The NFL offseason brings a tremendous amount of change around teams, including players and coaching staff. The significant turnover amongst some teams make a difference in terms of NFL pace – statistics like plays per game, seconds per play and those stats split by time and score.
An example of team turnover affecting NFL pace may be a new offensive coordinator who wants his new offense to play faster than the previous one – or slower.
Let’s examine teams’ projected pace of play in 2022 to forecast which offenses will and will not be running a lot of plays this year. This data may shed light on which teams will be playing in higher scoring/lower scoring games and ultimately give us an edge in betting Week 1 totals.
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Teams Projected Near Top of NFL Pace of Play
Teams like the Chiefs, Cowboys and Chargers are essentially locked in to finish near the top of the league in pace and play volume in 2022. Each offense’s approach is well-established, and all finished inside the top five in plays per game last year and seconds per play in situation neutral situations, according to Football Outsiders.
The below teams offer less certainty heading into 2022, perhaps due to a coaching change or publicly-stated philosophy change. Digging deeper into the data may give us an edge over what sportsbooks are projecting for Week 1 point totals.
Week 1 vs. Cleveland: Over/Under
Panthers Team Total: Over/Under 21.5 (-108)
After the 2020 Panthers produced the seventh-fewest snaps per game, head coach Matt Rhule sped up and yielded more play volume in 2021. Carolina deployed the 15th-fastest offense. Having arguably the league’s worst quarterback play in 2021 resulted in a dumpster fire that scored the fourth-fewest points and ranked dead last in yards per play. Expect the offense to be run differently in 2022 under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. Relying more on newly-acquired quarterback Baker Mayfield seems likely under McAdoo, based on his previous coaching tendencies.
During McAdoo’s time as the Giants’ offensive coordinator and head coach, New York operated at a lightning-fast pace. Their no-huddle rates ranked first, second, second, and second while he oversaw Eli Manning’s late-career shell of himself. New York’s offense wasn’t great with their aging quarterback but maintained no worse than middle-of-the-pack play volume while finishing fourth and 10th in McAdoo’s first and final seasons, respectively. With an ascending offensive line and good pass-catching talent, including a healthy Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers could produce just a little more than we’ve already seen out of Mayfield. If so, the McAdoo pace bump will make Carolina an under-the-radar scoring-friendly environment.
What is NFL EPA? Expected Points Added is another advanced stat to know before betting on the NFL.Editor’s Note
Week 1 at New York Jets: Over/Under
Ravens Team Total: Over/Under 26
Baltimore picked a first-round center, two more tight ends, and a running back in the 2022 draft. They freed up nearly 200 targets with the departure of Hollywood Brown and Sammy Watkins and didn’t feel the need to invest much more in the position. It’s hard to argue against the viewpoint that last year’s league leaders in plays per game will be returning to their run-heavy roots in 2022.
Further driving home that point was their poor game script in 2021, mainly due to the Ravens’ pass defense being injured and awful. An depleted secondary led to a bottom-five PFF pass coverage grade and an NFL-high 74 completions of 20-plus yards allowed. Opponents quickly flipped the field, and the Ravens were back to racking up offensive plays with a decidedly pass-happier approach.
Baltimore’s 56% pass rate crushed their previous two years (43%), mainly because they were losing. The Ravens trailed on a league-low 22% of plays in 2019 and 2020. Last year, that rate doubled to 46% of their snaps.
With a healthier and reinforced secondary, that shouldn’t happen again, and neither will the Ravens’ elevated pass rate. That could result in games with fewer possessions.
Week 1 vs. Patriots: Over/Under
Dolphins Team Total: Over/Under 24
It remains to be seen whether or not the 2022 Dolphins will genuinely be down in NFL pace, like new head coach Mike McDaniel’s 49ers were. All signs point at the 2022 Dolphins taking a noticeable step back from last year’s pace.
Miami played fast and produced significant play volume in 2021. They ranked top 10 in snaps per game. While the efficiency was lacking, the opportunity was there from a play-volume standpoint.
A coaching change to the former 49ers OC and run-game coordinator McDaniel threatens the Dolphins’ elevated snap counts from 2021. McDaniel was the driver of San Francisco’s ground-based, slow-paced approach. With him, they were the 30th and 31st-fastest offense over the past two years. San Francisco ranked 29th in pass attempts per game in 2021 (Miami was eighth).
The Dolphins averaged just above 20 points per game in 2021.