Las Vegas (+9.5) @ Buffalo
Power rankings: Las Vegas 16, Buffalo 4
Keys to the game:
The Raiders' offensive prowess often goes overlooked, but there's more than enough potential as long as Jummy Garoppolo is able to stay healthy. Although it seems almost a right of passage that he'll be injured, these type of problems don't concern us as we bet one game at a time. The offensive line, although seemingly average at the season's outset, showcased its fortitude by limiting the Broncos to a mere three pressures and zero sacks in 28 dropbacks. However, facing the Bills' defensive line, featuring talents like Greg Rousseau, Leonard Floyd, and Ed Oliver, presents a more formidable challenge. Despite this, the Bills' pass rush has been somewhat diminished in the absence of Von Miller, who continues to recover from his ACL tear last season. In terms of the run game, Josh Jacobs will need to create his own yardage, as I have my doubts that the line will be of much assistance. While Jakobi Meyers had a standout performance last week, boasting 10 targets, 9 catches, 81 yards, and 2 touchdowns, his availability hinges on clearing concussion protocol. On the other hand, we anticipate that Davante Adams, despite missing Wednesday's practice due to a foot issue, will be fit to play. The challenge lies in the matchup against the Bills' secondary, anchored by one of the league's premier safety duos in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. However, it's worth noting that there may be opportunities to exploit the Bills' cornerbacks. Tre'Davious White, once a household name at cornerback, has not quite regained his previous form since his ACL injury in November 2021.
Last week's game vividly illustrated the consequences when Josh Allen experiences a subpar performance. Allen is routinely one of the league leaders in turnover worthy plays (especially with regards to fumbling), but he makes up for it with big plays. When those big plays don't happen, you end up losing to a Jets team that lost their starting quarterback 4 plays into the season. I wouldn't count on that continuing, Allen has cemented himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL for good reason, and this is a classic get-right spot against a bad Raiders defense. The Raiders tried to improve on their secondary in the offseason by adding CB Marcus Peters, but Peters is now 30 years old, has dealt with a slew of injuries in the past few seasons, and received a 53.7 coverage grade from PFF last week against the Dolphins. Simply put, I don't see the Raiders stopping Stefon Diggs. The one matchup advantage the Raiders will have is Maxx Crosby vs RT Spencer Browns. Crosby tends to stick to the left side, which happens to be a convenient spot for him against Buffalo where he'll avoid LT Dion Dawkins.
In closing, 9.5 is a lot of fucking points.
Baltimore (+3.5) @ Cincinnati
Power rankings: Baltimore 8, Cincy 7
Facing a vulnerable Texans team, the Ravens didn't face much of a challenge, but we gained valuable insights into their offense. Notably, rookie Zay Flowers, the 23rd overall pick from this year's draft out of Boston College, lined up alongside Odell Beckham Jr as one of the top two receivers. Flowers made a significant impact with a 9-catch, 78-yard performance. If TE Mark Andrews, who is expected to return from a quad injury, can complement Flowers, Lamar Jackson might have the most potent receiving group he's ever had at his disposal.
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals are still adjusting after losing both of their safeties in free agency. However, it's worth acknowledging that 2022 1st-round pick Dax Hill had an impressive showing in coverage last week. Although the Bengals boast a solid but not elite group of cornerbacks, they should provide much stiffer resistance than the Texans did in the previous week.
In the trenches, the Ravens could find themselves at a disadvantage. The injuries to center Tyler Linderbaum (ankle) and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) make their availability for the game unlikely. Trey Hendrickson, the Bengals' top pass rusher, will likely line up against left tackle Patrick Mekari, while run-stopping specialist DJ Reader could have an easier time if Linderbaum is unable to play.
When the Bengals have the ball:
Despite their underwhelming performance last week against Cleveland, labeling the Bengals offense as anything less than elite would be the type of small sample size foolishness that we loudly shun at first and thirty. Joe Burrow is the richest player in NFL history for good reasons, and when you pair him with the dynamic duo of Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, it creates an elite 1-2 punch that can strike fear into any defense.
