Weekend Preview - Week 7

by Tej Seth|October 19, 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 are seeing big swings in playoff chances for multiple teams. Last week saw teams like the Rams and Commanders put themselves back into the NFC playoff picture while the Jaguars started to separate from the rest of their division. We can look ahead to Week 7’s playoff leverage to see which teams have a lot on the line:

This week, there are no teams going head-to-head with as high of playoff leverage as the Falcons and Buccaneers. If either team notches the win, they move up to an above 50% chance to make the playoffs and also put themselves back in the NFC South division race.

Also in the NFC, the Seahawks and Rams have a lot on the line in the competitive Wild Card race as they are both favored and a loss could push them back.

In the AFC, the Browns find themselves in another big game against the Colts as a win would give them a better than a coin flip chance of making the playoffs. Looking closer at the AFC North, if the Ravens get a win over the Lions, they will have a 54% chance of winning the division. That drops down to 39% with a loss.

Games to Watch

As we look ahead to Week 7, 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 is headlined by the Lions heading to Baltimore to face the Ravens. The rest of the slate is filled with games that are projected to be lower scoring, but matchups like Colts-Browns and Falcons-Buccaneers do have big playoff implications.

In the afternoon slate, we see another headline game with Chargers-Chiefs as it’s a big divisional matchup that gives us Justin Herbert vs. Patrick Mahomes. Steelers-Rams is also a sneaky good matchup as the Rams offense vs. the Steelers defense should be fun to watch.

At night, Dolphins-Eagles is everything that you could want out of a Sunday Night game. The matchup has the highest point total of the week, features two ascending quarterbacks with dynamic weapons, and both teams have Super Bowl aspirations. It has one of the highest watchability scores of the season.

Detroit Lions @ Baltimore Ravens

Every matchup in Lions-Ravens is a strength on strength matchup. Starting with the Lions offense vs. the Ravens defense, the Lions have the 4th best EPA/pass and the 12th best EPA/rush while the Ravens have the 3rd best pass defense and 8th best run defense. With no David Montgomery, we can expect the Lions to use more 12 personnel, which they use at the 8th highest rate in the league this year. The Ravens pass defense has been very good against 11 personnel but not as strong against 12 personnel (with a smaller sample size). That makes the matchup to watch in this game rookie tight end Sam LaPorta vs. Roquan Smith and the Ravens linebackers.

The Ravens offense has been an overall good offense ranking 16th in EPA/pass and 6th in EPA/rush. The Lions defense has been one of the most improved units of the season ranking 9th in both EPA/pass allowed and EPA/rush allowed. The Ravens are still finding their identity with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken and run 20 and 21 personnel (two running backs) much more often than league average. Zay Flowers has been leading the way for them at receiver ranking 29th in yards per route run and may be matched up against either rookie Brian Branch or Cam Sutton. Both Branch and Sutton have played well this season. All in all, this will be a great matchup between talented teams and innovative coordinators.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs

We should expect a lot of points in Chargers-Chiefs for various reasons. The Chiefs have the 5th best pass offense and the 18th best rush offense and have fully leaned into their strong passing attack. The Chargers pass defense has struggled at times ranking 28th in EPA/pass allowed. The Chiefs are a primarily shotgun team, using it on 75% of snaps and have the 6th best pass offense out of it. The Chargers have the 24th best defense at defending passes out of shotgun. The matchup to watch will be Travis Kelce vs. Derwin James, which has become a great battle.

The Chargers offense has been very good as Justin Herbert ranks 6th in EPA/play and Keenan Allen ranks 10th in yards per route run. However, not having Mike Williams has taken a toll on this team as Josh Palmer has -13 total EPA when targeted and rookie Quentin Johnston has yet to take control of a starting receiver slot. The good news for the Chargers is they’ve still been able to hit explosives at the 9th highest rate in the league. The Chiefs defense has been very good this season against the pass but susceptible against the run, so this could be a big Austin Ekeler game.

Miami Dolphins @ Philadelphia Eagles

In one of the most anticipated matchups of the season, we see two very high end offenses face off on Sunday Night Football. The Dolphins rank 1st in EPA/play, 1st in EPA/pass, 1st in EPA/rush and 1st in explosive play rate. They rank 1st in EPA/play out of 11 personnel and 12 personnel. Other than one game against the Bills, NFL defenses have struggled to stop them. The Eagles defense has been banged up in the secondary leading them to have the 16th best pass defense, but they have been especially good at limiting explosive plays. The matchup to watch will be how quickly Tua Tagovailoa gets rid of the ball to mitigate the damage that the Eagles defensive line can do.

Despite not reaching expectations yet, the Eagles still rank 8th in offensive EPA/play. Jalen Hurts is 10th in EPA/play among 36 qualifying quarterbacks and A.J. Brown is 3rd in yards per route run. This Eagles offense has been particularly good on the ground this season led by D’Andre Swift and Jalen Hurts. They find themselves facing a Dolphins defense that is 24th in EPA/rush allowed. The matchup to watch on this side of the ball will be the Eagles offensive line with Lane Johnson expected to play with a sprained ankle against the Dolphins defensive line.

San Francisco 49ers @ Minnesota Vikings

Despite last week’s performance against the Browns, the 49ers still have a very good offense ranking 2nd in EPA/play as Brock Purdy is 1st in EPA/play among all starting quarterbacks. The Vikings defense has been middle of the road against the run and the pass but has been particularly good at limiting explosive plays. The 49ers use 21 personnel on 40% of their snaps – the 2nd highest rate in the league – and it’ll be interesting to see how the Vikings handle that given they’ve only seen two running backs and one tight end on 30 plays this season.

The Vikings offense ranks 9th in success rate but 19th in EPA/play due to some back breaking turnovers. With Justin Jefferson, they were passing a lot and having success, but without him, we can expect to see more 12 personnel with T.J. Hockenson and Josh Oliver. The 49ers defense is top 5 against 11 and 10 personnel but 9th against 12 personnel so we could see the Vikings lean into that. The matchup to watch will be the 49ers dominant linebackers against the Vikings tight ends.

Sumer’s Week in Review

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

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