Wildcard weekend will be slow paced
Pat Thorman examines fantasy-relevant trends from a no-huddle and snaps-based angle.
Wildcard weekend will be slow paced
Welcome to the Wildcard 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 mostly low-volume affairs, followed by a look at the NFL’s coaching carousel from a no-huddle angle.
|2015 Snaps Per Game||NFL Rank||Last Four Games||NFL Rank|
|Houston Texans (70.4)||1st||Green Bay Packers (72.3)||1st|
|Green Bay Packers (66.0)||9th||Seattle Seahawks (68.5)||7th|
|Seattle Seahawks (64.8)||16th||Houston Texans (65.8)||11th|
|Pittsburgh Steelers (63.2)||Tied – 23rd||Washington Redskins (65.0)||15th|
|Washington Redskins (63.2)||Tied – 23rd||Pittsburgh Steelers (64.0)||17th|
|Cincinnati Benglals (62.8)||25th||Cincinnati Bengals (61.0)||24th|
|Minnesota Vikings (60.8)||28th||Minnesota Vikings (59.3)||27th|
|Kansas City Chiefs (59.7)||31st||Kansas City Chiefs (55.3)||32nd|
Kansas City at Houston
The Chiefs rank near the bottom of the league in plays-per-game (59.7; 31st-most) and have produced the fewest snaps during the last month (55.3). Kansas City may be working on a 10-game winning streak, but their offense has produced the 18th-most points (84) and touchdowns (eight) during the last month. Their seconds-per-snap pace is the NFL’s slowest, for both the season (31.1 seconds) and over their last four games (33.9). The Texans average the fifth-fewest plays-allowed (61.3) and have gotten stingier over the last four games (58.8), while surrendering the league’s second-lowest points-per-snap rate (0.21).
Houston’s offense led the NFL in plays-per-game (70.4), but their rate is way down from where it was after seven games (76). They still rank 11th over the last month (65.8), but the Texans’ pace has slowed from a blistering 22.9 seconds-per-snap through seven weeks, to 29.8 during the last month (22nd-quickest). While they scored 64 points in their last two games, they came against the Titans and Jaguars. In the previous six games since their bye, Houston had averaged 16.8 points. Kansas City allowed the fewest points-per-snap during the last month (0.18), so unless the Texans can rediscover their hefty early-season play volume, scoring will be scarce for them as well.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
For better or worse, the Steelers play slower on the road. When Ben Roethlisberger is active, they average 67.5 plays per game at home – which would rank as the NFL’s seventh-highest rate for the full season – versus 63.2 on the road (22nd-most). Their 28.9-percent no-huddle rate in Pittsburgh is more than twice as high as their 14 percent mark away from home – and that factors in a 54.4 percent hurry-up scramble in Baltimore two weeks ago. With Roethlisberger, the Steelers score 33.3 points at home, versus 23.5 on the road. They allow 68 snaps per game in Pittsburgh, and only 61.8 in away games. However, even without the no-huddle, there’s hope here for an elevated pace.
Starting with their last visit from the Steelers in Week 14, the Bengals are managing 61 plays per game (ninth-fewest), but allowing an average of 70.3 (fifth-most). This is despite a seconds-per-snap pace that is fifth-slowest (30.3). Cincinnati’s run-stopping may only rank 15th (+21.7), but if DeAngelo Williams can’t get healthy – and he managed only 3.3 yards on 23 carries in their last meeting – Pittsburgh’s forced passing stance will help juice the game’s snap count. Considering that both teams rank just inside the bottom 10 for fewest points-per-play-allowed during the last month, these offenses will need all the volume they can muster.
