Which divisional rematches will push the pace?
Welcome to Snaps, Pace, and Stats, which examines trends in snap totals and no-huddle usage. This year I’ll be looking at individual players on Fridays in Advanced Matchup Plays, and it will appear both here and on RotoGrinders. Before that, however, it is helpful to take a 30,000-foot view of the upcoming games, in the hope of finding out which ones will be played on fertile fantasy soil.
A perception exists that it is smart to fade players in divisional rematches. In the aggregate, that may be true. But we can miss opportunities if it’s treated as a hard-and-fast rule. Late-season point output can be depressed for many reasons — from injury attrition, to weather, to the coaching familiarity that it’s commonly attributed to.
So far this season there have been 25 divisional rematches. Twelve of them produced more snaps, 12 produced fewer, and one had the same number as the original game. Eleven of the rematches had more points scored and 14 had fewer. On average, there were 1.4 fewer snaps and 1.4 more points produced in the rematches. That, by itself, is not actionable.
At this point of the season, we know that the Jaguars-Saints game should produce a truckload of fantasy goodness, and it’s probably best to avoid the Cowboys-Bills ploddingly-paced tractor-pull. So with six divisional rematches on tap, our focus this week will be on diving into four of them to see which ones to ride, and which ones to avoid, in fantasy.
|Rank||Week 15 Snaps||2015 Snaps/Game||Opponent Wk 15 Snps||2015 Opp Snps/Gm|
|1||Carolina (77)||Houston (70.3)||N.Y. Giants (77)||Philadelphia (70.9)|
|2||Tampa Bay (77)||Philadelphia (68.6)||St. Louis (77)||N.Y. Giants (69.4)|
|3||Oakland (75)||New Orleans (68.5)||Denver (75)||Miami (69.1)|
|4||Pittsburgh (75)||San Diego (68.4)||Green Bay (75)||Jacksonville (68.3)|
|5||Arizona (74)||N.Y. Jets (67.9)||Philadelphia (74)||St. Louis (67.6)|
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
The Ravens run the ninth-most plays per game (66.6) and the Steelers average the second-most snaps over the last four weeks (72.5). Not coincidentally, that coincides with Ben Roethlisberger’s healthy starts since Pittsburgh’s bye. The Steelers primarily crank the tempo in home games (more in No-Huddle Notes), but during the last month their overall seconds-per-snap pace quickened (27.3 seconds). Baltimore operates at the league’s eighth-fastest pace (27.0 seconds), mainly due to their injury-incited meltdown. As double-digit underdogs, they will again be hustling on offense no matter who their quarterback is.
The Ravens won’t roll over in their last home game of 2015 against a division rival, and the Steelers are in a playoff hunt. Motivation won’t be an issue. Neither will employ an overly ground-based, clock-draining game plan. Baltimore’s run defense ranks fourth-best (+45.7), and Pittsburgh’s is coming around (+6.3 in their last three games). Each unit is top-seven in yards-per-carry-allowed (3.8). Both the Steelers (-29.8; 28th) and the Ravens (-26.9; 25th) feature burnable pass coverage and rank in the top 10 for points-per-snap-allowed over the last month.
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