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Welcome to the Week 1 edition of Snaps & Pace, where we examine trends in play volume and game pace. It is meant to be a 30,000-foot view of upcoming contests, with the goal of identifying which matchups will — and which will not — be played on fertile fantasy soil. For a primer on why this is important, click here.

We kick off Year 11 of Snaps & Pace with plenty of main-slate matchups featuring potentially tantalizing tempo. That’s saying a lot after an offseason in which the Cardinals lost their pace-pushing head coach and the Cowboys bid adieu to a speed-freak offensive coordinator. Plus, top-eight-paced offenses from Detroit and Kansas City, whose games ranked first and second in average total points last season, are off the main slate.

We still have several snap-volume honeypots to examine, as well as a few landmines. Plus in Notes, we’ll check out pace-based items to watch for, now that the gloves are finally off — and one high-ceiling game that just missed landing in Up In Pace. Happy Week 1, everyone. Let’s dive in.

As always, “situation neutral” is meant to provide context, refers to plays while the game is within seven points during the first three quarters (minus the final two minutes of the first half), and is derived via the intrepid RotoViz Pace Tool. Average play-clock seconds remaining are also based on neutral game script and are provided by our machine, Mike Leone.


Up In Pace


Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts

Poised to spend 2023 among the top up-tempo offenses after leaping well into the top 10 in both situation-neutral pace and pass rate coming out of their Week 11 bye last season, the Jaguars profile as play-volume catalysts. Their games already produced the sixth-most combined snaps last season before Jacksonville imported bonafide No.1 wideout Calvin Ridley to supercharge a passing game piloted by Trevor Lawrence. Only three fantasy quarterbacks outscored the ascendant Lawrence after Week 11, during which time he performed among the league’s best passers.

The rotating AFC South circus departed Jacksonville for Indianapolis last season, where it remains firmly entrenched. For Week 1, at least, we can overlook the Colts’ organizational dysfunction and target a divisional matchup with the potential for elevated pace and play volume. Former Eagles OC Shane Steichen wasted no time in allowing rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson to operate with tempo during their final preseason game — going to it liberally during two touchdown drives — as the Colts averaged a gaudy 12.1 play-clock seconds remaining at the snap. That would have ranked first in 2022. Indianapolis will likely lean run-heavy when and if Jonathan Taylor returns, but their matchup against PFF’s 27th-ranked secondary offers an enticing Week 1 alternative. Throw in a Colts secondary with more holes than Jim Irsay’s short-term memory, and we just might have ourselves a party.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings

The Bucs will be slower and run-heavier than the last few seasons with Tom Brady at the helm. It’s unavoidable, as Tampa passed and paced at league-leading rates for most of Brady’s tenure — while HC Todd Bowles has a history of playing slowly, handing off, leaning on his defense, and showering with a life jacket. That does not mean the offense is bereft of talent or is incapable of playing with tempo. New OC Dave Canales is a secondary branch of the Sean McVay coaching tree — via Shane Waldron in Seattle — and that tree typically moves quickly. In a small sample, the Bucs played with some tempo during preseason drives piloted by Baker Mayfield, who was PFF’s fourth-best-graded passer among 79 qualifying quarterbacks. It’s not much, but it’s enough to keep a pace-based light on when Tampa has an interesting opponent.

Few opponents present a more intriguing matchup than the Vikings from a tempo standpoint. They operate quickly, go to the no-huddle often, pass at a high rate, and their defense is a tinderbox. It also doesn’t hurt that they play in a dome. Last season, that high-octane cocktail produced games that averaged the league’s most combined snaps and third-most total points. PFF has the 2023 Vikings secondary ranked 25th. Last year, opponents threw against them — and avoided their second-highest-graded run defense — at a top-10 rate during neutral situations. Coming off of an encouraging preseason passing performance, there’s a decent chance the Bucs plan on taking to the air from the jump. As nearly touchdown underdogs, they should eventually wind up targeting the Vikings’ porous pass defense anyway.


Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers

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