Atlanta (-3.0) @ Carolina
Power rankings: Atlanta 21, Carolina 32
Spread update: The Falcons are now 2.5 point favorites. The line has moved away from the model.
Keys to the game: The Falcons offense isn't nearly as bad as you think -- they rank 8th in offensive DVOA and 11th in EPA/play. It's true that Marcus Mariota isn't an effective passer, but the Falcons limit his issues by empowering a run-first offense -- they are -12% in pass frequency over expected and rank 31st in situation-neutral pass frequency. The offensive line is strong -- Kaleb McGary has finally broken out to be a dependable tackle since entering the league as a 1st round pick in 2019. He combines with Jake Matthews to make a solid tackle tandem as well as RG Chris Lindstrom, who ranks 2nd among all guards in PFF grades. There are some questions at the other two positions, but I'd challenge anyone to name 10 better offensive lines in football. Drake London and Kyle Pitts is a decent 1-2 punch at receiver while Cordarrelle Patterson, Tyler Allgeier, and Caleb Huntley have all played well at running back. In short, it's an offense that has everything except a QB. The Panthers defense does have some strengths up front, particularly with tackles Derrick Brown and Matt Ioannidis and edge rusher Brian Burns. Jaycee Horn, who was taken 8th overall in last years draft, has also turned into a fine corner, but the rest of the secondary is full of exploitable holes. Despite a few positives, there's too many weaknesses along the defense to contend, leaving the Panthers struggling to defense the pass (28th in DVOA) and the run (23rd). Atlanta has an advantage here.
The Panthers got their doors blown off last week by the Bengals, leaving PJ Walker on the bench in the 2nd half for Baker Mayfield. Carolina is going to go with Walker again. I wrote last week that there's too much negative in Walker's history for us to trust that he is all of the sudden a good quarterback, and given how things went, I'm going to stick by that. Carolina does have a solid offensive line -- rookie LT Ikem Ekwonu has turned into a dependable tackled despite early-season struggles. RT Taylor Mortin is as solid as ever, and both C Bradley Bozeman and RG Austin Corbett have played well. They won't have any issues handling the Falcons defensive line that has very little outside of DT Grady Jarrett. The skill positions (mainly DJ Moore and Terrance Marshall) should be able to take advantage of the Falcons secondary that is without CB AJ Terrell (hamstring), leaving CB Darren Hall as the lone stingy player in the secondary. Even though the Falcons have a bad defense (29th in DVOA), the Panthers have bad even worse (31st in DVOA). Carolina's one advantage will come in the run game, where they rank 16th in DVOA and have a decisive advantage in the trenches.
Houston (+6.5) @ NY Giants
Power rankings: Houston 30, NY Giants 25
Spread update: The line moved slightly toward the model. The Giants are now 5.5 point favorites.
This game combines two of my favorite past times: betting dogs and fading the Giants and their bullshit record. The 6-2 Giants have played nowhere near levels that their record would suggest they're playing at.
Keys to the game: The Giants offense sits at 14th in DVOA, an impressive accomplishment given their personnel. Andrew Thomas is firmly in the conversation of best tackles in football, but the other 4 spots are all problems, which means the Giants offensive line is terrible. Daniel Jones has shown some rushing upside, but he's still just 25th in PFF grades. Their receiving core continues to be a mess, rotating out a series of injured or underperforming players. TE Daniel Bellinger appeared to be the one bright spot, but he's likely going to miss due to an eye injury sustained in week 7. Saquon Barkley, both as a runner and a receiver, remains the lone bright spot of all the skill position players. The Texans defense is poor -- 30th in DVOA, but they have a few potential mismatches to exploit. DE Jerry Hughes is coming off a game where he managed 7 pressures against the Eagles, who have arguably the best offensive line in football. They also have a couple of quality corners -- Desmond King and Steven Nelson, who can hold their own against the Giants receivers. The ground game is my biggest concern as a Texans bettor -- Houston is dead last in DVOA in the run game, but are a far better 19th in pass defense.
This is a classic case of bad offense vs bad defense, with the Texans ranking 29th in offensive DVOA and the Giants ranking 25th in defensive DVOA. Even still, there's a few issues of concern here for the Texans offense -- although the offensive line is solid at the tackle positions, their interior is weak. Meanwhile, DT Dexter Lawrence has been one of the best interior pass rushers in the league this season and DT Leonard Williams has been extremely good as well. If the Texans can get Brandin Cooks (wrist) and Nico Collins (groin) back, they could be ok -- but if not, Houston's receiving core is dreadful. The Giants secondary is weak, but when you're asking Phillip Dorsett and Chris Moore to be your top options, you're just asking for trouble. Luckily for us, Cooks and Collins are both practicing in a limited fashion.
The Texans are bad, but 6.5 is far too many points for the Giants to be giving.