By Warren Sharp
FOX Sports activities NFL Author
This season, I’m grateful for the chance to share weekly content material with you proper right here at FOX Sports activities.
I’ll share weekly recaps of what went proper and mistaken for groups, coaches and particular person gamers. And I’ll share recreation previews, mixing mismatches, edges, expectations and predictions. Sure, a few of it will likely be very nerdy and data-intensive, however I’ll all the time again up and provide you with a simple takeaway.
Hopefully, you’ll learn a recap and say, “I seen that, however I didn’t understand it was THAT unhealthy!” My purpose is so that you can learn a preview, watch the sport unfold, and say, “Hey, that’s what Warren stated may occur!”
Making an attempt to forecast video games means one factor: We’re within the enterprise of predicting the long run, and that’s by no means simple. However my purpose is to supply insights you didn’t know earlier than studying.
With that stated, let’s dive into my favourite edges for Week 1 of the season, with odds courtesy of FOX Guess.
Inexperienced Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX)
Inexperienced Bay Packers
We all know the Packers have been the NFC North’s high cheese for years, as they’ve received the division 4 out of the final six seasons, together with the final three.
However do you know that since 2017, the Vikings have a profitable report towards the Packers?
That’s proper, Minnesota is 5-4-1 (56%) since 2017 vs. Inexperienced Bay.
And the Vikings are 4-2 straight up (SU) and towards the unfold (ATS) when going through the Packers in Minnesota since 2016.
In the one recreation towards the Packers final season by which Kirk Cousins performed, the Vikings received a thriller, 34-31. The Minnesota quarterback was extremely environment friendly, averaging +0.60 EPA/att and 9.7 YPA with 50% success.
In reality, over the previous two years, there isn’t any protection which Cousins has been extra environment friendly towards than the Packers. In three begins, Cousins has posted:
+0.49 EPA/att, 57% success and 10.3 YPA. He’s accomplished 73% of his passes (54-for-74), with a whopping 52% of his completions gaining 10-plus yards.
That manufacturing got here from offenses designed by Gary Kubiak and Klint Kubiak. Now, he’s in an offense designed by Kevin O’Connell, the previous offensive coordinator of the Tremendous Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. It’s a extra trendy offense that can go the ball steadily. Whereas it will likely be troublesome to see extra success than Cousins loved towards the Packers over the previous two seasons, they need to be extra ready to deal with Inexperienced Bay’s defensive enhancements.
I’m additionally desperate to see how this new offense, which is prone to make the most of considerably greater charges of 11 personnel (one working again, one tight finish), will carry out on the bottom.
Minnesota used 11 personnel on 74.8% of its snaps within the preseason after a 42.1% price in 2021.
Out of 11 personnel final 12 months, Dalvin Cook dinner ranked No. 1 in EPA/rush, and in his profession, he ranks fourth in EPA/rush and seventh in YPC (5.4).
What’s fascinating with this matchup is final 12 months’s Packers’ run protection was one of many worst within the NFL. And whereas the Pack have made efforts to enhance, they had been particularly unhealthy towards 11 personnel. Inexperienced Bay allowed 5.1 YPC and +0.02 EPA/rush to runs from 11 personnel. And the Packers allowed a large 2.4 yards earlier than contact to runs from 11 personnel. That ranked useless final within the NFL.
Final season, of 35 working again rushes towards the Packers, the Vikings used 11 personnel on simply 37%. If this price will increase nearer to 75%, the Vikings’ run recreation could discover much more success.
On the opposite facet of the ball, Aaron Rodgers has been excellent the previous two years towards Mike Zimmer’s protection, throwing 13 touchdowns and no interceptions in these video games.
However this can be Rodgers’ first season with out Davante Adams. Adams torched Zimmer’s protection for years, and his 79% catch price towards the Vikings is his highest towards any group he’s performed greater than twice over the previous three years. Adams had eight touchdowns towards Zimmer’s protection over his earlier 4 video games. In all different video games, Adams had 23 touchdowns in 29 video games. Minnesota doesn’t want to fret about Adams in 2022 as he’s not in Inexperienced Bay.
Minnesota’s protection could profit from enjoying a Inexperienced Bay offense that’s attempting to fill that void. On Monday, Matt LaFleur was noncommittal on Allen Lazard’s standing for the sport, which is price noting contemplating Lazard missed a number of practices final week for “undisclosed causes.” The large out missed apply on Wednesday as properly. Whereas Lazard and Rodgers have a ton of chemistry from prior seasons, it’s regarding that the de facto No. 1 WR for the Packers hasn’t been training the week main into Week 1, and his standing continues to be TBD.
The Lazard harm would depart Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb because the group’s main starters. It’s been years since Watkins has been a dependable NFL goal, and Cobb’s greatest days are behind him. The Packers hope to get some explosion from rookie Romeo Doubs. And at tight finish, we all know that Robert Tonyan has been a really productive menace for Rodgers up to now, however he simply got here off the bodily unable to carry out (PUP) listing on Aug. 14 and is recovering from an ACL harm. He might not be at 100% on this matchup.
Lastly, now we have the home-field benefit issue.
