I went 1-1-1 last week to bring my season best bets total to 7-4-1 against the spread. The weather in Baltimore hurt Josh Allen's mismatch against the Ravens secondary, resulting in a push, and I put too much faith in the Rams pass rush against Jimmy Garoppolo. But not this week!
Cowboys vs. Rams
Cowboys edge rushers vs. Rams offensive tackles
Key stat: The Rams rank 19th in pass block win rate this year, while the Cowboys are first in pass rush win rate.
The Rams are struggling in a few key areas this season due to offseason departures:
Pass rush: They rank 31st in pressure rate after losing Von Miller. They ranked ninth last season.
O-line: Stafford has two games with seven-plus sacks this season after having two such games in his first 13 seasons combined. LT Andrew Whitworth retired this past offseason.
All this to say, I'm not as bullish on the Rams until they iron out some of these issues, especially with Dallas' pass rush in position to expose the Rams' suddenly suspect offensive line. Los Angeles ranks 19th in pass block win rate this year after leading the NFL last season. Left tackle Joe Noteboom, who replaced Whitworth, has allowed the most pressures (19) and tied for the most sacks (five) of any offensive lineman this season. Right tackle Rob Havenstein has allowed 10 pressures, too. The Cowboys rank first in pass rush win rate. No team beats its blocks more often than Dallas. That's thanks to Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, who are the only teammates to rank in the top 10 in this stat among edge rushers.
I'm banking on those two to make Stafford uncomfortable and force a mistake, which we've seen before. I also don't mind riding the hot hand with Cooper Rush, who is 4-0 SU and ATS in his career, including three starts as an underdog. Rush also doesn't have a turnover in three starts this year.
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Eagles vs. Cardinals
Jalen Hurts vs. Cardinals secondary
Key stat: The Eagles rank third in yards after catch per reception this season, while the Cardinals defense ranks second-worst in YAC/reception allowed.
Full disclosure, I'm not a big believer in the Eagles (yet), as they haven't beaten a great team and were 0-7 against playoff teams last year. But ... I feel confident in this matchup against the struggling Cardinals, who have lost seven straight at home, failing to cover in each game.
Philadelphia's offense is no longer one-dimensional with the emergence of Hurts, thanks in part to A.J. Brown's arrival. He ranks second in the NFL in yards per attempt when passing inside the pocket, up from 14th last season. He is averaging over 10 yards per attempt when targeting either Brown, DeVonta Smith or Dallas Goedert, a trio that could run wild Sunday. The Eagles rank third in the league in yards after catch per reception, while Arizona's defense is second-worst in that category. Even if you don't count the Chiefs' 44-point beatdown in Arizona in Week 1, the Cardinals are third-worst in this stat since.
Look for Brown to give them headaches across the middle, as he's caught 11 to 12 targets for 166 yards on slants this year, all best figures in the league.
49ers vs. Panthers
Baker Mayfield vs. 49ers defense
Key stat: The Panthers rank last in offensive EPA, while the 49ers rank first in defensive EPA this season
The Panthers offense versus the 49ers defense is a case of a very movable object against an unstoppable force. Carolina's struggles fall on Mayfield, who ranks last in ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) and is second-worst in NFL Next Gen Stats' CPOE (completion percentage over expectation). He's completing 54.7% of his passes this season despite an expected completion percentage of 67.1%. He had arguably the worst game of his career in his only other matchup against the 49ers, back in 2019 (8-for-22, 100 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions in a 31-3 loss).
We could see a repeat performance against a 49ers defense that has not allowed a touchdown pass since Week 1. It is allowing the fewest yards per play by any team through four games since the 2008 Steelers and Ravens. San Francisco has typically had one of the league's best defenses in recent years, but it looks even better in 2022 after plugging holes in the secondary with new starters at safety Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson, along with cornerback Charvarius Ward. With holes plugged up in the secondary, we are even seeing defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans draw up more exotic blitzes like the ones you might have seen against the Rams on Monday night. They appear to be a complete defense on every level. Using grades by Pro Football Focus, they are the only team in the NFL with a player ranked in the top 15 at every position on defense this season (DE, DT, LB, CB, S). Don't forget DPOY candidate Nick Bosa, either. He leads the NFL in pressures (30) and sacks (six) this season, and he'll be coming for Mayfield.
|49ers' highest position defensive ranks (PFF grades)|
S Talanoa Hufanga
S Tashaun Gipson
DE Nick Bosa
CB Charvarius Ward
LB Dre Greenlaw
LB Fred Warner
My last vote of confidence for this pick would be Carolina's NFL-worst 3-15 record ATS in its last 18 games.