Saturday, March 25 2023

This week’s NFL slate features some great matchups, including the CowboysPackers game on FOX. 

I ran my models to give you my favorite betting edges and predictions for Week 10 of the season. My goal for this weekly column is to always provide you with nuggets you didn’t know before reading this piece.

A couple of matchups stuck out from a betting perspective, so let’s look at my favorite edges of the week, with odds courtesy of FOX Bet.

Aaron Rodgers “thankful” for Mike McCarthy ahead of Packers-Cowboys matchup

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers expressed gratitude toward his former head coach.

Cowboys at Packers (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX and FOX Sports App)

Dallas Cowboys


Green Bay Packers


It’s tough to put a finger on what the Packers can improve upon given their current personnel in order to turn their season around. 

But one thing that the Cowboys turned around that has helped them considerably has been improvement in their run defense. 

To opposing RBs on early downs… 

  • Weeks 1-4: -0.05 EPA/att, 29.3% success, 4.9 YPC, 2.01 yards before contact allowed per rush
  • Weeks 5-9: +0.22 EPA/att, 31.8% success, 3.7 YPC, 0.96 yards before contact allowed per rush

Weeks 1-4, the Cowboys played the Bucs, Bengals, Giants and Commanders run offenses. Two of these teams rank in the bottom six of the league. Weeks 5-9, the Cowboys played the Rams, Eagles, Lions and Bears. Three of these teams rank in the top-15.   

So despite playing tougher run offenses on average, the Cowboys run defense has performed better. 

That’s going to be incredibly important against the Packers. And it’s because Green Bay doesn’t just want to run the ball. They need to run the ball. Romeo Doubs and Sammy Watkins didn’t practice with knee injuries on Wednesday. Allen Lazard got in a limited day of work.   

Beyond limited weaponry at receiver, the Packers David Bakhtiari is dealing with a knee injury which forced him out of the Lions game at halftime. And Elgton Jenkins missed practice as well.   

Beyond their injuries to starting linemen, the Packers must run the ball because it helps limit the insanely aggressive Cowboys pass rush from getting after Aaron Rodgers

On early downs in the first three quarters of games, the Cowboys are getting pressure at a 44% rate. That’s the best in the league, and way above second-best (36%) and the average (28%). 

Where does the Cowboys’ 44% pressure rate on these downs rank? 

First in the NFL for any team in any season since at least 2020.  

Aaron Rodgers has been taking pressure at just the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL, which is something that he’s been in control of by adjusting his game to limit it. 

He’s throwing the ball short and quickly to eliminate the possibility of pressure. 

On early downs in the first three quarters, Rodgers is throwing 49% of his passes in under two seconds.   

The NFL average is 29%.   

The next closest QB is Zach Wilson at 39%. 

Rodgers’ time to throw on these early downs is the shortest in the NFL (2.23 seconds).   

Getting rid of the ball so quickly greatly reduces his pressure rate, but it also limits the efficiency of the passing offense considering he’s throwing the ball quickly so often. 

Looking at all downs, all quarters: 

  • Thrown in <2 seconds: -0.06 EPA/att, 2.5 air yards/att, 6% pressure, 140 att
  • Between 2-3 seconds: -0.21 EPA/att, 10.2 air yards/att, 24% pressure, 98 att
  • Between 3-4 seconds: -0.09 EPA/att, 11.2 air yards/att, 52% pressure, 48 att
  • Over 4 seconds: -0.00 EPA/att, 16.2 air yards/att, 79% pressure, 30 att

Out of 35 quarterbacks with 100-plus attempts, Rodgers leads the NFL in percentage of attempts thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage. 

And now he’s going up against the NFL’s best pass rush. 

Which is why, if the Packers cannot run the ball, Rodgers will be either catching and throwing as quickly as he can or he’ll be running for his life under pressure. 

On many of these short passes, Rodgers targets his running backs. But the Cowboys rank second in EPA/att vs. opposing RB targets. So those passes may not be nearly as efficient as the Packers may hope. 

It’s hard to see an easy path for Rodgers to get this offense back on track through the air vs. the NFL’s best pass defense. 

As such, to keep the game close, the Packers will need their defense to step up. That’s also easier said than done, particularly when they rank 31st vs. the run despite playing the sixth-easiest schedule of rushing offenses. 

The Cowboys’ third-best run offense is the best the Packers defense will have faced this season. In fact, the Packers haven’t faced another top-10 rushing attack since Week 1, when they lost 23-7 to the Vikings and gave up 126 yards on the ground on 28 carries to Vikings RBs. 

Since the beginning of October, the Packers run defense has allowed long runs of: 

  • Lions: 14-yard run
  • Bills: 30-yard run
  • Commanders: 24-yard run
  • Jets: 34-yard run
  • Giants: 40-yard run
  • Patriots: 17-yard run

Tony Pollard has posted long runs of: 57, 54, 28 and 15 yards in his last four games played. And he averaged only 11 rushes per game in those games. Even playing as a backup to Elliott, he’s had at least eight runs in every game in that role. And while Zeke is back, he may not be ready to take on a full-time role.   

