Weekend Preview - Week 2

by SumerSports|September 15, 2023

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Welcome to the second 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! 

Be sure to check out the SumerSports podcast feed and follow us on Twitter @SumerSports for more content like this. 

Thursday Night Football Recap 

The Eagles closed out their home opener with a 34-28 win to improve to 2-0 while the Vikings fell to 0-2. The Vikings offense had a good day passing the ball with a 0.23 EPA/play (71st percentile), but they cost themselves with multiple turnovers as well as a -0.71 EPA/rush (1st percentile). On the other side of the ball, the Eagles were defined by their run game led by D’Andre Swift. Swift led all rushers with a 6.6 total EPA on his rushes and was able to get a first down on 34% of his 29 rushes.

The Eagles had a below average passing day with a 0.00 EPA/pass (39th percentile) that was boosted by two explosive passes to Devonta Smith. It should be encouraging to Eagles fans that they’ve been able to win two games this season without their passing offense being even close to as elite as it was last year. All in all, it was an impactful win for the Eagles, who took advantage of the Vikings mistakes and move to a 91% chance to make the playoffs. The Vikings, on the other hand, drop to a 17% chance at seeing the postseason.

Playoff Leverage

After Week 1, we saw some big swings in playoff probability with teams like the Dolphins and Browns increasing their chance of making the postseason by more than 10%. This week also features matchups that can have a big impact by the end of the season. The playoff leverage graph has a logo showing what the team’s current chance of making the playoffs is with the bars representing how much is at stake for them this week. 

The Cincinnati Bengals have the most at stake of any team in Week 2 as a loss would give them a coin flip chance to make the playoffs and falling to 0-2 with two AFC North losses would be a big blow to their division chances. However, with a win over the Ravens, the Bengals reclaim the highest chance to make the playoffs within their division. 

The Los Angeles Rams also have a high playoff leverage this week as getting to 2-0 with a win over one of the best teams in the NFC would solidify their status as playoff contenders. The 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys all could move above an 85% chance to make the playoffs with a win as they separate themselves from the rest of the NFC. 

Games to Watch

Week 1’s Watchability scores highlighted Lions-Chiefs, Dolphins-Chargers, and Bills-Jets as the best games to watch of the week. As we look ahead to Week 2, 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. 

Chiefs-Jaguars is the banner game of the week having a 97th percentile watch score. It is a rematch of a divisional round playoff game from last season, and we get to see two of the league’s best quarterbacks in action. At the same time, the Ravens and the Bengals face off in another AFC North divisional matchup. While it is projected to be low scoring, Packers-Falcons is intriguing as we learn more about Jordan Love and Desmond Ridder in the structure of their offenses. 

Jets-Cowboys was supposed to be the game of the week in the afternoon slate, but the Aaron Rodgers injury means Zach Wilson getting the start heavily favors the Cowboys chances to win. 49ers-Rams has a below average watchability score but is the best game of the afternoon slate and has added intrigue with the rivalry these two teams have had in the past few seasons.  

On Sunday Night, we get a very interesting matchup where a high-flying offense in the Dolphins meets what looks to be a truly elite defense in the Patriots. To close off the week, there are two Monday Night Football games that are both divisional matchups and could help determine how their respective divisions unfold. 

Kansas City Chiefs @ Jacksonville Jaguars 

The Chiefs have been the team to beat in the AFC since Patrick Mahomes has taken over and the Jaguars are a possible contender to challenge for the throne. While Mahomes has consistently ranked top 3 in most advanced metrics, Trevor Lawrence has emerged finishing last season 9th in EPA/play.  

Outside of the quarterback battle, we will get to see star pass catchers from both sides play in this game. While the Jaguars finished 8th in offensive EPA/play last season, they were missing an explosive pass catcher for a lot of the year and now get that in Calvin Ridley. The Chiefs finished 1st in offensive EPA/play in large part because of the Mahomes-Kelce connection. Kelce’s status is uncertain as of now, but it appears he is trending in the right direction. 

The matchup to watch in this game is the Chiefs defensive line vs. the Jaguars offensive line. In Week 1, the Chiefs created a 29.7% pressure rate (22nd best) without Chris Jones, their best pass rusher. The Jaguars offensive line was a question mark coming into the season and will get tested with Jones back in the lineup for the Chiefs. On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars ranked 4th in defensive EPA/play in Week 1 but are getting the hardest test in the league against the Chiefs offense. 

Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals 

In one of the most competitive divisions in football, both the Ravens and the Bengals understand how important this game is. While both offenses were sluggish in Week 1, the defenses both showed the potential they could reach. The microscope in this game will be on the Bengals offense vs. the Ravens defense.  

The Bengals ranked 5th in offensive EPA/play last season but had a below average offensive EPA/play in all three games against the Ravens defense. The Ravens defense ranked 5th in defensive EPA/play the second half of the season once trading for Roquan Smith. While they have some injuries on that side of the ball, they can still play at a high level making this the matchup to watch. 

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens played 2 out of their 3 matchups against the Bengals last year without Lamar Jackson but had below average offensive production in the one matchup he did play in. With no Mark Andrews last week, Baltimore’s offense featured multiple screens to Zay Flowers as they finished with a 4.4 average depth of target. With Andrews back this week, the Bengals defense gets a true test to see how their revamped secondary without Jessie Bates fares. A key for the Ravens will be getting efficient rushes without J.K. Dobbins – something that they weren’t able to do last week. 

Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots 

After having a high-end offense that was derailed by injuries at the end of the season, the Dolphins enter this matchup healthier and with the best offensive EPA/play in the league. They were especially impressive in the pass game with a 12.8% pass rate over expected and the most total pass EPA of any team. Because of that, the matchup to watch in this game will be Miami’s pass offense vs. New England’s pass defense. Miami had an 80% Eckel rate (percent of drives that cross the +40 yard line or result in a 40+ yard touchdown) and is going against New England, who only allows a 25% Eckel rate. New England has built out their defensive back room to be able to handle top passing offenses, and Miami might be one of the biggest tests they face this year. 

New England’s offense finished last season ranked 24th in offensive EPA/play and play calling was cited as the main concern. While they played in a sloppy game in Week 1 and had an early pick six, they had the 11th best success rate in the league and could continue to build on that. Miami’s defense had a very poor showing in the run game in Week 1 and could be in for more on the ground in Week 2. 

Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers 

With Monday Night football having two matchups this week, Browns-Steelers looks to be very intriguing as it has the divisional rivalry aspect and also has two teams that have a lot to prove after last week. The Steelers had a very tough matchup against the 49ers and currently sit with the lowest EPA margin in the league. What was especially interesting about the Steelers offense was they had a pass rate over expected of 7.7% showing that they are comfortable airing it out for the majority of the game. While multiple turnovers hurt them, their offensive success rate finished 24th which is not as terrible as the final score suggested.  

However, they face a completely revamped Browns defense. With new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and multiple additions to their defensive line, the Browns had the best defensive performance of the week being able to stop the run and the pass. While the weather helped, Cleveland showed that they can dominate in multiple aspects on defense and get another test here on Monday night. 

The Browns offense had the lowest pass rate over expected in the league at -8.6% and for good reason as they were more efficient rushing than passing in Week 1. Behind their stout offensive line, Nick Chubb gets to face a Steelers defensive line without Cam Heyward, arguably their most impactful run defender. The Browns passing offense had the 28th best EPA/pass as they look to bounce back as well. This could be a classic AFC North divisional game where the defenses are able to dictate a lot of the matchups. 

Sumer’s Week in Review 

We had a great week at Sumer putting out content and tools for all users: 

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