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 is helping us see the playoff picture a little bit more clearly. Last week there were teams like the Browns and Texans that saw a big increase in their playoff probability while teams like the Bills and Bengals saw a similarly sized decrease.
There is no game on Sunday with more playoff leverage than the Browns vs. the Steelers. The Browns would drop to a 61.6% chance of making the playoffs with a loss but go up to a 83.4% chance with a win. The Steelers would jump all the way up to a 68.2% chance to make the playoffs with a win while giving a fellow Wild Card competitor a loss.
The AFC Wild Card picture is still muddied as the Bills, Jets, and Texans have a lot of playoff leverage in Week 11. The Texans can jump above a 50% chance to play in the postseason with a win, while the loser of Jets-Bills will be facing an uphill battle.
With the Vikings 2 games ahead in the race for the NFC Wild Card, a loss puts them at around 60/40 to make the playoffs and a loss paired with a Buccaneers win could make things interesting.
Games to Watch
As we look ahead to Week 11, 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.
While Sunday doesn’t have the usual high-profile game due to the game of the week being on Monday Night Football, there are still some intriguing matchups highlighted by the watchability scores. Although the game has little playoff implications, Chargers-Packers should be an entertaining matchup with a high total and two teams that have a tendency to play close games. Steelers-Browns is projected to be low scoring but is a divisional matchup with a lot on the line. Cardinals-Texans is intriguing with Kyler Murray vs. C.J. Stroud.
In the afternoon slate, the Seahawks and Rams are playing in what should be a high scoring, close game as Seattle looks to right their Week 1 loss against Los Angeles. Jets-Bills is a divisional matchup where the Bills sit as heavy favorites but has the added intrigue of a new Bills new offensive coordinator. The day wraps up with two teams on winning streaks in Vikings-Broncos.
Monday Night has the game of the week and one of the games of the season as the Eagles and Chiefs have their Super Bowl rematch in primetime with the 1 seed in play for both teams. The atmosphere in Arrowhead should be electric.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns
Steelers-Browns has both playoff implications and division title hopes in play. Both offenses have struggled for most of the season, but they also are both coming off of improved performances. However, Deshaun Watson will be out for the remainder of the season, so it will be Dorian Thompson-Robinson back at quarterback for the Browns.
The Steelers rank 25th in EPA/play but have been especially good running the ball, ranking 10th in EPA/rush. Last week, Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris combined for 5.7 yards per carry with Warren showing off his 3rd ranked rushing yards over expected per carry on the season. They are facing a Browns defense that has been the best in the league this season ranking 1st in EPA/play allowed, 1st in success rate allowed, and 1st in EPA/pass allowed, so we can expect the Steelers to lean on the run more than they usually do.
The only weakness the Browns have shown is being susceptible to explosive plays so there will be a lot of pressure on Warren to get at least one 15+ yard carry. While it’s only been 63 plays, the Browns have allowed a positive EPA to 21 personnel this season, but the Steelers only have used two running backs on the field at the same time 9 times this year.
The Browns offense will have higher variance due to Dorian Thompson-Robinson starting, but we have seen him in two games this season. In his one start, the Browns EPA/play was -0.34 compared to -0.04 when Watson was the starting quarterback. There’s a clear difference there, but it’s too early to make a statistically significant conclusion. We can expect the Browns to rely on the run game against a Steelers defense that ranks 20th in EPA/rush allowed. The Browns will likely get into heavy sets of 12 and 13 personnel and might even include a 6th offensive lineman as Kevin Stefanski is usually one of the most personnel diverse play callers in the league.
Points will be a bargain in this game.
Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Rams
In Week 1, the Rams beat the Seahawks 30-13 with the Rams offense having a 90th percentile EPA/play while the Seahawks had a 38th percentile EPA/play. Since then, the Seahawks have won 6 of their last 8 games, and the Rams have only won 2 of their last 8. Despite that, the betting market still sees these teams as pretty close and the stats tell a similar story.
The Rams season long stats are a little deflated by not having Matthew Stafford against the Packers. When Stafford has played, they’ve had the 12th best passing attack in the league. Sean McVay’s offense almost exclusively uses 11 personnel, which is good news for the Seahawks as they’ve allowed a negative EPA/pass against one running back, one tight end sets this season.
