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Snaps, Pace, & Stats: The speed of the Super Bowl

Nov 19, 2017; Mexico City, MEX; New England Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks (14) and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) react after touchdown during the game against the Oakland Raiders at Estadio Azteca. New England won 33-8. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Super Bowl 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. Since there’s only one game this week, let’s examine that Super Bowl soil.

The Patriots and Eagles finished second and third in scoring, respectively, while allowing the fifth- and fourth-fewest points. They tied for the league lead in point differential (+162). These are the best teams their conferences have to offer, both will have gone seven full weeks since playing on the road when the game kicks off, and if Nick Foles doesn’t turn back into a pumpkin, we’ll enjoy an entertaining Super Bowl with intriguing matchups on both sides of the ball. How will it play out from a pace perspective, and more importantly, which players stand to benefit?

Of course, each team would prefer to possess the ball and dictate their preferred game script. The Eagles led the league in average time of possession during the regular season (32:41) and raised that mark in the playoffs (33:05). The Patriots were no slouches, averaging the 11th-highest time of possession (30:37) – although they were most recently limited to 24:52 as the Jaguars played keep-away. During the Belichick era, when New England held the ball for less than 24:53, they had been 8-22 before beating Jacksonville. If this repeats against a more complete Eagles team, it’s unlikely that record will improve to 10-22.

2017 Snaps Per Game 2017 Rank Last Four Games
Philadelphia Eagles (67.1) 3rd New England Patriots (69.0)
New England Patriots (66.9) 4th Philadelphia Eagles (61.8)

The Eagles ran the third-most plays per game (67.1) and scored the fourth-most points per snap this season. Naturally, things mostly went south after Carson Wentz was lost in Week 14, and their Foles-led offense averaged 9.5 points and 58 plays over the final two regular season games. They managed to score 15 and produce 63 snaps against the Falcons in what statistically looked like a decent playoff outing for Foles (it wasn’t). He then had a seeming out-of-body experience in the NFC Championship, posting a 141.4 passer rating (he has an 87.4 career average). His nearly perfect passer rating while under pressure (152.1) contrasted sharply with his previous results this season (34.0), and every prior year (83.1 was easily his high, 49.9 his low).

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