New Orleans (+9.5) @ San Francisco
Power rankings: New Orleans 19, San Francisco 6
Spread update: This line has moved toward the model. The 49ers are now 8.5 point favorites.
Keys to the game: Andy Dalton has been a pleasant surprise for the Saints this year, ranking as PFF's 7th highest graded QB (his passing grade is 4th best). PFF grades are a lot more favorable to Dalton than other advanced metrics (he's 19th in ESPN's total QBR), but this is partially due to his bad luck with turnovers that only PFF considers. Dalton has thrown 7 interceptions this season, but he's creating turnover worthy plays at a just 2.2% rate, which is 7th best in the league. His 66.9% completion percentage is 2.2% better than expected and he's gaining 7.5 yards per play through the air. The issue with the Saints offense (23rd in DVOA, 21st in EPA/play) is their offensive line. Due to a slew of injuries (9 different lineman have played significant snaps this season) they're left with RT Ryan Ramczyk as the only competent lineman. That could be bad news against a 49ers defense that ranks 4th in pressure rate (24.9%) and 4th in PFF's run defense team grades. San Francisco will be without standout DT Arik Armstead (foot/ankle), but Nick Bosa will have his way against backup LT Landon Young (6th round 2021 pick). The Saints do have a solid receiving duo in Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry which could take advantage of the 49ers weak group of corners (only Charvarius Ward is good), but the 49ers have an excellent safety and linebacker room. It isn't a surprise to see them as the best defense in the league by DVOA in covering running backs, which isn't ideal for Alvin Kamara and his receiving ability. San Francisco is also the 3rd best team in run defense DVOA -- I wouldn't expect much from Kamara on the ground either.
The 49ers offense is 11th in DVOA and 7th in EPA/play. The strength comes from their group of receivers -- Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Ayiuk, and Christian McCaffrey is about as deep as it gets. Samuel is technically questionable with a hamstring injury, but he's expected to play. The Saints defense is hopeful to get CB Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) back for the first time since week 5 -- he was limited all week and questionable (which is usually a sign that he'll play). This would be massive for the Saints given how bad their other corners are. The 49ers will have a matchup advantage in the trenches -- they have a few weak spots along the interior, but as a whole they're a legit top 10 line and are one of the better run blocking units in football. The Saints defensive line has underperformed this season, and there's injury concerns to there big names. Marcus Davenport missed weeks 10 and 11 with calf injury and is a true questionable. Cam Jordan missed week 11 with an eye injury and is also questionable, but likely to play. The Saints will be without LB Pete Werner (ankle), but the linebackers are still a strength -- both Demario Davis and Kaden Elliss have been excellent this season in coverage, pass rush, and run defense. The safety duo of Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye is also above-average. This should help in covering tight ends/running backs (the Saints are 1st in DVOA in covering tight ends). The concern for the matchup is Garoppolo will be able to operate from a clean pocket -- which is the environment where he typically excels, and the success of the run game given the matchup in the trenches plus the Saints 20th ranking in run defense DVOA.
Pittsburgh (+2.5) @ Indianapolis
Power rankings: Pittsburgh 21, Indianapolis 29
Spread update: This line is sticking at 2.5.
Keys to the game: I'm not going to spend much time on the Monday Night fuck show game.
The Steelers offense sits at 24th in DVOA and 25th in EPA/play. They feature a rookie QB that ranks 33rd of 39 qualifiers in PFF grades, a bad offensive line, a decent group of receivers (Dionate Johnson, George Pickes, and TE Pat Freiermuth), and a running back who is technically very good but can't overcome the issues with the line (Najee Harris is averaging just 3.7 yards per attempt). The Colts do have a solid defense, ranking 10th in DVOA and 7th in EPA/play. Their pass rush is above-average, but their best two pass rushers may be missing. DT DeForest Buckner (ribs/illness) missed Thursday and Fridays practice and DE Kwity Paye (ankle) missed last week and isn't practicing either. Without those two their pass rush is non-existent, although if Buckner can play he'll have a field day with the Steelers guards. The Colts cornerback duo of Stephon Gilmore and Isaiah Rodgers is strong, but they've struggled covering tight ends and running backs, ranking 27th and 26th in DVOA against the position. That could give the Steelers at least somewhat of a matchup advantage as they do utilize both Freiermuth and Harris in the passing game. The Colts are 6th in DVOA against the run (LB Bobby Okereke is very good), even without Buckner/Paye the Steelers will likely struggle there.
The Colts offense is dead last in DVOA and EPA/play. The Steelers defense is 14th in DVOA and 25th in EPA/play -- although the latter stat isn't scheduled adjusted and Pittsburgh has faced the toughest schedule of opposing offenses. Both the Colts offensive line and Matt Ryan have looked far better since Jeff Saturday took over, but neither has been great this season. DE TJ Watt, DT Cam Heyward, and DE Alex Highsmith will have a decisive advantage. The Colts receivers (Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce) are better than the Steelers corners, but Pittsburgh does have an above-average safety tandem (Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick) to assist. The Colts rely extensively on Jonathan Taylor's rushing ability (4.6 YPA), but he's got a tough matchup against a Steelers run defense that ranks 7th in run defense DVOA.