San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens (-5.5)
What happens when an unstoppable force of an offense – which includes three Heisman winners (in Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram and Robert Griffin III) – meets an immovable object of a defensive line that has four players – in Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Jimmie Ward and Dee Ford – who are all in PFF’s top 50 defensive players this year? Well, we are about to find out at 1:00 this Sunday. Looking at FiveThirtyEight’s Elo rating in which an average team is around 1500, a good team is about 1600 and a great team is in the 1700s, Baltimore is the NFL’s only team above 1700 at 1724. San Francisco is listed slightly behind New England at 1658. This is because of the Ravens’ high-flying offense, which has put up 35.1 points per game – good for the top spot in the entire NFL. San Francisco is second on the list with 30.2 PPG. A lot of this is attributed to their stellar running games – as Baltimore and San Francisco rank first and second in the league, respectively, with 210.5 and 145.6 rushing yards per game. The stronger rushing attack from the Ravens, which includes almost 40 minutes of possession in their last game against the Rams, means less time for San Francisco’s offense to get going.
Nonetheless, defense cannot be forgotten in this game. Looking at advanced statistics like DVOA (the percentage of every single play from a team that is better than the league average in each situation) San Francisco’s weighted defensive DVOA is second in the NFL while Baltimore’s weighted defensive DVOA is fourth. These are stellar defenses that make both the Ravens and 49ers the two most complete teams in the NFL. Both defenses are certainly susceptible to the run – as San Francisco has the 16th-ranked rush defense, while Baltimore has the 24th-ranked rush defense. As good as San Francisco’s defense has been, they have shown a weak spot for mobile quarterbacks. Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson put up 25+ points in three straight games. Looking at the big picture, San Francisco is making the cross-country trip to play a team in Baltimore that has blown out some of the best teams in the NFL. Baltimore should win a close one as all of us NFL fans are expecting it to be the game of the year.
The Pick: The Baltimore Ravens
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-3)
Sitting at 8-3 coming off a bye, the Minnesota Vikings are traveling to Seattle to play the 9-2 Seahawks in a matchup that will provide crucial come the NFC playoffs in January. With a win here, both teams look to take over the top of their division and get first-round byes. With losses, the teams are looking at traveling somewhere over the country to play a wildcard game against a team they will have a better record than. Minnesota actually has a better Elo rating than Seattle as Minnesota is fifth in the NFL and Seattle is seventh. Kirk Cousins has been slinging it with 21 touchdowns on the season throwing to one of the NFL’s best receiver group in Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph. Meanwhile, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown 24 touchdowns by throwing to Tyler Lockett, rookies and random guys off the street like D.K. Metcalf and Jacob Hollister.
Seattle’s offensive DVOA is 4th in the NFL while their defensive DVOA is 16th. Minnesota has an offensive DVOA of 5th and a defensive DVOA of 10th. Minnesota has a more complete team overall as their PFF overall grade is 89.6 while Seattle’s is 81.5. Seattle has had a defensive emergence as of late holding the Eagles to 7 points and the great 49ers offense to 24 last time they played on Monday Night Football. Is Minnesota the better team? Probably. Is Minnesota going to travel across the country and beat a top NFL quarterback in primetime? Probably Not.
The Pick: Seattle Seahawks