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ID'ing the best, most important games of NFL Week 3

September 20,2017 15:19

What are the five must-watch NFL games this week? ESPN's matchup quality metric, which utilizes ESPN's Football Power Index to rank games on a 1-100 scale based on the quality of teams and projected closeness of the final score, tells us the top games ...


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What are the five must-watch NFL games this week? ESPN's matchup quality metric, which utilizes ESPN's Football Power Index to rank games on a 1-100 scale based on the quality of teams and projected closeness of the final score, tells us the top games of Week 3.
1. Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS)
Matchup quality: 77 out of 100FPI win projection: Chiefs, 57 percentFPI playoff leverage: Chiefs, 13 percent; Chargers 8 percent
Expect a close, high-scoring game, as this matchup pits the third- and eighth-most efficient offenses in the league in the Chiefs and Chargers, respectively. The two teams combined for 124 points in their two matchups last season, both Chiefs wins. FPI sees Kansas City as a slight road favorite, winning the matchup 57 percent of the time.
Los Angeles may be 0-2, but is the only 0-2 team FPI sees as above average, having lost its games by a total of five points.
2. Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX)
Matchup quality: 77 out of 100FPI win projection: Falcons, 51 percentFPI playoff leverage: Lions 21 percent, Falcons 14 percent
The only matchup of 2-0 teams in Week 3 features the Falcons as slight road favorites over the Lions. FPI rates Atlanta as the top team in the NFC, but isn't quite as sold on the Lions, who rank eighth in the conference. Atlanta's offense, led by Total QBR leader Matt Ryan, has the second-strongest offense in the league (FPI of +6.4). FPI does see the Lions as a balanced squad, having all three units (offense, defense and special teams) rating above league average, one of only six teams to share that distinction, but no single unit ranking higher than their special teams at No. 7.
3. Oakland Raiders at Washington Redskins (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Matchup quality: 72 out of 100FPI win projection: Raiders, 51 percentFPI playoff leverage: Raiders 15 percent, Redskins 13 percent
Three games, three slight road favorites. Oakland continues the trend among our top games of the week as they travel east to take on Washington. Both teams moved up four spots in the FPI rankings based on their play last week, Washington from 21st to 17th and Oakland from seventh to fourth.
The Raiders' offense has been the most efficient of any team thus far this year and will test the Redskins' defense, which FPI rates as slightly below-average (FPI of 0.6). It may be up to Kirk Cousins and his ability to exploit the Raiders' defense, which is seen slightly worse off than Washington's (FPI of -1.0).
4. Seattle Seahawks at Tennessee Titans (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX)
Matchup quality: 70 out of 100FPI win projection: Titans, 59 percentFPI playoff leverage: Seahawks 13 percent, Titans 12 percent
It will be strength vs. strength when the Titans' offense is on the field with the Seahawks' defense, easily each team's best unit. And when the Seahawks' offense is on against the Titans' defense? Well, let's just say it won't quite be the immovable object vs. the irresistible force. Keep an eye on Russell Wilson, who has struggled so far this year, ranking just 23rd in Total QBR in two games. FPI still rates the Seahawks' offense as a tick above league-average, but that is down nearly two points since the preseason. Add in a near-cross-country trip, and it's no wonder why FPI and Vegas both have the Titans as slight favorites.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX)
Matchup quality: 64 out of 100FPI win projection: Vikings, 55 percentFPI playoff leverage: Bucs 23 percent, Vikings 22 percent
The current win percentage incorporates some uncertainty for Sam Bradford, though the variance isn't dramatic because FPI doesn't think highly of the Vikings' starting QBs. If Bradford does suit up for this one, the win percentage will jump to 57 percent; if he doesn't, it will drop to 53 percent.
The Bucs impressed FPI in the team's one game -- a blowout victory over the Bears -- and the model aggressively moved Tampa Bay up in its rankings to eighth overall. The AFC South is a tough division, but if the Bucs can't win it they ought to have a good shot at a wild card. Their chance to make the playoffs currently sits at 48 percent.
High-leverage game of the week: Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars (London) (Sunday, 9:30 a.m., ET, Fox)
Matchup quality: 50 out of 100FPI win projection: Ravens, 67 percentFPI playoff leverage: Ravens, 20 percent; Jaguars, 17 percent
This early-morning game is a surprisingly important contest. The Ravens are locked in a tight, two-horse race with the Steelers for the AFC North crown and will be a strong wild-card candidate if they can't top Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the Jaguars' postseason hopes were shredded last week not only because they lost to the Titans, but because of how they lost to the Titans.
The 37-16 loss recalibrated what FPI thought of Jacksonville, which showed promise in its first game. The model believes Jacksonville is now almost a field goal worse than average, but the Jaguars still aren't out of it. They have a 25 percent shot at reaching the postseason, largely thanks to their defense, which has been the fifth-most efficient in the league so far.
For more from ESPN Analytics, visit the ESPN Analytics Index.

nfl,metrics,FPI,football power index,leverage,NFL,Kansas City Chiefs,Los Angeles Chargers

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