We are as good as half way through the regular season after today, crazy it seems like the season hadn’t even started a month ago. Another good night of profit on Thursday Night Football, on a bit of a roll at the minute long may it continue. Truth be told this is a pretty bad card this week, a fair few stinking matchups but as ever there’s a couple of things that take my eye so let’s get to it.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Buffalo Bills (-2)
Game total: 41
I was so tempted to side with the Buffalo Bills here but I also really like the under 41, I eventually settled on Buffalo. Most people seem to be on the Philadelphia side here but one of the reasons I was tempted by the Bills and something I feel has been rather overlooked is the lack of depth at linebacker for the Eagles at the minute. The Eagles top linebacker Nigel Bradham went down injured a couple of weeks ago and veteran Zach Brown was released not long after, this leaves the Eagles with Nathan Gerry as their top linebacker alongside Kamu Grugier-Hill. The Eagles are also weak at nose tackle with Timmy Jernigan injured, projected starter Anthony Rush was on Oakland’s practice squad last week. The result of these injuries is an unusually soft Eagles run defense, across the last two weeks they have allowed 311 yards on the ground to Minnesota and Dallas after not allowing a team to run for more than 86 yards through the first five weeks of the year.
All of this is to say the Bills should be able to move the ball on the ground here. Sean McDermott and Brian Daboll are two coaches I rate pretty highly and I have no doubt this is something they will key in on here, so I expect Josh Allen will do his thing with some designed QB runs and I fancy Frank Gore and Devin Singletary to have decent days. The Bills have gone over the 100-yard mark and have averaged at least four yards per carry in each of their six games so far. 80 year old Frank Gore leads the team in rushing with 388 yards but Devin Singletary has been sidelined since week 2 and you would expect Singletary to gradually take over this backfield once he gets back to full fitness. The rookie has just 17 carries for 153 yards so far, 26 of those came last week on 7 carries against Miami, a sluggish 3.7 yards per carry on his return was probably to be expected, I expect better here though.
The biggest advantage anyone will have over this Eagles defense though comes on the back end. It’s no secret the Eagles secondary has been abysmal this year but if my memory serves me right this was an issue last year too. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are back in contention but I don’t expect much to change if I’m honest because those two were getting burned consistently last year, Mills is young and almost certainly still improving but at this moment in time this Eagles secondary can’t cover. This could be a nice game for Josh Allen who has struggled throwing the ball downfield so far. Allen has completed 62.4% of his passes for 1,324 yards and seven touchdowns however he has also thrown seven interceptions as he is still plagued by inconsistencies. An extraordinary stat from PFF – Allen holds the NFL’s top passing grade on throws no further than 19 yards downfield (87.1) but holds the NFL’s lowest passing grade on throws of 20+ yards (27.9). John Brown leads the receivers with 473 yards and two TDs on 33 receptions. Brown has turned into a true WR1 with Buffalo this year, PFF have him ranked top 20 in receiving grade whilst he ranks 12th among receivers who have at least 35 targets for yards per route run.
The strength of this Bills side is the defense though. This unit has allowed opposing teams to score on just 12 of 70 drives this year, that’s a 17.1% scoring efficiency rate, third in the league, they are also third in the league for total defense. The secondary is one of the best in the NFL with Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer patrolling back there. They are fourth in the league in yards per game allowed (201.3) and completion percentage allowed (58.7), third in passer rating allowed (70.3) and they haven’t allowed a 300-yard passer this season, nor have they allowed a touchdown pass of 20-plus yards. One thing I love most about this defense is the creative ways they disguise their coverages, whether its showing two high safeties and dropping just one or showing man-to-man coverage and dropping into zone, their pre-snap movement is absolutely fantastic at forcing opposing QBs to hold on to the ball.
The Eagles receivers haven’t been great getting open this year, they really seem to miss DeSean Jackson, and I really cant see them having much joy in Buffalo here. One thing that needs mentioning for the Bills defense is the injury of Matt Milano at linebacker, Milano will be key to how to Bills cover the Eagles two TEs as well as covering the running backs out of the backfield so keep an eye on that. It was a tough choice with the under but I’ve got to side with the Bills here, -2 is a dead number so I’ll take the moneyline at 4/5 (Bet365).
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans (-6)
Game total: 52
This one is an easy over for me. This Raiders team is actually pretty under rated , I have to admit I’m guilty of it myself but they are actually one of just four teams that rank inside the top ten in the league in both passing and rushing efficiency. In fact, through seven weeks Oakland rank second in the league in passing success rate, and the key has been getting the ball out of Derek Carr’s hands faster, take out Cam Newton (only played two games) and Carr ranks fourth from bottom of the league in time to throw, whilst he ranks 29th out of 35 QBs who have played at least 20% of snaps for the percentage of targets that are thrown 20-plus yards downfield. The focus on short and intermediate throws has allowed Carr to complete 74.1% of his passes for 1,410 yards and eight TDs. This is despite the fact that Oakland have played the second-hardest schedule of opposing defenses through seven weeks, Houston will actually be the second easiest overall defense and easiest pass defense that the Raiders have played this far. Not only that, but the Texans may be without their top two cornerbacks and starting safety here too, it’s not hard to see Oakland putting up points here.
The thing is, the Texans offense is also certain to put up points too against a Raiders defense that got exposed last week and gave up over 400 yards through the air to Aaron Rodgers. The Texans are second in the league for passing success rate and Deshaun Watson has been playing at an elite level so far this year. Watson has completed 70% of his passes for 1,952 yards and 13 TDs so far. Houston made a concerted effort to beef up the offensive line both through the draft and the trade for Laremy Tunsil and you can see why – when Watson has a clean pocket he has the highest adjusted completion rate, averages nine yards per attempt and has a 113 passer rating. He’s going up against a Raiders defense that ranks dead last in pressure generated. Not only can’t they get any pressure on the QB, but they have possibly the worst secondary in the NFL, with Conley gone (traded to the Texans coincidentally) the raiders will be starting Daryl Worely and LaMarcus Joyner at corner, according to PFF they rank 87th and 130th respectively among corners.
It’s not a great week this week folks, a lot of matchups of bad teams. One other I strongly considered was the under in the Jags Jets game, that one has all the making of bad offense all over the place, probably leading to something along the lines 20-16 Jags. I’m sticking with just the two this week though, I will be throwing out a few player props that I like on my Twitter page too
Buffalo Bills moneyline (1.8 Bet365)
Over 52 points in Raiders vs Texans (1.91 Bet365)
Featured image credit: Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images