Yardbarker’s Michael Nania analyzes the biggest positional mismatches each week during the NFL season.
Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt vs. Bengals RT Bobby Hart
Why Hart is overmatched: Among tackles, he is tied for sixth in penalties (nine) and has allowed the eighth-most pressures (30). Hart ranks a more respectable 33rd of 61 qualified tackles in pass blocking efficiency, as he has played the fifth-most pass-block snaps among tackles (438). But his struggles are a major reason why the Bengals’ offensive line is among the league’s worst. Cincinnati ranks 25th in sack rate allowed (8.3 percent) and 26th in rush offense DVOA.
In Week 4 against the Steelers, Hart had his worst game of the season. He was beaten for a season-high two sacks and seven pressures, and was penalized twice. The Bengals also were unsuccessful running in Hart’s direction, gaining just 25 yards on nine carries (2.8 per attempt) to the right side.
Why Watt will dominate: He is in the midst of a tremendous season as a pass rusher, ranking third in sacks (10.5) and sixth in pressures (53). He comes into Week 12 on fire, leading the NFL in pressures over the past four weeks with 26. He has registered a sack in seven consecutive games, and at least five pressures in five consecutive games.
Watt is one of the league’s most dominant rushers from the left side of the defense. He has rushed from the left side 98.4 percent of the time; each of his 53 pressures have come from that side. Only Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter (69 pressures) has created more pressure rushing from the left side.
Fantasy impact: The Bengals’ passing game has been a fantasy non-factor since rookie Ryan Finley took over at QB. Expect that to continue. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor should lean heavily on running back Joe Mixon, who has averaged 24 touches and 127 yards from scrimmage over his past two games. Perhaps there’s a fantasy play there.
How Watt does it: Watt took advantage of Hart in the teams’ previous meeting, a 27-3 Steelers win, collecting 1.5 sacks, six pressures, and a fumble recovery. On the play below, Watt beats Hart for a half-sack (shared with Cameron Heyward). Watt gives a subtle inside fake, chops down Hart’s outside punch, and rips underneath to get home.
Bears WR Allen Robinson vs. Giants cornerback DeAndre Baker
Why Baker is overmatched: Over the first 10 games of his rookie season, the Georgia product is one of the league’s worst cornerbacks. He has allowed 629 yards on throws into his coverage, third most in the league. Quarterbacks throwing Baker’s way have picked up six touchdowns and averaged 12.3 yards per attempt, all without tossing an interception. Among qualified cornerbacks, Baker has allowed the highest passer rating (149.9) and second-most yards per cover snap (1.89).
To prevent getting beat recently, Baker resorted to pass interference and holding penalties. He was called for two penalties in each of his past two games, against the Cowboys and Jets. Those four penalties yielded a combined 69 yards. Three of them resulted in third-down conversions.
Why Robinson will dominate: Despite Chicago’s brutal results in the passing game, Robinson is in the midst of a strong season. His average of 63.3 receiving yards per game is his best since 2015. He has more than twice as many receptions (57, for 633 yards) as any other Bears wide receiver, and nearly 300 more receiving yards than any other player on the roster. With its season on the line, Chicago is certain to force-feed the ball to its best offensive player.
Robinson is fantastic at Soldier Field, where they Bears will face the Giants, averaging 82.8 yards per game versus just 43.8 on the road. In each of his five home games, Robinson has posted at least five catches and 62 yards. He is also productive against poor pass defenses, averaging 81 yards in three games against teams ranked bottom-10 in pass defense DVOA. The Giants come into Week 12 ranked 28th.
Fantasy impact: Robinson has been up and down lately, but his production has correlated closely with both opponent quality and game location. The Giants stink. This game is at Soldier Field. Do the math.
How Robinson does it: At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, he uses his size and length to win off the line with physicality and to position himself to grab contested balls. Here, Robinson evades the jab of Detroit cornerback Darius Slay at the line, and wins position over the top as he buys himself room with the extension of his left arm. QB Mitchell Trubisky drops in a rare accurate pass, and Robinson shows off his elite tracking ability as he makes a diving over-the-shoulder grab.
Saints RBs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray vs. Panthers run defense
Why Panthers are overmatched: Carolina, which fields the league’s worst run defense, is ranked 27th in rushing yards per game allowed (128.4) and 29th in yards per attempt (5.1). It also ranks last in rush defense DVOA and has allowed the most rushing touchdowns (18).
The Panthers’ run defense is at its worst in the most important situations. In the red zone, it has yielded a first down or touchdown on 54.7 percent of rush attempts, a rate 13.5 percent higher than any other team. On third or fourth down with three yards or less to go, Carolina has allowed a conversion 80 percent of the time, third worst in the league.
Why Saints will dominate: The duo of Kamara and Murray is highly effective, leading the Saints to sixth in rushing DVOA. Each back has showcased superb elusiveness, as Kamara leads the league in broken tackle frequency (one per 4.9 rush attempts) and Murray ranks 14th of 47 qualifiers (one per 11.9). Kamara and Murray rank fifth and fourth among running backs in DVOA, respectively. They are the only pair of teammates in the top 15.
New Orleans’ productive running game is powered by an offensive line ranked third by Pro Football Focus for run blocking. Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, right guard Larry Warford, and center Erik McCoy are each among Pro Football Focus’ top-25 graded run blocking offensive linemen.
Fantasy impact: The Panthers have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Their run defense is especially bad on the road, where it has allowed 2.2 touchdowns and 138.8 yards per game on 5.6 yards per attempt. Kamara is positioned for a strong outing, especially considering he is overdue for touchdowns after scoring just two in his first eight games. Murray may sneak in a handful of big plays, possibly a short-yardage touchdown.
How Saints do it: This play is a great example of how Kamara works in tandem with a great offensive line to create one of the league’s most effective rushing attacks. On this inside zone run, Ramczyk (#71, right tackle) and Warford (#67, right guard) create a ton of room in the right C-gap with a dominant combo block on the 3-technique defensive tackle. However, Jared Cook (#87, tight end) allows penetration to Seattle’s Jadeveon Clowney, who has a shot to stop Kamara for a modest gain. At this point, the offensive line has already created enough room for a decent gain of three to five yards, but it’s up to Kamara to make one man miss for this run to hit the next level. He does the job, shaking off Clowney and rumbling for a 16-yard gain.
By: Michael Nania