San Francisco @ Arizona (+12.5)
Power rankings: Arizona 31, San Fran 1
Keys to the game: By both DVOA and EPA/play, the 49ers have the best offense in football. They're exceptional both passing (1st in DVOA) and rushing (3rd). Apart from LT Trent Williams, who is consistently one of the better lineman in football, the offensive line struggles, but everything else works to perfection. The combination of quarterback and skill position players is the best in football. Combine that with an offensive scheme produced by Kyle Shannahan and it shouldn't be a surprise to see the 49ers soar to the top of any meaningful offensive ranking. The Cardinals defense is another story - they're currently 31st in defensive DVOA (31st pass, 28th run). They've struggled at every facet of defense, including against #1 wide receivers (hint: Brandon Aiyuk) where they rank 31st in DVOA, tight ends (hint: George Kittle) where they rank 24th, and against running backs as receivers (hint: Christian McCaffrey) where they rank 27th. Arizona does have a trio of better-than- average pass rushers (Dennis Gardeck, Zaven Collins, rookie BJ Ojulari). They've developed a blitz-heavy scheme, ranking 8th in blitz rate, but despite all of that they rank just 25th in pressure rate and 25th in pass rush win rate. Brock Purdy also has a higher PFF grade vs the blitz (83.2) than when not blitzed (79.4). Arizona needs Devine intervention to have a chance at the upset.
The Cardinals offense is 26th in DVOA, ranking better running (14th in DVOA) than passing (26th). Since returning from an ACL injury 4 weeks ago, Kyler Murray's PFF grade of 68.5 isn't much better than what they got out of Josh Dobbs (61.0). It's also right around what Murray's performance was pre ACL injury from last season (67.1), making the claim that the Cardinals offense is any better under Murray dubious at best. Murray is an improvement in the run game - he's averaging 4.7 yards per attempt and has already scored 3 touchdowns, but in games when the Cardinals are double digit dogs, running isn't expected to be a big part of the game plan. The Cardinals have one of the worst offensive lines in football and a mediocre group of receivers. The emergence of Trey McBride at tight end has provided a jolt to the offense - McBride is now PFF's 5th highest graded tight end and is averaging 73 receiving yards per game since week 8. San Francisco's defense is 4th in DVOA, proving to be more effective in the pass game (4th in DVOA) than the run game (17th). Their pass game success comes is largely due to their pass rush, which ranks 8th in pressure rate and 8th in pass rush win rate. Nick Bosa is a defensive player of the year candidate who will certainly feast on the Cardinals weak tackle tandem, while DE Chase Young and DT Javon Hargrave have helped provide a consistent pass rush. Hargrave did miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday (hamstring), which could provide some hope that the 49ers pass rush will be slightly less scary. The 49ers have a solid linebacking tandem (Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw) as well as a deep secondary. They're 2nd in DVOA when covering tight ends, which should help with Trey McBride's emergence.
It's a scary matchup, but 12.5 is a lot of fucking points.
Washington @ LA Rams (-6.5)
Power rankings: Washington 29, LA Rams 11
Keys to the game: The Commanders offense is 23rd in DVOA, struggling in both the passing game (25th in DVOA) and rushing (21st). Earlier in the season, Sam Howell was the ultimate boom or bust quarterback, intent on risking a sack or interception with the prospect of a big play. In recent weeks, he's calmed down the aggressive throws, but he's still taking far too many sacks. Howell's 58 sacks on the season are 10 more than any other quarterback this year. His offensive line is bottom tier, but Howell still needs a lesson in getting rid of the football. Howell does have a limited group of skill position players at his arsenal (except for Terry McLaurin). They'll also be missing RB Brian Robinson (hamstring). The Rams defense is 23rd in DVOA (22nd pass, 21st run). Despite their blitz-heavy scheme (LA is 4th in blitz rate), they're generating pressure 29th most often and rank 29th in pass rush win rate. Aaron Donald remains one of the premier defensive tackles and rookie Kobie Turner has had a fine season, but the rest of the front 7 is unable to disrupt the quarterback. The Rams secondary and linebacking core hasn't been much better, giving Howell a shot to put together one of his better games. As for Donald - RG Sam Cosmi has been the Commanders best lineman, playing well in both the pass and run game. However, LG Chris Paul has been one of the worst lineman in football this season.
