It’s Dogs all the way in Week 4 of the NFL season as Adam Chernoff fancies two underdogs to come up big on Sunday night!
Fins To Keep It Close Down In South Beach
Through three weeks, Russell Wilson has been the best player in football.
Some of his numbers are absolutely staggering:
A 139 rating, 14 TD to 1 INT, 9.0 YPA 7.9 IAY and a 77% completion rate which is a league-high – and whopping – 9.7% ABOVE expectation.
The Seahawks as a team are fourth in EPA/play, fourth in EPA per dropback and 3rd in pass success rate with a 10% explosive pass rate.
Seattle is throwing on 60% of all snaps and 56% of early downs – a significant tick up from 54% and 49% last season. The play calling is what every football fan has wanted for what seems like an eternity. The Seahawks have 38, 35 and 38 points for an average of 37ppg and results have been spectacular.
Despite all of that…Seattle needed a goal-line stand from the one-yard line to beat New England, a late-game drive, two-point conversion and defensive stand inside their red zone to beat the Cowboys. Through three weeks behind incredible offensive output, the Seahawks are -0.1 net yards per play and flirting with 1-2 rather than 3-0.
I always look into performance vs schedule.
Early in the season, we are on a limited play count, but a down to down metric like success rate tells a big story as does EPA.
As great as the Seahawks have looked, I can’t help question how much the opposing secondaries have aided in the output.
In terms of dropback EPA allowed per play, Dallas and Atlanta rank 26th and 27th.
Surprising to most will be the fact that through three weeks, the Patriots are dead last in the NFL for down to down success rate allowed and 31st in pass success rate against.
Defensive numbers early in the season tend to mirror opposing offensive performance but in evaluating the other games for the three Seattle opponents, the same issues arise. New England allowed a 56% pass success rate to OAK and 52% to MIA, Atlanta allowed a 53% pass success rate to CHI and 57% to DAL, Dallas allowed a 56% success rate to LAR and 46% to ATL.
These three secondaries that faced Seattle had bad numbers because the Seahawks are terrific offensively, but they also had bad numbers in their other two games because they are not good secondaries.
I can’t give Seattle enough credit for what they have done offensively. But how long can they continue to win tight games needing these incredible offensive performances to bail out their defense?
When does their price point catch up with them?
I think it can be this week in Miami.
Seattle was a 1 point road underdog in Week 1, a 4 point home favourite in Week 2 and a 5.5 point home favourite in Week 3. Now they are a 6.5 point road favourite in Miami.
The biggest cloud hanging over the game is the Seahawks injury report.
The initial Wednesday report had 25 players with an injury designation. Five starters – one offensive, four defensive (Brown, Ford, Adams, Dunbar and Brooks) did not practice. Three starting offensive linemen (Iupati, Pocic, Lewis), starting and backup running back (Carson, Hyde) and three additional defensive backs (Griffin, Hill and Thrope) were all limited.
Injury reports – especially this season – are often misleading. Despite the lengthy list of players, both Adams and Brooks are the two standouts that are unlikely to play. The four offensive linemen and five defensive backs that made the report are all going to be active, although likely on the field at a bit less than 100%.
In my opinion, the more telling and impactful injury news is from the Dolphins side.
Clayton Fejedelem and Xavien Howard are both going to play and there is an outside shot that Bryon Jones will also make his return.
The Dolphins defense through three weeks have faced the most difficult schedule in terms of offensive efficiency. Without three key starters in the secondary for the majority of the three games, Miami ranks 15th in EPA per dropback allowed, significantly better than their 27th ranking in pass success rate against. As EPA tends to be more predictive of future success than success rate, this is a promising prospect for the Dolphins cover unit, especially considering the return of those starters.
There is a lot to be intrigued about from the Dolphins offense too.
Miami is 13th in EPA per play, 12th in dropback EPA, 15th in yards per drive and 10th in overall success rate. They have been extremely aggressive on early downs throwing the football 62% of the time which is second behind only Atlanta. The success on those passes has been great too. Fitzpatrick has thrown for a 60% success rate on early downs and 8.2 YPA.
