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.
…backup QBs receive perhaps too much hype as they get inserted into the starting lineup. It happened with Kevin Hogan in Cleveland, C.J. Beathard in San Francisco, Matt Moore in Miami and Brett Hundley in Green Bay. All four made starts and looked terrible and their teams didn’t cover. Hundley gets his 2nd start, after a bye this week. But we also get to see Brock Osweiler making his first start for the Broncos and Tom Savage make his first start in Houston.
…the Chargers continue to fall into the trap of underutilizing their best receiver, TE Hunter Henry. Any game this year when his target share is sub-10%, the team is 0-5. When they target Henry 15% or more often, the team is 3-0. His efficiency is remarkable, yet this Chargers team continues to drive into oncoming traffic by beating themselves. Perhaps the best thing about this week is that the Chargers are on a bye.
…teams continue to attempt to run out mortar kicks when playing the Patriots. Before the first offensive play is even snapped, the Patriots are winning as they are routinely gaining 10 yards per drive of an edge on these mortar kicks. For example, on kickoffs from their game last week against the Chargers, Los Angeles started on their 19-yard line on average, whereas the Patriots started on their 29. That edge is massive and is highly difficult to overcome. As such, when the Patriots fail to execute a mortar kick properly, and it travels into the end zone, teams must absolutely not return that kick. But far too often, they try to and it backfires big time.What I want to see from teams this week is…
… what Carson Wentz does against this strong Broncos defense when missing his LT Jason Peters, and specifically on 3rd downs. The Eagles have been absolutely incredible converting on 3rd downs this year. They are the #2 ranked offense in the league on 3rd down. However, that has come against the NFL's easiest schedule of 3rd down defenses. The Broncos are the NFL's #1 defense on 3rd down.
… how Marcus Mariota and this Titans offense looks after coming off of the bye against the very difficult to run on Baltimore Ravens defense that just defeated the Dolphins 40-0. Mariota has not been healthy in his last two starts, after pulling his hamstring week 4 in Tennessee. He was “good enough” to defeat the Colts and the Browns, but could not move around in the pocket as freely as he usually does. Baltimore’s pass defense ranks 2nd in the league. For the Titans, they just finished playing the 26th, 28th and 30th rated pass defenses of the Browns, Dolphins, and Colts. Now they must face a very difficult Ravens defense, which is also very good on the ground defending the run. I’m really looking forward to seeing WR Corey Davis and Marcus Mariota work together and see what the Titans can do against this Ravens defense.
… Dallas and Ezekiel Elliott take advantage of his opportunity to play this week and dominate an overrated Chiefs run defense. This Chiefs run defense is the weakest unit that the Cowboys have faced this season. Having Zeke available is a massive boost in this game. That is because the Chiefs defense ranks 31st against the run. The Chiefs run defense is the NFL's worst at allowing explosive runs. And that comes against the 6th easiest schedule of explosive run offenses. They haven't played an offense
that ranks top half in explosive rushing since before week 4. The Cowboys are the NFL's 2nd most explosive rushing offense. I want to see how Zeke fares against this run defense of the Chiefs.What I don’t want to see from teams this week is…
… the Packers come out from the bye and utilize Brett Hundley much the same way they did heading into the bye vs the Saints. In that game, the Packers went 51% run in the game’s first 3 quarters. They previously were 63% pass. If that doesn’t sound like much, it’s a major difference. This run offense was strong because it operated off the pass. The Packers don’t have a run offense like the Cowboys. They have to design more for Hundley in the passing game, and they have to allow this team to run off of the pass. But it’s not just passing more, they have to work better routes for Hundley. Last game before the bye, he averaged just 3 YPA, 23% success rate and an 87 rating.
… Miami throw up another terrible performance after that 40-0 loss in Baltimore. Adam Gase really laid into his team in the media. They shipped out their top RB in part on account of his inability to study well and work hard off the field. The players love their young coach, but this is a huge week for him as a coach and this team for their 2017 outlook. After their last embarrassing performance (20-0 loss to the Saints in London) the Dolphins rattled off three straight wins. The short break they had from playing on Thursday night is their bye week this year, thanks to their week 1 game being rescheduled. If they drop this game to the Raiders, who have lost 5 of their last 6 games, they won’t be in a good spot to make the postseason this year.
… the Seahawks let their foot off the gas when they are going up against this Redskins team that has been ravaged by injuries. Their offensive line is in complete disarray, while the Seahawks just received the services of stud LT Duane Brown in a trade with the Texans. Seattle sometimes underperforms, but this offense is rolling right now and if their defensive line plays up to the test, they can offset the loss of Earl Thomas.What I found is…
… the last 3 weeks, the Dolphins have faced the 17th toughest schedule of pass defenses. This week they face the 32nd rated Raiders pass defense.
… the last 3 weeks, the Falcons have faced the 6th easiest schedule of passing defenses. This week they face the 7th rated Panthers pass defense.
… the last 3 weeks, the Chiefs have faced the 11th toughest schedule of run defenses. This week they face the 30th rated Cowboys run defense.What you need to know is…
… the Texans lost Deshaun Watson, their electrifying stud rookie QB. In his stead will be Tom Savage, a quarterback who has tried and failed multiple times in the starting role for Houston.
… the 49ers, a limited offense to begin with, is going to be without their #1 WR as Pierre Garcon landed on the IR this past week.
… the Redskins are without two of their top receivers, as TE Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder are both out.
…the Seahawks are without stud safety Earl Thomas. This team looked drastically different last year without Thomas, but the Redskins might be beat up just enough to have the injury not play as large of a factor.
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.