Why Vikings will shock, Cowboys may disappoint: Warren Sharp’s NFL Information

Why Vikings will shock, Cowboys may disappoint: Warren Sharp’s NFL Information

By Warren Sharp
FOX Sports activities NFL Author

Editor’s Word: NFL analyst Warren Sharp is becoming a member of FOX Sports activities for the 2022 NFL season. All year long, he’ll recap the highest video games of the week and look forward to the numbers that may give you a betting edge. In his two-part debut column, Sharp begins with the highest 10 traits to know for 2022.

On Monday, we took a have a look at 5 issues you should know earlier than you watch and guess on the NFL within the 2022 season.

Now, let’s add 5 extra, so that you’re as knowledgeable as potential when the Payments and Rams kick off the brand new season Thursday, Sept. 8.

6. The Minnesota Vikings have the NFL’s greatest home-field benefit, however we haven’t seen it loads currently.

In 2020, there have been no crowds and no home-field benefit. The betting market was gradual to regulate, so the Vikings fared poorly towards the unfold (ATS) at dwelling.

In 2021, the Vikings performed extra street video games than dwelling video games.

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However in 2022, the Vikings will play extra dwelling video games than street 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, the perfect file within the NFL.

I feel their home-field benefit prowess can be on show in 2022. 

And there are two different robust causes to really feel optimistic in regards to the Vikings, so let’s dive in.

First, Minnesota’s new teaching workers. This staff has been locked into the fourth-most run-heavy offense with a conservative offensive workers below Mike Zimmer for the earlier three seasons.  

Because of this, the Vikings misplaced a league-high eight video games by one rating final season when enjoying the Tenth-toughest schedule. They have been additionally the fifth-most injured staff within the NFL.

However out of 61 QBs over the previous two seasons, Kirk Cousins is the just one to rank within the prime 10 in YPA, EPA and accuracy.

I anticipate a greater offensive output with Cousins throwing extra steadily in additional advantageous conditions, like on early downs.

Secondly, Minnesota’s protection ought to have a neater schedule in 2022. 

Final season’s Vikings protection performed the No. 2 most difficult schedule of offenses and the No. 3 hardest schedule of quarterbacks. This season, I undertaking that they may face the No. 21 schedule of total offenses and move offenses. It’s the fourth-biggest drop in schedule issue for any staff within the NFL. I feel this protection gained’t look a lot worse than final season’s unit, which completed the season rating league-average. There’s even an opportunity Minnesota’s protection would possibly look higher.

I anticipate the Vikings will profit from their home-field benefit and make a visit to the playoffs.

7. Don’t underestimate the lack of Dallas left sort out Tyron Smith, notably if the Cowboys don’t change him with a veteran. 

Smith’s loss is huge. Listed here are some nuggets from an article on the harm we posted at Sharp Soccer Evaluation:

Over the previous three seasons, on early-down working again runs within the first three quarters, the Cowboys’ run effectivity based mostly on EPA with and with out Smith on the sector shifted sharply:

– No. 1 within the NFL with him on the sector (-0.03 EPA/rush)

– No. 31 within the NFL with out him on the sector (-0.23 EPA/rush)

It’s staggering the affect Smith has dropped at Dallas’ run recreation. Intimately:

– Smith on the sector: -0.03 EPA/rush, 43% success, 4.8 YPC (425 makes an attempt)

– Smith off the sector: -0.23 EPA/rush, 33% success, 3.9 YPC (376 makes an attempt)

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After all, the Cowboys may even be harm within the move recreation. Dak Prescott was worse with out Smith on the sector, and the absence harm most when blitzed, towards man protection and on first-down dropbacks.

Let’s take a look at that final class in additional element. The Cowboys’ first down passing effectivity with Prescott is closely impacted by Smith:

– When Smith was on the sector, the Cowboys have been ninth in first-down passing effectivity

– When Smith is off the sector, the Cowboys rank No. 30

8. This season, I’ll speak extra about early-down effectivity than anybody who writes in regards to the NFL. 

Apart from turnover margin and halftime rating margin, there aren’t many stats that correlate nearer to victory than early-down effectivity margin. What do I imply by that? Your individual offense’s capability to bypass third down coupled with your individual protection’s capability to pressure your opponent into third downs.

