Inside the Isolator – Week 14 Edition

Warren Sharp

Sunday, December 10, 2017 5:44 PM UTC

Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 5:44 PM UTC

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 today’s action was…

…Ryan Shazier suffer a major injury. It’s never good when it’s nearly a week out, and we still don’t know how much movement Shazier has in his lower extremities. His surgery certainly wasn’t a positive sign for his future as a football player, but hopefully, he gets back what he needs to live a normal life. It reminds us just how much a gladiator sport the NFL is.

…too much from the officials in the Atlanta Falcons win over the New Orleans Saints. Sean Payton clearly felt the same way, as did many players. There were far too may penalties called. As we head down the home stretch and into the playoffs, we as bettors want games called accurately and fairly. But we don’t want “weak” penalties, even if they are called both ways.

…the Browns remove the one piece which has gotten the team into the position it is, which is to clean up in the NFL draft, while keeping the one piece which has caused the Browns to win just one of their last 28 games. Hue Jackson has made mistake after mistake on the field, be it play calling, decisions with his starting quarterback, or roster strategy. Jackson has literally pulled rookie DeShone Kizer from 4 games, and benched him in another, yet continues to go back to Kizer. Even if it works to get them a win eventually this season, the rookie QB’s mentality is likely to be shaken if not shattered.

What I want to see from teams this week is…

…the Browns finally win a game over an opponent they should be able to beat. In their game last week, Packers HC Mike McCarthy hid QB Brett Hundley despite playing a horrendous pass defense. They went 74% run on early downs in the first half, and 63% run on all early downs in the game. Hundley only completed 13 passes the entire game, on 22 attempts. He averaged just 3.8 yards per attempt and totaled only 84 passing yards, while posting a 48-passer rating. The Browns have the #2 run defense, to challenge what the Packers want to do offensively. If Hue Jackson can adequately steer his offense against a mediocre at best Packers defense, the Browns have a great shot at winning this game.

…the Jaguars strategy in how they attack Seattle’s defense. The Seahawks are a tremendous run defense, but they are much shakier in the secondary. However, the strength of the Jaguars is their run offense, and relying more on their pass offense means more Blake Bortles, which is exactly what the Jaguars want to use only as a last resort. I’m fascinated to see the success, or lack thereof, of the Jacksonville run game and how long it takes them to get more aggressive in the pass game if the Seahawks slow down the run game of the Jaguars.

… Jimmy Garoppolo again make a difference for the 49ers, and this time carry that over into the red zone. The Texans defense is exploitable in explosive passing, something that wasn’t an option for the 49ers last week against the 6th ranked explosive pass defense of the Bears last week. Chicago has 7th ranked pass rush. The Texans pass rush isn’t as strong, and they rank 28th in explosive pass defense despite playing a league average schedule. The 49ers could bypass some of those red zone trips that turned into FGs last week by being more explosive, and I’m curious if the Texans are the perfect opponent to try that against.

What I don’t want to see from teams this week is…

…the Broncos pass offense continue on a death march off of a mile high cliff. Last week in Miami was absolutely embarrassing from Trevor Siemian and the offense in general. The problem is the Jets are better on both sides of the ball and as importantly, are playing extremely hard. The scene would get exceedingly ugly at home if Siemian throws another pick-6 or if the Broncos offense starts off slow.

…Blaine Gabbert cost the Cardinals a shot at a home upset. There may not be a more overrated team right now than the 8-4 Tennessee Titans. Gabbert started off last week’s first 3 drives with 2 interceptions (one of which was a pick-6) and a three-and-out. The Cardinals were down 16-0 before they could blink. Over the game’s last 3 quarters, the Cardinals actually produced a 48% success rate and Gabbbert posted a 95-passer rating. The Titans defense is much worse than the Rams, and playing at home for a second straight week, Arizona’s offense should be able to move the ball and possibly pull the upset, assuming Gabbert doesn’t literally throw away the game before it even has a chance to start.

…the Ravens offense struggle in Pittsburgh. Yes, the Ravens offense isn’t very good. But they opened the offense up last week against the Lions, and Joe Flacco posted a 116 rating. The Steelers pass defense is much better than the Lions, but Pittsburgh is without the aforementioned Shazier and they are lacking depth in the secondary, as they are still without CB Joe Haden. The Ravens pass offense was extremely diversified – the most targeted player was Jeremy Maclin with 6 targets, and they and 8 players with 2 or more targets. If the Ravens can continue that diverse passing offense in Pittsburgh, the Steelers defense could be stretched thin, particularly after their extremely physical game against the Bengals last week.

What I found is…

… the Seahawks pass offense, after facing the 18th toughest schedule of pass defenses the last 3 weeks, now have to face the NFL’s best pass defense, the Jaguars.

… the last 3 weeks, the Lions have faced the 8th toughest schedule of passing defenses. This week they face the NFL’s 31st ranked pass defense of the Buccaneers.

… the Cardinals with Gabbert at the helm have produced an 88% success rate when targeting RBs on first down (30% better than average and 4th best in the league). They are gaining 10.9 YPA, the 2nd best rate in the NFL. The last 3 weeks, the Titans have allowed an outrageous 86% of 1st down passes to RBs to grade as successful. That is almost 30% worse than average.

What you need to know is…

…the Eagles are likely to be without TE Zach Ertz. Ertz is the most successful deep target for the Eagles, posting a 113-passer rating and a 70% success rate on all deep passes, better than Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor.

…the Chiefs will be without C Mitch Morse, OLB Tamba Hali and suspended CB Marcus Peters.

…the Bears and the Bengals are both dealing with cluster injuries on defense.

…the Redskins have 4 starting offensive linemen questionable and face the NFL’s 6th ranked pass rush of the Chargers. 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.

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