Speed Freaks and Slow Coaches: The Pace of Play Report

by Neil Dutton · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

Speed. There are few things in the modern NFL more important than speed. Whether it’s 40 times, how quickly a new signing can pick up an offense, or how fast a quarterback identifies a free rusher, you can’t function in today’s game without speed at the forefront of everything you do.

This applies both on and off the field, of course, as well as in reality and fantasy. Fast players tend to catch our eyes and attention. Fast offenses run a lot of plays and give players more chances to score fantasy points. That’s what we want to see. With this in mind, we’ll be taking a weekly look at each team’s Pace of Play. By our definition, Pace of Play is the average number of plays run per minute of offensive possessions. I’ll also look ahead to the coming week’s slate of games to see if we can identify games between two speed merchants. Or snails, of course.

Let’s begin, shall we?

COMING IN FAST

The Arizona Cardinals led the way after Week 1 with a 2.4 Pace of Play mark. This is already noteworthy as Kyler Murray was No. 15 in this metric in 2021. It should also be noted that the Cardinals spent much of Week 1 trailing Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Being behind can often encourage teams to show a leg and get the snaps off.

Kyler Murray passing opportunity stats

Behind the Cardinals are five teams, all with 2.3 marks. They are the New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions, and the Dallas Cowboys. It is interesting that only one of those five teams won at the weekend, namely the Eagles. But it is also worth noting that their opponents were the Lions who more than matched their opponents in this metric. The Lions ranked No. 5 in this metric a year ago while the Eagles were No. 3.

The Jets, like the Cardinals spent a long time behind in their game at the weekend. Joe Flacco attempted 59 passes (No. 1) against the Ravens. In theory, the Jets should be trailing for much of the coming campaign, so their cadre of young pass catchers could be in for healthy workloads. But in practice, it’s still Joe Flacco throwing them the ball. So they could play at warp speed, and it’s unlikely Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson, and company will all be able to become fantasy studs.

It will be interesting to monitor the Cowboys moving forward to see if they maintain their pace of play. They were No. 2 in this metric a year ago, but that was with a plethora of talented receivers and Dak Prescott under center. They have seemingly few of the former and will be without the latter for a few weeks, so they may lean towards grinding games out on the back of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. This is good news for them and bad news for the pass catchers in the Cowboys offense.

DRIVING MISS DAISY

At the other end of the scale, seven teams recorded a Pace of Play of 1.8. They were the Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Tenessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, and Miami Dolphins. To be honest, it’s not that shocking to see these names down at the bottom of the list. Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins ranked No. 23 in this metric a year ago. Ryan Tannehill and the Titans were No. 26 while Lamar Jackson‘s last two healthy seasons (2019 and 2020) saw him operating the slowest offenses across the league.

Lamar Jackson 2020 passing opportunity stats

The biggest shock is the Buccaneers’ cellar-dwelling with these teams. Tom Brady and his offense were No. 1 in Pace of Play in 2021 and No. 6 in 2020. I would be stunned if they continued to play at this speed, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on especially as the injuries continue to mount up for the Buccaneers.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Week 2 has a number of intriguing clashes between sides who like to get up to the line of scrimmage and snap the ball if Week 1 is anything to go by. These are the games that, if looking to break ties with our lineup decisions or DFS options, we should be looking at players taking part in. The AFC South clash between the Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars is one such game. The Colts were tied for No. 2 in Pace of Play for Week 1. The Jaguars were not far behind at 2.2. Washington also posted a 2.2 mark, and they take on the speedy Lions this week. The Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Rams both had 2.1 marks in the opening week of the season, and those teams come together to play in Week 2.

At the other end of the scale, the Ravens and Dolphins face off in a game that should see plenty of snaps with 0:01 left on the play clock. Both teams tied for the slowest Pace of Play in the league after Week 1. The same is also true of the game between the Titans and the Bills. Both of these games stand out as contests in which you will play the studs, but you may need prodding to stay awake in keeping track of them.

See you all soon.

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