BOTTOM 5 PASSING MATCHUPS WEEK 16
TO VIEW ALL OF OUR WEEK 16 MATCHUP CONTENT, PLEASE SEE THE LINKS BELOW:
Seattle vs LA Rams
The Seahawks have drastically hit the brakes on their pass-happy approach from the season’s first half. Once an MVP candidate putting up 318 yards a game over the first 8 weeks, Russell Wilson has topped out at 263 over the last six. And with the drop in volume has come a notable dip in efficiency, from 8.6 yards per attempt ( league-wide) to just 6.2 (). Breakout star DK Metcalf continues to make huge plays, but fewer with less volume in the air. And it’s worth noting that he struggled in Ramsey’s pesky coverage back in Week 10, catching just 2 balls for 28 yards. Metcalf has posted his share of big games against top cornerbacks - he’s a legitimate star - but can be slowed a bit by strong press corners like Ramsey. The onus may be on Tyler Lockett (just 47 yards a game since Week 8) to regain his playmaking chops against the Rams’ minefield of a secondary.
The Rams continue to serve as the gold standard among the NFL’s pass defenses. Coordinator Brandon Staley’s scheme keeps a tight lid on big plays over the top, and the abundance of talent is able to keep even their more dynamic opponents in check. In fact, they’ve excelled in marquee matchups with the likes of Kyler Murray, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott (Week 1), and Russell Wilson himself. Those four high-level passers combined to put up a meager 5.5 yards per attempt, with just 6 touchdowns over 163 throws. Jalen Ramsey leads the way; he’s arguably the game’s best cover man, and his versatility is a huge part of this scheme. He follows most top receivers across the field, even down into the slot, and he’s been the catalyst in holding down DeAndre Hopkins (52 yards), Mike Evans (49), and DK Metcalf (28). They’ve also enjoyed the breakout of rookie safety Jordan Fuller, who’s proven himself a fearless playmaker on the ball. With Aaron Donald still dominating through double- and triple-teams up front, this remains fantasy’s most daunting, think-twice matchup. Wilson will need to get extremely creative to buck these trends and produce down the field.
Denver at LA Chargers
The Broncos keep watching franchise quarterback Drew Lock take one step forward, then one step back. He’s traded strong games for weak ones over the past two months. We saw his ceiling just two weeks ago when he shredded the Panthers for 280 yards and 4 too-easy touchdowns. But the Bills had his number last Saturday, showcasing that Lock continues to struggle in several areas. It’s still far too early to judge his future, of course, especially with so many of his weapons out. But at the moment, when he’s not checking down harmlessly he’s putting the ball in harm’s way, and this is not an ideal matchup to right his wrongs. Wideouts Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick, both of whom fresh off wildly inefficient performances, are big-play dependent and have tough downfield assignments.
The Chargers sit at just 5-9, and as a result, their pass defense isn’t drawing many headlines. But it’s been a notably dominant one: you’d have to go back to Week 5 to find their last 300-yard game. It was at that point they snapped a horrid early-season stretch and tightened up tremendously, stifling a handful of strong passers along the way. It is worth keeping track of Joey Bosa’s health and availability as he remains in the league’s concussion protocol. He’s a difference-maker, but this is a deep group that’s nicely weathered several personnel losses over the past year, including a prized young safety (Derwin James, IR) and a dynamic slot man (Desmond King, inexplicably traded). Casey Hayward remains an occasional shutdown guy on the outside, while former backups like Michael Davis and Rayshawn Jenkins have molded into big contributors. All told, this isn’t a matchup to target for fantasy purposes. Opponents tend to strike big on a deep ball or two each week, but find little efficiency beyond that. It would be a big ask of Drew Lock, who often looks overmatched in neutral matchups, to buck that trend.
Minnesota at New Orleans
The Vikings continue to carry the reputation of a plodding, run-dominant offense. But the area that goes under appreciated is the passing game as Kirk Cousins enters Friday’s game having put up 270+ yards in 5 of his last 6 games. This isn’t a very deep attack - tight end Irv Smith is a fine all-around talent, but the production doesn’t go far beyond the top two wideouts. Adam Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson have been sensational, but the backups see very few snaps and even fewer targets. Simply put, when Thielen and Jefferson are bottled up on the outside, there is little opportunity for Cousins and his peripheral guys to win down the field. That saps this unit’s outlook against physical, blanket-type cornerbacks like the ones they’ll face Friday. Thielen and Jefferson are always capable of big things, but face uphill battles in this outing.
