About Warren Sharp

Warren Sharp of SharpFootballAnalysis.com is an industry pioneer at the forefront of incorporating advanced analytics and metrics into football analysis. A licensed Professional Engineer by trade, Warren applies the same critical thought process and problem solving techniques into his passion, football. After spending years constructing, testing and perfecting computer models written to understand the critical elements to win NFL football games, Warren’s quantitative analytics are used in private consulting work, and elements of which are publicly shared on SharpFootballAnalysis.com. To contact Warren, please email [email protected] or send a direct message on Twitter to @SharpFootball.

Quickly Improve Red Zone Efficiency through Personnel Groupings and Play Calling

By Warren Sharp

The NFL is a passing league. So, it may sound counterintuitive, but I’ve mentioned for several years now that running the ball in the red zone is a way to steal efficiency. That is because most defenses fear the pass in that area of the field. And as Sun Tzu preached in The Art of War:

“Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected… You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.”

It’s for good reason they fear the pass, because teams are now 55% pass inside the red zone. Over 56% of the time, teams line up in traditional 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) inside the red zone, and they pass 65% of the time in these situations. However, even in 11 personnel, as we will discuss, running the football results in a double digit increase to success rate.

Running the ball is more efficient in the red zone, whether in short yardage or not. As I wrote in my 2017 Football Preview. In the red zone on 3rd or 4th and short, teams call pass just over 55% of the time, but a run in these situations produces a 12% success rate gain. Additionally, while over half of the pass attempts were unsuccessful, 8% resulted in turnovers or sacks, whereas there were zero turnovers on the run plays.

I’ll present the data on production from various personnel packages to see where the edges lie. Then we’ll dive into a grouping that is primarily used at the goal line, and discuss optimal play calling vs what teams typically do instead.

RED ZONE SUCCESS BY PLAY TYPE AND FORMATION

Teams pass the ball far too often in the red zone. As mentioned earlier, teams pass the ball 55% of the time overall. Inside the 10, it becomes a 50/50 split. And inside the 5, teams run the ball 55% of the time.

Yet regardless of the distance, RB runs in the red zone are successful far more often than any passes (to all positions).

WS25Jul17-01-1

[For the purposes of this analysis, I am removing QB runs, as QBs have an inherent edge to be successful in extreme short-yardage rushing due to their position on the field, as well as their ability to scramble on broken plays.]

This rushing efficiency translates not just to certain formations. For example, don’t think that rushing is more effective because in the red zone and as team’s approach the end zone, they suddenly shift into more compact formations which are far more effective:

The NFL average is 60% 11 personnel over the entire field. On pass plays, that jumps to 69%. And in the red zone, from the 3 yard line out to the 20, teams still use 11 personnel on pass plays 68% of the time, nearly identical to its usage over the field as a whole. The only sudden change is from 1-2 yards out from the end zone, when teams use 11 personnel on just 46% of their attempts (teams pass from a lot more 13 and 22 than over the rest of the field).

And even from these 11 personnel groupings, simply running the football instead of passing it would lead to much more success. Particularly when edging closer to the end zone. It’s not a slight improvement, it’s nearly 20% more successful to run the ball than to pass the ball from 3+ WR formations inside the 5 yard line.

WS25Jul17-02

Now allow us to compare rushing vs receiving from a variety of personnel groupings inside the red zone. As we can see, the efficiency edge for rushing the ball in this area of the field is not solely limited to 11 personnel. Play success in general increases as the ball gets closer to the end zone, because fewer yards are needed to qualify for a play to be successful. For instance: On the 20, on first and 10 the play needs to generate at least 4 yards to qualify as successful. On first and goal from the 5, that play needs to generate only 2 yards to qualify as successful.

As the next graphic shows, indeed rushing is more efficient regardless of the formation. A key takeaway from this graphic is the counterintuitive nature of wide receivers for passing in this area of the field. All passes are more successful from the red zone with fewer wide receivers on the field.

As I just mentioned, teams tend to stay in 11 personnel (3+ WRs) from the 20 up to the 3 yard line just as frequently as they do over the rest of the field. But the reality is that such formations tend to be mistakes. Passing out of 1 WR formations typically means 22 or 13 personnel. Inside the 10, for example, these passes have a 49% success rate. But targets to the TE from these formations have a massive 60% success rate, which is even stronger than rushing the ball in this scenario. [Perhaps in a future article I’ll discuss optimal positional targets in the red zone, based on personnel groupings.]

