Week 9 Marquee Matchups

Warren Sharp
·5 min read



Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts

The Ravens enter this game with the NFL’s best run defense. The Colts haven’t played anyone close to that in weeks. But they are going to have to go with a more pass heavy approach in order to move the ball.

So the first question you have to ask is, how much does Baltimore blitz and how often does Baltimore play man to man defense.

Because Philip Rivers has been outstanding against the blitz and outstanding against man defense.

Rivers is the NFL’s #1 passer on the season against pressure and has one of the fastest release times.

All his gyrations at the line of scrimmage and examining the defense is to understand what they’re doing presnap to get a tell on where that pressure is coming from and who is going to be the hot receiver.

The Ravens play well above average rates of man coverage, and Rivers has huge splits against man coverage. He’s averaging 8.7 YPA, 57% success and +0.20 EPA vs man. All of those numbers are well above the NFL average and are much better than his numbers against zone.

The Ravens will also be without their #1 cover corner, Marlon Humphrey, due to COVID, and many of his teammates will have missed practice all week due to COVID tracing.

On the other side of the ball, while the Colts Defense ranks as 3rd overall, they’ve played the sixth easiest schedule of opposing offenses. The best offense they played on the season to this point was the 17th ranked Browns in Week 5.

And in that game, the Browns put up 32 points, nearly 400 yards, made 4 trips into the red zone and didn’t even need to punt until the second drive of the third quarter.

There’s do doubt this Ravens Offense isn’t nearly as dominant as they were last year, but this is a team that has played the 5th toughest schedule of pass defenses on the season and now goes up against a Colts Defense which is highly rated, but has questions about who they’ve played to earn such marks.

They’ve played Gardner Minshew, Baker Mayfield, Joe Burrow, Sam Darnold, Matthew Stafford, Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins.

Lamar Jackson on the season has struggled against man to man coverage. Examine his splits:

Vs man: 4.3 YPA, 39% success, -0.18 EPA
Vs zone: 8.6 YPA, 45% success, +0.16 EPA

And on the season, who has Lamar Jackson faced?

The Steelers, Eagles, Bengals, Chiefs and Texans in 5 of their last 6 games. And those teams all play above average rates of man to man coverage.

Washington in week 4 and Cleveland in week 1 were the only two defenses that Lamar has faced on the season who play more zone coverage than the NFL average.

In the first 3 quarters against Washington, Lamar averaged 9.3 YPA, 46% success and +0.17 EPA on passes vs zone (76% of his attempts) vs only 4.7 YPA, 25% success and -0.26 EPA vs their man coverage (24% of attempts).

In the first 3 quarters against the Browns, Lamar averaged 12.5 YPA, 69% success and +0.74 EPA on passes vs zone (73% of his attempts) vs only 8.0 YPA, 33% success and +0.01 EPA vs their man coverage (27% of attempts).

This will be the first game since that Week 4 meeting with Washington where a defense plays a lot more zone than man coverage, and I think that will benefit Lamar Jackson’s ability to pass the ball.

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Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills

Since drafting Russell Wilson in 2012, Seattle has a league-best 24-9 (22-9-2 ATS) record playing in the Eastern Time Zone, including 10 straight wins (8-1-1 ATS).

Seattle has the 6th best run defense, which means it is the best run defense the Bills will have faced this year.

The Bills are one of the NFL’s more pass-heavy teams, but they went very run heavy against the Patriots last week.

But I want to caution people that think this Bills Offense has fallen off since their hot start. Yes, it is true, that in three of their last four games they’ve scored 16, 17 and 18 points. But two of their last four games were played in bad weather (Chiefs and Patriots).

One game was played on a Tuesday in a week where they literally were game planning for the Chiefs because they didn’t know if the Titans were going to stop having COVID cases long enough to safely field a team.

And one game was played in which they never punted, made 5 trips into the red zone, but scored zero TDs despite racking up 400 yards of offense

They drove to the opponent’s 10, 11, 14, 19, 19, 22, 27, 28, 30 and 35 yet somehow managed only 18 points.

Finally finding good weather, without wind or rain, and with offensive player health including the return of both starting WR John Brown and TE Tyler Kroft, the Bills should be able to pass here like they did the first month of the season.

And one of the reasons the Bills were struggling to put up points the last month was because they had the 5th worst %D rate in the red zone, scoring on just 45% of trips. But that was because they were running at an extremely high rate. In their last 10 first downs in the red zone, they ran the ball on 9 of those 10 plays. Against the Seahawks, they need to pass and if they do, it will result in better offensive production to keep this game closer.

Buffalo’s Defense has been bottom-10, and they’ve had the good fortune of playing the Patriots and Jets offenses the last two weeks, coupled with the Chiefs the prior game in wind and rain.

Now they have to go against the NFL’s #3 offense in perfect conditions.