The matchup to watch in this game will be rookie on rookie as Puka Nacua – ranking 11th in yards per route run on the season – will have matchups against the #5 overall pick, Devon Witherspoon. The Rams have also been able to run the ball well this season ranking 9th in EPA/rush and are expected to get Kyren Williams back from injury. Williams’ usage should be monitored as he was a true workhorse running back before getting injured.
The Seahawks offense continues to play well ranking 8th in success rate and 12th in EPA/play. They’ve leaned into the pass with a +2.1% pass rate over expected and are facing a Rams defense that has struggled stopping the pass this season. We could expect that in this game as DK Metcalf and/or Tyler Lockett could have big days. The Seahawks have been the 10th best team from passing from under center this season and the Rams have struggled against under center passes so we could see the Seahawks lean into their play action concepts as Shane Waldron uses multiple tight ends in numerous ways.
Minnesota Vikings @ Denver Broncos
The Vikings are on a 5 game win streak; the Broncos are on a 3 games win streak. When both of these teams started with just 1 win in the first month of the season, it was hard to see a path where this game would have playoff implications on the line, but here we are.
The Vikings offense has been consistently above average the entire season, whether it’s been Kirk Cousins or Josh Dobbs starting at quarterback. They have been particularly good through the air but have struggled on the ground due to inefficient running and fumbles. Since Josh Dobbs has become the quarterback, quarterback scrambling has been introduced into the offense as he’s scrambled 11 times for +11.1 total EPA in two games. Dobbs is 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards among all quarterbacks.
The Broncos defense started the season poorly and ranks 32nd in EPA/play allowed but has been 6th in EPA/play allowed in their past 4 games. However, they rank 27th in success rate allowed in that same timespan as they’ve relied on turnovers to hold the opposing offense. If they can continue that turnover streak in this game, they will be in a good spot but it will be much tougher to sustain the defensive results without it. The matchup to watch will be Justin Jefferson (if he returns) and Jordan Addison vs. Patrick Surtain who is coming off an impressive performance against Stefon Diggs.
After ranking 29th in EPA/play in 2022, Russell Wilson ranks 13th in EPA/play this season and has been productive enough to get the Broncos to 5-4. The Broncos like to rely on running the ball with most of the carries going Javonte Williams’ way. The Vikings defense has exceeded expectations this season with Brian Flores’ heavy blitz percentage and Russell Wilson ranks 27th in EPA/play when blitzed this season. The Broncos will try to be explosive with Marvin Mims, Courtland Sutton, and Jerry Jeudy, but it will be tough to do against the Vikings who have only allowed a 7.7% explosive play rate this season.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Kansas City Chiefs
This game has basically everything you’d want: a Super Bowl rematch, the two quarterbacks with the highest chances to win MVP in Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes, the Kelce Bowl with Jason Kelce and Travis Kelce, and so much more.
The Eagles offense has been very good this season with Jalen Hurts playing like an MVP the past month and A.J. Brown having an Offensive Player of the Year type season. After being able to do just enough against the Cowboys two weeks ago, the Eagles are facing a Chiefs defense that also ranks top 5 in EPA/play allowed and are particularly good against the pass. With no Dallas Goedert, the Eagles will most likely play primarily 11 personnel with the Chiefs ranking 5th in EPA/play against one running back, one receiver sets this season. The Eagles are best when running out of shotgun and the Chiefs run defense has been their weak spot, so we could see the Eagles lean a lot on the run with D’Andre Swift and Jalen Hurts designed rushes as he’s had the bye week for his knee to get healthier.
As for the Chiefs, they’ve had a down year on offense relative to their usual output but still rank 6th in EPA/play. The Chiefs will likely pass a lot in this game as not only do they have a +9.3% pass rate over expected but due to secondary injuries, the Eagles defense is 21st in EPA/pass allowed this season. This should be a massive Travis Kelce game because of the Eagles weakness at linebacker and this could also be a big Noah Gray game as the Chiefs run 12 personnel the 5th most in the league and pass very well out of it. Rashee Rice has been the Chiefs best receiver this season but will have a tough matchup against either Darius Slay or James Bradberry, so we could see the Chiefs lean on middle of the field passing. With both teams coming off a bye, there should be a lot of scheme uniqueness in this game.