Buffalo @ NY Jets (+12.5)
Power rankings: Buffalo 1, NY Jets 15
Spread update: This line has moved toward the model slightly. The Bills are now 11.5 point favorites.
Keys to the game: The Bills offense is simple: Josh Allen and Stef Diggs. Everything flows through them. The offensive line is weak at 4 positions (LT Dion Dawkins is the lone bright spot), the receivers behind Diggs have been inconsistent at best, and none of the running backs have proven to be bright spots. It is worth noting that the Bills did trade for pass catching specialist Nyheim Hines, but it's still going to be Allen and Diggs playing pitch and catch out there.
Does that sound exploitable? It's not. Diggs and Allen are THAT good. They are 4th in offensive DVOA, which is generated purely through a passing attack that ranks 2nd in DVOA vs a rushing attack that ranks 25th. The lone bright spot in the running game? That would be Allen himself, who is averaging 5.8 yards per attempt and 3.91 yards per attempt after contact. Let the latter number sink in -- while most quarterbacks are out there treating the run game like it's a slip and slide contest, Allen is out observing hits and breaking tackles. 3.91 YCO/A is a better figure than Derrick Henry (3.88), Nick Chubb (3.79), Aaron Jones (3.78), and Christian McCaffrey (3.23) to name a few.
The Jets defense won't lay down easy. The front 7 is 3rd in pressure rate (26.4%) despite only ranking 27th in blitz rate (15.6%). That'll give New York an advantage in the trenches, especially since their best pass rusher is DT Quinnen Williams -- who attacks inside and will avoid Dawkins throughout the game. DJ Reed and rookie Sauce Gardner rank 7th and 4th among all CBs in PFF grades, and Larmacus Joyner/Jordan Whitehead at safety round out a strong secondary. Although the Jets are weaker at the linebacker position, they've been stingy against the pass (8th in DVOA) and the run (also 8th). In today's NFL, a good offense beats a good defense, but expect the Jets to put up resistance.
The other side of the ball is a different story. The Jets offense is 21st in DVOA, and we all know what the issue is. Although most have written off Zach Wilson (no word on if he's written back yet), this self proclaimed analyst has gone deeper. Wilson's issue is simple: he can't handle pressure. He can't diagnose it pre-snap and doesn't react well when it gets there. PFF has pioneered analyzing pressure vs kept clean stats, and what they've compiled on Wilson is jaw-dropping.
When kept clean, Wilson is 9th in PFF grades (88.3). He's completing 72.6% of his passes and gaining 9.5 yards per attempt with a 109.4 QB rating. If nobody is coming, he's a good quarterback. When under pressure he has the worst PFF grade (21.5) while completing 19.1% of his passes (seriously) and gaining 3.0 yards per attempt. Mac Jones is the second worst QB by PFF grades under pressure and he completes 41.4% of his passes. Pressure vs kept clean stats has been used to identify regression candidates since kept clean tends to be more stable, and some of Wilson's under pressure stats are so comically that bad that they will regress to more reasonable numbers -- but here we can plainly see that Wilson isn't in a place to handle NFL pressure.
This will be an issue on Sunday. Wilson invites some pressure himself by holding onto the ball -- his average time to throw of 3.19 seconds is second slowest in the league. Even though the Jets had an excellent on-paper offensive line coming into the season, injuries have rendered it to disaster levels. Further, the Bills excel at getting to the quarterback -- both Von Miller and Gregory Rousseau are having fantastic seasons and will have a decisive mismatch. The Bills secondary could get a major boost as it appears CB Tre'Davious White could suit up for the first time this season after suffering an ACL injury in week 12 of last year. They will be without S Jordan Poyer (elbow) as well as S Micah Hyde (neck). I would say the Jets have an advantage at receiver, but with Corey Davis (knee) out, rookie Garrett Wilson is the one competent receiver.
Yes, the Bills will roll. But 12.5 is a lot of fucking points.
Indianapolis @ New England (-5.5)
Power rankings: Indy 31, New England 14
Spread update: The Patriots remain 5.5 point favorites.
Keys to the game: The Colts offense is bad. Like, really really bad. They are 32nd in DVOA -- last time I checked that's dead last in a league that has the Texans and Bears. And now they're starting Sam Ehlinger, a 2021 6th round pick who has attempted 23 passes in his NFL career -- all of which came last week against the Commanders. Ehlinger put up some decent box score numbers -- he had a 73.9% completion percentage and gained 8.7 yards per attempt, but his PFF grade of 59.2 tells a story that he wasn't impressive on a throw for throw basis against a defense that ranks 28th in pass defense DVOA. He plays behind an offensive line that is arguably the worst in football -- even LG Quenton Nelson, who is typically one of the best guards in football, is having a massively down year. The receiving core of Michael Pittman, Alex Pierce, and Parris Campbell is respectable, but not scary by any means. Further, stud RB Jonathan Taylor won't play due to an ankle injury. The Pats defense, meanwhile, is 6th in DVOA (5th against the pass and 27th against the run). Their pass rush trails only the Cowboys in pressure rate, which should give them a good advantage in the trenches. The secondary has also been fantastic, although CB Jalen Mills continues to get playing time despite being one of the worst in football. I could see a scenario where Pittman routinely defeats Mills, but I have little faith in Ehlinger's ability to get him the ball. The Patriots should have a decisive advantage.
The Patriots offense has struggled, due mostly to Mac Jones's poor quarterback play. Jones ranks 38th of 39 qualifiers in PFF passing grades, completes 65.9% of his passes, and gains 7.2 yards per attempt. Given Jones's rookie performance and injuries sustained this year, we'd expect these numbers to improve, but it's worth noting for now that New England is starting a bad quarterback. The Patriots do have a solid offensive line, a dependable group of receivers (none of whom are spectacular), and a very good running back tandem. The Colts defense is mediocre, though they are much better against the run (6th in DVOA) than the pass (20th). They have an average pass rush, although both DeForest Buckner (inside) and Kwity Paye (outside) are above-average players. The Patriots have had to rotate in tackles with Isaiah Wynn struggling, and rookie Cole Strange is a potential target for Buckner. The secondary features corners (Stephon Gilmore and Isaiah Rodgers) who can keep tabs on the Patriots, but there's enough holes there that they've struggled. If there was a matchup for Mac Jones to get right, this isn't a bad place to start.