Stats.

Giants at 49ers (8:15 p.m. ET); on Monday Night Football


Key matchup: King George Kittle vs. Giants

No one can slow down George Kittle. Not even his own quarterback.

Despite catching the rock from three different signal-callers this year, Kittle is averaging 76.9 YPG (19th-most among all receivers) and putting up a monster 16.9 YPR, tied with O.J. Howard for highest among tight ends and 10th-most among all pass catchers. What's more, Kittle leads all tight ends in yards gained per route run and now owns three of the six fastest speeds by a tight end ball carrier this year. He's a monster:

Now, New York has improved their tight end coverage this year. They're presently allowing a lowly 79.8 passer rating to receivers in the slot or tight to the formation, the fifth-best clip in the NFL. Kittle runs 90 percent of his routes in the slot or tight to the 49ers formation. With Nick Mullens at the controls once again, the G-Men should wisely flag Kittle as the 'Niners most dangerous weapon ... but we've seen more than enough from Kittle to suggest he's a transcendent talent. He's already matchup-proof.

-- Graham Barfield is the managing editor of fantasy football content at NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @GrahamBarfield.

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