The NFL is not in a good place right now. Last week was one of the worst weeks you can imagine when it comes to the standard of play. Matt Barkley played quarterback for the Bears on Thursday night. The Eagles and Vikings had a turnover-off, Case Keenum played like Case Keenum, Kevin Hogan became the sixth player to throw a pass for the Browns, Landry Jones started for the Steelers, Brock Osweiler threw for 131 yards and it felt like less. The Seahawks and Cardinals had a 6-6 tie in prime time!
This isn’t the Browns or 49ers being bad, this is everyone being bad. There’s no such thing as a perfect team, but we’ve never seen a situation where no team looks great or even very good, with the possible exception of New England. Everyone has a flaw that, in a normal year, may sink them come January. This week, I decided to look at what that flaw is for the best five teams in football by DVOA. Let’s jump right into it.
Philadelphia Eagles: Wide receiver, right tackle
As of right now, no Eagles receiver ranks above 61st in DYAR and Jordan Matthews is the only one with over 200 receiving yards. With Lane Johnson suspended, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, whose name I think I spelled correctly, is the starting right tackle. This has already shown to be a problem as Vaitai has a 39.9 PFF grade and has been a major issue in pass protection. Both of these issues get worse when you consider that they have a rookie quarterback. As good as Carson Wentz has been, it’s a bad thing when your rookie quarterback is depended on to make his receivers better instead of the other way around and an even worse thing when said quarterback is facing pressure with regularity.
Seattle Seahawks: Offensive line
Four out of five Seattle starters on the offensive line are rated as “poor” by PFF grading. They’re 28th in adjusted line yards and 13th in adjusted sack rate. The latter number looks good before you realize that Russell Wilson is the best quarterback in the league when it comes to avoiding pressure. Seattle has survived with a bad offensive line before, but that was with Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls—two steamrollers in human form—at running back and a healthy Wilson under center. The Seahawks have neither of those luxuries this year, at least until Rawls returns from injury, and its showing. Their offense has lagged in recent weeks thanks to a slew of holding penalties and constant pressure. It’s bordering on disaster (though I’m sure some will tout Tom Cable, their offensive line coach, as a strong head coaching candidate once January comes around).
Denver Broncos: Quarterback
It has been well documented that I do not believe the Broncos have downgraded at quarterback by replacing Peyton Manning with Trevor Siemian. That being said, Siemian has a significantly lower margin for error. Denver won the Super Bowl last season by scooting by in close games, not by dominating their opponents, inferior or otherwise. No team can win that many close games for two years in a row and it’s already shown this year in the Broncos’ loss to San Diego. That makes the quarterback position an issue—even though Siemian has been fine thus far, Denver is still depending on defense to win games, an issue for most teams no matter how good their defense may be.
Minnesota Vikings: Offensive line
The Vikings came into the season with the worst starting tackles in football. Then, Matt Kalil got hurt, which meant T.J. Clemmings had to slide over to left tackle. To call Clemmings an unmitigated disaster would be the understatement of the century. He has a 26.9 PFF grade, the worst among qualified players at tackle by nearly ten points. Jeremiah Sirles has been better at right tackle, but only default as his 56.9 PFF grade looks good in comparison while Brandon Fusco and Alex Boone have been underwhelming on the interior. All in all, Minnesota is dead last in adjusted line yards and stuff rate, rendering their run game useless at best.
Dallas Cowboys: Pass rush
Dallas ranks 22nd in pass defense DVOA and the issue mostly stems from an inability to get pressure. Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins and Jack Crawford—three of the team’s four starting defensive linemen—have PFF grades below 44. While players such as David Irving—who forced three fumbles and had a sack in Week 6 against Green Bay—have picked up the load, the Cowboys don’t have anyone who can be a disruptor on a regular basis. Without being able to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks, things can, and will, get a lot tougher defensively.
Week 8 Picks
Vegas Insiders’ consensus lines are used. Home teams listed in CAPS.
Jaguars +3.5 over TITANS: Laying points with Mike Mularkey is one of the dumbest things you can do. I did it last week and lost—I will not do it again, even against Blake Bortles and Gus Bradley. This game being on prime time is a travesty, but not as much as the fact that this game somehow has playoff implications. The AFC South is flaming garbage personified and the reward for winning it will be a loss worse than the 30-0 defeat Houston suffered last year in January.
