Bottom 5 Passing Matchups Week 8
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Top 5 Passing Matchups Week 8
Bottom 5 Passing Matchups Week 8
Top 5 Rushing Matchups Week 8
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups Week 8
Rushing Matchup Chart Week 8
Passing Matchup Chart Week 8
Miami vs LA Rams
The Dolphins enter the Tua Tagovailoa era at a curious time. This attack was getting by decently with -year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, completing 70% of its throws en route to a surprising .500 start. Even at 3-3, though, the Dolphins are strictly future-minded; they want to see what they have in their prized rookie. It’s anyone’s guess as to which receiver(s) will grab Tagovailoa’s attention and build quick rapport, so his outlooks for volume and distribution are unknown. Tagovailoa’s reputation is that of a precision passer with outstanding downfield vision, yet he’s thrown just two garbage-time balls thus far. He likely won’t enter the league winging deep balls across his body, nor even looking for many splash plays downfield. It’s fair to expect a safe, scripted attack through DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, and Mike Gesicki on shorter routes, with little asked of the rookie on Sunday. That may be the safe developmental play, but it doesn’t bode well for the Dolphins’ fantasy prospects off the bat.
The Rams pass defense, built with star power on every level, continues to dominate. The axis is its two supreme stars, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, both of whom lay solid claim to being football’s best at their positions. Donald is so dominant as to draw constant double- and triple-teams and free up the entire front seven to make plays. (Donald often wins those, anyway. He’s top-two league-wide in both quarterback hits and sacks.) They make life easier for Ramsey and the secondary, which has been suffocating for much of the year. Ramsey is dominant all over the field, and his extensive time in the slot which is a new development is paying big dividends. It keeps him closer to the ball, and it takes some pressure off the snakebitten safety group. In premier matchups with the likes of Amari Cooper, Terry McLaurin, Stefon Diggs, and Allen Robinson, this unit allowed a weak 7.3 yards per target and just a single touchdown. It’s unlikely any Dolphins buck that trend particularly in stage one of their offensive transition.
Detroit vs Indianapolis
The Lions finally broke the 300-yard seal last Sunday, shredding the Falcons’ barely-there defense for 340 in the victory. Matthew Stafford was surgical with his deep ball, completing 7 of his 8 throws 15+ yards down the field. If not for a few frustrating third-down lapses by the offense, his last-second touchdown wouldn’t even have been necessary. Still, this isn’t an attack with much volume to speak of - just 32 attempts per game since Week 2 - so the big plays have to hit to produce big fantasy lines. That’s always a risky thing to invest in, especially in a tussle with one of the league’s toughest secondaries. Their Week 8 success will likely depend on Stafford’s downfield connection with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr, working their way through a minefield that’s shut down most comes thus far.
The Colts pass defense has been arguably the NFL’s stingiest here in 2020. They sit atop the league by a mile in adjusted yards per attempt, which factors in touchdowns and interceptions, and only a single opponent (Joe Burrow in Week 6) has topped 250 in a game. The driving forces have been a pair of offseason additions tailor-made for what this unit had lacked. Interior rusher DeForest Buckner didn’t leave a thing in San Francisco; he’s been as dominant as expected (13 quarterback hits, 2.5 sacks) in leading an underrated pass rush. In the secondary, cornerback Xavier Rhodes came aboard as a reformation project but has already paid huge dividends. Rhodes again looks like a shutdown-type guy on the boundary, as seen in successful matchups with Adam Thielen, Odell Beckham Jr, and others. On the whole, this is one of football’s toughest secondaries to produce against, flashing both tight coverage and the ball skills to punish errant throws. Stafford and company make their hay by pushing the ball downfield, yet only 4 teams have allowed fewer completions of 20+ yards.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
The Steelers have yet to truly take the brakes off their passing game. Aside from the occasional heave to Chase Claypool, there’s still not much downfield component here. For perspective: Ben Roethlisberger has produced 9.9 yards per completion thus far, the first of his 17 seasons he’s spent under 10.0. That’s most evident in supposed No. 1 wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster, who’s been used like a glorified Larry Centers. The talented 23-year-old sits at 8.7 per catch; he’s yet to register a play of 30+ yards. Luckily, others have emerged with No. 1-man traits of their own. Diontae Johnson is sure-handed with lots of open-field elusiveness, while the rookie Claypool has dazzled like a tight end with deep-ball speed. It speaks volumes that the talented James Washington is often an afterthought in this attack. Still, it’s fair to wonder whether Roethlisberger is toning down his deep, high-impact game at age 38. He’s only topped 300 once this season, and this is not an ideal matchup in which to project another.
