I started last week’s column by saying I felt like I still didn’t know a lot of these teams that well through five weeks, and now I’m going to stick my neck out and say I’m becoming more confident that we’re starting to see who these teams are, and that’s not just because we had a great week last week. Week six is here folks, and we’re starting in London this week.
Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (London)
I’m seeing a lot of love for the Bucs this week but I’m going with the other side here. A lot has been made of Tampa Bay’s run defense this year, they held Panthers’ running back Christian McCaffrey to just 37 rushing yards in their 20-14 victory in week 2 and they are second in the league for rushing yards allowed (69.8) whilst they are holding teams to 3.1 yards per carry a league-best figure. I have trouble believing their run defense is as good as the figures suggest thus far, McCaffrey’s 16 carries in the first game was his lowest total of the season so far and they currently rank fourth from last in the percentage of run plays against (32.8%) with teams rushing just 22.4 times per game against them.
The reason teams don’t need to run against this defense is because the coverage from the secondary is terrible. The Bucs are dead last in yards allowed, 31st in yards per attempt allowed and 23rd in yards per completion allowed and they are allowing 13 yards per reception to opposing teams. Vernon Hargreaves has a PFF coverage grade of 47.4 and we’re likely to see him on DJ Moore a lot, I’m keen on Moore to cover his receiving yards total for that very reason. Kyle Allen hasn’t looked great in his last two games but he hasn’t needed to with McCaffrey playing at a ludicrous level, but one thing Allen has been doing well is pushing the ball downfield, according to PFF among the 34 QBs with 25 or more attempts of 10-plus air yards, he ranks 13th in passing grade (84.3), seventh in adjusted completion percentage (63.6%) and 10th in passer rating (125.4) on such throws. He also has a big-time throw percentage of 4.81%, this should be a good game for him to get back in rhythm.
Through five weeks only New England have more sacks than Carolina (20) with rookie edge rusher Brian Burns turning a lot of heads around the league. He has four sacks this year to go along with six QB hits, eight QB hurries as well as eight tackles. Seeing as we’re in London for this one I also have to mention Efe Obada, the London man who came through the league’s International Player Pathway Program. Obada isn’t a mainstay in the defense but he has performed well when he does get the chance, in just 91 total snap he has 4 QB pressures, a QB hit, 3 hurries and he has earned a pass rush grade of 81 from PFF, that’s a very good return and what a great story for everyone from this side of the pond to get excited about.
The selection here is Panthers –2.5
Cincinatti Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens
This one is an under look for me all day, I’m surprised it hasn’t moved down any further than half a point. I think this total is based on the fact that the Ravens currently lead the league in points scored but they had a nice cushy start and a lot of those points came in the Miami game. Baltimore currently rank third in the league in run play percentage at nearly 50% and according to Football Outsiders the Bengals are the 26th ranked rushing defense in the league. They also rank 31st in the league for pass defense however when throwing the ball 10-plus yards downfield Lamar Jackson has thrown an uncatchable ball 47.3 of the time according to PFF, so it doesn’t really matter if the Bengals can’t cover if Jackson isn’t getting the ball into his receivers’ hands. I’m expecting the Ravens to run the ball a lot here, that will keep the clock running and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few drives stall.
The selection here is under 47.5 game points
Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs
This one is an obvious over look to me, I could just name the two quarterbacks here and leave it there. Since the start of 2017 Patrick Mahomes leads the league in games with at least four passing touchdowns (8) whilst Deshaun Watson leads in games with at least five (3), incredible. Through five games this year Mahomes has completed 65.6% of his passes for 1,831 yards and 11 TDs with zero interceptions. According to NextGen Stats his 10.2 average intended air yards is third in the league among starting QBs, his 84.2 passing grade from PFF is also third in the league and his 9.4 yards per attempt is a league best figure. The way to beat this Texans defense is to attack the secondary, on deep passes (20-plus yards) Mahomes is 17-of-34, eight TDs and a 135.4 NFL passer rating. He also has a big-time throw percentage of 7.73% according to PFF
Now let’s look at Watson. The Texans QB has completed 69.2% of his passes for 1,364 yards, 11 TDs and one interception. According to NextGen Stats his 9.5 intended air yards figure is eighth in the league among starting QBs, his 733 passing grade from PFF is 10th in the league whilst his 8.6 yards per attempt is fourth in the league. On deep passes Watson is 14-of-28 (although PFF say he has had four of those passes dropped despite being right on the money) and five TDs with an NFL passer rating of 120.5. He also has a big-time throw percentage of 6.34% according to PFF. The Chiefs defense has been much more vulnerable to the run this year but they have played Foles, Carr, Jackson, Stafford and Brissett at QB so far, none of whom are on Watson’s level when it comes to throwing the ball and this Chiefs defense has still gave up 1,257 passing yards through five games which is 19th in the league.
The selection here is over 55 game points
Those are my three best looks for today’s action, it’s a brief column this week as I have been extremely busy, I will be putting out some player props I like on my twitter page @dryan165. Enjoy the game in London and lets hope for a clean sweep in week 6!
Carolina Panthers -2
Bengals @ Ravens under 47.5
Texans @ Chiefs over 55
Featured image credit: Getty Images/Ringer Illustration