While the performance of the offensive line last week raised concerns, it's worth noting that the Browns' defensive line has significantly improved since the previous season. The Bengals have continuously made efforts to address their offensive line issues each offseason, but challenges remain.
Regarding the Ravens' pass rush, they are pinning their hopes on Odafe Oweh, their 31st overall selection from the 2021 draft, to have a breakout season. Oweh displayed promise with an impressive 7 pressures in the opener, although the level of competition should be taken into account (i.e., the Texans are not good). Nevertheless, Oweh and Jadeveon Clowney form a formidable duo that has the potential to disrupt the Bengals passing attack.
The Ravens' primary concern lies in their secondary, particularly with cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who missed last week's game and isn't practicing due to a foot injury. This absence puts them at a disadvantage when matched up against the Bengals' talented group of receivers. The Ravens will need to find a solution to this mismatch to have a chance of containing the Bengals' potent passing attack.
Houston (+1.5) @ Indianapolis
Power Rankings: Houston 31, Indy 30
Keys to the game: The model has us betting a shit game, as one of the worst team's in football faces off another one of the worst team's in football. Are you planning on actually watching this? I suppose it's always fun to watch your bank roll climb, even if the on the field product is CFL-worthy.
When the Texans have the ball:
Rookie CJ Stroud encountered a challenging start to his NFL career, averaging just 5.5 yards per attempt over 55 dropbacks. According to PFF, he was responsible for 2 turnover-worthy plays and failed to produce any big-time throws, resulting in a modest grade of 55.2. While the offensive line remains an area of concern, the Texans have taken steps to address it, notably with the addition of right guard Shaq Mason during the offseason. With the presence of Pro Bowler Laremy Tunsil at left tackle and George Fant at right tackle, the offensive line is gradually trending towards an average performance level. However, they face a significant challenge against the Colts, who boast a formidable pass-rushing duo in DeForest Buckner on the interior and Kwity Paye on the edge.
The Texans will need to rely on their skill positions, particularly given the Colts' relatively weak secondary. The offseason departures of Stefon Gilmore (to the Cowboys) and Isaiah Rodgers (gambling) have left the Colts with a secondary that Robert Woods and Nico Collins should be well-equipped to exploit.
Additionally, it's an exciting moment for second-year wide receiver John Metchie II, who is poised to make his NFL debut after missing his rookie year due to a leukemia diagnosis.
When the Colts have the ball:
The Colts are entrusting their offense to a rookie quarterback of their own, who dink-and-dunked his way to a 64.9% completion rate, albeit with a modest 6.0 yards per attempt. Anthony Richardson's average depth of target of just 5.3 yards indicates that the Colts will continue to prioritize a safe and controlled passing game. Despite his penchant for short passes, Richardson's speed, clocked at 4.43 in the 40-yard dash, was showcased with 10 carries, suggesting that the Colts are willing to tap into his potential in the running game.
While the Colts boast a formidable offensive line, their receiving options beyond Michael Pittman Jr. are limited, and star running back Jonathan Taylor remains on the PUP list. The Texans' secondary, while not particularly fearsome, does have veteran presence, including the likes of Steve Nelson, who can provide support in containing Pittman. CB Derek Stingley Jr, the 3rd overall selection from last year, continues to struggle.
The Texans' defensive line is bolstered by seasoned players such as Jerry Hughes, Sheldon Rankins, and Maliek Collins, along with rookie sensation Will Anderson, whom the Texans traded up to select 3rd overall in this year's draft. Anderson displayed promise in his NFL debut with an impressive 5 pressures. While it's too early to declare him an elite prospect, it was certainly a promising start to his professional career. The Texans will be looking to harness his potential and pressure the Colts' rookie quarterback in this matchup.