|2015 Opponent Snaps Per Game||NFL Rank||Last Four Games||NFL Rank|
|Pittsburgh Steelers (65.9)||10th||Cincinnati Bengals (70.3)||5th|
|Kansas City Chiefs (64.8)||13th||Pittsbugh Steelers (69.0)||6th|
|Cincinnati Bengals (64.5)||15th||Washington Redskins (66.0)||13th|
|Minnesota Vikings (63.4)||17th||Minnesota Vikings (65.3)||14th|
|Green Bay Packers (63.4)||18th||Kansas City Chiefs (64.0)||18th|
|Washington Redskins (63.1)||20th||Houston Texans (58.8)||27th|
|Houston Texans (61.3)||28th||Green Bay Packers (57.8)||29th|
|Seattle Seahawks (59.2)||32nd||Seattle Seahawks (54.3)||32nd|
Seattle at Minnesota
Minnesota’s offense operates at the fourth-slowest pace (29.9 seconds per snap) and runs the fifth-fewest plays per game (60.8). Prior to their Week 13 visit from the Seahawks, the Vikings featured an impressive combination of the seventh-fewest snaps per game surrendered (62.5) with the third-fewest points per snap allowed (0.28). They were without their best defenders for the game against the Seahawks – in which they allowed 66 snaps and 38 points – as well as for the following two contests. Since they returned two weeks ago (Linval Joseph only played in Week 16), Minnesota’s point-per-snap-allowed rate improved to fourth-lowest (0.21).
Since Russell Wilson’s last negatively-graded performance in Week 10 (-2.4 against Arizona) – when Seattle was averaging 62.4 plays and 22.1 points per game – he is PFF’s third-highest-rated quarterback (+21.7), and the Seahawks are running 67.7 snaps and scoring 32 points per contest. They are, however, still operating at a snail’s pace during the last month (30.4 seconds per snap; fourth-slowest) and allowing the fewest plays per game (54.3). Considering that they also give up the third-fewest points per play during that time (0.22), the efficiency the Vikings have displayed over the last month by scoring the second-most points per play (0.54) is a strong bet to regress toward where it had been prior (0.32; ninth-fewest).
Green Bay at Washington
The Packers have run the ninth-most plays per game (66) and lead the league in snaps during the last month (72.3). They feature the third-highest no-huddle rate (34.9 percent) and operate at the 11th-quickest pace (27.4 seconds per snap). On the road, however, their no-huddle rate is only 17.4 percent and they average 63.1 snaps per game – which would qualify as the ninth-fewest this season. They go to the hurry-up on 56.6 percent of snaps at Lambeau, where they run 68.9 plays per game – which would rank as the third-most for the full season. The Packers run slightly more often on the road (42.6 percent, versus 40.1 percent at home), and this will be the key to the game’s pace.
Washington’s pass coverage is vulnerable (-36.4; fifth-worst), but their pass rush ranks ninth (+41.6) and Aaron Rodgers has been under siege. Washington’s run defense (-38.2; sixth-worst) is allowing 5.5 yards per carry during the last month – second only to Green Bay for worst in the league. Eddie Lacy sports the fifth-highest grade among 63 running backs since Week 10 (+7.7). He could be busy if Green Bay takes a slower-paced approach against a Washington team that’s scoring a league-high 0.5 points per snap during the last month. The Redskins still rank 30th in seconds-per-snap (30.0) and will at least test a Packers’ run defense that’s allowed 4.5 yards per carry for the season (seventh-most). This matchup may look like a high-volume passing affair, but it smells like a ground-based grinder.