The Rams offense is 9th in DVOA (8th pass, 7th run). Their offensive line is below average and potentially missing their best player (RT Rob Havenstein, groin), leaving RG Kevin Dotson as the only competent member of the line. Havenstein's injury comes from last week, and he didn't practice at all on Wednesday or Thursday. That all said, the Commanders traded away their best two pass rushers at the deadline (Chase Young and Montez Sweat), leaving them with an extremely weak front 7. The Rams rely on QB Matt Stafford - who is 11th in PFF QB grades and 8th in ESPN's QBR metric, as well as Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp, who represent a dynamic 1-2 punch at receiver. RB Kyren Williams has the 5th best rushing grade from PFF this season (90.4) - he's 6th in YPA (5.0) and 5th in yards after contact per attempt (3.56). The Commanders are dead last in defensive DVOA, ranking 32nd against the pass and 24th against the run. Apart from CB Kendall Fuller, the defense has a number of options for Stafford to pick on. Receivers have fared well against Washington this season - the Commanders defense is dead last in DVOA against WR #1 and 21st against WR #2.
Dallas (+2.0) @ Buffalo
Power rankings: Dallas 2, Buffalo 6
Keys to the game: The Cowboys defense is 6th in DVOA - they've been better passing (6th in DVOA) than running (16th). This is reflected in their strategy - Dallas ranks 5th in situation-neutral passing rate. They feature one of the best offensive lines in football, a quarterback that (in my not so humble opinion) should be the front-runner for MVP, and a strong and diverse group of skill position players led by a true #1 WR (CeeDee Lamb, currently 4th in PFF grades). Their rushing "problems" (relatively speaking) are largely due to Tony Pollard, currently having a down year and ranking 28th in yards per attempt after contact (2.88). The Bills defense is 15th in DVOA - they've been mediocre against both the pass (16th in DVOA) and the run (18th). Despite hardly ever blitzing (29th in blitz rate), the Bills rank 4th in pressure rate and 4th in pass rush win rate. Buffalo doesn't have any dominant pass rushers, but rather a slew of options that can win (ED Oliver, Greg Rousseau, Leonard Floyd, and AJ Epensea). They improved their cornerback room greatly since bringing in Rasul Douglas at the deadline (currently the 4th best corner by PFF grades), but they are likely missing standout safety Micah Hyde (neck stinger). Buffalo's defense may be solid, but Dallas's line is capable of handling their pass rush, and Dak Prescott has been simply unstoppable this season.
The Bills offense ranks 3rd in DVOA, performing well both passing (2nd in DVOA) and running (6th). Josh Allen remains an elite quarterback - currently ranking 2nd in PFF grades and 3rd in ESPN's total QBR. The offensive line is a borderline top 10 unit - they're solid at the tackle positions and LG, but have holes at center (Mitch Morse) and RG (O’Cyrus Torrence). Similar to Dallas, they have a strong group of skill position players led by a true number 1 receiver (Stef Diggs). Dallas's defense is 5th in DVOA (6th pass, 6th run). They have the best pass rush in football - they rank 1st in both pressure rate despite ranking dead last in blitz rate (this is insane). To nobody's surprise, they're also 1st in pass rush win rate. Michah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence is one of the better combinations at edge rusher then we've seen in quite some time - and even though Buffalo has a strong tackle-tandem, neither are on the level of Parsons/Lawrence. Dallas also a strong combination at linebacker and an elite secondary. CB Daron Bland, in addition to having an absurd 5 pick-sixes on the season, ranks 2nd in coverage grade from PFF and is allowing a 50.2 passer rating into his coverage. This is a battle of two titans, buckle in.