Betting suggestion: Look to target Tony Pollard’s rushing yards over or longest rush attempt over when these lines are posted.


Josh Allen is ‘day-to-day’, Buffalo season is now in question

Greg Jennings tells Craig why the Bills still have a fighting chance.

Vikings at Bills (1 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX and FOX Sports App)

Minnesota Vikings


Buffalo Bills


After playing the NFL’s third-easiest schedule of defenses through Week 8, the Vikings played the 14th ranked defense of the Commanders. 

They put up 20 points, of which 13 came in the fourth quarter in a come-from-behind win. Aside from a well-scripted opening drive touchdown, the Vikings only other TD drive was 12 yards, coming off a terribly thrown pass which was intercepted. 

The Vikings offense has played just two defenses that rank top-15 on the season: the Eagles and the Commanders. 

They scored seven and 20 points in those two games, and it would have been seven and 13 points but for the Heinicke interception setting up a 12-yard TD drive. 

Last week’s game is the start of a brutal stretch of defenses over the next month. 

But, thankfully, the game against the Bills is the only one on the road. And this dome team will be getting an early taste of cold weather. 

It has been unseasonably warm out East, and was an insane 76 degrees for the Vikings game in DC last week. 

But it’s forecast to be 34 degrees in Buffalo at kickoff on Sunday, and with projected 15 mph winds, the “feels like” temperatures will hover around 26 degrees for the entire game. 

Kirk Cousins may not be able to lean too much on Dalvin Cook in this game, either. In betting on Washington last week for clients, I forecast Cook would struggle running successfully. He averaged just 2.8 YPC on 17 attempts vs Washington’s second ranked run defense. 

Now, he’ll go up against the Bills sixth ranked run defense, the second-toughest run defense he’s faced this year. Prior to facing Washington, Cook played one of the easiest schedules of run defenses in the NFL. He faced four teams that ranked bottom-seven in run defense and just one that ranked inside the top-15. 

Buffalo’s run defense has struggled of late, but I think a lot of that has to do with the absence of Matt Milano who missed last week’s game vs. the Jets. The Bills were more than happy to sit back in cover-2 with a big lead vs. the Packers and let Aaron Rodgers hand the ball off.   

This is important. If Buffalo returns to a 50%-plus rate of 2-high safeties, it’s likely to cause a lot of problems for Kirk Cousins. 

That’s because, since Week 4, Cousins is the most sensitive QB to 2-high in the NFL. His splits are massive: 

  • 2-high: -0.18 EPA/att, 43% success, 6.5 YPA on 86 dropbacks
  • Single-high: +0.09 EPA/att, 49% success, 7.4 YPA on 104 dropbacks

No QB has seen larger splits over the month and a half. 

And Buffalo plays the second-highest rate of two-high in the NFL, even considering the drop in usage last week. 

Additionally, this is just a huge step-up in class for Cousins. While the Bills run defense is a step-up in class compared to what the Vikings faced earlier this season, the Bills pass defense should be a major shock to the Vikings system. 

Look at who Minnesota has played the last month: 

  • 31st – Dolphins pass defense
  • 30th – Bears pass defense
  • 25th – Commanders pass defense
  • 20th – Cardinals pass defense


  • 5th – Bills pass defense

It won’t be easy for the Vikings. Additionally, Cousins’ new weapon, T.J. Hockenson, will be going up against the Bills pass defense which allows just 5.9 YPA to TEs (sixth-best). 

Betting suggestion: Thankfully I was tipped off to the Josh Allen injury early before the line moved and shared the Under 48 points with my clients at Sharp Football Analysis. This total is now down to 43.5 points and the Vikings have been bet down from +7.5 points to +3.5 points. I’d pass on betting anything on this game until we know for certain the status of Josh Allen.

Browns at Dolphins (1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS)

Cleveland Browns


Miami Dolphins


After a start to the season which saw them put up at least 26 points in four of their first five games and average 27 PPG (sixth-highest scoring team), the Browns put up just 15 vs. the Patriots fifth-ranked defense and 20 vs. the Ravens 15th-ranked defense. 

Their cold streak was broken, scoring 32 vs. the familiar defense of the divisional rival Bengals in Week 8, prior to their bye. 

The downturn in production was predictable given the injuries and the fact that the team played four below-average defenses in their first five games. 

But after playing defenses ranking: 

  • 5th New England
  • 8th Cincinnati
  • 15th Baltimore

The last three weeks, the Browns get to face No. 27 Miami this week. 

One of the biggest problems with this Dolphins defense of late has been their inability to get pressure. So they blitz. More and more. 

Weeks 1-4, they blitzed at a 32% rate and got pressure at a 33% rate. Both ranked slightly above average. 

