This column previews three Week 3 matchups: the Green Bay Packers at the San Francisco 49ers, the Miami Dolphins at the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Washington Football Team at the Buffalo Bills.
All spreads and totals are provided by DraftKings.
Green Bay at San Francisco (SF -3, Total 50.5)
Green Bay rebounded from their disappointing Week One performance with an impressive showing in a blowout of the Detroit Lions on Monday Night. The betting market has responded as one might expect, with the line shifting from SF -3.5 to -3 and the total from 49.5 to 50.5 on Wednesday. That line may continue to trend toward Green Bay, which would provide outstanding value to anyone who bought at GB +3.5 if it gets to +2.5.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was back in peak form for the Detroit game, showcasing his arm talent as he hit Davante Adams on a deep vertical and threw a frozen rope over linebacker Alex Anzalone’s ear for a touchdown to Robert Tonyan. Running back Aaron Jones was a heavy factor in the passing game and the Packers also got the run game back on track. The offensive line will be better when left tackle David Bakhtiari returns, but the current starters had a solid performance against a Detroit defensive line that is the clear strength of that unit.
The Packers face a more formidable defense in San Francisco, but as talented as the 49ers are up the middle, there is an obvious weakness at the outside corner positions. Rookie Deommodore Lenoir steadied out as the game went on, but struggled early when he was beaten up the sidelines for long completions to Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins, though Reagor’s apparent touchdown was negated because he had stepped out of bounds on the route. Veteran Josh Norman played opposite Lenoir and took two defensive PI penalties, which is not promising in advance of a matchup with Rodgers. Nick Bosa and the rest of the 49ers front will need to get the best of this young offensive line and keep Rodgers under pressure to protect their corners.
San Francisco dealt with several issues that slowed their offense early against Philadelphia, but the most notable one was defensive tackle, Javon Hargrave. The Eagles line as a whole gave San Francisco some issues in the run game, but Hargrave led the way, with disruptive plays that derailed each of San Francisco’s first three drives, which all went three and out. San Francisco got enough out of receiver Deebo Samuel’s outstanding performance to win this game, but it was not their trademark offensive performance. Green Bay doesn’t have a player as overwhelmingly powerful as Hargrave, but defensive tackle Kenny Clark can disrupt against the run and pass with his quickness, and San Francisco’s ability to handle him will be critical in this game. The Packers are likely to start rookie corner Eric Stokes across from Jaire Alexander after an impressive performance from Stokes against Detroit, and it may turn out that Kevin King’s size becomes an asset against the run if he moves to the slot. As past matchups with the 49ers have shown, Green Bay needs all the help they can get stopping the Kyle Shannahan-schemed run game.
Model Projection: San Francisco 26.88 – Green Bay 24.69
Miami at Las Vegas (LVR -4, Total 45)
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will be unavailable for this game, which leaves Jacoby Brissett, who played the majority of Miami’s shutout loss to Buffalo, to lead the team into Las Vegas. The Miami offense wasn’t quite as bad as the zero points indicate, as Brissett did come close to posting a touchdown pass on a deep ball that receiver DeVante Parker couldn’t haul in, but the offensive line’s inability to provide him with adequate protection against Buffalo’s defensive line was the story of the game on offense.
Buffalo defensive end A.J. Epenesa led the way causing havoc, picking up quick pass rush wins on both left tackle Austin Jackson and right tackle Jessie Davis (who was later replaced by Liam Eichenberg) to set the tone. Buffalo also blitzed the Dolphins heavily, with linebacker Matt Milano, slot corner Taron Johnson, and safety Micah Hyde each picking up a sack, and the pressure allowed others, such as rookie Gregory Rousseau, to rack up sacks once the quarterback was forced to move off his spot.
