NY Jets (+3.0) @ Minnesota
Power rankings: NY Jets 13, Minnesota 16
Spread update: This line remains at 3.0.
Keys to the game: The Jets offense is 18th in DVOA and 25th in EPA/play -- the latter stat being a bit too tough on the Jets as they've faced the 4th hardest schedule of opposing defenses. They're going to continue to roll with Mike White, a modern day folk hero ready to save the city of New York from the evil Zach Wilson. Last year, White came in for an injured Wilson and threw over over 400 passing yards, leaving the football world to quickly conclude that the 2018 5th rounder was the better option than the BYU guy who they just took 2nd overall in the draft. A closer look at White's game, however, showed it was a farce -- his passing yardage had been propped up by dink and dunk passes and yards after the catch. Teams quickly realized the key to stopping White was to take away the short area of the field, and he was quickly exposed as a not-so-great quarterback. This year had a similar story -- sans Wilson injury -- with White coming out strong against the Bears, completing 22/28 passes (78.6%), gaining 315 yards (11.3 YPA), 3 TDs, 0 INTs, and a 81.8 PFF grade. And yet again, the story with White's production was due to dink and dunk passes -- 22 of his 28 passes traveled less than 10 yards and his in-game average depth of target was a measly 5.9 yards. There's still some reason for optimism in this game, however -- the Vikings pass defense is 27th in DVOA and they are far better at defending deep passes (9th in DVOA) than short passes (31st). The Jets do have issues along the offensive line -- a slew of injuries have rendered their once promising line to be bottom tier, and the Vikings have a strong pass rushing trio between Za'Darius Smith, Danielle Hunter, and Dalvin Tomlinson. All three will have an advantage -- Smith is leading the league in pressures with 61, capable of winning along the edge and inside. Hunter is primarily an edge defender who flips sides, but spends more time over the right tackle where he'll be taking on rookie Max Mitchell, who ranks 64th out of 76 qualifiers in PFF grades. The Vikings issues with their pass defense is explained by injuries to CB Cameron Danztler (ankle) and down years from LB Eric Kendricks and S Harrison Smith. The only player in coverage who is playing well is Patrick Peterson, the 32 year old who had 3 down years in a row before returning to elite form. The should give the Jets receiving weapons (Garrett Wilson, Corey Davis, Tyler Conklin, Elijah Moore) an advantage. On the ground, the Jets will need to rely heavily on UDFA rookie Zonovan Knight with Michael Carter (ankle) likely out. Last week Knight ran as the Jets primary back over Carter, averaging 4.9 yards per attempt. It'll be interesting to see what he does against the Vikings run defense that ranks 16th in run defense DVOA with more on his plate.
The Vikings offense is 20th in DVOA and 18th in EPA/play, a potentially surprising stat given their 9-2 record, but a reality nonetheless. Kirk Cousins isn't having a great year by his standards, ranking 16th in PFF grades, 23rd in ESPN QBR, and 18th in DYAR. RB Dalvin Cook also hasn't been nearly as impressive as we've come to expect, ranking 15th in YPA (4.7) and 9th in yards per attempt after contact (3.52). The strength of the Vikings offense comes from their offensive line, which does have some weaknesses at the guard positions (Erza Cleveland and Ed Ingram), but is strong at the center and tackle positions -- assuming LT Christian Darisaw clears concussion protocol -- he missed last week and isn't practicing this week, but players typically only miss 1 week with a concussion. Either way, they'll have their work cut out for them against a Jets defensive line that ranks 5th in pressure rate despite blitzing 30th most often. All four Jets starters can win, but in particular Quinnen Williams (inside) and John Franklin-Myers (outside) have been outstanding at getting after the pressure. Given Cleveland and Ingram's weaknesses in pass protection, Williams should spend plenty of time in the Vikings backfield. Minnesota also excels at the receiving position -- they have this guy named Justin Jefferson who appears to be pretty good -- while Adam Thielen and TJ Hockenson are respectable complimentary options. The Jets have one of the better secondaries in football, however, with both Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed, and slot corner Michael Carter all having standout seasons. Jordan Whitehead and Lamarcus Joyner is also a respectable safety tandem. The Jets defense is 4th in DVOA and 6th in EPA/play -- they're strong both against the pass (5th in DVOA) and the run (6th). This is a difficult matchup for any opponent.
Seattle @ LA Rams (+7.5)
Power rankings: Seattle 14, LA Rams 27
Spread update: This line is sticking at 7.5.
Keys to the game: The Seahawks offense is 8th in the league in both DVOA and EPA/play, but have been far better passing (4th in DVOA) than running (23rd). The Rams defense is 16th in DVOA and 15th in EPA/play, but are far better against the run (5th in DVOA) than the pass (26th), which sets up for a rather intriguing matchup. The story of the Seahawks unlikely rise continues to be Geno Smith, who is 8th in PFF grades, 5th in ESPN's QBR, and 8th in DYAR. Smith has particularly excelled at deep passing, where he ranks 1st in PFF grades and 3rd in DYAR, and is playing against a Rams defense that is 30th in DVOA in defending deep passes. In the trenches, the Seahawks offensive line -- led by a pair of rookie tackles -- is firmly in the good-but-not-great category. It should be more than enough against a Rams pass rush that is 31st in pressure rate. Aaron Donald is still Aaron Donald, but he's the only competent pass rusher on the Rams line and he could be out with an ankle injury (he did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. The Rams secondary has struggled behind Jalen Ramsey, who still remains one of the top corners in football. This still presents a problem on how to cover both DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, especially since the Rams number 2 corner, Troy Hill, did not practice with a groin injury. The Rams run defense comes from a strong linebacker combination in Bobby Wagner (PFF's top graded linebacker) and Ernest Jones.
The Rams offense is in ruins. Matt Stafford (concussion) won't play, while Allen Robinson and Cooper Kupp are both on IR. John Wolford, a 27 year old with 93 career dropbacks, will get the start. Wolford has a career completion percentage of 59.5% and yards and a career YPA of 5.9 yards. The offensive line, which is essentially down to Rob Havenstein and nobody else, is arguably the worst in football. The top receivers by projected targets: Tyler Higbee, Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, and rookie RB Kyren Williams. At the very least, the Seahawks defense isn't special, ranking 19th in DVOA and 26th in EPA/play. Their defensive line is below average, but they do have a pair of above-average players, Shelby Harris (inside) and Uchenna Nwosu (outside). Nwosu is their best pass rushing threat, who could be neutralized by Havenstein but will have a decisive advantage against rookie 7th rounder LT AJ Arcuri. Nwosu has lined up exclusively over the right tackle in the last 3 games, but he has plenty of snaps over the left tackle as well, which is where he should be if Pete Caroll wants to get after Wolford. The cornerback room for Seattle is a weakness outside of rookie 5th rounder Tariq Woolen, but they shouldn't have an issue against the Rams backup receivers. At the very least, Quandre Diggs and Ryan Neal are an above-average safety tandem.
Yeah, we bet the Rams. Don't blame me, I just work for the model (and god dammit do I love a good 7.5 point hook).