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No football team is perfect. And even some of the best crews in 2020 have weaknesses that are likely to be their undoing.
No matter how good a football squad are likely to be, it’s almost impossible for one to be flawless. And in the parity-loving NFL, the margins between the good and the great crews are usually slim. Entering the 2020 regular season’s halfway point, there is one unbeaten squad; one one-loss team; six two-loss units; and seven three-loss crews. All of them are in the thick of the playoff illustration, but one disappointment, especially with time one bye-bye up for grabs in each meet, could be big. The three units held for the best record in the NFC( Saints, Seahawks and Packers) are only one sport in the loss column ahead of the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place units in the conference( Buccaneers, Cardinals and Rams ). Four units in the AFC are currently 5-3 and combating for the conference’s final two playoff recognises, hitherto are a victory away from jumping to fourth place.
All of these teams do many things well–but nothing are excellent. With the playoff picture taking shape, all it takes is one misstep to doom a team’s postseason risks. With that in knowledge, here are the biggest publishes facing each challenger as the season participates its second half.
Bills( 7-2 ): Josh Allen’s old garbs
The Bills’ third-year quarterback remains paradoxical. He started the season looking like an MVP candidate, then cooled off against the Titans and Chiefs. Even against relatively weak defenses in the Plane and Patriots, he completed 67 percent of his succumbs for 461 yards , no touchdowns, and one interception. It is suggested that as more securities employed softer zone coverages, Allen began to struggle again. A matchup against the Seahawks cured him rebound, but that was expected against one of the most difficult statistical pass defenses in NFL history. Eight activities in, it’s clear that Allen has improved dramatically from his first two seasons and that he’s capable of playing at a taunt level–but he’s likewise capable of departing coldnes at the wrong times.
The problem might be that the Bills are reliant on Allen. Perhaps they’re not as is contingent upon him as the Seahawks are on Russell Wilson, but Buffalo’s two overthrows( Titans and Chiefs) came in rivalry when Allen exhibited the same antsy, turnover-prone bents that disturbed him in his first two seasons. The Bills defense did enough against Kansas City to keep them in the game, but Tennessee hammered their protection, which participated Week 9 ranked 23 rd in Football Outsiders’s defensive DVOA ratings–a significant drop from the no. 7 recognise they held in 2019. Without a top-tier defense to bail the pique out, Allen falling into old-fashioned wonts “couldve been” catastrophic for Buffalo.
The Bills have gone as Allen has gone–he’s hitherto to have a miraculous competition when it wasn’t fairly for Buffalo to acquire. So long as Allen doesn’t indulge in his past inconsistent practices, the Bills will be able to compete with anyone. But Buffalo’s success remainders mightily with a participate who hasn’t yet shown he can be consistent, and that should obsess Monies fans.
Buccaneers( 6-3 ): Chemistry and inconsistency
After 20 seasons with the Patriots, Tom Brady attached a new squad and chose a new method for the first time in his career. No preseason games and an abbreviated offseason prevented him from getting perfectly acquainted with his new ours. Considering Brady is 43 year olds, this was bound to impact his success, and that’s been apparent. Yet while there have been inconsistent carries-on from the Buccaneer pique this year, there have been some very strong indicates, too.
It’s became for the purposes of an uneven first half. One week, Brady and Co. look great against the Packers. The next, they’re scraping by against the Heavyweight and glancing hapless against the Saints.
Tampa Bay plummeted -1 1.7% DVOA this week. That’s the biggest week-to-week drop ever for a No. 1 team in Week 8 or later.
— Aaron Schatz (@ FO_ASchatz) November 9, 2020
Tampa Bay has the makeup of a championship squad, but hasn’t been able to consistently play at an privileged elevation. That induce appreciation earlier in the season, but at this detail, it’s concerning. It’s difficult to diagnose the exact problem. Brady’s completion rate( 65.3 percent) is right around his profession median( 63.9) and is 0.3 higher than expected, per Next Gen Stats. Brady’s target distribution reveals that among close-fisted dissolves and receivers, he’s shown rapport with Cameron Brate( caught 83.3 percentage of targets ), Tyler Johnson ( 83.3 percentage ), and Chris Godwin ( 80 percentage ). But Brady is completing less than 70 percent of his extends when targeting Mike Evans( 65.4 percent ), Justin Watson( 63.6 percent ), Scotty Miller( 63.4 percentage ), Antonio Brown( 60 percent ), and Rob Gronkowski( 58.7 percent ), who came out of retirement after a year away. Of this group, only Evans, Gronkowski, and Miller( the team’s three rulers in targets) have played all nine games. At days, Brady has appeared in sync with his collection of targets and shined, but there are still instants when Brady doesn’t appear to be on the same page as other players.
