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.
Each week, we’re seeing some big swings in playoff chances from multiple teams. Last week there were teams like the Falcons and Jaguars that solidified their status as front runners in their respective divisions, while the Bills increased their playoff uncertainty. Let’s look ahead to Week 8’s playoff leverage:
There is no matchup with more on the line this week than Vikings-Packers. With a win, the Vikings can jump up to a 51% chance to make the playoffs and put themselves firmly in the Wild Card picture with an outside shot to win the division. With a loss, the Packers drop down to a 21% chance to make the playoffs – a tough hill to climb for the rest of the season.
Seahawks-Browns is another matchup with a lot of playoff leverage for both sides. The Seahawks will have a 70% chance of making the playoffs with a win while the Browns will have a 66% chance of making the playoffs with a win of their own. A loss by either team makes the road to winning their respective divisions less than 15%.
Other teams with a lot of playoff leverage on the line in Week 8 are the Rams, the Cowboys, the Dolphins, and the Bengals as they could all see pretty big jumps with a win compared to the slide of a loss.
Games to Watch
As we look ahead to Week 8, 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 Vikings, coming off a huge win, heading to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers who are looking for their first win in over a month. The two teams are nearly identical in Elo and the spread reflects that as well. The slate also has an intriguing matchup in Jaguars-Steelers and what should be a high scoring game in Rams-Cowboys.
The afternoon slate’s featured game is Bengals-49ers as we see two teams that came into the season as Super Bowl contenders have a measuring stick game. Seahawks-Browns is also a very intriguing matchup as not only is there a lot of playoff leverage on the line, but we get to see a high performing offense against a stout defense.
The primetime games this week all feature spreads greater than a touchdown, but the totals imply that there should be a lot of points.
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
The Vikings offense is coming off their best performance of the season and are looking to build on that in this game. This season, the Vikings rank higher in success rate than EPA/play because they have had the 2nd most EPA lost from turnovers on the season, but that has started to regress. The Vikings are primarily an 11 personnel team and have done well passing out of it but have also increased their usage of 12 personnel from 17% with Justin Jefferson healthy to 22% without him. The Packers defense has ranked 21st in EPA/play on the season but is the 3rd worst defense in the league at defending 12 personnel so we could see a big game for Minnesota’s tight ends.
The Packers offense has been the opposite of the Vikings offense, ranking lower in success rate than EPA, in large part due to avoiding negative plays. Jordan Love is taking a sack on 4.6% of his dropbacks, which is the 5th best rate in the league, and they have the 8th lowest EPA lost from turnovers. The matchup to watch is the Vikings defense that blitzes on 55.5% of passing snaps (per FTN) vs. the Packers who allow sacks at the 5th lowest rate in the league. Jayden Reed has ranked 37th out of 80 receivers in terms of yards per route run and could be in for another nice game.
Cincinnati Bengals @ San Francisco 49ers
Two weeks ago, the 49ers were 5-0 and widely considered the best team in the league with a top 5 offense and top 5 defense. Despite the two losses, the good news for 49ers fans is they are still considered to have a top 5 offense and top 5 defense in terms of EPA/play, including the best EPA/pass. The more worrisome news is Brock Purdy ranks 1st in EPA/play on the season, and they will not have him in this game.
They are facing a Bengals defense that has been around average this season but has been better at stopping the pass than the run. The 49ers have used 21 personnel more often than 11 personnel this season and have done really well out of both groupings. The Bengals have only seen 21 personnel on 25 snaps but have had trouble defending when there have been 2 running backs and 1 tight end on the field, so this could be another big Christian McCaffrey game. With Sam Darnold starting in place of Brock Purdy, we could see a more run-heavy approach. It will be very interesting to see how efficient and effective Darnold can be in the 49ers offense.
Despite being built off of explosive plays in previous years, the Bengals have the lowest explosive play rate in the league this season causing a gap between their EPA/play rank (27th) and success rate rank (17th). They have a +8.3% pass rate over expected and are facing the 6th best pass defense in the 49ers defense. The Bengals live in shotgun, using it at the 2nd highest rate in the league. The 49ers have the 7th best defense at defending plays out of shotgun. What will be interesting to follow is how often the Bengals throw outside to Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins to avoid the 49ers linebackers in Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw.
Chicago Bears @ Los Angeles Chargers
Despite some recent struggles, Justin Herbert still ranks 5th in EPA/play and the Chargers rank 5th in offensive EPA/play overall. The Chargers are above average in passing, rushing, how often they pass, and how explosive they are. They also get to play a Bears defense that has the 31st ranked pass defense. Not only should this be a big Keenan Allen game, but we could also see Josh Palmer put together another good performance. The Chargers will look to be explosive in this one early.
On the Bears side of the ball, we are going to see Tyson Bagent in his 2nd career NFL start. There can be an argument made that Bagent is the greatest Division II quarterback of all time as he leads the entire division in career passing yards. While facing NFL defenses is a much tougher task, the Chargers defense has struggled at times ranking 31st in EPA/play allowed. The Bears offense has been very good at running the ball, led by Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman, and will probably lean on that Sunday Night despite the Chargers having a stout run defense. The matchup to watch in this game will the Bears run game vs. the Chargers run defense.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Detroit Lions
On Monday Night Football, we get another interesting primetime matchup. The Lions are coming off their most humbling performance of the season against the Ravens, but are looking to rebound at home in their first game at Ford Field on a Monday night since 2018. The Lions have been able to pass and rush efficiently, but with no David Montgomery, we can expect them to lean on the pass against a Raiders defense that ranks 24th in EPA/pass but 30th in EPA/play allowed. The Raiders are the 2nd worst defense in the league against 11 personnel so we could see secondary receivers like Josh Reynolds, Jameson Williams, and Kalif Raymond have a big day. The matchup to watch will be Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker against Maxx Crosby.
On the ground, the Raiders have had a tough time with the worst EPA/rush in the league. They hope to have Jimmy Garoppolo back in this one to try to help the passing game. Either way, Davante Adams vs. Cameron Sutton will be a very good matchup to watch. We will also see how the Raiders continue to grow the role of Michael Mayer.