New members: Every Thursday morning, we send out the Angles email — in which we take a critical, “overview” look at the slate ahead.
The Lay Of The Land ::
Total Main Slate Games: 12
“Unique” has been the operative word so far this season, and this slate is no different, with three of the top offenses in the NFL (Bills, Eagles, healthier Buccaneers) in action with broader spreads and implied team totals of 27.0 or higher, and with four other teams implied to score 25+ — with spreads in these games ranging from 3.0 points to 7.0 points (as of this writeup). We also have the low-profile/low-priced Patriots implied to score 24.25 at home against the Lions, we have the aggressive Dolphins implied to score only 23.5 with Teddy Bridgewater under center against the attackable Jets, and we have the punch-you-in-the-mouth 49ers implied to score only 22.75 on their cross-country trip to visit the Panthers.
The eight teams missing from the slate are the Colts, Broncos, Giants, Packers, Ravens, Bengals, Raiders, and Chiefs. There are strong offenses and a lot of marquee names removed from consideration with that list — including three of the top running backs in Jonathan Taylor, Saquon Barkley, and Joe Mixon, two of the typically-highest-priced quarterbacks in Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes, a number of elite pass catchers (including Davante Adams, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Courtland Sutton, and DFS Darling Michael Pittman), and the three tight ends who typically grab the highest price tags in DFS (Andrews, Kelce, Waller). The absence of these “top of the price range” players will set this up as a particularly interesting week.
From a “macro, game environments” perspective, there are a few distinct buckets into which “key teams/games” fall this week.
“They Can Do It Without Help” ::
The Bills are favored by 14.0 points over the Steelers at home, the Bucs are favored by 9.0 points over the Falcons at home, and the Eagles are favored by 5.0 points over the Cardinals on the road. All three of these teams are willing to keep scoring points regardless of what their opponent is doing, giving us confidence that “foot off the gas” won’t be a major issue in these spots (up to a respectable point, of course; i.e., none of these teams are particularly likely to set scoreboards ablaze without a competitive game environment, but all should be expected to produce at a high level).
The Bills are facing a middle-of-the-road Steelers defense that will likely do everything they can to prevent big plays. Unfortunately for the Steelers, the Bills are capable of marching the field as well. The Bills may also enjoy some short fields with Kenny Pickett set to be under center for Pittsburgh.
The Bucs quietly rank 17th in run defense DVOA and 27th(!!!) in adjusted line yards on defense, while the Falcons — under “run the ball” guru Arthur Smith — quietly rank 2nd in run offense DVOA and 3rd in adjusted line yards. Their defense remains mediocre, but the field is likely to view this as “Bucs smash,” whereas the Falcons may be able to turn this into a competitive game if they can keep pounding the rock with authority.
The Eagles will be perceived to have the best overall game environment of this group — and that’s probably accurate — but it’s also worth noting that while the Cardinals are thought of as a team that’s “a shootout in waiting,” they have actually had only two games in their last 17 in which total points exceeded 55. (Interesting side notes on that :: 1) these two games were the final regular season game of the Cardinals’ 2021 season and the first regular season game of their 2022 season; 2) across these two games — 68 and 65 combined points — the Cardinals’ offense scored only six total touchdowns.) While 55 is a solid number of total points, this does not constitute a “had to have it” game environment. This game will be interesting to dig into throughout the week