Baltimore @ Tennessee
Recommended Wager: TEN +3.0
Sizing: 1 unit
Spread watching: The line is sticking at 3.0.
Injury news: Both teams are fairly healthy. I expect the Ravens to get back C Patrick Mekari (back), DE Yannick Ngakoue (thigh), and CB Jimmy Smith (groin), who are all key contributors. WR Willie Snead (ankle) got in two limited practices and will probably play as well. The Titans don’t have a single person on their injury report and will get back OLB Derick Robertson (hamstring), though Robertson hasn’t had a great season.
Matchup breakdown: The Ravens offense (11th in DVOA and 6th in EPA/play) should have any issues putting up points against the Titans defense (29th in DVOA and 28th in EPA/play). Though Lamar Jackson expectedly regressed after his MVP 2019 season, he still put together a solid year — he’s 16th in PFF grades (81.5) with a 64.4% completion percentage (0.6% below expectation), while gaining 7.3 yards per attempt and throwing 26 TDs and 9 picks. The strength of Jackson’s game is naturally his rushing ability — he became the first QB ever to rush for multiple 1,000 yard seasons — and that’s reflected in Baltimore DVOA splits (17th in passing, 3rd in running). After losing G Marshal Yanda to retirement and LT Ronnie Stanley to an ACL injury, the offensive line took a major step back from last year and is now a middle of pack line. The Titans have a non existent pass rush outside of Harold Landry and Jeffrey Simmons, however, so I’d expect the Ravens to still have an advantage. The skill positions for the Ravens are lacking — WR Hollywood Brown is the only receiver over a 70 PFF grade (he’s at 70.1) and has games when he’s flat out disappeared. TE Mark Andrews is, however, one of the best in the game. The Titans secondary naturally has holes with the exceptions of CB Malcolm Butler and S Kevin Byard.
The Titans offense (4th in DVOA and 2nd in EPA/play) should be a fun matchup against the Ravens defense (9th in DVOA and 6th in EPA/play). Ryan Tannehill finished 7th in PFF grades (90.3), completed 65.5% of his passes (2.4% above expectation), gained 7.9 yards per attempt, threw 33 TDs and 7 picks. Due to weaknesses at the tackle positions, the Titans have a mediocre offensive line that will need to contest against a Ravens defense that loves to blitz. AJ Brown and Corey Davis have been an excellent 1-2 punch at receiver, and I low-key like their matchup against the Ravens corners. Marcus Peters is thought of being one of the best in the game, but he had a poor 2020 season and Jimmy Smith is coming off an ankle injury. On the ground, you may have heard of Derrick Henry — he’s kinda good — he’ll be running against a Ravens run defense that is 12th in DVOA. Though I’m totally on board downplaying the importance of running backs, Henry is an excellent closer if the Titans can get out to a lead.
Chicago @ New Orleans
Recommended Wager: CHI +9.5
Sizing: 1 unit
Spread watching: The line moved away from the model and climbed up to 10. I’d still bet it.
Injury news: The Bears will be without rookie WR Darnell Mooney (ankle). Mooney has been the #2 receiver behind Allen Robinson — he had a decent rookie season, but isn’t a huge loss. LB Roquan Smith (elbow) will also miss after being injured last week, which does hurt the linebacking core a bit. CB Jaylon Johnson (shoulder) will have a chance to return for the first time since week 14. He’s questionable, but practiced on a limited basis all week. I don’t think Johnson makes a difference either way, however. Slot CB Buster Skrine (concussion) will be out yet again, and I legit think the Bears are better without him.
The Saints should finally get back WR Michael Thomas (ankle), assuming there aren’t any additional set backs between now and kickoff. Their running back room will also return after missing last week due to COVID-19. They’ll be without G Nick Easton (concussion), though he’s not the strength of their line anyway. DE Trey Hendrickson (neck) will also miss, which will hurt their pass rush. S Marcus Williams (ankle) will also return for the first time since week 15, and that’s a major boost to the Saints secondary.
Matchup breakdown: The Bears offense (25th in DVOA and 24th in EPA/play) will have their work cut out for them against the Saints defense (2nd in DVOA and 4th in EPA/play). Among 42 qualifiers, Mitch Tribusky finished 36th in PFF grades (62) while completing 67% of his passes (1.2% above expectation), gaining 6.9 yards per attempt, and throwing 16 TDs and 8 picks. An insanely high 5.9% of his passes were deemed “turnover worthy” by PFF. He is #bad at quarterback. In the trenches, I expect the Saints pass rush (even without Hendrickson) to do well against the Bears poor offensive line. Allen Robinson is the only skill position player worth writing about, but the dude is flat out dominant and the Saints do not have anyone that can cover him. That includes Marshon Lattimore, he may be a household name, but he had a very bad 2020 season. David Montgomery will be the work horse for the Bears — he’s PFF’s 8th graded RB, but he’ll be up against a Saints defense that ranks 2nd in DVOA against the run.
The Saints offense (7th in DVOA and 8th in EPA/play) matches up evenly against the Bears defense (8th in DVOA and 10th in EPA/play). Drew Brees took a step back this year, ranking just 22nd in PFF grades (73.0), which is just one spot better than Taysom Hill. Brees completed 70.5% of his passes (1.2% better then expectation) while gaining 7.5 yards per attempt. He threw 24 TDs and 6 picks, though the INT number seems extremely low given that 4.52% of his passes were deemed turnover worthy by PFF. In the trenches, the Saints are solid up front. They have (in my humble opinion) the best tackle duo in football between Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk, but have weaknesses at guard. Lead by Khalil Mack, the Bears have the 4th best pass rush by PFF grades. Getting Mike Thomas back would be a huge boost for the Saints passing attack since the Bears struggle at corner. On the ground, Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray will split carries against a Bears defense that ranks 4th in rush defense DVOA.