In 2020, there have been no crowds and no home-field benefit, and notably because the betting market was sluggish to regulate, the Vikings fared poorly ATS at dwelling.
In 2021, the Vikings performed extra highway video games than dwelling video games.
However in 2022, the Vikings will play extra dwelling video games than highway video games and profit from their crowd. Ignoring the crowd-less 2020 season, the Vikings are 36-18-4 (67%) ATS at dwelling since 2014, one of the best report within the NFL.
For these causes, the Vikings make teaser leg candidate, transferring the +1.5 level unfold by 6 factors and sending it simply north of seven to +7.5.
Baltimore Ravens @ New York Jets (1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS)
New York Jets
The emergence of Ravens rookie tight finish Isaiah Doubtless this preseason was extraordinarily enjoyable. He was a fourth-round select of Coastal Carolina this offseason and popped in video games captained by Tyler Huntley as Lamar Jackson didn’t play this preseason.
He caught all 12 targets thrown his method within the two video games he performed, averaging 12.0 YPC and delivering +0.96 EPA per goal whereas hauling in a single landing.
For many followers across the league fascinated about the Ravens in 2022, nevertheless, Doubtless is an afterthought. Not less than the Ravens have an honest backup for Mark Andrews, they may suppose.
And sure, based mostly on how the Ravens used their tight ends the previous two seasons, I can see why followers may suppose alongside these strains.
Let’s study the utilization price of two+ TE units for the Ravens the previous two seasons (on early downs in quarters 1-3):
2021: 22.5% (twenty fifth most)
2020: 25.3% (seventeenth most)
However guess what? This utilization wasn’t by design, however as a result of they didn’t have a succesful sufficient tight finish.
Let’s again up.
In 2019, Jackson set data. Jackson received the MVP unanimously, threw a career-high 36 TDs in 15 video games, accomplished a career-high 66% of passes and posted an insane 9.0% landing price.
And in 2019, the Ravens used 2+ TE units on the third-highest price of any group. They used 2+ TEs at a 54.2% price on early downs in quarters 1-3.
That’s over 50% of offensive snaps.
And take a look at Jackson’s splits on these early downs in quarters 1-3:
0-1 TE: +0.20 EPA/att, 49% success, 7.6 YPA, 115 dropbacks
2+ TEs: +0.41 EPA/att, 57% success, 8.9 YPA, 143 dropbacks
He was stable with just one TE. He was spectacular with 2+ TEs.
However the Ravens misplaced TE Hayden Hurst in free company earlier than the 2020 season, and so they didn’t substitute him. They counted on TE Nick Boyle to play much more, however Boyle wasn’t the receiving menace that Hurst was. Then Boyle went down with an harm and was misplaced halfway by the season. In 2021, the Ravens traded for TE Josh Oliver, however he dissatisfied and barely performed. After which Boyle went down once more with an harm and was misplaced for the overwhelming majority of the season.
This explains why the Ravens dropped from a 54% utilization price of two+ TE units in 2019 to simply 23% and 25% over the following two years.
And even when the Ravens had 2+ TEs on the sector, they had been horrible as a result of the TEs past Andrews weren’t succesful receiving threats.
Evaluate Jackson’s effectivity on passes with a number of TEs on the sector to what he did in 2019:
2019 2+ TEs: +0.41 EPA/att, 57% success, 8.9 YPA, 143 dropbacks
2020-21 2+ TEs: -0.03 EPA/att, 45% success, 6.8 YPA, 118 dropbacks over two years
Per the proof, this was a monumental drop in effectivity, even in uncommon conditions when the Ravens usually had two tight ends on the sector.
With a real receiving menace in Doubtless out there this season, I believe this can be a large deal for the Ravens in 2022.
Way more vital than anybody else is discussing.
Andrews stated he believes Doubtless will “shock the world” and complimented the rookie’s capability to win one-on-ones and discover zones, because of his really feel for the sport.
Because of Doubtless’s expertise, Baltimore not solely may double the speed of two+ TE units from the previous two years, however the effectivity from these units additionally has the potential to skyrocket.
It will be troublesome for Jackson to breed his insane outcomes from the 2019 season, however there isn’t any doubt a spike in effectivity from having one other TE on the sector coupled with extra snaps from 2+ TE units may do wonders for the Ravens’ passing assault in 2022.
Need to look extra brief time period?
In Week 1, the Ravens tackle the Jets. Final 12 months, no protection allowed extra yards towards 2+ TE units than the Jets. They allowed probably the most YPA (9.2) and ranked twenty ninth in success price allowed and twenty sixth in EPA/att allowed on the 121 dropbacks they defended vs. 2+ TE units.
Whereas not your normal benefit teaser, which passes by each the three and seven, teasing the Ravens down from -7 to -1 is an interesting possibility given the historical past of John Harbaugh in Week 1 video games.
His Ravens are 10-4 SU and ATS in Week 1 since he turned coach in 2008. And no group has lined extra video games in Week 1 since 2008 than his Ravens. They’re 5-1 SU and ATS since 2016, with the lone loss coming in additional time final 12 months towards the Raiders. A recreation by which the Ravens by no means trailed at any level in regulation and led after the primary quarter, second quarter and third quarter, however misplaced 33-27 in additional time.
