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Snaps, Pace, & Stats: How Week 12 shapes up for fantasy

Baltimore, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (26) watches the scoreboard during the National Anthem prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Week 12 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 football soil.

This week, we have an extra mini-slate on Thanksgiving, so let’s skip the appetizers and dive right in.

Thanksgiving slate

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

This is a rematch of a Week 10 game that wasn’t as close as its 34-22 final score. The Bears only ran 53 plays because they averaged a meaty 7.6 yards on them. It was their lowest snap total of the season and aligned with the Lions’ propensity for giving up few snaps and many points. Detroit allows a league-low 57.8 plays per game and the third-most points per play (0.46). Their games average the fifth-fewest combined snaps, and even fewer during the last month. With a once-dynamic attack continuing its downward spiral – averaging the fourth-fewest points per game during the last four weeks – their slow pace is now hiding the Lions’ toothless offense in addition to the sixth-worst-graded defense.

While the threat of low snap volume is real, we shouldn’t push too far away from the Bears on a three-game DFS slate. There simply aren’t many alternatives. The Lions, on the other hand, are averaging the eighth-most plays during the last month, have an increasingly narrow touch distribution, and face a Bears team that’s allowed the fifth-most snaps over the last four weeks. Efficiency likely will not be on Detroit’s side, although Kenny Golladay caught only half of his 12 targets on Sunday and still produced 78 yards and a touchdown. Wideout Marvin Jones and running back Kerryon Johnson are doubtful, and before the rookie back popped in October, the Lions’ had the third-highest situation-neutral pass rate (68%) and averaged the fifth-most plays per game. There’s sneaky fantasy goodness here for Golladay and Bruce Ellington if Detroit returns to their early-season approach.

Washington at Dallas Cowboys

In a rematch of a game no one will blame you for forgetting, the Cowboys host a reeling divisional rival with a crippled offensive line and broken starting quarterback. Back in Week 7, Washington rode their running game, healthy offensive line, and the mistake-free quarterbacking of Alex Smith to a coma-inducing 20-17 win. They ran 61 plays and held Dallas to 59. Adrian Peterson ground the clock to dust, 4.1 yards at a time, 24 times. They’ll no doubt try the same approach on Thanksgiving, and they won’t be alone. The Cowboys hand off at the seventh-highest situation-neutral rate (45.8%), which isn’t far behind Washington’s 47.4% mark (fourth highest).

Surrendering more pressures than the Broncos, Colts, Cowboys, Saints, Cardinals, and Giants combined, and losing Smith to a brutally broken leg, will not inspire Washington to hand off less often. They almost certainly won’t increase their bottom-third seconds-per-snap pace or inject play volume. With the way Ezekiel Elliott steamrolled the Falcons on Sunday, and how he was talking afterwards, we can expect the same game plan from Dallas as well. “Fortunately,” there aren’t many tempting ancillary fantasy options who will be hurt by this matchup’s low-volume outlook. We’re the ones really at risk, especially if we eat early. Between the tryptophan and glazing gazing at these offenses, we’ll be passed out before the night game.

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

Making it three-for-three divisional rematches on Thanksgiving, if this matchup delivers anything close to the first meeting in Week 3, we’ll stand a chance against our food comas. The Saints (43 points on 77 plays) and Falcons (37 points on 60 plays) held an overtime barnburner in Atlanta. Matt Ryan and Drew Brees combined for 770 passing yards and eight touchdowns. Both offenses deployed top-10 situation-neutral pass rates that week. We can be reasonably certain the Falcons will choose a similar path, as they rank second in pass rate when games are within one score (65%), and opponents throw against the Saints at the ninth-highest rate in those situations (60%).

The Falcons also face an elevated situation-neutral pass rate (60.7%; seventh-highest), although the Saints have been extremely balanced and undoubtedly noticed the Cowboys smashed Atlanta’s fifth-worst-graded run defense on Sunday. The danger in starting players against New Orleans is they are effective ball hogs. Only the Titans and Chargers operate at a slower pace, only the Lions allow fewer plays per game, no team has a higher average time of possession, and the Saints have improved upon all three of those areas during the last month. They will squeeze and smother until you pop. Just ask the Eagles (48 plays, 22:26 time of possession). It’s hard to avoid ancillary weapons on a short slate, but Atlanta’s supporting cast is on shakier ground than first glance indicates.

Up in pace

Rank Week 11 Snaps 2018 Snaps/Game Opponent Wk 11 Snaps 2018 Opp Snaps/Gm
1 Baltimore (75) Baltimore (71.4) Cincinnati (75) Cleveland (72.3)
2 L.A. Rams (75) Tampa Bay (68.3) Kansas City (75) Cincinnati (71.9)
3 Washington (73) Cleveland (68.2) Houston (73) Kansas City (69.5)
4 L.A. Chargers (72) New England (66.7) Denver (72) Arizona (67.7)
5 Chicago (71) Indianapolis (66.6) Minnesota (71) N.Y. Jets (66.9)

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