Philadelphia (-9.0) @ Chicago
Power rankings: Philadelphia 1, Chicago 31
Spread update: This line is sticking at 9.0.
Keys to the game: You probably don't need me to tell you that the Eagles offense (2nd in DVOA and EPA/play) is a mismatch against the Bears defense (dead last in DVOA and EPA/play). The biggest issue for the Bears comes in the trenches -- the Eagles have -- in my not so humble opinion -- the best offensive line in the league. They are without a weak link and have one of the strongest tackle tandem's (Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson) as well as center's (Jason Kelce) in the game. Meanwhile, the Bears have a brutally inept defensive line -- they rank 28th in pressure rate (17.5%) and are allowing 4.7 yards per rush on the ground. Simply put, Jalen Hurts will have all day to throw and Miles Sanders will have plenty of room to run. The Bears secondary does have anyone capable of covering either AJ Brown or DeVonta Smith under normal circumstances, but they'll need to stick with them that much longer. With S Eddie Jackson (lisfranc) out for the season since November 30th, the number of players on the Bears defense that deserve to be NFL starters is laughably low.
The Bears offense is one dimensional, ranking 27th in DVOA throwing and 9th running. The rushing success started midway through the season when Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy learned that Justin Fields is fast. Since week 6, Fields is averaging 101.5 rushing yards/game. Fields's 7.1 yards per rushing attempt is the best mark of any QB in the league, as is his total yardage (905). Meanwhile, the offensive line was widely believed to be one of the worst in football at the beginning of the season, but they've proven to be a solid group, particularly from a run-blocking perspective. The issues with the pass game is two fold: Fields isn't throwing the ball well and their receiving group is injured and bad. With Chase Claypool (knee) out and Darnell Mooney (ankle) on IR, the top projected receivers are TE Cole Kmet, Byron Pringle, and Equanimeous St. Brown. They do at least matchup well against an Eagles defense (7th in DVOA/4th in EPA/play) that is far better against the pass (2nd in DVOA) than the run (24th). The Eagles have a slew of pass rushers that can win -- they have five different members with 28 or more pressures and ranks 3rd in the NFL in pressure rate (25.0%). They also have one of the strongest cornerback rooms in football -- Darius Slay and James Bradberry together are enough to give even the best passing offenses issues. Chicago will need to rely on their run game, but that won't be easy if the game gets away from them due to issues with their defense.
Dallas (-4.5) @ Jacksonville
Power rankings: Dallas 4, Jacksonville 23
Spread update: This spread has moved slightly toward the model. The spread is down to 4.
Keys to the game: The Cowboys offense (15th in DVOA/7th in EPA/play) have an easy matchup against the Jaguars defense (22nd in DVOA/28th in EPA/play). There's a good news/bad news situation with the Cowboys offensive line, which is still solid but far from the dominant line we've seen in years past. The good news: LT Tyron Smith has been activated off of IR and will make his season debut -- that should kick rookie Tyler Smith from LT to LG, which sends LG Connor McGovern to the bench where he belongs. Tyler Smith was drafted to play LG, only needing to kick out to tackle due to Tyron's injury prior to the start of the regular season. The bad news is RT Terence Steele tore his ACL last week, ending his season. Josh Ball came in last week to replace Steele, who earned a 24.5 pass blocking grade from PFF. It's possible the Cowboys shift Tyron over the RT and keep Tyler at LT, or they could bring old man Jason Peters into the starting lineup. Regardless, it's a tough matchup against a Jaguars pass rush that ranks 7th in pressure rate (23.8%). The good news is 1st overall pick Travon Walker (ankle) will miss -- he hasn't had a great season, but does have 15 pressures in his last 5 games. The Jaguars still have Arden Key (inside) and Josh Allen (outside), which will test the Cowboys offensive line. The advantage for the Cowboys comes from their pass catchers vs the Jaguars inept secondary, which is one of the worst in football (only CB Tyson Campbell is good). The Jaguars rank 30th in pass defense DVOA, which is a testament to how bad their secondary is given how effective their pass rush has been.
The rumors -- which may or may not be true -- is Trevor Lawrence is breaking out, living up to his reputation as the most highly touted quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. Since week 10, Lawrence is PFF's 3rd highest graded quarterback, completing 70.0% of his passes, gaining 7.5 yards per attempt with a 9:0 TD:INT ratio. I'm a believer in Lawrence, but this is a tough matchup: the Jags are 13th in DVOA and 9th in EPA/play, but the Cowboys defense is 1st in DVOA and 3rd in EPA/play. The Jaguars offensive line is one-dimensional, proficient in pass blocking but piss-poor (technical term) in run-blocking. The Cowboys defensive line, led by Micha Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence, leads the league in pressure rate despite average blitz rates. Parsons is a DPOY candidate who is a mismatch against either tackle. The Cowboys secondary shouldn't have any issues matching up against the likes of Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram. Given that the Jaguars are 22nd in rush offense DVOA (see: poor run-blocking), I wouldn't expect much in the run game either.
Pittsburgh (+2.5) @ Carolina
Power rankings: Pittsburgh 18, Carolina 28
Spread update: This line has moved away from the model, Pittsburgh is now 3 point dogs.
Keys to the game: Rookie QB Kenny Pickett (concussion) is officially out, and therefore Mitch Tribusky will start on Sunday. The difference between Tribusky and Pickett this season is essentially negligible -- their stats have been fairly similar (they've both been bad), with Mitch showing a slightly higher propensity to turn the ball over with more big-play upside. This matchup is a giant case of who cares: the Steelers offense is 20th in both DVOA and EPA/play while the Panthers defense is 19th in DVOA and 11th in EPA/play. The Panthers defensive line blitzes 29.7% of the time -- 8th highest in the league -- and has a few big name players between DT Derrick Brown, DT Matt Ioannidis, and DE Brian Burns, but they're only generating pressure at a 21.2% clip, 21st in the league. It's a fair matchup against a pedestrian Steelers line. The advantage that Pittsburgh has is their receivers against a Panthers secondary that features CB Jaycee Horn and nobody else.
The Panthers offense is rolling with Sam Darnold, who followed up a decent performance against the Broncos with a Darnold-esque performance against the Seahawks, completing 58.1% of his passes and gaining 6.6 yards per attempt. We don't need to review a 2 game sample to know that Darnold isn't a great quaterback, and we don't need to look much further than their offensive ratings (29th in DVOA and 28th in EPA/play) to know that this isn't a good offense. The Panthers offensive line is solid, but the combination of TJ Watt (outside), Alex Highsmith (outside), Cam Heyward (inside), and a blitz-heavy scheme will put the line to the test. The Steelers defense is 13th in DVOA and 23rd in EPA/play -- the difference coming because they've faced the strongest schedule of opposing offenses in the league and DVOA is opponent adjusted while EPA/play is not. The Steelers have some weaknesses in the secondary that can be taken advantage of -- CB Cameron Sutton and S Minkah Fitzpatrick are the lone two positive contributors -- but top WR DJ Moore is questionable with an ankle injury. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. have both come on strong as of late -- assuming Moore can play, they could test the Panthers secondary.