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Welcome to the Week 18 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.

We roll into 2024 while wrapping up a season marked by transition. A handful of traditional tempo stalwarts fell off, either by disappointing offensively — looking at you, Bengals, Chargers, and Chiefs — or deploying defenses strong enough to muddy their game scripts. The Cowboys and, again, the Chiefs qualify here.

Thankfully, several fast-paced offenses, or at least, abominable enough defenses, unexpectedly emerged to elevate fantasy environments. We appreciate you, Colts, Texans, Browns, Lions, and Commanders.

We’ve also been blessed by a surprisingly competitive Week 18, with only a few main-slate matchups between totally dead teams. It’s allowed us to find more games to target than usual at this time of year, so let’s once again 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 FTN 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

 

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions

Only two weeks after a Lions road victory in Minnesota produced 54 total points and 128 combined plays, Jared Goff returns to his comfy dome. While the difference isn’t as pronounced as in years past — likely because Detroit has had mostly temperate road games — the Lions average 30 more yards and six more points per game at home. Their contests are top 10 in average combined plays, both on the season and over the last four weeks — and they rank third in average total points (50.4).

Vikings games have been significantly lower-scoring, averaging only 41 total points (23rd) — although none of the last four matchups between these division rivals yielded fewer than 52 points. Minnesota’s fantasy unfriendly contests stemmed largely from an overachieving defense which has slumped over the last three weeks — bleeding 30 points and 412 yards per game. Both defenses are facing top-six opponent pass rates during neutral situations, and the Vikings passed at the sixth-highest situation-neutral rate during their meeting two weeks ago. That loss, and his four interceptions, cost Nick Mullens the starting job for exactly one half of Minnesota’s Week 17 game — and he’ll presumably be back behind center in Detroit. Mullens is far from ideal, but he has more than done his part to create some wild and, more importantly, fruitful fantasy environments.

 

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

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