Welcome to the Week 3 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.
Week 1 felt like waking up on Christmas morning and unwrapping 16 boxes full of shirts. You needed the shirts and were glad to have them, but it wasn’t quite like a whole mess of G.I. Joes and Barbies. Then Week 2 gave us a damn PlayStation.
After 12 games went under their projected totals to squib-kick off the season, 13 games hit the over in Week 2 and we feasted on 140 additional points. Play volume and no-huddle rate increased slightly as well. We are now in the unfamiliar position of having more Week 3 matchups involving teams playing fast — at least through two games — than games that look like total slogs.
It’s a good problem to have, 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
Los Angeles Chargers at Minnesota Vikings
It has been a heck of a first two weeks for the Chargers. The good news is their offensive approach has been relatively predictable, and they are still generating plenty of play volume. Despite passing at the third-lowest rate (47%) against the slow-paced Dolphins, their game still generated the most combined plays of Week 1 (141). They then flipped the script against a pass-funnel Titans defense, throwing at a 63% clip during neutral situations while, as is their custom, blowing the game against a less talented opponent. If new OC Kellen Moore stays as nimble in his approach as he’s been thus far, we may see another run-heavy plan against a Vikings defense that persuaded the Eagles to hand off constantly on Thursday night.
The game in Philadelphia offered fertile fantasy soil despite the Eagles’ outsized run rate, in large part due to the Vikings providing the tempo and a still-vulnerable defense. Minnesota was the fourth-fastest offense of the week, as Kirk Cousins threw at a Mahomesian 80% clip while the contest remained close. The end result was 130 combined snaps and 62 total points. That was with the Eagles operating at the fourth-slowest pace of Week 2 — something we can be confident will not be mimicked by the Chargers, no matter if Justin Herbert is dropping back or handing off. Last year, Vikings games ranked third in total points (50.1) and first in combined plays (129.6) — and contests in their dome have been especially unhinged offensive powder kegs. We have little evidence this will change anytime soon — or, after giving up 27 points to the dried husk of Ryan Tannehill, that the Chargers are remotely capable of preventing it.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens
Whether it’s Anthony Richardson taking snaps, or Gardner Minshew filling in, the Colts’ offense moves like a cheetah with an eight ball. Jim Irsay is beaming. After leading Week 1 in situation-neutral pace, Indianapolis ranked second fastest on Sunday. They went to the hurry-up on three plays (one negated by penalty) during Minshew’s first series in relief of Richardson, and now have a 21% no-huddle rate on the season — which would have ranked behind only the Cardinals last year. Colts games have averaged 136.5 combined plays, tied for first on the young season. Richardson will hopefully clear the concussion protocol in time for Sunday, but even if he sits, there are strong signs that Indianapolis will be anything but a pace anchor in what promises to be an up-tempo matchup.
The Ravens appear to be settling into the Todd Monken offense, as they relied more on Lamar Jackson’s arm on Sunday. Against the Texans a week ago, they deployed a fairly muted 48% situation-neutral pass rate — but Baltimore turned the dial up on Sunday to a 56% clip. It wasn’t eye-popping, but considering six of Jackson’s 39 dropbacks turned into runs, and the Ravens’ pace and no-huddle rate remained elevated relative to last year, we’re clearly headed in the desired direction. Baltimore ran 12 more plays this time out, and their games now average a healthy 128.5 combined snaps. That would have ranked as sixth most in 2022. For fantasy, the Ravens can use the extra play volume, as their touch distribution has been frustratingly wide to this point.
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars
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