The Ravens struggled in the second half of Week 13 but remains far and away No. 1 overall by offensive EPA, outstripping the Cowboys by 3.5 points per game. The second-ranked Cowboys have been a tale of two teams: they’re 6-1 and average 32.5 ppg against teams who are likely to miss the playoffs, but 0-5 averaging 16.4 ppg against playoff-bound teams.
On defense, the top stop units are mostly teams which are still in contention in large part because of their defense: the Steelers, Bills, Bears, Rams, Jets and Titans – none of which are exactly lighting it up on offense. The two (and a half?) exceptions are the Ravens and 49ers, who sit Top 10 on both sides of the ball. The half goes to the Pats, whose No. 1 defense had hidden their offensive struggles until Week 13.
On to the Week 14 picks.
BALTIMORE RAVENS AT BUFFALO BILLS (+6, 43)
The Bills have a very good defense. They rank fourth by EPA, are giving up just 15.5 points per game, and are coming off a very impressive game against the second-ranked offense in the NFL. But that’s the only good offense they’ve played. The next best offense the Bills have faced is the 18th-ranked Eagles, who put up 31 points on them.
More importantly, the Ravens have made it clear they’re not a normal offense. They average almost 34 points per game and against the other top defenses they’ve faced (Pats, Rams, Steelers, 49ers) have averaged 32. Even in last week’s terrible weather game against the elite 49ers defense - where Lamar Jackson admitted he was struggling to throw the ball - they still put up 20 points. With this total, the Ravens are going to do most of the work.
On the other side of the ball, Josh Allen still wouldn’t be my pick of the 2018 QB class, but he’s shown a consistent ability to make plays, especially with his legs. And while he’s taken better care of the ball this year, anyone who’s followed the Bills knows he can put up a bunch of points for either team.
PREDICTION: Over 43
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS AT LOS ANGELES RAMS (+1, 47.5)
We predicted a more productive Rams Offense last week, but it had nothing to do with the Rams themselves and everything to do with the Cardinals Defense. Seattle’s defense isn’t fantastic (14th by EPA) but should offer more resistance than the Cardinals. And despite the number padding that was Week 13, the Rams still rank 21st by EPA and have struggled to do anything against competent defenses.
Seattle’s offense has been very good with Russel Wilson at the helm, but remains a conservative, run-first team, passing the ball on just 52 percent of plays (29th). The Rams, meanwhile, are 7-5 thanks mainly to their defense. They rank sixth by EPA (just behind the Bears) and since acquiring Jalen Ramsey have given up an average of 16 points per game – and that includes the 45 Lamar Jackson & Co. put up.
One week against the league’s worst defense isn’t enough to convince me the Rams are back to normal. I’m betting on the defenses here.
PREDICTION: Under 47.5
DETROIT LIONS AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS (-13, 43.5)
I own Kenny Golladay everywhere in fantasy, so I want to believe in David Blough. Sadly, I can’t. The numbers look respectable: 22/38, 280 yards, two TDs and 7.3 EPA. But one throw, on a completely busted coverage, accounted for 75 yards, one TD and 7.9 EPA. The rest of the game was ugly at best.
The Minnesota defense isn’t quite what it used to be, but it’s been consistently good versus league-average or worse offenses. The Lions without Matthew Stafford would love to be league average. Look for the Vikings to have their way on defense.
The part of this game to be worried about if you’re taking the Under is the Vikings Offense. They rank fourth by EPA and go up against the 28th ranked Lions Defense. But the Vikings are huge favorites in this game and are the third-most run-heavy team in the NFL. With Adam Thielen still hurt and Dalvin Cook banged up, expect to see a lot of the Alexander Mattison-version of the Vikings rushing attack chewing up the clock without lighting up the scoreboard.
PREDICTION: Under 43.5
Week 13: 0-3
Season to date: 14-25
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call 1-800-GAMBLER. 21+. NJ only. Odds may vary. Eligibility restrictions apply. See website for details. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, visit our responsible gaming page. 19+. Canada only. Odds may vary. Eligibility restrictions apply. See the website for details. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, visit our responsible gaming page. 18+. Odds may vary. Eligibility restrictions apply. See the website for details.