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Sunday's Best

Week 16 Details, Angles and Edges

by Warren Sharp
Updated On: December 25, 2020, 5:47 pm ET

Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers

The lookahead on this game was the Steelers -2.5.  But then the Steelers lost outright as a large 14+ point favorite on primetime TV.  

When this line reopened on Tuesday morning, the Colts were a soft 3-point favorite.

That line was quickly bought back as being wrong by preceptive bettors who believed this was too large an over-adjustment.

For that reason, this line is sitting with the Colts favored by only 1.5 points.

Pittsburgh has become far too predictable offensively.  It’s like watching a terrible card trick, where you’re waiting for the prestige at the end - something incredible - but there’s nothing.

What you see is what you get.  

The Steelers Offense is the anti-Kyle Shanahan offense.  

Defenders are jumping routes daring the Steelers to hold the ball and throw deep, knowing if they do, it’s bound to be inaccurate far more often than it is completed for a big gain.  And without the ability to run the football nor the desire to use play action, linebackers can play a major role in the short passing attack against the Steelers Defense.

The Colts Defense has looked worse of late, but has also played nothing but top-15 offenses for 6 straight games.

At one point this season, the Steelers was in that category, but they are now borderline bottom-10 in season-long efficiency, and their trending data is obviously worse.

One thing to watch for in this game is the Steelers Defense when they blitz.  They blitz at the second highest rate of any team in the NFL and Philip Rivers has dominated against the blitz and pressure, responding extremely well in those situations.



Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints

I have no idea why Sean Payton utilized the game plan he did last week against the Chiefs.  It was perplexing to say the least.  The Saints were terrible – Drew Brees was struggling – and I don’t know how they didn’t get Alvin Kamara more involved.

Brees completed just 5 of 15 passes thrown 5+ air yards downfield, -0.01 EPA, 33% success rate

In his 3 games prior to his injury, he completed 38 of 49 of these passes (5+ air yards), for +0.60 EPA/att, 67% success and a 10.1 YPA.

We know that the Vikings want to run but will be going up against one of the best run defenses in the NFL.  Just 8.7% of the carries against New Orleans have gone for 10 or more yards, the second-lowest rate in the league.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions

I was optimistic we would see an improved Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the bye.

But they didn’t score a single first quarter point in either game.  It has now been four straight games since the Buccaneers scored a point in the first quarter.

Only two other teams in the NFL went four straight games without scoring a single point in the first quarter:  the 6-8 New England Patriots and the 4-10 Houston Texans.

And now the 9-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers achieved that same feat.

The last two weeks on first downs in the first half, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still are 55% run

These runs are gaining just 2.0 YPC with a 17% success rate

It’s the second worst ground production in the NFL

They had 10 first down plays in the first half last week and averaged 1 yard gained.  

They didn’t gain a single first down.

Over the last 2 weeks, they’ve had 22 first down plays in the first half of games.  Only 2 actually gained 10 yards to get another first down, and their overall first down plays gained a total of 2.7 yards.

The Bucs should be thankful that they faced the Vikings two weeks ago and their terrible play calls and missed kicks, or that game is close.  The Bucs should be thankful that the Falcons are the Falcons.  

But they absolutely need to pick things up quickly because the bye that was supposed to help clearly left this team with many unanswered questions.

Fortunately, they play the Lions, who have one of the NFL’s worst defenses and an offense with many unanswered questions of their own.  The Lions are allowing a league-high 71.2% completion rate on targets to opposing wide receivers, which will make life extremely easy for Tom Brady.

Warren Sharp

Warren Sharp is a football and betting analyst for NBC Sports. As a leading voice in football analytics, Warren writes a yearly book previewing the upcoming season from all angles at his Sharp Football Analysis website. You can follow Warren Sharp on Twitter @SharpFootball.