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Oh for some offense in Week 1

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

Where has all the offense gone? Opening Sunday in the NFL was mostly a yawn-fest that proved many of last year’s QB issues remain across the league.

NFL: 10 of 12 games go Under, and the two Overs needed defensive points to get there!
There were few “good” surprises across the NFL Sunday in terms of teams hoping to improve on QB problems from the prior season. If anything...things may be much WORSE than imagined for the veteran quarterbacks of Arizona and Cincinnati. Granting that first team offenses are probably less prepared than ever for season openers these days because of limited full-speed preparation in in exhibitions…and, that quarterbacks like Joe Flacco and Cam Newton may still be working through injury issues…it was still a Sunday the league would like to forget.

For handicappers and bettors, it was a Sunday to study because continuing offensive woes are likely to have a significant impact on which teams cover spreads or don’t through the rest of the month. And, we could see more “under” weeks in September. Ten of Sunday’s dirty dozen stayed Under the market total. The two Overs (Arizona/Detroit and Indianapolis/LA Rams) were each helped by a pair of defensive TDs. There was also a safety in Colts/Rams.

Let’s run through key stats from Sunday in Nevada rotation order with an eye toward projecting what’s ahead for the teams that just…couldn’t…move…the…ball… 

Buffalo (-7.5) 21, NY Jets 12

  • Yards-per-Play: NY Jets 3.9, Buffalo 5.7
  • Third Down Conversions: NY Jets 29%, Buffalo 47%
  • Turnovers: NY Jets 2, Buffalo 1
  • Rushing Yards: NY Jets 38, Buffalo 140
  • Passing Stats: NY Jets 26-39-2-176, Buffalo 16-28-1-218
  • TD Drive Lengths: NY Jets 75, Buffalo 77-64-80

The Jets are going to be as bad as suggested. We don’t know yet if the defense is going to be horrible too. We’ll have to wait to see how Buffalo performs vs. other opponents. NYJ had one good scoring drive, but was otherwise pretty helpless. Awful YPP, third down rate, rushing total, and a poor turnover count for such low yardage. Buffalo’s numbers actually look pretty good by today’s standards. Maybe be an illusion from playing the worst team in the league. A quick note up front. It can be handy on the “Passing Stats” line to mentally subtract 60 yards for each interception. Mathematically speaking, that’s about the average impact for an interception (some are more costly, some less). The Jets passed for 176 yards, but it was more like 56 once you account for the picks. Buffalo passed for 218, but even that was just 158 in terms of true impact. Tyrod Taylor didn’t have a “great” game by any means. He just did enough to move the chains against a bad team. 

Atlanta (-7), 23, Chicago 17

  • Yards-per-Play: Atlanta 6.8, Chicago 4.8
  • Third Down Conversions: Atlanta 45%, Chicago 38%
  • Turnovers: Atlanta 0, Chicago 0
  • Rushing Yards: Atlanta 64, Chicago 125
  • Passing Stats: Atlanta 21-30-0-308, Chicago 26-40-0-176
  • TD Drive Lengths: Atlanta 83-95, Chicago 75-75

Atlanta was more dynamic than scoreboard watching suggested. The Falcons posted almost seven YPP while avoiding turnovers. Very sharp numbers from Matt Ryan. They had to settle for three field goals, which kept them from maximizing their yardage. Chicago held its own on smaller volume. Atlanta’s defense still has trouble keeping teams out of the end zone in the fourth quarter when trying to sit on a lead.  

Jacksonville (plus 5) 29, Houston 7

  • Yards-per-Play: Jacksonville 4.7, Houston 2.9
  • Third Down Conversions: Jacksonville 25%, Houston 42%
  • Turnovers: Jacksonville 0, Houston 4
  • Rushing Yards: Jacksonville 155, Houston 93
  • Passing Stats: Jacksonville 11-21-0-125, Houston 19-36-1-110
  • TD Drive Lengths: Jacksonville 53-75, Houston 75

There are a few games today where the “winning” quarterback had a lousy day that was hidden by cheap points. Definitely the case for Blake Bortles of Jacksonville. He’s still Blake Bortles! But, the Jags scored on a fumble return TD, and picked up some field position field goals off Houston giveaways. You probably know that Tom Savage was benched at halftime by the Texans. Deshaun Watson wasn’t much better. It’s VERY hard to pass for just 110 yards on 19 completions and 36 attempts in this league. Dinks and dunks don’t work against a defense that knows only dinks and dunks are coming. The Jags, nor Bortles weren’t as good as this score made it look. Houston still doesn’t have a QB…but at least Watson is a rookie with potential. 