But from Week 5 onward, the pressure hasn’t been there. They’ve dropped to a below-average 29% pressure rate. And to try and increase pressure, they’re now blitzing at a 40% rate, which is third-most in the NFL. 

And getting pressure on these blitzes is going to be massive for Miami, because look at their splits on early-down blitzes this year: 

  • When getting pressure: -0.34 EPA/att (18th)
  • When not getting pressure: +0.20 EPA/att (30th)

And for Brissett, look at his splits when he’s blitzed: 

  • Blitz led to pressure: -0.56 EPA/att, 32% success, 6.9 YPA (34 att)
  • Blitz didn’t get pressure: +0.40 EPA/att, 55% success, 8.9 YPA (44 att)

The splits have grown even more massive. Since Week 6 when he’s blitzed: 

  • Blitz led to pressure: -1.45 EPA/att, 20% success, 5.2 YPA (15 att)
  • Blitz didn’t get pressure: +0.94 EPA/att, 60% success, 13.5 YPA (15 att)

If Miami blitzes a lot and doesn’t get pressure, which is what is happening more to them lately than any other team in the NFL (86 such dropbacks this year, highest in the NFL), it’s going to be a problem against Brissett. 

The Dolphins also rarely use 2-high safety looks. No team plays it less than Miami.

Well that’s a very good thing for Jacoby Brissett. Because he has big splits vs. 2-high, and in fact, since Week 3, he’s the most sensitive QB to 2-high. 

First, look at his season-long splits: 

  • 2-high: -0.11 EPA/att, 39% success, 6.8 YPA on 75 dropbacks
  • Single-high: +0.17 EPA/att, 52% success, 8.1 YPA on 196 dropbacks

And since Week 7: 

  • 2-high: -0.13 EPA/att, 29% success, 7.4 YPA on 14 dropbacks
  • Single-high: +0.46 EPA/att, 59% success, 12.6 YPA on 41 dropbacks

We should expect a decrease in rush efficiency from Nick Chubb, like we saw vs. the Bengals solid run defense, as Miami has been extremely solid vs. the run. But even vs. the seventh-best run defense of the Bengals, Chubb, despite gaining only 4.4 YPC, still topped 100 yards and put up two rushing TDs. 

The difference between the Bengals and the Dolphins is the Dolphins rank sixth in yards before contact to opposing running backs, whereas the Bengals were 17th. 

While the Browns rushing attack may see a decrease in efficiency, I think the passing attack may more than compensate thanks to Brissett’s stats vs. single-high safeties and ability to deliver when blitzed but not pressured.   

Additionally, the Browns like to throw the ball to their RBs, and the Dolphins defense ranks dead last in EPA/att allowed to opposing RB targets (+0.27/att) and allow a league-high 7.1 YPA. 

Betting suggestion: Cleveland Browns team total Over 23 points 

PICK: Over 23 points scored by the Cleveland Browns

Colin plays Playoff QB Face Bracket for the NFC & AFC

Watch as he predicts the playoffs based off of only the QBs’ faces.

Seahawks vs. Buccaneers in Munich (9:30 a.m. ET Sunday, NFL Network)

Seattle Seahawks


Tampa Bay Buccaneers


One of the biggest returns to health seen last week was Akiem Hicks for the Bucs. A new addition this past season from Chicago, he was always a massive difference maker for the Bears. Teams could run at will on them when he was absent, but couldn’t run at all when he was healthy. 

Let’s remove third-down RB runs, since Hicks rarely plays on those downs, and focus on early-down RB runs. 

Hicks played Week 1 and started Week 2 but subsequently was injured, missed every game until Week 9 and then returned. 

Early down RB-runs vs. Tampa Bay this season: 

  • With Hicks ON the field: 3.7 YPC, 28% success, 0.5 yards before contact/rush
  • With Hicks OFF the field: 4.8 YPC, 37% success, 1.4 yards before contact/rush

For context, the NFL average on early-down RB runs is 1.4 yards before contact per rush and the best team in the NFL is 0.76 yards before contact per rush. 

The Bucs move from an average run defense to, by far, the NFL’s best run defense when Hicks is on the field. 

Lions at Bears (1 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX and FOX Sports App)

Detroit Lions


Chicago Bears


Quick note on Jared Goff: In temperatures of 40 or less, the last five years Jared Goff is averaging -0.36 EPA/att, 29% success, 5.1 YPA, is completing 49.5% of his passes and has thrown zero touchdowns to five interceptions.   

This game is projected to be played in temps ranging from 35 (at kickoff) to 38 degrees and the “feels like” temperature will be between 27-32 degrees. 

Warren Sharp is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He is the founder of Sharp Football Analysis and has worked as a consultant for league franchises while also previously contributing to ESPN and The Ringer, among other outlets. He studied engineering before using his statistical acumen to create predictive football models. You can follow Warren on Twitter at @SharpFootball.

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Can Aaron Rodgers prove he's still elite vs. the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10? | FIRST THINGS FIRST


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