There are a number of statistics and data-based tools to help us decipher which matchups to exploit and which to avoid, one of which is the NFL's Next Gen Stats package.
Here we'll look where cornerbacks and wide receivers line up, which defenses are particularly susceptible to which player packages and so much more. As the season goes along we'll have even more data to use and a better understanding of the Next Gen Stats. Here are the top matchups that could bring value in Week 16.
Broncos receivers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
One trend we've followed for most of the season is X-receivers lined up wide left tearing up the Chiefs on the other side of the field from Marcus Peters. Emmanuel Sanders was one of the receivers to take advantage of that defensive weakness back in Week 12. The Broncos moved Sanders to left wide receiver for 44 percent of the team's pass plays that night and Sanders racked up over 70 percent of his yards from that side of the field. That was out of the norm for them, as Sanders sees just 37 percent of his targets from left wideout on the season.
However, that trend has started to trail off here in the later portions of the season, and mostly since that Week 12 game. The primary reason is that Phillip Gaines, who was the primary victim of Denver's onslaught that night, has been hurt. Gaines allowed a whopping 209 yards and two touchdowns on just six catches in 34 coverage snaps that night. He's played just one game since and missed his second-straight practice with an injury on Thursday.
In Gaines' stead, journeyman and former practice squad member Terrance Mitchell has stepped up and actually provided an upgrade. Quarterbacks targeted Mitchell 18 times the last three weeks and he allowed just seven catches for 53 yards. Mitchell has played the right corner position on 95.8 percent of his snaps, as Steven Nelson shifts to cover the slot when the opponent brings out three wide receivers.
Of course, Mitchell is an inexperienced player with a limited track record that's only developing now. Don't be too surprised if the Broncos are able to exploit him in a similar fashion as they did with Gaines a few weeks back. Both Sanders and Demaryius Thomas move around enough for them to both be able to succeed in this matchup, unless Mitchell proves himself to not be a fluke.