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.
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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 Falcons and Packers that saw a big increase in their playoff odds while the Broncos and Saints saw a similarly sized decrease.
As usual, the NFC South has a lot of playoff leverage on the line due to there being two paths for Atlanta, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay to make the postseason through winning their division or as the 7 seed in the NFC. If the Falcons beat the Buccaneers, they would have a 78.0% chance of making the playoffs and a 74.4% chance of winning the division. A Buccaneers win would mean they’re right back in the mix for both. With the Seahawks and Rams both sitting at 6-6, both teams also have a lot of leverage on the line in Week 14.
In the AFC, the Texans and Colts are both vying for the 7 seed as a win over the Jets would put the Texans at a 69.1% chance of playing in the playoffs while a Colts win over the Bengals would put them at a 78.9% chance. The Browns (playing the Jaguars) and the Bills (playing the Chiefs) sit in a similar position.
Games to Watch
As we look ahead to Week 14, 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.
There isn’t a main headliner in the early slate but there are some intriguing games such as a defensive battle in Jaguars-Browns, a fun quarterback matchup in Matthew Stafford vs. Lamar Jackson, and a rematch of one of the best games of the season in Lions-Bears.
The later slate features a growing AFC rivalry with Josh Allen vs. Patrick Mahomes as the Bills travel to Kansas City. An NFC West rivalry is also occurring at that time as the Seahawks look to avenge their loss on Thanksgiving.
On Sunday Night, we get one of the highest rated games of the entire season as the Eagles rematch against the Cowboys in a massive NFC East showdown that could have major divisional implications.
There are two Monday Night Football games this week as Titans-Dolphins should be the higher scoring affair while those with the YouTube TV multibox can take in two games at once.
Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Bills and the Chiefs faced off in the 2021 divisional round in a game that finished as an overtime thriller in a 42-36 Chiefs win. The Chiefs entered that game:
- 2nd in EPA/play
- 1st in success rate
- 2nd in EPA/pass
- 8th in EPA/rush
Times have now changed where the Chiefs rank 6th in EPA/play, 8th in success rate, 9th in EPA/pass, and 12th in EPA/rush. These are still very good numbers across the board. but less strong than what we are accustomed to from Kansas City. Fortunately for them they are facing a Bills defense that ranks 26th in EPA/play allowed since Week 5 and are susceptible to allowing explosive plays. This will most likely be a big yards after catch game for the Chiefs as they rank 5th in YAC EPA per pass attempt and the Bills give up the 8th most YAC EPA per pass attempt. Rashee Rice leads the team in yards after catch and ranks 12th in yards per route run in the whole league, so look towards him as someone who could have a big game.
The 2021 Bills also had a potent offense:
- 4th in EPA/play
- 6th in success rate
- 10th in EPA/pass
- 12th in EPA/rush
Since then, they have actually improved on that side of the ball with the 2nd best success rate and are top 5 in both EPA/pass and EPA/rush. The run game will be particularly important in this game as the Chiefs pass defense has been great for most of the season, but their run defense has ranked 31st. James Cook will look to benefit from that as he has put together a good season ranking 13th in rushing yards over expected. Stefon Diggs has dropped to 20th in yards per route run after being top 5 earlier in the season. Gabe Davis has had 3 touchdowns before against the Chiefs, so he could be a target for the best redzone offense in the league.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys
In their previous matchup, the Cowboys had a +8.7% pass rate over expected (88th percentile) and put together a game plan that put that ball in CeeDee Lamb’s hands often. The Cowboys had a lot of their production come on late downs in that game and we should expect that to continue in this game as Dallas has the best EPA/play on late downs and Philadelphia has had the 31st EPA/play allowed.
As expected, CeeDee Lamb is the go to target on late downs but Jake Ferguson and Brandin Cooks are 2nd and 3rd respectively. Given the state of the Eagles linebackers, Ferguson should have another big game as he continues to ascend. The more that the Cowboys continue to increase the target shares for Ferguson and Cooks while working in secondary options like KaVontae Turpin, the better off their pass game will be.
There has been some debate on if the Eagles should get back to establishing the run. After having a -5.6% pass rate over expected in 2020 and a -0.6% pass rate over expected last season, the Eagles have a +1.7% pass rate over expected this season – good for 10th in the NFL. This is justified as they have a 0.10 EPA/pass and a -0.01 EPA/rush.
Jalen Hurts ran for 5.7 yards per carry on designed rushes last season (taking out quarterback sneaks) but that has dropped to 3.3 YPC this season. His yards per scramble has gone from 6.9 to 6.1. Because of Hurts’ injury and defenses adjusting, his rushing ability has not been as strong as it was last year and that has limited the Eagles, especially in the 1st half of games.
However, they still can feature star receivers A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith. The Eagles have played more 10 personnel without Dallas Goedert, but his likely return can be a boost in the run game and on middle of the field passes. All of that considered, this should be a great matchup that either essentially locks up the division for the Eagles or makes it a really interesting race down the stretch.