Week 16 NFL mismatches: Why Patriots, Cowboys, Saints have major edge

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.

Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore vs. Bills QB Josh Allen

Why Gilmore has the edge:  In another lockdown season in coverage, he has established himself as the NFL’s best cornerback. Gilmore is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions (6) and passes defended (18), and ranks second with two pick-sixes. Gilmore has yielded a 32.8 passer rating into his coverage (league average 91.0), second best among qualified cornerbacks, behind teammate J.C. Jackson.

Gilmore has feasted on below-average quarterbacks like Allen, who ranks 23rd in passer rating (84.6). In six games against quarterbacks ranked in the bottom-10, Gilmore has five interceptions and 14 passes defended, and yielded a 15.6 passer rating into his coverage. The New England defense allowed an average of 6.7 points in those games.

Why Allen will struggle: The second-year QB’s inconsistent play is often masked by an outstanding Buffalo defense that has allowed the second-fewest points per drive (1.26). Allen ranks 25th of 31 qualifiers in QBR, and the Bills’ offense ranks 23rd in scoring per drive (1.70), despite facing the league’s ninth-easiest schedule of defenses according to DVOA.

In Week 4 at home against New England, Allen posted a career-worst 24.0 passer rating, tossing three interceptions and no touchdowns and averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. In three games against defenses ranked top-10 in DVOA, Allen has averaged 4.8 yards per attempt and posted an average passer rating of 50.6. The Bills averaged just 14.7 points in those games.

Fantasy impact: Allen is a fantasy non-factor against top-10 DVOA defenses, averaging just 11.9 fantasy points (standard scoring) in those games. The New England defense is always a great play at home, where it has allowed the fewest points per game (12.7) and lowest passer rating (64.3).

How Gilmore does it:  Gilmore had an interception against the Bengals a week ago that perfectly showcases the skills that make him an elite corner. Lined up against Tyler Boyd in the slot (top side of picture), Gilmore does a good job keeping his eyes on both the receiver and the quarterback, staying ready to make a play, but not losing sight of his assignment. Upon the throw, Gilmore shows off his quick hips, immediately pivoting to the outside to make a break on the ball. He closes with strong quickness, arrives at the perfect spot to snatch the ball, and finishes with a good catch. Gilmore takes this one 64 yards to the house.

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