Weekend Preview - Week 13

Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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Welcome to 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 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.

Be sure to check out the SumerSports podcast feed, follow us on Twitter @SumerSports, and sign up for our newsletter for more content like this. Also, take a look at our new customizable data tables that include teams, players, and more!

Playoff Leverage

Each week is helping us see the playoff picture a little bit more clearly. Last week there were teams like the Vikings and Texans that saw a big increase in their playoff probability while teams like the Bills and Falcons saw a similarly sized decrease.

There is no bigger Week 13 matchup from a playoff leverage perspective than the Denver Broncos vs. the Houston Texans as they compete for the AFC Wild Card. If the Texans win, they put themselves at about a coin flip to make the postseason, and if the Broncos lose, they drop down to a 16.5% chance to make it. The Colts, also at 6-5, have similar leverage in the AFC as a win against the Titans puts them up to almost 60% to make the playoffs while a loss drops them to 37.5%.

In the NFC, the race for the 7 seed has become tight as the Packers could jump up to a 70% chance to make the playoffs with an upset win against the Chiefs. The NFC South race is also tight as both the Falcons and Saints fight for the division and Wild Card spots.

Games to Watch

As we look ahead to Week 13, 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.

The early slate doesn’t have a main headliner, but there are some intriguing games. Lions-Saints is the game of the slate as it should be a close game between 2 NFC teams that have a lot on the line. Broncos-Texans is also an important game that we would not have seen coming with the teams having the #2 and #5 draft picks just this past year now playing a watchable game with playoff implications.

The late slate has the game of the week and one of the games of the year with 49ers-Eagles as we see a rematch of last year’s NFC championship and the top two teams in the NFC standings. Sunday Night has an intriguing game as the Packers are hot and are hosting a Chiefs team that hasn’t lived up to expectations on offense yet but has had a stout defense.

Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints

The strength-on-strength matchup in this game will be the Lions offense vs. the Saints defense. The Lions offense comes into this game with the 8th best offensive EPA/play led by their run game. Both David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs rank top 10 in EPA/rush and top 15 in explosive run rate as the Lions have been able to be explosive with their run game while the rest of the league has gone the other way. 

The Saints defense is top 10 across the board, but they have been susceptible to explosives this season so this could be a game where Gibbs breaks off a long rush. New Orleans’ defense has been the best defense against deeper passes and yards after catch, so it will be much tougher for Detroit to get explosives through the air. The Saints defense is very good against 11 and 12 personnel but have struggled against two running back sets this season so expect both Montgomery and Gibbs on the field at the same time in this game. A matchup to watch will be rookie tight end Sam LaPorta vs. veteran linebacker Demario Davis and how often the Lions choose to target that pairing if they match up on each other.

The Saints offense has struggled for the majority of the season, but they are getting a favorable matchup in this game. While the Lions are 15th in EPA/play allowed on the season, they are 32nd in EPA/play allowed, success rate, and EPA/pass allowed the past 4 weeks. The Saints have the highest rate of passes that travel 15+ yards in the air, and the Lions defense has the 5th worst EPA/pass allowed to deep passes in the past month. If he’s healthy, Rasheed Shaheed could break off an explosive pass while Chris Olave should be able to have his fair share of chances down the field as well. The Saints use an extra offensive lineman more than any team in the league so without Alex Anzalone, this will be a big game for rookie Jack Campbell and Derrick Barnes at the linebacker spot when New Orleans get into the heavy personnel.

San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles

The 49ers offense comes into this matchup 1st in EPA/play, 1st in success rate, 1st in EPA/pass, 1st in explosive play rate, with the quarterback that’s 1st in EPA/play and a wide receiver that is 2nd in yards per route run. When healthy, they are a buzzsaw on offense. They are playing an Eagles defense that has been 23rd in EPA/play allowed and has been better against the run than the pass. The 49ers like to lean on the run but should pass more in this game with the Eagles defense having a +4.5% pass rate over expected against them because of their strong defensive line and weaker secondary. 

The 49ers are the 4th best team in passing over the middle of the field and the Eagles are the 8th worst team at defending middle of the field passes, so expect Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle to rack up yards after the catch. The 49ers operate out of under center frequently, which is not something that Eagles have seen much of so it will be interesting to see how they do with players like Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel coming out of the backfield.

The Eagles offense has continued to soar, ranking 5th in EPA/play with a very balanced attack between the run and pass. Jalen Hurts is 8th in EPA/play and A.J. Brown is 6th in yards per route run. However, they are facing a 49ers defense that has been 4th in EPA/play allowed and has allowed the lowest rate of explosive plays in the league. 

Without Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have turned up the amount of 10 personnel they’ve been using. The 49ers have barely seen 10 personnel, so it will be interesting to see if they decide to match it by taking one of their star linebackers off the field. The matchup to watch in this game will be the Eagles offensive line vs. the 49ers defensive line as the addition of Chase Young has solidified the 49ers front as one of the most talented front 7’s in the league while they are going up against arguably the best offensive line in the league. It should be a great game with NFC #1 seed implications on the line.

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