Washington @ San Francisco
Recommended Wager: WAS +3.0
Sizing: 2 units
Spread watching: The line is sticking at 3.
Game breakdown: The model wants you to pick on backup QBs and support Alex Smith. What’s not to like? The Football Team’s offense is 28th in DVOA and 25th in EPA/play, but I’m bullish on them since they did improve their QB. That’s not to say Alex Smith is anything special, but Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen were that bad. Alex Smith is sitting at a solid 70 PFF grade while completing 68.7% of his passes and gaining 6.8 yards per attempt. The offensive line is mostly solid, and Terry McLaurin is the real deal. The 49ers defense has dealt with a slew of injuries, but are getting slightly healthier. They’re 13th in both DVOA and EPA/play and excel at the corner positions (Richard Sherman and Jason Verrett).
The 49ers offense is still trotting out Nick Mullens (61.4 PFF grade). They’re sitting at 20th in DVOA and 18th in EPA/play. They do have Deebo Samuel and Brandon Ayiuk healthy, but George Kittle is still out. At the end of the day, a bad QB means your offense struggles. The Football Team on defense is no joke — they’re 4th in DVOA and 5th in EPA/play. They particularly excel along the edge and getting pressure on the QB, but the 49ers have solid offensive tackles. That should be a fun matchup to watch.
Atlanta @ LA Chargers
Recommended Wager: ATL -2.5
Sizing: 1 unit
Spread watching: The line moved down to ATL -1.5, so naturally we’re still recommending it. This isn’t a huge jump, though.
Matchup breakdown: The Falcons on offense are at 22nd in DVOA and 16th in EPA/play. They’ll also be without Julio Jones, who continues to get sidelined with hamstring injuries. With Matt Ryan at QB (83.9) PFF grade, and Calvin Ridley at receiver, they’re always a threat to put up points. Their weaknesses are soft spots along the offensive line and inconsistency at receivers not named Ridley and Jones. The Chargers defense is sitting at 26th in DVOA. Outside of Joey Bosa, I don’t have anything nice to say.
The Chargers on offense are 18th in DVOA and 22nd in EPA/play. Justin Herbert (73.1 PFF grade) is having a solid rookie season, but he’s plagued by inconsistency. He’s coming off two stinkers against Buffalo and New England, and has a mediocre matchup against the Falcons (14th in DVOA and 15th in EPA/play). Herbert’s style of play is inherently going to be inconsistent — he’s a solid deep ball passer and likes to attack downfield, which is a good thing, but it also introduces variance. I’m expecting him to pepper Keenan Allen with targets, particular since the Flacons don’t have a corner who can keep up with him. Winning this bet ultimately comes down to which Herbert shows up, hopefully it’s the bad one.
Pittsburgh @ Buffalo
Recommended Wager: PIT +2.5
Sizing: 1 unit
Spread watching: The line is sticking at 2.5
Matchup breakdown: Sunday Night Football, and the former undefeated Steelers are somehow dogs to the Bills. This line is an absolute overreaction to the Steelers losing to a team without a name on primetime. I’ve preached all year that the Steelers aren’t actually the best team in the league despite their undefeated record, but they are without question better than the Bills, and homefield advantage isn’t worth 2.5 points. Here’s how the two teams matchup by a few advanced metrics.
Football Outsider’s DAVE:
The Steelers aren’t anything special on offense (17th in DVOA) — Big Ben is essentially a game manager, and there’s holes along the offensive line (mostly due to injuries). That said, Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Chase Claypool is a very solid receiving trio. The Bills are 16th in DVOA, so it’s theoretically an even matchup — but they lack depth in corner behind Tre’Davious White. The Bills are 7th in DVOA on offense, but they’re against a Steelers defense that is 1st in DVOA. Josh Allen is 6th in PFF grades, but he’s come down to Earth since week 5. The Steelers excel by getting after the QB, and the Bills are 8th in PFF pass blocking grades. It should be a great matchup, but take the better team getting points.