NY Giants @ Green Bay (+8.0)
Power rankings: NY Giants 32, Green Bay 6
Spread breakdown: This line is sticking at 8.
The model continues to pick on the 3-1 Giants, and rightfully so. The Giants 3 wins have come from the Titans (power ranked 20th), Panthers (30th), and Bears (31st). By DVOA, they were the better team in only their win against the Bears. They still rank dead last in Football Outsider's predictive DAVE metric and 28th in ESPN's FPI metric. To treat them as a 3-1 team would be a colossal error. Meanwhile, the Packers are coming off a game where they needed overtime to beat a Patriots team that had to rely on their 3rd string quarterback. I would love this game as a bettor even if I didn't have a sophisticated AI to tell me to take it.
Keys to the game: One quick note, this is a London game, so it's technically not a home game for Green Bay.
The Packers offense should not have an issue moving the ball against the Giants defense. Now that LT David Bakhtiari (knee) is back healthy, the offensive line is elite from a pass protection standpoint. On the Giants side, DT Dexter Lawrence has been an animal as both a pass rusher and run stopper. He'll test the Packers interior, but I don't expect them to have much resistance outside of Lawrence, especially with DE Azeez Ojulari (calf) out. Rookie WR Romeo Doubs is starting to emerge, and Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are playing well, and Aaron Jones/AJ Dillon is a fantastic 1-2 punch at running back. It's weaponry that won't scare most defenses, but with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, it will be more than enough in this matchup. Giants CB Fabian Moreau is allowing just a 72.9 QB rating into his coverage, he has two pass breakups and hasn't committed a penalty, but his 6 year career suggests that strong play likely won't continue. The rest of the Giants secondary has not played well, and we only expected anything out of Adoree Jackson going into the year.
The Giants offense revolves around Saquon Barkey alone, who is having a fantastic season. It's truly exciting to see him back and playing well, but when your offense has nothing outside of a good running back (ok, LT Andrew Thomas is entering elite territory, but one elite offensive lineman and 4 bad ones equals a bad offensive line as a whole), you're in trouble. Due to a combination of injuries and subpar play, the wide receiving core continues to be a game of musical chairs. WR Richie James, Barkley, David Sills, and Darius Slayton should be the top options on Sunday. This is a group that the Packers elite defense should have zero issue with, particularly with Jaire Alexander (groin) ready to return. S Adrian Amos suffered a concussion last week, but he got in two limited practices this week and also has a chance to play. The Packers have an elite pass rush (Rashan Gary, Kenny Clark, Preston Smith), are strong against the run, and a linebacker who was one of the best in football a season ago (De'Vondre Campbell). They should not have any issue shutting down the Giants.
Pittsburgh (+14.0) @ Buffalo
Power rankings: Pittsburgh 23, Buffalo 1
Spread breakdown: This line is sticking at 14. I have no idea how to bet such large spreads. Luckily we have an AI to do the heavy lifting for us.
Keys to the game: After benching Mitch Tribusky last week, the Steelers have decided to roll with Kenny Pickett at quarterback, the 20th overall pick in the draft out of Pittsburgh. The major concern with Pickett is his instance on holding onto the ball in college -- his average time to throw of 3.19 seconds would have been the slowest in the NFL last year. He's a decent enough athlete, but nowhere near the level needed to get away with holding onto the ball that long, particularly when playing behind the Steelers offensive line. In his debut, Pickett averaged 3.03 seconds, which simply won't cut it against the Bills. The Steelers line has been a pleasant surprise from a pass blocking standpoint (not so much run blocking), but the Bills have one of the best pass rushes in all of football -- they're 6th in pressure rate (27.7%) despite blitzing just 8.8% of the time, which is by far the least often in the league. Pickett does have a few decent options at receiver (Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, TE Pat Freiermuth, and RB Najee Harris). Meanwhile, the Bills secondary is banged to an insane degree - S Jordan Poyer (ribs), S Micah Hyde, and CB Tre'Davious White (knee) are all elite players who won't play. They'll also be without CB Christian Benford (hand), a rookie 6th rounder who leapfrogged first rounder Kaiir Elam on the depth chart. The Steelers receivers will get open, the only question is if Pickett will be able to find them.
The Bills offense sits at 10th in offensive DVOA, a rating that we expect to improve as the season progresses. They're being held back by an offensive line that is struggling outside of LT Dion Dawkins and receivers that are struggling outside of Stefon Diggs. The reality is simple: Josh Allen and Diggs are so impressive together that the rest of the offense just needs to perform marginally well for them to be elite. Gabe Davis has just 8 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown through 4 games, Isaiah Mackenzie hasn't fared much better (and is questionable with a concussion), and Jameson Crowder is out with an ankle injury. The Steelers defense is naturally still without TJ Watt, but Cameron Heyward is one of the best interior pass rushers in football -- he should routinely win against the Bills interior. DE Alex Highsmith, a 2020 3rd rounder out of Charlotte, has come on strong to rack up 16 pressures on the season, but he primarily lines up on the right hand side, where he'll have to deal with Dawkins. The Steelers could (and should) flip Highsmith over to the other side where he'll have a much easier matchup against RT Spencer Brown. Even though safeties Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick are both playing well, the Steelers do not have a corner that can match up with Diggs. The Steelers defense is 10th in DVOA and may have a few matchup areas to exploit, but you simply cannot rely on this defense (especially without Watt) to contain Josh Allen.
Chicago @ Minnesota (-7.0)
Power rankings: Chicago 30, Minnesota 11
Spread thoughts: This line has moved off of 7 to 7.5. Get your damn bets in early.
Matchup thoughts: I'm going to keep the write up on the Bears offense brief. We try to win money here. We try to have fun. We try to be happy. The Bears offense is conducive to this only when we're fading them, which luckily we are here.
Justin Fields's PFF passing grade of 43.5 is dead last. He plays behind one of the worst offensive lines in football and holds onto the ball too long -- both directly result in him being under pressure 49% of the time. He's fumbled 4 times in 4 games. By PFF grades, the best starting receiver has been Equanimeous St. Brown. He has caught 4 balls this season. The Vikings secondary is not good, but Danielle Hunter, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Preston Smith make up an elite pass rush that will be saying "hi" to Justin Fields on a regular basis. Let's move on.
Kirk Cousins sits at 11th in PFF grades -- a spot on the rankings that feels specifically reserved for him. The offensive line is weak along the interior, but have a strong tackle duo in Christian Darrisaw and Bryan O'Neil. Not that this matters against a Bears defensive line that does not have a pass rush. CB Jaylon Johnson is a starter for the Bears -- not that that's saying much -- but he's a starter nonetheless and is doubtful with a quad injury. The Bears corners that will be playing are all bad, and they'll need to contain Justin Jefferson and Adam Theilen. The safety tandem of Jaquan Brisker (a rookie 2nd rounder out of Penn State) and Eddie Jackson have both played well at safety, but the Vikings should not have an issue throwing or running.