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Sunday's Best

Week 3 Marquee Matchups

by Warren Sharp
Updated On: September 26, 2020, 11:41 am ET

Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens

The public is and will continue to be all over the Chiefs catching 3.5 points.  The hook will be extremely enticing.  

I predict that after all the Sunday losses by the public, they will roll into Monday night on the Chiefs, looking to be made whole, and I anticipate roughly 80% of all new tickets written between Sunday night and Monday night will be on the Chiefs.

Why?

No one has anything bad to say about Mahomes.  He’s universally praised as the game’s best QB.  Here are the 4 facts the public cares most about:

1. Mahomes catching points is a no brainer
2. The Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl Champions
3. Lamar and the Ravens choke
4. Mahomes is 2-0 against Lamar

When something looks too easy from a betting perspective, you should look to investigate what you may be overlooking.  I’ll dive into one key element of this game that too many people may ignore while running to grab the Chiefs +3.5.

The Chiefs run defense ranks #26 in efficiency.  

In week 1, they allowed runs from the Texans to produce 5.4 YPC with a 64% success rate.  David Johnson averaged 7.0 YPC.  The very next week, he averaged just 3.1 YPC.

Week 2, despite a rookie QB starting with zero prep time (should have been a clear game plan to STOP THE RUN and make the rookie win), they allowed runs to gain a 64% success rate with 4.2 YPC.  

The Chargers ran the ball 39 times on early downs!  No team called more early down runs IN ANY GAME SO FAR THIS SEASON than the Chargers at 39.

They were running the ball on 61% of these plays (average is 48%).  And yet they still recorded 64% success and 4.5 YPC!  Both marks being above the NFL average for early down rushing production.

And keep in mind, this was a Chargers rushing attack that recorded a 42% success rate and 3.8 YPC on early down runs in Week 1 vs the Bengals run defense.  The Bengals have a terrible run defense, and the Chargers couldn’t do anything against them on the ground.

To summarize:

The Chiefs allowed a potentially washed up David Johnson, who averaged 3.1 YPC in his other game, to gain 7.7 YPC against them in week 1, and then against a rookie QB who found out he was starting 5 seconds before kickoff, when the Chiefs SHOULD BE PLAYING TO STOP THE RUN FIRST, the Chiefs allowed the Chargers to tear them up.

That is not reassuring prior to facing the NFL’s best and most diverse rushing attack.

Now, I know the Chiefs have played the Ravens twice with Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes running these offenses.  

And I know the Chiefs are 2-0.  But these games were AGES ago.  And the Ravens killed the Chiefs on the ground even then.

The last game was way back in week 3 of the 2019 season.  That may seem like yesterday, but the key is, Lamar Jackson has grown in LEAPS AND BOUNDS as a passer since week 3 of 2019.  

And in that game, the Ravens ran the ball for 6.3 YPC and a 72% success rate on 32 plays.  Mark Ingram gained 6.4 YPC and an 88% success rate with 103 yards on only 16 carries.

What held the Ravens back was Lamar’s passing.  He completed only 22 of 43 passes for 6.2 YPA and a 35% success rate.

I KNOW he’s much better passing the ball than he was then.  Lamar is developing as a passer at a very strong rate, and in a full season removed from that Week 3 game in 2019 to this Week 3 game in 2020, I firmly believe Lamar will be a strong passing option in this game.

Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks

Quick note on this game is the health of both rosters on the defensive side of the ball. 

Seattle will be without DE Raheem Green and may be without DE Benson Mayowa.  CB Quinton Dunbar is banged up but likely to play.  

Dallas is without CB Chidobe Awuzie and may be without DE DeMarcus Lawrence and T Tyron Smith.

Both of these defenses were already struggling even before this news.  Dallas’ defense ranks #31 in explosive passing, #18 in pass defense and #26 in pass rush.  They cannot get pressure on opposing QBs and allow opportunities through the air.

Seattle’s defense ranks #29 against the pass and #20 in explosive passing.  They’ve been terrible in the red zone (#27) as well.

I don’t believe either defense will look this bad later in the season, all each will face substantially easier schedules of opposing offenses over the remainder of the season.

In fact, both defenses will have faced top-4 schedules in difficulty by the time this game concludes, but the rest of the season, their defenses face the #1 and #2 easiest schedules of any defense.

But this is one game that comes together to pit two underperforming defenses with injuries against two offenses capable of fireworks.
 

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.