Warren’s 6-point Teaser at FOX Guess:
Philadelphia Eagles @ Detroit Lions (1 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX)
Final season the Eagles performed the Lions. The whole sat at 48 factors for nearly your entire week, attracted minimal sharp motion, and closed at 48 factors.
Heading into the sport, Philly pivoted massively to the run. Towards the Raiders the prior week (Week 7), the Eagles ran the ball on 59% of their early-down performs within the first half. A 17-7 halftime deficit compelled the Eagles to go extra within the second half, however it was clear this group was trying to run early and sometimes, a substantial change in strategy from the primary six video games of the season. Regardless of being a pass-first group, the Eagles had been a giant below group, going below the whole in 4 of their first seven video games.
The Lions had been struggling headed into the sport. They had been 0-7 and had not even hit 20 factors of their earlier six video games, recording level totals of 11, 14, 17, 17, 17 and 19 factors. Because of this, the Lions had been a large below group as properly. They went below the whole in 5 straight video games heading into their recreation with the Eagles.
So, the Week 8 matchup featured a winless group that couldn’t rating 20 factors to avoid wasting their life and off of six straight unders, towards a group who simply embraced the working recreation and who likewise went below at a stable price getting into the sport.
And the whole was 48 factors. And guess what? The sport went over.
These groups are very totally different from that Week 8 assembly final 12 months.
Late within the 2021 season, the Lions modified play callers and have become extra aggressive offensively. They usually really went over the whole in 4 of their remaining six video games, scoring 29 or extra factors in 4 of these contests.
The Eagles embraced the run — towards very unhealthy opponents — and had a ton of success scoring factors. They went over the whole in eight of their remaining 11 video games of the 12 months. However do we actually suppose the 2022 Eagles will decide up the place they left off with one of many highest run charges within the NFL?
Their quarterback was enjoying his first season as a starter within the NFL in a brand-new offense. The 2021 Eagles’ No. 1 WR was a rookie in DeVonta Smith, their No. 2 in receptions was TE Dallas Goedert. It made sense to run extra because of the mild bins they had been going through, because of the extraordinarily excessive go price they began the season with.
However this offseason, the Eagles made the aggressive transfer to commerce for of the NFL’s greatest WRs in A.J. Brown. In addition they added WR Zach Pascal.
QB Jalen Hurts is now in his second 12 months as a starter. Extra importantly, Hurts is in the identical offense with the identical play caller in consecutive seasons for the primary time since highschool.
And this group has the most effective offensive strains within the NFL.
The Lions’ protection is prone to be extremely problematic once more in 2022, similar to in 2021 when the Eagles put up 44 factors towards them. The Eagles’ offense has proven the need to function with tempo at occasions this preseason, and Detroit was the NFL’s thirty second protection on early downs final 12 months.
The power of the Eagles’ protection is their defensive position, which hasn’t modified. However the Lions’ offensive line is their group’s greatest unit, as they rank top-five in pure expertise. It may not neutralize the Eagles, however it’s going to give Jared Goff a greater probability to search out success.
With each of those offensive strains being among the many greatest within the NFL, what seals the play on the over is the aggressiveness of each coaches. They may go for it on fourth down. They may not often punt. They may onside kick early. They may by no means wave a white flag. No matter whether or not the Eagles are up late, the Lions will preserve approaching offense and received’t cease. And eventually, we additionally know this recreation is in a dome, and thus rain received’t trigger issues for Goff’s arms.
This whole sits at 48.5 factors, and I’d advocate ready for it to drop after which grabbing a 48 later within the week and going over.
Skeptics could fear concerning the potential for lots of working on this recreation from Philadelphia, however it will be unimaginable for the Eagles to be extra run heavy than they had been on this recreation final 12 months. They ran it 46 occasions, handed it solely 16 occasions and nonetheless scored 44 factors. As I discussed, I believe the 2022 Eagles can be extra balanced than within the final assembly.
Moreover, I’d be shocked if the Lions got here out and put up simply six factors offensively like they did final 12 months, contemplating their extra aggressive offensive technique. The Eagles’ protection tends to pressure shorter passes beneath – they compelled opposing offenses to common 6.4 air yards/att, thirty second within the NFL. However that’s precisely what this Lions passing assault led by Goff emphasizes. His goal depth was 6.4 air yards/att, which was the bottom of any NFL quarterback final season. And these targets had been extraordinarily correct as Goff averaged the eighth-best on-target price of passes thrown inside 10 yards out of 40 qualifying quarterbacks.
Thus, we’re left with an odd symbiosis that would profit Detroit, the place the Eagles’ protection needs the Lions to throw beneath and performs to remove deep passes. The Lions will gladly oblige as a result of it’s their most well-liked offense, and so they don’t care to throw deep usually.
NFL analyst Warren Sharp joined FOX Sports activities for the 2022 NFL season. All year long, he’ll recap the highest video games of the week and sit up for the numbers that may give you a betting edge.
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