The slate of NFL games isn’t the best, but we’re coming into Week 7 hot after hitting on four of our best five last week.
Detroit Lions @ Baltimore Ravens
The Detroit Lions are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now. Jared Goff has been the most profitable quarterback over the last five years and is in the conversation for Most Valuable Player at $23.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens lost a shocker to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5 and played in a rather unappealing early kickoff win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 6. They’re coming in under the radar and will be the best team the Lions have played all season. Lamar Jackson, in particular, isn’t seeing the return on his play in the numbers. That will change sooner rather than later.
Lamar Jackson had the most impressive 0 TD/1 INT performance I've ever seen pic.twitter.com/FIm8PhEhA3
— James Foster (@NoFlagsFilm) October 9, 2023
Detroit is playing well, sure. But they’ve beaten up on the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the last month. It’s hardly a menu of top-tier opposition. David Montgomery is expected to miss this one for the Lions, too.
With wind forecast for gameday, offences will be inclined to keep the ball on the ground more often. Lamar Jackson instantly becomes more of a running threat but the Lions currently have the NFL’s top run defence, allowing only 64.7 yards per game.
This game has “close one” written all over it.
Detroit’s hype and Baltimore’s recent form. The importance of the running game with Montgomery out and the Ravens going at the best rushing defence in the NFL. A Baltimore 1-13 win appeals at home, but Detroit are good enough to give themselves a chance of winning it with a late-game drive.
Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Neither the Atlanta Falcons nor the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are trustworthy. Both are inconsistent and fairly unpredictable teams week to week. What is somewhat predictable, though, is that Desmond Ridder isn’t going to play well. He has been terrible on the road to start his NFL career – horrible. He ranks 40th out of 40 quarterbacks in EPA/Dropback on the road at -0.32 and comes into this one after throwing three picks in Week 6.
Ridder’s play has been a major contributor to their inconsistent start. While the Buccaneers are similar, their two losses have come against the Eagles and Lions – two Super Bowl LVIII contenders. They’re a tough team despite their performance last week and should bounce back here with the added motivation of holding their lead in the NFC South ($3 to win).
Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers are allowing the fewest sacks in the NFL this season, The Falcons, on the other hand, generate the third-fewest.
Fewest sacks allowed per game this season…
Buccaneers – 1.0
Chiefs – 1.0
Dolphins – 1.0
Bills – 1.5
Lions – 1.7
Most sacks allowed per game…
Browns – 3.6
TItans – 3.8
Bears – 4.2
Commanders – 5.7
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) October 18, 2023
Mayfield is still going to have time to work through his progressions and should perform against an Atlanta defence that has done well to allow only 179.2 passing yards per game (4th-fewest in the NFL).
It’s a game that could go either way. As usual, a lot comes down to the trustworthiness of the quarterback. Remarkably, Mayfield has the advantage there. Playing at home helps, too.
Miami Dolphins @ Philadelphia Eagles
We’ve had some success fading the popular teams already this season and going back to the well here.
The Miami Dolphins are a juggernaut with the ball. What do people love most in the NFL? Offence. It’s what the people want and it’s what they’re going to back more often than not.
However, they don’t stack up defensively.
Scoring 37.2 points per game can paper over some of the cracks in defence. As it stands, the Dolphins rank 27th in defensive DVOA…
Overall DVOA through Week 6..
1. 49ers (#2 offense, #4 defense)
2. Lions (#4 offense, #3 defense)
3. Bills (#3 offense, #6 defense)
4. Dolphins (#1 offense, #27 defense)
5. Chiefs (#7 offense, #9 defense)
6. Ravens (#10 offense, #2 defense)
7. Eagles (#8 offense, #14 defense)
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) October 16, 2023
Giving up points against bad teams hasn’t been a problem. Just last week their offence dug them out of a 0-14 hole like it was nothing. The Philadelphia Eagles, whether they struggling by their standards or not, is a different beast. We know the Eagles play with one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. This isn’t the Panthers or Broncos Tua Tagaovailoa is dealing with here. Should a Philly defence that has allowed only 65.8 rushing yards per game (2nd-fewest) take care of the running game and make Tagovailoa throw the ball, they’ll pressure him into mistakes.
With a few players also expected to return from injury and playing at home, the value is in the Eagles here.
Green Bay Packers @ Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos have burned us a few times already this season. Their +6.5 against the Dolphins in Week 3 was one of the great misfires. But after setting their own expectations too high to start with, they have finally started to improve.
Russell Wilson wasn’t the problem early on. While not great, his play at quarterback wasn’t the major reason behind their early-season struggles. But as the defence improved against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 6, Wilson had a shocker.
As a result, a lot of the talk leading into the game is around the Packers and this being their chance to fire.
Denver Broncos' defensive rankings (@PFF) prior to MNF:
32nd in overall defensive grade
29th in run defense
32nd in tackling
26th in pass rush
32nd in pass coverage
If the #Packers can't move the ball against that defense, they won't move against anybody this year.
— Felipe Reis Aceti (@Aceti_Felipe) October 16, 2023
Sure, Denver’s defence is historically bad by the numbers at the moment. But they did a decent job against the Chiefs and a lot of smart people around the league suggest the eye test doesn’t match the numbers. The Broncos aren’t a historically bad defence and that will eventually start to show on the stats pages.
The Packers haven’t performed particularly well with the ball either. They’ve averaged only 17 points per game in the last three weeks. Jordan Love played out a shocker in his last game, too.
On the up and playing at home in a coin flip game, this is a rare opportunity to be confident in the Broncos.
San Francisco 49ers @ Minnesota Vikings
Having just mentioned how good it can be to fade the popular and hyped teams, the San Francisco 49ers look too good to pass up on their visit to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7.
The “Brock Purdy is a product of the system” crowd will be LOUD this week because when 2 of the 49ers Avengers went down, Brock Purdy struggled. I believe his struggles had more to do with Myles Garrett and the Browns defense than it was about Deebo being out and CMC missing time
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) October 17, 2023
The Vikings are very, very reliant on Kirk Cousins. He leads the NFL in pass attempts, completions, completion percentage and touchdown passes. He’s without Dalvin Cook this week, too. Shut down Cousins, and you shut down the Vikings offence. They’re without a single rushing touchdown all season!
Meanwhile, San Francisco gives up the fewest points at only 14.5 per game. Cousins will get his throws away with the 49ers allowing 39.2 pass attempts per game (3rd-most in the NFL), but opposing quarterbacks complete at only 63.4%. This 49ers defence is incredible and will shoulder more of the load with Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel under an injury cloud. Whether the pair are able to line up or not, Brock Purdy and the 49ers offence will have an easier time of it than they did against the Cleveland Browns and the defence should do enough to win comfortably.