Our DVOA-adjusted pass and run game targets are back for the Conference Finals!
Last week, we were able to pinpoint great performances from Travis Kelce, Christian Kirk, Dallas Goedert, and Philadelphia’s run game.
All EPA-related stats provided in this article are since Week 10.
The chart below indicates defensive EPA rank by position, and is ordered by points per game allowed:
Joe Burrow and the Bengals continue their vendetta against the league with another rematch with the Chiefs. Kansas City’s defense ranks top-half in all EPA categories, but top-quarter in none. Unfortunately, that leaves “best play” recommendations in a quagmire of uncertainty. The playmakers and the target-hogs are the best bets in these situations. Ja’Marr Chase garners 12 targets per game and is their top playmaker. He should be a lock in lineups. Tee Higgins is another fine option, with 7.2 targets per game. Hayden Hurst has Burrow’s eye in the red zone and sees five targets per game. Kansas City is 20th in pass defense DVOA.
Kansas City Chiefs
Hobbled Patrick Mahomes is still better than most other QBs in the league. The Bengals can be generous to opposing WRs, ranking 12th in pass defense DVOA. However, Kansas City has a hodgepodge collection of receivers, so picking which will excel here is difficult. I think that Juju Smith-Schuster will be the one, given that he has the most WR targets per game on the team since Week 10. Keep in mind that Kelce is Hall of Fame-bound, so he can be used even in a tough matchup with Cincinnati’s fourth-ranked TE defense.
San Francisco 49ers
Brock Purdy or Kyle Shanahan? It sounds like the nature vs nurture debate, which usually ends up being answered as “a bit of both.” An underrated talent operating in a well-designed offense will produce good outcomes. The Eagles’ defense leads the league in sack rate since Week 10 and is ranked first in pass defense DVOA but is lacking in slot WR defense (29th). Deebo Samuel runs about a quarter of his routes from the slot and is used all over the field, including on run plays, so he is a decent option. Christian McCaffrey gets the worst-ranked run defense of the weekend: 21st in rush defense DVOA and 13th in rush defense EPA. These two weapons could go off at any point. Also, always keep George Kittle in mind. Philadelphia ranks 13th vs TE and Kittle has been on a tear of late.
Jalen Hurts should rekindle his explosive connection with A.J. Brown this week. While San Francisco’s defense is second in rush DVOA and fifth in pass DVOA, opponents have shown where the weakness is. DK Metcalf and CeeDee Lamb paved the way for a Brown spike week. Of course, DeVonta Smith is on a hot streak also. Since San Francisco is ranked first in rush defense EPA, I will avoid the very run game that was so successful last week. Hurts, Brown, and Smith can be stacked together with a single runback from the 49ers.
(Stats courtesy of Football Outsiders and TruMedia Networks)