Nonetheless, there’s a stability between early-down effectivity and the flexibility to generate explosive performs. Naturally, you’ll bypass a 3rd down for those who convert an explosive play on early downs. However explosive performs are troublesome to hit on, thus you would possibly fail extra steadily and be pressured into third downs, which we try to keep away from.

Simply have a look at the distinction explosive performs make in a drive. Final season, I evaluated all drives that began at or inside a staff’s personal 30-yard line.

If such a drive had zero performs that gained 15 or extra yards:

4.3% of drives reached the pink zone

5.9% of drives scored factors

2.2% of drives scored a landing

If such a drive had precisely one explosive play (any acquire of 15-plus yards):

40.8% of drives reached the pink zone

51.0% of drives scored factors

28.8% of drives scored a landing

The distinction is huge! Every drive is way extra possible to assist rating and win a recreation if the offense can produce only one acquire of 15-plus yards on that drive.

Explosive performs clearly assist rating factors at a a lot increased charge. This idea isn’t novel, however it’s eye-opening to see how a lot it issues utilizing knowledge.  

How a lot does it matter in successful video games?

I studied that as effectively. Groups that make not less than two extra explosive good points (15-plus yards) than opponents within the first three quarters (fourth-quarter explosives typically contain groups trailing massive and enjoying desperately) have gained 75% of video games since 2020! 

Right here is the way it seems to be by rely over the previous two seasons:

No less than yet one more explosive play than their opponent: 323-148 (69%)

No less than two extra explosive performs than their opponent: 258-88 (75%)

No less than three extra explosive performs than their opponent: 171-46 (79%)

No less than 4 extra explosive performs than their opponent: 110-26 (81%)

What did this appear like final season? The highest seven groups in explosive play differential over the primary three quarters have been the Packers, Patriots, Payments, Raiders, Rams, 49ers and Buccaneers. 

Know what these groups have in widespread? All of them made the playoffs.

So, whenever you’re handicapping video games this 12 months and watching as they kick off, take note of two belongings you may not have factored in as a lot earlier than:

– How typically groups are skipping third downs on offense

– What number of performs of 15-plus yards every staff can generate

9. I’m a large believer in incorporating power of schedule to your benefit. 

I spend substantial time analyzing power of schedule each offseason. My methodology for calculating the general power of schedule is to base it on projected win totals for the 2022 season utilizing the betting market, not the prior season’s win-loss file. 

Let’s dive deeper into this idea for the upcoming season.

The groups with the largest enchancment in schedule vs. 2021 (it is going to be simpler) are the Giants, Commanders, Lions, Bears and Jaguars.

The groups with the worst enchancment in schedule vs. 2021 (it is going to be tougher) are the Bengals, Patriots, Payments, Rams and Broncos.

The offenses with a lot simpler move defenses to face vs. 2021 are the Jaguars, Giants, Saints, Titans and Colts.

The offenses with a lot tougher move defenses to face vs. 2021 are the Bengals, Eagles, Packers, Vikings and Rams.

The offenses with a lot simpler run defenses to face vs. 2021 are the Colts, Titans, Packers, Jaguars and Dolphins.

The offenses with a lot tougher run defenses to face vs. 2021 are the Broncos, Steelers, Chiefs, Bengals and Browns.

The defenses with a lot simpler move offenses to face vs. 2021 are the Commanders, Ravens, Giants, Vikings and Cowboys.

The defenses with a lot tougher move offenses to face vs. 2021 are the Falcons, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Broncos and Panthers.

The defenses with a lot simpler run offenses to face vs. 2021 are the Colts, Bears, Vikings, Commanders and Patriots.

The defenses with a lot tougher run offenses to face vs. 2021 are the Broncos, Dolphins, Payments, Rams and Cowboys.

These top-five and bottom-five rankings may also help you whether or not you’re making an attempt to guess staff futures, participant futures and even draft your fantasy staff. (I rank all 32 groups for all of those classes and lots of extra in my full 2022 Soccer Preview)

10. Having a relaxation edge, notably late within the season, will be large.   

First, let’s discuss basic relaxation benefits.

This season, 93 out of 272 video games can be performed with one staff having a relaxation drawback. That’s up from 85 video games final season, representing 34% of the schedule, probably the most we’ve ever had.

The groups with the perfect internet relaxation (variety of days of extra relaxation than your opponent in a recreation, added up all through a season) are the Payments, Lions, Broncos, Cowboys and Buccaneers.