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OVERALL TAKEAWAYS

The NFL is all about deception.  It’s about creating edges and attacking weak points.  Just because passing is more efficient than rushing over most of the field, that does not mean it continues to be so inside the red zone.  Rushing out of any formation is more efficient than passing, but balance is key.  Aligning in a formation which allows a team to pass or run, and will enable them to stay on schedule is a big edge.  That way, a team won’t find itself in 3rd and long or medium inside the red zone, leaving their only play call a pass to record a first down and avoid a costly field goal attempt.

If deciding to pass, particularly near the end zone, personnel groupings with fewer WRs and more TEs deliver substantially more efficient results.  And this makes perfect sense.  A team’s #3 DB against a #3 WR has less ground to cover and the #3 WR is less likely to get open quickly, which is how most passes in confined spaces need to be delivered.  However, a team’s #2 TE working his body positioning against a LB who doesn’t typically cover TEs often, let alone in confined spaces, is a massive edge.
JUMBO PERSONNEL

Some teams will load up in “jumbo” personnel, featuring no WRs, and use 3 TEs, a FB and a RB to try to gain short yardage near the goal line. How successful is this?

First let’s back up and discuss full-field jumbo packages. RB runs out of jumbo on 3rd or 4th down and 1 are successful 43% of the time. Compare that to RB runs with at least one wide receiver on the field in those same situations, which are successful 69% of the time, and you can see why it’s not particularly smart to trot on your jumbo personnel. Particularly because it gives zero threat to pass on 3rd or 4th down. [removing goal line plunge jumbo entirely, the RB success rates are 14% better in non-jumbo as opposed to 26% better from the 1 yard line, but this could be due to lower sample size producing higher variance.] Even the Patriots, who are one of the most efficient teams in the NFL, were 30% more successful (80%) when running their RB with at least one WR on the field on 3rd/4th down and 1 than they were when running their BR from jumbo formation.

So we’ve established that RB-runs from jumbo formations were successful just 43% of the time on 3rd or 4th down and short. On the 1 yard line, RB-runs from jumbo formations were successful just 38% of the time. And when in jumbo formation on the 1 yard line on 3rd/4th down, teams would run the ball 86% of the time. The few passes they attempted were never successful (0% success rate).

Add 1 wide receiver to give more of a threat to pass, and RB runs posted a 45% success rate (up from 38% without a WR). While teams primarily still ran the ball (79% run), passes became much more successful at 57% (up from 0% without a WR).

Add another wide receiver to place two on the field, and suddenly we’re at peak efficiency. RB runs posted a 73% success rate. And while teams were still run heavy (71% run), passes were 100% successful, with each pass recording a TD.

When teams added at least one more wide receiver, to play 3+ WRs on the 1 on 3rd or 4th down, the strategy switched to passing the ball, but that was a mistake. Teams ran on only 40% of attempts, much less than the 71% with 2 WRs or 79% with 1 WR. But these runs were much more successful than the passes: 60% of the RB runs were successful, while only 40% of all passes were successful.

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What has this shown us regarding jumbo formations? A few key takeaways:

1) Jumbo formations are terrible in these situations. Stop coaches from using them, and feel free to shudder any time you see one trot onto the field on 3rd/4th down from the 1 yard line.
2) The optimal play from the one yard-line on 3rd or 4th down is a run play, but the formation is more key than the actual play call.
3) The optimal formation is 2 wide receivers, using either 12 or 21 personnel. RB-runs out of these formations are the best of any grouping, delivering a 73% success rate. In part this formation is successful because it delivers enough illusion for a pass. However, passes are also extremely successful from 12 or 21 personnel.
4) If a team wants to pass the ball, they should not add more wide receivers in hopes of playing “find the open man” thanks to more options. Passing out of 3+ WRs is a terrible strategy in this situation. However, rushing with a RB is successful 60% of the time, an extremely palatable rate.

Guest Post – Under Pressure: Four Quarterbacks Bound to Outperform or Underperform Their 2016 Season

By Connor Allen

Defensive pressure affects every quarterback differently. Players like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson hardly break a sweat, while Ryan Tannehill becomes an entirely different player. Scott Barrett of PFF produced a chart that looked at every quarterback and their passer rating when under pressure compared to when they have a clean pocket in 2016. Combining this with Warren Sharp’s projected strength of schedule tool led to finding four quarterbacks who should perform better or worse than they did in 2016.