Philadelphia (-1.5) 30, Washington 17

  • Yards-per-Play: Philadelphia 5.5, Washington 4.3
  • Third Down Conversions: Philadelphia 57%, Washington 27%
  • Turnovers: Philadelphia 2, Washington 4
  • Rushing Yards: Philadelphia 58, Washington 64
  • Passing Stats: Philadelphia 26-39-1-298, Washington 23-40-1-200
  • TD Drive Lengths: Philadelphia 56-39, Washington 69

Disastrous day for Kirk Cousins. You can just run your finger down the right side of those stats and see that. Wentz looks like a GOD in comparison to many other QB’s today. But, he did have a pick that was returned for a TD (this game stayed Under 50 even with TWO defensive TD’s). And, 5.5 yards-per-play would be generic most weeks. Definitely a clean win and cover for the Eagles. But, don’t get too excited until we see more of it. Washington’s still in trouble, and may sink down to Bears-level in Power Ratings soon. 

Detroit (plus 2) 35, Arizona 23

  • Yards-per-Play: Arizona 4.6, Detroit 5.3
  • Third Down Conversions: Arizona 40%, Detroit 50%
  • Turnovers: Arizona 4, Detroit 1
  • Rushing Yards: Arizona 45, Detroit 82
  • Passing Stats: Arizona 27-48-3-264, Detroit 29-41-1-285
  • TD Drive Lengths: Arizona 94-75, Detroit 42-10-67-72

Carson Palmer. This is a continuation of last year’s “turning into a pumpkin” performance. Three interceptions, including one that was returned for a TD. Almost 50 passes for an offense that only added up to 4.6 YPP and 309 total yards. There were a couple of nice TD drives. But, swapping those for all the giveaways is a losing trade. The high-risk is just rewarding the other team. Matthew Stafford was better…but 5.3 YPP isn’t awesome. And, those 35 total points definitely benefited from cheapies (the pick six, a 10-yard drive, and a 42-yard drive). Be careful adding too much to Detroit’s expectations off this high point total. Arizona should probably be pulled back from “Wildcard’ consideration until Palmer shows he still has something. 

Oakland (plus 2) 26, Tennessee 16

  • Yards-per-Play: Oakland 5.7, Tennessee 5.6
  • Third Down Conversions: Oakland 42%, Tennessee 50%
  • Turnovers: Oakland 0, Tennessee 0
  • Rushing Yards: Oakland 109, Tennessee 95
  • Passing Stats: Oakland 22-32-0-250, Tennessee 25-41-0-255
  • TD Drive Lengths: Oakland 50-70, Tennessee 75

Interesting that the boxscore is very even…matching market expectations for the game. Total yardage was only 359-350 for Oakland, and neither team had a giveaway. Tennessee actually moved the chains at a higher rate. Why the 10-point win? Tennessee missed a field goal and Oakland didn’t. Some field position efficiency. Little things that suggest you shouldn’t move the Power Ratings much. Though, push Oakland back toward “playoff caliber” if you had dropped them below that expecting regression. Impressive sharpness on the road in a potential “body clock” spot. 

Baltimore (plus 3) 20, Cincinnati 0

  • Yards-per-Play: Baltimore 4.5, Cincinnati 3.8
  • Third Down Conversions: Baltimore 43%, Cincinnati 15%
  • Turnovers: Baltimore 1, Cincinnati 5
  • Rushing Yards: Baltimore 157, Cincinnati 77
  • Passing Stats: Baltimore 9-17-1-111, Cincinnati 16-31-4-144
  • TD Drive Lengths: Baltimore 76-2, Cincinnati no TD’s

Similar to Jax/Houston in that the road team looked fine to scoreboard watchers, but didn’t do much on offense either. Flacco had a bad game…but Dalton was so horrible it’s easy to overlook. Baltimore would have finished with 13 points if not for a 2-yard TD drive. Flacco’s not going to win many games with a 9-17-1-111 passing line. It’s as if the game was played in swirling 30-mph winds according to those stats. Pittsburgh might be able to sleepwalk to the AFC North title. 

Pittsburgh (-10) 21, Cleveland 18

  • Yards-per-Play: Pittsburgh 5.4, Cleveland 3.8
  • Third Down Conversions: Pittsburgh 38%, Cleveland 25%
  • Turnovers: Pittsburgh 1, Cleveland 1
  • Rushing Yards: Pittsburgh 35, Cleveland 57
  • Passing Stats: Pittsburgh 24-36-1-255, Cleveland 20-30-1-180
  • TD Drive Lengths: Pittsburgh 91-75, Cleveland 68-73

Pittsburgh almost got caught sleepwalking here! Only a three-point win, despite big edges in YPP and at moving the chains. Cleveland had two good drives and did nothing else. Not much to learn here because most stat indicators match Pittsburgh’s perceived superiority. The lack of rushing yardage is a concern. 

