Monday Night Football Preview: Brady's Bounceback?
Through the first four Monday Night Football games this season, three have been decided by one score or less. Two of those were decided by three points or less. It's the antithesis of the Thursday Night games, which make you want to amputate your own fingers to prevent turning the dumpster fire back on. Thankfully, this week's matchup looks like it shall follow the trend of the tasty Monday meetings.
Both the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs looked exceptionally gross in Week 1. This ignited the discussions about whether or not it was time to press the panic button in both situations. A loss this week, for either team, would certainly warrant such a reaction.
Let's take a look at numberFire's projections for this game, all of which can be found in the game breakdown available to all premium subscribers. It basically has everything you could ever desire for this game, except for a montage of Tom Brady failed high-fives set to Sarah McLachlan music. I am instead linking to that here because we are full service and care about you here at numberFire.
Now, let's get to business by looking at three headlines that will help determine the outcome of this puppy.
Can Either Team's Passing Game Get Going?
At numberFire, we use this nifty little stat called Net Expected Points (NEP) to track the efficiency of players and teams. It's the number of expected points that a team/player adds or subtracts on each play relative to an average team. You can read more about NEP in our glossary. It doesn't paint a pretty picture for the aerial attacks of the Patriots or Chiefs.
As a team, the Chiefs rank 21st in Adjusted Passing NEP per play, which takes strength of opponent into account. The Pats sit just behind them in 24th. And it doesn't necessarily look a whole lot more optimistic for tonight.
Through their first three games, the Chiefs have faced the 5th-, 8th- and 17th-ranked defenses based on our pass defense metrics. This week, they get the team leading the league in that category. That leads to a modest projection for Alex Smith of 208.91 passing yards to go with 1.32 touchdowns and 0.81 interceptions. While the aggregate totals are nothing Earth-shattering, at least the turnover numbers are low. The same cannot be said for Mr. Brady.
While Brady's projections are higher in the yards category (265.97), they're also higher in the projected interceptions at 1.17. Contrasted to his 1.35 projected touchdowns, this doesn't look like a guy that is often in the "best ever" discussion. That's not necessarily a shock for Brady, who is averaging a measly 5.5 yards per attempt this year. Only Derek Carr and Ryan Tannehill have lower totals among qualified quarterbacks. Elite!
The basic conclusion here is that you should withhold optimism from these two passing offenses until further notice. If the projections are right, that probably will not come tonight.
Can You Trust Jamaal Charles?
Raise your hand if you've been burned by Jamaal Charles in fantasy this year! If you raised your hand, you should realize that I can't actually see you and you probably looked very silly.
Through three weeks, Charles has been plagued by an ankle injury and a head coach that occasionally forgets he exists. Now, though, it looks like he's back and ready to rumble. But can you actually put faith in him considering Knile Davis posted 132 yards last week in Charles's absence? Let's address the Davis issue before moving onto Charles's projections.
Yes, the raw numbers were very good for Davis last week. But you must also keep in mind that he had 32 carries to get to that total. Of the 41 players that had 25 carries entering Week 4, Davis ranked 23rd in Rushing NEP. While this isn't bad, it's not enough to Wally Pip one of the best running backs in the league. And further investigation of those numbers should be even more assuring to the Charles believers.
Davis has recorded 55 carries this year; of those 55, he has increased the number of expected points on the team's drive only 29.09 percent of the time. That ranked 35th of the 41 qualified players entering the weekend. For perspective, Charles finished the year at 46.15 percent last year. Charles is the better option of the two, and it's not even close.
For tonight, the projections aren't terrible by any means for Charles. The algorithms have him slated for 73.32 rushing and 34.74 receiving yards to go with 0.33 rushing and 0.11 receiving touchdowns. Those aren't exactly vintage Jamaal, but we haven't seen that player yet this year. The Pats rank 14th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, so they're not bad, but they're not stifling. If this is a season-long league we're talking about, I say free Jamaal and let the man do his thang, brudduh.
Who Has The Edge?
Like I mentioned at the top, this game has the potential to come down to the wire. The Pats top the Chiefs in numberFire's Power Rankings, but the Chiefs are at home. Given the spread of New England -3, it seems as if Vegas still has faith in Brady's bunch.
Even with the force of Belichick and the tough start for the Chiefs, the Chiefs are an intriguing pick in this one. One of the features of the game profile is a list of similar games in which teams similar to the two participating faced each other in the past. Each of the top six most similar matchups had the team representing the Chiefs winning outright.
The second most similar matchup came back in 2006, and it was memorable for various reasons. This contest pitted the Jacksonville Jaguars against a Dallas Cowboys squad on which Terrell Owens made his debut. The Cowboys (who represent the Patriots) lost that one, 24-17.
Drew Bledsoe struggled mightily, tossing three picks in only 33 attempts. This is somewhat poetic considering Brady is the man who replaced Bledsoe in New England. Later that year, Bledsoe was again replaced, this time by Tony Romo. Lace up yo cleats, Jimmy Garoppolo!
Fred Taylor almost identically mirrored Charles's projected output by finishing with 74 yards rushing and 41 receiving. He did the same in another of the top similar games between the Jaguars and the Seahawks in 2005. Basically, assuming Charles is at full health and gets the bulk of the carries (both of which should be true), you can buy into him for tonight.
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