Health has been a concern extremely , not only within the receiving detachments( Godwin and Miller were on Tampa’s injury across previous weeks, and Gronkowski was nursing a shoulder hurt the week before ), but along the offensive word as well. Starting left ward Ali Marpet didn’t play against New Orleans because of a concussion, and starting left attack Donovan Smith combated a knee hurt through the early weeks of the season. The Bucs’ O-line, like each of its position groups, is performing inconsistently this year, even against four-man pressure 😛 TAGEND
The Saints 4-man pass hasten terrorized Tom Brady, with 3 sacks and 13 stress on 26 dropbacks( 50.0% push frequency ). David Onyemata 7 press on 29 pass moves( 24.1%) Trey Hendrickson 7 pressures, 2 sackings on 25 pass runs( 28.0%) #NOvsTB | #Saints
— Next Gen Stats (@ NextGenStats) November 9, 2020
The Bucs are one of the NFL’s best-constructed rosters. But they are still figuring out how to reach their potential.
Honcho (8 -1 ): Run security
The Chiefs are as close to flawless as a crew is likely to be. Their defense has given up more than 20 stations only twice. Their offense is among the best in several categories, including third-down conversion rate( 50 percent, fourth ), gardens per frisk( 6.3, third ), pass yards per attempt (8. 1, fifth ), pass grounds per competition( 295.3, second ), and stages per recreation( 31.8, second ).
The Chiefs have scored 13 first-half points or fewer in four of their nine recreations this season( Chargers, Patriots, Bills, and Panthers ). Kansas City triumphed each tournament, outrunning their first-half output during the second half of three of those tournaments. The Chiefs appear close to unstoppable, and the only team that’s beaten them so far is the Raiders, who frisked as perfect a game as a unit can against them. Las Vegas joined Kansas City’s first-half yield and managed to generate a lead in second, then pushed a few punts and an interception–Mahomes’s merely interception of the year thus far.
Mahomes is leading one of the NFL’s highest-scoring teams while putting the ball in jeopardy at a lower time( a league-best 0.3 percent interception frequency) than he has at any point in his career. Opposing protections have tried their best to slow down Mahomes by mixing zone coverages, but it has not worked. The Chiefs have orchestrated on 52.8 percent of their properties( higher in the NFL ), while permitting rivals to value on really 35.1 percentage( seventh lowest ). Kansas City, coming off its first entitle in 50 times, demonstrates no clues of slowing down and has the searches of a dynasty in the making. The Chiefs look so much better than their foes that it feels like they don’t need to placed their paw on the gas until they have to.
There is one potential weakness that teams just goes to show some clevernes in taking advantage of: the Chiefs’ run defense, which ranks last-place in expected pitches lent( minus-3 8.79) and 26 th in gardens given per carry( 4.8 ). Seven of Kansas City’s dissidents have hastened for 100 grounds or more. But relying on the run alone will rarely be enough to overpower Mahomes and Co.
The way the Chiefs operate is reminiscent of the dynastic Soldiers: They’re a young, reigning squad centered around a once-in-a-generation musician who’s capable of doing things nobody has viewed with definite regularity–and has the on-field swagger to suggest he known to be good he is. It’s producing reactions. Kansas City “havent been” true-life weakness. No result is safe. The only hope for opposing units is to find a way to slow down Mahomes early, then hang on for dear life.
Packers( 6-2 ): Run defense
Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have countless weapons outside of receiver Davante Adams and tailback Aaron Jones, but those two coupled with Rodgers are enough to construct the Packers offense one of the very best in the NFL. Their defense, despite sport a handful of great pass rushers and strong secondary frolic, has been susceptible against the run at times. It was Green Bay’s undoing last-place season in the NFC championship game against the 49 ers, and has shown signs of has become a weakness again this year.
Halfway into the season, the Packers rank 24 th in EPA by their rush defense at minus-2 5.15 trace, per Pro Football Reference, and 20 th in Football Outsiders’s move defense DVOA ratings. The Packers are average in terms of opponent gardens per carry, allowing 4.5.
