Weekend Preview - Week 6

by Tej Seth|October 12, 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

Each week, we have seen playoff chances swing for multiple teams. Last week featured the Jaguars as the biggest risers after beating the Bills. The Ravens dropped some in playoff probability but remain in a strong spot with sound underlying statistics.

As we look ahead to Week 6, there are again some large swings that can occur. Teams that are on the bye are not given leverage here:

There are no teams going head-to-head that have more to gain from a win than the Jaguars and Colts. If the Jaguars win, they will move to 4-2 and have a 66% chance to make the playoffs and a 51% chance to win the AFC South. If the Colts win, they would instead move to 4-2 with a 63% chance to make the playoffs and a 47% chance to win the division.

The Ravens also have a lot on the line in terms of their playoff and division odds as a win puts them at a 73% chance to make the postseason and a 48% chance to win the AFC North.

The top 3 NFC South teams are also locked together as the Buccaneers could tally a statement win over the Lions, the Saints could get to a 47% chance to win the division with a win, and the Falcons could get to an above 50% chance to make the playoffs if they notch a win themselves.

Games to Watch

As we look ahead to Week 6, 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.

With the best game of the week on Monday Night Football, there are still some intriguing games on the Sunday Slate. There is another London game with the Ravens and Titans facing off in a big AFC matchup where the defenses may be the story of the game.

In the early slate, we get a great game between two playoff contenders in Seahawks-Bengals as points are expected to be scored. Saints-Texans and Vikings-Bears also appear to be interesting games. Despite a low watchability score, the 49ers offense against the Browns defense is sure to entertain.

The afternoon slate is headlined by Lions-Buccaneers in a big NFC matchup that was flexed from the early slate to the later slate to get more eyeballs on it. 

On Monday Night, we get a really promising game in Cowboys-Chargers with the highest total of the week and two teams that are top 10 in Elo and have top 10 quarterbacks in terms of total EPA.

Seattle Seahawks @ Cincinnati Bengals

For the first time last week, we saw the Bengals offense that we’ve grown accustomed to as Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase lit up the scoreboard. The common theme from the Bengals this season has been their passing frequency as they have a +6% pass rate over expected. This appears to be a good matchup against the Seahawks as Seattle’s defense ranks 6th against the run but 15th against the pass. The Bengals operate primarily out of shotgun, using that formation on 86% of offensive snaps. The Seahawks have been the 24th best team in terms of EPA/play at defending shotgun this season. The Bengals passing out of shotgun vs. the Seahawks pass defense and emerging rookie corner Devon Witherspoon will be the matchup to watch in this game.

For the Seahawks offense, they currently rank 10th in EPA/pass and 2nd in EPA/rush showing that they have a balanced attack. They are also a pass heavy team having a +4.1% pass rate over expected and lean into having D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at receiver. The Seahawks have been the best team in the league out of 12 personnel this season while the Bengals have been the 29th best defense at defending 12 personnel looks. We can expect the Seahawks to use a lot of two tight end sets to take advantage of that.

Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At this point last season, the Lions and Buccaneers were a combined 3-6, but now both teams are a combined 7-2 playing in a matchup that was flexed by the NFL from the early slate to the afternoon slate. The Lions come into this matchup with the 8th best offense in terms of EPA/play and the 2nd best explosive play rate in the league. Tampa Bay’s defense has been sound across the board, ranking above average against the run and pass but they have been more susceptible to giving up explosives than the average team. The matchup to watch will be Detroit’s offensive line vs. Tampa Bay’s defensive line as Detroit has given up a sack on only 4.2% of dropbacks.

Through 4 games, one of the stories of the season has been Baker Mayfield’s performance in the Buccaneers passing offense. Mayfield currently ranks 6th in EPA/play among 36 quarterbacks while Mike Evans ranks 3rd in yards per route run among 96 receivers. The Buccaneers have had the 5th best passing attack but the 26th best rushing attack and are coming off their bye week. They get a tough matchup in a Lions defense that is top 10 against the run and pass this season. As the Lions secondary continues to lose starters to injury, we could see a big day from Mike Evans and Chris Godwin through the air.

New York Giants @ Buffalo Bills

The Bills enter this game coming off a loss but rank 3rd in offensive EPA/play overall plus are top 5 in both the run and the pass game. Josh Allen has been playing at an MVP level ranking 2nd in EPA/play while Stefon Diggs has boosted the pass game as he is 7th in yards per route run. The Bills have used 12 personnel the 2nd most often in the league this season and have been very good passing out of it. The Giants have struggled against 12 personnel having the 28th best defense against it. Because of that, this could be a big game for Buffalo’s tight ends.

The Giants have struggled on offense this season after exceeding expectations last year. They currently rank 31st in EPA/play and haven’t been able to get much going on the ground or through the air. Injuries haven’t helped as the offensive line has been banged up. Saquon Barkley’s injury has led to Matt Breida having the lowest efficiency in the league and they don’t have a wide receiver in the top two thirds of the league in yards per route run. The Giants are an 11 personnel team on 68% of snaps and we should expect to see that in this game. The Bills defense could be in for a big game, despite having their own injury problems.

Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Chargers

In the game that has the highest point total of the week, we should expect scoring in Cowboys-Chargers on Monday Night. The Cowboys come into the game still ranking top 10 in EPA/play despite having one of the worst offensive performances of the season against the 49ers last week. They get a much easier matchup this week going against a Chargers defense that ranks 25th in EPA/play allowed and gives up an explosive play on 11.9% of plays. The Cowboys operate out of shotgun most of the time while the Chargers have had the 26th best run defense out of shotgun, so we might expect to see Tony Pollard run out of those looks.

The other side of the ball is strength on strength as Justin Herbert has been playing as well as anyone ranking 5th in EPA/play with Keenan Allen at 10th in yards per route run. The Chargers have fully leaned into their passing game being a strength, especially with Austin Ekeler injured, and have a pass rate over expected of +3.8%. However, while the Chargers have been passing well out of 11 and 12 personnel, the Cowboys defense has been very good at stopping all phases of the passing game so far. Their one weakness is they have a tendency to give up explosives so we could see that in this game.

Sumer’s Week in Review

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