3 Week 3 Storylines to Watch: Struggling Offenses

Aaron Rodgers is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in NFL history. Off to a slow start in 2016, can the Green Bay passing game get things turned around?

Week 2 provided us with an extensive injury list, including a few major fantasy football assets and a few top-half offenses from last season that struggled for the second consecutive week.

Last week, we talked about Keenan Allen's injury, the Atlanta Falcons' running backs, and Carson Wentz.

Philip Rivers tossed four touchdowns against Jacksonville Jaguars, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman continued to split touches, and Wentz led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 29-14 win over the Chicago Bears in his first NFL road start.

Heading into Week 3 we're going to examine two offenses that appeared primed to succeed in the preseason that have under-performed through two weeks, as well as an elite running back struggling to success.

Should We Just Relax?

The Green Bay Packers ranked 18th in Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play last season. The absence of Jordy Nelson was cited as one of the main reasons. With Nelson back in the lineup and the Packers’ passing game still not back to their previous prolific ways, we must now look for a different cause for Green Bay’s struggles.

Aaron Rodgers, one of the most efficient quarterbacks in NFL history, has gotten off to a slow start in 2016:

Rank Player Passing NEP per Drop Back
23 Andrew Luck 0.11
24 Ryan Tannehill 0.09
25 Trevor Siemian 0.09
26 Aaron Rodgers 0.08
27 Russell Wilson 0.08
28 Blake Bortles 0.05
29 Jameis Winston 0.01

The table above shows Rodgers’s efficiency on a per play basis, along with a few similar quarterbacks with 20 or more attempts and their corresponding ranks. We’re used to seeing Rodgers rank near the top of every efficiency metric and to see him performing below the likes of Trevor Siemian and Ryan Tannehill is shocking.

According to Football Outsiders, the Green Bay offensive line ranks 29th in pass protection through two weeks, an area in desperate need of improvement.

If Eddie Lacy -- who finished Week 2 as the ninth-most efficient running back in terms of Rushing NEP among runners with 20 or more carries -- and the running game can continue to perform well, the passing game has a good chance to improve.

Two of Green Bay’s next three opponents rank in the bottom-half of the league according to our metrics when adjusted for strength of schedule -- the Detroit Lions (28th), New York Giants (10th), and Dallas Cowboys (21st) -- so there is hope that we could see a turnaround soon.

Why Is Todd Gurley?

My apologies for ignoring the English language when I chose that title, but it was taken verbatim from numberFire’s article ideation discussion for the week, and it’s totally fitting.

Todd Gurley's year-two regression was discussed multiple times during the preseason by some very smart writers, and with what we’ve seen so far combined with his brutal upcoming schedule, it’s looking like a victory lap might be warranted.

Gurley currently ranks 31st in Rushing NEP per play among 33 running backs with 20 or more carries and 30th in Rushing Success Rate, all the components necessary for a disastrous efficiency profile.

The Los Angeles Rams’ offensive line hasn’t helped much thus far, ranking 24th in run blocking according to Football Outsiders. Los Angeles ranks 14th in run-to-pass ratio, inconceivably allowing Case Keenum to throw the ball 70 times while calling just 48 run plays through two games.

It all boils down to a putrid offensive situation for both fantasy and real-life football purposes that could realistically end up in historically bad territory by season’s end and sink Gurley's remaining fantasy value.

Will Seattle Ever Score Another Touchdown?

All hyperbole aside, there are some serious problems surrounding this offensive group at the moment.

The theme of this week’s article has been poor offensive line play, and to keep the streak alive, we need look no further than the Seattle Seahawks’ blockers. Ranking 28th in run blocking and 22nd in pass protection per Football Outsiders, Seattle’s group up front has been dysfunctional from the get-go this season.

In the past, Russell Wilson has been able to overcome poor offensive lines, but it looks to have finally caught up with him early on in 2016. Since injuring his ankle in Week 1, Wilson has really struggled through two weeks, ranking 25th in terms of Passing NEP, after finishing 4th last season.

Where his injury has really hurt his production, as well as Seattle’s as a whole, has been as a runner:

Rank Player Rushing NEP
1 Aaron Rodgers 9.90
2 Blaine Gabbert 7.99
3 Andrew Luck 6.50
4 Cam Newton 3.37
5 Ryan Tannehill 2.98
6 Tyrod Taylor 1.22
7 Ryan Fitzpatrick 0.43
8 Robert Griffin III -1.20
9 Carson Wentz -2.49
10 Marcus Mariota -3.18
11 Alex Smith -3.55
12 Russell Wilson -4.55

It's nearly inconceivable to think that he ranks dead last among quarterbacks with five or more rushes this season in terms of rushing efficiency.

The Seahawks draw a mixed bag over the next four games in terms of matchups with the San Francisco 49ers' (3rd) and Arizona Cardinals (4th) both ranking in the top five in terms of Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, with the New York Jets (26th) and Falcons (29th) ranking near the bottom of the league.