Welcome to the Week 11 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 main-slate matchups will — and which will not — be played on fertile fantasy soil. For a primer on why this is important, click here.
If last week brought a gaggle of options for back-and-forth affairs with elevated pace, this week delivers the opposite. All main slates can’t be tailored for game-environment hunting — although it would be nice.
Week 11 blesses us with five games of double-digit-plus spreads, on top of two more hovering around a touchdown. Our best bet is to search for favorites who will dictate their game’s pace, and offenses set up to hoard play volume — so 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. The average play-clock seconds remaining are also based on neutral game script and are provided by our machine, Mike Leone.
Up In Pace
Arizona Cardinals at Houston Texans
The Cardinals did not play quite as quickly in Kyler Murray’s return as they had under Kliff Kingsbury, but they drove the game’s pace while the Falcons slapped an anchor around its neck. The 125 combined plays were slightly below average (126.8), but with Atlanta passing on only 41% of situation-neutral plays (second lowest of Week 10), Arizona saved the contest from devolving into a full-blown slog. The Cardinals’ 27.0 seconds per snap would rank first for the full season, and they threw more than anyone had a right to expect. Coming into Sunday, the Cardinals were 29th in situation-neutral pass rate over the prior four weeks (47%). With Murray back behind center, they threw 63% of the time while the game remained close. That would place sixth for the full season. Now with the rust knocked off, his legs clearly back under him, a bevy of legitimate weapons, and a matchup that favors continued passing — we can feel confident the Cardinals will again help push the pace.
While it’s no guarantee Arizona will lean into the pass against the Texans, throwing would behoove them. Houston’s defense ranks eighth in rush EPA, 25th in dropback EPA, and has faced the eighth-highest opponent pass rate over the last month. Houston’s offense isn’t playing lightning fast, ranking 10th in pace, 17th in average play-clock seconds, and throwing at the 15th-highest clip while games are close. They are, however, juicing game pace with chunk gains. Only the Dolphins have more 15+ yard passing plays this season (66) after Houston hit the Bengals for an eye-popping 17 of them on Sunday. The Texans also allowed the ninth-highest opponent explosive play rate over the past month (12%). While they still hand off too often on first down, the big plays have helped propel Houston’s games to the sixth-most combined snaps, and during the last month, the fourth-most total points (53.7). On a main slate nearly bereft of projected high-ceiling close games, that’s more than enough to take multiple fantasy swings.
Los Angeles Chargers at Green Bay Packers
Now the leaps of faith begin. The Packers don’t belong here, but it’s a bet on the favored team setting the game’s pace, and a few signs from Green Bay turning out to be green shoots instead of head fakes. What could go wrong? At least we can bank on the Chargers to play fast, if not always efficiently. Week 9 was encouraging, however, as Los Angeles gained 6.2 yards per play, operated at the second-fastest pace, averaged the second-most play-clock seconds when Justin Herbert got the snap, and had him throwing at the fourth-highest rate of the week. Los Angeles’ game with the Lions produced the third-highest combined snaps total of Week 10 (132), and Chargers games now yield the second most for the season (130.3). They also produce the second-most total points (50.3) thanks to an abysmal defense that’s bottom five in EPA per play and dropback success rate — as well as an offense moving at the fourth-fastest pace and scoring the sixth-most points on a per-play basis.
The Chargers will need to summon all of their pace-pushing powers to prod the plodding Packers. Green Bay ranked 28th in situation-neutral pace through Week 7. Since then, they’ve turned in the fastest pace of Week 8 and the sixth fastest of Week 10. They had a 64% situation-neutral pass rate in Week 8 and threw at a 60% clip on Sunday. They’ve thrown 51% of the time in all other games. The Packers playing faster could easily be a blip, but it came against two teams that rank top 12 in pace and opponent pace. The Chargers rank fourth in both. These small signs of hope also align with Jordan Love’s three best PFF passing grades of the season, particularly in the last two weeks. Plus, the Packers have shown they will abandon their ponderous ways when trailing, as they rank sixth in pace when losing by at least a field goal. Los Angeles is a field-goal favorite. Green Bay doesn’t need to come out recklessly slinging it or unleashing the no-huddle — although we wouldn’t argue. Just allowing themselves to be nudged by one of the league’s fastest offenses, especially if they get into a trailing script, will be enough to unlock another game on a barren main slate.
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams
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