LA Rams (-3.5) 46, Indianapolis 9

  • Yards-per-Play: Indianapolis 4.6, LA Rams 5.8
  • Third Down Conversions: Indianapolis 0%, LA Rams 36%
  • Turnovers: Indianapolis 3, LA Rams 1
  • Rushing Yards: Indianapolis 75, LA Rams 63
  • Passing Stats: Indianapolis 11-21-2-150, LA Rams 22-30-0-310
  • TD Drive Lengths: Indianapolis 84, LA Rams 69-58-57

The Rams scored two TD’s on interception returns, which is how a team like that can make a run at 50 points. Jared Goff was sharp in the air...which is probably the only “good news” for teams looking to improve at the position. Maybe Wentz takes a step forward for the Eagles (okay, probably). Goff looks like he’s definitely going to take a few steps forward with a new head coach and an attack that takes advantage of his skills. The Rams weren’t as good as this score made it look. Indianapolis was definitely that bad. Three giveaways (two for TD’s), 0 for 10 on third down tries. The Colts didn’t score a TD until they were down 37-3. Heck, with extended garbage time, they still couldn’t post any quality numbers. If the Colts are demoralized about the lack of Luck, they might turn into the Jets quick. 

Green Bay (-3) 17, Seattle 9

  • Yards-per-Play: Seattle 4.7, Green Bay 5.0
  • Third Down Conversions: Seattle 25%, Green Bay 56%
  • Turnovers: Seattle 1, Green Bay 1
  • Rushing Yards: Seattle 90, Green Bay 84
  • Passing Stats: Seattle 14-27-0-135, Green Bay 28-42-1-286
  • TD Drive Lengths: Seattle no TDs, Green Bay 6-75

Felt right that the showcase late afternoon game kept the low-scoring theme going. Was scoreless until almost halftime. Green Bay’s first TD came on a 6-yard drive after a Russell Wilson fumble. All told…the right team won and covered. That’s a big edge in third down rate, and total yardage was 370-225. It’s very tough now to think of Seattle as an NFC championship frontrunner because its offensive line issues are still in play. These two entered as co-favorites to win the conference. No way Seattle is meaningfully clear of Atlanta, Dallas, and Green Bay based on this 60-minute scramble and today’s other stats. Sure, they’re on the short list. The benefits of the great attitude we saw in the preseason evaporated as soon as they were on the field with another contender that was trying. 

Carolina (-5) 23, San Francisco 3

  • Yards-per-Play: Carolina 4.6, San Francisco 4.0
  • Third Down Conversions: Carolina 54%, San Francisco 18%
  • Turnovers: Carolina 2, San Francisco 2
  • Rushing Yards: Carolina 116, San Francisco 51
  • Passing Stats: Carolina 14-25-1-171, San Francisco 24-35-1-166
  • TD Drive Lengths: Carolina 42-28, San Francisco no TDs

Carolina goes on the list of road winners that reached the 20s but didn’t play as well offensively as its scoreboard dominance suggested. Jacksonville, Baltimore, and Carolina won by a combined 72-10 without any reaching 290 yards, or 4.8 YPP, or 175 passing yards. Cam Newton did move the chains, and did cash in cheap opportunities when presented with them. Should mention here that San Francisco has shown a kind of “ballpark effect” that you see in baseball in this stadium. For some reason (or a combination of reasons), it’s tougher to score here for both the Niners and opponents than it is on the road. 

Last year’s scoring sums from low to high (midpoints in parenthesis): 
Road: 32-43-43-(54-55)-55-73-61
Home: 28-40-41-(47-48)-51-54-64

Two seasons ago:
Road: 33-34-42-(46-49)-54-57-61 
Home: 20-23-23-(32-33)-35-38-45 

2014:
Road: 24-26-37-(37-45)-48-51-59 
Home: 22-23-30-(37-39)-47-48-73 

That’s about a-TD-per-game last year, about two TD’s two seasons ago, but just a slight difference in the first season. In market terms, in three full seasons plus one game, San Francisco’s totals results are 8-17 to the Under at home, 15-9 to the Over on the road. Be careful crediting them for a good defense this season until you see them defend well away from this stadium. 

Dallas (-4.5) 19, NY Giants 3

  • Yards-per-Play: NY Giants 4.4, Dallas 5.5
  • Third Down Conversions: NY Giants 33%, Dallas 53%
  • Turnovers: NY Giants 1, Dallas 0
  • Rushing Yards: NY Giants 35, Dallas 129
  • Passing Stats: NY Giants 29-38-1-198, Dallas 24-39-0-263
  • TD Drive Lengths: NY Giants no TDs, Dallas 65

No reward for NFL fans who persevered…the nightcap was horrible as well. Only one TD. Dallas actually played better here than “only 19 points” might have suggested. Clean balance. Similar to Atlanta in that regard. Odell Beckham was unable to return from his preseason injury for the G-men. Apparently NYG doesn’t have enough margin for error to compete with playoff caliber opponents when he’s out. 

Back Tuesday to crunch the numbers from Monday night’s doubleheader, New Orleans at Minnesota and the LA Chargers at Denver. We’ll also review key stats from this past Saturday’s college blockbusters as we gear up for a new weekend of handicapping challenges. Time permitting, we’ll also marvel at how the Milwaukee Brewers swept the Chicago Cubs despite losing their rotation ace for the rest of the season!

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