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