Detroit (+6.0) @ Minnesota
Power rankings: Detroit 19, Minnesota 13
Spread thoughts: The line opened at 5 before being bet up to 6, which is where the model grabbed it and where it remains.
Keys to the game: The Lions offense is 8th in DVOA, which is impressive both due to preseason projections and the fact that Jared Goff has struggled. He's completing just 57.% of his passes (8%) below expectations and gaining just 6.6 yards per attempt. Naturally we aren't expecting Goff to move into any conversations regarding elite quarterbacks, but he is better than how he's played. The heart of the Lions offense is a pair of strong tackles (Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell) as well as the emergence of Armon Ra St. Brown. ARSB was merely a 4th round draft pick out of USC a year ago, but he now has double digit targets in 8 straight games, dating back to last season. The Vikings best pass rushers line up on the edge (Za'Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter), although Dalvin Tomlinson is an underrated interior pass rusher. The problem with the Vikings defense, apart from being ranked 30th in DVOA, is they simply do not have a corner who can run with St. Brown, and S Harrison Smith is out with a concussion. The Lions shouldn't have issues putting points on the board.
Neither should the Vikings, though, and that's reflected in the game total (52.5). Kirk Cousins stats look pedestrian to start the year -- he's completing 64.1% of his passes (3.1% below expectation) and gaining 6.4 yards per attempt -- but he's been up against two legit defenses in Green Bay and Philadelphia. His stats will improve (in garbage time, if nothing else). Justin Jefferson has naturally emerged into one of the best receivers in football, and new HC Kevin O'Connell is using him in a Cooper Kupp-like role where he lines up all over the field. The Lions don't have anyone in the secondary that can match up with Jefferson. They were hoping Jeffrey Okudah -- the third overall selection from 2020 -- would step up in year 3, but that simply hasn't happened -- Okudah has been targeted 10 times this season, giving up 7 catches for 63 yards. The best player in the Lions secondary is probably Tracy Walker, a safety, who will be needed to help out on Jefferson. The Lions pass rush hasn't been too impressive, but they are up against a Vikings offensive line that is built similarly to the Lions with two solid tackles (Brian O'Neill and Christian Darrisaw), but weaknesses on the inside. A lot was made about 2nd overall selection Aidan Hutchinson's 3 sack performance last week, but the quality of the sacks was less than impressive. He still has 9 total pressures in 2 games, but his PFF pass rushing grade of 50.1 suggests he may have a tough time against O'Neill and Darrisaw. The best hope for pressure may be from defensive tackle John Cominsky, who has a much easier matchup and leads the team with 10 pressures.
Atlanta (+2.0) @ Seattle
Power rankings: Atlanta 26, Seattle 30
Spread thoughts: For reasons I'm incapable of explaining, the spread opened with Seattle as 4 point favorites. It's now been bet down to Seattle -1.
Keys to the game: There's a reason why Marcus Mariota lost his starting job in Tennessee. He is not good at football. Through two games, Mariota has a 62.7% completion percentage (0.5% below expectation) and gaining 7.0 yards per attempt. He only has 2 interceptions, but PFF has charted him with 4 turnover worthy plays, which has resulted in a 59.5 grade. He is, at the very least, a dynamic run threat -- Mariota has gained 88 yards on 10 attempts (5.2 average) and a touchdown on the ground, but he has fumbled 3 times. He plays behind a poor offensive line (apart from Jake Matthews), but he does have a pair of playmakers in Kyle Pitts, rookie Drake London, and Cordarrelle Patterson. Just two games into his career, London has 13 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown. Pitts only had 4 catches on the season, but we naturally don't expect that lack of productivity to continue. The Seahawks defense is a poor 25th in DVOA, which accurately reflects the quality of their roster. DE Uchenna Nwosu has been the one bright spot along the Bobby Wagner-less front 7 -- Nwsou has 10 pressures thus far, but he's playing at a level above what we've seen from him in his 5 year NFL career, and literally everybody else has been a mess. The secondary is without Jamal Adams (quad), leaving S Quandre Diggs as the lone competent member. They're also without CB Justin Coleman (calf), who isn't a good corner at all, but it forces the Seahawks to move even further down their depth chart. The Falcons pass catches should win here, the only question is if the quarterback can get them the ball.
I've written a lot about Geno Smith on this site -- you're welcome to go back and read previous previews for my thoughts. I'll just say that he's probably not as bad as you think, but he's still a below average QB capable of some god damn stinkers. He has a joke of an offensive line (9th overall selection LT Charles Cross hasn't been great), and two legit receiving weapons in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Running back Rashaad Penny has also proven to have impressive tackle breaking ability -- he averaged 4.52 yards after contact per attempt and is at 4.11 this year. Grady Jarrett is an interior pass rushing beast, and shouldn't have any issues getting after Smith. Lorenzo Carter and Ta'Quon Graham have also had solid starts, which should give the Falcons a slight edge in the trenches. The secondary features two excellent corners in Casey Hayward and AJ Terrell, although both have performed below expectation this season. The lack of talent at safety could be partially to blame.