Arizona (+14.0) @ San Francisco
Power rankings: Arizona 30, San Francisco 3
Keys to the game, when the Cardinals have the ball:
Cardinals fans should be pleasantly surprised with Josh Dobbs, who joined the team on August 24th before being named the starter. Dobbs is completing 72% of his passes while gaining 6.7 yards per attempt, good for a 68.4 PFF grade. He hasn't been flash, nor should we ever expect him to be, but he's keeping the ball out of harm's way and taking the easy/underneath passes. The offensive line is mediocre, and the weaponry (Marquise Brown, Zach Ertz, and Rondale Moore are top 3 in targets) is far from scary, but the Cardinals are still 10th in EPA/play. They will have their work cut out for them against the 49ers, who have one of the best defensive lines in football. Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and ex-Eagle Javon Hargrave are all playing at pro-bowl levels. Fred Warner is one of the better linebackers in football while the secondary features Charvarius Ward, S Tashuan Gipson, and S Talanoa Hufanga. It's a bad offense against an elite defense.
The 49ers offense is 2nd in EPA/play. The weaponry is far too elite for defenses to handle, and Brock Purdy plays the game manager role to perfection. I don't have much to add for what the Cardinals can do - they were built as if their general manager wants to tank, losing several key players in the offseason (Zach Allen, JJ Watt, and Markus Golden) without making any attempt to replace any of them. Luckily for us, they have 14 points to work with.
Kansas City @ NY Jets (+9.5)
Power rankings: NY Jets 21, Kansas City 2
Keys to the game, when the Chiefs have the ball:
When the Chiefs offense takes the field, their success continues to center around the unparalleled talent of the best quarterback in football, Patrick Mahomes, and the standout tight end universally known by Taylor Swift fans, Travis Kelce. The receiving corps remains a work in progress, with several options being evaluated for reliability. Among them, Rashee Rice, the 56th overall selection from this year's draft out of SMU, has shown promise as one of the better choices.
The offensive line, while generally solid, has seen challenges with the struggles of newcomers LT Donovan Smith and RT Jawaan Taylor. The Jets boast a formidable defense, with key players like Quinnen Williams leading the line. Williams faces a tough matchup against the Chiefs' interior, emphasizing the need for edge rushers like Jermaine Johnson and John Franklin-Myers to step up and apply pressure.
The true strength of the Jets' defense lies in their linebacking corps and secondary. LB Quincy Williams has been exceptional in coverage this season, earning an outstanding 91.1 coverage grade from PFF. The safety tandem of Jordan Whitehead and Adrian Amos is above average, providing solid support. Additionally, the corner combo of Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed ranks among the best in the league.
While teams have struggled to find a way to stop Kelce and Mahomes, the Jets possess a defense that, at the very least, is well-equipped to slow them down. The challenge for the Chiefs will be finding creative ways to navigate this formidable defensive lineup and unleash their potent offensive firepower.
When the Jets have the ball:
Simply put, Zach Wilson needs to turn into a different human being. DT Chris Jones is a mismatch against the Jets interior, especially since they needed to move RG Alijah Vera-Tucker to RT. The Chiefs defense isn't particularly strong, but with Wilson playing at his current levels (he's 32 out of 34 qualifiers in PFF grade), there isn't much that the Jets can do except rely on the run game.
Seattle (+1.5) @ NY Giants
Power rankings: Seattle 16, NY Giants 26
Keys to the game, when the Seahawks have the ball:
The Seahawks offense has come out firing this season, ranking 4th in EPA/play. The dynamic duo of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf spearheads their receiving corps, presenting a formidable challenge for the Giants' struggling defense, which currently sits at 30th in EPA/play.
The Seahawks' offensive line has been notably weakened by injuries, with both starting tackles, Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, unavailable. RG Phil Haynes' status has also been uncertain due to a calf injury, further complicating the situation. The offensive line has yet to see a member play every snap this season, indicating their ongoing struggle with injuries and continuity. On the flip side, the Giants' defensive strength lies in their line, boasting formidable talents in Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. Lawrence, in particular, is a standout talent, excelling in pass rushing.
To succeed in this matchup, the Seahawks need to devise strategies to counter the Giants' formidable defensive line. Creative play calling, quick releases, and schemes to mitigate the impact of the Giants' pass rush will be essential. Exploiting the Giants' abysmal secondary with Lockett and Metcalf is crucial for offensive success. The Seahawks should prioritize utilizing their elite receivers to capitalize on the Giants' weakness in pass coverage, potentially overwhelming the Giants' defense and seizing control of the game.
When the Giants have the ball:
The Giants offense is a mess, ranking 27th in EPA/play. They're still likely without LT Andrew Thomas (hamstring), who is their only good lineman. QB Daniel Jones is playing poorly, having been unable to get any skill position players going. RB Saquon Barkley missed last week with a high ankle sprain and will likely need another week to recover, although he has been practicing on a limited basis. The Seahawks defense is equally pathetic, however, ranking 27th in EPA/play. They have a few decent players, DE Uchenna Nwosu, DT Jarren Reed, LB Bobby Wagner, and CB Tariq Woolen, but there's too many weaknesses to make up for.