Indianapolis @ Minnesota (-4.5)
Power rankings: Indy 30, Minnesota 15
Spread update: This line has moved toward the model, down to Minnesota -3.5.
Keys to the game: The Colts offense sits at dead last in DVOA and 31st in EPA/play, scoring horribly in both passing offense (32nd in DVOA) and rushing offense (31st). Their issues stem from poor quarterback play (Matt Ryan ranks 31st or 37 qualifiers in PFF grades this season) and a bad offensive line. The good news for the Colts is RT Braden Smith should return after missing time with an illness, which brings some stability to the right side of the line, which is typically where DE Danielle Hunter and DT Dalvin Tomlinson line up, who are both effective pass rushers. Even still, the line has too many holes to deal with Tomlinson, Hunter, and Za'Darius Smith, who leads the league in pressures. The way to attack the Vikings defense (22nd in DVOA/15th in EPA/play) has been through the air, as they have been far better against the run (14th in DVOA) than the pass (27th). The Vikings did get some help in their secondary when Cameron Dantzler (ankle) returned last week, but he performed poorly, allowing 4 catches for 62 yards and a touchdown against the Lions. Dantzler has another weak to get healthy, which is badly needed given that the secondary has found issues everywhere except for Patrick Peterson. Even reliable players like S Harrison Smith and LB Eric Kendricks have had down years. As for the run game, we've already mentioned the Colts line and rushing efficiency, but the other problem has been Jonathan Taylor's down year. Although still playing well, he's far from the elite play we saw from his previous two seasons. Taylor's 3.08 yards per contact after attempt rank 22nd among all qualifying running backs.
The Vikings offense is 18th in both DVOA and EPA/play, with a tough battle against a solid Colts defense that ranks 12th in DVOA and 9th in EPA/play. The battle in the trenches should be solid, with both the Colts pass rush (DT DeForest Buckner) and DE Kwity Paye) and Vikings offensive line both bringing above-average units (haha, above-average unit). The potential advantage would be Bucker's rushing from the inside, as the Vikings have two elite tackles (Christian Darrisaw and Brian O'Neil, but are weaker along the interior -- especially if C Garrett Bradberry (back) can't play. Bradberry missed last week, but was limited in practice all week which gives some hope that he'll be able to go despite his questionable tag. Justin Jefferson is essentially uncoverable, but the Colts have a loaded secondary between CB Isaiah Rodgers, CB Stephon Gilmore, and S Rodney McLeod.
Miami (+7.5) @ Buffalo
Power rankings: Miami 6, Buffalo 2
Spread update: This line has moved toward the model, the Bills are now 7 point favorites.
The Dolphins offense is coming off of back to back poor offensive performances, which is worthy worrying about if you care about two game sample sizes (hint: you shouldn't). Even with the bad games, the Dolphins are 3rd in offensive DVOA and 5th in EPA/play. Tua Tagovailoa's struggles in the last two games were the main culprit of the lackluster offense, but he's still PFF's 5th highest graded QB, completing 65.5% of his passes and gaining 8.7 yards per attempt. Tua also has a pair of receivers, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle going up against zero (0) above-average corners. That includes Tre'Davious White, who now has three games under his belt since recovering from a late season 2021 ACL injury, but has not performed anywhere near his usual standards. It's not at all uncommon to need additional time to get back into form, and for the time being we need to not treat White as if he's an elite cornerback. The key to this game comes down to the trenches -- the Bills pass rush is without Von Miller (ACL), but there's still a slew of talented members of the front 7. DE Gregory Rousseau, DE Boogie Basham, and DT DaQuan Jones are all effective pass rushers, while DT Ed Oliver is solid against the run. , LB Matt Milano LB Tremaine Edwards represent one of the better linebacker duos in football, both excelling in coverage and as situational pass rushers. The Dolphins offensive line, which is below average, is at a disadvantage. LT Terron Armstead has been playing through a toe and pec injury for most of the season and is now listed with a knee injury. He's technically questionable, but likely will play, because that's what Terron Armstead does. Even with Armstead, the Bills have holes within the line to exploit. The Bills defense is 4th in DVOA and 8th in EPA/play, a classic heavy-hitter clash.
The Bills offense is also a juggernaut, ranking 4th in DVOA and EPA/play. It'll be a tough matchup for the Dolphins mediocre defense that ranks 17th in DVOA and 16th in EPA/play. Miami does have a matchup advantage in the trenches -- they have a slew of productive pass rushers (Melvin Ingram, Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips, Christian Wilkins) that come with a blitz-heavy scheme against a bad Bills offensive line. The Bills line is particularly weak along the interior, where both Phillips and Wilkins rush from. The problem, of course, is Josh Allen -- currently ranked as the best QB in the league by PFF grades against a poor Dolphins secondary. Miami will cause problems up front, but don't expect that to slow down Allen. Miami's defense is far better in the run game (8th in DVOA) than the pass game (22nd) while the Bills are far better in the pass game (3rd) than the run (15th).
Detroit @ NY Jets (+1.0)
Power rankings: Detroit 13, NY Jets 9
Spread update: The Jets are 1.5 point dogs now, which is a slight move away from the model. Mike White (ribs) was ruled out Friday, after which the Jets announced that Zach Wilson will start. The market has routinely favored White over Wilson, which could explain the line movement.
Keys to the game: The Lions offense is 7th in DVOA and 8th in EPA/play. The Jets defense is 6th in both metrics. The Lions boost one of the stronger offensive lines in the league, with a weakness at RG (Logan Stenberg) and nowhere else. The Jets pass rush could be a problem even for Detroit, however -- they rank dead last in blitz rate but are still 7th best in pressure rate. A potential blow could come if DT Quinnen Williams (calf) isn't able to play. Williams was injured last week and did not practice all week before being slapped with the questionable tag. He's one of the premier tackles in football, and is an issue for anyone if he is healthy and can play. Even without Williams, the Jets still should have decent chances at putting pressure on Jared Goff, who operates far more effectively from a clean pocket (yes, so does everyone, I mean relative to his peers). The Jets secondary is also top tier -- Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed, and Michael Carter (slot) represent arguably the top cornerback room in football while Jordan Whitehead/Lamarcus Joyner is an above-average safety tandem. Carter will have his work cut out for him against Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has emerged as one of the better receivers in football and typically lines up in the slot. The Lions have a few other decent receiving options (DJ Chark has played well as of late), but stopping St. Brown is the top priority. The Lions also have a solid run game, compete with a two-headed backfield in Jamaal Williams and D'Andre Swift, but the Jets are equally strong against the run.
The other side of the ball is a different story. As mentioned above, the Jets are turning back to Zach Wilson. Regular readers of this site know that Wilson's issues are mostly related to an inability to handle pressure -- he's 5th in the league in yards per attempt from a clean pocket, but dead last under pressure. His under pressure numbers are comically bad -- he's completing 26.7% of his passes under pressure which is by far and away worst in the league (Kyler Murray is second worst at 40.5%). The Lions have a bad defensive line, but they are able to generate mediocre pressure numbers due to a blitz heavy scheme -- their 30.9% blitz rate ranks 7th in the league. Their best pass rusher, rookie Aidan Hutchinson, is also questionable with an illness. The Jets line is trending in the right direction now that they have RT George Fant back, but they are still bottom tier due to several other injuries. The Jets receivers will be missing Corey Davis (concussion), but the Lions inept secondary does not have anyone that can keep up with Garrett Wilson. Detroit is 24th in DVOA and 31st in EPA/play, performing poorly against the pass and the run. Let's hope Wilson picked up during his well deserved time off.