Teams have only cross-file 196 scurrying strives against Green Bay this season( fifth fewest ), a signed most opposings have turned to the air to try to keep up with Matt LaFleur’s offense, which is averaging 31.6 stages per recreation( third ). Aside from the Vikings’ upset behind a 163 -yard, three-touchdown rushing performance from Dalvin Cook, few crews have had the chance or the willingness to run the dance against Green Bay. That doesn’t mean it’s not an area of weakness. Where the Packers can perhaps be encouraged by their run defense though, is in opponents’ explosive carry rate, which is only 10 percent halfway through the season, the NFL’s ninth-lowest rate per Warren Sharp’s database. Nonetheless, a team successfully racing the ball against the Packers–moving the ball and grinding up clock while at the same time keeping the ball out of Rodgers’s hands–could take Green Bay down.
Ravens( 6-2 ): Lamar Jackson’s regression
The Colts’ game plan against Lamar Jackson last week incorporated a ponderous amount of spotting, exercising the athleticism of wizard linebacker Darius Leonard to aid in containing the reigning league MVP. It use: Through two fourths, the Ravens offense composed no spots and gained only 61 total grounds. Jackson had just 15 gardens rushing. But in the second half, the Ravens procreated the necessary adjustments. Jackson ended 10 -of-1 0 passes for 119 grounds and raced for 43 gardens and one touchdown, heading Baltimore to a 24 -1 0 win–Jackson’s first-ever NFL victory after chase at half.
Jackson accomplished 82.6 percent of his oversteps in the win, improving his record to 22 -1 as a starter when he terminateds 56 percentage of his moves or better. But Jackson hasn’t generally dallied at the dominant level that he did last-place season and has declined in nearly every statistical category. His play has been particularly worrisome in big game. Each of his overcomes this season–against the Chiefs and Steelers–saw Jackson’s impact severely diminished. A key to overcome the Ravens is getting pressure on Jackson and producing him down, something both the Chiefs and Steelers were able to achieve in their regular-season fits this season. The Ravens have talent participates whom they could likely work within game plans to ease the burden on Jackson, but in each of the past two years, he’s faltered in prime-time matchups in the playoffs and the regular season. A Thanksgiving rematch with the Steelers could perhaps be the first step towards proving that he can overcome the jitters against the NFL’s best.
Saints( 6-2 ): The late pellet
The Saints’ blowout of the Bucs on Sunday night broke a five-game streak of one-score games( 4-1 ), and has pushed New Orleans back into the Super Bowl discussion. But there were visible inadequacies for the Saints, who have one of the league’s most balanced and deep listings. The most glaring one is that Drew Brees sees incapable of airing the ball out like he used to.
Brees’s 5.8 proposed breeze gardens per endeavor ranks last-place in the tournament this season, per Next Gen Stats. Saints receivers have assured their yards before catch median trough from 6.0( 2018 ), to 5.2( 2019 ), to 5.1( 2020 ), and their yards after catch median increase from5. 4( 2019) to 5.2( 2020 ). Brees’s inability to go deep has affected the receivers’ ability to spawn things happen after the catch. The Saints’ passing game ranks seventh in Football Outsiders’s DVOA metric, so the inability to stretch the field hasn’t totally tanked the offense. But New Orleans’s 17 explosive pass performances grade 30 th in the tournament, per Warren Sharp’s database. The Saints are registering explosive pass romps on exclusively 6 percentage of pitches( 27 th ).
Brees has been limited by a right shoulder injury over the past few weeks, and there’s concern about whether it will play a bigger role as the season goes on. The Saints have suffered heart-wrenching postseason overcomes to the Vikings( twice) and Rams in the past three years. Brees has striven down the unfold of each of them. Time is running out on Brees’s chance at a second title, but if he’s going to capture it, it won’t be by testing his antagonists deep.
Seahawks( 6-2 ): Pass protection
You cannot discuss the NFL’s last decade without mentioning the Seahawks’ legendary Legion of Boom. Eight sports into this decade, Seattle’s secondary is being talked about for all of the wrong rationales. The Seahawks are giving up 362.1 pass grounds per sport, “the worlds largest” ever allowed by a crew through eight games.
The epics of Russell Wilson, who’s playing at an MVP-caliber level this season, won’t always be enough, as recent weeks have divulged. The Seahawks have allowed opposing passers to generate explosive participates on 10 percent of throws, bind for the fourth-worst rate this season, per Warren Sharp’s database. The 38 explosive pass represents Seattle has allowed is the second-most allowed overall this season.
