Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Week 6 Thoughts

Week 6 was filled with what some may call defensive battles, but others would call offensive ineptitude. Either way, let's take a look at the performances across the league. First, scripted plays:
The Rams really looked to establish the run early, rushing on 10 of their first 15 plays. How did that work out for them (narrator: they lost)? Considering the Steelers are starting a quarterback whose last meaningful action was at the FCS level, it is no surprise to see them slot in with the second most runs on their scripted plays (note that the Rams ran the ball more to start their game against San Francisco than a team who is on their 3rd quarterback). The Giants and Patriots Thursday game started as a rock fight and continued to be a rock fight. The Chiefs stayed the course and threw the ball on 13 of their first 15 plays with good success which helped them get out to a quick two possession lead. For those paying attention, this did not last. The Cowboys offense had a tough start against a solid Jets defense. They could not really get things going until late in the second half in that loss. Speaking of the Jets, they were much more aggressive throwing the ball to start the game than they had been prior to this week with Sam Darnold back in the lineup. It looks like they will be much more competent now that they have their starting signal-caller back. The Lions got off to a blistering start against Green Bay on Monday night. Yet they could not hold on to the lead due to some questionable hands to the face penalties on Trey Flowers and some questionable decision-making by Matt Patricia. The Lions kicked 5 field goals from the Packers 8, 4, 23, 33, and 35 yard line with 7, 4, 8, 5, and 2 yards to go respectively. This is a perfect example of how conservative play calling can contribute to a losing effort. The Browns continued their enigmatic play this week, starting the game like they were shot out of a cannon against the Seahawks by getting out to a 20-6 lead by the start of the second quarter. 

Here are the offensive and defensive results of all the week 6 games: 
Note, negative defensive EPA is good for the defense, so teams lower on the chart had better defensive performances. As I mentioned at the top, this was a week dominated by defense. The majority of the offenses averaged negative points expected points added per play, highlighted by some putrid performances by the aforementioned Giants and the Chargers against a banged up Steelers squad. The Vikings offense had another fantastic showing, this time against the Eagles and their hobbled secondary. For the second straight week, Kirk Cousins was slinging the ball around the field, this time mostly to the benefit of Stefon Diggs who had 167 yards receiving and three touchdowns. San Francisco dominated the Rams in a match-up between two Mike Shanahan disciples. The Rams, despite giving up a great deal of draft capital to trade for superstar corner Jalen Ramsey, are firmly in the cross-hairs with regards to the playoffs. They sit two games behind Seattle in the loss column and now three games behind the Niners. The match-up between the Cardinals and Falcons was an absolute shootout compared to the rest of the games this week. The Falcons came up short once again, bringing their record to a measly 1-5. Needless to say, coach Dan Quinn is firmly on the hot seat. 

Finally, here is the landscape of the league through six weeks:

After week 6, the Patriots and Niners are in a tier of their own with regards to a combination of offensive and defensive play. The Patriots offense is still one of the better units in the league, but still not quite up to its usual top-five standard. Their record has been buoyed by their defensive play. Since we know that defensive play is way less stable than offensive play week over week and season over season, I would expect some regression from this New England unit going forward. The offense is going to have to pick up some slack. The Vikings are beginning to get things rolling as the season goes along. Surprisingly, after filtering out garbage-time, the Raiders have had the second best offense by EPA per play after the Chiefs. I cannot say I saw this coming in the slightest from Jon Gruden and co. The Dolphins are still awful and making a run at having the worst point differential since the NFL-AFL merger as they continue to yo-yo between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen. The Falcons, Eagles, and Chargers all being in a similar spot to the lowly Cardinals should be considered a tad bit concerning. The same can be said for the Rams and Browns with regards to the Broncos. And the holy trinity of defensive-awfulness is still intact with the Dolphins, Giants, and Bengals putting up the worst performances on that side of the ball thus far. Overall, a clear bottom tier is developing between Miami, Cincinnati, both New York franchises, and Washington. 

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