Week 10 Marquee Matchups

Warren Sharp
·8 min read

Let's discuss two battles for division supremacy. First, the battle for NFC East supremacy. Then, the battle for NFC West supremacy.

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

Since Carson Wentz came to town, these Giants v Eagles games are going over at a 67% clip.

This game isn’t in Philly, where the under is 3-2. This game is in New York, where the over is 4-0.

Last week’s game between the Giants and Redskins closed at 43.

Even with a stone cold Alex Smith coming off the bench to play most of this game….
with zero defensive or special teams TDs…
with Washington going 1 of 3 in the red zone…

the game still sees 43 points scored.

The Giants didn’t do anything all second half except for 1 FG… and the game hit 43 points.

The Giants drove to the Washington 35 and turned it over on downs… and settled for FGs on the Washington 20, 24 and 30 yard lines… and the game hit 43 points.

Three of the four TD drives were long drives, not cheap short drives, of 77, 75 and 84 yards… and the game hit 43 points.

Washington threw interceptions on the NYG 18 and 40 yard lines… and the game hit 43 points.

Another thing to keep in mind on this game is look at the prior meeting in Week 7.

The Eagles were without 3 of 5 linemen, and 1 of the 2 starters played only 74% of snaps (Lane Johnson) and was hobbled all night.

The Eagles were down both TEs, and Richard Rodgers played 85% of snaps. The Eagles were down all starting WRs except for DeSean Jackson, who was coming back from injury and played only 48% of snaps before getting hurt.

The Eagles were down their starting RB, so Boston Scott started at RB and played 69% of snaps.

Of their starting 3 WRs, 2 TEs and 1 RB, the Eagles had only ONE of SIX, and he was eased into action and then got hurt (Jackson).

Despite all of that, the Eagles drove the ball SEVEN TIMES into the Giants red zone but scored TDs on only THREE of them.

The Eagles threw an interception at the Giants 20, kicked a FG at the Giants 13, missed a FG at the Giants 11 and turned the ball over on downs at the Giants 3.

That’s 4 drives inside the red zone right there, and only THREE points total to show for.

And that Eagles/Giants Week 7 game STILL SAW 43 POINTS SCORED.

Now, the Eagles are off of a bye.

They are getting healthy.

LG Isaac Seumalo has been activated from IR and may return this week. If RT Lane Johnson is also up, that would give the Eagles 4 of 5 starters along the line for the first time since week 2 of the season.

WR Alshon Jeffrey is expected to make his season debut this week. Jaelen Reagor returned in the Eagles last game after a multi-week absence. As did TE Dallas Goedert.

It remains to be seen if RB Miles Sanders will be up for this game, but I don’t think it will be the difference one way or another.

Of the Eagles planned 2020 starters, their last game vs the Giants saw 1 of 5 along the offensive line play the entire game and 0 of 6 offensive weapons (3 WRs + 2 TEs + 1 RB) play a full game.

This game, the Eagles could have 4 of 5 starters along the offensive line, 2 of 3 WRs, 1 of 2 TEs and 1 RB.

That’s a shift from 1 of 11 in Week 7’s game to 8 of 11 in Week 10’s game.


Seattle Seahawks at LA Rams

Coaching point on this game for the Seahawks is they must increase their play action usage against the Rams.

The Rams’ pass defense ranks #30 when teams use play action.

They allow 9.1 YPA, 66% success and +0.26 EPA/att vs play action.

But not only are they #30 vs play action, they are the #1 most sensitive defense to play action. In other words, no team sees a larger drop in performance vs play action as compared to without it. Their pass defense is very good (#10) when teams don’t use play action, but very bad when teams use play action.