These protection issues would not have been a problem against past iterations of the Raiders, but this Maxx Crosby-led pass rush has more top-end talent and depth than any other unit in the Jon Gruden era. The Pittsburgh Steelers are not an impressive offense between their poor offensive line and mediocre quarterback play, but the Raiders defense is playing more decisive, aggressive football under Gus Bradley. The back end will need to continue to prove themselves, but Miami’s passing offense is not a significant test and this defensive line should get the best of Miami’s offensive front.
The matchup between the Raiders offense and Dolphins defense should be the best part of this game, though quarterback Derek Carr’s ankle injury creates questions on that front. Miami corner Xavien Howard continued to produce turnovers at an elite rate with an interception of Josh Allen against Buffalo; he may be tasked with following rookie Henry Ruggs after his explosive performance against Pittsburgh. Dolphins safety Eric Rowe often specializes in covering tight ends, but he may not have the athleticism to stick with Raiders tight end Darren Waller, which makes that a matchup to keep an eye on. The Raiders should have the edge, but the Miami defense might keep this one tighter than expected.
Model Projection: Las Vegas 23.46 – Miami 20.41
Washington at Buffalo (BUF -7, Total 45.5)
Washington’s defense did a lot of things well in their Thursday Night win over the New York Giants, but despite the pressure generated by defensive linemen Montez Sweat, Chase Young, and Jonathan Allen, the Football Team struggled to handle Daniel Jones in the quarterback run game, a primary reason the Giants posted 29 points on them.
In the modern NFL, it’s problematic if a defense doesn’t have tactics in place to counter the quarterback run, and for Washington, a mix of mental and physical mistakes allowed Jones to run for 95 yards and a touchdown. This is particularly significant against quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills because of Allen’s prowess as a runner. Allen has hit some big throws this season but has not been quite as precise with his ball placement as he was during his peaks last season, and it may work in his favor to get involved in the run game more until he hits his groove as a passer. Running back Zack Moss, a surprise Week 1 inactive, showed off his physical running style in his return to the field in Week 2, and starter Devin Singletary got Buffalo’s scoring started with a 46-yard touchdown run. With speed back Matt Breida available as a complement, Buffalo has plenty of options to pair with Allen in the quarterback run game.
The Washington offense and Buffalo defense will pit wide receiver Terry McLaurin against one of the league’s top corners in Tre’Davious White. McLaurin is coming off an outstanding performance against another elite corner, New York’s James Bradberry, who struggled to keep up with McLaurin’s quickness. McLaurin’s ability to get the best of White will be critical, as Buffalo has a deep cast of defenders to cover the other options in Washington’s passing attack.
As for Bradberry, he had appeared to earn redemption when he cut off a slant route to McLaurin that was thrown late on a poor decision by Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke late in the 4th quarter. The interception set up a go-ahead field goal for New York, but it turned out to be Heinicke’s day in the end as he drove Washington into position for a game-winning field goal.
Heinicke’s final drive heroics bailed Washington out last week, but he needs to play more consistent football on a down-by-down basis against a Buffalo defense that has arguably been better than Washington’s highly-touted unit. Buffalo’s back end is as solid as ever and the defensive line is rejuvenated, making the unit more like the Buffalo defense of 2019 than 2020. Second-year pass rusher A.J. Epenesa had a standout performance in Miami and first-round pick Gregory Rousseau got on the stat sheet by racking up a pair of cleanup sacks in a productive outing. Buffalo also blitzed from all areas, bringing linebackers, safeties, and corners, so Heinicke will need to be sharp mentally as well as physically.
If Josh Allen finds his rhythm as a passer and returns to his MVP form, this could turn into a blowout, but there’s some potential for it to stay close if there isn’t an improvement from the last two weeks. If not, the defense and run game appear to be back after a dip last season, which makes Buffalo tough to beat.
Model Projection: Buffalo 23.8 – Washington 17.93
This article previewed three NFL matchups for the coming week. For more content from The Professor, including the rest of his game previews and his fantasy content, check out BeerLife Sports!
Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.
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