Cam Newton had a tough 2016. After being crowned the MVP in 2015, the expectations had never been higher for the former first overall pick. He was getting his top receiver in Kelvin Benjamin back from injury and had just led the Panthers to the Super Bowl.  Unfortunately as most of us know, he went on to have a career worst in completion percentage, passing touchdown percentage, yards per pass attempt, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. Beyond assuming a natural regression to his career average, Cam Newton should rebound closer to his MVP season than most think.

CA01 - 01Throughout his career Cam Newton has been significantly worse when under pressure and that continued last year as he was the 5th most pressure affected quarterback in the NFL. He was under pressure a whopping 38% of the time in 2016 posting a 90.9 passer rating with a clean pocket but only a 44.4 passer rating when under pressure. However in 2017, I expect him to have a cleaner pocket much more often. Using Warren Sharp’s strength of schedule tools you can see that the Panthers opposing schedule should make Cam Newton very excited.

Their schedule gets easier in terms of opposing pass rushes (17th to 24th hardest) which is big for Cam because he should be under pressure less often. It also gets easier in pass defense efficiency (6th hardest to 30th hardest), and yards per pass allowed (21st hardest to 32nd).

Looking at a mixture of all these factors including explosive pass defense that Warren Sharp calls “Pass Blend”, you can see not only is Carolina’s schedule the easiest, but the easiest by a wide margin:CA01 - 02

Essentially, Cam Newton should have more time to throw, have an easier time completing passes, and throw deep more often. This is also assuming the run game remains stagnant. The Panthers just drafted Christian McCaffrey 8th overall and should get him heavily involved in their game plan. McCaffrey should be a huge asset to Cam because he is a great pass-catcher and is bound to improve the Panthers running back rushing success rate which was 27th in the league last year. Beyond helping the running game, the threat of screens to McCaffrey and delayed routes out of the backfield should keep opposing linebackers from blitzing as often. The Panthers also added Curtis Samuel in the 2nd round, a slot wide receiver that will help take pressure off Cam giving him a second explosive option underneath.

Another quarterback who should rebound from a poor 2016 is Blake Bortles. Bortles is affected heavily by pressure; he had a passer rating of 90 with a clean pocket, and a 40.97 passer rating under pressure.  Similarly to Cam, his schedule of opposing pass defenses also gets significantly easier in 2017. Bortles saw pressure 33% of the time in 2016 but goes from facing the 7th toughest pass rushes last year to the 21st this next year. This significant drop in strength of schedule should help him see pressure less often.CA01 - 03

Beside pressure Bortles schedule gets easier in terms of; pass efficiency defense (17th to 24th hardest), Yards per pass attempt (16th-17th), and explosive pass defense (8th-19th). This combination gives him the 13th easiest pass defense blend in 2017.

Looking at the roster, Bortles still has a very talented receiving corps with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marquise Lee that could support his ascension. The Jaguars addressed some of their biggest needs in the draft this year as well. They drafted Leonard Fournette with the 4th overall pick which should help their 28th ranked RB rushing success rate from 2016. In the second round they drafted Cam Robinson who some made the case for as the top offensive tackle in the draft. Robinson should be able to slide into left tackle and be an improvement over Branden Albert who received a PFF grade of 42.2 last season. The Jaguars are going to try and make Bortles into more of a game manager with a run-heavy, ball-control scheme, and for Bortles that should help his efficiency immensely. While I don’t expect Bortles to become a top 5 quarterback anytime soon, an emergence into the top 15 wouldn’t surprise me.

Shifting our attention to two quarterbacks who may struggle in 2017, Andy Dalton leads the way. Dalton had a passer rating of 102.5 with a clean pocket, and a 57.1 passer rating when under pressure. He was only under pressure 29% of the time last year, but I expect this to change for a lot of reasons.

For starters, the Bengals lost two elite offensive linemen. Andrew Whitworth, their starting LT, was graded as the 26th best player in the league by PFF. You read that right, PLAYER, not just offensive lineman. They also lost Kevin Zietler, PFF’s 7th best guard in the NFL.

