An “emptying the notebook” with a collection of interesting angles, concepts, matchups and other analysis I uncovered this week which didn’t make it into my write-ups or analysis that I shared with clients for the week.
What I saw heading into Sunday’s action was…
…the Patriots opt to shift from a team in 2016 that didn’t lose a single early down success rate (EDSR) battle during the season under Tom Brady to a team that was taking bomb after bomb on early downs against the Chiefs. Brady averaged 8 YPA and completed 64% of his attempts within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, but he averaged just 6.7 YPA and completed 20% of his attempts 15+ yards downfield. Even though the accuracy was not there, and despite the Patriots leading for most of the game, Brady attempted 15 of these deeper shots down the field, posting a 54.9 rating and this inefficiency really cost the Patriots.
…the Seahawks make an aggressive move and really improve their defensive line at the eleventh hour. Sheldon Richardson is a beast and adding him to Seattle’s already stout defensive line could make it extremely difficult to run on Seattle in 2017.
…a Titans team that looked extremely dysfunctional on both sides of the ball during the preseason, but which still is likely to win the division because the AFC South remains one of the worst divisions in the NFL for yet another year.
What I want to see from teams this week is…
…a step ahead for sophomore quarterbacks, starting with Carson Wentz. He can start by targeting Zach Ertz a ton today. Last year the Redskins gave up a 58% success rate and a 74% completion rate to TEs. On early downs that dropped to a 63% success rate and a 102 rating, the 4th worst success rate in the NFL.
…whether the Falcons will suffer from a Super Bowl runner-up hangover or not. I want to see how the offense looks under new OC Steve Sarkisian. Most of all, I want to see if they can get “up” to play the Bears on the grass in Chicago when they’ve got a date with the Packers next week to open their new stadium.
…how Trevor Siemian looks in the new offense this season. He’s looked mediocre at best in his career, and has struggled tremendously from the shotgun. I’ll be tracking how many snaps he takes in shotgun on Monday night and how he performs in those snaps. It’s a more shotgun-oriented offense than he’s run before, and it is an offense that was implemented in the hopes that Paxton Lynch, a shotgun QB, would excel in. But Lynch has been terrible so the baton was passed back to Siemian. If Siemian fails, given Lynch’s injury, the next QB up is our old friend Brock Osweiler.
What I don’t want to see from teams this week is…
…the Titans’ Marcus Mariota struggle to throw the ball to his right. He’s playing a bad Raiders defense and finally has the services of Eric Decker and rookie WR Corey Davis. Mariota has been noticeably and measurably worse throwing to his right in his entire career thus far. With his new weapons, I expect Mariota to regain his touch to the right. But if he does not, it could be something that is highly problematic and which defensive coordinators begin to game plan against.
…Jared Goff and Todd Gurley fail to carve up the Colts defense. Without Vontae Davis, this defense should be highly susceptible to exploitation. And with the volume that the Rams should have, given the ineptitude of the Colts offense, there should be ample opportunities for Gurley to run early and often. There isn’t a better opponent to face in the home opener for the Rams.
…Jacksonville blow another 4th quarter lead, if they are so lucky to have one against the Texans. The Jaguars have actually led entering the 4th quarter in 3 of their last 5 meetings with the Texans. Last year, the Jaguars blew five 4th quarter leads after week 10 with highly predictable play calling when leading. They need to be more creative formationally when playing with a lead in order to best close out the opposition.
What I found is…
…last year against this stout Eagles defense, the Redskins produced a 6.0 ypc and a 48% success rate against the Eagles, including a 27% first down rate. Overally, Rob Kelley gained 5.8 ypc, Matt Jones gained 8.4 and Chris Thompson 6.3. The Redskins were particularly efficient on 3rd down when rushing, converting 100% of their run attempts into 3rd downs. But they were terrible when running to the right, as the below image from Sharp Football Stats illustrates. If the Eagles can stifle runs to the Redskins left, they could bottle up the running game of the Redskins this year. It will be a key matchup to watch.
…the last meeting between the Titans and Raiders was all about field position. The Titans started zero drives outside of their 26 yard line. The Raiders started 5 drives at or inside their 13 yard line. Even great offenses will struggle when constantly backed up. It will be interesting to see how they fare in field position today.
…it might not be a stretch to suggest that the Chargers defense could outperform the Broncos defense on Monday night. This is an extremely underrated unit and I’m excited to see them square off against one of the NFL’s best units in Denver.
What you need to know is…
…a limited Lions defense is now entering the game without its top pass rusher from last year, and is also dealing with Ezekiel Ansah having been limited at practices this week.
…last year the Cardinals were the #1 defense against tight ends, so if Eric Ebron has a great game to help the Lions pull off the home victory, it won’t be easy.
…the Texans are playing an underrated Jaguars defense without starting LT Duane Brown and jogging out Tom Savage under center.
…the Colts are without their staring QB Andrew Luck as well as their starting C Ryan Kelly. They’ll be starting Scott Tolzien and undrafted free agent Deyshawn Bond at center.
…the Steelers will be starting Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant together for the first time in a long time. Since the 2015 season, these 4 have seen just 21 snaps together.
About the author: Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) is a licensed Professional Engineer and is an inventor of custom & predictive NFL analytics/visualized data. He owns Sharp Football Analysis and Sharp Football Stats. His work has been seen at ESPN, FOX, the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post and many other news/sports sites. He authored the bestselling 'Warren Sharp's 2017 Football Preview', available on Amazon or in PDF.