Detroit (+3.0) @ Chicago
Power rankings: Detroit 28, Chicago 29
Spread update: This line remains at 3.0.
Keys to the game: Although the Lions offense has cooled off in recent weeks, they still rank 12th in offensive DVOA against a Bears defense that ranks 31st in defensive DVOA (30th vs the pass, 28th vs the run). The mismatch comes in the trenches, where the Lions boost a top 10 offensive line vs an inept Bears defensive line. The Bears blitz less than any team in football and don't have anyone capable of winning on one one -- particularly against Lions standouts LT Taylor Decker, C Frank Ragnow, and RT Penei Sewell. This is a big boost for Jared Goff who has always struggled under pressure and against the blitz relative to his peers. The Bears secondary has some reason for optimism -- 2020 draft picks Kindle Vildor and Jaylon Johnson have both held their own at corner and Eddie Jackson/rookie Jaquan Brisker have been a solid safety tandem. The Lions skill position players aren't particularly impressive outside of Amon-Ra St. Brown (especially with TJ Hockenson now catching passes for the Vikings), but they'll have additional time to get open due to the lack of pass rush. On the ground, D'Andre Swift (questionable, ankle/shoulder) and/or Jamaal Williams will have plenty of room to run.
The Bears, through endless hours and sleepless nights grinding tape, have figured out that Justin Fields is fast. Taping into Fields as a runner has jolted the offense, which has had above average performances against the Patriots, Cowboys, and Dolphins -- an impressive accomplishment given that New England and Dallas both have top 5 defenses based on DVOA. Fields is putting up running back worthy yardage in his last four games: 88, 82, 60, and 1fucking78. It's worth noting, however, that Fields is still struggling as a passer -- he is completing just 58.8% of his passes and ranks 4th worst in PFF's turnover worthy play metric. He's averaging 3.35 seconds to throw, which is the slowest in the league, and allowing 26.2% of his pressures to turn into sacks, which is 7th worst. He has a few things going for him in this matchup: for starters, the Lions have a bad defense -- they rank 26th in overall defensive DVOA, 26th against the pass, and 26th against the run. They blitz 30% of the time, which is 7th most in the league, but generate pressure at a rate of 19.2%, which ranks 24th. Rookie Aidan Hutchinson has been the teams best pass rusher, but he has just 24 pressures on the year, which is 44th most in the league. Meanwhile, the Bears offensive line has been a lot better than we anticipated going into the season -- which still isn't saying much, but they should have an advantage in the trenches. The job of pass blocking for Fields is damn near impossible, but Chicago does rank 2nd in PFF's run blocking grade. The skill positions I'm calling a wash, even with the addition of Chase Claypool on the Bears -- Chicago still doesn't have anywhere near the type of weaponry you would want for a young QB (especially with Darnell Mooney having a down year) and Detroit has had some younger players improve in the secondary (rookie Kerby Joseph and DeShon Elliott is an underrated safety tandem). The Bears will have an advantage on the ground. The passing game will come down to which Justin Fields shows up.
Cleveland (+4.0) @ Miami
Power rankings: Cleveland 9, Miami 10
Spread update: The spread has moved slightly toward the model. Miami is now 3.5 point favorites.
Keys to the game: The Browns, despite starting Jacoby Brissett at QB, are 5th in offensive DVOA (8th pass, 2nd run). The key to the Browns is their offensive line, which is one of the best in all of football (I'll accept the Eagles as better, but nobody else). With Nick Chubb at running back, their rushing prowess shouldn't be a surprise. Brissett has also been a decent QB this season, despite a lackluster group of weapons (aka Amari Cooper and nobody else). They should matchup well against a Dolphins defense that is 31st in pass defense DVOA and 7th against the run. Miami's secondary has dealt with injuries and a struggling Xavien Howard and simply doesn't have anyone who can cover Cooper. The Dolphins defense is far better on the ground, but Cleveland's rushing attack is simply better. The compelling story line will be pass protection -- Miami enters this game ranked 6th in blitz rate (30.1%), but just 29th in pressure rate (14.9%). They did add Bradley Chubb at the trade deadline and have two above-average pass rushers (Jaelan Phillips and Melvin Ingram). When blitizing, safety Jevon Holland has also been very effective at getting after the quarterback. There's simply too much talent for their pass rush not to generate pressure at a much higher level, but given the Browns offensive line, I expect them to keep Brissett relatively clean.
Miami has the best passing offense by DVOA. It's easy to see why -- Tua Tagovailoa is PFF's top graded quarterback, and the combination of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle is simply unstoppable. The Browns defense is at least much better at defending the pass (18th in DVOA) than the run (30th), but expect Miami to have a ton of success throwing the ball. The heart of the Browns defense is their pass rush, featuring Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. Garrett is in the middle of a season that should land him firmly in the defensive player of the year discussion. He'll primarily line up against LT Terron Armstead, who is typically one of the better tackles in football, but he's been battling injuries throughout the season and did not practice on Friday (toe/calf). On the other side, Clowney will have an advantage over RT Brandon Shell. Simply put: Cleveland's best chance of containing Miami's passing attack is for their pass rush to win big.