To make matters worse, the Bengals have the biggest increase in the NFL in difficulty of pass rushes they will face from 2016 to 2017 (24th to 5th hardest). To wrap up the terror that could be 2017, the Bengals also play against the 8th hardest blend of pass defenses.CA01 - 04

Trying to find a bright spot, opposing pass defense efficiency gets easier, from 8th hardest to 19th. Unfortunately for Dalton and the Bengals offense this hasn’t mattered as Dalton’s splits in games against pass defenses in the bottom half of the league are relatively small. In fact, in his career he has actually thrown for more yards against teams with better pass defenses.

The Bengals drafted John Ross 9th overall which would be a great asset if Dalton had time to throw deep, but with the losses on the line and tougher strength of schedule it may not happen as often as he’d like. They continued attempting to add playmakers in Joe Mixon and Josh Reynolds in the 2nd and 4th rounds but somehow didn’t address the offensive line at all. Dalton still has A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert which should help, but without time to throw Andy Dalton has shown that he will struggle.CA01 - 05

Philly was ready to crown Carson Wentz their savior after the first three weeks of the season as the Eagles dominated the Browns, Bears, and Steelers.  A media member even claimed, “(Wentz) is Peyton Manning pre-snap, he’s Aaron Rodgers post-snap.” After finishing the season 4-9 those kinds of comparisons aren’t being thrown around anymore. Part of the reason is because Wentz was awful under pressure, posting the second biggest difference between pressure and no pressure QBR in the league. He was pressured on 30% of his pass attempts last year posting a woeful passer rating of 32.8. Comparing this to when he had a clean pocket he had a respectable passer rating of 94.4.

This is bad news for the “Wentz Wagon” as he plays the 7th hardest schedule of opposing pass-rushers, 3 spots harder than last year. But beyond being under pressure more next year, Wentz has a huge jump in the strength of opposing pass defenses. In 2016 he played against the 20th hardest opposing pass defenses, in 2017 he has to face the 6th hardest. Contrary to Andy Dalton, the toughness of opposing secondary’s greatly mattered to Wentz last season.CA01 - 06

The key to me in these splits is the touchdown and interception categories. Against teams ranked in the top 13 in pass defense he averaged 1.5 Interceptions and only half a touchdown per game. Compare this to every other team where he averaged 1.3 touchdowns per game and only half an interception.

Unfortunately for Wentz he has to play half of his games in 2017 against secondary’s ranked in the top 13. The first six weeks he has to play five teams in the top 3rd of the league in defensive pass efficiency. It could be a slow start for Wentz and the Eagles in 2017 and if their passing offense loses confidence they may not be able to rebound. A key addition of Alshon Jeffery should help Wentz giving him a true #1, but one Wide Receiver may struggle to carry a pass offense.CA01 - 07

 

SUMMARY

In summary, I expect Cam Newton to have a bounce-back year. He’s proven that he’s a great quarterback before, especially without pressure and against bad defenses. Blake Bortles is looked at as a bust currently but the perception should change this year. With the Jaguars coaching change, team mentality, addressing their needs through the draft, and playing a much easier schedule, Bortles should play better. People will be raving about Andy Dalton’s weapons all offseason and forget the Bengals lost their two star offensive lineman. Yet Dalton isn’t a good quarterback under pressure, something he is bound to see more of. Carson Wentz isn’t Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers at any point during a play and that will be definitive this year. Eagles fans may be jumping out of the “Wentz Wagon” after the first six weeks of the season.

About the author:  Connor Allen was crowned co-winner of the Sharp Football Stats 2017 Writing Contest.  He will share articles featuring his analysis throughout the 2017 NFL season.

Guest Post – 2017 Season Outlook: Cincinnati Bengals

By Anthony Staggs

The Cincinnati Bengals recently went through an offensive overhaul over the last two seasons. Before the 2016 season Hue Jackson left to take the head job with the Cleveland Browns and Ken Zampese, previously the team’s quarterback coach for the past 13 seasons, was left with the keys to the car. Last offseason also saw notable wide outs Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu leave the organization with little replacement in sight. Since then, the organization faltered to a 6-9-1 record and missed the playoffs for the first time in Andy Dalton’s career. After the season the Bengals lost their two best offensive linemen in free agency and nearly half of their offense had been turned over in the last two seasons.

To rectify that the Bengals front office spent significant draft capital on the offensive skill positions, using three of their top-five picks on John Ross, Joe Mixon, and Josh Malone. Can these three players reshape the offensive side of the ball enough to bring Cincinnati back to the playoffs? Well, let’s examine how they fit into this offense and help reshape it and affect the player’s remaining such as A.J. Green and Andy Dalton.

