The NFL’s Fast and Furious

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Which team is the fastest in the NFL?

Speed kills, as Al Davis said but we are talking about pace, not the 40-yard dash. Up-tempo offenses are in vogue and the pace of play in the NFL continues to improve.

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There are a number of reasons that NFL teams have quickened their pace. Up-tempo offenses help wear down an opposing defense, exploits offensive mismatches and increases scoring. So which teams are the fastest?

Using Football Outsiders pace of play statistics the five fastest teams in 2015 were the Philadelphia Eagles (22.21), New York Giants (25.20), Houston Texans (25.58), Jacksonville Jaguars (25.75) and San Francisco 49ers (25.78). Of course, that was when you included all plays. If you focus on just situation neutral plays the rankings change a little.

Situation neutral plays are plays where the pace is dictated by each team’s game plan or style of play, not the score or time of the game. In that situation the New England Patriots (28.24) become the second fastest team behind the Eagles (23.94). Philadelphia ran plays 18% faster than New England and 26% faster than league average if the situation was neutral.

Chip Kelly loves to push the pace. Whether you look at all plays, plays in the 1st half or second half or when the Eagles are trailing or leading by seven points the team is always the quickest to run a play. In Kelly’s three seasons as head coach in Philly the team ranked first every year. Expect the 49ers to see an uptick in pace of play in Kelly’s first season by the Bay.

If you ain’t first, you’re last. The two slowest teams in 2015 regardless of situation were the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs.

Speed and pace of play are important but unfortunately there is no correlation between how fast a team runs a play and how effective they are at going over their game total. The Eagles were the fastest team in 2015 but the over in their games went 8-8. Of the ten fastest teams, five of them had either a .500 or worse record on the over. The opposite was true of the ten slowest teams; six had a .500 or better record on the over. The bookmakers know which teams like to push the pace and they adjust the game totals accordingly.

Speed kills but it doesn’t matter to game totals.

TeamSec/Play (total)Sec/Play (neutral)Over Record
Philadelphia Eagles22.21 (1)23.94 (1)8-8
New York Giants25.20 (2)28.50 (4)11-5
Houston Texans25.58 (3)28.28 (3)8-7
Jacksonville Jaguars25.75 (4)29.50 (10)10-6
San Francisco 49ers25.78 (5)28.57 (5)7-9
Baltimore Ravens26.12 (6)29.37 (7)7-9
Tampa Bay Buccaneers26.36 (7)29.90 (14)9-7
Miami Dolphins26.46 (8)30.13 (16)7-9
New England Patriots26.73 (9)28.24 (2)9-7
Green Bay Packers26.77 (10)29.40 (8)5-11
Denver Broncos26.86 (11)28.92 (6)6-9
Indianapolis Colts26.91 (12)29.63 (11)8-8
New Orleans Saints26.93 (13)29.46 (9)9-6
San Diego Chargers26.99 (14)29.74 (13)6-10
Pittsburgh Steelers27.12 (15)30.55 (19)6-10
New York Jets27.23 (16)30.11 (15)8-8
Oakland Raiders27.45 (17)30.61 (20)8-6
Cleveland Browns27.72 (18)31.03 (21)8-8
Carolina Panthers28.13 (19)29.74 (12)10-5
Atlanta Falcons28.19 (20)30.38 (17)2-13
Chicago Bears28.46 (21)31.74 (27)8-8
Los Angeles Rams28.55 (22)31.93 (28)4-12
Tennessee Titans28.61 (23)31.70 (25)9-6
Detroit Lions28.70 (24)32.73 (30)9-7
Arizona Cardinals28.72 (25)31.04 (22)9-7
Buffalo Bills28.86 (26)31.39 (23)8-8
Minnesota Vikings28.93 (27)31.57 (24)4-11
Seattle Seahawks29.05 (28)31.70 (26)7-9
Cincinnati Bengals29.10 (29)30.52 (18)7-9
Washington Redskins29.25 (30)32.49 (29)9-7
Kansas City Chiefs29.94 (31)33.71 (32)8-7
Dallas Cowboys29.95 (32)32.95 (31)6-10

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