BOTTOM 5 Passing MATCHUPS WEEK 18
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Chicago at New Orleans
Since returning as the starter, Mitchell Trubisky has looked capable as he led the Bears into the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. The Bears largely have changed their offensive philosophy in the second half of the season leaning heavily on David Montgomery and the running game and creating passing plays off of the run. Trubisky has completed 74% of his passes over the last five games as he is taking what the defense is giving to him and throwing to Allen Robinson or Darnell Mooney or David Montgomery as a check-down.
The Saints pass defense continues to be one of the better units in football and has been over the last several seasons. The Saints have allowed just 226 yards passing this season, and the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. The Saints have a unique combination of strong pass rush, elite corners led by Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins, and a tremendous scheme that is incredibly disciplined. The Saints lead the league in interceptions, which could put a significant amount of pressure on the turnover-prone Trubisky this week.
Seattle vs LA Rams
Something is severely wrong with the Seahawks passing offense as they have collapsed in the second half of the season. After being a front-runner for the MVP award at the mid-point of the season, Russell Wilson has averaged just 208 yards passing over his last 8 games. The issue for the Seahawks is really two-fold, the lack of consistent running game as well as the inability to find receiving options outside of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett as David Moore has the third most yards on the team and is averaging just 2.2 receptions and 26 yards per game.
The Rams continue to be one of the best lockdown units in football led by a strong pass rush anchored by Aaron Donald and with one of the league’s best corners in Jalen Ramsey at corner. On the season, the Rams have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks as they are allowing just 207 passing yards per game. Outside of a Week 3 contest in which the Rams allowed 311 yards passing to Josh Allen, they have not allowed a 300-yard passing game all season. If there is a weakness, it is at the slot corner position as Troy Hill has struggled at times with consistency but has been playing much better as of late.
Tampa Bay at Washington
Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are peaking at the right time in the passing game right as we approach the playoffs. Brady has topped 300 yards in three straight games averaging 379 yards in those three games including a game against Detroit in which he only played in the first half. While it is great that the Buccaneers are getting back on track, the bad news here is that the competition to end the season was some of the weakest that they could have faced as they faced Atlanta twice and Detroit. Even still, it is good to have confidence heading into the playoffs which has been something that the Buccaneers had lacked for a large portion of this season. At the wide receiver position, Mike Evans is extremely questionable this week after leaving last week’s game. Coach Arians said that he thinks Evans has a chance to play, which is great news for the Buccaneers as if he is able to go, they are a mismatch for almost any team with Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and Mike Evans.
Washington’s defense absolutely shut down rookie Jalen Hurts last week as he completed just 7 of his 20 pass attempts and largely looked lost out there on Sunday Night. Everything for Washington starts with the pass rush led by Chase Young and Montez Sweat as Washington has 47 sacks on the season which is third in the NFL. The pass rush will be the critical matchup in this game as they are facing an offensive line that has allowed the third-fewest sacks on the year. At the cornerback position, Washington is strong led by Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby, but they are beatable particularly if the quarterback has time as evidenced by Ben Roethlisberger and Jared Goff both topping 300 yards earlier this season.
Tennessee vs Baltimore
Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans passing attack is mostly an insurance policy as they’re strong if they need to be, but are not the primary option for the team to win the game. The game plan of this offense flows through Derrick Henry and the running game and ultimately sets up one of the best play-action passing attacks in football. If there is one concern it is the confidence of Corey Davis as after he was shutout against the Packers two weeks ago, had key drops last week against the Texans that fortunately did not cost the Titans from making the playoffs. Davis still was tied for the lead with targets with A.J. Brown as both players had 11, but they need the former top-5 pick to get back to mid-season form in which he looked like he was off to a breakout season.
On paper, Baltimore has the most talent in their secondary compared to any team. The key issue for the Ravens has been health as they have very rarely had Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, and Jimmy Smith all on the field at the same time. While it appears like they might have all three healthy, continue to check in as Marlon Humphrey missed practice on Wednesday. The Ravens on the year have mostly been a shut-down unit, but have played down to competition at times as we saw with Dwayne Haskins and Baker Mayfield both topping 300 passing yards to join Patrick Mahomes II as the only quarterbacks to top 300 against this Baltimore unit. On the season they’re averaging just 226 yards and completely shut down the Bengals last week holding Brandon Allen to just 48 yards passing.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh
It took a failed two-point conversion against Pittsburgh’s B team for Cleveland to pull off the win and clinch their first playoff spot in almost 20 years. With no Joe Haden, T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Terrell Edmunds, and a limited Mike Hilton, the Browns struggled to consistently throw the ball totaling only 196 yards passing last week. The Browns will not be without coach Kevin Stefanski and Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio, and have no practice this week as they head into Pittsburgh in what assuredly will be an incredibly difficult matchup. Part of the issue for the Browns has been the lack of receiving options as Rashard Higgins has emerged as the number one receiver, but outside of Higgins and Jarvis Landry, the Browns are incredibly thin at the position and will be without KhaDeral Hodge.
Pittsburgh’s pass defense is largely a simple concept, get to the quarterback before the wide receiver gets open. This has largely been successful for the Steelers as they lead the NFL in sacks with 56 which greatly helps corners Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson with Minkah Fitzpatrick at safety. No team has topped 300 yards against this Steelers defense and they are allowing just 200 yards passing per game on the season. This is one of the elite units in all of football and should continue to give Baker Mayfield all the problems that he can handle this week.