Fitzpatrick is extremely aggressive an efficient when kept clean within the pocket.
While the Dolphins offensive line has struggled this season, the reprieve of facing one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL of Seattle is a huge benefit.
I really like the Dolphins offense matching up against this Seahawks defense. While Wilson and the Seahawks are a matchup nightmare for any opponent, the Dolphins defense performed reasonably well against an extremely difficult schedule. Getting this unit as healthy as it has been all season at home catching 6.5 points is too big of a number.
I think Miami can keep this competitive.
Cooling On Indy In A Big Way
I was big on the Colts coming into the season – but, I am beginning to cool a bit on the team through three weeks.
Indianapolis is 2-1 through three weeks after playing the Jaguars, Vikings and Jets.
The three opponents total to equal the easiest schedule of opposing defenses – by far – through three weeks. For EPA per dropback, the Jags rank 32nd, Jets 30th and Vikings 24th. Despite facing three of the worst secondaries in the league, the Colts rank just 9th in dropback EPA, 6th in dropback success rate and 14th in EPA/play.
As EPA tends to be more predictive than success rate, even against the easy schedule, there is regression expected from the Colts passing game.
Some more intricate down to down stats continue to fuel my concern when weighed against the easy schedule.
The Colts have averaged the best starting field position of any team through three weeks (35-yard line). However, they rank 10th in yards per drive, 18th in points per drive and no team has converted third downs at a lower rate. The elite offensive line has regressed a touch too. The Colts are 18th in adjusted line yards and 27th in short-yardage success. In comparison to 2019, the Colts ranked 12th and 7th respectively – against a much more difficult schedule.
To summarize all of that, the Colts have played the easiest schedule of opposing defenses and secondaries.
In the three games, they have ranked just above average throwing the football and despite having extremely favourable field position, are generating a below-average rate of scoring per drive. In high leverage spots where the team succeeded in seasons past, they have struggled.
I question how much the team will continue to struggle now that the schedule ticks up in difficulty.
The loss of Parris Campbell is enormous. Through week one and two, he was emerging as the second target for Rivers behind Hilton. The Jets did little to exploit the missing piece with their terrible secondary, but going forward the loss will be more evident. The Colts made a roster move on Tuesday to bump a WR up, which is a telling sign that Michael Pittman’s calf injury will keep him out extended time. Through three weeks he was second on the team in WR targets behind Hilton. The absence of both moving forward means WR 2 and 3 will be on the sideline.
Through three weeks Indianapolis has the best defense in the league for EPA per play allowed and dropback EPA allowed.
The Colts are also top in the league in defensive DVOA and yards per play allowed.
The Colts are a great defensive unit – but they are not league best.
The numbers will get worse as they play more difficult opponents. This is a team that sits in cover 2, blitzes less than any other team in the NFL and keeps everything underneath.
But they are getting extremely big production from players within the secondary. In 2019, Xavier Rhodes ranked 109th of 115 corners, this season he is best in the league. The same thing for TJ Carrie who went from 86th last season to 9th this year.
I can not overstate the loss of Malik Hooker to this secondary enough. This was another situation where the Jets were not able to expose the absence of the best player in coverage on the roster, but this week looks a lot different. I think we see a very different looking – and much more aggressive – Bears offense.
I am not a believer that Trubisky was ever outperforming Foles in camp, and believe that the decision to start Mitch was done by a GM and head coach both posturing to protect themselves against the huge offseason spend following the draft debacle a couple of seasons ago.
It is becoming less and less of a secret each day that Nagy was putting Trubisky in limited situations with play-calling last season avoiding his skillset due to lack of trust and agreement on situations.
Foles in many ways changes that and will allow for the Bears to expand the playbook and look much different.
I think the 2.5 this week is a soft price and will tick down closer to PK as we near kickoff.
- Chicago Bears (+125 / 2.25). Risking 1.00x
- Miami Dolphins +6.5 (-110 / 1.91). Risking 1.10x