The Seahawks have struggled to generate much of a pass hurry-up, which certainly plays a key role in their inability to slow resisting passers. But hurts and inadequate carries-on from members of the secondary have led to major questions encircling the unit entering the second half. There’s still plenty of time to perhaps remedy the question, but until there’s even marginal indicates of improvement, Seattle will have to rely on the arm of Wilson to carry the team.
Steelers (8 -0 ): Keeping Ben Roethlisberger healthy
Through eight sports, Pittsburgh is the NFL’s exclusively unbeaten squad. This is the Steelers’ best start ever, and coach Mike Tomlin has his force ranked for an exciting playoff passage. But Pittsburgh’s undefeated start practically aimed against the lowly Cowboys last week, pointing toward some potential fatigues for this squad.
Hardly anyone expected Pittsburgh to struggle in Dallas. But when Ben Roethlisberger came out of the game during the second quarter because of a knee injury–while the Cowboys were leading–and Mason Rudolph replaced him, it seemed like a recipe for disaster, one that the Steelers became very well known last-place season. Roethlisberger returned for the second half of the year and finished with 306 guiding yards and three touchdowns. Roethlisberger was the distinctions between the Steelers being a playoff contender and a. 500 squad last year. He’s the key to them achieving this season, in concert with one of the NFL’s most dominant defenses.
But for Roethlisberger, 38, starting it through the next eight-plus competitions amply health will be difficult. In Week 8 against the Ravens, he dinged up the same elbow he underwent season-ending surgery for last year. On Monday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Roethlisberger disabled both knees against the Cowboys and there’s “cautious optimism” about his health ahead of facing the Bengals this week. On Tuesday, he was placed on the substitute/ COVID-1 9 register after being governed a close contact of teammate Vance McDonald, who tested positive. Pittsburgh once had its bye-bye week after its matchup with the Titans was rescheduled because of a virus eruption, so there’s a chance Roethlisberger could have to play 13 tournaments in a row prior to the postseason starting. The Steelers will need to keep him upright, because Rudolph will not be able to keep this team in championship contention.
Titans( 6-2 ): Third-down defense
The Titans have followed up their surprising AFC championship run with a 6-2 start to the 2020 season. The most remarkable part of Tennessee’s record is that it has travelled 5-1 in one-possession games still further. When the exiting gets tough, there are few units who can grind a game out better than the Titans–until it’s third down.
Tennessee’s defense grades dead last-place in third-down percentage, standing defend piques to convert 55.4 percent of the time. And this is after the Titan nursed the Bears to 2-for-15 last week. Prior to facing Chicago–which enrolled 31 st in third-down offense( 34.9 percentage )– Mike Vrabel’s defense was allowing opposing offense to convert 61.9 percent of third downs. It’s been a startling free fall from the 36.3 -percent mark the Tennessee defense was hampering fight offenses to last season in such situations.
This season, resisting passers have combined to complete 53 of 87 elapses( 60.9 percentage) for 597 yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions, and 45 first downs on third downs against the Titans. Opposing rushers have attempted 23 carries for 115 grounds( 5.0 ypc ), coping 17 first downs and one touchdown.
There are a handful of factors that have contributed to Tennessee’s controversies on third down, including a mis pass rush and incompatible boundary coverage. The offseason add-on of former All-Pro pass rusher Vic Beasley did not work out–he was released after appearing in just five tournaments. The buy of Jadeveon Clowney has aided the figurehead seven, but hasn’t firmly established the Titans’ pass rush as prevailing, as he’s been hampered by a knee gash since Week 5. Tennessee ranks eighth worst in push frequency( 19.1 percentage) and is confined for the NFL’s third-worst sack rate( 3.0 percent ). Those crowds have also been influenced by precarious coverage in the secondary. Starting cornerback Adoree’ Jackson was placed on injured substitute before the season started, pressing veteran Johnathan Joseph into the lineup. The Titans chipped Joseph, who bind for 62 nd in Pro Football Focus’s coverage grades( 62.4 ), after seven games. Tennessee acquired one-time All-Pro defensive back Desmond King from the Chargers at the commerce deadline, and he made an immediate impact–King tallied off a fumble return in a 24 -1 7 win during his debut. But the Titans will need last week’s defensive achievement to be more than merely an outlier moving forward.
Tennessee also has an frightening cherry-red zone protection, which is the league’s second worst halfway through the season, with foes valuing touchdowns on 23 of 29 likelihoods( 79.3 percent ). The Titans have time to figure things out, but as long as they’re iffy on third down, it will leave them susceptible to folding in large-scale moments.
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