Pace predictions for Divisional round

Pat Thorman examines fantasy-relevant trends from a no-huddle and snaps-based angle.

| 9 months ago
(Chris Keane/AP Images for Panini)

(Chris Keane/AP Images for Panini)

Pace predictions for Divisional round

Welcome to the divisional round edition of Snaps, Pace, and Stats, which examines trends in snap totals and no-huddle usage. This week the focus is on four matchups that shape up to be, for the most part, higher-scoring and higher-volume than the Wild Card round. However, with five of PFF’s top seven defenses in action – as well as six of the eight stingiest units on a point-per-play basis — we shouldn’t expect fireworks from start to finish.


2015 Snaps Per Game NFL Rank Last Four Games NFL Rank
Carolina Panthers (66.3) 8th Green Bay Packers (69.3) 4th
Green Bay Packers (66.2) 9th Denver Broncos (69.0) 5th
Denver Broncos (66.0) 10th Seattle Seahawks (65.3) 15th
New England Patriots (65.6) 13th Pittsburgh Steelers (64.0) 16th
Arizona Cardinals (65.1) 15th Arizona Cardinals (63.3) 20th
Seattle Seahawks (64.2) 17th Carolina Panthers (63.0) 21st
Pittsburgh Steelers (63.5) 20th New England Patriots (59.0) 27th
Kansas City Chiefs (59.8) 31st Kansas City Chiefs (58.3) 28th

* Wild Card round results included


Kansas City at New England

The Patriots averaged 67.8 snaps through Week 13 (fifth-most), but 59 per game since (27th-most). During those last four games, they operated at the league’s third-slowest pace (31.1 seconds per snap). Since Week 7, their no-huddle rate ranks 22nd-highest (4.6%). Prior to that, it ranked fifth (23.5 percent). Hope does exist, as the Chiefs allow the 14th-most plays per game – albeit with the fewest points per snap (0.28), and even less over their last four games (0.18). Kansas City’s third-ranked run defense (+77.9) and Julian Edelman’s allegedly healthy return should boost New England’s passing volume.

The Chiefs ran the second-fewest plays per game this year (59.7). They operated at the NFL’s slowest pace for the full season (31.1 seconds per snap), and more deliberately than that during their last four games (33.6). The Patriots allowed the 12th-most plays, but the eighth-fewest points per snap (0.3). With Kansas City moving as slowly as any team in the NFL, and New England taking their foot off the throttle when their offensive line began breaking down — weeks before Edelman’s injury – plays will be at a premium. One silver lining is the Patriots (0.44) and Chiefs (0.42) ranked third and fourth in points-per-snap.


Green Bay at Arizona

The Packers ran 58.1 plays per game through eight weeks (second-fewest), and a league-high 72.1 for the rest of the season. Of course, they averaged 24.9 points before Week 9 (10th-most) and 21.6 after that (18th). The Cardinals surrendered the fourth-fewest snaps per game (61.4), and prior to a sloppy season finale, were allowing the fifth-fewest points per play (0.3). During their Week 16 meeting, the Packers went no-huddle on 28.6 percent of first half snaps while the game was relatively close (17-0). They finished with a 15.6-percent no-huddle rate for the game, as the roof and their offensive line caved in.

Continued pace-pushing from the Packers should in turn boost the Cardinals’ snap total, which ranked 15th for the year (65.1 plays per game). Green Bay is mid-pack in plays-surrendered (63.8; 16th), but they sport a 32.1-percent no-huddle rate during their last four games (third-highest), and their 25.7-second-per-snap pace recently sparked a combined 139 plays in Washington. The Cardinals, whose pre-Week 17 points-per-snap rate (0.49) led the league, haven’t required high play volume to light up scoreboards. Green Bay tried a ground-based approach in Week 16 (8 runs versus 3 passes in first quarter) and failed. Plan on more passing, and a higher snap count.


2015 Opponent Snaps Per Game NFL Rank Last Four Games NFL Rank
Carolina Panthers (66.1) 9th Pittsburgh Steelers (72.0) 3rd
Pittsburgh Steelers (66.1) 10th Carolina Panthers (67.0) 12th
New England Patriots (65.1) 12th Denver Broncos (66.8) 13th
Kansas City Chiefs (64.7) 14th Arizona Cardinals (65.0) 14th
Denver Broncos (64.6) 15th New England Patriots (63.5) 17th
Green Bay Packers (63.8) 16th Kansas City Chiefs (63.0) 18th
Arizona Cardinals (61.4) 29th Green Bay Packers (62.5) 20th
Seattle Seahawks (59.0) 32nd Seattle Seahawks (54.8) 31st

* Wild Card round results included


Seattle at Carolina

Since Marshawn Lynch last played in Week 10, the Seahawks are averaging 32 points and running 67.7 plays per game – excluding their weather-altered Wild Card contest. For the full season, those marks would equate to a league-high and the fifth-most, respectively. Will Lynch play? Maybe. Will Seattle revert to their pre-Week-10 plan if he does? Probably not. Either way, Carolina allows the most plays per game of all remaining teams (66.1; ninth-most) in part due to their run defense (3.9 yards per carry allowed; seventh-best) being tested at the league’s second-lowest rate (34.4 percent).