The Ravens defense continues to serve as validation for the rich-get-richer theory. This unit continues to reload on the fly with proven veteran stars at the instant they wear out their welcomes elsewhere. Last season it was Earl Thomas and Marcus Peters bolstering an already-great secondary; this year, they’ve added ex-Jaguar teammates Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue to the pass rush. Ngakoue should be ready to play at least in pass-rush packages Sunday, and it’s frightening to imagine this dynamic group with him on-board and up to speed. The Steelers’ elite line will be pushed to its limits by a powerful front seven that’s both explosive and deep. They set the table nicely for a top-tier secondary, one that’s giving up the league’s fifth-fewest yards per attempt, with just eight touchdowns through six games. No team can boast the collection of cornerback talent found here, with Peters still an imposing cover man and Marlon Humphrey a shadow-caliber star both inside and out. With the rash of injuries that have taken down the Ravens’ slot men - starter Tavon Young and backup Anthony Averett are both out awhile - Humphrey may slide inside full-time. Journeyman Marcus Gilchrist is a liability, and with Jimmy Smith still excelling as the No. 3, nothing would likely be lost overall.
Baltimore vs Pittsburgh
The Ravens’ air production was bound to regress from its wild 2019 efficiency, and we’ve seen it thus far. Lamar Jackson led the league last year with an unheard of 9.0% touchdown rate, and his 8.9 adjusted yards per attempt led all full-time starters. Here in 2020, he’s fallen outside the top 10 in both measures. What’s more, his dynamic receivers have produced on good-not-great levels, and neither Mark Andrews nor Marquise Brown has topped 90 yards since Week 1. Jackson and his weapons still boast dynamic upside on any week, but without safe volume or a friendly matchup across the field, their floors aren’t quite as stable as they were last season.
The Steelers haven’t exactly faced a Murderer’s Row of opposing quarterbacks, but they’ve impressively sidestepped every land mine thus far. Rarely has an opponent thrown the ball efficiently with the game still in question, and none has even seriously threatened 300 yards on the day. When the game script is neutral, plays often simply run out of time to develop before T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and the rest are swarming and altering throws. Jackson is a dazzling athlete but isn’t immune to pressure and sacks. If there’s a vulnerable spot here, it’s in downfield coverage. Joe Haden and the safeties have given up their share of long catches, with opponents registering 12.5 yards per completion, second-most in football. But the speedy Marquise Brown is no stranger to the Steelers: they met twice last year, and he turned his 7 targets into just 37 yards. With Minkah Fitzpatrick roaming at safety - and that suffocating pressure up front - Brown and company lose a bit of their big-play luster.
Dallas at Philadelphia
The Cowboys passing game is, simply put, difficult to trust at all without Dak Prescott under center. Andy Dalton isn’t starting-caliber at this point, and he’s forced to work behind a once-elite line that’s unrecognizable due to injuries. He may not even be available for Sunday after sustaining a concussion, which would line up either seventh-round rookie Ben DiNucci or a late-week addition to start. There’s so much talent at the wideout spots that it’s tempting to roll the dice, hoping for big volume if a shootout emerges. Amari Cooper did catch all seven of his targets in last week’s loss, while CeeDee Lamb came extremely close to catching a pair of touchdowns. Still, whoever the quarterback, this is a difficult matchup from which to expect miracles.
The Eagles can’t like what’s become of their 2020 season, but at least the pass defense has been a bright spot. Thanks to a tenacious pass rush and an overachieving secondary, they’ve given up the league’s seventh-fewest net yards per attempt. If we were to take out their big Week 5 hiccup, they’d sit No. 1 by that measure. This unit remains difficult to deal with up front, with Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and a host of others leading a dynamic four-man rush. The Eagles to don’t blitz much, but stand third in both quarterback hits and sack rate anyway. That kind of pressure makes life easier for a secondary that’s definitely flawed but boasts the ability to make plays on the ball. Darius Slay is in the midst of a rebirth as a strong cover man, while Jalen Mills looks like a much better fit at safety than in his disastrous past few years outside. It’s no wonder they’ve been so strong against downfield receivers, keeping the likes of Terry McLaurin (61 yards), Marquise Brown (57), and Darius Slayton (23) mostly in check thus far.