Eager's Football Friday - Week 14

by Eric Eager|December 8, 2023


Happy Football Friday. 

Week 13 was our last week with a large collection of byes, but we nonetheless got some newsworthy football. Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers defeated the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, 27-19 at Lambeau Field. The 49ers, surprising favorites in the betting markets to some, dismantled the Philadelphia Eagles’ Moneyball defense to the tune of 42 points. The Chargers and the Patriots had almost the complete opposite game, totaling six points in a loss that drives New England closer and closer to some tough decisions.  

Using the data from the new and improved SumerSports.com, we will go over some of the thoughts and predictions I made a week ago and provide some for this coming week.  

Week 14 has only two teams on bye and some games with real playoff implications. The Bucs and the Falcons are playing for first place in a poor NFC South, while the Eagles and Cowboys are doing the same in the NFC East. We have two Monday night games for the first time in a few months, with Miami going to Nashville and Green Bay going to East Rutherford, as both teams try to move ever closer to the playoffs. The Bills, who haven’t been this down since Sean McDermott took over as their head coach, go to Kansas City, where they’ve won and covered the last two regular season meetings.  

Let’s dig in. 

One Thing I’m Monitoring 

I’m monitoring the MVP markets.  

The space has become surprisingly combative over the past few weeks, in large part because no one wants to see a player like Brock Purdy, who is leading the league’s most efficient offense, win the award when he is helped by one of the best coaches in the NFL. The current market odds, per our friends at FanDuel, are below: 

One look to our quarterback page, and this mostly checks out. Purdy, the co-favorite at 3-1, is first in the NFL in EPA generated at 131.2, while the other co-favorite, Dake Prescott, is third at 103.3. Last season Patrick Mahomes, who won the award, was first in total EPA by 75.2 points, ahead of Josh Allen. Jalen Hurts, who was runner up, was third with 119.9 EPA generated.  

Top Quarterbacks | SumerSports  

Allen is noticeably absent from this list since his team is at 0.500 on the season, and an MVP hasn’t played for a team winning 11 or fewer games since Matt Ryan in 2016, and no one has won the award winning 10 or fewer games at the quarterback position since John Elway won the award in the strike-shortened 1987 season. The last quarterback to win the MVP on a team that didn’t win their division was Peyton Manning in 2008. 

Patrick Mahomes is something of a dark horse as he’s fifth in total EPA generated, despite a ton of consternation (see below) about their offense’s lack of production through 13 weeks. Tua Tagovailoa continues to excel in Mike McDaniel’s offense, but if he’s not outproducing Purdy in San Francisco, it’s going to be hard for the voters to give the lesser of two system quarterbacks the nod over the more productive guy. 

This leaves the elephant in the room, which is Tyreek Hill. Hill is set to be the first receiver in NFL history to accumulate 2,000 receiving yards, and he’s the most efficient receiver in the league – either using yards per route run, or adjusted yards per route run – by a country mile. He’s given the Dolphins the status as a contender from the moment he stepped onto the field in Miami, and while quarterback is generally four- to five-times more valuable than wide receiver, I understand the urge to give the award to a non-quarterback, and if that has to happen, Hill is the guy. 

Wide Receivers | SumerSports

One Thing I’m Buying 

I’m buying the Kansas City Chiefs. 

The best values are often the ones that make you cringe a little bit, and as someone who has followed this Chiefs team for a long time, it’s been a while since they were this plotting on offense. Despite a 52% success rate and a +0.19 EPA per rush against the Packers last week in Lambeau, they were still only able to put up 19 points and have only mustered 29 or more points three times this season in 12 games, despite averaging 29.2 points per game a season ago.  

Their calling card this season, defense, was suspect in Week 13 as well, surrendering +0.28 EPA per play overall and +0.38 through the air. Missing middle linebackers Drue Tranquill and Nick Bolton, along with starting safety Bryan Cook, didn’t help, but they also failed to convert pressure on Jordan Love into defensive success, with the fourth-year quarterback averaging 8.1 yards per pass attempt when pressured, including a touchdown. 

Be that all as it may, they are a buy at their current market price of +550 to win the Super Bowl. Firstly, we give them a very good chance of earning the ever-important first-round bye (39.6%), which stems from the fact that they have a relatively easy schedule (15th easiest), especially after this week’s matchup against the Bills.  

Additionally, this is a team that has dealt with some noise, as they are currently in the bottom ten in EPA differential on both penalties and turnovers, adding up to about a win under expectation through 13 weeks. These are things that, while not completely random, will often equilibrate over the course of the season. 

Luck, Penalties, and Turnovers | SumerSports 

And, lastly, the Chiefs still have the best player in the NFL in Patrick Mahomes, and arguably the best coach in the game in Andy Reid, who adds about a point to their efforts every single game. In big games, Reid adds even more with his ability to put Mahomes and his supporting cast – admittedly weaker in 2023 than any other year – in a position to succeed.  

Hold your nose, buy into the Chiefs. 

One Thing I’m Selling 

This is maybe a broader sermon than what I’m about to write here, but it follows a general trend that has emerged in the NFL for decades now. I’m selling the idea that teams that need wide receivers this offseason will find them in free agency.  

NFL Draft Proverbs | SumerSports 

This is generally true about every premium position: quarterback, receiver, tackle, interior defensive line, edge, and cornerback. To find high-end players at these positions, draft capital is required, either through a trade (and a new contract) or drafting and developing the player.  

If that feels daunting, just look at the alternative, per our friends at OverTheCap: 

Some of these names look enticing initially, but it’s likely that the young, valuable players on this list, Tee Higgins, Marquise Brown, and Michael Pittman, will either be franchise tagged (Higgins) or signed to an extension before they make it to free agency (Brown and Pittman). Mike Evans has had a historic 10-year career for the Bucs, but he’s 31 years old. Gabe Davis will be intriguing, but he’s never shown the ability to be a consistent second option in Buffalo and will likely command at least that kind of contract on the open market, as could Osborn out of Minnesota. Calvin Ridley has had a good, not great, bounce back year for the Jaguars and may look to stay there rather than start over again in a new city. 

Peoples-Jones and Chark are good deep threats, but are complimentary at best, while Shaheed is an exclusive rights free agent.  All-in-all, there are a lot of players in this list that, if they got to free agency, could help push a receiving corps to competence, but no sure-fire difference maker is likely to be available.  

Thus, as it almost always does, it will come down to what teams do in April at the position, which means that disciplined team building – only spending high picks on premium positions like wide receiver – is as important as it has ever been. Hopefully, for the sake of offenses around the league which are down across the board, such truths are taken seriously.  


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