Welcome to another edition of the Friday Morning Weekend Preview!
This year at SumerSports.com, we are excited to bring you an analytical look at the NFL twice a week on Mondays and on Fridays. In this preview of another football weekend, we will be laying out which games you should consider watching, what a win or a loss could mean for your team’s playoff chances, and more.
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Each week, multiple teams are seeing big swings in their playoff chances. Last week the Vikings and Texans saw a big increase in their playoff probability while the Bills and Falcons saw a similarly sized decrease.
There is no team with more on the line in Week 10 than the Vikings. Not only would a win put them at 6-4 and keep them in both the NFC North race and Wild Card race, but they also will show that they can string together wins without starting quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Also in the NFC, the Seahawks have a lot of playoff leverage in their matchup against the Commanders as they are big favorites, but a loss would drop them to a coin flip to make the playoffs.
In the AFC, the Bengals again find themselves in a high leverage situation as a win brings their chances of making the playoffs up to around 70%, but a loss muddies things in a very competitive AFC race. The Browns and Bills also find themselves in similar spots in the AFC Wild Card race as they also need wins to stay above a 50% chance of making the playoffs.
Games to Watch
As we look ahead to Week 10, we can use a combination of team strength (using Elo), spread, projected points, and quarterback play to see which games we could be watching during the full slate.
Despite the overall schedule, there are still great matchups across the board in Week 10. The international series continues with Colts-Patriots in what could be a tight but low scoring game.
The early slate is very intriguing as it’s headlined by the 49ers, fresh off their bye, traveling to Jacksonville as field goal favorites. Also at that time, C.J. Stroud and Joe Burrow – possibly the two hottest quarterbacks in the league right now – go head to head in Houston as the Texans attempt to establish themselves as AFC contenders.
The game of the week is Lions-Chargers as not only is it expected to be very high scoring with a total of 48.5 but it’s also going to be primarily built on passing offenses. After that, Jets-Raiders should be close but low scoring on Sunday Night Football.
With the Eagles and Chiefs on bye, Monday Night Football has the highest Elo team playing this week in the Bills.
San Francisco 49ers @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Despite losing their last 3 games, the 49ers still show up very well in their season long metrics. In Weeks 6-8, they rank 7th in success rate but 16th in EPA/play as turnovers have hamstrung them. In Week 10, they get a very tough matchup against the Jaguars defense on the road. The Jaguars defense ranks 3rd in EPA/play allowed and has allowed the lowest rate of explosives in the league.
The 49ers use 21 personnel on 40% of offensive snaps – the 2nd highest rate in the league – so we can expect a lot of that on Sunday. The Jaguars have only seen two running backs and one tight end on 39 snaps this season but have done well against it. Standout linebacker Foye Oluokun, who is 3rd in the league in tackles and has played 100% of snaps this season, will be tested against Christian McCaffrey.
While Brandon Aiyuk ranks 2nd in yards per route run, getting Deebo Samuel back should be able to widen the funnel of the 49ers passing game. With the Jaguars just as good at stopping the pass compared to the run and the 49ers having a negative pass rate over expected, we can expect a lot of McCaffrey runs early before they open the passing game for Aiyuk, Samuel, and Kittle.
The Jaguars are the team with the biggest disparity between their success rate (11th) and their EPA/play (21st) in large part due to losing the 4th most EPA from turnovers when on the plus side of the field. The 49ers defense has been consistently good throughout the season ranking 9th in EPA/play and just added Chase Young to a pass rush that features Nick Bosa (3 sacks), Javon Hargrave (3), Drake Jackson (3), and Arik Armstead (2.5). Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw are also present to complete arguably the best front 7 in the NFL.
One way the Jaguars could have an advantage is if they use empty formations. The Jaguars have used empty on 8.5% of snaps this season and have been the 5th best team passing out of it while the 49ers defense is at their worst when defending empty. With Christian Kirk and Calvin Ridley matched up on the 49ers corners, it could be a big game for them while Evan Engram can mix in when needed.
