Identifying the best, most important games of NFL Week 11

Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott meet again Sunday in the latest installment of a storied NFC East rivalry. Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

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 0-100 scale based on the quality of teams and projected closeness of the final score, tells us the top games of Week 11.

1. Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (8:30 p.m. ET Sunday, NBC)

Matchup quality: 89 out of 100
FPI win projection: Eagles, 51 percent
FPI playoff leverage: Cowboys 25 percent, Eagles 3 percent

It turns out Tyron Smith is very, very important.

In Weeks 1-9, the Cowboys allowed their quarterback to be pressured on 19.9 percent of non-blitz dropbacks, 13th in the league. That number probably sells the offensive line a little bit short because Dak Prescott, being mobile, tends to hold the ball a little longer than average. Still, 19.9 percent isn't bad. But last week, with Smith out against the Falcons, that number rose to 37.8 percent.

Facing pressure when the defense has a full set of defenders in coverage is a quarterback's worst nightmare, and Prescott was not his usual self in that contest. Smith's status is up in the air for this critical divisional bout, and clearly that is an important factor here.

2. New England Patriots vs. Oakland Raiders (in Mexico City, 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS)

Matchup quality: 76 out of 100
FPI win projection: Patriots, 63 percent
FPI playoff leverage: Raiders 16 percent, Patriots 1 percent

Like Tom Brady needs any help.

Seriously, anyone with Brady in their fantasy lineup might want to just pencil in a W in Week 11. This one features the league's best offense (New England) against the second-worst defense (Oakland), according to FPI. What is the Raiders' weakness? Defending the pass. The Raiders' defense ranks dead last in expected points added per game on passing plays this season.

That's all bad news for the Raiders, who have dug themselves a hole and will have a very hard time reaching the playoffs if they leave Mexico with a loss. Dropping this one to the Patriots would bring the Raiders' playoff chances down to just 7 percent.

3. Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings (1 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX)

Matchup quality: 75 out of 100
FPI win projection: Vikings, 61 percent
FPI playoff leverage: Rams 16 percent, Vikings 16 percent

Heading into the season, FPI ranked the Vikings as the 12th-best team in the league and the Rams as the fourth-worst. Look at how far we've come: This should be an exciting contest, with Los Angeles and Minnesota now ranked seventh- and eighth-best, respectively. Both squads are above average in all three phases of the game.

One thing Wade Phillips has done with the Rams' defense this season is dial up the blitz. Los Angeles blitzes on 39.2 percent of opponent's dropbacks, fourth-most in the league. But the Vikings, assuming Case Keenum remains the starter, might be hoping that Phillips sticks with that game plan: Keenum has the best raw QBR against the blitz this season among qualifying quarterbacks.

4. Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks (8:30 p.m. ET Monday, ESPN)

Matchup quality: 67 out of 100
FPI win projection: Seahawks, 79 percent
FPI playoff leverage: Seahawks 29 percent, Falcons 24 percent

This one might end up an important tiebreaker down the line, as both teams are currently in contention for a wild-card berth.

Atlanta might be at the head of the pack of 5-4 teams right now, but FPI has the Falcons with the hardest remaining schedule of the four 5-4 teams (Dallas, Detroit and Green Bay are the others) and, thus, with only a 23 percent chance to make the playoffs. Should the Falcons pull off an upset in Seattle, they'd get up to a 40 percent chance. A loss would make it much more difficult, at 16 percent.

Although Seattle is only a game up in the wild-card race, the Seahawks remain in contention for the NFC West, and FPI has the division as a close race. They can't take the game for granted, however, as a loss would drop them from their current 72 percent chance to just over 50 percent. A win would bump them to more than 80 percent.

5. Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints (1:00 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX)

Matchup quality: 65 out of 100
FPI win projection: Saints, 75 percent
FPI playoff leverage: Saints 12 percent, Redskins 10 percent

After allowing a Total QBR of more than 95 in their first two contests, the Saints' defense has rebounded to allow only one better-than-average game during a seven-game win streak. That sounds great, but they haven't exactly faced a "who's who" of quarterbacks. Of the seven opposing starters faced, none ranks higher than 13th (Matthew Stafford) in Total QBR.

Kirk Cousins should pose a much more difficult test for New Orleans. Cousins ranks seventh in the league in Total QBR, and the Redskins rank ninth in offensive efficiency. Cousins has faced the Saints once before in his career, leading Washington to a 47-14 win in Week 10 of 2015. He went for 324 yards and four touchdowns in that game. Will we see a repeat of that, or is the Saints' defense for real?

High-leverage game of the week: Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox)

Matchup quality: 48 out of 100
FPI win projection: Chargers, 78 percent (with Rivers), 67 percent (with Clemens)
FPI playoff leverage: Bills 30 percent, Chargers 16 percent

With Philip Rivers in the concussion protocol, the Bills might catch the Chargers with L.A. backup Kellen Clemens under center. FPI sees a fairly large difference between the Chargers' QB options, but either way L.A. -- which doesn't have to travel across the country -- will be the favorite.

Los Angeles (3-6) is barely hanging on to its playoff hopes but could get within shouting distance, as a win would get the Chargers an 18 percent chance to make the playoffs. A loss, however, would drop them to just 2 percent.

Buffalo, despite having a lower FPI than Los Angeles, currently sits in the second wild card spot in the AFC and is given a one-in-four chance of making the playoffs. A win on the West Coast would be a boon to the Bills' odds, bumping them up to 48 percent. A loss won't spell certain doom but would make things much more difficult, at just an 18 percent chance.

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