San Francisco @ Denver (+1.5)
Power rankings: San Francisco 10, Denver 9
Spread thoughts: This line opened with Denver being 2.5 point favorites, but money came in strong on San Fran, moving the line all the way to making San Francisco 1.5 point favorites. That's where things stand.
Keys to the game: The 49ers gave up 3 first round picks to move up to draft Trey Lance, but here they are again relying on Jimmy Garoppolo. Jimmy G's story has been written enough times where it shouldn't be necessary for me to dive too deep in -- he's an average quarterback in the league, excelling at intermediate passes while occasionally throwing the ball directly at opposing teams linebackers. The receiving core will get a big boost as George Kittle (groin) is set to make his 2022 debut. With Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, a strong offensive line, and Kyle Shannahan coaching, there's plenty to like about this offense. Going into the season, there were some questions about the 49ers interior of their offensive line (the tackle duo of Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey is one of the better combinations in football), so it's worth adding that 2021 2nd rounder LG Aaron Banks has played well through 2 games -- he didn't play a single snap in his rookie year. The Broncos on defense do have a strong pass rushing duo off the edge between Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory, but they could be without interior pass rusher Dre'Mont Jones, (neck, questionable) who did not practice on Friday. The linebacking core could get a big of a shake up as it appears Josey Jewell (calf/knee) is set to play for the first time since week 2 of last year, while Jonathon Cooper (hamstring) is questionable and did not practice on Friday. Jewell and Cooper are both solid players, it certainly would be beneficial if both were active -- especially since it may take Jewell some time to get himself back to game shape. The secondary is also a strong point -- their 6th in pass defense DVOA -- led by a solid group of corners -- Patrick Surtain, K'Waun Williams, and Ronald Darby.
AI's are a bit of a black box, but if I had to guess, we're taking this game because we aren't letting two apparent substandard games from the Broncos sway us while the rest of the market is. For starters, Denver is 11th in DVOA, which is probably higher than most would expect. We're still believers in Russ Wilson, the offensive line, and the Courtland Sutton/Jerry Jeudy combo (Jeudy should be able to play through his rib injury), as well as Javonte Williams. We were high on Denver preseason for a reason, and we shouldn't let two games take us off that, especially since the two games really weren't that bad. They could also catch a break if Arik Armstead (foot) cannot play -- Armstead is officially questionable, but he did not practice all week. Without Armstead, the 49ers only have Nick Bosa as an established pass rusher, although DE Charles Omenihu, DE Samson Ebukam, and DT Javon Kinlaw have all had some success getting after the QB through 2 games. Pete Werner is an exceptional linebacker, but the Broncos receivers should win against the 49ers cornerbacks.
Dallas (+2.5) @ NY Giants
Power rankings: Dallas 27, NY Giants 32
Spread thoughts: The model grabbed this one at Dallas +2.5, but it's now down to 1.5. Lines move toward the model.
Keys to the game: Cooper Rush is a 2017 UDFA out of Central Michigan who has dropped back 103 times in his career, and none of those 103 dropbacks have been particularly impressive. He's not good. Let's move on.
The rest of the Cowboys offense is a different story. Tyler Smith, despite being drafted to play inside, had to move to left tackle when Tyron Smith went down in the preseason, and he's done a compensable job, surrendering just 3 pressures so far. RT Terrance Steele has turned into a solid tackle, and Zack Martin is one of the best guards in football. CeeDee Lamb is a true number 1, while Noah Brown has stepped up while the Cowboys wait on Michael Gallup's return, who practiced in full all week and should make his 2022 debut. The Cowboys receivers should not have any issues winning against the Giants secondary -- it's full of a number of young players who haven't panned out yet as well as Adoree' Jackson. The Giants pass rush could get a boost if either Azeez Ojulari (calf) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee) can return. Without those two, Leonard Williams is the only solid player along the defensive front.
The Giants offense is a mess. Daniel Jones isn't good. The offensive line isn't functional along the interior -- at the very least, Andrew Thomas is a very good tackle and Evan Neal has pass blocked well. Kadarius Toney, who the Giants selected 20th overall in the draft last year, ran a route on 17 of 46 dropbacks. Kenny Golladay, who the Giants signed to a 4 year, 72 million dollar contract ahead of the 2021 season, ran a route on 2 dropbacks. David Stills, a 2019 UDFA out of West Virgina, ran the most routes on the team. Saquon Barkley is healthy and looking like pre pandemic Barkley, but it's a lot to ask a running back to carry an offense when literally everything else is a mess. Meanwhile, they'll have to deal with Michah Parsons, Demarcus Lawrence, and Dexter Fowler off the edge. Parsons split time between linebacker and edge rusher in week 1, but was a full time edge rusher in week 2. He's a fine linebacker, but he's truly turned into one of the best pass rushers in football. The hybrid role is a fun idea, but it's a waste to have Parsons do anything except for rush the passer, and I think the Cowboys are ready to embrace that. Thomas/Neal isn't the easiest matchup for an edge rusher, but Parsons is winning at a 25.4% clip (per PFF). There isn't anybody who can stop him. The Cowboys secondary is far from impressive, but they should be good enough to stop whoever the Giants decide to play that day. Trevon Diggs seems to be playing a more conservative style than the hyper aggressive play that got him 11 interceptions a year ago, which may be for the best in the long run. They also have Malik Hooker, a safety who excels in coverage.