The Saints have assembled one of the league’s premier pass defenses, one that’s rarely fun to face in fantasy matchups. Even after taking Denver’s quarterback-less Week 12 adventure out of the numbers, they’d still sit sixth league-wide in per-attempt yardage. Along the way, they’ve neutralized a handful of potent air attacks, including the Buccaneers (6.1 yards per attempt), Falcons (6.6), and Chiefs (5.4). Last week they thoroughly shut down Patrick Mahomes II and the Chiefs’ lethal downfield game; the MVP frontrunner could do little more than dump the ball off en route to his lowest yardage total since Week 7. The Saints boast a talented, aggressive set of cornerbacks that often choke out opposing pass games before they can even take root. Top cornerback Marshon Lattimore keeps struggling with week-to-week consistency but is always capable of a shutdown performance. Janoris Jenkins is enjoying a resurgence across the field; he and Lattimore are masterful at bating quarterbacks into throws they can attack. This unit has also been stout over the middle and against tight ends - Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, and Zach Ertz combined to turn 21 targets into a paltry 71 yards in recent matchups.
Indianapolis at Pittsburgh
The Colts have proven themselves smart in bringing in Philip Rivers - the future Hall-of-Famer has (mostly) stabilized the offense and kept a talented team in contention. But there have been few fireworks from this air attack here in 2020, so it’s hard to project much more than its floor against the stout Pittsburgh defense. Rivers has completed 69% of his throws, with just 9 interceptions through 14 weeks, but he’s not doing much of note with the ball. He’s only cleared 300 yards in 3 of those games, and it hasn’t happened since a date with the Titans’ porous defense in Week 10. Rivers can still deliver when he’s not rushed, but these Steelers won’t be courteous with their pressure. They’ll likely look to push Rivers into a safe, small-ball attack that should benefit the run-minded Colts but won’t produce much by way of fantasy numbers. Top wideouts TY Hilton and Zach Pascal project near their season-lows in this matchup.
The Steelers as a whole suffered an embarrassing collapse in Week 15. Most of their systems shut down entirely en route to a loss that made their 11-0 start to the year feel miles away. Still, the pass defense remains one of football’s stingiest on the stat sheet, and Philip Rivers has his Week 16 work cut out for him. It’s true the Steelers have faced a stunningly weak schedule of quarterbacks, but they’ve taken care of business, giving up just 6.5 yards per attempt and 217 a game. And down the stretch, they’ve been stout in matchups with Lamar Jackson (208 yards), Josh Allen (238), and Joe Burrow (213). The coverage unit has been a bit spotty, but it’s rare to see more than one receiver post a big day against this secondary. Outside cornerbacks Joe Haden and Steven Nelson remain solid, while a handful of playmakers team up to man the slot. Besides, the Steelers boast such a lethal pass rush (first league-wide in hurries, quarterback hits, and sacks) that it papers over a lot of those downfield concerns. T.J. Watt may be on his way to Defensive Player of the Year honors, while Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward could both be headed for All-Pro nods of their own. Overall, this unit may not be quite as suffocating as the numbers suggest - they can’t face Garrett Gilbert or Ryan Finley every week, after all. But it certainly looks like a strong enough group to keep Philip Rivers and his shallow receiving corps in check.
Carolina at Washington
The Panthers have certainly overachieved in what once looked like a hopeless 2020 season, though it appears they’re still searching for a franchise quarterback to elevate the offense. Teddy Bridgewater looks more and more like an elite backup, though not a playoff-caliber starter on the NFL level. He simply doesn’t boast the arm strength and natural instinct to create big plays on his own. As a result, his 10.9 yards per completion ranks 20th league-wide, and despite his many weapons, he’s produced just 14 touchdowns through 13 games. There’s no real deep-ball element to this offense, which leans heavily on playmakers D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Curtis Samuel shaking coverage underneath and making horizontal plays. For fantasy purposes, Bridgewater relies on game flow and volume to buoy his numbers and become viable for the week. That may be attractive in friendly matchups, but Week 16 doesn’t look like an ideal bounce-back spot for Bridgewater. His receivers are always threats to make a lot out of a little, though it’s hard to count much on them right now.
The Football Team has drastically overachieved and now sits poised to host a playoff game. And it’s hard to credit any of its parts but the pass defense, has been near-dominant for much of the year. Only one opposing passer - Ben Roethlisberger in a hurry-up Week 13 attack - has cleared 300 against this group over the past nine weeks, and only two have put up multiple touchdowns. Last week they pitched a masterpiece against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, who managed just 121 yards and a single touchdown over their 27 attempts. Wilson had little chance of finding his explosive receivers down the field, handing off and checking down for virtually the entire game. The catalyst is a ferocious pass rush that’s climbed into the top 10 in pressures and sacks. Prized rookie Chase Young draws most of the headlines, but he’s flanked by a pair of recent top picks in Montez Sweat and Jonathan Allen who have consistently pushed the pocket and made plays. The rush makes it easy for a good-not-great secondary, led by a pair of strong cover men in Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby, to hold down dynamic receivers on the outside. Only two wideouts have topped 100 yards in this matchup all year, and the deck looks stacked against the short-armed Teddy Bridgewater and his receivers adding to that.