Four Mismatches To Watch For In Week 1 Of The NFL Season

Written By Mo Nuwwarah on September 8, 2021
NFL Week 1 matchups

Each week of the NFL season brings a new set of matchups, and with it, a new subset of positional groups and players going at each other. Even divisional rematches will often take slightly different form throughout the season due injuries and ongoing team positional turnover. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the NFL Week 1 matchups and see if we can find any mismatches to potentially exploit.

Matchups might come at the player, unit, or even coaching levels. Note that this list is far from exhaustive. You can surely find many more mismatches across the league.

Actionable response to these could come in the form of props, fantasy decisions, spread or moneyline bets or plays on the over/under.

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NFL Week 1 Matchups And Mismatches To Watch

Ravens Running Game Versus Raiders Run Defense

Two years ago, the Ravens stormed through the league with a running game that produced nearly unprecedented levels of efficiency, led by QB Lamar Jackson.

They didn’t quite reach those heights last year, but they still had Football Outsiders’ third-ranked run game. They led the league in rushing yards per attempt (YPA) by the same margin as that between second place and 13th place.

And they get star OL Ronnie Stanley back from injury.

On Monday night, they get to face a Raiders defense that ranked 28th in DVOA against the run. The addition of noted speed rusher Yannick Ngakoue may only further hinder their efforts against the run.

Furthermore, the Ravens’ status as favorites hints that they should be playing from ahead. We saw in a few games last year, particularly against Dallas, what can happen when the Ravens get in positive script against a poor run defense.

Panthers Receivers Versus Jets Secondary

The Panthers certainly have their faults – that’s why their win total sits at a lowly – but wide receiver does not appear to be one of them. Both DJ Moore and Robby Anderson produced at a high level and earned solid grades (75 and 79, respectively) from PFF despite operating with mediocre QB play.

The Panthers decided to further bolster the unit in the draft by adding Terrace Marshall Jr. Go check out his draft testing numbers if you want to see what kind of potential he possesses.

We won’t discuss their depth because hey, they’re all healthy for Week 1.

In any case, they get to line up across from a Jets group that one could generously call young and unproven. Less generously, one could rank the group 28th like PFF did. Marcus Maye figures to be the only decent player and one safety does not a secondary make.

That’s how you come up with a spot where the public lines up to click the Panthers in survivor pools. First-year Jets head coach Robert Saleh has his work cut out for him.

Broncos Pass Rush Versus Giants Offensive Line

Speaking of team units ranking near the bottom for PFF, they opined that the Giants possess the very worst offensive line in the NFL.

Now, there’s certainly potential for better here. LT Andrew Thomas has an elite pedigree as last year’s fourth overall pick. Just because he got his butt kicked last year doesn’t mean he can’t be very good player. Will HernandezBilly Price and Matt Peart are also former high picks who have potential to improve.

But right now, we have to project weaker performance from this unit.

They won’t get an easy assignment to begin the year. The Broncos produced the eighth-most sacks in 2020 while ranking ninth in sack rate as well. And that came despite a down year from Von Miller. His eight sacks were his worst ever for any season in which he played 10+ games.

Daniel Jones could have a rough Sunday ahead of him.

Aaron Donald Versus Bears Interior Offensive Line

Now, Aaron Donald could likely grace this list every week considering he’s already basically a Hall of Fame lock despite just turning 30. But, he and the rest of his Rams cohorts get a particularly tasty NFL Week 1 matchup against the Chicago interior offensive line.

Chicago has tabbed center Sam Mustipher to start alongside guards Cody Whitehair and James Daniels. None of them produced exciting work in 2020. PFF was particularly unimpressed with Mustipher, grading him as one of the league’s worst centers.

The Bears OL produced notably poorly in the run game, where Football Outsiders had them fourth-worst in “stuff” rate and eighth-worst in adjusted line yards.

However, blocking interior pressure rates is an even larger concern. We saw how awful QB Andy Dalton looked when behind a patchwork Dallas OL last year. If Donald and Co. consistently get in his face, this could get ugly. They should have plenty of chances to do so considering the market price of Rams makes this the most lopsided of the NFL Week 1 matchups.

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Mo Nuwwarah

Mo Nuwwarah got his start in gambling early, making his first sports bet on his beloved Fab Five against the UNC Tar Heels in the 1993 NCAA tournament. He lost $5 to his dad and got back into sports betting years later during a 15-year run in the poker industry. A 2011 journalism graduate from Nebraska-Omaha, he combines those skills with his love of sports and statistics to help bettors make more informed decisions with a focus on pro football, baseball and basketball.

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