LA Rams (+6.5) @ LA Chargers
Power rankings: LA Rams 23, LA Chargers 16
Spread update: This line is sticking at 6.5.
Keys to the game: The LA Rams, a team filled with scrubs and Carolina Panthers rejects that dropped a 50 burger on a stout Denver Broncos defense, which included an absurd 111.4% passing game DVOA (hint: that's high). We at First and Thirty do not overreact to one game samples, and the only logical conclusion with regards to the Rams offense is they are still very bad. For this matchup they'll be facing a Chargers defense that is 15th in both DVOA and EPA/play, but they're far better against the pass (9th in DVOA) than the run (28th). The Rams offensive line is a problem, but LT Ty Nsekhe has improved over the last few games. He and RT Rob Havenstein give the Rams at least a respectable tackle combo, even if their interior is a mess. They'll have to content with Khalil Mack and nobody else to pave the way for a strong rushing attack. I don't expect much from Baker Mayfield -- who is still 33rd of 35 qualifiers in PFF grades despite last weeks performance, with a poor group of offensive weapons against a strong secondary.
The Chargers offense has had problems this season offensively, ranking 27th in DVOA and 19th in EPA/play. That said, Justin Herbert has spent a good chunk of the season without Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, who are both fully healthy. Herbert, despite a strong arm, plays a dink and dunk style of football -- his average depth of target is just 6.9 yards, 5th lowest in the league. The result is he rarely puts the ball in harm's way -- PFF has charted him with a 1.8% turnover worthy play ratio, 3rd best in the league. The Chargers should look to Herbert's arm for an advantage, as the Rams defense is far better against the run (7th in DVOA) than the pass (20th). Without Aaron Donald (ankle), the Rams have virtually zero pass rush talent, but they were able to consistently pressure Russell Wilson last week via the blitz. The Rams blitzed 32.4% of dropbacks, which resulted in an absurd 50% pressure rate. This strategy could work against Justin Herbert, who has a far better PFF passing grade when he isn't blitzed (79.2) then when he is (62.6). The Chargers also have a below-average offensive line. When blitzing, you need your corners to hold up 1 on 1, which Jalen Ramsey is certainly capable of, but Troy Hill/Cobie Durant is another question.
Minnesota @ Green Bay (-3.0)
Power rankings: Minnesota 22, Green Bay 9
Spread update: This line is sticking at 3.0. We are all fading the Vikings insane 11-0 record in one score games, apparently.
Keys to the game: The Vikings offense is 19th in DVOA and 17th in EPA/play. They're up against a Packers defense that is 19th in DVOA and 27th in EPA/play. Green Bay is far better against the pass (8th in DVOA) than the rush (dead last). Green Bay doesn't have any strong pass rushers since Rashan Gary tore his ACL, but they generate pressure via scheme -- they rank 2nd in blitz rate (34.1%) and 4th in pressure rate (24.1%). They'll want to target Minnesota's interior, who has been without C Garrett Bradberry (back). Bradberry's replacement, Austin Schlottmann, has played poorly in each of his 3 games as a starter. Minnesota's tackle tandem of Christian Darrisaw and Brian O'Neill is extremely strong, however. Of 39 qualifiers, Kirk Cousins is 36th in PFF grades against the blitz and 6th in PFF grades when not blitzed, which should make this an effective strategy. The key to defending the Vikings is, as always, slowing down Justin Jefferson. The Packers do have an above-average secondary, led by Jaire Alexander, which should make for a fun matchup. As for the run game, Dalvin Cook is having a down year -- Minnesota ranks just 26th in rush offense DVOA, which could make it difficult to take advantage of Green Bay's weakness.
The Packers offense is 10th in DVOA and 13th in EPA/play. Aaron Rodgers's numbers are down due to lack of receiving options, but he's still PFF's 10th highest graded QB. He does at least play behind one of the stronger offensive lines in football, especially if LT David Bakhtiari (knee/abdomen) is able to return. Bakhtiari was limited in practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. The Vikings do have a strong pass rushing trio between Danielle Hunter, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Za'Darius Smith (who 2nd in the league in total pressures), but the Packers line should be up to the task. Green Bay could be without rookie WR Christian Watson (hip), who did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. Watson has emerged as a legit receiving threat for Rodgers, although they could be ok without him given that the Vikings are 24th in pass defense DVOA. The Vikings issues with their pass defense has been due to declining play of LB Eric Kendricks and S Harrison Smith. They've been venerable against short passes (28th in DVOA short, 12th in DVOA deep) and against RB's as receivers (24th in DVOA), which could lead to a big game from RB Aaron Jones, who is an excellent receiver out of the backfield.