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Sunday's Best

Week 8 Details, Angles and Edges

by Warren Sharp
Updated On: October 30, 2020, 11:40 pm ET

LA Rams at Miami Dolphins

Think back to the most recent Super Bowl that you absolutely hated because it was boring and uninteresting?  Are you thinking of the Rams vs Patriots Superbowl of 2018?

Know why it was so boring?

Because Brian Flores and Bill Belichick crafted a game plan to stop the Rams Offense.

Know who has two weeks to game plan to stop the Rams Offense this year?

Brian Flores.

True, he has a different defense and it won’t be nearly as easy.  This Dolphins run defense is the worst in the NFL and the Rams have the best run offense.  If the Rams get a lead, they are likely to keep building it.

So it’s imperative the Dolphins scheme to take away the run and use principles that Brian Flores used against the Rams in the Super Bowl

But the Rams own defense ranks below average vs the run and 5th worst in success rate per pass attempt.

The key to this game is how does Tua Tagovailoa play in his first game, and as important, how conservative will the Dolphins get from a play calling perspective.

Because Miami has the 3rd highest pass rate outside of the red zone on early downs in the first 3 quarters.  

On these passes, Fitzpatrick was brilliant, with 10.2 YPA and 67% success.  

But their run game has been one of the worst in the NFL, averaging only 3.8 YPC with a 46% success rate on those downs.

It hasn’t hurt them, because they pass at the #3 highest rate.  

But if they decide to protect Tua and run more, it could be huge disaster.

What may help Tua is that the Rams play 68% zone which is 6% above average.  On the season, the Dolphins had been much better passing vs zone than man.


Miami vs man:    52% success, 6.8 YPA, -0.04 EPA
Miami vs zone:    62% success, 8.6 YPA, +0.21 EPA

I look for Miami to play a spirited game and give the Rams all they can handle.



Tennessee Titans at Cincinnati Bengals

Last week, the Titans were in an unenviable position.  The #1 most run-heavy offense on first down was facing the Steelers, the NFL's #1 run defense on first down

The Titans ran on 5 of 8 first downs:

5 first down runs
7 total yards

This led to three, three-and-outs, and a big halftime margin on the scoreboard, which Tennessee couldn’t overcome.

That won’t happen on Sunday.  The Bengals run defense ranks 21st, including #30 vs explosive runs.  With wind in the forecast but a run defense hemorrhaging yards on deck, expect a lot of work and productivity from Derrick Henry.



New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

The Patriots pass defense has been vulnerable to passes vs 3+ WR sets on early downs unlike in prior years.

Patriots pass defense vs 3+ WR sets on early downs:

2019:  6.7 YPA, 45% success, -0.14 EPA/att, 73 passer rating, 37% pressure rate

2020:  8.9 YPA, 63% success, +0.18 EPA/att, 106 passer rating, 31% pressure rate

However, the Patriots are still strong on third downs.

Passes from 11 on 3rd down vs Patriots are averaging just a 33% first down rate, 6.1 YPA and -0.62 EPA.

The Patriots pass defense was beat by the Bills on shotgun 0/1 step drops in 2019 and they have shown weakness vs it this season as well

Last year’s early down splits in quarters 1-3:

Shotgun 0/1 step:    6.9 YPA, 50% success, +0.18 EPA, 28% pressure rate, 0 sacks (14 att)
Shotgun 3 step:        4.3 YPA, 38% success, -0.16 EPA, 25% pressure rate, 13% sack rate (8 att)
Shotgun 5 step:        0.0 YPA, 0% success, -3.57 EPA, 50% pressure rate, 0 sacks (2 att)

Other than these 0/1 step drops, the only drop types that were successful last year vs the Patriots were shotgun RPOs and designed rollouts from under center.

On the season in 2020, the Patriots are allowing 75% success and 7.6 YPA on these early down passes from shotgun 0/1 step drops in 11 personnel.

And the Bills have seen much more success with these passes than other shotgun drops.  

YTD for the Bills on early downs in the first 3 quarters from 11 personnel:

Shotgun 0/1 step:    61% success, 6.6 YPA, +0.16 EPA, 26% pressure rate
Shotgun 3 step:        46% success, 4.9 YPA, +0.12 EPA, 27% pressure rate
Shotgun 5 step:        25% success, 4.8 YPA, +0.03 EPA, 50% pressure rate


All Weather Games

Since we have strong winds forecast in several cities, I thought I would share the efficiency of passing attacks when targeting WRs no more than 5 yards downfield.

Below is a matchup-by-matchup look at each offense vs defense in games with winds projected in excess of 18 mph, examining pass offense and defense efficiency on passes thrown to WRs within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage:

NFL average – 59% success, 5.5 YPA, +0.07 EPA

Minnesota OFF – 68% success, 6.2 YPA, +0.25 EPA
Green Bay DEF – 67% success, 6.3 YPA, +0.01 EPA

Green Bay OFF – 69% success, 5.2 YPA, +0.27 EPA
Minnesota DEF – 65% success, 6.1 YPA, +0.31 EPA

New England OFF – 53% success, 4.8 YPA, -0.47 EPA
Buffalo DEF – 50% success, 4.7 YPA, -0.19 EPA

Buffalo OFF – 59% success, 5.0 YPA, +0.12 EPA
New England DEF – 86% success, 9.2 YPA, +0.42 EPA

Las Vegas OFF – 76% success, 6.9 YPA, +0.25 EPA
Cleveland DEF – 60% success, 6.6 YPA, +0.10 EPA

Cleveland OFF – 50% success, 5.4 YPA, -0.04 EPA
Las Vegas DEF – 43% success, 3.9 YPA, -0.01 EPA

New Orleans OFF – 55% success, 4.5 YPA, -0.05 EPA
Chicago DEF – 53% success, 5.8 YPA, +0.09 EPA

Chicago OFF – 53% success, 4.6 YPA, +0.03 EPA
New Orleans DEF – 75% success, 5.1 YPA, +0.27 EPA

Warren Sharp

Warren Sharp is a football and betting analyst for NBC Sports. As a leading voice in football analytics, Warren writes a yearly book previewing the upcoming season from all angles at his Sharp Football Analysis website. You can follow Warren Sharp on Twitter @SharpFootball.