Next Gen Stats: Week 13 fantasy football matchups

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 13 slate through the lens of Next Gen Stats:

Cardinals at Packers (1 p.m. ET)

Key matchup: Aaron Jones' continued dominance

Aaron Jones is finally free and it is glorious.

Green Bay's season is circling the drain, but at the very least, their staff finally figured out (after eight weeks) that Aaron Jones must be their featured back. Since the Packers Week 7 bye, he has played on 71 percent of team snaps and Jones (69 percent) trails only Saquon Barkley (82 percent), Nick Chubb (79 percent), Ezekiel Elliott (78 percent), David Johnson (76 percent), Joe Mixon (73 percent) and James Conner (72 percent) in team share of carries in this span.

After logging RB5, RB3, and RB15 weekly fantasy results in his last three games, Aaron Jones possesses a monster ceiling in Week 13 against a Cards run defense that is allowing 176.9 yards from scrimmage to running backs (most in the NFL). Over their last six games, Arizona has allowed 5.08 YPC (seventh-most), 4.74 of which coming after the defender closes in on the play (third-most) per Next Gen Stats. Jones should have no issue getting loose against a Cards front-seven that has yielded a rushing gain of 10 or more yards on 16 percent of attempts (sixth-highest rate) in this span.

Rams at Lions (1 p.m. ET)

Key matchup: Kenny Golladay against Rams struggling secondary

Without Marvin Jones (knee; IR) over the last two weeks, Kenny Golladay has garnered a massive role in the Lions offense. In this span, Golladay has been targeted on an enormous 30 percent of his routes, per Next Gen Stats. For perspective, that rate would tie Julio Jones for the current league-lead among wide receivers. In addition to having a voluminous role, the Lions are using Golladay a little differently without Jones in the lineup. Over the last two weeks, the Lions have put Golladay in the slot on 40 percent of his routes, up from his 29 percent slot rate in Weeks 1-10. That's pertinent this week as the Rams have allowed 111.3 YPG to enemy slot wideouts (fifth-most). When Golladay moves outside on the boundary, he'll face coverage from Marcus Peters and Troy Hill -- both of whom are struggling immensely. Per Next Gen Stats, Peters is permitting a massive 136.4 passer rating (fourth-worst among qualified CBs) when he's the nearest defender while Hill (127.4 passer rating; 11th-worst) has not been much better.

Panthers at Buccaneers (1 p.m. ET)

*Key matchup: Beyond volume, what has changed about Christian McCaffrey's usage? *

Over the last four weeks, Christian McCaffrey has been on a league-winning tear in fantasy football. In this span, McCaffrey has recorded RB3, RB2, RB14, and RB1 weekly results while his cumulative 132.5 PPR points in this span would make him the 20th-highest scoring running back on the entire season. Obviously, the most substantial change in McCaffrey's fantasy output this season comes down to volume. This season, McCaffrey is averaging 20.4 touches per game (sixth-most), way up from his 12.3 touch count per contest as a rookie. Additionally, the Panthers are using McCaffrey more as a "traditional" back in his alignment. Per Next Gen, the Panthers have put McCaffrey in the backfield on nearly 90 percent of his snaps this season. That's a stark difference from his rookie season, in which McCaffrey was used as a wide receiver far more often:

mccaffrey alignment ngs

It's impossible to argue against McCaffrey's change in usage. Through 12 weeks, McCaffrey (124.1) trails only Todd Gurley (134.9), Ezekiel Elliott (130.6), Saquon Barkley (128.2), and Melvin Gordon (125.5) in yards from scrimmage per game. McCaffrey should have zero issue continuing his scorching pace this week, either. Over the last six weeks, Tampa Bay has allowed the ninth-most yards per game to receivers aligned out of the backfield and the second-highest rate of explosive runs (10-plus yards) per Next Gen Stats.

Bears at Giants (1 p.m. ET)

*Key matchup: Full-strength Bears vs. Eli *

Now back healthy after a mid-season ankle injury, it isn't hard to measure Khalil Mack's effect on the Bears defense. Since returning to the lineup three weeks ago, Chicago owns the third-lowest passer rating (73.2), they've forced pressure at the second-highest clip (35 percent), while Mack himself is second among all defensive players in disruptions (17) in this span. Fresh off ten days of rest to boot, Chicago's defense should have no problem feasting on New York's faltering offensive line in Week 13. Over his last six starts, Eli Manning has absorbed 3.7 sacks per game (fifth-most) and is averaging 5.1 yards per attempt when under pressure in this span (seventh-worst), per Next Gen Stats.