OFFENSIVE SCHEME

Setting the stage for the Bengals is their offensive philosophy. Over the last three seasons prior to last year, the Bengals averaged 25 points a game, scoring 26.2 in 2015. In 2016, that fell to just 20.3 points per game as both A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert suffered through injuries at different points in the season. Zampese picked up the pace last season running 1,050 plays compared to an average of 1,011 plays over the previous two seasons. The Bengals have run the ball more than league average over the last three seasons, averaging 469 run plays over the last three seasons for a run rate of nearly 46%. Cincinnati was about league average running 62% of their plays out of the shotgun in 2016. When they lined up under center, the offense was predictable, running the ball on 76% of plays, the third highest rate in the league. While in shotgun the team was much closer to league average, but called a passing play 79% of the time. Cincinnati should hope adding an effective spread runner like Joe Mixon makes their offense more multiple in terms of play calling. Like most teams in the league Marvin Lewis’ team deployed the 11 set most often, deploying it 71% of the time. The second most used offensive formation was the 12 set which they deployed 20% of the time.

RUNNING BACKS

Joe Mixon joins a backfield with Jeremy Hill, who has seen staggering consistency of carries over his first three seasons in the league finishing 222, 223, and 222 carries, and Gio Bernard who is returning from a torn ACL suffered in Week 11 last season. Jeremy Hill has faltered since an impressive rookie season, but has been an effective redzone back. Gio Bernard, should he return fully healthy brings strength in the receiving game as well as a change of pace, when teams around the league say they want a thunder and lighting approach at running back, the Bengals used to be one everyone emulated. Now the infusion of Joe Mixon provides a mix of both players, allowing them to do and call more when he is on the field. Mixon is a 228 pound runner with 4.45 speed and wide receiver like hands. The guy can literally do everything that an NFL team looks for, likely cutting into the workload of each running back currently on the roster. Mixon’s most important job will be increasing the rushing success on first down after Hill stammered to 393 yards on 131 carries and just four runs of ten yards or more. Hill also really struggled to get around the edges, averaging just 1.65 yards per carry on the edges. Hill has proven to be an effective redzone rusher totaling 25 rushing touchdowns on 113 carries for 309 yards inside the 20 since entering the league, so Hill could retain a presence as the teams short-yardage goalline back.

AS01 - Bengals RBs

In the receiving game, Gio has a clear edge over Hill, but will have his work cut out for him fending off Mixon, who averaged 13.8 yards per reception on 65 catches in his college career. The Bengals have targeted their running backs in the pass game on 19.3% of passes over the last three years, and should hover around league average ball distribution should everyone be healthy. 115-125 targets is not outside of the realm of possibilities for Gio and Joe to split in their first season as a tandem. Much like the Panthers, if the Bengals can be creative in their play calling, by getting different combinations of these backs on the field at the same time, this offense can prove to be one of the most dynamic in the NFL.

RUNNING BACK PROJECTIONS

Unfortunately for those in fantasy leagues, this looks like a split backfield, and without an injury or a surprise rise to power, each running back will likely have a role.

Jeremy Hill: 137 rushes 535 yards and eight rushing touchdowns, seven receptions on 12 targets for 54 yards and zero touchdowns.

Gio Bernard: 115 rushes for 511 yards and two rushing touchdowns, 42 receptions on 55 targets for 335 yards and two touchdowns.

Joe Mixon: 141 rushes for 647 yards and four touchdowns, 37 receptions on 49 targets for 319 yards and two touchdowns.

WIDE RECEIVERS

A.J. Green is one of the top-five wide receivers in the league, and a player with a multitude of skillsets as he can win quickly with his precise route running or down the field with long speed and supreme body control when attacking the football in the air. Since entering the league back in 2011, Green has averaged nearly 9.5 targets per game and will continue to be the focal point of the passing game as he enters his prime years. Green will get the benefit of playing with the premier lid lifter of the 2017 Draft, who you may have heard, set the combine record in the 40 yard dash (since the league began using electronic timing) in Indianapolis. Green should be expected to gobble up between 26-30% percent of the target share again this season.

