Michael Lombardi: A look ahead to NFL Week 7

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A Look Ahead to Week 7

For years, I have always compared Jared Goff playing in cold, nasty weather to the scene in Goodfellas when Henry Hill enters the Copacabana and is escorted to a table right in front of the stage. Instead of being in front of the stage, Goff is escorted to a table near the heaters.  Not any longer. Goff is playing better in cold weather, and the analogy isn’t viable.  With his second road game in as many weeks, Goff will face a tough Ravens defense and a windy, rainy day in Baltimore. Weather, mostly wind, will affect the games on the east coast from Baltimore to New England. 

 

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Goff’s trade to the Lions, which initially appeared as a lopsided trade in favor of the Rams, now appears as a win for both teams. The Rams won a Super Bowl with Matthew Stafford, something they believed they never would achieve with Goff, and the Lions have gained respectability around Goff. Besides being respected, the Lions are good, trending towards exceptional. They have done a great job of building an offensive line to protect Goff, which is vital. They developed the perfect scheme for his game, copying the McVay Rams offense, built around the run game and hard play-action passes. Goff has responded with stellar play, and this season might be the best of his career. He has lowered his bad throws to an all-time low of 14.4%. He’s also on target 80.9% of the time, with his receivers dropping 13 passes already. Those two numbers are career bests for Goff.    

As we all know, Goff has been the most profitable quarterback for the betting public since 2021, going 26-11 against the spread. When facing good teams since the start of the 2021 season. Goff has been 10-1 ATS against teams with a 60% win percentage. So besides improving his game in bad weather, Goff has raised his game against the good teams. 

Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson of the Ravens has also improved. Jackson currently has improved his percentage of bad throws to the lowest of his career—14.8%. The Ravens receivers have dropped nine passes for him, which is improved from last season.   His timing, accuracy and decision-making are all on an upward trajectory. When Jackson plays against the NFC, he’s unbeatable, going 15-1 straight up, with his only loss coming against the Giants last season.  Then, factor in the Lions’ defense struggles against running quarterbacks, allowing 258 rushing yards last year to the Bears, mostly coming from quarterback Justin Fields in their first game, 164 yards to Buffalo with Josh Allen creating most of the plays, and another 200 to the Fields led Bears (before he was injured) in their second game. It begs the question, can they stop Lamar Jackson from running, especially if the wind makes throwing hard?    

Both teams want to start fast. The Lions are 99-40 in the first-half point differential, which allows them to gain control of the game from a defensive perspective. Because they are one of the best third-down defenses in the NFL, limiting opponents to just a 33% conversion rate, the Lions have been in complete control the last four games. Since Seattle, they have only turned the ball over twice while creating seven turnovers. 

Finally, when deciding what team to play, consider the Ravens are far better as a dog than the favorite, from Jackson to head coach Jim Harbaugh. Ignore the London return trip in your handicapping process, as it wasn’t a factor for the Jags last week against the Colts. And ignore Goff being next to the heaters. He is grown up and is now a player to bet on, not against. 

QB Ratings

1. Patrick Mahomes – His past play earns him this spot, but he needs more help. With his defense playing great, Mahomes doesn’t have to be great, just efficient. 

2. Brock Purdy – When the game is on the line, Purdy comes through and makes plays. Even without Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel against the best defense in football, the Browns, Purdy gave his team a chance to win the game. 

3. Josh Allen – The Giants didn’t blitz, didn’t try to force the negative play, and somehow, some way, Allen made an incredible play to win the game. Allen is down to 10.7% of the bad throws, the lowest in his career, with only three batted balls at the line. He is on target 82.1 % of the time. 

4. Tua Tagovailoa – This offense is so impressive, and the numbers are staggering in terms of their production. Tua has been a great point guard, and this week, with wind and bad weather, will be a chance to shine. The Eagles have the right kind of team to give the Dolphins trouble.  Pressure from inside out, getting in front of Tua. We shall see if they can make it happen. Tua is better at home and as the favorite. Tua, when he is a road dog, has only won two games in the last 12, with one coming in the opener vs the Chargers. 

5. Lamar Jackson – As mentioned before, he is playing well and will need to play at a higher level to beat the Lions. With his offensive line finally healthy, along with his receivers, Jackson can become an MVP candidate with a few strong showings. 

BOTTOM FIVE

28. Kenny Pickett – Pickett needs to make more than one play per game. With Diontae Johnson back at receiver, Pickett will have more weapons.       

29. Mac Jones – Jones is an 8.5-point home dog to the Bills. With Jones under center, the Patriots have been outscored 139-81 against the Bills. Since the wind game of 2021, the closest margin of defeat was 12 points. 

30. Tyrod Taylor – My concern with Taylor is whether he can he hold up when getting hit often, especially if they design runs for him. He functioned well last week in the offense with so many missing linemen. Can he do it again? 

31. (tie)  Raiders QB – With the Bears starting rookie Tyson Bagent from Shepherd College, I’m sure the Raiders don’t want to repeat their sack and turnover outing with Aidan O’Connell under center. O’Connell has a chance to be a good player but needs more time. If they start Brian Hoyer, they are counting on him to protect the ball and run the offense. Can he?  I’m concerned. 

31. (tie) Bears QB – Tyson Bagent steps to center stage, and this game will be decided on which quarterback protects the ball. Bagent had one interception and a costly fumble against a bad Vikings defense last week. Against the Raiders, Bagent will need the running game to help him manage the game and two people to block Maxx Crosby from destroying the Bears offense.

Power Ratings for 2023

Besides the scoring being down, the distance between the good and bad teams seems to be widening.  Detroit continues to move up, tying Philadelphia for the fifth spot, as they have improved in every area that dictates winning. Meanwhile, the bottom teams seem to be bottoming out, as they continue not to show improvement, so don’t be scared of betting big lines in some instances.