Colts at Jaguars (1 p.m. ET)

Key matchup: Tale of two teams on two different trajectories

The losers of now seven straight games, Jacksonville has to face the white-hot Colts without three starting offensive lineman (C Brandon Linder, LT Cam Robinson, G Andrew Norwell), they have a new starting quarterback, and will be without finally-healthy Leonard Fournette (suspension) in Week 13. It's also possible the Jags will be without stud CB Jalen Ramsey (knee), too -- as HC Doug Marrone said there is a "high level of concern" over his status.

Indeed, Indy started rolling once LT Anthony Castonzo and WR T.Y. Hilton returned from injury. Since Castonzo returned in Week 6 (Hilton returned the following week), only Drew Brees (132.5), Patrick Mahomes (122.1), and Russell Wilson (121.5) have recorded a higher passer rating than Andrew Luck (118.0). In this span, Luck has been under pressure on a robust 15 percent of his dropbacks (second-lowest rate), per Next Gen Stats. Finally healthy after his shoulder injury clearly affected him early in the season, Luck has been particularly lethal throwing deep (20-plus yards) over his last six games. In this span, Luck (5) trails only Patrick Mahomes (6) in deep pass touchdowns while his absurd 16.2 percent completion rate above expectation is third-best. This is the stone-worst time for the reeling Jags to meet Luck and Co.

Ravens at Falcons (1 p.m. ET)

*Key matchup: Dealing with Lamar Jackson's speed *

Without Joe Flacco (hip) over the last two weeks, the Ravens have completely re-designed their offense to tailor towards Lamar Jackson's strengths. In his first two starts, the Ravens have gone 67 percent run-heavy, easily the highest clip in the NFL. Baltimore is constantly trying to get Jackson in open space, as 37 of his 38 rush attempts have gone outside of the hashes over the last two weeks. As a result, Jackson has reached 15-plus MPH 19 times in Weeks 11-12, by far the most in the NFL per Next Gen Stats. While bruising back Gus Edwards is the north-south threat, Jackson is stretching defenses horizontally. That is going to be a problem for Atlanta's front seven this week. Still down MLB Deion Jones (foot), the Falcons have allowed the seventh-most yards (207) and the sixth-highest success rate (60 percent) on designed quarterback rush attempts this season.

Browns at Texans (1 p.m. ET)

*Key matchup: New-look Browns offense against Texans stout defense *

All it took was letting go of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley to solve the Browns offense. Since Hue Jackson was fired (after Week 8), Baker Mayfield's passer rating is 129.5. Only Drew Brees (142.1) has been better in this span. Granted, the Chiefs, Falcons, and Bengals are far from formidable foes -- but there is no denying the Browns offense has been light-years better with Freddie Kitchens calling plays over the last three weeks.

The biggest difference in Kitchens' offense compared to Jackson/Haley's is the use of quick throws. Getting the ball out of the quarterback's hands faster naturally limits pressure, which is crucial for sub-par offensive lines like the Browns. In his last three games, Mayfield has nearly doubled his attempts that travel no further than the line of scrimmage while the Browns have really dialed up more throws down the seams. The results simply speak for itself. Mayfield's passer rating has skyrocketed across the board:

mayfield ngs

Of course, the biggest test for the Browns new-look attack comes in Week 13. During their eight-game win streak specifically, Houston has held enemy passers to the fifth-lowest passer rating (83.8), they have the NFL's second-lowest pass success rate allowed (56 percent) while J.J. Watt is fifth among all defenders in disruptions forced (36) during this span. While Cleveland has increased their usage of running backs Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb as receivers, they'll face stiff coverage from a Houston side that has held enemy receivers out of the backfield to the league's lowest passer rating and second-lowest yards after the catch per reception.

Bills at Dolphins (1 p.m. ET)

Key matchup: Can Josh Allen beat the Dolphins deep?