The second most targeted wide receiver in the Bengals offense since A.J. green has entered the league has averaged 95 targets a season, with a low of 80 coming in 2012 and 2013, and a high of 107 set by Brandon LaFell last year, albeit with Green missing some time. John Ross could step in and be the immediate number two and soak up those targets, but it is more likely that the remaining wide receiver targets are distributed at a fairly even rate between the recently re-signed LaFell, second year Tyler Boyd, and the aforementioned Ross. Each receiver is of a different archetype and affects the game in different ways, so expect to see some plays designed for each as the season opens. The Bengals struggled with their passes to the deep right, and hopefully the injection of John Ross can help them get back to their 2015 levels in which they were one of the best deep passing teams in the league. All this and not even a mention of Josh Malone who some believe was one of the more underrated receivers in this years draft. Cincinnati’s crew of wide receivers looks much deeper and improved from where they were just a few weeks ago.

AS01 - Bengals WRs

WIDE RECEIVER PROJECTIONS:

A.J. Green: 93 receptions on 149 targets for 1,262 yards and eight touchdowns.

John Ross: 41 receptions on 75 targets for 702 yards and four touchdowns.

Tyler Boyd: 45 reception on 71 targets for 465 yards and three touchdowns.

TIGHT ENDS

Tyler Eifert is one of the best pass catching tight ends in the league when healthy, unfortunately for Bengal fans that just hasn’t happened very much in his career. Eifert has shown to be a redzone machine over the last two seasons with 18 touchdowns over his last 21 games played. Eifert should continue to have a big role in the redzone, but his overall target share seems unlikely to cross 17% on his own. Over the last three seasons, the Bengals have targeted their tight end on 19.4% of passing attempts. Eifert will be a touchdown dependent player because of his lack of projectable targets on a weekly basis. With all the new additions to the passing game it is also unlikely that Eifert spends a lot of time in the slot, which he has over the previous two seasons. The depth at tight end features raw players like Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah who did most of his damage last season out of the slot as well.

TIGHT END PROJECTIONS

Tyler Eifert: 60 receptions on 83 targets for 637 yards and eight touchdowns.

QUARTERBACK

Finally we reach the apex, and the player who may be the most excited of any Bengal after seeing how his team spent the final days in April, Andy Dalton. Andy looks primed to be an undervalued asset in fantasy leagues with all the talent around him this season. Dalton is in line for some positive touchdown regression as he posted the lowest touchdown rate of his career. With all the new weapons and the dimensions they bring to this offense, Dalton could be in store for the most efficient season of his career. With a burner like Ross in the fold and a dynamic runner like Mixon now in the fold, the Bengals can now stretch the field horizontally as well as vertically, making defenders have to respect the offense from sideline to sideline.

Dalton passed for the second most yards of his career and has lowered his interception percentage to one of best levels in the NFL over the last two seasons. The Red Rifle also brings a small run threat to the game that he has showcased on read option plays while in the NFL and his college system featured heavy use of the inverted veer, so Zampese can be creative in his boot actions and run scheme with Dalton under center. While the players on the perimeter look much improved the guys in the trenches look noticeably worse since the end of last season. Dalton took the second most sacks of his career last season as the offensive line allowed 41 sacks. Should Dalton get heat like this or even greater again is when we will see the deficiencies in his game, Dalton suffers the most when not afforded a clean pocket.

QUARTERBACK PROJECTIONS

Andy Dalton: 355 completions on 547 attempts for 4,017 yards and a touchdown to interception ratio of 29 to 13, 63 rush attempts for 153 yards and two rushing touchdowns.

The Bengals offense has gone through a face lift over the last two seasons and it is now in the hands of Ken Zampese to bring this offense together. Cincinnati has the players to mix and match personnel and attack a defense’s weakness much like the Patriots do on a weekly basis. A spread quick passing game with deep passing elements to show off John Ross’ and A.J. Green’s vertical pass catching will provide a fun team to watch on Sunday’s. Joe Mixon’s ability to run out of the shotgun and motion out to wide receiver at a moment’s notice makes this offense much more multiple than they were during the 2016 season. With the offensive line the biggest question mark as it pertains to this offense, expect a number of quick passes to be drawn up for their playmakers in order to keep the heat off Dalton. With an improvement scoring touchdowns in the redzone, Cincinnati could again put a top-10 offense on the field.

About the author:  Anthony Staggs was crowned co-winner of the Sharp Football Stats 2017 Writing Contest.  He will share articles featuring his analysis throughout the 2017 NFL season.