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Let’s review our picks for Week 5.
Bills at Chiefs (minus-2.5), Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
My power rank is Chiefs minus-3.25. The Kansas City offense is still the league’s best. The Chiefs average 0.38 EPA per play, which is considerably higher than the next highest team in Arizona at 0.29 EPA per play. For comparison, last year’s Packers elite offense finished with 0.31 EPA per play. The Chiefs also lead the NFL in points per possession (3.56).
This is a tale of two defenses, and also defensive schedules. The Chiefs are allowing a league-high 45.6 yards per opponent possession. The Bills are allowing a league-low 18.4 yards per possession. However, Buffalo’s defense faced off against Davis Mills, Ben Roethlisberger, Jacoby Brissett and Taylor Heinecke. Conversely, the Chiefs defense played against Cleveland, Baltimore, the Chargers and the Eagles.
Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce lit up the Bills two-deep defense last year in two meetings. The Bills blitzed Mahomes on just 12.3% of his dropbacks total in those games and, when they did, Mahomes was 7-of-9 passing for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
Last year, Kansas City was able to pressure Josh Allen. This year, he struggled against pressure initially but looked more like 2020 Josh Allen the past two weeks. After starting just 11-of-31 (35.5%) for 128 yards (4.1 Y/A) under pressure, the past two weeks he’s 17-of-27 passes (63%) for 276 yards (10.2 Y/A) to go along with three touchdowns. In the matchups between these teams, the Chiefs were able to pressure Allen on 46% of his dropbacks. And Allen was not able to overcome it like he did against almost everyone else — he was 10-of-28 passing (35.7%) for 106 yards (3.8 Y/A) with an interception. This year, the Chiefs are sixth in the league in pressure rate (29%). How Allen responds to pressure dropbacks is the key to this game.
I still believe KC is the better team. This line has been adjusted from 3.5 to 2.5 off the look ahead line, for very little reason. KC’s offense is playing at a ridiculously elite level and this is the most undervalued we’ve seen them on a spread in a long time.
Bengals at Packers, Over 50.5, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
The Packers are without their best defensive player, shutdown cornerback Jaire Alexander. Joe Burrow is hitting the deep ball, throwing four touchdown passes over 15 yards downfield (tied for the league lead). Last year, he had just one. Outside of the game against the Bears, Burrow has averaged a sterling 9.7, 9.6, and 10.9 yards per pass attempt. Burrow is first in ProFootballFocus QB grade over the past two weeks.
Joe Mixon appears likely to miss this game. Without him, Burrow throws more. With Mixon, Burrow career situational neutral pass rate is 52%. Without him, it’s 67% — and last week it was 59% when Mixon left the game.
The Bengals defense allowed Kirk Cousins to complete 74% of his passes for 351 yards and Trevor Lawrence to complete 71% of his passes for 8.5 yards per pass attempt. The Bengals are also 24th in pressure rate (22%), the one thing that has given Rodgers the most trouble to open the year. Rodgers has averaged just 5.3 Y/A under pressure as opposed to 7.8 Y/A when kept clean. That clean mark is still just 22nd in the league, but the 2.5 Y/A difference is the 27th-largest difference in the league.
The Packers defensive injuries are concerning. Combined with Mixon’s injury and the expected passing volume, the Bengals should be situated to score in this contest. Aaron Rodgers has yet to have a true break-out game as was the norm in his MVP season of 2020. But the Cincy defense and its inability to pressure QBs could be the perfect elixir.
49ers (+5.5) at Cardinals, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
My power rank is 49ers plus-4 and getting over 4.0 is a big deal.
Kyler Murray rushing Over seems likely given the 49ers multi-year struggles with mobile quarterbacks. That has continued in 2021 as they allowed 82 rushing yards and a score to Jalen Hurts and 26 yards and a score to Russell Wilson to open the year. In four games against the 49ers, Murray has rushed for 34 yards, 67 yards and a touchdown, 91 yards and a touchdown, and 75 yards.
Jimmy Garoppolo had not practiced through Thursday and seems unlikely to play. Trey Lance was up and down in his first game with extensive action. His completion rate was 17 points below expected, second-to-last among all Week 4 QBs. Lance ended up rushing seven times for 41 yards on top of his passing stats.
The 49ers run game, which has disappointed, faces a weak Arizona run defense. Arizona is allowing a league-high 5.2 yards per carry to opposing running backs and are allowing 110.8 rushing yards per game to backs (24th) thanks in part to getting ahead on the scoreboard. The 49ers can definitely devise a game plan to exploit this run defense.
This is a huge game for SF, which can’t afford to fall two games back in division. Lance might not be ready, but Kyle Shanahan can dial up a game plan that Arizona can’t prepare for given the little film there is with Lance, who again did not have time to prepare last week when he was forced into action due to injury.
The loss of Trent Williams, who also had not practiced through Thursday, would be tough for the 49ers to overcome given that Williams is one of the game’s top offensive tackles. So check his status.