Fully healthy after a midseason elbow injury, Josh Allen and the Bills pass offense finds itself in a promising Week 13 draw against the Dolphins. Granted, Allen has been a mixed bag this season. He's thrown just three passing scores compared to five interceptions while his -8.1 percent completion rate below expectation is last in the NFL. Even though Allen has been far from precise on his throws this season, his strengths align against Miami's weakness in Week 13. Allen (10.8 yards) trails only Jameis Winston (10.9) for the league-lead in air yards per throw while no passer is throwing deep (20 or more yards downfield) more often than Allen (18 percent). That is a problem for a Miami defense that is consistently getting beat deep, allowing the NFL's fourth-highest rate of 20-plus yard passing gains over the last six weeks (12 percent).

The Bills don't have many formidable receivers for Josh Allen to target, but fellow rookie Robert Foster has shown promise over the last two weeks. Foster couldn't stay healthy in college at Alabama and went undrafted, but he's 6-2, 196 lbs, and has 4.4-forty jets. In his first real opportunity all season, Foster collected 3/105 and 2/94/1 in Week 10 and Week 12, ripping off gains of 75, 47, and 43 yards. Foster is averaging an absurd 29.2 air yards per target per Next Gen Stats, easily leading the Bills.

Broncos at Bengals (1 p.m. ET)

Key matchup: Can Manny Sanders carve up the Bengals porous secondary?

Since Demaryius Thomas was traded, Emmanuel Sanders has been the main vein of the Broncos passing offense. Over the last three games, Sanders has commanded 25 percent of Denver's targets, 36 percent of air yards, and has seen a passing look from Case Keenum on a monster 28 percent of his routes run (per Next Gen Stats). Sanders' voluminous usage in the passing game gives him a sky-high ceiling against a Bengals secondary that is getting ripped left and right by enemy aerial attacks. Over the full season, the Bengals have allowed the sixth-most YPG (103.7) to opposing slot receivers and have also been whacked for the tenth-most YPG (120.3) to boundary wideouts. Per Next Gen Stats, Sanders aligns in the slot 54 percent of the time and out wide on 44 percent of Broncos' plays. This means that where ever Sanders aligns, he'll eat in Week 13.

Jets at Titans (4:05 p.m. ET)

*Key matchup: Can Marcus Mariota continue his hot-streak against the Jets? *

Marcus Mariota has caught fire in the Titans four games since their Week 8 bye. In this span, Mariota has completed 78 percent of his passes, he has a 124.5 passer rating, 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio, he's averaging 9.6 YPA, and has added 22/98/1 on the ground. For reference, Mariota's 9.7 percent completion rate above expectation trails only Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, and Russell Wilson over the last four weeks per Next Gen Stats. Predicting the Titans hasn't been an easy process this year, but they are in a prime bounce-back matchup against a Jets side that has allowed multiple passing scores in seven of their last eight games.

Making matters worse for the Jets this week, Mariota has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks against the blitz this season. New York is the fifth-most blitz-heavy team in the NFL, sending five or more pass rushers on 33 percent of pass plays. Per Next Gen Stats, Mariota's passer rating against the blitz (117.5) trails only Drew Brees (138.7), Russell Wilson (135.0), Ben Roethlisberger (119.2), and Patrick Mahomes (118.9) for the league lead.

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

*Key matchup: Just how bad is it for the Raiders? *

In case you were not aware, the Raiders are in trouble in Week 13. Oakland is the worst team in the NFL at generating pressure (17 percent), their 106.2 passer rating allowed is third-worst, while no secondary is giving up more yards per attempt (8.8) than the Raiders. Per Next Gen Stats, Patrick Mahomes has thrown a TD on 9.4 percent of his non-pressured attempts, the highest rate in the NFL. Meanwhile, no team has given up a higher touchdown rate on non-pressured throws (8.7 percent) than Oakland. It will be next to impossible for Oakland to slow down Tyreek Hill, too. The slowest defense in the league is allowing a hefty 7.9 yards after the catch (most in the NFL) while Tyreek Hill's 6.4 YAC/reception is fifth-best among wideouts.

