Jacksonville @ NY Jets (pick 'em)
Power rankings: Jax 31, NYJ 32
I won't spend a ton of time on this game. It features, by my unequivocally accurate, undebatable correct power rankings, the worst two teams in the league. It's a tad depressing too -- Trevor Lawrence vs Zach Wilson, the top two picks in the draft, should be one of the more compelling stories in the NFL for years to come. Maybe that'll be the case one day, but we aren't there yet. Not by a long shot.
The Jags offense is 27th in DVOA and 30th in EPA/play. Among 39 qualifiers, Trevor Lawrence is 34th in PFF passing grades (55.8) while completing 58.1% of his passes (6.8% below expectation) and gaining 5.8 yards per attempt. Lawrence doesn't have much to work with -- the offensive line is weak on the right side and mediocre at best on the left. 2016 1st round bust Laquon Treadwell may be his best receiver. Marvin Jones is there as well, but at almost 32 years old, his best days are likely behind him. Despite the surrounding cast, Lawrence isn't doing anything to elevate those around him. His -6.8% completion percentage over expectation is evident of that, which is 3rd worst in the league, but it is the best figure of any QB projected to start this game. The Jags have had some success running the ball (18th in DVOA), but are 30th throwing it. The Jets on defense are dead last in DVOA and EPA/play. The one bright spot -- well, bright relative to the rest of the team, is their pass rush. Leading the way is DE John Franklin-Myers (45 pressures), DT Quinnen Williams (31), and DT Sheldon Rankins (20). With safeties Ashtyn Davis (COVID-19), Sharrod Neasman (COVID-19), and Elijah Riley (concussion) all out, the Jets are projected to start two safeties (Kai Nacua and Will Parks) who haven't played a single snap this season. Outside corner Bryce Hall does have a respectable 75.5 coverage grade from PFF, but everyone else is poor to the point of not worth mentioning. They are dead last in DVOA in both the run and pass game.
The Jets offense is 23rd in DVOA and 27th in EPA/play. Wilson is at 35th in PFF grades (55.2) while completing 56.2% of his passes (fucking 10 percent below expectation) and gaining 6.2 yards per attempt. The Jets have done a solid job re-buildng their offensive line and have a respectable unit, but are still without LT Mekhi Becton, leaving a giant hole on Wilson's blind side. The best receivers on the Jets are unfortunately all out (Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, and Jamison Crowder), leaving a sad collection of receivers (Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, and Denzel Mims). Michael Carter should handle the bulk of the RB carries, with Tevin Coleman chipping in. They Jets have been middle of the road as a rushing offense (15th in DVOA), but are 27th throwing the ball. The Jags on defense are 30th in DVOA and 31st in EPA/play. Their best pass rusher, Josh Allen (46 pressures) is out with COVID-19. Dawuane Smooth (43 pressures) leads the way behind Allen, but there isn't much behind Smooth. Even with Allen, the Jags were blitzing 5th most often in the NFL (31.7%) but were only generating pressure 24.8% of the time, 14th in the league. Their linebackers are maybe the worst in the NFL. Tyson Campbell and Shaq Griffin is an average cornerback duo, both players can hold their own against the Jets receivers. Andrew Wingard is also an above average free safety in coverage, but strong safety Andre Cisco has struggled in his rookie season. The Jags are much better against the run (14th in DVOA) than the pass (31st).
At the end of the day, the model sees the Jets as the better team playing at home. The betting market agrees, with the line since shifting to Jets -2.
Baltimore @ Cincinnati (-3)
Power rankings: Baltimore 24, Cincinnati 17 (Baltimore's power ranking is adjusted for losing Lamar Jackson)
This pick was based on my understanding that Lamar Jackson wasn't going to play, as we may appropriate adjustments to the Ravens DVOA and power rankings. That ended up proving to be correct, and the line shifted toward the model, making Cincy a 4.5 point favorite. Then we found out that backup QB Tyler Huntley will miss with COVID-19, and now Cincy is a 7 point favorite. That leaves Josh Johnson as the Ravens signal caller. Johnson is now in his 7th year and on his 6th team (9th team if you count his stints in the UFL, AAF, and XFL). The 2008 5th rounder out of San Diego has 384 career drop backs under his belt, and the results haven't been great. In his career he's completing 56.5% of his passes and gaining 6.3 yards per attempt. He was signed off the Jets practice squad about a week and a half ago. I would not expect much. The offensive line is mostly solid, the one noticeable weakness is LG Ben Cleveland, who is a 3rd round rookie filling in for Ben Powers (foot). Johnson has Mark Andrews (arguably the best tight end in football this year), Marquise Brown (solid deep threat), and Sammy Watkins as weapons. Devonta Freeman will handle the RB carries. The Bengals on defense are 11th in DVOA and 8th in EPA/play. They have a solid pass rush, led by Trey Hendrickson (63 pressures), Sam Hubbard (49), and Larry Ogunjobi (34). DT DJ Reader is out with COVID-19, who contributes as an interior rusher but is a beast in the run game. Chidobe Awuzie (outside) and Mike Hilton (slot) are two solid corners, but have struggled at the other outside corner position. Vonn Bell is solid in coverage and in the run game at strong safety, but Jessie Bates has been inconsistent at free safety. They are better against the run (10th in DVOA) than the pass (17th).
The Bengals on offense are 20th in DVOA and 17th in EPA/play. Joe Burrow has the best PFF passing grade in all of football (89.3) while completing 68.7% of his passes (4,9% above expectation) and gaining 8.4 yards per attempt. The offensive line is solid at LT (Jonah Williams) and LG (Quinton Spain), but struggle at center and RG/RT. RT is typically a strength as well, but Riley Reiff is now on IR (ankle). The receiving trio of Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd (slot) is solid. Joe Mixon has also had a fantastic year running the football, ranking 9th in PFF grades. They're efficiency numbers are perplexing given the strength of the team, but they are equally bad throwing the ball (23rd in DVOA) and running (20th). The Ravens on defense are 27th in DVOA and 24th in EPA/play. They do have a solid pass rush, led by Odafe Oweh (42 pressures), Justin Houston (37), and DTs Tyus Bowser (36) and Calias Campbell (28). They also blitz 4th most often in the league, but that's been a poor strategy against Joe Burrow, who has routinely carved up the blitz. The Ravens blitzed Burrow 38.5% of the time in their last encounter. They lost 41-17. Their other issue with their blitz happy tendencies is it relies on a solid defensive backfield, and now with both Marlon Humphrey (ACL) out for the season, they have anything but a solid defensive backfield. The Ravens will also be without CB Jimmie Smith (COVID). If they try blitzing Burrow, it should go over exactly how last game went. The Ravens are significantly better vs the run (5th in DVOA) than the pass (29th).