Welcome to a special Wednesday edition of the 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 (usually) 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 is helping us see the playoff picture a little bit more clearly. Last week there were teams like the Browns and Packers that saw a big increase in their playoff probability while teams like the Seahawks and Chargers saw a similarly sized decrease.
The Steelers, who currently are the 7 seed, have the most on the line in Week 12 as they currently sit as a coin flip to make the postseason but a win would put them close to 68% while a loss would drop them to 44%. The AFC Wild Card race is tight as the Texans also have a lot of playoff leverage with similar probabilities to the Steelers depending on a win or loss against the Jaguars. The Texans would also put themselves at a 41% chance to win the AFC South with a win.
On the NFC side, Saints-Falcons is a massive matchup for playoff leverage as the Saints could jump up to a 73% chance to win the NFC South with a win, while a Falcons win would bump them up to a 40% chance to make the playoffs – whether through winning the division or capturing the 7 seed in the NFC. Because the NFC Wild Card spots are still up in the air, the Seahawks and Vikings have a lot of playoff leverage as well.
Games to Watch
As we look ahead to Week 12, 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.
We get NFL football in 3 out of 4 days during this Thanksgiving week with college football filling in with big rivalry week games.
On Thanksgiving Day, 49ers-Seahawks is the headliner while there are interesting aspects to both Packers-Lions and Commanders-Cowboys. Black Friday features a low watchability game, but the Dolphins offense vs. the Jets defense should be an interesting matchup.
On Sunday, each time slot is headlined by a major game. Jaguars-Texans in the early slot has major divisional implications and should be a high scoring game between two emerging young quarterbacks. Bills-Eagles should be a great game as well as we see Josh Allen vs. Jalen Hurts. The Sunday Night game should be interesting as the Ravens have to make the cross-country trip to Los Angeles.
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
Now that the 49ers are healthier, they are back to being the team that we saw to open the season and the underlying numbers on the season back that up. They are 1st in EPA/play, 1st in success rate, and 1st in explosive play rate while Brock Purdy is 1st in EPA/play and Brandon Aiyuk is 2nd in yards per route (only behind Tyreek Hill). The Seahawks defense is middle of the pack in most metrics but is top 10 in explosive play rate allowed. However, the 49ers offense is primarily built off yards after the catch and the Seahawks are the 3rd worst team at allowing EPA after the catch so this could be a low ADoT, high YAC game from Purdy. While Tariq Woolen and Devon Witherspoon are a great corner tandem, Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel could have a big day – especially in the middle of the field.
The Seahawks offense isn’t at 100% coming into this game with Geno Smith playing hurt and no Kenneth Walker, but the offensive production has still been present. The Seahawks like to pass, especially from the gun, but are facing the 5th best pass defense in the league. Teams have a +5.7% pass rate over expected on the 49ers, so we can expect a lot of Geno Smith to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in this game – especially without their primary running back. The Seahawks use pistol 10% of the time and have been efficient passing out of that while the 49ers haven’t seen much pistol this season so that could be an angle that Shane Waldron exploits.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans
In Week 3, the Texans beat the Jaguars 37-17 by having an 87th percentile EPA/play along with C.J. Stroud’s 15.5 total EPA. Most of that was generated on passes to Tank Dell who had 145 yards and a touchdown. The Texans are coming into this game as one of the hottest offenses in the league with the 6th best offense in the past 3 weeks. The Texans have been built off of an explosive passing game and are continuing to pass more as they’ve gone from a -4.2% pass rate over expected in Weeks 1-8 to a +1.8% pass rate over expected since. They are facing a Jaguars defense that is 9th in EPA/pass and has done well defending passes out of 11 personnel this season. The Texans use 21 personnel at the 4th highest rate in the league and the Jaguars have struggled defending the pass when two running backs are on the field, so look for Devin Singletary and fullback Alex Beck to be on the field together often in this game.
The Jaguars offense continues to be a team with a gap between their success rate ranking (13th) and their EPA/play (21st). This is in large part due to the Jaguars having a league leading 11 turnovers in opposing territory and losing 55.4 total EPA on those turnovers. Because of that, the efficiency metrics for the Jaguars are down across the board. However, they are a pass happy team playing against a Texans defense that is much better against the run than the pass, so this could be a big game for the receivers, especially Evan Engram, as the Texans pass defense has struggled with multiple tight ends on the field.
Buffalo Bills @ Philadelphia Eagles
The Buffalo Bills are 3rd in EPA/pass, 2nd in EPA/rush, 10th in EPA/pass allowed, and 16th in EPA/rush allowed on the season yet are 6-5. Compare that to the Eagles who are 7th in EPA/pass, 4th in EPA/rush, 17th in EPA/pass allowed, and 17th in EPA/rush allowed and are 9-1. The Bills made a change at offensive coordinator going from Ken Dorsey to Joe Brady and the early results were promising. There was an uptick in middle of the field passing and we can expect that to stay the same in this game as the Eagles defense is above average at defending passes thrown to the left or right but below average at defending passes in the middle of the field. The Bills could also lean on the run more, like they did against the Jets, to minimize the impact of the Eagles pass rush so this could be a big game for James Cook (similar to Isiah Pacheco’s 19 rushes for 89 yards on Monday).
The Eagles also saw a shift of their own losing Dallas Goedert for the next couple weeks as they had to go from not playing a single snap of 10 personnel the whole season to playing 12 snaps of it on Monday against the Chiefs. The 4 receivers the Eagles will have when in that grouping are A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith, Julio Jones, and Olamide Zaccheaus. While Brown and Smith will get the majority of the targets, the Bills injured secondary could be susceptible to the secondary receiving options having a big day. D’Andre Swift – who ranks 13th in rushing yards over expected on the season – should also be heavily involved in the passing game as well. The Eagles have the 2nd most EPA gained on offensive plays on 4th down this season, so we should expect them to have that advantage in this game as well.
Baltimore Ravens @ Los Angeles Chargers
The Ravens currently sit as the 1 seed in the AFC and have an argument as the best team in the conference as they are rolling on both offense and defense. However, the loss of Mark Andrews, who ranked 3rd in total EPA when targeted among tight ends this season at 30.7 total EPA, will muddy the waters for them the rest of the way. They do get to face a Chargers defense that ranks 29th in EPA/play allowed, 25th in EPA/pass allowed, and 29th in explosive play rate allowed. The loss of Andrews will mean a bigger role for Odell Beckham Jr., who ranks 35th in yards per route run on the season. The Ravens could very well have another night where they spread out their shares among Beckham, Flowers, and Agholor through the air plus Jackson, Edwards, and Mitchell on the ground.
While sitting at 4-6, the Chargers pass game has been a bright spot for them as they rank 4th in EPA/pass with Justin Hebert ranking 5th in EPA/play and Keenan Allen having the 2nd most total EPA when targeted. They have a daunting task going up against a Ravens defense that is 2nd in EPA/play allowed and has been particularly good against the pass this season with players like Justin Madubuike, Jadeveon Clowney, Kyle Van Noy, and Odafe Oweh all having 4+ sack seasons as defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald continues to find unique ways to get pressure. Herbert’s ability to avoid sacks will be tested in this game as the key will be getting the ball to Allen and finding a secondary receiving option that can be trusted.