The story on the ground... isn't any better. No team is allowing more YPC to enemy backs (5.14) while Oakland has stuffed just 14 percent of carries for zero gain or a loss, the third-worst rate in the NFL.

Riding the best win percentage (.842) coming out of a bye week among active head coaches, the gulf between Andy Reid's Chiefs and Jon Gruden's Raiders will be on full display in Week 13. Expect demolition.

Vikings at Patriots (4:25 p.m. ET)

*Key matchup: Can the Vikings regularly pressure Brady? *

Winners of five of their last seven, the Vikings have turned their season around and re-made their playoff fortunes by fixing their defense. In this seven-game span, Minnesota allowed 21 or more points in two games against New Orleans (30) and Chicago (25), respectively. The Vikings front seven has been particularly dominant, owning the NFL's fifth-highest pressure rate (30 percent) and the second-best sack rate (9.2 percent).

While New England's quick passing offense naturally disallows pressure, Tom Brady has not been at his best when under duress this season. Per Next Gen Stats, Brady's 6.1 percent completion rate below expectation and 4.6 yards per attempt are each fourth-from-last among qualified passers. To be fair, Brady is attempting the eighth-highest rate of difficult throws when under pressure per Next Gen Stats' completion expectation model, but his struggles may be further pronounced against an aggressive Vikings' front seven.

49ers at Seahawks (4:25 p.m. ET)

*Key matchup: Matt Breida leads 'Niners chances versus 'Hawks *

It's happened quietly, but the Seahawks run defense has disintegrated in recent weeks. Since Seattle returned from their Week 7 bye, they have allowed a league-leading 5.99 yards per carry and allowed an explosive rushing gain (ten or more yards) at the fifth-highest rate (16 percent), per Next Gen Stats. The 'Hawks woes against the run begin at the point of attack, where they are permitting a gargantuan 2.44 yards before a defender closes in on the play. That's by far the most in the NFL in this span. Essentially, running backs are given ample space to operate with the rock before a defender comes close to stopping the carry.

This week, Seattle will have to deal with Matt Breida and San Francisco's sneakily potent rush attack. Among qualified ball carriers, Breida is tied for second in YPC (5.8), he owns sole second in gains of ten or more yards (20.5 percent), while his 11.3 MPH average speed when he crosses the line of scrimmage is also second-best. Even as road underdogs, Breida has plenty of upside in Week 13.

Chargers at Steelers (8:20 p.m. ET); Sunday Night Football

*Key matchup: Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram's impact on the Chargers *

Finally healthy after missing Weeks 1-10 with a foot injury, Joey Bosa is back on the field and balling out. After recording two sacks last week against Arizona, Bosa is now third among all qualified defenders in individual sack rate (3.0 percent) since the start of 2016, per Next Gen Stats. In fact, when both Bosa and Ingram are active over the last three seasons, the Chargers are top-eight in pressure rate, sack rate, and interceptions forced. The 'Bolts duo is borderline unstoppable when they are both healthy:

bosa and ingram

Obviously, the Chargers' front men will have to be on top of their game to pull out a playoff-like win against Ben Roethlisberger and Co. at home. Per Next Gen Stats, Big Ben has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league against pressure this year as he's completed 5.1 percent more passes than expected when under duress, trailing only Kirk Cousins (11.5 percent), Cam Newton (9.1 percent), and Philip Rivers (5.7 percent) for the league lead.

Redskins at Eagles (8:15 p.m. ET); Monday Night Football

*Key matchup: Will Wentz turn it around against pressure? *

For some reason, the Eagles pass offense has been discombobulated since their Week 9 bye. Perhaps Philadelphia is struggling to integrate Golden Tate into the offense, but one thing is clear: Carson Wentz has not been as nearly as effective against pressure over his last three starts. Beating the pass rush has routinely been one of Wentz's main strengths over the last two seasons, but he's averaged just 3.5 yards per attempt and a brutal 17.2 passer rating when under duress in Weeks 10-12 (per Next Gen Stats). Philadelphia is still control of their playoff destiny and can put themselves right back in the thick of the NFC East title hunt with a win on Monday Night. If they're going to pull off a turnaround, Wentz must re-find his surgical performance against pressure in Week 13. No defense pressures the quarterback more often than Washington (33 percent).

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

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