Picking up the pace: Lions slow it down
Welcome to the Week 9 edition of Snaps, Pace & Stats, where we examine trends in snap totals and no-huddle usage. It is meant as a 30,000-foot view of upcoming games, with the goal of identifying which matchups will — and which will not — be played on fertile fantasy soil.
The surface at U.S. Bank Stadium will not be fantasy-fertile when the Vikings welcome the Lions. Rather than examine this matchup in the Low volume outlook section, I’d like to highlight a gap between common perception and the reality of Detroit’s offense.
Our inclination is to gain as much fantasy exposure as possible to Lions’ games due to some combination of their much-publicized dalliance with a no-huddle offense, Matthew Stafford’s fourth-highest NFL passer rating, their ninth-lowest run rate despite trailing on 18th-lowest percentage of plays, and — most of all — PFF’s second-worst-graded defense.
There is little doubt the Lions’ defense is what we think it is — a talent-deficient mess. Their offense, however, scrapped the no-huddle they’d used so heavily through four weeks (46.1 percent), and has gone up-tempo on 1.8 percent of snaps since. They are operating at the third-slowest pace, on a seconds-per-snap basis, over the last four weeks. Already producing a below-league-average 63.5 plays per game, Detroit has run an NFL-low 55.3 since Week 4.
The Lions may not have a Cowboys-level running game, but in allowing opponents the fifth-fewest snaps (63.1), they are hiding their awful defense in a very Dallas-esque manner. A minuscule average depth of target, along with Stafford’s career-best completion percentage, is Detroit’s running game — and it’s only gotten more pronounced. Stafford had an 8.1-yard aDOT through four weeks (24th-deepest). Since then, it’s 5.7 yards — which would be the lowest for a full season during the 11-year PFF era.
If using players not named Case Keenum against the Lions in fantasy over the last four games has felt strangely unfulfilling, we’re not imagining it. Detroit is going Dallas on us, and we need to adjust our expectations accordingly.
Up in pace
|Rank||Week 8 Snaps||2016 Snaps/Game||Opponent Wk 8 Snaps||2016 Opp Snaps/Gm|
|1||Washington (88)||Arizona (70.8)||Cincinnati (88)||N.Y. Giants (71.4)|
|2||Oakland (85)||New Orleans (69.9)||Tampa Bay (85)||San Francisco (69.9)|
|3||Cincinnati (81)||Tampa Bay (69.6)||Washington (81)||Jacksonville (67.7)|
|4||San Diego (77)||Baltimore (68.9)||Denver (77)||Miami (67.6)|
|5||Dallas (76)||Carolina (67.9)||Philadelphia (76)||Atlanta (67.4)|
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Falcons haven’t run many plays (62.6; eighth-lowest average), but the Buccaneers operate at the 10th-quickest seconds-per-snap pace and surrender the 10th-most plays per game. Tampa Bay’s games are averaging the second-most combined snaps over the last month (135.7) and Atlanta leads the league in points-per-snap — so if their play count is juiced, it should go a long way. The Buccaneers allow 4.2 yards per rushing attempt, but their front seven is healthier and their secondary is a wreck. Our 23rd-graded pass coverage and 27th-ranked pass rush allows the sixth-most yards per pass attempt (7.7).