Thursday Night Football: Which Team Can End Their Recent Slide?
Losers of four straight, the Denver Broncos are reeling, but star defensive player Von Miller has guaranteed a win tonight. Despite those losses, the Broncos rank 16th in our power rankings, while the host Arizona Cardinals rank 24th this season.
Both teams aren't setting the world on fire, but will look to get back on the winning track. Can the host Cardinals hold serve at home, or can the Broncos take this road contest?
Let's dig in and find out.
36 quarterbacks have racked up 75 drop backs or more, and in tonight's contest, we will have two of the poorer-performing signal callers in this game.
Case Keenum has performed moderately in his first season in Denver, ranking 19th in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (0.05). In terms of Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs which result in positive NEP -- Keenum slides down the list to 23rd with a mark of 46.37%.
Rookie Josh Rosen has struggled a bit in his first season, and in terms of Passing NEP per drop back, the quarterback clocks in at 23rd (0.02) and ranks 32nd in Passing Success Rate (40.21%).
In looking at Average Intended Air Yards (IAY) -- the average air yards a passer throws on all attempts -- the rookie certainly isn't afraid to chuck it deep. Rosen has posted a healthy mark of 9.0 IAY, while Keenum slides down the leaderboard at 8.0 IAY.
In terms of situation-neutral pace, Arizona would be better off following Denver's lead and work a little quicker. Arizona ranks only 25th in seconds per play (32.23), while Denver is up at 10th (30.02).
With pretty poor play so far this year by both quarterbacks, how do the running games stack up?
Running Back Play
The return of David Johnson to the Cardinals' backfield hasn't gone exactly as planned. In 2016, his last full season prior to a devastating wrist injury, Johnson racked up over 2,000 all-purpose yards, but a lack of offensive ingenuity has certainly hurt him in 2018:
@Gambo987 @BurnsAndGambo Want to see something hilarious Re: David Johnson (as you’re discussing) - 28th in rushing attempts, and somehow FIRST in attempts up the middle. The defense doesn’t even have to try. pic.twitter.com/Oi6rLVZnyF
— Jeff (@JeffNFL) October 15, 2018
Among running backs with 50 or more carries (37), Johnson ranks third-worst in Rushing NEP per carry (-0.20). In terms of Rushing Success Rate, Johnson has only been marginally better, ranking sixth-worst (32.61%). Johnson recorded 80 pass receptions in 2016, but so far only has 17 through 6 games this year.
Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman are leading a two-headed attack, and both have been very solid this year. Lindsay ranks 7th in Rushing NEP per carry (0.14), while Freeman ranks 16th (0.04). In terms of Rushing Success Rate, Lindsay has been far more effective, as he actually leads all rushers with a rate of 54.10%. If Week 6 is any indicator, this is definitely a confusing situation, as Freeman led the way with a 38% offensive snap rate, Devontae Booker checked in second with a 33% snap rate, and Lindsay brought up the rear at 30%.
With both offenses not performing the greatest, can these defenses wreak havoc tonight?
Arizona's defense has been fantastic by numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, ranking 4th overall, 8th against the pass, and 18th against the run.
Conversely, Denver's typically solid defense has taken a step back in 2018, ranking 19th overall, 13th against the pass, and 28th against the run. Denver's run defense has really struggled as of late, allowing Isaiah Crowell, Todd Gurley, and Kareem Hunt to smash them for 8.99 yards per carry (YPC) over 72 carries in the last three weeks.
One area where both teams shine is getting after the quarterback. In peeking at Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate, which measures sacks plus intentional grounding penalties, Denver ranks fifth (8.4%), while Arizona has been very strong as well, ranking 10th (7.9%).
Both teams haven't done the best job in getting the ball back to their respective offenses. Denver ranks 23rd in yards allowed per drive (34.68), while Arizona clocks in slightly better at 19th (33.85).
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