Looking at early down splits, with an without play action:

EPA/att increases by +0.44 when using play action, #1 in the NFL (average is only +0.06)
YPA increases by +2.9 when using play action, #6 worst (average is only 1.4)
Success rate increases by 12%, #4 worst (average is only 2%)
Passer rating increases by 33.5 points, #4 worst (average is only 9 points)

Examine some recent opponents and their production splits with play action:

49ers with P/A: +0.49 EPA/att, 71% success, 11.6 YPA
49ers w/o P/A: +0.13 EPA/att, 56% success, 6.3 YPA

Bears with P/A: +0.61 EPA/att, 88% success, 11.9 YPA
Bears w/o P/A: -0.48 EPA/att, 40% success, 5.7 YPA

Dolphins with P/A: +0.21 EPA/att, 75% success, 6.5 YPA
Dolphins w/o P/A: -0.42 EPA/att, 56% success, 5.2 YPA

But the issue was, these teams rarely used play action. 49ers used it on only 7 of 23 early down passes. Bears used it on only 8 of 29 early down passes. Dolphins used it on only 4 of 14 early down passes.

There is no need to slow down usage of play action vs the Rams: Rams Defense:

Vs 4th quarter play action: +0.36 EPA/att, 71% success, 9.3 YPA
Without 4th quarter play action: -0.36 EPA/att, 42% success, 5.0 YPA

Not only are the Rams terrible vs 4th quarter play action, but they are great when teams don’t use it. But so many of their recent opponents rarely used it.

Likewise, there is no need to set up play action. Seattle can use it right from the start of the game. Rams Defense:

Vs 1st quarter play action: +0.38 EPA/att, 80% success, 10.2 YPA
Without 1st quarter play action: -0.19 EPA/att, 54% success, 6.3 YPA

In 2019, the Rams were bad against play action, but not close to this bad. They have become significantly worse against play action.

In 2019, examine Seattle’s own play action splits against the Rams on early down passes:

With play action: +0.68 EPA/att, 69% success, 11.3 YPA
W/O play action: -0.08 EPA/att, 57% success, 7.5 YPA

In the first meeting, Seattle used play action on nearly 50% of early down passes (8 of 17 attempts) with outstanding success.

In the second meeting (the loss in Week 14), Seattle used play action on only 8 of 30 early down passes (27%).

So Seattle didn’t use play action as much, which contributed to the lack of overall passing production in that second meeting. But there was one other key factor that hurt Seattle in that second meeting:

On these play action attempts, while Seattle was more productive with play action than without, the boost wasn’t as large as the first meeting.

And that was largely because the average target depth was very short.

8 play action passes: 0.4 aDOT
22 non-play action passes: 11.4 aDOT

Seattle’s aDOT on play action passes in the first meeting was 12.3. This dropped to 0.4 in the second meeting.

We discussed this in an earlier report in 2020 (see my Week 7 report prior to Arizona’s game) about ensuring Seattle pushes the ball downfield enough on play action and how much more productive they are when doing so.

Additionally, we discussed reducing play action passes targeting RBs, and increasing play action aDOT to TEs.

Examine Seattle’s performance pre and post bye after accounting for this advice:

RB play action targets:

Pre-bye: 7
Post-bye: 2

TE play action targets:

Pre-bye: -1.07 EPA/att, 57% success, 4.4 YPA (aDOT of 2.4)
Post-bye: +0.43 EPA/att, 67% success, 10.2 YPA (aDOT of 3.8)

WR play action targets:

Pre-bye: +0.59 EPA/att, 68% success, 11.7 YPA
Post-bye: +0.68 EPA/att, 89% success, 11.8 YPA

Seattle did a great job of incorporating that information into their game plan, and has seen more efficiency out of play action passing as a result.

Seattle should look to Increase play action rates even more against the Rams on Sunday, considering how bad the Rams are defending it and how strong Seattle has been when using it.

Overall, I initially was looking to make a case for the Rams in this spot. Primarily off a bye with extra time to prepare a gameplan to defeat a terrible Seahawks Defense.

But the Rams have played so many terrible offenses this season. They’ve played the #2 easiest schedule of opposing offenses. The best offense they played to date was the Bills and Buffalo put up 35 points with ease.