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Snaps, Pace, & Stats: The speed of the Divisional Round games

Sep 11, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) signals a play in the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Divisional Round edition of Snaps, Pace, & Stats, where we examine trends in snap totals and no-huddle usage. It is meant to be a 30,000-foot view of upcoming games, with the goal of identifying which matchups will – and which will not – be played on fertile fantasy soil.

(For brevity’s sake, all references to pass or run rates/percentages are in terms of neutral game situations. Unless otherwise stated, we will reference one-score situations (plus/minus seven points) to get a truer representation of game plan.)

2017 Snaps Per Game 2017 Rank Last Four Games
Jacksonville Jaguars (67.4) 1st Atlanta Falcons (68.0)
Philadelphia Eagles (67.1) 3rd Philadelphia Eagles (66.8)
New England Patriots (66.9) 4th Jacksonville Jaguars (66.5)
Minnesota Vikings (65.9) 7th Pittsburgh Steelers (66.0)
Pittsburgh Steelers (65.7) 9th Minnesota Vikings (65.0)
New Orleans Saints (62.5) 20th New England Patriots (64.8)
Atlanta Falcons (61.5) 25th Tennessee Titans (63.8)
Tennessee Titans (60.9) 29th New Orleans Saints (59.5)

Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles

The Falcons ran the eighth-fewest plays per game (61.5), and their contests average the third-fewest combined snaps. The Eagles ran the third-most plays per game this season (67.1), but during a Nick Foles-flavored final month, they finished ninth. Philadelphia operated at the ninth-slowest seconds-per-snap pace and Atlanta the 13th-slowest. The Falcons skewed run-heavy (44.5 percent, 12th-highest), and they leaned on the run during their Wild Card win (52.4 percent). However, opponents passed against the Eagles (61.4 percent, third-highest) even more than they did against the Falcons (58 percent, seventh). More passes would theoretically inject needed play volume into this matchup, although there’s a plausible scenario where we get the opposite from Philadelphia.

Last year, a lesser Eagles roster beat a greater Falcons team by running 38 times for 208 yards, while producing a hefty 76 plays at a glacial 30.1-seconds-per-snap. The Falcons mustered only 48 snaps and scored a season-low (by far) 15 points. It occurred when Carson Wentz wasn’t playing much better than Foles is now, and the Eagles even had Halapoulivaati Vaitai playing tackle. Of course, it doesn’t mean Philadelphia will be able to pound it on Saturday, as the Falcons run defense grades 12th-best now and was seventh-worst last year. Yet, we know this kind of game plan is rattling around in Doug Peterson’s head somewhere, and it’s not a recipe for elevated play volume. The Falcons are again a hot commodity, but this contest contains contrarian paths to fantasy fruitfulness.

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