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…
…a team with the better record lost to the better team when the Dolphins lost decisively to the Ravens. Miami has shown flashes this year, such as winning a week 2 game they should have lost on a FG miss by the Chargers, or beating the Matt Cassel-led Titans, or pulling out a miracle comeback over the Falcons. But they are not better than those 3 teams. And it showed. As bad as the Ravens are, they have a very impressive defense when they received back the services of DT Brandon Williams. The Ravens offense still is not good, but their defense is strong and they Dolphins need a ton of work which will have to come, unfortunately for them, without a bye week this year.
…the world see the value and impact of Aaron Rodgers absence. The Packers averaged 63% passes on the season in the first 3 quarters, but had to go 51% run last week without Aaron Rodgers. A team that was 8.3 YPA with Rodgers went 3.0 without him. They also dropped from 331 passing yards to 87 and from 59% success rate to 23%. These numbers are massive, and when passing efficiency contributes so much more to wins than does rushing efficiency, the Packers need to figure out a game plan during their bye week.
…a team potentially self-implode before walking into a buzz saw in Seattle. The Texans owner made a disparaging comparison and the players naturally took offense. The bottom line for the outcome is that the Texans, sitting at 3-3 and off a bye, nearly missed practice to discuss the situation, and have spent a ton of time between Friday and Sunday trying to figure out what they are going to do. It appears their current options are to protest via: “kneeling, peeling Texans decal off helmet, raising fists, staying in the locker room during the anthem.” Regardless of what they end up going with, the questions will certainly come in after the game: what could the Texans have done in this game in Seattle if their time and energy spent dealing/discussing their situation was actually spent game planning for the strong Seahawks defense and somewhat underrated offense.
What I want to see from teams this week is…
…what Mike Zimmer’s team and specifically offense does to the Browns and specifically, their Gregg Williams-led defense. Zimmer has extreme dislike for Williams, dating back to his bounty-gate days in 2012 and earlier. There was a game in 2015 where the Browns delivered a late hit on Teddy Bridgewater, and said, of Williams “if we were on the street, we probably would have had a fight.” You can rest assured, even though Zimmer has said all the right things heading into the week, he certainly won’t mind if the Vikings run it up on this defense.
…what happens with the Texans defense out in Seattle. Many people still believe the Texans are the same defense they were earlier in the year as well as last year. But what has this team actually done this year, apart from holding a struggling (at the time) Bengals offense with their (now fired) OC to 9 points on a Thursday, and holding down a bad Browns offense to 17 points? They allowed Marcus Mariota to put up 2 TDs in less than a half before he went out. The Jaguars rolled up 29 points, the Patriots passed for nearly 400 yards and 11 YPA en route to 36 points, and the Chiefs put up 42 points and punted once in 10 drives. And those games were all with JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Without both, on the road for the first time since losing them, it will be fascinating to watch how this defense performs.
…the Bears stick to their formula in New Orleans despite facing the high scoring Saints offense. Last week, the Bears attempted 7 passes and completed only 4. There is no doubt they will have to attempt more in New Orleans. But how many more relates to two key things: how their defense does against Drew Brees and a Saints offense that is firing on all cylinders, and how their run game does against this Saints run defense. And they could have a leg up in the running game matchup, at least when they are on offense. The matchup of the Bears 18th ranked rushing offense against the 29th rated Saints run defense could be the deciding factor – whoever wins that matchup likely covers this game, barring turnovers.
What I don’t want to see from teams this week is…
…the Steelers get away from their run game. I said similar last week, and they stuck to it against the Bengals for a second straight week. The Steelers run offense has a decided edge in this game, with the Lions run defense being somewhat fraudulent given the lack of talent and actual performance when facing good talent. But the Lions pass defense is better than it appears and is quite healthy. The Steelers cannot afford to get too crazy in the passing game. The run game alone could do enough damage against the Lions defense.
…the windy, rainy, weather goes overlooked. We are going to see weather in Washington, New England, Philadelphia and New York (Jets) on Sunday. You absolutely must pay close attention to the dynamic weather forecasts this morning as you plan out your action and starts in fantasy. Some weather situations may be overblown (no pun intended) while others may be a substantial factor, especially with so many strong, offensive players involved in these games. Be cognizant.
…Anthony Lynn and the Chargers play callers single-handedly derail the Chargers shot up in New England. The Chargers cannot afford to be inefficient on any play. Yet they continue to hand the ball off to Melvin Gordon on first down and these plays are the worst plays in the NFL. There are 36 rushers who have at least 30 carries on first down. Melvin Gordon has 77 carries on first down. And Gordon has been successful on just 22% of those runs, by far the worst in the NFL. And yet the Chargers go run on first and long 54% of the time, which is why they are so inefficient on first down. They must pass far more often on first down when facing the Patriots today.
What I found is…
… the last 3 weeks, the Bengals have faced the 7th toughest schedule of pass defenses. This week they face the 30th rated Colts pass defense.
… the last 3 weeks, the Bears have faced the 9th toughest schedule of run defenses. This week they face the 29th rated Saints run defense.
… the last 3 weeks, the Jets have faced the 10th toughest schedule of run defenses. This week they face the 30th rated Falcons run defense.
What you need to know is…
…the Panthers return the services of Luke Kuechly, who is the defensive captain and emotional leader of the defense.
…the Eagles will be without LT Jason Peters and LB Jordan Hicks, both of which were starters and leaders, and injured in the game against the Redskins last week. Both are lost for the remainder of the season.
…the Patriots LB Don’t’a Hightower is out for the remainder of the season. They have several defensive players listed as questionable, as well.
…the Texans get back the services of LT Duane Brown. He’s one of the best in the industry but has been holding out for more money. He didn’t get the money, but he is back protecting Deshaun Watson this week.
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.