The groups with the worst internet relaxation are the Packers, Patriots, Texans, Jets and Saints.

Keep in mind, the NFL doesn’t determine who you play, however they 100% determine when you play them. 

Thus, the NFL and the NFL solely in the end decides the remainder edges and groups in powerful spots this season.

Let’s discuss a couple of fascinating schedule relaxation notes.

Bizarrely, the NFL made three groups every play 4 video games vs. opponents off of a “mini-bye.” This occurs whenever you play a staff coming off a Thursday night time recreation, in order that staff has three further days of prep and relaxation.

Final 12 months, no staff performed 4 opponents off of mini-byes. This 12 months, it’s occurring to 3 groups: the Commanders, Jets and Jaguars.

The Commanders remarkably play 4 video games with three-day relaxation disadvantages. 

In Week 10, the Commanders play the Eagles, who’re off a mini-bye after enjoying Thursday of Week 9. The identical occurs when Washington performs the Giants in Week 13 (NYG performs on Thanksgiving the prior week), the 49ers in Week 16 (S.F. performs on Thursday of Week 15) and the Cowboys in Week 18 (Dallas performs on Thursday of Week 17).

So, not solely is Washington enjoying 4 groups off mini-byes; they’re enjoying all 4 very late within the season.

This season, the Cowboys play six video games towards opponents who’ve lower than every week to organize for them.

Solely twice within the prior 30 seasons did a staff play six video games vs. opponents with lower than every week to organize. However now we now have one this 12 months.

No different staff performs greater than 4 video games like that in addition to Dallas. Consider, final season no different staff performed greater than 4 video games. 

The NFL common is 2.6 such video games per season.  

Shock groups for ’22

Surprise teams for '22

FOX Sports activities NFL analyst Eric Mangini identifies the Raiders and Eagles because the groups he predicts to shock in 2022.

There are 43 short-week street video games this season, up from 28 final 12 months. 

Like many schedule inequalities, these disproportionately harm dangerous or poorly coached groups. And like the remainder of the schedule inequalities talked about, a aim must be limiting the incidence of such conditions, not rising them.

Half of the Eagles’ eight street contests pressure them onto the street on quick relaxation. In the meantime, 21 groups play both zero or one quick week street recreation this season.

The 4 short-week street video games the Eagles have are probably the most for any staff previously 16 seasons.

Lastly, let’s have a look at a couple of particular relaxation spots you must circle and why.

House favorites of 3-10 factors since 2015 with a relaxation deficit have coated simply 40.8% ATS (143-game pattern) as a median of 5.5-point favorites.

Take a look at Week 7 for the Lions in Dallas, which falls into this case. Detroit is off a Week 6 bye, and the sport is in a dome, so there aren’t any climate considerations for Jared Goff. Dallas can be off back-to-back video games enjoying the Rams in Week 5 and the Eagles in Week 6. And the Lions are catching 7 factors as an underdog. Give me the Lions proper now.

One other recreation I’m circling that falls into this case? Take a look at Week 17 when the Vikings are getting 5.5 factors in Inexperienced Bay. Minnesota will play the Giants at dwelling on Saturday of Week 16 and have one further day of relaxation. The Packers can be off a Week 16 recreation in Miami on Sunday within the Florida warmth, and they’re already enjoying that recreation on quick relaxation, as they’ll play the Rams in Week 15 on Monday Evening Soccer. I’ll take the Vikings.

A ultimate relaxation edge spot, however one which you shouldn’t guess early, is available in Week 15 when the Raiders play host to the Patriots. You shouldn’t guess it now as a result of the Raiders can be off of two brutal opponents within the prior weeks — the Chargers and the Rams — so the unfold is prone to modify, providing you with extra worth after these two video games. 

The rationale you would possibly wish to guess it after Week 14? The Patriots play in Arizona on Monday night time that week. Arizona is off a bye for that recreation, that means the Cardinals can have a relaxation benefit. New England will keep out West for a couple of nights earlier than going to Las Vegas on a brief week and going through their second consecutive opponent with a big relaxation drawback. That’s as a result of the Raiders are off a mini-bye, enjoying the Thursday prior. Thus, in Week 14, the Raiders play on Thursday and the Patriots play on Monday. Then they meet in Las Vegas in Week 15. This recreation presents a superb relaxation edge for the Raiders.  

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 look forward to the numbers that may give you a betting edge. 

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