Weekend Preview - Week 5

by Tej Seth|October 5, 2023

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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.

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.

Playoff Leverage

We are starting to see some big jumps in playoff probability based on weekly results, especially in divisional games. Last week, the Lions were the biggest risers, increasing their postseason chances by 21% while the Packers’ chances inversely decreased by 17%. The Ravens beating the Browns caused an 11% increase for Baltimore and a 9% decrease for Cleveland. 

As we look ahead to this week, there are again some teams with massive leverage. With this being the first week with teams on bye, there will be 28 teams with leverage bars instead of the usual 32.

We have started to see a separation between the different tiers NFL teams are currently in. The Chiefs, 49ers, Bills, and Eagles have their eyes on fighting for top seeds. The Ravens, Cowboys, Lions, and Dolphins are highly likely to make the playoffs and are still in divisional races. Still, the rest of the teams hold plenty of leverage each week.

There is no bigger matchup this week from a postseason probability standpoint than Titans-Colts. The Titans currently sit at a 41% chance of making the playoffs and could jump up to above 50% with a win. On top of that, they currently have a 28% chance to win the AFC South and that goes up to 40% chance with a win. The Colts are in a similar spot at a 38% chance to make the playoffs and would be able to get to a 46% chance of playing in the postseason with a win.

Texans-Falcons is also a big matchup in terms of leverage as both teams are sitting at a below 50% shot to make the playoffs. From a divisional race standpoint, the Ravens can see their chances of winning the AFC North jump to 77% with another intra-division win but fall to 57% with a loss.

Games to Watch

Last week, the watchability scores identified Rams-Colts as the 2nd most watchable game of the week and it delivered. As we look ahead to Week 5, 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 are in a great spot this week as football fans with an above average Watch Score in just about every time slot. We start off with another London game between the Jaguars and Bills where we will see two dynamic quarterbacks face off in one of the better morning games in recent history.

The early slate doesn’t have its usual headliner, but there are some interesting options with a high playoff leverage Titans-Colts game plus Texans-Falcons featuring two evenly matched teams at 2-2.

The later slate has some great games as the Chiefs head to Minnesota to face the Vikings in what is projected to be the highest scoring game of the weekend. The Eagles travel west to face the Rams in a game that should highlight high end quarterback play.

To wrap up our Sunday, we are getting one of the biggest games of the year in Cowboys-49ers. It will feature two of the best teams in the NFC and will give one team an inside track to the #1 seed and home field advantage in the conference.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Buffalo Bills (London)

After a dominant win over the Dolphins, the Bills currently sit as the only team in the NFL to rank top 3 in both offensive and defensive EPA/play this season. The Bills offense is firing on all cylinders right now as they are highly efficient passing the ball and boast a positive EPA when running the ball. James Cook currently ranks 9th in rushing yards over expected per carry. The Jaguars defense has played well this season shutting down the Falcons in London last week and fielding a stout run defense. That makes the matchup to watch in this game the Bills run blocking vs. the Jaguars run defense.

The Jaguars offense has gotten off to a slower start than most expected but have started to pick it up. Ranking 14th in success rate but 21st in EPA/play shows that they’ve been better at staying ahead of the sticks than the average team but have had more turnovers and less explosives than usual. With a +3.1% pass rate over expected, the Jaguars like to pass the ball, and this is the Bills first game without Tre’Davious White. We might see more passes over expected despite the Bills defense ranking 2nd in EPA/pass allowed. The Jaguars haven’t been that explosive so far this year, but the Bills have been susceptible to explosive plays, which makes that something to watch.

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts

With how things have gone in the AFC South so far this season, the Titans and Colts find themselves in the middle of a division race. The Colts offense has been exciting with the return of Anthony Richardson, who currently ranks 19th in EPA/play among 36 qualifying quarterbacks. Without Jonathan Taylor, the Colts run game has ranked 27th in terms or EPA/rush, which is particularly relevant in this game because the Titans run defense ranks 2nd in EPA/rush allowed. What will be interesting to watch is if the Colts break the norm from their -5.8% pass rate over expected and pass on a Titans defense that has ranked 22nd in EPA/pass allowed. Last season, the Titans defense had a similar run and pass gap and teams passed at the highest rate against them so we could see something similar from Shane Steichen.

On the other side of the ball, the Titans are coming off their best offensive performance of the season so far against the Bengals. They have been an offense relying on explosive plays with the 16th best EPA/play but the 26th best success rate. They have the 10th best explosive play rate and are facing a Colts defense that has been top 10 overall but allows explosive plays frequently. How the Titans use DeAndre Hopkins to get into those 15-20 yard passing plays is something to watch as well.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Minnesota Vikings

Not often will we be talking about a 1-3 team hosting the defending Super Bowl Champions in these game previews, but the Vikings aren’t a typical 1-3 team. They currently have the 7th best offensive success rate in the NFL and the 5th best explosive play rate. Their passing attack has been led by Justin Jefferson who ranks 4th in yards per route run. The Chiefs defense has been exceeding expectations ranking 5th in EPA/pass allowed, making the Vikings receiving options vs. the Chiefs secondary the matchup to watch in this game. The Vikings have the 3rd highest pass rate over expected, but we could see them lean a little more on the run given the Chiefs gap between their pass and run defense.

The Chiefs have seen a little bit of a slower start to their offense than usual but rank 4th in EPA/play. Kansas City sees a Simpson’s Paradox in their splits where they are the 8th best passing team and the 6th best rushing team but the 4th best overall offense due to their passing volume. The Vikings defense has focused on limiting explosive plays, but that has come at the expense of having the 21st ranked EPA/pass as teams are able to use short and medium passes on them down the field. This should be a very high scoring game in Minnesota.

Dallas Cowboys @ San Francisco 49ers

There is an argument to be made that Cowboys-49ers has the most combined talent across two teams of any matchup this season. The Cowboys offense currently ranks 5th in offensive EPA/play and have been balanced running and passing the ball. Dak Prescott is 10th in EPA/play among quarterbacks and CeeDee Lamb is 13th in yards per route run. They have the very tough task of facing a 49ers defense that is 6th in EPA/play allowed but most notably 1st in explosive play rate allowed. The 49ers pass defense has been better than their run defense, but Dallas’ offensive line vs. the 49ers pass rush will be the matchup to watch in this game.

The 49ers offense is a buzzsaw that ranks top 5 in both pass and rush EPA and 2nd in overall offense. Brock Purdy is currently the leader amongst all quarterbacks in EPA/play while Christian McCaffrey has been making a strong case to be the frontrunner for Offensive Player of the Year. The 49ers are facing a Dallas defense that is 1st in EPA/pass allowed and 6th in EPA/rush allowed making this a very tough matchup for both sides of the ball. Dallas’ pass defense was particularly impressive against the Patriots, but the 49ers pass game is a much tougher task. Overall, it should be one of the best games of the season.

Sumer’s Week in Review

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