Bengals -3 over Redskins (N): The Bengals are under .500, but their losses are against Pittsburgh, Denver, Dallas and New England—four potential Super Bowl contenders. Against Washington—a team that is decidedly not a Super Bowl contender—Cincinnati will be just fine. They can throw the ball against a thin Redskins secondary and I don’t buy Washington’s run game being as good as it has been the past few weeks. The Bengals can, and will, get back on the playoff track with a win in London
Lions +2.5 over TEXANS: Brock Osweiler is currently 32nd in DYAR and DVOA. Out of 32. And yes, that includes Cody Kessler. If you include players who don’t qualify, Osweiler is still dead last in DYAR, ranking behind the likes of Matt Barkley and Kevin Hogan. If there’s anyone who will fail to take advantage of the worst defense in the league by DVOA, it’s him and if there’s anyone who shouldn’t be favored at home against a remotely competent team, it’s also him.
Seahawks -2.5 over SAINTS: This line is an overreaction to the 6-6 monstrosity the Seahawks engaged in last week. Their offense is clearly an issue with Russell Wilson playing hurt, but they can still score against the Saints—who rank 28th in pass defense DVOA. FiveThirtyEight has Seattle as six-point favorites, a far cry from the 2.5 you can get in Vegas, so jump on this while you can.
Patriots -6.5 over BILLS: Outside of the first game against the Bills—in which Jacoby Brissett played quarterback—the Patriots may not lose straight-up or against the spread all year. I won’t be picking against them until one or both of those things happen.
Jets -3.5 over BROWNS: If Cody Kessler plays, I may change my pick, but right now it looks like Kevin Hogan will play quarterback for the Browns which means that you can bet against Kevin Hogan and lay less than a touchdown. For the sake of clarity, I’ll repeat that: you can bet against Kevin Hogan and lay less than a touchdown.
Raiders +1 over BUCCANEERS: I don’t know if this is a West Coast team playing on the East Coast or what, but this is the second week in a row that the Raiders have been underdogs against a team that is decidedly worse. If that is a result of Oakland having to travel, I will point out that the Raiders have played four games that started at 10:05 PT and won all of them. Why they are still underdogs in this game, after winning four in a row on the road, I have no idea.
Chiefs -2.5 over COLTS: Indy’s offensive line was good for stretches last week and we got to see what this offense would look like if Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano weren’t completely incompetent. Unfortunately, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano are completely incompetent and the Chiefs have a solid defense, even without Justin Houston. The Colts just aren’t going to move the ball well against a defense ranked 12th in DVOA and the Chiefs are going to run the ball against a 32nd ranked run defense by DVOA. They can also throw the ball against an incompetent secondary—particularly given that Indy is 32nd in DVOA against tight ends. This will be a big game for Travis Kelce and a potential blowout win for Kansas City.
PANTHERS -3 over Cardinals: The Cardinals have a history of underperforming in games they should win—particularly those on the East Coast. I don’t love this line, but Carolina is better than their record and I’m not sure Carson Palmer can take advantage of the holes in their secondary.
BRONCOS -5.5 over Chargers: The Chargers’ offensive line is 28th in adjusted sack rate and 26th in adjusted line yards. Denver got back on track Monday night and their offense looked good against a solid Houston defense. I’m willing to accept their previous loss against San Diego as a result of Paxton Lynch and take them this week in a game they should win.
FALCONS -3 over Packers: The Falcons can score against any defense in the league. Unless Matt Ryan reverts to last year’s form, there are no holes in this unit. The only question is their defense, which I’m not worried about against a badly designed Green Bay offense.
COWBOYS -4.5 over Eagles: Carson Wentz is hitting the rookie wall after his worst game (by far) last week, which consisted of two interceptions and a 52.4 passer rating—over 25 points lower any other game. If Dak Prescott hits the same wall, I don’t think it will have the same effect on the Cowboys’ offense because they rely so much on running the ball. My only hesitation with this game is that there’s a real chance for a backdoor cover, but that’s a chance worth taking given that Dallas is a flatly better football team.
Vikings -5.5 over BEARS: We need to either kill Monday Night Football as an entity or start giving it better games because the Bears being in prime time (again) is flat-out unacceptable.
Last Week: 10-5-0
All stats are from pro-football-reference.com, footballoutsiders.com or profootballfocus.com unless otherwise noted
 How big of an upset is it that between Chuck Pagano, Gus Bradley and Jeff Fisher, none were fired this season after a London game? The odds on that had to be at least 100/1.
 His previous low was two weeks ago against Washington.