Detroit Lions @ Los Angeles Chargers
The Lions are coming off their bye as they travel to Los Angeles to face the Chargers. Something to note in this game is the rest difference with the Lions coming off 14 days of rest while the Chargers are off a short week and had to travel cross country after their Monday Night game.
The Lions offense ranks 9th in EPA/pass and 9th in EPA/rush and now have their most productive rusher in David Mongtomery back from injury. Explosives will be the key to this game as the Lions have the 3rd highest explosive play rate in the league and are playing a Chargers defense that has been good against the run but susceptible to explosive passes.
Because of that, we could see this not only be a big Amon-Ra St. Brown game but also a big game for Josh Reynolds who ranks 8th in adjusted yards per route run. However, the Lions will need their offensive line to hold up and are facing a Chargers pass rush with Joey Bosa having the 2nd highest sack rate in the league and Morgan Fox having the 6th highest sack rate. Now that Jahmyr Gibbs has shown his flashes, we could see Ben Johnson increase the amount of 21 personnel he uses as the Chargers pass defense has struggled against two running backs and one wide receiver this season.
The Chargers are a team with a big disparity between their EPA/play (8th) and success rate (20th) in a large part due to their run game being pretty inefficient while their pass game is very effective. The Chargers wide receiver injuries have left Keenan Allen, Gerald Everrett and Austin Ekeler as their top 3 receiving options as Quentin Johnston still tries to find his footing. Allen’s matchup vs. Lions cornerback Cam Sutton will be the matchup to watch on this side of the ball as the Chargers may have to rely on their secondary receiving options to move the ball against a Lions defense that ranks 9th in EPA/pass allowed.
New York Jets @ Las Vegas Raiders
The Jets enter this game 31st in EPA/play and 32nd in success rate on offense as Zach Wilson ranks 36th out of 36 qualifying quarterbacks in EPA/play. The silver lining for them is Breece Hall is a boom or bust running back, ranking 3rd in yards created per rush and is playing a Raiders defense that is 28th in EPA/rush allowed.
It’s been on a small sample, but the Jets are most efficient running the ball out of 21 personnel with Hall and either Dalvin Cook or Michael Carter on the field, while the Raiders defense has had issues defending 21 personnel runs. Garrett Wilson should also continue to receive his very high target share but will need accurate targets to turn them into big gains.
The Raiders offense has had its struggles this season and just made the switch to Aidan O’Connell at starting quarterback. However, a lot of the Raiders problems on offense stem from an inability to run the ball as they rank 32nd in EPA/rush and Josh Jacobs ranks 42nd in yards created per rush.
The offense should and will run through Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers who are facing their toughest task of the season going up against Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed making this the matchup to watch. The Jets pass defense has been very good against 11 personnel but has shown some weakness against multiple tight end sets so there is a path for the Raiders to implement Michael Mayer more while Adams and Meyers are battling against the Jets secondary.
Denver Broncos @ Buffalo Bills
Despite sitting at 5-4, the Bills offense has been very good this entire season and even this past month. In Weeks 1-4, the Bills offense ranked 3rd in EPA/play and in Weeks 5-9 they ranked 4th in EPA/play. Much of their team struggles have stemmed from defensive injuries including losing Matt Milano, who played 90.2% of their snaps in 2022, and their top corner in Tre’Davious White. Their defense has dropped from 4th in EPA/play allowed in Weeks 1-4 to 30th in the same metric during Weeks 5-9.
Josh Allen still ranks 2nd in EPA/play and Stefon Diggs ranks 10th in yards per route run. Dalton Kincaid has improved in the past month as they’ve run more 11 personnel without Dawson Knox. Most importantly, they get to play a Broncos defense that ranks 32nd in EPA/play allowed this season. This could be a big game for everyone on the Bills offense.
As for the Broncos, after having a disaster season on offense last season, they have seen improvement this season. Russell Wilson ranks 15th in EPA/play and rookie Marvin Mims is 6th in yards per route run while in a limited usage role. They have also been able to run the ball relatively well this season led by Javonte Williams. They are very personnel diverse using 21, 12*, 22, and 10 personnel all at least 3% of the time. We can expect a lot of that against a struggling Bills defense on Monday Night.