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Sunday's Best

Week 2 Marquee Matchups

by Warren Sharp
Updated On: September 18, 2020, 3:27 pm ET

Los Angeles Rams at Philadelphia Eagles

America, on National TV, saw the Rams beat the Cowboys.  Then, they saw the highlights of the Eagles losing to the “Football Team” by double digits.  You won’t get a bigger swing in public opinion after results like that.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what we saw.  The Rams, who were upwards of 4.5 dogs on early look-ahead lines, were bet to a favorite in early action.  Now, that line has shifted back to a pick-em and I believe it closes with the Eagles as the favorite, because they should be favored here.

First of all, their offensive line will be healthier than it was last week.

Secondly, they have their RB back this week.  While that may not seem like much from a value perspective, here’s where it helps:  The Eagles led 17-0 at one point in the game, and it was 17-7 at halftime.  But even in the second half of the game, the Eagles (leading for most of it) still went 75% pass.  That’s because they didn’t have confidence in their RB.

Ordinarily, a team with a double digit lead in the third quarter will be more balanced.  Particularly when multiple starters on the offensive line are out of the game.  Particularly when facing such a strong pass rush as what Washington has.  Dropping back to pass 24 times in the second half is tough with that O-Line v D-Line matchup.  Wentz averaged just 2.2 YPA with a 29% success rate in those second half attempts.  He was sacked 4 times, pressured countless others, and threw 1 INT with 0 TDs.

With better O-Line protection and better RB health, the Eagles will look much different from a play calling perspective.

Third, the Eagles have what the Cowboys did not, and that is multiple healthy TEs that are good pass catchers.  We know the Rams lost the best coverage LB in the NFL (Littleton) this offseason.  They are not strong at that position.  But the Cowboys, with Blake Jarwin going down and their team using so many 3-wide sets to begin with, couldn’t and didn’t attack the LBs in coverage.  I expect the Rams LBs to get exposed in coverage vs these Eagles TEs (and some RB passes as well).

Finally, Washington didn’t score a single point unless their drives started in Rams territory.  This Rams Offense played extremely conservatively, with a lot of run calls from heavy personnel.  They played slow, methodical and unaggressive.  The Cowboys, meanwhile, dominated this defense when passing on first down.  Dak was 14/16, 88% success, 9.5 YPA and a 44% success rate on first down passes.  But the Cowboys went too conservative and didn’t pass the ball enough.  That won’t be a problem for the Eagles.

Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers

Let’s start where you wouldn’t envision starting – with the Chiefs Defense.  Specifically, Steve Spagnuolo.  “Spags” was getting his feet wet the first 11 weeks of the 2019 season, prior to their bye.  The Chiefs Defense ranked 13th against the pass, 31st against the run, 14th vs explosive passes and 27th vs explosive runs.

After the bye week (week 12), they improved to 5th against the pass, 29th against the run, 6th vs explosive passes and 20th vs explosive runs.

That spilled over into week 1 this year, where he held the Texans to only 7 points through 3 quarters.  

Another nugget – Spags has faced Tyrod once – back in 2015.  After Tyrod started out the season 2-1, averaging 33 ppg his first 3 games, Spags holds the Bills Offense to just 3 points through 3 quarters, and won 24-10 on the road as a 6 point underdog.  Limited Tyrod’s scrambles will go a long way to stopping them, and in week 1, Tyrod ran 6 times for just 7 yards, with a longest run of 4 yards.

And let’s dig into that…  Week 1 the Chargers played the terrible Bengals Defense.  

Tyrod ran for just 7 yards on 6 attempts with a 17% success rate?  Against that Bengals Defense??

Austin Ekeler ran for just 4.4 YPC on 19 carries with a 42% success rate?  Against that Bengals Defense?

Thursday night the Bengals Defense gave up 500 rushing yards to the Browns.  Well, not that bad, but they gave up 215 yards and 3 TDs on the ground, at a 6.1 YPC rate.

I will be shocked if this Chargers Offense runs really well against the Chiefs when they couldn’t run against the terrible Bengals run defense.

That means more shifts onto Tyrod’s plate from a passing perspective and while I like his receivers, he’s not going to deliver anything close to the efficiency that Philip Rivers was able to deliver.

For the Chiefs Offense, Andy Reid is 23-11 SU and 20-12-2 ATS (63%) with more than 6 days rest to prepare for a game, including 7-1 and 6-2 (75%) as a favorite of 7+ points.  

Warren Sharp

Warren Sharp is a football and betting analyst for NBC Sports. As a leading voice in football analytics, Warren writes a yearly book previewing the upcoming season from all angles at his Sharp Football Analysis website. You can follow Warren Sharp on Twitter @SharpFootball.