Andy Benoit and Cody Swartz provide insight into the most impactful games on the 2023 NFL Week 4 slate. The stats provided below provide the storylines going into the games.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers
Lions Offense vs. Packers Defense
- Last season, Jared Goff dramatically improved against the blitz (104.4 rating). So far this season, he has a rating of just 56.0 (30th best) when blitzed.
- Packers CB Jaire Alexander has been traveling with opposing WR1’s this season after only doing it in only one game last year (WK 17 vs. Justin Jefferson).
- If Alexander is healthy (missed the Saints game with a back injury), he will likely “travel” with Amon-Ra St. Brown. The quotation marks around “travel” is because St. Brown spends about 50% of his snaps in the slot and Alexander does not play inside.
- Putting Alexander on St. Brown’s side of the field feels likely, especially with the Packers CB2 Rasul Douglas being the best body type to contest with lanky WR Josh Reynolds. Reynolds has played much better than previous years so far in 2023.
- Lions’ offense should be ready for Packers DC Joe Barry, who has shown a few uber-aggressive and creative fire zone blitzes each week this season.
Packers Offense vs. Lions Defense
- Green Bay has been successful using jet motion, which they’ve used the 6th most and lead the NFC averaging 8+ yards per play when implemented
- Detroit’s seven sacks against what had been a pretty decent-looking Falcons offensive line was surprising. With DE James Houston out 6-8 weeks, the Lions are thin at edge rusher in their sub-packages. Aidan Hutchinson had been playing DT in those sub-packages (and looking great), but now it appears he could be staying outside full-time. Detroit’s other two edge rushers are journeyman Charles Harris veteran Romeo Okwara.
Kansas City Chiefs @ New York Jets
Chiefs Offense vs. Jets Defense
- Last season, offenses targeted the tight end 7.6 times per game against the Jets – 3rd in the NFL (behind DEN and TEN).
- Jets allowed 7.7 yards per snap on these targets, which ranked 22nd (NFL average was 7.3).
- The Jets have played quarters coverage on 28% of snaps this season, 3rd only to Arizona (35%) and Washington (31%). They also ranked 2nd in quarters coverage usage last season.
- Since 2021, the Chiefs have faced quarters coverage more than any team in the NFL. They average about a half-yard less per play against quarters than they do against everything else.
Jets Offense vs. Chiefs Defense
- Zach Wilson’s turnovers have mostly been physical and mental mistakes when made under pressure.
- Steve Spagnuolo can be as blitz-happy as any coach bringing pressure in two unique/stressful ways: all-out or out of split-safety with DBs coming off the edge (which they do more than any defense).
Seattle Seahawks @ New York Giants
Seahawks Offense vs. Giants Defense
- After the Eagles torched the Giants in Week 14 of last season, the Giants quietly (but fairly dramatically) scaled back their blitz calls down the stretch. With Giants getting lit up for almost 450 yards by San Francisco will we see another reduction in blitzing from Wink Martindale?
- With the arrival of WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, it was expected that Seattle would start playing a lot of “11” personnel. Despite this, so far this season Seattle ranks just 23rd in “11” usage and is in the top-12 for multi-tight end personnel snaps.
Giants Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
- After ranking 32nd in average depth of target last season (6.6 yards), Daniel Jones is up to 7.8 average depth of target this season, which ranks 23rd.
- Last season, Seahawks DC Clint Hurtt ranked 28th in blitz rate but 2nd in simulated pressure rate.
- Bobby Wagner has always been an elite blitzer, but especially in simulated pressures.
- Seattle secondary has been known for its versatility but so far this season players have stayed in one spot, including the two most versatile pieces: 5th overall pick Devon Witherspoon (LCB) and Ex-Giants safety Julian Love (strong safety).
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills
Dolphins Offense vs. Bills Defense
- When these teams met last December and January, star corner Tre’Davious White was still in the early parts of his return from 2021 knee injury. White is now at full speed and back to playing predominantly boundary CB.
- Sean McDermott has used a double-A-gap front on just 4 snaps this season.
- The Bills rank 31st in blitz frequency, despite having selective and effective use of simulated pressures.
- Buffalo is a nickel defense and will presumably stay in that when Miami goes to its patented “21” personnel (which they play on 50+% of 1st/2nd down snaps). Will Miami try to run the ball in that case?
Bills Offense vs. Dolphins Defense
- With Buffalo’s “12” personnel usage up dramatically this year (arrival of 1st-round tight end Dalton Kincaid) will the play-action game expand?
- Two core principles for Miami’s defense: quarters and cover 6. Buffalo has faced those looks the most in the AFC and overall ranks 20th against those looks this season.
- 3-buzz out of quarters is another Dolphins defensive staple; Buffalo ranks 12th, averaging a little over 6 yards per play against 3-buzz
Washington Commanders @ Philadelphia Eagles
Commanders Offense vs. Eagles Defense
- Washington gave Philadelphia its first loss last season (32 to 21 on MNF in Week 10), and the Eagles go into Week 4 with a 3-0 record this season.
- In that game Washington controlled the ball: 51 first half snaps (most first half snaps of any game in 2022 at the time), while facing 3rd-and-2-or-less on nine occasions, converting eight of them… This is the most in a game since the 2014 AFC Championship
- Eagles have gotten stellar play out of young Georgia DTs Jordan Davis (2022 first-rounder) and Jalen Carter (2023 first-rounder).
Eagles Offense vs. Commanders Defense
- In Week 2, the Vikings showed the Eagles a very unusual look: 6-down front, 0 LB and 5 DBs distributed across the field (like quarters but with a shallow post).
- In response, the Eagles ran the ball on the Vikings’ over and over again
- Last season, Washington ranked 3rd in quarters coverage usage and 7th in success rate. In 2023, they have continued to play it at a high rate…. Will they play in a 5-across looks as well against the Eagles?
New England Patriots @ Dallas Cowboys
Patriots Offense vs. Cowboys Defense
- Will the Patriots use spread empty as a way to neutralize Micah Parsons and Dallas’s borderline-unbelievable pass rush?
- So far this season, the Patriots rank 3rd in NFL in snaps of empty (behind Cleveland and Buffalo).
- They’re 2nd in snaps of empty in “12” personnel behind just Buffalo (new No. 2 TE Mike Gesicki is a de facto wide receiver).
- Dallas plays big nickel against most personnel packages anyway, so passing out of “12” likely won’t phase them.
Cowboys Offense vs. Patriots Defense
- The Cowboys run game under Mike McCarthy, compared to Kellen Moore, feature no huge changes except for:
- Less duo and more gap scheme
- Slightly less outside zone and slightly more inside zone.
- Bill Belichicks’ strategy against CeeDee Lamb provides a lot of intrigue:
- Belichick is known for removing an offense’s best player…. If the Patriots plays its patented man-free coverage, will they double Lamb in the slot?
- Patriots’ rookie Christian Gonzalez has mostly played boundary CB, but he played significant snaps in the slot at Oregon. Would New England move him inside for this matchup against Lamb?
- The Patriots have physicality and versatility at safety in Jabrill Peppers and long-armed Kyle Dugger … Would either of them play slot on early downs to disrupt Lamb? (Both have extensive history in the slot in New England’s foundational big nickel package.)