The Jaguars have faced two teams with stronger offensive lines that would have liked nothing more than to run the ball and dominate, in the form of the Colts and Titans. And yet thus far, the Jaguars run defense has ranked 9th best in the NFL.
They held the Colts to 36% success, 4.0 YPC and -0.22 EPA/att.
They held the Titans to 53% success, 3.6 YPC and -0.12 EPA/att.
And they held the Dolphins to 46% success, 3.7 YPC and +0.01 EPA/att.
The Bengals rushing attack ranks 31st in the NFL, and this should force a lot more onto the plate of Joe Burrow. Burrow is a fan favorite and a public darling, but this passing offense currently ranks 24th in efficiency and is the NFL’s least explosive passing attack. They’re held in place by the NFL’s #29 ranked offensive line in pass protection.
The Jaguars have played three straight above-average passing offenses and even more importantly, three straight top-10 opponents in pass protection efficiency. The lines of the Colts, Titans and Dolphins have done very well protecting their QBs from sacks. The Bengals are a total different story, and I expect more pressure to hit home for the Jaguars pass rush than has hit home in prior weeks.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars Offense has done an extremely impressive job. They rank as the NFL’s #3 best rushing offense, and while they have a balanced rushing offense, they run most often from 11 personnel, where they gain 62% success and 5.6 YPC. The Bengals run defense has been better vs heavier run sets but has struggled immensely vs 11 personnel runs, allowing 59% success, 5.6 YPC and a +0.23 EPA/att. It’s nearly impossible to be worse than +0.23 EPA/att on the ground over a 60-play sample.
The Jaguars see the return of DJ Chark, who was severely missed last week. The Bengals pass defense is worse than it looks, after facing the NFL’s 7th easiest schedule of passing offenses. The Chargers and Eagles, in particular, are struggling mightily.
Lastly, this is a game featuring one team with 9 full days of rest playing an opponent with just 6 days of rest that played 5 full quarters of football the prior week. From a general health perspective of the average man on the 53, the Jaguars should be in better physical condition.
There are only three games this weekend featuring two teams with winning records, and this is one of them. This is a battle of two teams with very productive offenses and below average defenses. And for both teams, these offenses rank top-5 in third down conversion rate in addition to being two top-10 passing offenses.
After playing two passing offenses that didn’t throw downfield often (Jets and Dolphins) the Raiders faced the Rams and gave up 32 points. The Raiders passing offense ranks as the 4th most explosive in the NFL.
And while the Bills played one game without LBs Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds, they still gave up 18.5 YPA on 4 TE targets last week. On the season, the Bills are allowing 10.2 YPA to TEs and a 57% success rate. These numbers rank 29th and 27th respectively. As such, a week after TE Darren Waller was limited by Bill Belichick, he should be far more productive this week.
Despite facing a below average schedule of opposing offenses, the fact the Bills Defense ranks below average in red zone defense and third down defense should lift the spirits of Raider Nation.
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders Defense has been terrible against the run (#32) but don’t expect the Bills Offense to be satisfied with running for explosive gains (#30 vs explosive runs). This is a passing attack that has been aggressive and has attacked downfield.
Interestingly, that will come as a shock to the Raiders Defense.
Their defense has faced the 2nd shortest average depth of target (aDOT) of any team in the league, with passes on average traveling just 5.8 air yards.
The Bills have the 5th highest aDOT, at 9.45 air yards on average. I expect this aggressive, downfield attack to be a shock to the system for the Raiders Defense, which is likely to be without one starting CB.
Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears
The Bears pass defense is tremendous vs 11 personnel but are terrible vs 12:
-vs 11: 5.2 YPA, 40% success, -0.04 EPA/att, 56 rating, 0:2 TD:INT
-vs 12: 12.3 YPA, 75% success, +0.37 EPA/att, 155 rating, 2:0 TD:INT
The Colts have yet to use much 12 this year (only 11 passes, or 11% of their total pass dropbacks), but have done better when passing from 12 than 11:
-passes from 11: 7.9 YPA, 57% success, +0.11 EPA/att, 95 rating, 2:2 TD:INT
-passes from 12: 12.6 YPA, 55% success, +0.79 EPA/att, 119 rating, 0:0 TD:INT
Given the injury situation to the WR corps, the emergence of Alie-Cox, and the Bears extreme weakness vs 12 & strength vs 11, the Colts absolutely should examine using more 12 to pass in this game.
Additionally, the Bears Defense is the #1 most sensitive to play action in the NFL. Look at their splits with and without play action:
-with play action: 11.0 YPA, 71% success, +0.44 EPA/att, 54 rating, 0% sack rate
-w/o play action: 5.1 YPA, 41% success, -0.22 EPA/att, 125 rating, 7.1% sack rate
Chicago's defense struggles immensely vs play action, and the Colts should look to utilize more play action to expose the holes in the Bears' secondary.