The Panthers’ tendency to go no-huddle more often at home (31 percent of snaps) than on the road (8.1 percent) contributed to allowing 70.1 plays per game in Carolina – an average that would trail only the Eagles’ snaps-surrendered rate (71.8) for the full season. The Seahawks allow the fewest plays in the league (59 per game) and operated at the seventh-slowest pace during their last four games (30.1 seconds per snap). The Panthers, however, lead the NFL in points-per-snap (0.47). With two banged-up ground games facing stiff run defenses behind shaky offensive lines, and ascending pass offenses targeting coverage units featuring top-heavy talent – there is hidden play volume here.


Pittsburgh at Denver

The Steelers average 63.8 plays on the road with Ben Roethlisberger behind center, where we can assume he’ll be on Sunday despite a banged-up shoulder. The Broncos allow the 15th-most plays per game (64.6) and the fourth-fewest points per snap (0.29). Their league-best run defense (+90.9) and DeAngelo Williams’ injury will conspire to have Roethlisberger throwing more than Pittsburgh would probably prefer. The Steelers use less than half as much no-huddle on the road as they do at home, and an injured signal-caller – not to mention the potential absence of the league’s best wideout – won’t prompt them to pick up their pace.

The Broncos averaged the 10th-most plays (66.0), and 69 per game during the last month (fifth-most). They operated at the quickest pace of any team in action this weekend (26.9 seconds per snap; eighth-quickest), and the third-fastest in the league over their last four games (24.6). The Steelers allow the 10th-most snaps per game (66.1), and it jumped to 72 during their last four games (third-most). Yet they only surrender the seventh-fewest points per snap (0.3) and 17.5 per game in their last six. These teams combined for 61 points and 146 plays when they met in Week 15, but should struggle to match those totals.


No-Huddle % Rank Last 4 Games Rank Seconds/Snap Rank Last 4 Games Rank
Green Bay (38%) 3rd Green Bay (32%) 3rd Denver (26.9) 8th Denver (24.6) 3rd
Carolina (20%) 6th Carolina (21%) 5th Green Bay (27.3) 11th Pittsburgh (26.6) 11th
Pittsburgh (16%) 7th Pittsburgh (18%) 6th New England (27.6) 14th Green Bay (27.0) 12th
New England (12%) 8th Denver (16%) 10th Pittsburgh (27.8) 17th Carolina (28.2) 15th
Denver (11%) 9th Seattle (2%) 23rd Carolina (29.1) 23rd Arizona (29.2) 21st
Seattle (5%) 25th New England (1%) 25th Seattle (29.4) 26th Seattle (30.1) 26th
Kansas City (2%) 31st Arizona (0%) 31st Arizona (29.6) 27th New England (31.1) 30th
Arizona (1%) 32nd Kansas City (0%) 32nd Kansas City (31.2) 32nd Kansas City (33.6) 32nd

* Wild Card round results included


No-Huddle Notes

The Packers’ 31.9-percent no-huddle rate equaled their Week 15 dogfight in Oakland – a game they were losing in the latter part of the third quarter – for the most they’ve gone to the hurry-up in a road game this season (22 snaps). Although three of Green Bay’s four touchdowns in Washington came from the no-huddle, their yards-per-play output when hurrying-up (3.9) paled in comparison to when they huddled (5.6).

Yet, a huge plus for their passing game was a miniscule 6.3-percent pressure rate on 16 huddleless attempts, versus Aaron Rodgers feeling heat on 33.3 percent of huddled dropbacks. When they traveled to Arizona in Week 15, the Packers only used the no-huddle for six dropbacks, which included four pressures, two sacks, and two completions for 36 yards and a touchdown. Expect to see more of it on Saturday night.


The Broncos had the fifth-highest no-huddle rate during the last two weeks of the regular season (30.5 percent). Most of it came while Brock Osweiler was behind center, including 18 of his 23 total no-huddle dropbacks this season. He completed 69.6 percent of his hurry-up passes, with a 12.9-yards-per-attempt average, two touchdowns, and no interceptions – for a 141.1 quarterback rating from the no-huddle.

New/old starter Peyton Manning – who will be taking Denver’s first snaps on Sunday – is sporting a 54-percent completion rate, with 6.6 yards per attempt, no touchdowns, and three interceptions from the hurry-up this season. His 49.8 no-huddle quarterback rating is dragging down his already league-low 67.9 mark (out of 37 qualifying passers). Hopefully, for Denver’s sake, his “coach-on-the-field” ability is worth it.


Projecting if the Packers and Steelers will use the hurry-up on the road is tricky, since they’ve been much more no-huddle-heavy at home, but occasionally push the pace when traveling. The Panthers, however, are a far surer thing. They finished the season with an 8.1-percent road no-huddle rate, and used it on 31-percent of snaps at home – including on a season-high 59.7-percent of their Week 17 plays against the Buccaneers.

Cam Newton’s quarterback rating after huddling was 97.3, versus 105.3 when hurrying-up. He completed a higher percentage of passes (62.7 versus 58.7 percent) for more yards per attempt (9.2 versus 7.3 yards), with a lower interception rate (1.7 versus 2.1 percent), from the no-huddle. He also averaged more fantasy points at home (27.3 versus 23.8), where his team scored more as well (33 versus 29.5).


This is the final Snaps, Pace, Stats of the season. It’s been fun to dive into these pace and no-huddle stats this season. I hope you all found it helpful, and thank you for reading. Good luck this week, and I’ll see you in September. Cheers!


Pat Thorman is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy and was named 2013 Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Thorman

Pat Thorman is a lead writer for PFF Fantasy and a Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner.

  • Angelo

    This has probably been my favorite weekly article to read all season. Thanks so much for the time and effort you put in. It clearly shows with such a good product as the output.