|No-Huddle %||Rank||Last 4 Games||Rank||Seconds/Snap||Rank||Last 4 Games||Rank|
|Green Bay (37.9%)||3rd||Green Bay (41.5%)||3rd||Houston (26.2)||5th||Green Bay (27.6)||12th|
|Pittsburgh (17.4%)||7th||Pittsburgh (19.1%)||6th||Green Bay (27.4)||11th||Pittsburgh (27.8)||15th|
|Cincinnati (8.9%)||12th||Cincinnati (2.9%)||22nd||Pittsburgh (27.9)||17th||Houston (29.8)||22nd|
|Houston (6.1%)||19th||Seattle (2.6%)||23rd||Seattle (29.4)||25th||Minnesota (30.2)||26th|
|Seattle (4.9%)||24th||Minnesota (1.7%)||25th||Cincinnati (29.5)||26th||Washington (30.3)||27th|
|Washington (3.9%)||29th||Washington (1.2%)||27th||Minnesota (29.9)||29th||Cincinnati (30.3)||28th|
|Minnesota (2.8%)||30th||Houston (1.1%)||28th||Washington (30.0)||30th||Seattle (30.4)||29th|
|Kansas City (2.5%)||31st||Kansas City (0.0%)||32nd||Kansas City (31.1)||32nd||Kansas City (33.9)||32nd|
The Dolphins’ 24.7-percent no-huddle rate in Week 17 was their highest of the last two seasons, despite Bill Lazor’s presence for most of those games. A Chip Kelly disciple, Lazor was expected to increase Miami’s pace, as were Joe Philbin’s up-tempo practices when he was first hired. While the no-huddle did not bear fruit against New England – Ryan Tannehill completed two of seven huddleless attempts and the Dolphins averaged 2.7 yards per carry from the hurry-up – it was a reminder of how unimaginative their offense has been. With a new coaching staff set to take over and passing game building blocks Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker (+4.7 grade from Week 13-17; 16th of 116 qualifying receivers) in place, things aren’t as bleak as they appear – even if Miami never increases their tempo.
The Eagles have shown interest in both Ben McAdoo and Adam Gase as potential replacements for Chip Kelly. That’s great news, not only for geeks who enjoy digging into ramifications of up-tempo offenses, but for the Eagles offense itself. In New York, McAdoo’s offense went no-huddle on 54 percent of snaps in 2015 (second-highest) and 39.4 percent last season (second-highest). Gase had the Broncos running the hurry-up on 32.3 percent of snaps in 2014 (fourth-highest), and the Bears quietly used tempo 26.2 percent of the time under his direction this season (fourth-highest).
Those no-huddle rates are not quite on the level of Kelly’s Eagles, who led the NFL with 58.7 and 71.8 marks in the last two seasons, but they will do. Philadelphia holding onto their up-tempo stance will allow us to forecast increased snap volume for their offense, as well as their opponents’. It will also continue to aid their performance. As uneven as Sam Bradford’s first season in Kelly’s system was, he threw for far more yards per attempt (7.7 vs. 5.2) and had a better quarterback rating (90.3 vs. 74.4) from the no-huddle. Eagles’ runners averaged 4.5 yards and a touchdown on every 26.7 no-huddle carries, versus 3.2 yards and a touchdown for every 35 huddled attempts.
Eli Manning was rejuvenated last year not only by the arrival of Odell Beckham, but by McAdoo’s system. He was fantasy’s QB7 in 2015, with a 0.47 point-per-dropback rate, one year after the no-huddle helped him to QB10 status (0.46 points per dropback). This season, he completed a higher percentage of passes from the hurry-up (60.6 versus 46.4) and had a slightly higher yards-per-attempt mark (7.4 vs 7.2). Beckham also had more juice from the no-huddle, with a 10.5 yards-per-target mark, versus 8.3 after huddling. The Giants’ job is an attractive one, and several high-profile offensive minds have been connected to it, including Gase and Josh McDaniels – who also knows something about tempo. But it’s doubtful that New York will be as fast-paced next year as in the previous two.
Kelly himself is reportedly interested in another head coaching job – specifically with the 49ers — and obviously would implement his system wherever he lands. In dynasty leagues, it wouldn’t cost much to take a flier on Colin Kaepernick, or more covertly, acquire him as a throw-in to a larger deal. He lacks the short-area accuracy and quick decision-making that Kelly’s offense favors, but his current level of athleticism is higher than another scattershot passer who briefly produced quality fantasy totals as an Eagle – Mike Vick.
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